May 07

One billion dollars for you

Here’s a philosophical question: if you had 1 billion dollars (enough money to never worry about anything), what would you do? In other words, if you could live your life any way you wanted what would you like to do and what would you actually do?

May 07

Joy not happiness

We focus a lot of energy on being happy, or trying to be happy, but maybe this is the wrong way to look at it. If we want to have a good life, we should instead focus our energies on joy.

What’s the difference? To me, the concept of happiness implies a state of being, we either are or we’re not happy. Happiness is an elusive feeling that vanishes upon reflection. We are most happy in moments when we don’t dwell too deeply. The concept of happiness itself is passive. It comes from the Middle English word for “luck” and still carries this connotation of being a state or feeling that is visited upon you rather than a conscious state of mind. To seek happiness is to seek something out of your control and maybe beyond your reach.

Joy is a better word. It comes from the Latin for “to rejoice”. It carries that original meaning of appreciation and recognition of the good that is around you. Joy is a mental state of pleasure in what is. Happiness does not seem to have this same active meaning. When we seek happiness, we seek some positive internal change from outside ourselves, rather than change ourselves to adapt to the external.

As I was writing this I was reminded of a hymn they used to sing when I was a boy, it’s based on Isaiah 55:12. I found a nice blog entry on a similar subject.

May 07

Coffee vultures

No one likes to make coffee in our office and I think I know why. Today I set the coffee maker to brew enough for ten cups. I go back ten minutes later to get a cup and there’s one cup left. If there are 6-7 people who regularly drink coffee and each of them knows that someone will eventually blink and make coffee, the ideal strategy is to wait. In most situations in life, the person who acts first benefits first, but not so in the world of office coffee. The person who starts the coffee is guaranteed nothing. So, if you’re a coffee drinker and you’re running your life in the most efficient way possible, you will get your coffee at the optimal time, later in the morning, when it is most likely that someone will have given in.

Apr 07

Some jobs get in your head

Even though it’s been six years since I worked there I still dream about being a courier at Fedex. Some jobs get in your head. I don’t know if I still dream because I worked there for five years or because of the repetitive, routinized, physical nature of the work. The dreams are absurd. The most common theme is that even though I haven’t been around, my route has been waiting for me and no one really noticed that I wasn’t doing it. I’ll walk into the warehouse and there’s a truck waiting with my clipboard and crates, ready to hit the road. Everyone else is bustling around the warehouse as usual. Last night, there was a new wrinkle, my file in the check-in room was full of uncashed checks.

Even when I worked there I dreamt about it. My most common dreams involved entering an intersection and seeing Fedex packages all over the road as if spilled out of the back. Other times, I would move in my sleep as if I were picking up boxes.

Maybe our brains are designed to adapt to such situations, slowly shaping our minds to meet the physical, mental demands of our day to day activities until we become optimized for our work, in my case, as a courier. When you do physical labor and grow familiar with it, you can achieve a zen-like state of mindlessness where your subconscious mind operates your body. Maybe dreams are just the residue of these orphaned mental routines.

Apr 07

Good pizza, good people

My mom was in town yesterday and Jody and I had a chance to take her to dinner. I didn’t know any good places to eat near her hotel, so we drove down the road to one of our favorite places in Dallas, Sal’s Pizza. We end up eating Sal’s pizza once or twice a week because it’s very good and inexpensive and we can get it delivered to the house quickly. It’s perfect for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking or going out. Anyway, we had a good conversation with Sal and talked about travel to Italy and our respective family backgrounds. As we were finishing up the waitress came over and said everything was on the house per Sal. Sal is a class act. He’s one of those people who knows that business, like life, is all about people and relationships. If you’re ever in Dallas, I highly recommend the food there.

Apr 07

Milestones on a brief journey

I just turned thirty years old. For those who have preceded me to this point, I am honored to join your company. For those headed this way, we’ll see you soon enough. Having achieved three decades, I can honestly say it doesn’t feel right, but I’m nonetheless resigned to it. I can’t shake the feeling that I wasted too much time; either through indolence or simple carelessness. However, what’s done is done. I must now close the books on my youth.

I know that in many ways age is an arbitrary measure of little importance. But, since our lives are finite, these milestones are important measures of progress. If we were immortal we could live without responsibility, but mortality holds us to account for the preciousness of Time and lends significance to our decisions. This is true even if we live as if life has no deadline.

On the anniversary of our birth, it is good to weigh in and tally up the balance. It is also a good time to think and ask big questions of ourselves. Are we happy with our lives? Are we on our way to where we want to be? What have we learned? What do we want to become?

Apr 06

Three little goats

Warning: Hearing about someone else’s dreams is notoriously uninteresting…

…but I wanted to jot this one down before I forget it. When I woke up this morning I was in the middle of a dream about this little man who was going hunting, ostensibly for bison or some similar large ungulate. He was wearing animal skins and furs and was riding on a sleigh or cart pulled by three little goats. As they made their way through the shadowed forest, a giant white goat appeared and started fighting with the three little goats, butting them and trying to force them into a nearby pond. The big goat’s name was Boaz or Boez. Once all the goats were in the pond, they continued struggling under water as indicated by the roiling surface of the pond. At this point I quit being a spectator and appeared in the dream. I was about to dive into the water to separate the fighting goats when a woman appeared out of nowhere and told me not to interfere.

Mar 06

James at the Guild Hall

My friend, James, is studying video game development at the Guild Hall Program at SMU. I went over to his house last night and he showed me a lot of the cool video game stuff he’s been working on including this cool planetary game. It’s awesome that he’s working toward something he really wants to do with his life. He’s learned a lot about programming and game development, and I was impressed with the stuff they’ve been teaching at the Guild Hall. He’s mixed up in all kinds of concepts related to game design: 3d animation, physics, graphics programming, etc. I’m confident that with an interview he could get a job tomorrow. He’s done some great stuff. After he graduates I’ll bug everyone I know who works in the game industry to help get interviews. He just needs an opening, and he’ll take off. His dream is to work for a couple years in the field then launch his own game.

It seems like most of my friends are doing really well. Many are getting married (six couples), working on great careers, starting businesses, going back to school, and just living the good life. It’s very satisfying to enjoy the success of people you care about. I have had this feeling lately of being blessed. It’s a spiritual feeling, but it’s also a feeling of luck and appreciation. I’m thankful that things are going as well as they are for others and myself. I have a great family, an awesome woman, and a few cherished friends. It’s important to appreciate what’s good in your life and work on what’s not good. It’s never perfect, but life is up to you and how you decide to live it. You will have mistakes and failures, but in the end all the matters is what you do with those experiences.

Mar 06

More enumeration

I’ve been neglecting ye old blog, but there’s a lot going on. That’s life. It somehow manages to stay as full as you want or allow it to be. I keep thinking of all these cool things to talk about but by the time I get back to a computer my mind is onto something else.

The big thing that happened this week is that I finished the new website for my company, which is this nationwide medical startup based in the Dallas area. It’s been a two month process, but it’s quite satisfying to complete something you’ve worked on for that long. As the resident web designer, I was in charge of building everything and making sure all the various pieces work as expected. I am also responsible for managing all the little changes and suggestions every stakeholder wants to make. For example, whose opinion has more weight… the chairman of the board or the COO? Yeah. You spend time some time navigating things like that. Usually, if I get change requests for things like colors and fonts, I’ll just try it out and show them how it looks. A lot of times they’ll go with whatever was there to begin with. In this project, as in other projects I’ve done with my freelance clients, the client likes to make one or two changes to put their mark on the project. So, even if you spend several days implementing a design that was already agreed upon, expect a couple more days of final changes and requests. Don’t take it personally.

In other news, it rained like crazy this weekend for a total of about ten inches of rain. Dallas has some serious weather that Austin can’t touch. I looked out the balcony Saturday and it was raining sideways. The wind was howling. It gets windier here than anywhere else I’ve ever been I guess because it’s so flat. On Sunday while it was still raining, I braved the low water crossings to check out the Dallas central library, so I could get my library card and check it out. Nerd alert.

Up on the eighth floor I discovered a huge genealogy research center funded by the Dallas Genealogical Society. They have census records from 1920 and 1930 as well as ship manifests and other such documentation. I sat there for about an hour and worked on my family tree, which was fascinating. In viewing the 1930 census, I found the record for my grandfather’s family. It shows the street they lived on in Louisville, the neighbors, and the ages of his parents and brothers and sisters as well as all their names. I also found a 1910 directory entry for my great-great-great-grandfather who worked as a property assistant at the Masonic Temple on Center Street in Louisville, Kentucky. On my mom’s side I found the Thornton line that was traced back to the 13th century. It was weird to find the draft records for several men in my family. The draft records show their age, their weight, their height, and their occupation. It is very interesting.

Genealogy is humbling. You see how short the human life really is when compared to history. Eighty years is not a long period of time. Consider how quickly the past ten years have elapsed. You live, you procreate and before you know it, you’re an old-fashioned name listed in some family tree.

Mar 06


mac miniSo, I got our IT department to purchase a refurbished Mac mini for me so I could do some cross-browser testing for the new company website. My boss suggested this because he’s a complete Mac geek. The Mini I ordered ended up being $450, which was a great deal. You can order it from the Apple website. The Mac mini is probably ideal for someone who already has a bunch of PC hardware because all you really need to do is connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and you’re ready to go. I have to say, OSX is pretty neat. It’s definitely easy, which is good for people who just want things to work so they can surf the Internet. Everything about it is pretty easy except that you have to figure out the slight differences in how things are supposed to work. It’s the kind of computer I would buy for my grandma. It even looks nice. That being said, as nice as everything else is, Safari sucks.