tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Take this list, remove a thing, sort it by how much you like the things, add a thing at the top, a thing in the middle, and a thing at the bottom (preserving the sortedness, pedants):

(most liked)
The Mountain Goats
Getting up early
Getting something in the mail that isn't bills
Thermal underwear
Steam locomotives
Nessie Ladle
Eating paper
Undercooked Aubergine
Celery in a stir-fry
(most disliked)

From http://pseudomonas.dreamwidth.org/134958.html -- like him, I have tried to add things which are not *universally* loved/hated; I feel putting "Orgasms" and "Genocide" on there would be kinda boring...
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I'm reading a book called Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. The book has lots of exercises in it; one of them is about trying to see yourself the way others see you. The premise is: we all have negative tapes playing in our heads; we're all self-critical. To quote her, "A direct statement about yourself is considered objective only if it is negative."

You can't stop the negative tapes just by saying you're going to stop thinking these self-critical thoughts -- rather, you have to replace them with something new. A positive tape. She suggests two ways of creating a positive tape; the first one is to sit down with a trusted friend and ask them to spend about 3 minutes talking about precisely what's good about you. Your job is to write it all down (and not argue with your friend!)

I didn't want to do this face-to-face with somebody, so I decided to do a distributed version instead, which I did in this post (and on Facebook, and in one person's case, email). Now that I have some responses, I'm going to try to compile them together into the equivalent of that 3-minute monologue from a friend (combining common themes together).

And then I will have a positive tape (written down, so I can always refresh my memory) that I can always replay when the negative ones are too loud. I don't think my self-esteem is especially low these days, but I still have plenty of self-critical thoughts and some residual impostor syndrome. Also, distinctly from actively thinking bad things about myself, there are plenty of good things about myself that I don't notice on my own.

So, thanks to everyone who commented! I probably won't post the summarized version publicly (too self-absorbed ;) but I appreciate everyone who provided me with raw material for it :) Also, this was a fun experiment and I would wholly recommend it to others.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Edit: Thank you for all the comments! I have now switched back to not allowing anonymous commenting. Also, I'm tracking IP addresses again for future comments, but IPs for comments on this post still won't be exposed to me. I can't disable comments on this post without hiding all the existing comments, so I won't, but I don't need any more for now :) Here's why I did this experiment.

I'm doing an experiment (and will reveal why after I've gotten some data). I've temporarily enabled anonymous commenting for this post (actually my entire journal since you can't do it post-by-post, shhh) and I'm temporarily not tracking IP addresses (eventually I will turn that back on, but Dreamwidth won't show me the IP addresses for comments posted in the interim). Anonymous comments will be screened, and as usual, I'll unscreen them unless you say "Don't unscreen this".

With that said: tell me what you like about me, or what you think is good about me. One or two sentences is okay; if you want to say more, that's okay too. It would help if you could be as precise as possible, but don't obsess too much. Just say what you would say if somebody called you up and said they're checking my background, and to just say whatever comes to mind about me. You have the choice of commenting as yourself, or anonymously.

I'm not intending for this to be a meme, but feel free to make it one. I didn't come up with the idea, though.
tim: Solid black square (black)
I was saddened to read Amelia Greenhall's account of co-founding Model View Culture with Shanley Kane. Amelia and Shanley are both people I respect. So reading that Shanley treated Amelia abusively when they were business partners upsets me primarily because Amelia was harmed, and secondarily because I feel deeply disappointed in Shanley.

One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with in my adult life is that abusers aren't 100%-bad figures of pure villainry. That somebody can both do good things for you and abuse you, and if they do both, it doesn't diminish the fact that they abused you or make it any less wrong. I still haven't come to terms with it, honestly.

In this particular situation, I feel that I'm in a no-win situation. I suspect many of my comrades in the loosely knit movement to redistribute wealth and power in the tech industry feel the same way. I have a choice between:

  • boosting the signal for Amelia's message, which contributes to the abuse that is currently being heaped on Shanley for separate reasons -- in fact, the reasons that she called out an abuser herself and had a past romantic relationship with another abuser -- even though that's obviously not Amelia's intent; or:
  • remaining silent, which, given the degree to which I've supported Shanley in the past, sends the message that I approve of abuse when it's from someone who I personally like and whose work I like, which is not a message I agree with.

I'm choosing in this case to not be silent. I believe Amelia and I support her unequivocally in her decision to tell her story. I don't think the fact that Shanley has abused people means that she's beyond redemption as a person. It also doesn't negate the value of her writing or of the writing by other people that she's published in Model View Culture. We can accept that Linux is a useful piece of software while refusing to tolerate Linus Torvalds' abuse of contributors in public; we can also accept that Shanley has done incredibly valuable work while refusing to tolerate her abuse of colleagues, or anybody else, in private. Trustworthy leadership is important. That means that we shouldn't accept someone who can't or won't treat others with respect as the leader of a software project, no matter how good we suppose his technical judgment to be. And that also means that we shouldn't accept someone who quietly abuses people in private as the leader of a social justice organization, no matter how good we suppose her activist skills to be.

Some people are choosing this moment to question whether Shanley sincerely believes in the work she does. I have no doubt in her sincerity. I know what it's like to get so carried away with doing what you think is right that you forget to consider the feelings of other people. That's a reason, not an excuse.

We can be a stronger community if Shanley chooses to take responsibility for her actions towards Amelia -- and anybody else, as the case may be -- and model what accountability looks like. Of course, whether her apology is adequate is up to Amelia to decide.

I also want to emphasize that there is no excuse whatsoever for the scurrilous harassment campaign revolving around media scrutiny of her past sex life that Shanley has been subject to over the past week. What's being done to her is an attack against her as well as a warning to every other woman who speaks up in tech. We have to get better at coming to terms with the fact that a person who has been abused, who, even, is experiencing ongoing abuse, can also abuse others. So just as Shanley's behavior towards Amelia does not in any way warrant the torrent of abuse that Shanley is receiving for being a woman with independent opinions, that torrent of abuse does not justify her in violating other people's boundaries. Our analyses need to be complex enough for us to condemn the misogynist terror campaign that targets every woman who dares to speak in public, without making the victims of these campaigns into unimpeachable heroes, beyond criticism.

Because when you hold somebody up as a person who can do no wrong, you're dehumanizing them, just as much as those who cast feminist women as evil misandrist sluts do. Part of being human is the capacity to do wrong; to hurt other people; to hurt other people a lot. The part we get a choice about is how we deal with it when it happens.

Comments are screened. I will assume it's OK to unscreen all comments unless you state otherwise. If you ask me not to unscreen your comment, I'll delete it after reading, since it irritates me to have screened comments sitting around :)
Edited to add: To the sockpuppet commenter whose username is a word cleverly spelled backwards: uoy kcuf.
Edited to add, 2: In case it needs to be said again, fuck GamerGate; Milo Yiannopoulos is the scum of the earth; and fuck everyone who's linking to this post in an attempt to make the analysis less complex instead of more. I didn't write about my pain and heartbreak so you could use it for your bullshit harassment campaign. I believe that people can be better than their pasts, and I'm still holding out hope that Shanley will prove she is rather than sinking into the same defensive tactics we've seen from so many. Amelia said she didn't want her words twisted and used in your petty little hate campaign, so show some motherfucking respect.
Edited to add, 3: To the person who asked me not to unscreen their comment: I wasn't going to unscreen it anyway.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
What [personal profile] graydon2 wrote about the non-fungibility of romance is really, really good. As usual, I really like the way he thinks.

It would be like demanding someone sing a song with you. It would be like demanding someone laugh at your joke. It would be like demanding someone wants to bake cookies with you. These are all excellent things to enjoy mutually with someone else, that lots of people like to do, but that require mutual interest. They are all adjacent to much-more-readily available commodity experiences -- you can sing along to a recording, you can watch a funny film and laugh, you can buy and eat a bag of cookies -- but the mutual version, if you want it, is different. Noticeably different, and completely non-commodity. Every sing-along is its own thing. Sometimes all we can get is the commodity thing. Sometimes it's all we can handle, or all we want. Complaints about "nice guy" behaviour are not complaints about men wanting sex. They're about context.

Of course, a lot of guys do literally demand that people laugh at their jokes. "It was just a joke. Don't be so thin-skinned. Get a sense of humor."

Anyway, I wonder how much consumer capitalism has to do with the idea that if you can pay someone to have sex with you, then you should also be able to pay somebody to have genuine mutual intimacy with you.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
"Well, Jesus was a homeless lad
With an unwed mother and an absent dad
And I really don't think he would have gotten that far
If Newt, Pat and Jesse had followed that star
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

When Jesus taught the people he
Would never charge a tuition fee
He just took some fishes and some bread
And made up free school lunches instead
So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

He healed the blind and made them see
He brought the lame folks to their feet
Rich and poor, any time, anywhere
Just pioneering that free health care
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus hung with a low-life crowd
But those working stiffs sure did him proud
Some were murderers, thieves and whores
But at least they didn't do it as legislators
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus lived in troubled times
the religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state.
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Sometimes I fall into deep despair
When I hear those hypocrites on the air
But every Sunday gives me hope
When pastor, deacon, priest, and pope
Are all singing out their praises to
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew.

They're all singing out their praises to....
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew."

-- Hugh Blumenfeld

tim: Solid black square (black)
In September 2014, I publicly named a person who had harassed me and one other colleague when I worked at Mozilla. To substantiate my assertion, I publicly posted emails from the harasser that my colleague had forwarded to me at the time. (I'm being deliberately vague in order to avoid drawing further unwanted attention to the other victim of this particular harassment incident. I have removed these emails from my web site, but, of course, the more details I give in this post, the easier it is for curious people to put the pieces together.)

I'm not sorry that I named the harasser, but in doing so, it was not necessary for me to post the emails; I merely could have said so, and it's likely that my credibility would not have been questioned. And even if it had been questioned, that wouldn't really have mattered.

Not long after this, the other members of the geekfeminism.org anti-abuse team, of which I was a member from its inception, asked me to temporarily step down from the team while they investigated a complaint that had been made against me. I agreed to step down temporarily. The other members of the anti-abuse team have determined that my publicizing of the emails violated the Geek Feminism Code of Conduct, specifically the sentence that defines harassment to include "Publication of non-harassing private communication". As such, I am stepping down from the anti-abuse team permanently.

I recognize that my actions have made some people feel unsafe speaking online in my presence and that they have damaged those people's trust in me. Since I am a part of the geekfeminism.org community, that means that my actions have harmed the community. I can't explain away what I did or justify why people should trust me again; I recognize that that is up to them, and will come with time if at all. I'm sorry for the harm that I did to a community that I value very much.

I posted the emails without talking it over with my former colleague because I believed at the time that (due to an unrelated issue) they did not wish to communicate with me. However, that's not an excuse; I could have sought the advice of trusted friends or simply not posted them. I acted hastily because I believed that the harasser was continuing to pose a threat and that people are safer when more information is out in the open. But it was wrong for me to make that decision unilaterally. My former colleague still works at Mozilla and has to interact with the harasser at work, whereas I don't; as well, while the harassment was directed at both of us, the emails that I offered as evidence were sent only to my former colleague. Thus, by disclosing the emails, I exposed my former colleague to a disproportionate share of the risk involved in this action (as well, without their consent). I regret doing that, because I could have avoided it by disclosing enough information to help people protect themselves from harassment without exposing my former colleague to further harassment. So I'm also sorry for making that hasty decision and for any harm it caused to my former colleague.

It's easy to assume that you understand the contents of a code of conduct that you helped draft without fully internalizing it, and that's what I did. However, going forward, I commit to upholding the geekfeminism.org code of conduct.

I'm closing comments on this post; if you have anything you want to discuss, please direct it to my email address ( catamorphism@gmail.com ) and/or to the Geek Feminism anti-abuse team.
tim: Solid black square (black)
[CW: discussion of the École Polytechnique massacre and violence against women.]

25 years ago today, a man murdered fourteen women because they were women and because they were engineering students. That man, Marc Lépine, said (before he killed himself), "I am fighting feminism".

It's a popular thing to scold people to leave their politics out of "tragedies". A tragedy is a disaster that could not have been prevented. But the École Polytechnique massacre was not a tragedy. It was a consequence of structural misogyny, which is not an inevitable part of social organization.

We would also be doing the victims a gross disservice if we dodged our discomfort with the misogyny that almost all of us have internalized by shifting blame onto the abstraction of "mental illness". Marc Lépine was not sick. He was not crazy. Rather, he was taking his society's teachings seriously, namely

  1. It is honorable to die for what you believe in.
  2. Being a man is special, and isn't inevitable from innate identity but must be performed through a variety of activities. When women try to do these activities too, they are threatening men's birthright.

When boys and men are taught that the most impressive thing a man can do is to die in a blaze of glory, they take that lesson seriously. The same teachings whose primary purpose is to encourage lower-income men to join the military and fight wars for the economic benefit of rich men have another, perhaps unintended consequence. What's the difference between going to war and killing those you're told to hate and kill, while potentially giving up your own life, and giving up your own life by suicide while taking as many people you hate with you as you possibly can? The first is respected by most nice people and the second is condemned by those who point their fingers in all the wrong directions. But really, what's the difference?

When you call Lépine, and other men like him, "sick" or "crazy", you engage in a form of othering -- a form that excuses yourself from your own responsibility to examine your own misogyny and call out that of your peers. To be clear, very few of us commit mass shootings, and the things that we do do to sustain patriarchy and kyriarchy (from addressing groups with "Hey, guys" to declining to hire women) are not comparable with murder. But we all make assumptions and say and do things that create circumstances that are favorable for more killings by more men like Lépine, men who are just doing what they've been told to do.

Dismissing Lépine and his ilk as "sick" or "crazy" is an act that declares your own blamelessness, which is counterproductive to dismantling structural misogyny. If he was sick, then we are all sick. But I don't think that's a useful word, because people who are sick need resources outside themselves in order to get better. We have everything it takes to make women's lives matter, already, within ourselves.

tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I linked to some of these posts in 2013 and in 2012. It bears repeating.

Alyssa Caparas (2011):

I hate what TDoR has come to represent: a queer ‘holiday’ for embracing the narrative of fear; fear of violence, fear of death, self-stigmatization. The co-opting of POC trans women of a very-particular-background’s experiences as those of the ENTIRE trans community, regardless of race, class, or whatever. It’s a day to remind us all why we need to be afraid all the time and I think it’s a bunch of bullshit.

The large majority of people on the lists of the dead are NOT middle class white transwomen or men. They’re lower class PoC & PoC sex workers. I find it incredibly dissrespectful when white, middle, & upper middle class transpeople claim the narratives of transwomen of color & sex workers experiencess as their own. I’m sick of seeing Transbros at TDoR co-opting the narrative of transwomen’s experiences, internalizing them, and feeding those narratives back to everyone, then high-fiving each over how radical & edgey they are. I’m sick of being a Transwoman at TDoR and feeling marginalized by all the gender hipsters who’re there to bump up their scene cred.
(emphasis author's)

erica, ascendant (2012):

because trans identity is so caught up in Caucasianness, a new problem emerges with both the claiming of dead trans people of color altogether: if we weren’t “trans enough” in life, why are we suddenly being counted by the same people who wouldn’t have us once we’re dead? it’s because the idea that it’s dangerous to be trans has to be sold somehow, given that cis people generally ignore violence against trans people regardless of what color we are, and i do have no doubt that it seems like a good idea to use all these names. the trouble is that when this happens without any discussion of race, class, and how violence is often linked to certain types of work, reading our names uncritically is appropriative and using the deaths of people you didn’t care about in life as a vehicle for activism in death. i get that this has to be sold as a concept because cis people are often willfully ignorant that we’re getting killed out here. thing is, there are ways to sell this concept and be conscious of the racial/class/social politics involved herein. i see what the point of TDoR is in terms of public relations, but it isn’t so invaluable that the problematic things about it should go unchecked.
(emphasis author's)

Monica Maldonado, 2012

The truth is, the Trans Day of Remembrance is a day of political grand standing, using the deaths of trans women of colour as a numbers game to buy someone else’s pet project sympathy for votes, dollars, or attention. It’s a day where trans women of colour have greater value dead than we do alive.

We all too often hear that this day is a day where we must not let the deaths of these women be in vain, but this just underscores the transactional nature of these women’s deaths, most of whom fought no war. They lost their lives not in valour, but only as a result of being women in a world filled with gendered violence. They lost their lives because — all too often — our society casts out the disenfranchised and marginalized, no longer calling the huddled masses and tempest-tossed to our communities with heartfelt calls of liberty and virtue.

We should gather to mourn the dead, not conscript them into a battle they never had the privilege to fight while living. It pains me to stand here and remind you that these deaths, of our brothers and sisters and wives and husbands and daughters and sons, that these deaths are senseless tragedies that remain a black mark on society. These deaths are signs of a systemic, institutional, social, economic, and political failure to care for our most vulnerable and marginalized populations. But what may be worse, is the crude politicising of these deaths serves no cause more than that of the same vanity we decry.

Edited to add: Monika Mhz, 2013 (video):

The reading of each mispronounced name that usually happens, mostly from extracontinental locations, acts as a drop of emotional currency for the pimps feeding the masses hungry for misery pornography and serves validation upon their fears. I want to be clear that all fear is real, and I sympathize deeply with the way that events like this -- the general climate of fear, nonlethal violence, and broader aspects of discrimination felt by our community can impact our lives in real ways, regardless of whether or not our risks truly match. But if we are to move forward in creating the change, if we are to move forward in ending the lethal, nonlethal, discursive, institutional and cultural violence that plagues our society, if we're to forge a future where trans women of color's lives are cherished and we don't find reason to feel that we must need to look over our shoulders every waking moment, then we have to be willing to have a real discussion about the violence that faces our community.

fake cis girl, 2013

The dead are us. They’re trans women of color trying to live their damn lives. They’re killed by partners, by clients, by random encounters on the street. I mean, seriously, the silence of white trans people when Islan Nettles was beaten to death walking down the damn street, and even worse the attempts at victim-blaming, were truly horrific…including some invective hurdled about how walking around in the hood comes with such risks. There is such a severe disconnect that part of what would help is that if white trans people in general listened to us this one day a year it could be a catalyst, or so I try to believe. Our realities include much more than how we’re seen in the TDoR list-of-names format: dead people. We are so much more than that, and our realities might be uncomfortable to the “trans community” or maybe, just maybe, the “trans community” will see us as something more than just a list of names of dead people and a bunch of inconvenient bodies and realities to dismiss in life.

Morgan Collado, 2014:

Trans Day of Remembrance is filled to the brim with the names of murdered Black and brown trans women, but is a single evening of remembering enough? And what does it mean that TDoR doesn’t explicitly talk about race and is often dominated by white people? Here in Austin there’s this tradition of calling the names of the dead and then having an audience member sit in a chair that represents where the dead trans woman would sit. The seats are always filled with white people and non-trans women. What do our deaths mean when our bodies, our lives, the physical space we take up, is appropriated by white folks? How can I mourn for my sisters when the space set up for that mourning is so thoroughly colonized? And how can I even see hope of living a full life when I don’t see myself reflected in what is supposed to be my community?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to honor those women who came before us, those women murdered by colonial patriarchy. But it seems like more often than not, the queer community at large is content with just remembering. We only hear about trans women after their deaths. And even our deaths are not our own. A week doesn’t go by without a white queer citing the deaths of trans women of color as the evidence of how oppressed they are. These stats are often used in service of their own assimilation; meanwhile, they’re happy to leave us out in the cold. We don’t even have dignity in death, nor the ability to decide what it will mean for us.

fake cis girl (2014):

TDoR generally sees trans women of color as acceptable losses as a central part of the minstrel show that it is. You can’t have a list of dead trans people without it mostly being dead trans women of color with a significant scattering of disabled trans women, too. This common thread between trans suicide and homicides of trans people is no accident, because the violence of rejection may not be the same force of violence that comes from a killer’s blade, but it’s violence nevertheless, and that violence drives some people to suicide. That violence, unlike the violence of a killer, is tolerated and even encouraged in our community. From Ryan Blackhawke’s since-deleted libelous comments complaining about last year’s version of this article to Andrea James’ harassment to the exclusionary nature of the only spaces trans women have (spaces like Ingersoll) comes this violence, and it needs to stop.

TDoR is still broken and still fails trans women of color. Gwen Smith still keeps the list manicured and controlled for whatever political purpose she’s aiming for, refusing to discuss race on the official site of TDoR itself, a day Ms. Smith continues to claim to “own”, and she hasn’t shown any willingness to change the reprehensible fact that deaths in custody don’t count when trans women are frequently targets of police harassment which disproportionately affects trans women of color, which leads to the logical conclusion that we’re more likely to be victims of police and governmental violence.
tim: A warning sign with "Danger" in white, superimposed over a red oval on a black rectangle, above text  "MEN EXPLAINING" (mansplaining)
I wrote the following on a closed Facebook group for Wellesley alums, and since I spent all that time writing it, thought it would be worth it to share with a larger audience.

See also: How to Fail Out of Grad School Without Really Trying (which I wrote while I was still in grad school).

I thought everyone in this group was tired of me talking about why grad school is a mistake ;) For me, grad school turned out not to be what it says on the tin. That is, I went (to two different Ph.D programs) thinking I was going to learn how to be a researcher. Instead, I found I was being evaluated on things that had nothing to do with ability to do research. My first program had a prelim that was basically filtering out anybody with any degree of impostor syndrome. My second program didn't want me there because I wouldn't tolerate sexual harassment (I wrote about that at length).

I also found that graduate programs -- compared to anyplace I've worked that wasn't a university -- are very unforgiving of, basically, any sign of humanity: chronic illness (regardless of whether it's coded as "physical" or "mental") that interferes with work or causes you to need extended time off. In my experience, if a company hires me, they value me and, all other things being equal, don't want to lose me. So they have a reason to accommodate me (not that companies are perfect about this, of course; the job I stayed at the longest, I left because my manager there made my disability the focus of my annual performance review). In a Ph.D program, though, you're disposable and interchangeable; you're paid very little, so in the same way you might throw away something cheap you bought at Target whereas if you invested in an expensive piece of furniture, you'd fix it, your department generally has no reason to keep you around when they see a way to replace you with somebody healthier.

Don't underestimate the effect of spending 5-6 years or more -- which are, for most other college-educated people, the very years they spend building their careers (often, the years when they can just focus on work and don't yet have a lot of family obligations) being severely underpaid. Of course, this is something that varies a lot by field, and if somebody is in (say) sociology I realize there aren't a surfeit of high-paying jobs outside academia. But for me (I'm in computer science), if I went back to grad school today, that would cut my pay to a sixth of what it is now. Even if you don't care about money (and I didn't think I did when I was starting grad school), it's easy to underestimate the psychological effects of being paid fairly vs. being grossly underpaid because your employer hopes you'll fall for the promise of jam tomorrow (that is, a tenure-track job, which in reality is all but unavailable anymore) and give them your labor for practically nothing now. It really changes the relationship between you and your employer when they're paying you enough that they value their investment in you and won't kick you out the door the first time you show you're human.

When you're considering opportunity costs, also make sure you understand the real costs of grad school. Obviously, don't go anywhere that won't pay your tuition in full and give you a stipend for living expenses. But also know what the cost of housing is where you're going to be going to school; whether you can afford to live near the university or whether you'll have to factor the costs of commuting in (both economic and psychological; having any length of commute to work is apparently a major cause of stress and unhappiness in people's lives); whether or not your program will cover your health insurance or will add insult to injury by claiming you're not an employee (at the university I left, I had to pay thousands of dollars a year out of pocket -- a huge percentage of my stipend -- because they deliberately hired research assistants at 0.45 FTE to avoid paying for benefits); and whether or not you'll have easy access to mental health resources (which some of the most stable and well-adjusted people I know needed after a couple years in grad school).

And then there's the question of what you're going to do afterward. I originally wanted to be a professor. After my second experience in grad school, I no longer did, because I didn't want to be like the professors in my department who defended a grad student who sexually harassed his colleague while blaming the victim. But even if that hadn't happened, I doubt I would ever have been able to find a tenure-track job; even though there are still some TT jobs in computer science (although they're disappearing like in every other field), they're reserved for only the people who scored highest in the privilege lottery and have a monomaniacal focus on work. One or the other (generally) doesn't cut it. In grad school, I never wanted to spend all my waking hours on research, which meant that if I'd graduated, I would have had at most 2 or 3 publications; when I read CVs for tenure-track faculty candidates who were coming to meet with grad students, they had as many as 20 publications straight out of grad school. I realized that I didn't like research enough to spend that much time on it, and in fact, I don't like *any* one thing enough to spend that much time on it. I'm passionate about more than one thing, and I'd even like to start a family sooner or later. I've talked to one too many people who had to choose between going hard for tenure and watching their children grow up, chose the former, and regretted it.

(edited to add:) If you already know you don't want to be a professor or work at a research lab, and you get a Ph.D, be prepared to have to remove it from your résumé to get a job; at least in computer science, a Ph.D actually lowers your expected salary compared to a master's. Be prepared to enter every job interview on your guard, explaining why you're not overqualified or why you won't be bored at a job that your interviewer is already assuming is "beneath you". (This is, at least, the experience of some of my friends with computer science Ph.Ds.) Some people describe a Ph.D as a "union card" to teach at a university -- if you already know that's not what you want to do, think especially hard about why you want to get one. At least in my field, everything else you can do along the way (teaching, learning, reading, writing) is work you can do outside a university -- often, as part of an industry job, while getting paid a lot more for it.

Now, just because grad school is essentially a huge scam that promises much in order to extract extremely cheap labor from grad students and make them feel like they're getting an education, that doesn't mean it isn't the right choice for some people. If you read all this and think "hmm, I really still want to go," then you should probably go. Some books you should read first, though:

Leaving the Ivory Tower, Barbara Lovitts: It's about why Ph.D students leave grad school (spoiler: the reason is usually structural in that a huge number of departments systematically identify a few favorites among each incoming cohort of Ph.D students and actively neglect the rest; but faculty take credit for their successful students while placing all the blame on the individuals who don't succeed).

Getting What You Came For, Robert Peters: very readable, and describes what you need to be doing to get through a Ph.D program. It won't help if your advisor is determined to defend sexual harassment, of course, but if you read this book and more-or-less do what it says I think that you'll avoid some of the major mistakes that are avoidable.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I read this article summarizing a study (paywalled, unfortunately) on trans men who become pregnant with interest, since (if all goes well) I'll be getting pregnant sometime in the next year. Interest and, also, nausea (and I'm not even pregnant yet).

Because any day is a good day for pointing out why cis people are wrong:

  • Automatically labeling men who have uteruses as "transgender" = ugh. For the record, if you want a ticket out of my life, one of the fastest ways is to call me "transgender". I still don't know what that word communicates other than "I am trying to perform my well-intentioned, liberal attitude." (I'm transsexual, but then, if you're about to describe me that way, consider whether it's any more relevant than the fact that I'm right-handed is. You didn't know whether I was right-handed or not? Exactly.)
  • "When Dad is the one who gets pregnant, the whole process of pregnancy and childbirth gets a lot more complicated." I guess so, but ONLY BECAUSE GOD DAMN CIS PEOPLE MAKE IT COMPLICATED WITH THEIR INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND ANYTHING MORE NUANCED THAN GO DOG GO.
  • "someone who has transitioned from a female identity to a male or masculine identity" - I can't even begin to explain all of the fail in this sentence other than by headdesking repeatedly. I'd like to propose a licensing system where cis people get to use the word "identity" only a limited number of times and only when referring to their own identities, as opposed to using it for invalidating trans people, which is what they always use it for.
  • "Pregnancy as a transgender man is unlike any other kind" - well, I haven't been pregnant (yet), so I don't know (and when I am pregnant, it won't be "as a transgender man", because again, wtf does "transgender" mean), but again, IF IT'S DIFFERENT, THAT'S BECAUSE CIS PEOPLE FORCE IT TO BE DIFFERENT.
  • "Some transgender men use testosterone to look and sound more masculine." This is like saying that some cancer patients use chemotherapy to look more bald.
  • "gender dysphoria, the feeling that one's psychological gender identity is different from one's biological sex" FUCCCCK it's almost 2015 and we're still repeating this nonsense about "gender identity" and "biological sex"? Reminder: humans do not have a "biological sex" that is different from their "gender identity". They have a collection of physical characteristics, some of which differ in ways that are sometimes categorized using a social model that some people ignorantly call "biological sex". But the only thing "biological sex" means is that a cis person is trying to misgender you because they feel that science is -- rather than a tool for understanding the world -- a good way for them to assert their power over you using the epistemic superiority that was granted to them the day they were born cis.
  • "The author of the new graphic memoir Pregnant Butch, a masculine-looking woman named by A.K. Summers, said one of the worst parts of her pregnancy was that it exaggerated the most female aspects of her body" -- I'll take their word for it (which maybe I shouldn't) that A.K. Summers' pronouns are "she/her", but why couldn't they find an actual man who'd been pregnant to quote in an article about, y'know, men being pregnant?
  • "In some of the transgender men in the study, gender dysphoria actually declined with pregnancy. These people said they were, for the first time in their lives, pleased with their bodies, which were finally helping them do something they valued that a typical male body could not do." WTF does "typical" mean? Why is a cis man's body any more "typically male" than mine?
  • "gender identity is a spectrum" - no. Fuck you. (That's my "gender identity.")
  • And finally, wtf is up with the headless-trans-man (though who knows what gender either the adult or the baby in the picture is... which is kind of the point, though it's probably lost on anyone working for NPR) photo illustrating the article? Given that the article strips away our autonomy and dignity, can we at least be afforded the luxury of having faces?

I should note that probably the study being discussed in the article is perfectly OK (though who knows? Since it's paywalled, I can't read it), with the exception of an author's use of "gender identity as a spectrum" (again, the term "spectrum" needs to be taken out and shot unless you're referring to a brand of organic all-vegetable shortening). I'm just objecting to NPR's coverage of it.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Since writing "It's All Connected" almost a month ago, I haven't had much to say about GamerGate; it seems like everything's been said and the people who should be listening are refusing to.

Tonight, though, I do want to add something. On Twitter, [twitter.com profile] whump linked to this pro-GamerGate article by Georgina Young. The article is entirely unremarkable except for one thing: it appears on Mozilla's Open Standard blog. Unlike Planet Mozilla, Open Standard's messaging is that it is a blog curated by Mozilla, and Mozilla is responsible for any editorial choices.

By choosing to present the issue of whether women should be purged from the video game industry as if it has two sides, Mozilla is legitimizing the abuse of women and actively participating in the creation of a hostile environment for women in software.

Moreover, as [twitter.com profile] solarbirdy pointed out, Open Standard almost gave Eron Gjoni -- the abusive stalker who launched the GamerGate harassment campaign back in August as revenge against his ex Zoe Quinn -- a platform to continue perpetrating his abuse. Gjoni has admitted that he started GamerGate in order to defame and abuse Quinn.

This might be more surprising to me if not for what happened back in September when I filed a Bugzilla bug report about GamerGaters' use of Mozilla's Etherpad installation -- basically, a public pastebin -- to coordinate their attacks. Mozilla runs an open, unauthenticated Etherpad server at etherpad.mozilla.org (e.m.o.) -- the e.m.o. home page contains the following disclaimer: "Mozilla systems and collaborative tools are intended for use by the Mozilla community for Mozilla related work and subject to web site terms and conditions at Legal Notices." I expected that -- since coordinating Gamergate was obviously not Mozilla-related, and the people using it for that were not members of the Mozilla community -- the content would be swiftly deleted., in the same way that Github swiftly deleted a repository used by Gamergaters. [Edit: see comments.]

The contents of Bugzilla issue 1063892 are private, visible only to me (as the bug reporter) and Mozilla staff. But here's the gist of it: several Mozilla staff concurred that it was not an option to remove the content from their Etherpad server without consulting their legal team. This is puzzling, since most other companies I'm familiar with would not need to consult their legal teams to remove consent that constituted an abuse of company resources. When a member of the Mozilla legal team asked, "does the existence of these mopads have any negative consequences to the company?", multiple Mozilla employees answered this question "no" -- that is, they don't believe that it hurts Mozilla's reputation to provide free Web hosting for a harassment campaign. Jake Maul, a member of the Mozilla ops team who the bug was assigned to, elaborated:

If Mozilla removes this content (without any legal requirement to do so), without a policing system in place to remove other non-Mozilla content, we open ourselves up to the claim of being biased. This is not a Mozilla issue. By removing content (without law or policy protecting us), we potentially make it one.

If someone can point to specific lines of pads that infringe specific parts of the Mozilla CoC (or other suitable document), then IMO that drastically lowers the bar to removing these pads because we can easily point to why the pad was removed. For instance, we could remove the pad and then create a new one with the same name containing a link to the relevant document to explain why it was removed.

I'd personally be much more at ease about removing content if someone can show me where in the pads the harassment is happening. They're large, and much of what I've skimmed seems like links to other places and (without following every link) I'm not sure the stuff hosted on our servers constitutes harassment. If it doesn't, then what reason do we have to remove it?

In case it seems like I'm supporting harassment, let me be clear: all I want is a good solid leg to stand on before we employ the banhammer. Mozilla has had plenty of bad PR this year, and I don't want to add to it with a claim about censorship, "hating gamers", or "supporting misguided Social Justice Warriors". If we get our ducks in a row first, we can (hopefully) avoid any negative fallout.

Jake seemed to be under the misapprehension that Mozilla -- a private company -- requires some sort of law that specifically justifies them using their property in the way that they choose. In fact, Mozilla is free to delete any content from their servers, for any reason that they choose, just like every other private company (an exception is common carriers like your ISP or the phone company; Mozilla is not a common carrier).

In response to Jake's comment, I wrote:

I'm afraid I don't see how Mozilla will be hurt by criticism from people who self-identify as opponents to social justice.

No one addressed this comment. In any case, the legal team's final response was:

Jake: please take down only the specific etherpads that were reported in this bug. The basis for removal is that these reported pads: (1) do not relate to the Mozilla community and (2) contain objectionable content. The combination of both us why we're requesting a takedown.

Moving forward, we're recommending against active searching of public pads using keywords. Instead, our position is that we'll consider any specific reported pads and decide on a case by case basis if there is a basis for removal. We feel this is the best way to retain and encourage the positive uses of public pads that can be used by Mozillians and non-Mozillians (e.g. teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc.). This approach also means that, when pads are being used for questionable purposes and this is reported to us, we'll examine and remove public pads based on the specific situation. There are many interpretations and perspectives of what is objectionable content. The legal team assists in making this call.

Please file a legal bug if there are more reports of objectionable mopads. You can file here: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/enter_bug.cgi?product=Legal

In this gamer situation, if more reports come in regarding objectionable pads, we can evaluate and discuss if further action is needed and what that might look like.

It's unclear to me how removing harassing content interferes with use of Mozilla resources by "teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc." I am also genuinely unsure what kind of backlash Maul and several other Mozilla staff members feared from people who don't like "social justice warriors", but in any case, it seems to me like if Mozilla is going to get out of the business of standing up for social justice on the Web, they should probably let their donors and volunteers know that.

You could, of course, argue that all of this is evidence of Mozilla's collective cowardice in the face of a genuine threat to the open Web, but I would argue that organizational cowardice in the face of coordinated bullying is indistinguishable from support for those bullies. Unlike the many women who Gamergate attacked -- with the help of free Web hosting from Mozilla, at least temporarily -- Mozilla is a wealthy organization with the resources to resist harassment and attacks. Instead, Mozilla has chosen to walk a path paved with false equivalences and bogus free speech concerns -- a path that ultimately leads to a Web where only people with the resources and social standing to resist or evade harassment and doxxing can make their voices heard.

If you support Mozilla but can't feel safe supporting an organization that presents attacks on women as just another side in a debate, I encourage you to let them know.

Edit: Since at least one person has complained that the quotes are out of context, here's the entire PDF of the Bugzilla thread, with innocent parties' names redacted.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Long overdue, here are my notes on the talks at CUFP 2014 (September 6, 2014). This is the last in a series of conference write-up posts from me that cover CUFP, the Haskell Symposium, Erlang Workshop, and the three days of ICFP itself. CUFP is the workshop for Commercial Users of Functional Programming, and I was honored to have served on the program committee for it this year.

Joe Armstrong's invited talk, "Making Money with FP", was quite entertaining... for the most part anyway. His comment that you can't sell a language, and must sell a project written in it, harked back for me to working at Laszlo Systems in 2005.

He made the point, about adoption of FP, that "nobody ever got sacked for using Microsoft products (or Java, or C++" -- also this gem, "You get paid based on the number of people you manage, so people hate the idea that ten Haskell programmers can do what 100 C++ programmers can do." (I'm not confident that that generalization always holds, but it does seem to be true in my experience.)

One aside that marred an otherwise great talk was an unnecessary use of "guys" on a slide, when Armstrong said (while speaking to the same slide) "technical guys enjoy an argument". One or the other and I might have let it slide, but not all "technical guys" enjoy an argument, plus technical women who enjoy arguments are punished for that while technical women who don't enjoy arguments tend to get steamrolled.

Then, Armstrong went on to talk about different business models for making money from FP. Most of this advice seemed broadly applicable, but it was still good to hear it coming from one of the people who is most qualified to talk about "how to make money with FP". He implied, I think, that the best two routes for a person trying to get into business with FP were either a consultancy (where you are an independent businessperson who sells consulting hours or services to other companies) or a development/R&D company where the goal is to "develop a product and sell it to a bigger company that can sell it." He explained how a good way to gain a reputation is to participate in the standardization of a language or framework: either choose a new standard or invent one of your own, and then make the best and first implementation. Then, you sell or give away software to build your reputation (which is why you can't sell a language, I guess!) and finally, sell the company :D
Read more... )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

Content warning: Discussion of violence against women, gun violence, death and rape threats, workplace harassment, suicide (and threats thereof as an emotional manipulation tactic), online harassment, abuse of the legal system to further sexual harassment and domestic violence, and neo-Nazis.

Italicized quotes are from Stephen Fearing's song "The Bells of Morning", which he wrote in 1989 about the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.

It's All Connected


"Tonight I am speechless
My head is filled with pouring rain
As the darkness falls on Montreal
When violence is shrieking
The city streets will run with pain
Until the moon can shed no light at all"

"Gamergate": the word we dare not write on Twitter, for fear of a torrent of harassment. It started with a spurned ex-boyfriend doing his best to try to drag his ex's reputation through the mud. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, because she makes video games, and he -- as well as an army of supporters initially rallied using the 4chan hate site -- weaponized male video game enthusiasts' terror of women encroaching on their turf.

Why this fear of women? The term "witch hunt" is overused, but Gamergate is one of the closest modern-day analogues to a witch hunt. Teenage boys, frustrated in a culture that doesn't have much use for teenagers at all, were so dedicated in their zeal to spread lies and hyperbole that a major corporation, Intel, acted on the fear they spread. (I use "teenage boys" here to refer to a state of mind.) Like a toddler who has figured out something that annoys their parents and keeps doing it, and like the teenage girls of New England in the 17th century who figured out that they could set a deadly chain of events into motion, these boys are drunk on the power they have stumbled into. Their goal? Stopping a woman they believe to have strange powers: the power to pass off what they see as a non-game as a game, through bewitchment of influential men ("bewitchment of" here means "sex with"). I am being literal here. Read more... )

tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
I find myself looking for this collection of links so often (and I just assembled it for a comment elsewhere) that I'm going to put it here in one place:

Insistence on the objective truth of the culturally mediated ideological construct called "biological sex" is anti-trans, anti-intellectual, and anti-science. It is indistinguishable from misgendering -- in fact, it's a form of misgendering clothed in ersatz scientific terminology -- and as such, it's violence against trans and gender-non-conforming people, but especially against trans women and other people who were coercively assigned male at birth but reject that designation.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
I submitted the following comment using the form at https://www-ssl.intel.com/content/www/us/en/forms/corporate-responsibility-contact-us.html . If you feel similarly, I encourage you to submit your own comment!
To whom it may concern:

I am disappointed to learn that Intel made the decision to pull its advertising from Gamasutra. I understand that Intel made this decision under pressure from people identifying themselves with the "Gamergate" coordinated harassment campaign. Gamergate is a concerted effort on the part of a small group of virulently misogynist men to drive women out of the video game industry. While the actual number of people involved in it is small, they have directed a huge amount of harassment at any woman who they see as a threat: that is, every woman they can find who makes or plays video games. Links with more details can be found at http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Gamergate_coordinated_harassment_campaign .

By pulling its advertising from Gamasutra, Intel has made the choice to align itself with a hate group that seeks nothing less than to stop women from being employed in the video game industry. Does that represent Intel's views as a corporation?

Tim Chevalier
Co-moderator, geekfeminism.org
Wiki administrator, Geek Feminism Wiki - http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Geek_Feminism_Wiki
Senior Member of Technical Staff, Heroku
Co-signers (added after the fact):

Frances Hocutt
Joshua Wise
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
As of September 19th, functional programmers and friends had surpassed not just our initial goal of $4096, but also our first stretch goal of $8192 and second stretch goal of $10,000!

And amazingly, since then, we've raised another $2407 without really trying -- at this writing, we're up to $12,407, most recently thanks to a donation from Simon Peyton Jones. I think Simon deserves a lot of the credit for building the supportive community that I discussed in my initial post about why the Ada Initiative matters to functional programming, so I'm grateful for his support for this challenge.

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

The Ada Initiative announced their overall fundraising goal: $150,000, which they're currently about $32,000 away from, with 8 days to go:

Donate now

Besides raising money, the other goal of the functional programming challenge was to lobby the ACM to be more uniform about communicating its anti-harassment policy to conference attendees. 31 people (last time I checked) specifically tweeted at [twitter.com profile] TheOfficialACM, although only [twitter.com profile] chrisamaphone had the ingenuity to directly tie it in to what was their most recent tweet at the time:

No reply so far. However, I'm aware that there are other ways besides Twitter to contact the ACM, and I'm in touch with several people who are active in SIGPLAN to discuss next steps.

Note that there have been 686 individual donors so far. Of those, at least 59 donated as part of the functional programming community challenge (including 58 individuals and one company, AlephCloud Systems). That means 8.6% of TAI's total donors for the fall fundraiser donated through the functional programming challenge! (And actually more than that, since the count of 59 only includes people who gave permission for their names to be used on TAI's web site.)

So far, we've donated $12,407 out of a total of $118,469 -- which means 10.5% of TAI's total donations came from the functional programming community! As much as I'd like to think functional programmers make up ten percent of all programmers (and actually, people who donated to TAI also include librarians, hackerspace supporters, people interested in the intersection of science, technology, and culture, and science fiction/fantasy fans, among other people who may or may not be programmers), I know we're a smaller percentage than that. But we're overrepresented among TAI supporters, which is great.

It's not too late to skew the numbers even further, and if you donate $128 or more, you still get an awesome "Not Afraid to Say the F-Word" sticker pack! And if we do reach $16,384 in the next 8 days, our promise to perform "There's No Type Class Like Show Type Class" and put the recording online still stands.

I would also like to thank everybody else who has donated to #lambda4ada so far. This should be a complete list of people who either gave permission for their names to be used, or tweeted (in the latter case, I'm only using Twitter handles). If you donated and are not on the list, but want to be, let me know. If your name is on the list and I've spelled it wrong (or included alongside your Twitter handle), also let me know.

Adam C. Foltzer (lambda4ada co-organizer)
Chung-chieh Shan (lambda4ada co-organizer)
Clément Delafargue (lambda4ada co-organizer)

Aaron Levin / Weird Canada
Aaron Miller
Alejandro Cabrera
AlephCloud Systems
André Arko
Andy Adams-Moran
Ben Blum
[twitter.com profile] bentnib
Bethany Lister
Brent Yorgey
Carlo Angiuli
Chris Martens
Cidney Hamilton
Colin Barrett
Colin Gourlay
Corey "cmr" Richardson
Dan Licata
Dan Peebles
Daniel Bergey
Daniel Patterson
Daniel Ross
David Smith
David Van Horn
[twitter.com profile] dorchard
Dylan Thurston
Edward Kmett
Ellen Spertus
Eni Mustafaraj
Eric Rasmussen
Eric Sipple
Florent Becker
Glenn Willen
Holly M
J. Ian Johnson
Jack Moffitt
James Gary
John Garvin
Jon Sterling
[twitter.com profile] joshbohde
Joshua Dunfield
Justin Bailey
Ken Keiter
Kevin Scaldeferri
[twitter.com profile] kowey
Lars Hupel
Levent Erkok
[twitter.com profile] lindsey
Lucas Bradstreet
Lyn Turbak
M Wallace
[twitter.com profile] MaggieLitton
Manuel Chakravarty
Michael Greenberg
Neel Krishnaswami
Pat Hickey
Peter Fogg
Philip Wadler
Prabhakar Ragde
Ryan Wright
[twitter.com profile] shelfuu
[twitter.com profile] simrob
[twitter.com profile] tomburns
Will Salz
Wouter Swierstra

Many of the people above tweeted under #lambda4ada to announce that they donated and to lobby the ACM. The following people also tweeted under #lambda4ada in order to pressure the ACM:

[twitter.com profile] atombeast
Conor McBride [twitter.com profile] pigworker

Thank you all -- including those of you who preferred not to be named -- for all you've done so far, including donating, communicating with the ACM, and telling your friends in the functional programming community about the challenge! It makes me so happy.

tim: A warning sign with "Danger" in white, superimposed over a red oval on a black rectangle, above text  "MEN EXPLAINING" (mansplaining)
Saying "I don't censor myself. I just say what I think" is popular. I used to say it a lot myself, and I probably still sometimes say something that amounts to that.

My preferred way of saying it now looks more like "no fucks given" -- which is, I think, a little bit more accurate in that it's a statement about my assessment of the risks and benefits of saying something in a particular situation. Which is to do with how much power I have in that situation.

So somebody who says "I never censor myself" is either extremely powerful (and if that person is Donald Trump, he might just be making a completely straightforward statement of truth); is foolish (somewhat more common than the Donald Trump scenario); or isn't being totally honest. (Ironically.)

It's the last case -- the "not totally honest" case -- that I want to look at more carefully. I think a lot of people take pride in their putative lack of self-censorship because they like TV shows like "South Park" or admire some particular comedian. But they're not as funny as the comedians they admire, or even as funny as "South Park" can occasionally be.

More to the point, I think "I don't censor myself" often comes with an implied moral judgment: that there's something dishonest about not saying what you really think, in every possible situation. Tell your friend that his haircut looks nice, when you think he looks like someone put a bowl on his head and cut around it? YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON, because somehow honesty (about something unimportant) gets weighted much higher than the value of maintaining a relationship and making someone else feel nice. Why is that? We know there's no single moral principle that trumps everything -- most decisions are some form of balancing test or another.


What does the expression x + y mean in a program? Pick whatever programming language you like (except Lisp, I guess -- sorry) for the purpose of answering; at least, any one where x and y denote variable references (so, not Erlang or Prolog either).

You don't know, right? It depends on what x and y refer to in the lexically (or dynamically, depending what language you picked) enclosing environment when this expression gets evaluated at runtime. If you are a programmer, you understand that context doesn't only affect meaning. It is meaning. Or at least, you understand that when you're reasoning about programs.


So why would I choose to not say exactly what I think in a given situation? If the same person with the haircut was a total stranger, and my job was to do quality assurance for a haircutting place, then probably I would say that his haircut looked bad. So that suggests that context matters.

Not only does context affect the meaning of what you say, context is meaning in and of itself. For example, if I was at a bar with a very close friend and we were 3 drinks in, I might tell a fantastically filthy joke. (I mention "3 drinks in" because shared intoxication is a legible indicator of intimacy in my culture, rather than because drinking makes people behave badly.) I wouldn't tell the same joke at 10:00 AM on a Monday in a meeting at work. Why is this? Am I a hypocrite because I'd tell the joke in one situation but not the other? If the joke is somehow bad if I tell it at work, isn't it also bad if I tell it to my friend?

25 more paragraphs; some discussion of sexualized presentations, trigger/content warning debates, and racism )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Previous notes: ICFP, days 1, 2, 3.

These notes are about Friday, September 5. Thursday, I missed the whole day of conferencing and only went to the industrial reception in the evening. I hadn't planned to go to many talks on Thursday anyway, but I ended up spending Wednesday night (all of it) in the ER at Östra Sjukhuset, since I didn't know how else to get a relatively minor thing requiring antibiotics treated at night. (Since I didn't get seen till 5 AM, I should have just waited till the next morning!) So that meant sleeping till about 3 on Thursday.

On Friday, I'd been planning to mostly go to the Erlang Workshop and drop in on a Haskell Symposium talk or two, but I ended up doing the opposite, oops. Somehow, I always end up going to the "Future of Haskell" discussion, even in years when I'm not doing Haskell. I already talked about the discussion a little bit in my Ada Initiative fundraiser post; what Wouter said about being encouraging to newcomers was part of it. During the discussion part, somebody stood up and said "well, as far as I'm concerned, everything's fine because the Haskell community has been friendly to me and I've had a good experience." I'm probably being a bit unfair to him, but certainly the implication was that his good experience was a sign there was no problem, even if he didn't say so explicitly. I stood up and pointed out that the people we need to listen to are the ones who aren't in the room -- presumably, everyone who was attending the Haskell Symposium was there because they had a good experience with the community. I don't think I exactly said so, but further compounding things is that some of the specific people who have been particularly hostile to novices were in the room. If you have no idea what I'm talking about at this point, Gershom's "Letter to a Young Haskell Enthusiast" should be a good start. I'm motivated here by having friends who wanted to learn Haskell but gave up because people were hostile to them, and I hate that the response to that is for people to say their experiences were good -- that doesn't give me anything to tell my friends.

I also touched on this in my fundraiser post, but the fact that on day 2 of the Haskell Symposium, there were maybe 100 people in the room and (as far as I could tell) none of them were women, by itself, indicates that there's a problem. Arguments that women just aren't interested in Haskell, or aren't good at it, or prefer to do real-world things where they get to help people (unlike teaching and research, I guess?) have so little merit that they're not worth discussing. I know that the lack of women in the room was for a reason, which is that largely, women aren't finding the Haskell community -- or the functional programming community, or communities around programming language theory and practice more broadly -- welcoming. The fact that there are a few exceptions means that a few women who have an exceptional level of interest, talent, and (for some, anyway) privileges along axes other than gender have been able to make it. They should be listened to for the same reason that someone who runs marathons while wearing a 100-pound backpack knows more about running marathons than someone who runs marathons unladen. But it's not enough for a few exceptional women to be allowed in -- to paraphrase Bella Abzug, equality doesn't mean access only for the exceptional women, but for mediocre women to do as well as mediocre men.

Wouter made a comment about "encouraging women", and while we should, I wish people would spend less time saying "encourage women", and more time saying "don't be a jerk". Of course, neither imperative means much without further detail. As Gershom's letter reflects (indirectly), when I say that the community is unwelcoming to women, it's often not about overt sexism (though there is some of that), but rather, a very popular aggressive, adversarial, confrontational teaching style that many people apply to a broad range of interactions besides those that are understood as teaching situations. And it's not that women don't like to be or don't want to be aggressive -- it's that they know from lived experience that being aggressive and adversarial with men has consequences, and not good ones. This is the double bind: there is a very narrow range of allowable behavior for women in any grossly male-dominated subculture, and a very wide range for men. So besides just "encouraging women", men also need to approach intellectual conversations in ways that aren't about showing dominance... even when they're only talking to each other.

Here's the video of the entire discussion, which I think includes all the audience comments.

After lunch, I went to some of the Erlang Workshop talks. The first one was Amir Ghaffari on "Investigating the Scalability of Distributed Erlang". The talk didn't spend much time introducing Distributed Erlang itself, but rather, focused on running DE-Bench (the benchmark suite for it) on different number of nodes to see how well Distributed Erlang scales. DE-Bench lets you run tests synchronously or asynchronously, on one or all nodes. Ghaffari found that throughput drops off dramatically if you start using global operations (which, intuitively, isn't surprising). He also found that latency for global commands grows linearly in the number of nodes -- I wasn't so sure why that was true. He found that Riak didn't scale past 70 nodes at all -- at that point, an overloaded server process became the bottleneck. He concluded that everything about Distributed Erlang scales well except for RPC; not being familiar with Distributed Erlang, I'm not sure how much of a problem that is.

In the next talk in the same session, Chris Meiklejohn spoke on dataflow-deterministic distributed dataflow programming for Erlang. The talk was about using Erlang to build a reference implementation for CRDTs, as well as building a new language (that is, a subset of Erlang) for CRDTs. It was cool that Meiklejohn was implementing some ideas from Lindsey's work, both because I know Lindsey and because it was something I'd heard about before, so I had at least a moment where I got to feel smart ;)

Meiklejohn and colleagues' system, DerFlow, is state-based; CRDTs require something to grow monotonically, and in this case, it's state. Meiklejohn pointed out that for distributed systems, this is great, because unreliable networks mean that packets could get dropped, but never cause already-transmitted data to be forgotten. Proving correctness means proving properties over the lattice of choices; a choice is a particular sequence of messages received by a program. Their memory model is a single-assignment store: any given memory location goes from null (no binding), to variable (which means it's "partially bound"), to value (bound). If one node asks for something unbound, it will wait until it becomes bound -- so, deadlock can happen. I'm handwaving a bit in my explanation here, but fortunately, you can go look at the code yourself on Github!

Finally, I went to one last Haskell Symposium talk that I wouldn't have gone to if Ed Kmett hadn't recommended it, and indeed, it was worth going to: Atze van der Ploeg's "Reflection Without Remorse". The talk was cool, but at this point my brain was pretty fried and I bet the paper will be even cooler. van der Ploeg motivated the problem by talking about how a chain of list append operations gets evaluated depending on associativity -- depending on where you parenthesize, one way is a lot more expensive than the other. I think this is the same problem as the infamous foldr/foldl problem. The solution (that makes the cost of evaluation the same regardless of associativity) is to rewrite expressions in CPS form -- this looks to me a lot like the build operation from shortcut deforestation. If I'm not totally lost, I think during this talk, I finally understood why build is called build for the first time (and I did my undergrad and master's theses on shortcut deforestation) -- the build form represents building up a list as a continuation. Then you run into a problem with having to convert between list repreesntations and function representations and vice versa -- I think I actually ran into something similar in my master's thesis work that I didn't quite know how to handle, so if I'm in a mood for revisiting some ancient history, maybe I'll try to figure out if there's really a connection there or not.

So far, apparently, Okasaki already solved the problem -- just for lists -- in Purely Functional Data Structures. But you can actually generalize the problem to all monads, not just lists! That's where it gets really cool. The continuation monad transformer for monads (which I don't understand) is apparently another instance of the same problem. My mind started melting a little at this point, but the upshot is that you can do monadic reflection, where you have interchangeable continuation-based and concrete forms of a data structure and can alternate between building and reflection.

That's all for Friday -- stay tuned for my final ICFP-ish post, in which I'll summarize the CUFP talks.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (not offended)
If you are one of the Mozillans who expressed disbelief that another Mozillan would do such a thing, in response to what's described in this post from two years ago, then read this tweet from today.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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