Friends in Vegas

July 30th, 2012 | Happiness

I already did a post on my recent Vegas trip, but there’s a piece of it that I didn’t mention.

Working in my current job I have had the privilege to be able to hire many of my friends, and going to Vegas this time (our team meeting) I was able to see it for the first time.

I met there friends from my life before leaving home, friends from my first job out of school, friends from my second job, friends from my third job, and many from my current job.

Basically, at each point in my life I met a few great people, and because I am in the position to hire I have manufactured a workaround for life’s cruelest trick–having your friends slip away from you.

So I now have the perfect tech job. I get to work on interesting problems, break apps, and share knowledge of how to do so–all while making a good living. And I get to do it with many of the friends I’ve made throughout my life.

Few things can compare, and I am thankful.


Robert Heinlein wrote a book a long time ago called Time Enough for Love in which he described all the various things a human being should be able to do. It closely maps with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s concept of a full person, evidently.

Go here to calculate your score on this test (your Heinlein score).

I scored very low–like a 14–which is a problem. Not that I see this as some true measure of a person, but such things are good secondary indicators of overall breadth of experience and competence.


Bottom line: If the main topic of conversation you have with your friends is not how you can better yourself, you need to get new friends.

This is the most important line, but I suggest you read the whole thing to see how the author got there. I’d say this is perhaps the most important lesson I think should be given to children: you are who your main friends are. ::


June 26th, 2011 | Happiness | Life


Today I had lunch with an aunt I don’t visit enough. I then had tea with Susan and we drove on the 101 while she DJ’d from her iPhone. She sang to me.

Now we sit in our sunlit SF apartment listening to The XX, drinking Yerba Mate. From this position of perfection, I am starting a formal email discussion with a friend regarding Harris’s Moral Landscape.

Work is great. I am healthy here in the Bay Area with the one I love, and we have the Internet so I can share ideas with friends who are distant.

Today I am thankful. ::

From businesses we’ve never heard of, to countries we’ve never visited, to infants who’ve had the random misfortune to be born into a family that’s on TV – it’s all grist for obvious jokes and shortsighted commentary that, for at least a few minutes, helps both the maker and the consumer feel a little less bored, a little less vulnerable, and a little less disconnected. For a minute, anyway, it makes us feel more alive. Does me, anyway.

But, in my observation, the long-term effect of each of these can be surprisingly different.

What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks – empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen.

An absolutely brilliant post. Don’t miss this one.

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We were wrong for laughing at the Star Wars kid, and the guy who was reduced to tears by a double rainbow. Double light sabers and double rainbows are, in fact, as cool as they made them out to be.

We shamefully laughed at them, when we should have been swinging and weeping with them. And deep inside we knew that. We understood their passion but like a pimple-faced 15-year-old we bent to the pressure and applied ridicule.

Fuck that.

I’d be proud to cry at a sufficiently awesome double rainbow, and if someone laughs at me I’ll slay him with a double-sided light saber-mop-handle thingy.

The next time you see this happening, grab a mop handle and help the one who’s enjoying the rainbow–not the one laughing at him. ::

Happy Thoughts

March 23rd, 2011 | Happiness

Screen Shot 2011 03 23 at 9.02.07 pm

Post a happy thought.

[ Thanks to Stephen for the link. ]

The consistent work enhanced my act. I Learned a lesson: It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical: Like the lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.

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Unhealthy Happiness

December 6th, 2010 | Happiness | Philosophy

A post over on Hacker News reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, which is the concept of “bad habits” like excessive shopping or overeating really being happiness problems.

The quote that triggered my thought was:

Obesity is the result of finding your happiness in food.

The reason I did my own post here instead of just posterousing that one is because I think he grazed the concept here without hitting it.

I think the key is that people who don’t have creative outlets or otherwise acceptable ways of being happy are naturally sucked into certain types of activities, e.g. eating for pleasure, shopping for pleasure, etc.

People are tempted to think that skinny, non-materialistic people are interesting and active, and have lots of projects going on. But that’s not the case. It’s the opposite. People with lots of projects and interesting things in their lives tend to be non-materialistic and view food and “things” as a desert rather than a meal. Life is the meal.

So, if you have an eating or a shopping problem it’s likely because there aren’t enough active and creative things going on in your life that occupy your time and focus. And in their absence, there is food, T.V. and shopping.


1 Yes, I know there are many active and creative fat people.

Cure Things Falling Asleep

November 11th, 2010 | Happiness

resistance Image from Karen Carr Studio

I think a lot about why people aren’t happy. I’m reading a book now by Bertrand Russell that offers a compelling theory: Modern people are unhappy because we have too many options and we don’t truly have to struggle for anything.

To summarize: In the past (when we didn’t live in massive cities and have everything provided to us via technology) it was difficult just to get by with food on the table and a warm bed. Our big threats of the time were things like, “dying from the winter”, and “kids getting eaten by bears”.

Life was simple. Struggle was simple. And surviving was the clearly-defined standard for happiness. Being happy meant having food to eat, wood for the winter, and a family that wasn’t dying of some horrific disease.

But now it’s different. We’ve been robbed of our natural struggles, and as a result we spin our engines at full speed while in neutral. Engines hate that.

So this is a narrative I’ve been applying to things lately, and I am wondering if it applies to the happiness of women as well. If you’re squeamish you should look away now.

There are limitless explanations of why modern women seem to be so unhappy. The explanation used to be that women wanted to be treated exactly the same as men in all situations, and thus to receive the same pay and the same respect. It seems, however, that this isn’t actually the case.

Increasingly, women are becoming vocal about the fact that they’d like to stay at home and perform a more traditional role. This is looked down upon by many career-oriented women, however–as if it’s signing up for a type of slavery that the western world worked so hard to defeat.

But I have another way of looking at it. Perhaps it’s just another instance of struggling for simplicity–for looking for a pure path. And I think biology is a part of that. Look at the 50′s. There you have the classic setup, with Mr. Cleaver coming home from the office with his briefcase to a dolled-up woman who’s just finished dinner.

Both the man and the woman feel like they’re1 on the right path in this scenario–even if those roles are far from ideal given a modern, progressive outlook on life. It’s the simplicity of knowing that the man does x and the woman does y that keeps things going. And the man knows that if he brings home money and is a decent husband and father, then he’s a “good” man. The woman knows that if she takes care of her man and her children, then she’s a “good” woman.

It’s the simplicity that makes this work. It’s the Amish approach. Focus on the basics and stay within conservative roles. They’re doing it because they think they know the mind of God, but others could conceivably do something similar because they know the innate desires of the genders (through science, not religion).

We’re learning more and more that, as children, boys and girls start immediately on activities that are gender-based. Boys flock to the guns and trucks, and girls can’t wait to get pretty and play with dolls. Perhaps this is telling us something about what we should be doing as enlightened adults building a society. Perhaps the simplicity found in childrens’ games should be harnessed as a model for happiness.

Of course, it’d be silly to think that setting women back 100 years and putting them in aprons and heels in the kitchen would fix things. Slavery is simple too, and that doesn’t make it a good idea. And men aren’t going to embrace the idea of working 10-hour days (manual labor, you understand) in order to have a decent chance to survive the winter.

We’re beyond those times, and I’m glad we are.

But there seems to be something to this. There’s something to simplicity. And there’s something to embracing the roles that are built within us. A common denominator in all of this is the concept of eliminating options. It’s the billions of choices available that produce the anxiety.

If we know the path we’re supposed to be on, and it’s a struggle to navigate that path successfully, then it’s automatically fulfilling when we do so. But if we have the option of being an interior designer or a mother or a CEO of a company or an architect–then we can’t ever know if we made the right choice.

Women sit at home as mothers and say, “Wow, I wish I wouldn’t have settled for this.” And they make it as great business leaders and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I don’t have a husband or children.” At that point the worst option is the one that was chosen.

So what’s the solution? Roll it all back to the 50′s? Spin up some “Get Amish” bootcamps and charge thousands to have modern families adopt traditional roles? I actually see that happening soon. I think there is going to be a backlash against modernity–where many decide to embrace what seemed to have worked in the past.

But that won’t work.

It worked because it was necessary, first of all. And even then it only partially worked. If a woman has a brilliant idea and speaks up in mixed company only to be laughed at because women aren’t supposed to be smart…that’s a problem. And if a man decides he doesn’t want to enter a high testosterone field and “kick ass” with the rest of the alphas, and he’s looked down upon by women because of it…that’s a problem.

And sure, that’s still the case today. But it doesn’t mean we want to reach backwards in time to embrace even more of that. Equality is good. Having options is good.

But we need a balance.

We need a way to acknowledge and embrace gender roles without limiting who men and woman can become, or can be respected as. And we need a way to build simplicity into our lives without limiting our options.

Thoughts? ::


1 I am conscientiously objecting to breaking out his/her as is technically required. We need to start accepting “they’re” when we talk about two different subjects.

Being Efficient

October 5th, 2010 | Happiness
  1. Physical Fitness
    1. diet
    2. exercise
  2. Sleep
  3. Afternoon nap
  4. No food at night
  5. Limit light at night
  6. Limit hunger for stimulation
    1. Embrace idleness

  1. Portion control: eat slow, eat to not be hungry, not to get full
  2. no food after 8pm; no heavy meals
  3. minimize “white” foods
  4. healthy snacks at work
  5. coffee
  6. breakfast @ home
  7. 30 minute walks, 3x week
  8. situps 3x week
  9. gym 2x week
  10. jits 2x week
  11. striking 2x week
  12. table tennis 3x week
A surplus of ideas is as dangerous as a drought.

Idea-to-idea syndrome is the tendency to launch new ideas while still executing other ideas. As soon as an idea becomes an active project, we become burdened by the minutia of execution. Long days and late nights cause us to get lost in what I have come to call the “project plateau”—the part of a project when excitement and energy run low and the end is still out of sight. The quickest escape from the project plateau is simple. Conceive a new idea. Immediately, when you get excited about something new and shiny, your hopes lift as your creative juices kick in. But, as a result, your previous idea is left stranded in the project plateau amidst other carcasses of abandoned ideas.


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The Happiness Process

September 8th, 2010 | Happiness

“ ’Tis the gift to be simple,” the Shakers sing. Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks take vows of poverty. Why? A new study published online in May in Psychological Science offers a hint. Money—even the thought of it—reduces satisfaction from life’s simple pleasures.

Studies have shown that a person’s ability to savor experiences predicts their degree of happiness.

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