Who are you?

2010 promises to be an incredible year. I am now officially employed by my own company. I can come and go as I please — as long as the work gets done… that’s an awesome situation to be in, however it is simultaneously terrifying.

The buck stops with me. There is no leave, no ‘office hours’, no room for failure. The project can’t get shut down by ‘higher-ups’ and there are no bosses to blame, no archaic “that’s-the-way-we’ve always-done-it”s to get in the way. If something isn’t 100% perfect it’s my problem and my job to fix it. The important business decisions are made by myself and the other directors. There’s a certain arrogance that is required to walk into a situation like this and even though I’m generally quite arrogant (ask my friends), I am truly humbled by it.

All these changes naturally found me updating my About Me page and I was reminded of something that I was asked by my Zen Master (yes, I had a Zen Master) a few years ago. “Who are you?”. I went through the process of listing off a bunch of traits and characteristics, eventually resorted to rattling off qualifications… The whole while he sat quietly, saying nothing. When I eventually stopped talking he again asked “Who are you?”.

“Jonathan Endersby” I replied, hoping that perhaps he had forgotten my name. “Correct!” he said happily.

At the time I didn’t get it… but over the years it has become a profoundly clear truth. Traits and characteristics are just our (very human) way of trying to identify the similarities between ourselves and other people. We do this purely for the benefit of others… We reduce ourselves to labels so that they can make assumptions about us. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a medical doctor it’s far easier to say “I am a doctor” than to say “I am Gregory House”… especially if someone is bleeding to death and needs help.

The important thing is to make sure that you never let those characteristics define who you are… In other words: You are You… Characteristics are just words that describe you… You must never confuse the two… If you think that the word “entrepreneurial” is a good way to describe yourself, that’s great… but be careful never to let the label have an influence over who you are or what you do. When you let your labels start to have an impact on your thoughts or actions you’re on the first step to becoming generic, boring, useless even.

Why does this matter? I believe that introspection is a very important part of life. Knowing who you really are… What you stand for, what makes you tick etc… These are the things that we should be drawing on when we need to make tough decisions. Knowing who I really was helped me get to where I am now and will continue to help me make the tough decisions I need to make in the future.

So, here’s to 2010 and knowing who you are. May they both be the start of many great things!


Murray and Goethe

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

– W. H. Murray

ps. I’m engaged 🙂


This evening at the GeekDinner someone pointed out that I haven’t blogged about my cat, and best of all, they weren’t being sarcastic.

So for everyone who’s not following me on twitter, here goes.

just over a month ago someone posted an email to the community mailing list saying that they had rescued a kitten from the train station and asking if anyone had lost it. The cat would end up at an animal shelter if no owner was found and that just wasn’t an option so I mailed the woman and told her that I would take the kitten if nobody had claimed it after a few days.

A few days later we got Ging.

Ging likes to eat.
Ging likes to eat.

Ging is the most precocious cat in the world. She’s tiny but is fearless and wants to explore everything.

Ging is always ready to pounce.
Ging is always ready to pounce.

But Ging is also a lover.

Ging loves things that are tasty.
Ging loves things that are tasty.

But never, EVER, turn your back.

Because the Ging will get you!
Because the Ging will get you!

Ging sits on my lap while I work and lies on my chest while I watch TV. It’s all incredibly cutesy, but I must admit that I’m totally sold on cats now. Dogs are still awesome, but in a very very different way.

As usual you can see more of my photos on my flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/arbitraryuser/

You can keep Mr Huntley

Part of me wants to write a scathing commentary on how much of a tonsil I think Brandon Huntley is, but there’s no point in beating a dead horse so I’ll just say it once. Brandon Huntley is an a-grade, raging, super massive ass hole. There, I’m done.

Canada is a lovely country, it’s so lovely it gets boring. When I was living there they had a shooting in Alberta. For two days the news covered this shooting, which is entirely reasonable until you found out that nobody actually died; in fact nobody was even hurt… actually, nobody was even shot at… it was just a guy shooting his gun into the air to show how much of a man he was. For two days they covered something that probably happens on an almost hourly basis in the Cape Flats. When a Canadian says their car was hijacked they actually mean it was stolen…. when they weren’t around, stolen… because in Canada the idea of someone actually forcing you out of your own car at gunpoint is just too far fetched for them to comprehend. Keep that in mind.

Canadians are also lovely people, they are friendly and helpful. I didn’t meet any racist Canadians while I lived there, but I also didn’t meet many black people. Canada has a much better reputation for “knowing about other countries” than the Americans, but the truth is that a lot of them, while *knowing* full well that we have cities and suburbs etc, still have a very romanticised, sleeping in tents in the bush with the lions roaring in the distance, idea of South Africa.

In contrast, South Africa is a pretty scary place at times. We have levels of crime that are unbelievable. Babies getting raped, people getting shot for the cars etc, just insane… and it’s published internationally.

Enter Brandon Huntley. He went to De Villier’s Graaf High School in Villiersdorp, an Afrikaans boarding school about 100km outside of Cape Town. This is a school for kids who had been expelled from other schools or wanted to get as far away from their parents as possible, a school where the machismo and racism run side by side. The boys are tough; disputes are resolved in fist fights where the loser can walk away covered in blood, and the winner, a hero. Kids go through initiations that involve being caned repeatedly for no reason. The idea that any boy who attended De Villiers Graaf High School could end up as the repeated victim of racially motivated attacks is very very hard to believe. And I should know; I went to school with Brandon Huntley… I only stayed for a year. He was 1 year ahead of me.

I don’t remember Brandon clearly but his face seems familiar and based on what people who knew him better have said about him, he fits very neatly into a stereotype that existed in the school. Hard, tough and mean. He did martial arts and played rugby.

Brandon claims that he was attacked multiple times, by black people, who attacked him because he was white. To put this in context, I have never been attacked by a black person. I know a few people who have been mugged by black people, but they knew, just as their attacker knew, that the attack wasn’t motivated by the colour of their skin, but merely because they had stuff worth stealing. When Lucky Dube’s attacker pulled the trigger it was because Lucky was driving a luxury vehicle… No other reasons, No racism needed.

Brandon claims to have scars on his body from all the times he was stabbed by black people who were attacking him because he was white. I find it so incredibly far fetched that a tough white kid who went to the school he did, and subsequently lived in the suburbs he lived in, ever got attacked by anyone… without provocation. I think that it’s far more believable that Brandon went around looking for shit, picking fights with people in night clubs and occasionally came off second best.

There are really two issues here.

1. Brandon lied in order to stay in Canada. There are some unforgivable lies. Lying about being the victim of racially based attacks in South Africa is one of them. Brandon has perverted the most painful element of South Africa’s history to his advantage and in doing so has brought about a world of pain for himself. I’m sure he never thought that we would find out what he’d said, but now he has made himself unwelcome in two countries… one of them being the country of his birth. We legally have to take him back… pity.

2. The Canadian authorities believed his lies. The individual who processed Brandon’s application is definitely a racist. Brandon’s story seems unbelievable, even to most Canadians. To be in a position within government responsible for dealing with foreigners on a daily makes this official’s ignorance unbelievable… ie. I don’t believe that he really believed Brandon, I think he just wanted to help Brandon get away from the savage and vengeful blacks that both believed in. The part of this story that is so incredibly sad to me is this: The officer responsible for approving Brandon’s racist lies is also responsible for approving, or denying, the refugee applications from countries like Darfur. What chance do honest, petrified human beings, whose families have been slaughtered and who happen to be black, have of gaining asylum when being interviewed by a man like that?

Let The Police Eat Cake

A few months ago we had some hassles in Obs with criminals stealing car wheels. Eventually it was happening almost nightly. The Neighbourhood Watch (I’m a member, how responsible of me!) started ramping up their patrolling and putting pressure on the police to catch the guys. Within a few days a sharp eyed policeman spotted something trying to hide next to a car with a wheel spanner in his hand. Within minutes they had 4 guys in custody… I was out on a patrol at the time, ironically one road up from where the guys were eventually caught. That night at the Woodstock police station I promised to organise some cake for the police to say thanks.

I pinged a few of the more active neighbourhood watchers and a few agreed to help out financially… Then I though about Charly’s! If you want awesome cake you have to go to Charly’s, but it’s not cheap. I mailed Charly’s and asked if they’d be willing to give us a discount for a good cause. To my surprise they said they’d give us cake for free!  This was brilliant. We used the additional funds to buy other stuff like samoosas and coke etc. To our absolute surprise, when we went to go and collect the cake they had even decorated each one with a police theme!

All in all a nice little party (we actually had two parties to cover both shifts). A big thank you to Charly’s and the other ONW members who helped out.


An online hiatus

For a little over a month now I’ve been compulsively avoiding the time sapping parts of the internets. This isn’t the result of a new years resolution but rather the collective result of being incredibly busy. Admittedly I’ve been on the internet the whole time, but mostly for work or some form of hacking.

My google reader is overflowing, Digg.com could have been down for months, the only blogs I have read are things that someone has specifically asked me to read or randoms that I hit upon while plumbing the depths of python knowledge. Boing Boing, Engadget, DamnInteresting, FailBlog, Icanhas*, XKCD and all-those-things-my-friends-thought-were-mindblowingly-interesting have been ignored… and suprisingly, not missed.

Sure I yearn to know what the fastest SSD in the world is *right now*, or how big the Panasonic engineers have managed to push high contrast LCDs… and about that video of the cop hitting the kid (this happens every few months and causes a flap)… BUT, I’ve realised that it just doesn’t matter… or maybe it does, but not to me… not at this stage of my life.

Perhaps I’m just getting old, but the thing is, this month has passed and I feel better for it. I didn’t plan it this way, but now that it’s happened I get the impression that my little (or perhaps big) addiction to all-things-intertubes was wasting a crap load of my time. I feel good about not knowing. I feel good about the stuff I’ve learnt rather than the drivel I could have absorbed.

In the old days it was still possible to follow the internet… I had more time and the inernet was producing new stuff as a slower rate… but we’ve reached the point where every tom dick and sally has a blog and a phone cam… and is meticulously documenting their lives for the rest of us to pretend to care about. I don’t.

So I urge you. Stop reading my blog. If it’s ever relevant to something you care about you’ll no doubt find it via google… in the mean time I’m just going to upload pictures of my garden and rants about bad web developers.

Over and Out.

Have you seen this video of my cat?

2008 in review.

2008 was a good year; incredible things happened and they all happened so fast!

  • The girl and I started dating.
  • I started writing about politics again.
  • I started drinking beer.
  • I finally read the entire “Cathedral and the Bazaar”.
  • I reaffirmed my love of this country.
  • I started cooking more, bought proper knives, learnt how to bake bread.
  • Something I wrote got featured on Stumbleupon
  • I sailed to knysna on a tiny yacht.
  • I moved my stuff to a server in Germany.
  • I got featured on GraphJam
  • Started learning about buying property, prices, bonds etc.
  • Started reading up on analyst predictions for the interest rate and its drivers.
  • I stopped using my credit card.
  • We bought a house!
  • We started hiking.
  • I moved to woodstock, temporarily.
  • I stopped being allergic to one, very lovable, cat.
  • We moved to our house in Observatory and started working… 🙂
  • Obama won!
  • We started cycling, although much to Lynnae’s disapproval I am not doing the Argus.
  • We grow, and eat, our own veggies and herbs.
  • I hurt my foot.
  • I learnt how to plaster, work with expandable foam, grout, paint quickly and generally fix things that needed fixing.

2009 looks to be an interesting year… I believe that the political landscape will be shifted drastically, and 2009 might turn out to be the second most important year in South Africa’s history.

I was productive in 2008… not as productive as I would have liked, but still, a huge step up from previous years. My goal for 2009 is to be even more productive and self disciplined.

Make 2009 fulfull all your deepest desires.

The coming revolution…

The internet, for all it’s vices, has made the world an incredibly small place. I buy books from Seattle, business cards from London and storage space from San Diego. I chat with friends in New Zealand, India, Finland and Joburg on a daily basis. At ground level the online economy seems pretty stable. Online businesses are lean, mean, fighting machines forged in the dot-bomb furnace. Compared to the sumo wrestling auto industry we’re Ethiopian long distance runners. (Enough with the analogies now)

The offline world however is in a crisis, big corporations are falling over on a weekly basis… most of them failing due to fat cat, short sighted management, while others are just innocent victims of the carpet bombing that is this economic train wreck.

Then I read things like this. George Oates, one of the key people and designer at Flickr, got let go by Yahoo, who bought flickr a few years ago. It’s not so much the fact that they let George go, but rather they way they did it… Basically getting her manager to call her while she was overseas and read a message to her from a scripted “cheers” letter. Her blog post about the ordeal is brutal. Within 14 hours of the call she had lost all her privileged access to all that was flickr; something that had been the centre of her life for many many years.

George’s story is the logical conclusion of the ‘corporatised’ world that we’ve all bought into… and I think the world is starting to see the folly in supporting a system that can turn around and kick you out when you least expect or deserve it.

I have this sense that people are starting to dislike, and distrust, big corporations. In the 50’s and 60’s corporations were the saviours of the failing economy, hell, if you could work for a corporation you were sitting pretty… Working for a corporation meant you had a stable job and even though all you got for 50 years of service was a hundred dollar watch (who needs a watch when you’re retired anyway?), you were happy to have had the job.

But the world is different now, for whatever reasons people expect more from life than just ‘having a job’. We want to have fun, be challenged, enjoy working, laugh, be successful and get home on time to have make supper for our smiling kids and watch 30 Rock on Tivo.

So where does this leave the workforce? Well, the internet is making *not* working for a corporation easier and easier. Now days your small print shop in a side street of London can turn into an international brand with customers from Tibet to Texas, but, most importantly, that small print shop doesn’t need to become a overweight corporation in order to carry on being successful. It’s the long tail global customer effect. Hell, you could sell clothing for conjoined twins on the internet and still swing a profit.

Perhaps more interestingly though, the internet has made running your own company a lot easier. Re-read that last sentence. The internet has been around for almost a gabillion years now, but it seems like only in the last 5 years has the promise of “running an online business from your garage” come true.

Perhaps the supreme irony of the situation is that Yahoo itself was once a small company that got big, and in turn bought up flickr, the blood, sweat and tears of a small team, most of whom have subsequently left Yahoo or been fired. How different life would have been for all those people who gave birth to flickr, if they’d just stayed a small team who focused on being the best and staying happy while doing it…

Corporations have been holding the workforce hostage… but the distributed client base and self organisation of the internet is starting to make it harder and harder to not start your own thing, or join a small company with big vision.

Similarly customers are more and more looking for micro providers, buying local produce, supporting up and coming manufacturers and looking to identify themselves as unique by buying products that weren’t made in batches of a million. Perhaps it’s the inherent knowledge that the companies that are producing t-shirts in batches of a million are run by the same kind of people that will fire you from the very company you helped start and feel nothing while doing it.

You’re a person… let the machines be the robots. The revolution is coming, and it won’t be televised, it’ll be broadcast.

5 Reasons to Vote

1. Every vote counts.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead.

2. It is irresponsible not to vote.

While you might feel that your life is okay, your vote could be the difference for someone else between clean drinking water and disease ridden rivers, between having a job or living a life of crime, between life and death.

3. Vote for the best candidate, don’t expect a perfect candidate.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t believe that any party deserves their vote. The reality is that no political party will ever be perfect. If you don’t like it, either join the party that’s closest to your ideology or, if you really want to excercise democracy, start your own party and vote for yourself.

4. You don’t have to win to make a difference.

It might not be possible for the party you support to win the election but having a strong opposition in government keeps the ruling party in check.

5. Fifteen years.

Only Fifteen years…  That’s how long ago black South Africans could not vote. That’s a blink of an eye in terms of the history of this country. Thousands of innocent South Africans died in the struggle… a struggle for freedom that manifested itself in the form of a piece of paper with a cross on it. Whether you’re black, white, or any shade in between, not making your mark on that piece of paper now, only 15 years later, would be disrespectful to those people who sacrificed their lives for your freedom.

My Foot!

Jou Ma Se Seun Se Voet!A week ago I had an interesting and surprisingly funny, even at the time, incident with an abandoned building and a floorboard that didn’t want to be a floorboard any more.

The wound has healed nicely but the pain in my ankle is still plaguing me so I finally decided to get an X-Ray just in case something was actually wrong. The Radiologist says that I haven’t broken anything but that I should “keep off it for a few days to give it a chance to heal”… I assume he’s a big fan of levitation then.

Anyway, I’ve organised parking in my building and crutches. Now I just need to figure out how to levitate.