Still Here


I’ve been plodding a long over here in middle America. I’m in this weird purgatory, but the light seems to be growing less faint. Since getting back from Tunisia, I’ve started efforts to clarify things.

I headed out to Denver and stayed with my brother - my guru - for a few weeks, and that helped me focus on the fact that yes, I do want to work with computers. This life-long hobby/fascination/obsession is more than that; it’s my way. There is a reason why I keep coming back to tinkering, breaking, and hacking together.

With my brother’s help I applied to a few developer bootcamps, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted to most of them. I’ll be starting at one this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be topping-up my HTML/CSS, digging into Ruby, Rails, Git, and project management with zeal. As someone who has a strong emotional attachment to both the internet itself — it providing me with a solid environment to learn to argue, code, write, read, comprehend, and discover the joys of falling down the rabbit hole — and with the idea of the internet as means of human unification and collision, it is a daily ache that I do not speak its languages with the fullest of fluency. This is my attempt to rectify that illiteracy.

And with the whole NSA thing blowing up as everyone who has been paying attention the last few years expected it to, I feel particularly lucky to be wading into the fray armed with 4 solid years of studying political science. When I tell people I studied government, community ethics, philosophy and Middle East politics, people usually say, “uh, cool…but what are you going to do with that?" I used to not have a strong answer for that question, but now, anyone who has watched the news for more than 5 minutes in the last month instinctively knows that the combination of sociopolitcal understanding and technological know-how is a skillset that will only get more valuable with the passage of time. Just read Gabriella Coleman’s `Coding Freedom’ if you don’t believe me.

I’d be lying if I said it was all positive feelings, though. I’m certainly nervous. I’m afraid that my anxiety (all-but-disappeared as of late) will make its grand return. I’m nervous that the course will not be as in depth as I’m hoping, it being >=9 weeks and all. My daily study and drive to understand not only the technologies of the web but also the current state of affairs - i.e., the NSA, Free Software, the arguments over Ubuntu display servers - leaves me with a lingering fear that I will burn out before reaching the front door. I’m afraid that the vibe will be more “startups, bro" than “what are the best use of precious brain cycles?" I’m scared that I’ll hate web dev. I’m fucking terrified of having my sincerity mistaken for pretense.

I’ve learned so much over the past 12 months, though, that I can’t help but turn back towards optimism. I’ve survived my time living abroad, with stories and pictures and published work to tell the tale. I’ve learned bits of JavaScript and jQuery, had interviews with some great hackers out in SF, solved problems over at Project Euler (and I’m a guy who HATED math up until about 4 months ago), I’ve written some Ruby and Python, learned all about setting up my own file server and VPN, and went from zero-to-functional on the command line (I mean, 4 months ago I didn’t even know what vim was and guess what I write/code with now…). Next up is to throw together a VPS and see what Jekyll is all about (inspiration here).

But you get the idea. Speak, Samuel Johnson:


"All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pick-axe, or of one impression of the spade, with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations, incessantly continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties, and mountains are levelled, and oceans bounded, by the slender force of human beings.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that those, who have any intention of deviating from the beaten roads of life, and acquiring a reputation superior to names hourly swept away by time among the refuse of fame, should add to their reason, and their spirit, the power of persisting in their purposes; acquire the art of sapping what they cannot batter, and the habit of vanquishing obstinate resistance by obstinate attacks."