I like to think that I’m a good representation of the San Francisco and Silicon Valley: A locavore linux geek with interests in cooking, gardening, home improvement and Burning Man. All this with a bit of Lindy Hop and Blues dancing and DJing on the side.
Linux and Open Source
My first “real” job was during college at UCSD: in 1995 I got an internship over the summer working at Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics. My mentor Frank Wyatt taught me to analyze GPS data that was taken at different locations to measure plate techtonic motions in southern California. All the analysis was done with an old UNIX machine that had a built-in keyboard and monitor, which worked ok, but it was pretty slow. There was this new machine that was much faster, and it ran an UNIX-clone called Linux. I went to work learning C-shell in order to modify complicated scripts that processed the GPS data. That’s how I got started…
In graduate school, I used UNIX systems to process my research data using MATLAB. I wrote more and more scripts to glue a bunch of different programs together to provide a seamless data analysis process. In about 1998, I tried running Linux PPC (Red Hat) on my old Macintosh hardware, but it (or I) wasn’t ready to use it as my primary computer. It wasn’t until I graduated and moved to Silicon Valley that I decided it was time to jump into Linux with both feet, and use it as my primary computer.
In 2001, I started running my own Apache server on a Red Hat Linux distribution. I used it as my primary desktop, and grew with the operating system. I transition from C-Shell to BASH, got hacked through an insecure password on a stray ssh account, and read every Linux Journal for some time. The December issue of Linux Journal had an article, “DVD Authoring” that inspired me to try my own hand at making a DVD. Remember, this was a time when us Linux folks were always jealous of the Mac and Windows guys who got to do all the consumer-ended things first through proprietary software. I wrote a big BASH script to convert a bunch of pictures into a video dvd slideshow using dvdauthor, sox, and imagemagick, and it worked so well that I decided to release it as open source code and give back a little to the Open Source community: dvd-slideshow was born.
More recently, I’ve migrated to Ubuntu and clobbered together a multitude of BASH scripts to do all sorts of things including organizing and syncing my .mp3 files to help me when I’m DJing Swing or Blues music. My weather station is also run with a bunch of BASH scripts. Just as I’ve moved from C-Shell to BASH 10 years ago, I’m now making the transition from BASH to Python as my primary scripting language.
I started going to a free dance every month at Cornell when I was there for grad school. There was a free Ballroom Dance lesson also, so I learned a few basic steps in a variety of dances, but never actually got good at any of them. Once I saw a couple doing Lindy Hop on campus, it looked like so much fun that I signed up for PAID classes in 1999, and believe it or not, you actually learn how to dance when you pay instructors and practice a few times a week. We had our share of creepers in Ithaca, but I was learning from Skye Humphries (still in high school) and Sarah Spence, and they were so inspiring that I kept with it for a long time.
It was in Ithaca that I started collecting music. This was the days of Napster and .mp3s, so there was a lot of music available online, and one could download whole collections from people who were sharing. I built up my collection by buying CDs and asking the names of my favorite songs, but didn’t have enough music until much later. Once I moved to San Jose, I joined the Double-or-Nothing dance troop and my friend Donia was running our local Wednesday night venue called Wednesday Night Hop. I started DJing short sets in 2005, and then as my confidence grew, I’d play for the full 3 hour set. I was also a regular DJ at The Rent Party venue in SF while it was open.
Cooking & Gardening
I like to say that my interest in cooking was created by my Dad’s lack of interest in food. I didn’t realize how muted our culinary palates were when my brother and I were growing up, but we never had Indian food, Thai, or Greek, for example. It was a rare treat when we would to go Grandma’s or Babcii’s house and they’d serve things with onions in them. Grandma’s meatloaf was so much better, but it wasn’t until I was cooking for myself that I understood that adding onions and peppers to beef tastes much better than just saltines and ketchup. So I started exploring by eating out in college, and cooking for myself in graduate school. My roommate Mathieu introduced me to a bottle of nicely aged Bordeaux and that fueled a passion to taste the dirt in my wine. In the bay area, I was introduced to the concept of organic food, then slow food, then local sustainable food, and finally local sustainable seasonal food.
I owe my green thumb to my grandma, who always had a compost pile, and grew a multitude of vegetables in her kitchen garden in Fullerton. I gardened quite successfully while I was a kid in San Diego- growing mostly tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini. In Ithaca, the weather was cold in the winter, warm in the summer, and the deer and woodchucks would happily eat anything I could grow. My home in Sunnyvale had an enormous garden in the back, and I converted it into my first beautiful garden. I planted my first winter garden in 2008, and soon realized that at times I was able to eat mostly out of my backyard, and I ate much more vegetables than I would if I had to go buy things at the store. My home in San Francisco has a nice garden space, but it needs to be terraced first, so I’m currently growing on a steep slope and in lots of containers until the garden project is complete.
When I moved to San Jose in 2001, housing was so tight that I decided to live with a friend of my brother who had just bought a house and had an extra room available. He was preparing that summer to go to this crazy event in the Nevada desert, and after seeing a few pictures, I was determined to go sometime soon. On the other hand, the dot-com bubble had just burst and my company was laying off people, so I decided that taking a week off wasn’t the best idea right after I started. So 2002 was my first burn, and it took me many years to truly understand what it’s all about. The first year, we ended up camping right next to a big psy-trance camp without knowing it, and I was afraid to interact with anyone and didn’t have enough time to see much art. So in the following years, I was determined to correct those issues; forced myself to interact more (with great rewards) and made a point to take lots of artistic pictures of art in another year. With the help of my camp, I’ve been making inlaid wooden necklaces almost every year I’ve been going, and it’s been the greatest gift to receive a big smile and hug from someone who really appreciates the work that’s gone into making them.