Baby it's cold outside

I really can't stay - Baby it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
My mother will start to worry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
well Maybe just a half a drink more - Put some music on while I pour
Baby it's cold outside - Ella Fitzgerald

Variations on a theme

Swans
Unkle Bob (Sugar & Spite)

By my side
You'll never be
By my side
You'll never be

'cause I'm fake at the seems
I'm lost in my dreams
And I want you to know
that I can't let you go

And you're never coming home again
And you're never coming home again

By my side
You'll never be
By my side
You'll never be
You'll never be

I wanted to tell you I've changed
I wanted to tell you that things would be different this time

I see you, You see me differently
I see you, You see me differently

You told me that you loved but you never wanna see me again
You told me that you loved but you never wanna see me again
You told me that you loved but you never wanna see me again
You told me that you loved but you never wanna see me again

Do you believe in unconditional love?  Something to deep and so magical that no matter what happens or how hard things get you know that you'll be there for each other?

I was watching Grey's Anatomy last night and it really, really hit close to home. I've realized there is, yes another, duality. Part of me is looking for for that always  ellusive relationship that is unconditiona and getting burned once too many when I think I have the kinda relationship I want.

It was that one moment, where Meredith (who is in intesive care because she drowned) finally accepts the fact that perhaps she did give up and allowed herself to drown; that she did take the easy way out let herself drown instead of facing her problems.  It was only after she accepted this fact that she was able to move on with her life and accept that she loved someone and that someone loved her as well 

MEREDITH: [narrating] "At the end of a day like this, when so many prayers are answered and so many aren't, we take our miracles where we find them. We reach across the gap and sometimes, against all odds, against all logic, we touch."

From Grey's Anatomy

 


Listening:

  • Sugar & Spite-- Unkle Bob (The song Swans appeared on yesterday's episode of Grey's Anatomy)
  • Riverdance, music from the show
  • Other Random Stuff (including Ella Fitzgerald, Billi Joel and Vixen)

Reading:

  • I Robot Screenplay -- Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov
  • Codex: Space Wolves
  • White Dwarf 326
  • The Art of Project Management

Doing:

  • Paiting Warhammer 40k miniatures
  • Working on a website project

Warthicng:

  • Reruns of JAG on my Tivo
  • Serenity
  • The Shadow Chronicles

COA

I remember reading in one of Tom Clancy's books about Special Forces how the commanders prepare Course of Action statements outlining what are their plans and what risk their chosen options entails.  In talking to mom over the weekend I'm thinking I need to put down something to serve in a similar capacity so that my rollercoaster mood won't get me balancing between the different options.

The overall plan is:

    • Do a GRE prep course between late march and May
    • To take the GRE in June and again in October if I have to
    • To complete my application to UGA no later than November 15th
    • To have my UGA application submitted by December 1st
    • If Accepted to move out July 2008
    • Start classes Fall 2008

Part of the problem is that I'm not happy where I'm at right now. There's been a lot of stress, personal and work-related frustration and the inability of moving on on the career path that I want to be in.  I don't know if I have the mental energy to stay and put up with all the unnecessary stress that surrounds me (whether it's self induced or not, that's a different story) which brings the second issue.

If I were to move (not likely but possible) I would have to get used to a brand new job which would take away time from completing the plan outlined above. On the other hand there are things like a job at Simmons College in Boston which sound exactly like I'm searching for and where I would be able to express a fuller range of skills and abilities.

What are the risks of changing plans and moving on to a different job?  As good as I am at what I do my mom made a great point; getting used to a new environment takes a lot of energy and you have to be 100% onto what  you're doing or you won't be successful.

So that's the question, do I want to suck it up for another 18 months and then move to school with a clean slate, spend my 4+ years working my ass off and  then have   the option to come back to California and teach; or do I want to move now, suck up another 24 to 30 months of work and then resume pursuing the PhD?

Change of plans

Why UGA and not USU anymore? In looking at the plans for both schools UGA's program is more my style. It'll keep me on track and on target better than a less structured program would. The chorot are smalls and t he structure of the program sounds more conductive to research and teaching.

Dreams
Fleetwood Mac (Rumors)

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
Its only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat.. drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost...
And what you had...
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when its raining
Players only love you when theyre playing
Say... women... they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean... youll know

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
Its only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and...
Have you any dreams youd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness...
Like a heartbeat... drives you mad...
In the stillness of remembering what you had...
And what you lost...
And what you had...
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when its raining
Players only love you when theyre playing
Say... women... they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean... youll know

Control, Surrender and Letting go

MEREDITH: [narrating] "Nobody likes to lose control, but as a surgeon there's nothing worse. It's a sign of weakness, of not being up to the task. Still there are times when it just gets away from you, when the world stops spinning, when you realize your shiny little scalpel isn't gonna save you. No matter how hard you fight it, you fall. It's scary as hell. Except there's an upside to the free fall. It's the chance you give your friends to catch you."

From Grey's Anatomy

Another after the weekend post.  The hardest part of life for me is to let go.... Let go of people, places and situations. That's a strength but also a weakness:  It is a strength because it helps you creating stronger relationship but it's a weakness in that not letting go ties you up to the places, people and situation long after they are gone.

Someone came to mind during the weekend; someone from Vermont. Mary Anne Miller, who used to be a History major at UVM. If you're reading this let me know

Hold On
Wilson Phillips (Wilson Phillips)

I know there's pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don't ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?
Chorus:
Some day somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day
Things'll go your way
Hold on for one more day
You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You've got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin' your worries pass you by
Don't you think it's worth your time
To change your mind?
(Chorus)
I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free the chains
Yeah I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and you
Break free, break from the chains
Some day somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Don't you know?
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day yeah
If you hold on
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day,
If you hold on
Can you hold on
Hold on baby
Won't you tell me now
Hold on for one more day 'Cause
It's gonna go your way
Don't you know things can change
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can't you change it this time
Make up your mind
Hold on
Hold on
Baby hold on

COA

I remember reading in one of Tom Clancy's books about Special Forces how the commanders prepare Course of Action statements outlining what are their plans and what risk their chosen options entails.  In talking to mom over the weekend I'm thinking I need to put down something to serve in a similar capacity so that my rollercoaster mood won't get me balancing between the different options.

The overall plan is:

    • Do a GRE prep course between late march and May
    • To take the GRE in June and again in October if I have to
    • To complete my application to UGA no later than November 15th
    • To have my UGA application submitted by December 1st
    • If Accepted to move out July 2008
    • Start classes Fall 2008

Part of the problem is that I'm not happy where I'm at right now. There's been a lot of stress, personal and work-related frustration and the inability of moving on on the career path that I want to be in.  I don't know if I have the mental energy to stay and put up with all the unnecessary stress that surrounds me (whether it's self induced or not, that's a different story) which brings the second issue.

If I were to move (not likely but possible) I would have to get used to a brand new job which would take away time from completing the plan outlined above. On the other hand there are things like a job at Simmons College in Boston which sound exactly like I'm searching for and where I would be able to express a fuller range of skills and abilities.

What are the risks of changing plans and moving on to a different job?  As good as I am at w hat I do my mom made a great point; getting used to a new environment takes a lot of energy and you have to be 100% onto what  you're doing or you won't be successful.

So that's the question, do I want to suck it up for another 18 months and then move to school with a clean slate, spend my 4+ years working my ass off and  then have   the option to come back to California and teach; or do I want to move now, suck up another 24 to 30 months of work and then resume pursuing the PhD?

Change of plans

Why UGA and not USU anymore? In looking at the plans for both schools UGA's program is more my style. It'll keep me on track and on target better than a less structured program would. The chorot are smalls and t he structure of the program sounds more conductive to research and teaching.

Dreams
Fleetwood Mac (Rumors)

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
Its only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat.. drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost...
And what you had...
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when its raining
Players only love you when theyre playing
Say... women... they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean... youll know

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
Its only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and...
Have you any dreams youd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness...
Like a heartbeat... drives you mad...
In the stillness of remembering what you had...
And what you lost...
And what you had...
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when its raining
Players only love you when theyre playing
Say... women... they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean... youll know

Jobs @ Stanford

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky -- I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation -- the Macintosh -- a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me -- I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Rollecoaster Mood

When the stars go blue
Bono and The Corrs

Dancin' where the stars go blue
Dancin' where the evening fell
Dancin' in your wooden shoes
In a wedding gown
Dancin' out on 7th street
Dancin' through the underground
Dancin' little marionette
Are you happy now?

Where do you go when you're lonely
Where do you go when you're blue
Where do you go when you're lonely
I'll follow you
When the stars go blue, blue
When the stars go blue, blue
When the stars go blue, blue
When the stars go blue

Laughing with your pretty mouth
Laughing with your broken eyes
Laughing with your lover's tongue
In a lullaby

Where do you go when you're lonely
Where do you go when you're blue
Where do you go when you're lonely
I'll follow you
When the stars go blue, blue
When the stars go blue, blue
When the stars, when the stars go blue, blue
When the stars go blue
When the stars go blue, blue, blue
Stars go blue
When the stars go blue

Where do you go when you're lonely
Where do you go when you're blue, yeah
Where do you go when you're lonely
I'll follow you, I'll follow you, I'll follow you
I'll follow you, I'll follow you, yeah
Where do you go, yeah
Where do you go, Where do you go

There is a bit at the end of the video for When the stars go blue where Bono and Andrea Corrs (the lead singer) start dancing. It's such a touching dance, specially after the song they are singing.

How to do what you love

Paul Graham

January 2006 (http://www.paulgraham.com/love.html)

To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: "Do what you love." But it's not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated.

The very idea is foreign to what most of us learn as kids. When I was a kid, it seemed as if work and fun were opposites by definition. Life had two states: some of the time adults were making you do things, and that was called work; the rest of the time you could do what you wanted, and that was called playing. Occasionally the things adults made you do were fun, just as, occasionally, playing wasn't-- for example, if you fell and hurt yourself. But except for these few anomalous cases, work was pretty much defined as not-fun.

And it did not seem to be an accident. School, it was implied, was tedious because it was preparation for grownup work.

The world then was divided into two groups, grownups and kids. Grownups, like some kind of cursed race, had to work. Kids didn't, but they did have to go to school, which was a dilute version of work meant to prepare us for the real thing. Much as we disliked school, the grownups all agreed that grownup work was worse, and that we had it easy.

Teachers in particular all seemed to believe implicitly that work was not fun. Which is not surprising: work wasn't fun for most of them. Why did we have to memorize state capitals instead of playing dodgeball? For the same reason they had to watch over a bunch of kids instead of lying on a beach. You couldn't just do what you wanted.

I'm not saying we should let little kids do whatever they want. They may have to be made to work on certain things. But if we make kids work on dull stuff, it might be wise to tell them that tediousness is not the defining quality of work, and indeed that the reason they have to work on dull stuff now is so they can work on more interesting stuff later. [1]

Once, when I was about 9 or 10, my father told me I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up, so long as I enjoyed it. I remember that precisely because it seemed so anomalous. It was like being told to use dry water. Whatever I thought he meant, I didn't think he meant work could literally be fun-- fun like playing. It took me years to grasp that.

Jobs

By high school, the prospect of an actual job was on the horizon. Adults would sometimes come to speak to us about their work, or we would go to see them at work. It was always understood that they enjoyed what they did. In retrospect I think one may have: the private jet pilot. But I don't think the bank manager really did.

The main reason they all acted as if they enjoyed their work was presumably the upper-middle class convention that you're supposed to. It would not merely be bad for your career to say that you despised your job, but a social faux-pas.

Why is it conventional to pretend to like what you do? The first sentence of this essay explains that. If you have to like something to do it well, then the most successful people will all like what they do. That's where the upper-middle class tradition comes from. Just as houses all over America are full of chairs that are, without the owners even knowing it, nth-degree imitations of chairs designed 250 years ago for French kings, conventional attitudes about work are, without the owners even knowing it, nth-degree imitations of the attitudes of people who've done great things.

What a recipe for alienation. By the time they reach an age to think about what they'd like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can't blame kids for thinking "I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world."

Actually they've been told three lies: the stuff they've been taught to regard as work in school is not real work; grownup work is not (necessarily) worse than schoolwork; and many of the adults around them are lying when they say they like what they do.

The most dangerous liars can be the kids' own parents. If you take a boring job to give your family a high standard of living, as so many people do, you risk infecting your kids with the idea that work is boring. [2] Maybe it would be better for kids in this one case if parents were not so unselfish. A parent who set an example of loving their work might help their kids more than an expensive house. [3]

It was not till I was in college that the idea of work finally broke free from the idea of making a living. Then the important question became not how to make money, but what to work on. Ideally these coincided, but some spectacular boundary cases (like Einstein in the patent office) proved they weren't identical.

The definition of work was now to make some original contribution to the world, and in the process not to starve. But after the habit of so many years my idea of work still included a large component of pain. Work still seemed to require discipline, because only hard problems yielded grand results, and hard problems couldn't literally be fun. Surely one had to force oneself to work on them.

If you think something's supposed to hurt, you're less likely to notice if you're doing it wrong. That about sums up my experience of graduate school.

Bounds

How much are you supposed to like what you do? Unless you know that, you don't know when to stop searching. And if, like most people, you underestimate it, you'll tend to stop searching too early. You'll end up doing something chosen for you by your parents, or the desire to make money, or prestige-- or sheer inertia.

Here's an upper bound: Do what you love doesn't mean, do what you would like to do most this second. Even Einstein probably had moments when he wanted to have a cup of coffee, but told himself he ought to finish what he was working on first.

It used to perplex me when I read about people who liked what they did so much that there was nothing they'd rather do. There didn't seem to be any sort of work I liked that much. If I had a choice of (a) spending the next hour working on something or (b) be teleported to Rome and spend the next hour wandering about, was there any sort of work I'd prefer? Honestly, no.

But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Carribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn't mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.

Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something.

As a lower bound, you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. You have to like what you do enough that the concept of "spare time" seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else-- even something mindless. But you don't regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it.

I put the lower bound there for practical reasons. If your work is not your favorite thing to do, you'll have terrible problems with procrastination. You'll have to force yourself to work, and when you resort to that the results are distinctly inferior.

To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that's pretty cool. This doesn't mean you have to make something. If you learn how to hang glide, or to speak a foreign language fluently, that will be enough to make you say, for a while at least, wow, that's pretty cool. What there has to be is a test.

So one thing that falls just short of the standard, I think, is reading books. Except for some books in math and the hard sciences, there's no test of how well you've read a book, and that's why merely reading books doesn't quite feel like work. You have to do something with what you've read to feel productive.

I think the best test is one Gino Lee taught me: to try to do things that would make your friends say wow. But it probably wouldn't start to work properly till about age 22, because most people haven't had a big enough sample to pick friends from before then.

Sirens

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don't even know? [4]

This is easy advice to give. It's hard to follow, especially when you're young. [5] Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you'd like to like.

That's what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you'll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind-- though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That's the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

Similarly, if you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what's admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.

The other big force leading people astray is money. Money by itself is not that dangerous. When something pays well but is regarded with contempt, like telemarketing, or prostitution, or personal injury litigation, ambitious people aren't tempted by it. That kind of work ends up being done by people who are "just trying to make a living." (Tip: avoid any field whose practitioners say this.) The danger is when money is combined with prestige, as in, say, corporate law, or medicine. A comparatively safe and prosperous career with some automatic baseline prestige is dangerously tempting to someone young, who hasn't thought much about what they really like.

The test of whether people love what they do is whether they'd do it even if they weren't paid for it-- even if they had to work at another job to make a living. How many corporate lawyers would do their current work if they had to do it for free, in their spare time, and take day jobs as waiters to support themselves?

This test is especially helpful in deciding between different kinds of academic work, because fields vary greatly in this respect. Most good mathematicians would work on math even if there were no jobs as math professors, whereas in the departments at the other end of the spectrum, the availability of teaching jobs is the driver: people would rather be English professors than work in ad agencies, and publishing papers is the way you compete for such jobs. Math would happen without math departments, but it is the existence of English majors, and therefore jobs teaching them, that calls into being all those thousands of dreary papers about gender and identity in the novels of Conrad. No one does that kind of thing for fun.

The advice of parents will tend to err on the side of money. It seems safe to say there are more undergrads who want to be novelists and whose parents want them to be doctors than who want to be doctors and whose parents want them to be novelists. The kids think their parents are "materialistic." Not necessarily. All parents tend to be more conservative for their kids than they would for themselves, simply because, as parents, they share risks more than rewards. If your eight year old son decides to climb a tall tree, or your teenage daughter decides to date the local bad boy, you won't get a share in the excitement, but if your son falls, or your daughter gets pregnant, you'll have to deal with the consequences.

Discipline

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it's not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on. Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

It's hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. So don't underestimate this task. And don't feel bad if you haven't succeeded yet. In fact, if you admit to yourself that you're discontented, you're a step ahead of most people, who are still in denial. If you're surrounded by colleagues who claim to enjoy work that you find contemptible, odds are they're lying to themselves. Not necessarily, but probably.

Although doing great work takes less discipline than people think-- because the way to do great work is to find something you like so much that you don't have to force yourself to do it-- finding work you love does usually require discipline. Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do when they're 12, and just glide along as if they were on railroad tracks. But this seems the exception. More often people who do great things have careers with the trajectory of a ping-pong ball. They go to school to study A, drop out and get a job doing B, and then become famous for C after taking it up on the side.

Sometimes jumping from one sort of work to another is a sign of energy, and sometimes it's a sign of laziness. Are you dropping out, or boldy carving a new path? You often can't tell yourself. Plenty of people who will later do great things seem to be disappointments early on, when they're trying to find their niche.

Is there some test you can use to keep yourself honest? One is to try to do a good job at whatever you're doing, even if you don't like it. Then at least you'll know you're not using dissatisfaction as an excuse for being lazy. Perhaps more importantly, you'll get into the habit of doing things well.

Another test you can use is: always produce. For example, if you have a day job you don't take seriously because you plan to be a novelist, are you producing? Are you writing pages of fiction, however bad? As long as you're producing, you'll know you're not merely using the hazy vision of the grand novel you plan to write one day as an opiate. The view of it will be obstructed by the all too palpably flawed one you're actually writing.

"Always produce" is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you're supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. "Always produce" will discover your life's work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.

Of course, figuring out what you like to work on doesn't mean you get to work on it. That's a separate question. And if you're ambitious you have to keep them separate: you have to make a conscious effort to keep your ideas about what you want from being contaminated by what seems possible. [6]

It's painful to keep them apart, because it's painful to observe the gap between them. So most people pre-emptively lower their expectations. For example, if you asked random people on the street if they'd like to be able to draw like Leonardo, you'd find most would say something like "Oh, I can't draw." This is more a statement of intention than fact; it means, I'm not going to try. Because the fact is, if you took a random person off the street and somehow got them to work as hard as they possibly could at drawing for the next twenty years, they'd get surprisingly far. But it would require a great moral effort; it would mean staring failure in the eye every day for years. And so to protect themselves people say "I can't."

Another related line you often hear is that not everyone can do work they love-- that someone has to do the unpleasant jobs. Really? How do you make them? In the US the only mechanism for forcing people to do unpleasant jobs is the draft, and that hasn't been invoked for over 30 years. All we can do is encourage people to do unpleasant work, with money and prestige.

If there's something people still won't do, it seems as if society just has to make do without. That's what happened with domestic servants. For millennia that was the canonical example of a job "someone had to do." And yet in the mid twentieth century servants practically disappeared in rich countries, and the rich have just had to do without.

So while there may be some things someone has to do, there's a good chance anyone saying that about any particular job is mistaken. Most unpleasant jobs would either get automated or go undone if no one were willing to do them.

Two Routes

There's another sense of "not everyone can do work they love" that's all too true, however. One has to make a living, and it's hard to get paid for doing work you love. There are two routes to that destination:

  • the organic route: as you become more eminent, gradually to increase the parts of your job that you like at the expense of those you don't.
  • the two-job route: to work at things you don't like to get money to work on things you do.

The organic route is more common. It happens naturally to anyone who does good work. A young architect has to take whatever work he can get, but if he does well he'll gradually be in a position to pick and choose among projects. The disadvantage of this route is that it's slow and uncertain. Even tenure is not real freedom.

The two-job route has several variants depending on how long you work for money at a time. At one extreme is the "day job," where you work regular hours at one job to make money, and work on what you love in your spare time. At the other extreme you work at something till you make enough not to have to work for money again.

The two-job route is less common than the organic route, because it requires a deliberate choice. It's also more dangerous. Life tends to get more expensive as you get older, so it's easy to get sucked into working longer than you expected at the money job. Worse still, anything you work on changes you. If you work too long on tedious stuff, it will rot your brain. And the best paying jobs are most dangerous, because they require your full attention.

The advantage of the two-job route is that it lets you jump over obstacles. The landscape of possible jobs isn't flat; there are walls of varying heights between different kinds of work. [7] The trick of maximizing the parts of your job that you like can get you from architecture to product design, but not, probably, to music. If you make money doing one thing and then work on another, you have more freedom of choice.

Which route should you take? That depends on how sure you are of what you want to do, how good you are at taking orders, how much risk you can stand, and the odds that anyone will pay (in your lifetime) for what you want to do. If you're sure of the general area you want to work in and it's something people are likely to pay you for, then you should probably take the organic route. But if you don't know what you want to work on, or don't like to take orders, you may want to take the two-job route, if you can stand the risk.

Don't decide too soon. Kids who know early what they want to do seem impressive, as if they got the answer to some math question before the other kids. They have an answer, certainly, but odds are it's wrong.

A friend of mine who is a quite successful doctor complains constantly about her job. When people applying to medical school ask her for advice, she wants to shake them and yell "Don't do it!" (But she never does.) How did she get into this fix? In high school she already wanted to be a doctor. And she is so ambitious and determined that she overcame every obstacle along the way-- including, unfortunately, not liking it.

Now she has a life chosen for her by a high-school kid.

When you're young, you're given the impression that you'll get enough information to make each choice before you need to make it. But this is certainly not so with work. When you're deciding what to do, you have to operate on ridiculously incomplete information. Even in college you get little idea what various types of work are like. At best you may have a couple internships, but not all jobs offer internships, and those that do don't teach you much more about the work than being a batboy teaches you about playing baseball.

In the design of lives, as in the design of most other things, you get better results if you use flexible media. So unless you're fairly sure what you want to do, your best bet may be to choose a type of work that could turn into either an organic or two-job career. That was probably part of the reason I chose computers. You can be a professor, or make a lot of money, or morph it into any number of other kinds of work.

It's also wise, early on, to seek jobs that let you do many different things, so you can learn faster what various kinds of work are like. Conversely, the extreme version of the two-job route is dangerous because it teaches you so little about what you like. If you work hard at being a bond trader for ten years, thinking that you'll quit and write novels when you have enough money, what happens when you quit and then discover that you don't actually like writing novels?

Most people would say, I'd take that problem. Give me a million dollars and I'll figure out what to do. But it's harder than it looks. Constraints give your life shape. Remove them and most people have no idea what to do: look at what happens to those who win lotteries or inherit money. Much as everyone thinks they want financial security, the happiest people are not those who have it, but those who like what they do. So a plan that promises freedom at the expense of knowing what to do with it may not be as good as it seems.

Whichever route you take, expect a struggle. Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it's rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you'll be more likely to arrive at it. If you know you can love work, you're in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you're practically there.

>Notes

[1] Currently we do the opposite: when we make kids do boring work, like arithmetic drills, instead of admitting frankly that it's boring, we try to disguise it with superficial decorations.

[2] One father told me about a related phenomenon: he found himself concealing from his family how much he liked his work. When he wanted to go to work on a saturday, he found it easier to say that it was because he "had to" for some reason, rather than admitting he preferred to work than stay home with them.

[3] Something similar happens with suburbs. Parents move to suburbs to raise their kids in a safe environment, but suburbs are so dull and artificial that by the time they're fifteen the kids are convinced the whole world is boring.

[4] I'm not saying friends should be the only audience for your work. The more people you can help, the better. But friends should be your compass.

[5] Donald Hall said young would-be poets were mistaken to be so obsessed with being published. But you can imagine what it would do for a 24 year old to get a poem published in The New Yorker. Now to people he meets at parties he's a real poet. Actually he's no better or worse than he was before, but to a clueless audience like that, the approval of an official authority makes all the difference. So it's a harder problem than Hall realizes. The reason the young care so much about prestige is that the people they want to impress are not very discerning.

[6] This is isomorphic to the principle that you should prevent your beliefs about how things are from being contaminated by how you wish they were. Most people let them mix pretty promiscuously. The continuing popularity of religion is the most visible index of that.

[7] A more accurate metaphor would be to say that the graph of jobs is not very well connected.

Thanks to Trevor Blackwell, Dan Friedman, Sarah Harlin, Jessica Livingston, Jackie McDonough, Robert Morris, Peter Norvig, David Sloo, and Aaron Swartz for reading drafts of this.

The Shadow Chronicles Rock

The Shadow Chronicles rocks!!!

I didn't even realize when the story was over but it's such an engrossing and transparently took me from New Generation into the story line without being too disruptive with everything I already knew about the universe.

*** Spoilers ahead ***

The first part of RTSC happens in parallel with episode 85 of the TV show and takes the point of view of the returning Expeditionary fleet and Ariel as to what happens both on Earth as well as in space during the last battle.

There is a side story that becomes central to the later acts of the movie where Vince Grant (the late Claudia Grant's brother), captain of the Icarus, is sent to unsuccessfully rescue the SDF-3 where they first meet the new enemy, the Haydonites. The Icarus obtains information about the Neutron-S missiles and the danger they present to Earth and to the people who employ them.

While the Icarus attempts its rescue, the Expeditionary Fleet is getting pummeled by the Invid and their numbers. On Earth, Ariel is trying to convince the Regees, her mother, to leave Earth and not a second too soon as the Expeditionary fleet decides to launch the Neutron-S missiles to eliminate the Invid presence on Earth without success as the Reeges destroyds the missiles as she leaves the planet.

For the rest of the plot, buy the movie you cheap ass

Those of you who have seen the series will find some differences between episodes 84 and 85 of the TV show and the new movie, but while they are significant, they help close the TV show much better IMO than a straight retelling of the last 2 or 3 episodes of the show would have done.