tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2030-12-18 02:14 pm

How to post comments if you don't have a Dreamwidth account

I request that you read my comment policy before commenting, especially if you don't know me offline.

If you have a LiveJournal account and want to leave comments on my journal, you can do that without giving Dreamwidth a password or any personal information except an email address. You can follow these instructions (with slight modifications) if you have an account on a site that provides OpenID credentials, too. (For example, any Google or Google+ account should work this way.) Here's how:

  1. Go to the main Dreamwidth page
  2. Follow the "Log In with OpenID" link
  3. In the "Your OpenID URL" box, put yourusername.livejournal.com. For example, if I wanted to log in with my LiveJournal account, I would type "catamorphism.livejournal.com".
  4. Click Login.
  5. Click "Yes, just this time" or "Yes, always" when LiveJournal asks if you want to validate your identity.
  6. The first time you log in, you'll see a message "Please set and confirm your email address". Click the "set" link and follow the instructions.
  7. You'll get an email from Dreamwidth containing a link. Follow the link to confirm your email address.
  8. Follow the instructions. You should now be able to leave comments.

Edited to add as of February 26, 2013: There have been intermittent problems with using OpenID to log in to Dreamwidth. The most reliable way to comment is to create a Dreamwidth account, which is free.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2015-05-20 07:51 am
Entry tags:

Mountain Goats video of the day



I wrote before about the Mountain Goats' song "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero". The official video for it just got released, starring the members of the band and Chavo Guerrero himself.

I can't stop watching this.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-05-19 06:29 pm
Entry tags:

Don't use Dropbox

If Condoleezza Rice being on the board of directors wasn't enough for you, if their employees literally bullying children in San Francisco wasn't enough for you, hear me out here. I'm currently permanently locked out of my Dropbox account containing years' worth of photos because a phone repair place destroyed my phone and I had 2-factor authentication enabled. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess!

Other services, such as pobox.com, will reset 2FA if you send them a notarized letter proving your identity. Not Dropbox, though! Here's the response I received from their support team when I asked the following:
I'm surprised by this response, since pobox.com was able to reset my 2FA when I sent them a notarized letter confirming my identity. Is there a reason that Dropbox wouldn't be able to accept such a letter from me as proof of my identity?


And here's the response I received:

Hello Tim,

Thanks for getting back to me! Apologies for the delay in my response- I had passed along your request to several of my teammates to look into as well. Unfortunately, we have no method to verify your identity and disable two-step verification if you do not have any of the following:

1. a linked computer or mobile device
2. your 16-digit emergency backup code
3. a backup phone number on file that can receive text messages

As noted, for security purposes, if you can't enter the six-digit code from your phone, and you didn't store the 16-digit emergency backup code, we have no way to help you regain access to your Dropbox account. We can't turn off two-step verification for you because email alone is no longer sufficient to prove your identity. The best we can do is help you make a new account and transfer any paid credit and bonus space you've earned. But we can't transfer any files.

If you create a new account, please reply with that account's email address so that I can help you further.

Dropbox doesn't care about your data. They will deny access to your data because they're too lazy to open a letter from a paying customer. If you don't think that's okay, don't use Dropbox. (By the way, can anyone recommend a cloud backup service that cares about customer data?)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-05-18 03:34 am
Entry tags:

My only regret is that I don't know where that jacket is

Someone, apparently, found this picture of me from circa 2004 and thought it would be a cool idea to post it to imgur with my full name and common Internet handle attached.

And you know what? They were right. I look fucking hot in it.

That's me. I'm him.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2015-05-16 09:56 am
Entry tags:

xpost from [personal profile] tim_plays: "Beans Tomorrow"

This morning I got inspired by [twitter.com profile] mountain_goats yelling at [twitter.com profile] scotte_allen and wrote a song. Scott E. Allen is the mendacious assclown who introduced a bill into the Wisconsin state legislature barring SNAP recipients from using food stamps to pay for dried beans, as well as any other foods he doesn't think are "healthy". (I don't know where he received his doctorate in nutrition.)

Sure, calling politicians "assclowns" doesn't solve any problems, but trying to control what poor people put in their bodies doesn't either. And the latter is pretty fucking personal to me, since I grew up on, and ate food by virtue of, public assistance from birth to age 16.

There are only so many synonyms for "assclown", though, so after joining in the Twitter yelling for a bit, I thought about the bigger picture and wrote this song.



Grazing yogurt pretzels
From the bins at Stop & Shop
I wonder if the creeping feeling's
ever gonna stop
Iran-Contra on TV
every single day
I don't know what's happening but
I know I'm gonna pay
Read more... )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-05-15 10:20 am

Rust 1.0 is out!

A bit over four years ago, I arrived at Mozilla in Mountain View for an internship on the Rust team. That internship became a full-time job when it became clear to me that I was no longer welcome in my Ph.D program.

A year and a half ago, I left Mozilla. I've had plenty of critical things to say about Mozilla, and a few critical things to say about the Rust team specifically. That doesn't change the fact that working on Rust made me feel like I was part of something again, and that it turned how I felt about my career in software into a much more positive direction. There were ups and downs, but during the best times, working with the Rust team was the most positive experience of my professional life over the past 15 years. Not to get too sentimental, but there is a certain way in which it saved my life.

During my two and a half years on the team, the pressure to get to 1.0 and the uncertainty over what that would mean were constant presences. It was a goal that, I think, provided mostly positive stress, but I could feel the worries about when it was ever going to happen, if it was ever going to happen. Everyone who worked on Rust wanted it to succeed, but the problems that usually happen whenever several driven and creative people try to collaborate happened, and made it harder to come to agreement over what 1.0 was going to mean and when it should happen.

I haven't followed Rust development since I left, but hearing that Rust 1.0 has been released today means a lot to me even so. Congratulations to everyone involved, but especially to [personal profile] graydon2, without whom none of this would have happened.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
2015-05-10 11:59 am

"Statement of Purposelessness", by guest blogger 25-year-old Tim

I stumbled upon this essay I wrote almost ten years ago, which I wrote in order to shake out all the laughs before writing a genuine statement of purpose.

I have edited it heavily in order to remove the more libelous parts and to redact the names of the person I was asserting I wanted to work with as well as my own name-at-the-time. Those mentions of specific people that haven't been edited out are of people who I think highly of. Really. I meant well.

I'm posting it not just because I think I'm funny, but also because the parts of this that aren't lies are a little bit revealing of the career path I actually took and I like to think that might be helpful for someone reading this who's starting out in the same field. Not that I would recommend anyone do what I did.

At the time, I said I was going to make this public once I had tenure. Since I'm never going to have tenure, I'm posting this now. And really, isn't knowing that I'll never have it a little bit like getting it, without all the hard work?

"Statement of Purposelessness".

Originally written in Cambridge, England, November 21, 2006
Heavily edited, May 10, 2015

Dear [REDACTED UNIVERSITY],

I would like to be admitted to your graduate program in order to study functional programming. I like functional languages (particularly Haskell), because they let me be as lazy as possible when I write programs, and I'm a very lazy programmer. I also like Haskell because Haskell programmers seem to be a lot hotter than other programmers on average. What can I say, I have a weakness for guys with ponytails. The only problem is that there aren't enough women who do Haskell, but the men are girly enough that that kind of makes up for it. I mean that in a nice way.

I want to attend your university and work with [REDACTED] because few other professors are as successful nerds as the one I aspire to be. I hope to learn from him about how to title papers with ridiculous puns, take off my shirt during talks, and still be respected by more or less everybody. I would also like to learn from him how to get a cushy industry job during the tech bubble and then retreat back to a cushy academic job when the bubble bursts.

I've achieved my current state of programming language enlightenment by being stubborn, unimaginative, lazy, and foolish, so I plan to stay on that horse and ride it to the finish line. 13 more paragraphs )

In summary, please admit me to [REDACTED UNIVERSITY] because if I don't get into your school, and don't get into Cambridge either, I'll probably have to go to Portland State [**], and people will laugh at me. Then again, I might end up working in the operating-system-in-Haskell project if I went there. So like I said, people will laugh at me. Also, if you don't accept me, I'll [REDACTED SERIES OF CRUDE THREATS AND BOASTS WHICH NO LONGER REPRESENT MY VIEWS ABOUT WOMEN]. No, but srsly, I would like to be IN UR UNIVERSITY IMPLEMENTING UR LANGUAGEZ, because god knows the faculty aren't going to do it.

Love,
[REDACTED NAME]
aged 25 11/12


2015 footnotes:
[*] This seemingly-incredible statement was based on working in the Valley during the dark hour between the 1990s tech bubble and the San Francisco-based tech bubble.
[**] The redacted university either rejected me, or I never even finished the application. I honestly can't remember. I wasn't even planning on applying to Portland State when I applied to [REDACTED], instead applying at the last minute in March, so really, the joke's on me.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
2015-05-10 11:11 am
Entry tags:

Lies I have told myself and others while working in the software industry (by Tim, aged 34 5/12)

It's so great to be able to go out to lunch with a couple of white guys between ages 22-39 and talk about nothing but compilers the entire time. I don't even mind that nobody ever seems to stop to breathe long enough for me to ask a question about something I don't understand. Really, I can just learn about this by osmosis.

I'm here at my desk at 8:30 PM on a Friday night because of my passion for my work.

I'm here at my desk at 8:30 PM on a Friday night because I'm even doing work at all.

// TODO: Fix this later.

I can totally listen to this meeting and isolate this bug at the same time.

It's so liberating that I can have a beer at 5 PM without even leaving the office. Or have one with lunch. Or have one when I come in at noon and lunch is the first meal I'm having that day.

I know I came in at noon, took a long lunch, and now I'm leaving at 4:30, but I'll just do some more work on Caltrain.

I'll just move to the South Bay to be closer to work even though most of my co-workers are hundreds of miles away anyway. It can't be that bad.

I'll just move to San Francisco to be closer to work, I mean, 50% of my take-home pay is a small price to pay for living in paradise.

I can totally commute from Berkeley to Alameda without a car.

Working in San Mateo? That'll be great! It's the heart of Silicon Valley (would Po Bronson lie to me?)

Living in Monterey will be great, I can go to the beach every day after work and it certainly won't be mainly for staring at the sunset and crying.

I guess I'll just live in Salinas because I can't find an apartment in Monterey that I can afford, because how bad can it be to share a house in a cul-de-sac with an ex-Marine?

Erlang is pretty similar to Haskell, after all.

I can cope with listening to the most senior engineer on my team have slapfights with the management every single time he's in the office. I mean, it's not like he's yelling at me.

Continuing to work in the same office with someone who I know sent anonymous threats directed at me will be totally fine. I mean, it's still better here than anyplace else in Silicon Valley.

Working support will be great -- I'll finally have the emotional energy to work on open-source projects after hours, which is absolutely what I want to do with my free time.

Nah, I don't mind walking to the mailbox to mail these CD-ROMs to the customer. It'll be a nice chance to stretch my legs. What, you say the customer never even uses the CDs so I can just send them blank discs? Great, even easier!

You say your company doesn't need to care about diversity because it's a meritocracy? That's a totally valid point of view. Can you tell me about the stock options again?

Fly to Japan because the customer refuses to open up a port so we can ssh into their machine to figure out what's going on? Sure, I wouldn't mind doing that.

I think it's totally cute and funny that you start conversations with all your employees about sex work and porn at the lunch place next to work, but explicitly say the conversation is ending now so you don't get sued for sexual harassment as soon as we walk back into the office. I mean, I know you're doing it to make your Muslim employees uncomfortable rather than to make me uncomfortable even though you think I'm a woman, so it's all good.

I don't mind reimbursing you $30 for the "business lunch" at Buca's that you assumed you would be able to expense even though your team is only 3 people and the company is a worker-owned collective that's losing money.

You don't need me to do that task either because you can do it yourself? All right, cool, I'll just spend this internship writing on LiveJournal and staring blankly at papers on logic programming. It's what I wanted!

Sure, I'll totally work on that PLDI paper with you.

Yeah, I definitely want to write the second version of a package manager whose first version was an abject failure, that'll be a good way to save my career.

Yeah, I can certainly write an entire package manager from scratch in three months, especially since it's pretty clear that your plan is to fire me if I fail to do that.

Sure, I'll be in at 10 AM tomorrow.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
2015-05-02 09:06 pm

You're invited to apply for the 2015 Ally Skills Workshop, to be held at ICFP in Vancouver, BC

I'm organizing an Ally Skills Workshop at ICFP this August, which Valerie Aurora of the Ada Initiative will be teaching. If you are attending ICFP or a co-located event such as the Haskell Symposium, CUFP, or Erlang Workshop (not an exhaustive list), you are welcome and encouraged to apply to attend!

The workshop is geared towards men in the functional programming community who want to learn how to be better allies to women and non-binary people in the community. However, it is open to people of all genders.

For all the details, see the information page, which links to a Google Forms page that you can use to apply.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-05-01 03:47 pm
Entry tags:

New journal!

So, I'm starting to feel kind of weird about intermingling my video posts with things like "this person who was important to me just died"; if you want to see my trying to post a video a day of me singing a song (sometimes by me, sometimes by other people; sometimes with cats, sometimes without), follow [personal profile] tim_plays.

I will of course continue posting here, such as when people die or when I have feels.
tim: Solid black square (black)
2015-04-30 07:25 pm

Paul Hudak, 1952-2015

Paul Hudak died of leukemia yesterday. Paul was a founding member of the Haskell Committee, and as such, instrumental in creating the programming language that shaped the course of my professional life for 15 years. He was the primary author of the "History of Haskell" paper (PDF), which is a beautiful look at the history of both a set of ideas and the set of people who nurtured and developed those ideas.

I didn't know Paul well, but of course, I took it for granted that he would be one of those people I would keep running into if I kept going to programming languages conferences. When you go to the same academic conference almost every year, you start thinking of the group of people you see there as a family of sorts... with, of course, closer relatives, more distant ones, and the few you awkwardly tiptoe around. In professional communities, as in families, you lose people, but it's never expected -- especially not when somebody is only 62. Especially not, in my case, when it's a person who I was riding a Ferris wheel in Sweden with seven months ago. I knew he had been seriously ill, but at the time I thought he seemed to be recovering. He was, as I recall, quiet, but over dinner, listened to my story of how I left academia without passing judgment on it or me.

I won't implore you all to thank people whose work has meant something to you for it while they're still alive, because after all, we all know why we don't usually do that. It's awkward. Instead I'll just quote from Paul's book The Haskell School of Expression (an intro to programming in Haskell through computer art and music):
Programming, in its broadest sense, is problem solving. It begins when we look out into the world and see problems we want to solve, problems that we think can and should be solved using a digital computer. Understanding the problem well is the first--and probably the most important--step in programming, because without that understanding we may find ourselves wandering aimlessly down a dead-end alley, or worse, down a fruitless alley with no end. "Solving the wrong problem" is a phrase often heard in many contexts, and we certainly don't want to be victims of that crime. So the first step in programming is answering the question, "What problem am I trying to solve?"
I've been down many of those endless alleys in my time as a programmer, but I think it's safe to say that I've avoided some of them because of the work that Paul did and inspired others to do.

Edited to add:
obituary
memorial article in the Yale Daily News; highlights:

“He is the most complete person I have ever seen, embodying qualities that you don’t believe can coexist … extremely kind, patient, gentle yet also super sharp, smart, and creative, and also highly eloquent, and totally cool,” CS professor Zhong Shao said. “He has made enormous impact on so many people in different walks of his life, but most of all, he, by himself, is the best role model which all of us all strive to become. He has certainly influenced me in a very profound way, not just career wise but also how to be a great person.”

and

"During his tenure as department chair from 1999 to 2005, Hudak made an important effort to expand the CS’s diversity, hiring four female senior female professors to a department that had existed for nearly three decades without a single tenured woman, according to CS professor Julie Dorsey."
tim: Solid black square (black)
2015-04-30 03:30 pm
Entry tags:

On loyalty



So today's Part 2 is a song I wrote myself, "Valor in Tulelake". This is about loyalty, and history, also subjects I really don't know anything about.



tim: Solid black square (black)
2015-04-30 01:36 pm
Entry tags:

On forgiveness

This video doesn't have the cats in it, but this isn't really a cat-appropriate song anyway; it's me covering a cover, Billy Bragg's version of Greg Trooper and Sid Griffin's song "Everywhere". I still haven't listened to the original, but here's an article about it:


Midway through, the narrative takes an unexpected turn as the GI begins reminiscing about his childhood best friend, Lee, a Japanese-American and the two boys’ shared desire to fight Germans in Europe. He then notes the irony that, once America actually became involved in the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he went to fight while the equally patriotic Lee was hauled away to an internment camp....

The narrative and imagery of “Everywhere,” both the song and the video, are clearly rooted in the Second World War, as well as the US government’s deplorable treatment of Japanese-Americans during the course of that war. At the same time, the song also obviously stands as a commentary on war in general—in fact, Griffin recounts that he and Trooper wrote the song “at least partly in response to the first Gulf War.”



I might ask myself what I know about war, and the answer is not much, but neither did the people who wrote this song so that's okay. When it comes to having a ball and chain, or being asked to die for your home, or never ever forgiving, I know a little bit, though, and I wrote something that I'll do tomorrow that this is a lead-in for.
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
2015-04-29 10:57 am
Entry tags:

Cool Story, Doc

So I'm going to possibly-overshare some medical stuff for the benefit of other people, possibly you, because they are problems ranging from simple to complicated but for which there are some fairly easy solutions that it took me -- in some cases -- decades to find out about. Maybe I can save you some time here!

  • Hypertrophic or keloid scars can be drastically reduced in size -- even years after the scars formed -- by what's basically massage (though kind of a painful form of it) from a trained practitioner (including but not limited to some physical therapists). This applies to scars from surgery, and possibly other kinds.

    What doctors said about it: you can get surgery to reduce scars but the surgery, of course, causes more scarring so really, what's the point? Also, something about radiation therapy. But no mention of manual work.

    Who actually helped: a physical therapist, to whom I was referred by a nurse practitioner.
  • If you have occasional sporadic trouble inhaling, and have ruled out asthma, it may be something called "self-limiting dyspnea". At least for me, this is pretty clearly due to learned behavior related to CPTSD (a detailed explanation). The good news is, that at least for me, three sessions of behavioral therapy pretty much reversed what literally amounts to 30 years of breathing the wrong way (where "wrong" is defined here as a way that doesn't give me enough oxygen), as well as a problem with nasal breathing that I'd previously thought was due to allergies and/or permanent swelling from allergies.

    What doctors said about it: maybe it's asthma? Or maybe it's nothing? Who knows, really; or, we'll do some sinus surgery [which, to be fair, helped somewhat, but maybe they should have asked about the behavioral stuff first] and then shoot radio waves at your turbinates and that won't really work.

    Who actually helped: a speech therapist, to whom I was referred by (to be fair) a doctor, but only after having 4 or 5 other doctors brush me off.
  • Pelvic pain can mimic a constant UTI, even if you don't notice pain at times when you're not trying to pee, and not noticing pain may also be a CPTSD issue, as well as the underlying pain itself. Physical therapy can help with this a surprising amount.

    What doctors said about it: here, try these meds. They don't work, oh? How about these ones instead. Well, those don't work either? There doesn't seem to be anything mechanically wrong with you, so that's a dilly of a pickle.

    Who actually helped: same physical therapist as with #1.
  • IBS has many causes (and is related to the previous point in some cases), but one cause is subsequent to a bacterial infection. (I had giardia. In Portland, not after going camping or anything like that. I'm going to just blame the city and their lack of willingness to put anything in the water.) This can go on for years and years and years. At least for some people, including me, a one-week course of antibiotics can fix it completely (except for lasting lactose intolerance, which may be genetic but may have been caused by messed-up gut flora, who knows?)

    What doctors said about it: You have Crohn's Disease! [a month later, after getting a second opinion] Oh, wait, you don't have Crohn's at all, whoops. It's "just IBS", so, reduce stress in your life, because that's easy to do? Or how about let's do another colonoscopy and find nothing. Or... hmm, we could do this lactulose breath test, but it has a lot of false positives. Well, you're positive, but we'll wait 3 months to call you back and tell you that, and anyway, maybe it's a false positive, but you can try these antibiotics anyway if you want. Oh, they worked? Cool.

    Who actually helped: a doctor. So to be fair, they're helpful occasionally, but this was literally the 4th gastroenterologist I saw.
  • Hypothyroidism is massively underdiagnosed because even now, labs' "normal" ranges for thyroid tests are determined from a population including many people with undiagnosed thyroid issues.

    What doctors said about it: "Your thyroid is normal" [while declining to state numbers, and I didn't know to ask]. "Lose weight." (never mind that, even if intentional weight loss was desirable, a nonfunctioning thyroid takes that from "probably impossible" into "definitely impossible" territory.)

    Who actually helped: also a doctor, to be fair, but only after having to be very pushy about asking for an antithyroid antibody test (not all hypothyroidism is autoimmune, but in the cases where it is, the antibody test has no false positives to speak of, AFAIK). Also, myself by pushing every doctor I've seen since then to prescribe me enough meds to keep my TSH below 1 (and resisting the gaslighting some doctors do about how I'll get hyperthyroid -- something I've never experienced in my life -- or how I'll get heart problems -- which even if that happens in years, I'd rather be able to stay awake for 8 hours at a stretch now).
  • If you feel that you are "clumsy", especially if that's because people have been calling you that since you were about four, it may actually be because you're (subconsciously, without awareness) tensing all of your muscles all the time because of CPTSD, which in turn makes it hard to move.

    What doctors said: I never thought to ask, because I just blamed myself for being broken.

    Who actually helped: Nobody, yet; still figuring this one out (though it's related to some of the others).
  • Sleep apnea and (C)PTSD are related. After dealing with the aforementioned breathing issues, I was able to switch back from a full-face mask to a nasal mask on my BiPAP (a form of CPAP). (Full-face masks are unpleasant for me because they make my mouth drier, even when using a heated humidifier that's integrated into the machine and a room humidifier (also I live in a desert), and then I wake up, which defeats the purpose of CPAP.)

    What doctors said about it: when I asked if there was anything better than CPAP out there, these days: "In your dreams, homeboy."

    Who actually helped: I figured this out on my own after #2 happened.



This post could be summarized as: Why, Even Though I've Been Thinking For Years About Maybe Going to Medical School, I'm Now More Interested in Becoming a Nurse Practitioner. In any case, I am not a medical professional so this is all just me sharing my experience with no guarantee that any of it will work for, or be relevant to you, even if you happen to have some of the same issues. It's a little like the GPL.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
2015-04-28 03:59 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

It's funny how much self-hate so many people have around being fat, or fear of becoming fat if they aren't already, that they will even stoop to make cruel jokes at the expense of a cat because that's marginally more socially acceptable than flat-out saying "I hate myself".
tim: Tim with rainbow hat (pic#148316)
2015-04-23 08:23 am
Entry tags:

Remembering Teacake



Photo taken by me in London, December 2006

I take this moment to remember Debra Boyask (of many nicknames, [livejournal.com profile] badasstronaut and Teacake being two of them), who died two years ago today on April 23, 2013. I have thought of Debra every day since then. I am far from the only person about whom the same is probably true. She left behind a trail of material reminders, such as her comics; her friends from the UK comics scene made a memorial comic for her. I have a pile of mix CDs she made for me, though the one she titled "Tech Sex in Space" has the most memorable cover.


Two robots making sweet, sweet love

I wrote about Debra's life, at least as I knew it, when she died. There is, of course, nothing new to say about her life that couldn't have been said then. But what does change and grow after somebody dies is memory -- that is, other people's memories of them.

In my current period of rapid personal growth and change, I remember my previous such period: the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007. For me, those memories are all organized around Debra. I ask myself: "Should I make this about me? Somebody, after all, is dead." But if I didn't make it about me, I'd be doing a disservice to Debra's memory, to my memory of her, to the only thing I have direct control over that keeps her in some sense alive. To be true to those memories, I have to be as personal as I can, in my thoughts if not in my writing.



I had known Debra online for five years when we met in person, but when we finally did, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't expect that we would end up in bed in her house in Bristol, a house whose interior will always represent safety and liberation in my mind.
Stairs with a deep red flowered carpet

I didn't expect that neither her life nor mine would ever be the same again as a result. It's fortunate that sexual liberation can happen at any age. I was 25 at the time and she was 40, but I think we both experienced quite a lot of it all of a sudden, in ways that had an enduring influence on both of our lives even if our on-again/off-again romantic relationship was not enduring. (Our friendship was, up till the end, and the eventual flickerings in and out of our romance never did any lasting harm to our friendship.)

I can't speak for Debra as to what I meant to her, and don't wish to. What she meant to me was this: she was the first person I was intimate with who -- I thought -- saw me for who I really was. In fact, she was possibly the only person I've been intimate with where I felt like I was truly present, and that she was truly present with me. There were ups and downs, mostly due to me having unresolved issues (still not resolved) that make it hard for me to be present for anybody (which is also the main reason why my other relationships didn't go well; I'm neither blaming my other partners for how things went nor absolving them completely here). But when it was good, I felt like I was dealing lightning.

This is, of course, personal. But as I said in the beginning, I feel like to not be personal about it is to be untrue to who Debra was, particularly who she was to me but not only who she was to me. Debra chose Kate Bush's song "Feel It" as one of the songs for her funeral, or at least I assume she chose it because it's not a song you would choose for anyone else's funeral. And she was bad-ass for choosing it -- [I am informed that Debra did not choose the song, but still, someone who knows her well must have.] a song about sex, love, meaning and connection that I appreciate more now than when I first heard it then.

"God, but you're beautiful, aren't you?
Feel your warm hand walking around"


I'm sad to say that when I knew Debra I wasn't entirely ready to feel it, yet, not everything, anyway. But she was a person who came into my life by chance and gave me what I needed in order to start trying. I like to think I returned the favor, but of course, I'll really never know; not knowing is all right, though, because my memory of her is more than enough to hold.

"I won't pull away, my passion always wins
So keep on a-moving in, keep on a-tuning in"




A rainbow above a roof, with a diagonal perspective
Photo taken by Debra, January 14, 2007

When I got the news about Debra, I was reading Facebook in the Mozilla Vancouver office, looking for a distraction but not expecting the one that came to me. I emailed my mentor to say what had happened and that I was taking the rest of the day off, went outside and walked down the Vancouver waterfront, not quite aware of either my surroundings or the thoughts in my head. I remember that I ended up at Little Sister's and bought a rainbow umbrella to remember her by, because of the time when we were driving in the countryside around Bristol and we were having an intense, left-brained conversation about gender, queerness, and identity and suddenly a rainbow appeared in the sky like a sign that the important stuff wasn't the ideas stuff.

But on that day, and for the month that followed, I couldn't really feel the grief, except maybe once or twice after listening to Neko Case's song "South Tacoma Way" on repeat for a while. I won't say I'm feeling it all now, either. My own inability to fully feel her loss compounded the pain of losing her.

Somehow, the only picture I could find of the two of us together was one she took of our shadows somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge, when she visited me in Portland in December 2008/January 2009. The icon I used for this post is also from a picture she took of me during that trip (which was the next-to-last time we saw each other in person).

And while I don't think Debra would have liked it (our musical tastes didn't overlap a whole lot), I also think of her when I listen to the Mountain Goats' song "Matthew 25:21":
you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to its worth
It's three days later when I get the call
And there's nobody around to break my fall


Oh yeah, and one more thing:

Fuck cancer.

Two shadows in the snow
Photo taken by Debra, January 2, 2009
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-04-19 09:43 am
Entry tags:

Responses to "Last Exit to Loyalty"

Michael Church wrote a thoughtful response to my post joining tableflip.club -- quotes I liked:
"Ultimately, corporate capitalism fails to be properly capitalistic because of its command-economy emphasis on subordination. When people are treated as subordinates, they slack and fade. This hurts the capitalist more than anyone else."
....
"We’ve let ourselves be defined, from above, as arrogant and socially inept and narcissistic, and therefore incapable of running our own affairs. That, however, doesn’t reflect what we really are, nor what we can be."

That said, I feel my point about love was totally missed and that it's gratuitous to say "that's not always true" about my claim "if you had a good early life, you wouldn't be working in tech" when my very next sentence began, "I'm exaggerating..." I feel like the last paragraph is so accurate that he fundamentally got it, though.

I am genuinely moved and amazed by the quantity and quality of thoughtful replies to my post on MetaFilter, where it made the front page. I've been peripherally aware of MeFi almost since it existed, but I've now joined and will have to keep paying attention to it.

At its peak (Friday), my post was also on the Hacker News front page at #16, but I haven't read the comments there and don't intend to.

When I write a piece like this, I'm always afraid no one will pay attention to or understand it. The amount of response I've gotten this time was beyond my wildest dreams and is informing my thoughts about what I'm doing next with my career (once my next 3 or 4 months of mostly not leaving my apartment is over). Thanks, everybody -- you don't know how happy it makes me to know that I hit a nerve, even if that process is painful for everyone involved!
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-04-19 07:34 am
Entry tags:

Web dev and toxicity: a reply to [personal profile] howlingsilence

[personal profile] howlingsilence sent me a private message, but when I tried to reply to it I got the message saying they have chosen not to receive messages. Plus, I wanted to post what I wrote anyway. So I'm replying here; I won't quote the question since it was in a PM, but it was basically asking whether I think back-end Web development suffers from these problems.
I worked in Web development (what would be called "full-stack" now, but I actually mostly did front-end) in 2005, briefly. The company I worked at (now defunct) had one of the best cultures I've ever been in within tech. It wasn't perfect: I got told not to go to meetings because of one of my medical conditions (sleep disorder causing uncontrollable daytime sleepiness). And yes, some people would love to be excused from all meetings, but no one bothered to take minutes during these meetings so it meant I got shut out and set up to fail at my job -- all because of an illness that I wasn't able to get treatment for because my employer misclassified me as a contractor so they wouldn't have to give me health insurance. Tech: it's not always toxic, but even when it's not being toxic, it sort of is.

On the other hand, my boss there was pretty great and, I think, had a good influence on company culture, and I worked with some other awesome people who I'm still in touch with.

That said, I don't think Web development is especially different from other parts of tech. If anything, you may notice inequality more sharply because front-end Web dev is coded as "women's work" (and pays less) while back-end is coded as more-prestigious "men's work". People have written about this.

Hope that helps!

Cheers,
Tim
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-04-17 04:19 pm
Entry tags:

"Burnout" is a euphemism

So I used the term "burnout" in my tableflip post (by the way: tableflip.club), and also used it when I was telling colleagues I was quitting. But "burnout" is a euphemism in my case, and in a lot of people's cases (I suspect).

I mentioned it in my post, but only in an after-the-fact edit, so: I have complex PTSD. On some level I've known this for a long time, on another level I only knew as of 4 days ago when my therapist told me that the things I was saying were things characteristic of CPTSD and I heard what she said. I'm going to quote a Bessel A. van der Kolk, who's quoted in that Wikipedia article, because this seems pretty on-point:
Uncontrollable disruptions or distortions of attachment bonds precede the development of post-traumatic stress syndromes. People seek increased attachment in the face of danger. Adults, as well as children, may develop strong emotional ties with people who intermittently harass, beat, and, threaten them. The persistence of these attachment bonds leads to confusion of pain and love. Trauma can be repeated on behavioural, emotional, physiologic, and neuroendocrinologic levels. Repetition on these different levels causes a large variety of individual and social suffering.

Anger directed against the self or others is always a central problem in the lives of people who have been violated and this is itself a repetitive re-enactment of real events from the past. Compulsive repetition of the trauma usually is an unconscious process that, although it may provide a temporary sense of mastery or even pleasure, ultimately perpetuates chronic feelings of helplessness and a subjective sense of being bad and out of control. Gaining control over one's current life, rather than repeating trauma in action, mood, or somatic states, is the goal of healing.

(From an article called "The compulsion to repeat the trauma. Re-enactment, revictimization, and masochism", which I'll have to look for.)

I think, though, this realization actually came to me a week ago, but in the form of a realization that I had to quit tech. As of then, I was thinking I would quit, maybe take a little time off, and then get into my career plan B (or rather, preparation for it) pretty quickly. What I only realized after I actually quit is that no, actually, I'm going to need a couple of months to recover. At least. And those are going to be a couple months in which I don't leave my apartment much and generally feel good about not leaving it. (I'm lucky enough to have just enough savings to allow for a couple months of this, though not a couple years; hopefully it won't take that long.) You don't recover from 29 years of trauma overnight.

Did the tech industry cause my CPTSD? I want to be clear: absolutely not. Not the "industry" in general, not Silicon Valley, not any one of the individual places where I've worked. As bad as some of them were, situations you enter into as an adult that you are able to leave do not generally cause CPTSD (they can cause PTSD). As Roast Beef in the "Achewood" web comic said, I come from Circumstances; I was born into Circumstances. On the one hand I could say the Circumstances were my mother, but to be honest I would have to acknowledge the Circumstances -- big ones, to do with war and colonialism and coming from four generations of refugees -- that she was born into herself. That doesn't excuse her from responsibility for her actions, or me for mine (for that matter), but must be understood.

But as I hope I already explained in my article, tech didn't make it any better, nor do I think I'm the only one by any stretch of the imagination. I'm gratified that many people on Metafilter agreed that tech attracts people with trauma, exploits us, and compounds the trauma to boot.

I'm not taking back anything I said, I still agree with it all. I guess I'm making this clarification in order to say: if you read that article and felt that you feel like I do, take yourself seriously; it's not "just" burnout, which usually clears up on its own with some rest, but quite possibly something more than that that I would urge you to get competent professional help with. The Resources for therapists page on the GF wiki is something you can show a potential therapist to determine whether or not they might be helpful if you're a tech person with some problems to work through. If they get confused, you might want to look elsewhere, but if they understand or at least have questions that reflect thought, that might be a good sign.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
2015-04-17 11:17 am

Laying Down the Banhammer

I've been heavily involved in the Geek Feminism Blog and Wiki for somewhere between 4 and 5 years, depending on how you count. I've been a feminist since I knew what the word meant, but I had a bit of an awakening in 2011 when I got constructively dismissed from grad school. Now, I'm waking up again.

My own role as a male ally in GF has been something I've struggled with for most of that time, and I really am pretty comfortable calling myself a "male ally" now. To be clear, "ally" is something I aspire to be, and have often fallen short of and sometimes been called out about, and is rarely something I actually say I am. I say it now because when I started, I most definitely didn't see myself as a male ally. I saw myself as a guy who usually got misgendered and who was actively burning from the heat of the many indignities of being seen as a woman in tech (which burn regardless of whether you are actually a woman underneath your frayed startup T-shirt).

Over time, that burning has subsided down a bit and I've gotten to a point where people don't believe I was coercively assigned female at birth even if I tell them straight-up. In place of that anger is sadness about my friends' experiences, my younger self's experiences (a younger self who is no longer me), and yes, some guilt about the role I've played myself, sometimes, in making things worse. (I like to think I've also made things better, but it's not for me to do the accounting).

I quit my job and career this week, and wrote about it. Part of what I tried to reckon with in that post is a transition I've made from feeling squarely (and to some extent, correctly) that I was facing the same struggles that women in tech face, to feeling like that set of burdens has lifted off me and been replaced with a different set. The new set is definitely lighter but still not something that I want -- but the reasons I don't want it are different than the old outrage.

As a trans man, I've often felt uncomfortable with my relationship with feminism since I came out, and to be clear, I think I should feel uncomfortable with it! Like any man, I benefit from male domination, and I can't change that -- I can imagine there are ways I could make myself be seen as a woman again (not that the violence to myself would justify any hypothetical gains from that), but I would still be somebody who had the choice. Certainly, just as race, ability, queerness, and any number of intersecting factors modulate what benefits each man enjoys from that, my transness modulates what I get out of male domination. But the benefits are real. My leaving salary in 2015 was 2.55 times what my starting salary was at my first job out of grad school in 2004. This is not just inflation. I was perceived only as a cis woman (perhaps a gender-non-conforming one, but that wouldn't have helped) back then, and am perceived as a cis man by default now. So it's awkward, advocating for the dismantling of the platform I'm standing on with two feet. I try not to be afraid of falling, but it does happen.

But I think I'm ready to say what John Darnielle (my favorite songwriter as well as being a cis guy who won't be first up against the wall when the revolution comes) said in an interview: "My feminism is for me." Like him, I'm a survivor; that's part of why my feminism is for me. Unlike him, I was abused by a woman -- and that is still part of why my feminism is for me, because she, in turn, was a survivor of a violent time and place that got that way through war and colonialism (in other words, toxic masculinity on an epic scale). When working with GF, I've often felt like I had one foot on each side of the fence: that on the one hand, I was advocating for women in tech, and always having to walk a line that, if crossed, will get you written up (justifiably) on our wiki timeline of incidents. That on the other hand, I was advocating for myself as someone perceived as a woman in tech, a person whose flame flickered out (and it was a relief when it did) over the time I contributed to GF.

I no longer feel like I'm riding the fence. I am squarely on one side. I am male (something I was uncomfortable saying outright until fairly recently in my life), I'm socially recognized as male pretty much all the time, but most importantly, I am not "outside" the legitimate ways in which patriarchy hurts men too. I am not an objective observer of those slights and hurts. I live them! And, in fact, I was living them when I was a 5-year-old boy who was having my subjectivity erased both in the way that many cis survivors of childhood trauma talk about, and in an additional way because not only my abuser, but everybody else in the world, was telling me I was a girl.

My feminism is for me. But Geek Feminism isn't for me, anymore. It does, and should continue to center, feminism that's for women. Those of us who are men need to make our own feminist spaces, not ones that exclude women but ones that can occupy a space that doesn't suck attention and resources away from the more pressing needs (in terms of day-to-day getting-a-paycheck-and-paying-the-rent stuff) of women and non-binary people. Everything in Maslow's hierarchy of needs is important, but as men we need to be brutally honest about where we are in that hierarchy relative to everybody else.

I will still continue to comment on the blog and maybe edit the wiki once in a while, but I've already begun the process of stepping down from my administrative roles and, since I'm also leaving tech, don't plan to be heavily involved in creating content in the future. My name is already under "Former Contributors" on the blog, and shortly I'll be surrendering the wiki banhammer as well. I am excited about the new volunteers -- and re-energized old volunteers -- who are going to be taking these resources into the future. My involvement in Geek Feminism has been the most important force in my life for the past five years. I hope to carry through the friendships that resulted from it into the future, but it's time for me to make space in my life to do a different kind of activism. A friend of mine says that allyship should be seen more in the sense of "allies" in a military context: people who have a shared agenda up to a point, but at some point, have to diverge because the allies' interests no longer fit with each other. It's time for me to fork. Not to go backward, just to take a different path forward. So long, until we converge.