Sam's notebook

On The Love of Doing Stuff Well And Caring For Things November 20th, 2005, 8AM


In which I am prompted by events surrounding the previous night’s dinner to explain that Things being Wrong annoy me greatly; I outline something of what happens when they do; I float off into a daydream of how I should prefer to live; and I rant against others’ uncaring attitude towards wooden chopping boards and knives.

What is it about doing things correctly that riles me up so?! Pacing backwards and forewards last night in the kitchen, finding myself thwarted at every turn by things that (I imagine) most people would have not a second glance for, let alone be so disturbed by that they they would be unable to even prepare some dinner. Could I even put some rice on to cook without being filled with something close to revulsion at the poor arrangement of the rice/bean/olive buckets?! A revulsion who’s only remedy is to label the bins properly—no! more: build a better shelving system—but still more!: re-arrange the whole kitchen, replacing all (horrible) laminex with timber and building also racks for drying herbs, tables for bread-kneading… and still it’s never enough. On and on down this road of doing-it-the-right-way I go every time I start to take the smallest interest in Things around me, and although at every turn I feel a little closer there is rarely much satisfaction because a) I can see just a little more that needs to be put to rights, and this is preferable to the other times when b) I am unable—prevented by my friends, my housemates, the landlords, circumstance, whoever, whatever—to do things as I should like to.

Sometimes (whenever I can, to be honest) I let my imagination run free with thoughts of a little cottage—one or two rooms—all of my own and a garden that surrounds it. A workshop with a place for everything and everything in its place, for woodwork of course, and for bicycle maintenance and everything else that I’d like to be able to do. I’d have a nice armchair by a small potbelly, with a book nearby to put my book on and a standard lamp standing paxman’s duty; a footstool, space for a tea tray, prehaps a radio also…

Some find it excessively pedantic, but I like to have straight garden beds, laid out with string, bordered by box prehaps, and no-one can argue with many vegetables and what about a bit of wheat too; it’d be fun to try threshing in my own parlor.

I’ll not go on in that vein this morning, although prehaps I’ll return to these thoughts and paint a fuller picture of this One Possible Life for me (I’ll mention the walk to the train station in the morning to go to work, and the sewing table at which I’d make my three-piece suit). I began this post this morning with the idea of why don’t people care a bit more about the Things around them?!! Why is it always okay for things to be ‘good enough’? I don’t want things to be good enough—I want things to be Right!

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On bikes, crying, and the remedy to helplessness to be found in fixing November 13th, 2005, 11AM


I shouldn’t really be blogging this morning — I’ve got my last exam tomorrow afternoon and I’m supposed to be studying — but, when the spirit moves, what can we do but be moved by it? I’d thought that I’d not blog again, or at least not for a while, but this morning the bus didn’t come.

Strange, isn’t it, how some events can lead one to feel strong and seemingly quite unconnected emotions? I didn’t want to wait until the next bus, so I went home to get out my bike — for the first time in three weeks — and ride to school. Being the pedant that I am when it comes to Things (things be right or fuck them off I say!), I couldn’t bear just jumping on the dirty, sad machine, all rained-on and ignored, so I got out my tools and cleaned and pumped and oiled. I knew all the time that there were faults (the rear wheel being a case in point) that would annoy me and make me feel nothing short of miserable, and many times in the three minutes I thought I’d stop and give up…

Like a textbook case of someone being emotionally affected by the smooth-running, or lack thereof, of machinery [is there such a textbook? I’d love to read it!], the failure of my gears to change smoothly this morning nearly had me in tears. I was close to getting off the bike, throwing it in the gutter and storming away from it forever! Nothing unusual in that, though; why do you think I haven’t been riding lately? I knew that this would happen. What came of this though, and what prompted me to blog, was a realisation that in fact it is precisely because I am so affected by the well-workingness of the things around me that I must strive to have them as I wish. If one can be provoked to intense love by nothing more than the particular position of a teapot on a tray (for example), then one must certainly not deny positioning it thus! There is too much at stake to shrug it off, to say that it doesn’t matter, to *try not to care*. Nothing is more important than paying attention to the things that you care about!

My cycle’s grinding gears made me sad, so I plotted — the cable needed to be loosened by a bit less than a millimeter I figured — and I stopped, did what needed to be done, and huzza! hooray! glory be to the god of the cog! it worked! and my bike ran smoothly all the way to town. I smiled. Life was once again, not only okay, but perfect, glorious, joyful and I lov’d it. Riding to school on the bus never would have done this for me.

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Where Do I Walk, Then? September 10th, 2005, 3PM


Today I reinstate this weblog. I’ve shuffled files around on this server, and I’ve shuffled boxes and books around in my bedroom; it’s Spring, and time to re-organise, clear up, and start to think again. Last week I thought I was doing just so, but I wasn’t: I thought that I’d re-affirm my trust in Technology (my oh my what a foolish thing for a human to do!), and buy an ‘ergonomic’ stool. I thought it’d help me work at my computer, but it didn’t. So now is spring-cleaning; then was not.

I bought a stool, didn’t like it after a few days, so took it back. It was a journey for me, a journey from all-I-need-is-a-bit-more-Money-And-Stuff to remembering that it’s people and thinking and reading and love and simplicity that really make it — life— okay.

[ASIDE: The rain pisses down outside, it’s warm enough for bare feet and open windows, and oh! how happy it makes me.]

As I was leaving Harvey Norman (may they rot in hell), I had to go through the car-park, across some lawn and a flower bed, and up an embankment to get to the road. The Situation: people are allowed to walk out of their cars to the shop, across the car-park, and they are also allowed to walk along the road on the footpath — but there is nothing, no path, connecting the public roadway to the shop’s car-park. One must walk over the grass and through the flower bed to gain access to the road if one is on foot. Normally, or course, walking on this insulting attempt at making this horrid place beautiful wouldn’t bother me, but today there were two workmen leaning against a ute, and I had to walk past them to get to the footpath. They told me not to walk on the grass! How on Earth was I to get out of the fucking car-park?! My anger is seething, my blood boiling, and I can write no more…

People without cars are not despised by today’s urban planners, rather, their very existance is denied!

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A Return to the Web December 15th, 2004, 6PM


Returning to this blog after so long? What do I think I’m doing?! As if this is what it’s all about! I don’t want to return to this God-awful dive of diurnal dialog with myself; I don’t want to say, yet again, “Ooh, yes, woodwork is grand, but surely my life is “better?!” if I combine the old and the new, the high tech and the low?”. I’ve been here before!! Aaaggghh……

So, am I heading for a quiet workshop in which to practice my craft, slowly and carefully, and with chickens about? Will this little laptop sit near my workbench, perhaps with a canvas to keep out the dust, and at the end of a day be the place in which I record my thoughts, progress, dreams…? I should like, today, to think of this little wooden shed of my imaginings, to place a solar panel on the roof, a gas bottle inside and books along the walls. My workbench (oh!, where art thou, now, dear bench?) holds the meagre gleamings—nay: the beautiful, perfect, strong, clear gleamings—from the timberyard floor, or the building site skip, or the specialist timber-merchants’; and with them I shall work to embody the love that I feel for this craft, to embody what my hands know off by heart, for herein lies the crux: to know something so well.

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In The Sharehouse User Space May 5th, 2004, 6PM


Doing lots of coding; not much woodworking. Doing what I want, getting stuff done, having a good time. Seems useful. Am I to continue with wood? Not thinking about it; just doing that which has my thoughts mostly. Feeling a bit guilty, but not ’cause I don’t like what I am doing. Doesn’t really matter.

It’s databases, libraries, code, order, hierarchical structure today. The beauty without thought of working wood seems a long way away and somewhat irrelevant. I guess it’ll come back?

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Internet Collaboration May 3rd, 2004, 9AM


The crisp morning, cold but nothing to worry about; sitting reading at 6AM quite possible, wrapped only in everything I own. I am captivated at the moment by the ‘international community’ (and I use this phrase sarcastically) of the web, and especially the open source development ‘community’. There is something fascinating about collaborating with people who are so into collaboration, whose experience of the thing that unites us (the net) is so similar to my own, yet whose experience of pretty much everything else is so different. It makes one optimistic about the possibilities that this technology (you knew I was going to say it) gives us for democratic collaboration on matters governmental. I can see I’m going to get more cliched, so I’ll stop writing.

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Stylin' April 30th, 2004, 11AM


This morning I have been playing around with CSS. I know it doesn’t look too great just now, but I’ll fix it soon… maybe. I want to get back to working on my main PHP project, but it’s such a drag working on it without the lovely syntax high-lighting of a useful editor…

Something interesting is happening at the moment; I feel like I’m figuring something out, a resolution of the warring factions prehaps – perhaps involving the elimination of one… hmm……

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Talk about Oscar Wilde! April 29th, 2004, 1PM


An unexamined life may indeed not be worth living, but what of constant, total re-evaluation of everything?! Is that a state to be envied? It seems utterly unavoidable, quite outside of my control, this daily, hourly, questioning of is it worth it, is there any point? At one moment I’m rolling along happily, smiling at the world, getting on with my work and wanting to as well — and at the next I stop what I’m doing (just to see what’s going on), turn around and — bang! — there it is, the abyss. All it takes is a split second of introspection and I wonder if it’s all worth it, a couple more minutes and I’m sure I don’t want to/can’t be bothered and I might as well go to the computer lab…

So here I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t really give up this volatility and uncertaintity. There may well be nothing worth doing, but I want to know why – and there it is! Anything’s worth doing so long as it gets me further down that track of understanding what it is that feels right. I wonder if I’m making any sense… Perhaps it all comes down to lack of confidence… oh dear….

In response to the title of this post:

“The Young Ones: Nasty”: 1984:

RICK: [sarcastically] Oh, touchè, Vyvyan. What devastating repartee. Talk about Oscar Wilde.

NEIL: Oh, alright. Oscar Wilde, was one of the greatest British writers who was perscuted for his homosexuality….

[Rick approaches, and feeling that Neil is mocking him, starts slapping him]

RICK: Shut up!

NEIL: … well in the early part of his career…

RICK: [still slapping] Shut up!

NEIL: Oh yeah, OK, be like that Rick!

RICK: Be like what exactly, Neil? BE like what??!!

NEIL: Be like a complete and utter drag and bring everything down in the whole world.

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