I did not get into Hacker School and the meniscus of my right TMJ is anteriorly subluxed, medicalese meaning the cartilage is not properly aligned in the joint.  Nice suckerpunch, universe.

 . . . and now back to regularly scheduled programming.


It is one month to the day since I woke up unable to open my mouth, in gradually increasing pain and fear.  And 22 days since I applied to Hacker School and began working through their multi-stage interview process (gradually increasing excitement and anxiety).  

Tomorrow I will get the results of an mri which looked inside my temporomandibular joint to asses the level of soft tissue damage.  Will I also hear back from Hacker School about my acceptance/rejection?

Stay posted; breaking news.


I am giving up on this book.  (Has this become a book review blog? Maybe.)

Interesting as it is to learn about the early days of computer history, (when computers were the size of rooms, there was no such thing as a de-bugger, and people wrote first drafts of their programs on paper in languages they'd learned from books that would be run on machines several towns over that they had yet to see) this book is miserably repetitive.  

The narrative component is lacking.   Every burgeoning hacker profiled in the book is described in numbingly familar detail: boy genius, anit-hero, re-wiring ___ since he was ____ years old, invented _____ when he was ____, goes to school but cares more about programming than school, probably almost drops out or never graduates.  Levy seems less a historian than a mythologist, spinning legends based on tired archetypes.

But I suppose as a popular history and not a novel, it's entirely reasonable that I'm being unfair to Levy. Perhaps these young men were all strikingly similar.  From similar backgrounds in a similar time period, at a similar place and with similar interests.  So on to strike two: This book is constantly and casually misogynistic.  

I am only about 117 pages into the 497 page book, and there have already been several passages about the lack of great female hackers and this being in some way due to innate disposition or genetics.  It's a rhetoric I find exhausting, as a woman learning to program -  one my skin has grown thick from deflecting, more tedious than hateful  . . ."Not only an obsession, and a lusty pleasure, hacking was a mission.  You would hack, and you would live by the Hacker Ethic, and you knew that horribly inefficient and wasteful things like women burned too many cycles, occupied too much memory space."  

In other news, SCIENCE!!

But actually, sauerkraut.  The yellow layer on top is oil to allow the venting of CO2 generated by the fermentation, but prevent oxygen from reaching the cabbage/brine.  Not really visible in this photo: a nested jellyjar full of water squishing everything down.  


Programming is changing the way I think and use language.  Some examples:

I write and punctuate prose differently.  Any argument I make is likely to be structured as an if\else conditional.  I use the word "iterate" constantly.  Writing down a recipe in my paper notebook looks like pseudocode:

    for ingredients chocolate, butter, sugar:
        put in pan at low heat and stir until melted
        etc . . .

I am beginning to find code poetic - terse logic peppers a screen.  It's weighted to the left - the awkwardfulness* of which has a utilitarian, naive beauty.  Like a minimalist sculpture - there's nothing there that doesn't need to be (at least ideally).  The illusion of accident shrouds a deeply considered aesthetic decision.

I am making more puns because of programming.  Thinking about the patterns formed by words and punctuation and then making jokes because of them.

I am more attuned to patterns in general (an entirely self-reported and unverifiable claim).  But I have lately been making a lot of arguments about how a system is structured to encourage or discourage certain use-patterns over others.  Or how we can understand huge systems by breaking them into very specific details of their implementation.  (This point seems vague, but very important).

I can think of nothing more "metalinguistic" than commenting your code.  I used to imagine it would be a fascinating project to write a book in the margins of an already existing book - a metabook, or literal book-within-a.  Comments even better encourage this fantasy.  

All this is likely compounded because I'm currently reading this book:

* Hofstadter uses "awkwardfulness" as an example of a autological adjective - a word that describes itself.  Amusingly, spellcheck doesn't think either "awkwardfulness" or "autological" are words. Spellcheck also doesn't know it's own name, "spellcheck".  (who is the arbiter of language, anyway? "Things spellcheck thinks: A catalogue of errors")

Also: "catalogue".


This blog has undergone so many changes over the years, it's impossible to for me to construct a mental structure for it that wouldn't be catastrophically under-constrained.  (How's that for an attempt to use technical language metaphorically?)

Some updates:

My biggest project right now is a text-based RPG that I'm writing in Python.  I've thought a bunch about whether or not this is actually the best way to go about making it (twine, or a javascript-powered version that plays in browser occur to me), but have decided against a mid-point redesign as I think completing my first serious programming project is more important than optimizing my potential first programming project.

Currently, it's a curses application.  If you're not familiar with curses, it's an old school terminal painting library.  It's worth a google image search.  The python version is a wrapper - it was initially written in C.  I had some trouble getting it to work on Windows, and anticipate that this may again cause me frustrations when it's time to turn the game into a .exe (which is the eventual goal).

In the trouble-shooting process I ended up partitioning my hard drive so I could test out the library in linux.  I chose Ubuntu as it seemed to have a positive and helpful community built around it.  It also once had a partnership of some kind with Dell (it might still) which made me feel confident that it would have available drivers that work with my specific hardware.  Of course, that still presented some headaches (read: interesting problems).

In other news, the Small Talk season 3 call for submissions is open.  You can read/check it out on the in-progress Small Talk website I'm building (slowly).  It's a wordpress install based off of a theme called Tiny Forge.  I now know enough about code to appreciate that it is very clearly written.  The several modifications I have to it so far have been made tremendously easier by this fact.  Thanks, Tomas Mackevicius.

And finally, I welded!!

It occurs to me that as I work on code projects this blog might become more text-based.  Which is very different from my inital motives in writing it.  Polar, really.

Someday I will map these mazes within me.


SO - some updates, I have moved and am now once again unemployed.  Just about where I was two springs ago.  That summer (2012) proved to be one of the most creatively productive and fertile times in my life to date.  I got the first season of Small Talk running, and brute forced my way into screen printing.  I can only hope this Summer will be comparable.  

My friend Johanna Wienholts is a harpist (You may remember her from the Southern Oracle, if you've known me that long), anyway, when she makes a mistake in class her harp teacher (an elderly master harpist) says, "don't worry, just go home and play it 40 more times".  I love this advice/anecdote - there are so many times when the ascent of a learning curve seems overwhelming, and this is a lovely reminder that with patience and persistence comes mastery.  I think it took me a literal 40 failed screens, washed out with a hose duct-taped to the faucet in the bathtub before I got one I could work with.  Mastery, of course, eludes me still.  

In moving out of dream house, I got rid of a lot of things.  I'd say about half of everything I owned (stuff piles up fast when you have a whole house to fill and no qualms about going through other people's garbage).  I tried to get friends to come by and take things, but even when all of my friends who wanted stuff had taken everything they wanted, I still had boxes and boxes of things.  I put them out by the curb, put up a "free" posting on craigslist . . . and watched people show up, maul the boxes, and get in fist fights with each other over my useless crap.  

Here is a photo that does not show even half the pile, as I spent most of the day afraid to leave my house - cause to reflect disappointedly on the paradox that capitalism feeds on scarcity, but so many of our problems are caused by excess.  

As I went through things and decided what to keep and what to get rid of, I found myself repeatedly thinking, as I was tempted to hang on to some seldom-used object, "don't punish yourself that way." Reminding myself that these objects were not precious containers for my memories, but actual burdens that had to be physically carried around with me seemed to help.  The implication that the memories themselves were burdens also, is worth considering.

This is what I kept - still seems like too much.

In other news, I've joined Site 3.  They're going to house my screenprinting gear for the near future.  I've also started a thingiverse, and a github for new projects, and have re-done my homepage.  All still very much in-progress.  This can all be considered through the lens of learning curves - "go home and do it again 40 more times".


My friend Elle and I spent the past few months scheming to put this together - it already opened, but it's up for another month and a half or so.  Here's the press release - documentation to be posted . . . someday:

A group exhibition in Pari Nadimi Gallery's project space, including works by Rachel de Joode (Berlin), Felix Kalmenson (Toronto), Adriana Ramić (Los Angeles), David Hanes (Baltimore), Elliot Vredenburg (Los Angeles), and Elle Kurancid (Toronto). This show is curated by Toronto-based writer, maker, and activist (me).

The phrase "pics or it didn’t happen" began in web forums as a response to an outlandish or dubious claim like, “Duuuude. Last night I met Miley Cyrus and she twerked on me.” Response: “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Such an exchange is a reminder that our culture equates photos with proof (a flawed proposition).

This is an exhibition of art documentation photos—the digital traces that remain after an exhibition, the self-made archive—presented in place of art itself. But in Pics or it didn’t happen, the art “documented” does not exist. Various artists explore this conundrum and its ramifications, both in and outside of this exhibition, and the art world.

Rachel de Joode has a solo exhibition opening at Neumeister Bar-Am (Berlin) in February, and another at SWG3 (Glasgow) in June. She is the founder and art-director of Meta Magazine. Felix Kalmenson completed the residency at ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics (Berlin) in fall 2013. His solo exhibition HLS-F71, opened in January at The New Gallery (Calgary). Adriana Ramić received her BFA from the University of California (San Diego) in 2011. Her recent projects include Craigslist-Assisted Readymade at Stadium (New York) and Architects of Gamma Bad at Sunhoo Industrial Design Park (Fuyang, China). David Hanes received his BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design University (Toronto) in 2013. His solo exhibition David Hanes: Aware, opens in April at Birch Contemporary (Toronto). Elliot Vredenburg is currently an MA candidate at the California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles). He is a member of the Toronto collective Workparty, whose project The Little People was installed at Toronto City Hall for Nuit Blanche in fall 2013. Elle Kurancid exhibited in Reputations, a two-person show at Pari Nadimi Gallery in fall 2013. She will start an MA at Goldsmiths (London) in September. (I) organize an interdisciplinary lecture series called Small Talk (Toronto, 2012-3). (My) research interests include modernism, utopian politics/aesthetics, and rapid-prototyping technologies.

Show runs Feb 6 to Mar 29.