The Dream Gig

I posted this on Facebook shortly after I got the news

I guess it's more or less official now. Short of a major screw up I start at Google on Monday.

I've always talked about the "dream gig" but this one is really a dream come true. Working on Developer Relations doing curriculum development for an instructor led course on Progressive Web Applications and it came out of absolutely nowhere

This is a follow up to Good news from unexpected places now that I have the full story… so far.

I spoke to the staffing agency folks so now short of the budget being withdrawn I start at Google on Monday (June 6)!

Things worked themselves in a surprisingly positive way ending today. I applied for the job without much expectation and, as I've mentioned before, chucked into the nothing happened pile. I was going to SFHTML5 meetup on Wednesday when I got an email from the hiring manager. We spoke for half an hour and we were both really excited. She asked me to send samples of Github repositories I've created... I walked to Starbucks nearby and I sent what she asked me... The following morning she contacted me and said she'd be forwarding me to the staffing agency to next steps.

This was the Thursday before Memorial day... I wasn't expecting much movement before today (Tuesday) and I finally heard the news… I’m in!!!!

It's not just a job or even a job at Google (in an of itself a dream.) It's a job at Google, working on the team I've always wanted to work at since I discovered it existed (Developer relations), doing what I love doing (curriculum development) and it's a job that opens a whole shitload of opportunities both at Google and elsewhere (let's not discount the power of having Google on your resume) so what's there to loose?

It feels like such a big validation of the last 3+ years. Leaving FireEye and everything that has happened since. Every blog post that I enjoyed writing and every little piece of code that I created to go with them and every aggravation and stress I went through at NTT. It feels like it all led to this… whatever this turns out to be.

And that’s perhaps the most important thing. I’m not going in with rose colored goggles, well perhaps a little. I know th is is going to be hard and I know this is going to be a shitload of work but it will be so worth it in the end.

I’m also not thinking long term. I’m thinking how awesome this project will be and what I can do once it’s completed. I’m thinking that this will give me even more flexibility than FE’s stock option did at the time. I’m looking at the short term know in the knowledge that the long term pay off will be there whether I look for it or not and that, whatever comes next, I’ve earned the validation that a job at Google entails.

Bring. It. On

Life without regrets (again)

Trigger for today's post was originally a writing prompt on Reddit and for some reason it had me in tears... and I wasn't the only one as show in the comments 🙂

After the idiot in the kitchen stopped peeling onions it made me think why it hit so hard. I didn't grow up with the cartoon and I was already in my 20s when it came out for the first time so what was it?

I realized that there was a lot of regret from Calvin and a lot of soothing from Hobbes. It was Calvin that got me... I was crying like a baby.

One of the things I've realized now is that it's regret that has been eating at me.

I stayed home and have been watching TV and some youtube but what really caught my attention was SG1's episode The Torment of Tantalus... all about second chances and learning to accept your mistakes.

It'll be an interesting couple weeks until I start the gig at Google.

Good news from unexpected places

I'm still pinching myself. OMGWTF just happened these past 2 days?!

I applied for contract work at Google through Udacity last week. Didn't hear anything about it so I filed it into the "Nothing happened, move on" pile and that's where it stayed until Wednesday. I get an email from the PM for the project at Google and then we get on a call, the same day! I was asked to submit examples of Github repositories which I did. I heard back today and I'm being sent to the staffing agency to process for employment.... I start June 6th (can you fucking believe that?!)

It's not just a job or even a job at Google (in an of itself a dream.) It's a job at Google, working on the team I've always wanted to work at since I discovered it existed (Developer relations), doing what I love doing (curriculum development) and it's a job that opens a whole shitload of opportunities both at Google and elsewhere (let's not discount the power of having Google on your resume) so what's there to loose?

Yet I'm still cautious... "Too good to be true" has raised its head a lot since this happened. What happens if your best is not good enough?

We'll have to play the hand as dealt... your best is going to be awesome, particularly when your very good was awesome to them 😀

Life without regrets

From Carlos

I don't think anything in Reddit has made me cry like this one did... ever

Link to the original: In the final minutes of his life, Calvin has one last talk with Hobbes

[EU] In the final minutes of his life, Calvin has one last talk with Hobbes

"Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?"

In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, "Did... did you.... find him?"

"Yes dear," Susie said smiling sadly, "He was in the attic."

Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.

"I washed him for you," Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.

"Thank you, Susie." Calvin said.

A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.

"Dear," Calvin said finally. "Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him."

"All right," Susie said. "I'll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I'll be back soon."

Susie kissed her husband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her.
Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. "I love you," he said.

"And I love you," said Susie.

Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.

Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. "Hello Hobbes. It's been a long time hasn't it old pal?"

Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. "It sure has, Calvin." said Hobbes.

"You... haven't changed a bit." Calvin smiled.

"You've changed a lot." Hobbes said sadly.

Calvin laughed, "Really? I haven't noticed at all."

There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.

"So... you married Susie Derkins." Hobbes said, finally smiling. "I knew you always like her."

"Shut up!" Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.

"Tell me everything I missed. I'd love to hear what you've been up to!" Hobbes said, excited.

And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.

"You know... I visited you in the attic a bunch of times." Calvin said.

"I know."

"But I couldn't see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal." Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.

"You grew up old buddy." said Hobbes.

Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn't grow up and that we'd be together forever!!"

Hobbes stroke the Calvin's hair, or what little was left of it. "But you didn't."

"What do you mean?"

"We were always together... in our dreams."

"We were?"

"We were."


"Yeah, old buddy?"

"I'm so glad I got to see you like this... one last time..."

"Me too, Calvin. Me too."

"Sweetheart?" Susie voice came from outside the door.

"Yes dear?" Calvin replied.

"Can I come in?" Susie asked.

"Just a minute."

Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. "Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks... for everything..."

"No, thank you Calvin." Hobbes said.

Calvin turned back to the door and said, "You can come in now."

Susie came in and said, "Look who's come to visit you."

Calvin's children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin's room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. "Grandpa!!" screamed the child in delight.

"Francis!" cried Calvin's daughter, "Be gentle with your grandfather."

Calvin's daughter turned to her dad. "I'm sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories."

Calvin laughed and said, "Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age."

Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, "Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up."

Calvin's beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tomorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, "Francis. Come here for a second."

Francis came over to his grandfather's side, "What is it Gramps?"

Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. "This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him."

"He's just a stuffed tiger." Francis said, eyebrows raised.

Calvin laughed, "Well, let me tell you a secret."

Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, "If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger."

Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, "Not only that he will be your best friend forever."

"Wow! Thanks grandpa!" Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.

"Francis! We need to go now!" Calvin's daughter called.

"Okay!" Francis shouted back.

"Take good care of him." Calvin said.

"I will." Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.

Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. "I'll take care of him, Calvin..."

Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.

Aung San Suu Kyi – Nobel Lecture

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Dear Friends,

Long years ago, sometimes it seems many lives ago, I was at Oxford listening to the radio programme Desert Island Discs with my young son Alexander. It was a well-known programme (for all I know it still continues) on which famous people from all walks of life were invited to talk about the eight discs, the one book beside the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, and the one luxury item they would wish to have with them were they to be marooned on a desert island. At the end of the programme, which we had both enjoyed, Alexander asked me if I thought I might ever be invited to speak on Desert Island Discs. “Why not?” I responded lightly. Since he knew that in general only celebrities took part in the programme he proceeded to ask, with genuine interest, for what reason I thought I might be invited. I considered this for a moment and then answered: “Perhaps because I’d have won the Nobel Prize for literature,” and we both laughed. The prospect seemed pleasant but hardly probable.

(I cannot now remember why I gave that answer, perhaps because I had recently read a book by a Nobel Laureate or perhaps because the Desert Island celebrity of that day had been a famous writer.)

In 1989, when my late husband Michael Aris came to see me during my first term of house arrest, he told me that a friend, John Finnis, had nominated me for the Nobel Peace Prize. This time also I laughed. For an instant Michael looked amazed, then he realized why I was amused. The Nobel Peace Prize? A pleasant prospect, but quite improbable! So how did I feel when I was actually awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace? The question has been put to me many times and this is surely the most appropriate occasion on which to examine what the Nobel Prize means to me and what peace means to me.

As I have said repeatedly in many an interview, I heard the news that I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the radio one evening. It did not altogether come as a surprise because I had been mentioned as one of the frontrunners for the prize in a number of broadcasts during the previous week. While drafting this lecture, I have tried very hard to remember what my immediate reaction to the announcement of the award had been. I think, I can no longer be sure, it was something like: “Oh, so they’ve decided to give it to me.” It did not seem quite real because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time.

Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world. There was the house which was my world, there was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community, and there was the world of the free; each was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe. What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize. It had made me real once again; it had drawn me back into the wider human community. And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten.

To be forgotten. The French say that to part is to die a little. To be forgotten too is to die a little. It is to lose some of the links that anchor us to the rest of humanity. When I met Burmese migrant workers and refugees during my recent visit to Thailand, many cried out: “Don’t forget us!” They meant: “don’t forget our plight, don’t forget to do what you can to help us, don’t forget we also belong to your world.” When the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to me they were recognizing that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognizing the oneness of humanity. So for me receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.

The Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome. The word nyein-chan translates literally as the beneficial coolness that comes when a fire is extinguished. Fires of suffering and strife are raging around the world. In my own country, hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today. News of atrocities in other reaches of the earth abound. Reports of hunger, disease, displacement, joblessness, poverty, injustice, discrimination, prejudice, bigotry; these are our daily fare. Everywhere there are negative forces eating away at the foundations of peace. Everywhere can be found thoughtless dissipation of material and human resources that are necessary for the conservation of harmony and happiness in our world.

The First World War represented a terrifying waste of youth and potential, a cruel squandering of the positive forces of our planet. The poetry of that era has a special significance for me because I first read it at a time when I was the same age as many of those young men who had to face the prospect of withering before they had barely blossomed. A young American fighting with the French Foreign Legion wrote before he was killed in action in 1916 that he would meet his death: “at some disputed barricade;” “on some scarred slope of battered hill;” “at midnight in some flaming town.” Youth and love and life perishing forever in senseless attempts to capture nameless, unremembered places. And for what? Nearly a century on, we have yet to find a satisfactory answer.

Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.

A positive aspect of living in isolation was that I had ample time in which to ruminate over the meaning of words and precepts that I had known and accepted all my life. As a Buddhist, I had heard about dukha, generally translated as suffering, since I was a small child. Almost on a daily basis elderly, and sometimes not so elderly, people around me would murmur “dukha, dukha” when they suffered from aches and pains or when they met with some small, annoying mishaps. However, it was only during my years of house arrest that I got around to investigating the nature of the six great dukha. These are: to be conceived, to age, to sicken, to die, to be parted from those one loves, to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love. I examined each of the six great sufferings, not in a religious context but in the context of our ordinary, everyday lives. If suffering were an unavoidable part of our existence, we should try to alleviate it as far as possible in practical, earthly ways. I mulled over the effectiveness of ante- and post-natal programmes and mother and childcare; of adequate facilities for the aging population; of comprehensive health services; of compassionate nursing and hospices. I was particularly intrigued by the last two kinds of suffering: to be parted from those one loves and to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love. What experiences might our Lord Buddha have undergone in his own life that he had included these two states among the great sufferings? I thought of prisoners and refugees, of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, of that great mass of the uprooted of the earth who have been torn away from their homes, parted from families and friends, forced to live out their lives among strangers who are not always welcoming.

We are fortunate to be living in an age when social welfare and humanitarian assistance are recognized not only as desirable but necessary. I am fortunate to be living in an age when the fate of prisoners of conscience anywhere has become the concern of peoples everywhere, an age when democracy and human rights are widely, even if not universally, accepted as the birthright of all. How often during my years under house arrest have I drawn strength from my favourite passages in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

……. disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspirations of the common people,

…… it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law . . .

If I am asked why I am fighting for human rights in Burma the above passages will provide the answer. If I am asked why I am fighting for democracy in Burma, it is because I believe that democratic institutions and practices are necessary for the guarantee of human rights.

Over the past year there have been signs that the endeavours of those who believe in democracy and human rights are beginning to bear fruit in Burma. There have been changes in a positive direction; steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith. Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years. Some of our warriors fell at their post, some deserted us, but a dedicated core remained strong and committed. At times when I think of the years that have passed, I am amazed that so many remained staunch under the most trying circumstances. Their faith in our cause is not blind; it is based on a clear-eyed assessment of their own powers of endurance and a profound respect for the aspirations of our people.

It is because of recent changes in my country that I am with you today; and these changes have come about because of you and other lovers of freedom and justice who contributed towards a global awareness of our situation. Before continuing to speak of my country, may I speak out for our prisoners of conscience. There still remain such prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten. I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many. Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to effect their earliest, unconditional release.

Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union. Since we achieved independence in 1948, there never has been a time when we could claim the whole country was at peace. We have not been able to develop the trust and understanding necessary to remove causes of conflict. Hopes were raised by ceasefires that were maintained from the early 1990s until 2010 when these broke down over the course of a few months. One unconsidered move can be enough to remove long-standing ceasefires. In recent months, negotiations between the government and ethnic nationality forces have been making progress. We hope that ceasefire agreements will lead to political settlements founded on the aspirations of the peoples, and the spirit of union.

My party, the National League for Democracy, and I stand ready and willing to play any role in the process of national reconciliation. The reform measures that were put into motion by President U Thein Sein’s government can be sustained only with the intelligent cooperation of all internal forces: the military, our ethnic nationalities, political parties, the media, civil society organizations, the business community and, most important of all, the general public. We can say that reform is effective only if the lives of the people are improved and in this regard, the international community has a vital role to play. Development and humanitarian aid, bi-lateral agreements and investments should be coordinated and calibrated to ensure that these will promote social, political and economic growth that is balanced and sustainable. The potential of our country is enormous. This should be nurtured and developed to create not just a more prosperous but also a more harmonious, democratic society where our people can live in peace, security and freedom.

The peace of our world is indivisible. As long as negative forces are getting the better of positive forces anywhere, we are all at risk. It may be questioned whether all negative forces could ever be removed. The simple answer is: “No!” It is in human nature to contain both the positive and the negative. However, it is also within human capability to work to reinforce the positive and to minimize or neutralize the negative. Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation. Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavours to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.

I used the word ‘kinder’ after careful deliberation; I might say the careful deliberation of many years. Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people. Norway has shown exemplary kindness in providing a home for the displaced of the earth, offering sanctuary to those who have been cut loose from the moorings of security and freedom in their native lands.

There are refugees in all parts of the world. When I was at the Maela refugee camp in Thailand recently, I met dedicated people who were striving daily to make the lives of the inmates as free from hardship as possible. They spoke of their concern over ‘donor fatigue,’ which could also translate as ‘compassion fatigue.’ ‘Donor fatigue’ expresses itself precisely in the reduction of funding. ‘Compassion fatigue’ expresses itself less obviously in the reduction of concern. One is the consequence of the other. Can we afford to indulge in compassion fatigue? Is the cost of meeting the needs of refugees greater than the cost that would be consequent on turning an indifferent, if not a blind, eye on their suffering? I appeal to donors the world over to fulfill the needs of these people who are in search, often it must seem to them a vain search, of refuge.

At Maela, I had valuable discussions with Thai officials responsible for the administration of Tak province where this and several other camps are situated. They acquainted me with some of the more serious problems related to refugee camps: violation of forestry laws, illegal drug use, home brewed spirits, the problems of controlling malaria, tuberculosis, dengue fever and cholera. The concerns of the administration are as legitimate as the concerns of the refugees. Host countries also deserve consideration and practical help in coping with the difficulties related to their responsibilities.

Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace. Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness.

The Nobel Committee concluded its statement of 14 October 1991 with the words: “In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize ... to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.” When I joined the democracy movement in Burma it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honour. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential. The honour lay in our endeavour. History had given us the opportunity to give of our best for a cause in which we believed. When the Nobel Committee chose to honour me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow. For this I thank the Committee, the people of Norway and peoples all over the world whose support has strengthened my faith in the common quest for peace. Thank you.

What are we so afraid of?

Freedom from Fear speech

by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, 1990

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.

Public dissatisfaction with economic hardships has been seen as the chief cause of the movement for democracy in Burma, sparked off by the student demonstrations 1988. It is true that years of incoherent policies, inept official measures, burgeoning inflation and falling real income had turned the country into an economic shambles. But it was more than the difficulties of eking out a barely acceptable standard of living that had eroded the patience of a traditionally good-natured, quiescent people - it was also the humiliation of a way of life disfigured by corruption and fear.

The students were protesting not just against the death of their comrades but against the denial of their right to life by a totalitarian regime which deprived the present of meaningfulness and held out no hope for the future. And because the students' protests articulated the frustrations of the people at large, the demonstrations quickly grew into a nationwide movement. Some of its keenest supporters were businessmen who had developed the skills and the contacts necessary not only to survive but to prosper within the system. But their affluence offered them no genuine sense of security or fulfilment, and they could not but see that if they and their fellow citizens, regardless of economic status, were to achieve a worthwhile existence, an accountable administration was at least a necessary if not a sufficient condition. The people of Burma had wearied of a precarious state of passive apprehension where they were 'as water in the cupped hands' of the powers that be.

Emerald cool we may be_As water in cupped hands_But oh that we might be_As splinters of glass_In cupped hands.

Glass splinters, the smallest with its sharp, glinting power to defend itself against hands that try to crush, could be seen as a vivid symbol of the spark of courage that is an essential attribute of those who would free themselves from the grip of oppression. Bogyoke Aung San regarded himself as a revolutionary and searched tirelessly for answers to the problems that beset Burma during her times of trial. He exhorted the people to develop courage: 'Don't just depend on the courage and intrepidity of others. Each and every one of you must make sacrifices to become a hero possessed of courage and intrepidity. Then only shall we all be able to enjoy true freedom.'

The effort necessary to remain uncorrupted in an environment where fear is an integral part of everyday existence is not immediately apparent to those fortunate enough to live in states governed by the rule of law. Just laws do not merely prevent corruption by meting out impartial punishment to offenders. They also help to create a society in which people can fulfill the basic requirements necessary for the preservation of human dignity without recourse to corrupt practices. Where there are no such laws, the burden of upholding the principles of justice and common decency falls on the ordinary people. It is the cumulative effect on their sustained effort and steady endurance which will change a nation where reason and conscience are warped by fear into one where legal rules exist to promote man's desire for harmony and justice while restraining the less desirable destructive traits in his nature.

In an age when immense technological advances have created lethal weapons which could be, and are, used by the powerful and the unprincipled to dominate the weak and the helpless, there is a compelling need for a closer relationship between politics and ethics at both the national and international levels. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that 'every individual and every organ of society' should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. But as long as there are governments whose authority is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of the people, and interest groups which place short-term profits above long-term peace and prosperity, concerted international action to protect and promote human rights will remain at best a partially realized struggle. There will continue to be arenas of struggle where victims of oppression have to draw on their own inner resources to defend their inalienable rights as members of the human family.

The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.

Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.

Always one to practice what he preached, Aung San himself constantly demonstrated courage - not just the physical sort but the kind that enabled him to speak the truth, to stand by his word, to accept criticism, to admit his faults, to correct his mistakes, to respect the opposition, to parley with the enemy and to let people be the judge of his worthiness as a leader. It is for such moral courage that he will always be loved and respected in Burma - not merely as a warrior hero but as the inspiration and conscience of the nation. The words used by Jawaharlal Nehru to describe Mahatma Gandhi could well be applied to Aung San:

'The essence of his teaching was fearlessness and truth, and action allied to these, always keeping the welfare of the masses in view.'

Gandhi, that great apostle of non-violence, and Aung San, the founder of a national army, were very different personalities, but as there is an inevitable sameness about the challenges ofauthoritarian rule anywhere at any time, so there is a similarity in the intrinsic qualities of those who rise up to meet the challenge. Nehru, who considered the instillation of courage in the people of India one of Gandhi's greatest achievements, was a political modernist, but as he assessed the needs for a twentieth-century movement for independence, he found himself looking back to the philosophy of ancient India: 'The greatest gift for an individual or a nation . .. was abhaya, fearlessness, not merely bodily courage but absence of fear from the mind.'

Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as 'grace under pressure' - grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.

Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.

The wellspring of courage and endurance in the face of unbridled power is generally a firm belief in the sanctity of ethical principles combined with a historical sense that despite all setbacks the condition of man is set on an ultimate course for both spiritual and material advancement. It is his capacity for self-improvement and self-redemption which most distinguishes man from the mere brute. At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.

Nobel Acceptance Speech: Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel's Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1986

It is with a profound sense of humility that I accept the honor you have chosen to bestow upon me. I know: your choice transcends me. This both frightens and pleases me.

It frightens me because I wonder: do I have the right to represent the multitudes who have perished? Do I have the right to accept this great honor on their behalf? ... I do not. That would be presumptuous. No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions.

It pleases me because I may say that this honor belongs to all the survivors and their children, and through us, to the Jewish people with whose destiny I have always identified.

I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember: he asked his father: "Can this be true?" This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?

And now the boy is turning to me: "Tell me," he asks. "What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?"

And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Of course, since I am a Jew profoundly rooted in my peoples' memory and tradition, my first response is to Jewish fears, Jewish needs, Jewish crises. For I belong to a traumatized generation, one that experienced the abandonment and solitude of our people. It would be unnatural for me not to make Jewish priorities my own: Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jews in Arab lands ... But there are others as important to me. Apartheid is, in my view, as abhorrent as anti-Semitism. To me, Andrei Sakharov's isolation is as much of a disgrace as Josef Biegun's imprisonment. As is the denial of Solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa's right to dissent. And Nelson Mandela's interminable imprisonment.

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. And then, too, there are the Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore. Violence and terrorism are not the answer. Something must be done about their suffering, and soon. I trust Israel, for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from her horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land.

Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all. Isn't this the meaning of Alfred Nobel's legacy? Wasn't his fear of war a shield against war?

There is much to be done, there is much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.

This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude. No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Thank you, Chairman Aarvik. Thank you, members of the Nobel Committee. Thank you, people of Norway, for declaring on this singular occasion that our survival has meaning for mankind.

Doing instead of Bitching

Put your money where your mouth is.

This has been in my mind a lot lately... not just as a reminder but also as a call to action. And this time I've chosen to follow it rather than backing off in fear.

  1. I am finishing my application to a writing website... It may not lead to anything but it's a good chance to get money from doing something I enjoy

  2. I've joined Udacity as a project evaluator. The pay is not going to be much in the beginning but it's a beginning.

  3. I've put out feelers for possible contract work doing WordPress design and development. About time I can put the skills to work, isn't it?

I don't expect either of these to be long term projects... would be awesome if they did but... I have to be realistic and keep my expectations in check. The money is different and covering your own expenses is much more expensive, so you'd have to be very prolific to be able to cover your own insurance and related crap.

But it's a beginning

Escribo. Escribo que escribo. Mentalmente me veo escribir que escribo y también puedo verme ver que escribo. Me recuerdo escribiendo ya y también viéndome que escribía. Y me veo recordando que me veo escribir y me recuerdo viéndome recordar que escribía y escribo viéndome escribir que recuerdo haberme visto escribir que me veía escribir que recordaba haberme visto escribir que escribía y que escribía que escribo que escribía. También puedo imaginarme escribiendo que ya había escrito que me imaginaría escribiendo que había escrito que me imaginaba escribiendo que me veo escribir que escribo.