The Curmudgeoclast

Thoughts, projects, and ramblings of Dave Astels


cur·mud·geon “This sucks.”
A curmudgeon is a miser or an ill-tempered (and frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions.
i·con·o·clast “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”
An iconoclast is someone who performs iconoclasm — destruction of religious symbols, or, by extension, established dogma or conventions. The term that has come to be applied figuratively to any person who breaks or disdains established dogmata or conventions.
cur·mud·ge·o·clast “This sucks, but wouldn’t it be cool if…”

The story behind the name

At RubyConf years ago someone (sorry, I forget who) complimented me on my tweets: that my grumbling and bitching was entertaining. I said I tended to be a curmudgeon. He commented that he thought I was more of an iconoclast, in that I often had something interesting/useful to say. I tweeted this and Chris Hanson (@eschaton) gave the above characterizations (and wikipedia provided the definitions). And so it seems I am a curmudgeoclast.

Heh. That's pretty cool.


I've always been a gamer to some extent. My earliest significant gaming memories are of high school era with an Atari VCS as and later my Apple 2+ and games like RasterBlster, LodeRunner, BurgerTime, and the like. I went through a serious DOOM and Quake I/II phase. Diablo II, and now Diablo III. WoW. iOS games, Nintendo 3DS.

I've worked for a company in the gaming industry (though not making games, making stuff for gamers) and am playing more (time and games).

Most recently I've gotten caught up in the Pathfinder TableTop RPG from Paizo.


I've been programming and hacking hardware in some fashion for about 30 years, on many systems in too many languages to remember. I'm the guy originally behind the idea that turned into sSpec (for Smalltalk) and then rSpec. I've written books on extreme programming, and test driven development. I've written articles, and spoken at conferences. Mostly I like hacking on code and hardware and using software to solve problems. Preferably hard problems.

Since working for SteelSeries, I've rekindled my love of working with hardware, especially embedded systems. This is the stuff I started my career with. These days it means things liek Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and specifically the boards from Adafruit. I've been freelancing for Adafruit since late 2017, and wrote a series on basic electronics for HackSpace magazine..


I've been interested in food and cooking since I was a teen. I started out by teaching myself to cook Chinese food using cooking shows and cookbooks (Wok with Yan out of Vancouver... Steven Yan, not Martin Yan).

My culinary interest/involvement ebbed and flowed over the years. What really kicked it into gear was working at Google, surrounded by incredible chefs and passionate foodies. That and having to fill out a kitchen more or less from scratch. More than anyone, kudos have to go to chefs Brian Mattingly, Jean Claude Balek, Justin Lucke and their crews.

My latest obsession is baking. I've always tended to stovetop cooking in various forms. I like tasting & fiddling as I go. Baking is chemistry: mix it up, apply heat, and hope for the best. Since becoming a rabid fan of The Great British Bake-off which is also shown on PBS as The Great British Baking Show. To guide me, I am working my way through Cookie Love by Mindy Segal of Chicago's Hot Chocolate. Yes I'm diabetic so I try not to eat many cookies, but it's not too difficult to find people that will help eat them.

Baking bread is my latest kitchen pursuit. I've been working on formulas from Peter Reinhart's books. I have a part whole wheat sandwich loaf and a pugliese that consistently turn out well.

Fountain Pens, Writing, and Calligraphy

I've used fountain pens off and on since my teens. I have vivid memories of using one to take notes in junior high: a red Sheaffer with Scripto Peacock Blue ink. I've also dabbled with calligraphy for even longer. As I said, it was off and on. For most of my career I had little need to use pen and paper, and my handwriting was attrocious.

In fall 2018 I was looking at approaches for improving my time mamangement and stumbled upon Bullet Journalling. It seemed worth a try. So I got an appropriate notebook and decided to give a fountain pen a try. This time I decided to get a decent one and not use cartridges, opting for bottled ink. I was hooked and currently have a small, but nice, collection of pens and inks. I have an Italian pen made from basaltic lava from Mt. Etna. I have a celluloid pen made in 1946. I have Bauhaus inspired German pens, and some lovely Japanese pens.

Early in 2019 I decided that, since I was using pen and paper, I should work to improve my handwriting. I picked up "The Art of Cursive Penmanship" by Master Penman Michael Sull and started practicing daily. Several months of that and my handwriting was good enough (IMO) to take out in public. I signed up with the Fountain Pen Friends Facebook group and started corresponding with several people.

I've also picked up calligraphy again and making good progress on the pointed insular minuscule hand (aka the Anglo Saxon hand).