Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Evil Beyond The Piglet

Once again I come across wise words of Terry Pratchett, through the mouth of Lord Havelock Vetinari, in Unseen Academicals. The evil, he says " built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain." But he doesn't leave it at that. Oh, no. That would be too easy, too much the stuff of religion (any religion). Instead, there is a reality check, and a reminder in whose hands the fate of the world, and evil, really is: "If there is any kind of supreme being ... it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."

So, there you have it. Diagnosis in one and a half, and a cure in one sentence. And it really is as simple as that. Of course there is no higher power being wielded upon us. There is just the world itself, seemingly evil in its blindness to what we think about how it works. And then, there's us - you and me - the only ones with any hope of making it more bearable, if not positively enjoyable.

I think I've said it before here, but it may be worth repeating: if there is a supreme being running our lives, it is either positively cruel, or just totally indifferent. If your religion says differently, you're being lied to. If it agrees with me, it is not really religion as commonly understood, and you'd be better off doing something else with your time anyway. For example, doing something for yourself, and maybe your fellow beings - and I don't mean just human beings, either.

Marx was too soft saying religion is the "Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes". It is poison, a paralysing one, stopping you, and, worse, the humanity, from achieving its pinnacle. If you have it, lose it, and fly. And let others fly.

Go on then, flap your wings!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Evil Piglet

A long, long time ago, sometime in the last quarter of the previous century, my high school mates and I thought we had an awesome sense of humour. And we did. We really, really did. Some of us, at least. Probably not me, but still.

Anyway, I was quite firm in this belief until around a decade later when it was time for my brother to attend high school, find some mates of his own, and try to be funny. Or at least find they had a good sense of humour. And my, did they succeed!

I hereby declare that, while we were good, we were nowhere near them, and their jokes and gags. Really. Trust me on this one. I stand to lose out of it, so I guess it must be true.

To corroborate this I will tell you one of the jokes I heard from them, and still find it is probably the best I have ever heard. You may not even find it funny, and that's one of its beauties. After all, that's the best kind of funny - the kind where you actually feel a bit disgusted.

But enough of banter, and on to the joke. I hope the translation did it justice...

The Fable Of The Evil Piglet

In the land far, far away, in a dark, dense, and dangerous forest lived an evil piglet. It was the most evil piglet there is, and probably the most evil creature there is. It was so evil that its fame reached far and wide.

One day a good fairy heard about the piglet, and, being a good fairy, decided that she had to try and make it good again, make it see that being evil is bad, that being good is, well, good. So, she braved the dark, dense, and dangerous forest in search of the evil piglet.

It didn't take her long to find the evil piglet. It was so obviously evil she didn't waste her time introducing herself.

"Hello. I am a good fairy, and I've come here to show you that being good is, well, good!"

"Go away!", growled the evil piglet.

"Oh, don't be like that!", said the fairy, "Look, I'll even fulfil three wishes you may have!"

"Get lost...", was all she got back, the piglet calmly looking somewhere above her head.

"OK, OK...", she tried a different tack, "Maybe just one wish before I go?"

The evil piglet finally looked her straight in the eye with what passed for his, and the fairy's hopes suddenly shot up. It seemed to be working, the evil piglet now had a little smile on its face. It must be thinking about that wish!

The evil piglet finally spoke, in its usual growling monotone.

"Die!", was all it said.

Friday, 19 February 2010

What You REALLY Owe Your Parents

We all owe something to our parents, some a lot, some not that much, really. But I am not concerned about how much here. I want to take a look at what, not how much, do we really owe to our parents. What are the things they've done that deserve praise, gratefulness, and, why not, payback?

Let me start at the beginning: the birth. Is that something to be grateful for? After all, if you (and I) weren't born we'd not be having this discussion, right? Well, yes, but I still don't think conceiving and birthing you is something that necessarily demands gratitude. See, even if they planned for it, and especially if they didn't, your parents almost certainly did not have you, as you are now or at any point of your life, in mind. Yes, the wanted a baby. Yes, they may even had ambitions for it, maybe a set of features they wanted you to have which they thought they could influence. But equally certainly you turned out to be something (someone?) quite different. A lot of that is to your parents credit, but since it didn't quite turn out to plan, we'll discuss the details a bit later. Here I just wanted to demonstrate how the mere fact you were conceived and born does not necessarily attract kudos to parents. Not to mention that there might be some among you who'd rather they weren't born in the first place, or would have referred a different set of parents. But that's a topic for a different post. lets' go further with this one now.

The next major contribution parents have (had?) in your life is the basic support in terms of food, shelter, and so on. This is a little more difficult to call, but I think overall, this does not deserve as much gratitude as people tend to feel it should. Pared to the basics, this is something that every parent should be doing anyway if they're in any way "normal". Unless you're a true monster you're going to feed your baby, and makes sure it is dry, warm, and generally healthy. Even if you'd rather not, modern societies tend to make it a criminal offence not to, so most people do, if not because they're good, then because they'd rather live without legal hassle. And dealing with social services is a hassle, even if you're happy with the end game which is your baby being taken from you. Of course, most parents will go above and beyond this particular call of duty, and some of them will even deserve gratitude for it. But that still does not make this reason universally qualifying for the best parent in the world award. So, let's press on...

I will totally ignore the fact your parents have not abused you physically or sexually. This does not deserve comment, really. I mention it for completeness, and for the few who may have thought of it. You know who you are, and you are wrong!

Finally, the last step before a child (hopefully) becomes independent: schooling. Again, this is something that is legally required in most modern societies, at least to a certain degree. Therefore, no gratitude is required for any schooling that the state mandates for all children. For any education that goes above and beyond this level, at least some parents deserve (a lot) of gratitude, so yes, we got to an almost undeniable area at last. Yet, it is still not really a universal thing parents can do and automatically deserve your eternal gratitude. Read on now, as below I will tell you what is the one thing parents can do which will earn them undisputed gratitude, and kudos beyond measure.

So yes, my friends (and enemies), there is one thing you can do to assure stardom through your parentdom. And that is... Wait for it... Oh, shoot! It can't be summarised in a short sentence. I'll try to make it a not so long paragraph then.

One thing that parents can, should, must! do is nurture you, your needs, and your interests as they really are, and not as they think they are, or worse, as they think they should be. This requires utmost care and careful and watchful eye as well as a lot of effort to offer, but never push, as much of the diverse things world can offer as possible. If you want a down to earth, and dirty, metaphor take "throwing mud against a wall, and seeing what sticks". Only here this means showering your child with opportunities and information without prejudice, and then helping to take up and progress anything that has been seen as something that provoked keen and genuine interest. Yes, there will be misses, and blind alleys, but those should be taken in your stride, as datums telling you where to try to turn next. And the real skill here is being able to feed and nurture an interest of which you, yourself, have very low opinion. Because, who are you to judge another persons talents and interests - you are barely able to judge yours! And this applies not only to education and prospective profession of your child. Exactly the same attitude should be shown towards any other interests: in politics, in fashion, in sexual preference. Judging by the current climate even in civilised world, this last one probably asks much more of a parent than anything else. But that's by the by. It is the general attitude that counts.

Oh dear. What should have been a short paragraph grew into a monster! I apologise. In the next sentence or two I will try to sum it up for you.

If you want your kids to be eternally grateful to you make sure that you do all you can, and more, to see what their true interests and potentials (but firstly interests!) are and then to feed them as best you can, even if you disagree, even if you dislike them. Because surely it is a happy and accomplished (but firstly happy!) person that you want to raise, and not someone who finds themself trapped in somebody else's dream (nightmare?) for the rest of their life.

Be warned. The responsibility is (almost) entirely yours!

I know some of you will be asking yourselves (hi mom!) howmy parents fare in these terms. I am happy to tell you, and they'll hopefully be happy to hear (hi again mom!) that they indeed score very, very high.

Why not highest, you may (will?) ask (I'm looking at you mom!). Because I'm an incurable tease, that's why! In all honesty I did try to find a fault, and couldn't. I think they were supportive to a fault.

Thank you mom and dad!

Yes, that's me in the photo, when I was still black and white!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

I Have Been Converted!

Yes, I have said bad things about eInk displays.

Yes, I made Ectaco JetBook to look as my choice of eBook reader.

No, I am not ashamed to admit I was wrong... partly, at least.

So... What happened?

Well, I tried an eInk reader for a few days (Sony Pocket Reader PRS-300, pictured), and I must admit, this particular one, for me, is better than the JetBook by leaps an bounds.

What's different then, you will surely ask. Here goes...

I must admit that, in terms of visual design of consumer electronics, Sony is so superior, in my eyes, that there really is no competition. But is that enough? It surely isn't, and I must add that Sony reader is noticeably heavier than the JetBook. It also lacks the slider on the left that made turning pages on JetBook so pleasurable. Which is not to say that, at least with my hand size, it is not easy to turn pages on a Sony Pocket reader. It is. It's just it's concentrated on one button, where JetBook has two, at two different places.

But, unfortunately for JetBook, this is not enough.

For my poor, middle aged, eyes, the contrast eInk provides is indeed so much better than, otherwise excellent, JetBook LCD. Then, there's the shape and size. Sony is smaller, and so much easier to hold. Yes, it is heavier, but I found that weight to be easier to bear than the smaller one of JetBook. It has to do with the shape.

And then come the accessories...

Yes, they do cost you more money. But they also have the potential of making your gadget (and yes, both are gadgets) so much better. JetBook has a few, and I looked at them very carefully, ready to spend hard earned cash on enhancing it. But alas, none seemed worth the bother, let alone the price. Sony Pocket Reader, on the other hand, offers one (unfortunately, at this time, just one) must-have accessory. This is the leather cover with light. Now, I could do with it not being genuine leather (ant thus presumably cheaper), but the built in light is just brilliant! It could only be beaten if JetBook had a backlit LCD and it doesn't. So you have to read with the light on, or with one of the horrible book lights. On the other hand, the Sony cover has the light hidden when you don't need it, and unobtrusive when you do. It is overpriced, but it is at the same time worth the money, if you know what I mean.

Oh, there's also this thing which I didn't believe before, and that's the fact that eInk does really strain your eyes much less than an LCD, backlit or not. It is really better in so many ways, and in at least as many angles the sun can fall on it.

Therefore, I have been converted, and have given up on the JetBook (and by implication on LCD, non-backlit readers), and have embraced eInk. Yes, I still need to blink or look away as the page turns, but other features are really worth the bother (not least the battery life, which is an order of magnitude better for eInk).

However, I will continue to look for better readers, and will throw away the eInk one in a blink (which is still quicker than it turns pages) for something overall better. When it comes...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

JetBook - How Does It Fare?

You may remember I recently ranted about what an ideal eBook reader should (not) have. I have now obtained, for test purposes, but with a view of getting one for keeps, ECTACO JetBook. It will be interesting to see how does it compare to my ideals, as stated earlier. Let's first see how it scores in terms of checks in boxes for various areas I discussed.

Form factor
JetBook measures 153x110x13mm - almost exactly (one of) my ideal
A6 size(s)

Screen type
Non-backlit LCD, 4 level grey scale - half marks; pages flip quickly, but no backlight

Keys on sides and bottom, no full keyboard - a good choice, fits nicely in the upper mid range I'd like to see

eBooks supported
.txt, .pdf, .fb2, .jpg, .epub, .mobi, .prc and .rtf, none DRMed - very good

100-200MB internal, but up to 16GB SD card support - more than enough

Battery life
Rated at 20-24h of continuous use - could do better, and battery not user replaceable is BAD

$180 (£180) - good if you import from US (works out at ~£120), the UK price is a joke

So far so good! It only really fails in terms of battery life, and the fact it's not user replaceable (so you can't carry a spare). Mitigating is the fact that it charges out of USB or AC, so if you have your laptop with you, you don't have to drag JetBook charger, too.

But how does it fare in real life use? I've now been using it for a couple of days, for around 6 hours of reading altogether, and here's what it was like...

First and foremost, the form factor. JetBook fits very nicely in my hand (keep in mind I'm 6' tall, and have hands to match), making it superficially easy to use single-handed. The page turning slider on the left fits very nicely under the thumb, making page turning a doddle. This is when holding JetBook in portrait orientation. But there's a problem! Holding it up with your fingers, sans the thumb, makes it a bit difficult to hold for more than maybe 10 minutes. Despite being lightweight the momentum it exerts on the wrist is a tad too much. Resting the bottom left corner in your palm helps, but only somewhat, as the tendency of the top to tilt over needs to be overcome. If you can rest most of the weight against something (your thigh, for example), all is well again. Luckily, I found that the landscape option solves the problem of weight for me. Again, the bottom left corner rests in palm, and the thumb rests against the other page turning button. I found I can hold JetBook like this for long enough periods without the wrist feeling tired. One minor problem with landscape orientation is that screen refresh on page turn is considerably slower, and noticeable, unlike for the portrait orientation. It is still far better than eInk displays, and can be compensated for. All in all, I still find that form factor is good for my purposes, and JetBook can be used comfortably enough, even held in one hand.

The only other really important usability characteristics are page turning speed and screen contrast. The former is imperceptible in portrait mode, and perceptible yet bearable in landscape. I don't really have a complaint there. Screen contrast is not as good as eInk, but it is good enough in various (and varying) light conditions. Fast page turning definitely offsets any difference in contrast and viewability - at least for me. So in this paragraph, the verdict is a resounding PASS.

There are of course other considerations and features I could go into in great detail. However, none are really important for reading experience. See, I read books, and reading books is a lengthy process. I don't particularly care if the menu system is sluggish (it is), because I spend a minuscule amount of time using it. Wide choice of fonts may be important for some. Arial and Verdana on JetBook are just fine for me, as well as the choice of sizes (12 to 20-something point, I tend to use 16). JetBook also sports an MP3 player. Good, but I use my Nokia N900 for that regardless. It still a good thing it's there, and you can plug in your own set of earphones (JetBook uses a standard 3.5mm jack). USB connection is standard, and used for charging, too. All good stuff. And so on, and so forth...

So, in conclusion, do I like the JetBook? Yes, I do. Will I be getting one? I think so. It'd be good if the price was reduced further (I am sure there is scope), but since eInk readers are already twice the price of JetBook, I can understand why ECTACO wouldn't want to. I hope the review unit will be offered at a reduced price (I suggest half price). If it ins't, I'll look at second hand market. There surely will be people who want to beat the Joneses in all the bells and whistles and checks in feature boxes, but have "mistakenly" got a JetBook. Getting a JetBook is not a mistake. If you're like me, you'll like it well enough, and save some dosh in the process, too.

This post was not paid for by ECTACO or anybody else. I just happened to get my hands on a JetBook to try out.

Monday, 1 February 2010

LEGO - Your Blueprint To The World

If you are reading this and haven't heard of the LEGO brick system, you must have lived in a cave for the past several decades (if you're an alien, you'd have hopefully seen the importance of this "toy" already, if you're sufficiently advanced to be reading this). Therefore, I will not waste time and space on telling you what it is, and how it works. What I want to talk about, what I want to emphasise, is one of the ways in which this "toy" is one of the best educational tools available to mankind. Here's why I think so...

It should be obvious, really, but if you look at a decent LEGO design, you will hopefully see that it essentially distills the object to close to a minimum set of elements and features that make it what it is. It is really an outline of a real world object, it's 3D blueprint, if you want. Of course, due to the restrictions of the basic design of the LEGO interlocking system, there are lower limits to the size of a model, which forces very small models (like the one depicted here) to use elements that are less universal (e.g. the wind-shield part of the motorcycle here). However, if you were to build a scaled up model of the same motorcycle (policeman included) you would have found that you can use just a handful of very basic blocks (plain and angled brick alone would do for a large enough model).

But this is almost by-the-by. The important thing, and the eternal quality of LEGO, is in its manifold benefits to all who give them more than just a cursory glance. At first glance, it may seem that a lot of the sets now available do not in fact encourage either creativity or this "model as a blueprint" effect. But I think this is not the case. Yes, at first stab, and for a few of the first sets you get your hands on, you will most likely just follow the included (pictorial!) instructions just to see the final model as it is shown on the box. But if you (or your parents) stick with LEGO by buying just a few more sets, or even better, a generic brick box, sooner rather than later you'll be tempted to take your models apart and put them together in a different fashion (or just to see if you can put them back together without looking at the instructions sheet).

Once you've started on that route, it is all but guaranteed that you'll be hooked, probably for life (the model in the photo was a gift for me, from me, just last week). And if you are to build anything at all either without looking at the instructions, or a completely new design of your very own, then you have to exercise your imagination, and more importantly, be able to reduce a real world (or a fantasy!) object to it's very essence, one that can be expressed with a limited set of LEGO bricks at your disposal. And remember, you are very likely to have a really limited set available. Most likely it will be a combination of a few simple boxed models. If you're lucky you'll have a smaller or larger generic brick set box available. It is, however, extremely unlikely that you will have absolutely every brick LEGO ever made available. You will have to use your wits and imagination to manage with what you have.

I believe this is one of the best ways for honing your analytical skills. A fun way of learning how to see through bells and whistles and realise the essence of an object. LEGO allows you, no, forces you to make things as simple as possible, but not simpler (Einstein would be proud of it, I'm sure). Once you have your basic design you can, and probably will, embellish it with all sorts of decorations and unnecessary bits. But, this you can only do after it's finished. LEGO discourages you from getting lost in detail of decoration. Yes, once you've succeeded in the basic model you can easily pull it apart and then back together with bow ties all around. And you should, because you deserve to revel in its beauty and your own workmanship. But that comes later. First you raise and nurture a forest, then you allow yourself to admire individual trees, and even prune them to your liking.

For those in the know, a note about software-only LEGO solutions. Yes, I know they exist. Yes, I think they are cool, and useful. But no, I would not recommend them to general public, especially not kids just making their first steps with LEGO, regardless of how computer literate they may be. The main reason for this "Luddite" advice is that the pleasure of making something with your own two hands can never be rivalled by completing a model on the screen. You need to try it to know exactly what I mean. Then, there is the issue of absolutely every LEGO brick ever produced being at your fingertips, or rather in your LDraw palette. As good as it sounds it will rob you of the mental exercise of finding a solution with a limited set of building blocks. It is not only good exercise and a learning experience, it is also immensely satisfying once you find a way around limits of your stock.

Software tools do have their uses. Maybe once you have come up with a wonderful design you want a handy way of re-creating it with just the right colour bricks, ones you may not in sufficient supply. You get your model into computer and it will happily order all you need directly from LEGO. Or you may decide that for your model to be perfect you absolutely have to have that funny-shaped brick missing from your set. Fine. Go look it up and order it, but do build your model and put it on the shelf for all to admire. Then, when a new idea comes along, take it apart and build something new. And put it back on the same shelf. Looking at on-screen rendering of a model, no matter how perfect is no match for picking it up with your own hands, and having a good look. Even the fact that you risk dropping it is a good thing! It'll make you build something again out of that pile on the floor, and I bet it won't be the same. On the computer it's too easy to just load a file again. Do keep the files of your designs, by all means, though, but only so you can build them with real bricks again.

Finally, if there's one thing I'd like you to take away from all this: make your children play with LEGO, they usually don't need more than a nudge and a a few started models; after that they're likely to come back asking for more. More likely than not they will continue coming from more for decades to come. But more importantly, they will have been armed with mighty x-ray glasses to see the world around them for what it is, and not just what it looks like.

Equality In Happiness - Possible?

Unlike in some (many, most?) other posts here I don't think I'll be offering any answers to the questions raised, it being: is it ever going to be possible to build a society in which every individual will have their every need satisfied to the extent that they cannot, at any point, claim that they are unhappy (obvious exclusions being interpersonal relationships, especially of an emotional or sexual nature). Or, phrased somewhat differently: is it possible to attain a communist ideal of a society in which every individual contributes according to their capabilities, and at the same time benefits according to all their needs, the unsaid implication being that such a society will be happy and harmonious one.

In the latter case, the (theoretical) belief was that by improving the means of production and heightening the state of every individual's consciousness sufficiently, it will be possible to produce enough, and distribute fairly, whatever is needed to fulfill any individual's conceivable needs. My impression is that, unless we assume and infinite time scale combined with the evolution of human nature in the required direction, this is not attainable even if we further assume that the production of required goods and services will be possible. The evidence of human nature through the recorded history seem to show that there is (at least) one constant that can easily scupper any such brilliant plan: the propensity of humans to look at others and almost automatically wish for at least as much (most often decidedly more) than those others have, irrespective of a possible fact that both have more than they really need already. Since it is not possible for production to expand infinitely (see: basic laws of physics), given human propensity to envy and competitiveness, it will not be possible to have a society where each and every individual is fully content.

You now may object that I am unfairly invoking the infinities, and everyone knows infinities are impossible to reach (I love that ancient Greek definition of infinity: as far as you can throw your spear, and then a bit further). But look at it in this way: imagine everyone had all the transportable possessions one thinks one needs. Even if that were the case, people still need to live somewhere. It is also undeniable that people tend to be quite partial about exactly where they live. Another undeniable fact is that more than one person cannot share the same dwelling unless they are in a mutually agreed, and agreeable, relationship. You may argue further that it may be possible to create two (or more, indeed many) dwellings that are absolutely identical in appearance, content, and all the rest of the things people may care about. And you'll be right - but only partly. As much as such dwellings are identical, they can never, ever, be in exactly the same place (yet again, see: basic laws of physics). As close to each other they may be (e.g. on the same floor, on adjacent floors, on adjacent plots of land) it is guaranteed to happen that someone, somewhere, at some point in time will wish for the one he does not occupy, and the owner/occupier of it is unwilling to swap. We could now have a long discussion (think: until the cows come home) that careful planning, provided infinite or close to infinite resources, may be able to resolve all such situations to everybody's satisfaction, but I'll submit that this is, for all intents and purposes, an unattainable ideal. I bet that almost all of the population of the universe will in the end be involved in fine tuning such disputes (and not just about the dwellings, either).

So, it seems that the only possibility of realising the dream of absolute equality is engineering human minds, either through long and painful evolution, or by a directed effort "from above". But I have an objection to that, too. Not only is this likely to prove as long a process (think: infinitely long) as the pursuit of infinite resources mentioned earlier, but I think that in that direction lies the downfall of Man (and Woman, of course, I am being poetic, not chauvinistic). Why? The answer to that should be simple, really. The only thing that is certain to have always driven the advance of Man (and Woman) is the desire to have more. But how do you know you need more? Simple. Because you see someone who has the same (or is in danger of obtaining it) and you rush to achieve more lest they end up with more sex. Yes. Sex. Because sex means babies, and babies mean your genes live on. And once you have your babies, they need as good support as you can give them so they have a fighting chance of having a lot of sex, i.e. a lot of babies carrying your (and others', but you don't really care about those) genes. If there wasn't for this "arms race" human race would have stagnated. You may now think that stagnation is perfectly fine if you stop at a sufficiently nice and cozy point. But you think too small! The next species (maybe your own pet dog!) who continues to race onwards will eventually overtake you. It may take a good few millions of years, but it will happen. Oh, you can try and kill off all the other species, but for one you're unlikely to get them all, and two, if you do, you may as well continue applying the same reasoning to other fellow humans. But that's one wholly different story, and argument (and we may be some way down that particular road already), which I'll (maybe) leave for another post.

By now you may well be thinking that I think that human race is doomed to an eternity of misery at best, or self-destruction at worst. And you couldn't be more wrong. There is in fact a rather simple and neat solution to this apparent conundrum. It does require a small change in people's attitudes, but one that I think is entirely feasible. Once you realise that what looks like a final goal - getting the best of everything - is in fact unattainable as the arms race is literally unstoppable and never ending, you need only change your aim and start seeing the journey itself as something to cherish, alongside all the stops on the way where you enjoy the fruits of little victories. And if you look at it in a certain (correct!) way your life is full of lots of little victories. And little setbacks, too, but unless you're really, really unlucky they will be in the minority.

Finally, because right now, too many people seem to experience too many setbacks, and major ones at that, which are not of their own doing, we should also concentrate on moving the world towards the one where everyone is at least guaranteed the same starting position in life, and where there will be no unfair spanners thrown into some people's works. If we can do that, and it seems that humanity as it is now does have most of the resources to make it happen, then we can say we have already gone a long way towards the goal of everyone being as happy as can be reasonably expected. And if they are not, at least there will be a clear course for them to tackle and maybe get there, one down which the journey is at least as pleasurable as the prize that glitters at the end of it.

See? I broke my promise! I started off thinking I don't have much in the way of answer, and ended with at least half of one. I started thinking I cannot have my cake and eat it, and finished with half a recipe and a very nice aftertaste of the ingredients I tried and either rejected or chucked in anyway. While I cannot guarantee that I now have my glittering prize, I can certainly tell you that I enjoyed this particular journey. It has made me happy, and wasn't that the point?