erika: (words: cute but psycho)
[personal profile] erika
put on socks (have not worn socks since March, fuck you Iowa, I'm moving to California)
go to grocery store for
tampons
conditioner
... probably something i'm not remembering atm?

take shower

call boss
ask for appt
ask if i still have a job persuant to her email, i basically do not have a job anymore unless I beg

call landlord
explain when i'm leaving...
figure out when i'm leaving

moving out the 15th-17th.

clean ferret cage
clean upstairs to vague semblance of order
post to bitesizedcleaning and update there

New Phone!

Apr. 24th, 2015 09:03 am
[personal profile] yendi
As some of you might know, for roughly the last two years, my cell phone has been the Kyocera Rise.

If someone had told me that Apple has initialed a false flag operation to make people hate Android, the Rise would be the result. It's awful. Horrible. On a hardware front, it's unresponsive to touch, it's slow, it's hard to read, it has trouble getting signals even in good locations, and its battery life is about two hours. On the software front, it crashes in almost any app, it has trouble running updates, and even basic apps tend not to work. Even basic tasks like dialing a number take minutes, not seconds.

I stuck with it because I'm using Virgin Mobile, and I refuse to pay more than $35 a month for my cell service. I don't want a $60+ bill (which is generally the only way to get a free or low-cost iPhone or Galaxy), because I want a phone primarily for texting, MBTA bus tracking, Twitter, occasional web access, and occasional phone calls. Oh, and taking the occasional picture of the dog or cats, of course.

But I finally hit a breaking point with that piece of shit, and have now upgraded to, of all things, a Nokia 635.

Yes, I'm on a Windows phone. And I fucking love it.

No, it's not high-end, but it does all the things I actually expect a smart phone to do. And it does them quickly. It gives me alerts. It lets me text (and has a swype-style interface that's much better than the Rise ever did). I can actually read the screen. Hell, I was able to actually check Mets scores on the bus yesterday!

Yeah, the ecosystem's small, but I really don't give a damn about that. I use my iPad for games, so only need one or two time-killers here. I use the same iPad for productivity (along with my Android Tablet to a lesser extent), and the few productivity apps I'd want on a phone (like Evernote) exist. I've got no real interest in streaming audio or video (and years of dealing with Android's well-known audio latency issue haven't helped), but most of the apps I'd consider on that front exist.

I'm still getting used to the interface changes -- it's not quite the "do they even have a usability team?" stuff you see in Android, but it's a noticeably different thing from the other systems. The tile updates are nice, but I'll need to spend some dedicated time this weekend ensuring I've got the right stuff on the front screen.

Anyway, I have a smart phone that's actually somewhat smart, finally! And I'm still on my nice Virgin Mobile monthly plan, meaning I'm not tying up more of our bank account than we can afford. Yay!

Remembering Teacake

Apr. 23rd, 2015 08:23 am
tim: Tim with rainbow hat (pic#148316)
[personal profile] tim


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
erika: Text: And I went crazy again today. (words: crazy again today)
[personal profile] erika
He's already out of jail. Set a bond of 10,000 dollars but evidently you only have to pay 1/10th of it. At least I'm hitting his pocketbook.

Spoke to a survivor advocate yesterday. They mentioned the possibility of his lawyer plea-bargaining the charge down to a non-sexual assault, or him not having to register on the sex offender list, and I nearly flipped a fucking table. Evidently my brain has decided plea bargains are Not OK.

Granted it's not like I didn't know the potential existed, but the idea that he could get off after being arrested and charged with the fucking crime and ADMITTING HE DID IT—— makes my blood fucking boil. I'm going to do my best to see that this asshole gets some jail time.

How can you use someone like that and ... how? I didn't understand it when it was my brother and I don't understand it from someone who was supposed to be my partner.

The worst part today is looking back and seeing all the times my friends, my family, everyone tried to warn me, and I didn't listen. Or remembering good things that I thought made up for the fact that every goddamn day he chipped away at me.

Feeling generous? You can still contribute to my gofundme, paypal me @ midnightparadox (gmail), or comment here to let me know your thoughts & good wishes. I appreciate every erg of support that's been given to me, and I also greatly appreciate that Patrickno one has said "I told you so" because y'all totally knew.

It's the awful truth.

Apr. 20th, 2015 09:49 am
erika: Reboot!James T. Kirk, Anne Taintor style lettering:  The key word here is "alleged." (st aos: alleged! (jtk))
[personal profile] erika
Josh is in jail.

Third degree sexual assault.

Against me.




Quite honestly, I'm numb. I halfway feel like this is all happening to someone else who apparently deserves to be protected.

Despite feeling like I'm in a spaceship orbiting earth instead of, you know, in reality——I'm seriously bowled over by the amount of support people have shown. Even my new therapist is seeing me twice a week.

Speaking of support, if you can contribute to my gofundme, of course I would greatly appreciate it, but I'm also accepting good wishes, comments, and hyperbolic threats of violence!

My sister has mentioned repeatedly that she knows someone with a pig farm, so there's that bar to surpass, guys.

(Unexpected cons of being sexually assaulted: I think the most annoying thing is right now I have nearly zero sense of humor. I have no idea what's funny and what's just mean.)

Responses to "Last Exit to Loyalty"

Apr. 19th, 2015 09:43 am
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
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)
[personal profile] tim
[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
brainwane: Sumana, April 2015, with shaved head. (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
crossposted from Cogito, Ergo Sumana

screen capture of 'Another Sunday'When Leonard and I lived in the Bay Area and drove south to Bakersfield to see his mom every few months, he got a satellite radio subscription. I'd navigate the music channels and look at the device to see the name of the artist and ask him to guess. When he couldn't tell, he often guessed "REM" (for loud stuff) or "Belle & Sebastian" (for quiet stuff).

Right now I'm working on an ambitious fanvidding project and am thus watching a bunch of other ambitious fanvids (e.g., chaila's "Watershed", danegen's "Around the Bend", counteragent's "Coin Operated Boy") to take notes on technique (e.g., exactly how many 100%-dark frames serve as a good stutter in frightening montages, versus how many blank frames help reset the eye and prepare it for a new sequence). Just now I was watching "Another Sunday" by Jescaflowne, set to "We Built This City" by Jefferson Starship. I checked the timecode scrubber. "Hey Leonard," I said facetiously. "Did you know that rock songs used to be four and a half minutes long?"

He looked at my screen as we made up Freakonomics-worthy nonsensical explanations of why this used to be the case. "What show is that?"

"Stargate Atlantis."

At this, Leonard developed a hypothesis that Stargate Atlantis and Supernatural are like REM and Belle & Sebastian, viz., if he can't tell what fandom a vid is, and there are spaceships and lots of guns, it's SGA, and if there are no spaceships and nearly no guns, it's Supernatural.

As a data point, I've watched zero SGA and one ep of SPN ("Fan Fiction"), but have spent happy hours enjoying fic and vids about both, particularly the critical readings -- if you're waiting for Ann Leckie's next Ancillaryverse installment, you could do worse than reading "Second Verse (Same as the First)" by Friendshipper/Sholio. I wonder whether the same thing will happen to me with Teen Wolf.

"Burnout" is a euphemism

Apr. 17th, 2015 04:19 pm
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
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.

Laying Down the Banhammer

Apr. 17th, 2015 11:17 am
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
[personal profile] tim
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.

Free stuff online

Apr. 17th, 2015 10:23 am
[personal profile] yendi
1. For Android owners, Amazon's got a bunch of free software today (and today-only). Some of it's crap, but some of it's pretty awesome, including the original Plants vs Zombies, Adventure Time Game Wizard, the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, Songsterr, Osmos, and more.

2. Marvel's offering a free month of Marvel Unlimited, which offers a ridiculous amount of comics (with about a six-month lag) for one subscription fee. Note that you still need to give a CC and cancel before the month expires, but if you can remember, it's a great deal.

3. And for iOS owners, Stealth Inc, a ridiculously fun game (which was originally called Stealth Bastard Deluxe when it was released on computers) is free for now.

Warm in the sun

Apr. 16th, 2015 10:02 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Such a nice day today. I had meetings all morning from 8am onwards, then went to therapy, bus broke down on the way there and the guy was worried about letting me off into the street, but not a jerk about it. I got off and went to the next stop and all was well on the next bus. Listened to one of the mixes I made recently & played Ingress & looked out the window. So warm in a nice way - a little on the hot side but that feels good to me! I should start wearing sunscreen.

After my appointment I went to look for a replacement scarf for my lost wooly pashmina. The woman running the store and I discussed our strange desires to have every scarf. My new pashmina is silk and cashmere and is a dark rich shiny brown with faint black patterns. Super ideal. I feel like a little brown bird. (In a giant blanket thing, with purple trimmings). Then beetled off to the J, to downtown uneventfully, switched to the N, went up to the roof at work. I sat in the sun overlooking the bay & devoured a stroopwaffel and some of those toasted coconut flakes, dealt with some bugmail, then hung out with support and user advoc. people who were having a beer. Unsurprisingly, support/UA team is NICE.

I tried channeling Lukas a bit by hosting an event at work. the nicest meetup. In retrospect, really, I knew this but just figured I could get away with it, I should have lined up another person to help me host. And, I should have specially invited the facilities people to come and attend so they could see some accessibility barrier negotiation in action. (But really they can just come see me be unable to open the heavy door, any time. ) Around 40-50 people showed up and I met lots of nice people.

After many years of volunteer thingies and doing a lot of work it was nice to just go, Oh, an event shall happen, and magic catering people and an A/V magician show up and do many of the things. The only thing I did was zoom around opening the 2 different doors at the entryways and greeting people. Which was fun except for the door being hard to manage. it was not unpleasant to briefly wield some resources and be a nice host without having to do all the actual physical labor.

I thought how I used to go out and do something like this every week sometimes more than once a week. Increasingly by taking more painkillers. Oh! so exhausting! I just can't do it!

But, it was nice for tonight. also, the food was good. i was just inhaling it. (I wonder if all the asthma meds make me hungrier?? food seems especially satisfying this week) Nice cheese, dried figs, giant slabs of very dense crystalized honey.... those mushroom truffle tarts... wtf, nice.

i am now planning to put in a workplace service request (like facilities) for working with lighthouse to do a tactile map of surrounding area and the building first floor interior. I wonder if this is something that is useful beyond just particular occasion (must ask them -- also, did they keep the julia morgan ballroom one, and did the JM ballroom people know it existed? I should follow up) So, do they keep such things and then print them for people ? Can't believe I never followed up on that....

I am so excited about vacation and our trip. I cannot wait to pack. I'm going to loaf on the beach like nobody's business.

a good swim

Apr. 15th, 2015 03:30 pm
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
I had a decent swim today at PT. My ankles did not feel strong but I could do all the things. I had a nice 10 minutes of lying in the sun beforehand on a park bench and nearly fell asleep. On the way there past the zoo I stopped to watch two brown bears playing in their pool. Today's class was 4 dudes, one of the ditzier ladies, and a nice woman who talked about her marriage and her new (old) Impala and going to casinos. She is a bus driver. Sadly she thought I was in my early 20s. Right..... No! There was a guy there with a new back injury who was very tense and upset. I felt for him. He was wishing that he could just be in the water all the time since then he would be "walking like a normal person again". I did not break it to him that he was still wincing and limping and looking kind of fucked up in the water. I hung out more with the guy with the prison tattoos who is pretty nice, and the Impala lady, who told us all about the beached whale in Pacifica and the last 4 or 5 times there has been a beached whale in the area.

Asthma still nasty. I think that there is nearby road construction and that is what's doing it. Pulse oximeter thing going from 95-98. Inhalers rule. Even if they make you get the shakes.

I am well into this not very good series of fake Jane Austen novels where Elizabeth and Darcy go to all the different settings for Austen's other novels. The writing style and things that happen are not at all right. But they are not super super awful enough that I've stopped reading them, either. Everything else on my Kindle (and it is full of stuff) is sort of serious or dense. Need trashy reading!

Hugo mess continues, very annoying. I read a short story that was withdrawn from the awards. It wasn't very good. Nothing to barf about, it was just boring and as if it were churned out to make $25 or fill up magazine pages 40 or 50 years ago and it would not have done anything new then either. I then thought of all the novels that are basically that same story but stretched out to make more pages, and just as boring. How can people be so dull?!

I also read a pleasingly cranky review of Silver on the Tree, a book that has always annoyed me.

A. wore lip gloss to school today for "twin day" along with black tshirts with horses on them with 3 of her friends. Oddly... she just got home and she is wheezing.

Nightmares

Apr. 15th, 2015 08:09 am
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
Nightmares about pain. That was weird. My hands do hurt but not like in the dream.

Crowdsourcing my "professional" bio

Apr. 15th, 2015 07:53 am
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
Since I'm changing careers, I figured it's a good time for me to finally have a standard bio so people know who the hell this guy is. I'm doing an experiment, inspired by [personal profile] skud's crowdsourced bio. I opened up a public Etherpad -- something like a Google Doc that anyone can edit without an account -- with one paragraph of my bio, to get you started (you can delete all of this text in favor of something else, and please do):

https://timsbio.titanpad.com/1

You can choose to edit anonymously or with your name or anybody else's name attached, it's up to you. I don't know how much IP tracking TitanPad does, but unless any abuse happens, I won't be trying to determine the identities of anonymous editors; I am not Reviewer 2.

TitanPad tracks a history of all changes (like Wikipedia does), so if you delete any text, it won't be lost forever; I'll still be able to view it in the history. Therefore, feel free to delete others' changes in order to improve on them, though it would be nice if there was no wanton deleting for its own sake. The exception is that you can, and should, delete the placeholder text I included.

Please go wild. I especially invite the following people to contribute:

  • my friends from college
  • my friends from before college (all one of them)
  • people who have worked with me before
  • people who have done activism with me before
  • people who I've called out on the Internet before
  • people who've called me out on the Internet before
  • people who only know me through my writing
  • people who are currently drunk and/or high
  • people who fit into more than one of these categories


Also, you can lie if you want! That's cool to do, as are writing things that are true, as are writing things that should be true, as are writing things you wish you could see as true about yourself that are easier for you to project onto me. (Because that's one of the many services I offer.)

Also, you don't have to write complete sentences or even necessarily make any sense. If you want to leave a bullet point in there, that's cool, someone else will make it into part of the text. It's the magic of open source!
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
Because I'm trying to lean in to my own self-importance, I made a soundtrack for my ragequitting post. I say "self-importance" because these are songs that helped me along in my decision to quit the tech industry, and yet most of them are actually about either the music industry or divorce. Go fig.

You can listen on Spotify, but here's an old-fashioned track listing in case you don't use online music listening services and want to burn these onto a CD for your car.

"He Thinks He'll Keep Her", Mary Chapin Carpenter

“Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design
Spit and polish till it shines. He thinks he'll keep her
Everything is so benign, safest place you'll ever find
At least until you change your mind.”


"This Town Is Wrong", The Nields

"Why don’t you make the rules?”

"Nashville", Indigo Girls

"Now I'm leaving, I've got all these debts to pay
You know we all have our dues, I'll pay 'em some other place"


“Somebody Loved Me”, Reel Big Fish

“What did I do? Was it so wrong?
I used to fit in, now I don't belong”


"All the Right Friends", R.E.M.

"I've been walking alone now for a long, long time
I don't wanna hang out now with the friends who just aren't mine"


"Your Racist Friend", They Might Be Giants (dedicated to B. Eich)

"Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding"

“Accident Waiting to Happen”, Billy Bragg

“And my sins are so unoriginal
I have all the self-loathing of a wolf in sheep's clothing
In this carnival of carnivores, Heaven help me”


"My Favorite Mutiny", The Coup

"I ain't rockin' with you
Your logic does not compute"


"Maggie's Farm", Bob Dylan

"Well, I try my best to be just like I am,
But everybody wants you to be just like them"


"I Ain't Marching Anymore", Phil Ochs

"Call it peace or call it treason, call it love or call it reason,
But I ain't marchin' any more"


"Frankly, Mr. Shankly", The Smiths

"Frankly, Mr Shankly, this position I've held
It pays my way and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave
you will not miss me
I want to go down in musical history"


"Solsbury Hill", Peter Gabriel

"I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery"


"L.A. Freeway", Guy Clark

"We've got something to believe in
Don't ya' think it's time we're leavin'"


"Late Night Train", Brooks Williams

"It takes mighty big courage to pack up and go
'Cause even a bad life is still a life that you know"


"Midnight Train to Georgia", Gladys Knight & the Pips

"He said he's goin' back to find
Goin' back to find
Ooh, what's left of his world"


"Rong", Röyksopp

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"H-a-T-R-E-D", Tonio K.

"it's hard to express the resentment i feel
for the years that i've wasted on you"


"No Children", The Mountain Goats

"And I hope when you think of me years down the line
You can't find one good thing to say
And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You'd stay the hell out of my way"


"Independence Day", Bruce Springsteen

"Well, Papa go to bed now, it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now
And they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away"


"Glory Bound", Martin Sexton

"I'm taking a chance on the wind
I'm packing all my bags
Taking a mistake I gotta make
Then I'm glory bound"


"Level Up", Vienna Teng (s/o to [personal profile] brainwane via [personal profile] yatima)

"call it any name you need.
call it your 2.0, your rebirth, whatever –
so long as you can feel it all,
so long as all your doors are flung wide.
call it your day #1 in the rest of forever."


Bonus tracks (not on Spotify):

"Come a Long Way", Michelle Shocked

"Now you tow it to the repo man's front door
And you give him these keys, I don't need them no more"


"Silicon Valley Game", Little George Band [difficult to find outside of Bay Area college radio stations and my Gmail archive]

"One day layoffs came
And you sat there looking stunned
You thought that you were so special
You were just another working bum
Playing that Silicon Valley game
Congratulations, you won"


Thanks to [personal profile] bookherd, [personal profile] substitute, [personal profile] etb, [livejournal.com profile] spoothbrush, and Morgan for their suggestions and/or reminders; also thanks to those who made suggestions I didn't end up using!
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

 -- Mario Savio

Love is the only motivating force, and while love can motivate some pretty awful things, it’s nonetheless impossible to do any good without it. I have no love left for my job or career, although I do have it for many of my friends and colleagues in software. And that's because I don't see how my work helps people I care about or even people on whom I don't wish any specific harm. Moreover, what I have to put up with in order to do my work is in danger of keeping me in a state of emotional and moral stagnation forever.

I don’t necessarily need to work on anything that helps people: some people love abstract puzzle-solving, and I'm one of those people. But when I’m at work as a programmer, I don’t spend much time solving abstract puzzles, at least not in comparison to the amount of time I spend doing unpaid emotional labor. Maybe other programmers are different (they spend their time shifting their unpaid emotional labor onto others instead? I don’t know.) I just know that’s how it is for me. Puzzly tinkering was one of my original motivations to work as a programmer, but it’s not a big enough part of the job to continue to be a good motivator.

Not only was I wrong about the degree to which puzzly tinkering would be part of my future life as a software engineer, I also failed to predict how hard it would be for me to keep my head above water in tech’s endless stream of macro- and microaggressions. Rapidly, getting up in the morning and going to work at my computer job became a source of frustration and the mornings became afternoons. I started to need coping mechanisms to cope with my coping mechanism.

I wrote the rest of this essay to wrestle with the question: “Given the many advantages of having a comfortable, high-paying, flexible desk job, are the frustrations I feel really bad enough to justify taking the risky path of searching for something more grounding? In the absence of pure intellectual pleasure and in the absence of the feeling of social benefit, will continuing to work in the software industry help me more than it hurts?” The short answers are “yes” and “no”. Here’s the long answer.

Flawed Coping Mechanisms

“All of y’all’s gold mines
They wanna deplete you.”
 -- The Coup

Programming thrilled me when I was 14 and needed a world to dive into that I controlled completely. I had had no control over my life up until then. The feeling of control that writing code -- making things out of pure ideas -- gave me was intoxicating in every sense that word has. Twenty years later, I don’t know if I’m wiser, but I don't want that escape valve so much anymore. I can give living in this world, with all of its messiness and blood, a trial period. I can try to dwell with that which I can't control.

I've thought about all of this for a while but this week I met the enemy and realized he was me. It's easy to bemoan brogrammers, it comes naturally to lambast gaters, but -- and by the way, in this paragraph I am addressing only my beloved fellow SADISTIGs (Sweet And Delightfully Introspective Sensitive Tech Industry Guys) -- that's because it's easy to find fault with somebody else for what lies in your own heart. I don't know about you, but I came here because I liked making machines bend to my will; because I wished I could figure out how to do that with people, but until I did, I was dead set on avoiding them. It's a hard thing to admit, but it's true. My past self wasn't a bad little dude, but the demons he ran away from into the twists of the compiler pipeline are dead. All of this personal bullshit makes me fundamentally not different from those concerned with ethics in video game journalism or with bro-ing down and crushing code, just more apologetic about it.

Ah, the persistent myth of the meritocracy. You know what? I want to be judged for more than the code I write.”

-- Coraline Ada Ehmke

I am far from the only emotionally stalled guy who works in tech, which is the point. If it was just that there were a lot of other folks like me in this field, that would be tolerable and maybe even a plus. But the tech industry is wired with structural incentives to stay broken. Broken people work 80-hour weeks because we think we’ll get approval and validation for our technical abilities that way. Broken people burn out trying to prove ourselves as hackers because we don’t believe anyone will ever love us for who we are rather than our merit. Broken people put up with toxic, dangerous co-workers and bosses because we’ve never experienced healthy relationships. Broken people sometimes even defend toxicity not because we want to do harm but because it’s simply what we’re used to. Broken people believe pretty lies like “meritocracy” and “show me the code” because it’s easier than confronting difficult truths; it’s as easy as it is because the tech industry is structured around denial. Why is it so compelling for some people to participate in a world where, ostensibly, they will never be seen as their entire selves and will be judged solely on some putatively objective numerical ranking within a total ordering of all hackers from best to worse? Since “some people” includes “me”, I have to guess that it’s because they’re terrified to be seen as their entire selves, since I know I am.

You Don’t Have to Have Complex PTSD to Work Here, But It Helps

“They say I’m running blind to a love of my own
But I’ll be walking proud
I’m saving what I still own” 

-- Indigo Girls

edited, 2015-04-14: If you don't like this section heading, please read the Clarifications section at the end of this post.

If you want a concrete example of how tech culture discourages us growing and being vulnerable, just read through the list of silencing tactics on the Geek Feminism Wiki. (I think it especially discourages us men from growing and being vulnerable. The culture is a bit less subtle about what it does to women and non-binary people.) I’m going to point out a couple that I’ve felt burnt by on the job:

  •  “You’re too sensitive”. This accusation gets used primarily against women, but sometimes against men who fall short of from commonly accepted masculinity ideals. A culture that considers “too sensitive” an insult is a culture that eats its young. Similarly, it’s popular in tech to decry “drama” when no one is ever sure what the consensus is on this word’s meaning, but as far as I can tell it means other people expressing feelings that you would prefer they stay silent about.
  • The tone argument. is commonly deployed against political and technical disagreement, and its use reflects an underlying assumption in tech culture that emotional conviction makes an argument less valid rather than more.
  •  “Suck it up and deal” is an assertion of dominance that disregards the emotional labor needed to tolerate oppression. It’s also a reflection of the culture of narcissism in tech that values grandstanding and credit-taking over listening and empathizing.

I say that these tactics are particularly injurious to men not because I think we have it worse but because they get employed differently against women and I have less firsthand experience with that. From what I can tell, being a woman in tech means being judged and found wanting no matter what you do, while being a man in tech means (at least the chance of) success at the price of following an extremely restrictive set of rules that are corrosive to emotional well-being for many of us. I know which set of problems I’d choose, and in a way, I did choose. But the choice between bad and worse doesn’t make bad good.

Moreover, I don’t think tech toxicity bothers people who are used to being listened to and acknowledged as much as it does people like me. (I wouldn’t know, since I don’t come from one of those places.) But if you had a good early life, you wouldn’t be in tech in the first place. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but I do think there’s a toxic feedback loop between the kinds of trauma that cause many people to flee into the world of things-made-out-of-ideas, and the kinds of trauma that some of us will encounter in that world when we least expect it. For example, if you are a person who has never had your own subjectivity and feelings systematically erased, I imagine you will probably just laugh when someone tells you “you’re too sensitive”. (I wouldn’t know, again, since I’m not like you.) I’m hurt by that accusation because I believed it about myself in the first place; that statement and all manner of other little loops of gaslighting are woven into me like tapeworms. If we can blame ourselves for being too sensitive, we don’t have to confront something that is too difficult for most kids and a lot of adults to confront: that someone who loves you can hurt you. If you know what “triggering” means: it’s triggering. If you don’t know what “triggering” means, then now you know.

Being Right Vs. Doing Right

So many think they're good guys. But they're so invested in a culture that depends on proving they're right they don't see the damage done.” -- Jen Myers

Here are some other tendencies that are both worse in tech than in other fields due to the way in which it attracts lost boys, and get reinforced by tech management in a toxic feedback loop of dysfunction and self-deception:

  • Mansplaining arises from the desire to position oneself as an authority rather than to talk as equals. A related pathology is social pressure to perform having an opinion on everything that’s not important (sometimes called “bikeshedding”: as well as not caring about anything that matters. The latter tendency is what I explored in my first Model View Culture article  under the name “false dismissal”.
  • Relatedly, “well-actually”-ism is a verbal habit of interrupting conversations to make factually true but irrelevant corrections, in a way that prioritizes intellectual self-aggrandizement over shared understanding. Like mansplaining, well-actually-ism is rooted in fear and insecurity and I should know, because I’ve done these things all the time, and I know that’s why.
  • Tech culture elevates heroes and “cowboy coders” who sacrifice everything to get all the work done themselves, gaining individual recognition and jettisoning healthy teamwork as well as their own long-term well-being. The “cowboy coder” -- the sort of guy who complains that code reviews slow down his workflow (which is true, in the same way that brakes slow down a car) is a stereotype, but one that you can observe in more or less any workplace. What’s more, you will observe that cowboy coders (often young, usually male, usually without sources of meaning in their lives outside of work) get praised just for fitting this pattern, regardless of the quality of their work. (My now-former colleague Jacob Kaplan-Moss illustrated this point quite aptly in his “who is Mark Zuckerburg?” slides in his 2015 PyCon keynote.  )
  • Failure to listen, failure to document, and failure to mentor. Toxic individualism -- the attitude that a person is solely responsible for their own success, and if they find your code hard to understand, it’s their fault -- is tightly woven through the fabric of tech. Even in places where people pay lip service to the value of documenting and of training new hires, their behavior belies it -- they fail to document because “there’s not enough time”, fail to mentor because they’d rather just hire senior engineers, and fail to listen because that entails the risk of finding out you’re wrong about something.
  • Invulnerability to criticism. There was a famous Linux kernel bug report about a bug that would reformat your hard drive when you didn’t want it to. The software maintainers responded by saying “you should have known better”. This is a particularly extreme example of a general tendency to accept technical bug reports as attacks on one’s most cherished self, to be defended against to the death. I’m not even talking about cultural bug reports here, which I once wrote about in Model View Culture. If you take criticism of your project as an attack rather than as helpful feedback, what does that say about how you will take criticism of your personal behavior?

I understand the reasons why all of these failures happen, and I’ve lived most of the reasons. I’m a very critical person; I’d like to get better at balancing doing the Right Thing(™) with validating and embracing commonalities. I’m not going to find very many incentives to do that, or role models to look to for how to do it, if I stay in tech.

Nobody sets out on purpose to make any workplace a pit of despair. But in tech, the failures are self-reinforcing because failure often has no material consequences (especially in venture-capital-funded startups) and because the status quo is so profitable -- for the people already on the inside -- that the desire to maintain it exceeds the desire to work better together.

“There’s No Crying in Startups”

"It takes mighty big courage to pack up and go
'Cause even a bad life is still a life that you know.”
 -- Brooks Williams

I have found that the more I try to curb my own antisocial and self-defeating tendencies, the less I succeed in tech. Being sensitive makes you suspect. Approaching technical discussions as collaborative efforts rather than cage matches gets you frozen out. Performance gets assessed on rough approximations to individual “impact”, without regard to how much you helped your colleagues do their jobs. I think that I’m capable of continuing to work in tech, as long as I force myself to be continue to be the person I’m tired of being. No stock options are worth as much to me as the still, small voice inside is; no amount of money and benefits is going to get me to tell that voice to shut up now after 14 years with my hand over its mouth. All the tendencies I’ve criticized in this essay are ones I’ve seen in my own mirror. To be in tech is to be in permanent adolescence or at least to maintain dual personalities, one for work and one for home. The latter is way too much effort and as for the former, who in the world would actually choose that? I wouldn’t, because being a teen can be fun (at 16, at 27, and at 34), but not as fun as having been one.

“Aren’t you being melodramatic here, Tim? Aren’t you applying concepts to tech companies that are really for describing family structures?” I would have thought so too until during my first week at a new job (disclaimer: not my current job), I watched a grown man and father of four literally stomp out of an office at 3:21 PM on a Thursday, not to return until the next day, because the company’s CTO was making him feel unheard during a meeting. At the time I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back on Friday. (He did.) To be clear, neither man in that interaction was behaving particularly laudably, and at the same time both had valid points. A third man, my boss at the time, stepped in to explain to the CTO, “I think when you said [whatever] to [REDACTED], the way it made him feel was…” I remember being pleasantly amazed at hearing that kind of communication from anybody in a corporate conference room, although it was a bit less nice when the CTO literally replied with, “I don’t care about hurt feelings. This is a startup.” I also remember thinking that because this company was small, I was finally getting to see behavior acted out explicitly that usually takes place just below the surface in bigger companies. So no, I don’t think I am being melodramatic. If anything, my former colleague (the most senior back-end engineer at this company) who stomped out of the office was, but I wouldn’t even say that, because I sympathize with the pressure that led him to act the way he did at the breaking point. This was actually a pretty reassuring experience for me because up until then, I’d wondered if I was projecting. That day I realized that I wasn’t, any more than the overhead projector in your average office is in 2015. I actually prefer daily screaming matches to ever-present rage repressed at high pressure (one of which, at least once, made me cry in the bathroom at a previous office), but I would kind of prefer to have neither of those things in my workplace. When I worked at another one of my past employers, I took to watching a lot of episodes of “House, M.D.” because I really needed to see examples of people modelling exemplary professionalism and respect for others’ boundaries… by comparison.

There’s a reason why it’s become a cliché for startups to describe themselves as being like a family: because a lot of us come from families defined by abuse, neglect, multigenerational trauma, addiction, lying, leaving, coming back, leaving again, and conspiracies of silence about it all. We bring all of that into our work “families”. Sometimes we need more than free kombucha on tap in order to cope and heal; when we don’t get it, we take it out on each other because that’s easier than confronting those who have power over us.

Voice

I'm gonna K. I. L. L. one of us, baby. Give me time to decide on which.” -- Tonio K.

The person I would like to be is also someone who acknowledges fear and pain and doesn’t always retreat into fury at injustice. I love my fellow tech SJWs, but for me -- and in this paragraph I am calling out no one but myself -- the siren song of righteous anger always lies in wait to take away the small soft things inside and leave me alone on the floor with a rage hangover. There is an infinite amount of injustice in the world and an infinite amount of completely justified anger that can well up from any of us who take the time to think about it. Anger is a very useful strategy for activism; I try my best to never coerce people who are marginalized -- especially by groups I'm in -- into suppressing it. But maybe it's time for me to be a bit more liberal in what I accept and conservative in what I send out, Postel’s-Law-style. For lots of people, alcohol is a useful tool for making social situations a little more manageable; a minority get consumed by it. Maybe anger is a little like that for me. I wouldn't work in a bar if I was recovering from alcoholism, so I'm not going to work in tech while I'm trying to integrate the parts of myself that aren't angry. There are too many temptations.

Exit

“I want to leave
You will not miss me.”
 -- The Smiths

So that's why I have to quit tech for somewhere between a little while and forever (inclusive). It's not just that I don't want to, but that, in a very literal sense, I can't. I'm not doing any favors by sticking around when I'm unable to pull my weight. I don't know what's going to be next for me, but it won't be this. If I can find a job doing something involving comforting the afflicted or afflicting the comfortable, or even both, that would be neat.

I also don’t think it’s any great loss for tech that I won’t be in it, since I’m neither particularly bad nor particularly good at the work I do; I’m proudest of my minor contributions to tech culture criticism, not any code I’ve ever written. In 14 years including grad school, I doubt I’ve earned the invisible “valued contributor” merit badge anywhere. I’ve job-hopped, quit jobs when I could have stayed and resolved interpersonal conflicts, taken unannounced PTO, checked Facebook and Twitter for literally entire work days at a time. I am neither proud of nor sorry for any of these lapses, because ultimately it’s capitalism’s responsibility to make me produce for it, and within the scope of my career, capitalism failed. I don’t pity the ownership of any of my former employers for not having been able to squeeze more value out of me, because that’s on them. What’s on me is how I spend my time, and I don’t want to spend any more of it pretending I don’t know what I want.

Not everybody can turn their coping mechanism in a career, but I had the chance, and it was an offer I couldn't refuse. After a year or two of being in the tech industry, programming became a less effective coping mechanism and anger became a more compelling one, since the tech industry has so much cause for anger to provide. Over time, the second one replaced the first one almost totally, taking away my original reason to even like programming at all and demoralizing any remaining scraps of work-ethic out of me. It’s sad to have to report that this is true, but it would be sadder to pretend none of it happened.

Loyalty

“And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You'd stay the hell out of my way."
 -- The Mountain Goats

I tried leaning in, which for me means some combination of “just work harder” and spending a ton of non-work time developing complicated structuring and coping mechanisms to make me feel OK about doing something I fundamentally don’t want to be doing. RescueTime, Todoist, Google Calendar, Trello, weekly schedules, written to-do lists, eugeroics, SSRIs, caffeine, cannabis, fancy drinks, spending too much money in coffee shops, knitting during meetings, big headphones, Twitter, IRC, Slack, post-it notes, text files with lists of questions to ask, animated .gifs, playing 2048 on my phone in the men’s room at work for 30 minutes or longer at a stretch, repeatedly reloading Fucks On Back Order. None of these things are intrinsically bad and many are pretty damn good, but when I invest a lot of my time structuring my work hours with some of them and recovering during my non-work hours with others, all in the service of something I fundamentally don’t want to be doing, I have to start asking why. It’s a lot of effort, largely performed during non-work hours, for a relatively low yield in terms of actual productive work that helped my employer. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s found that leaning in tends to mean leaning into a black hole. The rise of the lifehacking industry, as well as meditation and mindfulness programs for temporarily calming down workers so they can be productive while experiencing abuse, suggest that capitalism does well when it can simultaneously hurt people and sell them palliative care for that hurt.

“Just work harder” always sounds appealing to me too, because in fact I love working, I feel uncomfortable when I’m doing something that I can’t characterize as work, and I can work way harder than is good for me. But that’s only when I feel like there’s a reason to do it: whether the reason is making a software system better in a way that I can see and get tangible feedback on from others, or making other people feel like they’re less alone, or just having clean dishes. When I don’t see the reason why I should work harder, I can’t work at all. So I don’t think leaning in is helping me or helping my employer.

I’m leaning out, because to be a better person than the one I am now, I have no other choice. I'm not saying I'll never come back, but I am saying I'll probably never come back. This is my choice; it doesn’t have to be yours. I’m not taking a moral stance that I would prescribe to others, or in fact, making this decision based on abstractions at all. I don’t aspire to sainthood and I would happily stay in a sweet desk job with flexible hours if it wasn’t destroying me from the inside. The question I tried to answer in this essay is: “destroying me from the inside? Really? Is it doing that?” And I believe the answer is yes.

I don’t know if the alternatives I’m considering are going to be better or not, but I’m at a point where all I can do is find out for myself. I know that every single field of employment has its own unique blend of coffee and bullshit to offer, and choosing a career is a matter of picking which one you don’t mind sipping. I don’t know whether other fields will be worse or better, I just know that tech’s tainted tonic interacts badly with the poison that’s already in me. If what works for you is staying in tech, great! Try to leave it a little better than you found it.

Postscript to Herokai

I hope I’ve made it clear that while it’s not me, it’s also not you. I had to realize all this stuff sometime, and it’s probably not a coincidence that it happened while I was in the comparatively safe and supportive culture that Heroku has. To Leigh, Jake, Evan, Fred, Tristan, Omar, Jamu, Charles, Mary, Ari, Daed, Courtney, Joy, Liz, Jacob, Meagan, Tef, Matt, Geoff, Greg, and Mark: Thanks for the laughs, lunches, and corgi GIFs. Don’t be a stranger. If I forgot anyone there who I should have included, it’s because a week straight of less than 4 hours of sleep a night has rendered my brain into a chia pod.

Clarifications

  • 2015-04-14: Yes, I actually do have complex PTSD (beginning with experiences at age 5 or younger, so, pretty well before I ever got paid to touch a computer) and today is actually the first day I've ever said that in public. I'm feeling a little raw about that and the way I usually deal with those feelings is jokes, hence the section heading. I also see how it could be seen as trivializing. I feel like there's no point in suffering if you can't make jokes about it later, but I should probably have included this clarification in the first place.

Acknowledgments

“Code reviews slow you down like brakes slow down a car” is something I saw on Twitter once. I don’t remember who tweeted it. If you know, or if it was you, please tell me!

“Lean Out” is the title of issue 3 of Model View Culture, for which Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane deserve credit.

Edited to add: The term "well, actually" was coined by Miguel de Icaza, and I learned about it from the Recurse Center social rules.

Edited to add: While I originally learned about the concept of emotional labor from the writing of Barbara Ehrenreich and Laura Kipnis, I also owe one to Lauren Bacon for her article "Women in Tech and Empathy Work".

Edited to add: I first saw the Mario Savio quote on an office door in Soda Hall at the University of California in 1999. It took me the past sixteen years to understand it.

Edited to add: I owe much to Julie Pagano's article "I think I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship… with the tech community" -- arguably I never would have had any of the thoughts expressed in this piece without reading hers a year and a half ago.

Edited to add: I alluded in this piece to the chorus of Stephen Fearing's song "The Bells of Morning", which was written about the École Polytechnique massacre and which I wrote about previously in reference to Gamergate.

Edited to add: If you happen to live in (or can travel to) Portland, Oregon, and need a therapist, call Cat Pivetti at 503-740-9555. (nb. the initial phone number I put there is incorrect, as is the number on the page linked to, currently.) I don't credit her with me becoming the person who wrote this article, but I do credit her for helping me find what was in me that I put into it, and I think she does that for other people too.

In this piece I’ve drawn on insights from conversations with many different people and from writing by many different people. Nothing I’m saying is new, but I hope that this particular presentation may find itself useful to somebody else. Because there are too many influences to name, for the sake of not privileging any one of them unduly I’m not listing most of them. But know that if you think I made a good point anywhere in this essay, it’s more likely than not to be a point that a woman made me think about. A number of friends and current and former colleagues of mine read and commented on drafts of this essay; for prudence’s sake, I won't enumerate or name them. But if you are one of the people who proofread for me: my gratitude to you symbolizes why I didn’t quit this industry ages ago. I’ll miss y’all.

Soundtrack

That's a thing that there is.

Outro

Vienna Teng, “Level Up” (s/o to [personal profile] brainwane via [personal profile] yatima for turning me on to this one):

"Call it your day number one in the rest of forever."

owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
[personal profile] owlectomy
Just got back from seeing the Stars concert!

I have no idea if they're always that good or if there was something particularly electric in the air tonight -- it was definitely one of the best concerts I've been to, and an entirely emotionally cathartic experience.

Torquil is a guy who I don't happen to find attractive at all but he has just a RIDICULOUS amount of personal charisma? He's theatrical when he sings, in the sense of really being expressive and being good at projecting emotion, but not in the sense that it ever felt fake -- it felt like there was joy in the air and he was reflecting that and everyone in the ballroom was catching it. It wasn't necessarily just about the music; "From the Night," the first song that they played, is not really one of my favorites, although it has much more of a raw punch live; it was a sense of just being there for honest emotional sharing.

A couple of songs in, Torquil was talking about being grateful for everyone's support, and said something like "Everyone has a dream that they're working at in their bedroom," and I just kind of lost it. Because those words are so often used to dismiss those dreams. You have a dream? Who cares, so does everybody. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee. But when he said it, it was about solidarity, for all of those dreams. It was about respect for the work everyone does without regard to whether it's good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. I had no idea how much I needed to hear that, but I did.

...And then a couple songs later, when I had just about recovered from that, they did "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It." And then it was "Dead Hearts," which would not have affected me so badly except that Torquil asked everyone to raise a fist for their ghost, and that brushed up against some stuff that was on my mind because of therapy. And then it was "No One Is Lost," with "Put your hands up if you ever feel afraid," and ... all the hands in the air, I don't know. You know that everyone's doing it because the song says so, but you also know that it's true, that all the time I walk around feeling like nobody else is as anxious as I am but that's mainly because the only person whose weird anxious thoughts I have regular access to is me.

Soooo what I'm saying is, Meaghan, be glad you were in France and not getting cried on???

And that I need to be reminded, sometimes, that it's possible to open your heart and make stuff that's worth making. And that if there's creative work that you want to do, the right way to do it is with your heart open, even if you spend so much time feeling sad and scared that you think you can't anymore.
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