A photo of my face, taken in Jan 2014.

Autobiography

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The basics

That interested in me, huh? Well, I’m a mid-30s single gay man, a coder in constant pursuit of deep hack mode, a Linux zealot, and a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area (after having previously lived in Kansas all my life).

Here is my Geek Code. If you don’t know what it is, visit the Wayback Machine archive of geekcode.com for a detailed explanation.

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.1
GCS d-- s+:+ a C++(++++) UL++++$ P+++ L+++ E- W+++ N(+)
o? K? w---(++) !O M- !V PS+++ PE-@ Y+ PGP+ t++@ 5++ X+@
R+@ !tv b++ DI++ D++ G++ e*>++ h+ r>% y++*
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------

Due to the march of time, the following codes are no longer relevant in 2014: “P”, “N”, “M” (specific to MacOS 9 and earlier), “DI”, “D”, and “G”. I have left them in their original states for posterity.

P+++: After Perl 6 turned into a slow-motion disaster, I went through a Python phase and am now trying to find excuses to write new projects in Go. As I write more multi-line scripts in awk than Perl these days, I guess I’m a “P-” now.

N(+): Man, what happened there?

M-: OS X has a character prompt, which is an improvement, but it’s still not my favorite *nix by a long shot.

X+: This rating applies to X-Files S1 through S6 and the first movie, “Fight the Future”. S6 was weak but still had some good one-off episodes. However, S7 through S10 don’t exist as far as I’m concerned. (Actually, the mytharc got tedious way back in S4/S5 — I was just too busy checking out Alex Krycek to care at the time. But by S6, even the monster-of-the-week episodes were heading downhill.)

DI++: Was Scott Adams always kind of an asshole and we just didn’t notice?

D++: I suppose I should have realized sooner that iD was an engine company, not a game company. (Says an owner of Quake 3 Arena, retail Linux edition.)

G++: For those about to geek, we salute you.


My handle

In case you’re curious about what “Chronos Tachyon” means, TL;DR is that it refers to my childhood fascination with time travel, black holes, and General Relativity.

Long version: I chose it because it doesn’t mean anything even though it sounds like it should. Sort of like “Transmeta”. (Remember that, fellow Linux geeks?) Chronos (Χρονος – leading chi) is Greek for “time”, although many people confuse it with the Greek god Cronus/Kronos (Κρονος – leading kappa), the King of the Titans who was overthrown by his son Zeus. The confusion is understandable given that the pronunciations drifted together over time — in later eras, even the Greeks themselves were confusing the two when re-reading their earlier stories. Tachyon is also Greek, literally meaning “swift one”, but more notably referring to a hypothetical particle that travels faster than light/backwards in time (same thing, really).

To be perfectly honest, the fact that my online handle has a fictitious last name is a dead giveaway that I coined it as a teenager.


Linux

With regards to computers, I’m 100% Linux geek these days.

I started off in 1999-ish with Slackware, hand-compiling everything not in the base distro and manually upgrading through three GCC C++ ABIs and two glibc major revisions. Ugh, screw that.

These days I use Debian and its derivatives 100% of the time. Debian is Linux with dependencies done right.


Gay

With regards to sexual orientation, I’m gay and I figured it out a long time ago. Around age 12 I started to notice that I was interested in sex, just not sex with women. At first I assumed interest in women would come later, but after a few months of confusion I put two and two together. It wasn’t so much a brilliant flash as it was a quiet “oh, this does explain a few things”.

I came out to my mom a month before my 16th birthday, and to the rest of my family (somewhat involuntarily) later that year. I came out to close friends in high school and college, but I never did work up the guts to, for instance, tell my college roommates. It wasn’t until I’d been working my post-college blue-collar job for a year that I actually came out to someone who wasn’t a friend. (It came up in conversation, so I told the guy. He was also a gossip hub, which saved me a lot of work.)

My first serious relationship was fairly late. He was a co-worker at my post-college blue-collar job. We got together right around my 25th birthday and it lasted about two and a half years. It’s kind of hard to pin down a specific date when things were clearly doomed, but we did part on good terms when I moved away from Kansas. I consider it a valuable learning experience: things I could’ve done better on my part, things I should’ve been watching out for… and things I should’ve run away screaming from.


Atheist

With regards to religion, I’m a straight-up atheist these days, but it’s been a journey.

Back in high school, the one-word summary of my beliefs was “Deism”, the belief that there is a higher power that created the Universe, but rarely interferes: “God the Watchmaker”, or “God who Got it Right the First Time and Didn’t Have to Muck About with Miracles and Prophets and Virgin Births to Fix His Screw-Ups”. It had its heyday in the Enlightenment of the 1700s; many of the American founders were Deists, as were many of their intellectual inspirations back in England. When I read about it as a teenager, it clicked with me in a way that Christianity never had.

Gradually, though, it became increasingly apparent to me that Deism was still one God more than I felt I could honestly believe in. By the time I entered college, I considered myself an “soft” agnostic — “Don’t ask me, man, I didn’t do it!”. In the end, I found myself leaning more and more toward a “soft” atheist position — “Well, I suppose a God could be hiding somewhere, if He/She/It really enjoys a good game of Hide-and-Seek, but who are we really kidding here?”

For college and a little while afterward, despite my growing atheism I convinced myself I was a Secular Buddhist… until I realized that, while there’s such a thing as too much attachment to the materialist world, there’s also such a thing as too little. Plus, after visiting museums with Buddhist iconography and religious art, I’ve decided that “The Eightfold Path” has about as much to do with real-world Buddhism as “Turn the other cheek” has to do with real-world Christianity, and it’s actually all about rituals and regimented superstitions. Big turn-off.

As a “soft” atheist, I don’t deny the possibility of a higher power. However, I don’t find it particularly likely, and if a higher power does exist, He/She/It obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about whether or not we worship Him/Her/It and has no obvious intention to hand out advice about meaning-of-life stuff. And I outright disbelieve in miracles or intervention of any sort — if I saw evidence that suggested a miracle, I would question my own senses and/or my own understanding of nature than to suppose that nature’s laws really did just check out and go on vacation.

I find it striking that, for all the self-professed “humility” of believers, most believe that their own understanding is itself infallible. Also, very few seem to actually come to grips with the moral problems posed by their beliefs. For instance, very few Christians actually bite the bullet that “original sin” implies “all babies should be set on fire and kept alive forever in that state so that they can experience their proper and well-deserved quantity of suffering”, and very few Buddhists seem to care that “karma” means “blame the victim, nothing is an accident, every civilian maimed by a landmine totally deserved to lose that limb”.

Enough on what I don’t believe. Philosophically, I’m a Secular Humanist, a materialist, a reductionist, a consequentialist, and a Utilitarian. I don’t know what kind of Utilitarian. I kind of like Adam Lee’s “The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick”, which lays out what the author calls “Universal Utilitarianism”, but it’s still too fuzzy and informal for my tastes. The Metaethics sequence of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Less Wrong is a little better but still pretty vague, although I'm less enamored with Yudkowsky’s oeuvre these days — one person I follow calls Less Wrong “The Cult That Shall Not Be Named”, and with good reason.

I’m not particularly concerned that I don’t formally understand my moral system: we might spend centuries trying to decipher how a human morality works, just as we spent centuries figuring out how the body works. But just as a liver functions without its owner needing to understand that it’s made of cells that express cytochrome P450 and other enzymes that break down poisonous molecules in stepwise fashion, likewise our morality works without needing to understand which criteria it considers and how it weighs them.

If you haven’t heard of it, Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney is a surprisingly good listen. She’s best known as the actress who played Pat in the “It’s Pat!” skits on Saturday Night Live, but she’s actually a lot funnier when she’s being herself, and she has a rather humorous take on her life’s story. She does an excellent job of addressing the fears she initially felt about ethics without religion, and does it in a very friendly and approachable way.

Less seriously, I’m also a Discordian. Hail Eris. My full Holy Name is “Saint Chronos Tachyon, Guardian of Eristic Paraphernalia and Gatekeeper of the Region of Thud”. (Although I suppose I’m now “Gatekeeper Emeritus of the Region of Thud” since I’ve moved away from Kansas.) My favorite Discordian parable is “A SERMON ON ETHICS AND LOVE”:

Mal-2: I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe.

Eris: WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?

Mal-2: But nobody Wants it! Everybody hates it.

Eris: OH. WELL, THEN STOP.

At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.

I’m also a card-carrying legally ordained minister via the Universal Life Church. Absolve your sins, only $5! (And, yes, the irony of being a legally ordained atheist minister is precisely as delightful as it sounds.)