Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Monday, January 30, 2006day link 

 How to do what you love
Paul Graham, who often says wise words, has an essay on How to do what you love. Here's a sample:
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.
Very basic stuff, really, but sometimes somebody needs to spell it out. And, I must admit, I haven't really grasped it yet. The secret to doing what you love. I'm still not sure, but there are good hints there. Like, one principle he mentions is "always produce". I.e. no matter what you're doing, and what you'd rather be doing, be productive. Do the job in front of you. And if it isn't what you really want to do, find some way of producing results in the direction of where you want to go. If you want to be a writer, you should be writing, even if it is badly and only 1/2 hour per day.
[ | 2006-01-30 23:51 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Tank spam
Sometimes I get spam that is just too good to throw away. Like, this friendly message I got recently:
Dear Sir,

I am James Shen from a diesel fuel injection parts Plant, hope we can help you in the line of military use diesel fuel engine parts.

With more than 20 years experience in this field, our factory is producing the parts: HD90101A and HD8821. They are used in the engine system of M35A2 and M60 tank. Their most competitive price (almost one tenth of the product which made in USA) and the same quality will meet your need fairly.

We are one of ADS members. Our products have a good reputation with sound quality and competitive price in European market, South American market and other countries.

If you feel interested in our products, please let us know any time. We are always within your touch.

Thanks and best regards,

James Shen

Dear Mr. Shen,

It gives me a warm feeling to know that the manufacturer or my military use diesel fuel injection parts is within touch at any time. I might take advantage of that some day.

People tend to frown on M60 tanks in the quiet neighborhood I live in, so we mostly keep it in the garage. Only when we absolutely, positively must find parking in town on a Saturday night do we ignore convention and take the tank.

So far I have foolheartedly taken my tank in for service at the factory-authorized mechanic. But they rip you off every time. Next time I'll do the right thing and buy cut-rate generic parts from you and install them myself. After all, you have a good reputation with sound quality. I'll take your word for it, I don't even need to know your company name.

Please send me a whole crate of HD8821. We go through these things like there's no tomorrow. It's my wife who revs it a little too hard sometimes.

Sincerely,
Ming the Mechanic
[ | 2006-01-30 23:53 | 31 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Denmark vs Mohammed
picture I didn't think I would get to see that. Muslims burning Danish flags in the street. OK, maybe because Denmark joined Bush's ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. But that isn't it at all. We're talking about cartoons. Yahoo News
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The controversy over Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad escalated Monday as gunmen seized an EU office in Gaza and Muslims appealed for a trade boycott of Danish products. Denmark called for its citizens in the Middle East to exercise vigilance.

Denmark-based Arla Foods, which has been the target of a widespread boycott in the Middle East, reported that two of its employees in Saudi Arabia were beaten by angry customers. Aid groups, meanwhile, pulled workers out of Gaza, citing the threat of hostilities.

The 12 drawings — published in a Danish paper in September and in a Norwegian paper this month — included an image of the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry.

Danish government officials have expressed regret over the furor but have refused to get involved, citing freedom of expression. The Jyllands-Posten newspaper has refused to apologize for publishing the drawings and has said it did not mean to insult Islam.
OK, maybe it wasn't the greatest idea in the world to ask some cartoonists for pictures of the Prophet Mohammed. But, hey, Denmark is a free country where nobody will get away with taking themselves too seriously. So, if you want to make a funny, irreverant or insulting picture of the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, Jesus, Elvis, George Bush ... or Mohammed, then... so what. Might be funny, might not be.

But a lot of muslims apparently feel that their god gets gravely insulted by Danish cartoons of his prophet with a funny hat on. Which, however much I'd like to respect a diversity of beliefs, I can't really find a way of looking at it that doesn't make me question the sanity of whole lot of people.

I think that what these folks maybe don't understand is that Denmark is a country where the government doesn't control the press. Maybe that's a novel idea. Yes, if the prime minister had made fun of Mohammed, that would have been very dumb, and he should probably apologize, for the sake of good diplomacy. But there's no way he can give an official apology for a cartoon in a newspaper, and he shouldn't. So, now Saudi Arabia has recalled their ambassador, Libia is closing its embassy, Egypt is refusing a loan they otherwise were eager to get, and Danish products are being boycotted.
[ | 2006-01-30 23:59 | 868 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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