Reunion ho! In which I reminisce, with real names

my friends under the stairs
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

It’s my 20th high school reunion coming up. I can’t bear to give $39 to THAT WEB SITE OF EVIL which seems to control all information from the past. So, I figured I’d blog the names of people I might actually want to talk to from that time.

I went to a huge high school in northwest Houston, Cypress Creek. The graduating class must have been at least 500 people. The junior high, Campbell, was also pretty huge and I remember its weird 70s architecture with some fondness; the open ramps with the library in the center were kind of cool looking.

I was clued into this 20 year reunion thing by Thad Davis, who lived in my subdivision, Champions West. Bear with me for a moment while I provide context. Houston in the early 80s was expanding like a vast horrible pustulent tumor, or like gangrene. Malls, freeways, strip malls, and “subdivisions” which were housing developments of hideous sameness and no city-like infrastructure, were flowing like lava over the scraggly, piney woods and fire-ant-infested cow pastures. There was Huntwick, which was fancy and rich with a fancy country club, and there was Champions, which was marginally less fancy with a less fancy golf club. I lived in basically the scungiest one, Champions West, and by scungy I mean that not all the houses were two-story, I guess. Oh also you could measure scunginess by whether ditches were in the front yard or whether people had paid to put in a culvert and soil over the ditch. We had a ditch, which I played in, and we did not belong to the golf club.

It seems so exotic and strange, looking back…

Back to our story! Thad and I rode the bus together, played D&D together, and were in a lot of the same classes. Also in the early 80s, tracking was “in” but was ever so slightly masked. So, if you were regular you were in “L’ level classes. If you were somewhat smarter you could be in “K-level”. And if you were considered “gifted” then you were in “H-level” or “Horizons” classes as well, one extra every year. So in 5th grade I think the Horizons class was… Oh well I don’t even remember. In 6th it was Study Skills (joy…) and in 7th maybe it was English. In Horizons classes you got to be kind of flaky and genius-like and creative, but the main benefit of it for me was that I could tell who the other super smart people were. At any one time there were around 30 of us in this program.

In junior high, I would check out 2 books a day from the library, read them, and return them by the end of the day. And I do fondly remember seeing Thad’s name in many of the books I would read, and wondering what he thought about them and what he was “really like”, but I never found that out. Anyway, the two of us must have read through the entire junior high library.

The elementary school, Yeager, I only went to for one year. It was major culture shock. People called me a damn Yankee a lot, because I had moved to Texas from “the North” — from Michigan. I found out that the Civil War was not over. Being a damn Yankee basically meant you were accused by white kids of not being racist enough. I was also besieged with demands that I be more properly gendered. Apparently I was doing something right, because they called me “Liz the Lez”. My friend Julie, who was 9 years old, helpfully explained what that meant. One time a howling mob of other 10 year olds chased me around demanding to know all the details of how I had gotten a sex change. What can I say? Don’t raise your kids in Texas!

What a nasty place! And yet I am curious to go back and to see these people!

Onward, to list the other people I would be interested in seeing at the reunion!

Some people, I’d like to see just to see how they turned out, because they were really jerks! Like Trent Wallace! What was up with you, dude? You were a little misogynist and homophobe, always screaming at me that I was a nasty little twat and shoving me around in gym class in 6th grade! I didn’t even know what that meant, but I had a good guess. In retrospect, I wonder how you got that way, so mean, so young. Have you mellowed? Did you go on to work at Enron?

But most of the people I would like to see were sweet. Or, they always seemed quite decent and yet I never really knew them. Elaine Lamm, Jennifer Lupa, Christy Clark, Sandy Alvarez, Karen Tesch, Kurt Muehlner, Heidi Neumann, Jill Blankenberg, Scott Harris, Jill Adams, Melissa Jones, Peter Duggan, Elisa Dingsdale, Greg Dean, Greg Magyar, Kent Kornett, Lara Rupf, Jeff Darin, Holly Volek, Jeff Gallamore, Tereese Mangaroo, Jeff Smith (who I have heard from, lives in Seattle), and Jack Yee (lives in NYC, was fairly close to ground zero of the WTC on 9/11). Jack and Chris Deeves and Christi Redilla and I were often in competition… who would fail to get a 110 on the math exams… That was fun. Robert Dubose, who I’ve been in touch with, and who was always super nice, and who introduced me to Herman Hesse books at the proper age – 13 or so.

And then the people I played with when we were younger and yet lost touch with. Pam Berry, Charleen Handzel (we all 3 used to play Breyer model horses, obsessively), Susan Rickey, Julie Carter, and Samantha Medlock.

That’s it for my list; I’m sure there are more. Now, if any of these people had ever cared to google me, I’m out there, but maybe they will vanity google and find themselves here and drop me a line!

liz – at –

Maker faire: Computer sculpture

I saw countless cool things at Maker Faire today. The booth was one of the coolest. The dude there, Andrew Werby, let me sit there and play with a demo for a while. There was a pre-defined 3-D object on the screen, a sort of smooth, soft, spongy blob. With a pen on an articulated arm, like one of those adjustable desk lamps, I could “feel” the object’s surface and by pressing a button, push into it and sculpt it.

This was uncanny! The kinesthetic sense, the resistance in the pen in my hand, was just perfect. It was as if I was feeling and manipulating a real object. It was a bit like punching a blunt tool, a stylus, through thick foamy stuff; I thought of hot wire and foam carving kits.

At some point, I carved through the blob into the center, and the tool fell through into a sort of cave. I could feel around inside the object and visualize it in my head. There were multiple exit holes in the back, where I couldn’t see, that other people doing the demo before me must have made. The sensation reminded me uncannily of the numb feeling of pressure that I have had during surgical procedures. The tool also looked like and behaved like an instrument i held in my hand — except I could pass it through the object. So the tip had all the sensation and the handle was ghostly and non-existent. I had sensation, without having any hands. I could imagine surgeons really doing “Fantastic Voyage” type of operations this way. But it should also be a tool that game designers use for character and world building. I can’t imagine artists not loving this tool!

I have never felt something on a computer, a thing that I couldn’t see. My head exploded with thoughts of designing cool video games for visually impaired people. Mazes and thought puzzles and art pieces.

There was more to Andrew’s set of tools; you could sculpt, and then 3-d print your objects. I was blown away so completely by the kinesthetic 3-d modeling, I didn’t pay attention to the rest.

Vancouver hackathon tomorrow

I’ve been having a blast with my co-workers from Socialtext in Vancouver for our hackathon week. I’ve worked, had fun, and gone to a zillion meetings, wheeled around a bit of downtown Vancouver. Last night was the Perlmongers meeting, which I’ll blog elsewhere.

On Friday – tomorrow – we’re having a community hackathon at the Bryght offices in downtown Vancouver. 1pm to 1am. Sign up, and come by if you like!