SIGAVDI #53: Tamale Edition

Hello friends,

I’m on my mom’s back porch on a sunny Sunday in Knoxville. Last night I spent a solid 6 hours dancing and socializing at my favorite club night. Today I feel pleasantly fatigued and a bit languid.

A minute ago I looked up one of my old blog articles and was struck by how much of an asshole I used to be. When I started blogging I was strongly influenced by the tone of early popular blogs, which were mostly White Men Having Smug Opinions About Things. I guess I thought: ah, this must be how you make a name for yourself: have loud Hot Takes about everything, and criticize the writing of people with a bigger following until someone takes notice of you.

At first I thought this was just a stage everyone passes through. But as I think about it more I wonder if it’s a patriarchy pattern. Something something hero’s journey, something something Luke Skywalker, something something kill your father-figure.

Joseph Campbell is an interesting read but boy oh boy, dude had a one-track mind. I’ve read Hero with 1,000 Faces, and listened to his famous interview series with Bill Moyers. And what came across was less that the same archetypes are repeated over and over, and more that Campbell had one big idea and found ways to see it everywhere.

Hm, this is a cautionary tale when it comes to me and my obsession with seeing processes. Also, I just criticized the pattern of tearing down an old guy by tearing down an old guy ????

I still have lots of opinions, albeit with lower confidence. Hm, actually, let me quote the article I just linked:

The loudest, most bombastic engineer states their case with certainty, and that shuts down discussion. Other people either assume the loudmouth knows best, or don’t want to stick out their neck and risk criticism and shame. This is especially true if the loudmouth is senior, or there is any other power differential.

Diverse members of your team may be less likely to have experienced the collegial, open debate environment, and may feel uncertain of their position. This means you might not hear their ideas. Given the extensive research that shows diverse teams make smarter decisions, this is tragic.

Even if someone does have the courage to push back, in practice the original speaker isn’t likely to be holding their opinion as loosely as they think. Having stated their case, they are anchored to it and will look for evidence that confirms it and reject anything contradictory. It is a natural tendency to want to win the argument and be the smartest person in the room.

Once upon a time, Cardboard Tube Swordplay (CTS) wasn’t considered a legitimate sport. If people had heard of it at all they generally sneered at it. If it appeared in popular culture at all it was usually as the butt of jokes.

One way or another, the early CTS players (“tubies”) found each other. They recognized kindred spirits and started having meetups and even conventions. Slowly, painfully, and with many arguments they hammered out the sport we all know and love today.

Where once there was just a vague, amorphous area of overlapping interest, the tubies created boundaries and categories. They created the classes of competition – longtube, paper towel, packing tube, etc., along with standardized tube gauges. They came up with quantified ways to rate and rank competitors. They agreed on safety regulations. They composed the Rites of Challenge. Leagues were formed. Eventually, twelve recognized Tube Masters gathered together and authored The Way of the Tube (WotT), which defined (among other things) the path of tube ascendancy: how a novice must apprentice to a series of masters before finally confronting the Cardboard Gauntlet.

By defining boundaries of what was and was not CTS, the tubies conferred legitimacy on themselves. When outsiders would make uneducated claims about tubies being “a bunch of kids beating each other over the heads with foam swords”, the CTS community was able to push back and tell them that, actually, headstrikes are banned, duels are carefully refereed, and styrofoam is never involved. Steadily the sport gained recognition and serious coverage.

A generation passed, and a funny thing happened. What was once a sport for nerds and weirdos became a pop culture phenomenon. Where once a novice could spend months searching for a Tube Master to train them, now thousands of YouTube videos offered “how to” tutorials. Accelerated training “tubecamps” sprang up all over the world.

A new breed of tubies arose: ones who had never faced the tubie stigma; had never been derisively told to pick up a “real sport”.

And these nu-tubies showed no respect or even gratefulness to the old guard. They scorned the apprenticeship system. They made stupid mistakes and created unnecessary drama that never would have happened if they had just adhered to the Rites of Challenge. They introduced outlandish new elements such as pool noodles.

Many established CTS authorities questioned whether this new guard were even “real tubies” at all. Some elders, including several of the WotT authors, began pushing for a tubie certification program. They created cults of personality, recruiting impressionable younger tubies searching for a sense of identity, teaching them to sneer at “damp tubies” for being insufficiently disciplined.

The free-thinking youngsters, in response, accused the old-timers of “gatekeeping”. They pointed out that some CTS traditions such as the Cardboard Gauntlet were more like hazing rituals, which discouraged prospective players. They noted that the old guard seemed to all come from the same socioeconomic background and questioned whether toxic CTS culture was keeping the sport from becoming more diverse.

More importantly, they asked, wasn’t CTS originally supposed to be about having fun, not about parsing rule manuals?

The elders replied: This kind of fun is serious business. We created this game out of chaos. We painfully won our recognition, the recognition that you now enjoy. This is our game, and you can’t play it if you don’t play it right.

What I’m grateful for this week: The DJs, staff, and everyone who attends my local goth/industrial night. It’s an inspiring, cathartic, restorative experience every time I go, and I’ve met so many wonderful friends through it.

What meetup I’m going to this week: well I’m off to St. Louis on Wednesday, but I might be able to make KnoxvilleJS. I haven’t been to that one yet.

Let’s see how I did:

  • ✔ Get two me-authored RubyTapas episodes ready for the team. Done. Two more episodes on async are moving forward into production.
  • ✔ Get another episode of The Cache Flush out. Done, and you can find it here
  • ✔ Keep working out on a daily basis. Maybe not every day, but I get a few five-mile runs and a night of dancing in, so ima call that a win
  • ✔ Edit that video about building chatbots in Ruby. Done! I’m excited to move forward into publishing and marketing this one.

This week:

  • Livestream with Jess, since I’ll be in St. Louis
  • Pre-sell and get started marketing the chatbots video.
  • Book a Rubber Duck Session or two. Want me to sit down with you and talk code, architecture, career, or other? Get in touch!
  • Pick a first business metric to track and figure out how to track it.
  • Book summer camp(s) for the kids


That’s plenty for today. Thanks for reading, and stay in touch!