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The other day I mentioned in a chatroom that my phone had lost its Wifi settings due to an upgrade, and how stupid it was that I had generated a difficult max-length passphrase. I was immediately informed that there is a qr code specification for wireless config. Interesting. A quick google later I had it. You just need to encode the string of the format:

WIFI:S:<essid>;T:<WEP/WPA>;P:<passphrase>;H:<true/false>

S is obviously the essid, T is the encryption type, P the passphrase and H is used to indicate whether the essid is hidden or not. Now we just need to encode it. The quickest way is to install qrencode and ImageMagick (most distros have these as packages as far as I know), and use the one-liner:

qrencode "WIFI:S:myessid;T:WPA;P:mypass;H:true;" -o - | display -

…which displays this:

qrexample

Then you can just scan it off the screen (of course after generating one with your proper data instead of an example), or you could set the parametre to -o to a filename and save it as an image, or print it out and stick it somewhere for the benefit of your visitors – in case they are using Android, this apparently does not work on iPhones.

Of course you will also need a barcode scanning app. I tested this with the aptly named “Barcode Scanner” from ZXing Team, which recognises the type and offers you an option to automatically configure your wireless. Probably other scanners offer a similar functionality.

Have you noticed how time seems to flow faster the older you get? My earliest memories are those of never-ending summers, whole ages of warm weather, fresh fruit and vegetables and earth under bare feet, warm stingy gravel in the sunlight, soft dust, cool soothing bare-trodden earth of footpaths still moist from the last rain shower. It seems to me that I have spent whole months on the branches of the huge cherry tree in my grandmother’s garden, gorging myself to the point of bursting with freshly picked cherries. Actually that lasted just a couple of weeks at most – I can remember the disappointment of returning to find them already rotted on the tree while I was busy with a summer job. I remember mostly summers, and each lasted for whole ages. Winter appeared only in a couple of episodes – me and my little brother riding the sled down a very long road from a huge mountain (in fact just a small hill and the road but a couple of kilometres), or a couple of monumental snowball battles, or the unprecedented snowfall of over a metre that had me tunneling hundreds of metres through the snow in the city’s stadium and building an elaborate “underground” shaft system, my very own secret city built in plain sight of everybody. Everything around you existed in eternity, you were a child and would stay a child for a time longer than you can imagine. Even the waters of the river flowing through the town didn’t go downstream but seemed to linger. You did look at the same river twice, and it was the same river every time you looked at it.

Then at some point it all starts rolling and slipping. You suddenly find yourself at places and an age you can’t recall reaching by a natural flow of events and time, start feeling as if you were flicked there by some invisible overwhelming power. Yes, of course you can remember, but it takes an effort, you must reconstruct the timeline and force yourself to believe that yes, in fact that much time has already passed.

It seems unfair that the less time you have left, the quicker it seems to pass, in fact I dwell on it quite a lot. I suppose it is due to the fact that when you’re, say, ten years old, you can remember but a couple of years back, tens of years are quite beyond your grasp. Plus, there is always change in all this time, the you back then were quite different from the person you are now at ten years old, every bit as dissimilar as the person you will become in a couple of years’ time will be to what you are now. You are changing so quickly that the rest of the world seems static and frozen in comparison. You also can’t wait. What you are changing into is something desirable: you grow bigger and stronger, your parents let you do more and more by yourself, you start growing pubic hair, your penis becomes bigger, your voice deeper, you figure out the workings of the world, people start taking you more seriously and listening to what you have to say – all promises of a bright and happy future. This then stalls later in life, the change becomes mostly external, your circumstances change but it is generally the same old you. The situation is now reversed, the time and the world are changing at breathtaking speed while you’re frozen and static; the changes that happen to you now are not necessarily good and desirable; some are definitely frightening. The time has grown short, it shoots past you at the speed of light while you desperately try to hang on at least a little.

This foreshortening of time is actually an illusion – time is a difficult concept to grasp and even the perception of time for anything longer than a couple of seconds or minutes is full of uncertainty. We use external change as a help to come to terms with longer periods of time, but as these periods get longer, it becomes more difficult to remember the change. leaving you with the illusion that long time has passed without you actually living in it. To look back over half my life would take me 20 years in the past, and I have no recollection of myself vivid enough to see how much I have developed since. I can’t remember that much from 10 years ago either, so it all seems to have passed in a flash. The effect this has is very strange, I’m currently living under the impression that very soon (in a few months’ time) I’ll be 50. Ridiculous notion of course but very real, and very difficult to get rid of. The panic I’m feeling, the feeling of urgency to do something about it (while simultaneously not knowing what to do, or perhaps knowing there’s nothing that can be done about it) must be the midlife crisis.

One problem I have in dealing with this is that apparently I have never intended to live to be this old. All the dreams and intentions of my youth concerned myself younger than I am now, the young me appears to have had no concept of a life or anything desirable past the age of 39, the young me couldn’t care less about whether I live or not. I find myself ran out of rudder, I have, as the french say, “perdu le nord”, I have been left in the lurch by the narrow horizon of my youth. I feel as if I have been struggling through a jungle with the sole intention of getting out of there, now I have emerged and… stare about me with dumb amazement and a rising panic. I have no purpose any longer.

I am not the only one with a similar experience. An old friend recently told me how he had just outlived his own father. He had lost his father in an accident while he was quite young and was living under the shadow of this early death ever since – as he told me without being really aware of it himself. His father had set the bar, he never considered living longer than his father a possibility – not that he was afraid of dying, he merely accepted that as an inevitable fact. Outliving his father broke the illusion, finding himself alive against his expectations was a magnificent relief. I don’t exactly recall whether he told me that himself or whether it is my own thought, but he had just started at last living his own life, instead of living that of his father’s. He has also emerged from a preconceived notion of life, though for him this was a positive occurrence which seemed to make him quite enthusiastic and happy – I hope it stays that way for him. My experience is quite different.

A strange thing happened to me recently: I turned forty. It does not seem to be such a big deal, after all a lot of people make this experience, but I assure you it feels strange enough to warrant talking about it. Even the fact that it feels strange appears strange itself, as I already did this round-birthday-thing once – with my thirtieth – and should be prepared. In fact I told myself I’m not doing that again, I decided to take this round birthday in stride, I would not let it affect me or get me down. Now the only thing that I don’t find strange about this whole business is the fact that I failed. Utterly.

You probably will have noticed that I said that I did the round birthday thing once before with my thirtieth, whereas clearly there are two round birthdays before that. Obviously I’m not talking about just starting a new decade of one’s life, but of growing older, or as I perceive it right now, turning old. The thirtieth was a shock, quite unlike the previous ones.  It is the first time you start noticing you’re being dragged along by the torrent of time while becoming increasingly aware where the journey will end and feeling the growing terror of its inevitability. At the time you turned ten you were too ignorant to know anything, and too fresh and young and full of life to have a concept of anything ephemeral. When you turned twenty you swam eagerly with the torrent, there was still future before you, there were still so many things to achieve and to look forward to – being accepted as an adult, finding your profession, proving yourself, being independent and self-sufficient, buying yourself stuff and enjoying it, future couldn’t come soon enough, you were eager to jump right into it. Future was a bright fairyland coming your way, not yet the headlights of the locomotive in a tunnel. Thirty is when it starts hitting home. You are still young, relatively at least, you still have the energy and the spunk to make a new start if necessary, the daring and recklessness to throw your former life out of the window and start from scratch – yet you also start getting the hints that you won’t live forever. To paraphrase Churchill, it’s not the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, but it’s the end of the beginning.

When you turn thirty you start becoming aware that besides the things you want to do, there is also the growing number of things that you have failed to do. Some of those were dreams, clearly not very easily achievable – getting a pilot’s licence and owning an airplane for instance – and it does not matter much that it didn’t work out. It was too good to become true. You were quite eager, but not eager enough to commit to it entirely, there were more important things to do and you did what you had to do, so that’s fine. But some other failures are not that easy to come to terms with: People always tell you you have a way with words; you’re generally crap at school but your writing assignments receive praise, your written correspondence is received very well, your posts in fora get some very favourable comments; besides you know yourself you are not bad at writing, have a bit of good sense, and you’re not entirely without things to say, so you assume you will be writing, professionally if it works out, as a hobby if it does not. Yet at some point you realise it didn’t come to this at all, as you did not write anything at all. It is one of the most important things to you, it costs you nothing to do it, you like doing it, you find meaning in it – yet you don’t do it. There is always something distracting you, you always end up doing meaningless and pointless stuff while shifting what you want to do into the future. You are always on the point of doing it, always  the low-hanging fruit, you just need to reach for it… And then you realise ten years have passed and you haven’t written a blind word.

Now the first time around – at thirty – this seems very strange, yet you can still deal with it. The time wasn’t right. You didn’t have the leisure or peace of mind. The circumstances were not right. You were not ready yet. It’s ten years hence, when you still haven’t written a goddamn thing, that you realise that at that rate you won’t write anything either. The things you have failed to do start accumulating and you have trouble justifying your failures. You stand before the commitee deliberating on your life, consisting of yourself as prosecution and defence, and the role of defence turns increasingly difficult, the questions get trickier to answer. I am not an astronaut and did not fly to the moon because, well, nobody did since I was a baby learning to control its bowels. I am not a fighter pilot because this would have required a career decision at a time when I was too young and undecided to make it . I am not a professional writer because becoming one isn’t easy and it takes a whole lot of talent and commitment… Did I try? Nope. Why not? Well, because. Dunno. I guess I’m perhaps afraid that I’ll fail? Fair enough. Next question, have you been to Japan yet?

It’s the little things where it gets tricky. Not only have I never been to Japan (which is quite a trip and rather expensive to go to), I have also never been to, say, France. Or Italy. Or Switzerland, all of which I could reach with my car in a couple of hours. Not only am I not a jet fighter pilot, or a small private machine pilot, I have also never flown in an airplane. All of these things are pretty easily achievable, only I never do them. There is never a motivation. There is always something else to spend your money on. There is always something else you need to do. Something more important, something reasonable. I’m a patient person, I don’t have to have everything right away, I can wait – I always considered this a positive trait, but perhaps I’m wrong. What if I keep waiting until it is too late? What if it is too late already?

Of course it is not only a matter of things you could do but never seem to come around doing – you also realise that you are becoming too old to do certain things. I’ll probably never learn Japanese now.  I’ll never go to an university. I’ll never fly an airplane because it does not mean that much to me any more. I won’t procreate because I’m too old for it. I’m still technically capable of doing all these things – only doing them would serve no purpose other than to prove to myself that I am able to do them.  Deciding not to have children is quite easy to do provided it is your decision – once you reach the point where you can’t have any, you start having doubts whether your decision was right. As you grow older, even growing older becomes different. Whereas earlier you got more freedom by growing older, your freedom is now reduced, your options dwindle and you do what you do not because you want to, but increasingly because you have no other choice. The time is coming when I won’t be able to do some of the things I listed above – of course I knew that, everybody does – but now it is in dead earnest, not some remote point in the future, it is now. Right now, I am acutely aware of this, and I am scared out of my wits by it. I feel panic rising, I feel compelled to do something but have no idea what it could be, and quite probably there is nothing I can do.