In San Francisco

I’m in San Francisco for the day. Last night I had a great time with danlyke of Flutterby fame. Since right now is the the Advent Fast, he took me to Café Gratitude, a raw Vegan restaurant where every one of their dishes is an affirmation. I couldn’t help but giggle when they handed me my coconut curry soup as they said the mantra “You are Thankful!” I would imagine that The Secret has done better here than in Lancaster County. “But, Mark,” I can hear you not asking, “What the heck are you doing in San Francisco?” About a month ago, a non-profit here contacted me about a position they’re trying to fill. They need an open-source person to be, essentially, their community liaison for code contributions to their open source project. At the time, I was still working for IntraHealth, so I told them I wasn’t interested. But the following Monday, I found out I was not going to be working at IntraHealth any longer. A new (but smaller) round of funding came through and they just didn’t have room for me in the budget any more. With this new-found freedom from obligations, I called the HR person back and told him, “Guess what? I am interested after all!” In the meantime, this has been one of the more productive periods of transition I’ve ever had. Friends of mine who freelance have tossed a couple of gigs my way and I’ve spent a little more time with my kids. Only once have I glimpsed into abyss of fear and self-doubt that the recently jobless can end up in — the rest of the time I’ve been excited about the opportunities. So, here I am in a San Francisco hotel room early in the morning. My body is still on Eastern time and I can hear the city slowly coming to life around me. I plan on scoping out Berkeley this morning and then, after my interview (during which, in my fantasy, they offer me the job on the spot) I’ll go see how far CalTrain will take me.

Why Create? and how to avoid the black hole of “productivity”

When I first came across _why‘s tweet on PerlBuzz, I thought it was so profound (by which I mean, anti-consumeristic), that I told dvfmama right away.

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

This is why I would rather listen to my three-year-old belt out show tunes than watching American Idol. This is why I would much rather see my daughter practice standing on her head than watching America’s Got Talent. This is why I can only zone for so long while I idle away hour after hour in solitary web surfing or late night TV watching. This is why I was so happy to give the Ugandan Ministry of Health something that they would use. I hate being a consumer. I fall into the “entertain me” trap more often than I want to confess, but I hate seeing myself there. I hate the thought that my children will be passive participants in culture rather than creative, engaged people. This doesn’t mean that I want them to go out and get a degree in the Humanities. (dvfmama wouldn’t allow it anyway.) So I’m probably already diverging somewhat from what _why originally meant. But who cares? Do not wait for other people. Get out there, do things, be engaged, and tell others about it. (By the way, my co-worker-at-a-distance, Shannon picked up on the Why Create? theme.) But that last bit (“tell others about it”) is a key I’ve been missing for some time. And, for someone who spends 90% of his time working 400 miles away from his co-workers, this is a real shame and, worse, a real impediment to good work. I’m good communicator when I need to be, but till recently, I haven’t been in the habit of communicating regularly with other people that I’m working with. Sure, a lot of this was the physical distance, the lack of face-to-face time — the fact that I abhor teleconferences. But a lot of the problem (and the problem shows up even when I’m working down the hall from people) can be fixed by just sending out a regular email, making sure that everyone who might be concerned knows what I’m doing. Sure, a lot of times it’ll get filed in the bit-bucket, but (and I’ve begun to realize this and put it into practice more since my trip to Uganda) communication isn’t optional, it isn’t overhead; it’s a necessary habit. Of course, it was really helpful that I had this epiphany about communication and started putting it into practice in the past couple of weeks. Today, I met with some IT auditors here in Chapel Hill and told them what my role was in the organization. Before this, I probably would have been much more resentful of the very idea. But for now, at least, I’m feel like I’m on top of the world and I’m happy to tell them what it is I do.