1. Egg-laying

How would it work? Eggs would still be fertilized in utero. Instead of a 9-month pregnancy, women would grow the egg for a few months and then lay it. The egg would have a softer shell with some elasticity, so that the egg can be elongated while being laid, but still contain enough nutritious material to grow the fetus for the rest of the months.

Implications? We would have hatchdays instead of birthdays. Those who need help hatching may need a lifetime of therapy. Slightly more gender equality, maybe. Couples would judge each other for choosing natural or synthetic incubation. Literal “miscarriage”. Egg tattoos (portmanteau: eggoos?).

2. Photosynthesis

How would it work? Chloroplasts coexist with the digestive system and circulate close to the surface of the skin. Glucose can be generated from sunlight, though at a slower pace than through food (would be difficult to function purely on sunlight). Water still necessary.

Implications? We’re all tinted green (yay!), except for when we’re tinted orange/red/yellow during cooler months. The agricultural industry shrinks dramatically. Rainy days are extra annoying for people who don’t cook. Skin cancer.

3. Prehensile Tails

How would it work? Human tailbones extend a few feet beyond the base of the spine and develop musculature. Tail is able to support full body weight and grip objects that are tennis ball-sized and larger. Tail is furiously furry.

Implications? We give up hand-holding for tail-linking, and keep our lovers warm with a tail wrapped around the waist. Bars with bars, for hanging out. Rogaine develops a line for tail baldness. (I want to note that I’m not a closet furry, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Honorable Mentions – things that might be cool, but I’m not sure yet.

4. Gills – Atlantis could become a reality, but I wonder if the gills would dry out.

5. Hibernation – Thanksgiving would make more sense, but we already spend an unforgivable amount of time sleeping.

6. Detachable body parts – I wonder if detached human body parts would ever be served as food.

7. Wings – I want to fly as much as anyone, but we might need to have lighter bones or the wings would have to be huge and unwieldy.

Why….???

I have a semi-serious reason for writing/thinking about this – some of you may know that I’m generally not a fan of sci-fi (literature, movies, etc.). Often it’s because I feel that much of sci-fi can be abstracted as 1. A tweak to our reality has occurred for an implausible reason, and 2. OUR WORLD IS NOW ON THE BRINK OF DESTRUCTION!!!

I think technology generally makes us all a little more annoying (this post may be a good example), but I feel like it’s cheap sensationalism to suggest that technology will inevitably lead to catastrophe. Is it really likely that artificial intelligence or aliens would want to kill humans? Seems disappointingly anthropocentric to me.

The genre I really want more of is what I’ll call “mundane science fiction” – stories that explore scientific possibilities (likely and unlikely ones) and conclude that progress could be folded into our current reality with amusing but non-destructive results. Basically, I want more movies like “Her” and “Timer.” I would also love to have a tail. I will also settle for more conversations with everyone regarding wishes for human evolution.

The week after finishing Dev Bootcamp (this post comes about two weeks late), we attended “career week,” and it was more enlightening than I expected. I’ve always had negative feelings towards society’s acceptance of “it’s about who you know” when it comes to finding employment, and still do – it causes inequality and lack of diversity in workplaces. However, I appreciate the discussions we had around how to meet useful people and not be creepy, because it’s helped me see that networking is more work-related and less shallow than I previously believed.

What is networking, really?

During my previous (mostly finance-related) working life, I associated networking with softly-lit restaurants where people wear suits, hold drinks, and discuss things I have little chance of remembering. But this would be better described as “uninteresting conversations with people wrapped firmly in their corporate personas,” not networking.

Towards the end of my finance job, I was spending more time talking to our clients one-on-one, discussing research themes, explaining specific charts, or anything in between. I never came to be passionate about the purpose of my own job, but I had a good time locating information for other people or commiserating about the lack of relevant information.

These actions could much more be described as “networking” than boring conversations – reciprocal relationships where knowledge is transferred and people work together towards common goals. The tangential conversations resulting from these relationships were always deeper and more interesting to me than basically any “funny story” told at a bar.

Networking in the developer community is better. Side projects are great!

These types of “knowledge transfer” relationships seem much easier to come by in the developer community. I think this must be because real work can be “minified” as side projects: the work you can accomplish on your own or with a few friends, independent of an established organization, can very plausibly be value-adding to society. In finance, you could certainly manage a personal portfolio and bore people with the details of when you bought Apple, but this is replicating work that is already being done (except at a larger, more efficient scale than what an individual can manage).

“Hi! What are you working on?” must be the easiest, most effective pickup line ever, because it’s hard to have a terrible conversation following this question. People love talking about their own creations, and these creations usually say much more about a person’s identity than their work on the job. I’ve always been more interested in knowing people than knowing companies, and this is actually how networking should be.

It’s also fantastic that this community includes so many events where people are actively working on things: organized activities like hackathons or workshops, to weekly meetings of people sitting around working on an assortment of personal projects. All of these options provide natural avenues for connecting, where people interact as thinkers and creators rather than as small-talkers.

Is this applicable in other industries?

Thinking about finance and consulting (yes, I realize my knowledge of industries is limited to yuppie stereotypes), there aren’t many events that provide a social forum for people entering the field to practice their skills. I remember attending a few case competitions in college, but I don’t believe these are widespread. People in these industries probably don’t have the time to attend additional work-related events outside of their primary employment, and it’s also difficult to have independent projects when your primary skill is the analysis of large corporations.

And this is probably okay. These industries are focused on client service, so the number of people you meet in the regular course of employment is probably more than enough, even if it does strip some personality off interactions.

In summary…

I still think networking is unfair (and I will keep brainstorming ways for companies to filter potential applicants effectively without using the “who do we know?” method), but it can be done with depth and genuine interest in people and ideas.

(My life isn’t really hard.)

Many people read and appreciated my last post on Dev Bootcamp, and I’m touched that friends and strangers judged something that I wrote to be useful. Just about everything I post here is almost not posted – when I click publish, I’m usually thinking “Ugh, this is not quite the high quality writing I want to present to the world… but I have other things to do, so I should get on with this clicking and the rest of my life.” I think it’s important to continuously express myself in published writing, but I constantly worry that my writing has typos, will offend someone, is boring, narcissistic, or otherwise adds to the useless noise of the internet. I expect many people feel this way, and I know the advice I would give to someone else with this problem would be that continuing to write and post despite the insecurities is the best way to become a more expressive, more relevant writer.

William Zinsser (the writer of “On Writing Well”) wrote a memorable essay on how he thought writing “wasn’t easy and wasn’t fun,” mentioning “it had never occurred to me that writing could be easy.” I’d highly recommend reading the essay – I first read it when I was 16, and it remains one of my favorites. As I gain more experience with working and learning, I’ve realized that most crafts are best approached as products of struggle rather than inspiration. To apply this going forward, I’m going to block out an hour each day to write something instead of blogging only when I think I have something good to say.

Next Steps/Leaps

Last week we attended career week at DBC, where we received solid advice on managing our online presence, researching companies, networking, and interviewing. Having an online presence is difficult! In some ways I miss the online presence I had in finance – basically as little as possible, lest someone might mistake my opinions for stock recommendations (by the way, nothing I write here is FINRA or SEC or whatever government organization-sanctioned stock advice!).

There are two major life decisions looming on the horizon.

  • When to get a job? I have savings and some project ideas, so I don’t feel financial pressure to get a job. There are two sides I’m trying to balance – on the one hand, I want freedom and time to complete my own projects, but on the other, I want assurance that what I’ve learned is economically relevant and that I’m in a supportive environment that provides external motivation to learn.
  • Where to go? Most of my [admittedly distracted and meager] job-finding/networking efforts have been directed at Portland. I’m pretty sure I want to move there, and I’m pretty sure I want to avoid the Chicago winter. But I also want to make sure it’s a good career move and that I’m not using the prospect of moving as an excuse to put off meeting people or applying for jobs here.

So if you have any advice on either of these decisions, let me know!

Writing Promises

There are two things I’d like to write about soon related to DBC and this programming industry. The first topic is networking and how it seems to be better/different in this industry, and the second is how to have the right type of confidence.

[Today’s writing was accomplished with the help of a timer and Iron and Wine’s “Around the Well.”]

Goals Over Abilities

“It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (yes, that’s a Harry Potter quote. ha.)

The great thing about DevBootcamp is it’s a bunch of people who aren’t programmers, learning to be programmers. I think shared desire for some form of self-betterment is an interesting parameter by which to unite people, as it tends to contain a more diverse array of people than more typical means of segmentation. Our society tends to push us towards people with similar backgrounds, opinions or abilities much more than people with similar goals; surely these means of segregation are less healthy.

An organization based around goals also encourages people to dream and change. Too often people settle for things deemed normal, acceptable, and reasonable, and this is unsurprising because many organizations benefit from stable employees with predictable responses to reward. Certainly it’s good for people to be reliable, but one of my greatest disappointments with growing up has been finding out how fearful and knowledge-limited adults can be (this may be everyone’s disappointment with becoming an adult). As a society, we may be advancing to a point where this is no longer the best approach to ensure a successful future.

Growing Intellectually, Emotionally

I love working on something that’s intellectually challenging every day, and DBC made/makes this ridiculously easy. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had few periods in my life where this wasn’t the case, but I know many people aren’t properly challenged at school, at work, or wherever else they are spending their time. Especially as adults. Everyone believes that children should be learning, but adults on the whole set a dismal example of how to learn consistently and sustainably, and this leads children to believe that learning is supposed to end post teens or 20s. To be fair, it’s not easy for a non-educational organizations to have people learning new things every day, but certainly workplaces could shuffle people around more or give people more mental space to grow and explore new avenues.

This is going into my next point somewhat, but I also love that seeing a therapist is so thoroughly normalized at DBC, along with the associated focus on self improvement. Disclaimer – I only attended a session once while in the program, but therapy is THE BEST. I used Penn’s program for a period when I was in college too, and I just wish that (a) everyone went to therapy, and (b) everyone talked about going to therapy.

Other People are People

Empathy “training” is the last big thing that I loved about DBC. I’ll never forget our waterline exercise in the third week of the program, and it’s something I still think about often. The concept of the waterline is this: There’s a small portion of our thoughts and feelings that we reveal to people on a regular basis, and a large portion that we keep hidden as sensitive information. As a group, we were encouraged to drop our waterlines for the length of the session and share something about ourselves that we normally wouldn’t.

There were about 20 of us in a room, and I’m pretty sure I can remember where everyone was sitting. I definitely remember what everyone said. I remember crying through much of it, because I was realizing how easy my life has been – Even now, thinking about this, I feel a mix of devastation for all of the tough experiences that people mentioned, shame for generally not thinking about how many bad things happen to ordinary people who are very much like me, and inspiration when I remember that I’m surrounded by people who have managed to suffer and yet make resilient, courageous decisions to end up at this organization. I hope I can be as brave when I meet future challenges in my life.

This isn’t a common experience in the rest of the world, and I wish it was. It’s hard to create an environment that’s safe and welcoming enough that people can share things that are large and scary. And it’s easy to forget that everyone has deep inner lives. I certainly forget in regular interactions with people that they have their own feelings and dreams that are just as meaningful and real as my own, and I think most people are like me in that they aren’t acutely conscious of other people’s reality in daily life. All of the exercises in empathy and understanding other people would help to make the world a friendlier and more welcoming place, whether they were done in workplaces, schools, or wherever else people are regularly interacting with/working with each other.

What a crazy week!

Friday Finish

I just finished DevBootcamp on Friday, after a frightening bout of seriously freaking out before presenting final projects – I had approximately the third migraine I’ve ever had in my life (despite being reasonably well rested and feeling perfectly comfortable with our presentation), and I spent much of the morning prior to presentations curled up in the bathroom, staff room, and hallway worrying that I was about to throw up or pass out. Both things that terrify me. I just can’t thank everyone enough for getting me through that – my instructor, the rest of my group, the rest of my cohort – I hope that I’m generally a pretty reliable and easygoing person under most types of pressure, but I know that I completely fall apart whenever I’m sick.

Fortunately, I recovered partially by the time we were presenting, and all of the projects looked great! Then I took a nap after lunch and the migraine disappeared. What magic! So Friday was great, and I’ll probably write a little more about the entire experience later this week.

Saturday Drama

Saturday was another challenge. After three-ish years [mostly] together my significant other (I know it’s a ridiculous phrase, but as many of you know, I hate the term boyfriend) and I decided to part ways – me initially grudgingly but I know it’s the right decision. In the end I believe that couples should be firmly in love with each other, above just being supportive and comfortable with each other. Have comfort and support is important, undeniably, and I will miss that (he was also indispensable during my insanity Friday morning). I’m devastated, but I can feel grateful that I’ve become a better person from our time together. What more can I ask for?

Today and Beyond

Today I’ve been trying to stay busy and look forward to the future. I’m excited for a lot of things – practicing coding (looking at matasano crypto challenges in preparation for workshop Tuesday, sort of learning vim), skating tomorrow, learning how to play piano and sing again, considering where to move next (Austin? Portland?), catching up with friends I haven’t talked to in the past two months.

It sucks to not feel like a whole person, and I expect I’ll continue to feel a little lost over the next few weeks, with the combination of relationship and career flux. I’m going to do my best to keep working hard, trust that everything will be okay, and not inflict collateral damage. And I’ll keep watching Frasier and reading Dear Sugar in my dark moments, which I realize are not that dark anyway, relatively (although last night, there was a bug in my room that at some point crawled on my head! Eeek! I prevailed eventually over the bug, but that was literally a dark moment).

“The useless days will add up to something”