Archive for January, 2010

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Awesomeness vs. Sickness

01/29/10

I recently came off of two weeks of sickness. I named the sickness Juan, as I picked it up in the Dominican Republic. Juan started with a two-day fever, followed by two weeks of exhaustion and frequent bouts of hacking cough. I hate Juan.

What I have learned in my two weeks is that sickness sucks. It sucks bad. At first, I enjoyed catching up on “Parks and Recreation” episodes and reading. And that took about four hours to get old. It’s not that I don’t like these things; I love them. Finding the time to read is a continuous struggle day-to-day. I took two days completely off my feet; you’d think that could be time very well spent.

The problem is that you get what you give when it comes to work, reading, thought; and I had little to give. Accomplishments, even intellectual ones, require significant energy. You have to “gear up” and prepare to bring all of your creativity and intelligence to the table; and then the actual act of thought requires many individual, nimble actions of asking questions, searching through your memory for relevant knowledge, pulling back to see the wider issues, plunging in. When you are in the midst of thought, you aren’t always aware of all of these actions, as you are focused on the problem. But it’s all happening.

When I was sick, I could barely get up to put on socks, let alone do mental gymnastics. Even after the fever passed and I was back at work, I couldn’t quite gear up, and I could only sustain whatever I was working on for short periods of time.

So that’s the shocking, unexpected conclusion of the day. Sickness sucks. Drink fluids.

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‘Space diver’ to attempt first supersonic freefall – space – 22 January 2010 – New Scientist

01/23/10

‘Space diver’ to attempt first supersonic freefall – space – 22 January 2010 – New Scientist.

The highest parachute jump yet. From 20 miles up (the Stratosphere ends at 31 miles). He will wear a space suit so his blood doesn’t boil from the low atmosphere.

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Be Like Gravity

01/17/10

From the coach who turned around Agassi’s game, in Agassi’s book Open: “Quit going for the knockout, he says. Stop swinging for the fences. All you have to be is solid…Be like >gravity,< man, just like motherfucking gravity…Perfection? There’s about five times a year you wake up perfect, when you can’t lose to anybody, but it’s not those five times a year that make a tennis player. Or a human being, for that matter. It’s the other times.”

I’ve been repeating this phrase “Be like gravity” to myself a lot recently, ever since reading Agassi’s book a few weeks ago. It’s been running through my mind particularly on a big project I’m currently working on–a class built around a complicated role play with a lot of moving parts. Sometimes I get tired or discouraged at the difficulty and my emotions rebel at the idea of going further. When I remind myself to be like gravity, everything changes. I find myself recommitted and refocused, ready to do some good work.

So what’s the big deal here? What does it mean to be like gravity? Well, what do we know about gravity? It’s powerful, powerful enough to keep you on this planet and to keep the entire universe in motion. It’s also unwavering. You cannot argue with gravity, cannot expect it to let up. It is simply a fact of life, and you have to accept and adapt to it. Which would you rather face off against if you were a tennis player: an emotionally volatile Agassi that is just as likely to self-destruct as beat you or an Agassi that simply will not let up?

To “be like gravity” is to bring your best to the table every time. The opposite, which I’ve seen in myself and I think is common, is to work in surges. It’s the romantic idea that it’s all on the line this time, so this time I’m going to bring my A-game. As Agassi’s coach puts it, it’s swinging for the fences, going for the knockout, putting it all on the line. And it usually means trying to act well above your actual ability, in an impassioned but fairly uncontrolled way.

The teenager in me is kicking up in protest right now, because it feels like I’m advocating mediocrity or a boring but consistent existence. Is this shift in thinking part of the process of settling down to live an uninspired life? I don’t think so. I think I’m advocating the kind of mentality that is required to pursue exciting, ambitious goals. Those kinds of goals are always, necessarily long-term.

The exciting stuff isn’t won and lost on one moment; it’s won and lost by how persistently you hammer away at your exciting goals. Even the short-term or one-time goals are actually long-term goals in disguise (but that’s for another post).

I also don’t think that being like gravity means that you aren’t living a passionate life. Passion is the fuel for all work worth doing. If you are showing up, checking off your work, and going home; that’s not being like gravity. It’s not bringing your best self consistently, which requires passion and focus. I think I’m just advocating bringing that passion to the table persistently, instead of erratically.

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Profile in Awesomeness: Film composer Hans Zimmer

01/06/10

I love film scores, especially film scores to action films. Where else do you get exciting, dynamic classical music these days? Hans Zimmer is one of my favorites, especially his Crimson Tide, Thin Red Line, and Gladiator.

Click here for an interview with this excitable, talented, apparently approachable giant. It always makes me happy when people I like live up to the quality of their work.

PS Zimmer is the one on the left in the attached photo.

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What to Expect in 2010

01/01/10

Happy 2010!

As one of my resolutions for the year is to post more (26 entries by the end–hold me to it), I’m going to keep this post short and unambitious. One point and I’m out.

New Years is my favorite holiday. It is >the< holiday of self-improvement, when you take stock of the previous year and dedicate yourself to what you want to change in the year to come. In addition to my 26 posts, I plan to tackle my details problem (see previous post), which I think is really a tendency to rush the double-checking process. I am pledging to double-check every important email I send and to continue to show up to events I am running an extra half hour earlier than I'm expected.

As to '09, it was my best yet. It was marked by several solid classes I co-created or ran and by moving in with my girlfriend in a neighborhood and life we love. I also started this blog, which I consider crucial in my growth to the level of wisdom in my field I think I need.

It's hard to think of how the next year will top 2009, except that I expect it will. If you remain dedicated to your life and to learning and understanding more and achieving more always, then shouldn't progress be the norm? That's not to say that it's guaranteed, as I could always get struck by lightning or the economy could fall apart at a whole new level or the government could choose to tax Randal Vegters at a 100% rate or whatnot. But those things are not the norm, and I have no particular reason to expect them.

Leaving aside the exceptionally awful things, I have every reason to believe that 2010 is going to be frickin awesome. And if I have every reason to believe that this New Year is going to rock my world, then I have every reason to believe that this New Decade is going to as well. And if you choose to take them on as well, then you do, too. Let's see how it all turns out!

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