Blog: A life of Purpose

A life of Purpose
A life of Purpose
Date: 2018-Dec-23 20:20:20 EST

Now that work for the year is done, and I've used some rarely-spent vacation days to round off a partial week during the new year up into 2 weeks off from work, I have some distance to wind down 2018 and think about career and life and all that. At least, alongside a few remaining work tasks (moving some data around, training a neural network on some GPU nodes that might be very free) and some chores and my own unpredictable health.

I'm glad things have turned up as they have careerwise. I'm still not fast to make ties to people, but it's actually happening at work I think, and more easily than I had in the private sector. There's just a big cultural gap there when I'm out in industry - I'm motivated by different things, I'm not competative, and the main thing that drove me there in practice (the Creed of The Right Thing, and the secondary Creed of Keeping the Ship Afloat) was more a vehicle for exhaustion than anything else. Whereas here, I have a different set of struggles that are survivable (things like staying awake in long lectures), coworkers I can understand, and a place where my actual drives can come out productively. Plus I am exposed to ideas that make me think very hard (a recent internal talk about memory effects in gravitational waves actually made me feel guilty when I realised that while I could kind-of understand what was being discussed, I don't see myself incorporating those ideas into my mental model of the cosmos yet because I have a tough time believing it - I criticise others on this for easier things). I ask questions often in meetings, without shame. And I feel that I'm growing (even though not always at the rate I'd like).

Despite the horrors of watching populists on the right and culture warriors on the left degrading our loyal opposition and the wing I fit best in, this is still a great time for science, and I have pretty great seats and access to the pit for that.

The cats? Still great companions. The apartment? Still acceptable. I sometimes feel the flow of time heavily, but it's no disaster.

I'm sometimes weirded out how so much of historical linguistics is based on reconstruction based on forms; I know it's probably the best we can do, but it feels very speculative. Even history relies heavily on direct artefacts.

Recently been thinking about how often mediocre ideas end up packaged in a way and boldly proclaimed that they get undue influence. Particularly but not only in tech. Makes me worried about packaging over content. I've been pushing against this for a time, in that I've been suggesting that teachers should read source material, think about it, and then much later without rereading the sources, re-teach the material, based on the theory that great ideas will survive restatement, and anything else is just poetry. Recently someone else in the ChaosEng community was weirded out by my not defining things quite the same way as some book, and I offered this as a response. Not sure if he was persuaded, but I think he understood my why and that's good enough.