Thursday, July 13, 2006


A Balance of Cares

I had a thought tonight: maybe some things just aren't worth caring about. I've always thought that I was supposed to care about everything.

Today was rough. We have a new system that's supposed to be coming on-line. Somebody promised the mayor, who promised everyone that he would solve L.A.'s traffic problems, that it would be finished by the end of June. Well, several other things happened. We have only so many people; I work with a technically talented group, but there are only five of us. We didn't get the new system done. Today I got calls from many people asking what the problem was. I got sick of it. Finally unloaded on one manager and told him if he really wants things done he needs to hire people and then pay them so they don't just use our department as a stepping stone to the Department of Water and Power, whose electricians do the same work for about 30% more money. I'm just sick of politics. There's money for sex appeal--new big LCD screens for the Control Center that we don't need--and no money to hire technically competent people to keep it all working.

The result is, naturally, burn-out. Try to care about anything and someone will still cut you down, saying you're not doing enough.

And, perhaps, in the cosmic scheme of things, this is as it should be. I'm dust, the mayor is dust, we're all just dust in the wind, here for a brief time. Building complex systems, or knowing God. Which is more important? Ultimately, I was looking for a job when I found this one, so if they find my attitude unbecoming they can just do what they usually do with inconvenient truth: sweep it away. Find a yes-man.

I really don't know what I'm supposed to care about. Friendship? Work? Creativity? I've used all of those as bridges over the sharp points of years uncounted. Now the bridges are falling apart, the automatic habits no longer so distracting as they used to be. I don't care much about that, either. I sort of wonder how God will solve this problem. What, legitimately, is my role in this kind of life? It could very well be that the only way to really learn is to experiment, which has been my mantra.

I recently got burned on an experiment. I like music, and the idea of having a music device by my bed that would have a large library was just too attractive, and after thinking about it for a year or more, and doing the research, I bought an Archos AV500 video and audio player. The Web site said that it would play WMA audio, which I assumed meant Windows Lossless, because that's how the Windows Web site describes them. I also thought that a playlist would be a playlist. The first time I copied music to it, the playlist turned into a scatter of songs, and then I noted the playback rate was 192k. Further checking revealed files about 25% of the size they should have been, which explained the music's lack of subtlety. It turns out there's no way to make this gadget play real music, and playlists have to be assembled on the device itself. Dead meat. I wonder if I can get my money back. It turns out that very few portable audio devices will play WMA lossless files. Back to square one: a portable CD player and a stack of CDs by the bed. Yes, I'm picky. God gave me good ears. They're not as good as they used to be but I still know what music should sound like, and neither MP3 nor WMA is music.

So, you experiment and you get busted. Some experiments are far more costly than this one. My feeling with God is that I can't experiment because if I screw this up I'll be tossed, like a music player that doesn't cut the mustard. God is different, though. Whether the experiment fails or succeeds it's a learning experience, and that's how He sees them. Take the lesson and go on. The main lesson I've taken from the music experience is that my needs, as usual, are odd. Everyone else tolerates MP3.

MP3 is to music what Budweiser is to beer. Blecch. Experiment noted. I need a Chimay music player. It probably doesn't exist. Well, it does exist. It's called a laptop computer, running Windows and Media Player. Chimay is expensive too. Fortunately I don't drink much.

And if you think this entry is confusing, just be glad you can't see inside my mind right now. I think I need some music.

I don't have your technical gifts and talents, so yeah, this was a little confusing that way...but it's clear what you're saying, Larry.
We get to this stage of our life, and we start to sort things out. What's important? Friendship, love, caring, GOD. Jobs are jobs, and we get to the point where they are a means to earn money, and maybe little else. I like what I do, for the most part...I think you do too. It just doesn't define us. You know what matters, and that's all that matters.
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