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Why I’ve been refusing invitations to women in tech panels

April 15, 2015

This is a pretty decent summary of (one of the major reasons) why I’ve stopped being quite so supportive of women in technology events and panels:  An Unpopular Opinion about Diversity Panels

To excerpt the summary:

Diversity panels do not help further the cause of diversity.  They just don’t.  They are nice and I love hearing marginalized folks share their experiences.  But they suffer from an echo chamber effect that diversified panels, panels where a member happens to be from a marginalized group, do not face.  Diversity panels make conference organizers feel like they’re doing their part to further diversity, but all they really do is further ghettoize diverse authors and marginalized voices because the audience for those panels are the people who are ALREADY LISTENING.

Emphasis mine.

And a proposed solution:

…to get the people who don’t care to start thinking about diversity you have to put it in front of their face when they aren’t thinking about it.  You have to slip black beans into their brownies and only tell them about the benefits of what they ate after the fact.

I shall have to muse upon this further…

Yes, EVERYBODY gets to talk

March 25, 2015

Yesterday, there was a guy standing on the sidewalk outside the high school, with a big gross [very political thing I disagree with] poster and handouts. I checked, it’s legal for him to do this. The sidewalk is public property, and not part of the high school grounds.

He left, or I’d’ve walked up, asked for a flier, torn it up, and asked for another. This is also legal.

I posted about this privately, and got on to free speech. I’m a fervent supporter of free speech. It’s within the limits of the law, so I think the guy absolutely should be allowed to do what he did. I also think [his particular soapbox] is ridiculous, disgusting, ill-informed, and inappropriate. These are no conflicting viewpoints here: anyone and everyone must be allowed to advertise their opinions. I just get to be loud and annoying back. Equal rights FTW!

A friend then commented that “I’m not sure the framers of the constitution meant this when they included this in our rights.” No, this is exactly what the framers of the constitution meant. Everyone, including those with horrific and/or stupid views, should get an equal chance to say what they want. Because, depending on who’s in power and what the popular ideas of the day are, OURS may be the “horrific and/or stupid” views. (Think: voting rights for women, civil rights for black people, marriage equality for homosexual folk, and so on.)

THIS IS WHAT FREE SPEECH IS FOR. You HAVE to let the assholes talk. HAVE TO. Or it doesn’t count.

There are limits*, of course. People generally misunderstand them. And there are caveats. But the limits and caveats have absolutely nothing** to do with the viewpoint of the person speaking; if the “Organization for Doing Good Things All The Time With a Big Smile” gets to march and display signs and hand out fliers, then the “Evil Association of Shitheads who Hate Large Groups of People” also get to do so, no matter how vile their thoughts are. IT MUST BE THIS WAY.

I, too, disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.


*Limits on freedom of speech include a few categories of speech; time, place, or manner restrictions; and the fact that the First Amendment is a protection against GOVERNMENT infringement on freedom of speech, which necessarily means that you don’t get to say or do whatever you want on private property, in a private arena, or with the expectation that anyone has to listen to you. 

**This is a generalization. There are a few things we could talk about as far as content restrictions, but I took ONE 1st amendment class in college, not several.

Adventure Day/Fist of Doritos

March 22, 2015

We had one-on-one time with the boys today: Sean took Eric fishing, and I took Ben out for jogging, books, and swimming.

We decided to call ours “Adventure Day”. The guys…well, you read the title.

Sean and Eric decided that they like any sport where you can fall asleep and do just as well.

Ikea table parenting

February 24, 2015

Ours is a little more scratched and dented and marked on and…

My philosophy of parenting includes keeping only moderately decent furnishings, because mistakes will happen. For example, one of the boys got permanent marker on our dining room table. It’s the nicest table I’ve ever owned, but it’s also an Ikea pine wood jobby, easily scratched and marked. It’s not anything we’re likely to turn into an heirloom. When I was a kid, I always thought getting yelled at for that sort of thing was a huge injustice. Growing up hasn’t really changed my mind. I can tell the boy didn’t do it on purpose*; it’s easy not to think of these things when you’re a kid**. Nothing (that’s not actually yours) has a huge amount of value, because that’s not how your mind works yet. It’s just stuff, that exists in your world. How on earth could you understand the schooling and career building behind the day your mom was able to buy a decent table? Knowing that, why would I get my dream table – if I had such a thing – and expose it and my kids to each other?  It’s better to have the niceish, functional table, tell them to clean up the marks as best they can, and ban permanent markers. -J   *He did once mark on a chair on purpose, but that time I could tell it wasn’t malicious. He was just “oh hey, a chair and a marker, let’s see.” Yes, sometimes as a kid you brain fart that way. I remember doing it, don’t you? **And, the daughter pointed out that the permanent marker may have bled through the paper, which is just a problem with experience and/or anticipating consequences.

The exotic, alien world of 90s music formats

February 20, 2015

I enjoy having kids, if for no other reason* than explaining things that happened a decade or two ago to someone who wasn’t there and has no earthly idea what it was like.

Yesterday I found myself telling daughter about getting They Might Be Giant’s “Flood” album on CD in the early 1990s, and how cool CDs were, because unlike tapes and records, all the music was on ONE SIDE. And it was a cool shiny space age format. And they eventually figured out they could put more than a record’s worth of songs on it.  Tom Petty commemorated the ONE SIDE thing by making note of it on the CD version of one of his albums…the song ends, and he says something like “This is the point at which a person with the tape or record would have to stand up, or sit down, and turn the album over. So let’s just take a minute to mark that. ………. Okay, here’s side two.”

And about the 50 CD changer we bought. You could put in 50 CDs on a carousel, and select which one to play. And it was just the most amazing awesome thing ever.  And how that was the precursor to a few format changes – remember MiniDisc, anyone? And then to digital music, and Napster – which was amazing – and burning your own CDs, and mini digital music players. And how I wasn’t paying attention to the announcement of the iPod, but how it kind of sunk into my consciousness, and how super amazing cool that was.  Digital music on a compact, easy to user player was, as it turned out, everything I wanted out of music consumption in my tweens and teens**.

All of this is an alien world to my children, who of course have never known what it’s like to be without digital music – “Hey Mom, can you download that Minecraft song onto your phone?” – in the same way I never knew what it was like to be without television.

This great foreign world perspective, the idea that history is reality, something you actually LIVE THROUGH instead of just read about…it’s not a great reason to have kids, but it’s a wonderful fringe benefit.



*And there are MANY other reasons.

**iPods became popular a little later than my teens – when I was in my mid-20s, apparently – so I have memories of stacks of records, and a tape-to-tape high speed dubbing deck I got for Christmas, and mix tapes and on and on.

Lists of things done, lists of wins

February 12, 2015

I get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that needs doing. On those days, I try to remember to make a DONE list. Not a checklist, no. When I finish a task, I put it on the list. There: concrete evidence that I’ve accomplished things, without the added stress of all the unchecked items to do.

Similarly, it’s important to write down wins. This is good career advice, of course: keep track of your wins, so when you have to have a review, or update your resume, you have a list of things right there. (You won’t remember them otherwise.) But for personal use, a “win” list is important.  You don’t have to do it daily or weekly…just as you think of it.

It’s so easy to feel like a failure, because you Haven’t Yet Won. There is no Won. There is hardly ever, ever a Won. There is only one little-w “win” after another.

Write down your wins every so often, as they happen.


You have computer files you want to keep, so read on

February 7, 2015

Last night, my data professional, security conscious husband got a trojan virus on his computer that permanently encrypted (locked) all his files away from him. This particular trojan (called CryptoWall) demands hundreds of dollars to unlock the files again. We may end up paying.

I wrote a more technical blog about this over on my database blog, but for those of you who might need a civilian’s guide to what’s up, there’s this blog.

Main Points

  1. This trojan virus is for realz, and it can affect you. Like I said, we’re security conscious; Sean doesn’t open email attachments, download weird suff, all that. He still got it. There is literally no way to get the files back – no software, no company, no trick – unless he ponies up and they happen to provide the encryption key. We have security expert friends who say the exact same thing.
  2. Some of the usual safety mechanisms won’t protect you. Sean had antivirus, up to date. He had offsite backups of his files, in the form of Microsoft OneDrive. OneDrive keeps a constantly updated copy of files up in The Cloud, which in this case was bad, because it updated all the files with the encrypted versions. Yes, you can lose all your files.
  3. The solution is ridiculously simple, but you have to do it now. BEFORE you get the damn trojan.

Easy solution: Save off your files now

This is super easy.

  1. Buy an external hard drive.  It almost doesn’t matter which one. Get one with halfway decent reviews, and don’t feel the need to spend $500 on it. Mine was something like $80, I think, and it’s got a huge amount of space.
  2. Plug it into your computer. Hard drives these days come with USB cords, and are (usually) immediately recognized by your computer. It will show up as a new drive in your “My Computer” screen.
  3. Copy files to it.* This can be as complex as using the script I provided over on my tech blog, or just copy and pasting your “My Documents” folder to the external drive. Do this every month or two, and if your computer catches the trojan, you can give the hackers responsible the finger, get your computer wiped and reinstalled, and stick your files back on it.

Seriously, that’s all.

Please do this now. For you.


P.S. Feel free to ask me any questions you like about this.

P.P.S. This is by no means a complete discussion of security practices. It’s just one aspect, and it will go a long way toward helping you out. Obviously keep complex passwords, keep your antivirus up to date, don’t download strange files with candy, etc. etc.

*Never hook anything up to a computer that’s been infected. In fact, take that computer offline once it’s infected. You do NOT want to pass the trojan on to your external hard drive, or a USB thumb drive, or (thereby) to another computer. Trojan viruses are contagious, you know.


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