I can't imagine a more boring exercise than depression. I don't like talking about it to anyone because
1) I have met less than 5 people in my life that could talk about their depression and not be deadly dull and 2) It is difficult to put into words. Since most people have heard others try and fail to describe it, most people hate hearing about your depression.

I was sitting in the car, slightly reclined, a book in my lap. I was fictionalizing the surroundings, something I do when I'm trying to will myself into a different mood. I was attempting to find an accurate description for the light distribution in the parking lot, and dusk-light was unacceptable. The sun was:

  1. Still in the sky, but a softer yellow than it is at noon.
  2. Partially obstructed by the building I was parked in front of.
  3. Slowly dropping into the horizon.

The entire area seemed to be half-shadow/half-light and I didn't have the proper vocabulary for what I was seeing. I'm certain an artist or a scientist would have a set of terms for the phenomena, but I had no language to wrap it up into. Light is so hard to convey in writing.

I wished for cold. I wished I lived in the north, where everything of importance happens. I imagined what I looked like, sitting in the car, my hands in my mouth. I have a tooth in my bottom row that is out of place; when I am nervous or bored I pinch it with my thumb and forefinger and try to shift it over to its proper station. One of my incisors on the top row is slightly closer to my lips, like the two of them are running a race with a photo finish. When I am anxious, I drag a finger nail from the first tooth down to its 2nd place friend; it makes a popping/tapping sound.

I wished I lived in a place with an active music scene. I wished I could make a documentary. I wanted something to happen.

I want something to happen.

What the four-phase hell is it about CD writing software these days? Specifically Nero. Why in the ninth level of hell should I want software, whose primary purpose is to create CDs or DVDs, to take over the whole system, take over file associations for just about every conceivable type of image, audio and video file? Even more, why should said software present a giant-ass full-screen menu system which presents no text, just a bunch of semi-intuitive icons? Is this their idea of "easy"? It's not hard per se, just clunky and severely obstructive.

Phooey, I say! Full-screen is good for games. It's good for movies - but only the movie itself. The interface of the player should be confined to a nice, little well-behaved window. CD writing apps don't need to take over the entire system, just provide the requisite features through a reasonably well-designed interface. Nero pretty much fails at this. Even once I did dismiss the ugly full-screen thinger that denied me access to, er, the rest of Windows, and finally scared up the gorram "burn a data DVD" option, it gave me this damn-fool wizard.

Now, I can understand how the process of writing a data DVD is a little inaccessible to Aunt Tillie. I can even understand how a wizard makes this easier. The only problem is, this wasn't a particularly good wizard! It presented me with an option for the volume name of the disc. Fine. But below this were fields for some slightly more obscure ISO9660 text attributes, that were mysteriously grayed out. I actually wanted to modify these, but there was no apparent way to. Nothing I could click, either in the main wizard, nor in the advanced dialog, seemed to make these editable. If the fields can't be changed, why even provide them? What's more, why make them immutable? These are user-settable attributes, not something magically ginned up by the system that must never be changed on pain of death! If you think they'd scare Aunt Tillie, tuck them away in the Advanced dialog - that's what it's for!

The world of CD writing on Windows seems very sad to me. You have either Nero with its blind-idiot-designed interface, or Roxio Easy CD Creator with its tendency to mysteriously fail. Oh, and it wants to take over the whole system too, and festoon your desktop with useless toolbars and drop targets, just like Nero! Or, there's five tons of shareware crap. Most authors want about $30 for it - not much less than the basic editions of Nero or Roxio, but a lot fewer features. some have better interfaces, some not. And don't get me started on XP's pathetic built-in CD writing capabilities. There's just not much good CD writing software out there for any platform, frankly. Toast for Mac OS X isn't too bad, and neither is K3b (for Unix), but they're really the only gems in a sea of bullshit - at least, that I've found so far.

Is it too much to ask to have an application that's fast, stable(*), secure, featureful as it needs to be, and has a reasonable interface? And by reasonable, I mean straightforward, but without ripping out all the advanced functionality, and without blowing a hundred megs of RAM on shiny, huge pixmap interfaces or skinned monstrosities! What's so frelling wrong with using the native widget set? Yes, yes, I realize the Windows 2000 look is a skosh dated, but it works. And come on, the Vista default look isn't that bad, either. (It's not spectacular, but that's beside the point. And let's just forget that the Luna/Fisher Price OS experiment ever existed, kthxbye?) Seriously. Skins have their place, but too many apps take it way too far these days. Now, this isn't just a problem on Windows - it's endemic to Unix as well - but Windows has the most traction, and most of the problem in Unix-land comes from parroting of Windows interface trends. (For better or worse - I don't like it, but I won't deny it, either.)

(*) - By stable, I don't necessarily mean the app itself. If it decides to crash on me, that's annoying. But when it leaves the entire machine in a dubious state, that's indefensible. The worst a CD writing app should be able to do is leave the CD drive in a wonky state. I've had this happen to me on Linux and Solaris. But the same fault on Windows tends to leave the entire system either hung or almost unusably slow, necessitating a reboot to do anything useful, whether it needs the CD drive or not.

About a week ago I discovered the existence of my three half-brothers - two (R and T) from my dad's previous marriage (which ended when he left to be with my mother) and D, born some years before them in a different situation. A few days later, I went to the memorial service, where I expected to meet R and T. Oddly, I haven't actually talked face-to-face with my dad, or any of my immediate family, about the whole situation, which just goes to show how good we've got at avoiding such awkward emotional subjects, a skill I found myself putting to good use at the service yesterday.

It was an enormous gathering, bringing hundreds together, often from very far afield. Sitting in the church amid various cousins, many of whom I hadn't seen in years, I heard two unfamiliar people referring to my father as dad. Inevitably, they were right in front of me, which made for a nervous few minutes. I tentatively identified them as R and T, T being the younger of the two.

After the service, I spent some time casually staking out R and T. I suspect they were doing the same to me and my siblings. It seemed they knew my cousins and various other relatives. I had assumed they associated mainly with their mother's side, hence my not meeting them before. While this suggested a familial conspiracy against me on an impressive scale, it did at least mean I wouldn't have to meet them alone, and if they did hate me reflexively they couldn't be too rude in front of others. As it turned out, they were both charming and friendly (CON-sanguine, one might say). "Nice to meet you" was all we said of our meeting, which seemed to me rather inadequate to describe our long absence from each others' lives. I have no idea when it was they learned of my existence, of course. I was fairly quick to excuse myself in case my presence was fuelling well-hidden resentment.

As it turned out, D was there as well. Despite a considerable age difference, we immediately got on well, and I got the feeling the situation was not entirely unfamiliar to him. It was certainly interesting to meet my new brothers, and I hope to get to know them better if at all possible, though 20 years of enforced estrangement isn't exactly going to disappear overnight.

NOTE: Some details have been changed to protect the identity of myself and others.

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