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chromatic (983)

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Journal of chromatic (983)

Sunday December 22, 2002
08:54 PM


[ #9598 ]

Warning, tangentially technical.

I'm starting to think there's a tendency towards depression or melancholia that's associated with some of the other traits that make gifted system administrators and programmers. The correlation to musical or linguistic ability is pretty evident. Likewise, there are trends toward problem solving, logical thinking, and medium to strong introversion.

It's tempting to simplify, but I have a hard time picking one of the options. Is this personality type drawn very strongly to this industry? Does the state of the industry magnify latent traits? Is adolescence prolonged in the types of people drawn to computers and technology? Does participating in these activities prolong adolescence?

For example, patching systems that must have perfect uptime during business hours means working after hours or on weekends. The creative energy it takes to solve a thorny programming problem can strike anytime: during a walk, a shower, or in the middle of a dream. Sometimes it takes wrestling with a bit of software or an API for several hours before it starts to make sense. A great deal of free software is written on non-bank hours.

Let's also not forget the sense of play -- online debates and flame wars -- that take up so much time and energy. Granted, I see part of that as normal masculinity (in the C. S. Lewis sense), but there are lots of "debates" that lack some of the simpler social skills.

I bring this up because I worry sometimes about my ability to relate to other people. I suffer from insomnia and the lack of a set schedule takes its toll on me pretty quickly. I've done a lot of travelling in the past couple of years, had a few really big life changes, and live in a land of overcast, rainy winters. I've been really edgy lately, and have lost a lot of motivation.

Granted, worrying if I'm crazy is a pretty good sign that I'm not... but sometimes I care a great deal about what kind of a world I'm helping to build. I want to make a place of peace, a place of learning, a place of healing, and a place that helps people to become better and more complete. It's a huge goal, and the best way I know of is to be a good example.

I don't feel like the best example right now... but I'm trying. Here's my list of goals for the next little while.

Eat more fruit and vegetables. Drink lots of water. Go to bed early. Get up early and go for a walk. Clean out your inbox. Call your parents. Tell the people you love and appreciate one more reason you feel the way you do. Teach someone else to do these things.

If you're like me and haven't been feeling fully-charged lately, play along at home.

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  • I also wonder why so many technical people seem introverted. If there is a tendency towards melancholy, I suspect that part of this may be due to social skills that are different from the norm. Many of us at an early age love problem solving and experimentation and find that a piano, computer, or paint brush is merciless, but fair. It doesn't matter who strikes the wrong note, all will hear. Whether or not someone is popular has no bearing on whether or not his or her program will run. We find we can d

  • If you find yourself getting depressed during this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere, when the days are short), you might look into "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD), which is a fancy way of saying that you might need more sunlight to help regulate the production of various hormones.
  • In our western culture, we don't find it strange any longer (since the 18th century, I mean) that artists have a creative urge that they need to express. But we still don't see computing as the expression of an inner drive of some sort: "I write programs because I have to." In that light, I think your comments make perfect sense.

    The composer Gustav Mahler, when asked whether he prefered to conduct or compose, replied, "I conduct to live. I live to compose." I think it's the same with a lot of us in com