I am not an ubergeek

This past weekend, I wrote a little IRC bot that posts to a Socialtext Workspace (wiki/blog).
I wrote the bot because we needed it. The Socialtext crew frequently discussses things on IRC, and we often come up with ideas we want to remember, categorize, work more on later. Every so often, Ed Vielmetti changes his nick to STBot, and promises to post an item.
Coding to scratch an itch is classic geekery, but in other aspects, I fall short of the macho ideal.
* I like making something for people to use, and I’m not in love with infrastructure. I am quite glad that co-conspirators and colleagues get their jollies developing meta-levels of abstraction, achieving mathematical elegance, and solving knotty performance problems.
* I’m thrilled to use tools and models from others. The bot uses the Net::IRC framework, an API widget from Pete Kaminski, and models from jibot and elsewhere. I learned enough about how the tools work to use them.
* I like assembling things from piece parts. The ubergeek ideal is building a system from the ground up; reuse is a pragmatic necessity, but a fall from the ideal.
Surrounded by masters of the art, it is a small thing to be pleased by, but it makes me happy anyway. It wanted to exist, and I was able to make it, rather than casting the idea to the lazyweb and waiting.

Response to Halley on Alpha Male

Halley Suitt recently responded to an old comment on Pete Kaminski’s blog, explaining that the Alpha Male series was intended ironically.
Trouble was, I’ve seen and heard enough un-ironic alpha male culture that I honestly couldn’t tell. Early in my career, I worked in places that ran on old-fashioned, quid pro promotion sexual harassment. Popular culture has plenty of serious retro “post-feminist” dreck about “real women” and “real men”.
I read some of the blog-link fan letters to the original Alpha Male posts, including posts from guys I otherwise like and respect. It was clear that a good number of readers took the series straight.
I hate the idea of admirable, delightful geeky guys missing the irony and acting macho in an attempt to live the alpha male fantasy. I remember one really depressing conversation during the boom, when a male colleague explained that he always wanted to be a teacher, but got an MBA because women would like him better as a high-paid corporate guy. Personally, I thought he’d be more attractive if he had less money and more commitment to his nature and values.
One way to read the series is 50s gender roles as a thrilling way to play with now-forbidden power dynamics. I have no cause to argue with anything that floats the boats of other consenting adults. But playing CEO-seduces-the secretary just doesn’t do it for me. Power relations among real humans are complicated enough without 50s gender-role drag.

Decorating a social space

It’s interesting to observe the choices one makes de facto. After a very, very busy couple of months, I took the day to a bit of cleaning and social space decoration.
Here was the sequence of choices.
* de-clutter house (done weekly when not daily)
* add full text RSS feeds to blog
* add del.icio.us-based link blog to blog
* assemble reading chair ikea chair
* small hack adding social feature to Socialtext intranet
Here are the items that haven’t gotten done yet (awaiting next clear weekend)
* clear yard
* weed gravel driveway
* change apparently permanent track lighting bulbs in closed porch
* fix leaky faucet
Observations about priorities:
* Uncluttered personal space is important, but less important than deadlines and obligations.
* The blog is a social space that gets shared by more people than the living room.
* The living room, blog, and intranet all occupy similar mental space regarding social decoration
* The living room, blog, and intranet are more actively social than the front yard

Wireless routers and sleepless nights

So, after years of trepidation and procrastination, I bought a wireless router for the house. The ethernet cable was annoying for houseguests and meetings, but it had a very useful feature. It didn’t reach the bedroom.
The last time I worked with a distributed team, it was back during dial-up days. The phone cord reached the bedroom. I gave myself sleep problems til I reconfigured the house to have a sleeping area out of sight of the office area, and resolved not to bring the computer into the sleeping area.
So, when you start seeing blogposts and emails and wiki changes at 3-4am, worry for me. An intervention may be in order.

Arizona Day Trip 2

We stopped to see the Sinagua cliffdwellings. Sinagua cliff dwelling A village of 200 people built houses that lasted 600 years after they left. Our “big box” Walmart and CompUSA stores are designed to last 8-15 years.
There was an exhibit of Sinagua artifacts. They made rather ugly pottery, and traded with the Hopi for nice pottery. They also made baskets. The Hopi pottery, and Sinagua baskets were very similar in style to pottery, and baskets, and other southwestern objects. There are shopping malls and office buildings and subdivisions designed in the shape of those cliff-dwellings.
One part cultural appropriation, one part cultural continuity. There’s something so compelling about the design patterns that humans replicate them for 1000 years.

Arizona Day Trip 1

Went to Arizona last weekend for a family wedding. On Sunday before the wedding, took a day trip that reminded me why I don’t travel with the nuclear family, though I love them dearly.
The travel itinerary is:
* wake up at 6:30 am
* leave before 8
* drive two hours
* get out of the car
* scurry around an attraction for 15 minutes
* get back in the car
* drive
* get out of the car
* scurry around attraction for 15 minutes
* eat food from bag lunches in back seat
* drive
* repeat for another 2-3 attractions
* get back in the car
* drive two hours back to destination.
My parents are doing lots fabulous travel with their post-kids-at-home time, and it makes them sad that I don’t go with them.
But I really can’t stand it. Hated it as a kid, realized as an adult that you really can travel in a less frenetic fashion, and resolved not to do it again.

New Years Resolutions

Out of all of the goals on the list for 2004, I know how to do all of the items but one.
Made fabulous progress last year in professional and nonprofit activities. I know how to stay fit and eat well, though it’s hard to do when working a zillion hours at a start-up. I kept the resolution to stay in touch with friends and keep social commitments, even when really busy. I completed some small but useful programming projects; learned how to build things small steps at a time and debug.
Gosh, I’m even procrastinating getting to the point. I’d love to meet the right guy, and don’t know how to do it. So I’d love your advice, dear readers.
There are two methods that people recommend:
Method 1) Have an active life, do things you enjoy, and meet interesting people. Eventually, you’ll meet someone who’s right for you. Or someone you meet will introduce you.
This method is fun and relatively easy. But sloooow. I met and briefly dated someone through a non-profit connection, who’s super-smart, fun and capable; not right for an LTR for me, and we’re friends now. That was one guy in a year.
Method 2) Market yourself. First, ask everyone you know to fix you up. This hasn’t had any results so far. I guess I can try again…
Next, fill out profiles on the online dating services. Browse profiles and send form letters to plausible-sounding guys. Meet for coffee. The results of this approach have been amusingly disastrous. Outside of “dates”, I meet people I like and make new friends all the time. On “dates” with guys selected by profiles, I meet people who are wildly unsuitable — a guy whose favorite activity is gambling; a guy who wears a concealed handgun at all times; a guy who doesn’t wash. Ask me for more amusing stories, if you like.
This isn’t fun, and hasn’t had any good results so far. So I procrastinate. I put it on my to-do list every single weekend, and lo and behold, do everything else.
Gentle readers:
* Shall I continue to pursue method 1, and trust that the universe will make a connection?
* Or shall I smile sweetly, take a photograph with a tighter sweater, and write more form letters?
Advice welcome.
p.s. If you’re a single guy who reads my blog, feel free to drop me a note. Ditto if you know someone I should meet.
p.p.s. So, you ask… why is such a nice girl still single? Dated the same guy for a long time, during my mid-20s/early 30s when most people hook up, and didn’t marry him.


You can tell the families of tourists. It’s not just the sneakers and the cameras. The adults have a dogged, purposeful expression. Just seen attraction two-of-five; three-of-five is next, gotta get our money’s worth. The kids look bored unto death.
One of the best parts of travelling is sitting down and watching the guys in greatcoats and chic haircuts, the people loading and unloading, the pathologically thin women in orthopedically crippling shoes. The cops making sure the guy sleeping in the church doorway is sleeping.

Jews on Christmas

Went on the night of the 25th to a performance with several Jewish groups at the Knitting Factory.
The headliners were “What I Like About Jew”, a duo who perform goofy comic songs on Jewish themes. “2 pubic hairs and a 3 piece suit/Today I am a man” was one chorus. One of their pieces is the gleefully offensive Hannukah with Monica.
The best musician was Matisyahu a Hassidic Reggae/Dub performer who re-appropriates the Reggae references to Zion and the messiah. Cindy Cohn played sweet folk guitar with sharp-tongued lyrics “who do I need to fuck to get laid around here.” Todd Barron did excellent deadpan standup comedy.
It was very enjoyable — lots of native New York life forms.
Then I got food poisoning from the post-performance dinner, and spent most of the day with barely enough energy to get up. Hopefully will feel better to enjoy more of the trip.
I have intermittent wireless connectivity from the Verizon phonebooth hotspot catty-corner from my host’s apartment; if you need to reach me, call my cellphone.