Longitude 180° E/W

It was my pleasure to be able to cross the 180° W to 180° E line last year (more or less this day), crossing the Pacific Ocean. The feeling of separation, of being thousands of miles from the closest bit of land, was spectacular on its own.

I am not entirely certain what more I can say. For me, this memory is so real I don’t need to use any more words. For anyone reading, these words are mere lines on a screen.

Thinking about it, I can describe a few more things.

One of these would be the sunshine Central Pacific experienced. I never thought it would be like that. I never thought it could be so warm, so calm, so tranquil. But, possibly the name of the ocean is not that wrong even though it can experience horrendous storms. Fernão de Magalhães may have been wrong in the entirety when he named the ocean, but he definitely grasped the occasion of the quiet sea.

The other thing to describe would be the sensation by which the aloneness feels. Sure, I wasn’t actually alone. There were probably about ten to fifteen other people on the vessel I was travelling, but, in general and in the modern world, that is secluded. The closest islands of Alaska and Hawaii were both more than two thousand kilometres away and even so, uninhabited. The closest inhabited place may have been a small town in Alaska.

Added to this distance across the globe I would add the distance above and below. The space above us is forever unlimited, and the space below is normally of no concern to us. Central Pacific in where we were was probably between three and four kilometres deep, and its inhabitants we can only imagine — the last frontier open to us on this globe is the depth of the oceans.

Only water, boundless water, in every direction. What an experience.

Abdication of Justin II

One of the strengths of Mr Gibbon (Chapter 45) is his propensity to draw up images from the very moment the original events happened. The abdication of Justin II is exactly one such event.

What makes it so wonderful for me to hear the lamentation of the abdicating monarch is his realisation of all he could have done better in his responsibilities for the people. Hence, the speech with which he greets his successor, Tiberius, is colourful in both wisdom and elegance.

This, I feel, is one of the moments where one realises how fully absolute power corrupts. Justin failed to avoid it and he fell into darkness. He, however, also realised the full extent of the troubles with the people swinging behind a new person, and he managed to extricate himself from that situation. For all that he has experienced, he does not wish Tiberius to go down the same route…

“You behold the ensigns of supreme power. You are about to receive them, not from my hand, but from the hand of God. Honour them, and from them you will derive honour. Respect the empress your mother: you are now her son; before, you were her servant. Delight not in blood; abstain from revenge; avoid those actions by which I have incurred the public hatred; and consult the experience, rather than the example, of your predecessor. As a man, I have sinned; as a sinner, even in this life, I have been severely punished: but these servants, [and he pointed to his ministers,] who have abused my confidence, and inflamed my passions, will appear with me before the tribunal of Christ. I have been dazzled by the splendour of the diadem: be thou wise and modest; remember what you have been, remember what you are. You see around us your slaves, and your children: with the authority, assume the tenderness, of a parent. Love your people like yourself; cultivate the affections, maintain the discipline, of the army; protect the fortunes of the rich, relieve the necessities of the poor.”

Where to Go?

I lamented not a long time ago that the majority of what I wrote here was of something else, of qualities and ideas, and of thoughts. What I have avoided writing about for a long time is this world, and I am now here to rectify this.

Today, I will just post a short list of places I would like to go to, but since I like these places so very much I think it makes sense to mention them.

As a list, here are the six locations:

  • The Cape
  • Australia: New South Wales/Victoria
  • Japan: Chūbu/Kansai
  • Canada: Alberta/BC
  • Sri Lanka
  • Kenya/Tanzania

Now, to figure out the why (insofar as I ‘want’ to figure that out), I can say the following about the places above:

  • Scenery which should be amazing along with two oceans to explore. I love the seas, and I think the seas there will be different to the ones I am familiar with. And there is also a sense of history different to Europe’s: different to what I am used to.
  • I have always had a difficult explaining this particular one. The best I’ve usually done is said: “I really like the idea of it!” I think I might enjoy it because of what it looks like in my mind — which indeed is the worst way to visit any place at all (I mean, expecting something definite), but in a sense I do not have any expectations. What I do have is a thought that I’ll have a brilliant time there. Also, there is the Lord Howe Island which sounds like an amazing place simply for being named after the Lord Howe.
  • I would like to visit the majority of Japan, including Hokkaidō (though that I would like to see in the winter). These central regions though were the source of a lot of the historic events that Japan has seen in earlier history, and I would like to see what remains of those times. And I would like to see some of the natural monuments in the area (Fuji-san!), but that is maybe more for the sake of saying I’ve done that than for the actual wish to do so.
  • I know people there. I have an idea of what the nature is like. I know I could ski. What else would I need? I don’t think that the question of “Do I want to return?” would ever be a problem in a wintery BC… =)
  • With this wonderful island, my thoughts say: “You have to come here. There is no other way.” My mind responds with an agreement: “On a beach there, you can relax in the evening wind and solve whatever problems you want to solve. You can rest as you haven’t in a long time, and you can read under the setting sun.”
  • I think that what makes me want to see these lands is the same instinct that would take me to Western Russia and the steppes. But there are no steppes any more — we have a large farmland and that is all. Where is the hope to wander the lands and see no one but the birds on the rivers? The savannas are still there though. For now.

I do not know if this is very explanatory, but even in the best of cases I like to explain by way of riddles. At the very least, these places feel right to me. So I can continue thinking of the question: what comes first? Even the first is a good year-and-a-half away in the best of circumstances, but that just makes me want to think of those times even more. This in itself is probably a fault of being human — I cannot just concentrate on the day at hand.

It will remain to be seen if this problem makes for a loss… So, my mind will continue to smile at images from thousands of kilometers away until that time.

On the Quality of E-Books

Whilst I generally prefer to live a peaceful life of which reading is an important everyday piece, I discover every now and then that there are a number of difficulties with this approach. Generally, everything works well or good enough and I do not have to regret the amount of monies spent or effort put into purchasing and reading books but there are also moments when I wish to say something of what is being done under the near-proper term of “digital publishing”.

Let me start first by insisting though that while the following will be true in a large number of cases, it has notable exemptions and I will bring out at least one that I have seen myself. Likewise, the problem does not exist only in digital books but at least with digital books the solution is simple.

Now, I have mentioned a problem but have not defined it yet. If I may: Customers are paying considerable sums of money for books in digital form for download to e-readers or other devices with similar functionality, and yet the final product that the customer receives is not always presented to them in a final form.

Namely, while in regular publishing there is a certain quality and level of spelling that is expected of anything sent to the press, in the digital word this same quality seems to have disappeared with the publishing houses seemingly content to upload anything without ascertaining its quality.

As the next step, I will clarify my own position: I own a Kindle (and have owned previous Kindles in the past) and I spend a reasonable amount on digital books. Digital reading, or e-reading, certainly forms the majority of books I read these days. I do not mind paying for reading anything that another person has written or published, but I do expect any product I receive to respond to certain standards of quality.

Let me bring a concrete example. Over the last few weeks I have read a number of books by Jack Campbell on my Kindle, all of which were priced between £5.50 and £6.00. This price was accompanied by an explanation that the books were approximately 300 pages in other versions, and that the file which included the book was between 300 KB and 700 KB in size. In other words, a very small file with an average-length book had been priced at the aforementioned sum. I’ll be very clear that had there been nothing else, I would not mind this price for it is clear that the good Mr Campbell needs to make his income from something.

However, there was “something else”. Namely, the books were readable but my enthusiasm decreased as I encountered more and more spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. One would think that a simple spell check can find solutions to problems like that, or that one read of the book can note that a word has been split into several pieces (say, “in def ens ible” comes to mind).

Can anyone say how this is a fair use of the money that the publishing house and Mr Campbell make off the people who are purchasing their products?

I remember that when I first read George RR Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons”, the same issue was present. I also know that is the only time a book on my device has been updated, but since I have not read it again thus far, I am not confident in how much has improved.

To get back at the main issue though: We, the customers, are receiving products that are seemingly at a stage where no self-respecting publishing house would release it as a paperback, and yet we pay a very similar amount as if we were buying a paperback. So, where’s the quality I was expecting?

Do I need to pay extra for the publishing houses to trouble themselves by reading through the works at least once?

What needs to change so that I would be able to buy a final product that I could read in peace?

Are the publishing houses deserving of the money I have paid for the titles if you cannot put in a small measure of effort to make their own creations presentable?

Now, I’ll note that digital publishing is not the only culprit. The one title I have from Forgotten Books’ “Easy Reading Series” is similarly full of spelling mistakes and riddled with bad punctuation, but at least I have a personal copy of the title which acts as a small measure of comfort for the similar price I paid towards it.

I am hopeful that this trend in digital publishing can change — I say this not only with the one example I brought in mind but also remembering a number of other items I have read which have been sub-par. However, I also think that we customers need to be more vocal about establishing some set of standards.

I guess the other option would be to set a price per kilobyte, and then the publishing houses can sell me whatever they want to with me going in there knowing that there is no massive profit lurking for these same entities behind the screen — very much unlike the present situation.

So, how do we go about establishing that what is sold to us is a book that we can read when we purchase it?

And until we have managed achieving some standards of quality, let’s make the issue more public!

A Few Thoughts

It is interesting (and enjoyable) to see hours (of work) jump from a planned original of 11.5 to 20.5. In one day. I laugh and enjoy the feeling. 🙂

 

 

And, there is a story. There are 1, 2, and 3. 1 is happy. 2 is not contented. 3 notices that. 3 thinks that 2 wishes to be better than 1.

Make things easier, don’t think for another person.

Sometimes, they surprise you…

Indeed, they do. “They,” you ask now? What “they”?

I am speaking of days : no two are alike, and certainly some of them turn out in most unexpected ways. As an example of this claim, I would gladly bring today.

I’ve heard of people saying that how a day begins can be indicative of how it will continue. Nothing could be further from the truth, I dare say. This morning I woke up around five different times : starting at 3:30 AM (alarm clock), then 5:53 AM (no alarm clock), sometime past seven (again, accidental, more due to a bad song than anything else), and finally two times that were between 8 AM and the time just a minute before my next alarm would have rung (at 8:52). Now, it would be reasonable to say that all of this waking-and-sleeping should have killed any day in its infancy, but not so this time round.

Firstly, the dream. The dream was exceptional. I do not use words of this magnitude (exceptional) very often (indeed, I use them less than rarely), but of this dream I can say nothing less (and yet I will not describe it). Suffice to say, it was a form of peace.

Then, the morning continued in one way or another, but given I don’t remember much of it I deduce I likely read mail, checked the news, possibly even ate something — all those usual morning activities most people don’t really take an interest in, but which enhance the day and bring one up to date on what is going on : not only in the world and country, but also in one’s mind and house (or the other way round, if that be more aesthetically pleasing).

Some time after, I managed to get my bicycle out and get to work — which was somewhat better than last time, and yet there is room for improvement. Never mind that, had some fun conversations there and learned a few new tricks — and got back as well.

While coming back, a fortunate incident (named “planned cycle route”) took me past Eaton Park where people were playing classical music so I decided to listen to them for a while, and that’s what I did. Possibly not the finest melodies played (suffice to say, Johann Strauss was severely lacking) but it enhanced the day.

And now, the evening : in quiet it has passed, and that is for the better. It is good that Sundays can end quietly; for I believe that Sunday will forever be the end of a week, and not the beginning of one.

But the better a terms one ends it on, the easier and more pleasurable to start a new one… So, on we go !

A Moonlight…

 Oh, I wish this could be a common sight in the future. To wake up and see a clear-cast sky and birds flying; to listen to music that calms the spirit. It is such a perfect continuation from the yesterday I knew and the week before that.

Yesterday, I went for a walk. It was far colder than March should be (though it might be something similar than last march) but the Moon illuminated everything. Again a clear sky and a full moon, and the cold weather meant that there was a fog on the lake and the river. I kind of remember a similar day from years ago but then the grounds were covered in white snow and the trees were different. And yet, the Moon’s light was enough to see clearly what was going on — almost as bright as a day, I could say.

Likewise, I went for a first 3.2 km run yesterday. Might have been a bad idea, but I should at least be able to do it in a reasonable time. Yesterday, it was a bit short from reasonable…

As a less reasonable sidenote, it is worth to mention that I managed to intertwine two languages into one sentence so that no one understood what I was going on about ("Shall I go and fill up these ämber’s?"). 😛

Oh well, back to this wonderful morning. For it is wonderful.

And to yesterday…

The night deepends
and moonlight spreads
a coolness to the edges
of the pond, with fronds on
its surface and a frog’s voice.


To that person
wanting recall of events past
in this world below:
"Why not ask the moon above?"
may be the most fit response.

Both by Saigyo.

“Blood and Oil”

Today I walked in the dark cold forest. I went to one of the finest places I know here. I regret that it is a cloudy day. The moon could have made it an amazing sight. It was still great, but it could have been better.

It can always be better? Perhaps. Perhaps. And no. There will be something that is the apex of greatness. I do not know when, I do not know what it will be. I do know that it will be magnificent.

I have looked into the eyes of Muammar Qaddafi. If the people succeed against him, he has indeed lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Individualism.

I gave out good advice today. I wish I followed the advice that I so readily share. I know it’s correct, I know it’s the way I should do things. Yet, I find it easier to say so to others than to do it myself. A pity it is that single topic which always fails me.

I have imagined I’ll reread this all again someday. I do not know when. I do know it will be a great read, an interesting read. I hope I’ll be able to listen to all of the music pieces while I read it to make it even better.

Reliability

So, based on the internet and my probability coursework, I am a reliability engineer. Why? 😛 That’s what my coursework says. Said. Cause I got it done. When I had expected not to.

Motivation is an odd thing. Find it where you least expect it.

But the best things in life… they either don’t ask for motivation, or you’re already motivated for them. And that keeps the engine working. Even though it’s not very reliable.
 

Thoughts Reimagined

 What is this life… 

.. And this would likely make the day … if I continued with William Henry Davies. ‘Leisure’ is, after all, an excellent piece of poetry. However, what I wished to say today is not in reference to ‘Leisure’ (With the possible exception of purposefully misquoting him and saying "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time…") for what seems to be lacking lately is time. Nothing else, but time. And I’m not speaking mainly of myself — I am speaking of everyone and no one, and this tells me that something is wrong. I actually made a (very short) note before writing this and that reads as:

"A life of interest.
A vain person. To make
friends is nearly not as easy
as keeping them."

[Original spacing preserved for excellence.]

I’m sure that many will draw their own conclusions from the previous (indeed, an experience that more people should follow — thinking, after all, is a most useful experience!) but those are likely to miss what I meant to say.

So, what did I intend to say?

I think I’ve managed one thing I wished to accomplish, though it was by no means on the top of my to-do list. What I feel most strongly is that I’m growing more distant from Estonia with every passing moment. (That should be no surprise to anyone). What indeed I hoped would not happen was that I have not found much reason to keep going back there. I know of one upcoming trip, and I suspect another… but to spend a summer there, again? Even though summers in Norwich are likely to lack what I except (a warm sea) then it will most likely be a more interesting and enriching experience (especially if I’ll be able to do more than be in Norwich). As I see it now, I’d expect a visit back "home" in June and then August, or it might be possible indeed that I’ll have to accommodate the two important summer-time birthdays which would mean July (in which case August would be outright foolish). Oh well, I’ll see how it turns out. Whatever happens, it will be interesting. 😉

What I did not however expect was that the idea of Estonia (and what it has stood for) would be so clear in my mind. A discussion on the pros-cons of our policies (not directly, but indirectly at least) of the last twenty years was an example of that. No matter what they did wrong, I am slightly offended by the thoughts that they could have done it better. As it stands, the few names which allowed for the creation of such a state as it is today are still strong and powerful — I wouldn’t want it any other way. And, having grown up in it, I can see the beauty of such a system, as it is. Wanting it in any other way is… [!!]

And, I’ve finally kindled the thought of reading A.T. Mahan in his original [pun intended]. That should be fun… and somewhat more original than the usual book I read.