Saturday, August 18, 2012

Psychological Landscapes

After driving through the Arizona desert, I went through mountains that looked more like a group of rounded rocks that somebody piled up together.  Behind those mountains, the bikers start to finger point the end of the continent.  Now I understand why Spaniards called California this place after a land of fantasy.  Having crossed the horrifying loneliness of the desert, this modest forest must have been seen as a generous jungle.  You can smell the leaves from the window of the car, now open to fresh air.

I arrived in San Diego at sunset.  It was an excellent first impression.  The city is very clean and ordered as compared with the South East. That day I was very sensitive to smells, and I was delighted for the fresh scents of the first grocery store where I stopped for directions.  

The hills and dips in the streets reminded me San Francisco, but without the decadence.  The only bad thing I notice immediately was an established population of homeless people.  The funny thing is that this city has the races inverted: the Mexicans are driving cars and the junkies are white.  How did that happen?

After a night in a decent motel, I started to drive along the coast without any plans.  The first thing that I found was a colossal ship anchored in the bay as a floating museum.  I know I said that I won’t be visiting museums, but this aircraft carrier was so impressive that I had to get in.

Leaving alone the fact that this is a humongous device for destruction, it also represents an incredible capacity for organization and an astonishing tolerance for stress and responsibility.  Reading the numbers on the internet is one thing, but actually feeling those gigantic rings of steel from which the bow anchor hangs, makes you wonder how somebody said: “yes, we can do this”.  Part of the answer is that the opposite statement was not an option.   But maybe is more accurate to state that those big pieces of metal were not conceived in the first attempt but after years of trying similar projects with increasing scope and ambition.

After two hours just getting a very superficial look at the theory behind the distribution of power, the process of landing the planes and arrange them in the platform, the administration of ammunition, the handling of fuel, the operation of day by day facilities, the wiring, the communications, the electric engineering, the mechanic marvels and the human resources, you can’t help but realize that there must be a high degree of intuition and improvisation sorting out the unmanageable number of possible outcomes.  Actually, the ship is quite different than the model presented by the architects (also in the exhibition) due to those last minute “requirements” that we programmers hate.  Last minute modifications to a structure of steel must be incomparably more stressful.  War must be the ultimate school of chaos administration.

And yet, some people think this little project of mine is risky.  We are way behind the courage of the founders of our civilization. Smartphones make us more accurate, but at the same time more arrogant and weak.  The brain is not the only part of the body that engages in a project.  It’s not unprofessional to be emotional with your inventions.  A project without guts is a list of reasons for not getting things done.

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