journal

A collection of 4 posts

05.30.2022 - Relating to Sid Meier

journal 4 min read

I'm currently listening to the autobiography of Sid Meier, famous video game creator. It's a funny and fascinating memoir. Honestly, I didn't realize how many games he's created or how many I've played. I had forgotten about Silent Service, a submarine simulation from the late 80s. My dad bought our family's first PC around that time. My two most frequently played games were Test Drive and Silent Service. I had no idea it was created by the guy who's name would be forever synonymous with Civilization.

I'll probably share a ton of quotes from the book in the future, but here's one that made me smile.

My coworker Jake Solomon once asked me point blank, "What's your guilty pleasure?" It should be mentioned that he did this on stage in front of a few hundred people, which is not usually the ideal place to unburden your soul. Fortunately, the answer came easily.

"Excess," I told him with a pained smile. The drawback of being able to isolate the interesting part of any given thing is that you are constantly interested by every given thing. I routinely find myself stumbling into new hobbies almost by accident, and as with my work life, I seem incapable of doing anything halfheartedly.

As an example, I like to play the guitar. I know a fair number of chords, and when I'm playing music with friends I'll occasionally hand over the keyboards to someone else, so I can pretend to be a rock star in short bursts. But I wouldn't consider myself astronomically talented at, or obsessed with, playing the guitar-I'm just interested in it. Therefore, I own about twenty of them.

In my defense, some are for convenience. I keep two at the office and two in our church building, because you never know whether the acoustic or electric mood will strike, and I don't want to haul them back and forth all the time. The rest are either hanging on display at home or in various states of storage, but they do get played, as I keep insisting to Susan.

Then there are the radio-controlled airplanes, and the historical memorabilia, and the golf clubs... like I said, guitars are just one hobby of mine. I'm a nerd, and nerds always want to have the latest gadget. I can justify my extensive collection of game consoles as part of my job, at least, but for the most part I have to make a conscious effort to keep the accumulation below pathological levels. I once got to visit George Lucas's library at Skywalker Ranch, which has a ladder leading up to a second-floor balcony where you can access another several thousand books. It's probably a good thing that I've never lived in a house that could hold that many books, but a grand, sprawling library is the first room I'd install if I did.

As someone who has, throughout my life, taken heat for my varied interests and the resulting accumulation of items pertaining to those interests, this was delightful to read. There are those who complain about the money spent, about the clutter and "mess" from having all these interesting items scattered around the house. I learned a long time ago that if someone doesn't inherently understand, they probably never will. At best they'll humor you.

I've always said my varied interests are, in many ways, indirectly responsible for the success I've had in life. They're emblematic of curiosity. They're signs of wanting to know how the world works and where it's going, of a desire for continuous personal growth.

Most of my career success has occurred due to the generalist nature of my skillset. I'm not the world's best programmer or best software designer or best copywriter or best graphic designer, but I can and have effectively worn all those hats. I was able to do it because I'm genuinely curious about how each area of focus impacts the larger project.

For me, curiosity is satisfied by experimentation. When I want to know something, I'll usually try to learn it. It won't usually be the deepest education. I'm not going back to college or anything like that. But I do like to acquire first hand understanding, either by reading or trying. Note: If I'm not interested in a topic, there's very little chance anyone will convince me to explore it. Thankfully, my interests (and desire to be a better person) are rather broad.

To acquire understanding, I regularly buy books, gadgets, LEGO, cameras, electronic drum sets, drones, exercise equipment, video production gear, monitors, toys, mini solar panels, flight simulators, home automation tools, outdoor gear, etc.. As a result, my home fills up with an endless influx of new stuff.

When I was younger, there was an argument to be made that I couldn't afford my curiosity, but that's less of a problem now (although, I still can't afford my own personal aircraft, which would be cool). But this is how I learn. This is how I grow. This is how I pursue that which interests me.

If one person's method of learning and satisfying curiosity is different than another's, why assume one is right and the other is wrong if both are effective for the people applying them? In today's world, shouldn't we encourage all manner of learning and curiosity, especially when data confirms the more you learn and the more questions you ask the less likely you are to think you know everything?

Regardless, it's always nice to discover there are people like you in the world. It's exciting to see your methods reproduced by others with even better results. Maybe you're doing something right after all.

05.16.2022 - The One with the Covid

journal 2 min read

After 26 months of pandemic life, I finally encountered the mighty Covid. Thankfully, I've been vaccinated and boosted. So while my bout hasn't been the symptomless walk-in-the-park many others have enjoyed, it certainly hasn't been the worst illness I've ever experienced.

It all started with a sore throat. Coughing. Fatigue. Lots of fatigue. Then came a fever. By day three, I couldn't concentrate for more than a few minutes. I tried and failed multiple times to watch a new show, always resorting back to familiar sitcoms that made no demands of my attention or focus. (The title of this post

02.27.2022 - Scrolling in the Scriptorium

journal 1 min read

Today I'm listening to an audiobook of The Swerve, which I find delightful and informative. The opening chapters deal at length with old manuscripts and the monks who copied them in the fifteen century. I came across a brilliant bit of wordplay, but first, to set the scene:

In charge of the scriptorium was the person on whom Poggio and the other book hunters would have focused their most seductive blandishments: the monastery's librarian. This important figure would have been accustomed to extravagant courtship, for he was responsible for providing all of the equipment that was required for the copying of the manuscripts: pens, ink, and penknives whose precise merits or defects would become overwhelmingly obvious to the laboring scribe after a few hours at the day's task. The librarian could, if he wished, make a scribe's life miserable or, alternatively, provide a favorite with particularly fine tools. Those tools also included rulers, awls (to make tiny holes for ruling the lines evenly), fine-pointed metal pens for drawing the lines, reading frames to hold the book to be copied, weights to keep the pages from turning. For manuscripts that were to be illuminated, there were still other specialized tools and materials.

After this illustration of life in the monastic library, we get a delightful bit of history that ends with a connection I hadn't made in the past.

Most books in the ancient world took the form of scrolls like the Torah scrolls that Jews use in their services to this day-but by the fourth century Christians had almost completely opted for a different format, the codex, from which our familiar books derive. The codex has the huge advantage of being far easier for readers to find their way about in: the text can be conveniently paginated and indexed, and the pages can be turned quickly to the desired place. Not until the invention of the computer, with its superior search functions, could a serious challenge be mounted to the codex's magnificently simple and flexible format. Only now have we begun once again to speak of "scrolling" through a text.

And that's today's moment of delight.

02.24.2022

journal 1 min read

Today, Russia invaded Ukraine. This quote, from Anne Applebaum's Twilight of Democracy surfaced in my notes. As we watch another Authoritarian regime attempt to destroy and occupy an independent, democratic nation, as we remain hopeful the western world can work together to undermine the effort, the quote seems fitting.

To some, the precariousness of the current moment seems frightening, and yet this uncertainty has always been there. The liberalism of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson, or Václav Havel never promised anything permanent. The checks and balances of Western constitutional democracies never guaranteed stability. Liberal democracies always demanded things from citizens: participation, argument, effort, struggle. They always required some tolerance for cacophony and chaos, as well as some willingness to push back at the people who create cacophony and chaos. They always acknowledged the possibility of failure—a failure that would change plans, alter lives, break up families. We always knew, or should have known, that history could once again reach into our private lives and rearrange them. We always knew, or should have known, that alternative visions of our nations would try to draw us in. But maybe, picking our way through the darkness, we will find that together we can resist them.