The One Where I Run Blind (Week 3)

Captain’s Log

Week 3

Giving Up Good Sense

Last week, I spent a week, alone, in Henderson, Nevada, a small town east of Las Vegas. I rented an AirBnB near the Union Pacific Railroad Trail, a 10 mile road trail that celebrates the Union Pacific Railroad company — a relic from a century past. It might seem weird to vacation in a quiet Las Vegas suburb, but I never miss the chance to run on a good trail.

I set out in the late afternoon for a 45-minute run in the trail. It was an empty trail, stuck in the lull between Christmas holidays and New Year’s resolutions. As I set out on the lonely trail, I did something that I usually don’t get the chance to do when I run, I closed my eyes. There is something truly uplifting about closing your eyes when you run. I sacrifice my sense of self and my physical awareness for a moment. My feet land more firmly and cautiously on the ground. At first, I’m clumsy but soon my feet become aware of the turns in the road and the curves in the asphalt as the road descends into gravel. As my body dedicates more work to the act of running, time passes by more quickly. After I lose my initial fear of running blind, my mind relaxes and tunes itself sharply to the music. Somewhere in the distance I heard the whoosh whoosh of cars that are slower than me. I feel the wind sharply against my bare legs. I smell wet wood chips and mountains as I run. And soon, I stop being a physical being and become a spirit.

Most people with able-vision wouldn’t think to run, or do anything really, with their eyes closed. Not me. I like to run with my eyes closed and code (when possible) with my eyes closed. There is something about giving up one of your most valuable senses in the process of doing something that often demands it. It makes the run more thrilling, the bug less cumbersome, your worries less relevant. By closing your eyes, you sacrifice your sense of place and being in the world and elevate to a plane of existence that is beyond what you are but touches on who you are.

Most people don’t close their eyes when they do things because they don’t want to shut the windows to their souls. For me, closing the window allows me to retreat into the deepest recesses of my mind — a scary but fulfilling place.

I hear the rush of cars in between guitar strums and pop my eyes open. In a world of rushing cars and stop lights, I cannot afford to close my eyes.

An Additive Approach to Software Engineering

Thanks to some marvelous innovations, most people in the Western world live in a society of plenty. Food, shoes, jackets, houses, cars, TVs, JavaScript frameworks — the world has provided us with an abundance of choice. To navigate this world of abundance, we often take a subtractive approach to choice. We look through restaurant menus and isolate what we don’t want, we peruse shopping aisles and identify what we don’t want to purchase. This subtractive approach also applies to the way that we create software — especially in a culture where we have many tools to pick from.

I advise against taking this approach when writing code. Instead, we should take an additive approach to software development. When writing software, you should always start with the absolute minimum needed to solve a problem then add the necessary tools/frameworks/paradigms as you go along. If a framework/tool/paradigm isn’t conducive to integration, it’s probably not the best choice for the long term stability of your project.

I’ve been experimenting with this additive approach in a recent project and it’s worked well so far. There is one major drawback — it does involve quite a bit of refactoring as each new component is added to the project. Although it is a waste of time, I find that it forces me to think critically about how I write software. In any case, it feels good to add as needed instead of take away (and that’s probably why I’m not a fan of opinionated frameworks).

But If A Woman Did It

I was recently having brunch with a girlfriend, and as conversations with girlfriend’s sometimes go, our’s steered to a conversation about boys. In the process, I made a joke about how men are like poorly written APIs. My friend thought it was hilarious and tweeted it. I retweeted the tweet and added some more commentary to the joke. Hahaha! Hilarious! Safia apparently does have a sense of humor.

I was rather surprised by one of the responses that I received to the joke.

This is a sentiment that I’ve heard elsewhere — that cisgender white men aren’t allowed to say some things without being punished and that’s not fair. You might call this a double standard, and that’s sort-of the word for this because there exists a power imbalance (enabled by the patriarchy) between men and women that favors men. As the disempowered (or perhaps underpowered) individual in the equation, my comedy is a justified act of resistance. This double standard isn’t unique to men either. As an able-bodied woman, it would be extremely crass of me to make a joke mocking a differently-abled individual because in that case the power imbalance favors me.

So, yes, we all have things we aren’t allowed to say because we’ve been endowed with certain privileges. It’s not unfair, it’s just decent.

What Am I Reading Now?
My relationship with my Kindle has escalated again. We’re dating now and I’m pretty sure he’s going to ask me to marry him. Here’s how we’ve been keeping ourselves company over the past week.

  • Framed by Christopher Goffard: If you, like me, are a fan of a good mystery thriller, you’ll absolutely fall in love with this long read from the LA Times. I won’t present any spoilers here but let’s say it’s a gruesome tale of revenge set against a backdrop of a scenic upper-middle class American suburb.
  • Unfollow by Adrian Chen: Another great long read that follows one woman’s journey out of the only home she new. If you’re a sucker for brave female protagonists, this long-read is for you!

I was really excited to discover that I was named a Microsoft MVP for 2017 thanks to some of the work I did for the tech community in 2016. I look forward to continuing to push for more engagement in open source, public speaking, and diversity and mutual respect in tech. If you’re working on any projects or have something that you think I might be able to help with, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Engage,
Safia

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