Monday, July 06, 2015

Inspiration: Work And Life

Here's an unusual company whose policies are inspiring me to believe there is hope out there for people like myself. Of course I cannot currently consider myself suitable for employment of any sort in my current state of depression. It just wouldn't be right. However once I am able to regain an ability to focus professionally, I recognize that a part of me would never want to go back to a life where the insane push to work hard at all costs is king. This early source of my burn-out will continue to be a source of terror for me, and will continue to be a threat to my emotional security probably all the rest of my life. Just knowing there are companies out there organized in a way that understand the needs of employees helps!

I think with Treehouse, it didn't come out of a place of 'we need to foster creative energy,' it was more of a 'we want to take care of our people.'

Monday, June 22, 2015

Inspiration: I Can Picture Myself As Andy Weir

A year or two ago while I was still deep in the throes of depression, I had in fact heard of the acclaim that The Martian had been getting from a couple of friends, and some public personalities I had been following. Back then I was simply not in the mood to read any new literature. It is hard to say if it would have inspired me had I read it back then, but probably not. I recognize that my issues then were profoundly unexpected, and in my opinion underestimated. Possibly even now.

In any event, as I slowly emerge from my personal horrors, I've had the opportunity to follow a video link from a professional gamer (TheMightyJingles) Facebook page, where Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame got to interview Andy Weir, the author of whose novel is now set to be a major Hollywood movie. What an interview it was!

Andy's personality and demeanor reminded me of all the parts of me currently suppressed by my (still) deep sense of low self-esteem (and my anger ... justified or otherwise). I can in fact picture myself as the same geek as Andy, with the same passions, the same guiding principles in life, even a similar life history. The only thing different is his sense of happy-go-lucky altruistic self-confidence he carries - some of it had been with me since birth, some of it had been brutally beaten out (by the system) of me as I grew up, things that I have since had to (and am still trying to) unlearn. So yes, I see quite a bit of the old "ideal me" reflected in him.

And like him, I had thought about writing a hard science fiction story ever since I fell apart professionally. Of course unlike him, I had never made a deeper effort than merely writing down my ideas in a scrapbook - though to be fair, nothing stops me from taking out those notes again. My financial situation is pretty different though. Andy got lucky in that AOL laid him off at a time where he was forced to exercise his stock options at an all-time high. I assume that had bought him a nice big financial buffer from which he did not have to worry about survival. I have a decent chunk of savings from the 4 years of work I've put into Computer Science academia, and so I have a more modest buffer to sit on and some of which I have already consumed in the last 2 years unemployed. Plus my depression, and my lack of self-confidence over my situation did not help.

Anyway his life story, and the story surrounding his writing of The Martian is an inspiration to me to reach out for the sun again. This is especially true since the fog around me has finally slowly started to clear, and I can finally see some light. I love his altruism in the way he shared initially (and still does, I believe.) And I liked how it affirms my own approach to any product create from my pursuit of my own intellectual passions. I had often asked myself what I would do if I wrote a useful piece of software people might like - "give it away" had always been the answer I was most comfortable with; "have advertisers get me a bit of cash" was my other answer, if I imagined myself in a scenario where I was in need of financial support. Right now I am directing my own professional skills to volunteering with the OpenWorm project - an open science collaboration amongst volunteers and academics to simulate in software a simple nematode worm species in all its biological details. It is not pure altruism on my part of course, I very much need to feel like someone finds my skills useful and feel needed, and I very much need some direction I can comfortably put my energy toward. I had already decided some time back that while employment is nice, I am in no shape to pursue it and I still have some time before I must seek employment simply to put food on my table.

In Andy Weir, I find faith that I am not alone and that my position is not hopeless. One day I'll reach out and thank him for this.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Unbearable Lightness Of Doing Necessary Things That Terrify You

When I had first returned to Singapore almost 2 years ago, the temperature and humidity of the place appeared to start taking a toll on my somewhat old laptop and on my pretty-dang-old one. Very quickly I started observing that the ancient one was no longer able to keep cool even when it was in sleep mode, something that had not happened even when it was subjected to the higher temperatures in Texas (which was a lot dryer.)

For two years, I had struggled to make use of my newer laptop for professional purposes. At first the heat and uncomfortable surface made it hard to work while resting on my bed (necessary at night because I had to be protected by the mosquito net,) and so I bought myself a laptop fan. The fan turned out to not be particularly effective, and while the extra padding meant the heat wouldn't get to my legs, abdomen or chest quite as fast as the bottom of the laptop the extra weight made it highly uncomfortable. And so I got myself a laptop tray for the bed so I could actually avoid direct contact. This worked for a while until my practice of leaving my laptop on sleep when I do not use it, also started to take a toll on the device ... to the point where like the ancient laptop, it too started to overheat when merely asleep. Turning the thing off each time I stopped using it became a hassle - it is relatively slow now and with an older spinning harddrive, starting up and shutting down felt painfully slow. And now not only did I need the laptop tray on my bed, I also needed the fan to go between the laptop and the tray. The contraption was getting ridiculous, and independent of the trauma of my skin issues I got increasingly unproductive.

It has finally come down to a necessary, but terrifying decision if I wished to have any chance of continuing my plan to work my way out of this place - make a huge purchase that takes a big chunk out of my local savings, while unemployed.

So ... yah ... ouch. I hope this pays off.

Updated 6/20/2015 - the new machine runs a little hotter than I would have liked, but for the moment it seems to have paid off. I feel more productive professionally, there is no need for a bulky and ineffective laptop fan, and it is no longer a mind-numbing 1-2 minute wait for the machine to start up or shutdown each time I feel like I have to leave the machine alone to think/rest merely because I'm uncomfortable leaving it alone in an overheated state.