tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Since I'm changing careers, I figured it's a good time for me to finally have a standard bio so people know who the hell this guy is. I'm doing an experiment, inspired by [personal profile] skud's crowdsourced bio. I opened up a public Etherpad -- something like a Google Doc that anyone can edit without an account -- with one paragraph of my bio, to get you started (you can delete all of this text in favor of something else, and please do):

https://timsbio.titanpad.com/1

You can choose to edit anonymously or with your name or anybody else's name attached, it's up to you. I don't know how much IP tracking TitanPad does, but unless any abuse happens, I won't be trying to determine the identities of anonymous editors; I am not Reviewer 2.

TitanPad tracks a history of all changes (like Wikipedia does), so if you delete any text, it won't be lost forever; I'll still be able to view it in the history. Therefore, feel free to delete others' changes in order to improve on them, though it would be nice if there was no wanton deleting for its own sake. The exception is that you can, and should, delete the placeholder text I included.

Please go wild. I especially invite the following people to contribute:

  • my friends from college
  • my friends from before college (all one of them)
  • people who have worked with me before
  • people who have done activism with me before
  • people who I've called out on the Internet before
  • people who've called me out on the Internet before
  • people who only know me through my writing
  • people who are currently drunk and/or high
  • people who fit into more than one of these categories


Also, you can lie if you want! That's cool to do, as are writing things that are true, as are writing things that should be true, as are writing things you wish you could see as true about yourself that are easier for you to project onto me. (Because that's one of the many services I offer.)

Also, you don't have to write complete sentences or even necessarily make any sense. If you want to leave a bullet point in there, that's cool, someone else will make it into part of the text. It's the magic of open source!
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Because I'm trying to lean in to my own self-importance, I made a soundtrack for my ragequitting post. I say "self-importance" because these are songs that helped me along in my decision to quit the tech industry, and yet most of them are actually about either the music industry or divorce. Go fig.

You can listen on Spotify, but here's an old-fashioned track listing in case you don't use online music listening services and want to burn these onto a CD for your car.

"He Thinks He'll Keep Her", Mary Chapin Carpenter

“Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design
Spit and polish till it shines. He thinks he'll keep her
Everything is so benign, safest place you'll ever find
At least until you change your mind.”


"This Town Is Wrong", The Nields

"Why don’t you make the rules?”

"Nashville", Indigo Girls

"Now I'm leaving, I've got all these debts to pay
You know we all have our dues, I'll pay 'em some other place"


“Somebody Loved Me”, Reel Big Fish

“What did I do? Was it so wrong?
I used to fit in, now I don't belong”


"All the Right Friends", R.E.M.

"I've been walking alone now for a long, long time
I don't wanna hang out now with the friends who just aren't mine"


"Your Racist Friend", They Might Be Giants (dedicated to B. Eich)

"Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding"

“Accident Waiting to Happen”, Billy Bragg

“And my sins are so unoriginal
I have all the self-loathing of a wolf in sheep's clothing
In this carnival of carnivores, Heaven help me”


"My Favorite Mutiny", The Coup

"I ain't rockin' with you
Your logic does not compute"


"Maggie's Farm", Bob Dylan

"Well, I try my best to be just like I am,
But everybody wants you to be just like them"


"I Ain't Marching Anymore", Phil Ochs

"Call it peace or call it treason, call it love or call it reason,
But I ain't marchin' any more"


"Frankly, Mr. Shankly", The Smiths

"Frankly, Mr Shankly, this position I've held
It pays my way and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave
you will not miss me
I want to go down in musical history"


"Solsbury Hill", Peter Gabriel

"I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery"


"L.A. Freeway", Guy Clark

"We've got something to believe in
Don't ya' think it's time we're leavin'"


"Late Night Train", Brooks Williams

"It takes mighty big courage to pack up and go
'Cause even a bad life is still a life that you know"


"Midnight Train to Georgia", Gladys Knight & the Pips

"He said he's goin' back to find
Goin' back to find
Ooh, what's left of his world"


"Rong", Röyksopp

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"H-a-T-R-E-D", Tonio K.

"it's hard to express the resentment i feel
for the years that i've wasted on you"


"No Children", The Mountain Goats

"And I hope when you think of me years down the line
You can't find one good thing to say
And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You'd stay the hell out of my way"


"Independence Day", Bruce Springsteen

"Well, Papa go to bed now, it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now
And they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away"


"Glory Bound", Martin Sexton

"I'm taking a chance on the wind
I'm packing all my bags
Taking a mistake I gotta make
Then I'm glory bound"


"Level Up", Vienna Teng (s/o to [personal profile] brainwane via [personal profile] yatima)

"call it any name you need.
call it your 2.0, your rebirth, whatever –
so long as you can feel it all,
so long as all your doors are flung wide.
call it your day #1 in the rest of forever."


Bonus tracks (not on Spotify):

"Come a Long Way", Michelle Shocked

"Now you tow it to the repo man's front door
And you give him these keys, I don't need them no more"


"Silicon Valley Game", Little George Band [difficult to find outside of Bay Area college radio stations and my Gmail archive]

"One day layoffs came
And you sat there looking stunned
You thought that you were so special
You were just another working bum
Playing that Silicon Valley game
Congratulations, you won"


Thanks to [personal profile] bookherd, [personal profile] substitute, [personal profile] etb, [livejournal.com profile] spoothbrush, and Morgan for their suggestions and/or reminders; also thanks to those who made suggestions I didn't end up using!
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

 -- Mario Savio

Love is the only motivating force, and while love can motivate some pretty awful things, it’s nonetheless impossible to do any good without it. I have no love left for my job or career, although I do have it for many of my friends and colleagues in software. And that's because I don't see how my work helps people I care about or even people on whom I don't wish any specific harm. Moreover, what I have to put up with in order to do my work is in danger of keeping me in a state of emotional and moral stagnation forever.

I don’t necessarily need to work on anything that helps people: some people love abstract puzzle-solving, and I'm one of those people. But when I’m at work as a programmer, I don’t spend much time solving abstract puzzles, at least not in comparison to the amount of time I spend doing unpaid emotional labor. Maybe other programmers are different (they spend their time shifting their unpaid emotional labor onto others instead? I don’t know.) I just know that’s how it is for me. Puzzly tinkering was one of my original motivations to work as a programmer, but it’s not a big enough part of the job to continue to be a good motivator.

Not only was I wrong about the degree to which puzzly tinkering would be part of my future life as a software engineer, I also failed to predict how hard it would be for me to keep my head above water in tech’s endless stream of macro- and microaggressions. Rapidly, getting up in the morning and going to work at my computer job became a source of frustration and the mornings became afternoons. I started to need coping mechanisms to cope with my coping mechanism.

I wrote the rest of this essay to wrestle with the question: “Given the many advantages of having a comfortable, high-paying, flexible desk job, are the frustrations I feel really bad enough to justify taking the risky path of searching for something more grounding? In the absence of pure intellectual pleasure and in the absence of the feeling of social benefit, will continuing to work in the software industry help me more than it hurts?” The short answers are “yes” and “no”. Here’s the long answer.

Flawed Coping Mechanisms

“All of y’all’s gold mines
They wanna deplete you.”
 -- The Coup

Programming thrilled me when I was 14 and needed a world to dive into that I controlled completely. I had had no control over my life up until then. The feeling of control that writing code -- making things out of pure ideas -- gave me was intoxicating in every sense that word has. Twenty years later, I don’t know if I’m wiser, but I don't want that escape valve so much anymore. I can give living in this world, with all of its messiness and blood, a trial period. I can try to dwell with that which I can't control.

I've thought about all of this for a while but this week I met the enemy and realized he was me. It's easy to bemoan brogrammers, it comes naturally to lambast gaters, but -- and by the way, in this paragraph I am addressing only my beloved fellow SADISTIGs (Sweet And Delightfully Introspective Sensitive Tech Industry Guys) -- that's because it's easy to find fault with somebody else for what lies in your own heart. I don't know about you, but I came here because I liked making machines bend to my will; because I wished I could figure out how to do that with people, but until I did, I was dead set on avoiding them. It's a hard thing to admit, but it's true. My past self wasn't a bad little dude, but the demons he ran away from into the twists of the compiler pipeline are dead. All of this personal bullshit makes me fundamentally not different from those concerned with ethics in video game journalism or with bro-ing down and crushing code, just more apologetic about it.

Ah, the persistent myth of the meritocracy. You know what? I want to be judged for more than the code I write.”

-- Coraline Ada Ehmke

I am far from the only emotionally stalled guy who works in tech, which is the point. If it was just that there were a lot of other folks like me in this field, that would be tolerable and maybe even a plus. But the tech industry is wired with structural incentives to stay broken. Broken people work 80-hour weeks because we think we’ll get approval and validation for our technical abilities that way. Broken people burn out trying to prove ourselves as hackers because we don’t believe anyone will ever love us for who we are rather than our merit. Broken people put up with toxic, dangerous co-workers and bosses because we’ve never experienced healthy relationships. Broken people sometimes even defend toxicity not because we want to do harm but because it’s simply what we’re used to. Broken people believe pretty lies like “meritocracy” and “show me the code” because it’s easier than confronting difficult truths; it’s as easy as it is because the tech industry is structured around denial. Why is it so compelling for some people to participate in a world where, ostensibly, they will never be seen as their entire selves and will be judged solely on some putatively objective numerical ranking within a total ordering of all hackers from best to worse? Since “some people” includes “me”, I have to guess that it’s because they’re terrified to be seen as their entire selves, since I know I am.

You Don’t Have to Have Complex PTSD to Work Here, But It Helps

“They say I’m running blind to a love of my own
But I’ll be walking proud
I’m saving what I still own” 

-- Indigo Girls

edited, 2015-04-14: If you don't like this section heading, please read the Clarifications section at the end of this post.

If you want a concrete example of how tech culture discourages us growing and being vulnerable, just read through the list of silencing tactics on the Geek Feminism Wiki. (I think it especially discourages us men from growing and being vulnerable. The culture is a bit less subtle about what it does to women and non-binary people.) I’m going to point out a couple that I’ve felt burnt by on the job:

  •  “You’re too sensitive”. This accusation gets used primarily against women, but sometimes against men who fall short of from commonly accepted masculinity ideals. A culture that considers “too sensitive” an insult is a culture that eats its young. Similarly, it’s popular in tech to decry “drama” when no one is ever sure what the consensus is on this word’s meaning, but as far as I can tell it means other people expressing feelings that you would prefer they stay silent about.
  • The tone argument. is commonly deployed against political and technical disagreement, and its use reflects an underlying assumption in tech culture that emotional conviction makes an argument less valid rather than more.
  •  “Suck it up and deal” is an assertion of dominance that disregards the emotional labor needed to tolerate oppression. It’s also a reflection of the culture of narcissism in tech that values grandstanding and credit-taking over listening and empathizing.

I say that these tactics are particularly injurious to men not because I think we have it worse but because they get employed differently against women and I have less firsthand experience with that. From what I can tell, being a woman in tech means being judged and found wanting no matter what you do, while being a man in tech means (at least the chance of) success at the price of following an extremely restrictive set of rules that are corrosive to emotional well-being for many of us. I know which set of problems I’d choose, and in a way, I did choose. But the choice between bad and worse doesn’t make bad good.

Moreover, I don’t think tech toxicity bothers people who are used to being listened to and acknowledged as much as it does people like me. (I wouldn’t know, since I don’t come from one of those places.) But if you had a good early life, you wouldn’t be in tech in the first place. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but I do think there’s a toxic feedback loop between the kinds of trauma that cause many people to flee into the world of things-made-out-of-ideas, and the kinds of trauma that some of us will encounter in that world when we least expect it. For example, if you are a person who has never had your own subjectivity and feelings systematically erased, I imagine you will probably just laugh when someone tells you “you’re too sensitive”. (I wouldn’t know, again, since I’m not like you.) I’m hurt by that accusation because I believed it about myself in the first place; that statement and all manner of other little loops of gaslighting are woven into me like tapeworms. If we can blame ourselves for being too sensitive, we don’t have to confront something that is too difficult for most kids and a lot of adults to confront: that someone who loves you can hurt you. If you know what “triggering” means: it’s triggering. If you don’t know what “triggering” means, then now you know.

Being Right Vs. Doing Right

So many think they're good guys. But they're so invested in a culture that depends on proving they're right they don't see the damage done.” -- Jen Myers

Here are some other tendencies that are both worse in tech than in other fields due to the way in which it attracts lost boys, and get reinforced by tech management in a toxic feedback loop of dysfunction and self-deception:

  • Mansplaining arises from the desire to position oneself as an authority rather than to talk as equals. A related pathology is social pressure to perform having an opinion on everything that’s not important (sometimes called “bikeshedding”: as well as not caring about anything that matters. The latter tendency is what I explored in my first Model View Culture article  under the name “false dismissal”.
  • Relatedly, “well-actually”-ism is a verbal habit of interrupting conversations to make factually true but irrelevant corrections, in a way that prioritizes intellectual self-aggrandizement over shared understanding. Like mansplaining, well-actually-ism is rooted in fear and insecurity and I should know, because I’ve done these things all the time, and I know that’s why.
  • Tech culture elevates heroes and “cowboy coders” who sacrifice everything to get all the work done themselves, gaining individual recognition and jettisoning healthy teamwork as well as their own long-term well-being. The “cowboy coder” -- the sort of guy who complains that code reviews slow down his workflow (which is true, in the same way that brakes slow down a car) is a stereotype, but one that you can observe in more or less any workplace. What’s more, you will observe that cowboy coders (often young, usually male, usually without sources of meaning in their lives outside of work) get praised just for fitting this pattern, regardless of the quality of their work. (My now-former colleague Jacob Kaplan-Moss illustrated this point quite aptly in his “who is Mark Zuckerburg?” slides in his 2015 PyCon keynote.  )
  • Failure to listen, failure to document, and failure to mentor. Toxic individualism -- the attitude that a person is solely responsible for their own success, and if they find your code hard to understand, it’s their fault -- is tightly woven through the fabric of tech. Even in places where people pay lip service to the value of documenting and of training new hires, their behavior belies it -- they fail to document because “there’s not enough time”, fail to mentor because they’d rather just hire senior engineers, and fail to listen because that entails the risk of finding out you’re wrong about something.
  • Invulnerability to criticism. There was a famous Linux kernel bug report about a bug that would reformat your hard drive when you didn’t want it to. The software maintainers responded by saying “you should have known better”. This is a particularly extreme example of a general tendency to accept technical bug reports as attacks on one’s most cherished self, to be defended against to the death. I’m not even talking about cultural bug reports here, which I once wrote about in Model View Culture. If you take criticism of your project as an attack rather than as helpful feedback, what does that say about how you will take criticism of your personal behavior?

I understand the reasons why all of these failures happen, and I’ve lived most of the reasons. I’m a very critical person; I’d like to get better at balancing doing the Right Thing(™) with validating and embracing commonalities. I’m not going to find very many incentives to do that, or role models to look to for how to do it, if I stay in tech.

Nobody sets out on purpose to make any workplace a pit of despair. But in tech, the failures are self-reinforcing because failure often has no material consequences (especially in venture-capital-funded startups) and because the status quo is so profitable -- for the people already on the inside -- that the desire to maintain it exceeds the desire to work better together.

“There’s No Crying in Startups”

"It takes mighty big courage to pack up and go
'Cause even a bad life is still a life that you know.”
 -- Brooks Williams

I have found that the more I try to curb my own antisocial and self-defeating tendencies, the less I succeed in tech. Being sensitive makes you suspect. Approaching technical discussions as collaborative efforts rather than cage matches gets you frozen out. Performance gets assessed on rough approximations to individual “impact”, without regard to how much you helped your colleagues do their jobs. I think that I’m capable of continuing to work in tech, as long as I force myself to be continue to be the person I’m tired of being. No stock options are worth as much to me as the still, small voice inside is; no amount of money and benefits is going to get me to tell that voice to shut up now after 14 years with my hand over its mouth. All the tendencies I’ve criticized in this essay are ones I’ve seen in my own mirror. To be in tech is to be in permanent adolescence or at least to maintain dual personalities, one for work and one for home. The latter is way too much effort and as for the former, who in the world would actually choose that? I wouldn’t, because being a teen can be fun (at 16, at 27, and at 34), but not as fun as having been one.

“Aren’t you being melodramatic here, Tim? Aren’t you applying concepts to tech companies that are really for describing family structures?” I would have thought so too until during my first week at a new job (disclaimer: not my current job), I watched a grown man and father of four literally stomp out of an office at 3:21 PM on a Thursday, not to return until the next day, because the company’s CTO was making him feel unheard during a meeting. At the time I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back on Friday. (He did.) To be clear, neither man in that interaction was behaving particularly laudably, and at the same time both had valid points. A third man, my boss at the time, stepped in to explain to the CTO, “I think when you said [whatever] to [REDACTED], the way it made him feel was…” I remember being pleasantly amazed at hearing that kind of communication from anybody in a corporate conference room, although it was a bit less nice when the CTO literally replied with, “I don’t care about hurt feelings. This is a startup.” I also remember thinking that because this company was small, I was finally getting to see behavior acted out explicitly that usually takes place just below the surface in bigger companies. So no, I don’t think I am being melodramatic. If anything, my former colleague (the most senior back-end engineer at this company) who stomped out of the office was, but I wouldn’t even say that, because I sympathize with the pressure that led him to act the way he did at the breaking point. This was actually a pretty reassuring experience for me because up until then, I’d wondered if I was projecting. That day I realized that I wasn’t, any more than the overhead projector in your average office is in 2015. I actually prefer daily screaming matches to ever-present rage repressed at high pressure (one of which, at least once, made me cry in the bathroom at a previous office), but I would kind of prefer to have neither of those things in my workplace. When I worked at another one of my past employers, I took to watching a lot of episodes of “House, M.D.” because I really needed to see examples of people modelling exemplary professionalism and respect for others’ boundaries… by comparison.

There’s a reason why it’s become a cliché for startups to describe themselves as being like a family: because a lot of us come from families defined by abuse, neglect, multigenerational trauma, addiction, lying, leaving, coming back, leaving again, and conspiracies of silence about it all. We bring all of that into our work “families”. Sometimes we need more than free kombucha on tap in order to cope and heal; when we don’t get it, we take it out on each other because that’s easier than confronting those who have power over us.

Voice

I'm gonna K. I. L. L. one of us, baby. Give me time to decide on which.” -- Tonio K.

The person I would like to be is also someone who acknowledges fear and pain and doesn’t always retreat into fury at injustice. I love my fellow tech SJWs, but for me -- and in this paragraph I am calling out no one but myself -- the siren song of righteous anger always lies in wait to take away the small soft things inside and leave me alone on the floor with a rage hangover. There is an infinite amount of injustice in the world and an infinite amount of completely justified anger that can well up from any of us who take the time to think about it. Anger is a very useful strategy for activism; I try my best to never coerce people who are marginalized -- especially by groups I'm in -- into suppressing it. But maybe it's time for me to be a bit more liberal in what I accept and conservative in what I send out, Postel’s-Law-style. For lots of people, alcohol is a useful tool for making social situations a little more manageable; a minority get consumed by it. Maybe anger is a little like that for me. I wouldn't work in a bar if I was recovering from alcoholism, so I'm not going to work in tech while I'm trying to integrate the parts of myself that aren't angry. There are too many temptations.

Exit

“I want to leave
You will not miss me.”
 -- The Smiths

So that's why I have to quit tech for somewhere between a little while and forever (inclusive). It's not just that I don't want to, but that, in a very literal sense, I can't. I'm not doing any favors by sticking around when I'm unable to pull my weight. I don't know what's going to be next for me, but it won't be this. If I can find a job doing something involving comforting the afflicted or afflicting the comfortable, or even both, that would be neat.

I also don’t think it’s any great loss for tech that I won’t be in it, since I’m neither particularly bad nor particularly good at the work I do; I’m proudest of my minor contributions to tech culture criticism, not any code I’ve ever written. In 14 years including grad school, I doubt I’ve earned the invisible “valued contributor” merit badge anywhere. I’ve job-hopped, quit jobs when I could have stayed and resolved interpersonal conflicts, taken unannounced PTO, checked Facebook and Twitter for literally entire work days at a time. I am neither proud of nor sorry for any of these lapses, because ultimately it’s capitalism’s responsibility to make me produce for it, and within the scope of my career, capitalism failed. I don’t pity the ownership of any of my former employers for not having been able to squeeze more value out of me, because that’s on them. What’s on me is how I spend my time, and I don’t want to spend any more of it pretending I don’t know what I want.

Not everybody can turn their coping mechanism in a career, but I had the chance, and it was an offer I couldn't refuse. After a year or two of being in the tech industry, programming became a less effective coping mechanism and anger became a more compelling one, since the tech industry has so much cause for anger to provide. Over time, the second one replaced the first one almost totally, taking away my original reason to even like programming at all and demoralizing any remaining scraps of work-ethic out of me. It’s sad to have to report that this is true, but it would be sadder to pretend none of it happened.

Loyalty

“And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You'd stay the hell out of my way."
 -- The Mountain Goats

I tried leaning in, which for me means some combination of “just work harder” and spending a ton of non-work time developing complicated structuring and coping mechanisms to make me feel OK about doing something I fundamentally don’t want to be doing. RescueTime, Todoist, Google Calendar, Trello, weekly schedules, written to-do lists, eugeroics, SSRIs, caffeine, cannabis, fancy drinks, spending too much money in coffee shops, knitting during meetings, big headphones, Twitter, IRC, Slack, post-it notes, text files with lists of questions to ask, animated .gifs, playing 2048 on my phone in the men’s room at work for 30 minutes or longer at a stretch, repeatedly reloading Fucks On Back Order. None of these things are intrinsically bad and many are pretty damn good, but when I invest a lot of my time structuring my work hours with some of them and recovering during my non-work hours with others, all in the service of something I fundamentally don’t want to be doing, I have to start asking why. It’s a lot of effort, largely performed during non-work hours, for a relatively low yield in terms of actual productive work that helped my employer. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s found that leaning in tends to mean leaning into a black hole. The rise of the lifehacking industry, as well as meditation and mindfulness programs for temporarily calming down workers so they can be productive while experiencing abuse, suggest that capitalism does well when it can simultaneously hurt people and sell them palliative care for that hurt.

“Just work harder” always sounds appealing to me too, because in fact I love working, I feel uncomfortable when I’m doing something that I can’t characterize as work, and I can work way harder than is good for me. But that’s only when I feel like there’s a reason to do it: whether the reason is making a software system better in a way that I can see and get tangible feedback on from others, or making other people feel like they’re less alone, or just having clean dishes. When I don’t see the reason why I should work harder, I can’t work at all. So I don’t think leaning in is helping me or helping my employer.

I’m leaning out, because to be a better person than the one I am now, I have no other choice. I'm not saying I'll never come back, but I am saying I'll probably never come back. This is my choice; it doesn’t have to be yours. I’m not taking a moral stance that I would prescribe to others, or in fact, making this decision based on abstractions at all. I don’t aspire to sainthood and I would happily stay in a sweet desk job with flexible hours if it wasn’t destroying me from the inside. The question I tried to answer in this essay is: “destroying me from the inside? Really? Is it doing that?” And I believe the answer is yes.

I don’t know if the alternatives I’m considering are going to be better or not, but I’m at a point where all I can do is find out for myself. I know that every single field of employment has its own unique blend of coffee and bullshit to offer, and choosing a career is a matter of picking which one you don’t mind sipping. I don’t know whether other fields will be worse or better, I just know that tech’s tainted tonic interacts badly with the poison that’s already in me. If what works for you is staying in tech, great! Try to leave it a little better than you found it.

Postscript to Herokai

I hope I’ve made it clear that while it’s not me, it’s also not you. I had to realize all this stuff sometime, and it’s probably not a coincidence that it happened while I was in the comparatively safe and supportive culture that Heroku has. To Leigh, Jake, Evan, Fred, Tristan, Omar, Jamu, Charles, Mary, Ari, Daed, Courtney, Joy, Liz, Jacob, Meagan, Tef, Matt, Geoff, Greg, and Mark: Thanks for the laughs, lunches, and corgi GIFs. Don’t be a stranger. If I forgot anyone there who I should have included, it’s because a week straight of less than 4 hours of sleep a night has rendered my brain into a chia pod.

Clarifications

  • 2015-04-14: Yes, I actually do have complex PTSD (beginning with experiences at age 5 or younger, so, pretty well before I ever got paid to touch a computer) and today is actually the first day I've ever said that in public. I'm feeling a little raw about that and the way I usually deal with those feelings is jokes, hence the section heading. I also see how it could be seen as trivializing. I feel like there's no point in suffering if you can't make jokes about it later, but I should probably have included this clarification in the first place.

Acknowledgments

“Code reviews slow you down like brakes slow down a car” is something I saw on Twitter once. I don’t remember who tweeted it. If you know, or if it was you, please tell me!

“Lean Out” is the title of issue 3 of Model View Culture, for which Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane deserve credit.

Edited to add: The term "well, actually" was coined by Miguel de Icaza, and I learned about it from the Recurse Center social rules.

Edited to add: While I originally learned about the concept of emotional labor from the writing of Barbara Ehrenreich and Laura Kipnis, I also owe one to Lauren Bacon for her article "Women in Tech and Empathy Work".

Edited to add: I first saw the Mario Savio quote on an office door in Soda Hall at the University of California in 1999. It took me the past sixteen years to understand it.

Edited to add: I owe much to Julie Pagano's article "I think I’m in an emotionally abusive relationship… with the tech community" -- arguably I never would have had any of the thoughts expressed in this piece without reading hers a year and a half ago.

Edited to add: I alluded in this piece to the chorus of Stephen Fearing's song "The Bells of Morning", which was written about the École Polytechnique massacre and which I wrote about previously in reference to Gamergate.

Edited to add: If you happen to live in (or can travel to) Portland, Oregon, and need a therapist, call Cat Pivetti at 503-740-9555. (nb. the initial phone number I put there is incorrect, as is the number on the page linked to, currently.) I don't credit her with me becoming the person who wrote this article, but I do credit her for helping me find what was in me that I put into it, and I think she does that for other people too.

In this piece I’ve drawn on insights from conversations with many different people and from writing by many different people. Nothing I’m saying is new, but I hope that this particular presentation may find itself useful to somebody else. Because there are too many influences to name, for the sake of not privileging any one of them unduly I’m not listing most of them. But know that if you think I made a good point anywhere in this essay, it’s more likely than not to be a point that a woman made me think about. A number of friends and current and former colleagues of mine read and commented on drafts of this essay; for prudence’s sake, I won't enumerate or name them. But if you are one of the people who proofread for me: my gratitude to you symbolizes why I didn’t quit this industry ages ago. I’ll miss y’all.

Soundtrack

That's a thing that there is.

Outro

Vienna Teng, “Level Up” (s/o to [personal profile] brainwane via [personal profile] yatima for turning me on to this one):

"Call it your day number one in the rest of forever."

tim: Solid black square (black)
[Content note: suicide.]

Two years ago, in April, I lost two friends. Igal was the first one.

Two years ago yesterday, Igal Koshevoy committed suicide. I didn't know Igal well, but I knew him well enough to wish that I'd gotten to know him well enough to know why. What I wrote on the section of my home page that I dearly hope to never have to update again is this:

"I also wish to remember Igal Koshevoy, who died in 2013. I knew Igal as the face behind the Portland Functional Programming Group, which was a minor but important part of what kept me feeling connected to a bigger community when I lived in Portland. He set an example of how to run groups that welcome and include everyone. Igal committed suicide, and I wish that he could have been as kind to himself as he seemed to be to everybody else."

If you haven't heard the Mountain Goats' song "The Coroner's Gambit" [direct MP3 link -- same audio is embedded below, and sorry about the autoplay at first, which I think I fixed now] before, I recommend listening to this someplace where crying is acceptable. Like I said, I don't understand; but I think I understand a little better because of this song.

May we all be a little bit kinder to each other and to ourselves.

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I took this past week off from work and made what turned out to be sort of a pilgrimage, to Nashville, Asheville and Carrboro, NC to see 3 of the first 4 shows in the Mountain Goats' spring tour. (I missed the Savannah, Georgia show that was in between Asheville and Carrboro, but apparently a fistfight broke out there during "Steal Smoked Fish", so it might have been for the best.)

Back in 2012, I'd heard the Mountain Goats two most famous songs, "No Children" and "This Year" on mix CDs friends gave me, but I hadn't gotten hooked yet. When [livejournal.com profile] lindseykuper, my co-worker at Mozilla at the time, made the trip on Caltrain from Mountain View to San Francisco to go see two of their shows on consecutive nights, I decided I should give them more of a listen. She recommended that I start with their albums The Sunset Tree and We Shall All Be Healed, so I did.

I am not a very good listener. It took me a few months to realize what The Sunset Tree was about. But since I caught on, it's been my favorite album, by anybody. When it came out almost ten years ago it marked a shift from John Darnielle's previous writing (often abstract, often chronicling recurring fictional characters) into confessional, autobiographical songwriting. I hear there are purists who only like his old stuff (recorded on a cheap tape player), but I'm just glad I didn't discover the Mountain Goats early enough to risk becoming one of those purists.

I was a teenager in the '90s, when young adult literature dealing with realistic problems the kids these days faced (or at least what adults thought kids faced) was in full bloom, and I read all of it. This was also a time when memoirs, largely by young women recounting experiences with abuse, trauma, addiction, and mental illness were popular, and there was a just-as-popular backlash against them (in retrospect, mostly a sexist one). None of that ever reached out and grabbed me. I got through my teens listening to the Indigo Girls and Shawn Colvin, and I enjoy them still, but they don't have enough to say to me anymore to keep me going now. Shawn Colvin's "Steady On" and the Indigo Girls' self-titled album helped me get through a few nights, but their lyrics don't have the specificity that I drank up later when I found it in the Mountain Goats.

The songs on The Sunset Tree are about John Darnielle's childhood and adolescence dealing with an abusive stepfather who also abused his mother in front of him. I grew up with an abusive mother, who was single. As a teen, John turned to meth and heroin to deal with that which was too big to hold. I turned to a bad marriage and graduate school. But the thing about music like this is that it lets you believe, for a while, that the similarities between us are more important than the differences. I used the word "confessional", and The Sunset Tree both is that and is more than that. "You Or Your Memory", the first song on the album, is about reconciling the pain and powerlessness you've experienced with the obligation to be an autonomous adult. "Love Love Love" and "Pale Green Things" are about the intricacies of the relationship between love and abuse. These songs coexist with more straight-up looks into what it's like to be a kid who couldn't trust the adults who were supposed to keep him safe. There's the revenge fantasies of "Up the Wolves" and "Lion's Teeth", which are, well, the easiest songs for me to directly relate to. There's "This Year", a joyous ode to flawed coping mechanisms. And there's "Dance Music" and "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod", a pair of songs about staying in your room with the door closed and headphones on; in "Tetrapod", the narrator worries more about getting his stereo broken by the abuser than about getting his face broken.

The adult perspective with its moral complexity coexists here, made to seem no more or less true than the unfiltered rage and helplessness that I remember well from my own childhood. The album made me start to feel like I could finally grow up (at 31) while still keeping the promises I made to myself as a kid, on behalf of my future self -- that is, the ones to never forget how bad this was, to never do this to anybody else, and to never make excuses for any adult who was doing this to any other kid. The Sunset Tree suggests how you might begin to understand without making excuses. That begins with showing compassion to your former self and honoring the things that self loved and hated, which is a necessary prerequisite for empathizing with anybody else. When taken together with much of the content of the albums that followed, it's a body of work that's about how you get from the life you're given to the life you make (to quote a Mary Chapin Carpenter song). It's a hell of a 39 minutes.

I got a little carried away there, though, because I really wanted to tell you about the Mountain Goats' new album Beat the Champ. When I heard their next album was going to be about pro wrestling, I was a little worried, because I was afraid it wouldn't be a Mountain Goats album. What I know about wrestling could fit on a thumbtack, but it turns out it doesn't matter, because Beat the Champ has a lot in common with The Sunset Tree. It's about love and violence, friendship and hate. It's about identity and justice. And because I'm not that good a writer, I'm using those general terms when Beat the Champ is extremely specific about all of them.

I put off listening to the songs from the album that were pre-released until the show in Nashville last Thursday; I wanted to hear them for the first time there. I'm glad I did, because live -- giving it my full attention while standing in the back and trying to see over the tall person in front of me -- "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" reached out and grabbed me by the neck. Chavo Guerrero (who's still alive and apparently loves the song) was John's favorite wrestler as a kid; he symbolized the clear lines between good and evil that didn't exist in John's life. The line that got me the first time I heard it and continues to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it since is this one:

I need justice in my life. Here it comes.

But you can't just read that on the page, you have to hear it. If you haven't heard the song, stop what you're doing and listen to it. Okay? It's the way the song switches in mid-verse from objective, school-report language ("He came from Texas seeking fortune and fame...") to the image of John watching TV in the floor in the dark, the TV light bringing hope and joy. It's the catch in his voice on the word "my" and the audible intake of breath before "Here it comes".

In contrast with the moral complexity of (some of) The Sunset Tree, "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" is three minutes of moral clarity. I love that ten years after The Sunset Tree's meticulous exploration of love when it's entangled with violence, he can still sing, in the last verse -- addressing his stepfather -- "He was my hero back when I was a kid / You let me down but Chavo never once did / You called him names to try to get beneath my skin / Now your ashes are scattered on the wind". I love the simplicity and directness of these words. And I love that the song gives the listener, too, permission to say to the person responsible for their trauma, "Yeah, you know, shit is complicated, but at the end of the day you're dead and I'm still here."

After that, it's a bit of a relief when the album follows up with the They-Might-Be-Giants-ish "Foreign Object", which is the most infectiously joyful song ever about stabbing somebody in the eye. It took me a couple of listens to get into the rest of the album, but now I'm really enjoying "Choked Out", "Werewolf Gimmick", and "Fire Editorial"; they go to some interesting places.

CDs have the advantage that you can play them repeatedly in your car, but there is nothing like a live Mountain Goats show, and of the three shows I saw this past week, each one was successively better than the last. On stage, John looks like there's nothing else in the world he'd rather be doing and like he just discovered that now (25 years of performing notwithstanding). Shouting along to "Up the Wolves" with everybody else in the audience is group therapy and church.

While I want everybody else to love the Mountain Goats as much as I do, I also hope their shows never get too big for John to stay and sign CDs afterwards. At the Carrboro show I managed, somehow, to work up the nerve to tell him how powerful that line in "Chavo Guerrero" was for me. I am sure that that's what everybody else has been telling him too, but he thanked me as if nobody else had said so. So, John, if you're reading this, thank you. And thanks for the hug.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
There are certain truths that those of us subjected to the education given to the middle class (which is to say: just enough critical thinking to do the rich kids' homework, and not enough to realize the rich kids hate us as much as they hate the poor kids) were taught not to question. Here are some of them; in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home, Jonathan Kozol wrote about others.

We need more research and facts before we make a hasty decision.
There's more than one side to every story.
The only real ethical precept you ever need is politeness.
Objective truth exists, and we should never take decisive action until we find it.

When we present these received truths as vague generalities, it's easier to see that none of them are universally true. Even so, they have such a hold over the liberally (small-l) educated imagination that when made specific, they can be quite compelling. To wit:

We need to do more research about climate change.
Vaccines could cause autism -- who can prove they don't, after all?
Evolution is just a theory, and there are other valid points of view in the controversy.
It's really about ethics in video game journalism.
Call-out culture is an evil comparable in scope and impact to that of the prison-industrial complex.

This is not to say that all or most liberally-educated people doubt that climate change is caused by human activities or that vaccines don't have anything to do with autism. The point is that these assertions are all phrased in ways that are designed to exploit vulnerabilities in people like me, who have a certain kind of education -- to plant seeds of doubt in our intuitions and the generalizations we've made based on lived experience. After all,

Can you really be sure that no further research is needed before we conclude that humans are changing the climate? You, personally, who probably doesn't have a Ph.D in geoscience?
Can you really be sure that vaccines are safe? Maybe they only cause autism (which is presumed to be negative) once in a while. But what if that one in a million was your child?
Could you personally argue that evolution is a good explanation for the diversity of observed life forms?
Can you really laugh off concerns about ethics? That sounds like a real, serious concern.
Isn't it rude to "call people out"? Obviously being rude or shaming people or institutions publicly is kind of disreputable even if you have a good reason.

These questions have answers: "yes", "yes", "it doesn't matter", "yes", and "maybe, but who cares?" "More research" always sounds good. "Ethics" always sounds good. And you learned in kindergarten to be nice to people, right? But there is nothing magic about these phrases or concerns that prevents them from being used in a way that is bereft of meaning.

It's a false equivalence to say that the theory of "intelligent design" has as much scientific validity as the theory of evolution, or that a jumble of ideas about the potential harmful effects of vaccines should be given equal weight with the overwhelming evidence in favor of their safety, or that a handful of climate change deniers are as credible as the overwhelming consensus among mainstream scientists that humans are changing the climate. Likewise, it's a false equivalence to compare manufactured grievances about video game journalism with the many legitimate ethical concerns that a person could have about journalism, or to compare being told that your opinion is bad and you should feel bad to the state using its monopoly on power in order to put you in prison for life.

GamerGaters, corporate PR departments and climate deniers suck the meaning out of words and build Trojan horses out of words and phrases that appear superficially similar to modes of dialogue that school may have taught you to trust. They put a great deal of faith in the magical power of these words to suspend critical thinking while appearing to enact such thinking.

But words aren't magic. As Annalee on geekfeminism.org wrote:
...people on an axis of privilege have a nasty tendency to appropriate social justice terminology (like privilege and harassment) and twist it around to serve their own point of view. They treat these words like magic incantations, as if it’s the words, rather than the argument, that convinces people.

Words are not magic incantations. They have meanings. Using a word without understanding its meaning just because you’ve seen other people successfully use it to convey a point is magical thinking.


Another thing you may have learned is that arguing over "semantics" is a shameful frivolity. But semantics means "meaning", and if we don't have rough consensus about the meaning of the words we use, we can't communicate at all.

A thing that abusers, on the micro scale, do is to isolate victims from their friends. On the macro scale, that's more difficult, so people working to advance the interests of oppressive institutions work to isolate everybody from the tools we use collaboratively to identify patterns. One of the bigger tools we use that way is language itself. If you can divorce language from meaning, you can get people to believe anything, especially when you can channel emotionally charged concepts like making people feel ashamed of engaging in "public shaming" (that is, criticizing powerful people) or guilty about calling out bad behavior.

There is no trick or recipe for knowing when you are deceiving yourself, when someone else is deceiving themself, or when someone else is trying to deceive you. But knowing that it's a thing that happens does make it easier to discern truth from lies.

The general principles of skepticism, evidence-based decision-making, and even civility can be useful tools, but don't obligate us to entertain those who use them in a way that sets off our bullshit detectors. And anti-call-out-culture crusaders are obviously insincere -- if they were sincere, wouldn't they spend some time doing something other than the activity they claim to detest (namely, calling people out)? Like abortion or marriage, calling people out on the Internet is something you're totally free to foreswear if you feel it's not useful for you. But if you don't like it, the best way to show it is not to do it.

Sometimes more research is needed. But all the grad students in the world couldn't put clothes on the emperor.
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)


Who doesn't love to make fun of homeopathy? It's important to differentiate yourself from other people, especially on the basis of perceived intelligence and on socially prestigious understanding of science. Most people know very little about science, especially scientists, since specialization means that nobody can deeply understand all that much. So making fun of pseudo-science is a useful way of raising yourself up by putting other people down.

But I wish skeptics would train some of their razor-sharp wit on another pseudo-scientific medical treatment that is widely believed to be effective: intentional weight loss. Sure, homeopathic cures can be found in any CVS, but if you actually talk to your pharmacist, they'll tell you those cures don't work (possibly while looking sort of embarrassed). Weight loss, on the other hand, gets recommended by almost every single medical professional you can find, for everything from tonsillitis to toenail fungus.

Losing weight in the short term is easy for most people, but the vast majority of people who lose weight through intentional means gain back all the weight, and more, within five years. This process begins a pattern of frequent weight cycling which has serious health consequences; fat people who lose weight end up in worse health than fat people who remain at their natural weight. So while intentional weight loss is more effective than homeopathy in that in a tiny minority of people, it does produce long-term results (whereas homeopathy does nothing), it should concern you more than homeopathy does since unlike homeopathy, it actually has harmful results. If you're bothered by non-evidence-based "cures", then intentional weight loss should bother you since there's no evidence that it's either possible (again, for almost everybody) or that it leads to improved health outcomes (for anybody).

Are skeptics afraid to take on a foe that's worthy of their intelligence and humor? Is it fun to make fun of those you believe to be stupid, uneducated, and dupes of the supplement industry? And is it not fun to make fun of medical doctors -- educated people who nevertheless recommend non-evidence-based interventions that do more harm than good? If so, why?
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
With apologies to Reel Big Fish
Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You'll be so disappointed
When you end up an adjunct in Riyadh
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea

I hate to ruin the magic
I hate to kill the dream
But once you fail your prelims
Well you'll know just what I mean

You might think that it's cool to hang out with scholars
And chase knowledge instead of almighty dollars
But no one gives a fuck and your reviews all suck
And there's no novelty in your Ph.D
You will hate education
And no one's going to read your dissertation

Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You will be so damn terrible
You will disappoint your mom and dad
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea
It's a losing bet
That you will regret

And even if you make it
All the way to MIT
I don't think you could take it
The egos and hypocrisy
Everyone is so fake when it's visit day
And they ingratiate 'til you matriculate
And rejection fears will make all ideas
Bland and boring, your reviewers all snoring
Your advisor will become a jerk
Faster than you can write "Future work"

Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You will scrimp and be frugal
till you leave to work for Google
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yeah yeah yeah
Your passion will be lost
Like opportunity cost... alright!

And if you think that the joy of research
Will help you cope with the unknowns
Wait till you quit and go bankrupt
And you can't discharge your loans
Nobody cares what you have to say
Tenure-track is dying anyway
You'll be stymied by self-doubt
And critics will find fault till you burn out

Don't go to grad (school)
Don't even try you will regret it yeah
Don't go to grad (school)
You will be so disappointed
When you end up an adjunct in Riyadh
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea
So just drop out now
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
'There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.'

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people call out abuse, microaggressions, or macroaggressions (the last one also being known as oppression) within your community, some people are going to want to defend that abuse because they like the way things are and don't care who gets hurt or excluded. This is the "fuck you, got mine" approach. One way for them to do this is to position themselves as being more authentic or more central members of the community than the dissenters are. It's the "fake geek girl" strategy, weaponized to gatekeep people interested in social change out of the community.

Geek culture, specifically, isn't a majority group (although it's complicated, since geek culture also controls access to the most elite jobs within what's essentially the only remaining accessible middle-class profession). But when dominant groups intersect with non-dominant groups, people in the dominant/non-dominant intersection tend to win. For example, you can be a Christian engineer and no one will think less of you as an engineer, no matter how much you display your Christian identity in the context of being an engineer, hacker, or geek. The same is true about an atheist engineer, because what engineers value is being dogmatic and doctrinaire, not ideological fine points. However, accusing somebody of being an "SJW" can, if you play your cards right, delegitimize them as an engineer, or hacker, or geek. This is because "SJW" is shorthand for having a marginalized identity or believing that marginalized people shouldn't have to subordinate themselves to powerful people in order to be accepted. In geek culture, if you start a campaign to give somebody a reputation of "just caring about politics" (which is to say, political interests that aren't aligned with the dominant group's interests), that can be a very effective way of taking away their professional credibility. The Christian engineer never has to worry about this form of pollution-of-agency attack, at least not with respect to their religious beliefs.

While the details are most certainly not the same as the trajectory of the civil rights movement in 1960s America, there is a common strategy: the consolidation of power by othering people who demand the redistribution of power. If you can convince people that someone who wants a more equitable distribution of power is automatically not authentic, not real, not one of us, you've convinced them that the only way to be part of something, to be accepted, is to accept abuse and oppression.

To say, "It doesn't have to be this way" is to expose yourself and your reputation and credibility to every kind of attack possible, because "it doesn't have to be this way" are dangerous words. They inspire fear in those who find it more comfortable to believe that it does have to be this way, that all women should stay indoors at night (instead of men learning not to rape), that people who don't like being verbally abused should "just grow a thicker skin" (instead of everyone learning not to be abusive), that children should patiently wait until they're big enough to hurt smaller people (instead of parents respecting their children's boundaries). What those using the "outside agitator" / "fake geek girl" defense wish for is making "it does have to be this way" a self-fulfilling prophecy by scaring everyone who can imagine a different reality into silence and submission. But as long as we recognize that, they won't get their wish.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
1. Forgetting to clean the lint filter in the dryer and starting a fire in the laundry room.

2. Gingivitis.

3. Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

4. Unpaid library fines.

5. Getting botulism from canned food.

6. Getting cancer from having to go through airport body scanners, even though I have TSA Precheck

7. Getting salmonella from drinking a cocktail with raw egg white in it.

8. Splinters.

9. My cats getting rabies, even though they're vaccinated and don't go outside.

10. Defamation lawsuits.

11. Making a mistake on my taxes.

12. Toenail fungus.

13. Eating the wrong part of rhubarb.

14. Amtrak derailments.

15. Getting falsely accused of sexual harassment.

16. Sunspots causing bugs in my code.

17. Not understanding IEEE floating point.

18. Celery.

19. Split ends.

20. Stepping on a power cord.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I am planning on becoming a parent within the next year or two, and while I don't exactly how I will do that yet - getting pregnant and giving birth myself, adopting a baby, or adopting an older child through the foster care system - I know one thing about how I'm going to treat an infant who comes into my care in one of the first two ways.

I know that it's impossible to determine what a person's gender is without asking them, and that, therefore, I don't know the gender of any child who is too young to talk. I also know that 'sex' is a synonym for 'gender' that cis people use when they want to misgender us in the name of 'science'. So, I know that if I become the parent of a newborn, I won't know their gender - or sex - immediately at birth, much less before birth. How could I? I wouldn't have access to any better tools than the ones my mother, and any medical personnel who were helping her, when I was a baby boy in 1980. If I don't accept my own misgendering at birth, I can't justify doing the same thing to somebody else.

I have talked about wanting to raise a child in a way that was gender-agnostic up until the time when they were old enough to express their own gender. But sometimes people misunderstand what that means, and think it means forcing a boy or girl to be androgynous instead, past the point where they know their own identity. Of course, that's not so - the point is for me to respect my hypothetical child and not gender them without their consent.

But I'm wondering if it isn't better to talk about raising a child starting from the default assumption that the child is trans. Normally, we make a default assumption that a newborn infant is cis. We assign a gender marker that is difficult to impossible to change later, based solely on an observer's assessment of an infant phalloclitoris as a potential instrument for penetrating vaginas, or as not potentially suitable to this task. We also try our hardest to mold reality to our assumptions by rewarding child behavior that confirms it and punishing behavior that contradicts it. It doesn't work, of course - treating trans kids like we expect them to be cis doesn't produce cis kids, just traumatized trans kids.

I don't have to explain to any trans person that it *is* traumatic to be expected to be cis before you even have the language to protest, and if you're cis, just take my word for it. It is. But even parents who are themselves trans usually re-enact this process on their own kids. I don't blame them, exactly. Social pressure to conform is strong, and not everyone is up for explaining to any stranger who comments on the baby that everything that believe about sex/gender is wrong.

Personally I can't conceive of doing to a child something that was so harmful when it was done to me. At the same time, I know I don't exist in a vacuum apart from peer pressure. Perhaps it's easier to resist the assumption that cis is default if we assume something different instead; humans tend to have an easier time thinking about positive than negative statements.

I think it's understandable to latch onto genitals as a differentiator since babies are otherwise pretty similar. Like finding out your baby's zodiac sign and constructing an imaginary personality around it, picking a binary gender gives you a place to start imagining who this tiny stranger might be. But unlike an arbitrary horoscope, building a story around a gender marker has devastating consequences if you pick the wrong one. Any trans teenager who's been abandoned by their parents - who were more attached to that story than to the real, living child they were raising - can tell you that.

So rather than rejecting gender, I want to suggest an alternative narrative, at least to myself. That is, should an infant come into my care, I will assume they have a gender identity that isn't 'male' or 'female'. By assuming non-binary rather than whatever binary sex they weren't assigned at birth, I can do two things. First, as a person whose gender is one of the two socially sanctioned options, I can remind myself to be extra attentive to the needs of a child whose gendered experience I don't understand firsthand. And second, assuming that male and female are duals is just another way of accepting sex assignment at birth (if I pick the opposite of what the doctor said, I'm still letting a doctor tell me what to do.)

So what if my child turns out to be a boy or a girl? Well, if so, I'll accept that from the moment he or she says so - self-definition wins above all else. For a 3-year-old, that just means using his or her pronouns to refer to her or him and, if he or she chooses, supporting him or her in using a gendered name. Of course it also means letting the child wear or play with whatever they want, but I would already be doing that.

What are the advantages of a non-binary default over a cis, or trans binary, default? Wouldn't no default at all be better? Maybe, but I suspect that my best intentions, my brain will construct something to fill a void, so it's better for me to be explicit. That said, what if the child turns out to be a boy or girl? Will they have been harmed by the assumption that they weren't?

Maybe; I can't know for sure. I don't think the potential harm is nearly as great, though, as the harm done by the alternative, the harm of a cis default to a child who isn't. I know that harm from personal experience, so I don't need to elaborate, except to encourage you to consider the effect on your self-concept of having the world tell you - having the adults you have to trust most tell you - that a basic, fundamental thing about yourself you know too deeply for words is false. That they know better.

The non-binary default doesn't have an entire society mobilized to enforce it, so for that reason - power asymmetry - I don't see how expecting a child to be NB could possibly do as much harm as expecting a trans child to be cis does.

Many parents, trans and cis, say they're assuming their child is cis because statistically, that's the most likely thing. I would hate to have to explain to a child, 'I hurt you because of statistics'. They say they won't uphold gender expectations (except, of course, the expectation that the child is their assigned gender) and will affirm a trans child's gender if their child comes out as trans.

I don't doubt their sincerity, but I know I have plenty of internalized cissexism. Once I decided to work off the assumption my child was cis, would I give up the social capital of having a normative cis that easily? Would I feel pressure to, subconsciously, encourage my child to fake cisness so I don't have to deal with the stigma of being a trans parent of a trans child (baggage even if I was cis, plus suspicion that I somehow made my child be like me)? I'm not confident that the answer is 'no'.

I also reject the argument from statistics. Look at a baby, and that baby has a 100% chance of being cis. Or a 100% chance of being trans. You just don't know which one yet. The limits of my knowledge don't change objective reality.

Rather than centering what might be best for a cis child because cis people are the majority, then, I'll center the needs of the most vulnerable group and trust that the outcome will be best for everyone. That's usually how it works, after all: for example, we have a modern 'LGBTQ rights' movement because trans women of color resisted violence. If we'd done from the beginning what the modern marriage-focused GL(B) movement (silent t) does now and center the needs of privileged cis gay men, we would have made no progress since the fifties.

I think that by centering what would be best for a child whose gender is non-binary - something I'll ask for advice on and educate myself about, since I lack firsthand - I'll be doing what's best for any child. A cis boy or cis girl won't be harmed by getting to declare his own maleness or her own femaleness. Either one has the rest of their lifetime to have the entire world backing them up.

The risk of assuming you know what your child's gender is and that it's binary is this: getting attached to an imaginary, idealized child instead of a real one. This is why some parents of trans children say, 'I feel like my son/daughter died': they are mourning the loss of a relationship they formed with an imaginary child, at the expense of the real child who could really use their support. I don't expect to say 'I feel like my genderqueer child up and died' in the face of my cis daughter or son, because there are no social structures encouraging me to value a genderqueer child more. So that's why I don't think my future child will be harmed by my assumption, even if they're cis.

I don't expect the rest of the world to understand, but that's okay. Like many queer people, I have the privilege of freedom from obligation to a family of origin, so I get to choose who will be around my kid, mostly. There are still strangers, babysitters, doctors, and so on, but not everybody has to understand. I feel okay knowing that within my own ability, I'll do my best by my kid, and not worry too much about other people's expectations that I can't control. And it seems like getting more practice in doing what's best for my kid even if the rest of the world resists, or is openly hostile to it, can only make me a better parent.
tim: "Bees may escape" (bees)
I'm reposting this as a public post because the original post has comments and I don't want to make them public without permission, but I also think I'm funny and want more people to know it.
Somebody on twitter (I believe it was [twitter.com profile] dopegirlfresh but I'm not totally sure) speculated on the question of what gummy bears soaked in rum would be like. I was unable to get this out of my head. I bought some gummy bears, and well, you know.

They expanded to maybe 3 times their original size and absorbed a LOT of liquid. As in, after a few days there was no liquid left in the jar.

I decided I had to follow up on the "Future Work" section, so I wrote this tweet.


That's not the best photo. Oh well. Roughly L-R: sour patch kids in sweet vermouth; gummy orange slices in blue Curacao; gummy worms in tequila; gummy watermelon slices in rum; gumdrops in whiskey; gummy peach rings in Southern Comfort. Oh yeah and gummy grapefruit slices in gin were somewhere in there, and I also tried gummy bears in vodka.

I started this experiment about 2 days before leaving on vacation, and I didn't have time to drain out any of the jars before leaving. And... since I returned, I've been kind of lazy. So I now have gummy candies that have been soaking in alcohol for a month.

Here's what the gummy peaches look like after soaking in Southern Comfort for quite a while:


I think the peaches were the biggest success. The gummy grapefruit slices dissolved completely into the gin. I've been still too afraid to try the Sour Patch Kids or the orange slices.

But I was asked for recipes! I have not tried any of these recipes yet -- so far what I've tried is "eat a single gummy peach, feel drunk, stop for the night." I have been trying a lot of cocktails out of a book I got, though, in alphabetical order, so I feel pretty knowledgeable about cocktails, at least the ones whose names begin with "A".

Peachy Nail

1 part Southern Comfort
1 part bourbon
3 dashes orange bitters
As many gummy peach rings as you want, soaked in Southern Comfort for 24 to 48 hours

Stir with ice, strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with boozy gummy peach rings. Be sure you don't have to go anywhere after this.

Greyhound Vending Machine

5 oz white grapefruit juice
2 oz gin (if you want to be classy about it, use Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire, but Mr. Boston will do) that has had gummy grapefruit slices soaking in it long enough for them to completely dissolve -- probably a week

Pour into highball glass filled with ice. Stir, serve. If that's not enough sugar for you, you can rim the glass with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit and then coarse sugar.

Old Gummy

As much bourbon as you want, you deserve it
4 dashes rhubarb bitters (deal with it)
Several large gumdrops that have been soaking in blended whiskey for 12 hours (longer than that and they get to be a weird gray color)
Soda water

Place the gumdrops in an Old Fashioned glass. Wet them with the bitters and a short splash of soda water. Swirl the glass a little bit. Add one large ice cube (no ice balls, please). Pour in the bourbon. Stir. If you want to be classy when you're mixing gummy candies and liquor, instead of putting the gumdrops in the glass, put them on a short wooden skewer (or long toothpick) and use it as a garnish.

Let me know how these recipes work out. I'll certainly be curious. Also, I'm considering getting a job marketing alcohol to children.

The best source of gummy candies is the bulk bins at Winco. If you don't have a Winco near you, what are you doing? Move.

Allygory

Feb. 13th, 2015 11:15 pm
tim: A brown tabby cat's face. (spreckles)
Inspired by "I live in a house with wild animals and I really have to pee" by Ashe Dryden

Oh hey, friend, thanks for coming over the other evening! It was really fun, and that pumpkin bread you brought was great.

[...]

Oh, him? I'm sorry he bit you. You're not going to get rabies or anything, though, I took him for his shots last July. Yeah, it must have hurt, though, sorry.

[...]

No, I didn't really... adopt him, so much. He just showed up at my front door a few years back and wandered inside. It seemed like he needed a home, so after a couple days I bought some dog food and a dish and started giving him food and water. I mean, how could I deprive a poor animal of those things?

[...]

Oh yeah, he's bitten a couple of other people who've visited. It's really too bad. And I sure wish I didn't have to steam-clean my carpet so often. What can you do, though?

[...]

Call animal control? I don't know about that, it sounds sort of confrontational. I wouldn't want some mob showing up in a van to take away Buddy, you know?

[...]

A dog trainer? Huh, maybe. That seems like it would cost a lot. And doesn't it kind of infringe on his freedom to be the kind of dog he naturally is?

[...]

Tired of it? Yeah, I am, a little bit, and my housemate moved out because she said she couldn't stand finding her laundry torn apart or her books chewed up anymore. It's too bad, because I've had a hard time finding a new housemate and now I have to pay the rent for the whole house by myself. But hey, I'm not saying I would put up posters all over the neighborhood if Buddy wandered off one day. If he did, I would just shrug and get on with my life.

[...]

Oh, no, you're totally not the first person who has told me this. A lot of my friends just won't visit my house anymore. They want to meet me for coffee instead when we hang out, in cafes that don't allow any dogs in. It's okay. The way I see it, it's their loss if they don't get to be in my house.

[...]

Sue me? Why, I don't see how any jury could convict me of a crime. I'm not biting people. I'm not tearing their clothing or barking at them so loudly they can't carry on a conversation. I've never been anything but impeccably hospitable and courteous to my guests. It's not my fault if that dog keeps harassing them and if he just won't go away.

[...]

No, it doesn't bother me that much personally. I have a thick skin, you know?
tim: A brown tabby cat's face. (spreckles)
A followup to this and this:

So I wasn't going to post this at first, but then [personal profile] wild_irises pointed out that holding it back for fear of being seen as self-absorbed is hardly in the spirit of Wishcraft, and she's right, so here goes :)

I tried to combine everybody's positive comments about me into a single narrative, something that resembles the spirit of the original exercise in Barbara Sher's book ("ask a friend to say good things about you for 3 minutes.") So I combined comments that were similar to each other and grouped them roughly by topic. This includes all the comments from my Dreamwidth post, plus some from Facebook and one from an email. However, I've mashed things up enough that there shouldn't be anything there that's possible to trace back to one person (except for the ones that were made non-anonymously here on Dreamwidth, of course!) So, don't assume that a given sentence has the same author as the next one or the one before it, because there are a whole bunch of cases where that's not true.
You're willing to listen without assumption, and to act. You're loyal. I never feel like you're gonna bite my hand if you don't like my idea, and honest criticism is gold in ways that people don't always understand. You are a straightforward and trustworthy person. You are a very encouraging friend. When I didn’t want to live anymore, you wrote me a letter that touched me and made me cry. You sent me a book that is dear to me and you wished me solace. It makes me happy to know someone that I could confide & brainstorm with if I am having a real crisis or need some insight. (within certain realms, to be realistic) You happily met up with me and readily continued a friendship, even though we hadn’t been in contact for ages.

You have much warmth, kindness, and empathy. You care very deeply and so fiercely about so many important issues. You are aware of how other people see the world, and try to do the right thing. I believe you to be the kind of open minded person that in the heat of an argument, if proven wrong, would yell out apologies & correct yourself in the same heated tone you were slamming the ideas just minutes before........which is awesome. You are actively striving to be better and have the capacity to learn from your mistakes; you're also willing to make them in the first place. You continue to investigate your own biases deeply and refine your worldview and opinions as an adult, even as an adult over 30, motivated by wanting to treat other people better. You have great sensitivity to the suffering of others and your focus on other people is directly (rather than inversely) proportional with how much oppression they've suffered. There are people you’ll never know whose lives you have touched in a beautiful way. You are adding so much good not only to the lives of those you know and care about, but to all those people you will never know.

You also share your opinions and communicate well about them. I've learned a lot from you, particularly about privilege, and specifically in ways that I hope have made me able to treat people better, and/or that will make me able to potentially treat people better in the future. Your writing has led me to interesting questions and further exploration of topics like discrimination and intersectional feminism, which in turn has appreciably improved my understanding of the world. Your opinions sometimes seem outlandish at first, but often cause me to think long and hard. You make me challenge my assumptions. Specifically, you've made me realize that I tend to hide behind a belief that any progress is better than no progress on many fronts instead of actively working for change. It's an ugly truth but I'm glad you've helped me to realize it. You help me learn more and open my eyes to things I’d never thought about before.

You approach your life with both analytical distance and thoughtfulness. You think hard and deeply about topics many people shy away from, and speak frankly about your thoughts. Particularly, you confront difficult and complicated problems even if it would be easier to stay quiet; you don't shy away from conflict. You are an engaging writer with a lot of interesting things to say. I appreciate your precision. I like you because you speak your mind, but with respect for your reader; because you acknowledge complications and nuances while not adopting the cowardly option of either assuming all sides are all equally valid or that only one is. You are deeply engaged with social justice issues and are not afraid to take unpopular positions. You are a person of integrity and seriousness. I find your point of view consistently well thought out and understandable.

Specifically I enjoi the critical talk of cis, straight, white culture & queer, trans culture (when it warrants it), or even tech industry (aka bro-ding...get it? coding...bro....ah haaaa! you get it) You say interesting things about gender, including but not just how it affects your life. You pay attention to and amplify marginalized voices, particularly those of women and trans people. You "get" feminism and are outspoken on behalf of person who are not cis males, especially in computer science. I am always appreciative of your ability and willingness to advocate for others. You are strongly compassionate. I particularly like that you always consider children as human beings (and I'm curious what your parenting will look like in practice.) You care so much about people and non-humans too.

You come across as a knife with a neon nyan cat handle in subject matters you feel strongly about, all shiny, bright & happy "....but ...wait....oh god! ......I've been cut to size? but how???? " You have a low tolerance for bullshit, and the ability to cut through the bullshit and get right to the heart of the matter. You challenge empty rhetoric directly and do not tolerate even passive acquiescence to something you know is wrong. I have always admired your ability and bravery at times to tell it like it is. You are unapologetic about who you are and uncompromising about principles. That said, you're not abusive or threatening about it: you are critical while maintaining your ability to connect with others. You're fighting injustice and making this painful world a much better place.

You have always struck me as intimidatingly good. I say intimidatingly because it puts me in mind of something in one of Diane Duane's Young Wizards books: direct contact with the Powers that Be is actually a bit of a dangerous hobby for a human to get into, because the Powers are impatient with mere human flaws, including the flaws of their own vessels, and they tend to burn through whatever impurities they encounter.

That's what you try to do to obstacles between you and justice.

You are very clear about your goals and their status, but also flexible about them. You don't exploit others. You somehow maintain optimism about human nature, despite considerable evidence in your personal history for the opposite perspective. You're idealistic, but it's tempered by a hard-won jadedness, which I think contributes to your good and offbeat sense of humor. While you are a very serious person at heart, you are approachable and you don't shy away from enjoying life and relationships with others. You are very capable of relaxing and pursuing pleasure and leisure, without neglecting your convictions. You take responsibility for the things you enjoy. You are often fun to be around, and pleasantly talkative.

You are highly intelligent and apparently a very good coder. You enjoy learning and sharing what you've learned with others. I think the best thing about you (to me) is the fact that you're outspokenly more critical & well read than myself & I use that to my advantage to learn about or become more in depth with subject matter I wasn't aware of. You are enormously curious and eager to acquire knowledge and understanding, where understanding is more important than knowledge. You have a drive to get useful things done, which is far better for the world than a drive to get things done in general. I regret that you and I did not get to work together for the short time we worked at the same place.

You are responsible. When part of groups, you are good at identifying tasks for yourself and doing them correctly and consistently. You'll invent processes where there aren't any, and you'll improve them where there are some that need improvement.

You're fun when you're very horny.

Your beard is awesome. I dig your glasses.

Oh, and you let your kitties stay with us for a couple months and they brought us much joy.

~~~BONUS CAT POV~~~

Oh, and one more thing, Spotty and Spreckles telepathically communicated to me some good things about you, too. Don't ask me why they didn't tell you for themselves...ask them. Your kitties are strange... :)

Spotty - You happily pay for as many headphone wires as I chew up and still love me. You are fun to snuggle with. Oh, and you bring me my food!

Spreckles - I have never told you this and I should have. You gave me a really spiffy name*. And you make every day fun. You make me glad to be a cat. And you bring my food! If you bring me more food, I will say more good things about you! Right now, I need to nap! Sorry!
Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my DW post, on Facebook, or in email. I'm not thanking you for having positive opinions about me, since I hardly think that my thanks will affect your opinions one way or the other :) Rather, I'm thanking you for writing them down, which is hard to do.
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
Twitter
Getting something in the mail that isn't bills
Tidying
Maths
Thermal underwear
Porridge
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.

Excerpt:
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

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

May 2015

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