Monday, February 28, 2011

Pearls before swine..

My life isn't glamorous.

I know that comes as a big shock to everybody, since geeks in general are seen as the crème de la crème of society, and the common perception is that we live the life of rock-stars and party all night with all the other glamorous people.

Not so.

I sit in my office (which used to be in the basement, now it's a room above the garage), usually in my ratty bathrobe, reading and writing email all day. And a lot of wasting time while waiting for people to answer or just report problems. I go to bed at ten, and wake up at seven to get the kids to school. And then it all repeats.

So not glamorous. When I actually write code (which is usually in the mail reader these days - mostly telling people "do it like this" rather than actually writing real code), that's about the most exciting part of the day.

But then, once in a while, I get to live the high life. This weekend, we got invited to the Night Before Oscar party (thanks Renée and Doug!) because sometimes the companies I work with apparently think that I need to get a night out.

Toto, I don't think we're talking white-socks-and-sandals any more.

So me and the wife were completely out of our depth, and knew absolutely nobody. We go out for a date night every week, so we a fair number of movies, but we really aren't movie people - the kinds of movies we go to don't make a huge impression. So there we were, cram-packed with celebrities, not remembering names or faces.

The good news was, that as Tove said, there was no real downside. Nobody knew us, and nobody would ever remember us the next day. So we could go whole retard quite openly, and brazenly just ask people "You look really familiar, who are you?". Which we did. With some discreet google image searches when we could guess, and just wanted to verify it ("John Cusack or Paul Rudd?").

Everybody seemed to take it in good cheer. We interrupted David Spade chatting up Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis (that's what Tove says, I was oblivious - it's those famous geek social graces again. I told her I'm sure I'd have noticed Natalie Portman and that she can't possibly have been there, but whatever), and Tove pissed off Warren Beatty by asking his name not just once, but twice.

So here's a shout-out to my new BFF's Jon Hamm and DJ.

We probably won't be invited again. But we have pictures for the kids, to prove to them that their parents are cool people.


  1. Could you post a picture or two here? :-)

  2. Natalie Portman ... grits ... what would POSSIBLY go wrong?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Dude! That is a glorious geek life!
    I am kinda jealous!Not at the meeting of the stars (which *IS* cool) but of the being able to work in the robe! Heck, I cant find a half decent job at all, let alone one that I can work in a robe!
    But, for now I will sit and work on my site and hope for a geeky-glorious future.
    Maybe when my site blows up I can retire and go hang out with famous people I cant remember the names of! :)

  5. No geeky stars there recognized you? There are enough geeks in Hollywood that I'd think at least *one* person would.

  6. So nobody knew who you were?
    Nobody?? Unbelievable!
    Doesn't Bruce Willis get his hair rendered on Linux clusters? If he didn't know you should have told him :)

  7. I love the phrase 'go whole retard quite openly' of course the celebs assume you must know who they are and think you must be indulging in some form of inverted snobbery ... just for fun.
    I console myself when I don't recognise any 'stars' with the thought at least I'd recognise Linus (if he were there) when thousands wouldn't

  8. This made me laugh so hard. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching you and Tove interacting with the celebrities. It is good for them to know that the whole world does not revolved around them. I am sure many of them found it refreshing. My wife and I would have been exactly the same.

    As far as your celebrity status, go to a place like Powell's Technical book store and see how long you can be left alone. :) I would probably not be able to resist saying hi. I guess that would stink. I LOVE that store and it would be irritating to be bothered all the time there. But don't worry about me... I had to move to San Diego.

  9. sounds like a great night!

    (pics or it didn't happen)

  10. Ivan: we did have fun. And only a fairly small part of the time was actually spent creepily trying to see if we could recognize people or just shake their hands so that we could say we did that.

    Tove was desperately trying to win this movie trivia game they had, and trying to make sad faces for the attendants to make them feel sorry for her.

    And we did actually end up talking to people too. Bill Fay of Legendary pictures turned out to have three daughters, two years apart, exactly like we do: except he's six years ahead of us, so they've survived the whole teenage thing too.

    So we weren't in full retard mode the _whole_ time.

    Although now that I think about it, I think the movie trivia time needs to be counted too. We really weren't very good at it (and I seriously doubt Tove's sad faces had any chance of working considering that the whole room was full of real actors and actresses).

  11. I feel sorry for all these celebs, but especially Warren Beatty. Anyone there asked about the name could take it as a joke after all, because they're obviously known to everybody. Asking second time meant it's no longer a joke, wait, it wasn't a joke in the first place. It could be shocking and actually irritating to him.

    And I admit, I was laughing loudly while reading this post too.

    Linus, don't show us (geeks) the pictures now (or ever), wait at least 10 years. It's all about building a tension...

  12. Linus: "Hi, I'm Linus"
    Celeb: "Nice to meet you Linus. What do you do?"
    Linus: "I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal"
    Celeb: "Really?"
    Linus: "People know me."
    Celeb: "Well I'm very happy for you."
    Linus: "I'm very important. The internet runs off my software and my apartment smells of rich mahogany."

  13. You really should have worn a button: "The Social Network? I made it happen!"

  14. Linus, if you and John Hamm teamed up you could implement and sell anything on the planet. You wrote git in a weekend and he's Don f*cking Draper (

    Also, I'm sure some of the VFX guys had heard of you, they were either not there (in their respective basements/robes) or they were too scared to say hi, :P.

    Glad you got out for a night of fun in my home town, :).

  15. You can take satisfaction in knowing Steve Jobs didn't get an invite. :)

  16. congrats!

    good comments too! amen, "The Social Network? I made it happen!"

    btw, time to make/program a movie? whip it UP! whip it good.

  17. This would have worked too: Wear a sign that says "I'm legally blind. Please introduce yourself!"

  18. Hilarious!! Thanks for a great story!

  19. That's all very nice! I don't think any real geek would care much about those stars - do you think any one of them could write a decent piece of code? - so if you've got pictures you can return(0) & forget them.

  20. May I suggest you change your name?

    Actors do that.

    I propose, let's say... Linux!

    (there are moments like that movies where the creature chase its creator, a prometheus thing or something)

  21. Movie stars versus Computer icon. I'm jealous. But, I think you deserve it.

  22. I'm just amused at the prospect of David Spade chatting up Natalie Portman. Yehehehehe.

  23. I now have only one reason to go to the Oscars: to blow past all the rich-and-famous actors, who appear in movies-with-little-quality about-which-I-could-not-care-less; to brush past Natalie Portman because I don't care about Padme or David Spade (but would've said hello to John Cusack)...

    ... for the sole purpose of saying "Linus? Is it really you?? Holy flashing LiteBrites in a wad of gold-flecked Silly Putty, it IS you! Man, you changed my life for the better. THANK YOU!"...

    ... before blowing past James Franco and muttering something derogatory about how the Spider-Man movies put me off Spider-Man comics for life.

    (... then tuning in to the camera coverage to see what happens when the glitterati got ignored for the "who is that sandal-wearing man?")

  24. Why do people assume those in the limelight are automatically stuck up? Our culture gives people in the media so much virtual status, but it's just a job. A few may let it go to their heads and their antics get smeared across headlines. Others get overwhelmed by their sudden lack of privacy. Mostly they're just people.

  25. The celebs keep me amused
    from time to time. Your work
    allows me to put food on my
    table every day. You win :-)

  26. Natalie should have been easy to spot. She had the big bump in her belly.

  27. Did anyone ask you your name twice? Did anyone recognize your name? I would be interested in knowing if any actors said, "wow, I've always wanted to meet you!" (there has to be at least one actor(ess) with geeky hobbies, right...?)

  28. I'd rather meet Linus than some halfwit whose claim to fame is reading a script somebody else wrote.

  29. I'm surprised someone didn't say "Wasn't that Raymond Burr's character in 'Rear Window'?"

  30. @Mark,
    Amen to that. I watch the occasional movie, but I use Linux every day!

  31. Warren Beatty is a die-hard FreeBSD user. His wife Annette runs NetBSD. It's a licensing thing for the man. He hasn't spoken to Stallman in years.

  32. This is a lovely post.

    Actors, when not actively participating in a particular movie or a play, are probably also wasting allot of time by waiting for email responses ("Man, I think you gonna get that role in that new movie..." etc.). I bet they're also staying most of the day in the house wearing bathrobes (or even half naked), aren't they?

  33. Techies have their own celebrities. My boss was at a party with Brad Pitt and was just chatting him up no problem. Some time later he saw Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg having yogurt at a café and nearly choked on his own tongue.

  34. Who are you trying to fool? Your kids know you're not cool. Don't be a tool! ....Stay in school?

    Ah screw it; Torvalds, you rule. (And Linus is okay too)

  35. Hey, don't give up the glamorous life yet! I've been telling people that you'd be a great pick for Dancing With the could bring some European-gentleman flair to the contest while still being a geek icon. And I have to believe you'd do better in the competition than Woz. :-)

  36. Good for you, Linus! You're a celebrity to us, and you and Tove deserve to walk the red carpet for all you have done for this community -- maybe they'll roll one out for you in Vancouver in August ;)

  37. raggidy robe, huh? I go for summer shorts & t-shirt all year round.

    Surely, all those IT/CGI people from Pixar would know who you are!?!? Good Grief!

    I would like to think that I would recognize you, but my memory is similar to that of a Commodore 64. :S

    Before I forget... Thank you (and your team) very much for Linux. Really good job, exceptional quality. Truly.

  38. Is it snobbery to admit that I do not recognize a single name among the people you met out there? Never mind, I know yours, and if you run through your bookcase, you will perhaps find my name on a book I sent you back in 1994, when we were still fighting for world domination. You probably did not read it; it is in dutch :-)

    Anyway, I am proud of the many Linux derivates like android that are coming on the market, but I am sad about the loosing battle we are fighting right now on the regular desktop. The department of AI on a dutch university where I work still ls a Linux-only shop, but we are under heavy pressure from the administration and are more and more locked out.

    I guess we all should spend more time among the celebs, dink coctails and lobby for the freedom of communication.

  39. mila kunis? did you meet mila kunis? :O


  40. Dude, you never go FULL retard....

  41. Movie star: "So what do you do?"
    Linus: "Well I wrote the software that makes the internet run!"
    Movie star: "Ah mark zukerberg I take it? "
    Linus: "..."

  42. Linus ... a well-known guy ... but not known by the same people. Maybe except for Natalie Portman, since she played in Star Wars ;-)

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. You must have an Erdős–Bacon number like Natalie Portman, at this stage?

    I think you can claim that Torvalds guy in swordfish at least.

  45. I know a few successful actors in Hollywood from when we were teenagers, including one you mentioned in your blog.

    My observation has been how stuck up they are really depends on a number of factors, including the individual and how grounded they are before they become successful.

    It reminds me a lot of financially successful entrepreneurs I've known, and how they act before and after they attain that success.

    Remember, there are usually tough years before the good years, especially for the businesspeople or stars who don't achieve recognition in their youth.

    I will point out that people I work with are more impressed that I've been using Linux since 0.98pl6 than they are that I know some actor. Yes, yes, I know; version dropping is so obnoxious.

  46. Hey Linus,

    which people are the pearls and which people are the swine in your report :-)
    Or is there any other meaning for this headline

  47. I Love Mila Kunis in "The Family Guy" - So Funny... And she's a hot babe... Lucky one, you are sir...

  48. Hi, I'm Ryan, I work for Special Olympics and I thought this was an awesome story.

    Unfortunately for me it was marred by the crux of Linus' self-mockery being founded in the idea that a 'retard' is funny.

    I'd like to please ask Linus and all here to keep an open mind to the power of words, and how the word 'retard' and the cultural reference to "Tropic Thunder" serves to stigmatize a population of nearly 200 million people around the world that have intellectual disabilities.

    I know no one here was blatantly mocking someone with a disability. But that's the problem, is that the R-word, as we call it, is so ingrained in our vernacular, no one blinks an eye when it's used.

    Swap out "whole retard" or "full retard" with "whole f@g" or "full n-word" and see if some eyes start blinking then.

    People with intellectual disabilities deserve the same respect and recognition of their basic humanity that we afford to all of our fellow humans.

    Making a choice to not use the R-word is a great first step for each person to start demonstrating that respect.

    I hope everyone can do so at

    Thanks for reading, I really do admire the vision of the work by this community. It's nothing short of revolutionary.


  49. No stars recognized him because they thought linus was a penguin! :D

    Kidding aside you're really lucky to have mingled with the stars!

  50. Some day, Natalie Portman's grandchild will brag to friends that Grandma actually met _Linus_ !!

    (yes _THE_ Linus)

  51. ACTOR: So... who are you?
    LINUS: I'm the guy that made the software that makes the internet work.
    ACTOR: Oh... sorry Mr. Vice President, I hardly recognized you, you look so different since you left office.

  52. I posted this on facebook and immediately, one of my nongeeky friends asked if you needed a job. Evidently, she has an app that she wants coded.
    me: 'uhh, with Linux's eventual take over of the world, I think he has his hands full at the moment....'
    If that's untrue, let me know.....

  53. @Ryan Eades: ah, grepping loons. some things never change....

  54. Can we see a couple of pics with the stars ?

  55. Movie star: "So what do you do?"
    Linus: "Well I wrote the software that makes the internet run!"
    Movie star: "oh cool. i love facebook!"

  56. You should have worn a Tux costume: "They said 'Wear a tux'! - so I did."

    -- Steve

  57. You need to put some pictures up!

  58. Glad you and your wife had a good time.

  59. @Aaron Davies: If you think so. Thought a community all about open source would be open to varying points of view on language too, that's all. No ill will intended, honest.

  60. @Ryan Eades: I'm sorry your point has fallen on deaf ears.

  61. @Anon8AHa7eMe: I get it. You guys think I'm a troll or whatever and you are the savviest of Internet users and know not to engage.

    I deal with real trolls every day, so I really do get it.

    This is comes from a genuine place and I wanted to just present it as information for you to make your own decision about.

    March 2 is our third annual day of awareness for our Spread the Word to End the Word campaign to raise awareness about the hurtful nature of the R-word.

    It's a real issue that effects real people.

    If even one of you is open to checking it out, that's okay, I'd be happy.

    Best to all.

  62. Five thumbs up for asking who they were and not recognising them!! Spank those egos! :D

  63. Cool deal...I wouldn't recognize them either...Wife would save me though!!
    I thought I was the only one sitting all morning in a I have famous
    company!! By the way..we really want to see those pictures.......

  64. Where in the world (universe?) are geeks seen as "la crème de la crème"??
    (yes, I'm a geek)

  65. Nobody knew who you were?
    It's just Unbelievable!
    Happy that you had fun!!!
    Best regards

  66. @Ryan Eades: I think you misunderstood my post (which indicated that unfortunately most readers here wouldn't care). I appreciated your original comment and sympathize with the movement.

  67. @Ryan Eades:
    Ironically, I think you're the only one insulting people with mental disabilities here. The word "retard" just means slow. Someone who is slow in the mind; dimwitted. Your choice of equating this with serious mental disabilities shouldn't reflect what other people think when they say the word, regardless of its history or any political correctness.

    If the phrase "go full idiot" was used, I somehow doubt that you'd take this as a great injustice to those with low intelligence.

    And it wouldn't sound funny ;-)

  68. Linus, those people were mostly creative types, and so are you. You, represent hackers to them, who found the bug in copyright ages before creative commons licenses and `"'open source'"' (tm) culture were buzzwords. In fact, you were among the hackers that helped forced the issues into one lawyer's mind and encouraged him and other legal code hackers to expand fix copyright in every other creative field. You're too humble. You probably could have had quite a few gripping conversations. Text me next time you get in that situation ;}

  69. I'm glad that since Linux is now the most used operating system on the planet by at least a binary order of magnitude (counting by CPU and including data centers), you can go full retard in these settings and no PR damage is done ;)

  70. Photos!!
    Or at least some more detail about Tove p*ssing off W. Beatty.

  71. Din Oscarstory var det roligaste och mest upplyftande jag last pa lange. Hoppas ni hade roligt! halsningar fran snoiga Helsingfors av en finlandssvensk mamma, exNew Yorkbo, som just blev ditt fan men annu mera Toves. Se fram emot den dagen nar Natalie Portman skryter for sina barnbarn att hon faktiskt har traffat er nar hon var ung!
    Jag jobbar forresten ocksa i badrock, helt anstandigt dock. Har eget litet foretag hemma. Ulrica

  72. The movie stars that I have met were very nice and we had interesting conversations. Thanks for sharing your experience, I too was laughing.

    When I give Brad Pitt the fraternal grip, one day, at least I will know his name too funny.

    I always remember, no matter how famous, they put their pants on the same way we do! And if they are not wearing pants, well that is yet another interesting story.

    Thanks for sharing, can't wait to see the pictures in 10 years...or whenever!

  73. Celebs are fun, most of them though, from my experience are just normal people. Although I don't find celebrity status to be worth much, I do appreciate good work. Anyone from Torvalds and Eban to Groaning and Billy West.

    It takes all sorts to run the world.