Yes indeed, I am back. Was I ever gone? Well, yes, I’ve been rather busy for the
last 15 months.
But December 31 was my last day at Values of n. I’m really pleased with the
work I did there. Sandy in particular, was a pleasure to work with. I really
think that the work that Rael and I did with Sandy has been important work. Dare
I say potentially paradigm-shifting? At any rate, I’m convinced that Sandy is
really going to go places. If you haven’t signed on to become her client, do
try. Though I will no longer be as intimate with her as I have in the past,
we’re still going to keep in touch—I’m still her client. And Rael will do a
great job pushing forward with her.
So why did I leave? Well, the truth is that, after Julie’s dad died in July, I
found that I no longer had the resources to commit to the 80-100 hours/week
required to work in a startup. It was just no longer that important to me. Don’t
get me wrong, it was rewarding work, but my priorities completely realigned. It
was vital that I continue helping Rael to get Sandy’s career launched, but once
that was done, it was time for me to move on.
And what am I doing now? Well, first and foremost, I’m taking a few months off.
I’m going to spend a lot more time re-acquainting myself with the two terrific
women with whom I share a house, and just generally reset myself. Take a few
deep breaths. Relax and enjoy life a bit. Sleep in now and then. That sort of
That’s not to say that I’ll be sitting on my ass all the time. I have a very
long list of things I want to do during this time, including catch up on my
blogging (hence the title of this post), fix some bugs in Bricolage and help get
2.0 out the door, update my Perl libraries (I’ve got some great ideas for
improving SVN::Notify), finally get all my digital photos organized, etc. I
already spent much of last week revamping our mail system (I outsourced it to
FuseMail). And all that’s leaving aside all the things Julie and I want to get
done around the house. That’s the really important stuff.
But do watch for more blog posts in the coming months, too. There are a few
interesting things I want to write about, and I’ve got some serious catching-up
to do. Interested in following along on my adventures? Follow me via Twitter.
The reason it has taken me so long to write this entry, after Adrian tagged me
back in February, is that I was waiting for a bit of news to become public so
that I could talk about it. Of course, I didn’t really have time to make it
public, so that took too long, too. But it finally happened, as you’ll see in
1. I Lived on a Kibbutz
From August 1988 until March 1989, I lived as a volunteer at Kibbutz Dafna in
Galilee Elian (upper Gallilee). This was one of the most memorable experiences
of my life, and I’ve actually been meaning to blog about it for a while now. I
arrived at the Kibbutz with only a few bucks in my pocket, but with a note
saying that I’d been accepted as a volunteer. I moved into a small room in
“Death Row” with another American who’s name I’ve long since forgotten.
Within a few weeks, I’d been selected by the barman, Johnny Howarth, to be his
co-barman (not what I was called, but that’s memory for you). We ran a small bar
just for the volunteers and interested Kibbutzniks in a small bomb shelter just
across the roads from Death Row. Yes, really. We served Goldstar beer very
cheaply (The kibbutz got it wholesale and we charged slightly more just to drink
for free ourselves) and really bad vodka and rum to the few who wanted it. Most
of the volunteers were English or Scandinavian, with a sprinkle of Americans and
other sorts thrown in (we also had 10 Thais living with us for several weeks),
and nearly all of us were 18-28 year-olds who liked to drink as much as possible
and get laid. I wasn’t quite the hero that Chad was in my brief time running
an establishment, but, ah, what a life!
About the same time I started tending bar, I also got a larger room that for all
but three months I had all to myself. For those three months, I shared it with
an Aussie, Andrew Jeffreys, with whom I became very good friends. He later
(1990ish) came and stayed with me at my Mom’s house in Sacramento for several
I spent my time on the Kibbutz driving a tractor (only one volunteer got this
honor—most worked in the boot factory), mopping the dining room floor with the
giant electric mop, getting drunk, and dancing the night away every Friday night
at the Kibbutz disco (later named “Domino”). Great life for a 19 year-old taking
a year off from college. I was even “adopted” by a Kibbutz family, visiting with
their two young boys, who were very big on Michael Jordan (hi Esti!).
I finally came home in the Spring of 1989 after a short tour of Egypt and upon
hearing that my mom was very ill (she’s fine now, thanks). It was a good time to
go, anyway, because I rather felt that my brain was beginning to rot. There is
not a lot of intellectual stimulation in a Kibbutz environment. Still, it was an
amazing time for me.
2. I Used to be an Archaeologist
Before I was an über geek open-source and Web app hacker, I was an
Archaeologist. The summer before I went to Dafna, I worked for six weeks at Tel
Dor on the coast of Israel as a volunteer. I loved doing archaeology. So much
so that when I finally returned from Israel and sobered up enough, I went back
to school with a vengeance, earning my BA in Anthropology from the California
State University, Sacramento. In 1994, I started the graduate program at the
University of Virginia, intending to earn by Ph.D in anthropological
archaeology. I participated in excavations in Israel (three more seasons at Tel
Dor—I met my [now] wife, Julie, there in 1992), Cyprus, and southeastern
Turkey (Kurdistan, essentially).
I really enjoyed graduate school. Reading journals and writing essays really
appealed to me, and the vigor of the debate in a graduate seminar full of smart
people was absolutely invigorating. I finished my three years of course work,
picking up my MA after two, and continued auditing graduate seminars a fourth
year, just for the hell of it (I particularly enjoyed The Anthropology of
Science and the archaeological theory seminars).
But as I started casting about for a dissertation topic, I could find nothing
that really appealed to me. What I really enjoyed was debate and theory (hence
my nickname and the title of this blog), and counting bone fragments the size of
my toenail just didn’t do it for me. I was a theorist among a gang of
Michigan-trained empiricists. And I agreed with them that I needed to do
something “real” on which to build my career. But frankly, the problem was that
such things just did not interest me.
The summer following my fourth year, I accompanied my advisor, Pati Wattenmaker,
to Kazane Höyük, outside of Sanliurfa, in southeastern Turkey. At that time, I
already had a job for the University’s medical center doing integration
programming in Perl, and was getting my first experience with databases (Access
and SQL Server). Going into the project, I suspected that I was done with
archaeology, but the fact that, after we came in from the field each day (I have
always enjoyed the excavation part of archaeology), I found much more pleasure
in creating an Access database for the tracking of vast quantities of data than
I did in plowing through, categorizing, and entering in that data (read:
counting pottery sherds).
So in the fall of 1998, I left the program ABD, and in the summer of 1999, Julie
and I moved back to San Francisco.
Julie and I moved from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, in 2004. Of course
many of you already know that, but do you know why?
The reason is that we were looking for a change of lifestyle. We loved our
SoMa loft in San Francisco, but not the neighborhood so much. There are only so
many times we could tolerate coming home to find that someone had pissed on our
garage door. And don’t even get me started on hypodermic needles. Julie and I
wanted to start a family, and much as we loved our home and lifestyle in San
Francisco, we knew it wasn’t right for bringing up a child.
In truth, we had thought about Portland since 1996, when I was still in grad
school, and we even visited for a few days. When we visited again in December of
2003, we had a real estate agent show us some homes, just to get a feel for the
neighborhoods and what not, with the idea of maybe moving to Portland in a few
years. But she showed us a house that we fell in love with, we mad an offer, and
the rest is history.
Which leads me to…
Just a few months after our move to Portland, Julie got pregnant, and our
daughter, Anna was born on May 13, 2005. She’s nearly two now, and she’s the
light of our life. What a joy this kid is! She’s smart, has a great sense of
humor (yes, an 18-month-old can be funny!), and keeps us on our toes. I
couldn’t be happier; we lucked out and got a real gem of a daughter. We expect
to have fun with her for the rest of our lives.
5. Values of n
Here’s the big, recent change: I now spend my days as a Ruby hacker for Values
of n, working with my friend Rael Dornfest building Stikkit and, more
recently, i want sandy. Kineticode is still around, accepting only Bricolage
support contracts—no more consulting. I remain the maintainer for Bricolage, but
I’ve thrown down the gauntlet to get other people to step up an start to drive
the project more.
So, Ruby, eh? And Ruby on Rails? Yes. Rael chose to use these technologies
before I started working with him, and they were the right choices. And have I
found the Ruby religion? Well, no, not really. There are quite a number of
things I like better than in Perl, but none better than what will be in Perl 6
(someday, sigh). What I miss most from Perl are sane Unicode support,
fantastic regular expression support, and lists (yes, lists—as opposed to
And what of Ruby on Rails, you ask? It seems like a fine Web application
development environment. The controllers and views are nice. But I’ll say no
more. You’ll have to buy me an awful lot of beer for that. I’ll take Goldstar.