The last few days I've been on a big cleaning kick. Part of this is because I want to get my place clean, part of it is because I eventually will be moving and throwing lots of stuff away will make that easier when it happens. Part of this involves making a big list of videocasettes I'm throwing out so I can pirate digital copies someday (or sometimes not if they're not things I enjoy enough). I had a weird moment when I held one in my hands and this technology with which I had grown up suddenly felt antiquated - likewise the few videocasettes with titles like "grandparents visit 1989" made me nervous that that information would forever be lost - I might have to get a new VCR to do the final transfer to digital. For the things I don't care about (why did I ever have a videocasette of "Big Trucks"?) it felt nice to just toss them.
The most sobering was cleaning out my desk - old (sometimes harshly criticising, sometimes confusing, sometimes wonderful) letters from people I've loved or known - do those criticisms still apply? Maybe - I think they often were correct back then. Old philosophy - records of how I put on airs and praised myself highly - impressively embarassing. Philosophy chapbooks that were just scraps of notes, random drawings, and occasional essays of varying quality that I handed out to people - also impressively embarassing. I do not like the picture painted of my earlier self, and hope that I'm not much like that anymore. Maybe philosophically minded people always have such junk in their past.
The thing that bothers me about this is that I think I was much more prolific in the past - not in terms of ideas, but how willing I was to put pen to paper. I still am interested in theory that binds a Weltanschauung, but that theory takes a radically different form (it doesn't touch the specifics so much, more the foundational principles and methods) in my current thinking, and for some reason I'm not in the habit of writing that stuff down. Earlier, I had a wonder if small-p philosophy is made largely obsolete given an adequate value theory - I'm pretty sure now that the answer is no, but it takes a bit more work to talk about what's left - one doesn't directly arrive at the content by playing with given values and intuitions (which were provided to me by libertarian philosophy), one must walk around deliberately with a magnifying glass and surveyor tools in order to find the next interesting abstraction. Then again, foundational philosophy is not supposed to be easy.
I came to realise that unless the timing works out very nicely, I may have a gap between when I planned my job to end here (end of the year) and when I might hope to be accepted into a grad school (provided I'm accepted). I could easily ask my bosses to accept something different than I've already planned with them, but I'm thinking it might be nice to try to make some other use of the time. I'm not sure what I want to do - maybe some light part-time work to pay the bills combined with serious efforts to have some adventures? Maybe contract work? Maybe some hardcore volunteerism (Sea Shepherd? Greenpeace?). It'd be great to somehow mix teaching into it, anything from teaching SQL, Unix, or Programming to teaching basic science or maths... Depending on what I do, it might make sense to alter my living arrangements to lower cost and/or facilitate travel (really not sure what to do about the cats with some of these ideas). I haven't had enough adventure in my life, nor enough downtime, and given that I believe I'm hopefully near the end of the career of 「Systems Wizard」(the title I like for the ground between 「Systems Programmer」 and 「Systems Administrator」) (even as it might be a nice odd job or hobby), I probably don't need to worry too much about my resumé anymore. Anyone with ideas, comments welcome.
I'm running the Pretty Good Race today. The last time I ran it was 7 years ago - this reminds me I've been at CMU for awhile. I wonder if I'll beat my record or not. The one problem - I remembered running clothes and shoes, but forgot socks (bought Birkenstocks a few days ago). I could either do this thing barefoot or go sockless-in-shoes. I likely will give barefoot a go - sure the RDR tore my feet up a bit, but they're tougher now (hopefully enough so for a real trail), and this race has always been a bit about being goofy (I recall people running backards, there's a unicycle division, etc).