Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

10 Aug 2010, 12:09 p.m.

Blogging, Historical & Logistical Notes

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Today in history: ten years ago Leonard asked a Star Trek trivia question. I tried to answer it via email. This was before I'd ever met Leonard in person, and it was one of the first times I ever wrote to him. This was back when I'd duck into the computing labs in Dwinelle or Evans between classes and kill time with SFGate, Slashdot, and the blog of this guy I'd never met.

Also today I told Leonard how strange it is to find myself changing in response to novel stimuli, and how I'm trying to use science analogies to understand my disorientation. It is as though I were a mature company, selling a stable product line, and I'd forgotten to shut down R&D and suddenly they had this new awesome strange innovation that was knocking all my assumptions and salesfolk off kilter. "There's been this skunkworks project in my heart the whole time!" I exclaimed.

"So it's more like Big Science [analogies]," Leonard offered.

Perhaps the third or fifth email I ever sent Leonard mentioned a book of cartoons, Big Science by Nick Downes, that was on the remaindered table at Cody's Books in Berkeley. I had bought a copy for myself, and told him he'd like it, and that he should come over from San Francisco to buy a copy. "But it's all the way across the Baaaaaaay! ;-)" he said, I approximate. He asked if he could PayPal me the money and have me buy one for him. I said I didn't have a PayPal account. He asked how he was supposed to reap the positive network effects of having joined PayPal if people like me didn't. "Your chicken, your egg, your problem," I replied.

This was back when I was fluffing my plumage, trying to impress this new impossibly smart, funny, accomplished guy, not even realizing yet that I had met someone who would be important to me. We clicked effortlessly and got drunk on it. The emails were fantastic. And then the years went by, and we eventually moved in together and got married, and we can usually laugh and ruminate and say "I love you" face to face. Which is of course wonderful.

(I laughed when Leonard reminded me of Big Science on the phone today, and teased him that instead of buying the book himself, he just got me to fall in love with him. "It was easier," he teased back. And hey, I still don't have a PayPal account.)

But I miss the letters.

One of the worst things about long-term relationships is the temptation to let oneself go -- not physically, necessarily, but in terms of taking care to grow and show one's best self.

(Huh, what's the name of the fallacy that says that if you name the fallacy then it has no power over you?)

Anyway. I'm still in Mysore, coming back next week, and I'd vaguely thought that at least that distance and the timezone difference would give me reason to bring back the epistolary depth -- there's a form of lasting solace I only get by exchanging long, thoughtful, caring letters. But VoIP phone calls plus instant messaging plus effort put into other reading and writing reduce the energy and thought I put into emails to Leonard, which is my shame and one I aim to rectify. So if I'm not blogging or writing to you much, know that my emotional roller coaster continues but I'm basically okay, and that I'm just trying to reduce, by one, one of the many, many ways in which I am a fool.

I do not know what I would do without him.


10 Aug 2010, 14:49 p.m.

I'm glad that you're so in love!

<br/>re: writing and the internet

I just completed a month-long experiment I called Going Postal, in which I sharply reduced my time on social networking and wrote letters to friends.

I used RescueTime to control my internet access often, as I found it difficult -- especially at first -- to maintain this discipline.

I also took a brief trip to Chicago without my computer or iPod, and put the information I needed on 3x5 cards instead. I did more creative writing offline as well, although sometimes I ported it back online.


- I loved writing to people! I would pick one person and write a letter to them all week. Sometimes two people if I had time. I also sent postcards and mix cd's occasionally.

- I got some return letters! A joy in my mailbox! Email is just a responsibility at times.

- It’s low tech! I have pen and paper, nothing to turn on or connection to make.

- It’s distraction-free, just the paper and me.

- It seemed better for my attention span not to be on the 'net as much. I generated more ideas than usual.

- More awareness of the real world and my surroundings, more spontaneity on the street.


- Sometimes the things I was writing were things that I would want to tell to more than one person, but the format of the letter demands a one-to-one relationship. Of course, the recipient could show that letter to others at his/her end and make it one-to-many but I couldn't know that.

- If I wrote about an idea, I felt that I couldn't also write about this in a webspace that the person could access until they got the letter. Content control!

- Sometimes I had to deal with boredom, because I was used to the computer for filling time and solving problems, and I had to do things the old fashioned way (buy a paper! read books!).


- Write about things pertinent mostly to you and the other person.

- Write about eternal things, those that don't need the content/version control I complained about.

- Take advantage of the one-to-one relationship by producing something that is truly customized.

10 Aug 2010, 15:05 p.m.

One of the worst things about long-term relationships is the temptation to let oneself go -- not physically, necessarily, but in terms of taking care to grow and show one's best self.

Also, yes, that can happen. But your partner can also push you to be your best self, no?

Thomas Thurman
10 Aug 2010, 15:25 p.m.

a) This was a happy post, and I know what you mean about the long-distance relationship thing.

b) IKnowYourTrueName...?

10 Aug 2010, 15:39 p.m.

Your posts from India have been so moving, beautifully written -- but this is the one that finally got me to stop lurking and say something. You two are adorable, and both of you are very lucky indeed.

10 Aug 2010, 19:57 p.m.

Just to COMPLETELY geek out and miss the point of this lovely post... so what was the answer to the star trek question? Some handwaving about certain elements not being about to be replicated, right?

10 Aug 2010, 19:58 p.m.

Oh duh the second link answers the question.

Though I thought it was the latinum, somehow, that was the trickier half.