Too Much Time On Their Hands

When I was in college, and the nascent web first began to emerge on our computer screens, I’d breathlessly show a friend something I thought was exciting and, while acknowledging some novelty around the matter, said friend would respond that whoever was responsible had “too much time on their hands.”

It’s been long enough now that not only have these people emerged from a 90s style internet presence of anonymous handles and minimalist pages of text, they’ve grown up and gotten careers. Take Eve as an example – I had one of those crush/fascinations with her back then  because of her obsession with pi – she grew up to be a honcho at Google leading efforts on AI.

Paul Graham’s essay The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius is, for me, evocative of people like Eve. People who used to litter the web with interests like number theory, history, or pop culture. Granted, Paul’s essay describes something he calls “disinterested obsession” and how that is linked to discovery and work that is meaningful. In the essay he uses a high threshold for “genius” with examples like Darwin, Newton, and Ramanujan.

It is my belief that disinterested obsession in people; a love for something “… they’re not doing to impress us or to make themselves rich, but for its own sake” operates much closer to us in people who have successful and productive careers. Maybe it is the chemical engineer who loves Tolkien or the academic publisher who reviews comics – these are people who weren’t satisfied with dialing in perfunctory sociology papers on the fast track to mediocrity.

What I find myself thinking in reflection is how I’d like to encourage my kids to develop passions that go beyond validation of their peers and conventional recognition. I’m also inclined to think, for myself, how I can modify my own interests from many shallow hobbies into a few deep mine shafts. 

Anew, 2017

I’ve blogged on and off for many years. There was a time I would pad my years of experience but it is long gone; 19 years ago I came away from a job interview and played D-note Devotion at the maximum volume that my old Honda speakers could muster.

I am “self taught” – what that really means is that I built by intuition, read a lot of books, and did a lot of undirected experiments, learning more through failure than accolades. At that time my work was based in the Microsoft stack of technology. I graduated from basic web development to Visual Basic, then to Java, and spent the bulk of my professional life programming the .NET Framework. Three years ago I started working with Android and it has been my home since.

Beyond my professional life there are many other interests. I read like a hyena, scavenging through lots of material with what I hope is a vicious bite. I like games of strategy and skill, especially chess. I am a husband and father of two young boys.

My intent here is to rebuild that notion of an online presence. I will post on a variety of topics with the hope of finding a groove. I will not preempt myself by attempting to limit my scope early on. My first, and probably most “successful” (measured by the satisfaction I got writing) blog was all over the place. This is my attempt to rekindle that mess.