Kyle Maxwell

Just me.

Geeks don’t all like the same stuff


We're not all alike. That's cool.



Geeks don’t all like the same stuff. Really.

What sets us apart isn’t necessarily a particular set of identical interests down to the last detail, because we don’t have that. Some of my friends look at me funny when I state that I’m not really big into superheroes. Sure, I liked Superman and Batman when I was a kid, but I didn’t delve into comic book culture. Others did, and that’s their bag, not mine.

On the flip side, I became a Unix guy many, many years ago. I adopted the credo of “small pieces, loosely joined” and joined the call of the Free Software Foundation with a full-throated voice. Other geeks are still Microsoft aficionados, though some at least have compromised with Macs. We don’t have to like the same things. (Though I do wish Richard Stallman would shower a little more frequently.)

So just because somebody proudly displays a label, you shouldn’t assume she’s just like everybody else who wears the label. Those labels are pretty broad, after all.

(Yes, this post is just a venting due to specific conversations I’ve had back here in meatspace.)



My wife occasionally accuses me of having turned into a hermit. I can only respond, “turn into?

But this week’s weather in Dallas just made things worse. I made a brief excursion after work on Monday — and then we didn’t leave the house again until Saturday. Normally, this wouldn’t quite get to me as much as it would to other people, per my wife’s observation. But the kids stayed at home, too, as local school districts cancelled nearly the entire week.

So today, the ice and snow have started to thaw. My mother and sister took the kids to see a movie, and here I am sipping my soy latte and blogging from a café-bookstore while pondering which e-reader to buy. Yeah, so maybe I would have envisioned a more exciting release to freedom.

But it’ll do.

Citizen Astronomy

So now 2011 has arrived and we’ve moved past the years that fascinated me as a young man. I’ve started to think again about working on stuff that matters. While my day job does matter in its own way, it lacks the sort of purpose I need. Some of that sense of purpose, of course, finds fulfillment in family and other inner pursuits. Those latter commitments mean that I haven’t returned to formal education (read, “his wife didn’t want him in class and not at home every evening…”). Instead, I’ve chosen to take Mark Twain’s counsel and find other ways to further my education.

But where should I start?

I have strong memories of my childhood telescope. As telescopes go, it wasn’t much. I think it cost something on the order of $100 at a toy store, but it did its job. As I recall, we bought it around the time of the approach of Halley’s Comet in 1986. In reality, I had lots of exposure to astronomy (and other “hard sciences”). My father and uncle took their own particular interest in this science, of course, with their own telescopes and binoculars and observations starting in their youth. To tell the truth, my family has several generations of history with what many now call “citizen science“.

During my undergraduate years, I took a basic course in Astronomy but didn’t apply myself. That had less to do with the particular course at the time and more with my overall approach to my studies, a particularly significant regret. Since then, I’ve always kept informed and interested about astronomy more than any other science, whether through eclipse observation or just APoD.

So I started looking around for areas somebody with my academic background (bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a strong computer science component) and skill set (UNIX, data analysis) could get involved. At the moment, I lean towards the Texas Astronomical Society. Conveniently, it meets at my alma mater which also sits along my work commute, and several of their upcoming events take place even closer to my home.

Whether not what I do matters, this definitely counts as working on stuff that matters.

Working on stuff that doesn’t matter

Do I work on stuff that matters? Sometimes, I really don’t think so. My work (which I enjoy on a day-to-day basis) generally has an operational bent to it, even if that’s not the official label for it. That means that I don’t leave a product behind, which means that I have to look at the effect of my work on other people. Protecting people’s financial lives from fraud does matter, but that doesn’t feel particularly concrete. My work doesn’t not matter, I suppose, but it also doesn’t inspire me in a long-term sense.

I don’t know what stuff will end up really mattering. Maybe it’s data science, especially in the service of something that benefits all of us. Maybe it’s something non-technical, like dispute resolution or just helping out new dads and fatherless boys. Maybe it’s as “simple” as just focusing more of my time and energy on my family and community.

But I do know that I feel like the financial services industry probably won’t provide it, at least not for me. And just playing games definitely doesn’t, though that doesn’t mean that virtual worlds don’t matter (nor that I won’t find stuff that matters working on related topics).

Stress attack?

Monday afternoon, I had a bit of a stressful day. In fact, at one point, I got so agitated that I practically fell back into my chair and couldn’t breathe (hyperventilation? I dunno). My colleagues were a little worried about me. I caught my breath and went home.

Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t feel very well at work. I left around 5pm and, on the way home, started having chest pains and dizziness. In fact, I considered pulling over and calling 911, but decided that would be an overreaction and got home. But I pulled into the driveway, honked a few times until my wife came out of the front door, and asked her to help me inside, where I immediately lay down on the couch to rest.

After a bit, she and my sister-in-law (a nurse) decided to take me to the ER, where they ran an EKG, blood work, chest X-ray, etc., all of which came up clean.

Wednesday, I had a stress test, which didn’t show anything particularly worrying although I lasted nowhere nearly as long as they would have liked.

I think my core issue here is stress. My job puts a lot of pressure on me by its nature, and I need to deal with it better physically and mentally. That obviously needs to include exercise and for me to continue to improve my eating habits. Those have gotten significantly better but I wouldn’t yet call them good.

Not sure yet what this will mean.

How Not to Hurry

Maybe we’re going at the wrong speed. Maybe if we are constantly rushing, we will miss out on life itself. Let’s let go of the obsession with speed, and instead slow down, stop rushing, and enjoy life.

via How Not to Hurry.

This reminds me of a story I heard on All Things Considered last night. It examined the well-known but poorly-understood phenomenon of time seeming to pass more quickly as we age. One of the theories had to do with every experience feeling ‘new’ when we’re young, but just getting ‘classified’ when we’re old. So a new meal or a new movie just gets filed away.

Maybe, if we take the time to enjoy every experience, we’ll feel like we live longer.

What is needed for brewing? « beeringwithWd


via What is needed for brewing? « beeringwithWd.

Mostly noting this for my own reference later.


Sometimes a moment, an emotion, and a song converge perfectly. I heard this yesterday, and that convergence happened.

“Snuff” – Slipknot

NPR Jihad

Look, when other Fox anchors tell you to get a thicker skin and you’re being unfair (to NPR), that should tell you something. Via Political Junkie, a NPR blog. FWIW, as a longtime member of my local public radio station, I’d rather they get no tax dollars and let us kick in the balance, primarily to remove politics from the equation. Or at least minimize it, anyway.

EDIT: Also, is being annoying and not letting me embed the code to the video. See it at the NPR link above.

Nighttime sounds

As twilight yields to darkness and shadows extend to cover the land, this sound echoes through our home at night.

Perhaps an urban specter makes its presence known? Or an escaped reptile wanders through the alleyway, proclaiming its hunger? Has a tyrannosaurus rex risen from the depths of the nearby lake and will now wreak havoc upon an unsuspecting inner suburb?

No. My wife recorded my snoring.

Yeah, I had a sleep study a few years ago that said I don’t have sleep apnea, but I think I might need to see a doctor again.

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