1) If you couldn't write code for a living, what would you do?
I've actually thought about this occasionally, since some of my friends have fallen out of the industry from time to time. It's horribly easy to do, because the programming business is ruthless: either you keep your skills sharp and current at all times, or you'll find yourself a has-been in ten years. I don't expect it to happen to me, but only because I work quite hard to stay on the cutting edge.
(More plausibly, I *could* be put out of work by outsourcing. But so far, the outsourcing companies are selling quantity, not quality, and haven't put me in much obvious danger.)
Anyway, options I've considered include:
- Writing. Yes, this is what everyone says, and I know that it's *vastly* harder than it looks. But I'm not a terrible writer, and I suspect that I could become a good one if I actually put some major time and effort into it. (I have this Shakespearean play sitting on the back burner that I *am* going to actually write one of these days.)
- Games. A tough business to crack, but as in the above I probably have many of the relevant skills. Not clear whether I could make an adequate living at it, though.
- Politics. Not as a candidate -- while I might entertain fantasies about that, I know how long the odds are against a short Jewish iconoclast. But I could see myself involved in the backroom side of things. Might give me a heart attack, but I'd likely find it absorbing as hell.
- Consulting. Let's get real: my father hasn't programmed for a living in decades, and he makes more than twice what I do per hour. If I was being strictly rational about it, I *should* follow in his footsteps in this respect.
- Business. I know that I have problems as a business leader, but that's partly because I dither too much. If I was stuck in a position of "make money or starve", I actually suspect I wouldn't be bad at it.
2) Name one organization you haven't joined and want to.
This one's easy: York Rite.
The thing is, while Freemasonry looks like this big monolithic thing from the outside, it's actually broken down into lots of constituent organizations -- closely related, but not identical. In particular, there are four bits that are more or less universal in the US:
- Blue Lodge Masonry -- the basic three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. Any "regular" Mason belongs to Blue Lodge.
- Scottish Rite -- an additional 29 degrees. Nowadays, these are done in a less immersive fashion than Blue Lodge: more about *watching* a ritual than being a direct part of it. And you don't actually have to go through all 29 in order. Very popular.
- York Rite -- similar concept to Scottish Rite, but not quite as many degrees and sticking with the more-immersive style of Blue Lodge. This is itself broken down into three subparts: Council, Chapter and Commandery.
- Shrine -- yes, the guys with the fezzes and little cars. Any York or Scottish Rite Mason can join the Shrine.
The problem is that I *care* altogether too much about this stuff. I don't have any additional free time to attend every month, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to contemplate joining and not becoming an active participant. I know that most of the guys in York Rite poo-pooh this -- they'd be more than happy to have a candidate who is genuinely interested, even if I can't attend regularly -- but it's held me back. One of these days, though, I'll probably join: I'm simply way too curious to experience the ritual.
3) If you could go back, would you major in anything different in college than you did?
No, really not. Keep in mind, I started as a theater major -- that's part of why I went to Brandeis. But I quickly realized that (a) doing theater at the professional level would be very hard work, and (b) odds are pretty good that I would never make a lot of money. By contrast, I could pretty well breeze my way through programming, and would be likely to make a comfortable living at it.
Basically, I quickly realized that, while I *enjoy* acting, it isn't my calling -- and it's not a job for the dilettante. And the truth is, it's become ever-clearer over the years that programming *is* my calling -- not just my job, but my *art*, and I love to express myself in code. That's why, despite the above list of other careers I could conceivably pursue, I've never seriously contemplated shifting tracks: I simply love coding too much.
4) You can change one thing about the SCA - what is it?
Oooh -- that's a hard one. Such a target-rich environment.
Okay, let's be counter-factual, since we're indulging in fantasy: I would prevent the Corporation from having been founded until five years later. For my money, most of the SCA's problems stem from the excessive identification of the Society and the Corporation -- the idea that you *can't* have the game without the business. That leads to a host of problems, ranging from the overly centralized bureaucracy to the budget woes. I think the Corporation is useful, mind -- but it would have been nice if it had grown up late enough in the club's evolution to be more properly perceived as the Society's servant rather than its master.
5) Invite five people from history over to dinner. Who are they?
You ask this of the specialist non-historian, of course. Okay, assuming away the language difficulties, and slightly at random:
- Francis Willoughby -- from his work, clearly a geek who was passionate about games
- The guy who wrote the Gresley MS -- so I could ask him what the heck he was talking about
- Alfonso X -- simply from the great works he commissioned, clearly a scholar of diverse interests
- Leif Eriksson -- for the stories of his travels
- Benjamin Franklin -- because I suspect he'd be fascinated by how history unfolded, and it would make a neat theory vs. practice discussion
ETA: I'm not promising questions -- I simply don't have time to do a lot of them, and I find question-asking fairly hard. But if you want some, say so and I'll try...