Five questions from [personal profile] puzzlement

Jun. 7th, 2012 12:10 am
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
You can still ask me to ask you questions if you want to, too!

1. Are role models a thing that work for you? If so, describe a role model relationship you've had, past or present.

Yes, they are very much a thing... but perhaps I should say "were". I've kind of formed this kind of relationship with every academic advisor I've had (and a few job supervisors), but "relationship" implies something where the role model is aware that they are a role model, and I doubt that was true every time. I don't want to talk about specifics in public, because some of these situations didn't end well and others just kind of make me sound like a gushy fanboy if I talk about them. (And there's overlap between those two.) Instead, though, I shall reflect on why I don't have role models anymore.

Maybe part of it is that I'm old, and don't need them, but I think another part is that I have these two intersecting lives -- one as a mostly-wanna-be trans and feminist activist (if talking about it and writing about it counts as activism... which is also why I say "wanna-be") and one as a computer scientist. If I'm to look for examples of people who are both, there aren't a lot of examples, and I don't know of any other trans men in computer science in a role comparable to or higher-rank than my own. (Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't any... but someone who doesn't choose to publicly disclose their history isn't going to be someone I'll look up to as "oh hey, another trans guy who does what I do.") Of course, I can have cis men as role models, and for most of my life I have... but cis men get to have other cis men as role models, so it seems only fair to me that I ought to be able to find trans men who could be role models. And while there are many women I admire, I'd also be hesitant to name a woman as a role model because saying "I aspire to be like this person" seems to imply "I aspire to be someone who has overcome huge difficulties to accomplish cool stuff", and well, I'll never have to overcome the kinds of difficulties that women in CS have to; that's all in the past for me. So that would seem a bit privilege-denying.

And the reason why I'm specifically calling out the lack of role models who speak to both aspects of my life is that if the two were merely separate, maybe it would be fine to have two sets of role models... but people I've encountered in queer and trans communities, especially people who are more politically active, often (certainly not always) seem dismissive of nerdiness, and computer science people are certainly often dismissive of identities other than that of a white cis hetero (at best, theoretically bisexual) guy who talks a lot about having been bullied in high school. So when each side shows contempt for the other, it's hard to look to either for inspiration.

This answer is probably going to come off as vague to some people and offensive to others, but that's probably what I get for dodging the question :P

2. Excepting yourself, who is your favourite Tim (living, historical or fictional)?

When I chose the name Tim, I had a particular Tim in mind, but I don't think he is my favorite Tim anymore. I'm going to say Tim Sandlin, author of _Skipped Parts_ and other fine novels, even though I haven't re-read any of his books in several years, and I'm not sure whether or not his books will have aged well for me. But, I sure did enjoy _Skipped Parts_ in 1999. In case Sandlin's writing turns out not to have aged well, my emergency backup Tim -- fictional, this one -- is Tim Hasler, a character in _The Mad Men_ by Samuel Delany. I'd hesitate to list him as my favorite since in the book, he's a brilliant philosopher described as having had all kinds of ideas that I'm not sure I could summarize well. But the other thing he's described as having had is a lot of kinky gay sex, and that's something I can get on board with.

3. Martin's law reads "If you never used software written by dickheads, your disk would be very empty indeed." Is there any software that you avoid primarily because it was written by jerks?

This question reminds me of a very funny story (to me, anyway) involving a former colleague of mine, which I should probably not relay here or in any public forum (and all Internet fora are public fora). So I won't... I suppose that at one point in my life, I could claim that I didn't use any Microsoft software for this reason. Having interned at Microsoft since then (where everyone was very nice to me), I suppose I can't or shouldn't say that anymore. I suppose I could claim that I haven't learned Ruby for this reason (though I'm not sure exactly what the famous Ruby community jerks contributed, aside from misogyny). But no, in general, I don't think much about avoiding software because it was written by jerks (I mean, I'm writing this in emacs), but I do tend to be more interested in using software when I know it's written by non-jerks. I've praised the Rust code of conduct before, and the positive attitude that the Haskell community had between 2000-2009 ish (not saying that attitude has gone away, just that I'm not really in that community anymore) both had an effect on me and kept me participating.

4. What does Tim's Law read, at the moment?

It's not original to me, but probably something like "Anyone who says they're an ally probably isn't one." And a corollary, "Anyone who says they're an ally is probably just waiting for the right opportunity to use their ally-ship as a bargaining chip to get something from the group they claim to be an ally of."

But that could probably be made a bit snappier..

5. If you had to (for those magical interview values of "had to") return to undergraduate studies and complete a second degree, what would your major be?

As odd as it is to admit this, my major would be "pre-med" (and yes, I know that's not really a major, but it answers the spirit of the question) and this may not be an entirely hypothetical question. It seems to me that almost everybody in software who's at all creative and thoughtful loses interest in it after 10 to 15 years at most, and either becomes a manager (or the equivalent of one, like being a tenured professor) or changes careers entirely. The few people who stay in it strike me as the types of brilliant, dedicated, single-minded people that I am not; I lack that obsessive focus on One Thing. (I don't think that's a shortcoming of mine, either, nor is it a shortcoming of the people who *do* have it. We all have different things to contribute.) I've been pondering what I would be doing if I wasn't doing computer science for the past ten years, and the answer has changed repeatedly, but my current thought is that if I want to help trans people in a direct way, one way in which I could have a tangible effect is to directly help people get access to exogeneous endocrine intervention, something that is still unreasonably difficult to obtain in many parts of the US, and even for people in the "right" parts of the US who happen to have the wrong set of intersectional oppressions. I don't want to be another lawyer clamoring for sparse non-profit jobs, and I'm starting to get suspicious even of non-lawyery positions within the realm of "professional activism", given the sorry state of trans activism in the US (I mean, I don't want my job to involve giving awards to Chaz Bono for being a misogynist).

Of course, just because something needs to be done doesn't mean I'm the right person to do it, so in this magical scenario, I might well end up being one of those kids who starts out being pre-med with an agenda in mind, and quickly finds they can't deal with it... that's certainly far from impossible for me, given that I've never taken so much as introductory biology or chemistry (not even in high school, since I didn't go to high school). In real life, my plan is to address that by taking one class at a time at a community college (starting when my life gets to be a little more settled), and if it turns out I'm totally allergic to life sciences, I'll know to look elsewhere and won't have expended that much money or time. But in the hypothetical scenario, anything goes, right? Anyway, you probably were expecting a less serious response to this one!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-07 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] puzzlement
Actually, I'd probably do medicine too. (The Australian system is different, and there are some universities that emphasise admitting people without life sciences backgrounds if you do some preparatory study to the level of first year bio and chem, so I'd probably try for direct entry into a four year MBBS.)

Or, well. If I was magically under 25 again I would. While I have young children I don't think I want to have another high intensity university engagement, and by the time I am post-young children I'll be 40 or older. And some people do do med then and I guess I will keep an open mind, but the training is long and I'm not sure how I'd feel about that. Anyway. My 40 year old self can decide. I'm also hoping to enjoy the experience of not being a beginner in my career, for a while. Not just because society says I should (although it does so say), but because I would personally like it, to the extent society and me can be separated.

Anyway. I used to think if I was a doctor I'd do ob/gyn, but now I wonder about being a pain specialist. It seems to be another area where intersectional stuff (in particular, disability) and the medical system are at odds.

In the meantime I am thinking about training to be a doula and a breastfeeding counselor, maybe even a board-certified lactation consultant (which is actually quite tough, with no life sciences background) over the next five to ten years, and having a very minor second career in birthing that way.

However, the final question for me does tend to have the answer of "ALL THE MAJORS" also. I'd be interested in doing modern history, for example, as well. But it's easier to do self-study in at least some types of history than it is to do self-study in med (especially since I'd never be allowed to apply said knowledge without formal qualifications).

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-12 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] puzzlement
Huh, that's cool! I don't think anything like this exists here, but I could be wrong (certainly have much more homework to do).

FWIW the way it works in Australia (supplied here just for interest) is that medicine is actually a dual Bachelors: Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery. An MD is an optional and fairly rare postgraduate qualification: since it tended to be basically equivalent to a PhD in demands, most research programs now just offer PhDs.

There are some courses that will admit people with no tertiary qualifications, on the basis of either high school academic results (extremely good ones), or some combination of high school academic results and performance in interviews/exams. These typically take either five or six years. Five years for an MBBS, six years to also get a BSc, which gives you a starting point for a research career should you want one. In five year courses this is an optional sixth year, but in some schools (often the ones that expect to produce a lot of specialists among their graduates) everyone has to do it.

There are other courses that will admit people only if they hold an existing Bachelors degree, and in addition can demonstrate competence (on a written exam) in first year undergrad chemistry and biology. Some students aim at these programs by eg doing a BSc with lots of bio and biochem, but the schools by no means actively prefer them. Interviews are involved. These programs typically take four years.

Australia actually has a serious problem with undersupply of doctors. New medical schools are being approved by the government all the time, and there are active recruitment programs to get, eg, nurses to retrain.

As with the USA, after graduating there are many years of training before independent practice. Some of the details are different, such as I believe in the US there is a huge match day when all medical graduates get competitively assigned to specialist training? I think in Australia you just apply to each institution in a normal job seeking way and hear back individually.

I recall hearing, but cannot find a good citation for, a decision on the part of I think the University of Queensland that given that there is no good evidence other than a certain level of academic skill that can predict who will be a good doctor (and I have no idea what metric that is computed against either!) that the only ethical way to admit people to medical school is that everyone who is interested and who scores highly enough on whatever test should be selected solely by lottery. I have often wondered how true this is for almost every job ever.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-07 12:37 pm (UTC)
pfctdayelise: (thoughtful musing (waking life))
From: [personal profile] pfctdayelise
It seems to me that almost everybody in software who's at all creative and thoughtful loses interest in it after 10 to 15 years at most, and either becomes a manager (or the equivalent of one, like being a tenured professor) or changes careers entirely.

d'oh, I hope that's not true. I was kinda hoping there was enough different areas that one could do some web stuff or some embedded stuff or some big data stuff (etc) and amuse oneself for a rather lengthier period.

also, hi :) I've been reading your journal for a little while. I think I neglected to say hi. I probably found it via puzzlement. (do those lj tags work over here? [Unknown site tag]?)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-07 07:25 pm (UTC)
luinied: Listening in on a perfectly innocent conversation about pesticides. (helpful)
From: [personal profile] luinied
Continued sympathy on the worryingly sparsely populated intersection between computer scientists and people who work to fight seriously shitty things.

My friend Sarah is in med school at UC Irvine and has a personal interest in providing good medical care to trans people, so if you'd like I could put you in touch. It sounds, from what I heard, that there are definitely some complications about becoming a doctor that she hadn't anticipated, and not just the fact that she had to move to Orange County.

And I have also heard of med schools that don't require a life sciences background, but the particular ones I heard of emphasized that prospective students should concentrate on their GPA over their choice of classes, which does not fill me with confidence. (Not that I have any idea how widespread this is.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-20 05:19 pm (UTC)
luinied: Losing the short game, winning the long game. (out of it)
From: [personal profile] luinied
...and I only just realized that you are already Facebook friends with Sarah, I'm guessing because you met her on Halloween? I had completely forgotten about that.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-06-07 08:32 pm (UTC)
etb: (owl)
From: [personal profile] etb
It's not original to me, but probably something like "Anyone who says they're an ally probably isn't one." And a corollary, "Anyone who says they're an ally is probably just waiting for the right opportunity to use their ally-ship as a bargaining chip to get something from the group they claim to be an ally of."
Maybe, "If you have to say you're an ally, you aren't."


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

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