In which I ponder former selves

How much have I changed? Andy McKenzie and Ben Casnocha wrote recently about the wisdom of former selves. Their posts reminded me of a note I jotted down the other day:

Things that, while I was in college, I wish I’d had/made more time to learn about: film, psychology, business, economics.

Things that, since college, I’ve found myself learning more and more about, without applying any special focus: film, psychology, business, economics.

Which relates to another note-to-self from a few weeks ago:

Some careers I considered, ages 5-15: archaeologist, carpenter, National Geographic explorer, SWAT team, writer, conductor.

Plus ça change… I would, for the most part, still have interest in certain aspects of these (maybe even the whole thing). Discovery, craft, research, suspense, mastery, performance. And over the past few weeks I’ve spent some time re-reading my journals from previous long hikes and travel. It’s both amusing and a little frustrating that some of the same ideas that consume me now popped up 1, 3, 5, 10 years ago. Or some of the really funny and observant things I wrote could have been written yesterday. As Andy writes:

It’s harder to construct a personal narrative of growth when the sentences showing that you used to be just as sweet remain visible.

Just makes me wonder if I’m really changing that much (do I want to?), or if I’m just becoming more like me. The metaphor that comes to mind is like when you’re downloading a large image file, and it gradually becomes less and less pixelated. Same Mark, more data, more detail.

“I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.” —Stravinsky

Advice from Hal Varian’s monograph, How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time [pdf], most of which applies to things not related to economics:

  1. Look for ideas in the world, not in the journals.
  2. First make your model as simple as possible, then generalize it.
  3. Look at the literature later, not sooner.
  4. Model your paper after your seminar.
  5. Stop when you’ve made your point.

“Most normal persons are now taught to neglect far too much the sort of excitement which the mind itself manufactures out of unexciting things.” —G.K. Chesterton on the Joy of Dullness

Common phrases in Icelandic, a collection of videos and another cool resource I’ve found getting ready for vacation. Not too long ago, you wouldn’t be able to hear a native speaker until you got there. In the same way, when look on Flickr I can see recent photos in Reykjavik, see what folks are wearing, get a feel for the street. It’s be easy to go overboard with this pre-immersion stuff and dampen all the surprises, but it’s really cool.

A worthy bit from The Disadvantages of an Elite Education:

The opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort. You have to live in an ordinary house instead of an apartment in Manhattan or a mansion in L.A.; you have to drive a Honda instead of a BMW or a Hummer; you have to vacation in Florida instead of Barbados or Paris, but what are such losses when set against the opportunity to do work you believe in, work you’re suited for, work you love, every day of your life?

Dave Barry on college:

After you’ve been in college for a year or so, you’re supposed to choose a major, which is the subject you intend to memorize and forget the most things about. Here is a very important piece of advice: Be sure to choose a major that does not involve Known Facts and Right Answers. This means you must *not* major in mathematics, physics, biology, or chemistry, because these subjects involve actual facts.