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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

The Disturbances of my Mind

I like classical music. Both Western and Indian. I also like Jazz and most instrumental music. I don’t know why I like them, nor do I understand much about the performances themselves, except that I like them. For instance I hear people talk about how such and such performance was great or how a certain artist added his/ her touch to a particular piece, but none of that usually makes sense to me. I just enjoy the music and some performers, but I have no real reason behind it. Nor do I have any drive to learn a musical instrument or create music etc – I am just an audience who likes to enjoy the performance, not a creator, probably not even much of a technical admirer.

I like learning languages. I know English, Hindi, Malayalam, and can understand Tamil. I spent 4 months in a beginner course of German (but had to give up for other reasons even though I was quite good at it and the instructor was impressed with my interest). Most people in the German class had joined coz they wanted to relocate to Germany. I too had that reason in mind, but it was a secondary reason – I was more into the class coz I liked learning a new language, and I was very influenced by the process of learning a new language or how it got me thinking differently. I want to learn Arabic. I don’t know of any classes near my place, plus time is a constraint I guess, but Arabic is something I definitely want to learn. Back to English, I like it a lot and I love reading and trying to write stuff in it. But I am not very creative. Once in a while I get a spark and I write some stuff – once in a few years I mean – but that’s about it. But I like the language as such, and I love reading to get a feel of how to use the language, and I try to use what I read in whatever little bit I write. And even though I am not very creative I do try and write stuff like this blog – which isn’t very creative, I know, but is nevertheless an outlet to write.

Similarly I love computer languages. I love C, C++, Perl, Bash, PowerShell. I also know Java, HTML, and CSS. I want to learn Python, Ruby, new stuff like node.js (JavaScript). I briefly programmed in LISP and Scheme in college and I think they are amazing languages and would like to learn more about them. When I think of these languages the feeling I have is of passion, of love. I don’t just think of them as tools or as a means to an end. I think of them as an end themselves. I really love these languages, I really love the time I spent learning and programming in them – those are some of my fondest memories. But again, I am not very creative. I am not good at coming up with smart algorithms, but if I am given an algorithm I am good at expressing it. I think I write beautiful code – at least that’s what I always felt compared to my classmates in college. They’d come up with smart algorithms and generally solve the problem way better I ever could, but there was no beauty to their code. My code, on the other hand, was beautiful and I was proud of whatever I had come up with. I looked neater, more elegant, and I always felt that was because I loved the language and looked to expressing what I want beautifully in that language. Sort of like how you’d use certain words that are better suited than other words, to express the same idea. Words matter. The language matters. But the underlying point is I am not creative. I may love the language, I may love the music, but I am not creative enough to come up with my own creations – and that has always hurt. Why am I not creative enough?

On to computers themselves. My biggest and sort of only passion. (I have other passions like reading about evolution, psychology, history, etc. but none of them come near my passion for computers). Again, I have no clue why I love computers so much. I don’t even do much with computers – at work I am a glorified helpdesk person though I know I am much more capable than that. Again, I see others who are doing more work than me – implementing stuff, designing solutions – but here I am. Most of these people don’t even love computers the way I do, I feel. To them computers are a means to an end – of implementing whatever they are doing, of getting paid – but not to me. I really love this stuff, and it really hurts me that I can’t spend as much time doing the stuff I want to do. For instance, I love the BSDs. (I am not much into Linux – they are fine, and I like Debian and Slackware – but I find Linux too superficial, too confused, too much about just doing things for some random reason. BSDs have more “soul” as far as I am concerned). I wish I were doing more stuff with BSDs. Maybe maintaining webservers, email servers, DNS servers etc with them. Not in isolation, but along with Windows – which too I love, and which I feel has really jumped in leaps and bounds since Server 2008. At a previous job I met someone who had implemented a Samba Active Directory environment using Fedora, with Windows XP clients. I wish I were doing that! The closest I have ever come to doing something like that was implementing a Samba Active Directory environment for my Dad’s office, using Debian Squeeze with Windows 7 clients. It was a good experience but I didn’t get to doing much. I learnt a lot of Samba and realized how cumbersome it was to do the simplest of things with it, but I also feel it probably felt cumbersome coz I never used it much. I mean, looking after my Dad’s office wasn’t really my full time work so I’d only do this now and then – which meant the workflow wasn’t ingrained into me and most of the time I’d forget how to do things when I needed to do it again. Plus there were issues which I couldn’t sort out the way I wanted to coz I wasn’t full time there. If it were my full time job I could have experimented with a test PC, got things right, then rolled it out to everyone. But I didn’t have that luxury there so it was a matter of me picking up things as I went along without much time to test or experiment. That was very lousy and eventually when someone else was going to take care of their IT stuff (coz his office had merged with another office) I was happy to let go.

Still, the point remains that I love these things and I wish I were more creative and/ or had more opportunities. I tack these together because sometimes I feel creativity is probably also related to opportunities. You have to put coal through fire (pressure) to get a diamond. Similarly maybe if I had enough opportunities (pressure) I might pick stuff up and get better and better at it and start being creative. It amazes me how some people are able to solve problems wonderfully in PowerShell, or implement superb solutions with the BSDs – just blows my mind! Compared to such people I am just a kid. My gripe isn’t that I am a kid, mind you – that’s OK, I am a kid because of the kind of opportunities presented to me which have only offered me limited growth – my gripe is that I wish I had more learning opportunities so I had a chance to grow, to do things, to learn, to develop myself, to just do stuff I love. Ideally I am doing a bit of server stuff – Windows, BSDs – plus dabbling a bit in coding. Not a full time programmer mind you, but someone who dabbles in it, and knows enough coding to quickly put together stuff and/ or tweak existing stuff. I do a bit of the latter now and then – especially in PowerShell at work – but my output (and the quality of output) has been dwindling because there aren’t enough opportunities and so I slowly forget what I know and because of this the output suffers. A year ago, for instance, most of my PowerShell scripts were much better written – with plenty of switches and some good coding – but over time, due to disuse, I forget most of it, so now when I am have to write some code I know it isn’t as excellent as my previous effort. If I had more opportunities I would be more in touch with the concepts – which I can easily pick up, after which it’s only a matter of retaining them by regular use – so opportunities are what I want. Plus a creative spark to make use of these opportunities and really do amazing stuff with the things I love.

This rant has been all over the place, I know. Off late I have been listening to too many podcasts on things I love – like the BSDs – and today I was listening to a podcast on Perl and that just overwhelmed me. I love Perl, and I still remember picking it up from Larry Wall’s book (and what an amazing book that was! he was someone with passion for languages and that showed itself in the book and Perl) and using it in one of our programming assignments. I was able to solve it way easily than my classmates coz Perl made it easy, and I just loved coding in Perl and writing stuff in it. The podcast brought back all those memories, along with all the regrets, so I finally quit listening to it midway … but by then my mind was already disturbed and I had to let it out somewhere, which is what this blog post is for. The Disturbances of my Mind. 

The Disturbances of my Mind by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.