Expunging Thoughts

Location: Chicago, United States

Monday, September 11, 2006


What does it take to succeed in life? What does it even mean to succeed in life? Well, I see a few different kinds of success: there's the best-in-show kind of success enjoyed by professional athletes/musicians/actors/etc. - people who really excel at something or are just lucky; there's the all-around respected, materially well-off, doctor-lawyer kind of success, which seems to mainly require enough focus and drive (and perhaps ability) to pass through enough societal hoops (med/law school, residency, etc.); there's the Bill Clinton rags-to-leader-of-the-free-world kind of success, which I believe requires some level of genius at reading/manipulating people (Saddam did not remain a dictator for decades merely by being a brute); there's the sort of master-of-your-craft kind of success that everyday people can achieve (we all have that teacher we'll never forget, etc.); then there's the sort of handed-to-you-on-a-silver-platter kind of success of, say, George W. Bush (not that I'm out to bash the president here, but he is a convenient target) - undeniably the man is successful by all American Standards - he's rich, well-connected, and, well, in his second term as president - but aside from his family, it's hard to see why (it's easy to imagine the likes of John F. Kennedy doing well had he not been a Kennedy, but put George Bush in a different family and all I see is a Middle Manager); also, of course, there's the sort of rogue success achieved by such icons as Sergei Brin and Larry Page (the Google guys), whose grad school project unpredictably turned into a multi-million dollar company with the stated mission of organizing the world's information.

I like to think that there is a reasonably logical explanation for most things, but I can't seem to put a finger on the success of people such as Tom Cruise. Yes, he's good-looking and charismatic on-screen, but he's not the most gifted actor in the world (any oscars?), he's short, and he's just plain bizarre in real life. How is he one of the most top-grossing movie actors of all time? Did he just get a lucky break or is he secretly some calculating genius who carefully chose his early roles to facilitate his brilliantly master-minded rise to the top?

It's that difficulty to define success or pin down the reasons for it that make it so elusive. I've always wanted to succeed (who doesn't?), and aside from the doctor-lawyer variety which I've known from pretty early on wasn't for me, I've never really known what it means or how one goes about it. I don't excel at any sport or musical/cinematic endeavor, I'm not terribly great at reading or manipulating people, I've yet to actually choose a craft (arguably, as I have a day job, though my heart's not in it), and my family will never hand me anything. I guess I will just have to get lucky.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc. That's dictionary.com. American Heritage and Merriam-Webster add such colorful adjectives as "compulsive" and "disturbing". I'd like to think my behavior is not compulsive or disturbing, but maybe it is. I hate to not finish things, though I frequently do not, once the initial infatuation wears off and something else ensnares me. I can finish a TV series, but video games seem to give me trouble. I made a list of the ones I've started to play, so I could check on it periodically and make myself finish them. The list is up to 12, with not a single one finished yet (Dragon Warrior 2, Fable, Fallout, Fallout 2, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Icewind Dale 2, Never Nights, Neverwinter Nights - Shadows of Undretide, Oblivion, Planescape - Torment, and Pool of Radiance if it matters. Yes those are alphabetical.). It's not that I lack for time, as I can find the time to start them, and I've played every single one of those for at least six hours. Maybe it's the interaction. I don't have to interact with the TV. I can compile the whole series, then sit back and passively take it in. I have to pick up the controller and press buttons to finish a video game. I just have to double-click to start the next episode of That 70's Show, or Family Guy, or Sealab 2021, or Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or Venture Brothers, or The O. C., or Desperate Housewives. At least there are fewer TV series than video games.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


As I find myself more often sipping vodka as I sit in front of the computer screen (what has essentially become my station in life, as I begin to feel agitated after long periods, say a couple of hours, spent without a computer in front of me) at night, I find that I have at last reached the point where I simply must give something to the unfathomable beast that is the internet, from whom I have spent years simply taking, taking, taking. I appear to have been operating under a slightly different usage pattern than other consumers that I have observed. I use the internet for hours nearly every single day, for a wide range of activities. I do my banking online, I pay most of my bills online, my primary communication channel is e-mail, I read news online, I print directions online, I make purchases online, I look up movie showtimes, order pizzas, download media, check the weather, watch funny videos, read technology blogs, read financial blogs, read my friends' blogs, read comics, read stories, look up facts, browse wikipedia articles, browse pictures, track packages, search the names of people I have met, and probably a few other things. I also use the internet as my primary source of information when I come across a tough spot at work (I am a programmer). In short, I consume and I take advantage of most of the things of which I am aware that the internet has to offer. But I put almost nothing on the internet that I am willing to take credit for. I have read thousands of forum and blog entries, yet I can count my forum posts and blog comments on a single hand. I tend to go to great lengths to avoid posting on forums or leaving comments on blogs or web sites. I often search forums for the answers to specific questions I have, but if the answer is not already there, then instead of posting my question I will continue searching elsewhere or try to use my own ingenuity to solve or re-formulate the problem. I read the published blogs of many of my friends, but do not leave any comments unless I am more or less forced to. I do have a web site, but this is almost exclusively to develop and improve my web programming skills, and I almost never give the address out or ask others to share it. I do not have a blog, though almost every single person I know in real life has one in some form or another, and they often ask about mine.

But now, I feel the weight of the consumed media almost as a physical force that is pushing information out of me, and the result is this blog. Enjoy.