Aspiring to be an edupunk

This post was written 2 months ago.
Sun, 23 Jul 2017
Only four days back I gave a talk at the BathCamp Meetup, but it feels as if it was much longer ago. That's good because mostly, I'd like to catapult it into some distant past immediately, where it is not much relevant anymore, and I won't be reminded of it too much. I also don't want to go on about it too much. I just would like to draw some conclusions from it.

It is difficult to say what impression I made, and it will vary for different people, but I am pretty sure that, erm, the talk was not really what was to be expected. For one thing, I totally overran the prescribed time. It was supposed to be a lightning talk and it must have seemed as if I just completely ignored that fact. I rambled on about things, narrating little anecdotes and going off on tangents, and I just simply had too much content. Also, I started with three slides about me, which probably already took up 5 to 10 minutes, as much as the whole talk should have been.

And here's the other thing. In that strange interconnectedness I feel with the group I set up, where I don't know where I end and CodeHub starts, the whole thing, from when I started to prepare for it, felt intensely personal. It felt like it would be the hardest talk I could ever give, despite it being so short. Harder than the one about Responsive Design for Skillswap. I still haven't quite figured it out why this strong identification exists, in any case the whole preparation for the talk brought with it a long and somewhat uncomfortable investigation into what I was doing with CodeHub (or not!), what I wanted, what it could deliver and so on.. There were certain realisations and conclusions which I might write about some other time.

But in the talk, for some strange reason, I felt compelled to get across the following: I am an interloper, I am totally unusual (female, foreigner and old), I am not a geek, I took a strange path. I have often felt like a canary in a fish tank and I am a "bit of a punk", doing things whether I have the authority for it or not. (I left out that I feel totally insecure about it at the same time.) I even had a slide for that with an image of Johnny Rotten next to that of a (German) book about the "canary in the fishtank", written by an unusual manager in the car industry. The idea for that slide had just appeared out of the blue at some point, and I was aware that it might be a bit strange; at the same time it seemed weirdly important to have it in there.

So, basically I gave a strange sort of talk in which I told people I was strange. At least there is some nice recursiveness in there. And maybe it is after all a bit punk to just dare to do that.

What the point of it was though, I am not quite sure. In some way, maybe it was to unmistakenly say: Please don't keep telling me I've got impostor syndrome. I simply have hardly any credentials, that's what I find problematic. If anything I have been an impostor and am becoming it a bit less now. - Or it was just simply an act of self-sabotage.

And sure as hell, the next morning, when my nerves seemed to be suffused with red-hot lava and I literally wanted to disappear in a hole, I wanted to lay everything down, step down from the Meetup group. It was just unfortunate that I had already committed to organising a JS workshop with Gicela, and we'd already confirmed the venue. - Funnily enough that quite shameful feeling subsided much sooner than expected. It helped that someone sent me a message on Meetup saying that they loved my talk, I just seemed nervous. And Simon Starr had taken a picture of me in front of a slide showing Tom at Code Club and posted it to Twitter, which was also nice. Plus Gicela wrote an understanding and encouraging email.

So, what's to learn from all of this? - For one thing, it showed me again that I really struggle with structuring tasks so I complete them in an adequate time. I mean, I took absolutely ages to get the talk done in the first place, but it was not really properly structured, nor properly rehearsed. It was just not finished! And the main reason for that is that I always go into too much detail, want to cram too much in. But also I got distracted preparing it.

All of it also points to a now long-held belief that I am 'neurodivergent'. There was a lot on Twitter about neurodiversity just the past few days. I've written this before: I am convinced that as a child, I was on the autistic spectrum, an Asperger kid that was never diagnosed.

But here's the thing. I don't want to give a talk like this again. It is not fair on the audience, and it doesn't help CodeHub either, or me, for that matter. Having seen how things play out if I just jump in and 'somehow' write a talk, I have decided next time (if there is one) I will enlist help. I will need somebody who forces me to really script the whole talk and will rehearse it with me.

But also in general, there is this conflict in me, where I somehow don't even want to play along, don't want to try and belong to this tech elite. Or maybe I just think I never could? That is quite a biggy for me. How much is me, how much is them? In general, I've become more aware of power structures in society. There seems to be a divide between people that grow up with a sense of abundance, a permission to thrive, to try things out, to put things into action; and on the other side those who've been giving the feeling they just won't amount to much, who feel they don't even need to try, who do not even look out for possibilities though they are intelligent and creative. And there's of course huge divides between the wealthy and those more working class - but also, the knowledge and skills elite and those that did not reach the same level of expertise. In either case, the divide seems difficult to bridge. I see myself more on the 'knowledge-deprived' side, though I was once handled as somewhat of a prodigy (when I was ten, ha!). I'm not in academia, and I have gaping holes in my programming knowledge and skills.

I'd just like there to be less of that. Less of a gap. I'd like a society where those most expert help the newcomers, and advanced beginners do so, too. Where everybody can learn from everybody, a bit like Seymour Papert describes Samba Schools in his book Mindstorms. - I'd have to work extremely hard to be in the 'elite', and if I did belong, would I then still care so much for 'fellow travelers'?

Need to go to bed now.. I can't think properly any more.

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Beware, black dogs about

This post was written 2 months ago.
Wed, 12 Jul 2017
So is this the real thing again now? And how long will it last?

This is curious. Curious and somewhat cruel. I am 'celebrating' my 20 years anniversary of the end of the last major depression I went through, and with that, 20 years without antidepressants. I might have thought about that topic a bit too much recently.

I have thought about whether it might be a good thing to take ADs on a regular basis, as seems relatively common these days - at least that is the impression I get. I recently re-read bits of "Listening to Prozac" by Peter Kramer, and it reminded me that with all probability, I would be much better off if I took pills regularly. Because from my frequent encounters with the black dog as a teenager, and then two - no, three - really bad episodes in my twenties, some things have been quite deeply engrained in my brain. Most of all, low confidence. It used to be low confidence in my self-value and my social abilities. This has changed to low confidence in any kind of achievement. I also often find it difficult to just "do" anything at all. Whereas I constantly think, think, think. Read more…
 
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Mini post on Monday morning, before work

This post was written 4 months ago.
Mon, 15 May 2017
So, my diary came to a halt again. What happened in the one and a half months since my last post? On a personal level, I managed to run myself into the ground energy-wise, and that is part of the reason I didn't write anymore. On the political stage, a snap election was called that previously had been ruled out. France elected Emmanuel Macron. A feeling of uncertainty persists. Somehow at the moment, I am focusing more on my own personal situation, but that includes how I can find a way to consistently contribute. There would be so much more to write, but I am writing again in the morning, the alarm clocks are going to go off soon. The important thing for me was to write something, to pick up writing again. I would have liked to write a post yesterday that had to do with motherhood (fitting as it was international Mother's Day - that means in Germany, too, unlike here, where it is celebrated in March), but also other things. Another time!

Tags: diary /
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Diary week c/ 27 March 2017 also known as Let's start the Brexshit week but this post is not about that

This post was written 6 months ago.
Thu, 30 Mar 2017
This first entry of my new 'diary streak' is brought to you from a hole. - Although come to think of it, I might already be crawling out of it again.

I just remembered this poem: Autobiography in 5 chapters. I think I might be at chapter 3 now. Let's hope so! And onwards and upwards!

So let me write about coding. This is a vast topic. Technology, programming, is big, and is the single most influential thing that is changing how we work, socialise, and do about everything else. Automation of jobs is already happening, and there's going to be more of it. Like Thanh at Desklodge said recently, at some point the prefix "tech" won't make sense anymore, because everything will involve tech somewhere. It will be the default, so there will be no point in calling it "tech something" anymore.

The tech industry is amazing, daunting, enabling and illness-promoting at the same time. I am absolutely fascinated by it, I by now definitely feel I'm part of it, and it is massive. It has changed my life profoundly and has or is going to, change everybody else's, too.

If you work in tech, especially if you work as a software programmer or web developer, you live precariously. Your mental health is under constant attack (physical health, too, but I think that's easier to mitigate), that is how I see it now. Sitting at a desk for hours, looking at a screen, typing into a keyboard, is not that well suited to human nature for one thing. But a lot of jobs entail that. Programming, if you are not very confident and fast at it, makes you feel like a complete idiot a lot of the time. There is a lot of time pressure, and there will be periods where you get stuck and you will not see much progress for a while. Estimating how long things are going to take is notoriously difficult. Also, you need to keep many things in your head concurrently, and you need to be able to understand code that people have written in gung-ho ways, not thinking of their successors very much (just make the thing work..)

Now, in my own life, I have a really really difficult relationship with coding. For one thing, I think I have not learned it in the best way. I for a long time applied a very unstructured trial-and-error way to get things working, pulling thousands of levers here and there, till I might get a combination where things work. And I sometimes still take that approach, till I realise I must isolate things and start from really small. Build something really small that is working. My confidence is not very good at all, and if that is met with people having low expectations of me, a perfect match is made and I go down, down, down very quickly. The trouble is that the low confidence then often prevents you from getting better, it's absolutely a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I have progressed over 10 years or so (!) very slowly. But I do know that I can program now, which is a massive relief. Still, there are enough ways left to beat yourself up if you choose to, and I have to fight a constant battle over not choosing to do that. Ms K S Durrani. Katja Self-sabotage Durrani. Shit, when I read that, why am I still here?? And is it just an excuse I am making there? "Haha, you say you are self-sabotaging, when in fact you just aren't very good." - Well, I have a huge interest in overcoming that part of me, I will keep on trying for as long as I can. I always think when I'll manage to keep it in check, then I can help others to do the same. Not only the self-sabotage thing, low confidence in general. If I manage to learn and build stuff, then I can show that it can be done, that that beast that some past well- and not-so-well-meaning figures in your life have planted inside you, can be tamed. I by now see myself as having a long-term condition. There is no point in even trying to get rid of it. You have to learn to live with it. And here's the thing. I think more and more people are living with this kind of beast these days, and it's not only women. We keep collectively digging ourselves into holes. And there is some people who actually have a vested interest in that. Because it keeps us calm and keeps us from opposing them, taking power from them ("TAKE BACK CONTROOOOOL". Fucking hell)

So, I guess this diary will also be about that. And there is another obstacle. That is my "executive functioning" weakness. Groan. I sometimes don't know what is the worse thing, the sabotage/low-confidence or that. Sometimes I wonder if they are actually two sides of the same coin. Yeah, it feels like there is something deep down in me that wants to prevent me from.. having success?

So, after I have now admitted my failures, I want to make it my expressed goal to show myself and others that I can deal with them. And the best way to start to effect change, is to observe what you are doing at the moment. Some very simple measurements I just came up with:
- Time I turn up to work
- Time I go to bed
- Time spent on coding outside job (Codehub and own projects) - at the moment I demonstrate to myself how bad I am by simply not coding very much at all!
So I'll record these every day (except the work thing, which is Monday, Wednesday, Friday). That will also help work towards improving the above-mentioned executive functioning.

And I am glad I did not mention my particular difficulties at my work place at the moment. But yeah, there's been a downward slide, after for a while things had been going quite well. And I will hang on to that. I have been doing good work. I can do it again. But ultimately I think it might also not the right match. We will see.

In the meantime it fills me with great joy that I managed to write again and I feel it will help me. I might be a bit of a wreck, but I am all in all a happy wreck (strangely enough, with all the B&T, or M&T?, stuff going on - but they can be overcome!)

Oh, here is a book about how machines will change the world (again): The second machine age It's excellent, but the authors managed to preface each of the 15 chapters with a quote by A MAN. Because women either do not say stuff, it is not quotable what they say, or they have no authority and therefore there is no point quoting them. Thanks very much, gentlemen!

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Society and the mind

This post was written 6 months ago.
Tue, 28 Mar 2017
My head is so full of so many things these days, that I find it difficult to sort everything. I have never been able to do much of GTD and by now I have accepted that and actually sometimes value it, strangely enough. My mind has a mind of its own it seems, it resists certain things that I tell it to do, and it lets itself be drawn into new directions all of a sudden, and that can sometimes be quite exciting. Still, what I'd like to achieve is some sort of consistency in what I do, especially I would like to get certain things done. It's not that it's completely lacking at the moment, but it could be better.

The one thing that I've not been doing recently that I miss most, and that I feel could simultaneously help the most, is writing. This does not itself fall so much into the action category, rather it could help me find out how I can best put things into action and serve as some kind of documentation, perhaps holding me accountable even. I'd want to do some of it not on this public blog, but then also like to write here because it encourages a certain way of writing.

Last year I had this kind of public diary for a while, and I'd like to pick that up again. And once again, there's two strands in particular - society, politics, large-scale, systems dynamics if you want, and on the other hand, the individual, what goes on in one's own mind, the things one ends up saying, the actions one ends up deploying etc. I've been long fascinated by Marvin Minsky's 'Society of the mind' which looks at how the mechanisms of decision making are very similar at every level of organisation, whether you have an individual, a family, larger groups or indeed a whole country, perhaps even all of humanity.

I am then also interested in the place of the individual in society at large. These days many of us ask ourselves what we can do now that politics both sides of the Atlantic have taken unexpected and quite nasty turns. Although of course this is only the culmination of something that has been bubbling away for a long time, but many of us have not been able to (or have refused to?) see. In any case, how can you contribute to making things less shit? For me this is an ongoing question. Especially as this individual has till this year never been politically active in any way, never been on a march (though came close in 2003, considering going to London for the anti Iraq war march) until the Women's March this January.

This all sounds quite high-flying but what I write won't be, nor do I intend it to be. Though I do want to link to a lot of stuff that I've read or partially read, actually for that reason alone it's worth writing, to build up a collection of things worth to go back to. We'll see how that all goes. In any case I think my obstinate mind recognises the value of writing which makes me hopeful I will write some more. - And while it has been very reluctant to get me out of bed after I woke up early, I managed to write this nevertheless, writing and publishing from my phone :) One idea I have is setting myself reminders each day so I won't forget. One thing that I really want to develop but so far have never succeeded is a note-keeping habit. So I put this here as an intention. In any case I need to go now, but it seems a good start.

Tags: politics / mind_stuff /
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A week away

This post was written 7 months ago.
Mon, 20 Feb 2017
So, that's half term done again. The children are fast asleep in bed. They dread going back, though it seems, not as much as previous times.

This week was very good for me. I had planned to completely withdraw from the Internet for some days. I did not properly manage that (mainly for arranging things through Whatsapp, emails etc), but I reduced it so much that it had a significant effect, and the one that I wanted. Calming down from the anger caused by political news. Most amazingly, I might have now managed to step away from a conflict that I had found so hard to cope with. I will not argue anymore. I will accept that somebody has gone down a certain route, and the lesson to learn from that is that something is not right in such a way that sensible people begin to take drastic turns.

The thing I have noticed is that I can still get very distracted, even without the internet. The main distractions are books, and my own thoughts. One day the children were at a friend's house, and I had planned to tidy up, but then I spent virtually the whole day reading Carrie Fisher's "Postcards from the Edge". I had watched the film the previous night. The film is really an additional thing to the book, in the book the mum hardly appears at all while she is central to the film. - It was weird with that book. It took me back to the 80s, and to LA where I've never been. And above all, it took me into Carrie Fisher's mind and there were quite a few things I recognised while on the whole I am not very much like her, I certainly don't have her humor and wit. I feel it was kind of important to me to read that book, or to read the book and watch the film.

I continue to write in fragments, that is all I can do for now, and perhaps that's what I've been doing for most of my life. Starting and stopping.

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Looking for Levelheadedness

This post was written 8 months ago.
Sun, 29 Jan 2017
This will only be the start of a post. Things are madly spinning around in my head once again, and I might as well put things down here in order to get a little clarity.

It will become ever more important to resist falling into certain traps. I can see myself reacting to things when perhaps I shouldn't. Especially, there are more useful things to do than send angry tweets. Or think about the angry 'letter home' I feel like sending (but luckily haven't so far).

I found this interesting from "Die Zeit": Telling obvious lies was a tactic employed by the Soviet Union to create cogintive dissonance and eventually wear down the resistance to accepting things as opinion, as possibility, which were evidently false statements. http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2017-01/alternative-facts-donald-trump-sean-spicer-media
When you look at the massive protests, it seems that humanity and good faith will prevail. But this is only the start. I have a feeling we are in this massive culture and propaganda war, and in the meantime really nasty things are going to happen, many away from our sight.

You can't win. If muslims are denied entry to America, something needs to be done about it, you can't simply ignore it. Maybe that is the tactic to lay so many fires that the opposition is constantly in need of reacting to something.

The thing is, in this country, we do not need to react to things all the time. Not even in America. You need to take breaks. Need to turn off the news for a while. Concentrate on creating things.

And now I need to sleep.. tbc.

Tags: usa / politics /
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Starting to look back on 2016

This post was written 8 months ago.
Tue, 10 Jan 2017
This would now be the time to do a review of the past year and write up a few plans for the new one. I had things in mind to write but probably have forgotten many of them by now.

I think it might have been the year where I have learned most from women, read the most books by women, have been influenced most by women.

I have mentioned the Guilty feminist podcast with Deborah Frances-white and Sofia Hagen before. There is also Sofie's own, Made of Human podcast with an especially poignant two-part episode with Susan Calman. I yet need to fully listen to the second part again, as I was very sleepy last time round and missed some things. Read more…
 
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Mini post about sudden frustrating realisation

This post was written 10 months ago.
Thu, 08 Dec 2016
Today things don't fit. And for once I am not talking about the world at large.

It had not hit me like this for a while, but now it's back. Hello feelings of inquadecy, pointlessness, and (relative) professional uselessness. (I do not doubt my value as a human, as wife and as a mother to my kids - in that I am actually a very fortunate person; I am not depressed at the moment)

So, there are these plans in my head, about CodeHub, and while I find myself forever in a weird 'active state of inactivity' where I am planning and thinking about things without actually taking much real-world action, my plans did get clearer over time. I have action points even, deliverables. But, as my friend araja put it, there is a "No". And I think this is what it's about: For the things I'd really like to achieve, I am not a good enough coder, and I don't have enough influence. Those two things go hand in hand.

This has nothing to do with impostor syndrome. You only have impostor syndrome if, through your job, or the respect shown to you by others, you are in a certain position that you feel you don't deserve to be in. I am exactly where I belong with my job, and I am happy there. I don't feel an impostor. Outside the job, as part of the tech community, I feel I don't count very much though. I do not have authority. I could still organise things, for sure. But it will not be as good as it could be. In short: I feel I am not the right person for it.

There is the possibility I could become what I envisage this magical organiser-mentor-person to be. But at the moment I don't see the way there.

I am also today extremely frustrated with the massive misogyny, both open and tacit, that has become apparent this year.

And that's where I'm at. I give myself till Tuesday, to get moving on my plans for next year. If I have not taken any proper steps by then, I hope I can just leave it. I might even step down as the organiser of the group.

Close but no cigar.

(Something in me riles against me saying all this. Come on rebellious me, find the weak spot in the lines above, and turn it all around!)

[edit 10 min later]
Ha, now I just remembered a thought I had recently (and I've had similar ones before): I am not an accomplished coder, but I am not a beginner either. I mean, not at all! I am in the murky middle, and things by its very nature get messy there. All I have to do is accept that. And this group is exactly about that stage. Still, today I just don't feel entitled to run it.

[Many hours later, at 1.24 am]
"Nobody else cares about my plans, the email I want to write to everybody, my ideas". And I know I am blowing things out of proportion. It is just such a shame, because I am sure it could be good if I only got started. Ha, but isn't that exactly the reason why you don't get started? As long as it is just in your imagination, you can say it would be good? No, no, I have seen it work before! It's just nobody cares. I feel so alone.

I just read this about Tim Ferriss and had tears streaming down my face. https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/08/tim-ferriss-tools-of-titans-depression/ The thwarted contribution. Always so powerful. Not fulfilling your potential hurts so fucking much, and can consume all your thoughts. Possibly more than bad things happening to you. You made something not happen. You are a failure. It's not that you failed, you are a failure, that is what your mind is telling you.

A tweet I saw today:
"Women are not going to forget or forgive this year." YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES. And not even the men I love most understand how much it hurts. I don't think they do. Not a single one. That's this year's big lesson for me.

Tags: coding / programming / codehub /
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Diary week c/ 5 Decemeber - Still too much politics on my mind

This post was written 10 months ago.
Mon, 05 Dec 2016
It is crazy, I follow so many Twitter links, and read or skim-read lots of (sometimes long) articles. And then there's also Medium. I am not sure how much sense it makes to do that, but then I do feel it gives me a better idea of things. There is currently a huge bias towards America I have to say. For obvious reasons, but I do think it is getting a bit out of hand. - Today I saw this article and whithout even having much knowlegde, you can just sense that this would be a totally sensible path to follow. Together with faithless electors there's absolutely a way to deny Drumpf the presidency, if only enough people want to go ahead with it. I have a bit of hope now, that if not removed this way, he will be impeached soon after having taken office. Read more…
 
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