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

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Paul Tevis

Entries in navel-gazing (45)

Friday
Oct282011

You May Need a Bigger Philosophy, Horatio

For this month’s Fourth Friday challenge, Becky asks an essay question:

Paulie, I was asked this question once, and my answer surprised me. I’d like to read what you have to say.

Before you answer, I’d like to kind of tweak the definition of paranormal. Paranormal: Anything that is beyond or contrary to what is deemed scientifically possible. Denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. I’d like to add this would involve contact between the living and dead. (Basically, the way Brian Dunning explains it.) Okay, here we go!

Which answer best reflects your beliefs?

A. I believe in the paranormal. I have not had any first-hand paranormal experience.

B. I believe in the paranormal. I have had at least one first-hand paranormal experience.

C. I do not believe in the paranormal. I have not had any first-hand paranormal experience.

D. I do not believe in the paranormal. I have had at least one first-hand paranormal experience.

Please provide any additional details you’d like to provide, in essay form. If you chose B or D, please describe your experience(s).

First things first: I haven’t had any first-hand experience of the paranormal, so B and D are out. (Sorry, no good stories there.)

The problem is that I don’t really know which bucket my answer falls into. I see a difference between (1) things that are that inexplicable according to current scientific theory and (2) things that are inexplicable according to the scientific method. I absolutely believe that things in category #1 exist. To think that contemporary scientific understanding can explain everything about the universe is the pinnacle of hubris. I have doubts, however, about the existence of anything in category #2. Given that the entire process of the scientific method is about developing new theories to account for the explanatory failure of current ones, I’m not sure what a universe in which phenomena that can’t be explained would look like. Rather Lovecraftian, I suppose…

So if we’re talking about what current science deems possible, I guess my answer is B. But if we’re talking about whether or not I hold to philosophical naturalism (which I don’t believe is the same as materialism), then I suppose my answer is D. All of which is a rather bloodless answer instead what could have been a spooky blog post, but them’s the breaks.




Update

Fitness: Rest day
Monday
Oct242011

In My Head

Getting stuff done is killing my inner extrovert.

This weekend I ran into several people who I don’t talk to very often but who read this blog and follow me on Twitter or Facebook. All of their comments echoed one of two themes: (1) I’m very passionate about the things I do, and (2) I’m getting a lot of things done. I won’t argue with either of those, though I will admit that (1) is particularly good to hear.

What concerns me is that (2) has come at the cost of social connections. I have noticed that I’ve been developing a stronger and stronger “I’m going to disappear for a while and do some work” tendency. Certainly protecting time to be creative and productive is a good and important thing. What I feel like I haven’t been doing is balancing that with time to just be and to recharge, both by myself and — more critically — with other people.

Because I was traveling and out of my normal routine this weekend, it jolted me into doing more of it. Yesterday I ended up just sitting in The Trappist for at least twenty minutes after I was finished with lunch just to sit and soak in the environment, which included listening to the trio at the other end of the room discuss their various workspace dramas. Just now, I stopped at a Starbucks on my way back into town because I’m running about forty-five minutes early for my improv workshop. The place is packed and buzzing with life, and I can’t help but tap into some of those energies, watching the flow of activity, indulging in the luxury of people-watching.

Being productive has caused me spend a lot of time along, inside my own head. I have to fight the urge to stay there.




Update

Fitness: Rest day
Thursday
Sep292011

Virtue in the Kitchen

My love for cast-iron cookware goes beyond the purely practical and into the philosophical.

A few years ago my friends Ted and Christina got me a large cast-iron skillet. I started out using it for stir-fries, because most home cooktops don’t produce heat to really get a wok hot enough for great stir-frying and the heat-retaining properties of cast-iron help compensate for that. As I got comfortable with it, it became my default cooking vessel, because it did a great job with just about everything. That’s the practical part.

The philosophical part has to do with how cast-iron cookware changes over time. As you use it, it seasons. It becomes more non-stick, easier to work with, and better at giving things you cook in it a tasty finish without burning them. Unlike my chef’s knife, which gets duller as it is used, my frying pan gets better with use.

In the Classical period, the Greek philosophers talked about arete — usually translated as virtue — as a measure of how fitted to its purpose a thing was. Aristotle used the notion of arete as the basis of his system of moral philosophy. The idea that my skillet improves its virtue with use resonates with me. And, of course, I want to see myself as less like the knife and more like the frying pan.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go apply some virtue to some steaks.




Update

Fitness: Ran 5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 503 words, 353 seven-day average, 286 average, 52341 total, 659 to go for the week; 5-day streak
Sunday
Sep112011

Even-Keeled vs. Big Swings

My weekends are becoming bipolar.

Last weekend I was camping at Renaissance Festival site, fighting people with foam weapons, and not sleeping very much. This weekend I hardly left the house, except to go for a run and a bike ride. This seems to be a pattern my weekends are falling into: When I’m away, I’m out doing crazy things; when I’m home, I’m a hermit.

I think I’m ok with that. I means that what I’m doing, I’m committed to. I’m taking full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, no matter whether they’re opportunities to do something as exotic as visiting someplace new or as mundane as getting some reading done or putting the house back in good working order. There’s real power in asking, “Given where I am, and what’s happening, what’s the most effective thing I can do today?”

It’s funny how my weekends stand in contrast to my weekdays. During the week, I try to live at a steady, constant pace, doing “a little bit of everything” every day. The weekend is about a different kind of balance, I suppose. My weekdays are fairly routine. The environment doesn’t change a lot, so the piecemeal approach works. Weekends are a lot more variable, though I have some control over that variability by scheduling things appropriately. I take the macro-level view when it comes to weekends, the micro-level during the week. I need to do a slightly better job of integrating the two, but it’s interesting to see those two different approaches to balance interact.




Update

Fitness: Biked 17 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 322 words, 367 seven-day average, 276 average, 45519 total, 19 past the goal for the week; 5-day streak
Monday
Aug292011

Like a Shark

I worry, sometimes, that my best work is behind me. This is a bizarre concern, given that I’m thirty-three, but this morning I think I figured out what’s behind it.

As much as I know intellectually that the work is the important thing, I want to be recognized for what I do. Growing up, I was good at a lot of things I did — though it’s perhaps fairer to say that I didn’t do much that I wasn’t good at. As such, I was tagged with the “talented” label early on. I was expected to do well, which just reinforced my desire to do only those things I was good at.

The thing was, I was a medium-sized fish in small pond, as I found out when I went to college. At Rice I met a lot of talented folks, which did a lot to disabuse me of the notion that I could be good at anything I wanted to. I also made some poor choices about how to spend my time, which did even more to bring me down to earth. After college I went to work at a company that also had a lot of talented folks. I think you can guess the result that had.

As time went on, though, I found another small pond to be a medium-sized fish in: podcasting. Back in 2005, there were hardly any gaming podcasts. It was something that dovetailed nicely with my talents, so it’s no surprise that as I got into it, I got recognized for my work. Over time, the podcasting pond got bigger. As it did, I became less relevant and less exceptional. Eventually I left the pond altogether and moved on to another one (or, really, several).

And that, I think is why I keep thinking my best work is behind me. I keep making a splash in one pond, getting recognition for it, watching others overtake me, and then moving to another. I can see a similar thing happening at work, as other people are paving the trails I’ve blazed and I’m struggling to deal with a different set of problems than I did two years ago. It’s the nature of being a generalist, a synthesizer, and a troubleshooter. I’m either on top of my game or learning the rules of a new one.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.




Update

Fitness: Pushups (9-11-8-8-12)
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 496 words, 404 seven-day average, 276 average, 41916 total, 1584 to go for the week; 19-day streak
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