Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

Currently Consuming
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
  • The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis

Friday
May082009

Lacking Sleep, But Ok

Last night, as the Jesusita Fire burned rapidly to the west, Gwen, the cats, and I left our house to go stay with our friends Roy and Michelle. They eventually ordered an evacuation for our house, but we were long gone by then. So far as we know, the first hasn't gotten anywhere near our house yet. The fire was very unpredictable yesterday, so they were very aggressive about ordering evacuations. Hopefully we'll find out more about what's going on today, but the bottom line is that we're safe.

Wednesday
May062009

Arete, Purpose, and Virtue

I find myself compelled to write about arete.

In college, I played Sir Thomas More in a production of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons. I can't put my hands on it now, but I recall at the time reading something (possibly by Bolt himself) about what the title could really mean. How could someone truly be "a man for all seasons?" What is a man for? And if he has a purpose, how would we know what it was?

(In a moment of sychronicity, Gwen just walked in wearing a shirt from that production of A Man For All Seasons.)

The ancient Greeks had a concept called arete. In a nutshell, arete is the idea of "excellence" or "virtue" but applied to fulfillment of a particular purpose. So a sharp knife has arete, because it is well-suited to cutting, and that's what knives do. The problem is that I keep applying the lens of arete to how I see myself.

It's not really a problem so much as an ideosyncrocy, I suppose, but it's intellectually challenging. I see myself as acting not out of some cosmic sense of Purpose, but out of a sense of being in the moment. Over the last few years I've turned away from long-term plans and large-scale ideas in favor of constant re-evaluation and re-prioritization. How does arete work in that context?

One way out to see myself as acting purposefully, that my individual actions have purpose even if there is no grand, overarching Purpose to my life. When I act, I want to achieve something. Acting in an effective way towards whatever that specific goal is, then, can be said to have arete. But I'm not sure that really resolves my conundrum.

Virtue and arete are slippery things for me. On a poetic level, I'm attracted to them, but on a rational level, I have a hard time pinning them down. Expect to hear more about them as time goes on.

Wednesday
Apr292009

And By "Monday" I Mean Wednesday

As I mentioned last week, things have been productively busy. I'm within spitting distance of wrapping up the text for the game writing project I've been working (too slowly) on for the last two years. Yesterday my group turned in our project for the business class I'm taking at City College. Lots of career-related things are working out. All of which means I keep expecting something bad to happen.

I almost wrote that sentence as "All of which means I keep waiting for something bad to happen." That would be lie: I'm not waiting. I've got momentum, and I plan to use it.
Thursday
Apr232009

Busy, Busy, Busy

The last two weeks have been a blur, and now I'm off for a weekend of camping with friends. I promise an update on Monday with what's been going, because it's pretty exciting. But now, it's time to hit the road.
Thursday
Apr092009

I've Got The Brain On The Brain

I just bought my ticket to hear Oliver Sacks speak at UCSB.

Dr. Sacks is a neurologist and a frequent guest on my favorite radio show and podcast, Radiolab, where he talks about strange things our brains do. This is a topic that fascinates and terrifies me. I have a lot of unresolved questions about the nature of the mind and its relationship to the brain. (I was a Philosophy major in college, which only exacerbated the problem.) I love movies that raise issues of consciousness, memory, and personal identity like Memento and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Heck, I've even written a storytelling game about these ideas.

Dr. Sacks has written several excellent books about his experiences with patients suffering from neurological disorders that might best be described as "philosophically challenging," so I'm excited to hear him speak.  The second chapter of A Penny For My Thoughts starts with this quote from his classic work The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, and think it sums up what I find interesting about his work:

The patient’s essential being is very relevant in the higher reaches of neurology, and in psychology; for here the patient’s personhood is essentially involved, and the study of disease and of identity cannot be disjoined.