reading: Hackers & Painters, by Paul Graham

I enjoyed Paul Graham’s essay, “How to do what you love,”  a ton – I think I’ve read it five times. In fact, that plus Robin Sloan’s “Fish” tap essay have me thinking there should be a service that allows you to not only bookmark links, but view them in a heatmap based on the number of times you’ve opened them. Build that for me, k?

The reason I cannot build it myself is because I am not a hacker (yet). But part of the reason I read Paul’s book (Hackers & Painters) is because I am hacker-curious. His point, at least on the back cover, is that the world – our phones, our TVs – is increasingly made up of computers, so we should understand the people who are building computers and computer programs if we want to survive. Perhaps he says it in not so dramatic terms.

What I didn’t expect from Paul’s book is that it was a series of essays. For anyone who writes a blog, you should know that before the blog, there was a literary format called the essay, and essay writers got away with packaging their essays into a book and selling it. So copy/paste your blog posts into a file and post that shit on Amazon. Thank me later. I’m actually kidding (I will edit it for you so it’s more concise).

Anyway, the first essay in H&P is about being raised in the suburbs, and surviving high school. It is fascinating. Turns out, smart kids aren’t unpopular *because* they’re smart – it’s because they’re more interested in being smart than being popular. Even though they wouldn’t admit it, they would claim they’d sacrifice IQ for popularity, but in reality they do not. This was fascinating to me, as a woman who is so convinced I’d give up my career for the right man, and have babies and so on, but I keep letting these wonderful men pass me by. Might be something to it.

Then, for the rest of the book, Paul convinces us we should all learn Lisp. It is simply The Best. What, you don’t know it yet? Well, if you use Python, you’re almost there. It is just like that, but better. And your competitors will *never* keep up because they’ll not understand why anyone would use Lisp. Also, check your competitor’s job postings to get insight into where they’re headed. Totally works.

Finally, for the first time ever, I asked my dad a question about his career and understood the answer. See, my dad was an engineer (recently retired). Most projects he worked on, I didn’t understand, but the last one I get a freebie because it was top secret and he’s not allowed to tell me. Anyway, he coded in machine language. It is the 1s and 0s. A language like Lisp or Java or Fortran “speaks” to machine language. You can be more precise in machine language but it is very tedious. I am not surprised that programming satellites needed more precisisity than creating the first Yahoo Store.