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  • The sheer number of personae I maintain in order to communicate intelligibly online is getting ridiculous:  real name for people I know in real life; withneedle for people I know mostly online, and thinly pseudonymous professional identity (TPPI) for writing about the subject of my work.
  • The problem is, of course, that the relationships don't correspond to the identities.  withneedle has a lot more interaction with other sysadmins/devops folks than TPPI does, by accident of having attracted a small amount of high-quality attention on twitter fairly early on.  However, I don't really want withneedle on my resume because she started out as the persona I used to write about my daily life, and, logical or not,  that's a history I'd rather keep away from my career.  I don't want to consolidate TPPI with the persona who goes by my real name, because both of us think that certain things about the business of software and online services are deeply fucked, and unlike TPPI, I don't necessarily feel like talking about it all the time.
  • I understand some people find it freeing to do everything online under their real-life identity.  I am not one of them and cannot imagine being so.  
  • It would be trivial for someone who was really interested in doing so to associate my various identities with each other.  That isn't really the point of my personae.  I think of pointing an audience at a persona as more like saying "You can call me Al," than "This is who I really am."  Under different circumstances, Al might be called Alice or Alan or George; however, zie is signaling that under these circumstances right now, zie would prefer to be called Al.
  • Facebook trivializes online identity, and not in a good way, by assuming that people from two different parts of my life will want to know the same things about me.  Yes, I can set up lists and filters, but those are incredibly clunky representations  of how people manage communication with people in different contexts

the work that dare not speak its name

Is there a word for work, like housecleaning or weeding or administrivia, where the more you do it, the more you find that needs to be done?


Apr. 20th, 2011

I didn't think of it at the time, but this is the first time I've described myself as a sysadmin without using a qualifier, like "sort of a sysadmin" or "not a real sysadmin."

And yes, the introversion is particularly strong today, so I am going to go to bed and pull the covers over my head.

Feb. 13th, 2011

This morning at the Ballard Farmers' Market, the buskers on one side of the street were performing Semi-Charmed Life while the buskers on the other side were performing Walk on the Wild Side. I'd love to know whether the musical in-joke was intentional. No one but me seemed to find it incongruous to hear either song at a farmers' market, which just goes to show that people tend not to pay much attention to lyrics of pop songs.

The Winter Garden was lovely today. It wasn't quite cold enough to get the full blast of witch hazel fragrance, but the sarcoccocae were out in full force. The sun brought out the colors in the dogwoods and grasses and paperbark maples. Some of the azaleas and rhododendrons have started to bloom, and the camellias are in bud. Nathan took lots of pictures. If I can get my hands on some of them, I might even post them. We stopped by the Henry afterward. I must have been in a mood for cubist-inflected abstraction today -- my favorite things were a painting in the Panoptos exhibit that turned out to be donated by Mark Tobey and a Lyonel Feiniger drawing that is part of the Exhibition Polyphonica.

We paid a long-delayed visit to the University Bookstore, where I made a ridiculously large haul: the 3rd Arden Love's Labour Lost, an omnibus edition of the first three Sector-General books, Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy, Harbinger of the Storm, and a copy of The Shadow Queen to replace a lost one that will doubtless show up now. I considered Among Others, but held off on the grounds that I'm actively planning not to read it for a while yet. I have complicated feelings about reading books that are getting a lot of attention, and I mostly get around them by delaying until such books are out of the limelight. (This is why I've only just started reading (and enjoying) Michael Chabon.) I'm also having an ECR about the reviews I've seen for Among Others, and I have more than enough to read, so it's landed in the "not yet" list for now.

Jan. 25th, 2011

  • Matthew Cheney on teaching Huckleberry Finn and the word that shall not be mentioned.
  • Rands interviews Marco Arment of Instapaper. Because I've worked on large distributed systems with NLP components, this is my favorite quote:
    The biggest design decision I’ve made is more of a continuous philosophy: do as few extremely time-consuming features as possible. As a result, Instapaper is a collection of a bunch of very easy things and only a handful of semi-hard things. This philosophy sounds simple, but it isn’t: geeks like us are always tempted to implement very complex, never-ending features because they’re academically or algorithmically interesting, or because they can add massive value if done well, such as speech or handwriting recognition, recommendation engines, or natural-language processing. These features — often very easy for people but very hard for computers — often produce mediocre-at-best results, are never truly finished, and usually require massive time investments to achieve incremental progress with diminishing returns.
  • I'll avoid talking about Twilight's Dawn, Anne Bishop's latest Black Jewels book, until I've read it, but the comments are quite fascinating. The heteronormativity may burn. Also, spoilers.

Jan. 2nd, 2011

It's a gloriously sunny, if cold (for the PNW) day, which, apart from our weekly trip to the farmers' market, I have spent lazing around the house. My inner Puritan thinks this is a terrible waste, especially since I am going to be sticking close to home, pager, and laptop for the next two weeks (*), but home is nice and there isn't anywhere that I particularly feel like going.

Between this essay about essays and Emily Fox Gordon (whom I have not read, but should), and my unexpectedly vehement distaste for both 2010's reverb10 prompts and the distaste expressed by participants (**), I have been thinking about what I do and don't like in personal writing. The biggest surprises to me are that I prefer personal writing that admits to artifice, and I don't much care for snark. I always think of myself as someone who prefers diaries to letters, but really, that's not true. The diaries I love are Woolf's, Pepys's, and Boswell's; if I think of collections of letters, there's Sylvia Townsend Warner's, William Maxwell's (with or without STW), Ursula Nordstrom's, Lyttelton and Hart-Davis's, any of the Mitfords's letters, Sydney Smith's, Noel Coward's if they ever find an editor who doesn't have to explain everything all the time... I just bought a volume of the letters of Somerville and Ross, which makes me very very happy. I prefer Woolf's diaries to her letters because her letters are full of snark verging on arch, but that's an exception.

(*) First round of being on-call at the new gig. "On-call" is not intended to be a synonym for "house arrest," but I'm sufficiently unfamiliar with stuff as yet that I'd rather not add the difficulties of bad connections or trying to ssh to a gateway on my phone.
(**) My reaction can be summed up as "More and more about less and less," leading to dark thoughts about how Althusser and Gramsci were right, and we are all toast.

Dec. 24th, 2010


  • I've gone through eleven eggs this evening. Making brownies and ice cream will do that. Since the menu for Christmas dinner includes deviled eggs and potato salad that will use the mayonnaise I have yet to make, the two dozen eggs I thought would be plenty may yet turn out to be not quite enough.
  • I had lunch with my former boss last week. It was good to see him. He has just succeeded in hiring my successor, who turns out to be someone I have met and of whom I think well.
  • My comfort reading of the moment is The Interior Life. It is one of the few fantasy novels I've read where the housework gets done by the heroine, not by invisible minions. Not that I do much housework, but I sometimes feel I should make myself a sign that says "If you want that done, that means someone needs to do it," for the benefit of those who can't tell the difference between work and magical thinking.
  • I can haz dreamwidth invite codes. If you want one, let me know.
  • This is the first time that I can see why the Victorians thought that Christmas was the time for ghost stories. Although I'm still not planning to read M.R. James before bed.

Dec. 5th, 2010


  • I am trying this bagel recipe of Peter Reinhart's because my last attempt at the sponge for this one failed miserably. I'm reasonably certain that the overnight rise is what makes bagels taste like bagels instead of round bread, so if the recipe under trial makes bagels with decent texture, I will be happy. We are having bagels for dinner because producing bagels for breakfast involves getting up earlier than I wanted.
  • I have two batches of short ribs bourguignon in the oven because I went a little nuts in the meat department yesterday. ("But it was on sale!") I picked the recipe because it used up many of the carrots that have taken up residence in the fridge.
  • I generally find Sunday to be a miserable day, but all the domesticity makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.
  • Tomorrow is going to be a long day--early dentist appointment and a late evening at work to help babysit a deploy. I am trying not to dread it more than necessary.
  • I am convinced this cowl is trying to kill me, but I'm too stubborn to drop it and knit something else. At latest count, I have screwed up, frogged, and reknit the first few rows about 5 times. The pattern is perfectly clear, but for some reason, I am making a hash of it.
  • Not at all domestic, but this is the nicest high-level description of how chef wants one to organize things that I've seen. This is hugely useful for me, because I am planning to refactor an existing chef deployment when I know very little about either chef or the specifics of what it's deploying. (This may sound a little nuts, but the existing setup is already on the weird side, so with a certain amount of care, I'm unlikely to make things worse. And, given the way I work, it's a good way for me to learn the tools.)

Nov. 7th, 2010


  • I am making apple crisp because we keep buying apples and not eating them once they've lost that first fine freshness.
  • I have survived the month of mortification that is October. Go me!
  • I changed jobs two weeks ago. I am excited about the new gig and working like a lunatic at coming up to speed. When my boss at the old gig told his boss that I'd given notice, they had some version of the following conversation:

    Boss: withneedle has given her two weeks'.
    Boss's boss: She what?! Why is she giving her notice to you?
    Boss: Because she reports to me.
    Boss's boss: She does?

    This explained something that had puzzled me mildly. When Boss's boss unveiled the dev org chart in mid-August or so, he remarked that the next step was the ops org chart. My unvoiced response was, "There are three people in ops. How hard can this be?" Apparently, harder than I would have thought, since no org chart had appeared by the time I gave notice in late September.
  • Nathan has also changed jobs. There is no shortage of change in our household.
  • I spent about four hours in the yard today, with the result that half of the garden beds have been put to bed for the winter--bulbs are planted, seeds for hardy annuals have been sown, mulch has been spread. The other half of the garden is scaring the bejesus out of me.

Oct. 3rd, 2010

I am briefly coming out of a well-earned retirement as pseudo-sibling to a pack of geeky straight male bachelors to issue the following PSAs:

1. Clean your house if there is even the slightest chance you might bring someone home. Judging by the length of the comment thread on the linked post, I am not the only woman in the world to have made an abrupt exit upon seeing the state of a guy's bathroom.
2. If she keeps canceling dates without making an effort to reschedule, that means she's not more than mildly interested in you.

This post courtesy of being present at several conversations between a couple of single male geeks about the perils of dating. These are people about whom I would really rather not know these things, so I am trying to maintain non-combatant status, but the pointing-out-the-obvious reflex is strong.