# (1) 02 Jan 2012, 01:48PM: Self-Care, Sometimes On A Larger Scale:
I think some people I know might find Sam Starbuck's experience useful. He has social anxiety but wanted to leave the house more often, so he developed methods to cause himself to do so.
The idea originally was just to get out more; not even necessarily to have more experiences, but not to spend every single night at home. There's nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but it wasn't what I wanted for me. So I developed the Adventur Programme.
I should say that I suspect the Adventur Programme would be different for everyone, because the key to doing it is finding something that will motivate you to actually follow through. Here's how I did it; the basic theme of all of this is to arrange things in such a way that making the decision to go isn't difficult....
Sam said that his plan
worked well. I think it's because it wasn't a resolution; it was a plan. Resolutions can be broken, and thus expose you to feelings of failure and despair. Whereas plans aren't broken. Plans are rescheduled for a later date. You haven't failed. You've just changed up your calendar a little.
I admire people and organizations that thoughtfully manage their sustainability. You can see Alexandra Erin develop this theme in her behind-the-scenes blogging; as a self-employed writer, she works as hard at developing her own infrastructure as she does at making fiction. For Sam, Alexandra, and me, the structure of a successful process must avoid causing feelings of failure and despair. We know that if we feel those, we'll stop. So we find patterns that suit our strengths and work around our weaknesses, and get us to our goals -- more adventures, more good fiction, better technical skills.
Maturity requires recognizing granite walls and finding workarounds, saying no to machismo.
We know from experience that counting only on unpaid volunteer effort to work on helping women in open technology and culture leads to burnout and inconsistency. So The Ada Initiative works as a nonprofit that pays two people's salaries to work fulltime on the issue. (I volunteer on their Advisory Board.)
In Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale wrote of management, "How can I provide for this right thing to be always done?" Even when she's not there? Nightingale focuses on executive energy, attention, and putting the proper processes into place such that patients have the resources and quiet they need to get better.
However, there is a habit of mind that scorns all visible processes (and sees no value in formal communication containers such as meetings or performance reviews). I was talking about this with Ari yesterday, about (for example) software developers who think source control is needless overhead. I imagine some of these folks have suffered from their own personal resource curse, coasting through day-to-day tasks, the accreted cruft not yet salient, atherosclerosis not yet completely blocking the bottleneck.
Some have the useful skill of translating to them, getting across why hygiene is important in some particular case. Sometimes I can do this with analogies. Others use diagrams. But by the time I'm working with someone, it's usually too late to inculcate in them that habit of mind, a critical respect of social infrastructure.
(If you can, try never to work for someone who has this blind spot.)
Like Sam, I'm also working on sustainability and process improvement in my personal life. For me, it's cleaning and housework. What can I do to make it more likely that I'll do my fair share? I already knew that podcasts help. As of last week, I've discovered that I am way better at doing the dishes if I do them first thing in the morning. With enough tips and tricks, maybe I can adequately simulate a good flatmate.
# 07 Jan 2012, 02:30PM: Lit On My Mind:
Light fun: Charitable Getting by Sam Starbuck, free to download. It's a dramedy about the employees of a nonprofit and "a secretive blogger who might be one of his staff, a journalist determined to uncover who it is, and a client who not only doesn't want to pay their fee, but wants to sue [the firm] for telling the truth." I laughed out loud and was satisfyingly right in predicting the identity of the secret blogger.
More light fun: fanfic from the Yuletide challenge, 2011. A few of my favorite stories cover Casino Royale and Billy Elliot. Also check out Star Trek: Deep Space Nine heartwarmers "The Life That Is Waiting" and "In the Files".
I don't write fiction, but it's fun to read writing advice from authors because sometimes you get funny anecdotes. This is basically why I read Stephen King's On Writing memoir, and why I've been splashing through Jane Espenson's blog archives. At the Emmys:
...even the very end of the night was fun because there was this crush of people all waiting for their hired limos to come pick them up and everyone was in the same situation even though they might be, say, Vanessa Williams. Bizarrely egalitarian, the limo-waiting process.
(Jane Espenson majored in computer science at UC Berkeley, so I should add her to my list.)
For the same reason, I'm reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, whom I used to read in Salon. Restful & inspirational without being glurgy. (Example piece on her eating disorder.)
Book recommendation blast from the past: Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives by Dr. Anna Fels. Slate review, Broad Universe review. Fels points out that the childhood or adolescent desire for fame is often a precursor to a more nuanced ambition, combining the urge to master some domain or skill with the desire for the recognition of one's peers or community. She also notes that women, especially, feel the need to hide that wish for fame instead of developing it into a healthy passion to guide our careers. This book blew my mind in the best way when I read it a few years ago, and massively helped me guide my career development. It now informs my emphasis on explicit encouragement and mentorship of new MediaWiki volunteers.
# 14 Jan 2012, 11:48AM: Five Things Make A Post:
In February and March, I will probably want to go to a lot of the Museum of the Moving Image's Muppet-related screenings, in case that piques your interest.
You can tell Leonard rewrote the introduction to MediaWiki's web service API because it now includes "Let's pick that URL apart to show how it works."
Words I used yesterday that I intend to use more often: "blunderbuss," "sarcophagus".
Why in the world is my Congressional representative, Carolyn Maloney, cosponsoring a bill to reduce public access to publicly funded science? I'm pretty angry and will be following up on this with her.
Because I saw David Costabile (Gale Boetticher) on the train this week, and because I think it's pretty, a montage of the scenes in Breaking Bad shot from an object's point of view (shovel, floor, Roomba, dryer...).
# 18 Jan 2012, 04:14PM: Ducts:
I've had two astonishing experiences in the last few days.
The first was watching the film Brazil for the first time. If I had watched that at 16 it would have changed the course of my life.
The second is still ongoing. I am at Wikimedia Foundation headquarters today, and I was here when the word came back that the community had decided to globally black out English Wikipedia in protest of SOPA and PIPA, and I was here when we flipped the switch to do that and some music player started blasting "We're Not Gonna Take It."
This morning a stranger thanked me for working at the Foundation, as though thanking a soldier for her service in a war.
In Brazil we see everywhere ubiquitous ducts, maintained badly -- sometimes sabotaged -- by Central Services, as heroic volunteers make up the difference by secretly installing workarounds. I write this at my temporary desk, seeing the exposed HVAC ductwork on the third floor of a nondescript San Francisco office building. The more vital duct is the Ethernet cord connecting me to the Internet, to that communally maintained "series of tubes" that gives me work, community, free speech, and the collective wisdom of civilization.
Right now someone needs to save our ducts from sabotage, and the volunteers of the Wikimedia community have courageously decided to sacrifice a day of Wikipedia in the hopes of decisively ending a great threat. We Foundation workers have the privilege of helping.
I oppose SOPA and PIPA. Will you join me?
# (1) 05 Feb 2012, 09:30AM: Yet Another List:
This weekend I have gotten to spend some lovely lengthy quality times with my pals Camille and Julia and Nick, and met Nick's friend Jana. Yay! We talked about the standard things: work, relationships, books, Battlestar Galactica, software development, art, volunteering, activism, &c.
In between, I caught up a bit on comic books. I went to Midtown Comics, my usual haunt, and got the most recent trades of DMZ and The Unwritten. The staff weren't that helpful in my explorations, though -- for example, when I asked about what Alison Bechdel's been up to, I got basically a shrug.
The next day, I visited Forbidden Planet south of Union Square, and the staff seemed far more helpful and sympathetic. When I got up the nerve to ask, "What comics have people who look like me?" they were actually interested in figuring it out and loading up my arms. "OMG you haven't read Love And Rockets?!"
(Doesn't it suck that so much of the Virgin India line is just crap?)
So, since it's on my mind, some comics that feature women of color as interesting characters:
I don't much care about superhero comics so I'm leaving out Storm from X-Men, etc. Should I read Frank Miller's Martha Washington stuff? I should also sweep through my household's shelves, especially our three binders of indie stuff we've bought at MoCCA, to find more recommendation-worthy books and one-offs, especially by women and people of color.
- Amar Chitra Katha series -- the comics I grew up with, telling Indian history, myths, legends, and fables. Draupadi! Savitri! Parvati! Sati! And so on.
- Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. I read the whole thing, I loved it, it's what got me back into comics a decade ago. Most of the characters are women, and I'm thinking especially of 355 (African-American), Dr. Mann (American of Chinese and Japanese ancestry), and You (Japanese).
- DMZ by Brian Wood, which I read avidly. Volunteer medic Zee Hernandez isn't the main character but she's in there and important.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, her autobiography about a childhood in Iran. A modern classic, and can you believe I'm only reading this now?
- Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers. Ditto. (I'm a Philistine!)
- Aya series by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, about a family in the Ivory Coast. I haven't read it yet but it's come recommended.
- Lots of stuff by Lynda Barry. I like her stories (but find her art style a little overwhelming).
- Patrick Farley's The Spiders stars the African-American soldier Lt. Celicia Miller, and The Jain's Death is about Anuradha, a South Asian woman.
- I hear very good things about Carla Speed McNeil's Finder but haven't started it yet.
(Random shout-out: Mel Chua's engineering education comics "What is Engineering?" and "What is Education?")
Crossposted to geekfeminism.org.
# 12 Feb 2012, 07:51PM: What Does A Volunteer Development Coordinator Do?:
A giant wall of text follows, giving a snapshot of work I do. I nurture the software community that supports the Wikimedia movement. So here's a big swath of stuff I did between February 1st and today.
Wrote and posted a blog entry about the San Francisco hackathon. Still need to do more followup with participants.
Handed over the MediaWiki 1.19 deployment communications plan to Guillaume Paumier, WMF Technical Communications Manager. He blogged a summary of the deployment and of our efforts and that's just the tip of the iceberg; he also set up a global message delivery and improved the CentralNotice maintenance message and did even more to make sure that we thoroughly communicate about the upcoming deployment to all the Wikimedia communities. I also shared information with various folks regarding testing of site-specific gadgets on 1.19.
I sent at least 285 work-related emails. That's 41 per workday but I definitely sent some work-related email on weekends.
Some patch queue work, responding to contributors and getting experienced developers to review the patches. I'm just trying to keep our queue from growing while code reviewers are mostly focused on getting MediaWiki 1.19 reviewed, polished, and deployed. But I do want to take care of all parts of the volunteer pipeline -- initial outreach and recruiting, training, code improvement, commit access, continued interest and participation, and debriefing when they leave -- so the patch review queue is a continuing worry.
Some work preparing for the Pune hackathon and for GLAMCamp DC, neither of which I am attending. I wrote or edited some tutorials and made a tutorial category which pleases me. We have more good material for workshops and stuff now, yay! And I helped the GLAMCamp people a bit in talking through what technical goals they wanted to achieve during the weekend.
Got dates from Wikimedia Germany for the Berlin hackathon, 1-3 June, and started trumpeting it. Also worked on planning for it and did outreach. For example, I reached out to about 13 chapters that are pursuing or interested in some kind of technology work like, say, funding or working on the offline Wikipedia reader (Wikimedia Switzerland), or usability and accessibility for Wikisource (Wikimedia Italy), or the Toolserver, a shared hosting service for tools and stuff that hackers use to improve or make use of the Wikimedia sites (for example, Wikimedia Germany & Wikimedia Hungary). We hope they can convene, share insights and collaborate at the WMDE hackfest.
Told at least 30 contributors to apply for Wikimania scholarships because the deadline is 16 February.
Talked to some Wikimedia India folks about planning technical events, and contributed to a page of resources for upcoming events.
Worked on some event planning & decisions for a potential event.
Passed the word to some friends, acquaintances, and email lists about some job openings at the Foundation.
Google Summer of Code has been announced, and I am managing MediaWiki's participation. I have started -- flyers, emails, recruiting potential students, improving the wiki page, asking experts whether they might mentor, and so on. I'm trying to start a thing where every major women's college in North America gets a GSoC presentation by March 15th, to improve the number of GSoC applications that come from women; let's see how that goes. MediaWiki still needs to apply to participate as a mentoring organization and acceptances only go out after that, but I'm comfortable spending time preparing anyway. And the women's college outreach will lead to an increase in the number of applications for all the participating open source projects, instead of just aiming a firehose at MediaWiki; that's fine. Like Tim O'Reilly says, aim to create more value than you capture.
Related to that -- I set up a talk for one of our engineers to give at Mills, a women's college that has an interesting interdisciplinary computer science program (both grad and undergrad, the grad program being mixed-sex) and I think it may end up being a really amazing talk. Ian Baker is going to talk about how CS helps us work in Wikimedia engineering, how we collaborate with the community during the design, development, and testing phases, and what skills and experiences come in handy in his job. I'll publicize more once there's an official webpage to point to.
Had a videoconference with a developer and my boss about our conversion to Git. I prepped for it by collecting some questions and getting preliminary answers, and then after the call we ended up with all this raw material and I sent a fairly long summary to the developers' mailing list. There's a lot left to do, and the team needs to work on some open issues, but we have a lot more detail on those TODOs now, so that's good.
Saw a nice email from Erik Möller publicizing the San Francisco hackathon videos and tutorials/documentation, yay!
Talked with a few people about submitting talks to upcoming conferences. I ought to write some preliminary Grace Hopper, Open Source Bridge, and Wikimania proposals this week.
Various volunteer encouragement stuff (pointing to resources, helping with installation or development problems, troubleshooting, teaching, putting confused people in touch with relevant experts, etc.), especially talking in IRC to eager students who want to do GSoC. Many of them are from India. I wonder how many of them see my name and think I'm in India too.
Commit access queue as usual.
Helped with the monthly report. I have a colleague who wants to learn more about All This Engineering Stuff, so every month we have a call where I explain and teach the context of the report, and for this month's call I suggested we add another colleague who also wants to learn how the tech side works. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a tradition!
Followed up on the GSoC 2011 students who never quite got their projects set up and deployed on Wikimedia servers, and looks like two of them have some time and want to finish it now, yay! Updated the Past Projects page.
Checked in on the UCOSP students who are working on a mobile app for Wiktionary and told them about Wikimania, new mobile research, etc. Also got some feedback from their mentor, Amgine, on how they're doing.
Started an onwiki thread to discuss the MobileFrontend rewrite question(s).
Talked to Oren Bochman, the volunteer who's working on our Lucene search stuff, and followed up on a bunch of his questions/interests.
Ran & attended meetings.
Suggested to the new Wikimedia Kenya chapter that maybe we could collaborate, since they're interested in helping schools get Wikipedia access via offline reading.
Looked into the code review situation by getting a list of committers with their associated numbers of commits, reviews, and statuschanges. It's just a first pass, but it's a start for discovering who's been committing way more than they review, so we can start efforts to mentor them into more code reviewing confidence. I also saw who's been reviewing way more than they commit, and saw a name I wasn't familiar with -- looks like I've now successfully recruited him to come to the Berlin hackathon. :-)
Put two groups of people in touch with each other: did a group-intro mail to people at various institutions working on Wikimedia accessibility, and another to people who want to work on a redesign of mediawiki.org's front page.
And there was other miscellaneous stuff, but this is already sooooo TL;DR (too long; didn't read). (Which is funny because that's the name of my team.) Monday awaits!
# (1) 13 Mar 2012, 05:04PM: Shondes Music Video ("Give Me What You've Got"):
I'm in the end of this music video for "Give Me What You've Got" by The Shondes. It features my pal Fureigh, whom I think of primarily as a Drupal developer but who also rocks out more viscerally with, you know, actual rock 'n' roll. Enjoy the catchy song!
# 15 Mar 2012, 02:40PM: Everybody Loves Raiment:
As a certain variety of corporate-office woman knows, it's great to have a variety of black trousers. (Or, as time goes by and one does not replace them when they fade, a variety of fairly-dark-gray trousers.) Non-denim black slacks go with a lot of tops, look professional, have pockets, hide stains, and so on.
Today I ran into a wrinkle (ha!): I pulled a pair of black drawstring sweatpants out of the bureau. They looked kind of familiar but I do not remember acquiring them. They fit, so they're probably mine. Did you give me a pair of black drawstring sweatpants, sister N.? This seems like the kind of nice thing you would do and have done -- you know, like how you gave me the black hoodie that (until Wikimedia gave me a Wikipedia-branded hoodie) was the only hooded sweatshirt I owned.
I decided to wear the sweatpants. Leonard and I sang the traditional putting-on-black-pants song, a filk of Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days":
Put onnnn ... black paaaaants....
Put onnnnnnnnn .... blackpantssssss....
How could I know! That these would be my paaaaaants....
How could I know! That I would wear these .... paaaaaants
Leonard also can't remember getting the jeans he's wearing now. "Their origin is shrouded in mystery," he informed me.
S: And where did you get that shroud?
S: Did you get it from Kenneth Turan?
L: He gave it four stars.
(Rejected titles: "Garb Gab," "Slack," "The Wrong Trousers.")
# 18 Mar 2012, 11:21AM: Rosie the Riveter in Space!:
NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Expedition 20 flight engineer, works with the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.
Constellation Games, Leonard's research into spaceflight, and Wikimedia Commons have caused me to see a lot more photos per week of astronauts than I otherwise would. I don't mind.
# (4) 18 Mar 2012, 01:29PM: Patdown:
When I leave my flat, I usually check to ensure I have my phone, wallet, and keys. They each have a specific spot in my pockets so I can feel the pockets to make sure they're there. I often say "keyswalletphone" or "phonewalletkeys" under my breath as I check. Do you have a ritual chant like that? Does the ordering make a pleasing rhythm?
# (2) 21 Mar 2012, 09:23AM: Non-Patent-Encumbered Web Video Dream:
Dreamed last night about a series of web videos created and distributed by an anarchist educational collective, filmed on a set meant to evoke thoughts of Oxford/Cambridge/Hogwarts, and with circus-style feats of strength and skill. And science. I guess it was a cross among Steve Yegge, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Cirque du Soleil, and Khan Academy. Oh and it was partially funded by the People's Republic of China, and I think much of the dialogue was in Chinese dubbed or subtitled into English.
Also dreamed that one of the founders was Zach P., that guy I'd had a crush on in middle school but whom I haven't seen in a decade. We compared notes; he focused on underground work, glad it never hit the authorities' radar. I'm with Wikipedia, and say "outreach" a lot, and our free licensing positively invites commercial reuse. Zach was an old punk now, hair highlighted in green and orange but faded wrinkled black shirt mirroring the faded wrinkles on his face. "Women leave me," he confessed. A Dutch couple walked by. "I give all my time to the school." I felt bad for him. Also at this point I remember a sense of grand ecstatic revelation that this is an allegory for the browser wars but upon awakening I don't think that makes sense.
# 26 Mar 2012, 05:53PM: Announcements and Reading:
I'll be keynoting the Open Source Bridge conference this year (late June, Portland, Oregon, USA). It's an honor to be asked to give a keynote address to this exciting and inspiring conference.
"<body> <img> -- the anxiety of learning and how I am beating it" is my newest post at Geek Feminism.
Enjoyed in the last several weeks: Naomi Kritzer's "Scrap Dragon," a short story in the January/February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. "Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas," a short story in Strange Horizons by Alberto Yáñez. "Things Greater than Love" by Kate Bachus, another story in Strange Horizons. Past Lies, a graphic novel by Christina Weir, Christopher Mitten, and Nunzio DeFilippis.
# 27 Mar 2012, 09:30AM: Additional "Constellation Games" Commentary:
Chapter 17: Leonard writing the phrase "flashy desperate jewelry" far predates the day we watched the episode of Breaking Bad where one character accuses another of "obvious desperate breakfasts." Still funny (to me).
By this point in the novel, it's amusing to ask: what scifi film/novel do the major human characters think they're in? Fowler thinks he's in Triple Point. Krakowski thinks he's in like a Crichton or Tom Clancy novel. Ariel is acting like he's in a Neal Stephenson or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy thing. Jenny... Nancy Kress? (Leonard jests, Neon JENNYsis Evangelion.)
# (9) 01 Apr 2012, 08:22PM: Request:
Post a clever and funny joke in the comments?
# (1) 09 Apr 2012, 09:08AM: Hiking Lessons:
I didn't grow up hiking, but I enjoy it when I can do it as an adult. Saturday, Leonard and I took the subway to the George Washington Bridge on the west side of Manhattan, walked across it to New Jersey, walked around in the Palisades, eventually found the Visitor Center and its neat Revolutionary War artifacts, and then reversed and went back home. We had a lot of fun! We watched an oriole (we think) for like 10 or 15 minutes, and that was amazing.
Lessons I learned:
I'm interested in doing similar day hikes, but it's offputting to have to take an hourlong subway ride and then walk for half an hour to get to the trailhead. Friends with cars might make this easier -- or you could recommend quasiwild park areas within 45 minutes of walking and transit from Astoria. I welcome your suggestions!
- I need hiking shoes that really fit. I got my boots nearly new for $20 at a thrift store just before I went to work on a farm for two weeks in 2007, and it was fine that they're a quarter to a half size too large. I just double-layered thick socks, and I was fine doing ag labor in them. But walking in these shoes for hours produces blisters. So, new shoes time. Five years, twenty dollars -- pretty good value.
- I like doing this! I like walking on a trail in semiwildness, puzzling over a map with my partner, waiting till we get to a big clean rock before eating lunch, seeing pretty flowers.
- I prefer not seeing cars while I hike. (The bit of the path that we hiked was mostly within eyesight distance of the highway.)
- The ultralight backpack OSCON gave its attendees in 2011 is good for something!
- Not only is water heavy, it's heavy enough that water for me for a day might weigh more than everything else I need to carry.
- Tucking my pants into long socks works better than tucking the pants into the shoes.
- The George Washington Bridge is too loud, and the pedestrian/bicycle path is too narrow and busy, for a really pleasant walk. The Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge have better affordances for strolling.
# (2) 12 Apr 2012, 08:48AM: She Was a Buuuuuuuuug Filer, Defect Ticket Yeah:
So this morning I discovered, while chatting with Leonard, that "(Now) I'm a Believer" by the Beatles has the line "Not a trace / Of doubt in my mind," where I had gone three decades thinking it was "Not a trace / I'm out of my mind." My feeble arguments led to:
L: I think you should take this up with the Beatles.
S: I already did! In Beatlezilla. The Beatles' bug tracker.
L: And what did they say?
S: They said, "We love you, yeah yeah yeah, we love you, yeah yeah yeah." But I think that was an autoresponse.
Postscript: Leonard told me he was filing a bug report against this very blog post as "I'm a Believer" is by the Monkees, not the Beatles. Given that I evidently filed my bug with the wrong tracker, Leonard suggests that "We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah" is the Beatles' equivalent of WONTFIX.
(The Monkees use IBM Rational ClearQuest.)
# 16 Apr 2012, 09:14PM: Shoptalk:
It is probably only a matter of time before someone makes a "Wikipedia memes" Tumblr -- I've already found a couple posts that we could just repurpose from existing open source communities.
These inside joke sharing mechanisms may saturate the market for my stand-up comedy! Which is fine.
# 21 Apr 2012, 09:50AM PST: Consequences:
One thing I love about this Breaking Bad fanvid is that the music and certain shot choices make you think about Breaking Bad as a modern-day Western. (The song is "The Ecstasy of Gold/L'Estasi Dell'Oro" by Ennio Morricone (Bandini remix), from the soundtrack "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".)
And Jesse's speech ("I want nothing to do with you!") reminds me of John Rogers on noir (and on Breaking Bad).
# 27 Apr 2012, 10:29PM: Good Thing:
I find it humorous that it's eight years ago today that Leonard retracted his mockery of Wikipedia.
# 02 May 2012, 03:39PM: Stand:
I write this while standing up. I'm using a couple of yoga blocks to turn a desk in my living room into a standing desk. In this I'm copying a few folks (including Mel, Rob, Guillaume, Sue, & others). It's pretty great!
I feel more energized. This is partly physical -- the mild exercise of simply supporting my body, plus some pacing and stretching -- and partly psychological. Instead of sitting on a couch or a chair that I associate also with relaxation, I'm telling my body that it's time for work mode. And then, when I take a real break by sitting down with a meal or a book, it feels more refreshing. Overall, my mood is better.
The setup forces me to keep this desk at least somewhat uncluttered, so I'm doing better upkeep towards a pleasant work and living environment. And I find it easier, standing at a desk, to keep a glass of water nearby and sip from it constantly, so my hydration's improved.
I've done this for about 10-15 of my last 40 working days, so it still feels novel. But I think I'll keep it up.
# 05 May 2012, 10:25PM: Hiking Lessons Part II: Trekking:
More long walks. A few weeks ago, hiked Sweeney Ridge (south of San Francisco) with my friend Susan McCarthy. Last weekend, circumnavigated Central Park. Today, walked from Astoria to Flushing, took the 7 train to 111th Street, walked the rest of the way back. (Took a break to tour Louis Armstrong's old house on 107th Street.)
- I like hiking and trekking! I like hills better than level ground, semi-tame nature better than streets, and mostly-residential streets better than all-storefront thoroughfares. And hiking with a naturalist like Susan is fantastic; it's like having a curator give you a museum tour.
- Susan brought an extra plastic grocery bag with her just to pick up trash on the trail. Genius!
- I am now the target market for podcasts. Today, richly enjoyed Marc Maron's WTF show for the first time, specifically Mindy Kaling's interview. So interesting to hear her recapitulating Trollope's legitimate anxiety that the diligent don't get as much critical respect as do creators with zero project management skills. Also catching up on This American Life, BBC's The Now Show and news quiz, and You Look Nice Today.
- I got blisters today. I need to figure out how to prevent and treat them. I hope my new hiking shoes are not irreparably at fault, because then I'd have to return them via mail to San Francisco, which blargh.
- Our durable water bottles leak! I think they were both freebies from Foo Camp. I will be acquiring lightweight collapsible ones (sadly lost the one with a built-in carabiner that I got as a random Google gift last year). Or I may take Selena's suggestion and turn into a camel! (Selena, maybe we could hike together at the end of Open Source Bridge weekend?)
- My meh flask, on the other hand, which I received as a gift from AN ACTUAL PERSON and not a corporation, holds up just fine. However it only holds 5 ounces, which doesn't feel like enough water to bring for a multi-hour excursion. I therefore reserve it for sipping whiskey.
- The OSCON freebie backpack is still holding up fine. Kinda wish the outer pockets were deeper & had zippers or other closures, though. Oh well, free.
- I can probably afford to cut down on the food I'm bringing, depending on my environment. I don't need a pound of trail mix AND dried fruit if I'm walking in Queens and I can just get dumplings for lunch.
- I get freaked out when I see a small animal trapped in a plastic bag and struggling to get out. (It was a bird, and it got out on its own, as I was cautiously approaching with a stick to help.) I adore seeing birds living their self-assured lives, preferably further away than arms' length from me. Rodents will freak me out within about 5 feet.
- People in the middle of Queens are more laissez-faire than I'd like about leaving their dogs off-leash.
- There are at least two benches in Central Park whose dedication plaques mention that this is "a bench for a mensch."
# (5) 09 May 2012, 09:34AM: Common Sense:
When I was young, my family told me, over and over again, that I had no common sense. It still hurts me to think about this. When I didn't understand how to do something, or why, or I did some household task wrong or whatever, they told me that I didn't have common sense. (I have no memories of the mistakes or of any other correction and help, just the "no common sense" complaint; my memories are as jumbled and incomplete as anyone's.) They never told me how I could learn common sense. It was just this urgently necessary knowledge that everyone else had and I didn't, and it was connected to their belief - which I accepted - that I was inherently unable to get along by myself "in the real world."
In the nineties I saw a PBS series about computing that mentioned Cyc, the effort to just tell a computer all this stuff, and it stuck with me. I sympathized so much with that computer; in retrospect, I think I was envious of it, because someone was systematically trying to give it all the data it would need.
To this day I hate phrasings like "common sense" and "real world," because of their inherent assumptions and implicit exclusions, and I try to be generous with newbies in my communities who don't know our specific practices. See the "no feigning surprise" norm. Today's xkcd approaches it from an unimpeachably quantitative point of view, and I hope that helps prevent some of the qualitative hopelessness and despair I felt. Kids want to learn; don't belittle them for not knowing something already.
# (3) 17 May 2012, 10:58AM: Mysterious Dependencies:
The more I thought about buying a smartphone the more my sentimental side rose up in protest against buying an Android device. So I got a Nokia N9. I've compared the N900 to the Apple Newton. I don't know yet what I'll compare the N9 to.
Geeky details follow, for use by future searchers who happen upon this entry if they find the same mystery I did:
My N9 came running MeeGo 1.2 (Harmattan), PR 1.2, 30.2012.07-1_PR_005. When I went to manage my applications, I saw that various updates were available. But when I hit Update, I got this warning: "to complete updates, conflicting applications need to be uninstalled". Even when I just tried to update the User Guide to 0.3.5+0m7, I got the message: "Dependency notice: To complete updating User guide, conflicting applications need to be uninstalled".
However, there was no way to actually figure out what the conflicts were. I talked it over in the #n9 channel (thanks, mgedmin). I hadn't yet installed any new apps from the Ovi Store, so it couldn't be that. I tried enabling developer mode so that I could just use apt-get to check the dependencies, but got "Dependencies notice: To complete installation of developer-mode, additional applications need to be downloaded and installed. To complete installation of developer-mode, conflicting applications need to be uninstalled...." so I would have run into the same problem even before being able to use apt-get. So I didn't accept that offer.
So I decided to just inventory my user-visible applications and then check to see whether any of them disappeared after the update. It looks like none of them did. For reference, these are the apps visible on the app screen (NOT in order of how they appear on that screen -- generic stuff first, then branded stuff like Twitter):
- Music Store
- User guide
- Wi-Fi Hotspot
- Track & Prot. ("Protect")
- Angry Birds
- AP Mobile
- Galaxy on Fire 2
- NFS Shift
- Ovi Music
- Real Golf 2011
Sometime soon I'll enable developer mode and see whether the logs tell me what got uninstalled today. Until then, if anyone has insight, please feel free to mention it in the comments.
# (5) 23 May 2012, 11:45PM: A Local Maximum:
By the way, I got promoted. It's quite an honor.
Wikimedia Foundation's new Engineering Community Team, which I lead, is a renaming of the TL;DR group. We've written a draft summary of our goals for July 2012-June 2013. There's so much to be done! (Of course, we're hiring.)
In open source, we share our vulnerabilities and our milestones, so of course my boss announced my promotion to a public mailing list. I was surprised and delighted when colleagues and contributors in my community responded to that announcement with congratulations, privately and publicly. It is as though they believe I am doing a good job! Take that, impostor syndrome.
I'm thinking about the thirty years of influences that got me here. As a teen, I volunteered for the Peace and Justice Network of San Joaquin County, and met my mentor John Morearty, whom I saw this past weekend. Before I knew Sam Hatch, and before I knew Seth Schoen, even, I knew John, a teacher who took his values seriously and was always ready to teach. He led volunteer communities that aimed for inclusiveness and viral change. He modeled grit, open-mindedness, and compassion, and I saw in his example that another world was possible, another mode of being. He wrote a fascinating memoir that you should check out, if you like twisty life stories.
John had twin sons, Mike and Brian. I got to meet Mike on Sunday. On Monday he got write access to Wikimedia Labs, Git, and Gerrit. I find this confluence pleasant yet dizzying, like the bushels of jasmine in John's garden. There's so much to be done, and the abundance of my world may yet provide. As John reminded me this weekend, we cannot build the new systems we need; we must cultivate them.
# 28 May 2012, 04:08PM: Snapshot:
I'm not at WisCon, for the first Memorial Day weekend in several years, because I knew I would not be able to enjoy it. Scifi conventions and work meetups use similar energies, for me, and I'm less than a week away from the yearly Wikimedia Berlin hackathon. We've been planning it for months now. "Berlin" in my brain feels inextricably linked from this event, such that seeing Cabaret for the first time several weeks ago required a little reset.
Instead this weekend I hosted a pal whom I met at WisCon a few years ago. No panels, no speeches, but vegan food and talk of scifi and relationships -- a minuscule methadone. We walked from Astoria to the charming Louis Armstrong House Museum, on the ultra-residential 107th Street in Queens. The curators tell good stories, and the kitchen is amazing.
On the way we passed through Jackson Heights, the South Asian neighborhood in Queens. It's strange to walk through a Little India; I'm used to being the only woman or the only non-white person in a room, but it always feels acutely vertiginous to walk through a crowd of people whose skins and faces look like mine, yet feel alien. My hair and clothes and demeanor signal I'm not one of you; I am doubly alone, an American in India in America, my syncopated apartness echoing past both my ears and behind me.
Today there's a street fair in Astoria. Beth, Leonard and I discussed: if we had booths at the fair, what would they be? Beth would show her art. Leonard would teach people board games. I would help people learn to edit Wikipedia.
# (1) 05 Jun 2012, 02:37PM: Fuzzy:
Back from Berlin, trying to cure my cold with sleep, lots of healthful snacks, light reading, spicy soup, herbal tea, limeade, and whiskey. And a day off. Makes sense, since I worked the whole weekend.
Enjoying The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. On the plane I watched Haywire and Young Adult basically because they are both about female antiheroes. Also ADORING the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker -- found an all-in-one volume and would be reading the last part, The Ghost Road, right now if my fuzzy head were up to it.
People liked the hackathon. Glad of that.
# (1) 06 Jun 2012, 11:54PM: "But your news is not true.":
Fun things from tonight:
Reading bits of Hamlet aloud with Leonard. Some bits do really well if you do them as Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza.
George: "Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold."
Jerry: "Speak. I am bound to hear."
George: "So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear."
And honestly, the "to be or not to be" soliloquy has the same rhetorical structure as the last two thirds of a Seinfeld
Turns out that I've been misunderstanding, for half my life, Hamlet's line "a custom more honored in the breach than in the observance." Disorienting! It's fun that Hamlet still has surprises for me. Also, to you, what does the phrase "Murder most foul, as in the best it is" mean?
Leonard's related to Eli Whitney, who -- as we discovered tonight -- took upwards of seven years to deliver on a one-year government contract! This makes me feel better about missing and bending deadlines.
Re-watched the very last bit of Dave and realized that one reason I like being a community manager is that it's a position as a public servant. (Complete with Greek Chorus of Doom some days.) I must also own up to Dave-related assumptions that the way to solve difficult problems is with a big speech!
Dave stars Frank Langella, who has played evil dudes in Dave, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, etc. He has played Dracula and Skeletor.... and Sherlock Holmes. It's cute that he did a few roles for his kids. I also look forward to someday seeing Frost/Nixon and Robot and Frank.
Less fun: Amazon has some weird rights-related glitch that's keeping us from watching any Star Trek via Instant Watch. More fun, as an exercise for "count the ways in which you know the author is not a native English speaker": the description for We're No Angels.
In Christmas, three prisoners - Joseph, Albert and Jules - escape from the Devil Island to a French small coastal town. They decide to robber a store, to get some money and clothes and travel by ship to another place.
And, just discovered: Mel Chua analyzing me (I laughed aloud in glee several times, most at "I have no reason to doubt that these things are true.").
Blog post title from Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii. I like imagining different deliveries.
# (7) 08 Jun 2012, 01:00PM: Riddlish:
A big long book, cities in Italy and Alaska, my flat, a journey, the most internationalized and accessible desktop environment, an igloo.
# 15 Jun 2012, 10:39PM: "A clipboard to catalog all my finds":
The first few times I hung out with Leonard in person, he brought me to his friend's parties. Kevin Maples and his pals were interesting, of course, but somehow -- two Fridays in a row -- at some point during the party, they all slipped elsewhere, and Leonard and I were alone in the living room with Kevin's guitars. And Leonard played his songs for me.
I was in a serious relationship with someone else at the time. I thought I was just making a cool new friend. But, in retrospect, all the other partygoers could tell that something was happening, and unobtrusively left us to it.
I'd learned of Leonard through his geek humor site, Segfault, then started reading his blog. His prose had attracted me. His songs arrested me.
A few months later we were dating, and a few months after that we were fairly exclusive, and now we have a world together.
His creative energies flow into his prose, which gets more marvelous every year. He doesn't play much guitar anymore, and I miss that. If you like Constellation Games then you might also enjoy the science fiction songs he wrote, which include:
There's also stuff like "Shoshone Shoeshine" (as mentioned in this week's Constellation Games commentary), and his Age of Reason trilogy, which I adore but which Leonard has stopped playing and never recorded.
I wish I could go back to that room in Oakland, hundreds of Friday nights ago, and listen to that one-person concert with the ears I have now. I think I would close my eyes the whole time. I don't think I could stand seeing him, or me. I think I miss that moment as others miss their hometowns. I think I was too transported to know I was happy.
# (1) 19 Jun 2012, 05:54AM: Challenge:
Wikimedia Foundation is hiring a leader for volunteer software testing. I have ideas on what this person should do and how to do it* -- indeed, this position reports to me -- but more than that, I have ideas about what kind of person I need to find.
I need someone who has skills in open source contribution, who gets the wiki and open source way. Even if the person lives in San Francisco -- which they don't have to -- they have to collaborate well remotely, with volunteers and other colleagues. And I seek someone who has the focus and analytical skill one needs to test software, and the hospitable and generous temperament one needs to encourage and teach newbies.
I've been bookmarking lists of suggestions for ways to test, like You Are Not Done Yet and Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names and its sequel on time. We've already started running online events for new testers. If talking like this is scratching an itch for you, even if you've never had a job title as a software tester, please apply. At least we'll have an interesting conversation.
* Had I worlds enough and time, I would start a retraining school that turned underpaid copyeditors into versatile and sought-after software testers. Proofreaders can already follow instructions and communicate effectively and deploy critical thinking skills while nitpicking, so they just need some guidance in learning some domain knowledge. (One of the great benefits of the modern technology industry is that it provides productive and lucrative channels for pedantry.) I do not have the time to do this for profit, but perhaps my Engineering Community Team can use this kind of arbitrage to recruit and train volunteers, give them some skills to put on their résumés, and get some more quality assurance.
# 19 Jun 2012, 06:17AM: Conference Seasoning:
You know you're traveling too much when you completely stop updating the "where I'm going to be" feeds (example).
Regardless: I'll be in San Francisco starting late today, and then in Portland on Monday the 25th, the day before I give the opening keynote address at Open Source Bridge. My tentative title: "Be Bold."
Wikimedians are giving several other talks during the conference:
The Wikimedia Foundation is also sponsoring the Friday unconference day, and will host a hacking table that day as well as (I hope) the Tuesday "Hacker Lounge Project/Community Night."
Then, I'll be in Washington, DC, July 10th-15th for Wikimania, especially the pre-conference Hackathon. I'm happy to announce that WMF is partnering with OpenHatch to make the pre-Wikimania hackathon even more useful. OpenHatch is planning and running the novice-focused half of the event, with trainings and projects to help people learn how to hack Wikimedia technology.
I'm leading at least two talks at Wikimania:
I say "at least two" because who knows whether folks will rope me into moderating a panel, or doing some stand-up comedy.
# (2) 27 Jun 2012, 03:57AM: Be Bold: An Origin Story:
I'm getting very positive reviews for my opening keynote from Open Source Bridge.
Video (starts around 6:00), speaker's notes (text that needs updating to match the audio).
# (1) 07 Jul 2012, 04:46PM: Various:
A few links for the weekend.
This video is probably only of interest to Arrested Development fans and people who want to hear an Australian imitating a US accent. By the same creator: "...It’s much easier and simpler from a user interface perspective, and worked brilliantly until one particular night....."
A few pieces of speculative fiction: "Other Moments" by Daniel Goss (short and poignant), and "The Naturalist" by Maureen McHugh (creeptastic).
Interesting perspectives on media I haven't experienced: "re: Fifty Shades of Grey" and Steen on noise music. Intriguing comic-narrative-as-commentary: new webcomic "Strong Female Protagonist", which "follows the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice." And Hari Kondabolu and Janine Brito discuss comedy by and for women & nonwhites.
More thought-provoking explanations, on perspective and how people interact: the metaphor of the missing stair, or, why it's worth paying attention to problems you've gotten used to in your community ((the same analogy running the other way). And the word "creepy" compresses meaning in a useful way and in response to distortions around safety and agency.
Curious about the indie Kannada film scene? Check an example out (YouTube channel). My bonus "hey I recognize him!" moment was when venerated Kannada film director Chandrashekar popped up in one of those videos praising the new movie.
In non-indie film: the original trailer for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The year is 1968. (I'm seeing it on the big screen later today.)
Finally, "wild child" by calapine, a vid I liked a lot -- and if you like that, check out fizzyblogic's "What About".
# 08 Jul 2012, 08:56PM: Taking Stock:
This weekend I:
Hey Sumana, next time you think you're wasting your time all the time, YOU'RE NOT.
- took a capoeira class for the first time
- went to the top of the Empire State Building for the first time
- saw open culture and open source friends, old and new
- caused about ten Wikimedians to see "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind"
- walked bits of the High Line park I'd never seen before
- saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen for the first time
- shared my career origin story with a few high schoolers
- rewatched a bit of Arrested Development
- watched some of Ken Burns's documentary Prohibition
- reread Jean Merrill's The Pushcart War
- worked with OpenHatch on this week's hackathon
- caught up a bit with other friends and family
And in my continuing catalog of things women talk about, in case you need help passing the Bechdel test in your fiction:
- gardening, plant identification, and methods
- whether to start a startup, and when, and how
- health insurance woes, birth control, sex education, and the new HIV home test
- how to structure work to reduce burnout risk
- working at nonprofits versus for-profits
- how to prepare kasha
- New York's joys and confusions
- being the children of immigrants
- how to improve engineering education, and the importance of finding martial arts classes that have friendly instructors and other friendly students
- old TV shows, and the music licensing barriers that keep them from DVD release
- whether going to a particular conference would forward one's goals
- choosing a college or major
# 09 Jul 2012, 10:46PM: Open Content, Source, And System:
Video interview with me about Wikimedia's openness on multiple levels.
# (4) 16 Jul 2012, 10:32PM: Two Weeks Home:
I'm home from Wikimania, where one of my presentations got someone "legitimately excited!" And what else can you ask?
Home for two weeks before I take a nice long summer vacation.
A few random thoughts:
"Assume Good Faith" is a pretty life-changing choice.
"I have this problem" and "we have this problem" are qualitatively different situations.
Some stimuli are like necessary vitamins and I need to make sure I get them, or I'll feel run-down. Examples: exercise, seeing my colleagues, making other people laugh, walking in greenery, telling and hearing stories, hugging, and the music of the Mountain Goats.
Multiple people have asked me, in the past few weeks, how I've gotten to where I am, to who I am. One answer: the hospitality gifts my parents gave me, plus an unremitting personal history of feeling like a powerless outsider and thus an iron-willed resolution that no one should ever feel like that again, plus catching open source zealotry as a youth.
Instead of "what do you do?", when I meet strangers at conferences, I ask questions like "what cool stuff are you up to?" or "what is your current endeavor?", allowing people to self-define by their chosen interests, but avoiding implications that reduce them to their current externally assigned titles.
One of the hardest parts of conferences: I rarely see these fascinating people, and can't just stop time to mind-meld with them.
Sometimes I misread my own calm as feeling tired.
# (1) 18 Jul 2012, 01:11PM: Mentorship:
Today I taught someone how to use the command line, showed him
nslookup, showed him Wolfram Alpha, and explained DNS, IPv6, hexadecimal, and WikiProjects.
That was nice.
# (3) 21 Jul 2012, 04:28PM: Thoughts Upon Seeing "Cabaret":
I've now seen the film and the stage versions of Cabaret. Some thoughts:
- Our leads are basically Kermit and Miss Piggy. In fact, I am now reinterpreting the Meet Cute from The Great Muppet Caper through the lens of Cabaret and it TOTALLY MAKES SENSE right down to the "wait, why don't you have a (British?) accent?" joke.
- I saw the stage version first, so of course I've imprinted on it as "right". And people who saw the film in 1972 didn't first run into Michael York as Basil Exposition from Austin Powers. With that disclaimed, the romance subplot and the political foreshadowing in the stage version are more compelling than those in the film. Also, in retrospect, no surprise that a 2012 stage version in northern California would be more realistic and sensitive about sexuality (especially bisexuality) than a major motion picture from 1972.
- I have the same issue with Cabaret that I had with The Science of Sleep, namely, over time I just get more irritated with main characters who hurt others or themselves. I briefly fantasize about a plot in which the immature or malicious characters realize, "I should leave the story and go concentrate on being a more reliable and kind person," and then the sensible people can get on with, like, teaching English lessons and making art and building nonviolent empowering institutions. Not sure how this squares with my love of Breaking Bad; maybe the poisonous insta-hate ingredient is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl/Guy.
- I also seem allergic to certain phrasings and generalizations in songs, just like the utter Wikipedian pedant you might expect I am. "What use is sitting alone in your room? / Come, hear the music play. / Life is a cabaret, old chum / Come to the cabaret!" Point-by-point refutation:
Leave the introverts alone and let them be alone in their rooms if they want; it's totally legit to be alone in your room!
- Why are you telling me to come hear the music play? I'm already here! The music is playing! God! Nothing's good enough for you!
- Life is NOT a cabaret, that makes no sense
- I did! I came to your cabaret and then there were Nazis!
- I sound like I'm really down on Cabaret; I'm not. It's interesting and visually spectacular, and the stage version I saw was haunting and creepy in a good way.
- Props to Kander and Ebb for writing a cheery earworm anthem ("Tomorrow Belongs To Me") that the viewer really wants to hum on the way out of the theater, but must squash because one doesn't actually want to be singing about the Fatherland and glory awaiting and so on. The viewer becomes complicit in the glib catchy power of a jingoistic jingle. Nice trick.
# 24 Jul 2012, 12:56PM: Upcoming Vacation:
This Friday night, I start a vacation and will be mostly offline till August 14th. I'm going to be in the north of England; if you live nearish Manchester and want to meet up around August 13th, please let me know this week.
# (2) 16 Aug 2012, 11:53AM: Back:
I'm back in the US and catching up on approximately everything.
Multiweek nearly-completely-offline vacation: I recommend it.
I took a very long walk with a friend. Coming back, so much felt unfamiliar: shoes that are not hiking boots, using a full QWERTY keyboard and desktop browser, the onslaught of email. I am trying to hold onto the disorientation before it dissipates.
# (1) 18 Aug 2012, 11:13PM: Practice:
One way I know I'm more mature than I used to be: I have a self-hating thought, then IMMEDIATELY know that it's just those unfortunate defaults speaking up, not a genuine insight that needs followup, and that I should really go to sleep.
# (1) 19 Aug 2012, 07:55AM: Getting A Habit Into My Muscle Memory:
There is no substitute for personal experience. I know now, in my arms and torso and legs, that I feel better when I do a bunch of goal-oriented vigorous outdoor physical activity every day. And I can sense in my skull that I feel better when I see other people's faces and use face-to-face conversation to socialize and solve problems. And conversely, I can see how it doesn't do my mental well-being any good to be indoors, looking at a little screen for most of the day, trying to fix problems by pressing buttons to make the pattern of lights change. It's not my job or my marriage or my inherent lack of virtue causing sadness and anxiety, it's the means of production. That used to be my way of life, for years. But I need to change it, or suffer what I now know are the consequences. And that change isn't going to come for free.
I got to see Mel again last night because she was passing through New York. We spent practically every hour together for over two weeks and then suddenly she was gone, so I deeply appreciated having a respite from missing her. She reads very fast, so I brought her Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Blind Geometer" because I knew she'd like it. She read it after dinner and I was right.
Mel is many good things, and one of them she shares with my boss Rob: she is good at recognizing that something she's doing isn't working, overcoming her own inertia, and making the change she knows she ought to make. I am getting better at inculcating this attitude in myself, especially with these strong examples around me.
There's something funny about this stance, this meta-habit of changing habits, how it seems to work better for me if I don't associate it with the scientific ideology at all, because that carries too much weight and I'll fight it out of spite. When I helped my colleague Roan move, this spring, he would look at new paperwork or logistics tasks and say "oh, ok" and just do them efficiently. It's another way of being, no emotional attachments or connotations around Productivity and Self-Improvement (neither positive nor negative), no moral valence.
"Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world."
"Yeah, but it's easier for plants. I mean, they have no memory. They just move on to whatever's next. With a person, though, adapting is almost shameful. It's like running away."
Once we become conscious of our change, once we're adapting deliberately, it's not Darwinian anymore; it's not the "non-random survival of randomly varying replicators," it's intelligent design and it's a decision to abandon a local maximum. And for me it requires a kind of faith that I'm in charge and that my decisions will, on the whole, be good ones; that I'm not just running away, I'm running towards something better; and that it's legitimate for me to decide that the old way is no longer good enough.
But it's best if I can trick myself into making changes quickly. Writer's block is the fear of making a decision, the saying goes, and so is procrastination: procrastination is the hothouse of second thoughts. And physical activity is enormously effective at giving me practice at acting this way. I had to adapt during the Coast-to-Coast walk, ASAP, or I wouldn't make it.
I self-indulgently imagine that I have uncovered the secret of jocks.
# 26 Aug 2012, 07:41PM: Reading & Rereading:
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. The hike with Mel reminded me of the Ne Theras collective and hike from The Dispossessed once in a while, but more of Genly and Therem's trek across the ice in Left Hand of Darkness. So I've been rereading that bit. Anna Karenina taught me why people like soap operas, and Left Hand of Darkness taught me why people like road movies.
- Making Software: What Works and Why We Believe It, still (previously on CES). I basically stopped reading this when I realized I'd want to write up a summary of my underlinings and marginal annotations for use by my open source community. Now the Wikimedia Foundation yearly all-staff meeting is nearing and I'm making a push to finish by then.
- Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams (previously). She led change and shepherded a community; More Relevant Than Ever.
- Catalogs and Counters: A History of Sears, Roebuck and Company by Boris Emmet and John E. Jeuck. University of Chicago Press published this in 1950, so you could analogize it to a modern-day Wal-Mart corporate biography. Sears solved interesting problems in trust, supply chain, and marketing, and I look forward to reading about the bit where they choose to open brick-and-mortar stores. (Not there yet.)
- Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. One of those books I read when I was too young to really understand them. Includes cures and treatments for leprosy, insanity, la grippe, measles, hysteria, nervousness, pleurisy, and whooping cough. I like the ridiculous suggestions I can read aloud to Leonard, and the rubbernecking appeal of the anecdotes, and the calming repetition of lovely words (tansy, rue, black cohosh). But I also recognize here how Kloss's book is similar to Addams's: these are hybrids of memoir and tract. They tell the stories of the authors' work, beliefs, and lives all intertwined. I'm a sucker for that.
- Lord Byron's Novel by John Crowley. Two-thirds or so through. It took me a while to warm up to the text-within-a-text but now I'm liking it better than the modern-day epistolary narrative.
- She's Such A Geek, edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders. I had dipped into the essays piecemeal, but now I've sat and read them all through, and the diversity of perspectives and insights impresses me all over again. A big giant RECOMMENDED -- there are many people on our side and reading our stories sustains me. And, fittingly, I first met Mel at this book's launch party.
# 31 Aug 2012, 08:21PM: Allergy:
Just started watching The Lady Vanishes. Several minutes in, a character behaves really loathesomely and inconsiderately towards a hotel manager and, by extension, the other guests. Then he invades a woman's hotel room, making her feel unsafe. I got a sinking feeling that he'd be a main character, for the rest of the film, that I was supposed to root for, so I paused the movie and looked up the movie's plot summary. Yup. Well, there's a Hitchcock movie I don't have to watch.
Life is too short for me to watch fictional guys treating women like crap and getting away with it.
# (2) 01 Sep 2012, 03:04PM: Bertie Wooster, Tom Buchanan, and George Oscar Bluth II:
In Arrested Development, G.O.B. makes use of a racist felon, "White Power Bill," as the unwilling demonstratee of a magic trick. Humiliated, Bill stabs G.O.B., crying, "White power!" As G.O.B. falls, he croaks, "I'm....white..."
This, like his more famous line "illusions, Dad, you don't have time for my illusions," demonstrates G.O.B.'s knack for the irrelevant riposte, but more clearly reveals why he does it. G.O.B. is entitled and one aspect of his entitlement is the inflexibility of his mindset. He does not even recognize immediately when life has handed him a setback, so his reflex is to immediately nitpick any criticism. Think of how often his conversational turn starts with "Technically, Michael..."
I thought of White Power Bill as I was flipping through The Great Gatsby just now, and reread the Tom-Jay confrontation scene:
Daisy looked desperately from one to the other. "You're causing a row. Please have a little self-control."
"Self-control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out.... Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white."
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.
"We're all white here," murmured Jordan.
They are. But Tom's status anxiety is fungible, channelling into abuse along race, gender, and class lines -- the Triple Crown of the kyriarchy! Fitzgerald makes Tom's racism part and parcel of his hideous dominance fetish, and it makes complete sense that he and White Power Bill would frame their attacks (on other whites) as defenses of whiteness.
But back to the irrelevant riposte, a dialogue trick I adore beyond reason. As a kid I read Wodehouse, and my favorite bit in all of the Jeeves & Wooster tales is from Right Ho, Jeeves. Backstory: Bertie quietly talked to Angela in the garden, making mock of Tuppy in a scheme to get Angela to un-break-up with Tuppy. This did not work, and it turns out Tuppy was hiding in a bush and heard the whole thing. After Tuppy emerges, enraged, Bertie tries to cool him down and is mostly terrible at it.
A sharp spasm shook him from base to apex. The beetle, which, during the recent exchanges, had been clinging to his head, hoping for the best, gave it up at this and resigned office. It shot off and was swallowed in the night.
"Ah!" I said. "Your beetle," I explained. "No doubt you were unaware of it, but all this while there has been a beetle of sorts parked on the side of your head. You have now dislodged it."
"Not beetles. One beetle only."
"I like your crust!" cried Tuppy, vibrating like one of Gussie's newts during the courting season. "Talking of beetles, when all the time you know you're a treacherous, sneaking hound."
It was a debatable point, of course, why treacherous, sneaking hounds should be considered ineligible to talk about beetles, and I dare say a good cross-examining counsel would have made quite a lot of it.
But I let it go.
Bertie Wooster is detail-oriented in all the wrong ways, and sometimes I am foolish that way too, and that exchange has cheered me for twenty years. I may be an annoying, bikeshedding pedant, but I'm not alone, and sometimes we make people laugh.
: Reading Comedy
# 20 Sep 2012, 09:29AM: Pedestrian:
Last night I dreamt that my walking companions and I needed to walk through through/over the Hindu Kush and continue on that path past Baghdad. In five hours. I guess one good thing about taking that hike this summer is that my impossible travel dreams now sometimes take place on foot.
# 21 Sep 2012, 10:19PM: 14:
I used to do a lot of stand-up comedy. I was at open mics at least once a week, I polished my material, I was always coming up with bits.
The impetus: I went to comedy shows and open mics, and saw people doing terribly, and thought, I could do better than that! and did.
But it turns out that seeing good comedy -- cerebral comedy, social justice comedy, mindbendingly absurd comedy -- sates me. I was making what I wanted to exist, and when I see comedians like Hari Kondabolu, I laugh and sit back and feel as though the need is filled. I'm like Sepia Mutiny in that way.
Embedded: a video in which Kondabolu jokes about the state of having about 14 prominent Indian-Americans. An embarrassment of riches!
If you want, next time you chat with me, ask me to compare and contrast how I got into (and out of) stand-up, and how I approach management.
# (3) 22 Sep 2012, 09:54PM: A Commandment To Iterate:
Nearly twenty years after reading about Kohlberg's proposed stages of moral development (alongside reading Huckleberry Finn in a high school lit class), I'm finally reading the response: Carol Gilligan's In A Different Voice. (I consistently sing "In a different voice" to the tune of "In a future time," the first line from They Might Be Giants' song "Robot Parade". Join me!) Here's the extremely simplified apocryphal backstory:
Kohlberg: To understand how people decide their moral questions, I shall ask them how they'd deal with this dilemma: should a man steal medicine from a pharmacist to cure his dying wife?
(I imagine Carol Gilligan saying that sort of like police chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo. "I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Larry.")
Some participants: Yes, because [x]! or: No, because [y]!
Kohlberg: [scribbling notes] Yes, yes, mmm, very good. You can tell more developed from less developed levels of moral reasoning by whether they proceed from self-interest, societal expectations, or principles.
Some participants, many of them women: Hold on. What if the guy gets caught and goes to jail? That won't help his wife. What about going to charity, or asking for an installment plan, or something? [participant tries to figure out how to solve the problem in some creative way, often making use of personal relationships]
Kohlberg: Obviously you don't really understand the dilemma and your moral reasoning is underdeveloped.
Kohlberg's research assistant, Carol Gilligan: Wow, you're missing out on some pretty fascinating data there. [writes "In A Different Voice" essay, turns it into a book, discusses decisionmaking that focuses on avoidance of hurt, responsibilities, relationships, etc.]
To me, the coolest thing about this story is the fix at the end, where Gilligan discovers that "noise" is signal. Science is not just discovery, it's iteration. Elliot Aronson wrote an outstanding sociology textbook, The Social Animal, that's full of this sort of progress narrative: Scientist A conducts a study, and twenty years later Scientist B redoes the study in a better way and finds stronger conclusions.
For a physical sciences example of noise turning out to be signal, consider how we discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation, a.k.a. evidence that there was a Big Bang. Or sing about it.
This is how we fight.
# 23 Sep 2012, 01:31PM: "Constellation Games" Out as Ebook:
Constellation Games is out as a 5-dollar ebook. PDF? Kindle version? Nook version? DRM-free? Of course.
“Richardson’s keen observations of human behavior combined with his sharp sense of humor make Constellation Games a terrific read.” —Wired Geekdad (full review)
“If Douglas Coupland wrote sci-fi this is the sort of novel he
would produce... it is now quite hard to imagine first contact going
any other way... a simply impressive first novel.”
“This book is amazing - sci-fi where the mainline ‘sci’ is game design.” — Rob Dubbin, writer for The Colbert Report
“A deftly comic very fresh SF novel of the everyday.” — Benjamin Rosenbaum, author of The Ant King and Other Stories
“Should appeal to gamers and fans of light-hearted space opera.” —Publishers Weekly
If you liked it, now's a great time to tell your friends, recommend it to bloggers/podcasts/celebrities you know, review it on GoodReads/LibraryThing/bookstore sites, or repost the first two chapters in your blog.
# 28 Sep 2012, 10:01AM: Sometimes An Unconference Is The Wrong Choice:
Now that I'm something of an expert on it, I have Opinions on how to structure a workshop or collaboration event for newbies. Summary of my answer:
- define your goals very clearly and specifically
- skip unnecessary tactics
- choose how to use some mix of speeches, tutorials, sprints, and breathing room
We all want to avoid stultifying slide presentations, and if we preplan the schedule, we might choose irrelevant topics or activities. One alternative is Open Space Technology, which substitutes an alternative, more participatory event structure and nearly guarantees that no one will fire up PowerPoint. Some planners (and participants) think that all planned activities are per se useless, and that thus we should only do unconferences that follow an Open Space model, regardless of the event's audience. More often I run into new event planners who default to "we'll do an unconference" without thinking about whether that's the best tool for the job.
When people suggest removing traditional structure from collaboration events, I think of Mako Hill's research on why Wikipedia succeeded and other contemporaneous projects didn't (summary, audio and video). One reason is: even though the peer production model was unfamiliar and chaotic and new, the goal (an encyclopedia) was well-defined. In contrast, these other projects were trying to redefine both process and THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE CYBER COLLAB DISTRIBUTED ETC ETC: both process and outcome.
I think that workshops are kind of like that. You can either be innovative, groundbreaking, and inclusive in what you are doing or how you are doing it, but both, simultaneously, is very hard. (This is also an issue with Agile.)
If you are planning an event for people who already know and trust each other, and are good at public speaking and collaboration, and are experts in the field, then an unconference might work! But for newbies who are learning not just a new skill, but a new way of thinking? Give them a more familiar structure. (WisCon is an interesting example here. It's a massively multiplayer conference: anyone can suggest sessions or suggest themselves as copanelists or moderators. But a programming committee processes that input ahead of time into a great at-con schedule.)
This is tough for free culture ideologues, because one wants to "be the change you wish to see in the world", and do everything collaboratively, empoweredly, etc. But sometimes the ivy needs a trellis to grow on.
I think event organizers should consciously design space in the structure for breathing room. People get a lot out of the breaks, the hallway track, and unconference sessions. But I think it's rare to have a good hallway track without some interesting and structured stuff happening in the rooms just off the hallway.
# 13 Oct 2012, 10:30AM: Management Secrets of Ancient Rome:
Leonard is listening to the History of Rome podcast and tells me the best bits. Lessons include:
- An emperor is a single point of failure.
- Be proactive about answering your mail (paging Caracalla).
- If the only way you can be removed from your position is assassination, that is how you will be removed.
- If you set up a system where no one can trust anyone else, then no one will trust anyone else. This will lead to backstabbing.
- People get tetchy about holding on to their customs, even if you think they're nonsense.
- Do not disregard the oracle of the sacred chickens.
# 13 Oct 2012, 10:53PM: When I Say "Whom" I Make It Sound Like An Owl Or An Ent:
I am smiling ridiculously wide right now because I have just made plans to see my favorite English teacher from high school, whom I can call "Sam" with some small effort but whom in the third person I feel compelled to call "Mr. Hatch."
(I got to talk to him on the phone! Just now! Eeeee!)
A certain self-consciousness is entering my writing as I think "Mr. Hatch might see this!" Millions of Wikimedians? Kind of used to it. Someone who last graded me when I was fifteen? WHAT ARE MY COMMAS DOING. WHOM AM I KIDDING.
Anyway, I am looking forward to catching up with him. And here's a reminder: if a teacher or mentor was important to you, take the few minutes to look them up and let them know. You don't have forever.
# 13 Oct 2012, 11:28PM: Rest In Peace, John Morearty, 1938-2012:
STOCKTON - John Morearty, the "peacenik carpenter" who led weekly anti-war rallies on Pacific Avenue and helped found the Peace and Justice Network of San Joaquin County, died at home Thursday morning.
John was 74. I got back in contact with him this year, learned he was ill, and went to Stockton to see him and his wife several times. We said our goodbyes, but right now it doesn't feel like enough.
I was watching a film with Leonard yesterday and saw a wipe transition, and remembered how proud I was of making a particular clever transition work on Talking it Through With John Morearty: Dialogues on War and Peace, when I was technical director. John trusted a teenager to run sound and cameras on his show. Am I living up to that example in the community I manage?
He was my introduction into the modern social justice movement. He loved to talk religion with my dad -- they'd both delved deep into Hindu and Christian theology -- and now they're both dead. His voice, that deep rumbly thoughtful voice, I'll never hear that voice again.
Except I will. Before he died, John asked me to work with his friend Jeanne to serve as his literary executors. Some of the works we'll curate are text, we also will be dealing with many hours of audio and video, including dozens or hundreds of episodes of Talking it Through. So I will be hearing his voice again -- the voice I remember from his prime, not the weak whispers of his deathbed. And he gave me permission to upload them to the Internet Archive or Wikimedia Commons, under a license that promotes sharing and translation and teaching.
He made a CD of himself singing peace songs. I can't bear to listen to it right now but it comforts me to know it's there. I'm thinking of his rendition:
My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?
# (4) 27 Oct 2012, 01:10PM: Tessitura:
Do you miss bloggers from five and ten and fifteen years ago? I especially miss Flea and John-Paul Spiro and Fugitivus. One of the things I learned from Fugitivus:
I had one professor explain it to me really well; she said, you don’t need to be trained to interpret dreams. You just ask a person, "How did this make you feel?" and when they tell you, you ask them, "What else in your life makes you feel this way?" And voila, you now know what that thing in the dream represented.
I can now add a corollary to that. If I feel disproportionately emotionally affected by something, I can ask myself, how do I feel? and what in my childhood made me feel this way?
As long as I'm plumbing my depths, a few other artifacts from the last two weeks:
- I know more of the Lord's Prayer than I thought I did, just not the sentence ordering.
- "You'd be happier and I'd be happier if you could look back on the Sumana of 15 or 16 years ago and see her as a person you like and are fond of, but who was sometimes silly."
- "You're an everything person, you just don't know it yet."
- Until this week I had never actually said the phrase "anchor baby" aloud.
- After a Hogwarts pun: "You have me Rowling on the floor laughing." "You know I'm J.K."
- The Internet Archive has the complete literature of a people, specifically, the Balinese Digital Library collection. It's been a long time since I had that jawdropped awe, that glimpse of a welcome future.
- Overheard at the Internet Archive event as I wove through the lobby towards the Knuth organ solo: a snatch of a conversation about link relations, and a woman complimenting another woman's blog.
- "I understand the you of April 2011 a lot better now."
- "Let me surprise you."
# 29 Oct 2012, 08:46AM: Prepped for Stormicane:
I'm in New York City hearing the winds blow. We have food, water, batteries, a crank radio, books. I'm trying to get a bunch of work done today because we might lose power and internet tonight.
Update from the next afternoon: We're fine, thank goodness!
# (6) 29 Oct 2012, 02:53PM: Leonard And I Will Match Ten Thousand Dollars Of Your Ada Initiative Donations:
Leonard and I met because of the open source movement. We owe our livelihoods to open source, and its values -- inclusiveness, compassion, empowerment, equal and fair treatment for all -- help make us who we are.
This is why he and I are pledging to match up to USD$10,000 of donations to the Ada Initiative made before November 1, 2012.
The Ada Initiative works to increase the participation of women in open technology and culture. They gave me the wording and support I needed to create Wikimedia Foundation's Friendly Space Policy for technical events, which helps everyone at a Wikimedia hackathon feel safer so they can concentrate on rockin' out. If you liked "Be Bold: An Origin Story", the keynote I delivered at Open Source Bridge this year, thank the Ada Initiative, whose advisors helped me shape it. Everyone who wants to grow the open source community benefits from the Ada Initiative's work, and so donating to TAI is like investing in a good piece of machinery; TAI's going to make my work easier for a long time to come.
Please join us in donating to the Ada Initiative, especially if you've also gotten a good career out of open source.
# (1) 30 Oct 2012, 09:08PM: You Did It!:
Leonard and I will be fulfilling our match, because donors gave USD$10,000 to The Ada Initiative. Thank you for matching us.
# 04 Nov 2012, 10:38AM: Use Case:
Why is open data important? Here's an example from the Wikimedia chapter in Hungary. For context: every year people all over the world participate in the "Wiki Loves Monuments" contest, taking photos of monuments and historic places and uploading them to Wikimedia Commons. So local organizers have to get lists of those places (example).
We had high hopes to repeat in 2012 the highly successful 2011 Wiki Loves Monuments photo contest, which required agreement from the National Office of Cultural Heritage to use the database of national monuments. However, the head of the Office has resigned in June due to a disagreement with the government before he could sign the cooperation agreement for 2012, leaving the decision to his successor. The new head, partly due to the tasks of taking over the Office and partly due to summer holidays could only devote time to the draft agreement in the middle of August. Finally, at the end of August, a few days before the government disbanded the Office, we had received notice that an agreement this year is not possible and we had to cancel our participation in the international photo contest.
Aaaarrrrghh! I offered my sympathies and got a reply:
Thank you Sumana! Wikipedians are quite resilient, so I have good hopes for 2013, even if we have to create a list of the 10 thousand monuments from scratch by hand (which I believe some people have already started doing)... –Bence
I wish you good luck, Wikimedia Hungary, and I wish you open data.
# (1) 06 Nov 2012, 01:52PM: Election Day:
Voted (72-minute wait). Trying not to think about things I basically cannot control. Elections are glorious, like weddings, and depressing, like sickbeds. Equanimity would be nice.
(If you have the chance, I hope you will join me in this ritual.)
# 07 Nov 2012, 04:40PM: This Moment:
I feel really good right now.
I'm doing work I love, supporting and supported by smart and good people. My country's headed in a better direction than it was a week ago. I just watched another great episode of To Play The King with Leonard, eating his mac'n'cheese and brussels sprouts. Tonight I'm going to get together with interesting people, some of whom are old colleagues I haven't seen in too long, and learn new things.
When we pull together then we are more than just the sum of our individual contributions. It gladdens my heart to feel that alignment. I am so lucky and we have come so far.
# 09 Nov 2012, 08:36AM: Mission:
I decided to transcribe the speech in which newly reelected US President Barack Obama thanks his campaign staff and reflects on his own experience as a community organizer. I hope this helps nonnative English speakers and the Deaf. (.srt file available for download even! I'm not sure how to tell YouTube to use this instead of its superlatively awful automatic captions.) But I really just wanted to get his words right so I could talk about them.
In June 2008, the new Democratic Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, gave a speech to his campaign staff that Leonard and I watched. I was a project manager at a webdev shop, thinking about what "politics" means and admiring Obama's campaign for its "transparency, trust, boldness, and long-term investment and empowerment of non-bosses". I thought about Obama's viral leadership model: he doesn't just want to be that kind of leader, he wants to make you that kind of leader. And I loved the audacity of only doing effective things.
Four years and change later, I've become more and more like his audience, and like him. I became a community organizer, albeit in open source rather than electoral politics. I work to train contributors to mentor each other and to run events. I argue that we shouldn't do ineffective things, even if they're tradition. And in his 2008 speech, when he says:
Now everybody is counting on you, not just me. I know that's a heavy weight. But also what a magnificent position to find yourself in, where the whole country is counting on you to change it, for the better. Those moments don't come around very often....
he might as well be talking to me, about the stress and the opportunity of working for Wikimedia.
"And the work that I did in those communities changed me much more than I changed the communities," Obama says. That is the virtue of doing this work not in pairs, as missionaries do, but alone, as Genly Ai does in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness:
Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual; it is personal, it is both more and less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou.
I also loved his explanation, "And it taught me something about how I handled disappointment, and what it meant to work hard on a common endeavor. And I grew up. I became a man during that process." What a tremendously hopeful conception of masculinity and adulthood, to be say that "I became a man" by growing a disciplined empathy.
And here my thoughts go in too many directions to capture: how contributors get ignored if we aren't The Right Sort, and how we fight back (and David Brooks, surprisingly, captures a useful nuance); you can no longer diss women and get away scot-free in national US politics; maturity, sustainability, and self-soothing; "I am here because of Ashley."
But back to the thank-you speech: let me excerpt the most moving part.
You know, I try to picture myself when I was your age. And I first moved to Chicago at the age of 25, and I had this vague inkling
about making a difference. I didn't really know how to do it. I didn't have a structure. And there wasn't a presidential campaign at the time that I could attach myself to. Well, Reagan had just been reelected.
And was incredibly popular. And so I, I came to Chicago knowing that somehow, I wanted to make sure that my life attached itself to helping kids get a great education, or helping people living in, in poverty to get decent jobs and be able to work and have dignity. To make sure that people didn't have to go to the emergency room to get healthcare. And, you know, I ended up being a community organizer out in the South Side of Chicago with some, a group of churches who were willing to hire me. And I didn't know at all what I was doing....
And so when I come here and I look at all of you, what comes to mind is: it's not that you guys actually remind me of myself. It's the fact that you are so much better than I was.
In so many ways! You're, you're smarter and you're better organized. And, you, uh, you're more effective. And so I'm absolutely confident that all of you are gonna do just amazing things in your lives. And you'll be what Bobby Kennedy called the ripples of hope that come out when you throw a stone in a lake. That's gonna be you!
You know, I'm just looking around the room and I'm thinking: wherever you guys end up ... you're just gonna do great things!
And, and that's why even before last night's results, I felt that the work that I had done, um, in running for office, had come full circle.
[Obama's voice chokes with emotion]
Because what you guys have done means that the work that I'm doing is important. And I'm really proud of that. I'm really proud of all of you.
[Obama tears up]
For the first time, I saw famously cool, self-controlled Barack Obama tear up. This is what gets at him, in his bones: empowerment.
I should check in again in another four years, and ask how I'm measuring up.
# 11 Nov 2012, 10:37PM: "I can't stand how happy she is with herself.":
That Lindy West video is worth watching, if you can.
# 13 Nov 2012, 10:10AM: Tulsi Gabbard:
I have been nerding out about Tulsi Gabbard, Representative-Elect from Hawaii's second Congressional district, and soon to be the first Hindu in Congress. Thus I am now one of the biggest contributors to her Wikipedia page. More help is of course welcome: I'm especially seeking sources for more details on her political views.
You really do learn a lot by writing a Wikipedia page about a topic. I learned about Honolulu city politics, the history of the same-sex marriage debate in Hawaii, wacky conspiracy theories, less wacky conspiracy theories, how Emily's List endorsements work, the deeper meaning of "aloha" beyond "hello," and oh yeah, Tulsi Gabbard's life and views. It's nice to be able to contribute to a common informational resource as I learn.
Also Leonard and I have been just watched the excellent House of Cards trilogy (House of Cards, To Play The King, The Final Cut), which is full of political backstabbing and high intrigue. As a result we have been making up premises for film noir and genre mystery novels. Examples include my idea that, as vice president, Richard Nixon got bored and started a side gig as a private investigator. "Liquid Confusion: A Nixon's Triangle Mystery." An important letter has been left in Pat's cloth coat. But the dry cleaner has gone missing! Also when I told Leonard that, in 1956, a Sikh immigrant beat a female aviator for an LA House seat, he thought that would make an interesting film noir backdrop. He is also willing to put Nixon in if that's what it takes to get a greenlight.
# 23 Nov 2012, 08:32AM: Thanks:
I'm grateful that Quim Gil's come onboard. I'm grateful that my spouse is willing to accommodate my "that's too much food and it makes me anxious to look at it" anxiety. I'm grateful for subcommunities that listen and empathize. I'm grateful that I'm relatively well-off, financially, and that Hurricane Sandy practically didn't touch me.
# 23 Nov 2012, 09:03AM: Films:
Leonard and I have been watching old movies.
Design For Living (1948): OK, I need to watch more pre-Code films. Realistic and empathetic about sex!
Unfaithfully Yours: I need to watch more Preston Sturges. Funny and banter-y and innovative.
Night Train to Munich: Originally decided to watch because I saw the director's name, "Carol Reed," and thought it would be really interesting to watch war intrigue directed by a woman in 1940. Carol Reed was a man, oops. Still: surprising, tense, funny.
Paper Moon (1973): Charming, spare, moving.
House of Cards trilogy, a total of 12 episodes from the BBC during the 1990s: OMG SO GOOD. Creepy, smart, suspenseful.
Also Leonard and I watched some silent movies at the Museum of the Moving Image. Funniest: "A Grocery Clerk's Romance", "Algie, the Miner".
In non-old-movie news, Robot & Frank is excellent science fiction, touching and hilarious and realistic.
# (1) 26 Nov 2012, 07:14AM: "The barroom Benzedrine standards of this megalomaniac society":
Wow, All About Eve is quite a ride. Multiple interesting women, hella quotable lines, and even a glimpse of how lax and friendly airport security used to be.
There's a much-quoted speech one main character gives, thinking about femininity and ambition, and I don't agree with all of it, but this bit resonates:
That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted.
Yep. And if anyone knows about that particular labor and about performing femininity, it's the women in this movie.
# (1) 30 Nov 2012, 05:54PM: I Am A Software Developer:
I arrived in San Francisco yesterday in just enough time to speed to Wikimedia Foundation headquarters and present:
Watch, live, via screensharing as a developer fixes a bug, including investigation, git commit, getting it reviewed and merged, and closing the Bugzilla ticket. Probably featuring Sumana Harihareswara. Great for newbies!
About 25 people watched the YouTube stream, which you can now view (it's about the first 20 minutes; the IRC log starts at 20:30:36). A copy of the video should get to Wikimedia Commons sometime in the next week.
A small part of me thought I was defrauding the viewers by masquerading as a developer. Because, sure, I fix user-visible strings and all, and I can read code okay, but (insert moving-the-goalposts here).
This morning, of course, I woke up too early from jet lag, and was listening to calming music, trying to get back to sleep. And then I realized that I hadn't fixed the second half of the demo bug. So I dragged myself upright and opened my laptop and made the fix.
Okay, now I'm a developer. An occasional, entry-level software developer, but one nonetheless. I viscerally believe that the ritual that brought me into that guild was not yesterday's commit, but today's.
# (2) 01 Dec 2012, 10:35AM PST: We Are Hiring - You Too?:
Wikimedia Foundation is hiring, a lot. We need your help to:
And of course everything you make at the Wikimedia Foundation is freely licensed, so you can suggest your buddies use it to solve their problems, write public blog posts about it, talk about it at parties and conferences, and link to it on your résumé. Isn't open source rockin'?
Some other places that make open source software and are hiring:
Linaro, 10gen (makers of
Culture Foundation, Balboa Park Online Collective, CollectionSpace, Mozilla, OpenStack, Red Hat, Canonical, Collabora. And you can check the
FSF jobs board.
If you're hiring people to improve open source -- designers, tech writers, product managers, sysadmins, coders, etc. -- feel free to leave a comment. I know a few FLOSS-ish folks who are about to start looking and maybe I can direct them your way as well.
# 08 Dec 2012, 01:28PM: Friday:
"What license is it under?" "The 'I put it on Tumblr' license?" "Ah yes, Misattribution-ShareAlike."
(Today) I read "dear web people: forcing smartphone users to click on a tiny dot 9 times to see all of a story almost guarantees no views past the 1st page" and momentarily got anxious before I remembered that I work for Wikimedia now, not Salon, and we don't do that!
"What lists do we post to to advertise that we're a queer-friendly workplace?" "The Castro?" "I think me standing on a corner handing out pamphlets doesn't scale."
"In engineering we have these six Director-level groups, but we might be adding The Seventh Directorate, by Robert Ludlum."
Also yesterday when I walked to lunch I was the thirtysomething middle manager bopping down New Montgomery to a decades-old rock song ("Smells Like Teen Spirit"). I am not a Dilbert character, but I believe I show up in a Jonathan Coulton song or four.
# (2) 12 Dec 2012, 11:48AM: Sick:
Just returned from San Francisco. I could feel the tickle in my throat start late Monday afternoon. With zinc, citrusy or chamomile herbal teas, Emergen'C, whiskey, Thai curries, and cough drops, I was able to delay the real misery of the cold until after I got off the plane last night. (A flight attendant issued me booze, forgot to charge me for it, then waved away my attempts to pay. Free as in beer -- still sometimes a novelty.)
It still surprises me how miserable I find it to be sick. My fine motor control goes away. My speech goes aphasic. I cannot meet my own standards of competence, so I have to take a day off work, but since my ambitions remain the same, it's just a frustrating day of the hamster wheel in my head fruitlessly spinning.
I am grumpy and bad company but Leonard is sweetness and light. I don't know how he does it. I am in my thirties and I need to recognize what I'm just not good at. Maybe I will always be dissatisfied and impatient.
# 25 Dec 2012, 05:35PM: A Merry Christmas:
Yesterday in my weekly one-on-one with my boss, we talked about matters ranging from recruiting and hiring to Firefox OS to Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. I got to introduce him to the management fallacy "We must do something; this is something; therefore we must do it."
Today: slept late, edited Wikipedia and commented on MetaFilter, listened to Civil War songs, read fanfic. Ate warmed-up frozen stuff and leftover greens and Brussels sprouts and drank instant coffee and chamomile tea. Very quiet.
# (3) 31 Dec 2012, 12:06AM: Linkbunch:
I'm thoroughly enjoying the webcomic "Strong Female Protagonist": "SFP follows the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility and a crippling sense of social injustice."
Please encourage people you know, especially women, to apply to Hacker School by January 1st if they enjoy making software. Financial subsidies are available.
So far, my favorite fanfic this month is "A Great and Gruesome Height", which is about Dar Williams's song "Iowa" and The West Wing and a closeted lesbian.
It's 1998, Josiah Bartlet is the Democratic nominee battling sitting Republican President Lawrence Armstrong for the Oval Office, and back in Iowa, Republican campaign coordinator Megan Richter is about to fall from a great and gruesome height.
And I found a lovely Babylon 5 fanvid from 2007 that hits most of the high points of the series.
I spent my Christmas this year alone in my apartment, which was very nice in some ways (zero travel, zero hassle, no presents, no feasts, etc.), but it would have been nice to see loved ones. And this Kate Beaton cartoon gets at the incoherent yearning far better than any Christmas carol I've ever heard.
Finally, links to a bunch of Key & Peele sketches that have made me very happy lately.
You can hire me through Changeset Consulting.
This work by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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