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First World Problems

Happy Sithrak Witnesses
On the one hand, it's kind of cool to be able to use phrases like, "the CEO of Reddit, who I went to college with." I'm totally at that point in my career - not that I knew Yishan particularly well, and he may not remember me even slightly.

On the other hand, it seems to be kind of a rough week to be name-dropping him.

I'm... mixed on his response. I would have had a lot more respect for a response like, "we believe we can be a haven for amazing generosity, political dissidence against oppressive regimes and weird social experiments only because we're trusted to regulate almost nothing" a lot more than a combination of moralizing with espousing Reddit's own complete lack of moral principles.

I have a strong, strong belief in the need for high-anonymity spaces where things can go specifically unregulated. Like, even with all the problems they cause, and those problems are numerous and serious. Political dissent isn't guaranteed positive, nor are most similar activities. Not everybody who wants to overthrow the current world order is doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

But to phrase it as a moral imperative, even when that is true, is just stupid. You could play up the benefits (there are many.) You could talk about things you're doing to help prevent the actual law-breaking (he did, a bit.) You could talk about how Reddit-the-company isn't capable of fully distinguishing between the good and bad cases, and that would set a horrible precedent and would eventually be tragedy (yup.)

But the moralizing tone is just going to come off badly no matter how you do it.

And I'm not even gonna start on "we behave this way because we're a government, not a corporation," with the deep undercurrent of techno-libertarianism that implies. You can read into that one without my help.
beard 2013
Mostly because I have a other places to write that I've set up for professional stuff, and I'm doing that properly, and so I feel like I don't have much place to write personal or silly stuff.

Today I spent a lot of time with the kids. Three+ hours at the local park. A Hindi lesson for Calli. Then home to bake chocolate chip cookies and attempt to turn them into ice cream sandwiches.

The cookies came out great, partly because I used the good chocolate chips and a lot of them. The ice cream sandwiches came out overly squishy, despite using slightly-melty ice cream and saran wrap and putting them in the freezer. That's what you're supposed to do. It's possible that longer in the freezer would have helped, but I think mostly the ice cream was too melty.

I still remember a little from Hindi class last time. But now we have to memorize a fish nursery rhyme for next week, so we'll see how that goes. This class is clearly at a much faster pace than last time. That's probably a good thing. I do still remember the Gayatri Mantra from last time around, so that's nice.
beard 2013
My Ruby deployment class is now open. The number of sales, while small, is not zero. I have run a real launch around it, which I also messed with to add an affiliate "buy this thing and I get paid" email for Marc-Andre Cournoyer's latest Owning Rails class.

I am writing and scheduling these emails slightly in advance rather than exactly when they are emailed to 1300+ people.

I am feeling like I do this for at least part of a living. It'll be awhile before it rivals my day job, naturally. I have a pretty darn good day job.

But it's very freeing to make things and then sell them to people. I am enjoying it.

I will also be happy when the "new product launch" portion of the program is done-for-now. It takes a lot of time. And the second product is far, far easier than the first one.

As a lovely bonus, I am clearly making more sales of my previous book due to the additional attention and blog posts I am giving to the new class. So that's also nice.

I have high hopes for all this. And also a long slog between here and where I want to be. That's progress.
lumpy pear-shaped goddess of sex!
When writing Rebuilding Rails, I noticed that the good-progress weeks were always the ones where I did something that viscerally bothered me. So far that trend just keeps on going. I suspect it will for a long time.

This has been a good month.

I'm now lifting weights. Only for, like, two weeks, but I'm already noticing that my workouts feel a lot better, even the short ones. So apparently that's a good thing. I'm mentioning it here more to get accountability than to brag. So you should totally ask if you see me, "hey, are you still lifting weights?" If I think you will, I'm way less likely to stop.

I finally signed up for an actual monthly expense for the business. It's not even for Rebuilding Rails, it's for my next product, which will be about deploying Rails apps and using all those newfangled deploy tools you're supposed to (Chef, Vagrant, Librarian, AWS and many more.) But, like, with minimal pain. You should see the prototype, it's actually pretty darn cool. It'll be even cooler by the time I'm charging a lot of people money for it.

Have I mentioned that I'm getting way more stomach acid happening than a $7.00 monthly expense is actually worth? I've been thoroughly paranoid about not signing up for any expenses that could swamp the profit of my product, which is a habit that eventually catches up to you. No, seriously, if I have to pay $500 or more to make a product that should make $10,000+, I just need to DO that.

My stomach is having none of it, but it's been overruled.

I have purchased pretty ebook templates in hopes that my next book will not look like crap. Except now I'm convinced people will consider me a Real Author rather than a Hapless Engineer That Sometimes Writes Shit and expect me to know something about, like, laying out books and possibly even non-eye-searing color schemes. Urgh.

This, too, is not my stomach's favorite.

I am, in general, comporting myself like I Do This Kind of Thing (i.e. making and selling products.) It feels weird, expensive, and like I will totally crash and burn on this, wiping out all previous products and leaving me with a bunch of classes and (billed-monthly) services that are then a reminder of my failure.

On the plus side, actual measurable progress is pretty good. So there's that.

What are the rest of you doing?

Oy vey.

beard 2013
Every so often, I locate a book (or other communication) that bothers, annoys and generally gets to me, but is clearly carefully-thought-through and full of good ideas.

Just such a book is Nassim Taleb's "Antifragile."

I am having to look up a lot of words to read this book. Okay. He often uses these words in nonstandard ways. Oy.

He is against academia in favor of actual practitioners. Okay. He believes that excuses him from justifying most of his (mostly good, accurate) ideas. Oy.

He makes a wide variety of obscure references with little explanation. Okay. He occasionally gives incorrect references (Tantalus had the water and fruit, not the rock.) Oy.

Reading this book without Google would be much, much more frustrating.

As is I'm having to be careful to not spend long on Wikipedia for each reference.

Flaneur. Bricolage. Apophatic. Joseph Tainter. Gladstone. Hormesis. Sarcopenia.

And a number of things I knew but I'll bet most people didn't like Mithridatization.

Der Spiegel and the NSA

beard 2013
Are you guys up on the latest round of Der Spiegel revelations about the NSA's activities? They're terrifying.

The kind of stuff you heard about with Russian embassies and the CIA mixing bugs into the mortar? They're doing that kind of thing, apparently broad-spectrum, to high-value targets, semi-high-value targets and those who might be adjacent to high-value targets.

And it's not just one or two terrifying things that have been used in a few cases. It's tens of programs, and devices that are apparently routinely shipped in the tens or hundreds of units. It's postal interception, broad postal interception to infect 'new' computers, total compromise of essentially all smartphones, infection of nearly all computing peripherals...

And this is all separate from things like working with RSA to compromise data security standards -- that is, making us all less secure so that they can break our passwords if they need to.

Interesting trade-offs in rights

beard 2013
You've probably seen Paul Graham put his foot in his mouth about how it's hard to find brilliant woman technologists because they don't start programming early -- which, statistically, they tend not to.

Paul Graham is primarily making an observation -- he's a venture capitalist, and he doesn't find that people who didn't start hacking early are the kind of technologists that make him a lot of money. That doesn't specifically make his comments good or bad, excusable or inexcusable. But that's where he's coming from.

There's a huge outcry, of course, from people talking about how you don't need to start hacking at 13 to be an amazing programmer (and you don't.) The implication behind these things is that a woman with fewer years of experience should be every bit as good as a man with more years of experience.

Speaking as an old guy, I have no idea where to go with this. Because the argument that goes "more years of experience don't make you better!" makes me look like a pretty bad choice of employee. I'm a lot finickier about working conditions than when I was younger with fewer years of experience, for instance.

To be fair, startups already tend to discriminate against old guys (Paul Graham and Y Combinator less than many). And getting more young women in startups would be good all 'round.

But it looks an awful lot like this argument is a straight-up tradeoff of their advantage for older workers'.

I have quite a lot of advantage, and I can give some up. But "we should discriminate less against women in tech and more against old people" is still kinda mixed, you know?


beard 2013
I feel like I squander a lot fewer of my opportunities lately.

It's exhausting. But lots of good stuff happens as a result.

Any Ruby programmers in the audience?

beard 2013
I'm starting to screencast some things, partly because I'm thrilled with my nifty new microphone :-)

Also, it's a chance to capture some of my slideshows in a fun way, and it helps me iron out some of my verbal tics.

Anybody feel like listening to me blather about Ruby and Rack for twelve minutes? Or less if you stop it sooner!

Sep. 14th, 2013

beard 2013
My wife rightkindofme compliments my new beard trim as making me look "ten pounds lighter" and "less like a crazed bulldog."

So that'll be a win, then :-)