tying up loose ends.

Mark Slouka wrote a stunning essay for the November issue of Harper's: Quitting the Paint Factory. Really. It's long, but so very worthwhile.

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.
Print it out, if you want.

Good lord. These quoted passage almost had me on the floor. But, congratulations to Tom Wolfe.

So it's done. I took the job in Palo Alto. The company is very cool, with a very large group of strange and smart programmers. It's a 15-20 minute drive with normal traffic, or maybe 20-30 minutes of biking and Caltrain. It has a very, very nice set of office. The programmers own the second floor, and all the lights are turned off. It has secluded couches designated for taking naps. It has an excellent path to profitability, and strange and bizarre scaling issues to deal with. I will have to work hard, and the challenges should be non-stupid. I get a salary shift on a level that you can't even call it a raise; almost like a change of profession.

[Dan points out that Java, which I've been coding in professionally for five years and hating for about three, is a "book language": not very expressive or subtle, one can easily pick up a book and learn what few idioms and good/bad ideas there are. And this is why Java programmers, even very good and widely-educated ones like me, are cheap. Perl, by contrast, has the semi-unofficial motto of "there's more than one way to do it"; designed by a linguist, Perl is rich and deeply expressive. "Expressive" applies to programming languages in a similar sort of way as applied to natural languages. For example, English is rich with synonyms, drawn from its delightfully complex history with Anglo-Saxon, Danish, French, and Latin. We have "beautiful", "handsome", "lovely", "gorgeous", "pretty", "hot", and my personal favorite, "pulchritudinous"; Spanish is a bit more limited, with (feminine forms) "bonita", "bella", and "guapa". All of those words in both languages are technically synonyms, but have wide-ranging shades of meaning which allow us to more exactly say what we mean to say. Similarly, programming languages have their own sets of idioms, ways of performing tasks which are simpler or more efficient. Perl ranks with the most expressive languages ever devised: I am unaware of a programming construct which cannot be expressed in Perl, though I know of many unavailable in Java. With great power comes great responsibility, and I can easily imagine that finding people who can take that expressiveness and effectively apply both discipline and imagination would be difficult. According to two or three third parties, I'm one of those people. Go, me!]

On my way home from a nice dinner to celebrate, I found myself considering my relationship to money, the more so having read the Harper's essay mentioned above. Money does matter to me, even now when I've come to realize that lifestyle choices are generally much more important. But why do I care? What do I use money for? What functions does it serve in my psyche, what buttons does it push, and, the ultimate question: how happy would I really be without it?

And the final answer is what it's always been: that without money, I'm still me, and I have all the things that really make me who I am. Money makes life vastly easier, and so far I'm still willing to trade my time, spent doing programming which I genuinely enjoy most of the time (notwithstanding Java and my current job having suppressed much of the joy), for those little green pieces of paper. Maybe I'll change my mind someday; but not this week. For now I'll just be happy and grateful.