Passion, a hobby or a career

I have a number of hobbies, some of them I am good at. For some of them, people have commentated on the fruits of the hobby saying that I should do it professionally. This always gives me some thoughts on what it means to do something professionally. The obvious parts are that doing something professionally means that you are expected to be paid for what you are doing in some form (whether it is for the end product or for the labor in doing something). The difficult part for these things (after, of course, the fact that I am not really that good at them) is the difference between doing something because you enjoy it and doing something to make a living. You enjoy doing both types, but only the latter involves some sacrifices/skin in the game.

I enjoy writing software and working with computers. I enjoy it a lot. I also do it professionally. It is my career and I plan on continuing to do it for a long time. I also enjoy taking photos and cooking, among many other things. Through this enjoyment, I have become decent at them. When I have cooked for other people or when others have seen some pictures, they have commented on the quality of what I have produced. It is flattering, but then they say something like:

You should open a restaurant.

I know that it is probable that they are just saying it to be nice and complementary but it still gets me thinking. What is the major difference between my work with computers and my other interests?

The biggest difference I believe is the passion I feel for the different things. For software, I am incredibly passionate and interested in it. Professional work comes with an obligation to continue working on something regardless of your mental or emotional state at the time. It means coming in and working on an off day or when you are hungover, and still being able to finish the day without hating everything you have done. There are nights I get home and don’t want to cook. But there are not days where I come into work and really don’t want to work with computers. (I do have many days where I would prefer to remain in bed and watch TV) The desire to continue to tirelessly improve yourself in your passion is what separates a hobby from a career. I want to be good at cooking but I don’t believe I can push myself very far to get good at it. Whereas I want to be good at software and I continue to push myself Monday through Friday, year after year, to do so.

It is always nice to know (or at least believe) that I have found some hobby that I can continue to enjoy doing after many, many hours and much pressure involved. Every deadline and new requirement, every big mistake or new hardship, all the undesirable parts like meetings and reviews, all of them have not stopped me from enjoying what it is that I do. It is hard to believe that would be the case for many things that I find interesting to do. I know I could not wake up every morning and cook for 8 straight hours for months on end or that I could both get good enough and manage assignments in photography to make a living off of. But with software, I can and do continue to enjoy and make a living off of what I do every day. That is thanks to to a passion I have for what I do, a fire that doesn’t go out with a little rain. Hopefully it continues to burn for a long time, otherwise I do not know what it is I would be able to do for a living.

Meet Tatsu & Sora

For the past few months, Kim and I have been talking about getting pets (read: I have been convincing Kim to get cats). She was hesitant at first, for a variety of reasons, but after some discussion, we decided to plan on getting a pair of cats. This involved planning locations for litter boxes, research into ideal ages and habitats (a small apartment in the city is non-ideal for some animals), and then deciding where to look. After hearing that the Anti-Cruelty society was having a special for $1 adoptions last weekend, we decided to go look on Friday and plan on getting them then. This meant buying everything (carriers, litter boxes, dishes) and finding a vet. On Friday, we met at the shelter and began checking out the available cats.

There are only a limited number of cages out front (there seem to be even more in the back). We were looking for two cats that (at least) were good with other cats and not kittens but not too old that habits are difficult to break. Looking around, many of the cats were older (5+ years) and often under the “does not play well with others” category. (Many of them were very good cats, just in regards to the owner) One set of sisters, that were about 2 years old and sharing a joint cage (there was a tube between two separate cages) caught our attention. I took one out of the cage and let her walk around, she seemed very relaxed around me and was happy to let me keep petting her. Kim checked her sister out, who seemed less contempt to just sit around outside her cage and kept trying to explore the room (which they didn’t want her doing). We were pretty taken, but continued to look around. There are two big rooms with a variety of cats living in them (these cats played well as they were stuck in the show rooms together), but none of them really caught our attention. We decided to get the sisters and named them Sora (Japanese for “sky”) and Tatsu (Japanese for “dragon” YAY!). After sitting through over an hour of paperwork, we were allowed to take them home. Sora was not very happy with being in the carrier, so we passed on taking the L and got a cab.

We left them in the main bathroom for a few hours as they got used to the new surroundings. As the night wore on, we let them out into the main living room/kitchen area. Tatsu came out and began climbing everywhere, getting the lay of the land, while Sora sat on the toilet seat watching us go by. She eventually joined her sister in the main room as we were getting ready to go to bed. We didn’t let them into the bedroom at first, so all night, they were meowing for attention. Kim ended up sleeping on the couch because of this (as I am typing this, Tatsu refuses to let me not pet her). We introduced them to the bedroom the next morning and the office the following day. Now they roam the apartment as they please and mostly stalk us for attention.

They are still getting used to living with us (and us living with them). Like Sora, for some unknown reason, just sprinted through the office into the corner. It will continue to be an eventful life in our apartment as the occupants doubled.

Japan, part 3

Been a bit longer on writing this than I expected (I meant to write it over a week ago) but life happened and we started to go to weekly bar trivia (if you don’t know me, I am both a huge fan of bar trivia and also surprisingly good at it). But anyways, The final 5 days of our trip we spent in Tokyo, which is probably my favorite city in the whole world. No other city offers the stuff that Tokyo has, the public transit system, the variety of culture/style, the food (oh the food), gah. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back. When it is stated that Tokyo is the largest city in the world, it is not an exaggeration (I have also been to many of the largest, Tokyo is on its own level).

We got into Tokyo after a 2 hour ride on the shinkansen, which is an awesome way to travel. It required no security check, no hour wait to stand in line to board, no taxiing around the runway, no turbulence, just a casual climb to the platform, sit down on in your seats, and get off when the train pulls in. It had a nice view (sadly the pictures sucked, as trying to get a shot while stuck on a train going at least 150 mph does not give many good photos. But it was great, we arrived at Tokyo station and then just transferred to the line that took us to Harajuku (where we were staying). We were going to meet one of Kim’s high school classmates who is working in Tokyo teaching english to salarymen for work. It is always nice going to places with people who speak the native language and getting to eat the stuff that is just not possible when you can’t communicate properly with the people. Before we met up, we checked out (what I found out is one of many) Sakura-dori (or cherry blossom street) which had a ton of sakura trees in bloom (guess Tokyo beat Kyoto to the sakura bloom finish line).

sakura blossoms on sakura-dori

The next day, we were going to meet one of Kim’s old high school friends, Lily. She now works for Orbitz, so we had to catch her for her lunch break while at work. It was nice for Kim to talk to her again, as they have not been in much communication since high school ended and life happened. They talked for a while and then Lily had to go back to work. So we walked off to ameyoko street, which is this long shopping street where we walked around looking for stuff, I wanted to get some more loose leaf tea, but none of what I saw seemed desirable. We then ended up at Ueno park, which was filled with people checking out all of the sakura blooms. This is called hanami and is kind of insane how crowded and ridiculous it was. The views were awesome however and I took a lot of pictures. I dragged Kim around a lot longer than she probably wanted to so that I could look for another good picture.

ueno crowds gather for hanami

I then dragged Kim down to kappabashi-dori, which is a street lined with restaurant supply stories. It is an area often referred as “kitchen town”. I was hunting for a nice Japanese steel knife. The walk was further than I remember, but we went looking through various shops and ended up getting a nice sized, filet style chef’s knife (it is pretty thick for chopping meat, which compliments my ceramic knife well) along with some wooden rice bowls and a pair of long cooking chopsticks.

The next day, we were going to get lunch at this ramen shop in Tokyo station. We had heard about it from watching Mind of a Chef and found out it was supposed to be some of the best tsukemen ramen in the city. Tsukemen is just a style of ramen where the broth is very thick, but the noodles are served separately and are supposed to be dipped in. This allows for the noodles to be cool and the broth to be much stronger. This ramen was easily the best I have ever eaten. It was just so delicious and awesome. I got a large and just shoveled the whole thing down. I can not describe just how awesome it was, but if you are ever in Tokyo, you must go to this place and eat these noodles.

We then ventured to the sake brewers plaza (we went here last time we were in Tokyo) and did the tasting deal where we could spend 5 bucks to try 5 different sakes they were offering. We each picked a variety and tried them, deciding to get a bottle of one of the ones we liked. We ventured around the city some and then ended up hanging around Shinagawa to meet two of Kim’s friends from high school. It was raining pretty hard so we ended up in a pachinko parlor where we easily blew a few bucks trying to figure out what the hell the game is about and how to play. It would be interesting to burn a few bucks each week until you figure out how to really play and then see what sorts of winning you can get. We ended up getting some Chinese food with her friends and chatting for a while. They had to get home though so they could go to work the next day.

Our final day, we went to this sushi place in Shinjuku that we went to a number of times the last time we stayed and it was surprising how much it had changed. We then went to Shibuya and explored the area around there, doing some shopping and such. Eventually we went to an izakaya for dinner where we could make all of our orders via this wireless tablet. So we just decided when we wanted some food, found the items on the tablet, and a bit later, the food would show up (so did the beer :D). If something like this existed in the US, I would never go anywhere else (exaggerating, kind of). The next day we packed up and headed to the train to eventually fly back to Chicago and real life again.