Jan. 2nd, 2012

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As I increase in age / get closer to death1, I find that I take on many more hobbies than I did when I was younger. Partly this is because I don’t actually know what I want to do with my time, partly it is because I actively like to learn new things, and partly it is because I have a job now and can therefore afford to buy the required paraphernalia, but there is another part - that as I get older I am just better at things. It isn’t as if you actually get cleverer as you get older, but you do learn all sorts of little rules and tricks which make it easier to get things right and find where you are making mistakes.

For instance, my latest hobby is black and white photography, which means taking the pictures and also developing the negatives. (I’m not really that interested in making prints - yet.) I took this up a few weeks ago and I have proceeded so much faster than I would have, say, when I was 20.

  • I can afford to buy all of the kit straight off - it isn’t that expensive, but camera, film, development stuff, that works out to a couple of hundred pounds at least, which I would have had to save up for or scrounge before.
  • Similarly, I have my own place and can fill the bathroom with chemicals without anyone else complaining that they need to use the shower right now.
  • I have read so much documentation that I know how to pick out the important parts quickly. I can quickly scan manuals and how-tos and learn the techniques. I was very fluff-minded when I was younger (I still am, but it takes me less time to read things so I don’t get distracted by shiny objects before finishing).
  • I am better at debugging when things go wrong. I now know how to analyse a situation, see what the potential issues are, and make testing plans to isolate which one(s) caused whatever problem it was that occurred. In fact, I can’t help but do this. Proper debugging speeds up the learning process dramatically - learning is all about making mistakes, yes, but you have to know where you made the mistakes and correct them, otherwise all you have done is failed to get something right.

The older I get, the more infuriated I am that learning is assumed to be just something for young people, and in most areas it is assumed that you will learn some stuff up to your early 20s maximum and then stop (probably then having children and taking on assorted debts) and do the same thing indefinitely, perhaps maintaining professional qualifications if you are in that sort of field but that’s it. I can’t imagine being happy with this. Minds are like sharks; they need to keep moving.

  1. I’m not even actually that old, though I refuse to say quite how old. ↩

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