Confidentiality sucks

I hate this. Most of the things I want to blog about, especially the stuff that really eats at me and causes me stress, I can’t even talk about because it’s covered by non-disclosure agreements.

Every now and then, I think about blogging “anonymously” but that goes against my personal principles. There’s no such thing as anonymity. Eventually, somehow, the dots get connected and then what has been said is out there.

How does one crowdsource wisdom on matters like this? Sure, I talk to my therapist and my family … but sometimes it feels like it would be useful to cast a wider net.

I guess I’ll just sit here and wring my hands and just let you all know that there’s plenty I wish I could share, but can’t. Argh!

jesus_jeff’s 5 questions for me

I normally don’t do these meme things, but I was very curious to find out what kind of questions [info]jesus_jeff would ask me.

Leave me a comment saying “Resistance is Futile.”

* I’ll respond by asking you five questions so I can satisfy my curiosity.
* Update your journal with the answers to the questions.
* Include this explanation in the post and offer to ask other people questions.

Here are his questions for me and my answers:

1) Excluding family, who have you known the longest that you are still in fairly regular contact with?

I’m notoriously bad about not keeping in regular contact with people. Given this fact, I suppose my answer has to be my friend Ian, from high school. There are a few people who I talk to now and then that I’ve known longer, like Jeff Mach, but I don’t really maintain regular contact with him.

I wonder if this answer will cause people I’ve actually known longer to come out of the woodwork. Interesting …

2) Iphone, Droid, Blackberry, or good old-fashioned “my phone just makes phone calls, thankyouverymuch”?

I own a BlackBerry, now. The Droid has tempted me, and I refuse to take the iPhone as long as it lacks a real physical keyboard. I’ve got high hopes for the Nokia N900, but apparently it’s fallen short. I gave up on Palm after replacing my aging Treo 650 with my first BlackBerry.

3) If your kids (once of appropriate age) expressed an interest in joining the peace corps or the military (i.e., doing dangerous work in dangerous far-away places) would you encourage them or try to convince them to pick a safer path?

I’d like to believe that I encourage them to pursue things that they love. Life is dangerous and learning to handle it is an important skill, not something to be avoided for the sake of avoiding.

That being said, I’d rather they not enlist in the military. While I’m thankful that there are people who do so on behalf of the rest of us, I would rather my kids pursue careers with an organization that has more accountability.

4) What do you think the next big thing technology-wise will be?

Realistically? Probably something truly boring like “wireless electricity“.

My personal imagineering? I call it “personal interactive television”. It changes the way we watch television: the shared screen (the traditional TV set) acts as an interface hub, while individuals use their handheld devices (phones, remotes) to interact with the content programming without disturbing the shared experience of the other participants.

I suppose I should describe this vision more clearly in a separate blog entry, but maybe this hints at the potential of such a paradigm shift.

5) If you were a craftsman in the middle ages, what craft would you practice?

If I had to pick an established craft, I would probably be a butcher or apothecarist. Butcher, because I enjoy dealing with food and especially meat. Apothecarist, because I enjoy the diagnostic process of medicine but would prefer to deal with the common folk rather than solely royalty.

However, I suspect if I actually lived in the middle ages, I would probably be a agricultural scientist: experimenting with growing plants to increase their yield, be more resistant, come up with ways of dealing with pests, etc.

That was fun answering Jeff’s questions. If you’d like to participate, just leave a comment for me and I’ll try my best to come up with interesting questions for you!

Being a dissocial extrovert is hard

Last night, Samantha and I went into NYC to see Daniel Bauer’s “Purity” show at The Duplex Theater with my friend Ian. It was a fun show and his magic is simple but effective. The Duplex is a very small venue and the intimate setting really lets you enjoy the experience nicely.

But, that’s not the point … what I really want to write about is some introspecting I did. I’ve known that I’m an extrovert, but oddly I don’t tend to enjoy myself amongst a large number of people. I usually end up spending time with the same few people once I identify who I want to spend time with.

A while ago, I stumbled upon the definition of dissocial personality disorder which fits me to a tee. I’m finding that the Paxil and Wellbutrin combo are helping a lot with this, but it hasn’t totally eliminated the feelings of “gee, I wish there weren’t so many people here.”

I realize that the definition of extrovert doesn’t necessarily speak to the number of people one interacts with but merely the fact that external interaction brings positive effect, and it’s clearly possible to be a dissocial extrovert because I am one, but it also means finding people that I enjoy spending time with is difficult.

I just wanted to get these thoughts down in writing before they escaped my head, so I can reflect on them later, and perhaps some of you have insights to share that I may not have thought of, yet. See, there I go again, that extroverted nature which thinks better by expressing than reflecting, looking for external inputs …

True friends

I’ve said this to people in the past, but I wanted to put the quote down in writing:

True friends are there to help you celebrate your success, not complain that you have it and they don’t.

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Reorganizing the home office

It’s a task I’ve been putting off for years — reorganizing the home office — but I’m finally doing it. The rack and servers that sat behind me for years is now finally in the basement, thanks to my Dad helping me run two 20A circuits for the equipment down there. Here’s what the room looks like mid-reorganization:

Home office reorganization in progress

Sure, my desk is still a mess, but that’ll also get taken care of once I put up some new shelves to better organize stuff.

The one thing I still can’t get over is how silent the room is, now. The fans from the various computers and the Liebert UPS were loud! Over the years, I just got used to the low level noise and tuned it out, but now with the contrast of the room without the noise, it’s eerie.


Depression is a funny thing sometimes

Depression is a funny thing sometimes. I deal with intense feelings of loneliness a lot more often than I’d like to admit. What’s strange is the fact that I know hundreds of people. I talk to dozens of people online every day, by email, instant messaging, social networks and other ways. From the outside looking in, I appear to be constantly surrounded by people, at least virtually. Yet, I feel incredibly isolated, very alone, intensely lonely.

I’ve been seeing various therapists regularly for the past five years. I’m on two different anti-depressants (Paxil and Wellbutrin) and I take them daily. Perhaps I’m on the wrong medication or I need to add something else to the cocktail. Whatever the case, I’m actively seeking ways of trying to fix this problem. But, the intense feelings of loneliness start to trigger despair, and that just makes it that much harder to cope and try.

I recently wrote, “Sometimes, I really hate being me.” I don’t think anyone who read that really understood what I meant. I don’t know how to explain it. A therapist I saw for two years, who had been practicing for probably close to twenty years, finally said to me, “I don’t even know how to classify you.” I know that this quote is vague and lacks sufficient context, but he understood the gap that isolates me.

I’ll try writing more about this if I can bring myself to do it … I’ve wanted to write this for years, but every time I sat down to try, the words just wouldn’t come. Right at this moment, I’m determined to try and push through that barrier and finally write some of this down.


Life is getting in the way of my blogging

Things have gotten seriously busy lately. I’ll try to re-cap some highlights:


I’ve just joined the Ridgewood chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society after being a guest at their meetings for the past few weeks. This is a great complimentary activity to my singing in my church choir. We meet on Monday nights in Wyckoff, NJ, and it is a lot of fun.


We survived the girls’ birthdays again, this year we celebrated at Skylands Ice World up in Stockholm, NJ. Everyone had lots of fun and it just felt good to be out on the ice again. You aren’t allowed to bring in outside food, so I was nervous about the quality of the in-house catering as you effectively have no other choice, but it was surprisingly good! If you or your kids like to skate, this is definitely a place I’d recommend for a party.


Work has been keeping me busy and engaged as usual, working on developing products that will generate serious revenue. I really wish I could talk about them in more detail, but I can’t. Perhaps I’ll be able to link to a press release or two, soon.


I recently decided that I’d had enough of the annoying markup that ecto 3 generated and went looking for an alternative. A few people recommended MarsEdit 2 so I gave it a try. Let me put it this way: after 10 minutes of playing with it in my trial period, I bought it. It’s somewhat unfortunate as ecto was so close to being just right, but the few annoyances really got on my nerves after all this time. I think I would have hung in there except it seems like ecto’s development has pretty much stopped, but when I registered my copy of MarsEdit, I got an email from Daniel Jalkut, thanking me. That seemed like a good sign, you know?


I’ve probably forgotten a bunch of things that I wanted to mention, but at least this is a start.


I fail at retail therapy

If someone handed you $100 right now, could you spend it? How long would it take you to decide what to buy?

Not long at all, right?

Well, I seriously fail at retail therapy. I was given a $100 Visa gift card as a Giftmas 2008 present, and I can’t think of a single thing I want to buy with it. Is that pathetic, or what?

I thought about picking up a video game or two, but I really don’t have the time nor motivation to play them. Modern video games totally lack the necessary charm and appeal of older games. They use advanced graphics and cinematic sequences to “wow” people, but the gameplay is empty. You can’t compensate for a boring game with eye candy alone, at least for me.

I thought about movies or music, but there hasn’t been music released in the last 5 years that I thought was good enough to own except for a few songs which I picked up on iTunes or through Amazon MP3. Same goes for movies — the ones I care to watch, I’ve already seen and I haven’t seen a movie in years that was good enough to be worth watching twice.

Ah, what about books? Goodness, there’s that free time issue again! I still have books sitting on my shelf that I want to read that I haven’t read yet. Buying more just seems wasteful, at this point.

Surprisingly, as a technology geek, I’m not a big gadget junkie. I went through the phase of collecting shiny doo-dads and frankly, I got tired of throwing them out when they lost their shine. Is there really such a thing as a must-have item? I haven’t found one, yet.

About the only thing that I still really like is food. I love to eat! I guess the best way to spend this money is to take the family out and enjoy a nice meal. Oh, but then the dilemma of deciding where to go sets in …

I guess there are worse problems to have than not knowing how to spend $100, but it really bothers me that I don’t have a go-to list of reasonably inexpensive things that I’d want to buy. This is why I’m such a hard person to buy gifts for: I truly don’t want anything. I don’t mean this in the polite “oh, it’s okay, don’t worry” sort of way, but in the “oh, please, not another thing that I have to find a place for and hold onto until I get tired of it and throw it out” kind of way.

Maybe I’m truly able to find happiness with what I already have. But, a part of me — probably conditioned and programmed through advertising as I was growing up — feels like I’m “incomplete” without more material possessions. Part of me asks “what’s wrong with me?” because I don’t already know what I’d go out and buy with this money. Do you know what I’m talking about?

What would you go and buy with $100 right now? Or, are you like me, without any clue what you’d do with it?


Six weeks in South Africa (Part 1)

My wife has organized a wonderful family trip to South Africa for the last six weeks of 2008. With the high cost of airfare, it’s difficult for us to make this trip–the last time she had been able to visit was in October 2002, when Charlie was only a toddler and she was still pregnant with Suzie. This time, Charlie is 8 and Suzie is 5 and I’m able to join them, although I’ve had to work full-time while here. Still, it’s nice having the ability to travel with the family and see them every day while we’re here.

Now, I’ve been to South Africa twice before, once in 1996 and again in 1998. When asked what I think of South Africa, my opinion hasn’t changed since my first visit: it is very possibly the best country on Earth to visit. This seems to surprise people, but I suspect that’s because the world at large’s opinion is based on the scare-mongering that you get from expatriate South Africans who have fled in fear. Just remember, for a country of some 47-million-plus people, the few South Africans you meet here and there in America aren’t necessarily a fair sample.

This trip has been fairly hectic and fast-paced, necessarily so we can try to do as much as we can with the time we have here this trip. I’m going to try and summarize as best I can, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me. Here’s an overview of the “where and when” of our trip:

Calendar view of Dossy's South Africa trip.

As you can see, the dates are color-coded to make it easier to tell where we are and when at a glance. We’re covering a lot of ground and it’s hard to keep track, otherwise.

Leaving New Jersey (Nov. 19)

We left New Jersey on November 19, departing from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York and arriving at OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 20. The flight is approximately 18 hours long including a brief one hour ground stop in Dakar, Senegal. Apparently, South African Airways will introduce a non-stop flight from JFK to JNB in May 2009, which from what I can figure, will shorten the flight to around 15 hours. Whatever the case, it’s a long time to go without a cigarette! Non-smoking international flights are a bit cruel, to say the least.

Arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa (Nov. 20)

As we travel around the country, we are using my in-laws, Cynthia and Graham’s, place in Victory Park, Johannesburg, as our hub. It’s a convenient distance from the airport, less than an hour drive. This is where we “come home” to throughout our trip.

Off to Pilanesburg (Nov. 21-27)

Cynthia and Graham generously arranged for all of us to spend a week at Kwa Maritane in Pilanesburg. Although there was a terrible fire that destroyed a significant portion of the lodge back in August, we still had a fantastic stay.

The week was filled with lots of fun game drives through the park where we saw a wide range of animals: warthogs, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, wildebeast, springbok, kudu, impala, hyena, white rhino, elephant and lion. Unlike a zoo, where these animals are conveniently displayed in exhibits, a game drive is just like it sounds, where you’re driving in your car throughout the park, keeping a keen eye out for whatever wildlife you might be able to spot. What you actually see or whether you see anything at all depends on whether you can spot them in the bush. I think the kids had a great time and they’re both excellent spotters, already.

Both of the girls love the water and Kwa Maritane has quite a nice pool with quite a long slide into it. The kids spent a good amount of time at the pool, enjoying the wonderful weather we had.

One night, Sam and I went out for dinner to Sun City, the casino that Sol Kerzner is famous for. We decided to give the sushi at Fishmongers a try, only to discover that South African “sushi” when it comes to the actual raw fish means “salmon or tuna.” That’s it. No, I’m not kidding. It’s the culinary equivalent of putting “pasta” on the menu and actually serving Spaghetti-O’s. Now, I’m sure it’s a matter of demand, but really? Still, we had a nice time and the food was fine.

After dinner, we waddled over to the actual casino area, which I almost find hard to call a casino–it’s just banks of video slot machine games. Again, having American expectations of what a “casino” should be, this isn’t it. Gambling should be somewhat social, where people play together at the same table. Simply mashing buttons on a computer, iterating the pseudo-random number generator, trying to produce a desired outcome … that’s not gambling, that’s work! Still, I managed to earn us a ten-fold return on our investment playing Fairy’s Fortune–a really fun game, I have to admit. All told, it paid for our dinner, a bunch of beers and will continue to pay for my cigarettes throughout this trip.

Back to Jo’burg (Nov. 28-Dec. 6)

We returned to Johannesburg–or, “Jo’burg”–for a week. This gave us the opportunity to take the kids to a few places nearby.

One day, we all went to the Cradle of Humankind and took the tour through Maropeng. It’s a really nicely done tour and exhibit set, but the uber-liberal eco-faggy bent to it was a little disappointing. The excessive propaganda cheapens any actual historical or factual evidence being presented, which is a shame. The girls also went in to check out the Sterkfontein Caves, which I opted to skip–if you’ve seen one hole in the dirt, you’ve seen ’em all.

Another day, we took the kids to see the South African Lipizzaners in Kyalami. Since both of the girls love horseback riding–they’ve had weekly riding lessons since they were 4 years old–seeing the Lipizzaners was great! The riders are all so friendly and chatted to us before and after the show, telling us about the various horses they have as well as answering our questions. The show explains the history of these horses and how they happened to come to South Africa from Austria, as well as the rigor of training for both the horse and the rider. The kids also had great fun feeding the horses carrots after the show, running between stables feeding their favorites.

We also found time one day to visit the theme park at Gold Reef City. We saw a demonstration of traditional South African dance, both tribal and mine-worker style. Samantha wanted to take the kids on the gold mine tour, but apparently there’s some strange law–or so we were told–about not allowing children under 6 (Suzie’s only 5) under ground, so we skipped it. I would have liked to check out the Apartheid Museum, since my first experience of South Africa in 1996 was already after Mandela’s election in 1994, to see how things had been, but we opted to skip it. Maybe we can come back to check it out before we return to America.

To the beach at Pringle Bay (Dec. 7-13)

Sam’s godfather and his wife, Neil and Penny, had generously offered to let us stay with them for a week at their home in Pringle Bay, which is situated right on the beach an hour outside of Cape Town along the coast.

Pringle Bay is just gorgeous. It reminds me of northern California, but much, much windier. I mean, the winds are so strong that when we took the kids to the beach, the sandblasting was so painful they said, “We don’t like the beach!” I really didn’t like it much, either–I mean, every time the wind blew, you either had to turn away from it, or end up with a faceful of sand.

So, the next day, Neil and Penny took us to Lake Pippple-Popple, where the water was a deep red like Coca-Cola. The water runs down from the mountain where some plants’ roots contribute this red color to the water. It’s fresh and crystal clear, but tinted dark red. The kids enjoyed splashing around in it because it was far less windy there.

One day, we travelled into Cape Town to visit Kips and Fiona and their boys. Samantha and Penny took the girls and the two older boys to the aquarium while I stayed behind to work with Kips. When they returned from the aquarium, the girls had great fun swinging on ropes hung from a very old tree in the yard. Suzie spent most of her time carrying around little Johnny–it was so very cute to see them together.

Throughout the week, even dinner was fun. We collected wood from around the house for the fires that we would braai with. One night, we were treated to a chicken potjie, cooked right in the fireplace at the house. We also had a taste of fresh rock lobster caught by some kids on the beach! On the night before we left Cape Town, we had dinner at a restaurant named @365 in Pringle that was absolutely fantastic, too. Given that I “vacation with my stomach” because I love to eat, this was the first week that I truly felt like I was on holiday.

Jo’burg again (Dec. 14-16)

Coming back to Jo’burg from the Cape, we decided to just stay around the house and take it easy. Shortly before we left for the Cape, the girls were introduced to a young boy named Joshua who lives in the same complex as Cynthia and Graham. So, when we came back, the kids all played together while we were back.

Samantha and I hadn’t gotten to introducing ourselves to his mother, Janice, until now. It’s actually fortunate that we finally have, because it’s officially turned this into a business consulting trip for me. Janice owns a company named Wellness Project Management that produces and publishes health and safety information materials. She has various IT projects that she needs done and I’ll be able to help her with them remotely, once I’m back in the US. But, while I’m here, I can see what she currently has and how she does things and make some short-term recommendations and explain some long-term plans for meeting her goals.

I still need to find out how I can officially form a business here in South Africa, but for now I’ve at least secured the domain name. I’ll try to open a bank account for the business and file the appropriate paperwork to register it before we leave. It would be really nice to be able to make this trip to South Africa more often and it be a business trip with respect to tax treatment.

On the Premier Classe train to Durban (Dec. 16-17)

We’re spending Christmas with Samantha’s uncle Derrick and his family in Paddock which is about two hours outside of Durban. As our Christmas gift, Cynthia paid for us to take the Premier Classe train from Johannesburg to Durban overnight, where Derrick would pick us up and drive us the rest of the way to Paddock the following morning.

As far as trains go, this one was deluxe. The passenger compartments were roomy and the seating was very comfortable. We shared two compartments between the four of us, which worked out really nicely. There’s a train car set up as a bar for smokers to go to while the rest of the train was non-smoking. There were two dining cars on the train where dinner and breakfast were served. It’s a really comfortable way to travel compared to driving or flying.

Our only real complaint about the train trip is that it’s clearly geared towards what I’ll refer to as “fancy old people,” because the dinner meal consisted of five courses and only started at 7:00 PM! When you have two young kids with you who are usually in bed and asleep by 7:00 PM, you can see why this was an issue. Clearly, the long meal is designed to kill time on the train as there really isn’t much else to do other than eat or sleep, but it would be wise for the train operators to offer a meal option to accomodate children passengers. Our girls were falling asleep at the table by 9:00 PM and we hadn’t even been served the main entree course, yet. Still, this was only a minor detail as the trip overall was truly relaxing and enjoyable.

More to come …

So, that sums up what has happened so far, which, if it sounds like a lot, just realize that I’ve also been putting in full 8+ hour work days while here. Oh, did I not mention that? Yes, I’m taking advantage of the time zone difference, currently a 7 hour difference between US/Eastern (UTC-5) and SAST (UTC+2), which means working from 3pm to midnight here corresponding to 8am-5pm back in NJ. I’m sure most people think this is crazy, but I subscribe to the “work hard, play hard, no excuses” philosophy. You have to make time–find ways to make time–to do the things that matter to you. It might not be easy, but it’s certainly worth it.

I’ll try to post more updates as the trip continues. If you read this far, thanks–I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Yes, I’m still alive

I haven’t posted anything to my blog in the last 3.5 weeks. If I said “we’ve been busy” it would be an extreme understatement.

I’m going to put together a detailed summary (heh) of the last few weeks and post it. Stay tuned …