Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

05 May 2013, 21:04 p.m.

A Really Long-Winded Way of Saying That Maybe I Love Techno Now

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2013 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 So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it!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.

That thought about music, love and transformation made me think of how strange and world-changing it is to find a new friend or author or musician or project or workplace and suddenly click.

They taught me in my management classes that thriving is a function of a person and their environment. That helped me to see things unemotionally. "Bad fit" really does exist.

Every collaboration will be particular, like all power and influence is particular (financial, emotional, cultural, military). You'll get leaks and emergent behavior, and sometimes you can funnel energy, but sometimes it refuses to be fungible. It withers and dies, misdirected, confused. Sometimes that joule, that heat is irrevocably specific.[0] It makes you think about lasers and firehoses, flamethrowers and kindling, and limited burns at the urban-wildlife interface, and how high the specific heat of water is, and how water composes most of our bodies, and the compressed energy inside anyone needs just the right conditions to shine.

Do you remember stoichiometry?

That was the bit from chemistry about making sure that both sides of the equation matched, if I remember Mr. Marson's class right. (I wish I still had that extra credit project, where I went through the chemistry books for names and phrases and just made up like thirty or a hundred puns from scratch and wrote them on posterboard.) If you have two oxygens, and then three more, on the left, you'll end up with five, in some configuration, on the right.

Stoichiometry is tautology. There must be a metric zillion idioms, spanning every human time and place, reducing to the identity property plus the forward direction of time. "If you stand in the rain, you'll get wet." "A hungry cat will look for food." They sound like something you'd program into Cyc. We have sayings like "recipe for disaster" and "prescription for catastrophe," but the chemical equation suits some surprises best as a metaphor, because love is chemistry[1], and because sometimes you are an absent-minded would-be scientist, putting two and two and two together and getting surprised when you end up with six and your hair on fire.[2]

If I stop by a restaurant often enough, I'll be a regular. If I work with people on something we care about, those people will become real to me and I'll find myself a member of a new tribe. If I self-medicate my mood with a particular album and incorporate it into the rhythm of my day, how is that not love? Why fight it?

I'm taking stock of my supply cabinets and my heat sources. The summer student's gotten the hang of safety procedures and requisitions and the rhythm of notes and meetings and R and late-night discoveries. I'm really just getting used to the idea that there's always going to be this lab here, that there's always R&D going on in my heart, no matter how polished the products and services I make a habit of offering to the public. That I can't stop growing and learning and changing and experimenting and compounding, that every once in a while I will run across something "new" whose existence was -- I always realize belatedly -- prefigured in the periodic table.

[0] I'm thinking of freshman year at Cal, Comparative Politics, learning about patron-client dyads, thick vs. thin relationships, the innovation that is bureaucracy, the impulse to rational-legalism, how attractive those clear roles seem and how quickly they blur in practice, how healthy humans resist not treating others as full complete people to love and hate and screw.

[1] The saying goes: lust is biology, love is chemistry, sex is physics. My take: I've always asked "what is love?" not as a hair-stroking poet by the river, but as a frantic sysadmin space-barring through man pages.

[2] But we are analog; we can't spec out our futures pixel-perfect.


06 May 2013, 7:37 a.m.

Thank you for this and the last post, for weaving poetry through a world my heart recognizes. I wish I could express this more coherently.

06 May 2013, 11:47 a.m.

I especially love the line "I've always asked 'what is love?' not as a hair-stroking poet by the river, but as a frantic sysadmin space-barring through man pages."

06 May 2013, 12:01 p.m.

This makes me happy. I started today by thinking about how much I love my vitamins. So much that I thought they deserved ridiculous romance novel titles. The Billionaire Virgin's Vitamin D Supplement, and so on. I asked my Facebook friends for other loved objects to objectify in the romance title style, and got some great answers. My favorite is The Greek Tycoon's Headstrong Off-brand Ibuprofen. For you: The Texas Rancher's Techno Secret.