🎵 The song for this post is Tribute, by Tenacious D. 🎵
If you don't remember, these were emails with dozens of little prompts like
- "True love is…"
- "Stones or Beatles?"
- What's your ideal pet?
- What's your favorite dessert?
and you'd answer and send it to your address book. Good thing too, because the bottom of the email warned you "IF YOU DON'T ANSWER AND FORWARD TO AT LEAST 10 PEOPLE YOUR TEETH WILL FALL OUT AND YOU'LL DIE LONELY. IF YOU SEND TO MORE THAN 20 PEOPLE, THEN YOUR TRUE LOVE WILL ADMIT THEIR CRUSH TO YOU THIS MONTH!!!!"
I was reminded of chain mails when looking at this list of "interesting questions" which are meant to kill small talk. Setting aside that there's a fair bit of value to small talk (otherwise we wouldn't do it!), I thought I'd take a crack at them.
What's your story?
I'm trying to find a way to have the most positive impact on those around me after about a decade of coping with traumas and depression by taking as little space as possible.
I love people and boundary-pushing experiences, so at 18 I was sure that my life had to be about building theater and making art. Those impulses are still there, but now I also love building things with computers.
What's the most expensive thing you've ever stolen?
lmao I don't really steal much; a pithy answer is "a few hearts! lololol" but I don't like that either.
What is your present state of mind?
Pleasantly overwhelmed; pretty happy that there's this much on my plate and I'm not panicking over it, while still being extremely fucking mindful of how much is on that plate.
What absolutely excites you right now?
I just moved over to a job where I have a ton of autonomy and see a path towards building some of my life's best work, at least from a computing perspective. The problem domain isn't catching me so strongly right now, but I'm currently loving the ownership.
Self-hosting a bunch of software and federation is making me excited about computers and communities again.
What book has influenced you the most?
This one's hard. A lot of empathy, curiosity, and play instincts came from the comics collections I read as a kid during formative years: a ton of Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side.
Without knowing it, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea taught me a lot about living in conflict with oneself, and with the contradictions of the narratives that make us dream vs. the lived experiences of living on Earth, with people.
Don Quijote had a big place in my life for years, reminding me of that old Kurosawa quote "in a mad world, only the mad are sane." His schtick was bonkers, but he had his shit more figured out than most and lived an enviable, full life.
Introduction to the Theory of Computation by Sipser and SICP did a lot to make me go from studying computing to loving computing.
If you could do anything you wanted tonight (anywhere, for any amount of money), what would you do and why?
Go on a long hike with Sapo.
There are also some very hedonistic answers to this I'm not going to publish, and are mostly about satisfying my curiosity than knowing I'd actually enjoy them, strictly speaking.
If you had the opportunity to meet one person you haven't met who would it be, why and what would you talk about?
Most questions of this form 👆 specify between living or dead, so I'll answer each.
Living: I'd love to meet a living musician I love (thinking Michel Camilo, Fatboy Slim, or Lizzo) and ask them for their hot takes + strong opinions about music and sound. I'd probably also like to share why/how their work has done a lot for me in difficult and not-so-difficult periods.
Late: probably Joe Armstrong. I'm sorry I never got to meet him. I'd ask him a bunch of open questions like these ones and see if I can figure out how he kept that wellspring of joy and curiousity alive inside himself.
What's the most important thing I should know about you?
I have a lot of trouble relaxing; this isn't usually a pleasant state to be in. It does provide some advantages.
I'm doing everything I can to see you. Virtually everyone leaks a ton of signal, e.g. what jokes they react to, what stories they choose to tell, how they hold themselves physically, how they choose to describe things they like or not. This, combined with what I consider a pretty excellent memory, leads to me trying to build a rich model for almost everyone I meet. Ask me what I observe sometime.
What do you value more, intelligence or common sense?
I dislike false dichotomies most!
But probably "common sense," if I reframe the question as "do you prefer characters with higher Intelligence or Wisdom scores?" A lot of horrible, world-destroying people do well on traditional measures of intelligence.
What movie is your favorite guilty pleasure, and why?
I don't believe in "guilty pleasures," just enjoy shit.
I misread the "movie" part of this, original answer was: these days, I'm eating (what feels like) a ton of ice cream, so adulthood is great.
As for a movie… idk, any Jason Statham movie.😋
You are stuck on a deserted island, and you can only take three things. What would they be?
Barring "I would wish for more wishes!" responses of "things that would get me off the island"…
Some volume I could spend a ton of time studying, in a "Time Enough At Last" way—maybe around Programming Language theory, maybe philosophy (which I'm woefully understudied in). Maybe a book of songs and a guitar (I don't currently play the guitar).
Something that'd let me continue to program computers. If I were cast away like that, I could finally write that programming language.
A journal and things to write in it.
When and where were you happiest in your life?
When I was 9, before the first major traumas hit.
A few milestones: when my senior project (directing my first show) was a success. When I read my acceptance letter. Getting accepted to Deconstruct last year. Most recently, getting the golden strawberry for the Summit in Celeste.
Many romantic/relationship milestones.
The area-under-curve has been pretty high for the last two years.
What do you think is the driving force in your life?
I feel like many of the other questions cover this? For most of it, it was "not disappointing others," which is a poor one, but I haven't proactively wanted to be alive for a lot of it, so it served me well enough.
These days its moving to "whatever I damn feel like (while still being a decent global citizen)."
Most of us want a witness. We yearn for our choices to be seen, and our paying the cost of those choices to be recognized. I feel that's a big part of building community, and chain mails were a fun way we inadvertently did that. Or maybe I'm just romanticizing my youth 😛
(If you liked me describing myself, you might like my old dating profile)
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄