Monday, April 30, 2012


The professor of my computer architecture class talked about “career-defining moments.” A career-defining moment is when someone in charge points out a need and asks you to do it without making it a requirement, and you say no. It’s not insubordination, but I think his point is that it marks you as someone who is not the go-to person for that thing, which by extension means that when they need something else done, they won’t go to you for that either. You avoid work but also lose out on an opportunity to be seen as someone who adds value to the company. (Of course, if you decline with an explanation that you have a higher-priority thing you need to get done, that’s a different matter, because in theory you are showing that you are doing something even more valuable than what was being suggested.) Anyway, the imagery stuck with me.

A while ago I was mowing the lawn and for some reason I started thinking about the concept, and I came up with a set of categories that rank the ways people tend to approach work. In the interest of saving myself the trouble of having to re-think the matter during a future lawn mowing, I’m writing them down. Note that these apply to pretty much any organization you can think of: family life, careers, church callings, volunteer organizations, whatever.

1.       Initiative. Everyone will love you if you proactively find things that need to be done and then do the work without being asked.

2.       Volunteering. This is when someone else points out a need, and you offer to do it without having to be individually asked. This is almost as good, especially if the leader already has a clear set of goals. The other good thing about this is that if you’re in the habit of volunteering for stuff, you won’t look like a slacker if you keep quiet about an assignment you’d rather avoid : )

3.       Cheerful compliance. This is when a leader gives you a specific assignment, and you agree to do it without causing any trouble. I’m thinking here about my time in an elder’s quorum (that’s a group of men who hold the priesthood). There are lots of assignments that the quorum gets, and various programs you need to implement. You wish people would just volunteer when they were able to do something so you wouldn’t have to go inconvenience people, but that just doesn’t happen. Still, if people would just say yes when given an assignment, leaders wouldn’t really have any room to complain.

4.       Reluctant compliance. This is when you have to be guilted or incessantly reminded before you will follow through on an assignment. No one likes this.

5.       Rebellion. Of course, this is asking for trouble, assuming that the person making the assignment has valid authority in the matter.

So anyway, I have definitely found that the higher levels have more satisfying results, even though they might result in work that you wouldn’t exactly seek out. And if nothing else, I think I’ve managed to avoid any “career-defining moments.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Video Game Legacy – Crash Course

Due to various factors like getting married and stuff, my relationship with video games has changed a lot in the last several years. I have to carefully prioritize which new games are “must play”, and replaying old ones pretty much doesn’t happen. I haven’t introduced my kids to them, largely because I want them to develop their own imaginations and learn to manage time and stuff first. But I kind of hope they eventually discover the awesomeness of classic video games. The thing is, the games of today just aren’t the same. Even the cool additions to the classic series don’t necessarily capture the nostalgia of the originals.

So how does one introduce a new generation (or interested parties in the current generation) to the legacy of where video games came from? The most straightforward method would be to sit someone down and have him or her play one game after another. But there’s a problem with that, even if you ignore the time it would take and the modern standard for graphics and sound quality: those old games were hard! There’s no way to save in Mario 3, for example. (Of course, there’s the All Stars version, but then you miss out on the old graphics.)

So I had this great idea: I’ll set out a set of “tasks” that someone can go through to get a taste of the stuff that made me love these games, without devoting days of effort and without the frustration of getting past the really hard parts.

The list is on my SkyDrive site. Take a look if you need some cultural enlightenment!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I have a quick Easter message. If you think about what it means to be a “hero”, there are a few definitions that come to mind:
  1. Someone who displays exemplary qualities.
  2. Someone who singlehandedly defeats a universal enemy. This is extremely common in fiction and almost non-existent in real life.
  3. The original, Greek definition: Someone with one mortal parent and one immortal one.
The first definition is the most commonly used one, but it’s only meaningful because of the image we have in our minds about the other two. If you try to think of someone who fits all three definitions, you will quickly see that there has only ever been one Hero: Jesus Christ. He possesses all virtues and no faults; He overcame death and hell, alone; and He is the Son of God. What’s even more impressive is that His sacrifice was motivated not just by a sense of what is right, but by a personal concern for each person, individually. It’s really pretty amazing.