Saturday, March 29, 2008

Art, Science, and Religion

The other day I listened with interest to this podcast of an interview with Dick Gabriel, a big-time computer scientists who is a Lisp guru. Lisp is language of choice back in the 1980's when artificial intelligence was a big deal and Dick Gabriel was one of the main guys. Lisp is would be a typical kind of thing for me to spend time learning (my goal is to spend a little time each night trying to get up to speed on it). One, learning Lisp has very little direct practical relevance. Lisp programming experts are few, and jobs are fewer. But it has a certain academic appeal to me, it offers a whole new way of viewing the world.

I don't know much about Lisp, but what I do know is fascinating. It is purely a functional language and in essence essentially stateless. A function's job is to take input and produce output. The language consists of basically linking functions together to process data in primarily the list data structure. The artificial intelligence comes in because you can dynamically add new functions, a kind of dynamic learning. Ok, there's more to it than that, and if I can accomplish my goal to learn this language, I will fill you in.

But here's another interesting fact about Dick Gabriel, he took three years off in the early part of the 1990's to pursue a MFA in poetry. Can you just jump into any Master's degree of your choice like that? Well, he apparently did and now he's been writing a poem a day for the past eight years. The website documenting this project is here. I like how he says, "after 8 years of writing this way, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not really a very good poet."

In the interview, after a bunch of historically interesting, but technically confusing details about the Lisp programming language, he talks about how artists and scientists should really collaborate and learn from each other more. I really do not have a lot of life experience that validates this kind of idea, but every time I hear it, the thought excites the daylights out of me.

In fact, this interdisciplinary cooperation is became quite fashionable at least from what I have heard. Again, I haven't experienced it first hand, but I would love to. Know any opportunities out there? I would be interested.

The first Friday's of every month, downtown Phoenix opens up all of their art galleries, restaurants open up, and street vendors converge. The streets are crowded and for one night at least, you feel like your in New York City. I went one night by myself. My wife and kids were in Utah for their yearly escape from the heat, and I wandered through the streets just absorbing all of the energy, really just soaking it all in. I really had this strong desire to jump into this scene somehow...

Another time I heard this idea of interdisciplinary collaboration was several years ago, I had this opportunity to attend an Embedded Systems conference in San Fransisco. The keynote speaker was Murray Gell-Mann. He wrote a book called the Quark and the Jaguar which was all about the idea of complexity and patterns all around us, and the idea of complexity was the topic of his keynote address. He is most famous for winning the Nobel prize in Physics for his discovery of the Quark. He is currently working in Santa Fe, New Mexico working with people from a variety of disciplines to come up with a comprehensive theory of everything.

This endeavor to understand and make sense of the world though is an endeavor common to a wide variety of disciplines. A poet attempts to document her view of the world through language and metaphor, trying to describe the indescribable. A philosopher, much more directly, is trying to do the same thing. The theologian and the scientist both are trying to understand the universe, but the scientist is just using more precise tools.

What about those more practical fields like business. Well, in his book "Mind Your Own Business" by Sidney Harman, consider this quote:

"Business and the business schools have for too long lionized the specialist, the person who has learned how to do one thing and do it well, but who, as a consequence, has almost no idea how the whole enterprise works. Time and again, in small companies and large, I have encountered senior executives who live lives of silent terror. They do their jobs, and they believe that they do them effectively, but they do not have a clue about how the whole enterprise works. It seems to them that the company has a life and motion of its own, and they live in fear that they will somehow be found out. That kind of departmentalized thinking - the specialist in the silo - produces paralysis and an absence of innovation and creativity. Coupled with top-down autocratic command, it is the essence of what I think of as old analog management. It can bring the company's growth to a full stop.

I say, 'Get me some poets as managers.' Poets are the original system thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obligated to interpret, and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world turns. Poets, those unheralded system thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow's new business leaders."

That quote reminds me of a software architect book I read back in school where the author said that writing software is one of the hardest things to do because you are in essence building a universe. You are really. You have a language. Your only constraint is that language, and it constrains you some, but you are forced to build, often from scratch something that is not well understood up front. Is it no wonder that software projects are often times over schedule and over budget.

It's these kind of ideas that make me relish my current job in a dot com. Did you know that coming to an interview at PayPal (or Amazon or Google) in a suit would be the wrong thing to do, in fact that mistake alone could cost you the job. Amazon tells you up front not to wear suits. By the way, another cool thing at Amazon, all of their desks are made from recycled doors, and its obviously so when you take a look. Quirky and cool.

But to really innovate in a way that will win in the business world, especially the internet business world requires creativity, boldness, and system thinking. This requires an ability to analyze the world, see how you can make it better, and deliver.

So, in the end, how can are art, science, and religion work together? There's a really cool quote from a Bob Dylan song that often rings in my head. It's from the song, Absolutely Sweet Marie it goes like this: "But to live outside the law, you must be honest". Honesty I think is the common ingredient. Honesty and authenticity.

Good art is honest. Good science is honest. Obviously, honesty is the tenant of religion. A sincere pursuit of more. A sincere expression of yourself.

I heard a quote listening to a podcast about craftsmanship. You're a laborer if you do something with your hands, a craftsman if you do it with your head, an artist if you do it with your heart. Really that's the sum of it.

But how do you translate all of these cool sounding ideas into the real world? This sort of stuff works really well with intellectuals in their ivory towers, or the hack wantabe talking around a campfire. But does it translate into a business model? I say yes.

Several years ago I read an article about one of the best Steinway salespersons in the world, someone who could sense a pianist's style (she was herself a classically trained pianist) and artistry and could match the person with the exact piano that fit the customer's style and in essence make the pianist fall in love with the piano. There was no trickery in this salesmanship. The art of it was to quickly get a sense of the consumer. Figure out what the person in her heart wanted, and through an educational process show how the purchase of a product can fulfill an honest and sincere desire.

This ability to see the world as it is, establish a deep connection with it, and seek out ways to make it better, then convince others that your contribution is worth their time, not through manipulation, but through an honest educational process.

This sort of thing does not happen enough. Too often, companies try to shortcut the process through manipulation, or by offering a counterfeit product that promises one thing but delivers something else. The fast food industry is like this. It produces food incredibly cheap, and hypes it up with artificial flavors. We like the taste at first, but it makes us sick soon after. There's no nuance in its flavor. But the business model has worked. You hire unskilled labor on the cheap, you spend the money on marketing to manipulate the consumer to come in, and you offer a product that has no value but a quick and cheap thrill. And we all get fat and dumb in the process.

Compare this with the business model where you hire the best and brightest. The artists of the profession and you go about innovating products that will appeal to the best of what's in us. You market your product, but the marketing is honest, because the product really is superior. You might use sophisticated techniques to convince someone of it, but when you turn him on it, you have won a loyal customer for a long time.

Google is the most obvious example. Read much more about why here. But basically, they pay and treat their employees extremely well, and they flat out get the best. And they innovate like crazy. Music has a ton of examples. My personal favorite being Bob Dylan. I read somewhere that recording companies love him, not because his albums are the top selling when they are released but because his albums sustain. People continue to buy them for a long time. People still buy Bob Dylan albums that are over forty years old. The music is honest, good, transcends its time, but Dylan was also able to market himself in a truly honest way that resonated with people and drew people to him.

Life is interesting really. There are so many components to it. At the most basic, we worry about our day to day survival: food, clothing, and shelter. But part of our advancement as a society is to get beyond just survival. Our potential is to create and innovate, and each of us desires to do that. Almost every person I have worked with wants to design or to lead or to create and not just to work.

To get there, we need to become more savvy consumers, more savvy workers, more savvy entertainment seekers, more savvy producers. At our core, we are all scientists, artists, businessmen and businesswomen, and prophets.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Are Democrats Smarter than Republicans? And how I made the long transition from republican to democrat

Well, of course Democrats are not necessarily smarter than Republicans. But that question has crossed your mind as well, I'm sure of it, admit it. Maybe not that exact question, maybe it was: "Are Republicans smarter than Democrats?" That was the form of the question I originally asked myself. I still remember my Yuma days sharing the roof with my John Birch Society member dad. I can't remember where I heard the quote, but I still remember the thought that at the time made a lot of sense to me, and I'll paraphrase it badly: "If you're not a democrat before age 30, you have no heart, if you're not a republican after age 30, you have no brain." That's basically the thought anyway.

Well, I guess I have no brain and no heart because almost the exact opposite happened to me. I am now officially a registered Democrat. I would have never in my wildest dreams have thought that that was possible ten or twenty years ago, but here I am.

How did this happen? Well, let's start from the beginning. I'm pretty proud of my political biography, so you'll have to have patience with me as I take you on this self-indulgent journey. Actually, looking back, maybe I am not so proud. It's not like I really participated in anything politically substantive. Primarily I have been a casual observer of national politics, presidential politics, foreign affairs. Here am I, a little guy from Yuma, Arizona having spent considerable energy on issues that I have absolutely no influence over (unless you believe in the philosophies describe in the movie, The Secret where all of this energy can be harnesses almost supernaturally to influence events far out of my apparent physical control, aka, if you wish for something bad enough it comes true).

Did I also mention I was a sports fan. Isn't there something eerily similar to being a sports fan and being a presidential politics fan. Here's a really great quote I found in a Bill Simmons article who was quoting Roger Angell in an article he wrote for the New Yorker in "Agincourt and After":

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

Really, couldn't you almost substitute professional sports fan with presidential candidate fan, sports nut with political nut, and the quote almost makes as much sense? Really isn't there something nonsensical about the hysteria right now over Barack Obama in much the same way people go crazy over the Chicago Cubs?

And another thing, why is the caring gone out of our lives. It really shouldn't be. If we could just man up (to use a phrase my wife recentl y hurled at me), and face our problems we do have control over, like our families, our communities, our churches, than maybe we would be better off as a society. But I digress. Back to my self-indulgent narration.

I honestly can't remember how I started becoming political. I have some memories. Reading one article in the Reader's Digest about the Cuban autrocities (?), I'm unclear, and having this palpable and poignant emotion about wanting to help those people. Before that even, I have vague memories of the Jimmy Carter years, mainly just high gas prices, and my dad blaming Carter for them...

I remember clearly watching the 1988 Republican convention and cheering in my living room when Bush said "Read my lips, no new taxes". (Again eerily similar to the real tears I cried when the NY Mets were about to be beat by the Red Sox, and then the overwhelming joy I felt when the ball went through the legs of Bill Buckner and the NY Mets won the World Series and I won the $1 bet I made with my friend).

Or reading in the Reader's Digest about Willie Horton for the first time and how desperate I felt that everyone needed to know the name Willie Horton so that none of us will have to live in fear of having a man as president, Michael Dukakis, who would forlough all of our dangerous criminals.

And it wasn't all just frivolous partisanship, I had some real substance behind my beliefs. I saw in a very real way, the evils of communism, Stalin's atrocities, being every bit as bad as Hitler's. I anguished as a senior in high school over the Tieneman Square events in China. I saw Ronald Reagan as a fearless defender of freedom who stood up for democracy and stood down the evil empire.

I wrote a high school term paper on why we should support the Nicaraguan contras against the evil Sandanistas. I was an avid pro-lifer (still am really), and felt like the economy would hum a long much better if government stayed the hell away from it. In my freshman year of college, I took an economics 101 class where the professor analyzed and praised the economic policies of Ronald Reagan.

My politics stayed with me as I went on a mission to Alabama. I remember talking to our ward mission leader after Bill Clinton won and his very real agony over it and how we both agreed that this was the fulfillment of prophecy that in the last days wicked men would ruin our nation. We nodded in sad and fearful agreement.

In the late 1980's and 1990's, Rush Limbaugh and AM talk radio really took off and just in time too, to cover every Clinton scandal in excrutiating detail. I was there for all of it. I could not believe how someone as evil as Bill could get away with so much. I voted and campaigned hard (well tried to convince all of my friends) to vote for Bob Dole.

Things really started to turn ever so slightly, after college. Just as I was starting my career in software perfectly timed with the beginnings of the internet boom (1996), while many of my more better in-tune peers were dreaming of San Jose startups, I was thinking, it's time to expand myself in the arts. I had at various times, season tickets at the Phoenix Art Museum, started poetry reading groups with friends, attended First Friday poetry readings at the locally owned bookstore in Tempe.

I still remember some of the more poignant art exhibits I saw over those post-college, pre-marriage years. An exhibit where an artist asked a number of friends and acquaintances to send an object that they were willing to give away but had some significance to them. How each of those objects were placed in a plastic bag hung from a wall in a symetrical grid with descriptions under each describing why the object had significance to the person. Or an exhibit I saw in New York City consisting of a booth. A person was invited into the booth where they could write someone a letter of gratitude or of apology. If an address was included, the artist would mail the letter each night for the person, if not, the letter would be burned. The person (me for example) as they were writing the letter would become part of the exhibit as others looked on. There were many, many others like these.

And then there were little experiences I had that gave me a glimpse that maybe my own views weren't so clear-cut correct.

Right after college, I went on a trip to visit my sister in Manhattan. On that trip, I still remember sitting there listening in on a conversation she and her friend were having on the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s. I think her friend was a doctor? Anyway, they strongly condemned Reagan's unwillingness to do anything about it as a reason for its spreading. I remember that conversation really shaking me, because in my view, Reagan was right up there with Lincoln and Washington.

Another experience I had that I remember clearly that wasn't so obviously political, but it was. I was at the Mesa Easter pageant with my parents, there early with our dinner in order to get a good seat, and I purchased my first ever edition of The Atlantic Monthly for some reading companionship while we waitied, my parents aren't always the best conversation companions, and they and I were often perfectly content while I read and they waitied. Well, that day, I read this article. It's about the greatest pickup basketball player in America. Having never read really read writing like this before, writing about a quirky topic, covered in a really deep way, I was literally blown away.

Later, my job changed and I had the opportunity to do a lot of business travel. On on those trips, I started reading the Atlantic Monthly regularly, and magazines like it, The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Economist, the heady magazines you can still find at an airport. I even alternated subscriptions between the Atlantic and the New Yorker. I also started listening to NPR almost obsessively. AM talk radio dropped away in favor of NPR because it was so much smarter, the ideas shared were so much better. And quite literally, I felt like I was part of the national conversation with really deep, smart people even if I was just listening it. It was invigorating.

The problem is that these magazines (with maybe the slight exception of The Economist) and NPR are all left leaning. Argue with me if you want about NPR, but it is. The shows are biased pretty significantly in that direction and slowly, over time, my politics changed. I wouldn't say that looking I was every really wrong in my views. Naive, definitely. Were my views narrow and uninformed. Yes. But I can generally remember why I believe they way I did. I understand my arguments, and I generally still believe them. But I have added to them much more nuance, depth, and sophistication (at least that's my view). And a political belief that is nuanced, with depth and intellectual sophistication puts you, and I'm sorry to say this, squarely in the mainstream of the democratic party.

And my question is this: why is that. Why are there so many smart magazines and media sources that lean left, but so few that lean right? Tell me one that is. I am sure they are out there. I felt at first the Atlantic would be, but it isn't. These periodicals are all balanced, fair, and maybe with the slight exception of the New Yorker or more especially Harper's, are only moderately left.

I have made efforts to find balance. AM talk radio has a few hosts that are smart, Hugh Hewitt being the most notable in my opinion, but most of them are partisan blow-hards. The National Review can be smart, but much of it, in my opinion, just isn't up to the same standard. I do read and admire some conservative syndicated columnists, in fact they are among my favorite, David Brooks, George Will, but they all write for either the NY Times or the Washington Post, both newspapers are slanted left. Again, I am sure there's something out there, and I am really interested in reading it because I really do want all sides of an issue.

Well, even after most of this left leaning media influence, I was still a registered Republican for much of it. I was registered Republican even as I voted for John Kerry over G. W. Bush in 2004. But the Bush administration has had a negative conservative influence on me just as the media was having a positive liberal influence.

Because for the first time Bush, in so many ways, was actually trying to implemented policy that before him were mainly only talked about but never really fully acted upon. And they were not just talked about on the campaign trail, but in backyard barbecues in the Southeast by a bunch of red neck conservatives. Or by old-time military men on bases like those in Ft. Huachuca, AZ.

Things like, "man, if I were president, I would just go into Iraq and take out that S.O.B, Sadaam Hussein. We would all just listen and nod in agreement, probably thinking that nobody really would have the guts to act on it (and subconsciously thinking, and good thing).

But it wasn't just the Iraq war where Bush acted like this, it went from No Child Left Behind, to government funding to religious groups, to torture in Guantanomo, listening in on phone conversations, or attempts to privatize social security,...

But really the Iraq war is the best example of this. And it is an interesting issue for me because at first I was torn by it. Remember, in high school I wanted US involvement in Nicaragua. I knew what Hussein had done to the Kurds and other Iraqis. He had invaded Iran in the 1980's and Kuwait in the 1990's. I was 100% in favor of Bush Sr. decision to push Hussein back into Iraq then and I don't remember it now, but I probably would have been in favor of Bush Sr. taking Hussein out then.

But in the end I was against it, and in the end I voted for John Kerry for President 2004, and for Harry Mitchell for Congress and Jim Peterson for Senate in 2006, all Democrats. And now in 2008, I am not only a supporter of Barack Obama, I have canvassed neighborhoods for him, I have donated money to his campaign, I have even switched my political party to vote for him, and for now I am not switching back.

I want to write some more on this topic, but this is already getting a little long and unwieldy. I will write a part II later.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barack Obama and Race

I have a little side hobby where me and a group of friends talk politics through a yahoo group. I just sent this e-mail tonight. It was long enough, I decided to put the e-mail on my blog as well. Whoever is out there, I hope you enjoy it:

Wow, I'm taking on a complex topic, and this white/black divide is complex. There's absolutely no way I can do it justice right now in the few minutes of time I have to deal with it. I am definitely no expert. But I have a little bit of experience on this subject.

I served a two year Mormon mission in Alabama about 15 years ago now. I spent countless hours riding my bike into the poorest, blackest neighborhoods in those cities. My companion and I would pray on the sidewalks with the people there, holding hands prayer circles. I was too young to really understand the plight of the black community. I do remember the dire circumstances many of them were toiling under. So many fatherless children. Drugs and alcohol problems. And a lot of abject poverty.

Looking back on those times, and having studied a little, reading books like the Autobiography of Malcom X and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and others, you have to know that being white in America, you cannot begin to understand how it feels to be black in America.

We fought a nasty civil war over race. That was generations ago. But the bitterness of Jim Crow and racism was only one lousy generation back. The legacy of hatred and oppression lingers for many generations long after the society has supposedly moved on.

This is why whenever a neighborhood gets too black, the white folks move elsewhere. Why black schools do not receive (and never have) the same level of funding as white schools. Why the percentages of black men in jail still far exceed the percantages of white men in jail.

It's easy for a white American to look at the black community and say they are doing it to themselves. If you had no historical context to their situation, it would seem so. And many of us simply do not have the historical context. We grew up in our white communities in neighborhoods far removed from where the blacks reside. We think that we've moved past the legacy of Jim Crow, segregration, and racism. But then, we had both parents in our homes, parents who were both college educated, living in neighborhoods not overrun by drugs and blight. We attend the neighborhood schools that are free from guns and violence. And then we look to the black communities and say, if we can make it why not them. They have all the opportunities of America I enjoy.

But the blacks of my generation were raised by the blacks of the 1950's and 1960s, which were not good times to be black in America. Theirs is a legacy of bitter racism and hopelessness. Where whites murdered blacks and got away with it. This is also the generation of Jeremiah Wright.

On my mission, I spoke with people who felt the same way about our government as Wright did. There was paranoia and fear about our government. I saw posters on walls and shirts worn with images of Malcom X and calls for black power.

Barack Obama hit it right on the head. The only way to move America past this legacy of fear and misundertanding is to communicate and understand. For Obama to throw Wright under the bus would have been a huge mistake. It would have literally been like throwing the entire black community under the bus. Because there are many people in the black community who feel the same way Jeremiah Wright do.

I'm not saying Reverend Wright is correct in his views. Far from it. But I believe that it's essential to understand the sentiment. And the anger and fear is completely understandable.

The reason Barack Obama is such a perfect candidate to help lead this nation in an effort to heal these racial wounds is that he literally understands both sides of the divide in his bones.

You see nobody else will do. Leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are too much a part of it. They are too much like Jeremia Wright. Too infected by the bitterness. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they are around, but no way could they ever effectively lead our nation.

It's significant that Barack Obama was born of a Kenyan father having been raised by white grandparents in Hawaii. He was brought up without having to experience much of the racisim in America. But it's also significant that he moved to Chicago married a black woman there and attended a black church. Yes, he's a more powerful politician because he went to a church with Jeremiah Wright as a minister. For twenty years he was part of this community working from within. It is through that experience he understands the complexities but because he was raised outside of that experience he was not damaged by it.

I can understand Barack Obama not getting the office because many Americans feel he is not ready to lead. Maybe they feel he's too young or too inexperienced. Maybe they worry that his views on Iraq are too risky that pulling us out too early would be too damaging to the Middle East or that they don't believe in his economic policies. I get that.

But if Barack Obama were to lose this race because he happened to attend church where Jeremiah Wright was the minister, than I would really believe America is not yet ready to elect a black person to office.

Because really the controversy over Wright, to me, is an excuse. It's an excuse and its fear. Those who use it as reasons to shun Obama are afraid of whats boiling under in the black community. Its the same fear that results in blacks being locked up in prisons, or our failure as a society to properly invest in black communities.

Definitely, America has come a long way. No matter what happens, there's plenty of reason to hope. For someone like Barack Obama to get as far as he has is an incredible achievement, and it is a testament both to how incredible he is as a politician and how far we have come here in America.

But this controversy over Jeremia Wright, also really shows me, how much further we still have to go.

I'm sorry for this long e-mail, but when I read articles like this it really fires me up about how ignorant some people are about this issue.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why I am starting a blog

It is funny I haven't blogged before. In fact just as the internet was getting started, way back in the late 1990's, I had the fantasy about creating a website with all of my philosophical musings, provide a way for random people to take potshots at them, and then have this heated, virtual on-line debate. I never did it, mainly because I just never could pull it together...

But now everyone is blogging, even my low-tech wife. I resisted for several reasons. Did I really have anything to say? Ok, yes, I had plenty to say, but did anyone really care to read it? I was afraid of narcissism. Mainly, I was afraid of being too obsessed with it, or maybe I just didn't want to follow the crowd, now that the crowd was doing something I wanted to do for the past ten years. Maybe I was jealous that everyone beat me to it. I resisted.

But then I read this article just today and I read this article just yesterday, and they both reminded me of a quote from a book I read a few years back. This quote came from the book, Mind Your Own Business, by one of the founders of Harman/Kardan, Sidney Harman:

"Writing is discovery. Anyone who has done serious writing has experienced the surprise that comes when reading in the morning that which he wrote the night before. The reaction is often, 'This is remarkable. I did not know I knew that.' As I noted in the forward the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas spoke of 'the blank page on which I read my mind?' The person who invests in writing, and who uses it frequently, will possess a matchless instrument for discovery, clarity, and persuasion."

So writing is about discovery. I also love the description of writing from the second link referenced above. That it's like a river meandering through a valley with one rule, follow the path that leads downward. That occasionally you may hit a wall, at which time you turn around and start again.

Many blogs I know about are either a person's venue to vent, or maybe they have a passion for politics or sports or technology and focus primarily on that. But both blogs referenced above are more like a collection of essays. In fact the second is really just that, a collection of essays. That is what I want to do, write essays. Essays that I come back to on occasion and edit. And the best, those that are still relevant remain linked up at the front of the page. I do not want anything chronological or journal-like. I'm not sure if blogspot is even the right venue for this, but it's the easiest, so here I am.

And yes, I need you, imaginary reader. I need to feel like there's at least a chance that someone is reading this. I can't just write for myself because I am never motivated enough for that. Something about sharing something with someone else is a motivator. Really, I need this to be a conversation with someone or it doesn't work. That's what the author in the second link above says, and that definitely resonates with my own experience. I need to write to an audience, so I'm shelving my journal, and starting a blog.

Just a little background. My job is in computer science, and I suppose it's more than my job, it's my craft. The one thing I am good enough to get paid reasonably well to do. I do have a long way to go to feel anywhere near like I have mastered it, though. My biggest fear, to be honest, is that I will never make it. That before I have a chance, I will be pushed out of the industry, like my dad was pushed out of his. This blog, then, is to partially address that fear. I want to use this as a forum to work on my craft. Maybe as a forum to connect with others. At the very least, I have some desire to be more like those guys up there who wrote the articles I linked to. Maybe this is just a fantasy, but I really like the idea that through writing I will be able to generate ideas that will be helpful for me in my career and in my life.

On that note, about a year ago, I interviewed at Amazon in Seattle. The interview did not go well. I came in not knowing whether I really wanted to re-locate there. I was definitely not prepared for it.

Well, I had an interview with the manager. She mentioned how one of the engineers there was a regular contributor to the Ruby programming language. Intimidating. I'm doing nothing like that in my spare time, so I said so. I told her that I had many interests other than programming that I enjoy participating in outside of my job. She said, great, I like my employees to have other interests, and she asked me what they were. I hedged...

My passion is politics in every sense of the word. I love it, I obsess over it. Like many people out there I want to change the world, if not the world, my community, if not that, well, at least I want my family to have a great experience possible. So I obsess, health care, education, wars, you name it... But this was an interview. Should I really mention to my potential manager that my passion lies in one of the two topics you should never bring up in idle conversation? I hedged, and I meekly mentioned something about how I was currently involved in Scouts...

Why do I mention that? Well, politics is a classic interest of mine because everything is political. And I have an interest in practically everything. So, I want to write about computer science, I want to write about politics. I have a desire to get more involved in the city of Tempe politics. I see a big void in local politics. Nobody knows anything about what's happening at the local level. Maybe I can help to fill a little of that void. We'll see.

At any rate, this is my blog, so I will blog about what's on my mind, and I'm not sure there will be much coherence in it. But know this, imaginary reader, I will write, edit, and publish what is on my mind. I hope I can do a decent job at it. I hope I can improve over time. But most of all, I hope it will help me improve as a person.

Here it goes, I am starting a blog.