Posts Tagged Blog2010

David Guskin: Autobiography

Friday, November 19, 2010
Write the first paragraph of your autobiography.

I spent my life wondering how much I would accomplish, and with whom I would accomplish it.  Now, looking back, I realize how much more straightfoward the path seems from the end of the road than when you are standing on it.  I’ve known a ton of great people in my life, and this is as much a story about my relationships with them as it is about my own accomplishments.  There are a ton of goals I reached successfully with their help – and some I didn’t even know were my goals until I achieved them (secret goals!) – and this is a story of how I did it.  (Spoilers: if you look past the longing for meaning and an ever-present drive to make a mark, there’s a ton of happiness in my life from a day-to-day life of making others happy too.)

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Three Posts

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Link to three posts that you’ve loved this month written by other people, and tell us why.

1. Keridwyn’s Featured Friend: Alida Moore (

I’ve basically told this story already, but when I was down in SF for a trip, Keridwyn chatted me on Facebook and picked my brain for good things to blog about.  I struck upon the idea of writing positive things about friends, and she loved it (as did I – see September!)  Her post this month about Alida was timely – I didn’t know Alida until the day I read her post (Friday) because I met her on an outing to see The Stranger’s Hump.  I love Keridwyn’s post because she is forthright and heartfelt, and when you read what she has to say about Alida, you get kind of inside Keridwyn’s head.  Also Keridwyn put a picture in her post, which is something I wish I had done for all of my friends the month of September, but couldn’t find the energy. :-/

2. Ken Nagle’s Minecraft (

Okay, this one is slightly cheating, because he wrote it in October, but I have re-read it in November while roaming for inspiration about game design, and Ken delivered.  I love this post because (a) it convinced me essentially immediately to play the game, which is impressive for a review, and (b) I think Ken uses bulleted lists judiciously and perfectly in this post, and I love lists.  I have found that one of the best things about being friends with and working with game designers is their perspective on games, which often vary widely from person to person and from myself.  Outside perspectives are excellent for personal growth, and Ken managed to distill his lesson into a single post on a single game.  Love it!

3. Jon Loucks’ GDS2 Tweets (

The 2nd Great Designer Search for Wizards of the Coast Magic R&D is on, and tweets like this:

@JonLoucks: Omg sitting at a bus top I came up with an awesome mechanic that is perfect for my needs. Must get to a computer! #gds2

…have really entertained me and made me more interested in the whole thing from an emotional/experiential point of view.  I have two friends (Jon and Scott Van Essen) who made the top 8, and although I’m basically not part of the machinery of judging at all, I am still extremely interested in (a) who I might be working with in the future and (b) the process by which contestants attack design problems, and their contagious enthusiasm!  Jon’s style of energetic and exciting thoughts put to tweets is inspiring, and the series of thoughts he wrote down as he composed his assignment for round 1 was an excellent use of Twitter as a series of brain-snapshots.

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Blog in 2011

I had some ideas running briefly through my head today, in the vein of “what will I do with my blog once I’m done with 2010?”

  1. Blog basically a few times a week, roughly in the same manner as now – probably less themed, more all over the place
  2. Do a themed blog, like game design blog (difficult), review blog (other friends do it better), or some other niche
  3. Write only the mood strikes me, talking about specific experiences
  4. Travelogue, if I am able to go on many trips next year

Short blog today, things got a little crazy and I haven’t had much time to compose my thoughts.

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My Sacrifice

Friday, November 12, 2010
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve ever made for another person? Was it worth it?

I actually spent a bit of time thinking about this today, but I realized that (a) I can’t remember a huge sacrifice I made, and (b) I prefer to make lots of little sacrifices for my friends.  So instead, I figured I would talk about the difference between sacrifice and reward-seeking behavior.  I think I would define sacrifice as taking a meaningful, irreversible, painful cost upon oneself, either because it’s the right thing to do (based on one’s own principles), or because it greatly helps another person AND there is no expectation of reward.

Is it a sacrifice to take a big financial hit to help out a friend, if there’s an expectation of a favor in the future?  I would argue no – for it to be a real sacrifice, you need to be giving away without expectation of mitigation of loss.  This leads me to wonder about the utilitarian framework where everything everyone does is to increase utility in some way – that is, would sacrifice (as I have defined it) have meaning in that model?  I think we can define it to do so, by looking at the idea that a person can become happier solely through the happiness of their friends and neighbors.  In such a case, the “reward” is seeing the other person happier, which does not in any way decrease their happiness (well, except in rare cases with crazy people).

So, in such a case, where I am sacrificing in the hopes that my friend is happier off (and that will make me happier), I think I would further stipulate that I have to sacrifice without shoving it in their faces.  By pointing out how great I am for giving away so much for their happiness, I am bound to generate feelings of guilt, and in some sense be a utility vampire.  Not cool.

As an aside, in talking about how my friend’s utility increases my own, it’s interesting to think about other ways in which an economy of utility is very non-zero-sum.

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Dream of Tomorrow

Thursday, November 11, 2010
What do you *really* wish you were doing right now, and how soon do you think you can make it happen?

This question almost seems insidiously designed to generate guilt.  And regret.  But maybe I’m reading it that way because of who I am, and not due to anything inherent in the question.  I actually had a lunch conversation with Nagle, Dave H and Nick K about how I don’t feel my current job is quite good enough at satisfying my ambition, despite the fact that I am content and happy with it.  Perhaps in some ideal parallel narrative, Dave Guskin went on to become a renowned physicist and did great works.  I don’t think I wish I was that Dave Guskin, exactly, but some of what he’s accomplishing (assumedly) is in line with what I wish.

I wish I was doing something that was world-affecting in a positive way.  I enjoy working in games and entertainment, but I feel it’s kind of a highest-order (like, high on the food chain) happiness for humanity.  A better way would be to work on lower-order happiness, ways to improve all of our lives for generations to come.  To that end, I think I should get back into physics, but I don’t think I can honestly make anything like that happen for about 3-5 years.  It definitely requires planning of a sort I haven’t been comfortable doing recently.

One good thing I can say about financials: they are an excellent barometer of one’s (financial) independence, and I am far from being able to quit my paying job for a noble scientific (penniless) pursuit.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
What do you like most about cold weather? What do you like the least?

Since I grew up in California and Arizona, I had little cause to be around cold weather.  In fact, the few times that I traveled when it was cold elsewhere, I was pretty upset at being elsewhere and not in the vicinity of my warm home.  However, there are a few things I like about cold.  I enjoy wearing hats, and cold weather is a wonderful reason to do so.  I have been especially enjoying the fur “northerner” Fargo-style hat that Mike and Rachel got me.  I also enjoy the silence that cold weather seems to engender… I suppose it’s not exactly a quality of coldness, per se, but they are something I associate together – probably due to spending some winter trips outside away from civilization (like Lake Tahoe, or camping) and enjoying the relative quiet of the wilderness in cold.

I like the deep-set chill the least.  By this I mean when you spend too long outside in the cold without adequate protection, it’s not a state that’s easily remediable.  It takes a long while for heat to penetrate a frosty exterior, and it’s just miserable being cold to the core while that process proceeds.  Blech!

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Songs over the Years

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What was your favorite song this year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Twenty?

This question reminded me of a service that offers (used to offer?) where they’d make you a chart that looked like this, showing your music listening habits, once you were a subscriber for a couple of years:

Since I have never really moved from Pandora to that service, I am sadly missing such a sweet graph.

As for songs, I think my favorite song this year is King of Anything, by Sara Bareilles.  It’s pop-y, has a strong female singer (generally I am favorable toward repeat listening of such singers), and actually has a real story to tell with the lyrics, not just a fairytale.

Five years ago was 2005 – I was living in Boston, working at Lincoln Laboratories.  Although I believe the song came up previous to that year, one of my favorite songs from that era was Accidentally in Love, by Counting Crows.  Counting Crows has consistently topped my list of bands (probably top 3 overall), in part because of our college association with Round Here, and in part because their lyrics are just absurd.  I remember Accidentally in Love being the iTunes Free Song of the Day the first day I had iTunes installed on my computer.

Ten years ago was 2000 – I was at Caltech as a sophomore.  I don’t think I was doing much driving that year (I could be misremembering, but I recall having a bike, so it’s less likely I had a car), but I do recall hearing Everything You Want, by Vertical Horizon, on the radio.  We’ll call that my favorite from that year.  This does point out the fact that when I am listening to the radio because I am driving a lot, I am much more connected to music than otherwise.

Twenty years ago was 1990 – I was a small child in Phoenix, Arizona.  I recall listening to a lot of my parents’ Oldies but Goodies cassettes, especially since they would play them loud in the house when cleaning was going on.  Let’s go with Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver, since I recall hearing it clearly and I associate it strongly with camping outings we took up in northern Arizona every once in a while.

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Dream Home

Monday, November 7, 2010
What would your dream home/apartment/condo/yurt look like? Where would it be? Who’d live in it with you?

I actually had to look up the definition of “yurt,” which I have previously only heard in the context of a dwelling that is eco-friendly.  Turns out they are kind of like fancy huts?  No thanks!  I remember Nate, Tim and I used to dream of building a castle and moving all our friends into it.  It would have many secret passages, and would probably overlook the coast in the Pacific Northwest.  Alas, regular life gets in the way of lofty dreams like that one, and I’m not even sure that’s the kind of place I dream of these days.

I think my dream home would be within a reasonable drive and a reasonable public commute (subway? light rail?) of an urban center.  I quite like Seattle and its people, but Boston and New York would also be fine.  I want to be within an hour or two drive of the ocean, because being able to take a trip there is important to me.  I think I’d want four bedrooms – one for me and my wife (who is quite smart, elegant and beautiful – applications welcome!), two for our children and one guest room for friends to visit.  A family room, a dining room, and at least one office room are also definite.  I’d love to have a game room style setup in the basement, and some sort of science lab or library at roof level, too.  Back yard for dog is high on the list.  Skylights and big windows are also important.

Maybe what’s above is quite mundane.  Ideally there’d be a treehouse system in the back as well, and a pool! :)

Honestly, the best home would be one where my important friends are not too far away, and I feel safe and comfortable and convenient to the kind of city life I enjoy (bars, coffee shops, bookstores).

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Would You Rather, Championship Edition

Thursday, November 4, 2010
Would you rather be wealthy and ugly, wise and sickly, or beautiful and stupid?

I refer to this as “championship edition” because my friends Mick, Sam, Sarah and Brian would often play the classic party game Apples to Apples by divvying up all of the submitted words into pairs and then evaluating the pairs against each other (and the goal word) in a tag-team championship type battle.  Anyway, as for the actual would-you-rather question, I found I had an answer immediately to this, but I wanted to explore my thoughts on the matter more deeply.

Being weathly means, essentially, having a great deal more (and better) opportunities in life.  Rich people are able to do what they want, when they want, within certain bounds, and those bounds expand if you are willing to plan ahead.  Convenience and removal of financial fears are certainly useful, but to me they are not essential – I feel like I am capable, through the exercise of my will and my intellect, to achieve however close to wealthiness I desire in my lifetime.  Having it magically granted to me (at cost, we’ll talk about that in a sec) doesn’t seem like huge upside – and I admit, I might be overestimating my own abilities or taking for granted the wonderful position I have in life to be able to say the above statement of capability.  As for ugliness, although I don’t think this is as harsh a penalty as it appears (har har), it would be annoying to have the aforementioned opportunities opened up by wealth to be closed by people who care a great deal about looks.  I am not the most beautiful in the world, but I would also not be okay with being in the lower ugliness levels, just because of existing bias in our culture.

Beautiful and stupid is kind of the flip side of that coin – I think being beautiful (handsome?) would open up a lot of doors and grant a wider range of opportunities, but the cost here is prohibitive.  I define myself by my intelligence, and to have that taken away is essentially like killing the important part of Dave Guskin.  Unacceptable, and the tradeoff here is not worth considering from my point of view — what’s the point of more/better opportunities if you are unable to take advantage because you are dumb?

Wise and sickly is the choice I’d make here, but it really is great cost for great gain.  Health is very important – I often have trouble focusing or being productive when under the weather, and chronic sickliness sounds like the extreme and terrible version of that where getting things done is a huge task each day.  However, I think I’d be able to eventually train myself to accomplish great things in spite of the personal obstacle of sickliness, and the wisdom (or intelligence, both would be awesome) I’d get in return would be huge, allowing me to create, solve and do way more than my current feeble brain is likely capable of!

Whew – that went long… how about you?  What would you rather?

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“An Epic Time Travel Romp,” says NY Times

Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Describe the plot of the next book you want to read, even if the book doesn’t exist yet.

I have actually been noodling with the following plot for a while, although I originally envisioned it in movie form.  Could be both!  Of course, those of you know who me or who have been reading along know I’m a sucker for a time travel story.  So that is of course the crux of the book I imagine: the protagonist is a time traveler.  The twist is, he (in my imagination, it’s me) doesn’t start the story that way!

I see the plot spanning two parts.  The first is where our hero is still mild-mannered, and finds himself descending quickly into a conspiracy plot but doesn’t know why, a la a Dan Brown novel, or maybe like, one of the Bourne series.  Extremely odd and improbable things happen around him, and he and his allies narrowly escape danger in situations where all of the dramatic build-up indicates it shouldn’t work that way.  Ideally, this phase of the book would be most akin to a mystery/thriller.

The second part begins with our hero capable of time travel.  I haven’t worked out *why* he begins to time travel – I imagine that at least part of the mystery of the first part is mundane/actual conspiracy in nature, and the culmination of that part of the action is heroic transformation into time traveler.  Perhaps it’s like a video game where there’s miniboss (local conspiracy) before big-boss (time traveling conspiracy).  The action in the second half of the book would be explaining what happened and taking on a sci fi/fantasy bent as the hero allies with past-himself (unknowingly) to take on the greater threat and explores the limits of his newfound powers.  Maybe even superhero-esque plot, at this point.

Anyway, that’s the book I’d like to read next.  Maybe I’ll have to write it myself.

p.s. spoilers

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