open office daze

Expecting a programmer to come into an office, sit in front of a computer, and productively work for a total of 8 hours, is utterly and completely unrealistic, in the typical case where the work is not interesting.

And since the interesting work is typically done for free(open source), the only way to get paid to work on software is to work on either really difficult, or really uninteresting problems(often both).

Yet, there they sit, all day long.

In individual offices, or in full-height cubes, they can feel free to take breaks, but in the modern open office jungle… continuous development, continuous integration, and with everyone waiting on someone for something, the collective eye bears down continuously on everyone’s screens.

If you look around, most people are just blankly staring at their screens, because that can be sustained for long periods of time.  But, actually, they’d probably be more productive overall if they could spend half or more of their time playing.

Of course, their machines and networks are locked and monitored, so that’s an additional impediment.

So there they sit, or stand, staring blankly, quietly, at work they’ve lost focus on hours ago, because it’s the only safe thing they can do.

null wisdom

Not everyone, smart or dull, reaches the particular guide-post of enlightenment whereupon one deeply, and wholeheartedly, embraces the realization that they don’t know anything.

In the meantime, they make lots and lots of horrible mistakes and judgments that they will likely later regret.

This awareness I speak of, would not necessarily have prevented mistakes, but it would certainly have encouraged a greater degree of caution, exploration of backup plans, listening to others more, and so forth.

I feel fortunate that my most egregious errors impacted mostly just me, though there was certainly some significant collateral damage.  I would hate to have been in a position of leadership back then(not that I’m crazy about the notion now).

But I assume I’m becoming wiser, because the absolute magnitude of my idiotic failures seems to be diminishing over time.

Yet, perhaps this is a local minimum.  Or maybe my failure analysis is flawed.

You never know…


object vs process analysis

Our thinking apparatus was developed for fairly simple situations, though we leverage various tactics to manipulate more complex concepts via various forms of abstraction.

Still, this basis shines through in the way people try to understand things in general.

I am standing in the woods, and there is some fruit, and there is a bear.  I want to eat the fruit, but the bear may have a cub.  What do I do?

The bear is a bear for the duration of the problem, as is the fruit, though we could always come back later and hope the problem has gone away.

We seem to try to understand people and society the same way, and it generally fails, because these are complex, dynamic, ever-changing systems that more closely resemble fire than earth… they are a flow, a process… a reaction… not an object.

In terms of people tasked with the practical side of mental health, we have a faction that thinks of everything in terms of emotion, a faction that thinks only of neurochemistry, a faction that thinks of everything in terms of pure thought and the relations between mental objects… they all make the mistake of trying to understand a system by understanding a single subsystem as if it were more or less unchanging and independent.

But this is forgivable, because this seems to be a collective human hardware limitation, at least with respect to organized fields of study and practice.

A human is an irreversible reaction, early paths taken having a larger impact than later paths, but always subject to deviation.


Without active intervention, the employees who care about your organization will get mauled by the ones that don’t.

Good jobs require thought.  If you are thinking about how to improve things, and keep things going well, you incur the opportunity cost of not thinking about, positioning for,  and defending yourself from political machinations that add no value to the organization.

It’s incredibly easy in thought-work to do enough to not get fired.  This leaves schemers plenty of free time to do what they do best, which is to scheme.  That is their nature.  We all want to do what we do best; that gives us the best reward on our time.

So it is not so much that I am condemning them as such, only pointing out that they do not benefit an organization unless their external scheming provides a greater return than the internal scheming they do.  They should thus be kept very busy at external scheming, if that is part of your business model, which I don’t recommend or endorse.


Dictionaries are wonderful tools, but they can sometimes delude us into thinking words are more atomic than they really are.

Specific nouns are fairly self-contained and independent, and many general purpose verbs are as well.

What I will call here “modifiers” (for example, adjectives and adverbs in English) are where things start to get tricky, though, because they start webbing out into the forest of a language’s mental associations that cannot be easily cross-referenced.

Synonyms for “pretty”, for example, are loaded with nuance, and many would seem strange outside of various specific contexts.

This webs out into idioms, and in fact, in a language, there’s really no hard mental boundary between a word and an idiomatic phrase.  Nor, really, a hard boundary between idiomatic and non-idiomatic phrases; just a continuum.

Natural languages are a reflection of our minds.


At this point in time, I do not need to eat meat.

I am not opposed to the practice of eating meat, in principle.

If there comes a time when I am hungry enough to kill and eat a chicken, and I come across a chicken whom I may legitimately kill and eat, then I may do so, but… hopefully, that time will never come.

There’s no sense in pretending I’m not indirectly killing something I don’t need to kill by eating it in pre-packaged form.

I do consume milk and egg products in vast quantities, however; I’d happily milk a cow or a goat, and I’d collect chicken eggs.