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On leave

Jordan 2021-09-19

(A double entendre, because I was on leave, and this post will be about leave.)

Well I finally did what I had been meaning to do for the last 3 years. I left my job, though only a little, to focus on my art. I think I had gotten to the point where I felt so disengaged with the work, partially from WFH pandemic stuff, and also from having time to sit with myself, and having been sort of shocked out of my daily routine a la Ling Ma’s “Severance”. Did I learn anything?

I came into my leave as a sort of experiment in being on unpaid leave forever (quitting). I wanted to know if it could be financially viable, if it would make me happier, and if I would be able to be self motivated. Also I had gotten to the point where I was trying to do so much after work and on weekends, writing 2-4 musicals, short stories, songwriting, hacking together tech art projects for my portfolio, and taking classes on machine learning – well I won’t claim that it didn’t occur to me to start secretly doing some of this during work hours if there was a lull, but even with that I felt that I just didn’t have enough time.

It turned out that even if spending work hours on personal projects felt ethical enough that I did it, it did not feel ethical enough for me to enjoy it. Often it felt more virtuous to commit that time to do the work that I was disengaged in but being paid for. But spending large chunks of time doing something you don’t care about is not virtuous either, and since I have the option of restructuring my life to avoid this (quitting) it seemed obvious that the time had come.

So I told my manager I wanted to take three months off to focus on writing, music, creative tech, online classes, and maybe applying to grad school for Media Arts, another project that had entered my head around this time. I told him I was going to use the three months as a trial for leaving Google in a more permanent fashion (quitting) and that I would let him know how I felt when I came back.

Well now I’m back, so how do I feel?

I was really happy and really productive. I was self-motivated and able to commit time every day for deep work on my own projects. I made no money from my projects at all, but I did make around $400 from a few work shifts at the Farmer’s Market selling bagels. I learned a ton. I started volunteering at Food Not Bombs.

In my first week off, Michela and I went on a trip to LA and Catalina Island, and the story of a disease which had affected the island’s fox population had me so inspirired that I wrote the first draft of a musical about it over a month and a half. Having time to write for large chunks of time (well, usually only up to 2 hours in a chunk) was huge.

But even better that just having time was having the flexibility to follow sparks of inspiration at the moment that they arrived. If I had an idea for a new project, I didn’t have to wait until after work or the weekend. I got to follow through right away, which I think is how I prefer to work.

I also looked into graduate programs to build my tech art skills and expand my network. What I found was that these programs look like a blast, but are expensive, and there are not that many scholarships for people who want to do art, compared to, say, get a graduate degree in machine learning.

So now I’ve had a week of my old job and I’m sure that I want a change. I’m looking at some other engineering teams at work (this would be a small but welcome change), and some creative roles at work. I discovered a career title, “Creative Technologist” which I think is my dream job – this is the role that makes the delightful non-products Google sometimes releases, like the doodle, or April Fools jokes, or the recent Freddiemeter, which uses machine learning to tell you how much you can sing like Freddie Mercury. It turns out that the people making these are not software engineers, they’re in Marketing, which I guess makes sense because they’re not making core products, and its a slightly different skill set that you’re not really intereviewed for as an engineer. And of course I’m also still considering extending my leave.

Staying somewhere at Google is the most financially viable option. Staying in an engineering position but changing teams is the most easily accomplishable. It’s hard to transfer to Marketing, but I have a lot more excitement for the Creative Technologist role. These roles are mostly hired based on portfolio, so I could continue building mine out on the side even if I stayed.

Leaving would mean losing my only source of income. I would have even more time to build out my portfolio, in music, writing, and tech art, and it actually doesn’t scare me to be pulled in so many directions, because during my leave it meant that if I wasn’t feeling music-y one day I almost certainly was feeling write-y or tech-y. Leaving might be temporary. I can always come back to the software engineering world with Google on my resume. If my portfolio becomes impressive I can also use it to apply to creative positions at Google but also at other digital media marketing agencies (where I’ve learned a lot of Creative Technologist roles are).

One big difference between engineering careers and creative careers is that you don’t need to hustle as a salaried engineer. It might help you get promoted if you’re very ambitious, but you’ll have a pretty comfortable life either way, assuming you can stand the work. Whereas it seems like whether I choose music, writing, tech art, or even tech art for Marketing, a creative career will be closer to that of a contractor. I will be constantly seeking out new projects, because if I don’t, I won’t be getting work. I will have flexibility to choose my work, but also the responsibility to choose to work. I will probably have a more varied experience, and absolutely cannot just coast along being disengaged.

Regardless of which I end up choosing, there are things from leave that I hope to keep. I intend to keep volunteering at 3:30 on Wednesdays, and I will make my work schedule fit around this. I am more confident in my skills and have a clearer sense of what interests me than I did when I joined Google out of undergrad. And last of all, I have come back to work more sure than ever that I don’t want to spend my life being disengaged with my work, whether its engineering work or creative work. The scarcest resource is excitement, so I’m not going to throw mine away.

The parts of a doorway, ranked by order of importance

Jordan 2021-07-30

5. The escutcheon

This is a decorative plate that fits around the knob or handle and key cylinders. Escutcheon is also a generic term that is used to describe cover plates for other things, like fire sprinklers, faucets and pipes, and some ceiling lights. To be honest you don’t need one of these.

4. The door itself

I know right, Jord must be crazy to have the actual physical door so far down in the rankings. But the truth is almost any rectangular piece of wood can be a door, and believe me once you read the rest of this list you’ll be like oh okay I get why the door piece is so far down. The only non-negotiable part of a door is the hinge holes, where the screws go in which attach the door to the hinge. The “bore hole” where the door knob or handle goes, is nice-to-have, but you would still have a fully operational door even without a handle.

3. The door frame

There’s a joke I remember hearing as a kid: “How does Batman go through walls? With the door.” But even without a door itself, the frame plays the important role of marking an entrance. When a house is being constructed, the frame is ready long before the door, and they get on just fine. The dividing piece at the bottom of the door frame is called the threshold.

2. The dead bolt

Now we’re getting somewhere. The dead bolt fits into a hole above the bore hole. It comes in two pieces, an exterior side and an interior side, which are screwed together through the hole. The bolt itself usually fits into a dead bolt plate which is screwed into the door jamb, the inner part of the frame. It’s called a “dead” bolt instead of a “live” bolt because when it’s fully extended it locks into place. If your door opens outward and your bolt is “live” then a trespasser can use a pocket knife to “walk” the bolt open.

1. The latch bolt

The latch bolt, or just latch (or in Scotland, the sneck), is the piece that comes in and out of the door. It fits into a strike plate, which is screwed into the door jamb. The latch is controlled by the inside and outside knobs or handles, which retract the latch when turned, and are generally spring loaded so as to turn back when released.

“Privacy knobs” or handles, sometimes used on inside doors, have a button which stops the outer knob or handle from turning. They don’t have keys, and can be opened from the outside with a needle or bobby pin. Outside knobs and handles have a push or turn lock, which achieves a similar functionality, except that they can be opened from the outside with a key.

Latch bolts are usually curved on one side to allow the door to slide into the frame when pushed and then latch closed, even when the handle is not being turned.

You come into my house

Jordan 2021-07-17

You come into MY house, into my ROOM, into my very own BED, in MY town, the one I GREW UP in, back before my BRAIN was fully developed, back before I had PERSONHOOD and AGENCY, before I LEARNED I could do ANYTHING, before I REALIZED how much of the FUCKING WORLD is a goddamn sham, a fake glass wall that you just THINK is there but when you reach out to TOUCH it there’s NOTHING, nothing but the emptiness of a broken promise and a little NOTE from GOD saying "it was all a lie. everything except for this. make the best of it," do you?

Instructions for making scrambled eggs

Jordan 2021-06-27

when i wake up, after instagram and peeing, in that order, and cleaning up after last night’s drunk people in the kitchen, myself included, I think a lot about leucotomies.

a leucotomy, more commonly known as a lobotomy, is when a doctor takes a stake and smashes it through the space between your eyebrows, stirring to scramble your prefrontal cortex. there are two methods of doing this: transorbital, and low-and-slow. in a transorbital lobotomy you turn the heat to high, seasoning the pan with any neutral oil (I prefer evoo) and toss in pan, for just one minute. the brain continues to cook off heat. in a low-and-slow lobotomy, creaminess is the name of the game — it’s closer to a custard than anything. use low heat and constantly stir to avoid curdling. you can add milk and butter if you want.

people who have these procedures done go on living their lives, but their personhood is severed. they don’t laugh at the jokes they used to. they don’t listen to the same music. they don’t even like, follow, and share the same grams (though thankfully they are able to continue posting). a lobotomized person is worth 60% less in revenue to an advertiser. they spend less money because they don’t have desires for products. they don’t have insecurities. they don’t have gaping holes that they try to fill with consumerism. its just them and the flavor of the day. them and sitting around, just sitting. them and going on walks. them and how-do-i-cook-my-next-meal.

if I got a lobotomy I would want it to be low-and-slow. i like to imagine the doctor gently severing the connections in my brain. the fear of rejection, of failure, everywhere society has disagreed with me, the rash of strange alienation, all melting away as I cook. and then we eat.