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This is the archive for December 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The news show 20/20 is going to have a piece tonight entitled "Heaven - Where is it? How Do We Get There?" (check your local listings). While it may be entertaining to watch the liberal Barbara Walters try to talk around objective morality without ever actually acknowledging it, even in the hypothetical, I probably won't watch it. If you do, keep something in mind:

The bad news for anyone hoping to reach paradise after they die is that heaven is all in your head.

The good news is that heaven is all in your head. It's in your head. It is in your head. Learn to enjoy it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Steve Pavlina is one hell of a guy. He's the guy a lot of us wish we could be, or at least be more like. He finished college in 3 semesters, with a double major. He sleeps 25 minutes every 4 hours around the clock - that's 3 hours a day. Not because he was born that way, but because he decided that he didn't want to hibernate one-third of his life away. He's a vegan.

Well, OK, so he's not perfect. But read his latest, Rules Are no Obstacles for Committed People, and then go read my latest again. He gets it.

He's not my kind of guy, philosophically. But he reinforces something I've long known, that people are what they are despite their expressed philosophy. Here's a guy with a strong liberal world view, yet he shows symptoms of being as virulent a capitalist as there is on this planet.

Philosophy just isn't a guiding force in most people's life. Hell, it's not a guiding force in almost anybody's life. Sure, some people live for their philosophy, but even those people were those kind of people before they landed on that philosophy, not because of it.

People just want to get on with their own lives. Someone who wants a life of ease will mold whatever philosophy they believe in to one that allows them to be a parasite, or will seek out one that's already so molded. People who want to be busybodies can find plenty of opportunity within conservativism or liberalism, and there's even some that have found a way to reconcile it - in their own minds, at least - with libertarianism. People who are naturally rebellious can find their way to John Birch or the Greens as easily as they can to the libertarianism or objectivism.

Philosophy is not irrelevant. A bad philosophy will make it harder for a Steve Pavlina to get on with his life, but a guy like him will get on with it no matter the obstacles, self imposed or external. A bad philosophy will lead a busybody or a parasite to do great damage to himself and his society, but such a person would have done some damage anyway. Philosophy is not an obstacle to committed people.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I was perusing a several-day backlog of RSS feeds, and came across this ambiguous headline:
How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less

Call me narcissistic, or just daft, but in my rush to get through hundereds of headlines, I didn't read it the way you probably did. I didn't think it was going to be about ways to cause people to view me more favorably. I thought it might have something to do with cloning, or perhaps a very rushed and unsatisfying style of reproducing in the traditional way, but in any case, I was intrigued by the idea of populating the world with more people just like me.

In another similar bout of cognitive disconnect from the huddled masses, I recently defaulted to a wildly improbable interpretation of the headline: "Moore, Hayek to host Nobel Concert." First of all, Friedrich Hayek is long dead, and while he could arguably have been an appropriate choice to host a Nobel Peace Concert, I would imagine that even if he were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave at the thought of sharing a stage with Michael Moore.

It wasn't until I opened the link that it dawned on me that it was that Hayek, and that Moore, and lost all interest.

I've come to realize over the years that I see the world entirely differently than most people out there. I've also come to realize that if most people think that their kind of Hayeks and Moores are important enough to warrant headlines - on any account - and that if they find others' liking them to be so important and so mysterious a process that they require and will pay for a book about how to do it, then I prefer it that way.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I listened to a great talk by Woz today. It's long, about two hours (link is to the page to download it from, two parts), but worth every minute of it. It's fascinating and inspiring to hear someone so brilliant and who accomplished something so fundamentally important to all of us talk about how he got to the place where he could do that.

"Atoms before molecuies." He discusses how in his childhood he would experiment with diodes and capacitors and the like that he scraped up from neighbors or wherever he could find them. He'd assemble them to see what he could make them do. He knows now, if he didn't then, that he had to learn the basics first, the atoms, to master them completely, before he could move on to assembling the molecules we all take for granted today.

As he mastered one concept, he'd build on it, assembling more and more complex things, until he eventually mastered microchips and microprocessors, and video displays (he discovered how to send computer output to a television screen just through his own tinkering) and floppy controllers and found himself making the first Apple computers.

He makes it sound easy, almost accidental, passive even. But he gives hints that belie that idea. He probably didn't think of it at the time, but he at least senses it now, that he was systematically building up an understanding that would lead to something great. He was integrating the micro world of electrons, and he was doing it with a determined sense of purpose, even if that purpose was defined as only possibilities and "what ifs".

So I have to wonder if this was what he thought his hard work would amount to. It's utterly pointless and silly, but after hearing Woz's story, I bet he'd be tickled that he gave us the ability to have it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

And it's a darn shame. How did the world get this way?

I'm a computer programmer. That means that I write cryptic bits of meticulous code that do wonderful and powerful things when they're done right, that's my job. It would be drudgery for some, but it's art and beauty to me.

When I started my current employment, the days flew by. I'd see that it was approaching 5:00 and wish I could put it off. I was enjoying it too much, and I was working toward a goal. Get to point A by the end of today, point B by the end of tomorrow, and the end of the project by the end of next month - and I often came in early or stayed late to make sure I got there. I was in my own world, and I was my own boss. The fact that I had a real boss who gave me assignments and occasionally asked how it was coming along mattered less than the motivation that came from within myself, from the beauty of what I could produce.

But the last several months, things have been different. I wasn't programming most of the day anymore. Some days, even strings of days, I wasn't programming at all. My work would change, almost randomly, from week to week, from day to day, or even sometimes from hour to hour. My inner motivation had to take a backseat to the needs of the moment, to the needs of others.

I began to think more about the paycheck than about the work I was doing. I began to think more about the work I wished I was doing than about either my immediate work or my paycheck. I began to wonder if I couldn't find another situation where my own motivation would rule my days, or short of that, where I could at least get more money for subordinating it. I began to watch the clock and the calendar, and pine for those two glorious days of freedom at the end of the week.

But today something wonderful happened. It's about 9 PM on Friday, and I just now, for the first time in many days, realized that I had those two days of freedom ahead of me. Wow! Is it Friday already?

Why? It took me a minute to think about it, and I discovered that it's because I'd spent almost all of the last two weeks programming again. And I was working on a single project. OK, actually two projects, because I finished one early this week, but they were projects of my own choosing. I wasn't just doing whatever I felt like it despite the wishes of my boss, but I was doing work that I had suggested. They were motivated from within, but also from the long-term goals of the department I'm in and the business as a whole. And my boss agreed with me.

Financial pressures still make me worry about the paycheck, but I don't worry about it while I'm at work anymore, at least not these last two weeks. I'm doing what I love, and those financial pressures are not a distraction in my day, but are seperate from it. There's no substitute for that kind of work. There's no reason for anyone to settle for less, at least not in the long term.

If you're only working for the weekend, you're working for the wrong reason. If one third of your life is spent longing for the third of it that you are not working or sleeping, you're not living, you're merely existing. There's nothing in life that's worth giving up living.