Staff Interview: Pauline McNamara
Cattle Drive is a special place
by Mapraputa Is

From personal correspondence with Pauline McNamara:

"... The Cattle Drive is really a special and unique experience from both sides, both as someone doing the Cattle Drive assignments and as someone doing the nitpicking. For all that I've learned about so-called eLearning, I think the Cattle Drive is one of the few examples that just got it right in a straight forward, uncomplicated way.

We learn stuff from web pages and maybe a book at the same time, we actually *do* the stuff we learn, plodding through and collecting our mistakes, and we do it together with other people, by having conversations in the CD forum. A few web pages, some email and some forum conversations and that's it. Being able to share questions and pain in the forum was really a big part of it for me. And getting prodded through to an acceptable solution - getting your code "nitpicked" - is so much more rewarding than just getting an assignment back with "this-is-wrong-and-this-is-right-now-go-on-to-the-next-problem", like you would in a normal course. I could gush forever about how cool the Cattle Drive is, obviously I'm convinced.

Learning to be a nitpicker is an ongoing process. Every single student is in a different place as far as experience and approach and just who they are. As a nitpicker, hitting the right balance of giving hints without giving too much away is a constant challenge. And getting the right tone of being encouraging while essentially knocking down what someone has sweated on is really a kind of finesse that takes some practice to get right. That's an attitude that I really try to be aware of and that I try to bring to other situations too."

JavaRanch: Cattle Drive *is* a special place. To tell the truth, I feel intimidated even to ask about it... It feels like one big conspiracy. Do you guys plan to take over the Ranch some day?
Pauline: We have a contingency plan in case Meaningless Drivel makes a move.

JavaRanch: What have you done in your life that feels closest to moderating on the Ranch?
Pauline: I once lived in a cooperative household of 40+ people. We took over the world too, and no one noticed then either.

JavaRanch: Does moderating make you a better person?
Pauline: I'm not sure about moderating, but nitpicking on the Cattle Drive has definitely been a lesson in self-improvement. It's one of the most challenging and satisfying things I've ever done.

JavaRanch: Your first degree is in biology, the second in geography. Which is more useful for you as a programmer?
Pauline: Actually I think my stints as a bike mechanic and a carpenter have been more useful to me as a programmer. Though I think that being a "bricoleuse" is a big part of being a scientist too.
JavaRanch: Could you elaborate here? It's definitely interesting!
Pauline: It's a curiosity thing, trying to figure out how something works and digging to find out. Being a tinkerer. Doesn't matter if it's repacking a headset or building a deck or analyzing data or programming behind a GUI. It's seeing any phenomenon as a puzzle and trying to get the pieces in place, or even just figuring out what the pieces are. For me, it's the satisfaction of being able to say "I don't know" and then following up until you get to "Yes! That's it!" or "Aha! Well maybe this way instead...".

JavaRanch: Which language is closer to Java, English? French? German?
Pauline: Is that some kind of twisted geography question? I dare to say that maybe the French language is more strictly typed.

JavaRanch: Your work... Can you tell us what you do in one word? Two? Three?
Pauline: Diplomacy. Learn stuff. Spread it around.

JavaRanch: What is the most American trait in you?
Pauline: That can-do attitude, without a doubt. I miss being surrounded by that.

JavaRanch: Is there anything else you miss about the US? Is there anything about Switzerland you are terrified to miss in case of leaving?
Pauline: Bagels from Boston and burritos from San Francisco, no question. If I had to leave Switzerland I would definitely miss being able to live without owning a car and not feeling limited by it. And riding the train, I love that.

JavaRanch: When I tell people that I am from Russia, in 9 cases out of 10 the next question is "Is it cold in Russia?" What do people ask you when you tell them you live in Switzerland?
Pauline: Do you know So-and-so? He lives in Sweden too!

JavaRanch: Are you a morning or evening person?
Pauline: Definitely *not* a morning person, though I often wish I were.

JavaRanch: I am not a morning person either. Ever wondered what is the reason to keep 9-5 schedule for us, OK, let's say "me", if my brain wakes up by 11 pm? Any tips on surviving in non-evening-person friendly environment?
Pauline: Get plenty of sleep on the weekends maybe?

JavaRanch: From your bio: what is it about your being a dedicated cappuccino drinker?
Pauline: Actually, what I love best round these parts is called a schale (sounds like "shahlah"): sort of like a cappuccino, strong toasty espresso with just the right amount of foamed milk. Heaven.

JavaRanch: How do you think? Do you think in pictures? Do you hear voices in your head? Draw boolean algebra equations? How do you know that you are thinking?
Pauline: I think in scenes, real or imagined.
Voices? Wait a sec, I'll ask.
Boiled what? Sorry could you repeat that?
If I know that I am breathing then I know that I am thinking. At least I think so.

JavaRanch: Do you know where all this barbed wire on the Ranch came from?
Pauline: I think it might have been from a surplus sale at the Homeland Store.

JavaRanch: Do you prefer two or three pin power plugs?
Pauline: Map, really! I never tell on the first interview. Besides, I can't decide.

JavaRanch: If you could choose a psychiatric disorder for yourself, what would you choose?
Pauline: Recessive propulsive disorder with bisolar tendencies

JavaRanch: This question is stolen from Kathy Sierra's blog: "Tell us something most people wouldn't know about you (strange, unusual, etc.)".
Pauline: Most people when they look at me don't realize that I'm actually quite tall.

JavaRanch: The theme of this issue is "war". What war would you want to win? What to lose?
Pauline: I'd be happy to lose all wars and never find them ever again.