Aww. Thanks! :) And I just cleaned out my inbox.

Thank you everyone who responded to my post over the last couple of days. It was overwhelming and awesome. I am grateful to have so many people that care about me, and who are working on so many fascinating, world-changing and difficult problems.

I’ve tried to reply to everyone that sent me a personal note.

While doing that, I realized that I’ve reached the end of what I can manage in my personal email, and have just completely cleaned out my inbox. Apologies to anyone that was expecting a response. Honestly, the likelihood that I would get to it without doing something drastic was approaching zero.

If I missed replying to you for some reason in the last few weeks, please resend your message. Or better, catch me on Google+ or Twitter.

Shaking the etch-a-sketch

So. I’m a free agent.

I’ve got some consulting work lined up, a few projects to keep me busy (Postgres Open, a new online class, and some writing). I’m speaking a couple times at OSCON at the end of the month and MC’ing Puppet Conf. And, I’m advising a good friend on her first business, and another on opening up data at a big company.

Looking forward — I’d love to hear what you all are working on, and a chance to catch up over a beer or coffee in the next month. I am looking for a new thing to do, but taking my time.

Plus — it’s summer. Scott and I have done some major work on the yard, and have parties and movie viewings planned until the pond freezes over.

You’re totally invited.

The end, and what happens next.

We buried grandpa today.

This was my first funeral. And the first time I’d been present for an honor guard, the three rounds of weapons fire, the folding and presenting of the flag, and the three symbolic rounds given to my grandmother. Scott took that picture.

I spoke at the funeral. I broke down. I met Grandpa’s niece Sheila for the first time. I missed meeting Grandpa’s brother, Forrest.

I made meatballs for the wake, and drank Dead Guy Ale. We talked with Grandma about what was coming next, and I’m worried.

Before we went to Austin Funeral Home, I talked with Grandma about her outfit, whether it was appropriate to wear yellow. She said this was her best outfit, and she didn’t want to upset anyone with it. I told her that she could wear whatever she damn well pleased.

I wish my grandfather was still here. I’m afraid for my grandma. She wants to learn everything she needs to learn to be independent. But it’s all very difficult for her.

I tried to find a pillbox for her today, and the one I found was just too hard to use. I set up speed dialing on the cel phone and put the phone on a special table for her so that she’d always know where it was. They’re going to set up a land-line, but everything just takes too long.

I talked with my sister about what to do next. She lives the closest, and talked about bringing Grandma to her church, trying to get some help for the next few weeks. I keep thinking words like “transition” and “opportunity”, and I feel like such an asshole. My grandma is afraid, and I live really far away.

I got a sheaf of paper, and wrote a note to Grandma asking her to write for me. I promised to type everything up and send it back to her.

A few people from the church came to the wake, drank punch and paid their respects. Our cousins drove back to Spokane.

We stayed, and my sister’s boyfriend sang songs on the porch. I talked with my brother about his life now, and how he’s commuting to Butte for work on gas lines with the pipefitter’s union, and how his daughter is back in Kalispell. I reminisced about our father’s welding, and how he’d always been offended when clerks at trailer rental places questioned the structural integrity of his strange, custom-welded bumper.

Scott played with his nephew, I sat with Grandma.

The weather was perfect and the sky was clear.

I’m still up, writing lists. Wondering if I found all the important things, and wishing that I had more time.

Robert Clark: 1932 – 2011

My grandfather died on Saturday evening. It was unexpected. My uncle today said that he figured Grandpa would be around for another 10 years.

I spent a lot of my time with my grandparents until I was about 3 years old, and then frequently visited them until about 6th or 7th grade. Then, mostly holidays.

For most of my life, they lived in Libby, MT. I have fond memories of splashing around in a kid’s pool in their front yard, ducking through fencing and piles of electronics to pick raspberries in the summer, and watching my grandmother smoke in the kitchen while the dishwasher ran after she baked chocolate chip cookies.

My uncle taught me morse code in my grandparents’ attic. I spent way too many hours watching my grandfather solder strange machines back to life, and fix all of our neighbor’s TVs and many seemingly throw-away devices. He spent an afternoon explaining to me some conspiracy amongst hairdryer manufacturers, and how simple it usually was to revive a dead one.

I spent most of today sorting through his papers, and trying to make lists for my mom and uncle. I don’t really know how to say what it feels like to look through all of the paperwork, bills and stupidity he had to manage these last few years for medical treatment. Horrifying, painful and enraging come to mind.

I found pictures of my grandpa with his dog Tuffy. And pictures of me with Tuffy licking my face.

I saw my grandma in petal-pushers, with my mom at 2 or 3 years old. There were letters from old friends, some from people I’d never heard of. My grandfather was a private person.

He served in the Army from 1950-1953. He was stationed in Alaska before it became a state. After the Army he got a degree in electronics and eventually started his own business in Libby. He fixed things incessantly and couldn’t stand the thought of throwing something useful away.

He really liked coffee and cookies at 2am.

I miss him.

Next two weeks

Heads up that I’ll be travelling to Nashville and NYC over the next two weeks (March 15-28). I probably won’t be online as frequently as normal, and I’m in the middle of teaching a class.

If you need to get in touch, please email, or if it is urgent, call. :)

2010 retrospective

I’m barely back from a 2-week vacation, and still easing my way back into Portland living.

Looking back on 2010, the highlights were:

  • Listed as a major contributor to PostgreSQL. In typical community-style, I found out by chance by looking at the contributors website one day, weeks after the change was made. Sneaky devils. :)
  • Gave talks at LinuxConf.AU in New Zealand, LibrePlanet in Boston, PgCon in Ottawa, CouchCamp in the Bay area, Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, LinuxFest Northwest in Bellingham, WA, OSCON PG Day in Portland, Google Summer of Code Mentor’s Summit in Mountain View, and keynoted DevNation in Portland.
  • Helped run the first ever IgniteGov at GOSCON in Portland!
  • Spoke at and participated in KiwiFoo and FooCamp. KiwiFoo changed my life. At some point, I’d love to live in New Zealand.
  • Made stickers with Reid and distributed OSFY, FSFY and OALFY stickers across the world.
  • Led the second successful Open Source Bridge conference. The second edition brought in Danny O’Brien, as he started his work with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Leigh Honeywell, who chronicled the rise of hackerspaces around the world, and Mayor Sam Adams. Danny’s talk was an inspiration to me, and I’m looking for opportunities to create better and more secure software for people who fight political oppression.
  • Started work at Emma, a lovely group of people and tons of interesting problems to work on.
  • Learned Python. Well, still learning python. :)
  • Took a couple vacations – Fourth of July weekend in Nashville, TN and two weeks in St Croix in December.
  • Spent a week in Montana with my mom for the first time in many years and had Thanksgiving with family at her mountain-man hideout near Tally Lake.
  • Drove to and from from Montana. I love road trips.
  • Started the PDX11 site to help publicize what the city and citizens are working together to create an even better and more inviting software community in Portland.
  • Worked on with Duke and Bart. Lots of scotch, ontologies and awkward jokes expected in the future.
  • Saw one of the world’s largest tesla coils turned on and run in a giant warehouse. Twice. And learned a tiny bit more about lightning, Tesla and high voltage.
  • Connected with a ton of new friends in open source communities, and hope to make many more in the new year.

I’m sure I left a few things out. I wish I would have written this post last year for 2009, as it was also an amazing year, full of travel, new experiences and wonderful people. Maybe I’ll do that and just backdate it for myself. I forgot that I’d done a picture inspiration last year for 2010. I substituted scuba diving for flying – cheaper and quite a bit safer. :) Otherwise.. mostly all came to pass.

Another thing about this year: I’m still not sure what it is that I want to become. I’ve had many conversations over the last six months with women who are at a similar stage of life – stable work/career, considering having children, loving travel, obsessed with software and communication.

What comforted me is that they were sitting with the ambiguity of it all as well, and finding ways of sifting through probabilities to home in on what’s truly important. I think happiness is an important factor in decision making about life’s goals, but there’s a big part of me that’s more apt to go for interestingness instead. So, while sometimes things have gone off the rails or been incredibly difficult in the last year, all the experiences I listed above have made the sacrifices and contemplative time worth it.

Vacation, Dec 18-Jan 3

I’m taking an extended vacation. While it’s possible that I may check my email while I’m out, it is not likely. :)

Sorry for the short notice! I just realized today that I need a bit of a break from email. In fact, I may just delete everything out of my inbox rather than spend hours trying to sort through it when I get back.

So, while I’m out, if there’s something you need my help with, here’s what I suggest you do:

* If it’s PostgreSQL related, contact for local stuff, or for other advocacy related things.
* If it has to do with some other form of volunteer activity, I don’t have a good backup for me and it will probably just have to wait.
* If I’m really the only person that can help, queue up an email draft and send me a message when I return (After Jan 3, 2011).

Have a lovely holiday season! And we’ll see you in the new year.

It’s not just Noirin.

I meant to write something funny, insightful and biting. But honestly, I’ve lost my sense of humor at the moment. So, here’s your trigger warning about discussing rape, statistics and slut-shaming if you want to stop reading now.

What’s happened is that Noirin was sexually assaulted. And then she named the person who assaulted her.

I’m lucky enough to have never been assaulted at a conference. I can barely imagine the hurt and frustration, because the people who attend the conferences I run or attend are my friends, people I trust, and the violation feels unforgivable. This thought brings me to tears because of the time and energy that I have put into the last six years as a volunteer: creating conferences, giving talks and loving being part of a global community of hackers.

Unfortunately, I know women who have been assaulted. With each day that passes since Noirin’s disclosure, I find out about more women who never told anyone about an assault. I’m very glad that Noirin went to the Atlanta police.

Some facts:

  • According to the US Department of Justice, 127,052 people reported being sexually assaulted or raped in 2009. From 2000 to 2009, the victimization rate from this study went from 1.2 down to 0.5. Yay us!
  • According to the US Department of Justice, only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported in 2004 to law enforcement officials (Page 106, table 91). That pretty much sucks.

And why is it that people don’t report these crimes?

Well, there was a survey recently by the Haven group that has some interesting, if disturbing conclusions. There’s been a lot of coverage of it — the BBC for example.

One appalling quote:

The survey also found more than one in 10 people were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police…

And why won’t people report?

The main reasons were being too embarrassed or ashamed (55%), wanting to forget it had happened (41%) and not wanting to go to court (38%).

So, reader, what can we do about this?

If you encounter someone who has been assaulted, support them! You’re not the police, you’re not a court of law — it isn’t your job to put anyone on trial. What you can do is be understanding, and help the woman report the incident to police.

Also, publicly voice your support. You can simply thank someone like Noirin for their bravery in coming forward, and leave it at that. Valerie Aurora wrote a supportive blog post with the headline “It’s not just Noirin.” You’re welcome to do that too.

There’s an undertow of disgust in the horrific comments I’ve read on Reddit, Norin’s own blog (and wow – I can’t say I’ll have the same bravery if the trolls ever come after me), and in private. It’s utterly painful to read, exhausting and terrifying. To be called a cunt for speaking about one’s experience. Wow. What year is this?

I, for one, am so happy that Noirin had the strength to write so clearly about her experience, and to say what I believe: “It is everyone else’s job to avoid assaulting me”.

One comment that sticks in my head from Hacker News:

We as the technology community need to make sure it’s not a “dark alley” for anyone, for everyone’s sake.

And for the women who are assaulted: there is no fucking way that it is their fault.

Last week: to Maine for a wedding

I was in Maine last week for the first time, attending the wedding of Scott’s youngest uncle Dwight, and last member of his generation of Deckelmanns to get married, and Kevan.

I took a few photos, made a couple of the family cakes (Viennese Speckled Sponge Cake), helped out with all sorts of last minute preparations and had a great time with everyone.

Twenty of us travelled to Maine for the wedding, and we all stayed in a farmhouse sitting near a pond, and overlooking an inlet leading to the ocean. Walls were paper thin, and most of us slept dormitory style, and we shared a single shower between us all. It was beautiful, and the weather was perfect for the wedding – 72F and a slight breeze.

Now I’m in NYC for a few days before heading down to Atlanta for Grace Hopper.

Foocamp 2010: lovely, expectant, reflective

This has been sitting in my edit queue for too long… here goes.

So, I was invited to Foocamp this year. Back in February, I attended KiwiFoo at the invitation of Nat Torkington. I realize now (sorry, Nat!) that I never blogged about going there. I have some rough notes around that I may try to edit down.

I’ll avoid any direct comparisons for a moment, and just talk about what it was like to dive into a slice of Silicon Valley, dislocated into the countryside for a weekend.

When I arrived, I felt immediately at home, welcomed and appreciated. Sara Winge was so helpful and easy-going about the Tesla Coil Josh brought. (Thanks for the ride, Josh!) I spent a lot of evening time educating people about avoiding touching the sparks (it may be a pretty toy, but it is in fact a dangerous one!) and also playing around with a metal glove that was rigged up so you could get a bit closer in to the coil.

I spent a couple delightful hours considering claude glass with Roberta Cairney. Over and over, I absorbed the positive energy tumbling out of Sumana. Once again, I spoke with Kiwis whose humor and affectionate swearing reminded me of home.

I held one session – about forgetting and the ethics of shifting our culture to assume everything may be on your permanent record, and the ways in which people try to opt out or game the system. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the people who attended. Rita King, Scott Berkun, Biella Coleman and danah boyd were all part of the discussion and I was able to talk about ideas I’ve had tumbling around in my head for years. I believe sysadmins/devops must have conversations about the ethics of the default choices made by developers around configuration and long-term management of log data. People asked provocative questions, and we had a real debate about the ethics. It was a wonderful experience and I came up with at least one good idea that I hope Jesse Robbins and I are going to act on together.

I also ran into several people who are just starting to work on user group and community issues in their geographic areas. Seattle came up over and over – and I’m looking forward to helping Ben Huh and the open gov folks who want to do grassroots organizing in their tech communities. I also met some amazing women there, and hope that we’re able to continue our discussions about business and tech in the future.

I camped, and was in a tent under the stars, and early morning fog. I enjoyed running into a fellow PostgreSQL community member, Paul Ramsey, among the early risers.

Apart from the immediate things to collaborate on, and an incredibly long list of new ideas and connection points, I came away inspired and mentally refreshed. I relished the relative lack of device obsession. The people that I wanted to have conversations with tended to have put their devices away for a few hours, and were focusing on the people in front of them.

The Ignite talks were my favorite talks. Jake Applebaum‘s meditation on wikileaks was particularly inspiring, reminding me to seek out opportunities to change the world for the better.