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.


At work the other week, we were talking about travelling and other places in the world. I was talking about how much I enjoy travelling, how it allows you to experience things you can’t normally experience in your local city. It surprised me when one of my coworkers felt that he could have all of the experiences without leaving Chicago. I gave a few examples of things I have seen that I cannot find a parallel in Chicago, such as Namdaemun Market, Akihabara, or Temple Street Market. Not even to mention the experiences of food and architecture. I think it almost a waste not to travel and see the world if it is possible in your life. Some of the most beneficial experiences and moments of my life have been while travelling.

Temple Street Night Market

Traveling, I have been able to see palaces and giant street markets, eat interesting foods, and experience beautiful sights. Most of these unique or regional. And there are countless other places to see, foods to try, and things to try out. I want to see Potala Palace, try eating pasta in Tuscany, and climb to the top of Kilimanjaro. Just to once experience waking up right off of a beach in Bora Bora or see the hanami (next March!) is priceless.

To me, travelling has been very beneficial in allowing me to see different parts of the world and understanding other cultures (it probably doesn’t hurt that my wife is foreign). It has allowed for me to see things like how the US is not that amazing yet that not many other countries have it right. It has let me experience the difference in how cultures treat other people (both domestic and foreign). The values other countries have (Japan values hard work, Hong Kong values making money). I hope to continue to experience all of these different areas of the world (the world is not limited to Chicago or the Midwest). I also have been able to see and experience some very beautiful and breath taking sights and hope to see more (and hopefully capture some of the scene).

Sunrise from Fuji

Life is just too short to spend it all in one small area of the world. And it is really too precious to not spend it on some adventures. I feel this strong enough to have living abroad as a major goal in my life. I have a long list of places I would like to see, this list won’t be getting any shorter for a long time. But that is what continues to motivate me to work for. Maybe at some point, I will write a list of the places/things I want to see/experience in my travels. It would end up being pretty long.

deployment and stuff

So I am at a point where this site is ready to be deployed. I will probably get around to it this weekend, I still need to run my migration script on the production instance of the Django codebase. I will probably have a number of random things to do with the styles (I threw together the gallery stuff today). There are some kinks in the flickr integration as well. I also lack a fallback style when moving to smaller devices (tablets/phones). But overall I am happy with it. I may retroactively add some of the half written posts I did on the train (I also need to add some posts about my vacation, I closed the browser on the one I had half written, heck, maybe today on the train!).

I want to actually get my CI bot up to a usable state so I can dogfood it with some of my side projects. I will also probably make the old site’s code public now that I don’t have to worry about my of my bad security holes to be abused. I may try to get my father to move to flickr for his photos (could write a simple migration app to move them over to flickr from the db, hrmmm, challenge accepted!) for his birthday or christmas (early probably). So enough with the technology/programming blabber, time for a quick update on my life.

First, two weeks ago was my yearly review for work. It went well, I have some things to work on (I may write a post about some of it later) and will get another year to try and make those improvements. This past weekend, I wrote up the ‘alpha’ frontend of the gamification system for work. There are a lot of issues and kinks that I need to iron out, but it is in a dogfood state. I hope to open source it at some point (I wrote it with the plan to at least). In the end, only two commits out of the total of NOTE were not made by me. I am kind of dissappointed in the lack of interest everyone else had in the project. I know that I will get some negative feedback on what I have elected to do in some areas and it will be hard to swallow due to the feelings I have for what is mostly my own project. It will be a hard pill to swallow. My friend Devin (also the best man in my wedding) has gotten a job offer up in this area, so in a few weeks, he will be staying with us for a while as he starts his job and looks for a place to live. It will be awesome having him nearby to go see stuff and hang out. But I will need to get used to someone staying with us for a while (similar to the inlaws staying with us for a week).

Wow, that was a big dump of information, hopefully I will be able to parse out the bigger parts and write proper posts on them.