Face-goggles with that?

Apple and Meta have recently released VR/AR goggles. My brain started to wonder. Picture this:

Over the next few years, Apple does what Apple does – it iterates on the Vision Pro to create an affordable, high-end device which we can all slap on our faces. Developers pile on to make sure that we can block out the real world entirely. We dive in and immerse ourselves in movies, events, games, memories, relationships, and surroundings that are just not actually there – they are Virtual. Fake. Generated. Is this a heavenly scenario? Or is it dystopian? Maybe it’s because of the AI drama playing out in real time, but I tend to lean towards dystopian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m desperate to try the goggles. I love tech. Having a 100 inch tv in your house but not actually in your house? So cool.

BUT, I am also aware that the most fun I have had in my life has happened in the analogue world. Family. Friends. Sport. Music. These cannot be replaced online and I don’t think these goggles will change that fact.

Or maybe they will – but I hope not. We’ll find out sooner or later I guess.

Contracts and Covenants

What in your life is governed by a contract? and furthermore, what in your life is governed by a covenant?

Are you buying pencils? Are you asking someone out on a date? Are you looking after someone else’s children? Are you looking after your own children? Are you lending a company some money? Whatever the activity is, there is likely some sort of agreement at play. Formal or informal. Conditional or unconditional.

I work in the world of contracts. Procurement is quite a dry subject because it is so caught up in process, detail and legal paperwork. But the truth is that an effective contract solidifies a business relationship. It serves to protect both the buyer and seller. It is often about risk mitigation more than anything else. A good contract is a reference for all sorts of details in a relationship which might be the source of contention such as the quality of the materials to be used, the parameters of the services to be provided, delivery times, fees, and costs. Fundamental to this form of agreement is the concept of negotiation. The details in a good contract are negotiated and work for both parties. This means it is conditional, optional and it is temporary.

A covenant in the ancient and religious sense is different. Each covenant established the basis of a relationship with God, conditions for that relationship, promises, and consequences if promises are broken. However, a covenant is more of an oath invoked, rather than an agreement negotiated. There are no conditions for the covenant. A covenant once invoked cannot be broken. There is no end to a covenant. Whatever one party does, you have to also do 100%. One of the most familiar examples of a covenant for us today is marriage. Til death do us part. The motivation is love rather than money or risk management.

Interesting to me is the interplay between the covenant of marriage and the many contracts of marriage. They work in parallel with each other. In my marriage, it helps me to think of them as working concurrently, but at different levels. The covenant of marriage is endless and no matter the condition. In sickness and in health. It is looking far, deep, and wide at the commitment. It is a permanent and spiritual oath that gives comfort and joy. The covenant will get me through the unforeseen risks that I cannot manage.

The contracts and negotiations of marriage, in contrast, will get me through the risks I can foresee. They are for the day to day commercial, operational, functional and emotional aspects of marriage which will turn into chaos if there is no attention paid on a regular basis.

Constant negotiation for the contracts. Deep comfort and faith in the covenant. A good marriage likely involves constant negotiation, even though the underlying covenant is non-negotiable. The idea of contracts and a covenant being both present in marriage is beautiful. To rely only on one and ignore the other is probably a mistake.

Happy Thursday, Chimps.

Dickens? Dickens!

I am trying to get back into the more arty side of things – this is a constant battle with the busy schedule we have at home. At the same time it is fundamental part of me – I love art and reading and writing…and so, a blog post and Dickens!

I have started to assemble one of those laughable bookshelves, full of pretentious and important novels I intend to read someday. Dostoyevsky has a plastic cover tightly wrapped around, sealing the pages. I am intimidated by his name and I am claiming to be unable to open the plastic cover, so I likely won’t touch him for ages. But, Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” is open and ready to be read immediately. I ran out of excuses today, and so I just started (at the beginning) and am thankful that the novel includes liner notes for every chapter – Context is good.

Wish me luck… and remember to always exclaim “What the Dickens!” whenever possible.

Tech and enjoyment

Some of the funnest tech I own is also some of the oldest. An Onkyo amplifier, stereo speakers, an old TV and cable box/decoder. I have owned this stuff for ages and have set it up and broken it down multiple times as my family has grown. I feel like the master and the AV tech is my slave. Feeling in control is fun.

What I don’t like is when the tech is acting without my input and out of my control. That’s frustrating and sometimes downright scary. I challenge you to play ping pong with your cell phone in the same room for a few days in a row – and then look at what Facebook ads pop up. The tech is creepy and it is listening to you with a life of its own. (There’s a movie script in there somewhere?….horror movie….I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that….where was I).

I can set up, tune and sync all the Audio Visual gear in our house multiple times and it never gets boring for me. Part of this satisfaction is the syncing up of a ‘perfect’ solution given the constraints of my tech. Constraints are good. I have used the same components in many different scenarios, always trying to make it sound that little bit better.

Part of it is my affinity for anything audio. The sweet sound of my bookshelf speakers more than makes up for the hours of labour.

Anyways, just a small thought for the Saturday – don’t automatically get rid of that old tech. Joy can be found in mastering something rather than relying on the new.

Let’s talk about ***

How do we talk about God? My parents and friends never bothered. One of my early memories is watching a scene in a movie where a witness in court swears to tell “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”. I remember thinking to myself, well that’s not going to bind him to anything. He can lie his ass off and have no real consequences if God is all that is holding him accountable.

The culture in which I grew up was extremely sheltered in many ways. At a macro level, times were good. The 1990’s saw the ‘end of History’ declared as the Soviet Union lost its marbles. Capitalism and technology was sorting the Western World out, and there was to be an inevitable march with Democracy across the globe. The good news was bound to spread fast. Democracy, Capitalism and Science had won. God was dead and we killed him.

Closer to home, my family never needed to run, to fight, to fear, or to search for much meaning. We had all that we needed right in front of us. Our schools were good. We thrived at academia and sport. We had money, friends and community. The general idea for success was to just keep doing what we did. The only real danger was corruption in developing nations, the ozone layer, conservation or climate change. Humans were sorted in the most important parts of the world, it seemed, so let’s educate the rest and look out for the environment.

That old equation seems a little naive and simplistic. Life is heavier than I thought. Yes, I was young in the 90’s and 00’s so I clearly missed some of the complexity going on around me. But now we are all connected to the internet and we’re not all following the same script. Instead we’re hiding behind touch screens. It feels like a time when belief in a higher power would be helpful. But what do I know? I’m just a chimp with cans.

Friday concerns

A cloud is building on the horizon. One of those dark, steel-coloured clouds, it flashes every now and then with lightening. There is an ominous, glowing red base where the cloud meets the earth, as if Sauron and his army may be ready to strike. I am nervous about my children and their relationship with technology. Tech is the one ring to rule them all.

Back when I was a child, life was simple in the Shire and new tech was exciting but not pervasive. Think of the kids in Stranger Things but without the Upside Down – that’s how it feels in my memories. Our favourite possessions were bicycles and Walkmans. The pace of introducing new technology was slow here in Africa. Just as there was no TV in my mother’s childhood, there was no internet in mine.

Flash forward thirty years and i have to manage my daughters, and their relationship to the internet. That strange magic which is able to make them disappear. We are relatively conservative with our children in this house. I feel like I have seen too much to let my girls loose on an iPad or on YouTube. But I know the dam will burst and there is such a thing as sheltering them too much.

The answer to all of this, I believe, is well described by Tolkien and exemplified by my excellent wife. Stay productive, and know that your tasks make a difference in at least one life: Your own. Just as carrying the Ring throughout Middle Earth is no easy task, managing the internet in your own life is hard. In fact, Frodo almost succumbs to its powers more than once. Friends and family see us through and give perspective to our online life. Sam, is always there to get Frodo back on the right path.

Happy Friday, chimps.


Friends came over for coffee today. Great family friends of my parents, they have known me since I was a child. I grew up with their children. They come from Kenya and after some text messages to arrange things, they suddenly appear at my house. Appearing not only out of a taxi, but out of my past, out of my memories. They make me smile as soon as I see them.

Nostalgia runs deep with visits like this. Talking with them of family, Kenya, the way things are versus the way they used to be – it’s a little like watching a beloved film for the umpteenth time. I often feel that I know what we are going to say before we say it. I am comforted by the familiarity of everything – their accents, their faces, their memories.

Pride sweeps through me too. I show them my new house, I introduce my children. I give them coffee and pastries. I describe my life to them. I hope they see progress even in the face of Africa, the pandemic, gruelling life. Their compliments are kind. I am most proud of my family.

Fear hits me when they leave. I feel it – a jolt in my stomach and at the base of my skull – and I hope I can see them again soon. I am so far away from the people of my childhood. Age is catching us all.

Thank God for my chaotic family. After a beautiful visit is over, my children and my wife bring me right back to the present. I have so many things to do. Til we meet again.

Happy Thursday, chimps.

Recent resonations

The internet is full of rubbish. We cannot trust most of it, cannot filter all of it, and at the same time we cannot take our eyes off of it.

The following links are for good things I have read / listened to recently. I’m going to call them “resonations”:

  • Tim Ferris interviews Mark Zuckerberg – Zuck is obviously a tech nerd – but he’s also a sporty, musical, family man. No hint of lizard origins here. link
  • The symbolism of ESG – My background as a “sustainability professional” means that this resonates. Are we guilty of searching for too much meaning in finance? A separation of God and mammon required? link
  • Extraordinary men – The Big Red Car is at his best when talking military history. Something that Europe and Ukraine are in the midst of. link
  • Where do symbols live – Seth Godin as the liberal antidote to the conservative BRC and ESG articles: link

Happy Tuesday Chimps.

Organic farm trip

Our minibus turned off the smooth tar road, tyres crunching on the gravel. Suddenly away from traffic, we faced a long, narrow wedge – a valley rising up into a tall range of mountains. My wife explained to me that, in winter, snow fell on the peaks ahead. Unusual for Africa.

For us it was sunset at the tail end of summer. No snow. Instead, the gravel road was hot and red in the sun, and the bush on the valley floor was a hundred shades of gold and green. A troop of baboons walked on the side of the road, welcoming us to our stay at the organic farm. “All this fruit is ours” they seemed to say. “Leave it alone and we’ll let you stay”. I made a mental note: Lock the windows, hide the food. Then an eagle hovered above, scanning for movement in the bush below. My daughter noticed how fierce its claws were. The mouse below would have no chance but the eagle needed to eat too hey Dad? Signs appear on the side of the road with directions to our cottage.

Minibuses dont do well on steep valley roads. The steeper the road got, the more we slipped and slid until finally the bus reached the cottage like a tired animal, happy to lie down and rest in the car park. By that time all the children had left seatbelts behind, and sat on our laps in the front. No health and safety standards. No space. Lots of fun and excitement with a valley full of baboons and birds, and a sliding slipping bus ride.

The cottage gave us everything we needed. Or rather, it kept everything that we didn’t need away from us. No phones, no TV, no internet. Even the baboons left us alone. As a replacement the girls played and played. Adventures in the amazing bunk bed with a ladder and a nook in the wall. The deep swimming pool to keep us cool and occupied by a couple of frogs, beautiful leopard spots on their backs. I showed the girls how to catch a frog gently in my hands, and they squealed with laughter as it hopped out my hands and launched itself away to the nearest bush.

Everything growing on the farm was classified as organic. Or rather, the soil in which it grew was classified organic. Not the biggest farm I have seen, but it stood out from larger, mass producing farms as each piece of fruit had an extra “organic” certification. Fancy baboon feeding scheme, you might think. Apparently they allow outsiders to use their soil so that they can claim their produce is organic in the markets. An interesting concept. Hard work though.

When we went to the nearby town for a meal, the girls attracted the attention of another family celebrating a birthday. They gave us about twenty balloons. We crammed them into the car, so that our minibus looked like it would float away as we rumbled back to the cottage. More squealing with laughter. Then the girls decided it would be nice to pass on the balloons to the boys who lived in workers’s shacks on the farm. I was proud of them for giving away such a treasure. I was also glad our minibus stayed on the ground throughout. Gravity works.

Such a short and simple trip away but it gave us more than I hoped. Happy Tuesday chimps.

Trips to Kenya

I just returned from a trip to Kenya. It was beautiful. The weather was warm, my family there was happy and healthy, and I was by myself in the town of my childhood for a while. I visited friends, stayed up late and generally did what I wanted. However, I always come away from these trips a little conflicted. Let me try to explain.

Depending on who I am talking to, trips to Nairobi can be called “a trip home”, “a trip to see my parents”, or simply “a trip to Kenya”. Somehow I am unable to find a label that sticks. It seems to reflect poorly on me to call it “home” in front of my wife, for example. Whereas calling it the same thing in front of an old Kenyan friend seems right. This is strange. The place does not change. Simply my label for it.

Since I went to boarding school overseas (sunny England) aged 15 I have been returning to Kenya, to the exact same house I grew up in. I tend to revert to a sort of adolescence and a role in the Kenya house. This is the case even though I have a very happy home and family of my own in South Africa. I heard the experience described as a “dance” we have with our original family members. A choreographed sequence of interactions and emotions. Over the years I have simultaneously missed the old dance (homesickness) and realised the need to escape from it and create a new dance with my new family (growing up).

Back in boarding school the homesickness was paralysing. I would miss Kenya so much, ticking the days off my calendar. When I eventually got back for a holiday I would wallow and bathe in the place, saturating myself with familiarity like I was in a warm bath. In the worst case scenario, we never leave our childhood homes. Either physically or psychologically. We are never allowed to grow up and create our own “dance”. We fail to launch. Nowadays of course I miss my parents being overseas, but the “dance” and the power of our old home only hits me once I have arrived in Kenya.

I am grateful that the homesickness and the “family dance” of my childhood is getting further away all the time. It means I am happy with my life. At the same time I am so lucky to have such a place to go back to. Trips to Nairobi are now more like a quick holiday rather than an essential recovery or a fix for an ailment. I enjoy them more because of this.

Happy weekend, chimps.