February 29, 2008: Happy Birthday to Eric Millen

Eric Millen, born on leap year day 1976, today celebrates his eighth ever actual birthday. It is hard for people who have birthdays every year to think about how strange it must be to not actually have a day to call your birthday except for every fourth year. And, because of the phasing between the base four of the leap years and the base ten of decades, leapers get only two birthdays during all of their thirties! Think about that. There is just one more birthday for Eric before he faces the big 4-0.

I was still incredibly exhausted this morning and actually slept through Dominica’s early morning alarm. I didn’t even wake up when Oreo got up for breakfast and only barely managed to wake up to kiss Dominica goodbye. I ended up not waking up until eight when the phone rang. And even now I have no idea who called.

On the way into the office this morning I stopped by at the Airlie Cafe to grab myself a bagel and to get a tossed salad for my lunch later on. I have really been crazing salads recently. I guess our ordering in of food so often has cut down the number of salads that I get on a regular basis.

I didn’t make it into the office and had to turn around because I was needed for several thing. So I went back to the apartment and worked for a little bit before going back and and heading to the office again. It is cold in Newark and Manhattan today but not nearly as cold as yesterday. Not quite cold enough for me to need anything more than my fleece and my baseball cap but it was on the chilly side.

Today wasn’t too busy. But it is a Friday. You always get lulled into a false sense of relaxation and then the real work hits when you least expect it.

Dominica took her lunch break and ran the Mazda PR5 up to Nanuet, New York to have the inspection done again. The shop called last night to let us know that the part needed had come in. The car passed without problems and she was back without incident. Nothing like waiting until the eleventh hour. But it is all set now.

My afternoon actually remained fairly slow which is pretty uncommon for a Friday. I had little enough cognitive work today that I decided to listen to “Predictably Irrational” while working as most of my work today was paperwork related. I am finding the book tends to make me want to consider doing a program from MIT’s Sloan School of Business moreso than I considered it before. The author, Dan Ariely, is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at Sloan.

While reading the book there was some discussion on procrastination and the use of external deadlines in helping to keep things moving. This reminded me of something that I had thought of recently – that as a society we have an extremely difficult time accepting other peoples’ workloads unless they have arbitrary deadlines. Let me give an example. If one person, a college student, has a paper due on Monday (today is Friday) and they have to work all weekend on it and not go out with their friends this is acceptable socially. No one expects them to get a bad grade just to go and hang out. But a second person decides not to go to college and instead is self-educating himself and needs to spend the weekend reading, experimenting, etc. But society does not generally accept this person as truly doing something worthwhile and sees the action as purely anti-social. Even if the results of the first situation are purely “cramming” just to get a good grade while losing the information long term and if the results of the second is deep learning, lasting knowledge and direct and immediately career or other goal attainment we still only see the formal as acceptable. Why is this?

I have noticed this particular social problem a lot both during the years that I spent attempting to break into IT without having completed my college degree as well as when I was working from home with a completely flexible schedule. When you have flexibility in your schedule, regardless of the importance of the work to be completed, it is seen by society as being unimportant or, at the very least, you are expected to have done all of it at the very first available moment and no procrastination whatsoever is allowed. This seems to happen regardless of how trivial the college class is (underwater basket weaving taken non-matriculated and audited) nor how critical the self-study or work may be (studying to get a new job in a week or completing work on a book that you are writing and need to finish so that you can make money to eat.)

One thing that I have found that helps somewhat to mitigate this social perception is professional certifications. These certifications provide simple, artificial timeboxes that are seem to be almost as or possible just as acceptable as college tests and allow you to really have an excuse for studying. It is very sad that as a society we see self-education and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge to be so unacceptable. During the Victorian age amateurs were seen as the pinnacle of an art. The top scientists or researchers were proud to be amateurs and would study and research on their own time. Only those who couldn’t reach this level felt the need to be professionals. But today if we don’t have someone cracking the whip to keep us working it isn’t considered polite to read, research, experiment, learn, grow or advance under our own volition. How sad.

At a quarter until five this evening dad IM’d me to say that it was really snowing up there and that it was a good thing that we hadn’t attempted to go up there tonight. It would have been bad.

Since we have time to actually really relax for once I am planning on taking advantage of it this weekend. I am going to do some reading and I hope to play Dragon Quest Swords for the Wii quite a bit. I am really looking forward to that.

I had to work a bit late tonight. Not because of an extra heavy volume of work but just because some stuff got scheduled pretty late into the evening. It was after seven thirty when I finally got the chance to head back to Eleven80.

A friend at work and I were discussing the output of the Solaris pkglist command tonight and we were trying to figure out how some people we knew were getting prettier output out of it than we were. We wanted to know the package name, version and install date in a nice easy list for a particular package. Other people were getting this list and we were sure that it was something obvious. This is what we came up with:

for i in $(ls /var/sadm/pkg | grep pkgname); do echo $i: $(pkginfo -l $i | grep VERSION) $(pkginfo -l $i | grep INSTDATE); done

It isn’t the prettiest solution but it works. So now if you need it (or if I need it) I can just copy and paste it from here. It works quite well if you have a large number of different versions of the same package installed on your Solaris machine.

It was eight thirty when I finally got home. Dominica had made dinner but had to take it off of the stove to wait until I got home and then she was able to finish it. We had soft tacos and watched the next three episodes of Doctor Who that had come from Netflix. What a great show. We are about halfway through the second season of the new series.

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