Monday, August 14, 2006

You Are What You Eat...

Nite before last, I was burning up the keyboard with what will turn out to be my first "official" article at Macscripter. I have, of course, been doing lots of posting in the forums and also helped get Bill Cheeseman's AppleScript Sourcebook moved over to a new format at MacScripter (and wrote a few anonymous posts there also), but this will be the first article with my name on it, on the front "page" of the site.

Of course, I could not be happier! But the strangest thing happened while I was writing it, you see. I wrote it in Textedit instead of AppleWorks, since I knew it was going to be converted to HTML anyway. I did not see any point in formatting it all in AppleWorks and then having it all stripped out. For those sorts of jobs, Textedit is just fine, in my book. But towards the end, I needed to know how many words were in the article.

Textedit does not count words, it was not designed to be a "full-featured" text editor. So I quickly launched Script Editor and whacked out a quick script to do what I needed. It is not long, just:

tell application "TextEdit"
set thetext to text of front document
set wordCount to count (words of thetext)
display dialog (wordCount & " words.") as text
end tell


You get the idea. It was nothing, just one of those things geeks like me do, using the philosophy of "write once, use many." But tonite, as I was getting ready to shut down, a thought struck me: "You are what you eat."

I worked with a fellow (a non-geek) who asked me how I learned about computers. I had been to a business school for programming languages, but of course that is not the same thing as learning about how to network PCs and what the Windows Registry is (it's Satan, but that's for another discussion...) and stuff like that. I thought about it before I answered him, and asked him if he knew anything about cars. He replied that he did.

I then asked him how he learned what he knew about cars. He said that he had hung out with his friends and his dad and people like that when they were working on their cars; that he had played around with his own car, taking things apart and seeing how they worked; that he had listened to other guys when they talked about what was wrong with their car and how they fixed it.

"Well," I said, "while you were doing all that, I was doing the same thing, only change the word 'car' to 'computer.'"

My answer surprised him. He always thought of me as a geek (and you know how jocks are, 'geeks' aren't really 'guys'). But in that moment he saw that my love for computers was JUST LIKE his love for cars.

He said, "I never looked at it that way before!" And in a weird sort of way, I could see his estimation of me went up a notch. Suddenly I wasn't a borg-like alien brainiac. I was just a guy that dug machines. We got along much better after that.

So when I thought the other nite, "You are what you eat," what I really mean is this: Some of us look for a long time to find what we're good at, what career we want, what our 'thing' is. And usually, it's right under our nose, or parked in our driveway, or sitting on our desk.

Programmers program. Not (just) because it is (sometimes) lucrative. But for the same reason that painters paint, writers write, and musicians play - we can't help ourselves. Our life feels incomplete when we don't have a program in the works, when we're not learning how to code in some new language, when we aren't fighting with the compiler (or the language) to get our application working the way we want it to work.

People are what they do, more than they are what they have or who they know. You are what you eat. Accept the fact that what you do is part of who you are. BE what you DO.

Oh, and there's a corollary to that, by the way. There are two kinds of people, I've found: Those that leave things better than they found them, and those that leave things the worse for wear. Which kind are you?

1 comment:

Adam Bell said...

I know what you're talking about Kevin. You have seen my own footer: Where AppleScript is concerned, I seem to be treading a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness." I know how to use the Terminal, but I'd rather, if possible, write a vanilla AppleScript to do it. I look forward every day to those questions on the forum that just beg for an answer - not to show off, but to have a puzzle to solve for a while.