Category Archives: Various and Sundry

Doing Without Bile

Blogger, and fount of seemingly endless pop culture knowledge, Mark Evanier had a post earlier this month, right before his birthday. It was about getting older and just not caring about… I guess we could call it “irrational umbrage” about certain pop culture things like specific comics or movies or music or whatnot. You can read the post here.

One of my brothers has a habit that I’ve tried to cultivate in myself: when someone expresses adoration for a work you don’t like (e.g. a film, a book, a TV show, etc.) ask them what they like about it. Granted, in order to be a less-than-obnoxious conversationalist, you usually do need to own up to the fact that the work didn’t work for you and then segue into your query. This approach also lends itself to being less snarky, which also tends to help in being a better conversationalist.

People who revel in being brusque — and generally dislike using the words ‘brusque’ and ‘conversationalist’ — will find this crazy talk.

And, of course, maybe you don’t want to have a conversation, you want agreement — or possibly snarky argument. I suppose that’s valid, but as I get older, I’d rather have discussion — especially if it’s a choice between discussion or vapid agreement. And if we’re not going to actually have a discussion about some work, why don’t we get back to our own work? Alluding to the post above, I’d rather work on my own crap as opposed to spending a lot of time talking about how some other work is crap. I guarantee there is someone out there who will deem my work crap when it goes out into the world.

There’s enough crazy and negative stuff in the world besides all the creative work we and others try and produce. In other words, there’s plenty of stuff to drag us down. When it comes to creative works, I’m way more interested in what pulls you up.

Fun with Redistricting

Addressing the problem of gerrymandering and generally getting more people out to vote is something I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog (most recently being rather depressed by the solutions or lack thereof).

Well, the wonderful wonks over at FiveThirtyEight have an interactive map where you can see different strategies for redistricting and what that does, either on a national or state level.


Get Your Exercise On, Big Data Style

The writers at FiveThirtyEight have never been afraid to get wonky.

So when they look into how to best pursue a regular course of exercise — surely something that people are grappling with now since we’re still in the glow of New Year’s resolutions — I found it worth reading.

Gerrymandering Blues

Especially with the Virginia legislature elections this past November, I have been following what, if any, measures may be introduced to add more non-partisan redistricting to electoral districts. I’ve been happy to see the cheerfully wonky site FiveThirtyEight look into gerrymandering in general, but two recent pieces, both by Galen Druke. One is a reminder of what went down in Arizona when they tried to ensure that districts were competitive. The more recent entry is wondering if meeting all the goals of combating gerrymandering while being appropriately representative is an impossible task.


The Rotisserie Chicken Conspiracy

A common household dinner strategy of ours is to have roast chicken one night and chicken soup the following night.

This past weekend was an excellent weekend for soup.

But anyway, one thing has always puzzled us: why are raw, uncooked chickens more expensive than cooked, ready-to-eat chickens? Daniela Galarza over at exposes the grocery conspiracy.

Ikigai and What to Do Today (and Today and Today)

New years, like birthdays, are popular times to look at the year ahead and take stock at the year past, and I certainly join in as well.

One topic that’s come up with several friends and acquaintances both online and off for the past few weeks has been job satisfaction as well as what to do with one’s life.

My current main breadwinning gig, project and program management, has nothing to do with what I studied in school (technically). And while I have had iterations of this sort of job that have been fulfilling, I’ve had so many versions of it that aren’t fun that I have been honestly surprised at how fulfilling my current gig is.

Combine that with some miserable jobs working at what I’ve trained for and for which one is usually supposed to have unbridled passion (e.g. acting, writing, film, and assorted TV stuff) and I’ve often had some questions about that whole job satisfaction/life purpose thing.

So I was very excited when I came across the concept of “ikigai” in the past few years.

Ikigai, not dissimilar to “raison d’être” is most simply “a reason for being,” but you, like me, might have first seen ikigai explained via a Venn diagram like this:

Courtesy of a talented person at the Toronto Star

This, incidentally, is my favorite of many versions of the Venn diagram, because it manages to address some of the gaps I’ve found in jobs that are theoretically not my passion, but satisfying — as well as jobs that should totally be more in “dream job” territory that are none-the-less, unsatisfying.

I found this version of the diagram in this article by Laura Oliver. Her piece goes into greater detail about the origins of the term ikigai as well as some of the people studying ikigai and happiness in general. Spoiler alert: Kurosawa fans will find new resonance in the film Ikiru.

Speaking of studying happiness, job satisfaction, I would be remiss to not mention that reading up on ikigai has certainly complemented my reading of works such as Drive by Daniel Pink and Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (you can also go into Flow or his more academic explorations of the concept).

Okay, so digressions that may add to your reading aside, back to some of my connections to ikigai.

From reading more about it and analyzing Venn diagrams like the one above, I finally had some answers regarding my satisfaction and dissatisfaction with both day jobs and dream jobs. For example, when I’ve been in a job that pays me and that people need, I’ve felt some emptiness, even if I’m good at it. And certainly I enjoy esoteric movie and sci-fi trivia, but possessing or exercising this knowledge doesn’t make one feel useful (outside of Wade Watts in Ready Player One).

From this reflection, I’ve come to a few personal conclusions that I’ll share in case they help in your own exploration of “ikigai” and your life’s purpose.

Finding a job that fits “Ikigai” is extraordinarily difficult and probably isn’t worth pursuing to the exclusion of all else.
For where I am now in my life, this is a big one. I have responsibilities outside myself as so many of us do, so I can’t pop off on an adventure like I conceivably could when I was younger.

That doesn’t mean I need to throw up my hands, lamenting my inability to emulate Bilbo Baggins or the heroes of countless bildungsroman. No, I can take action. I don’t want to wait. Never wait.

Life, as they say, is what happens when you’re making other plans. I want to enjoy some of that life while I’m alive. I’m a program manager, so I’ll be making plans regardless. This leads to:

Getting to “ikigai” may require more than a single job
Look at that Venn diagram above again. Do you have anything you like to do outside of work? Do you actually like spending time with your family? (Okay, maybe not the best question to ask some people who spent a lot of time with them during the holidays, but it stands).

The fact is that there’s plenty of stuff we love that isn’t in a job and that could be addressed in a hobby or activity. The most interesting people I meet at work do a lot of different things in their off hours (always a humbling reminder not to judge people by the one facet they show you in one arena).

Heck, I know many actors and creatives that engage in hobbies and activities outside of the creative work they do.

To me, this realization is liberating. I don’t have to find the perfect job. If I can find enough other things to do in addition to “the dayjob” that scratch the passion, mission, vocation, and profession itches, I’m good.

Not everything has to be monetized or professionalized
In our amped-up, hyper-entrepreneurial world, where everything you do is folded into your personal “brand” which must, of course, be a source of revenue and a core part of your definition as a “though leader” or some such thing.

Um, no. It could be that, in the land of the overabundant graduate degrees, it’s hard for people to define themselves as amateurs. It could be, in the age of the eternal side hustle, that people just puttering about various hobbies is deemed insufficient.

But I’m thinking it’s probably a good idea to have some things where you don’t try and be an expert — or even if you’re trying to gain expertise — you’re not depending on that expertise for a new revenue stream.

In other words, not only may ikigai require more than a single job, not all of those jobs need to be “jobs.” You are allowed to have fun sans monetary ROI.

I used a Dremel tool for the first time this weekend. Believe me, “Dremel tool craftsman” or “woodworking wizard” ain’t gonna be my job titles any time soon. Still, I’m sure glad I got the Dremel tool, look forward to learning to use it better, and am quite sure I’ll be budgeting some time to use it on many more weekends to come.

Percentages Matter
I suppose some people could deal with having a dayjob that is nothing more than a vocation or a profession. I find I need at least a little bit of passion to get through the day — though perhaps Daniel Pink would say I’ve simply found a profession or vocation where I can exercise enough autonomy and mastery to derive meaningful purpose. “The dayjob” remains important for me and, my guess is, a lot of us. It looms large both mentally and the amount of hours I spend on it each week.

Your job mileage may vary, but I’ve found I need to be very aware of how much I’m hitting my goals for passion, mission, profession, or vocation. If I’m feeling out of sorts, it’s usually because one of those itches isn’t being scratched or scratched enough. I guess this what people sometimes call “life-work” balance, but it’s more complex than just “life” and “work.” Home chores sure are work, on the one hand. Work can be full of joy and passion for another.

With that in mind, I doubt I’ll ever have “the answer.” I’ll forever be re-balancing things, both from external forces and my own needs. At least I feel like I have more of a framework to know how to adjust. How am I doing today? And tomorrow, that will be the same question… because it will then be today. And so on and so on. Oh, I’ll be mindful of my trajectory, but every day offers new opportunities for course corrections.

Have some thoughts you’d like to share about finding your life’s purpose or just tasting the strawberry on the journey? Comment below.

25 Years Ago, Today (In a Linear Existence)

25 years ago, Star Trek decided to go where the franchise had not gone before with Deep Space Nine.

Variety has a piece looking back at its creation and evolution… and has some pictures of the cast and crew at this part of this linear existence.

Some of you have already clicked on the link above. You know who you are.

Magical Space Wizard Time!

At long last, I can reveal myself to the Jedi.

By which I mean, we get to go see The Last Jedi.

So it seemed like a good time to share the work of some intrepid artists who decided to bring Ralph McQuarrie‘s marvelous concept art for the original Star Wars to life.

The Star Wars: Concept Trailer from The DAVE School on Vimeo.

I actually have a collection of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art buried somewhere which I pored over quite a bit growing up, so this was a delight to see.

We’ll see how delightful the latest installment will be. At least I’ll feel safe to roam the Internet once again…

Not the Reindeer Games I Expected…

Look, I might as well end out a whole week of video posts with one more celebrating the season. So, here ya go:

Enjoy, be merry, and maybe ask someone if you’d had too much egg nog before you don some antlers. Just in case.

And (Muppet) Mayhem Ensues, Holiday Edition

In case you just weren’t into the Star Trek holiday videos from yesterday, perhaps you’d enjoy the marriage of one of my favorite holiday tunes (and not just because it can be repurposed by Lovecraft fans) and my favorite pop culturally-impacting puppets (and not just because they’re part of one of my favorite TV series).

Okay, it’s not as good as their take on the song everyone knows to headbang to, but it’s still fun. Plus, if you like Muppets, they have one of the better film versions of  A Christmas Carol.