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Sunday April 02, 2000, 23:11

i really need one of those kneeling chairs. my chair just isn't comfortable, and i'm really afraid that i'm going to do some serious damage to myself if i keep going like this. it's all about a combination of a bad monitor height, bad keyboard, bad chair and not so good lighting. (actually, i just adjusted the height of my monitor with an old phone book. let it never be said that being a packrat isn't a good thing.)

i spent the whole weekend. what that means, more specifically, is that i spent my weekend not at work. which is a good thing, because i spent all week working, and if i had spent all weekend working, then it wouldn't have made for a very distict break between last week and this week (which i really consider to start tomorrow) which would mean that i would have experienced a two-week long week, which would have just thrown off my whole world view.

as it was, i had daylight savings time to contend with.

i must say that it was very exciting to be walking home at 7 this evening and not having to bust out my sweater and watching other people walk down the street. some people were even smiling. i've noticed that it's getting to be dangerously close to spring. people are emerging from their social hibernations and are pairing up. you know that time of year. it's that time when you can't spit without hitting a happy couple, her hand draped gently in the crook of his elbow. or perhaps her head resting slightly on his shoulder. or the two, hand in hand, swinging them gaily as they walk down the street, the rest of the world invisible.

remember that? remember the last time you walked down the street, your hand in someone else's, your fingers touching theirs, twitching ever so slightly just to feel the feedback from them. not even looking at each other, but just holding them?

i do.

and that is why i can't help but smile every time i see one of these couples passing by. i must look like an absolute lunatic, grinning wildly as the sight of a happy couple, but all i'm remembering is what it feels like, and how they must both feel at that moment. envious? sure. but not to an extreme. i've come to realize that when other people are happy around you, that you get some of that happy vibe. it just slides right off of them, you know? they can't help letting some of it slip off, and you can't help picking some of it up.

so spring, hurry up and get here. you've been gone too long.

ah, so what of the learning that i did all weekend? the stuff that i was doing when i should have been writing up some documentation for work. ah yes.

well, after rediscovering photo.net for the first time in a number of years (after writing eve about some random pi thing and then learning that she now works at arsdigita and, well, you get the idea), i found that there were a couple of one day courses being taught at MIT, for free, and seeing as i just spent a couple of hundred bucks to go down to texas to learn some webby things, i figured that i couldn't really pass up an opportunity for some free learning.

that logic didn't follow, but go with it.

see, i miss learning. i miss hanging around smart people all the time. i mean my roommate last year was a super-genius. he was. there really aren't two ways about it. i mean, he was a computer science guy, who was thinking of being a classics major just for fun. you know, because studying sumerian or whatever was his idea of a good time.

maybe that makes him something different than a super genius.

anyway, i miss being able to bust out with some sort of reasonably intelligent statement and having 12 people come back at me and tell me that no, in fact, i'm an idiot, and that particularly brilliant thing thati just said was mostly wrong, and that the part of it that was right was just obvious and stupid. i mean it was painful to my ego to hang out around these smart people all the time, but it really got those juices flowing.

these days all i can really do is talk to myself. and who wants to hear that? certainly not me.

now i know that i have other friends here in boston, and for them i am grateful, because otherwise i'd never be able to get off my ass and get out and have fun and things. but the thing is that because i'm not hanging out with these people all the time any more (like i was in school, for all of you who didn't get that train of thought right there), it means that whenever i do see them, i feel like i have to "catch up" with them, which leaves very little time for intelligent conversation.

i really want some of that spontaneous smart action.

well, i didn't exactly get that this weekend, but i did get to flex my brain muscle a bit more than i have in the past couple of months. see, philip greenspun gave this set of talks about building web sites. and while most of it was a big ad for the toolkit that he's built and open sourced and built a company around. but it was interesting anyway because i got to hear a very one-sided argument about what makes a web site good (community), what makes a web site bad (lots of graphic design) and what makes web services like photo.net tick (oracle).

well what's so great about a one-sided arguemnt? well, here's the thing. it gets you thinking. or rather, it got me thinking. i mean, here were some arguments that were so blatantly one-sided, like "chat is useless because it doesn't serve the goal of bringing together users who are separated in time and space, which is what web sites are supposed to be used for" (quotations indicate an idea more than a quote because i have no idea what he actually said), that i just couldn't help but start thinking about all the ways in which he was wrong.

for example, this dipshit is telling me that chat is dumb, but i chat with people online every day and while we're separated by space, we're not going to pick up the phone and call each other (which was greenspun's arguemnt) since these chats mostly take place between people who don't really know each other too well and are chatting to be social. ok, this is a really dumb example, because it makes me sound like a dipshit too for trying to make an argument, but i think maybe you get the idea.

the idea is that when you're shoved into a learning environment, and you're willing to learn, two things can happen. the first is that you can agree with what is being said, in which case you can take the knowledge and stick it into your head and you can use it in the future. the other is that you can disagree with what is being said, in which case you can file away that information and start to mull it over. and you can either realize that you were right or wrong, and you can adjust your views ont he world accordingly.

see, isn't learning great?

for example, i learned this weekend that oracle will kick mysql's ass because mysql doesn't support transactions. it also doesn't pass any part of the ACID test, which makes it a lame piece of crap in the eyes of people who do hard-core database work. does that mean that i'm going to convert all of my databases tomorrow? of course not. but it means that i am now better informed (i actually just typed informated there, which seems like it could be a cool world if it didn't sound so silly) in the world of databases.

but all that nerd stuff aside, since the talks were about high-level web community things too, i got a lot of ideas for the other projects i'm working on and it really got me, what was that word again? right, thinking!

using my brain.

i was reminded again that the things i like about computers and the things that i love about theatre are the same. i don't care about the latest whizbang lighting boards or cyberlights (though they're pretty cool) the same way i don't really care about the latest and greatest linux release or the nitty-gritty details of a given operating system. those are all cool, and they appeal to the nerd part of me that wants to know the way things work (i mean i spend my free time wandering around the basement of my building just to figure out where all the phone wires are run). but what i'm really interested in is how all of this whiz-bang stuff can get people talking to other people.


and that's why greenspun's talk really spoke to me. because it was all about bringing people together. and even if i though that a bunch of the things he said were pretty boneheaded, and even if i thought that he was just a big nerd who was pretty high on himself and didn't really know about communities in the real sense of interacting with someone on the person to person "i'm in your face so deal with me" sense, i did appreciate the things that he said, and i do think that he has some pretty great thoughts on how and why web communities should exist.

as a minor aside here, i'd like to mention how annoyed i am at, well, annoying people. i was going to say that big nerds annoy me, but i realized that it's really just people who don't know social boundaries, and a lot of nerds fall into that realm. now i realize that i sound like all conservative like here, and i almost scare myself when i start talking like this, but big nerds really do annoy me not because they don't conform to societal norms, but because they don't conform to societal minimums. when notions of politeness, presentation, the way you carry yourself (oh what's that word?) all fly out the window you get someone who just takes up space.

again, back to community. being able to communicate effectively with someone enriches both your life and their's. dropping below societal minimums means that you are not willing to meet on common ground and that you are not willing to join that community (where the community is society). and that makes you just a big pain in my ass.

so yeah, take a shower or something and learn how to talk to people or something.


imagine if you will, a room full of nerds. mixed gender, but leaning heavily towards the male end of the spectrum. the teacher is talking about oracle's ability to share one drive array between two computers for redundancy. a question from the back of the room. a woman's voice from the crowd asking how much this setup would cost. $50,000. you need the drive array and the two E450s and...

"I already have two E450s," the female voice chimes in again

and i can only imagine, at that moment, ninety percent of that room fantasizing about her, the ideal woman. the woman with her own E450s.

ok, so it's a lot funnier in my head.

but then again, most things are.

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