On any given day, on any team, one member is going to do the heavy lifting. You will do the heavy lifting tomorrow.
One of the benefits of having a kid is the opportunity to read with them: brand new books; stories you have known all your life; stories you wished you had read. It’s a chance for you to grow and learn as a family.
Before reading it together, I had known the broad outlines of the Zen koan, Banzo’s Sword. It’s the story of a young man, desperate to impress his father, finds the sword master Banzo and insist Banzo train him. Banzo agrees. The young man asks how long it will take to become a master. Bazo tells him a lifetime. Too long, the young man says. He tries to bargain with Bazo, offers to be his servant, and with every offer the time to mastery grows. Eventually, the young man realizes that he can’t get to mastery without putting in the work and being patient. I recommend that you read Bazo’s tale here.
This is also the plot to Karate Kid.
I fell in love with the X-Files in it’s second or third season, in dark basement in Centreville, Virginia. A friend introduced me to Mulder and Scully and the Consipracy through her brother’s library of VHS recordings off the air. We went our separate ways – college in different states – but I kept up with the X-Files until the end and I have all seasons on DVD – except, strangely, Season 4.
Viewers may remember the The Lone Gunman. Byers, Frohike, and Langly were allies of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who ran The Lone Gunman, a publication that explored conspiracy theories (i.e., Lee Harvey Oswald was either a patsy or part of a larger conspiracy, the was filmed by Stanley Kubric on a soundstage in Hollywood, Extraterrestrials walked among us. ). They provided what could be charitably described as “operational support” for Mulder and Sculley, including legwork, photography, and hacking/phreaking, in service of the Agent’s search for the truth in the alien invasion conspiracy.
Sometimes they got up to their own shenanigans.
Another, Unusual Suspects is the Mulder/Gunmen origin story. In a scene with a character, “Holly,” who is running from the Cigarette Smoking Man, when she asks him about his hacking skills, Frohike tells her that his “Kung Fu is the Best.” The phrase, a kung fu film trope and well-worn in-group code from the black-trench-coat-and-combat-boot nerds, struck in my brain. I liked it so much at the time that I added it as my signature on my home printed business cards.
I seriously I thought that was sufficient to will myself to success (whatever that means) without having to actually put in any work. I had no patience. Success as a writer would find me.
I’ve had a lot of jobs since college and no explicit plan other than to be a kick ass novelist: Sales Associate, early morning chyrons for major market TV, secretary, program coordinator, and secretary. I thought the novel would come by magic and my future set. Eventually I decided to turn the only skill that I spent any time actually working on and turn it into a corporate career. I took a certificate in Technical Writing and through the power of nepotism found a job doing that for a small software company.
And over the last 13 years the job grew far outside that specific title. The knowledge I built up writing about our software products made it natural that I should also do pre- and post- sales. And live trainings. Marketing material. Trade shows. We were part of a much smaller company then and everyone did what they needed to do to move things forward. Honestly, I really liked it. I like having a skill or knowledge people appreciate. Still, nearly everyone who’s ever known me longer than 5 minutes thinks it strange that I’m a damned good capitalist.
I had no explicit plan. I took opportunities as they came (opportunities that are only available to a select few, I remind myself; I’m a stupid lucky human being) and eventually found something I genuinely liked to do.
My kung fu is just okay.
That friend popped up on my radar a few years ago. I happened upon an article she wrote about her distrust of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. We reconnected on Twitter. Soon, she found global internet fame from her piece on Brigid Hughes, the second editor of the Paris Review, and how she was erased from the history of that publication by that publication and, among others, the New York Times. She advocates for the remembrance and recognition of women in the arts, especially those who have been edited out. She started a quarterly journal and a bookstore, as a single mom, an American living in the UK.
And if you were not paying attention, while her success might seem as the work of magi, she has made a series of explicit choices large and small that move her to her goal. Choices invisible to all but those who care the most. But as she will tell you – and has told others who make the same assumption – she’s put in the hours building her knowledge, skills, and “brand.” She’s put in the work on her kung fu.
This is not the same scale. I’m not shining a light on long suppressed, yet fantastic, women authors. I want to build software that makes life just a little bit easier. I don’t want to disrupt life; I want to help smooth out the bumpy trail so we can all get to where we need to be.
I’ve put in 13 years. I’ve got some skills. My kung fu is not the best. Not yet.
I starting my third week of a 15 week Coding Boot Camp at Flatiron. With the support of my family and an okay from my supportive boss, I am taking Vacation/Leave to learn to code, to add that skill to my set of tools. When I finish, I will be armed with the skills to help me be closer to that kung fu mastery that I wanted to advertise on that cheap business card nearly a quarter century ago.
To some, this may seem like a giant, brave (or insane) leap into the unknown. To all those who love me the most, this is the next, small logical step in my pursuit of happiness and some kick-ass moves.
I drive down Georgia Avenue towards DC nearly every day and meet one or more of these drivers each journey: 20 in a 35; Ride-a-Tail; Stops for No Discernible Reason; Slows for Turn But Does Not; Slows for Turn With No Signal; Swerves into Adjacent Lane Because a Bus/Pedestrian/Uber has Stopped in Theirs (Obviously); Crosses Three Lanes of Traffic to Get On Beltway; Turning Left from Lane Marked ‘No Left Turns;’ Still Reading Text 10 Seconds After Green.
These drivers make me angry. Furious. I gesture. I shout. I roll down my window to scream toothless threats into the wind until my face is wet with spit.
They’re doing this to me.
They are hurting me.
No, of course they’re not. Like me, they’re just trying to get through the day without falling through an open manhole or slipping on a banana peel. They’re thinking about work. Their sick Aunt. What to make for dinner.
I’m a person of greater than modest means. Still: Getting out of bed, making coffee, dressing myself & the kid, driving to school and then work, working, doing work that matters, reading a few pages on the can, trolling Twitter and FB for pictures of your beautiful tropical holiday between stories describing of our impending political/environmental doom, buying groceries, feeding myself, the family, bath time, 3 books and a song, paying bills and doing dishes, watching a little TV while locked into work email with a customer just starting her day in Asia, holding my tiny family close, clacking out 200 words… that’s all I can squeeze out most days. That’s success. I don’t owe the universe more than that.
Women who do it solo1, likely with more children and far fewer resources than my family, are the only people who can every rightly claim to be “owning” this life. That they don’t collectively say “Fuck this” and seize the halls of power is a testament to how steep – and exhausting – are the barriers we demand women surmount before the day even begins.
Some of you, though, are ethereal beings – pixies, imps, demi-gods – who can push out a novel or a business or music in the spaces between the events that take up a normal day. Do you have a staff? Shadow henchmen? Office space that sits on the periphery of time-space? Maybe you don’t. Is there an accounting at the end of the day that is suppressed, omitted from the public record? I’d guess yes.
In work and life, I can over promise and under deliver. Sometimes I try to connect with people and I fail. I try again and fail again and that failure carriers a great weight. We’re all just trying to muddle through the day. I’m (mostly) succeeding at my core responsibilities and the core is fucking hard.
You know that.
Driving down Georgia, I know nothing about the souls of those drivers, if they are good or bad people. I can think: “She’s self-involved. He hates his family. Maybe that guy’s a Adolf Hitler and Hugh Hefner chimera wrapped up in a $5000 suit, a JD and an S-Class.” But I don’t know. I do know that I am deeply distrustful of any system that applies a value to a human being. I do know that humans make mistakes and and are exclusively focused on just getting through the day.
You don’t know, either. You think you know the specific quality in people creates conflict, but you don’t know.
I forget anniversaries. I miss conference calls. I say the “right” thing the wrong way. I drift over into your lane while singing along to the Beatles. I am human. I make mistakes and spend 99% of my brain cycles trying not to trip over my own mess.
You might call this privilege. Ok.
Expecting perfection and attributing anything short of it to a trait other than “human” is to set yourself up for unending misery.
Good luck in 2019.
- Know it’s exclusively women. Take a good think on why you object, Men, when anyone makes that evident observation. ↩
Christmas is Coming and my love of Christmas music, traditional and novelty, is well documented. We’ve already put some lights up around the house and will add more in the coming days. LED lights are more expensive than incandescent and don’t seem to be any more robust; I’ve replaced 2 sets this year.
I won’t do anything like this. Nothing at all like this.
You may recall Keep Fucking That Chicken: the global playlist I maintain of music in my library. It’s a constant, on going project. You will surely not be surprised that I have started a similar list for Christmas music: A Christmas Night on Soliloquy. This is a subset of my nearly 10gb of holiday music (which includes a nice chunk of Halloween hits) and is currently mostly culled from compilations. I’m still sorting through the single artist records and will likely be doing so for years.
TNYGLXY, as I’ve mentioned, will have a streaming audio, powered by IceCast2 and MPD, as well as an FM transmitter, and will blast Christmas Joy, like sparkly flying reindeer jizz, all over our neighborhood.
I do like the Little Free Library boxes planted in folk’s lawns across the country. I nearly never find a book I haven’t yet read or wish to read (lots of grocery store paperbacks). I’d be even money there are dedicated fans who know the best installations and stake them out early and often. That said, I love the idea of sharing what I love with others.
I have always been a Windows user, although I’m a big fan of opensource and “free” software, like GIMP, IrfanView, Audacity, and others. So I’ve always wanted to dig a little deeper into Linux (I build my own PCs, why not roll my own version of an operating system?) I’ve been intimidated. I learn best when I have a project that lets me root around in the works and figure out the inner workings. I’ve read books and signed up for online coursework, but haven’t really cracked the patient open.
Around the 2016 elections, I landed on another couple of interesting projects, with the same spirit, but digital. SWMNBB took me to the Women’s March and I brainstormed on how we could communicate if wireless internet went down (it did) on purpose or by volume (there were so many people. So many. My knees locked up I was standing stock still for hours). I found a project called PirateBox, which used off-the-shelf hardware, including a travel WiFi router, a USB cable, and an large external battery pack, and a custom DD-WRT distribution that turned the router into a self-contained internet hotspot. Point your phone’s wifi at the PirateBox and users can access documents, webpages, and chat right from a phone that might not otherwise have access to the greater internet.
Of course, I bricked the thing the night before the Women’s March and left it behind.
The PirateBox was fun to play around with. Setup was well documented. But if you weren’t really familiar with Linux and and embedded systems, like me, when you wanted to do something a little outside of the scope of their project, you were in the wild. Like me. When I bricked my little repurposed travel router, finding out how to fix it was honestly more trouble than the $20 it cost and was a skill that didn’t scale up.
A fork of that project is LibraryBox. While the PirateBox tries to live down to it’s name1, LibraryBox is button-down project, serving up digital files in a cleaner interface. It’s for Libraries and as an all in one solution for a specific application it’s super cool, but not for me.
If I was going to customize, I might as well start from the beginning and do it right.
I have a handful of Raspberry Pi sitting around my office, gathering dusts, bought to build projects I’ve considered and invested in, but never completed. For those who don’t know, a Pi is a low cost, low power computer designed for education. Although it can run pretty much any flavor of Linux, the foundation that designs the devices also produces a distribution of Debian Linux (called Raspbian) that drives the hardware. There’s strong support documentation and a robust community built up around the device to help get people with little experience (kids and adults alike) up and learning in no time.
It makes good sense to be the foundation of the TNYGLXY
What The Hell Are You Doing?
I have 3 distinct objectives with the project I will call TNYGLXY:
- To make something (I think is) cool.
- To learn more about interacting with Linux, particularly the command line, and building user-interactive web applications
- To interact with my neighbors and passersby, to share digital media as one would physical media in a Little Free Library, and to stream audio out via FM and Web
The end result will be a self-contained wireless access point, which can’t access the Internet, nestled into a small, waterproof box, tucked away behind a bush in front of my house. Visitors will find/be advised of the SSID and will not require a password to access the device. Once they do, their browser will be directed to a single URL (tnyglxy.lan?), from which they can access digital books, audio files, videos, and a music stream played right from their browser.
It will also broadcast FM radio.
- I bricked my PirateBox trying to change the name of the SSID from PirateBox because I thought people would have their doubts about accessing something called PirateBox if they didn’t know what it was. Note: Don’t use apostrophes in your SSID. There are no dumb mistakes, except for this one. This one is really dumb. ↩