Gasconheart interviews elp

On August 11, 2021, I interviewed elp through an audio chat platform. This is the typed version of the interview. The audio version will be posted on The Gascony Show. This transcription, including the notes, was reviewed by the interviewee and approved for publication here.


gasconheart Hello. This is your host, gasconheart, and this is another segment for the show The Gascony Show. Today I will be presenting to you, my dear listeners, another interview. What do you think about that? The other day I interviewed two cute teenage girls on a Spanish beach, and today we will be having an ugly adult man [laughter] no, sorry, a man, probably from Argentina. He will be talking to us about himself, perhaps starting now. Hello.

elp That is very accurate, I'm a dirty old man, so that's a fair description. Thank you.

gasconheart You're welcome! Tell us about yourself. What's your name? Where are you from? Where do you live?

elp Very polite of you. Well, my name is Emilio, that's e-m-i-l-i-o, "Emilio", people don't pronounce that name well, short handle for elp. I'm almost 40, I'm 38, so it's closer to 40 than... it's closer to the end than the beginning, and I'm from Argentina.

gasconheart Fantastic. And in what part of Argentina do you live?

elp There is only one part where people are civilized in Argentina and that's Buenos Aires city. The rest are savage people.

[Two of gasconheart's eight great-grand-parents and several of his sixteen great-great-grand-parents were from Argentina. None of them from Buenos Aires city. Note inserted by the Gasconheart Blog Maintenance Committee.]

gasconheart Alright, alright [laughters]. Fantastic. So, tell us about your first experience with computers: when was it, what kind of computer was it, where were you, etcetera. Take it away.

elp Oh. I was a kid. Very tiny kid. I believe it was either a Vic 20 or something of that sort. It wasn't a very long experience, it was a short glimpse. Here technology isn't readily available, and it wasn't available there, but that was the first glimpse of what a computer was. I was fortunate enough, not so long after that, to get my hands on other people's computers, but we're talking now of the DOS age. Those were fun times.

gasconheart Were those? How so?

elp Um, the DOS days .... They were changing the whole time. You had the 386 days and then suddenly the next week you had the 486 days, and then you had the SX days, and the DX days, and the DX2 days, and it was all in the span of a couple of weeks. Color printing, I mean, ribbon, dot matrix color printing was a thing here... I'm talking of the early 90s, [19]95, [19]96, because 96 is when my civilian life ended and at the tender age of twelve I went to the army.

gasconheart Alright!

elp Yeah. And I remained there for quite a long time, but I was fortunate at the army again with computers because the army would get a lot of donations, from everybody, not from... especially from the private sector. And one of those gifts was a Sparc Station 20. This is 97. Running Solaris 2, 5 something, and that was my first... the first time I had the whole deal. I had a computer nobody knew how to use, nobody wanted to use, and nobody understood. So it was basically of my very own for about two years. And that is how I discovered UNIX. Very fortunate indeed in life, again, after a couple of more years, when I outgraded from military highschool, military academy, we got another gift, from the US army, and it was... It's called the MIL system, it's sort of a shooting system in which you shoot people with lasers, and they made noise and vibrate, very primitive shooting [...] stuff. But the device was controlled by an IBM R6000 running AIX.

gasconheart Damn!

elp And nobody knew how to use it! And, oh my God! I have another UNIX system to myself! Fun times. I could escape there and have my solitary times with another different UNIX system. People that give gifts, usually in this sort of environment, they know that the people receiving the gifts are not very smart, so the root password was usually "root".

gasconheart Oh yes.

elp So these people would have the machine but wouldn't know how to use it, because they wouldn't have a password. So, have you tried this, types "root", then enter, and then password "root", enter, and oh! it sprung up to life! Wow! People were so ... That was my first contact with serious computing.

gasconheart Alright. And both systems, Solaris and AIX, are licensed UNIX. Therefore, "real UNIX", and not Unix-like or inspired by UNIX, but fully licensed. The real deal. Right?

elp Yup! Very expensive, very ... proprietory UNIX, yeah.

gasconheart Alright. So, one thing is being a user of computers, but you're not just a user. You type in Emacs. You're kind of an advanced user. What prompted you to want to be an advanced user of computers?

elp Again, it's over a span of years, I wanted to have the same sort of environment that I had on the school for wasting my time here at home. There were no games... I'm not much of a gamer, but I enjoy writing. I've always enjoyed writing. And I was very curious on how the computer--this is back in highschool--how it worked. And you typed "man" for "manual", and it would be a document system. Now it is like, wow, it has documentation inside it. That's something that DOS does not have. This had inside documentation. So I started to learn how to do things. It took a while. These were not localized systems by any [...], these were English systems, we are a Spanish speaking country. But the first thing you learn is that you have to edit files somehow. You have to find a way to edit files. It doesn't matter really the reason. If you want to customize something, or if you are to fix something, you need to edit files. At that time, I discovered that there was one editor included in the directory called /ucb ... No, that was for "University of Berkeley", I don't know in which directory it was, but it was Emacs. I can't remember the specific version, but it was just as it is now. And I fell in love with it! I fell in love with Emacs, I discovered the Manifesto, I read it, I still have it in very high regard for what it stands for, then I started looking for the same thing to have on my Pentium III computer at home. I believe the first GNU/Linux distro I used was Red Hat 5.2, this is the original Red Hat before they became a juggernaut. And it was both fun and depressing.

gasconheart How so?

elp Here there are cheap DSL USB modems. And drivers would be an issue. Wow, the drivers! So, you had to have your drive's partition for running Windows 98 or XP, for mom, because mom wanted to use the computer too, and you had a partition for your Linux distribution. On your Linux distribution you'd be using dial-up. On your Windows experience you'd be using the DSL modem. The catch was that on those days every single update and software download had to be over dial-up.

gasconheart Right. Time consuming.

elp Oh! It was a hassle! So I try to not remember much of those days. There was a fear of proprietory drivers, of proprietory codecs, though it came with no codecs at all. In the end that's what made Ubuntu a popular distro, because it included everything in, regardless if it was proprietory or not.

gasconheart Ok! You mentioned Emacs. Can you tell us who coded the first version of Emacs?

elp Oh, Emacs is very old. Emacs comes from before the incompatible time sharing system at MIT. This is in the late 60s, early 70s. Before Emacs... The Emacs that we know now is extremely different from the one that they had on those days. It was written in a language called Tico [check that], and it's an awful extension language. I don't recall the name of the original developers, but one of the users of Emacs was Richard Stallman, which is the founder of the free software movement. So he re-wrote the code base of Emacs for the incompatible time sharing system in Lisp, and started extending it that way. It was almost 40 years ago. And, well, he had his issues with making the GNU Emacs version that we know today, but he started it, thirty odd years ago. A free implementarion of the extensible text editor, Emacs, written in C, with a Lisp interpreter for extensibility. You can do pretty much everything on Emacs with certain restraints if you don't have a fancy data script on the inside browser you could see pretty fancy web sites using an external browser, but you can do..., manage your life inside of Emacs. You can manage your agenda, you can send emails, read the news, browse the web, control your system, and edit files, which is the reason for its existence in the beginning.

gasconheart Ok. Let me remind my listeners that this interview will be available also in text form after I transcribe it, and I will be posting it in my blog at SDF. I will give the exact URL later. What is your web site, Emilio?

elp Oh, well, first of all, that sounds pretty much like a pain, I will try to say as much meaningless words as I can in order for you to transcribe this more... as you could... possibly could. [He laughs out loud] You will have to transcribe the laughter too. My web site is http://elp.sdf.org.

gasconheart Alright, yes, in that web site I saw some items signed by Richard Stallman himself? Is that true?

elp Yes. He came in 2018, the day of my birthday, actually May 28th, and I had some money in my pocket, and I said I'm going to go. And I did go. I won the auction, because he always auctions something after his speeches. It's always the same speech. So, people who have heard the speech once, they know it by heart the second or third time. He made the auction, I won, and I took my computer, because I knew, why wouldn't I take my computer to RMS to .... He is the reason why most of us are functioning right now.

gasconheart Maybe.

elp ... because of the whole free software movement concept. Before that, there was no concept of free software. Before Richard Stallman.

gasconheart That's right.

elp Software was either proprietory or it had funny names, that some people conveniently used, like freeware, or shareware. But when this guy came along he said, no, software should be free, for this reason ... for these particular reasons. And those reasons make sense. When you seek... When you have a program you want to know what the program does, if it's doing something you would like to extend, you have access to extend it and you can share that program with other people, persons, companies, you've think that they might find useful, and those are great ideas.

gasconheart Alright. You mentioned that you were in the army, you mentioned that you like writing, and we all know that you like computers. Let me ask you: are you a professional soldier of some kind? Are you a professional in the field of computers? Are you a professional writer? What are you, Emilio? Tell us.

elp That's a good question. I ask myself the same question every single day. [Noisy laughter.] I graduated from the military academy. I'm an infantry lieutenent. A writer? I wouldn't know. I've written stuff. I wrote a book that seldom people did read. I wouldn't know, I'm kind of flexible, you know, I could do a lot of stuff. I did more oddities, as if that wasn't odd enough, I did other weird stuff.

gasconheart Like what? Keep it decent.

elp Lecturing people on leadership. Leadership is so complex, and sometimes you have to be harsh. You can't avoid being harsh when you're in charge, and... To me it's pretty obvious, but to people that ... the being harsh part, and the being harsh to yourself first, because you have to be an example to others when you're a leader, it doesn't sit well with the common folk, so it's sort of a puzzleing idea. But yeah, I'm sort of a jack of all trades, a renaissance-man-thing, if you like to put it that way.

gasconheart Ok, ok, well, tell us about the book you wrote, and, in general, what you write and what you like writing.

elp Well, I did write a book, a couple of years ago, called Disillusionment in the beehive in English, it is not available in English, it's available in Spanish, and it's a fictional tale of job hunting. You could say I'm a professional job hunter.

gasconheart Ok, sounds interesting.

[gasconheart has read the book.]

elp One of the reasons for writing the book, that particular book, was the... The world of human resources is like the world of the kitchen, when you go to a restaurant. You never know they exist, but they are an integral part between you and your food. And it's a position being an ... I don't like using the "human resources" phrase because we humans are not resources. We are unexpendable, each one of us. But these people came from a side of business administration that was really belated and forgotten and they started to appear in the late 90s more and more as sort of a trend, especially in the US, where people are lazier to do harsh work. Dealing with people is harsh. So they hire these goons, the HR people, to deal with human affairs, and it's a very terrifying world, that't why it's called disillusionment, because they have to be illusioned first, to be disillusioned.

gasconheart Sounds reasonable.

elp This guy, the character, he drives himself to insanity through job hunting, and through seeing that every single application that he does and every single interview in process that he does goes array. It's a sad reality of the 21st century, that we have to deal with those people. In Spanish we call them "filters". But companies would benefit greatly if the real staff would do the hiring instead of subcontracting to these sort of leech agencies that hire people. And just as a side note, the people forget how Man Power started, you know the agency Man Power?

gasconheart I am not familiar with that.

elp It's a huge low level job agency, a worldwide company. It started in the US. It's a post World War II thing, because, like in World War I, women went to the factories to replace the men who were fighting. In World War II women went to the factories again to replace the men. But after the guys came back from the war, they were well paid, very educated, the US was growing exponentially, its industry wasn't damaged, as was the European one, so there was a guy that saw... that said, hey, we have all these very qualified women that are home right now and we could place them at certain workplaces. So this guy created Man Power, which he should have named Women Power, because it was originally to employ women. That was in the early 50s, when the women would go to be stewardesses at airplanes, that sort of middle class wife with few hours to spare to be productive somehow, kind of thing. And that evolved in the monster that are now job agencies like Accenter[?] which I love calling "indenter" because that's what they are, they are enter servants, and so many others, those big, big-ass companies that really do nothing, do not contribute to anything.

gasconheart I see, I see. Let me remind my listeners that today I am interviewing Mr. Emilio from Argentina, a person who has an experience, a past experience, in the army, with computers enthiusiasts, and who also writes. His web page is http://elp.sdf.org. And that leads us to SDF. We met at SDF. How did you meet SDF for the first time?

elp Huh. I actually don't remember well. It was 2014 or something like that, 2013? That's a long time gone, huh? I was looking for free shells. Shells as in term that is the term for a UNIX shell, online shells [...] Unix-ee, and this thing came along that said we are the oldest social network in history since 1982...

gasconheart Eighty seven.

elp [...] and yes, they were. They were online since 1982, where a lot of AT&T I think... 32B computer... and getting into their system, getting an account was interesting, I found you there that could speak my language, because you're a native of my fellow neighbour country.

gasconheart Yes, I am.

elp And it was fun times. I don't get in as much as I'd like lately. But it's a fun, entertaining community. Lots of knowledge about UNIX, and old programs. It runs NetBSD, it's a testing ground for NetBSD, and there's a lot of very interesting people there. That's where I got to meet you.

gasconheart Exactly, exactly, that's where we met. That is correct. Alright. As a person who seeks employment, what would you tell a prospective employer right now if they were listening to this podcast by any chance, how would you advertise yourself and would you be able, or willing, to move in order to work in a different city, abroad, etcetera? Go ahead.

elp Well, that's a.... We're talking amongst friends now, so I will give you my opinion right now, which surely changes, but the central concept for people who own companies is the following: do your own hiring. You choose your own wife, and lover, and your friends. You choose them. You're an old person. You're an old guy, right? Not you, but the people listening. You chose your wife, you choose your friends, you choose to which restaurant to go. Choose your employees wisely. Because you don't have an idea of how much damage they are creating. The people you are... Letting other people in. Or not. The amount of time wasted. And it's alright, it's your money. But from every company I've been rejected in my life, I've never bought a product, and I believe I'm not the only one. So that's my first recommendation... That's what I'm doing: recommending the people who employ other people to do the hiring themselves, to take the time. People who look for work, and people will be looking for work a lot after the pandemic is over. Do the hiring yourself. It can't be done in a Saturday. People who want to work will go and will interview with you and you'll get a glimpse of how they are, and you'll be a good, responsible entrepreneur who knows everybody by name. And that's the first thing. The second thing is... I was thinking of moving, so hard, and I've tried so many times that it is sort of a joke now. I've been trying to move abroad since I was 28, so it's 10 years now, and it's hard. It's not as easy as it looks like, and it gets harder by the year, especially under the circumstances, because people fail to see so many other things. It's not like... I'm the grand-son of migrants. everybody in Argentina is. We are... Argentina is a Spanish-Italian country. A colony of Italy and Spain. If you're not López you're a Ragiano, Calabrese.

gasconheart That's right.

elp So we have some French, some Welsh men, very rare. Brazil has a little more Germans than we have, but those people who left Europe, in the turn of the 20th century, they came here to a new land, that was growing, and those folks were very proud of the nation that they were building and helping to build. And they were socially different not only from ourselves, but from... They would be alien to us now. My grand-father had a restaurant. A very big restaurant. And I have from the year I was born, I have a little calendar that said the restaurant, and my family name, proudly serving the nation for 70 years. Those guys were really proud. Actually the number may be bullshit, because, you know, marketing? Some things never change. Those guys were proud of what they were doing. And the people in Europe prospered because those guys also left with nothing. They left all the land, they left all the houses, they left all their material goods and came with a suitcase. When I look back at my original town in Southern Italy, it's dismal[?] compared to what's here. It's an isolated village that hasn't changed in 500 years or more. It's rather sad that there was no will to improve, there was no desire to grow, particularly with Italians, there is some sort of disregard with the diaspora, it's like, ok, we've sent so many people abroad, that we really don't care about them, at all. It is the contrary for, let's say, Armenians, or Israelis, right? The Israelis' right to return. And the Armenians have the right to return as well. But we Italians also have... not the right to return, but we don't have the advantages that other people feel proud about. The heritage that they feel proud about. So back to the [...] of going back. Going back to where? Going back to where my grand-father escaped? Going back to ... what?

gasconheart For example... You have a European citizenship. You could explore the possibility of working in a different country in Europe. Does that not entice you?

elp Not having been to Europe... Right now the whole world is a big mess, so no place is safe, either to work or to have ideas to prosper right now, everybody is trying to move slowly and see how things go, but in the grand scheme of things there was an obvious shift from, I'll risk to say, December last year that most countries in the Northern sphere of Europe, namely Norway, Sweeden, Finland, Iceland, and Danemark, stopped publishing job advertisements in English. They simply halted. You don't see any ads in English, and it takes a while for you to notice, being this South, that there was Brexit going around. So it takes some time to understand also that those people I have just mentioned have a different working ethics, a different culture, and they have their own set of problems, well established problems, that we down here don't see. So kind of projecting, foreseeing things, it's a bit clouded [?] but things will work out in the end. I don't know if it will work here, if it will work on some other place. Right now there is uncertainty all over.

gasconheart Ok, guy, be optimistic. Seek... Keep reaching for that...

elp Right now [....] because I know you will have to type every word I say.

gasconheart Oh yes, I will type everything, yes. [elp laughs noisily.] It will be a pain in the neck. But it's ok. Be optimistic, keep reaching for that employment...

elp I don't know how the situation is in Spain.

gasconheart The what? Sorry?

elp I don't have a clear depiction of how the situation is in Spain, regarding covid and emplyment. If you have any insight I would appreciate it.

gasconheart Yeah, I may email that to you later. [What? Was I becoming the interviewee?] It is more or less what you see on television, like any other European country, there is no difference at all. Sure, a lot of people are getting ill from the virus, dying from the virus, there is unemployment, more or less what you already see on the news. Anyway, it's been 37 minutes so far, so we may want to be wrapping it up by now. Well, finally, tell my listeners and readers how to reach you if they want to say hi or if they want to employ you.

elp Don't. Just don't do it.

gasconheart Ok, we won't do it.

elp Don't contact me. Please.

gasconheart Ok, we will not contact you. [elp laughs noisily.] I will tell my listeners not to contact you. [elp burst into laughter again.]

elp I have a weird sense of fun. I've known you for quite a while, I know that you're a linguist, and very keen for words and communicating, and I congratulate you over your projects, I've followed lately your projects. Very interesting.

gasconheart Oh, thank you, man.

elp Instead of contacting me, people could delve into those projects and give a hand.

gasconheart Ok, ok, it is not a bad idea. And since you hang out in my IRC channel, why don't you come, listeners, to my...

elp Yes, we would enjoy more company.

gasconheart That is correct, yes. Well, listeners, come to my IRC to contact Emilio. Just Google, or search over the internet, "the IRC server by Gasconheart", or "the Gasconheart IRC server", something like that. You will find it easily, I'm the only gasconheart in the world. Did I tell you about Heart Gascon? There is a girl named Heart Gascon. I'm not kidding. For real. She is from the Phillipines, she does not speak English, and I've been wanting to contact her for more than one year now. That would be quite an interview: Gasconheart interviewing Heart Gascon. That'd be fantastic. Anyway, I'm the only Gasconheart in the internet, so Google that, or use Duckduckgo, or whatever you use, and you will be finding me and Emilio there. Ok, we're approaching the 40th minute of this interview. Ok, thank you very much, Emilio, for your time, for the interview, and feel free to say goodbye to my listeners.

elp You're welcome, man, take care. Take care, guys, wash your hands. And go to the chat room, go there, let's talk. Bye now.

gasconheart Bye, thank you.