Quality of Life

We have everything. A house in the suburbs, with the designer interior. Two cars. Two children who have all the toys they can wish for and above all we each have our own career in which we find our personal fulfillment. Most of our friends envy us for the effortlessness with which we live our lives and our neighbors desperately want to know we make it work.

But our friends don't know that, like them, we need the double income to make ends meet. They don't know that we don't like our jobs, but that we stick with them, because it's the only way we can make the monthly payments on our cut-throat mortgage and the loan for our cars. Just as our neighbors are unaware that we are estranged from our children, because we work so much and that we need a therapist to tell each other how we feel. Yes, we have everything that our consumer society tells us to buy, but emotionally we are bordering on bankruptcy.

This doesn't stop us though to strive for even more. We single minded in our goal to earn more money to be able to buy more clothes, a bigger car and a more exotic vacation. Our ideal? To win the lottery and buy it all! So why do we still pursue material growth at the expense of our happiness and well being? Because it's what we are told to do. It's the way we are programmed. Economic growth is the norm and we should all do our best to claim our part of it.

The question though is whether more financial gain will add to our quality of life. Of course you need the basics and a little luxury does add to your well being, but when is it enough? When does more luxury only detract from your happiness, because of the sacrifices that you have to make for it? Do we dare to ask ourselves that question when we are given the promise of extra salary only at the expense of a little more of your time, your freedom of choice, your life?


Buried in music

Every now and again a musician comes along with a particular piece that strikes a cord. You can't always put your finger on it, but it somehow resonates with your soul and captivates you on a deeper level. Faithless did this to me with Outrospective and Evanescence managed to the same with Fallen, but both these albums have been around for a while.

Now the silence has been broken once more. This time by the mysterious producer named Burial whose sounds now house my being. Both his debut album Burial and his second album Untrue are just amazing. They are like a blanket of city lights, keeping you warm in the cool breeze of the night.

Must listen ...


Feed me

RSS Feeds are a common featue for informational web sites nowadays. Every news, blog or review site has a feed you can subscribe to, but not every feed is fed the same way.

Feeds are often viewed as an update notification which only contain a header or the first few lines of an article. This is a good usage of the technique if you want to lure readers to your website. When you are using a RSS reader however this is very impractical. The RSS reader is meant to aggregate information into a single interface. But when you are only given headers and links, you'll still have to switch interfaces, i.e. visit the particular web sites, to get the information you want.

But what if you would feed full articles of superior content? People would be able to able to comfortably read your content, your ideas, in their interface of choice and in time they would start to recognize you for your expertise. They might even visit your web site, to read more on the subject. Or better yet, they might link to your web site and point others in your direction.

This is what Seth Godin has done in the field of marketing.

The key is that you give the reader the choice. The choice about what they want to read and how they want to read it. If that is on a Nokia mobile phone using Google Reader, instead of Internet Explorer using your flashy web site, then let them. If the content is of consistent quality, they will eventually come to you.


What is Architecture?

"Architecture facilitates decision and supervises its execution."

An architect provides highly technical solutions in terms and visualisations that is understandable to the client, so that the client understands to options available to him. After the client has made his choice, it's the responsibility of the architect to make sure that the technical details of the choice are in fact realised within the vision of the client.


Unexpected sounds

When I came home from work last Thursday, I walked through Rotterdam central station, which was supposed to be business as usual. Only that afternoon I didn't see the normal grumpy stream of people going to and fro. Instead a band from the North Sea Jazz Festival was set up on the balcony and was playing like they were on stage in their own smoky back alley club. This created such a good atmosphere that a crowd gathered to just listen and be happy.

That is the power of music.


Mobile wonders

It's real. I am now taking the next step in mobile computing and Web 2.0. How?

By writing this post on my new Nokia N73 and publishing it directly to this blog. Though I already did this before using my Blackberry, it's something totally different this time. Now we not have only text, but pictures too. Photos of my point of view directly onto your screen.

For example here is a shot of what I'm looking at right now. Surely not the most interesting sight, but imagine the potential!



In light of certain death, all goals are futile. This doesn't mean that life itself is pointless. It is the posession of material or intellect as a goal for personal fullfilment that will always leave you with a sense of emptiness. All these will ultimately be left behind.

So what does that leave you with? Time.

Time to spend while you are on this earth. That is all you've got and it is the way you spend it which is key.


Essence of CRM

I've read a lot of books and papers on CRM. All complicated theories on how to combine business strategies with analytical workflow applications, that are all focused on customer retention.

Today Kathy explained it to me in plain english and clear pictures. Just keep flirting with your existing customers, as much as you do with potential customers.

This isn't so much about software applications as it is about understanding and appreciation. We want to be understood as a new customer, when buy a product to fulfill a specific need. But we just as much want to be appreciated for being an existing customer. If a company can understand that and act on it, they are halfway in implementing successful CRM.


Changed by blogging

Seth Godin makes a nice point about blogging.

It does indeed force you to be clear. Clear in your writing for one, but also clear about yourself. Who you are and what your point of view is. I'm only just starting to become aware of that aspect of blogging and it's enlighting.

But it also makes you wonder about you added value in life. Can you provide insight to others or are you just a rambling fool? Anyone care to comment?

Speed reading

In this day and age we are being overwhelmed by ever increasing amounts of information that we need to effectively work our way through. Even though we are experimenting with other forms of information like video or audio, we receive the majority in written form.

But how do you tackle those textual torrents? Speed reading.

Tony Buzan gives some excellent techniques on how to improve your basic reading speed and Spreeder let´s you train those techniques on any text, but that´s only th tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Real speed comes from a combination of skimming and scanning, which means quickly going over the unimportant stuff and only reading that which matters. We waste a lot of time reading that which we already know or that we don't need to know. The only problem is that we were taught to read a text from beginning to end with equal intensity and understanding. While this may be true for novels, it hinders us with everything else we read.

For example, articles on a work related subject usually want to make one or two specific points, but they also give and introduction, provide some background and add arguments to prove their point. All this is excess baggage if you're already up to speed on the subject. In that case you only need to read the point being made. The combination of skimming and scanning lets you jump over the extra's to get to get to relevant part of the text. Once there you can use your basic reading speed to take in the passage, capturing all the information in only a fraction of the time.

Community websites

Last week I did it. I took the next step in Internet usage and signed up for Digg, del.icio.us and Technorati all at once. Yes people, I entered the world of tags and ratings!

And do you know what I found? The bald head of Britney Spears ... *sigh*

Apparently if you ask the world what is 'hot', what it is that we really 'digg' the most, it's the freshly shaved head of a woman who didn't have a normal childhood and is now paying the price for it.

It made me think about the reason why I started[first post] this blog and realised that the future that Sloan and Thompson predicted is here earlier than expected. EPIC is already online and it's producing what they dreaded it would; "merely a collection of trivia."


Bye bye my sweet sleep

Oh, what a week it has been. My daughter had a stomach flu of some sorts and it didn't seem to bother her during the day, but was all the more interesting at night. You know that time when you are supposed to be asleep.

I´ve changed and washed her sheets and her pyjamas about six or seven times now, after carefully removing the terror that used to be her diaper and washing her from head to toe. All this in time frames of an hour to an hour and a half. This means that I have effectively missed a nights sleep this week.

That hurts.

I don't know about you, but losing this much sleep really wreaks havoc on my capacity to function during the day. Which wouldn't be so bad if I could sleep a hole in the weekend, like I used to in the good ol' days. But those days definitely belong to the past. My saturdays and sundays start at about seven, when my daughter is sure she had enough of that sleep thingie and continually cries out to tell me about it. Of course during the week my alarm clock is basically telling me the same; No more sleep for you mister!

They say it gets better when they older. But that's coming from the same people who neglected to mention that you won't get any sleep in the first few months ... years ...

But then again. When she's washed and fed again and is curling up in your arms at two in the morning. Smiling without a care. You get al warm and fuzzy and alive ... and enjoying EVERY minute of it, whether you like it or not.


'Guide Decision'

That is the essence of an IT Architect. Your job is to provide a decisionmaker with the best possible option with the least consessions, having assessed the facts, the risks and the demands

Some architects argue that they are merely facilitating the decision making process, but that's selling the profession short. Facilitation stops with a layout of all the given options, including their pros en cons.

But the true passion of an architect lies in conceiving an option that is best for all parties concerned and advocating this option. That's what constitutes the guidance that you are obligated to give, whether it is asked for or not.


Freedom of choice

I used to think that to have the freedom of choice meant something rational. Having multiple options and by logic and deduction chosing the best one, instead of having an option forced upon you.

It is true that the opposite of this freedom is indeed having to accept the only option given, but true freedom has nothing to do with reason or logic. Freedom of choice is the ability to do that, which is in harmony with your emotions.
This may even mean that you don't even need that many options, because in every situation you can still choose to let your emotions be in harmony with what you do. When you can do that in every situation, you will attain perfect freedom, that can never be taken from ou.


What's your Plan?

My daughter is a very smart little girl. Yesterday she asked me: "What's your Plan for the future, Dad?". Well okay, maybe she didn't literally say those words, since she's only one year old, but still. With those big brown eyes she stared at me and made me realise that there is more to this world than just me. I now have another person to think off. Somebody who I hope will have the best possible future.

And maybe, just maybe, there are even more people that I have to think of. 6 billion of them to be exact. Now I know that I can't take on the whole wold, that makes no sense. But I can give a little bit back. Give a little to those other big brown eyes who have no Dad to look up to, to ask for that same future that I am wishing my own daugther to have.

Plan logo - visit Plan's International website

Nick has left

With the introduction of virtual meetingpoints, like bulletin board systems and later on the Internet, we needed a string of characters for our identification. This was the birth of the screen name or 'nickname'. A nick was a necessity for text based online environments, since there was no other way to uniquely identify ourselves in a humanly way. This necessity soon turned into a gift.
With the absence of our face, our voice and our name in the real world, we could create an alter ego. We could explore another personality. Be who we would like to be, instead of who we were. We could be that cool guy, instead of a shy geek; that beautiful woman, instead of the ugly little duck.

Unfortunately with every opportunity there is abuse. Young girls are lured into sexual activities by the identy of another young girl who is actually a dirty old man. Lies are being told under the pretense of truth, since it can only be traced back to a virtual identity and not a real one.

This abuse has sparked a new trend. The Internet has now become so common, that we want to use it as a substitute, or rather an extension to our real world. We want to communicate from real person to real person. We want to use the virtual marketplace for trading our real goods. But how can we trust the nick on the other end of the line? That´s why we are now starting to show our true identiy on the Net.

Amazon is now marking comments with a "real name" tag, if that person is using the name on this credit card to sign his comments. Gmail and community web sites like MySpace and Friendster let you add a photo of yourself, to show people who you really are. These are all signs that your virtual identity is becoming a reflection of your real identity instead of you imagination, with the inevitable result that your nick has to go. Bye Nick.


Thoughts on Thinking

"What do you think when you have not developed a natural language yet?" -- My one year old daughter can look at me, analyse and interpret my actions and act on that, without ever having a phrase or sentence to cross her mind. Not once will she think something like "oh, it's that what he means", simply because she knows no vocabulary or syntax to formulate that sentence. Still she must have the equivalent of such a thought, since she does what I ask of her.

If my daughter can think without formulating her thoughts into words, would it then be possible that all our thoughts are speechless at first and that we have developed a parallel thought process that can turn those thoughts into a natural language?


Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there -- I do not die.

by Mary Frye


Kissing a train

Yesterday the train suddenly came to a full stop halfway on the track. They said that it was because a man had stepped in front of the train and that we now had to wait for the police and ambulance.

Strange experience that a man can be hit by a vehicle without the passengers actually noticing. When you hit somebody with a car there is definitely a thump, maybe even a crash if he hits the windshield, but with a train there is nothing. Only the reaction of the train driver and the slight inconvenience of the passengers who have to wait for two hours to be on their way again.

Kissing a train is not a good way to go.


momentary eternity

To live in the everlasting length of one breath, free from thought. That's when the color of emotions can truly illuminate you and you will find freedom in the passing of an instant.