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I feel like I’ve been under a ton of stress this past week.  On top of an insanely full work schedule (meetings, lots of phone calls, etc), we’re going through some big transitions.  We acquired a competitor’s client list and I’m terrified that we’re going to lose many of them in the transition (despite our best efforts).

We also have a cash crunch at work.  All through December and January, our main work slowed to a trickle, so we’re drawing on reserves at the moment while new projects start to kick in.

Finally, my girlfriend is sick and has been out of work for a couple days.  I also have a school project coming up next week that requires I put some serious effort into it.

Ugh.  I’ll be happy when everything settles down in a week or so.

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Recently I was asked “What are your passions?”.  That’s an incredibly difficult question for me.  Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones and have a snap answer ready, but for me, I’m having difficulty.

You can take the question literally: what topics get your blood boiling?  For me, there aren’t many.  I’m a fairly level person, and I don’t get worked up about many things.  When I was younger I told myself life was too short to get bent out of shape over politics or other things, and I can’t think of any topics that would get me fired up right now.

On the other hand, you could take it as a euphemism for hobbies: how do you spend your time?  Well, for me that’s tricky too.  I spend a lot of my time working, though I’m beyond having passionate feelings about it (I used to get seriously worked up about my business, but, again, I made a conscious effort to keep myself calm).  As an entrepreneur, I probably should be more passionate about my business, but to me, that seems like a distraction.

What about hobbies?  Well, my hobby is now my job, so it’s hard to mark that down as a hobby any more.  At the same time, there are activities I do outside of my job, though nothing of much interest (for instance, I occasionally play video games or read books).

I’m defined as a passing-interest kind of person.  I’ll get very deep into an activity for a while, then move on to something else.  For a while, it might be video games.  Right now it’s reading books.  In the past it was building a stock-market prediction system.  In the future, who knows?  Maybe rocket ships or dinosaurs.

Frankly, I consider it a virtue to be dispassionate.  Getting emotionally attached to something destroys objectivity and can be harmful in the long-term.  Sure, being passionate can be helpful in the short-term (for instance, it motivates startup engineers to work 18 hour days), but at the expense of the big picture.

So how do I answer this question?  I’m still not sure.  Perhaps I need to find myself a new hobby (one that sticks for a long time) that I can use as an answer.  Or, perhaps I need to lower the bar: I used to play the guitar a lot in high school and college, but haven’t much in the last few years).  How do you answer this question?

After all that anticipation, shopping, and angst, it’s finally Christmas!  Of course, it will all be over far too quickly, but at least it’s here now.

The plan is for the girlfriend and I to head over to my parent’s house for brunch and to exchange gifts, then to drive out to my girlfriend’s house for dinner (and more gifts).  My parents are fairly close (about 15 minutes away), while it’s about an hour’s drive to see her parents.  We’ll be staying over night there and coming back tomorrow.

The whole family is here this year: one brother in from London, the other from New Jersey, and my dad up from Baltimore (he and my mom are still together – I’ll have to explain that sometime).

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

I’m excited: it’s almost Christmas!  This year, I’ve probably spent more on presents for people than I ever have, including one really big gift to be shared by me and my girlfriend.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I won’t say what just yet, but it’s going to be great.  It’s something we’ve talked about wanting for quite a while.

This year I did almost all of my shopping online (and Amazon got just about all of my purchases).  Talk about a great position to be in for an online business: for one day out of the year, everyone has to buy hundreds of dollars of items, and everyone hates long lines and shopping.

Since I’m in the mood for sharing, I thought I’d post a little about my two guilty pleasures on TV.  And believe me, I’m definitely feeling guilty about this, as they seem so out of character for me.  But here goes:

Two shows I like watching on TV are SWAT and DEA.

There, I said it.

Haven’t seen them?  Don’t worry: not many people do.  They pop up in my TiVo Suggestions from time to time, and I always like watching.  I’m really not sure why, to be honest.  I guess I’m a law-and-order type of guy, and I’m more about reality (I often read more nonfiction than fiction).

But still, they seem so much like … Cops.  I’m not into that show (it’s even further down the ladder, I think), but still.  Should I feel guilty?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been very interested in eBooks.  I’ve just finished reading Freakonomics, a fascinating look at the “hidden side of everything”.

One of the most intriguing was the unintended consequences of abortion on the rate of crime in the US.  The authors traced the significant drop in crime in the mid 90’s back to the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade, and found that the single most important impact on crime ever had was in preventing a large number of would-be criminals from existing.

Think about that for a few minutes.

Now, think about the consequences this has on so many aspects of life.  Are so-called pro-life people still so willing to restrict the rights of abortions even though it will mean an increase in crime, which can affect them?  Shouldn’t there at least be some acknowledgment of the weighing of pros-and-cons of abortion and crime?

Personally, I’ve always been conflicted about the abortion debate, but usually find myself on the pro-choice side.  Having been brought up Roman Catholic, I owe it to my personal upbringing to consider the pro-life side seriously.  Of course, it always comes down to a matter of “faith”, rather than one of hard facts, which makes choosing a side impossible (or, at least, it would seem impossible to me; many people don’t seem to have a problem choosing a side, which is endlessly fascinating).

Crime is one of the most troubling scourges of the modern world.  I’m distinctly in the “law-and-order” camp: I support increasing the number of police (which, incidentally, was the only other major contributing factor to the drop in crime rates).  The two top priorities of any modern society should be the eradication of disease and crime.  And in both cases, effective means of combating both require innovative and here-to-for undiscovered techniques.

For one thing, fighting crime usually comes in two flavors: increased prison terms as a deterrant, or increased education/outreach programs to remove the allure of crime.  Neither is a solution, and neither is particularly effective without the other.  But there are other dimensions to the problems, and I think the abortion debate is one of those.  When people are able to acknowledge the impact abortion has had on the crime rate, in sober terms, then we can have progress on reducing crime overall.

Blech, I seem to have come down with something.  Sore throat and fever.  I’ve already had the flu (I’m pretty sure it was the swine flu, no less) only a month or so ago.  Of course, this could be the “regular” flu, though I really hope it isn’t.  With any luck, it’s just brought on by stress and I’ll be fine in a day or so.  This week is particularly busy for me, so I’m hoping that will be the case.

No doubt I take myself too seriously.  This blog is probably testament to that fact.  I hate the slug for this blog.  Right now, it says “A showcase of writing”, but doesn’t that imply that the writing is worthy of showcasing?  My writing isn’t worthy of being on paper; I think the ephemeral medium of digital bits is a far better fit.

I’m all to aware that I take myself too seriously in real life too.  In talking with friends, family (especially), or others I never fail to talk about myself.  I’ve definitely made progress in curbing it, but I have a long way to go still.

So let this post serve as a reminder to myself that I need to lighten up, be cognizant of that there is a lot I don’t know, and in the (paraphrased) words of Steven D. Levitt, strive to be a “little thinker in a world of big thinkers”.

This afternoon and into the evening was the first (real) snow of the season.  I say real because we actually had a dusting not too long ago, but that doesn’t count.

In the evening I looked outside and beheld a dichotomous scene: the trees were serene, shrouded in a pinkish winter glow; the ground, however, was a mushy sludge of half-melted snow, mud, and leaves.  I realized then that I couldn’t appreciate it fully as I was in the wrong mindset.

It’s frustrating and slightly depressing: my girlfriend had led me by the hand to see the trees and I failed to appreciate them for the mess on the ground.  I failed to take in and reflect on the first snowfall because of my preoccupation with other cares (as it happens, I happened to also be in the middle of some work).

I wonder about myself and what this means.

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