brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-06-20 11:50 am

my political sentimentality

From "An Excerpt From My Definitely Not a Presidential Campaign Book" by Alexandra Petri, Washington Post, June 5, 2017:


People always ask me what I'm passionate about, and I tell them the following story: When I was a little kid, my grandmother took me to see an injustice. I got so mad! I threw my red white and blue popsicle down on the ground. My grandmother picked it up and said, "Winner, these colors are sacred. Never let them drop." And I said, "I know, Grandma, but I don't like to see injustice!" and she said, "That's just the world we live in. Unless you grow up and devise common-sense policy solutions to do something about it. And don't forget the men who died to give that right to you, and proudly stand up to defend her still today."

....

I think sex is bad unless it falls into one of the five categories below that also conveniently align with my policy proposals:

-- you are thinking about tax reform during it
-- other people are having it and you are vocally disapproving of it
-- at least one of the people involved is committed to being a great dad
-- it involves one willing participant who is a male celebrity
-- it is binding Americans together and serving to restore our common values


So one way I know that I am hopelessly sentimental about civic virtue and so on, and that part of me is an utter sucker for "common-sense policy solutions"/"binding Americans together"-type rhetoric, is that even this parody makes me mist up a little bit. Also I have literally cried (albeit on an airplane) at a Doritos ad that championed bipartisanship.

(As a young'un I came across a copy of Art Buchwald's I Never Danced at the White House and read it and thus learned about Watergate. Art Buchwald was a political humor columnist for the Washington Post. I am imagining some twelve-year-old girl in 2039 reading a Petri collection, getting about 30% of the jokes and enjoying it a lot.)

(Also I should look up whether there is critical scholarship discussing Alexandra Petri, Alexandra Erin, the Toast work of Mallory Ortberg, and whoever else is doing .... this kind of thing in this era. *handwave*)
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-06-16 02:54 pm

music in Steven Universe

Post-WisCon, I have a new hairdo (a pretty butch sort of fauxhawk) and my spouse and I have started watching Steven Universe. We're around the beginning of Season 3 I think which means we just saw the episode that had the duet-with-piano "Do It For Her". Is it just me or is that the song (so far) that sounds most like it could fit into a Broadway show? Like, change the words a little and it could go into Wicked?

(Also the theme tune just switched to a new arrangement and I am still getting used to this.)
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-06-13 08:30 am
Entry tags:

personal protective equipment

I was waking up today and was glad my phone was in the other room. I'm trying to do that, to not have my phone right next to me when I wake up, because it's so easy to stay in bed and surf the net.

And I realized that it really does feel like the internet is a big hole that I leap into every day and then need to crawl back up all the time. And I do my work on the internet so I need to wear a harness to keep me from falling too far. Protective gear, like anyone doing anything dangerous.

("The abyss is no Sunday swan ride," as one Steven Universe character has said.)

I have sometimes referred to Twitter as an attention casino. And that is true and it's a metaphor that helps remind me that there is someone else specifically working to make money off other people's addictions and that the experience is designed to keep me there in the hopes of intermittent reward. But this sinkhole metaphor reminds me that it is the nature of the Internet to be an endless sink to fall down, and that I can wear a harness to help keep myself safe. And therefore I have just installed Leechblock on this machine.

Meditation would also count.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-06-12 05:40 pm

some things I learned today

learned today:

* installed Go, and thus learned a little about Go package installation
* remembered some things about Python virtualenvs
* it doesn't matter what directory you're in when you run a psql command to, for instance, create a new PostgreSQL user
* when helping a newer team member who seems to be floundering, it really does help with overwhelmption to say "ok, is this a list of all the problems you are facing? ok, let us address them one at a time" and then knock off the easy ones first
* petl is a Python library to make it easier to extract, transform, and load data
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-06-08 09:06 am

Trashing, pile-on culture and call-out culture, accountability, & related topics

I've written a MetaFilter post curating links to some interesting thinking from the past 40 years on how we do accountability in progressive groups -- from Jo Freeman and Joanna Russ discussing "trashing" in the US feminist movement to people in the last few years and weeks talking about times to get on the phone, making trusting relationships for accountability, and lessons from Occupy.

Consider checking it out.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-05-31 12:42 pm
Entry tags:

tiny con report for WisCon 41

I went to WisCon and had a pretty good time. I am sad that I missed all of the vid party but I am glad that I used that time to catch up on sleep. I went to most of one panel, and didn't serve on any, and went to very few parties, and spent a lot of time in small group conversations with friends. The Guest of Honor speeches were thought-provoking and rhetorically neat as usual -- WisCon GoH speeches set a high bar and most tech industry keynotes do not meet it, in my opinion. I got a couple neat clothes at the Clothing Swap; I regret that I barely looked in the Dealer's Room and I never got to the Art Show.

I believe this year I saw multiple women of South Asian origin whom I did not know already, and by the end of my WisCon weekend I still had not quite met all of them! So exciting as a signal!

I was the auctioneer again this year for the auction benefiting the Tiptree Award. It looks like I will serve as that auctioneer yearly for the foreseeable future. I hear people really enjoyed the Tiptree Auction - the best compliment I got was (close paraphrase as memory permits): "it is weird that we use this capitalist approach to fund this feminist project! But you named that, and made fun of it, and made it so we could all play with it. You made it so we were all performing capitalist drag." People also livetweeted with #tiptreeauction in case you wanna see that. [twitter.com profile] radhardened made and ran an electronic signboard that displayed the current bid, and that helped me so much to keep track of things! In future years I need to:

* more frequently mention what the Tiptree Award is
* ensure pre-auction advertising of what we will be live-auctioning
* ensure pre- and at-auction advertising of what items are available for direct sale and at the silent auction
* rearrange stage furniture so the audience can see me better for whole-body schtick, and potentially move around the audience more
* remind audience that we take credit cards
* remind audience that they can always simply donate, in person or online
* ensure pre-auction advertising explicitly saying that it is absolutely fine to just come and not bid
* prepare somewhat more "if we get the bid to x then...." group crowd incentives akin to last year's onstage smashing of a "Pilates for Weight Loss" DVD

I rode home in a car with a friend I too rarely get to see, and am glad for the opportunity of long conversation where it's okay to go on twenty-minute tangents because the road and the trees and the topic and the friend will still be there when the tangent's over. Partly based on that conversation I wrote up a blog post on my other blog, about resilience.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-05-27 02:39 pm
Entry tags:

at WisCon

I'm at WisCon right now, and leaving early Monday morning! Right now I'm preparing for the Tiptree Auction, which is tonight, about 7:30pm-9:15pm. I am not on any panels this year. Please feel free to say hi if you see me!
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (hackerschool)
2017-05-10 09:55 am
Entry tags:

I'll be at OSCON tomorrow

I'm going to OSCON in Austin, Texas to represent Zulip in the Open Source Alley -- would enjoy meeting any Dreamwidth folks there tomorrow! Or if you have free time in Austin Friday in the morning or afternoon, I'd enjoy hanging out.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-05-05 08:42 am
Entry tags:

WisCon first-timers, and interesting schedule items

I posted about the WisCon 2017 schedule in [community profile] wiscon and mentioned some items I find particularly interesting. The only program item I'll be on is the Tiptree Auction, which suits me fine since I'll be coming to WisCon straight from a week at PyCon.

A few years ago I wrote an invitation to first-timers to come to WisCon -- [personal profile] alexandraerin has done better than that and written two comprehensive guides called "So, you want to go to WisCon?", on logistics and on expectations.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-05-03 10:22 am
Entry tags:

WisCon

I'll be at WisCon Friday May 26 through early Monday May 29.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-04-23 03:32 pm
Entry tags:

"Antitrust" (2001), copyleft, and disruption

I saw Antitrust on an airplane in the summer of 2001. I didn't leave with a high opinion of it; it seemed campy fun.

I found a used DVD at a local thrift shop last weekend, so last night I watched it with my spouse.

It actually holds up better than I predicted on a technobabble level! We freeze-framed a lot and marvelled at how reasonable (mostly) all the command-line stuff was. And as mainstream fiction movies go, I think there still hasn't been a movie that takes the conflict between proprietary and open source software more seriously than Antitrust (I'd welcome corrections on this point).

details, including spoilers )

At some point in the future I will watch the special features and listen to the commentary. (One of the special features is a music video for the Everclear song that plays at the end of the movie. The music video includes clips from the movie. It's like Everclear made a vid!) I imagine I'll have more thoughts then.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-04-20 09:13 am

Penguicon in a little over a week

I'm one of the Guests of Honor at Penguicon, April 28-30 in Southfield, Michigan. Penguicon is a combination of an open source conference and a science fiction convention. Here's my schedule including some more funny bits and some more thinky bits. It'd be lovely to see some Dreamwidth acquaintances there!
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-04-19 07:51 pm

request: visit this webpage on computers worldwide to help research censorship

My longtime friend Zack Weinberg ([personal profile] zwol) needs help in his research to measure Internet censorship. He's a grad student at Carnegie Mellon University, an sf fan, and a longtime open source software hacker.

The short version is: go to https://research.owlfolio.org/active-geo/ and hit the Start button on the map.

More details:

Zack's doing experiments in "active geolocation", which is when you try to figure out where a computer physically is by measuring how long it takes a packet of information to go round-trip between one computer and other computers in known locations. This has been studied carefully within Europe and the continental USA, but much less so elsewhere.

More specifically, Zack is trying to develop a technique for verifying that VPN exits are in the country that their operator claims they are. His larger research focuses on measuring Internet censorship, for which he needs network vantage points in precisely the countries where it's hardest to get reliable server hosting. He could go with the commercial virtual private network (or VPN) providers who say "sure, I have a host in Malaysia/Ukraine/Iran/etc. you can choose to use," but how can Zack know that they're telling the truth? Commercial VPN operators may prefer to locate their hosts in countries where it's easier to do business, and only label them as being in harder-to-access countries.

So Zack is looking for volunteers who can visit that page, which will run measurement scripts, on computers physically located all over the world. South America, sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania locations are especially helpful, but he can use data from anywhere.

Once you click "Start" on the map at https://research.owlfolio.org/active-geo/, the page will run a test/demo to see whether you could help. If you can, then you'll see the consent form below to ask for more information about your location and you'll see the CMU’s Office of Research Integrity and Compliance notice.

Here's more about the research questions he is investigating, here's how to help using a command-line tool in case you'd like to give him data from a computer that you only have remote shell access to, and

In case you want to spread the word about this request, here's a public tweet you can retweet:

I'm looking for volunteers to help with a research project: https://research.owlfolio.org/active-geo/ Especially want people outside Europe and North America.


And you can ask [personal profile] zwol for more info if you have any questions.

Thanks!
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-04-17 09:16 am

Alternate Questions

Is it still in vogue for US tech companies to ask quantitative estimation/implausible-problem questions like "how many phone booths/piano tuners are there in Manhattan?" in hiring interviews, particularly for programming-related jobs? Fog Creek asked me one of those in 2005. There was even a book, How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers.* How many companies are still into that?**

I ask because I came up with a couple you could use, maybe for a digital humanities kind of position:

  1. How many people, throughout history, have actually been named "Flee-From-Sin"? I feel like you see this as a jokey Puritan first name in books like Good Omens or the Baroque Cycle, but was it a name that some non-negligible number of people actually had?
  2. Out of all the people currently within New York City limits, have more of them written a sonnet or a dating profile? What's the ratio?



* That's right, two subtitles. That's how you know you're getting a lot for your $16.00 MSRP.

** It's hard to tell these things sometimes even if you listen to lots of people discuss hiring and recruiting. "Five Worlds" and its decade-later ramifications apply to work culture, not just software development methodology. Stripe's engineering interview aims to "simulate the engineering work you'd do day-to-day" (link via Julia Evans) so I think you can expect your interviewer won't show up wearing a question-mark costume and screeching, "Riddle me this, Batman!" This software engineer, who's just been through scads of hiring interviews, doesn't mention puzzle questions. This level of detail ain't exactly on the "How to Become a Computer Programmer" page in the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the US Department of Labor -- but then again we already knew that the assessment vacuum in software engineering skills is a huge problem.

[Cross-posted to Cogito, Ergo Sumana. I'm doing this just now for new Dreamwidth followers, but usually I don't cross-post from there to here; check out [syndicated profile] sumana_feed if you want to follow that blog.]

brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-04-14 02:47 pm

Dreamwidth communities

I've been doing my own little bit to share lore and links in the comments of the latest Dreamwidth news post, and to welcome people coming to Dreamwidth in the wake of the latest LiveJournal change.

I've put a new book review, of Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, in [community profile] 50books_poc, I've recommended several RSS feeds in [site community profile] dw_feed_promo, and I've suggested a couple of face-to-face New York City meetups in [site community profile] dw_meetups and [community profile] nyc. I've subscribed to [site community profile] dw_community_promo but haven't posted anything there yet; perhaps next week!
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (smiling)
2017-04-10 12:25 pm

Media

Watching: Season 2 of Jane the Virgin. I said to a friend that my favorite character was Rogelio, and he said "Rogelio is my second-favorite character after the narrator," and I realized, yes, same here. Also watching Jon Bois's sports history/analysis videos which are, among other things, worth watching as vidding experiments.

Listening: re-listening to Cabin Pressure for pleasure, and listening to Pete Seeger stuff like "Tomorrow Is A Highway" for energy, and to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack for work background music. Also, MetaFilter Music just led me to a fun poppy synth song, "You're So Dangerous", that is now stuck in my head.

Reading: I'm partway through, like, ten books. I'm reading a lot of MetaFilter, mostly through the Popular Posts/Comments page, and Twitter, and I'm reading my Dreamwidth reading page -- sometimes I go to Dreamwidth Latest Things to find new people to subscribe to. Also I'm rereading Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang again. I love that book. The interiority, the attention to the way people act when they're trying to be more decisive than they feel, the compassion, just so good.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-02-27 07:06 pm
Entry tags:

Help me out: volunteer from home for 90 minutes of English tutoring

Summary: Have 90 minutes, between now and April 3rd, to kindly critique less-English-fluent writers over the internet? I'd love your help.

I work with a lot of non-US-based younger people (often high school or college-aged) who contribute to the open source community over the Internet. Many of them volunteer as coders in the hopes of getting internships that will help them with their careers. The engineering education system in some of these countries, especially India, doesn't help students develop their written English skills very much; many of these students are at a disadvantage in these competitive internship application programs because their written English has poor grammar, phrasing, and punctuation. Every year I see tons of these engineering students applying for internships, and I can see how English issues in their bug reports, commit messages, code comments, application proposals, e-mails, and chat messages make it harder for them to get their ideas across.

Some kind, nonjudgmental help would go a long way for these volunteers. And it'd help level the playing field a bit.

I've successfully run little 90-minute online writing clinics via chat or collaborative document-editing platforms like Google Docs or EtherPad, where 3-4 participants bring short writing samples and I live-edit them and tell the students how to improve. They always get a lot out of it, and I can see the improvement in their writing afterwards. And when I've had time to edit their internship proposals in depth, it's helped them think better about what they actually aim to do.

Today, one of the open source projects I care a lot about, Zulip, got accepted as a mentoring organization for Google Summer of Code for the second year in a row. I've been contracting as a community coordinator for Zulip for about a year, and I love that it's a project where we nurture new contributors inclusively and have high standards of engineering rigor. (I profiled the maintainer, Tim Abbott, in this post about kind negative code review.) We have dozens of new contributors in our chat who want to work with us, and we'll be getting more between now and the April 3rd application deadline. We won't be able to accept all of them. But they'll all come away from the application process as better engineers, and I'd like for that to include better English skills that'll help them persuade, lead, get better jobs, and have better chances of succeeding as entrepreneurs.

So if you could spare 90 minutes sometime between now and April 3rd, and if you have a knack for proofreading in English and have a tolerable internet connection for web browser-based textual chat, let me know and I can probably set something up that suits your schedule. It's fine if you've never done this before and it's fine if you're not a programmer and don't know programming jargon. I'll set up the "room", and I'll be there and you can backchannel with me. You'll be helping one of the best open source communities I know, and you'll be helping make sure non-G7 voices in STEM get heard and listened to.

Leave a comment below telling me how to contact you and anything you know about your upcoming schedule, and I'll take it from there!

Edited to add: I've set this entry so people without Dreamwidth accounts are able to post comments, and so that only I will be able to see the comments (comments are screened), so you can put your contact info in there and it won't be public. And please feel free to pass this link on to other groups/people who are kind and collaboratively inclined, and repost/publicize it elsewhere!

Edited March 13th to add: I have received several offers of help -- thank you! -- and I'm getting back to everyone who's commented, albeit not always within a day or two. I'm open to more offers, but I might not be able to schedule you till April. And because of the number of offers of help I've gotten, I'm opening up the pool of learners a little bit -- I'm talking with the open source community managers at Mozilla and Wikimedia to let them know that their communities can take advantage of this opportunity, too. Thank you so much.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
2017-02-27 02:50 pm

Dreamwidth suggestions

[site community profile] dw_suggestions has a bunch of new suggestions for Dreamwidth improvements! It's a place to suggest things and respond to others' suggestions.

Years ago I suggested: "On the New Post and Edit pages, give the user the ability to browse freely licensed photos from Wikimedia Commons to insert into their posts." That got rejected but I think the basic idea's worth revisiting, revising, and submitting afresh. Feel free to take it up if that strikes your fancy!