Friday, July 29, 2005

Open cuisine, open recipe and creative commons

ResultatfinalAs you might know, I believe in an open and free world of sharing, caring and respect. From political freedom and respect for vital values to open-source products and free software. That does not mean chaos for the simple reason that an open and free world can be reasonably regulated and governed. Creative Commons is a good example of rules that make sense while fully repecting freedom and openness. So I thought I would test it by promoting a new breed of open "source": Open Recipes and Open Cuisine.
I kind of like trying things out for myself - I think Carl Jung had a type called "feeler", the active experimentator if you will. Therefore I chose to write a recipe of an adapted version of Moussaka that I created a couple of years ago. Well, a Greek guy writing a recipe about Moussaka makes sense somehow... Anyway, this is the result of using the Creative Commons framework to publish under a Share-alike license the recipe. I call this new breed of open source cuisine Open Cuisine and the recipes shall be officially called Open Recipes :-) And the French version: "Cuisine Libre" and "Recette Libre".

There are many creative ways to move towards and open and free world of sharing, caring and respect. This is one very small example that is within the limits of my modest abilities. What matters is not how great or ambitious the initiative is; what matters is the flow and movement within. Don't think too much about that, just go out and try it as an attitude; it's not perfect, it does sometimes fail and overall it does improve quality of living by transforming the way one chooses to perceive the world.

Two documents can be downloaded from this blog, one in English and the other one in French. Enjoy!
Download MoussakaOpenRecipe.pdf

Download CusineLibre_RecetteLibreMoussaka.pdf

Open source project management software

Sp3220050728212322_1A good project management tool is one of the things I have been searching for ages. And I've tried all sorts of products in the past. For me, good means straightforward, easy to use for building a project plan, providing for simple project tracking and control...

I wanted to have some very basic things because I don't need the bells and whistles of tools used by multinational companies to run complex orldwide projects with enormous constraints. On the front of theoretically easier and yet self-proclaimed powerful tools, ther is of course MS Project. And last time I tried I did not enjoy the enormous gap between promise and actual performance of MS Project: no, it is not making project management easy and yes it does require a heavy investment in learning its built-in peculiar behaviours. Of course, this is only my opinion and perhaps I am just a rare exception of a person who had a bad experience with this product...

Anyhow, I had been looking for an affordable and functional tool... This is exactly what I found this morning with Open Workbench. If you are interested in project management and want to check it out, just visit their site. They also have a version that is designed for big companies with a central repository (I think they call it Clarity, but I have not tried it). One of the things I really found extra cool with Open Workbench is the fact that it does not try to drown you under a huge number of reports, views and filters, but instead has a little engine built-in that allows you to define the project data you want to see in a given view of the project. And it is really easy to start using, both because it has a great user interface and because the user guide is very well written. Definitely worth checking.

I remain in bewildered awe before some of the achievements of the open source software movement. And I just love the passion these people are putting in their work. That is an example of what talent can produce that sometimes money cannot buy nor inspire.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Variable geometry

Gardenia_2005Today, watching this picture of a beautiful gardenia plant that grows in my appartment, I thought I would write something about variable geometry, or why we apply to others rules that we don't want for ourselves. A gardenia flower blooms following its rules and does so for no other reason that the intrinsic merit of blossoming. That is how things are when there is harmonious geometry instead of variable geometry. When the path we choose is that of variable geometry there is a lot of tweaking around and of urgent fixing to do. And that goes with pain and tons of ill effects when those who suffer from variable geometry engage in another form of variable geometry following their own deficient logic. That is why the variable geometry that brought Enron down and ruined its stakeholdes produces the variable geometry of Sarbanes-Oxley and Halliburton deals in Iraq. That is why the variable geometry of human rights, free and compulsory public  education, labour laws and social care (only for developed countries) yields the chaos of terror, war and turmoil... Violence breeds violence. Doing more of the same will yield more of the same results.

I've been following the news actively since 1983, when as a young adolescent I started discovering the world through the lense of media organisations that were not the giants of today. I can still hear the voice of my professor of history and geography urging us to be informed and aware. She did well and I can never thank her enough for that. Following current affairs in several countries through the productions of different media organisations I came to realize the importance of relativity: the war in Bosnia Herzegovina was not the same story if one listened to French, German, British, Russian or Hellenic broadcasts. And to a certain degree this diversity of views was a good thing because it gave us all the opportunity to analyze events and shape a personal opinion. The trend at work since the turn of the millenium is one that I find worrying because it has two effects:

  1. homogeneous coverage - as a direct result of self-imposed censorship and fear to be labelled unpatriotic or pro-terrorist (whatever that means), many news organisations departed from their traditional philosophy and started giving us a single "agreed" way of interpreting events. This trend is reinforced each time there is an extreme act of terror against civilian populations because it becomes more difficult for a news channel to look at the bigger picture. Of course, each and every single human being with a good level of consciousness about Life, the Universe and All-the-Rest will find these destructive acts absolutely horrendous. Now, a few good questions: how do we achieve a "good level of consciousness"? How do we educate human beings today in various parts of our world? How do we deal with hardwired pre-homo sapiens codes that push individuals to "fight or flight" behaviours? Are we not applying different rules and requirements to education and human care in different countries of this planet when our fate is common whether we like it or not? Instances of what I call "variable geometry".

  2. unlimited political influence - political leaders are able to influence and sometimes shape the interpretation of events and the news that are transmitted to citizens, which directly boosts their individual political influence. For the first time in decades the information we are being provided is so questionable and subject to executive influence; for the first time in decades the checks and balances that any citizen wants in a democratic political system are being tested so harshly. And of course, this tacit if not explicit cooperation of the shadows between prominent politicians and large news media organisations is a threat to democracy and freedom in our countries. This assault on civil liberties in the western world is taking place at the very moment the same people who grab more power in our countries go to war in the middle-east and elsewhere with an official goal to establish and protect democracy and freedom. That too is variable geometry.

So let me make a list of occurrences of variable geometry in our world that I see as necessary to tackle if we are serious about sustainable human development in this universe now:

  • public, compulsory, quality education in western countries vs no education and extremist propaganda in poor countries of the planet

  • labour laws in western countries vs the jungle in emerging countries

  • social care in Europe vs chaos virtually everywhere else

  • relative indifference to the genocide in Rwanda (over 2 million dead in a matter of weeks) vs overwhelming outrage for the attacks in NY, Madrid and London

  • environmental protection in Europe vs indifference virtually everywhere else

  • free trade agreements instead of fair trade agreements

  • free trade when it comes to the exports of the western world vs subsidies for western farmers

  • open Internet access in the western world vs controlled connectivity in numerous countries

  • ...

Gardenia3_2005I could go on with this list, but it is not my purpose. I personally believe that education is the root of everything for tomorrow and if 200 billion dollars can be spent for a war without cause, I can hardly see why we cannot fund a true international programme of high quality education worldwide. Perhaps that would also improve things on the front of real global freedom, sustainable development, illegal immigration... And as ever in human endeavours, the technical and material part of such a programme must be supported by a different philosophy, what I call harmonious geometry. What soem other people will call human respect. A philosophy that does not distinguish between what happens to our kids here and what happens to a kid in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. A deep conviction that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" as M.L. King would put it.

No justification in the world is strong enough to support the adoption of wrong means to achieve an admirable and fair goal. What really matters is the path to an objective and not the objective itself. When my gardenia grows it does everything it needs to do moment by moment without worrying about the flower it will eventually produce and without looking for shortcuts that would violate its essence or its existence.
We humans (and our leaders in particular) have a lot to learn from a simple gardenia plant...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Why Magritte

20050716_chateaudelahulpe_mAt times in Belgium, where I live, I am amazed to see a very strange phenomenon that I have never observed anywhere else. At least not with such intensity. It is this strange combination of buildings or trees in the foreground that look dark at the very time the sky behind them seems full of light. Seeing this I can understand why Magritte was so inspired. This picture was taken on July 16th 2005, around 11:00 AM in the park of the 'Chateau de La Hulpe'. I just wanted to share a beautiful moment captured in this picture. Beautiful images, paintings and music speak the language of peace and quiet to our souls. A peaceful and quiet soul is a must for those of us who want to strive for excellence (not perfection, and yes it is very different) without paying the ridiculous price of stress and poor health.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Know Thyself

A couple of months ago I posted a quote on this blog; it dealt with knowledge of the past and of the future and somebody asked me "what if you want to know who you are now?". Well, that's a bloody good question; one of those questions humans have been working on for ages and quite frankly I don't know whether there is only one way to do this, nor indeed whether this target is achievable in "just" one lifetime.
DelphoiThe oracle of Delphi has been known to provide wise insights to Ancient Greeks on a range of matters of interest to them. At the entrance of the temple of Delphi, there was an invitation and perhaps a warning for visitors: "know thyself". That sentence can be interpreted in many different ways:

  1. the oracle was willing to handle all sorts of questions except those dealing with the bottomless pit of the (sometimes troubled) human soul, perhaps a warning to psychologists, analysts and psychotherapists of our times

  2. knowledge of oneself was considered a basic prerequisite for visitors to be able to deal with the impacts of the revelations made by the oracle, perhaps a warning to those of us who are on a quest to accumulate knowledge, expertise and experience (evolution may also stem from shedding knowledge, habits, fears, "truths", values, rules, obligations...)

  3. the endeavour was considered as the boldest that a mortal could undertake, definitely an interesting insight for all those who think of walking their personal path and perhaps living their own personal legend as Coelho might put it

The challenge of self-knowledge is huge both because in our universe change is the only constant (and that applies to our souls, minds and bodies) and because there is a large chunk of who we are that can actually escapes the span of attention of our conscient selves. Carl Gustav Jung left an invaluable legacy of wisdom with his work on the self, the inconscious, the social ego and the shadow, which I am currently studying as part of my personal R&D.
MonbourquetteI personally used some of the concepts Jung studied and in particular methods presented by Jean Monbourquette in a great book I recommend to anyone interested in the discovery of herself. I must warn you though: if you do it properly the results may rock you a bit, so make sure you have someone to guide you or to support you in case of weakness. And there is no shame in weakness; in fact strength lies within weakness, a wisdom present in the words and thoughts of many great thinkers.
Now to use my NLP skills a bit, let me see whether the goal of achieving self-knwoledge is a "good objective" to pursue for me, that is an objective that is compliant with the conditions of proper formulation of objectives:

  1. positive formulation: "I want to know who I am now" - that will do it

  2. under my control: I feel it is, even though I know I will not achieve it in one day

  3. can be tested: by drawing a diagram showing the different aspects of myself and listing the attributes of my social self as well as those of my shadowy side I will be able to test my current knowledge of myself

  4. in context: here and now, all contexts of my life

  5. ecology: I don't see any disadvantage in achieving this goal, but to be frank there is no way I can know whether there is any; it's a leap of faith.

  6. ultimate objective: harmony, evolution, growth

  7. price to pay: I will spend time to investigate, invest energy in facing my fears (see the prayer of the Bene Gesserit of Dune) and devote attention to the subtle messages of my unconscious part

  8. coherence for me: knowledge of myself is definitely in line with who I want to be in the life

  9. does the achievement of the goal eliminate the problem? - what was the problem agin? No, just kidding. For me it definitely does and I don't see any other more suitable, elegant or short way to do it: I don't want to spend the rest of my life with someone I don't know, and who I am spending most time with but my self?

So, yes, this is an objective for me. Actually I think it is a fundamental prerequisite for just about every single aspect of my life, whether it is dealing with people at work, hopefully someday raising children, perhaps coaching individuals to the achievement of their full personal potential, writing, painting, meditating or "simply" being a citizen of the universe. And I do think it is a path to personal harmony, even though there may be a few quite intense moments of unexpected discovery... But then again, if everything that happens was to fall in the "expected" category, life would not be quite as exciting to live. Enjoy your path, whatever you choose to let it be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On heart power, brain power and brute force

MarshallplanlogoBack in 1948, when President harry Truman was signing the Foreign Assistance Act, he was simultaneously taking America on a bold route nobody had explored before, that of true compassion and human care. Indeed, through what is best known as the Marshall Plan, the United States of America spearheaded European and global economic recovery at a time when the disastrous effects of World War II were being felt in every corner of our continent, Old Europe. This was perhaps one of the boldest initiatives undertaken by any US Administration on such a scale.
A bit more than 47 years after it was initiated, as the free world is facing a challenged never equalled since the end of the cold war, I was wondering what the dollar value of the Marshall Plan had been and how much this could be worth in 2005 dollars. After all, this is a time when America is spending over 200 billion US dollars to wage a war that does not seem to be bringing the rosy results promised by President G.W.Bush's Administration: a world free from terror, complying with the ideals of the western model of modern democracy and as a direct consequence of "action" democracy and stability in the Middle East.
Usinflationrates1948to2002Truman's plan for European economic reconstruction was worth 13 billion US dollars in 1948. Condisering the US inflation rate between 1948 and 2002 (for details please click on picture at the left of this text), I calculated the compounded rate of inflation (706%) and was able to determine that the Marshall Plan would be worth slightly more than 104 billion US dollars in 2002, or slightly more than 107 billion US dollars in 2005 (inflation rates for 2003 and 2004 taken from the web site of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Dear reader, that is 50% less than what the Bush Administration is spending on waging its war in Iraq. The tragedy of it all is that with an action plan based on brute force America is damaging its image possibly beyond repair. And I am sure President Bush and his team had the best of intentions (Someone I know says that the road to hell is paved with best intentions) as they chose to use violence instead of putting together a plan for...

  • global education,

  • access to potable water for millions of humans,

  • fair trade giving underdeveloped countries a fighting chance in world trade,

  • a cleaner environment and sustainable development

  • ... anything smart, generous, bold and truly compassionate that helps build a better tomorrow

Perhaps it is time to do something different. Again one the things one hears a lot in NLP seminars: "if what you are doing is not working, try something else. More of the same tactic brings more of the same results". Perhaps there is no clash of civilisations, perhaps violence breeds violence, Perhaps bombs actually strengthen terror, perhaps the world is not as simplistic as conservative US think tanks depict it, perhaps it is time to use brain power...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Certified NLP Practioner

Certificat_praticienpnlI am very proud and pleased to inform you that I earned my certification as NLP Practioner on 13 July 2005. It's been an intense, interesting, challenging and deeply human experience for me, for which I thank the people who put together this training programme, namely Alain Moenaert and Anne PiƩrard at Ressources.
Over the course of the past 6 months, we have been challenged to understand and immediately apply the tools of neurolinguistic programming; and to apply them on real-life cases. So I also wish to thank from the bottom of my heart all my classmates who provided real cases from their lives as I provided cases and issues from my own. I thank those who helped me discover and learn as well as those who helped me develop new ways of seeing. From a systemic standpoint this group was just fantastic. At the same time I feel for those who did not earn their diploma this time and wish them lots of progress and discovery until their next attempt at something as challenging. I am a believer in one of the basic tenets of NLP: "there is no failure, only feedback". And I know from my life so far that feedback can sometimes be expensive, painful or dreadful... I believe there is a reason for everything that happens in our lives though.
NLP provides a framework for understanding human behaviour, emotions and thought patterns. I consider that NLP has brought unprecedented discipline and structure to psychology. The framework makes it possible for practioners to use tools developed in other branches of modern psychology in a very operational manner. What I really like about it is that systematic exploration and understanding of the way an individual human being "functions" leads almost immediately to actions that can be taken to achieve desired results. For more about NLP, please visit Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Sadness and hope

I feel deeply sad for the people of London, for those who lost their lives too early, for those wounded who suffer and for those in pain for the loss of a dear one. Let us have a thought of compassion and love for all of them.

Fear, anger and violence have been plaguing our world for a long time. Far too long. When the soul, the mind, the thoughts, the words and the actions of humans are corrupted by these poisons, the world becomes a less pleasant place to say the least. This, I am convinced, is the deep spiritual and psychological root cause for dreadful events orchestrated by terrorists of all sorts. And the seed for violence are distance, judgment and blame: when I feel distant from someone and find a reason to blame them I am being violent. Interestingly, when I blame someone I am in fact blaming myself. I believe in the power of Life and Light and I fail to see how Death and Destruction can serve any superior purpose, let alone any religious purpose. Perhaps political agendas, but no cause worth to be called that way. And I think it is pointless to examine whether Death and Destruction materialise as a genocide in the pre-Colombian Americas, a genocide in Rwanda, a devastating world war, a terrorist attack on New York, Madrid or London, or indeed as an ill prepared and badly managed costly intervention in Iraq, or a colonial war in Vietnam. There is no just cause that can be served by fear, anger and violence. None. Not in any environment: not in family, not in business, not in society, not in politics, not in world affairs... None. Period.

The fact is that we have the resources that are required to make the world a better place and bombs are not the way to do it. Perhaps it is time to think how many "Marshall plans" we could have conducted with the budget spent for the war in Iraq. Perhaps it is time to assess the cost the western world is now paying for its myopic handling of former colonies and underdeveloped countries in the past; after all did we not allow Sadam to come to power and once he was in power tolerate his presence for 30 years before suddenly realising we had to bring him down? Did we not protect dictators like Mobutu? Did we not bring down democratically elected leaders like Salvador Allende? Did we not allow extremists in Algiers to prevent women from attending university?

At the same time, I feel sadness and sorrow for the shadows that drive
human behaviour in our world. They are our collective shadows. My neighbour's weakness is my own.
I know I
have felt anger, violence, desire for revenge and a couple of other of
these negative energies. How else could I possibly recognize (that is
re-cognize) them? Perhaps we humans have made a lot of progress with
technology and science and medicine and management and arts and... but
the point of the matter is that our behavioural patterns are mostly
identical to what they were in prehistoric times. Progress as we
conduct it just gives us means to "perform" on a larger scale.

Perhaps the next frontier is in ourselves and in our selves. That is where progress is now required. Perhaps the next step is to educate and to re-educate people. To help achieve a higher level of conscience on a larger scale. It is in the power of each individual to create their personal heaven
or hell out of the exact same material: our world, our common