Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Geography of Career Choice

I’ve left the Bay Area twice. First, to Colorado when I was in middle school. Second, to Baltimore for college. I don’t want to leave again. The weather is great, and more importantly, I have fantastic circles of friends and family. I love it here. With this, at least, I am content.

Strangely, I’ve never heard career advice that mentioned geography first. Interested in movies/TV? Move to LA. The “dream” comes first. But what happens if you have roots in a place, if you’ve already begun to build a life? Why leave? Why undo all that hard work?

Some suggest traveling to find who you are. However, the insights gained are often shallow and/or easily forgotten. A flash of insight isn’t enough to create behavioral change. That requires hard work and time. Sure, you can learn about other cultures and expand your mind, but habits and worldviews are reshaped through our everyday behavior. The real work doesn’t begin until you make sure you’re the person you want to be everyday. Otherwise, you’ll surely drift back to your old habits.

Place matters. Learn to be a better friend by seeing the same people all the time. It’s harder to build lasting connections without the benefits of geography. When someone lives further away, you see them less often. Want to be closer to your family, emotionally? Live closer to them, geographically. Eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores, get familiar with the people there. Forget travel. Build something, damnit. It’s something that can only happen when you’re in the same place for a long time.

Perhaps we have it backwards, then. Consider geography first and then career. Pick an industry that is strong where you already live (or where you want to live).

I’ve only stumbled into my current, still young career in software. I’m 26, and I still actually have no idea what I want to do with my life. I majored in philosophy, not CS. But it was way easier to find a job doing software. I have other interests. I was way into politics when I was in high school and college. I’m still way into television, and I would love to write for a sitcom. But I don’t want to live in DC or LA. I want to live here. Thus, working in the tech industry isn’t actually something I stumbled into, but something I have now chosen.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it. I definitely do enjoy programming. But I don’t necessarily find purpose in it. I don’t know if it was what I was meant to do. (I’m opposed to teleological thinking anyway when it comes to careers, so there isn’t really anything I was meant to do.) I could probably be just as happy doing some other things. And I would be just as clueless about what I wanted to do.

Want a good heuristic (if you’re rather privileged socioeconomically) for picking what to do? Do what your parent(s) did. Presumably, there are jobs doing what they do because they live here and can support a family. They should have some career capital they can expend getting you a job in their own industry; it’ll at least be easier than helping you in finding something unrelated.

It’s still Arrested Development

Stevie and I made our way through a few more episodes of Arrested Development. I’m starting to get more into it. I think there are two factors in play. First, the episodes included ones focusing on Tobias and Gob, my favorite characters. Second, the story becomes more enjoyable as the layers build. Stevie mentioned that it’d be hard to judge the series until really after watching it twice. Given the complexity of the storytelling, I’m inclined to agree.

Bastion and Music

I’ve been playing a bunch of games on iPad. Stevie gets free apps from Starbucks, and Apple puts out a free app every week, so I’ve been able to mostly snag games for free the last few months.

The only game I’ve shelled out for was Bastion. I was eyeing it for a long time. When it went on sale for only a dollar, I bought it without hesitation. Not only is the game fantastic, it has excellent music. The publisher put the sheet music (piano and guitar) on their website for free. As of now, I’ve pretty much memorized Zulf’s song. I can sing and play piano at the same time.

Before that, I learned Bruno Mars’s When I Was Your Man and (part of) Muse’s Explorers. Those songs I learned via YouTube rather than sheet music. It’s amazing how many free piano tutorials there are. This kind of stuff is new to me, since I’ve mostly stuck to classical music. Even though I’ve played some jazz and some Disney — by the way, Gaston is the greatest song ever — I haven’t done much singing. I’ve also learned that my singing range is balls.

The next song to learn is Setting Sail, Coming Home from the Bastion soundtrack, and do it as a duet with Stevie. The piano rhythm’s more complicated than previous pieces I’ve tried to sing with. It’ll be quite the challenge.

From the frontier to pre-fab to feeds

MySpace was ugly, but at least there was individuality. I miss the old web and the way it showed our creativity. Before we had powerful tools, we were forced to design our own websites.1 Everything had its own custom touches. I remember looking through the weblogs that Lloyd linked to and seeing how each one was different.

Then, facebook came and wiped out creativity. We were all given a profile and they all looked the same. White and blue. Boxes. At least we got our own picture. The old frontier was replaced by the pre-fab web. I guess it was better: MySpace was godawful ugly. Glittery gifs for text, unreadable backgrounds, sparklies following the cursor, and pop music that automatically switched on. Yeah, I don’t miss that. But we’ve still lost something.

WordPress came along. Customization became picking someone else’s theme, instead of making something of your own. Even now, my own weblog is some default theme. Unremarkable. A lot of corporate websites re-use the same themes and start-ups use the same styled landing pages.

Now everyone’s switched to Tumblr, and we’ve moved from the pre-fab web to the primacy of the feed. No one actually visits anyone’s tumblr. Instead, they get a stream of posts from different sources.2 So, we can pick a theme, but no one will see it anyway. Individuality is stripped away, and we’re all lumped into an equal pile. Well, except the corporations that pay for sponsored posts. The same is true with facebook. Before, you’d visit someone’s profile and post on their wall. That was how you’d send a message. Even though it was pre-fab, at least it listed our interests. Now, we don’t care for that. Just give me a list of everything from everyone, please.

Of course, the feed age is even worse than that. We can’t even be bothered to post original content anymore. No more reflection. Let’s just repost a funny picture someone else made. (Oh and this picture is a drawing of someone else’s characters, who are actually from a remake.) Individuality gets stripped from our pages, and then it gets stripped from our content.3

The nostalgia becomes most potent when I see my own weblog. I look at the default theme and cringe. If I’m going to rail against this sort of thing, shouldn’t I at least take the time to not be a hypocrite? What happened to my individuality?4 In the frontier days, I designed (and then redesigned) from scratch. I suppose that some time in the near future, I will need to make this weblog into something that better reflects who I am right now.

1This is a narrative, so it is a lie. There was Geocities back then and Frontpage and all sorts of options to make websites easier for the less tech-savvy.

2Again with the lies. This has been around since RSS.

3Then again, so many of the original popular blogs collected links to other content. They were aggregators themselves, not creators or artists or even writers.

4Much of it was channeled into my comic. Some of it was taken offline due to the demands of needing a professional persona. More importantly, while I have made modifications to themes in the past, this blog has never really been that much of a creative outlet beyond the writing.

The Inevitability of Google Glass

My abilities to forecast the future are very limited. When I was in high school, I imagined we’d all have TiVo by now. On-demand streaming never occurred to me (probably because dial-up was still a recent memory). Nor did the iPad, which is now my primary screen for consuming television. Here we are, 8 or so years later, and we still have cable TV, and we still have network TV (and I watch it more than ever). The models that were supposed to be disrupted are still around. Perhaps people think they will inevitably die, but some of those prognosticators have been saying the same thing for years.

The Smart Home was inevitable back then. All our appliances would talk to each other and regulate themselves. Nonetheless, my fridge isn’t hooked up to the internet, and I still must manually open it to check what’s in there. And despite the plethora of electronic list keeping options, I mostly use pen and paper for a grocery list. I’m curious to how inevitable it really is because I don’t want my home to rely on my fickle internet connection to function. There are more security concerns. The home becomes more fragile because unconnected devices have been replaced with connected ones. So many disadvantages. Plus, if I don’t need internet in my fridge, and I won’t pay for it, then why should anyone manufacture it on a ubiquitous scale? The inevitable seems less inevitable.

One of my favorite jokes is how instead of our wrist watches becoming phones, our phones became pocket watches. It so delightfully captures our inability to predict the future. There are some wrist watches that emulate phones, but they’re less easy to use and they do less stuff. The technology exists; sadly, no one uses it. Part of the problem, as I mentioned, is usability. Tiny-ass buttons. And who wants to shout into their wrist? One, it’s not the most ergonomic option, and two, voice commands aren’t as good as touch. I don’t think this is merely because of the limitations of voice technology. Touch interfaces are inherently more usable. (This is something I’d have to do more arguing to back up, but that’s another conversation for another day.)

When we imagine the future, we tend not to envision how it’d really work if we used it everyday. Usability requires testing, but our ideas of the future tend to be untestable. They sit in our minds as Platonic ideals, untested by the real world. So, in movies, we see a “Minority Report” interface as the future. We’ll be waving our arms around, swishing them through thin air. Of course, the keyboard and mouse already fuck us up with RSI. Let’s now use our imaginations to think about how terrible our arms would feel if we had to do that all day everyday just to make a fucking spreadsheet.

Ebooks are inevitable, as well. They’ll replace our heavy textbooks. Books themselves will because artifacts only for collectors. And yet… Students will often prefer the hard copy when they use it to study. We can’t encode ebook information spatially, as we do with books. Thus, it becomes harder to keep the information in one’s memory. It’s harder to flip back and forth between multiple pages. Ebooks have their own inherent limitations. Cui bono? The companies that make devices that read ebooks, and the publishing companies that have decreased margins but still put a ridiculous markup on the ebooks. Not necessarily the students. Ebooks may replace so many books, but that may not be because they were superior. VHS wasn’t better than Betamax either.

Google Glass may be as inevitable as the flying car, or maybe it’s as inevitable as ebooks. Maybe it’s a terrible idea that’ll never happen. Perhaps it’ll never overcome the inherent limitations of voice interfaces, and so it’ll stay a niche product. Or, perhaps it’s not even that great a product. It’ll lessen our human interactions because of the barriers between us. It’ll Hulk smash our 20th/21st century concept of privacy, giving over more information to governments and corporations. Yet, there will be some benefits and it’ll become ubiquitous despite the obvious flaws. I don’t know.

I do not know the future, but I still have an opinion on Google Glass: I hate it. And I’m allowed to hate it beyond merely being curmudgeonly because Google Glass is not inevitable, as far as we know for now. I think it looks stupid. I think a phone is just a way better computing device. I would never play games on Glass. (There’s a reason we still have consoles and not the inevitable immersive helmets that wrap around our entire heads.) I think the way it takes pictures and videos is sometimes stupid. First person POV can be useful sometimes, but I’d hate to see it all the time. Imagine if every movie looked like a first person shooter. Ugh. I hate the idea of augmented reality. I don’t want a fucking overlay when I take a walk; that’d defeat the purpose of clearing my mind with a walk. I don’t want reminders popping up when I’m trying to have a conversation. And most of all, I don’t want assholes walking around taking videos of everything and being completely distracted.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh for a product I’ve never tried. I’m exaggerating some things. Still, I’d think we’d all be worse off if everyone wore it all the time. Luckily, that future is not necessarily inevitable. Facephone isn’t anymore inevitable than wristphone. Let’s keep our computers in our pockets and off our faces.

Star Trek Morality

Warning: There be spoilers ahead, potentially.

My favorite part of Star Trek Into Darkness was how it commented on the drone issue. The moral thing to do was capture the criminal and have a trial. The immoral plan was extra-judicial murder via remote missile (into someone else’s territory, no less). Bravo for that.

The Games We Play

I’m going to list some of the games my friends and I currently play, so future Shawn can look back and reminisce:

Board/card games:

  • Sentinels (looks like we’ll be playing the new expansion with the time travel stuff next Tuesday)
  • Resistance (the game I’m currently most obsessed with, played with TIC people too, uses my best skill in gaming: talking)
  • Dominion (fun, but I feel like I haven’t played enough to get good at it… I haven’t won a game yet)
  • Pandemic (another co-op game like Sentinels, I don’t like it as much as everyone else)
  • Magic (I’m listing this because even though me and Vic don’t play, everyone else plays about every week)

Video games:

  • PlayStation All-Stars (similar to Smash but different type of game play, once you get used to it not being Smash, it’s pretty fun)
  • Balanced Brawl / Project M (two Brawl hacks, I’m the only one with a working Wii, so I started inviting people to my place to play)
  • Soul Calibur V (we stopped playing for a while, but have recently picked it up again)

Go On

Looks like Go On was canceled. I never watched it, so I don’t have an opinion. Here’s what my friend Richard had to say about the show before it was canceled:

“It’s not the worst thing on TV.”

“I’ll watch it when I run out of other things to watch.”

Oh wait, I do have an opinion. When this show was initially getting previewed on TV, it looked like the second worst thing ever (after 1600 Penn). I got the impression that this show was supposed to be Community-lite, a more accessible wacky ensemble show. But now Community is Community-lite, so I guess they didn’t need it anymore.

Given that the show was at least watchable, perhaps it should’ve gotten a chance to get better in its second season.

Dream Ghost

Had a dream where the main character, someone I hadn’t seen in a while, mentioned he was cold. Woke up. Rewrote dream (in my head) so that the main character was a ghost. Increased number of times the main character mentioned he was cold. Thought this was genius. Fell asleep again.

Sleepy me gets some weird ideas.