Quick Roundup 360

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Essays of Paul Graham

After noticing that I was referring to one of his essays for the second time in less than a week, I visited Paul Graham's web site and found the mother lode. (For future reference, I've linked to this list from here.) Based on a random sample, I have to say I'm looking forward to lots of really good reading: Graham has a clear, direct style, and is a very original thinker.

Needless to say, I enjoyed his "Writing, Briefly" and found "How to Do What You Love" very insightful. From the latter is this example of the kind of original thinking I like about Graham's essays:

By the time they reach an age to think about what they'd like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can't blame kids for thinking "I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world."

Actually they've been told three lies: the stuff they've been taught to regard as work in school is not real work; grownup work is not (necessarily) worse than schoolwork; and many of the adults around them are lying when they say they like what they do.


It was not till I was in college that the idea of work finally broke free from the idea of making a living. Then the important question became not how to make money, but what to work on. Ideally these coincided, but some spectacular boundary cases (like Einstein in the patent office) proved they weren't identical.

The definition of work was now to make some original contribution to the world, and in the process not to starve. But after the habit of so many years my idea of work still included a large component of pain. Work still seemed to require discipline, because only hard problems yielded grand results, and hard problems couldn't literally be fun. Surely one had to force oneself to work on them.

If you think something's supposed to hurt, you're less likely to notice if you're doing it wrong. That about sums up my experience of graduate school. [bold added]
From there, Graham proceeds to discuss the question of enjoyment as it pertains to work, how money and prestige can lead one astray, and how to help oneself find work one loves. His advice on that last score, briefly is, "Always produce." (But don't stop there. See what he says about how that works.) He then discusses two broad approaches to going about the difficult task of finding work you love.

, Graham is a businessman, a programmer, and a programming language designer, and he writes about these things, too. An example of this would be "Microsoft is Dead". After yesterday's post, his number one reason for saying this sounds right on the money:
The most obvious [of four things that killed Microsoft] is Google. There can only be one big man in town, and they're clearly it. Google is the most dangerous company now by far, in both the good and bad senses of the word. Microsoft can at best limp along afterward.
There's something on the order of a hundred essays there, on a wide range of subjects. I hope you enjoy them as much as I will!

Chrome and List Update

Google, not unexpectedly, left us Linux users out with its initial release of the Chrome browser, so I probably won't get to play with it for another couple of weeks. But several people had good things to say about it in yesterday's comments. I'm no computer whiz, but from what I read about it, the new browser sounded like it would fix lots of things that have been annoying me to no end about web browsing lately....

Brad Harper also posted on Chrome yesterday, and he includes some links that show that a company can do brilliant things and yet still support positions which, if consistently implemented, would be at odds with its ability to continue doing so. (I have to say that I am puzzled by his term "GovCo"....)

I did get to tinker around with the less-flashy command line list management application I also mentioned. It's rough around the edges, but it will give me the ability to sort through my various lists effectively, which makes it worth using for awhile, and perhaps modifying.

Objectivist Roundup

I'm late getting around to this, but be sure to stop by the latest Objectivist Roundup, hosted by Shea Levy, if you haven't already done so. Or if you might have missed something.

I'm even later in adding a link to his blog to the sidebar, but I've fixed that this morning as well.

Bloggin' Boston Brahmans

Rational Jenn, in accepting a nomination for a blog award, manages to find a Boston connection -- even if so tenuous as to want a negative qualifier -- for every single one of the seven other blogs it was her turn to nominate!

I'm ahnah'd to have appeahed on uh' list! (Can one drop too many -r's?)

And one of my fellow Bostonians deserves special mention for getting a song stuck in my head over the weekend. (Gentle Reader, you have been warned!)


Click here to see the video I'm talking about: Its owners apparently don't appreciate the value of free advertising.... (HT: The older of my two brothers.)

-- CAV


Brad Harper said...

GovCo. is a neologism coined by Keith Larson, a local reality-minded talk-radio personality. Essentially it represents government acting beyond its proper scope, especially in a self-perpetuating manner, i.e., a government concerned with expanding itself (the way a private company would operate). As used above, I refer to Google hiring Government (via lobbying, taxes, who knows what else) to abuse its monopoly of the use of force as a means to some business (private) concern. Anytime a private enterprise leverages illegitimate Government power to violate rights of others, as if it were merely commissioning the services of another private company, the term GovCo. is fitting.

Of course it's blatantly ironic to refer to our Government as an entity bound by the just laws of economics (existence, identity, causality etc.) - but this only adds to the sarcastic charm of the term.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the explanation.

I can see why Larson might want to use such a term, but it still doesn't sit well with me, given how already-muddled political discourse is these days.

For example, lots of leftists regard large corporations as equally nefarious as an oppressive government. (Leftists don't regard government infringement of individual rights as the inherent danger that it is. They just regard non-leftist governments as such.) The movie "Soylent Green" is a pretty good example of this.

This sloppiness is often used to make the less politically astute suspicious of companies and sympathetic to regulation, which merely aggravates the real problem of the government violating individual rights -- and confusion about the nature of the corporation as a means of protecting private property and doing business.

So while Keith Larson's term might conceivably work as some kind of shorthand for those "in the know", it is too easily misconstrued for a general audience. An average Joe, hearing a short snippet of this talk show might hear "GovCo" and think something like, "Yeah. Our government is acting like a Big Corporation again! We need to put a stop to that." What does acting like a big corporation MEAN to such a person? Your guess is as good as mine.

Brad Harper said...

To Larson's credit, it'd be really hard to misinterpret within the typical context of him tenaciously ridiculing local government.

But yes, I see your point - definitely an esoteric term that carries a risk for misinterpretation.

Galileo Blogs said...

Thanks for the Paul Graham recommendation. I just read a couple of essays. He's great! I particularly enjoyed "Why to Not Not Start a Start-Up." [sic]

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome. And he's prolific, too. This is someone you can learn a TON from.

z said...


Little Green Footballs links to Gizmodo, a blog at which the author states:

"So, are you enjoying the snappy, clean performance of Google Chrome since downloading yesterday? If so, you might want to take a closer peek at the end user license agreement you didn't pay any attention to when downloading and installing it. Because according to what you agreed to, Google owns everything you publish and create while using Chrome."

Gus Van Horn said...

My initial reading of the legalese is that you retain copyright, but grant to Google the ability to reproduce your work solely for promotional purposes.

If I published a novel through a blog while using Chrome, Google could reproduce an excerpt for promotional purposes, but would get in trouble if it tried selling (or giving away) printed copies of the whole thing.

It sounds somewhat like (although it isn't the same thing as) "fair use".

Having said that, I do only joke about being a lawyer, so I could be wrong....

z said...

I downloaded google chrome to check it out and already i hate it. first of all, theres no google search box. that doesn't make any sense to me. i love being able to do a google search at any time by simply clicking in the upper right hand corner. also, where is the menu bar? i'm lost without "file, edit, view, tools, help" etc. and why is there no drop-down thingy in the address bar? i don't like using bookmarks, i like it when the sites i visit regularly drop down from the address bar. even firefox messes this up to the point where i have no idea how to control what is in the drop-down. i like IE the most really but it freezes up constantly so i use firefox.

Gus Van Horn said...

Sorry you don't like Chrome, but then part of the beauty of the free market is that nobody can MAKE you use it!

Google did open-source it, so there's always the hope for people who like the older browsers that some group will develop a browser with some of the old "look and feel" you like that has some of Chrome's real improvements "under the hood"....

Kyle Haight said...

The URL input field in Chrome doubles as a search-engine field. If you type in an URL, the browser loads it. If you type in a search string, it gets passed to the search engine.

They have definitely played games with other components of the UI. I haven't had much time to play with the browser further so I can't really address the remainder of your questions.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the info, Kyle.

z said...

OOHH! Thanks Kyle. That makes sense. One complaint down, a few to go. z

Gus Van Horn said...

And speaking of complaints, another one bites the dust!