Cenk Özbakır’s Tumblr

My Hairdo Is Not Your Safari ›

For some reason, this has been happening to me a lot lately. Women, especially women of a Caucasian persuasion, have been stopping me to compliment my hair (which is OK) and then taking a smile or “thank you” nod in response as an invitation to get handsy with my hair (which is not OK!). In da clurb, on the street, and once, horrifyingly, at work. Maybe people don’t understand the difference between asking permission and assuming permission, or assume enough privilege to think that it’s OK, when it’s not. It’s many things—really rude and inappropriate, for starters—and makes me wonder what kind of home training a person has (or doesn’t have) that makes it seem OK to grope a grown stranger’s head out of curiosity.

I also can’t figure out why they want to touch the bun—to see if it’s real? Hard? Soft? Full of candy? No idea. I’m a person of mixed race, and people often take my ethnic ambiguity as an invitation to ask all sorts of prying, personal questions about my heritage, family structure, whatever, and these are things you learn to take in stride because annoyance doesn’t pay the bills—I can spend my time annoyed at stuff like this, or I can spend my time getting bylines and getting paid and being able to afford having various quorums of lady friends over for Sunday dinner, which is what feeds me and helps me grow and is way more important in the long run.

Leah Reich — In America ›

I don’t remember how it started, or with whom, but it was senior year, and it began quite suddenly. In math class, a teacher would hand out stapled packets of paper, problem sets and answers. A student would get one with a few missing pages and another kid would crow, “You got Jewed!” In English class, writing out an essay by hand, someone’s brand new pen would run out of ink and he’d cry “This pen is totally Jewish!”

It was nowhere and then it was everywhere, as if it had been on their tongues in private and they could hold it in no longer. Anything that was cheap or that cheated you was branded. You’d been Jewed.

My senior year I was 16 years old. I was young, the youngest in my class, having turned 16 right after our junior year ended. I wasn’t particularly Jewish, or at least I didn’t know if I was, but I was definitely a Jew. Each time I could feel it the anger of it. Why would you say that in front of me and the other Jewish kids? Why would you say that at all? If they said that in front of me, who seemed so very white, what would they say in front of other people who weren’t? What were they saying that I didn’t realize? What did they say when we weren’t around? What, eventually, would they do?

When the word would rise from somewhere in the hallway, everyone jammed around their lockers, a hush would descend and the crowd would part around me. There I was, alone but firm in my wisdom like Deborah beneath her palm tree. My voice would carry down the hall. “It’s not funny,” I’d say. “You think it’s funny, but nothing about it is a joke.”

Palestinian Football Players Shot In The Legs, Knees And Feet  ›

Quantity Always Trumps Quality ›

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Excerpts from Jamie Zawinski’ Diary ›

Here are some excerpts from my diary during the first few months of the existence of Netscape Communications (All Praise the Company), back when we were still called Mosaic. Back when there were only 20 or 30 of us, instead of however-many thousands of people there are today. Back before we had any middle managers.

This is the time period that is traditionally referred to as “the good old days”, but time always softens the pain and makes things look like more fun than they really were. But who said everything has to be fun? Pain builds character. (Sometimes it builds products, too.)


Thursday, 28 July 1994, 11pm.

I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so. That was when I woke up with a start, realizing that I was late for a meeting we were scheduled to have to argue about colormaps and dithering, and how we should deal with all the nefarious 8-bit color management issues. But it was no big deal, we just had the meeting later. It’s hard for someone to hold it against you when you miss a meeting because you’ve been at work so long that you’ve passed out from exhaustion.


Thursday, 11 August 1994, 2am.

I saw Ian today, for the first time in months. His first words were, “Wow, you look like shit.” He says I seem really strung-out and twitchy. I thought I had been doing ok! I got a full night’s sleep last night and everything. I have no life. I never see any of my non-work friends, and I’m wasting away my one and only youth. I ought to be out doing fun things and active things, the kind of things I won’t be able to do when my mind and body finally decay. But instead I’m stuck inside under fluorescent lights, pushing bits around inside a computer in ways that are only interesting to other nerds. I glanced at a movie listing and there are movies out that I haven’t even heard of. How did that happen? That freaks me out.

I bought some wrist braces at a drug store, and I’ve been typing with them for a couple of days. I don’t think it’s helping much; my middle finger doesn’t hurt quite as much, but my ring finger is just as bad. This job is destroying my body. This can’t be worth it.

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky ›

We Allow “Passion” To Be Used Against Us ›

We allow “passion” to be used against us. When we like our work, we let it be known. We work extremely hard. That has two negative side effects. The first is that we don’tlike our work and put in a half-assed effort like everyone else, it shows. Executives generally have the political aplomb not to show whether they enjoy what they’re doing, except to people they trust with that bit of information. Programmers, on the other hand, make it too obvious how they feel about their work. This means the happy ones don’t get the raises and promotions they deserve (because they’re working so hard) because management sees no need to reward them, and that the unhappy ones stand out to aggressive management as potential “performance issues”. The second is that we allow this “passion” to be used against us. Not to be passionate is almost a crime, especially in startups. We’re not allowed to treat it as “just a job” and put forward above-normal effort only when given above-normal consideration. We’re not allowed to “get political” and protect ourselves, or protect others, because we’re supposed to be so damn “passionate” that we’d do this work for free. 

What most of us don’t realize is that this culture of mandatory “passion” lowers our social status, because it encourages us to work unreasonably hard and irrespective of conditions. The fastest way to lose social status is to show acceptance of low social status. For example, programmers often make the mistake of overworking when understaffed, and this is a terrible idea. (“Those execs don’t believe in us, so let’s show them up by… working overtime on something they own!”) To do this validates the low status of the group that allows it to be understaffed. 

Executives, a more savvy sort, lose passion when denied the advancement or consideration they feel they deserve. They’re not obnoxious about this attitude, but they don’t try to cover it up, either. They’re not going to give a real effort to a project or company that acts against their own interests or lowers their own social status. They won’t negotiate against themselves by being “passionate”, either. They want to be seen as supremely competent, but not sacrificial. That’s the difference between them and us. Executives are out for themselves and relatively open about the fact. Programmers, on the other hand, heroize some of the stupidest forms of self-sacrifice: the person who delivers a project (sacrificing weekends) anyway, after it was cancelled; or the person who moves to San Francisco without relocation because he “really believes in” a product that he can’t even describe coherently, and that he’ll end up owning 0.05% of. 

What executives understand, almost intuitively, is reciprocity. They give favors to earn favors, but avoid self-sacrifice. They won’t fall into “love of the craft” delusions when “the craft” doesn’t love them back. They’re not afraid to “get political”, because they realize that work is mostly politics. The only people who can afford to be apolitical or “above the fray”, after all, are the solid political winners. But until one is in that camp, one simply cannot afford to take that delusion on. 

If programmers want to be taken seriously, and we should be taken seriously and we certainly should want this, we’re going to have to take stock of our compromised position and fix it, even if that’s “getting political”. We’re going to have to stop glorifying pointless self-sacrifice for what is ultimately someone else’s business transaction, and start asserting ourselves and our values. 

I feel like you could substitute programmers with designers and almost all of the points made would remain valid.

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