PermaLink I wonder what she thinks I do07/04/2007 03:32 AM
Anyone who knows me from Lotusphere or elsewhere probably knows I tend to stay up very late and get into jags of working.  At work, I wrote the first version of the website I built in one weekend back in 1998.  I wrote its successor in a week in late 1999, and its successor in 2002 in about five days.  I just wrote a prototype site to replace a massively-flawed alternative system in about three days.  I did all the editing for my first digital video in a month of late nights, and realized the entire score for a college production of My Fair Lady in two weeks.  I write things, I think about things, I toy with code.   Still, I wonder what Nora thinks I do down here all night.

Well, mostly I think about her.

I've had some very hard times in my life. I'm missing some teeth as a result, and missing a lot of illusions about what effects one's own efforts have on one's own chances for "success" in the early 21st century in Murka. I went through a lot of pain, a lot of effort, about a million dollars, fifteen good Swedish cars, a dozen cats, and a marriage.

Mostly, though, when I'm down here all night at the keyboard, I'm not thinking about that.

Mostly, I think about how amazing she is. Quirky, flawed, smart, pretty, unfocused sometimes, laser-sharp sometimes. And absurdly in love with me. Probably more than the pessimist in me thinks I deserve. I'll go out on the porch and have a cigarette and think, "I have no idea why she likes this place so much." I mean, I know why I like this place so much, but I thought it was insane to think anyone else might like it here, too. But she does. Sometimes I think she likes this house and the cats more than she likes me.

But then I correct myself.

What is my "success," really? It has fairly little to do with millions of words of writing, though I'd like to think that something I've written over the last 32 years has affected someone. It doesn't have much, in the end, to do with hundreds of thousands of lines of code I've kicked out over the last 27 years, though I know the systems I've built have made worklife easier for hundreds or even thousands of humans, and in the most recent incarnation, tens of thousands, and by extension, made life a little easier for every working person in Murka.

It means a little more that I've made a good home for more than 30 cats in my life. They lived with me, helped me, I helped them. They moved on, I moved on, I remembered them well.

But ultimately, whatever success I have comes from being able to persuade another adult human that my vision of life -- a sense of a connection to the earth, a value for good culture, old, well-built things, people with real wisdom -- matters. I always wanted to live with somebody who understood that, and I think she does. She's the only woman I've been with in my life who I think really understands this place and this land. Understands the stewardship that comes from living in a house that's been here longer than my ancestors have been on this continent.

Ultimately, we are all caretakers. We don't really build anything that hasn't been built before, except to the degree that new needs come into focus. The best stuff has already been built, or is being built. I can sit at work and build bigger and better ways to deliver things to people, but really, it's nothing that hasn't been done for seventy years. Or more. My job -- my paid job -- is to adapt new technology to keep doing the old things newer and better. I really don't do anything new.

I understand that.

I think she does, too. I think she understands why I adore my old 1949 Ford tractor... sure, it doesn't do anything that mules didn't do before it, and nothing that's been built since really does anything more for me than it did when it left Michigan in 1949. But it did it with style and substance and it was built well.

I don't think anything any of us do asks more than that.

Build the things you can build, whether they're houses, chairs, relationships, philosophies or circuits.

Build them well.

Build them so that they will outlive you.

Give them something of yourself.

Give them style and a little quirkiness.

And then, don't freak out when they lack all these things. Have a fallback. Have someone who loves you no matter how much you take yourself too seriously. Have things you care about that don't seem to matter in the bigger picture. Have peach trees, roses, cats, photographs.

And enjoy them.

If Nora appreciates me, I'd hope it's because I've learned these things.

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2. Nora07/04/2007 03:18:25 PM

What can I say other than that this is a lovely birthday present. It is a good thing to be loved and understood. I love you,


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