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Der Untergang

We watched the German film "Der Untergang" today.

Dramatic movie. I'm not sure what to say about it.

I can't do the typical movie-talk about this one, because I totally forgot to look for the movie-talk things during the movie. I forgot to look for lighting, cinematography, or acting. I don't even remember if there was any music in it. It captured me from the first moment and never let me go until the end.

"Terrible, shocking, grisly" would be words well suited to describe it - the darkest moments of national socialism in its final stage of destruction, with the Russians closing in on every side and the psychosis of the people in the bunker growing ever stronger until the last fray of suicides.

And also, surprisingly human. I can understand why people wanted to follow and believe in the Führer, who has a very human face in the movie, and yet maintains his terrible grip on everybody until he drags them down into hell itself. He seems so... kind and trustworthy. It's almost impossible to understand that this person was the initiator of such terrible crimes against humanity.

On one hand, I was relieved to see the Russians coming in, after having watched the movie "Stalingrad". The same things that took place there, now happened two years later in Berlin. It is sweet revenge to see the Germans fall by the dozens to the advancing Russians. I felt very little pity for them.

On the other hand, nothing got better. They were dying. Everybody died. And for what?? More Lebensraum? Holding on to the last pieces of national socialism?

It's sick. So terribly sick.

Let no bells ring
Let no music play
Let no-one laugh
Let no-one smile
For 50 million
Lie dead at my feet.
If only I had tears to cry
Then I would cry, without end
But I can not.

Let no wind blow in the trees
Let the sun hide its face
Let the earth turn in darkness
Let all joy be gone
For 50 million
Lie dead at my feet.



Acute Communication Overload Syndrome

Suddenly, in the midst of my work, I experienced an acute communication overload syndrome.

I was talking to several people at once. I had ICQ, MSN and IRC running, all baked into Trillian. My Outlook was up on the screen. A collegue chatted with me over an internal MSN network. A friend sent me links on ICQ and my boss talked with me on ICQ. Just previously we had talked over Skype. The real phone was also ringing, although not for me; and fortunately, my cell phone lay silent.

This is starting to get out of hand.

Instant messaging is doing a lot to tie people together, but with all the different ways to communicate these days, I find myself looking more and more towards just one, simple, elegant solution: .....

I haven't found it yet. But I wish there was something that ultimately could combine all of these services into One. One ring to find them, one ring to rule them all... you know the rest. Something that could tie together
  • ICQ
  • MSN
  • IRC
  • Our internal MSN messenger service
  • Skype
  • My three email accounts
  • My five mailing lists I subscribe to
  • Usenet news
  • My cell phone
  • My desk phone
  • ...and my blog.
I would like some kind of Personal Communications Platform. For a while I thought my cell phone was my PCP, but it isn't. At least not as much as I would like. A cell phone is fundamentally disconnected, whereas Internet is fundamentally connected.

-----

It is, of course, a problem of locative separation. The normal way we separate the world into pieces we are able to handle, is through spatial separation. We exist in only one place at a time, and deal with the manageable subset of the world that exists at that location. With cell phones, that is breaking up to a temporal separation, where we deal with a subset of the world at different times. We interact with the physical surroundings around us, but also with another subset of the world through cell phone communications, which may or may not conflict with our spatial location at the time; nevertheless, we are able to reasonably isolate ourselves from our physical surroundings - through different means - to deal with communication over the cell phone.

With Instant Messaging added on top of this, all these three are combined into one. Any possible subset of the world may, at any point, chose to interact with you - sometimes even at the same time.

It is possible that with increasing media and communication techniques, we may need an entirely different paradigm altogether; perhaps a functional separation. That we need to recognize that people are performing within different functions. For instance, for myself, these following functions would readily be recognizable:
  • at work, engaged in a busy project
  • at work, doing miscellanous things
  • at home, doing nothing
  • at home, busy
  • on the shooting range
  • working on hobby projects (like CoWiki)
or maybe even other scenarios. An efficient Personal Communications Platform might sort the communication according not to spatial or temporal locations, but to functional locations. Right now I'm dealing with busy work, so my PCP wouldn't alert me to leisural communications unless I specifically checked in to it. While at home, my friends would take precedence over work-related items, and so on.

This does invariably represent a paradigm change in the management of communication, but maybe it's worth to think about. It could be the Next Big Thing. And I somehow have the feeling that it wouldn't be too difficult to implement.


Making Coffee Is Hard

It took three tries for me to make coffee today.

First, poured myself a cup of water and put it in the microwave for a minute and a half. Then I took it out, looked at it, and thought to myself "this isn't coffee... this is tea water!"

Then, I poured water into the coffeemaker, forgot the filter and the coffee, and turned it on. Proceeded to take a shower, and when I came back, I had another cup of really hot water.

On the third count, I finally succeeded.

I've started working full time, from 8am to 5pm, instead of 9am to 5pm as I did before. I'm not sure the change is all good. :)


PDM

PDM stands for Persuit Deterrent Munition; a little device that works like a motion-sensor handgrenade.

It is modeled in the latest version of America's Army; not in-game, but available through some console commands. And it's really, really, really nasty.

The way it works in AA is that you release the safety and throw it a distance. Within 5 seconds it arms itself, and anything that then passes within its detection radius causes is to trigger. When it's triggered, it jumps about 5-10 feet into the air and detonates, killing everything within a typical 25-feet range.

And it's hard to spot. If you don't know it's there, there's a very good chance you'll miss it. All you know is that you're running merrily along, looking for enemy; when suddenly you hear this "clatch" sound and half a second later an enormous "BLAM" next to your head that violently tears you to pieces and sends you flying several feet before your dead body touches the ground.

Once I was looking for a deployed PDM I'd thrown a minute before, and I didn't see it. Suddenly I saw it... not more than 10 feet away right in front of me. I knew that any sudden movement would set it off. Basically, I was already dead; I just hadn't died yet. I tried to get down on the ground, slowly, to inch away from it, when...

Clatch... BLAM!!!!

If I ever came in contact with a real SF team, I would probably have an immediate cardiac arrest. Somehow, that seems less painful.


Exploding Dog

There's this guy called Sam Brown who maintains a web site called Exploding Dog. This web site is filled with pictures which he drew from captions that people sent him.

I keep returning to the web site because of the amazing pictures he draws. They are incredibly simplistic, as if drawn by a four-year-old, and yet contain the most curious and odd psychologic constructs, and are oftentimes puzzling and interesting way beyond what is normal for that quality.

Two of the pictures I have fallen for are That's All He Really Wanted, and I'm So Lucky.

The first one, That's All He Really Wanted, must be some sort of play on a sick, twisted evil green monster, who's happiness in life ultimately depends upon his ability to imprison humans... but - what are the stars? Who is the monster? What is it he wanted? What kind of sick, twisted, perverted human being could come up with an idea like this? Needless to say, I am full of admiration.

I'm So Lucky is different. Is seems more cynical than anything; it seems to be a parachute jumper that unfortunately jumps into the wrong spot and is captured by a monster. But it has a similar theme... who is lucky? Is it meant cynically, as a sort of "geez" statement from the parachutist? Or is it the monster, whose emotions we sympathize with as he suddenly finds live food falling from the sky? Do we read anything into the fact that he is eating humans? Is he really eating them? Or is the monster drawing emotional comfort from having human company? But if so, why the parachute...?

In stark contrast, I'm Here possesses nothing of this. It's a funny game ... somone is hiding in a game of Hide-and-Seek. But what is such a "happy" picture doing there among the others, wallowing in emotional terror?

The pictures are so extremely weird because they most of the time depict sadness, horror, grief: in essence, Trauma; almost coming across as schizophrenic in their settings. They contain monsters, darkness, tears and blood. It seems catharctic in the sense that evokes the feelings of descending into a person's subconscious and facing the dark secrets buried within. In one way they could be described as the images of an innocent Self faced with dark monsters hidden in closed lockers in the subconscious. Had they been painted professionally they would never have evoked the same feeling of childhood and of innocence. It's like a child trying to understand a complex, dangerous world that really doesn't make sense, and approaching it with a child's naivety. The images come out of that fateful initial contact between the unharmed psyche and the Trauma.

Or maybe he's just in it for the money. :) Either way, it fascinates me. I'm not sure why.


Ally McBeal

I happened to watch an episode of Ally McBeal on TV yesterday. Ally McBeal is a series I really enjoy watching, largely because of the unusual and comical characters in the show (odd, but not weird; I would say distinctly exaggerated). And while sprinkling some very odd and unusual plots and events in it, I think the show still possesses a very pervasively human and sensitive emotional touch to it, which appeals to me. It revolves mainly around Ally McBeal herself; single lawyer in her mid-30s who works together with a highly distinctive group of associates, and who still hasn't found Mr Right, and doubting that she ever will. I guess part of the reason I like the show is because somehow I empathize with her - sometimes, maybe even identifying with her - although I'm of course looking for Ms Right. I think we both, Ally and I, have our own romanticized views upon it which never really seem to come true.

Anyway, in this particular episode, Ally's hat blew off in the wind, and it landed just outside a particular house. The house was a little old and torn, but she liked it so much that she bought it.

Ally's therapist, of course, thought it was a projection of herself, buying and restoring a house just as she herself tried to fix and restore her own life. Her coworkers thought she was nutty and in way over her head. Everyone seemed to suggest that Ally had lost her mind .. more than usually, that is, and Ally herself didn't quite know whether to believe in them or not. But she liked owning a place. And what she dreamed of was to have a coat-hanger; because if she had one, she could hang her coat on it, and then she could feel like she was home.

To make a long story short, her coworkers all pitched in, painted the entire house indoors while she was away; and when she came home to her unfinished, unrestored house, everything was done. And in one room stood a coat-hanger, just all by itself. And then there followed this scene where Ally hung her coat on her coat-hanger, and just stood there looking at what she had bought, and what her friends had done for her; that old, funny, quaint little house (with bad plumbing), and it looked so beautiful. She sat down on the empty floor, in her new house, and you could see that she was so much in love.

I never saw anyone before fall so much in love with a house. For the next hour or so, I walked around and just thought happy thoughts. I felt that everything you buy, you should be in love with. In this case, a house that is so perfect for you that you love spending every moment in it - despite its little quirks and nuisances. And if everything you get is like that... than maybe one day you'll walk around and everything you possess is just full of love, love, love.

Well, I don't know. I guess everything can't be perfect. But in the end, Ally didn't buy her house because of complex psycho-dynamic processes; she just fell in love with it. More things in life should be like that.


Stockholm

Was in Stockholm today for a technical introduction to the Philips PBX's. Very interesting.

I find myself starting to like Stockholm more and more. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just that when you walk around downtown, you can almost get a little, tiny bit of an American big-city sensation. Cars everywhere, odd-looking people, people yelling at other people, and so on. Very... New York, somehow.

Maybe I just miss Chicago.


Adventures On FLS Assault

So my recent hobby has been the computer game America's Army, if you've ever heard of it. It's a multiplayer game available free from the official site, and which is developed by the United States Army as a sort of publicity stunt. It's very good, though.

My favorite mission is FLS Assault: A squad of the 82nd Airborne jumps over an airfield at night, and assaults a team of enemies dug in. The thing is, the assault squad carries only M-16's and smoke grenades, while the enemies have light machine guns and explosive grenades. Which makes for an interesting fight: A straight-on assault is suicide, and therefore you have to use marksmen crawling forward in the terrain, and assault teams enveloping both south and north. With proper coordination and good team members, it's absolutely doable; with just nit-picking at skilled enemies, you lose every time.

Which is interesting. My favorite is to crawl along, get into position and start picking off enemies from the front through single M-16 shots. There are only six enemies, and getting one or two per round is customary. You start getting nervous, though, when there's a huge firefight erupting over there, grenades explode and you hear your own guys screaming for medics.

One such time I was in the middle, scanning for enemies. Most action had died down, and there was about 1:30 left on the clock before we had to take the objective or lose the round. I look at the player status screen, it shows me and another guy is still alive. I report my position, waiting for something to happen. Nothing.

The seconds tick away. I look at the player screen again, and suddenly I'm the only one left alive. 00:30 on the clock. Gulp!

So I decide I have to do something. The entire team is now looking over my shoulder to see what I'm doing (they can watch the remaining players after they die) and I can imagine their comments: "Run! Run!" (which I can't see since I'm still in the game).

So I stand up and rush forward to the defensive trench, M-16 in hand, and just as I draw near I see an enemy soldier, crouching down in the trench and scanning to my left. I'm in the open and scared as hell since I'm running against machine guns over an open field, but the second I saw him I fired about 10 rounds at him and took him out.

And thus we won the round. With 00:08 seconds left on the clock.

Everybody on my team was shouting "yeah!", "wonderful!", "good job!"; and the comments from defense were "aaah!" and "8 secs... lol!". I felt great.

That's why I love FLS assault. It takes planning, teamwork, skill, and marksmanship. But when everything comes down to you and the clock, there's always that "no guts, no glory", and you rush ahead and win the game. Or, you rush ahead and get pounded by two machine guns. But hey, you would have lost anyway. :)


 

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