November 13th, 2009
I am very pleased and excited to announce that I have accepted a Senior Developer position with Cyrus Innovation, Inc. Cyrus is based in New York City. I will be, at least for the foreseeable future, assigned to a team working on-site at a New Jersey client. It’s a work-place I’ve been in before (I’ve done training for them), and I know some of the other members of the Cyrus team who work there. So while it’s definitely a big change for me and a new adventure, it’s also a familiar and collegial environment that I already know I like working in.
And it really is a big change! The last full-time job I had was my professorship at Seton Hall University (1992-2005).
The question is (drumroll…) why now?
Throughout the years that I’ve been doing freelance and independent consulting and training, I’ve regarded the prospect of a fulltime job with ambivalence. On the one hand, it’s less independent. And much of the brainstorming I’ve done this year about whether or not to seek a fulltime job has been kind of depressing, because it’s been motivated largely by the fact that my freelance business has dropped off a great deal (and I have no marketing skills, which means that when the market gets tight, I tend not to remain competitive). I’ve also been conflicted about fulltime jobs because I am very settled where I live and do not want to move.
On the other hand, I’ve always understood that a fulltime job would provide a measure of continuity and security that I’m increasingly feeling the lack of in my independent work. And, even more importantly, there’s the sense of belonging to a team of colleagues. I’ve always looked with a pang of envy at friends who are part of a development team, and whenever I’ve spent even a couple of weeks on a team helping out, it’s been incredibly stimulating. I always go through a big learning spurt when I work directly with other developers, and I don’t do nearly enough of it.
So I’d reached the point where I was interested in a full-time job but, fussy customer that I am, it had to be one that didn’t require me to sell my house and move, and that I had very, very good reason to believe would provide me with the kind of collegial environment that had been, for four years, the thing I had pined for the most as an independent. (I also didn’t want to telecommute, because sitting alone in my house literally all the time is not the right formula for me.)
Well, fast forward a bit and here I am, having found what I was hoping to find! That’s the story. I start December 7. (And all the “date that will live in infamy” jokes have already been made :-) Wish me luck!
December 29th, 2008
Announcing the opening of WishSight!
WishSight is for managing wishlists and gift-giving. It lets you see who’s given (or promised) what to whom, and it lets gift-givers for particular people communicate with each other, via a comment-board, so that they don’t duplicate gifts.
It’s based on a Christmas-list application I wrote in 2005 that my family and friends have been using every year since then. It’s completely merchant-unaffiliated. You can post links for the gifts you want, and they can be links to any merchant.
WishSight helps you cut down on gift duplication, and increases the chances that people will get things they actually want, without the gift-givers having to do a round-robin of email or phone calls to pin down who’s buying what. And chances are they don’t all know each other anyway—which doesn’t matter on WishSight, because you all communicate by leaving comments directly on your mutual friend’s wishlist.
All you have to do is:
- sign up
- list the email addresses of people who you want to be able to see your wishlist
- get those people to sign up and “whitelist” your email address
- list your wishes
- stake “claims” on other people’s wishes
There’s no stealth: the email addresses are only used internally to determine who’s allowed to see whose wishlist. Also, you can list email addresses even if the people haven’t signed up yet. Once they do sign up, they will automatically have permission to see your wishlist and claim your wishes. No two-sided “handshakes” required; you just whitelist people.
Have fun, and let me know if any questions or problems!
December 21st, 2008
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that other forms of hate and prejudice are extinct, or even on the wane. But it feels like the stars anti-Muslim sentiment and homophobia are in the ascendancy.
It’s very much about statements that don’t sound aggressive or hateful, on the surface, but that would never be made if hate didn’t lurk just below. I’m thinking, for example, of a report I heard on the radio of some attack or other, involving “three Muslims of middle-eastern descent.” I might have the phrasing of the “middle-eastern descent” part wrong (though it was that or close to it). In any case, the salient bit, for me, was “three Muslims.”
When was the last time you heard a crime described as having been committed by “three Christians”? How about “A Jew broke into a convenience store…”? So what’s up with “three Muslims”?
What’s up, of course, is hate. I don’t think the radio announcer or the newswriter hates Muslims. But they do operate under a compulsion to mention explicitly that Muslims are Muslims, and ultimately that’s so that the listenership can be put on alert to hate them. Does the phrase “three Muslims” have explanatory power? Did these people do whatever they did because they are Muslims? No. There’s no reason to mention their religion except out of habit of mentioning the fact that Muslims are Muslims.
Back when I was a university professor (1992-2005; in this case somewhere around 2003, I think), the school newspaper had a kind of “person-in-the-street” feature, where they’d ask a few people around campus a question and print selected answers. One week, the question was something about Iraq. One of the people quoted in the feature said something along the lines of, “Bomb them all off the face of the earth.” Or “Blow them all up”—words to that effect.
My response was to call the editor-in-chief of the newspaper into my office and have a little chat with him. I was under no institutional imperative to do so—I was not involved with the paper directly—but it seemed to me that I had an opportunity to teach him perhaps the most important lesson of his college career. “If the question of the week had been about how to improve the cafeteria food,” I asked him, “and someone had said, ‘Line the whole cafeteria staff against the wall and shoot them dead,’ would you have printed it?”
Of course he would not have, and said that he would not have. “The fact that what we would not say about the cafeteria workers, we would say about the entire population of a Muslim country,” I explained, “is the dehumanization process at work.” I do believe he understood and took my point on board.
So we mention that people are Muslims, and we lower the bar when it comes to suggesting (or, if you like, joking about) their violent deaths. And it’s all very dangerous and should be sending up serious alarms.
Labeling the gay as gay is an even more popular pastime. The world has settled for a breathtakingly stunted view of what homosexuality entails, and how it manifests itself. It manifests itself, by the way, as itself, not as an obsession with the song “YMCA” or an expertise in designer footware. Hey, more power to you if you have that expertise. But the set of all men who do intersects in a miniscule subset with the set of all men whose primary sexual orientation is toward men. Ditto for all the stereotypes.
Of course, the world can’t deal with the idea that homosexuality manifests itself only as itself, because if that’s true, it means you can’t tell who’s gay; and that, like being unable to tell who’s Jewish, is unacceptable. The workaround is to pretend that you can tell who’s gay, resorting to babytalk about your “gaydar” when the stereotypes, as they must, fail you.
And then, following a fairly tight train of thought, there’s hatred of gays.
First of all, let me explain that I include, as hatred, the “love the sinner, hate the sin” horseshit espoused by the Catholic church. It is, to be sure, a kinder, gentler hatred than the burning-at-the-stake kind. The idea is that you’re enlightened enough to acknowledge that some people just are gay. But you also understand that, as gays, they must never indulge in the kinds of sexual activities they feel interested in. So you, as the compassionate believer, offer to contribute to their happiness by giving them support and encouragement as they fight to maintain their chastity.
The church, of course, has two thousand years of experience disguising hate as love. But this one is particularly devious and malign. Let’s cut to the chase: the only reason that one adult human being would try to stop another adult human being, on a lifelong basis, from attaining romantic and/or erotic satisfaction is that he or she (human one) hates him or her (human two). No amount of theological stroking can change that. It’s hate.
Not news, of course, that the Pope and friends hate gays. But interesting to see how slimy and prurient they can get, in the process. Anyway, let’s move on.
Actually we can borrow a concept from the church: “invincible ignorance.” When I read the stuff about homosexuality being a choice (note that it’s not that sexual preference is a choice, just homosexuality—which makes it kind of weird to describe it as a choice), my reaction is that if you put twenty articulate, knowledgeable people in a room for twenty years with the person who’s taking the “choice” position, that person would emerge still saying that homosexuality is a choice. There’s no point of entry for explanation, and no point of contact with reality.
It’s pathetic, but I still count it as hate. At least it leads to hate. Or from hate, perhaps. Or maybe these people are actually choosing to be vicious, and could stop themselves if they really wanted to. It’s hard to know. They’re not saying.
With gay marriage on the news radar these days, more and more of this kind of discourse is showing up: the choice thing, but also the “gays recruit people” thing (which is actually backwards; have these people ever watched television commercials?) and, most disturbingly of all, the “gays prey on children” thing. And each of these things embodies two problems: first, that people believe it; and second, that it’s acceptable to say it publicly.
Which hateful statements are acceptable and which aren’t is a kind of lump under the carpet that moves around but never goes away. Unfortunately, the underlying hate never goes away either—and ultimately, no matter which targeted people or groups we’re talking about, it’s the underlying hate that matters. But who gets to say what, and when, and with what consequences (or lack thereof) is, in itself, something that I think it’s worth keeping fairly close tabs on.
July 20th, 2008
My friend and nearly-neighbor Erik Kastner is going to be joining me to teach the Ruby Power and Light course “Advancing With Rails” in Edison, New Jersey, August 18-21. This will be RPL’s first co-taught course, and I’m really looking forward to it.
See the calendar at Ruby Power and Light for more info!
June 16th, 2007
I’m in Boston, having just spent four days at the Boston Early Music Festival. My brother Gavin, director of the Princeton Early Keyboard Center, rented an exhibitor’s room—basically a hotel room from which the beds have been removed—where he displayed his oldest harpsichords (one made in London in 1785, one made in Italy in the late 17th century). Visitors to the room were encouraged to play on the instruments, and many did.
It wasn’t just a display, though. Gavin also produced something like fifteen half-hour musical recitals, involving himself, me, and various musical colleagues and friends. The result was that Room 921 at the Radisson was a hot-spot of wonderful performances and presentations. Highlights included:
- Baroque music performed by its composer, Grant Colburn (unusual at an early music event!)
- John Thompson performing on the qin (pronounced ‘chin’), a Chinese instrument, with Gavin playing clavichord selections to complement the pieces
- John Burkhalter discussing the Neff manuscript, a one-of-a-kind handwritten collection of pieces, dating from late 18th century Pennsylvania and belonging to John
- Two recitals by the baroque group Col Legno, of which I am a member
And there was more. Room 921 was, as Gavin and I said to each other almost simultaneously when we were discussing it afterwards, a festival within a festival. Congratulations to Gavin for producing these four days of music, and thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who came to hear us.
I also spent a lot of time looking at the exhibit halls, where there were lots of instrument makers and sheet music sellers. There were not as many cellos as I would have liked; in fact, I only saw three. Viols seem to rule at this event, and the violin family is mainly represented by the smaller instruments. I guess it’s understandable, since the makers have to lug the instruments to the festival… but I still would have liked to have seem more baroque cellos. There were a lot of bowmakers on hand, though, and that was interesting.
September 27th, 2006
I’m going to miss RubyConf, for the first time ever.
This is happening for two reasons. The second reason erases the first—that is, it would be sufficient in itself.
The first reason is, or was, that I accidentally scheduled a training course in conflict with the first day of RubyConf. That was just dumb—though I’m happy to be doing the course, which is a 4-day Ruby/Rails intro in Alexandria, VA>
The second reason is that a dear friend of mine is having her 80th birthday party on October 21, the second day of RubyCOnf. So that pretty much takes me out of the picture.
It feels weird to miss a RubyConf. I’m one of only seven people who have been to all of them. Even Matz has missed one. (He had a good excuse: his wife was about to have a baby.)
But it’s definitely in a good cause. And you’ll all be very well looked after, as always, by Chad, Rich, and the hotel staff.
September 24th, 2006
Now this was fun.
In London, the past Wednesday evening, I had dinner with two old friends: writer and critic Nicolette Jones and literature scholar-turned-banker Gurdon Wattles.
I met Nicolette in 1981, when I was a senior at Yale and she had come over to do a year at Yale as part of her graduate work in English at Oxford. So we’ve known each other for about 25 years. Nicolette and her family are among the friends I spend the most time with in London; indeed, I’ve spent more time with them over the years than with any number of my friends who live in, say, New York, less than fifty miles from me.
Gurdon I’ve known for forty years. We met when we were seven. My family was living in Cambridge, England, for several months, and I was going to school there. Gurdon and I became best mates at school. Over the years we’ve seen each other, either with our families or on our own, only three or four times, the most recent being in 1988. It’s only in the past few weeks that we’d been back in touch at all.
Here’s the funny thing, though: Nicolette and Gurdon, quite independently of me, have been good friends since their university days back in the late seventies or so. How did we figure out that we all knew each other? It was back in 1982, in the Spring of the year that Nicolette spent at Yale. She and I were sitting across from each other at a table in a student dining hall, and she was writing a postcard. Postcards are fair game, right? So I glanced at it, and saw that it was addressed to my old friend from Cambridge, Gurdon Wattles. That broke the ice, you may be sure.
Now it’s 2006, and the three of us were together in one place for the first time. And it was really fun. A long time in the making, and an absolute delight. More of the same to follow, I hope!