Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Psh. Whatever!

How the hell do I write stuff? It just comes out, like poop, and the result is usually nearly indistinguishable.

Brad Pitt, in an interview, once said something like: "I don't know what the hell I'm doing up there in front of the camera. Really, I have no f---ing clue." He's become quite an actor, hasn't he? Maybe you've decided he'll never be Bogart (he's got a few years to go, though, doesn't he?), but you have to admit he's a lot better than various actors-who-always-play-themselves whose names rhyme with Rom Ruise.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply even indirectly that I'm a good writer; I know better. Don't ask me how I know — I'd have to think of seven words in the right order to explain it. I just know. I suck.

I do read my old entries occasionally, though, and I think: "Gosh, how the hell do I write that stuff? I could never do that! Well, er, I mean now, that is. Obviously I did it before. Just what are you trying to say, anyway? Do you think I'm some sorta dumbass?"

I wonder.


I learned to write from my brother Dave, who as far as I can tell wasn't a very good writer. He was a good Liver, to coin an utterly awful phrase; he lived, and that's always better than writing. Writing just tries to show you how people lived, and it never comes close, never gives you that rush of being there just when something wonderful is happening.

Dave died, you know. I've often thought that if I ever wrote a book, it'd be about Dave. He just kinda got sick one day. We golfed, we biked, we had long late-night discussions about his philosophy class, we reminisced about things you could never repeat, during the years we lived in different states, stuff happening mostly at parties, teenager sins you committed as a teenager. Fun stuff. Nothing you didn't do yourself, of course, but it's still unprintable.

He died. I've been dead ever since then, you know. I didn't close my eyes for a single night, for four years after he died, without thinking of offing myself, becaused I missed him so much. My brother Mike knows; my brother Kevin knows; my Dad and Mom both know. We were all there. It's like losing a limb, but worse. So much worse. I realized after Dave died that I'd glady have given both arms and both legs to have him back. I would.

Everyone loved Dave. Everyone wanted to be Dave. Dave had wine-tasting parties at his little apartment; he taught us all to golf and to keep aquariums and to mountain bike and to appreciate the fine points of football strategy. He had a soul-beagle, Bentley, who still misses him to this day.

He had a girlfriend, Nancy, who was more of a wife to him than any wife I know. My wife agrees, and she's only met Nancy once.

Dave just got sick one day. It happens. He didn't feel good. He was coughing. He had night sweats. You know, a cold. A fever. Bronchitis. Something nasty. Didn't want to get anyone else sick — I remember he would sit away from us on the couch so he wouldn't give it to anyone else. He was so considerate.

We didn't know it was a tumor. He was only 23; I mean, come on. He was an all-star football player in high school. You don't get tumors when you're 23.

His doctor mis-diagnosed him, twice. It's OK; we forgive him. It's been 8 years, and I think we all forgive him now. I had a friend in the Navy, back when I was in the Navy, who got mis-diagnosed. It happens. His doctor said he had, I dunno, a cold, something lame. He had leukemia. Doctor mis-diagnosed him twice, just like Dave. With Dave, the doc said it was bronchitis, nasty case, definitely needed bedrest.

The Navy friend got heli-lifted off the sub to a medical facility in Oregon. He didn't make it.

Dave didn't get to ride in a helicopter, but he did get an ambulance. On the 3rd visit to his doctor, the doc took his oxygen level and said: "Ooh, time for the ambulance." Dave trusted him. Turns out Dave had lymphoma, and pretty advanced. No reason. No family history. He just had it. Maybe the environment. Maybe too much coffee or nutra-sweet. Nobody knows. And like everything else in Dave's life, his lymphoma was world-class. It ate him up in a way that no other cancer could.

You really don't want to hear about that part. Trust me.

We trusted Dave. He had a sense of humor like you've never, ever seen or heard before. It would take up several chapters in my book. Dave could make people laugh who had obviously not laughed in years; he'd crack a joke, something made up on the spot, context-sensitive and all, and they'd HAW, HAW, *hack* *cough* HAW HAW HAW until we thought they were going to have a stroke. Dave was the only person I knew who could make someone laugh so hard that I thought they were physically uncomfortable.

So it goes.

I'm not going to make my blog about anything at all. You can peg me as a programming-language guy, or a would-be math guy, or an inconsiderate jerk who says bad things about the vehicle with which you earn your living. But that's not what I'm about. Because I appreciate that you're reading this, I really do, but I'm not writing it for you. I don't know you.

I'm writing for Dave. I sure miss him. We all do. Everyone from Geoworks misses him. They made him a big banner, back when we knew he was sick, but we didn't know it was that bad. I mean, I should have known. The first day in the hospital, after his ambulance trip, after he passed out from lack of oxygen at community college from climbing six flights of stairs from a broken elevator, with a tumor the size of your fist growing between his heart and lungs, and the nurses asked him what he'd been doing that day, and he said he passed out trying to go to class, and he said their eyes got all big and round, I should have known.

Because his doctor started crying. I've never seen that before, and I hope to God I never see it again. She was the visiting doctor, the resident, whatever they have at 10pm at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Washington, the place Dave spent the next year and a half, the rest of his life. She looked at his chart that first day, and said some encouraging words to him, and then as we were walking down the hall, me and my mom and this strange doctor, she was crying. We thought that was kind of weird, because you don't cry in public, especially if you're a doctor, especially hanging around the family of someone you just saw.

Dave made so many jokes that we couldn't even understand them all, there in the hospital. The nurses loved him. One nurse told him: "You were the best! Even Dr. Wasserman says so!" Dave kidded her for the next four months over that one. "Don't refer to me in the past tense!" I saw her blush every time he mumbled it through the morphine. But he knew and she knew and I knew that he was just messing with her, just having fun on his deathbed. Who else can do that? Not me, I don't think. I don't know.

I remember a road trip, one we did in our parents' van way back when, and our little brother Kevin was about seven years old. Dave taught Kevin to say: "Psh! Whatever!" It took him a little while to grok the concept. The idea was that any time someone said anything you disagreed with, or even if you just felt like it, you would reply: "Psh! Whatever!" You could substitute the socially acceptable variant "Tsk! Whatever!" as long as you could produce a suitably sardonic clicking sound with your tongue, a sound to make Zulu heads turn in envious surprise. Dave had mastered the depreciating tongue-click. For mere mortals, the acceptable default was "Psh!"

My stepmom Mindy was less than pleased. "Kevin, don't you listen to them!"

You wouldn't believe the cheering that me, Mike and Dave produced at 7-year-old Kevin's beautifully crafted response: "Psh, whatever!" (Hi, Min!)

Dave imparted me and everyone near him with a sense of humor, by osmosis, although we were all really just a pale shadow. He had his world-class sense of humor until the very very end. A few months before then, I was visiting him in his hospital room, and he told me in thick, steroid-induced tones (after having thrown up his esophagus the night before, which he recounted to me with some surprise as being like spitting up long filets of salmon) that he'd lost bowel control a few days back, because of the chemotherapy, and he'd had an incident "like the one in Trainspotting". I hadn't seen Trainspotting at the time, but I got the picture. I didn't know what to say, so he chimed in, almost unintelligibly:

"Look on the bright side: at least I didn't have to clean it up!"

How could I laugh? How could I not laugh?

I'll say some pretty strange or seemingly mean things in my time, in my blogs, but you have to keep it all in perspective. My brother was tortured to death. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but aside from the miracle of morphine, those folks in medieval torture chambers had nothing on him. His suffering lasted 18 months, during which he basically dissolved, for all intents and purposes, and in the end I think (not really knowing, myself, but guessing) that the worst part was psychological. Facing your own death at 23 years old is pretty scary. Especially when you're melting.

So I probably have a slightly different perspective than you do. To me, it doesn't matter all that much anymore. I just try to make people around me happy, and enjoy myself, until, you know, I have some sort of major Trainspotting incident. Hopefully one that I don't personally have to clean up.

I don't really mean to be mean, though. I hope you realize that.


Despite my best intentions, my blood pressure occasionally rises when I blog. Or more precisely, after I blog, because no bowel movement is ever inspected as scrupulously as the articles posted to Reddit. Even when my blog tries to be innocuous, the comments always seem to get to me.

My doctor says I might have bronchitis. What the hell do they teach med school students, anyway? It's as bad as a Computer Science degree.

I wish there were a way to request, respectfully, that certain of my articles not be posted to Reddit, because even though I want people to read them, I want them to read them at the right time. And that's different for everyone. Probabilistically speaking, the right time for most people is not going to be the day after I post them.

Then of course there's Digg, the Reddit for... Digg people, I guess. Diggers. Duggers. Whatever! Lord help you if you get Dugg, or whatever it is they do over there. And, which in addition to being hard to type is no longer the sprightly young company it once was, ever since You-know-hoo! bought them. Sometimes I wish I could just never be posted there.

That's not nice to the folks looking for karma, though, I guess, so really I just mean this entry, today.

I'd like to blog more about non-technical stuff. I feel like blogging about technical stuff is, well, you know. Dirty? Incestuous? It's not like I'd be saying anything you don't already know, or won't already know at some point, from someone else.

On the other hand, I always feel the (few) bloggers I read ought to stick to the same topics. If I'm reading Bill de hÓra, the only blogger I read regularly, and he suddenly starts talking about his dog, then I feel ripped off, as if the Discovery Channel had started doing a chef competition, or the Food Channel started doing specials on wrestling alligators.

That's not entirely fair of me, I know. People are always broader than what they blog about, but we sort of expect the best bloggers to stay on topic, to keep blogging about whatever we liked last time we read them.

Well, I'm going to take a deep breath, a leap of faith, and see if I can broaden my blogging to include non-cs-technical topics. Yes, some people will whine and moan about it; people will whine and moan about anything and everything. I do it too. But I'd love to blog about the movies I like, and video games, and music, and books, and people, and just plain old good times I've had. Because you never know how long it'll last.

I'd like to ask you, just one person to another, not to post this blog entry to Reddit, Digg or similar. I'd prefer that people learn about my brother Dave through some mechanism other than a newsfeed full of karma modders. You know? So I've deliberately avoided tech topics in this entry, in the hope that it will somehow pass unnoticed.

We'll see.

If not, well... psh! Whatever.

Miss you, Dave.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are an amazing writer. IMHO

4:35 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this piece and please continue to write about whatever takes your fancy, technical or otherwise. Even when I make snarky remarks about your stuff (on reddit) I take care to refer to you as Mr.Yegge because you deserve the greatest respect, for your writing as much as for your rationality. As Feynman's Arline would have said, "Why should you care what other people think ?" Especially when you have more to offer than most of them. Cheers.

4:46 AM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Shrutarshi Basu said...

I really never understood why people blog about their own lives. It's ok to blog about how things like computers and other technology affect your life and what your personal opinion on such things is, and that's why I like this blog a lot.

But frankly,I find reading about where someone else had lunch and where he met his friends and how many arguments he had during the day downright pointless. I try to blog about things that happen in the world, and what those things mean to me.

4:55 AM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger dfghdfhdsgtsdgsddghjg said...

When I was prancing about Asia for the last couple months, I could have written about something new almost every day. I was simply bombarded with things that I found funny or interesting or that I simply have never thought of before.

Now, I'm back home, settling into life for a while doing thing people my age do, find a job go to school etc. There really isn't too much to write about anymore, because there is simply nothing new to learn from. Looking back I wish I had put my thoughts down, if not to help remember what I learned, then simply to have a laugh at myself.

I have always thoroughly enjoyed your web log, even though I sometimes have no idea what in the world your talking about (try as I might to find out). Why? because your smart, funny, and have an experiance unique to mine.

I encourage you to write for yourself, and simply let us learn and share from your experiance, and as such become wiser.

7:17 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My condolences, Mr. Yegge.


7:47 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for living out loud. The world needs more of that. Don't let the haters get ya down. And thanks for introducing us to Dave. I want to be like him. Except for the dissolving and being tortured.

7:57 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even computer nerds need some perspective on real life once in a while.

We need to be periodically reminded that we won't be here forever, and we need to make the best of life with the ones we love.

Such a perspective is helpful for people considering whether to take that new high-paying job that will require them to commute 75 miles and work 12-hour days instead of taking the lesser-paying job two blocks away with normal hours so they can spend time with their family.

8:01 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet Jesus, I was close to tears reading that. That was beautiful.

9:20 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there, thx for all your essays and for this blog. I've got a brother, 18 months younger than me. Thanksfully he's healthy. Since the day he's born he has been the most important "thing" in my life. 4.000 (four thousands) emails exchanged since we both have the Internet (as a nerd I've got all my mails archived, from the very first one I send), hardly a day without an email or a phone call exchanged. I can't accept the fact that one day one of us will be gone: can't accept it for the one that will stay. I understand you miss him.

Back into gear: looking forward to read on, say, why Java 1.5 annotations will allow more Eiffellesque Javaization than Nice or something ;)

Also don't listen to the nay-sayers: nobody's forced to read the occasional "off-topic" blog.


11:49 AM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding a bit of perspective to a less-than-perfect day.

3:56 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I came to know your blog via one of the infamous technical rants, I would read your blog if you never posted another technical rant ever. I am sorry for your loss. Time to contact my brother and tell him I love him...

5:31 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest I probably would never have seen your blog before if it wasn't for digg and your the only regular blog I read.

7:54 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your brother Dave sounds like a heck of a guy... Sounds like he and his life helped make you the person and the writer you are, so it's not for nothing.

9:20 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually spreddit this story halfway through reading it (title: " bowel movement is ever inspected as scrupulously as articles posted to reddit", so you know how far I'd gotten) After I finished reading I deleted my submission. Looks like I wasn't the only one.

I don't see how reading stories on reddit is different from reading them in a feed reader, though. Either way people are going to be reading it the day after you wrote it. Celebrity's like that. But they will still think about it when the time is right for them.

9:31 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful blog. In few years you will be a Genius.

11:47 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Brought tears to my eyes.

I love reading your technical essays and it's sobering to read posts like this one: reminds us that we're all human and we're all only here for a brief while.

Keep writing.

-- Barry.

3:09 AM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger S# said...

Absolutely fantastic post! Straight from the heart. I'm a fan of how you write more than what you write, so I'll enjoy whatever you post about. You're like BBC world, there is a certain panache about your style - I am not looking for National Geo. or Discovery here

8:19 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My doctor says I might have bronchitis. What the hell do they teach med school students, anyway?

Are you hinting at the possibility that you might have cancer too?

- YD

2:51 PM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was a great gesture and sentiment for someone you obviously loved a lot. My big brother was killed in a car crash when I was fourteen, and mom passed from a brain tumor about a year later. To this day I think the grief from my brother was the catalyst that started it all. Death gives you a whole different world view, and in my case it came a lot earlier than my friends who mostly concerned with getting to third base with some girl. Mortality is a strange concept, and even more so when you're slapped in the face with just how quick life can come and go. I'm always grateful for the great times I had, but wish to hell that they were still around to see the man I've become, and the life that it surely lacking with their absence. To your brother, mine, and all the others out there. Keep writing about what you want.

5:18 PM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger BlackTigerX said...

been there... it's been 14 years for me...

you have to thing though... what would it be like it he was alive, would he be proud of you if he was here?

being that kind of guy, wouldn't you want him to be proud of you?

7:47 PM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

Steve, thank you. Today my life is richer, from having seen a tiny glimpse of Dave's, and of yours.

Daniel Azuma
(another former Amazon SDE)

9:46 AM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Random Geek said...

I think a blog should contain all the things you feel like writing about. Words can never convey a whole person, but maybe more words about more subjects can present a reasonable impression.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your brother, even though it was some time ago. When you lose someone you love, it never really ceases to be a factor in your thoughts and emotions. I've had friends and family and "adopted family" die over the years, and every so often I just wake up wishing I could have said one more thing to them.

Usually something nice.

Anyhow, blog on.

12:34 PM, April 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, I originally got pointed here because of the "lisp is not an acceptable lisp" article. Today I noticed the tab was still open and hit refresh.

I'm glad I did. Chalk up another one to the "people Dave made laugh" list. Thanks.

- Matt S Trout

11:14 AM, April 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could write Battlefield Earth fan fiction and I'd still read it.

1:18 AM, April 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please write about anything you feel like talking about, and I as many others here will gladly read it.
Nothing like a story like this to put all the religious wars of the tech world into perspective.No need to kill ourselves over Emacs vs Vi or Java vs Ruby nor anything like that.Life is just to short.

All the best to you, and Dave.

1:39 AM, April 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think we should have some kind of social networking equivalent to robots.txt. I guess a way to say hey, I think this article is better than karma whoring and armchair master-programmer-hood, so don't post it or don't allow comments.

Anyways, blogging is about the things that are important enough to write down, and only incidentally involves everyone else. If some lame comment starts to get to you just try to remember that the poster is just some tool on the internet that probably should be working anyways.

As for Dave, I could come up with a ton of cliches to which, if I knew you, you would nod your head and say "yeah, you're right" without really feeling much better. Instead, since I don't know you, especially since I don't know Dave, i'll say this. Dave seems like he was a rule unto himself. The power of his life was in refusing to fit into any description but his own. If writing about something other than programming is what fits the Steve Yegge rule, then do that. I'm sure all the internet tools will find something else to siezure over.

11:24 PM, April 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My older brother died from a tumor at 23 about 10 years ago... I'm now turning 23 in less than 2 weeks and you just made me realize that.

Sometime I wonder how would it be to have an older brother who could explain life to me in a way that only a brother or sister can...

Well sorry to be so "self-minded" writing about myself on your blog but your post reminded me of how he was and for that I cannot thanks you enough.

- David

PS : Sorry about my writing but english isn't my primary language.

8:56 AM, April 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That article of yours almost brought me to tears as it reminded me of the cousin that Ive lost in a car accident 10+ yrs ago. But I could tell that what you went through was more overwhelming in multitude.

So OK it wasn't a technically inclined article but its interesting, no doubt about it.
I read your blog on a regular basis because I admired your intelligence and your flair for language, sometimes wishfully thinking that I can someday be half as good as you are.
And I could easily count with one finger how many bloggers I can say the same thing to.

6:26 AM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear about you and your family's loss Steve. I don't even want to think about how painful it must've been for your parents. Thanks for posting.

10:28 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well. That was an unexpected piece (about Dave). I imagine (because I've never blogged in my life) that you'll get all sorts of sympathetic (or not) repsonses to such a post. I can imagine that because I have suffered a tragedy that was also intense and left me with similar feelings. I won't recount it here, it was anyway very different from yours.

You will probably wonder why people feel a need to attach themselves to such pain (or maybe I'm projecting my own feelings too much). But regardless I can certainly understand the need to communicate them with other people - and I hope you won't think me a shallow jerk when I say that.

On a practical note, you could always run several blogs with pseudonyms - but maybe I'm missing the point?

7:57 AM, May 08, 2006  
Blogger Amy said...

I got so sad reading this I actually feel kind of sick. I guess that's nothing compared to what you feel.

I've never liked the idea of feeling better about your own problems by looking at somebody who has it worse than you. But things like this do give people perspective.

Last weekend I went skydiving. It wasn't nearly as scary as I expected, and I've felt different since. I can see doing it for therapeutic effect. It was a place up in Snohomish; I recommend them if you feel like trying it.

7:44 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Cosmocrat said...

Dear Steve,

(Gosh. If I say 'Dear Steve', I sound like I know you - which I don't, and if I say 'Dear Mr. Yegge', I sound like I'm trying to sell you insurance. Bleh. Anyway..)

Last week my cousin took his own life. I haven't really slept since then. I stumbled across this blog at some ungodly hour of the morning and read this entry.

Thank you.

Patrick Thomson

5:16 PM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger Jo Holroyd said...

the pans never really stops does it? you just kinda get hollow and you juts keep plodding along. andit all sucks hey

2:20 AM, December 14, 2006  
Blogger Aunt Gabe said...

Hello to Steve and I miss you. The "Dave" Steve wrote about is my nephew - and thus Steve is my nephew as well. I attest to the fact that Dave was as wonderful and funny as Stever portrays him in his blog. I am forever greatful to Dave and Mike (another of Steves' brothers) for helping me thru the worst time in my life. Dave did in fact make me laugh so hard soooo many times during a time in my life when I thought I could never laugh again. I miss him. I miss Steve and Mike too. Please call Uncle John and get my number Steve cause I want to see you & Mike. I live in Washington now.
Love, Aunt Gabe

12:43 AM, February 05, 2007  

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