Category Archives: Communications

it’s like this —

Let me put it this way. You are under a thousand blankets. It is not just dark but heavy. Every sound is muffled and distant but not without its own weight. Each and everything in your universe now has weight. Especially the thoughts you can’t subdue. They come at you like the negative spinning dark spots of fireflies without warning and without swarming yet they swarm nonetheless. They are Magical in a way but Heavy.  They are something that requires attention regardless of your inclinations. But it’s the weight that affects you more than anything else. It holds you captive. It creates the fabric of your captivity. “To each his own”, they say. What a sorrowful burden that can be.

I open my eyes. They feel dry. I guess it is a little before 6am. I turn to see the clock. 5:49. Through the years I have become deadly accurate at knowing the time during the night and into the early morning. I am usually no more than 15 minutes off in my guesses but more often within a few minutes, or dead on. My sleep pattern is consistently erratic, grasping a few hours at a time but usually no more. So sleep is a flaky visitor who I have completely externalized; nothing more than a visitor and a stranger.

I can’t concentrate. Concentration has left me seemingly long, long ago. My thoughts have no patience for themselves. They arrive like intruders on what otherwise would be a passive island of nothing or at least less than intrusive. I have no patience for planning or even a hopeful glimpse of something more than the empty landscape I have somehow whittled myself into. Art has almost no meaning. Nature is a force to be reckoned with much more than enjoyed. Like life itself. The reckoning is beckoning. What a joke, For who, For what? What organization have I ever wanted to sign up for? Yet I feel committed and obligated. I am being measured and graded. Still being evaluated and monitored. Freedom…

It feels like this. You have to go in to get out. But I have no patience for contemplation. I can be idle but not relaxed. I go nowhere in my mediocre meditations which are not meditations at all. They are excuses to myself for missing some ghost boat, for not being present and accountable, for paying too much attention to other guidelines, for wasting time, for following orders, for giving myself excuses, for not following my heart and being happy for myself.

I once breathed calmly underwater. It felt like a nicely encapsulated eternity at the time. It was summer…July…Hot humidity but sunny. Before ozone was a word anyone knew. The sun was our friend. It treated us to different types of celebration depending on the season. In the summer it was native. Life did revolve around it. There were few contingencies. The fine print in the global contract with Nature had not been written. We were healthy.

I was lying submerged in the water of a public swimming pool. I knew a lot about water then. It was part of many things that I was part of. Swimming was one of them. Creeks and reservoirs were another, sometimes lakes and oceans. Garden hoses with lazy mechanical sprinklers attached. The same hose could be used to soak holes dug in the yard for newly planted trees and bushes. It could wash cars on asphalt driveways. It played the upper hand in water wars where balloons and sandwich baggies were filled. It was just a hose. It was just water.

Now water has become the newest global currency, replacing oil. We The People are now scratching more and more of the surface of the planet than before. Fossils are disappearing. We scramble and compete for the living fabrics of Water and Air. The basics are all essential. Redundancy is required.

That humid hot summer day I lay flat on my back at the bottom of a swimming pool in no more than 6 feet of water with my eyes open to the blue sky above. It reflected in many directions all at the same time, a puzzle needing no further organization. The sun itself appeared in many of the pieces all at the same time as through an asymmetrical kaleidoscope. I have that feeling now looking at the pieces of experience I can conjure. It’s not balanced nor does it look complete yet there it appears to be as a complete and indifferent object. It is neither for me nor against me. It is similar to how we all carry our plastic shopping bags of assorted nutrients and elixirs around with us at all times. There’s almost nothing personal about it.

Just Say NAK…

train through southern cal near the arizona border

train through southern cal near the arizona border

Just Say NAK – The Art of Listening: Part II

We might not think about it this way often, but we are all message driven. The multimedia culture we’ve created for ourselves worldwide makes this clearer every day. However the types of messages we choose to receive and send are of course just that: our choice.

But often (i.e., incessantly) we are confronted with messages that make every attempt to disregard those choices and so be delivered without our recognition or agreement. In data communications there have long been different protocols for sending messages. A favorite standard is referred to as ACK/NAK which stands for Acknowledgement/Negative Acknowledgement.

In an ACK/NAK world, messages are sent (say as a stream of characters as text) one at a time, perhaps controlled by the number of characters (say a fixed length of 128 or any other number), or perhaps controlled by a special character or two that indicates the end of the line of text (say a carriage return/line feed).

There may also be other information in the message to help ensure the integrity of the data being received. This is usually referred to as a checksum which is just a number calculated using the content (character by character) of the current message. The receiving end does the same calculation and compares its result to the checksum number sent, hoping they match indicating that the data received is “good”.

The beauty of the ACK/NAK protocol is that the receiving end must either acknowledge the receipt (and integrity) of the last message by sending an ACK character back, or deny it by sending a NAK character back. The receiving end may also end up doing nothing!

The only way the sender can continue its delivery of messages is to receive an ACK back! It essentially lives for ACK. If anything else happens, like nothing comes back or it receives a NAK instead, it may try to resend the last message. But that will only go on for a limited number of retries before the sender quits….This result is bliss to me.

Maybe the message I’m sending here is “Just Say NAK“…if you choose to. You may have to say it more than once, but before long, that message you’re NAK’ing will cease to come back. You can also say nothing with the same result. I’ve learned from applied statistical probability theory and strategic planning of different types that doing nothing (no decision) is often a very good choice to make!

I’ve developed ways of saying NAK to messages and media that suit my lifestyle. These include avoiding being bombarded with negative news and information that seems to have completely dominated the common media. Predominately we are confronted with bad news on a fairly never ending basis through typical sources of information like newspapers, web giants, and television. In fact I’m beginning to believe there is only one source feed of all media worldwide. But where is it coming from?

By not ACK’ing that source, I am keeping my channels open for receipt of other messages that are more beneficial to my well-being. That’s my direction anyhow. I am often surprised by where the messages I do receive and acknowledge are coming from.


The other interesting thing to me is the idea of applying the checksum to everyday communications. As years go by, it seems more and more obvious to me that no two people witness the same event the same way, at least in recollection. The event can be as simple as a short conversation between two people. Neither one will recollect the conversation the same way.

The words change and all the extra information entwined in body language, the weather, the mood, the time passed, all change completely, even within each retelling of the story from the same source. No checksum!

It is always someone’s story (version) of what happened and what was said. We expect accuracy in the story’s retelling but it is never probable or maybe even possible. This is due to our lack of skills in listening…

So instead of tuning up and tuning in to our observational, listening and memory apparatus it appears to me that culturally we have moved to a much simpler but woesome way to achieve accuracy: We put cameras and other recording devices everywhere, everywhere, everywhere…

The documentation of what happened everywhere is captured by data recording, video and still camera gear everywhere from yours or my driveway to the first traffic light we come to, to the first public or private building we walk by or into, to the first GPS’d phone call we make, to the first no-cash-accepted-here transaction we make, to the first Google search of the day we make, and then back again. Woesome.

As much as I like photography and video for their artistically expressive capabilities, I shudder and say NAK to the incessant recording of my daily activities.

It is our own societal escape from the Art of Listening in action. We don’t want to pay attention to what we hear or even see it seems.

We let devices do it for us. And so what is it then that we are doing?