1. Are role models a thing that work for you? If so, describe a role model relationship you've had, past or present.
Yes, they are very much a thing... but perhaps I should say "were". I've kind of formed this kind of relationship with every academic advisor I've had (and a few job supervisors), but "relationship" implies something where the role model is aware that they are a role model, and I doubt that was true every time. I don't want to talk about specifics in public, because some of these situations didn't end well and others just kind of make me sound like a gushy fanboy if I talk about them. (And there's overlap between those two.) Instead, though, I shall reflect on why I don't have role models anymore.
Maybe part of it is that I'm old, and don't need them, but I think another part is that I have these two intersecting lives -- one as a mostly-wanna-be trans and feminist activist (if talking about it and writing about it counts as activism... which is also why I say "wanna-be") and one as a computer scientist. If I'm to look for examples of people who are both, there aren't a lot of examples, and I don't know of any other trans men in computer science in a role comparable to or higher-rank than my own. (Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't any... but someone who doesn't choose to publicly disclose their history isn't going to be someone I'll look up to as "oh hey, another trans guy who does what I do.") Of course, I can have cis men as role models, and for most of my life I have... but cis men get to have other cis men as role models, so it seems only fair to me that I ought to be able to find trans men who could be role models. And while there are many women I admire, I'd also be hesitant to name a woman as a role model because saying "I aspire to be like this person" seems to imply "I aspire to be someone who has overcome huge difficulties to accomplish cool stuff", and well, I'll never have to overcome the kinds of difficulties that women in CS have to; that's all in the past for me. So that would seem a bit privilege-denying.
And the reason why I'm specifically calling out the lack of role models who speak to both aspects of my life is that if the two were merely separate, maybe it would be fine to have two sets of role models... but people I've encountered in queer and trans communities, especially people who are more politically active, often (certainly not always) seem dismissive of nerdiness, and computer science people are certainly often dismissive of identities other than that of a white cis hetero (at best, theoretically bisexual) guy who talks a lot about having been bullied in high school. So when each side shows contempt for the other, it's hard to look to either for inspiration.
This answer is probably going to come off as vague to some people and offensive to others, but that's probably what I get for dodging the question :P
2. Excepting yourself, who is your favourite Tim (living, historical or fictional)?
When I chose the name Tim, I had a particular Tim in mind, but I don't think he is my favorite Tim anymore. I'm going to say Tim Sandlin, author of _Skipped Parts_ and other fine novels, even though I haven't re-read any of his books in several years, and I'm not sure whether or not his books will have aged well for me. But, I sure did enjoy _Skipped Parts_ in 1999. In case Sandlin's writing turns out not to have aged well, my emergency backup Tim -- fictional, this one -- is Tim Hasler, a character in _The Mad Men_ by Samuel Delany. I'd hesitate to list him as my favorite since in the book, he's a brilliant philosopher described as having had all kinds of ideas that I'm not sure I could summarize well. But the other thing he's described as having had is a lot of kinky gay sex, and that's something I can get on board with.
3. Martin's law reads "If you never used software written by dickheads, your disk would be very empty indeed." Is there any software that you avoid primarily because it was written by jerks?
This question reminds me of a very funny story (to me, anyway) involving a former colleague of mine, which I should probably not relay here or in any public forum (and all Internet fora are public fora). So I won't... I suppose that at one point in my life, I could claim that I didn't use any Microsoft software for this reason. Having interned at Microsoft since then (where everyone was very nice to me), I suppose I can't or shouldn't say that anymore. I suppose I could claim that I haven't learned Ruby for this reason (though I'm not sure exactly what the famous Ruby community jerks contributed, aside from misogyny). But no, in general, I don't think much about avoiding software because it was written by jerks (I mean, I'm writing this in emacs), but I do tend to be more interested in using software when I know it's written by non-jerks. I've praised the Rust code of conduct before, and the positive attitude that the Haskell community had between 2000-2009 ish (not saying that attitude has gone away, just that I'm not really in that community anymore) both had an effect on me and kept me participating.
4. What does Tim's Law read, at the moment?
It's not original to me, but probably something like "Anyone who says they're an ally probably isn't one." And a corollary, "Anyone who says they're an ally is probably just waiting for the right opportunity to use their ally-ship as a bargaining chip to get something from the group they claim to be an ally of."
But that could probably be made a bit snappier..
5. If you had to (for those magical interview values of "had to") return to undergraduate studies and complete a second degree, what would your major be?
As odd as it is to admit this, my major would be "pre-med" (and yes, I know that's not really a major, but it answers the spirit of the question) and this may not be an entirely hypothetical question. It seems to me that almost everybody in software who's at all creative and thoughtful loses interest in it after 10 to 15 years at most, and either becomes a manager (or the equivalent of one, like being a tenured professor) or changes careers entirely. The few people who stay in it strike me as the types of brilliant, dedicated, single-minded people that I am not; I lack that obsessive focus on One Thing. (I don't think that's a shortcoming of mine, either, nor is it a shortcoming of the people who *do* have it. We all have different things to contribute.) I've been pondering what I would be doing if I wasn't doing computer science for the past ten years, and the answer has changed repeatedly, but my current thought is that if I want to help trans people in a direct way, one way in which I could have a tangible effect is to directly help people get access to exogeneous endocrine intervention, something that is still unreasonably difficult to obtain in many parts of the US, and even for people in the "right" parts of the US who happen to have the wrong set of intersectional oppressions. I don't want to be another lawyer clamoring for sparse non-profit jobs, and I'm starting to get suspicious even of non-lawyery positions within the realm of "professional activism", given the sorry state of trans activism in the US (I mean, I don't want my job to involve giving awards to Chaz Bono for being a misogynist).
Of course, just because something needs to be done doesn't mean I'm the right person to do it, so in this magical scenario, I might well end up being one of those kids who starts out being pre-med with an agenda in mind, and quickly finds they can't deal with it... that's certainly far from impossible for me, given that I've never taken so much as introductory biology or chemistry (not even in high school, since I didn't go to high school). In real life, my plan is to address that by taking one class at a time at a community college (starting when my life gets to be a little more settled), and if it turns out I'm totally allergic to life sciences, I'll know to look elsewhere and won't have expended that much money or time. But in the hypothetical scenario, anything goes, right? Anyway, you probably were expecting a less serious response to this one!