Caution: Tulpa

I’ve recently made a startling discovery: Maybe there really is a tulpa in my head.

First, I’ve said for many years that my brain is broken. (Yes, I am aware I have terrible self-talk.) Here’s why I call it broken: I am literally unable to NOT see problems. I notice an endless onslaught of things that, in my opinion, could be improved. I don’t mean, “that sucks, I wish it could be better.” No, I mean, “that sucks and it’s obvious this way would be better and if you’d just let me get started . . . ” Adderall might help, I suppose.

Everyone loves that I get stuff done, and try to make things better. But unless you have this same problem, I’d imagine it’s hard to understand how this is debilitating. I am aware that this is recursive—I see my own brain as a broken process that I feel I should repair. All I can say is that you should be happy, and thank your fave diety if that’s your thing, that you don’t understand. Because to understand is to have the problem, and you do. not. want. this. problem.

Second, I’ve also said for many years that, “the remainder cannot go into the computer.” I’m referring to a endless source of struggle in programming and systems administration; Computers are exact, and the real world—with its real people, real problems, and things which really are subjective shades of gray—is not. So programmers and systems administrators factor, in the mathematical sense of finding factors which when multiplied give you the original, reality into the computers. And when factoring reality, there is always a remainder. That remainder shows up when you find your software does something weird. That could be a mistake, but I tell you from experience, it is more often some edge case. Some people had to make choices when they factored.

The result of that second point is that I’ve spent the majority of my life factoring, (and “normalizing” for your math geeks who know about vector spaces,) problems into computers. And then trying to live with the remainders that didn’t go into the computer. The remainders are all in my head. Or on post-it notes on my wall, (back in the day.) Or the remainder is some scheduled item reminding me to check the Foobazzle process to ensure the comboflux has not gone frobnitz. To do that I had to intentionally be pragmatic and logical. And the really scary part is I also learned that the best way to do all of that was to talk to myself—sometimes literally, bat-shit crazy, out loud, but usually very loudly inside my own mind—to discover the smallest, least-worst, remainder that I could manage to live with.

What if those two things were sufficient to create a Tulpa. (I am serious.)

I think there’s a Tulpa in here! (My title is the sign on the front gate.) It is absolutely pragmatic. It knows an alarming amount of detail about things I’ve built, (or maintained, or fixed.) It is cold and calculating. It is terrified that it will forget about one of those details, 2347 will happen, and everyone will run out of ammunition defending their canned goods from the roaming bands of marauders. I definitely don’t “have” the Tulpa. It’s more like discovering there’s an extra person living in your house. Although, I don’t hold hope of banishing this Tulpa, Yoda does make a good point if I’m going to try. So, I should definitely give it a name.

Maybe, Sark?

That is an intriguing idea indeed! Sark, what do you think?


To serve man

And you know why I do it? I need that help, too. I get tired, angry, upset, emotional, cranky, irritable, frustrated and I need to be reminded from time to time to choose to be the better version of myself. I don’t always succeed. But I want to. And I believe everyone else – for some reasonable statistical value of everyone else – fundamentally does, too.

~ Jeff Atwood from,

He had me at the “to serve man” Twighlight Zone reference…


End of another era

I’ve been dutifully tending equipment in this bay for 15 years… little bit sad that I won’t ever drive here again. On the other hand, 10 years ago I nearly died in a car crash (not my fault) coming here in the middle of the night. There’s an invisible army of system admin who work around the world, every hour of every day. We make every aspect of your modern world function. I’m proud to be one of them, doing my little part.


The folly of the unwise

When I left, the search for my replacement took a long time. Much longer than I’d have preferred, and to an eventually unsatisfactory conclusion for everyone involved, I believe. I contented myself with the knowledge that my skill set was sufficiently wide in breadth and complex in nature that I was hard to replace. I used this to buoy my ego. ALthough I had sympathy for the people I was leaving, and the one I left in my stead, it felt good to be needed and wanted, and I was proud that I could fill that role like no one else we’d found.

Such is the folly of the unwise, I’m afraid.

~ Matt Simmons from,

Note to self: Hang out with Matt more and listen to what he has to say.


Less interrupting please

I have seen this happen more times than the number of yaks I’ve shaved. At nearly every job I’ve had, I’ve walked this fine line. I’ve had performance reviews where I’ve been called pushy, aggressive, assertive, abrasive, or bitchy simply for speaking up in a similar manner to that of my male colleagues, and on the other side of things, I’ve been interrupted and spoken over more times than I can count. I’ve worked at places where I was the only one being interrupted (backstory: I’ve been the only woman in a lot of engineering departments), which has bothered me. But I’ve also worked at places where everyone interrupts each other all the time. For a while, I thought that was better. “At least I’m not being spoken over because I’m the only woman; the guys get interrupted too,” I thought to myself. But everyone interrupting everyone else really isn’t that much better.

~ Katherine Daniels from,

For, let’s say, the first half of my life, I was always the one doing the interrupting. As I’ve begun to listen, I now realize how much everyone interrupts everyone else. When I’m relaxed and on my game, I try to have a meta-listening happening so I can tell when to stop talking to keep the conversation working. As best I can manage, when I’m interrupted, I simply stop talking.

But sometimes, just for fun, I like to toss this in quietly while the interrupter is still speaking…

Oh! I’m sorry, did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?


The forsaken art of pedagogy

In other words, you actually belong to a wider group: you are one of the increasingly commonplace factions of society that takes pride in not bothering to make yourself understood. You feel entitled to let others worry about what you really mean, and even revel in the tribalism of `being in the know’ rather than letting others into your secret world, as if playing the role of an ignorant tourist in a foreign country.

~ Mark Burgess from,


The third wave of IT engineering

Just as human society still envelops everything from pre-agricultural tribes, farming communities, and factory sweat-shops to information-based commerce, in different parts of the globe, so IT today straddles all three `waves’ of development from manual chaos to goal-oriented self-repair in different organizations.

~ Mark Burgess from,


Programming sucks

Every friend I have with a job that involves picking up something heavier than a laptop more than twice a week eventually finds a way to slip something like this into conversation: “Bro,1 you don’t work hard. I just worked a 4700-hour week digging a tunnel under Mordor with a screwdriver.”

System administration sucks too:

… And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

~ Peter Welch from,

hear! hear!



It’s been said by a number of smart people that DevOps is largely founded in an organization’s skillful collaboration and communication, and the culture that results. I agree with that idea, and I also think that it’s one of the reasons why the term DevOps is sometimes difficult to explain, because these are ‘soft’ skills we’re talking about. These aren’t things you can graph or alert on, they only manifest in the resulting product and environment.

~ John Allspaw from,