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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Saturday Morning Random Thoughts (laptops, The Matrix, books, etc.)

Category Book Reviews

Boy, the last two days have been rather crazy and full of stuff I wanted to blog about.  So, we're just going to do a collection of random thoughts here...
  • I saw The Matrix Reloaded on Thursday.  I must say I was disappointed.  The original was SO different than anything out there, and the story line was full of twists.  This one seems to focus way too much on the effects, and (at least to me) the plot doesn't really start to kick in until towards the end (which is just about where they leave you hanging for the next one in about three months).  I thought the fight scenes were too long, and I kept thinking "can we move on now?" during most of them.  I still thought the movie was OK, but I was afraid that the movie wouldn't measure up to the hype.  And at least for me, it didn't...
  • I finished the short book Since The Layoffs, by Iain Levison.  Since surviving the Enron layoffs, I thought it might be an entertaining novel.  The story line revolves around a guy in a small town where most people have been laid off by a factory in town.  In order to pay off his bets to a local bookie, he consents to kill the guy's wife.  He decides it wasn't so hard, so he continues to accept more jobs along those lines.  He also decides that killing people is a way to eliminate some of his personal problems.  But when he meets someone  who he starts to fall in love with, he needs to decide how to get out of the business.  It's an OK read, but not as good as I would have hoped.  It's one of those books you finish and say, "so what?"...
  • Now for the laptop story...  After seeing The Matrix Reloaded on Thursday, we came home and I checked my email on my personal laptop.  I then went upstairs and paid bills.  When I went back downstairs, I noticed that the laptop was shut off (which it never is).  When I started it up, nothing displayed on the screen, and the folded towel I use as an armpad was very damp.  When I lifted the laptop up, I saw a few drops of liquid there too.  It was obvious that one of my kids had spilled something on my laptop and killed it.  And like all good teenagers, neither one will 'fess up to it.  After getting over the initial distress, I started working with it a little to see what was and wasn't working.  It still boots up, and you can see a VERY dim image on the screen of everything booting up.  It appears that the keyboard's death is the main issue.  I had my wife take it to the local Gateway store, where they will send it off for repair.  I should be covered under the 3 year service package I bought (best money I ever spent!), and I should get it back in 7 to 10 days.  While I'm still not thrilled about losing my laptop, it has had some positive effects, which I've decided (after some internal debate) to share...
  • The last couple of years have not been easy.  The last six months at Enron were rough.  Then I was unemployed for the first time ever.  From there, we go to contracting/consulting at various levels of hours.  My older son (16) is diabetic, and my younger son (14) is not doing well in school.  And of course, there's always turning 40 (42 now) and the mid-life crisis.  I've been feeling more "down" than "up", and it was affecting many parts of my life (mainly personal).  After reading the experience of another Notes professional and his experience with depression and what he's done to combat it, I finally decided to seek some medical help to deal with this.  With assistance from some friends (thanks, C!), my doctor and some medication, the last couple of months have shown me that things can be much better.  I'm excited about things again.  I'm a nicer person to be around at home.  I'm not filled with so much self-doubt any more.  The laptop incident was an eye-opener.  Had that happened two months ago, I would have made life miserable for everyone at home for a VERY long period of time.  And thinking of past reactions, I really can't blame the kids for not wanting to deal with me after having broke my expensive toy.  But after an hour of fretting about it, I had come up with a plan for replacement if needed, how I would work through the issue, and was ready to deal with life again in the morning.  I also apologized to both kids for prior reactions (and both kids acknowledged that I've been much easier to be around as of late).

So why did I share that?  Because someone else I respected shared his experience online, I realized that what I was feeling and struggling with was "not normal".  I realized that I wasn't the only person who was struggling, and that there were options to deal with it.  Part of me thinks that I should just keep quiet on a forum such as this so that nothing could come back to bite me later on.  On the other hand, I know what it's like to go through life wondering why I keep bothering.  My situation wasn't dramatic (like bi-polar or clinical depression), but more of a low-level chronic melancholy (also known as dysthymia).  If you are struggling with issues like this, I urge you to see a doctor and get it checked out.  Life can be better...  And if you're a guy struggling with this, I recommend checking this site out...


Gravatar Image1 - Tom, we've known each other for a number of years now, and worked together a fair amount. I've had a tremendous respect for you professionally (regardless of how much crap we flip each other to the bewilderment of those who don't know we're friends :-) It was in large part due to you getting your Java cert that I finally went and got mine (I'll never forgive you for doing it first AND getting a better score).

But that's all just geek stuff and doesn't matter in the long run.

What does matter is how one touches others' lives, as Rob and Ben state, and how one makes the world a better place. It takes guts to bare one's inner struggles online to the entire planet! Just as reading someone else's posting about their challenges helped you to decide that things could be improved, I'm confident that your posting here will help others to improve the quality of their lives. And having a positive effect like that on who-knows-how-many lives of folks of whom you may never know -- that's huge.

As for things coming back to 'bite' you -- gosh, through the Enron days and through the almost 2 years since, your work has always been absolutely TOP notch, and I would think that this is a profound demonstration that you are able to manage your professional life in the midst of whatever life brings, manage your personal life, AND still have more guts than most of us (at least more than I) to share what you've learned to selflessly offer help to others. That just bumps you even higher on my respect-o-meter.

Gravatar Image2 - Tom,

Gutsy move. Which leads me to 'confess' that I, too, am a victim of depression. I have the classic depression-anxiety combo (traveling with me is NOT a pleasant experience), and only admitted to myself a few years ago that it was a medical condition requiring treatment, as opposed to something I should be able to overcome on my own (mind over matter). The drugs (SSRIs) help quite a bit, although there are still dips in the road.

What I find most difficult about this disease is that it is impossible to explain to the typical 'manager' at work (and, probably for most people, the family at home - I'm fortunate in being married to a physician, so while she is still occasionally baffled by the way the disease can express itself, she has no trouble with the concept that it is a disease). So, you're having a bad day, or week, or month, and that obviously makes you less productive, right? But when your boss wants to know why, what do you say? Well, you can't tell the truth. Oh, sure, technically you can - there are all kinds of regulations you could use to force your employer to behave if they were to 'punish' you. But, in reality, you have to live with these people. And since the vast majority of the people in the world don't have the faintest idea what the family of mood disorders is all about, you're likely to be treated like either a leper or a 'weakling' if you do tell the truth.

Classic examples of how badly people handle this information can be seen in the sports world - Barrett Robbins of the Oakland Raiders goes off his meds because he (thinks he) plays better without them, but as a result can't handle the pressure of SuperBowl week and goes off on a binge. How do the press and his teammates react? By trashing him repeatedly. In defense of the Raiders organization, they have recovered nicely and are treating him very well, but witnessing the experience was eye-opening for me. I had begun to hope the general public was getting better about these 'mental' diseases, so it was disheartening to realize how far we have to go.

In any event, I hope (and believe) there will not be any negative repercussions resulting from your post. I have the general impression that the Domino blogging community is much too intelligent for that - some people may not know much about the issues, but that will just make them follow the links you provided and learn about it. And the more people learn the truth about this, the better life will be for all of us who suffer from it. So I thank you for taking a chunk out of the ignorance in the larger world. Well done.

Gravatar Image3 - Tom,

It took a lot of guts to come out and admit that. Thanks for sharing. Just know that you're not alone. I've had quite an up and down time in the last few years myself, where work just doesn't seem fulfilling, and it's been rather depressing. I know what you're going through, congrats at hitting it head on.

On that same vein though, I still woulda kicked major teenage ass for not fessing up to that one... No 'off the hooks' here! :-)

And never worry about this coming back to bite you on the ass. Your work and enthusiasm will speak for itself. We only met at Lotusphere this year, but damnit if you're not one of those people that seemed forever optimistic. You had that gleam in your eye, even though that might have just been the 'Sphere working its magic :-)

Lastly, Bruce. We've only met once too (Turtle's LS Bash) but I look at my one and a half year old daughter and I cannot imagine what you must be going through. You have my thoughts...

Man, I have to get my domino-blog up and running soon. This is a community of support I need to be involved in.

Take Care,

Gravatar Image4 - Tom,
C'mon. If you can't lean on virtual strangers you've never met before, who can you lean on? ;-)

In all seriousness, on behalf of all of us, I think we should be honored you felt comfortable enough to share that with us. Thank you for the faith.

And thank you for the faith in yourself! Even though we all have oodles faith in you to go around (and Joe's respect-o-meter keeps getting higher), it's gotta start with you. And it looks like it has. Here's to you.

Gravatar Image5 - Wow, Bruce... You have my prayers. We're having dinner tonight with a couple my wife and I have known for over 20 years. Their 18 year daughter has Neimans-Pick disease, which is a fatal neurological condition that will eventually lead to her inability to walk, talk, and care for herself. To know that you will lose your child and there's nothing you can do about it would be so hard.

And it's this type of sharing that I feel makes blogging so different than other forums. You can start to learn what makes people tick and what things make up their views and reactions on life. When you deal with so many people people "virtually", its this type of info that starts to make them become real.

Gravatar Image6 - hi Tom,

im glad to hear that its going better for you and especially as a father too. I can imagine how kizz feel if daddy is so grumpy sometimes. When my older son (6 years soon) jumps in my home office and im working on something very concentrated i was very angered some month ago. But i realised soon to myself that my child means everything to me and on the other side my computer and the bucks im earning with it meaning nothing. Its not worth to blame my kid for disturbing me. Now i welcome him very kind inwardly any time he comes in and so automatically my outer reactions too are much better to him. Thats how i always wanted to be a father, and thats how i can say now that the saying "between the word and the deed is the sea" doesnt count for me no more, at least not in this case.

I wish you the best and luck !!!

Gravatar Image7 - Wow! What a great group of people! Thanks, all!

Gravatar Image8 - And now for the hopefully good news... When my wife dropped off the laptop at the Gateway store, they said 7 to 10 working days to get it back. That was Friday. The UPS guy just delivered the laptop today. Sue opened the box and doesn't see a note or anything indicating that it wasn't repairable... So when I get home, I may have my laptop back! Whoo-hoo!

Gravatar Image9 - Tom,


-Cheryle :)

Gravatar Image10 - You know my thoughts Tom through the brief ,but seemingly long, almost 5 years we have known each other now. True bolas in sharing that with all. :-)

Gravatar Image11 - OK, I'm gonna be the heel that doesn't give words of encouragment about your personal life. I'm not going to talk about the book you read. I'm not even going to console you about your ill laptop. What I am going to talk about are your thoughts on Matrix: Reloaded. :-)
I must begin by saying that I felt that this new installment of the Matrix was better than the first. On many levels, this was the perfect "middle movie" in a trilogy. It had plenty of action, and it continued the story enough to get us to the third and final movie. We got to take a prety close look at life in Zion. Characters from the first movie became more complex, and new characters were introduced, no doubt playing bigger parts in the final movie.
I think my favorite aspect of the film is how it continued the "philosophy" of the first Matrix. They moved on with the same train of thought and shined a flashlight on the idea of choice and the motivations and reasonings behind choices. They talked about cause and effect and what, if any of those, are actually important in the grand scheme of things.
I'm sure we will "wax poetic" about the movie the next time I see you. And I in no way want to come across as the expert who knows all and believes his is the only "right" opinion. I just feel that perhaps, you haven't thought of the movie in this way. :-)
On top of all that. THEY HAVE MECHS!! you can't go wrong with Mechs.... :-)

Gravatar Image12 - Ah, Joe... Now I gotta go get something to dry my eyes...

Thanks for your words of encouragement (and for everyone else's). They mean a lot to me.

Gravatar Image13 - Thanks for sharing Tom. I too have some very interesting things going on in my life. Many people don't know that I have a terminally ill 6 year old daughter who cannot walk or talk and gets fed through a feeding tube.

Gravatar Image14 - Glad to hear things are looking up. What matters most in life is noth whether things go well or badly, but how we deal with however they go, and it sounds like you have found a constructive way to go. God job.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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