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A night like this - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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A night like this [Apr. 18th, 2006|11:03 pm]
Lindsey Kuper
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I went to nerd-camp at Grinnell for several summers before I ever went to college, and it seemed like a wonderland. When I tell people familiar with the campus that my first kiss took place in the basement of the Forum, the summer before ninth grade, the usual response is something like "Ouch -- the Forum basement? I'm sorry." But their sympathy is misdirected, because if it wasn't exactly idyllic, I didn't notice. I was in the Magic Kingdom and everything was perfect. Well, the kiss wasn't so great. But everything about Grinnell was.

The luster eventually wore off after I started going to school there. I still thought it was a nice place, but I didn't think it was perfect. I guess that the longer you stay in a place, the more you start to notice things that your brain was able to hide from you before. Tonight, though, as I walked through the Reed campus at sunset, I wondered if maybe my first impression of Grinnell hadn't been the more accurate one. I looked around at all the kids (and, happily, unlike walking through the campus of the university where I used to live, I didn't get any overwhelming impression of "Holy sweet mother, when the fuck did they all get so young?" while walking around Reed) and wondered if they appreciated the beauty of their surroundings at all or if they were, as I had been, too busy going to college to really care. After walking through the main part of campus (I kept an eye out for Leigh phthoggos, but didn't see any tall, self-assured redheads), I detoured down a service driveway behind the gym. I'm not sure why I went that way; maybe I wanted to see if the spell would be broken. Large windows faced the driveway from the pool, and a Speedos-clad swimmer in the lifeguard chair, probably a kid putting the "work" in work-study, stared out at me through the plate glass for a good ninety seconds. I hoped nobody was drowning. From the next room over, I was grinned at by some guys in black robes with long thin swords who were practicing some martial art I didn't recognize. Not too many girls walk by that way, I suppose.

Distances don't seem so far when you ran sixteen miles over the weekend. I walked from Reed all the way up to the coffee shop in the middle of Ladd's Addition -- and speaking of places, I've got to write about this coffee shop, sometime -- with the intent to do some thinking about cross-domain XMLHttpRequest stuff, but it's true what they say about intentions. Instead I'm waxing existential. You know, most of the time, I subscribe to the Charlie Brown philosophy that our purpose in existing is to make others happy. (Lucy: "What are the others here for?!") Writing songs that people like seems like a pretty direct means toward that end. Software development seems like a pretty indirect one. But with software development, one could argue that the goal is to help others do their own happiness-making more directly, with fewer niggling annoyances. That's a pretty high purpose, no? Or, as Kathy Sierra always says, to help other people kick ass. I think I did a little bit of that today. I took away some niggling annoyances for someone else -- I feel pretty good about that. And then some other programmer somewhere is making it their life's work to take away the niggling annoyances in what I do. Crazy. So does anyone ever directly make anyone else happy? Can we ever make anyone else be anything? Or is helping others (to help others to help others to...) get closer to their own self-made happiness the best that we can do, the highest purpose to which we can aspire?

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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-20 05:01 pm (UTC)
So you don't think there's anything in between actually making other people happy, and just occupying their time? I'd like to think that even if we can't make other people happy, we can help them make themselves happy. Not that it's easy.

I've been to Chance of Rain a couple of times. The second time I went, I was impressed with how the guy working there remembered what I wanted on my bagel from the first time. He was listening to the same Afro Celt Sound System record both times, too, which added to the sense of déjà vu. Thank you for the invitation -- maybe I'll swing by next week!
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[User Picture]From: ibm5_25
2006-04-19 07:07 am (UTC)
You got to spend more than one summer at Grinnell?! Ohhh, the awesomness. Of course, I spent a week each summer for three summers here at Iowa (and one at ISU) so I suppose it's the same sort of thing.

and wondered if they appreciated the beauty of their surroundings at all or if they were, as I had been, too busy going to college to really care.

I just spent about 45 minutes walking around campus--lingering on two bridges over the river, detouring off the well-lit path. I sat (as you've probably read), by the river for a while last week.
So that's something, anyway.

And I like reading thoughts about purposes in life or, as you put it, in existing.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-19 03:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I didn't exactly spend the whole summer there. Camp was only a week long.

I thought you would probably wig out over the whole summer-camp-at-Grinnell thing. Just to get this out of the way, I grew up in Cedar Falls. And I admire danah boyd a lot. And Mr. Stone. And I ran Linux for a couple years. And I have ADD. Okay, just kidding about that last one.

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[User Picture]From: ibm5_25
2006-04-19 10:06 pm (UTC)
Camp was only a week long.

Really? Huh. That's what my camps at Iowa were like. I just assumed your Grinnell was like my Grinell--a whole month.

And I have ADD. Okay, just kidding about that last one.

Har har--ummm, no. Not really.
Not funny. I'm pretty sure you're just pushing my buttons, but the buttons are there for a reason--ADD is no laughing matter. Sure, it can be funny, but you can basically see anything as funny. I need to gear up on the blogging-about-what-ADD-is-really-like thing. It's just hard to label any one part of me as "ADD" because it is such a part of who I am. It's like trying to pick one thread out of a knitted scarf and say "oh, there's my ADD". I think it's part of my character.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-19 10:32 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry. I didn't at all mean to imply that it was a laughing matter!

In fact, the joke is precisely that I'm pulling threads out of your life and mine as if they meant anything out of context, when really they don't. I guess it's not all that funny. My apologies.
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[User Picture]From: ibm5_25
2006-04-19 10:41 pm (UTC)
In fact, the joke is precisely that I'm pulling threads out of your life and mine as if they meant anything out of context, when really they don't.

Ooohhhh. *chuckle* Gotcha. But who pulls things out of context as if they mean anything? That's like..thinking you really know someone through some great songs they wrote or some poems or the occasional witty LJ entry or something. I mean, how lame is that? Pish, stupid people. *chuckle/laugh*

...threads out of your life and mine as if they meant anything out of context, when really they don't.

*mulls over*
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[User Picture]From: leadsynth
2006-04-20 02:28 am (UTC)
This reminds me: I hear that JP is working on another screenplay, called "Adderallics Anonymous." It's safe to assume that he's joking about ADHD. But JP actually is a textbook case, and doesn't do so well when off his meds, so I suppose that gives him free reign to joke about it.
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[User Picture]From: phthoggos
2006-04-19 08:22 am (UTC)
have I mentioned that I love getting mentioned in other people's LJ entries?

at sunset... I was either in chorus rehearsal, or walking from rehearsal to dinner, or walking from dinner to my office, or in my office preparing audio for the show i'm co-writing/directing/producing.

In fact, today I especially noted a bunch of students sunning themselves on the front lawn, pondered wistfully for a moment what it would be like to have the time to join them, and then decided I'd rather wish I had stopped and done nothing more often than wish I'd participated more in campus life.

You can do nothing anytime. Some people do it for most of their lives.

I didn't know you ever came by Reed...
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-20 05:06 pm (UTC)
have I mentioned that I love getting mentioned in other people's LJ entries?

Who doesn't?

I've run past campus lots of times, but Tuesday night was the first time that I've been through instead of just past. You absorb more, too, when you walk instead of run.
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[User Picture]From: sarahtomic
2006-04-19 01:42 pm (UTC)
You're on campus?

Vegan Coop. Tonight. At the white house on High street between 5th and 6th--second one from 5th on the east side. Be there. If it's happening. (It will be spice-ay.)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-19 02:50 pm (UTC)

No, I'm not on campus.

I wish. I miss eating at coop.
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[User Picture]From: sarahtomic
2006-04-19 05:03 pm (UTC)

Re: No, I'm not on campus.

Aw, poop!
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[User Picture]From: stereotype441
2006-04-19 02:28 pm (UTC)
I've sometimes wondered if I my life would have been more fulfilling if I'd tried to make my musical talents into a career rather than my programming talents. In my previous job (which was loudspeaker design) I felt like I had about as direct a connection as an engineer could get to making humanity happy--I was making things that would help recording engineers make better music. Then I got a job making test equipment that's used by people who design loudspeakers (among other things). It seemed like it was one step removed from people's happiness compared to my previous career, and for a while I was disappointed.

Then, one day I got an e-mail from one of the guys downstairs in manufacturing, saying how much easier his job had been because of a program I'd written. I realized I had been looking at things all wrong: what made my life fulfilling wasn't to make a tiny incremental improvement in the sum total happiness of all humanity. It was to make a significant improvement in the happiness of the people I see from day to day. I framed that e-mail and hung it on my wall.
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2006-04-19 06:00 pm (UTC)
man, i wish i was doing that.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-04-20 05:12 pm (UTC)
Then, one day I got an e-mail from one of the guys downstairs in manufacturing, saying how much easier his job had been because of a program I'd written. I realized I had been looking at things all wrong: what made my life fulfilling wasn't to make a tiny incremental improvement in the sum total happiness of all humanity. It was to make a significant improvement in the happiness of the people I see from day to day. I framed that e-mail and hung it on my wall.

That's really, really cool.

You can't quantify happiness anyway, so it's nonsensical to try to compare different amounts of it, right?
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[User Picture]From: glowing_fish
2006-04-19 02:50 pm (UTC)
And you have made me happy, by reminding me about Charlie Brown, and that reading Peanuts books is the only cure for my insomnia this 8 AM.
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[User Picture]From: la_hechizada
2006-07-04 05:24 am (UTC)

Awww, cute!

I stumbled upon your blog really randomly . . . I just graduated from Grinnell, and that Forum basement first kiss is the cutest thing I've ever heard.

Awww. I miss Grinnell. *tear*
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-07-10 04:00 am (UTC)

Re: Awww, cute!

I know the feeling.
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