a glob of nerdishness

February 20, 2012

Freelance in a teeming creation

written by natevw @ 6:21 pm

The crew at &yet is an honest team, a friendly team, a world-class team — a Good team! — and yet for some reason it never could stay feeling like my team. So I never became comfortable inflicting my ideas upon it. After so many months of alternately trying to change and trying to ignore that fact, I still craved a little more time and freedom away from my responsibilities there. Now I have generous amounts of both.

Now it’s time to stop thinking what could have been — with the first Calf Trail, with the previous team — and start working wisely on what should be.

Practically, this means I’m now a freelance software developer. There’s a big distinction between “freelance” and “independent”. What I’m setting out to do, I can’t do alone.

I’m depending on clients to apply my strengths to their markets. I’m depending on friends to cover my weaknesses with their sight (and insight). I’m depending on family to keep me healthy and homed. I’m depending on faith, to not disappoint when all I’m really after is all that is left.

Freelance means I am dependent on all of creation but possessed by none of it. This, I fiercely believe, is how life here should be.

February 16, 2012


written by natevw @ 11:18 pm

It’s time for me to again dabble in dreams. Dreams that won’t die, though I’m not sure why.

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”

Today I was given the need, to keep finding the reason, for what I have always had a mind to do.

If I had a hundred reasons for starting a business the first time, they’re lost now to a thousand questions of why I would attempt it a second.

Today my employment at &yet was terminated.

There are no “good riddances” when friends disagree to agree, only sadness. There need be no “goodbyes” when friends agree to be, only peace.

Now I may have enough time to try again, which has me scared. I do not know where the trail will lead this time, but I am excited.

January 9, 2012

Seeing potential

written by natevw @ 10:09 pm

I wondered why I don’t really fit in, am not really a part of, any particular professional community.

What community could I be a part of? I listed. All were too this or too that. Too young, too old. Too clueless, too proud. Too pointless, too advanced. I would refuse to join, or they wouldn’t have me as a member.

I supposed maybe I needed to get better at seeing potential. And showing potential.

Which I do need.

What, though, about enjoying people for who they are, not what they could be?

I’m stuck with this world, until death do we part. There’s not much that will make it spin faster; the days are already too brief anyway. Somehow too the people in it. Every community. All the people.

January 5, 2012

Small business

written by natevw @ 9:16 pm

Last night with family. It’s 12:37 midwestern time, less than three hours until we get up to load their van and ride to the airport in the dark. I roll over, waiting to even feel sleepy, and must have let out a sigh.

“Ha! What you say, Daddy?” giggles Tobias, suddenly breaking the silence of our room, as dark and quiet as we can get it. Squirmy baby brother Malachi is now fast asleep across the hall with mommy, the most practical arrangement we could come up with as we corralled our bouncy little boy back into bed at eleven. He’s been laying quieter than me on his half, but what I sensed is correct: he’s as awake as I am.

We talk a bit about the situation, a two and a half year old young man and his insomniac father.

“Shall I put on some music?”, and he whispers in agreement back so Arvo Pärt’s choral works join us from the headboard. I keep clicking the tiny speaker quieter, and with it the morning’s alarm, as the beautiful music fills our silence and, gradually, flutteringly, my thoughts. I wonder what Tobias could be, would be, thinking about; his energetic fingers and legs and brilliant little vocabulary obediently mute beside me as I too try not to toss and turn.

I couldn’t have listened to both discs (all two hours?) but before I finally fell asleep I remember my iPhone and oldest son both at peace above and beside me.

It’s the same old questions. Sometimes I find serenity, deciding “what Tobias wants to be when he grows up — that’s more important now”. But Malachi is already growing up too.

Two boys already, whose dad still hasn’t ruled out firefighter or airplane pilot or rock star or farmer. But probably something to do with computers. Something that takes all the will and energy and unlikelihood of ever fitting in and turns it into something good, all within whatever amount of time we have here on earth to figure out why we’re here and get it done. Would they be better off if I proved it possible, or better if I didn’t fail again?

Maybe this, like so much else, really isn’t up to me. But it’s still keeping me up.

December 5, 2011

Beyond 1984

written by natevw @ 4:08 pm

A few weeks after writing that personal computers are no longer quite what they could be, I came across an article declaring that The Personal Computer Is Dead — with the implication being that this is not quite what it should be.

Jonathan Zittrain, in this article (which you should read) and in his book (which I should read), argues that a society in which a few corporations completely control our devices in the name of security, and to better serve their profitholders — that a society which allows that will ultimately end up an un-safe, and un-growing, society. So we should be building up and building on platforms that don’t discourage freedom and sharing and other similarly unpatriotic ideas.

Which is half, but not the better half, of my little Beyond 1984 project.

I’m tempted to say the other half is about homeland-warming things like such as in money making and consumer happiness. But that’s a cynical take. The other half is about putting away cynicism. We already have Zittrain’s “angry nerds”: they’re the Stallmanites, the cypherpunks, the anarcho-pacifists and other tinfoil-hat flouride-fearers that you’d never want at your company Christmas party.

Angry nerds? Angry nerds are a dime a dozen! We’re the solution to what exactly now?

Meanwhile, Twitter’s repressed are excited that maybe Google+Path can re-centralize the violence inherent in Facebook — O frabjous day! And if that’s already more than what 99% of computer owners care about, it’s certainly not the world’s richest 1% who are going to patronize the development of a free society either.

So the other half of going Beyond 1984 is going not so much by avoiding what’s wrong with the Orwellian but by embracing what’s good. Embracing well-distributed, privacy-respecting, citizen-empowering hardware and software designs may be a worthwhile goal — or maybe not.

I don’t imagine anger, or fear, or even schadenfreude, can inspire much great industrial design. Angry nerds like me need to go beyond building systems that are Anti-Ungood. Going beyond what 1984 represents will require abandoning those themes ourselves.

So that’s what this little Beyond 1984 project is: researching libertarian technology, if it could be built for healthy reasons.

September 10, 2011

You are never alone

written by natevw @ 7:00 am

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.


Should you google that to help decide, you’ll find that:

  • I’ve copied two paragraphs verbatim from a Catechism
  • nerd version: Instructional FAQ
  • cynical nerd version: Instrument of Sheeple Opium

Some healthy cynicism is warranted: I’m quoting from the translation of the Westminster Larger Catechism accepted by the “Orthodox Presbyterian Church”. Read that like a DNS entry: “Orthodox” names a split among Presbyterians, who have denominated themselves apart from the Church, which in this case refers to Protestants who left the once-Καθολικός religion, that as far as those go was an (eventually three)-way split between Abraham’s sons.

If you think that’s cause for concern, just imagine the mayhem when half the “Orthodox Christian Reformed [protestant] Church” members fall into heresy.


Like all our goals,


Jesus Christ — who BTW can raise sons for Abraham out of rocks — promised that he would never leave what he’s created alone.

That’s why I’m struggling and remain dogmatic about this The Goal: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Goals are hard, and staying sure of Them is harder, especially when our minds let Goals lead us into jaols lest They fade into ghosts.

Practically imposible. Severe budget constraints.

But if God is not dead, whether we killed him or not.

Then that is a comfort.

Which you may call a crutch.

You may be right but I’m a perfectionist, and while time has proven very competent at making humanity and its Goals, bigger.

It seems They never get, better.

Or closer; on their own.


Here’s to the crazy one.


September 8, 2011

Goals, or: You are not alone

written by natevw @ 12:02 pm

I am a perfectionist, which is difficult but probably more difficult for my family and friends. I am also sloppy, which is difficult for a perfectionist.

When I started working at &yet, the team then were all throwing themselves into one exciting project. Those days are gone, and these days I find myself stuck with “the mess”, while “those responsible” have scattered.

I also find myself having to just build more mess, because that’s the best I can do. And wanting to scatter.

We can do better, and must.

The perfectionists need to learn patience with people. People change, even are made anew, and sometimes suddenly but never from the outside in.

The slopsters need to learn patience with products. Products change, are in need of constant refactoring, and to build them suddenly rarely leaves anything salvageable behind.

We can’t do better alone.

That’s the thing. If I were fired from &yet tomorrow (HI ADAM!) this, what I have learned, would be my severance package (JUST KIDDING ADAM!):

You can’t do better alone.

We have really lofty goals — we do don’t we? — they are Ridiculous Goals. If we think we can accomplish them more ideally or more quickly alone.

So my goal is to teach, a team to teach.


August 24, 2011

In the fast lane

written by natevw @ 9:12 am

My bike rode dense this morning. When I yielded the sidewalk to a pedestrian the grass weighed like gravity.

It’s a war, shipping software on time. Rolling a rock uphill, shipping something I’m content with.

In the fast lane life and purpose still rush on ahead, you just taste their draft less.

I’m glad I biked.

June 26, 2011

The Continued Adventures of ShutterStem

written by natevw @ 12:33 am

The working motto is that ShutterStem is “trying to make taking photos fun again”.

And it’s this nebulous dream, and that’s okay for now.

Some moonbeams for holdy paws:

  • so iCloud is a relief. I doubt they even sync metadata, but at least Apple finally woke up and realized that they needed to do something about the iMac sitting at home not being useful most of the time.
  • sync was gonna be the killer feature that made the world beat a path to ShutterStem’s door, but giving everyone a private server without needing everyone to be a devops ninjas and/or having to make hardware etc. etc. is a Hard Problem even with a CouchDBs at ones’ disposal.
  • so it’s nice that iApple have tackled the low-hanging fruit and the 90% may soon have something practical, useful, and just works, while still meanwhile I “trying”
  • what is an ShutterStem? then?
  • the medium-term goal is just a collection of tools that shows off why I heart CouchDB and how it can help a small niche of photographers who insist on doing some things the hard way (=my dad and me and you if you want) get things done a little more easily and better…ly
  • so you’re rewriting stuff again and this will never be finished?
  • probably? look. this is not just an audacious dream of a platform for photos, but it is also a platform for a bunch of audacious ideas about how the web should just connect people to extensions of their own selves and to extensions of each other, rather than be the warrantlessly searchable home of all our eggs in one basket. this kinda stuff takes time, filing out all the paperwork through the proper channels and whatnot if you aren’t impressed with ill-fated shortcuts

French Revolution?! Where were we. Oh yeah…

  • photos fun again?

So I’ve had this vague notion that my photography hit some something and then wasn’t fun anymore. That’s really all this little ShutterStem hobby is about…playing with the slightly more “revolutionary” side of some neat technologies to somehow somewhere get back to the days where I were outside taking pictures that were fun to look at again and again. It doesn’t matter that App Stores are evil or any other stupid politics… I just wanna help make some photo app that kinda surprises and delights even in its nichey nerdishness.

So what’s the wall, where maybe should I push for revolution?

I wonder if it’s…if it is related to my capacity for mental inventory? I have a bunch of gadgets…but I know where each one is, and all its accessories. I have piles of books…but I can picture each one on the shelf in my head. I have tons of deadtree and digital documents…but I can generally track down the one I’m looking for. I even know where, within our two-year old’s scattered arsenal of real and supposed toys, the better part of half our kitchen utensils likely lie….

But I might as well be backing up a bazillion blurry photos, because that’s the haystack that one day my brain stopped looking for needles in. And I wonder if that’s when photos stopped being fun?

So besides being OpenDoc, besides being Unhosted, besides being W3C or RFC-worthy or maybe instead of any of all of that, ShutterStem just needs to help me [help anyone] INTERNALIZE THE INVENTORY. Helping as only computers can help. ing.

  • Q. Does that mean I’m starting over with yet another prototype(s) instead of shipping some sort of v1.1?
  • A. Meh.
  • If you’re sticking along for the ride I’d hate to bore you.

May 19, 2010

HTML 5.0 Transitional

written by natevw @ 9:18 pm

Today I officially accepted a full-time job as “Web Application Developer and GIS ExpertJourneyman” — employee number seven — at &yet. Since meeting &yet (when it was just Adam Brault) a little over a year ago, it’s moved in my regard from “cool local website company” to “top-notch team” to “dream employer”.

To be honest, though, the job offer was mostly unexpected and I’m still adjusting to the task of becoming “dream employee” instead of an independent contractor. Writing shareware for Calf Trail was a chance to explore all my ideals. Especially the one about money not being important. Working with &yet is about combining diverse talents and perspectives into one team that shares responsibility for breadwinning — and fantasticmaking, of course.

I’m deeply grateful that I’ve been led to and then given this opportunity. While desktop software still interests me as a hobby, times were shifting and I’d already chosen the open web over giving 30% ownership of my livelihood to a corporation who squish liberty like bug. Joining &yet mostly means a much greater chance of success in this next stage of life.

We’re still working out the details, but the basic gist is that I will be moving all my paid geo, web and technical writing services to &yet. Calf Trail will remain, for the time being anyway, but mostly as a home for some desktop and photo management experiments. (More about that later, and I’ll be posting the official “Calf Trail” plan on the company blog when Calf Trail has an official plan.)

So, yeah…uh…that’s today’s nerdishness news. DRAMATIC CLOSE

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