With a little help from my friends

I had a great time at Penguicon 2016, including face time with a lot of the people who help out on my various projects. There are a couple of thoughts that kept coming back to me during these conversations. One is “It is good, having so many impressively competent friends.”

The other is that without me consciously working at it, an amazing support network has sort of materialized around me – people who believe in the various things I’m trying to do and encourage them by throwing hardware and money and the occasional supportive cheer at me.

Because I didn’t consciously try to recruit these people, it’s easy for me to miss how collectively remarkable they are and how much they contribute until several of them concentrate in one place as happened at Penguicon.

Where I thought: “I’ve been taking these people a bit for granted. I should do better.”

So here, in no particular order, is a (partial) list of people who are really helping. It focuses on those who were at Penguicon and are A&D regulars, so I may have left off some people that would belong on a more complete list.

John D. Bell: I hate having to do system administration and am not very good at it. John is the competent sysadmin I run to for help; he gives generously of his time and friendship. He’s also the person who accidentally started the cascade of events that resulted in the building of the Great Beast of Malvern.

Jay Maynard: My DNS zone secondary and the person I go to specifically for DNS help, because I touch it so seldom that I invariably forget all the fiddly details.

Mark Atwood: My project manager on NTPsec, he who makes my paychecks flow. He wouldn’t make this list if he were just some random corporate functionary set by CII to watch how their money is being spent; he volunteered to PM at least in part because he respects me, likes the work I do and thinks it good to help. Thus, not only does he do as comprehensive a job as I judge is possible of shielding me from the politics around my work and my funding, he smiles benignly when I wander off to work on things like reposurgeon or the Practical Python Porting HOWTO for a while. He even warns me against the dangers of overwork. I’m not sure what more one could ask of a manager, but I’m sure I’ve never had a better one.

Dave Taht: Dave…starts things. Like tossing a Raspberry Pi 3 dev kit at me, confident that though he might not be able to predict exactly what I’d do with it, I’d do something interesting. (He wasn’t wrong.) Dave is constantly pushing me, gently and constructively, to learn and think a bit outside my comfort zone. He’s one of the very best friends I have.

Phil Salkie: He who taught me how to solder (he’s a top-flight industrial troubleshooter of the hands-on kind by day) and is gradually inculcating in me the hardware-integration skills required for me to work with things like SBCs. Takes a lively, intelligent observer’s interest in many of my projects, and often has useful things to say about them.

Jason Azze: It took me longer to notice Jason than I should have, because he doesn’t draw attention to himself. His style is to lurk around the edges of my projects quietly doing useful things, often involving buildbots.

Sanjeev Gupta: Another frequent lurker, with a particularly good hand for criticizing and improving documentation.

Gary E. Miller: If I were an evil overlord, Gary would be my trusty henchman. He’s been my chief lieutenant on GPSD for years, and told me that he likes having me in the #1 spot so he doesn’t have to do it. Tends to follow me around to other projects; a once and probably future NTPsec dev. His excellent low-level troubleshooting skills complement my systems-architect view of things perfectly.

Susan Sons: Susan is an InfoSec specialist who worries, very constructively, about my security. She’s good at it. She was also the person originally responsible for pulling me into NTP development.

Wendell Wilson: Builder of the Great Beast, and another guy who tends to drop hardware on me to see what I’ll do with it. Takes time out of a very busy life as an engineer/entrepreneur to make sure I have sharp tools and the blades stay properly whetted.

All you fanboys out there: These people give me a gift I value much more than adulation. They engage me as equals to a fallible human being, think about what might make me less hassled and/or more productive, and then do it. This is good, because it means I get to solve more and harder problems for everybody’s benefit.

Last I cannot fail to mention my wife Catherine Raymond. It’s certainly what would be expected for a wife to support her husband, but Cathy goes well beyond “That’s nice, dear” by being actively engaged with my life among the geeks. She befriends my peers and followers and shares their jokes, not merely tolerating but often enjoying their eccentricities. The people in my support network like her, too, and that actually matters in pulling it together.

When I think of it, it’s like I have a small but remarkably capable army around me. I’m making a resolution to be more appreciative of people who sign up for that. Yes, they all have good reasons of their own; people who believe that teaching me things and helping me can have far-reaching consequences that they will enjoy are, on past evidence, quite right to bet that way in their own interests. Still doesn’t mean I should take them for granted.

56 thoughts on “With a little help from my friends

  1. Well played, sir. Well played.

    (PS: you meant “on GPSd”, right?)

  2. >(PS: you meant “on GPSd”, right?)

    Sorry, don’t understand that question.

    EDIT: Now I do. Fixed.

  3. Thank you, Eric.

    Here’s (one of) the flip sides of the coin – I nearly succumbed to fanboyism (and had to be privately chided for it). I appreciate having one of my personal “heroes” (or at least someone whom I admire and respect enormously, both for his contribution to hackerdom, and as a person living life well, fully, and uncompromisingly) reach out and grant me entree into his personal time and space. Whatever I can do to help, I will – joyfully.

    Besides, Eric is one of the few people who lets me snark along with the best of them!

  4. I’m just glad I get to hang out here and learn something. Look forward to a chance to meet some of you in person, since penguicon/etc. are a bit too far for current budget and family circumstances, and hope to occasionally contribute something worthwhile, even if only in conversation.

  5. > These people give me a gift I value much more than adulation.

    Fabulous observation, sir. Just fabulous.

  6. ESR,

    How has having such a support network, snarky buggers (eg Bell, John D. and his beard), evil twins (well.. Mark never did say he was the _good_ twin and he has requisite goatee), henchGarys and all, affected how you hack?

    Has it lifted your game – maybe because dammit, you want to do work that’s not just worthy of ESR-the-man (as mesospheric as that may be to a rookie like me), but ESR-the-legend (him wot’s in their heads)?

  7. Sounds like you’ve evolved the functional equivalent of a family, but with the optimization of self-selection rather than involuntary hereditary. Could this be the start of open source sociology?

  8. >Has it lifted your game

    I don’t think it’s changed much about what I do. After all, these people help me out because they already liked my output. Yes, I’m getting encouragement to learn more about hardware hacking, but I was headed there anyway – did my first hardware design back in 2012.

    I also don’t think any of us can really tell much difference between ESR-the-man and ESR-the-legend. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. I really did do all the stuff I’m legendary for. I don’t behave around my friends as though I think I’m some kind of superior being, because fuck that – I’d rather be liked by people who know I’m a human being with some warts on me than worshiped by people who have a legend in their heads.

  9. @Alex Goodwin –

    ESR said:

    > I don’t behave around my friends as though I think I’m some kind of superior being,
    > because fuck that …

    I can also reliably report that he doesn’t want us to behave like he’s “some kind of superior being”.

    Hero-Worshipers Need Not Apply!

  10. I think the reason so many people are willing to help you is not merely that you do good and useful work, but also that you give your work freely away. Although I suspect most of you got so used to the idea of Open Source that you pretty much forgot the times when software was not freely given away. Shoulders in the proprietary software world are kinda cold, because when you ask for help people assume you want to make money by making others work for you for free. Of course, in reality, it is often just a poor employee whose employer is unwilling to buy them the help they need or have to fulfill a poorly worded contract by any means necessary. Been there, done that, thankfully got to the level where employers don’t dare to treat me like that anymore, but I think it is not going away as long as there are people willing to pay for software and there are young college grads desperate to stuff their resume with just about anything relevant.

  11. >I think the reason so many people are willing to help you is not merely that you do good and useful work, but also that you give your work freely away.

    While I’m sure that is a necessary condition, I don’t think it’s sufficient. Lots of people give away open source code without attracting a similar network. So I’m doing something more specific that’s causally important.

    And I’m not sure what it is, really. Maybe some combination of fame and not being an asshole to my fans? John Bell’s response hints of this.

  12. For my part, I just think Eric writes really well. His grasp of vocabulary invariably takes me to concepts I haven’t seen before, like “cod-$thing” or “therdiglob” or “kafkatrap”. (It even draws others’ terms, like “bloodmouth carnist”.) It also includes interesting phrasings like “free-floating guilt”, and quotes like “[s]cience is not democratic; there is only one vote, only Mother Nature gets to cast it, and the results are not subject to special pleading”.

    Of notable interest to me is that, despite my being a programmer, I am probably unusually unaware of Eric’s programming contributions. They’re there, of course, in assorted internet protocols and image processing and so on, but they’re simply overshadowed by the writing and the reading background that informed it. It’s brain candy.

    I do kinda wish I had more programming interests in line with those of the A&D crowd, or that I had more free time to acquire those interests. (I do mainly logic programming and UI programming, mostly in Java and a CLIF derivative reminiscent of Prolog.) Maybe someday I’ll get into this sub-economy, who knows. The writing is certainly a draw, at least.

  13. @ esr

    Simpsons references aside, I feel compelled to address what you and John D. Bell have said about worship. Neither of you was specifically targeting me, or was necessarily even thinking of me as an example; but I’ve praised you with enough frequency and effusiveness to arouse suspicion of worship. While it’s true that you’re my #1 hero, it’s equally true that I don’t worship you (or any other entity, for that matter). To put it in pun form: I admire you for solid reasons, but also within reason. Please bear with me as I describe the scope and limits of such admiration; if nothing else, you’ll know I’m neither a worshiper nor a sicophant. :-)

    Let’s see…

    There’s no reason to doubt that you’re a human being who eats, sleeps, goes to the bathroom, etc. But you happen to be an exceptional human being: your IQ is about 166, your erudition is impressive in both breadth and depth (you know a lot about a lot of disciplines), you courageously challenge the powerful enemies of civilization, and you’ve repeatedly forgiven my shortcomings. Last but definitely not least: you train women to neutralize predators.

    Do I always agree with you? No. In fact, I’ve voiced my disagreements with you, and will continue to do so. That said, I’ve come to embrace most of your positions: nominalism, pragmatism, consequentialism, anarcho-capitalism, and your view on free will (I don’t know what it’s called). But, unlike you, I’m still skeptical about the concept of qualia.

    And another thing: the other day I had the chance to buy one of the books in the beta version of your SF-for-newbies list, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and ended up buying Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities instead. Hardly the attitude of an ESR worshiper, huh? ;-) (I just hope I didn’t make a poor choice, since I don’t often get to buy books.)

    OK, so now you know why I admire you, and to what extent; but you may still wonder why I’m so vocal about it. I’m not sure myself, but here’s my stab at an explanation: it’s part gratitude and part… this is not a pleasant thing to say… you know when someone dies and then everyone praises them? Well, what good does that do the deceased? If somebody’s praiseworthy, they should be praised while they’re still alive. That’s my firm belief. Sorry for alluding to your mortality, but I’m trying to show you that there are good reasons for doing what I do.

    Now that you know all that, I probably won’t feel the need to flatter you so often or so effusively anymore. This will pretty much be the Jorge-praising-Eric post to end all Jorge-praising-Eric posts. ;-)

    And sorry for the length, of course.

  14. >Now that you know all that, I probably won’t feel the need to flatter you so often or so effusively anymore

    Good.

  15. Sir. On the modern internet one does not simply say “Good.”. One must instead say Good.

    All these memes, and people still don’t think that we have created artificial life….

  16. @ esr

    While we’re at it: should I also refrain from including things like “With all due respect…”, “I don’t mean to…”, “Sorry for…”, etc.? I do so for fear of coming off as insolent or blunt, but perhaps you have a policy of assuming the commenter is being respectful (except in case of unambiguous hostility, which isn’t my style anyway) even without such clarifications.

  17. >While we’re at it: should I also refrain from including things like “With all due respect…”, “I don’t mean to…”, “Sorry for…”, etc.? I do so for fear of coming off as insolent or blunt, but perhaps you have a policy of assuming the commenter is being respectful (except in case of unambiguous hostility, which isn’t my style anyway) even without such clarifications.

    Yes, you should back off on that stuff a lot. This is partly me and partly a language difference; modern English style uses much less of that kind of formal politesse than most other languages. Overdoing it (by native-English-speaker standards) can easily veer off into appearing obsequious or sarcastic.

  18. > Overdoing it … can easily veer off into appearing obsequious or sarcastic.

    That was never my intention, but you’re right in that the resulting style was unseemly.

    Nevertheless, I don’t like the tone you’re using (“Good”, “Yes, you should…”). I may be annoying, immature, and – at least for A&D’s standards – dimwitted; but I’m certainly well-meaning, so I don’t deserve such disdain.

    It’s a good thing that you’ve decided not to take your support network for granted, but you seem to me to be taking your fans for granted. Probably my fault; I may have inflated your ego with all that praise, however heartfelt.

    I’m not angry; just want to make it clear that, for all my flaws, there’s still some dignity left in me. If you ban me for this, fine – it’s not the end of the world. If you don’t ban me, I will adopt a casual tone; not because you ordered me to, but because I owe it to myself to never crawl again. You just made me realize that; so, whether you ban me or not, I’ll always thank you for (unintendedly) opening my eyes.

    I’m willing to follow the rules of your blog – just don’t expect me to dance to the crack of your whip anymore.

  19. >I’m willing to follow the rules of your blog – just don’t expect me to dance to the crack of your whip anymore.

    I see I have achieved my objective in an unexpected way. Jorge, I never wanted you to “dance”; I wanted you to … hm, the English idiom is “grow a pair” (of testicles), but it implies a contempt I have never felt for you. I wasn’t intending to offend you to the point where you growl at me, but I’ll take that. It’s good to see you’re capable of it.

    Again, this is partly my individual personality and partly an English/Spanish difference. Adult males in English are commonly brusque with each other to a degree that would be offensive in Spanish. This can actually read as a kind of compliment; the idiom “man-to-man” is used to describe blunt talk that implies respect for the other’s autonomy and lack of fragility.

    Thus, one approved way to address adolescent buys in English (and that is what your presentation in English is like, whatever your actual age) is to use man-talk at them in an implicit challenge to respond with manly behavior (that is, autonomy and emotional toughness). There is always the risk that this will seem hostile or disdainful, as it did in this case. It is not. It would be more disdainful to (another idiom with a useful pun in it) use kid gloves.

    i’m not going to ban you. Instead I’m going to apologize for inadvertently offending your dignidad de hombre. Within your own terms, you were right to snap back. Don’t hesitate to do so again if I repeat the error.

  20. Looks like I misinterpreted you and overreacted. But my overreaction was at least useful in that it illustrated the point I’d been trying to make: you’re my #1 hero, but I don’t worship you; my loyalty to myself comes first.

    > adolescent buys [sic] in English (and that is what your presentation in English is like, whatever your actual age)

    I’m twenty-seven and well aware of my immaturity.

    > It would be more disdainful to … use kid gloves.

    But you seem to be cutting me a lot of slack. Not just on this thread, but in general. It’s rather strange after seeing you snap at others, calling them idiots or fools. Are you sure you’re not handling me with “kid gloves”? ‘Cause I don’t want such treatment any more than I want the hostility I wrongly perceived in your comments.

    > Instead I’m going to apologize for inadvertently offending your dignidad de hombre.

    No, Eric. You didn’t do that. I accept your apology in the sense that I appreciate the gesture, but there’s nothing to forgive or not forgive in the first place.
    And what’s with the bit in Spanish? You presumably expect me to recognize it as an established term; amusingly, I don’t.

    > Don’t hesitate to do so again if I repeat the error.

    Thanks, but I’m not interested. I’ll just stick to correcting your typos and brain farts. And someday, I’d like to discuss a certain error in the prosody of your filk song, “Lady Godiva”.

  21. >I don’t worship you; my loyalty to myself comes first.

    That is quite as it should be.

    >But you seem to be cutting me a lot of slack

    There are always gradations in these things. I treat you a little more gently because I perceive you as young, vulnerable, and well-intentioned. That doesn’t mean I want to baby you; you’d be right to find such condescension an insult.

    >And what’s with the bit in Spanish? You presumably expect me to recognize it as an established term; amusingly, I don’t.

    Perhaps it is now only literary or has passed out of use in the last 60 years. RAH quoted the phrase in his The Door Into Summer (1956) in a way strongly suggestive of a particular established meaning in Spanish.

    >And someday, I’d like to discuss a certain error in the prosody of your filk song, “Lady Godiva”.

    Do tell! (Attach to that comment thread, not here, please.)

  22. > I treat you a little more gently because I perceive you as young, vulnerable, and well-intentioned.

    And because I’m serious about grammar and spelling, I suppose. In any case, I’m glad we’ve settled our dispute (was it really a dispute?) in a civilized way, especially considering we’re both a tad hotheaded.

    > Do tell! (Attach to that comment thread, not here, please.)

    Never mind. As it turns out, you acknowledged the problem yourself (“the result is a little strained, metrically speaking”). But hey, this isn’t entirely offtopic: you did title the present thread after a Beatles song. :-) (And should you ever blog about the joys of firearms, the perfect title for that post is somewhere in the White Album. Heh, heh.)

    On a serious note: R.I.P., George Martin.

    And to gradually bring the conversation back on topic: you seem to have met Wendell Wilson at Penguicon. Did you talk about the announced sequel to the Great Beast video?

  23. >Did you talk about the announced sequel to the Great Beast video?

    We didn’t talk about it there, but it’s been a recent topic of email. The sequel has been delayed becauase of schedule disruption following Logan’s move from New England to Cascadia.

  24. I read the blog yesterday. I understand the “adulation” can be annoying, but does that go for simply respect too (considering adulation implies *excessiveness* of admiration, flattery, etc.)?

    For me, respect becomes natural when your gracefulness can create a big difference to me (or a fanboy in general). That goes for anyone who is more good-natured and competent. Should I drop that? Personally, I am hater of flattery and people who do it.

    Even I would like to “gift” you but how can a fanboy do that? I am trying my best to be up to the values hacker culture if you are going to say that.

  25. >I read the blog yesterday. I understand the “adulation” can be annoying, but does that go for simply respect too (considering adulation implies *excessiveness* of admiration, flattery, etc.)?

    No, respect isn’t annoying. I don’t have as large a need for external validation as most people, but I’m not a Vulcan or a robot – knowing I’ve earned the respect of people I respect is nice.

    Indeed, that’s why my small army is so impressive (now that I’m paying enough attention not to take it for granted). They’re competent people, not dazzled acolytes with no lives of their own.

    >Even I would like to “gift” you but how can a fanboy do that? I am trying my best to be up to the values hacker culture if you are going to say that.

    And that is as much as want or I can ask, really. Take what my example has meant to you and pay it forward – teach and encourage in others the qualities you admire in me. Stand up for freedom, value curiosity and craftsmanship; when the emperor has no clothes be the first to point out that he’s freaking naked.

    If you feel a need to do something more concrete, I have a Patreon account and a PayPal tip jar. The former helps with my living expenses, the latter with test equipment, computers, and geek toys.

  26. Glad this thread’s been revived, for I’d been thinking and concluded I should apologize for the way I treated you earlier. You meant well and got nasty remarks in return. The part about your ego was particularly unfair, and the bit about the whip was stupid even by my standards.
    In the post that begins with “Looks like I misinterpreted you…”, I deliberately refrained from apologizing; ISTR I feared it would be a sign of weakness. Can you believe that? Me, suddenly trying to play social-status games. It doesn’t become me, and the attempt is probably doomed anyway.
    I hereby apologize. I am loyal to myself and do want to become a man, but that doesn’t mean I should be an asshole or fail to acknowledge my mistakes. After all, you’re very manly and yet you apologized for what you considered an error. Again, it wasn’t.

    > No, respect isn’t annoying. I don’t have as large a need for external validation as most people

    But praise doesn’t merely leave you indifferent; it even annoys you. Do you have a reason for that, or is it just visceral?

    > If you feel a need to do something more concrete, I have a Patreon account and a PayPal tip jar.

    I would if I could, but am in some deep shit myself.

  27. @Jorge Dugan: I am indirectly related to someone I believe suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They tend to “love bomb” people they want to control and abuse. Whenever that person says things like “we’re so lucky to have you in my life” or “you’re the best [relative] ever” it sets my teeth on edge like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    Perhaps Eric has dealt with too many manipulative bastards that introduced themselves with gushing praise and admiration?

  28. >After all, you’re very manly and yet you apologized for what you considered an error.

    There’s no contradiction. Part of being manly is being strong enough in spirit to acknowledge your mistakes. It is good that you can do that.

    As for praise annoying me, it depends upon the kind and the delivery. Quiet and measured praise from someone I respect feels good. The irritating kind comes from people who project their desires and fantasies on Mr. Famous Guy and don’t really see me at all.

  29. @ Parallel

    You’re right. I should have known that praise from a stranger can be suspicious. Fortunately, our host has realized I mean well; but I’ll be prudent from now on.

    @ esr

    I replied to Parallel first because his comment actually predates yours. You’re the only one who has a Reply button, you know. Just sayin’.
    Ahem. Where were we? Ah, yes:

    > There’s no contradiction.

    But that was precisely my point.

    > It is good that you can do that.

    ‘Course I can. I’m not going to abandon deference entirely. It’s just that I’m now trying to determine what its right amount is.

    > Quiet and measured praise from someone I respect [emphasis added] feels good.

    OK, OK, I get it. I’ll never praise you, your wife, or any other member of the A&D community again. But, for the record, all the compliments I wrote on this blog were sincere.

    > The irritating kind comes from people who project their desires and fantasies on Mr. Famous Guy and don’t really see me at all.

    Well, I don’t know you beyond your online persona and probably never will. But I never said you’re perfect; I don’t think anyone is. I simply happen to value certain things that the A&D community provides or exemplifies. What’s wrong with that? Don’t you look up to Heinlein, for instance?

  30. >OK, OK, I get it. I’ll never praise you, your wife, or any other member of the A&D community again.

    That wasn’t directed at you. Difficult though it may be for you believe, I do actually respect you – for trying so earnestly to make yourself into what you conceive of as a better person. Most people never get off their butts to try that hard.

    (The fact that your notion of “better person” is similar to mine is nice but of secondary importance.)

    One way to think about what kinds of praise I will receive happily is to ask yourself what kind of praise I think someone is qualified to give. If Donald Knuth says he respects my hacking ability (a thing that has actually happened!) that makes me happy. You aren’t qualified to do that; if you tried it would sound like empty flattery. On the other hand, you can praise me for writing well and that will mean something, because I respect your ability to express yourself fluently in a language that isn’t your milk tongue.

  31. > Difficult though it may be for you [to] believe, I do actually respect you

    What can I say? I could thank you, but I’ve done that so many times that it would devalue this gift. I could say I’m touched, but you’d probably find that “florid, maudlin, even a bit effeminate”. So I’ll just say it’s an honor. Is that agreeable?
    But not so fast. This was a special thread where you movingly thanked your support network, and I defiled it by talking about myself. That’s not very respectable, is it? And it’s not the first thread I ruin, either. I don’t mean to, but that’s what I end up doing – and results matter more than intentions.
    Perhaps you should reconsider your stance on banning me. There’ll be no hard feelings on my part if you do so. As George Harrison would say, “all things must pass”.

    > I respect your ability to express yourself fluently in a language that isn’t your milk tongue.

    Actually, I use Google Translate and Wiktionary a lot. Well, I’m not using them for this comment, but the fact remains that my English hasn’t yet caught up with my Spanish. (FWIW, I do like your writing style, which is remarkably lucid.)

  32. >Perhaps you should reconsider your stance on banning me.

    I do not intend to ban you. Compared to some of the crap that gets dumped in my comments, you being insecure and a bit immature ain’t nuthin’, Besides, people here (not just me) are trying to help you get past that.

  33. > you[r] being insecure and a bit immature ain’t nuthin’

    I’m also fraudulent: I portray myself as a geek, but have watched the LotR films instead of reading the books (though I did read The Hobbit as a kid, and don’t plan to watch its adaptations) and have never watched The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi in their entirety.

    > Besides, people here (not just me) are trying to help you get past that.

    That’s very kind, but it may be too late to save your blog from the dire consequences of my immaturity: specifically, my immature attitude towards women may be the reason why female participation in A&D has plummeted (i.e. your female regulars have probably left in disgust). Again, that I didn’t mean to fuck things up is no excuse for my having fucked things up. Too late I realize I’ve been a self-absorbed creep.
    If my suspicion is correct, I’ve damaged the community more than anyone you’ve banned thus far. So, unless you have some good reason to believe the correlation is purely coincidental, you should ban me. Doing so will signal to those women – if they’re still reading the blog – that you respect them and don’t want to have anything to do with my lewdness.

  34. Us female readers (active and lurkers) have withstood years of JAD – we’re not going to flounce off because of any single person, let alone one as innocuous as you. We (and the world in general) are far less fragile than you seem to think – you’re not going to break everything forever just by breathing wrongly in its general direction, so feel free to worry less about such things – it certainly won’t affect the community negatively

  35. @ stille

    Thank you for your assessment. Perhaps I’ve been too hard on myself. Nevertheless, you’ll probably agree that it’s better not to post photos of women or make salacious remarks. I shall not taint A&D with such behavior again.
    But I didn’t mean to convey the message that women are fragile. I know you people are quite capable of carrying a gun and/or practicing martial arts, as is the case of several A&D participants of either sex.

  36. I am no fanboy, I originally started reading ESR with a very prejudiced attitude, but I’ve followed ESR with interest for years and I’ve nodded in agreement more often than I expected once I read more. I don’t live in the same country, let alone the same continent as ESR does. I live in what people call the “Third World” but I am able to relate to some of his observations on American Politics, which is eerily familiar despite the unfamiliar characters at play.

    I share his loathing of the Left, though I am ambivalent on what exactly libertarianism is. There is no such concept in most other parts of the world.

    On the software front, I am a keen follower of Free Software and Open Source, and I tended to lean more towards RMS’s views than ESR’s, but of late, I’ve become indifferent to it.

    So that’s my relation with this blog. I am not sure I have contributed much in the way of debate or discussion here since I am more of a lurker. I have also been hesitant because some of the philosophical discussions go above my head.

  37. Danish is an easy language for me since I learned it in 1970 when most Danes did NOT speak English, even though they were and still are similar. I had to learn the Danish and loved doing it, especially having a Danish boyfriend who did NOT speak English. Because my Danish still passes I feel closer to my Danish ancestry, even though none of my Danish American relatives speak any Danish. Hmmmm…I also admire the Danes for being a “happy” people, but mostly because they are independent Europeans with plenty of coastal borderland and they do not fight wars any more Hope they can keep teaching the world a bit about peace. Tak for det.

  38. @ hari

    I relate with most of your comment. I even seem to recall being initially skeptical about ESR, like you. Though I’m not sure.

    As for ESR-vs.-RMS, I align with the former’s politics and the latter’s stance on technology. With a couple of exceptions: I agree with at least one of Stallman’s political opinions (we both oppose the Argentinean claim on the Falklands, which disregards its inhabitants) and am not particularly attached to free-software rhetoric or the GPL.

    @ esr

    Come to think of it, you’ve posted photos of women and made salacious remarks yourself. Perhaps the trick is to only do it once in a blue moon? Or is there something else to it?

    And another thing: you object to politesse, but you quote Heinlein as observing that it’s necessary (“Moving parts in rubbing contact…”). Unless I’m missing some nuance, there’s a contradiction here. Or maybe you’ve come to disagree with that quote, but can’t remove it because it’s “buried inside a Word-press plugin and — ugh — PHP.” ;-)

  39. >Come to think of it, you’ve posted photos of women and made salacious remarks yourself. Perhaps the trick is to only do it once in a blue moon? Or is there something else to it?

    Such things should be done rarely and with style. I’m not a prude by any measure, but I dislike vulgarity and slobbering.

    >And another thing: you object to politesse

    I think you have misunderstood – pardonably so, as the truth of the matter involves some subtleties I may have been poor about conveying. I think my attitude about politesse is very like Heinlein’s. He thought it was an important way for equals to signal mutual respect, and so do I. My problem with it is when it degrades to sucking up, or seems to.

  40. > Such things should be done rarely and with style. I’m not a prude by any measure, but I dislike vulgarity and slobbering.

    Of course. Until I learn the correct way to do those things, I won’t do them at all. But when you do them, I might add my own (respectful) observations. That’s what the others do, I think.

    > I think my attitude about politesse is very like Heinlein’s.

    Well, I’ve yet to read any of his works. Once I finish one of the two books I’m currently reading, I’ll borrow Citizen of the Galaxy from my father. :-)

    > He thought it was an important way for equals to signal mutual respect, and so do I. My problem with it is when it degrades to sucking up, or seems to.

    Well, if you want me to treat you and your commenters as my equals instead of my betters, I will. Relatedly: are you annoyed when I refer to your wife as “Mrs. Raymond”? (But bear in mind that I have a crush on her, so maybe the distancing maneuver is necessary in her case.)

  41. >Well, if you want me to treat you and your commenters as my equals instead of my betters

    Interesting cultural difference you are pointing out. Yes, I do want you to behave as though you consider yourself the equal of anyone here. Most Americans will expect likewise unless there is a specific reason you are in a hierarchical relationship, such as boss/subordinate, or the difference in age or social status is quite large. Even in those circumstances we tend to default towards rather egalitarian manners.

  42. We Indians differ culturally even across North/South of India.

    At the cost of a huge generalization I would suggest that South Indians like me tend towards polite submissiveness to perceived elders and/or superiors, trying to avoid argument and clashes. North Indians seem a lot more open and brash, not to mention argumentative. Though I am reasonably argumentative, I generally tend to stop at a point when I perceive that I might be seen as rude and impolite.

    Many old-timers also have a strange loyalty and affinity to British English maybe because of the colonial hangover, while the newer generation of Indians tend towards the Americanized language.

    I prefer the British language myself. I also chuckle at British slang and dry humour which has a rich fruity flavour. “Mind your Language” was a very popular hit in India and I partly grew up in that generation.

  43. Jorge wrote: Well, if you want me to treat you and your commenters as my equals instead of my betters

    ESR wrote: Interesting cultural difference you are pointing out. Yes, I do want you to behave as though you consider yourself the equal of anyone here. Most Americans will expect likewise unless there is a specific reason you are in a hierarchical relationship, such as boss/subordinate, or the difference in age or social status is quite large. Even in those circumstances we tend to default towards rather egalitarian manners.

    Concur. Jorge, let me see how much American custom I can try to bring in here:

    You’re another commenter as far as all other commenters here are concerned at first. As such, your natural status will be lower at first: newbies rank lower than regulars. Of course, you’re now *well* past that stage. I imagine the regulars seeing you as perhaps still a newbie when it comes to programming… but it’s not like I’ve demonstrated any chops here myself. (I’ve got years of experience, but it’s mostly proprietary. I’ve got a grand total of one project on Sourceforge, which I really ought to migrate to github.)

    You’re not from the US, which only matters here to the extent that your language might… except that you appear to have enough vocabulary and grammar to pass for an ultra-polite upper-middle class American. Seriously. I find it literally marvelous. (Don’t thank me for saying this. It’s another mini-game (heh). Just enjoy the compliment and exploit your own penchant for good writing for our enjoyment in turn.) Meanwhile, note how other non-US commenters interact with the US commenters – no one’s geographic background is considered automatically superior.

    We all rank lower than Eric, in that he’s the site owner. He pays the bucks to keep the site up. We don’t, unless we donate. If we donate, that counts for a little status. (Note that talking about how you donated would be its own little status mini-game that I won’t get into here.) But Eric still gets to ban commenters; all we have to contribute is the pleasure of our company and our insights. If one of us ran a site and Eric commented on it, status would be flipped.

    Eric’s probably older than the average commenter, but quite a few here are in his cohort or even beyond. He’s a better writer than average, too, IMO – same deal though. More well-read. More famous. The latter counts less than the others here. (Other American subcultures would rate the fame importance higher, but at the same time, Eric isn’t that well-known outside of software.)

    In these cases, your biggest status drop is from age – I imagine that if you regarded Eric’s age cohort here about as you would your father’s, you’d be about in line with American custom. I’m not sure, since I lack familiarity with your local custom. I’d be inclined to err a touch on the side of being more egalitarian – especially given how your tone has been on the servile side thus far.

    In fact, you could even stand to puff up some – push the envelope until someone signals that you’re finally a bit big for your britches. I can’t speak for the rest, but I think you’ve earned plenty of slack.

  44. @ esr

    > Interesting cultural difference you are pointing out.

    No, it’s just my personality. Even if such behavior is common in Venezuela (which is familiar to you, but not to me), Latin America is not as homogeneous as you seem to think. Many Argentinians are not as respectful as me, or as I’d like them to be (and even I wasn’t always like this).

    > Yes, I do want you to behave as though you consider yourself the equal…

    OK, but we’ll always know I’m not (mathematical illiteracy, sins against Tolkien and Lucas, etc.). It’ll be a mokita. ;-)

    > …of anyone here.

    Including the First Lady of A&D herself? (Sigh. I envy most people, to whom the right behavior just comes naturally.)

    @ hari

    > I prefer the British language myself.

    I believe my English is essentially American; they teach the British dialect at our schools, but I’ve been greatly influenced by American TV shows, films, video games, and websites.

    Among the music I like, there’s a much stronger presence of British works; however, I haven’t detected any dialectal difference between American and British lyrics. I suppose the early British rockers modelled their style after the American one, and then that became something of a tradition in the U.K.?

    > “Mind your Language” was a very popular hit in India

    I’m afraid I haven’t watched it. But The Benny Hill Show was fairly popular in my country, and Mr. Bean has been broadcast here as well.

    @ Paul Brinkley

    Your comment deserves a detailed reply; I’ll get to that later. As a short, provisional one, I thank you for the compliments and for having dedicated such a long post to me. :$

  45. @ Paul Brinkley

    As promised, my full reply. Sorry for the delay.

    > Of course, you’re now *well* past that stage.

    I posted my first comment only two years and nearly two months ago. Are you sure I’m “well past” the newbie stage?

    > I imagine the regulars seeing you as perhaps still a newbie when it comes to programming…

    And I’m no longer sure I want to learn to code. I probably lack the brains, anyway. Can you imagine me dealing with algorithms, data structures, and stuff like that? I certainly can’t.

    > except that you appear to have enough vocabulary and grammar

    Alas, I once committed an embarrassing grammatical error (not specific to English):

    >You have not, so far as I know, qualified as a hacker.

    You can say that without the apposition. ;-)

    …as if any construction that happens to be between commas were an apposition. Pshaw! If I ever make such a stupid mistake again, I hope someone calls me on it. Or is there a tacit rule that only the host is to be corrected?

    > Don’t thank me for saying this.

    I already did in my previous comment. Oops.

    > exploit your own penchant for good writing for our enjoyment in turn.

    Not sure what you mean. Are you saying I should become a writer? I’d love to, but I never come up with any ideas. :-(

    > no one’s geographic background is considered automatically superior

    I never said it was. I, as an individual, am inferior (remember the Heinlein quote about “tolerable subhuman[s]” who cannot cope with math? I’m one of those, except maybe for the “tolerable” part). But Eric wants me to pretend I’m on the same level as you all. Go figure.

    > In fact, you could even stand to puff up some – push the envelope until someone signals that you’re finally a bit big for your britches.

    Your advice is tempting, but what if I hurt somebody’s feelings? Sure, I could then apologize; but I’d rather not hurt them in the first place. In fact, I fear I already did some harm with the admission of my crush on Eric’s wife, which was an unwise deed at best. It’s not that I was getting ideas; I wasn’t and never will be. I know my place. I just meant to give him the information he needed to determine how I should refer to her, but now I realize I mustn’t discuss her at all. (He once told me that wasn’t necessary, but circumnstances have changed.) I hereby apologize to both of them.

    > I can’t speak for the rest, but I think you’ve earned plenty of slack.

    Thanks, but what makes you think so? He cuts slack to those who teach him things or at least make him think or laugh. The closest I ever came to teaching him something or making him think was linking to a Wikipedia article he found interesting; and I doubt any of my shitty jokes has ever made him laugh. Smile, maybe – but even that is doubtful.

  46. Dammit – I wrote “circumnstances”. And I did proofread at least twice! For some reason, my screw-ups are more visible to me once I read my comments in their part-of-the-thread form. ESR, don’t bother applying the correction this time; I need to learn the lesson.

  47. @ Paul Brinkley

    > I’ve got a grand total of one project on Sourceforge, which I really ought to migrate to github.

    Isn’t GitHub falling under the sway of anti-meritocratic SJWs?

  48. @ esr

    I’ve been thinking. You’re probably disappointed because at one point I seemed to have finally become bold, but then turned out to still be a servile, self-deprecating coward. If I had any balls, I’d refer to your wife as “Catherine” or even “Cathy” and let the chips fall where they might. Instead, I’ve been worrying that I may not be worthy of doing that, or even of mentioning her at all, despite repeated admonitions – from you and others – to worry less.

    Now it occurs to me that you remained silent because you wanted me to figure that out on my own, as a step towards my long-overdue manhood. Is that correct, or was my concern actually justified this time?

  49. >You’re probably disappointed because at one point I seemed to have finally become bold, but then turned out to still be a servile, self-deprecating coward

    Dude, it’s not all about you.

    I’ve been frantically busy lately – thus the lack of posts – and haven’t had enough bandwidth to think about your oscillations a lot. It would be nice if you stopped thrashing so much, but that’s not at the top of my list of concerns right now.

  50. @Jorge Dugan,

    I wanted to post a comment on your thoughts before ESR stepped in. I feel that you are over-thinking something that is of very little consequence. This is just a blog you know, ESR’s personal journal, and we are guests who follow his writings and comment on them when we feel like. Beyond that, I think all it requires is common-sense and just expressing yourself.

    I am more confused about why you feel the need to confess so much or prove your “growth into manhood” here. I don’t think one man’s approval or disapproval (be it ESR or even any other personality of note) of one’s personal growth or maturity is worth so much, to be honest.

    Not trying to put you down, by the way. Just the opposite. I just think nobody should be so self-critical or reflective on a public forum like this. Having experienced this in my early online years, this kind of confessional exposes one to verbal attacks from cyber bullies who can be really nasty and enjoy putting down somebody who is so self-critical as to become submissive. Yes, in ESR’s blog, it’s a relatively closed group, but in social media, you should be far more careful.

  51. Isn’t GitHub falling under the sway of anti-meritocratic SJWs?

    No, they succumbed completely several months back.

  52. @hari, “I share his loathing of the Left, though I am ambivalent on what exactly libertarianism is. There is no such concept in most other parts of the world.”

    If you understand what a “liberal” is anywhere other than the US, then you know what Libertarianism is. The word “liberal” used to mean “freedom-lover”, as in someone who is liberal in accepting what others do. It got stolen by people who decided that freedom wasn’t a good thing, but that prosperity was, and who better to grant prosperity upon the masses than government?

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