Author Archives: Dennis

The Power of Smells

Yesterday, as I was walking from the trainstation to my house – a trip of about three minutes – I walked past a chinese restaurant opposite of the station. This restaurant has probably been the largest and most hallmark restaurant in the area I live in for the past thirty years or so. Until recently it was owned and exploited by the parents of a guy who used to be one of my closest friends.

And incidentally, it’s a restaurant that I, and many of my friends, have worked at from the time where we could pick up a towel or a broom.

As I walked past the restaurant, I caught a scent of charred meat, the meat that “Uncle” – a cook at the restaurant for the past 20 years or so – used to relinguish to us when, dressed as comboys and indians, we came to stick him up. I was nine or maybe ten years old at the time, and it was a time where everything was simple.

Things became very complicated in my life shortly after that, and though it stabalised at times, it really hasn’t become more pleasant. I feel like I’m in a state of limbo, where there are so many loose ends that need to be tied up. Loose ends that will take a lot of time to tie up. At the moment I see many of my friends making plans to move away, without showing too much concern about those they leave behind, and my instinctual reaction to that is to claim immediate, emotional bankruptcy and cut them out of my life; better to get the pain or rejection over with.

Yes, I know that’s not very healthy.

My car has been repaired, and as soon as I’ve paid them the ungodly amount of money – which will add to the already outstanding debt I’m paying off – I can pick it up. I suppose that’s good, though the financial consequences won’t be an easy burden to carry. I’ll manage, though.

My girlfriend lives half a world away, and that won’t change until she’s done with her education. 18 months of college to go, and perhaps a year or two of internships that, most likely, won’t be anywhere close to where I am. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I had some money to squander, to hop up and down to New York, you know? The thing is, she has – on various occassions – came to a point where she needed to see me, and where not seeing eachother would mean a bust relationship. I suppose I can’t blame her, but she knew what she was getting into when we decided to try this out. It’s proving to be harder on her than it is on me. Can she last for another two years? Should I stiffle my natural reaction to cut her from my life for lack of tenacity? No, of course not…but I can’t give her what she wants until I’ve paid off a large chunk of my debt, and I don’t want her to give up before I can give her what she wants.

Which of course raises another question; how big is my responsibility in all of this? Shouldn’t she bear some of the burden? Yes, I think she should, but it’s not realistic since she’s not allowed to work in the United States on her student visa, and the first money she can, and does make goes to lighten the burden on her parents, which I find completely commendable.

At least I have a job that I’m enjoying.

Public Transport + Reading = Teh Win

Since I started my new job I have been taking public transport again. Of all the things I hate about Dutch public transport – many, many things I hate…but hey, let’s be real, it’s better here than it is in most places in the world – there is one thing that I love about it, and public transport in general. It is something that I touched upon in a conversation with my friend Claus, a Danish student that most know as Van Der Litreb, or “Veed” for short, is that you have plenty of time to catch up on reading. Like my homework when I was still in school, reading almost always takes the backseat over more important things I can do while at home. Like going to the bathroom, picking my nose, and watching the ceiling. Not to mention Neverwinter Nights – I swear to you, that game is crack on CD-ROM. Anyway, so I’ve been reading a lot, here’s a breakdown of what I’m reading…concurrently.

“Hacker Culture” by Douglas Thomas
This is a book I happened to stumble across in Strands Bookstore on 12th street in New York City when I was there a few weeks ago. This is a used bookstore, and I visited it after spending three hours at the Barnes & Nobles on Union Square. When you walk in there, it looks like a mad-house, with really high-reaching shelves crammed with old, used books. Sometimes the books are still in mint condition, but most of the time you stumble across old and manky books, stacked high on the shelves of this maze-like store. It’s not for me, really…but still, it’s sort of humorous when the first thing you look for when picking up the book is the year of first print. Anything before 1980 on the topic of computers I ignored, and I was left with this book, in mint condition.

It’s a dissemination of the hacker culture, and its evolution since it first sprang up during the Second World War. Even though the author gets caught up in far too much psycho-babble for my tastes, I have to admit that the guy did his homework. It’s a comprehensive look into the world, the culture and the identity of hackers all over the world, and how that image and culture has changed over the years. It also touches upon how the media, literature and cinema have helped shape the hacker culture into what it is today, and what drives hackers to hack, and phreakers to phreak.

“Universe in a Nutshell, A Brief History of Time”, By Stephen W. Hawking
I don’t have a big brain for physics, but I think it’s extremely facinating, especially theoretical physics. Now, I know a little bit about a bunch of things regarding physics, but not enough to tie it all together in a consistent whole, you know? So I thought I’d bone up on some general principles of physics. To fill the gaps, so to say.

I have to stand in line to praise Dr. Hawking in the wonderful way that he can make the most complicated matters in physics transparent for even the most neophyte reader. Amazing, informative and educational.

“Cryptonimicon”, by Neal Stephenson
This is a novel, written by critically acclaimed author Stephenson, who is responsible for such books as “The Diamond Age”,“Zodiac” and “Snow Crash”, and is a good primer in cryptological principles.

In good tradition Stephenson manages to combine both historical information, with information technology by having two timelines running concurrently; one is set in the middle of the Second World War, where cryptology was first used in such an intense manner that it became the foundation of what it is today, and the second is set in the modern day, where people are trying to start the world’s first real Data Haven, an almost utopic idea in which computers are free from tampering and everyone can store any information on it, without censorship, without having to fear persecution.

I keep jumping from one book to the next, but I’ve already promised myself that I would focus on “Hacker Culture” first, until it’s finished. I have my work cut out for me for the next few weeks.

Job: Week 2

After getting off to a rocky start at work because of my ankle, I am getting into the swing of getting up early, getting to know the company, and the way things are done here. So far, so good. The first week was spent trying to figure out how Visual FoxPro 7 works, and cursing at how different it is from any other thing I’ve developed in. The editor and debuggers are shit, the DBMS is shit, but on the other hand, it’s fairly easy to make simple things. I guess it’s a matter of taste.

I’ve found that, like any small company, many things aren’t formally taken care of yet, so a lot is left to your own capabilities to make it happen. Also, you’re not pampered with “perks of the job,” so to say, so here and there it’s rather spartan. But in these economically difficult and strained times, I’m not complaining at all. The job, though not the most enthusing job I can imagine, will most likely get better as time goes by, and until that time I’ll enjoy the fact that it’s paying my bills.

My ankle is still giving my grief, and the swelling doesn’t seem to subside past a certain point, which makes me wonder if I ruptured tendons or ligaments and I should get a physician to check it out. I think I’ll make an appointment for next week somewhere. That reminds me; I’m in a bad need of a haircut.

My car! Oh, I almost forgot…

…the garage/dealership where I bought my car was also the one that initially gave me a quote on the damages. They sent me a list of damages, and prices, which I faxed to the nearest official Honda dealer, with whom I’ve always had a very good relationship, ever since I bought my Civic there. I talked to the head mechanic, and he said that he reckoned that the amount of money that was charged for the repairs were accurate, but that a lot of the costs could be cut by opting for spare parts instead of factory-brand-new ones. But he wasn’t sure about any of that until he got a look at my car. So we arranged for a salvage company to tow the car from the other dealer to the Honda dealer.

The mechanic gave me a ring, and told me that he would be able to repair the car for about 3200 euro less than the original quote I got from the other mechanic. He said that he had easier access to spare parts because of his Honda affiliation, and because he also had been in contact with another company who had a similar Del Sol that had sustained a bunch of cosmetic damage in a crash, of which he could get the suspension, and some other parts. So that cut the costs tremendously. Also, the cosmetic damage didn’t seem like such a big thing, neither, because instead of replacing the entire shield, they’d simply work repair the dent. Perhaps I could even get the dents in the trunk of my car repair in one go. I’ll have to ask.

The only thing the mechanic was loathed to take into account was the costs for the rims, since he wasn’t sure what it’d take to repair those, and get some new tires, etc. I think that’ll be okay. Now, the only thing I need to take care of is my payment plan. I have an idea on how to do it, but it would send me even further in debt, which is something I’m not really looking forward to. I have made it a priority to make sure I square my debts within the next two years, which is a real time-span considering the amount of money I still owe left and right…

…anyway, the mechanic told me that it would take a while for them to repair the car since they were up until their ears in work. I told him that it would allow me some more time to gather the money, so that I didn’t mind at all. And seeing as how my father was sweet enough to give me a car – a shitty, three-hundred euro car, mind you – that I could use in the meantime, and the fact that I’m not relying on my car for home-work transportation, I think everything will be okay.

On a completely unrelated note; I heard that one of my ex-girlfriends – a girl I haven’t spoken to in well over 5 years, dropped by my Kung Fu class while I wasn’t there to ask about joining up. I hope to run into her one of these days, because I wouldn’t mind catching up a bit, and seeing what has become of her.

Something Has Got To Give…

…and it certainly isn’t going to be me. I haven’t gone through the worst 6 months of my life – with a very, very, very bright spot only recently when I visited my lovely girlfriend in NYC – only to have everything collapse on me even further.

The reason for me saying and thinking this, is because things just keep getting more and more fucked up. From the fact that my car repairs are going to put me even further in debt than I already am, to the fact that I busted my ankle at Kung Fu and I can hardly walk. But wait; joy! Joy! I start my new job tomorrow, though I have no idea how I’m going to manage that with the current state of my ankle.

So I bought this car only a few months ago, and I absolutely love it. Sadly, a couple of days before I were to go to New York, I managed to drive off the road, and crash into a street-light, due to the slippery state the road was in because of ground-frost.

Now, this car cost me a pretty penny, and I’m still paying it off. The car wasn’t insured for this – though I was in the process of insuring it as such – and the costs of repairs are about half of what the car is worth. So now I’m faced with a very difficult dilemma; do I make the repairs, and at least salvage the beautiful car – and it is a beautiful car, mind you – and protect my investment?

I want to try and come up with the money somehow, but first…

…my ankle
So I busted my ankle, I thought it was broken, but luckily it wasn’t. Now, I’ll have to start my new job on monday, which I was looking forward to, but now, I’m not so much looking forward to it, since getting there requires me to walk for about 25 minutes in total, which is fucked up, because I can’t do it.

Now, I’ve got some crutches, so I could probably make it work, but it will hurt like a motherfucker. I’m not sure what to do; a) make a good impression on not chickening out, but jeopardising further injury, or b) ask for a delay and give my foot some proper rest.

There’s not really any choice, is there? Yeah, I’m going to go. I wish I had a choice.

Mouls and NYC

It’s around 6 am here, and I can’t sleep. Mouls is a tremendous blanket and space hog on a mattress, so I’m usually left balancing on the outer edges of her [rather high] bed. She’s cute about it, though, not making any sense if and when she wakes up when I try to push her away in order to make some room before I fall. She snores, too…

…okay. That was weird, she just had a bit of a nightmare. More of the nonsense, asking me where I had “left the note,” or something. Hehe, her subconscious must be a weird place.

Anyhow, I’m in New York City, and I’m spending almost every waking moment with the woman I love most, and I’m loving it. I have been here for only two days, and I have a bit of trouble adjusting to the jetlag, but I’m loving it.

Moulsari lives right off of Union Square, which is more than just a little food for my imagination, and this is literally the heart and soul of New York; brownstones, tenements, honking cars, yellow cabs, dodgy cabs, fast pace, firetrucks and two-tones.

More later.