Thursday, August 7, 2008

I am a SQL Gilgamesh

I'm a wild man. A wolf boy. Tarzan, raised by apes.

I have had very few classes in computer science, certainly none in database design or anything like that. I just happen to be good at certain types of puzzle. Computers, meaning the physical box, are one specific manifestation of this type of puzzle. Software and ordered data are a more general manifestations. When my undergrad degree in anthropology wasn't paying the bills, it was a greater than zero probability that I would land in the computer industry.

I pushed my aptitude and am now quite proficient in many areas. I have gathered a wide variety of knowledge and skill from a variety of sources, much of it first hand experience. Very little, though, aside from some introductory level courses, was anything like "formal" education.

Thus, when compared to "classically trained" information technology guys, I am hairy and unkempt, wild-eyed, spattered with gore from the hunt. I am clothed in animal skins. I carry weapons and the seeds of violence in my breast.

The civilized look at me and say "from thence we came; see how we become." I have been in the presence of these clean, well-dressed people, listened to their carefully cultured words, and often felt ashamed of my ignorance and lack of breeding, felt an outsider and an outcast. In the virtual cities of programming blogs and MSDN mailing lists I am little more than a curio, something occasionally pointed to and snickered about, but more often ushered away by well-mannered security staff lest I upset the shrunken head of Turing, or the bust of Von Neumann, or the portrait of Babbage.

Even in the less restrictive parts of town, I am a figure from the outside. In the linux user group coffee shops I am tolerated, sometimes held up as the archetype of the noble savage. Yet when I try to speak or help I am once again pushed aside, kept from the newbies, and reminded of my inferiority. Even in the sometimes violent BUGTRAQ bars, I am seen as an intrusion, a threat to the civilized who come here to pretend to barbarism. Considered to be barely capable of civilized speech, I am either patronized or challenged constantly.

And yet... And yet, I can do things which none of them can do. Having survived by my own wits I can readily see the flaws in over-complication and dependency. Having lived by my hands I know what it means to work hard for my supper- then stop and enjoy the feast. Having done without I can do more with less. When the wild things encroach upon the streets of the civil, it is I who hunts them.

Growing up in the wild, I know that there will ever be more unknown than known. The civilized make great professions in manipulating the known, building elaborate, delicate structures. Yet in the end I can face the unknown, fighting to know that which is wild and dangerous.

At the dawn of IT civilization, I am a throwback, a creature of which stories are told, yes, but feared and reviled. I am among the last of my kind, a dying breed.

Show me your monsters. I shall slay them.

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