Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day

I live in a city full of protest.  And today, the protests ended, for me.

"April is the cruelest month," it's a quote I've thought of often, and I think for the rest of my life I will know what that means, the quintessence of what it means.

I lost myself along the way.  I know the moment I lost myself.  It was a weekend day some 4 years ago.  My body shook as my mind and heart launched it upon the path that has led me here.  To the end of the riot.  The time is bookended for me like ripples in a pond chasing each other lazily for years, the first hitting the shore a weak wave, marking the time.  One month.  Another, another month.  The last landing just today, its amplitude in inverse, and nothing left of the time but a sigh.

Vicissitudes of erosion, from explosion.

I have learned during the journey what it means to have courage.  What it means to love.  To fight.  To see real evil.  To fail.

At times I was flummoxed by the simplest of interactions with the kindest of people.  For in losing myself, I lost my heart and my mind.  Without those, even the simplest of phrases were hollow, and despite my efforts to patch words together into a coherent meaning, the listener - so I learned - could always tell when there was no heart and no thought in them.

I have hurt the person I love most in this world worse than I have ever hurt anyone.  I have hurt those that love me worse than they have ever been hurt.  In so doing, I threw away all the lessons my father tried to teach me, and those my mother tried to show me.  

I have no anthem, no poetry, no music right now.  Silence is my partner, and the emptiness that surrounds me is oddly crystal clear and focused, I find myself in "a captive void".

This is me now:  bare metal.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Null Set

Silence embraced.  {0}

It is all tears.  All pain.  I sat at my desk today unable to contain the emotion.  I had to close my door.

I am a foreigner in a foreign land.  I am a stranger to the person I have ever been closest to.  And it doesn't matter.  Not a syllable, not a decibel; all is quiet and the voice emanating from my mouth is the voice of one who has lost it all.  And all I have is this goddamn lyric running through my head and I cannot stop it, "It's not alright."  I can't breathe.

9 Crimes, Hollow Men

Leave me out with the waste
This is not what I do
It's the wrong kind of place
To be thinking of you
-- Damien Rice

Is it possible to be hollow like a black hole?  So empty and so full at the same time?

I laughed and cried myself to sleep last night because my toes cramped so badly.  It's the kind of thing that we both used to have happen to us.  And it felt, last night, that it was some sort of great joke being played upon me.  No, it's not alright.

I saw an ad for the final season of Madmen, and I think they nailed what nostalgia is.  How far must we be departed from the times of sorrow, before we have the dumb luck to remember the times before the sorrowful ones, to walk around in those and visit with the memories like old dead friends?  Are these the times, now with this suffering, that I will intentionally neglect to remember?  Will I delete these words in some sort of denial some day, using the excuse they are poorly formed and embarrassing?  And skip over this time and go to the time before, so that if feels like loss instead of whatever this is.

I never give up.  Never.  No, it's not alright.

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
-- T.S. Eliot

Sleep, no more. +/- σ

You do unbend your noble strength to think
So brainsickly of things.

I dreamt that she received a text from a colleague.  The coworker told her all about her coursework in law school, how difficult it was, and even sent some files of her resume and case work.  I threw my phone on the ground and walked away.  Even now I can still see the screen of her phone.

It is 3 a.m., and I'm sure she thinks I've gone out tonight and drunk too much.  If only that were true I would be snoring now.

I've brewed a pot of coffee, and once this post is written I plan to "slay the day's dragons before breakfast," as some motivational speaker in my facebook feed suggested.

At work yesterday I found σ for the first time in a process I designed.  I should have seen it coming, and in a way I did, but I assumed the best half of the deviation, one "plus" sigma, or +1 σ, which is completely inexcusable because for every plus there is a minus, or +/- σ.  It's odd to think that because of one standard deviation I have ferreted out issues with personnel performance.  Perhaps my equation is wrong (it's not); perhaps the sample size is too small (not likely); perhaps the process isn't stable yet (possible).

The day's insight has left me thinking of my life's bell curve.
6 σ (aka six sigma) equates to 3.4 defects per million opportunities.
If I am part of a normal distribution then the past few years have been 1 σ, or 697,672 defects per million opportunities.  It doesn't get much worse than that.

There are 2 ways, according to operations theory, to fix such an issue.  First, reengineer the process completely.  Second, improve performance by reducing variability.

I think the second works for routine, but not for dreams.  And, I believe that I have been working like a plant manager to "fix" production problems in my waking hours.  But, what about the artist in me that awakes at 3 a.m. from troubled sleep, sadness, and heartache?  What of MacBeth?

Dreams are not σ (ask Hamlet), nor are hopes or heartache.  They are a power law, which in the simplest terms is how you predict things like the heaviest floods and the most severe droughts.  One thing is a function of the other, year over year.

Here is the difference.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


What dreams may come.

The night before last, I dreamt of a  way to create data in the shape of pyramids.
Last night, I dreamt that I was running through a three dimensional labyrinth.
The night before last I found something.
Last night I lost it.

I can still see the query that pulled the data back:


I imagined rotating it so that you can see the volume and within it random cylinders like fibers interwoven.

The labyrinth was a hotel, and the inside was dusty daylight and soft lighting, and if I could say I smelled in my dream it would smell like mildewing books and old elevators.  I had left something in Martin Luther King Jr's room and was desperate to get it back.  I ran down the stairwell, and a bellhop asked, "Do you need help?"  I rushed by her and down a long corridor, past the ballroom where the Korean delegation was having breakfast and watching a presentation that was being projected as a hologram.  I vaguely recall being dressed in a military uniform.

We all dream, it is our routine.  Whether we remember them or not, they are there each night as a background process, a manifestation of things hoped for, feared, sought after.

Sometimes we have dreams like these that make no sense but surely make sense somehow.  I think it is my right brain trying to make sense of what this life is like right now for me.  The obvious thing here is that I am searching for an answer, and to find it I keep using logic when imagination is necessary.  Perhaps the not so obvious thing here is I do not know how to deal with sadness.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baptism of Fire

She threatened to dump her glass of water on my head.  And told me to leave.
I left.

I cannot stand to look at my inbox anymore.  Each time the speaker chimes that a new email has arrived I have like a Pavlovian dog learned to reflex.  I think it is my brain that salivates, as it notes the chime, pauses, tells my respiratory system to kick back in, and instructs my eyes to read the From: and Subject: lines.  I know this is my own fault in too many ways.

Despite instructions to my left brain, sometimes I receive an email that hits an old wound and angers me.  I suppose that if you are to have a weak spot, if I am rather, then that weak spot is pride.  Over all the years I have slowly let go all the things I care about, not the least of which is my work ethic.  And my pride in my craft.  And my belief in my ability to lead.  I have counseled myself that with the way things stand that I have no choice and to control what I can.  But reading all the things I have let go, for now is the first time I have put them down, I realize that any reaction to any email is not justified.  I occupy space.

And that is so hard to do.  How do I explain that it is not in my nature to sit quietly and abide what influence is being thrown my way?  What good did speaking up do in the past?  What good did it do today?

I pleaded with her to work with me, not for me.  Why?  Because I believe that I can contribute.  And I believe that in so many ways I am told that I am not contributing fast enough.  Not leading.  Not smart enough.

I do not think that I lack self-confidence.  At least I didn't.  I think that I have let self-doubt in the door, after answering its ring.

I think I should, and can do something, for that would be better than this.  Turn off my speakers?  Turn them all the way up?  There is no upside to either.  If I take the long view of what has occurred, I do not see much upside.  The fact remains that I have abdicated my reputation and let the perception of who I am mutate into something I cannot stand the thought of.  How to fix it?  I'll find a way, even if it involves troubled waters.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Random Walk

Even a drunk finds his way home eventually.

It's a statistical concept - the random walk - and I came across it again tonight in a book I'm reading. And the reason I brought it up now is because it - for some reason - made me recall something my girlfriend asked on the way home from the store tonight.

"What illness has been set in motion that will one day kill me?"
"That happened at birth."
"Not so.  We have genetic dispositions, but that is like the gunpowder.  What's the ignition?  And how long ago did we set the sequence of events in motion that made the explosion inevitable?"

I turned my attention to the traffic and held her hand.

We ate dinner and I returned home, and sat down to study, and her question came unbidden to mind.

 I set the book aside, and began writing this.

I wondered, "What have I done to answer it?"
"I've ignored it."
"What have I read tonight that might be applicable?"
"Mandelbrot's theory on fractals."
"Maybe.  But, I'm still learning that."
"Well, remember the metaphysics behind tossing a coin?"
"If you toss a coin 99 times and it's heads 99 times, what's the probability the next coin flip will be heads?"
"50 percent?"
"Only on paper."

The metaphysics of time, and the sequence of events leading up to the end of our time... what a question to field in traffic.  And, obviously its keeping me up now.

Before picking up Mandelbrot, I studied my neurobiology homework, and I was fortunate enough to be reading about the left and right hemispheres' respective "takes" on time and music.

What I found interesting is that in individuals who suffer right hemisphere damage, time becomes a series of snapshots with no fluidity - like in an old time movie with disjointed images.  There literally becomes no narrative for such folks.

For those who suffer stroke or lesions on the left hemisphere, the ability to speak is impaired, but not the ability to create music.

Losing one hemisphere or another is a 50% proposition.  On paper.