2012 12 17

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Contents

Feature Cast for 2012-12-17

(00:00:17.048) Intro

(00:03:44.126) Hacker Word of the Week: freeze

(00:04:45.250) A Function of Time

  • Starting at the last couple of week before the big four oh
    • It would be easy to give into the feeling my life is half over
    • That's the very definition of a mid-life crisis, isn't it?
    • Wondering what you've done with what can easily be counted as half your allotted span?
    • Don't get me wrong, that thought does lurk in the back of my thoughts
      • But there are several things that thankfully greatly eclipse it
    • I have been very fortunate to accomplish rather a lot so far
    • There are times where I wonder if I have done enough
      • But when I sit down to list out how I have spent my life
        • It is not an inconsequential accounting
    • Many have definitely done more, but even more my age have probably done less
    • I've met many of my heroes, spoken to many audiences, crafted many wonderful things
      • Learned even more, taught and shared as much as I could
        • And made many deep and lasting friendships along the way
        • Affording me, among other things, a cadre of ready and available collaborators at every turn
    • More importantly, the trend line points to increasing accomplishments
      • Right up through the most recent years rather than diminishing any time soon
    • It seems like with each passing year, I am lucky enough to have more opportunities
      • To broaden my experiences and to do more
    • My second career is strong evidence of that
      • Building on the technical expertise from the preceding decade and a half
        • While allowing me to branch out and explore more related and unrelated interests
    • Several voices I respect have offered the suggestion to periodically check ones assumptions
    • With age, it definitely seems that getting set in my ways is a greater and greater risk
    • Constantly seeking out new experiences, ideas and conversations
      • Strikes me as the best way to avoid getting too settled in my thoughts
    • In some ways, I think I can relate this back to hacking
      • In that the more code you build up, the more you can accomplish in a project
    • There is the risk of a large codebase ossifying, becoming stifling
      • But for me that just gives all the more reason to keep things light, flexible and always improving
    • More code can also be in the form of diverse and distinct projects rather than all into one
    • Being able to switch between pursuits, in code and in life
      • Keeps the mind nimble and yields not just fresh vistas of experience
        • But also surprises with coincidences and correlations
        • That can shore up a keen, incisive coding style or a broad but coherent outlook on life
    • This is still a struggle for me as I realize how much of an introvert I am
    • Reading a recent spate of essays on introversion, I realize I could have it worse
      • But when it comes to opportunities with a large social component
        • That as much as if not more than my age is an obstacle
    • I guess that may be why I so often favor things that I can either do on my own
      • Like writing, podcasting, brewing and Tai Chi
        • As well as in collaboration or as part of a group
    • I can alternate as needed, as dictated by when I exhaust my ability to be social
      • But all throughout I am working creatively and continually
  • I actually think in some ways my views have softened with age
    • There are those stances to which I hold that are informed by strong principle
      • Like my rejection of DRM and embrace of free software and free culture
    • When I was younger, I was less patient and more prone to angry arguing and frustration
    • In general I tended to give into a short temper that I am glad to say I largely have mastered
    • Even when I still do give into a fit of pique, it is quickly tempered
      • And the energy redirected into more constructive pursuits
    • I suppose the feeling of conviction, of being right in some way
      • Was closely coupled with the need to either prove others wrong or argue them around
    • As I've talked about with my latest switch back to Linux
      • I just no longer feel that burning need to prove or persuade
    • Part of that is perhaps the understanding that abiding and personal examples
      • Are ultimately more important than energetic screeds
    • Pushing too hard can often have the opposite effect
      • Turning someone off from an issue, forestalling them simply asking questions to learn more
    • Thinking about the recent emergence of existential threats to the Internet
      • Has helped fuel this realization, something about which I've talked before
    • Personal narratives about how technology is a meaningful part of every day life
      • Much more powerfully bring home the sense of risk and opportunity for change
        • Than debates around fundamental principles or theories of change and action
    • Any given person will much more readily understand the threat
      • Of being unable to speak about certain topics or with certain people
        • Than abstract conceptions of fundamental or inalienable human rights to communicate
    • Some may get the abstract notions, they certainly have their uses
      • But far more will connect with an issue
        • Through a direct and immediate example, one that they can vividly imagine in their own lives
    • I do honestly think there is room for both zeal and more laid back conversations
    • In some ways I think they can complement each other
    • Especially in working with younger hacktivists and technologists
      • Their enthusiasm is not only infectious but encouraging and refreshing
    • New people are continually engaging with longer term issues, grappling with important questions
    • Being a quiet voice in those exchanges, just asking questions to bring nuances into focus
      • Seems to help improve and steady arguments and even actions
        • Arising in response to the issues about which I care most
    • I know I was very fortunate to be exposed to calm, knowledgeable voices early on
      • Ones that helped me understand that no single grand gesture would serve
      • That the reasons that big content and repressive regimes seek to interfere with technology
        • Sustain for exactly the same reason that resisting is important to us
    • Computer networks are increasingly woven not just into our communications but every facet of our lives
      • Including the markets through which we transact
      • And the polities within which we express civic interest and will through group action
    • It isn't that the Internet is itself a target, per se
      • But that it is more and more the most effective means for both sides to realize desired outcomes
        • And hence at a stage where it is itself often the focus of contention
        • As a proxy for the rest of our lives and interactions
    • Sticking with that until it changes for the better, if it ever does
      • Simply isn't going to be served by heat, friction and quick burning actions and reactions
  • There are many things I have experienced as they've been introduced, then grown and changed
    • Modems pre-dated me by a little bit but I have first hand experienced
      • The shift from services to which you actively had to connect
        • To an Internet that essentially has a dial tone, that is always on
    • I realize that I am in many ways privileged
      • Thought not as much as my children who have always had high speed, persistent access
    • Having known a world before a ubiquitous, always on Internet
      • I do have experiences that allow me to relate to many of the at risk communities
        • Still struggling to acquire access, for social, economic or political reasons
    • I may joke with my younger coworkers about the first modem I used being 300 baud
      • Or that I was alive in a time before the VCR let alone DVRs
    • I won't say that I worry too much about upcoming generations being able to cope
      • If for some reason they lost access to computer and digital technologies
    • Watching my kids grow up, I well understand how resourceful they are
      • Just as we were, making mash ups with tape-to-tape recording
      • And finding other ways to share compendia of knowledge, in books and ad hoc oral histories
    • I'll just reiterate that I feel like my generation lived through first hand a transition
      • That helps us understand what is at risk if we don't get technology policy right
        • And in failing allow those who would seek to do so to repress or limit it
    • It isn't just the big changes either or anything as singular as computer networks
    • Probably more accessible to you all, the listeners, is the emergence of podcasting
    • You may remember a lot of the exaggerated claims of how it would supplant old media
    • This sort of wholesale turnover rarely happens, new media usually finds accommodation with the old
    • For those of us who program, we see this all the time in the realm of programming languages and tools
    • As much fun as it may be to draw out a historical chart showing a clean progress in discrete steps
      • The truth is usually much more nuanced and overlapping
    • I am sure more than one of you has heard of languages that are older than you are
      • Like Cobol and Fortran
      • Or even has encountered working systems built with those technologies
    • For podcasting, like blogging before it, it still is evolving
      • Finding new creators and audiences even though old media persists alongside it
    • Many of the podcasters with whom I started out over seven years ago
      • Are either still hanging in there like me
      • Or have moved on to other things
      • But overall the landscape has changed at least once, if not more
    • I do think that podcasting along with similar technologies embody an interesting shift in
      • Terms of ease of access to creation and distribution of content and creative works
    • That may not be entirely unique to these media but has in many ways reset expectations of media overall
    • Even traditional broadcast channels have had to admit room for conversation
      • Cooperating with at least social media
        • If not more deeply engaging peer media like blogs and podcasts
    • I am eager at the prospect of seeing what is next, not just for peer media
      • But for still newer media and forms, applications and uses all enabled by computer networks
  • A third of my life has been spent directly raising members of the next generation
    • I talked about this at much more length in the last feature cast
    • Like my own father often did, especially in the realm of technology
      • I do try to find ways to relate my experiences forward to my sons
    • As much as they take Internet access for granted
      • One effect I think it may be having is granting them a keen awareness of change
    • Some argue that this leads to an erosion of sustained attention
    • I simply don't see that, rather that the things in which they can choose to invest time
      • Are that much greater in quantity and variety
    • As I type these notes up, my older son is downstairs teaching himself Blender
      • An open source, free in cost 3D modeling and animation tool
        • Arguably as good as any professional tool used by big animation studios
    • We have always tried to limit his consumption of more passive media, like video and games
    • Lately we have taken to experimenting with separating simple screen time
      • Into activities that support thinking, engagement and creativity
      • And those that are more passive or superficial
    • Learning 3D animation on his own falls into that former category
      • And is made possible by the amazingly rapid pace of development that often occurs with open source
    • Overall, he is more used to change being exposed to it much more regularly
    • I think he appreciates that we have to adapt rules over time
      • Because his experiences and pursuits are much more fluid than ours were growing up
    • Also I suspect both boys are more comfortable with the idea that things used to be different
      • As a logical extension of how things have already changed and keep changing
    • If we equip them with the right mental tools and experiences
      • That expectation of the new, rather than fostering distraction
      • Is just as likely to allow them to realize they are just as able as anyone to create those changes
    • We often have conversations of the form, I cannot wait for X where the variable
      • Is some new application, game or bit of technology
    • They are both right on the cusp of realizing that there is only a modest step
      • From waiting for innovation
      • To picking up tools, accessing knowledge in many forms, and doing for themselves
    • The next generation is more than just my own offspring
      • Though they serve immediate and valuable lessons on how to support good values
    • Mentoring is a growing part of my professional life
      • And presents many of the same or very similar challenges as parenting
    • If I were to approach them too much the same way
      • I would of course fail, for not admitting the adult experiences of my coworkers
        • But there is still an element of lending experience and offering constant support
    • Staying hands on and involved with my kids also affords me a touchstone
      • As more and more of the employees I manage are that much younger than I am
    • Some of that experience flows the other way, too
      • Where some new game, video or book is recommended by my younger coworkers
        • That hits at just about the right age with my kids
  • To come back to where I started
    • What really keeps me from worrying at being at any set point in my life
      • Is the continual promise of new passions and the feeling of constantly growing into my own
    • There is a renewal in starting out with something I haven't done before
      • And a bolstering of keeping at things where I am already accomplished
    • As long as I can keep both of those things alive in me
      • I hope that when I am about to celebrate eight oh
        • That I am just as satisfied with my life and enthused for what's next
    • I know some of you are of my generation
    • Many of you regardless have faced or are facing similar milestones in your lives
    • I am sure you have thoughts, experiences and questions that accompany them
    • As always, feel free to send them along to feedback at the command line dot net
      • Where I'll happily share them with everyone else

(00:21:30.351) Outro

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