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Showing posts from 2014

The real reason we aren't living in "sexual utopia"

So, it's the holidays. Things are a bit slow on some of the forums where I hang. I ended up reading an article of a sort I have a tendency to avoid. Here is the link, its title and an excerpt:
On Nerd Entitlement

Heterosexuality is fucked up right now because whilst we've taken steps towards respecting women as autonomous agents, we can't quite let the old rules go. We have an expectation for, a craving for of a sexual freedom that our rhetoric, our rituals and our sexual socialisation have not prepared us for. And unfortunately for men, they have largely been socialised - yes, even the feminist-identified ones - to see women as less than fully human.

This, incidentally, is why we're not living in a sexual utopia of freedom and enthusiastic consent yet despite having had the technological capacity to create such a utopia for at least 60 years. Men are shamed for not having sex; women are shamed for having it.
I couldn't disagree more with much of what the article …

Imposter Syndrome? Or Just a Screwed up Culture?

There is currently discussion on Hacker News about this blog post about so called Impostor Syndrome. Okay, not intending to talk trash about the author. He means well and some of his advice is no doubt useful. But, like most people, he is treating it like it is an individual problem instead of the product of the culture in which we live. In some ways, that may just do more harm than good, putting it back on the individual in a way that suggests that "you are just neurotic" when I think the reality is that this has a lot to do with how the world shapes us. If it is as common as people claim it is, that suggests it isn't coming from the individual. It is coming from the environment.

I was in gifted programs from an early age. I do not recall all the programs. I do recall that I could already read when I started kindergarten, that I was in some sorted of gifted thing in second grade, that I was in Algebra in 8th grade and State Alternate for the Governor's Honors progr…

Having a Sad

There was an Ask on Metafilter recently. Two of my three replies were deleted. This is the Ask: Resources for Husbands of Rape Survivors

And this is my most recent reply, that got deleted:
From an article recently posted to the blue:
When the loan shark became dissatisfied with the repayment rate, he sexually assaulted Ramesh’s sister. There was also an episode of Law and Order where they ultimately conclude that a woman was raped because her fiancée was trying to get out of dealing drugs and his boss assaulted her to try to force him to keep dealing. (I have spent considerable time searching and, unfortunately, not ID'd the episode.) So this is a known thing that one way to hurt a decent man is to sexually assault a woman close to him that he cares about.

Please note, my first example is not fictional, it is a real world example, and it was his sister, not his wife or girlfriend. I am pointing that out to say explicitly that part of your upset has nothing to do with the fac…

The Blood Brother Principle

Years ago, I took a class on Social Psychology. There is a fair amount of research on what causes people to bond and be more loyal. A lot of the conclusions of such research is pretty cynical. It has unpleasant things to say about why people stay in bad relationships, why people are more loyal if they endured hazing to get into an organization and so on.

I have used my awareness of that kind of information to remain skeptical about a lot of things and thus protect myself from people manipulating me or keeping me trapped in an essentially abusive situation. However, I have continued to wrestle with certain questions and I very much dislike the trend I have seen in some places to believe that a good relationship is always pleasant and easy. I have not found that to be true. I have found that a good relationship has the mettle to withstand difficult situations.

This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of dating. Dating seems to be about just having a pleasant time with someone. It looks…

Sobering Facts about Sexual Consent

I used to talk with an educated, polite, respectful, seemingly refined individual who once mentioned to me that he routinely plied his dates with alcohol to get them into bed. I made a mental note to never go out with him, even though prior to that I had been thinking he was intelligent and well-mannered and attractive. His idea of consent and mine were clearly not on the same page.

I set a pretty high standard for genuine (unambiguous) consent these days. I have been celibate a long time in part because I felt that merely notifying men about my medical situation was inadequate protection of their health. Those fools slept with me anyway -- and without a condom, in spite of me telling them as plainly as I could that I was very ill and doctors really didn't know what antibiotic resistant(!) infection(s) I had.

At some point, I decided that I would remain celibate until I was well enough for me to feel that sex was neither tantamount to suicidal stupidity on my part, nor tantamount …

Nightmare Fuel: A World of Nothing But Consumers

I got married at age 19 to another 19 year old. He joined the army. Our first child arrived the day after I turned 22. When I was not quite 24.5, I had our second child. Just before that child turned two, we all returned to the U.S. (from Germany). Upon our return, we visited a bunch of relatives, whom we had not seen in nearly four years, including my husband's mother.

My mother-in-law was living in a two bedroom apartment with one of her daughters and that daughter's two small children. Between her job and alimony and the daughter getting welfare benefits, their household income was very similar to ours. Additionally, much like our household, theirs was made up of two adults and two small children. Also like our household, only one of those adults held down a paid job.

Yet, they were living in poverty and we were middle class. We had just bought a new car and we ended up buying a house the following year. They had a very different experience of their lives than we were hav…

Yeah, So, I Briefly Used to Kind of Be Someone in the Online Gifted Community

I wrote an an answer to a question about a very challenging student with problems. The answer is rooted in my experiences raising and homeschooling my own really challenging sons but it is also informed by my experiences in working (unpaid volunteer work, but still work) in the online gifted community. For a time, I belonged to some email lists. I ended up volunteering to moderate one of them and was soon (after like 2 weeks) offered a directorship for the project, which was trying to make the transition from Voluntary Health and Welfare Organization to tax deductible charity. I served as Director of Community Life for about six months and then life kind of got in the way and I stepped down, shortly before my health went utterly to hell. My health was already failing, more than I realized, and that was a factor in my departure from that position, a much bigger factor than I understood at the time.

So I don't have a degree in gifted education or whatever, but, for a time, I was so…

But Can You Tell Me What This Is and Why I Should Care in 80 Characters or Less?

In recent weeks, I have posted a fair number of articles to Hacker News. Some of them ended up on the front page, some got a few upvotes, and some got seemingly completely ignored. There are a lot of factors that influence how well a piece does and it is clear to me that many of those factors are basically a mystery to me. One thing that has become crystal clear: The title has a huge impact on its performance.

When I submitted a really well-written, interesting piece called Rare Coin Found on Mars!, the click-baity title was all people could talk about (and not in a good way) and it was soon flagged to death. I deleted it after it died. I then tried to find another article on the same topic, but I couldn't find anything else of similar quality. So I wrote the moderator and asked if I could resubmit it with a different title.

He suggested the title Lincoln Penny on the Curiosity Rover. The result: In spite of yet more controversy (over having been resubmitted), it spent some time…

Links on Maryam Mirzakhani, The First Fields Medalist in Two Demographics

This was discussed a bit on Hacker News recently: 2014 Fields Medal Announced

I happened to put together a bunch of links that day. Today, I thought maybe other folks would like to see it all collected together. So here is what I have, with a small amount of commentary and quoting but mostly just the links and title:

The Quanta Profile of her: A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces has the best laymen's explanation of her work that I could find:
Mirzakhani became fascinated with hyperbolic surfaces — doughnut-shaped surfaces with two or more holes that have a non-standard geometry which, roughly speaking, gives each point on the surface a saddle shape. Hyperbolic doughnuts can’t be constructed in ordinary space; they exist in an abstract sense, in which distances and angles are measured according to a particular set of equations. An imaginary creature living on a surface governed by such equations would experience each point as a saddle point.

It turns out that each many-holed …

This Tiny Burrito Shop has Legs

Velo Burrito is a small business in Montreal.  It started as a very part-time vegetarian burrito delivery service where the burritos were delivered by bike. (Vélo means "bicycle" in French.) It relatively quickly grew into a full-time restaurant. They began as a green business and, presumably, intend to remain such.

The three founders were working as bike messengers by day. One of them already had ten years experience as a cook. Another had a background as a musician who had gone vegetarian while touring with his band. Touring is also part of what made him a fan of a good burrito.

They discussed the concept for years and then one day one of them announced they were going to the grocery store that day and launching that weekend. Initially, they only delivered burritos two nights a week. One article seems to suggest they later went to three or four nights a week. Then, earlier this year, they finally opened up as a restaurants with 20 tables.

Below are some quotes from other a…

A Quiet Little Victory For Me and for HN

Today, I have been reading the comments in this FPP on Metafilter: "I don't want to be a girl." and I read the initial link in it by the same name. Some people are stating that they assume all women feel that way at least some of the time. They are talking about how awful it is to be a woman and many of the facts they list are absolutely true. But I am staying out of the discussion because I have never felt that way. I have never felt like "I do not want to be a girl."

Meanwhile, a piece I submitted to Hacker News is currently on the front page. In the midst of all this, I have just had a pleasant exchange with the new-ish moderator of Hacker News, Dan Gackle. I would feel worse about the number of times I have emailed him in the short time since his identity was announced except the Hacker News policy is "please email the mod and not post these types of questions publicly." So, basically, it's their fault if I bug him. I am just doing as I was t…

A Decade Late and Millions Short

About a month ago, the article My startup failed, and this is what it feels like... was discussed on Hacker News. It was written by a young female founder, Nikki Durkin, who made it through the Y Combinator program and then, later, saw her start-up fail. It has been great food for thought for me personally.

Here are some quotes from the article (emphasis added in bold):
We rebuilt the 99dresses product and launched it in the US.

signed a $1.2 million seed round with a group of investors ... and the next day my two “co-founders” decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning.

We rebuilt 99dresses again and launched it in the US

Our Big Pivot
We discovered a very clear set of problems that explained why our product just wasn’t working in the US market. I rang up the team in Australia, and told them, quite bluntly, that we needed to chuck everything out and approach the problem from a different perspective.

In an attempt to save ourselves we made o…

An Open Invitation to the Women of Hacker News

The founder of Cards Against Humanity claims in his blog that he is being falsely accused of rape: This is a blog post that’s incredibly confusing and painful for me to write. See also the Hacker News Discussion.

I am sorry to see this on Hacker News. Obviously, I am sorry for the effected parties, Max and whomever the woman is, though I really don't know either of them. But I am also sorry for the way it impacts the community dynamic on Hacker News.

Hacker News is generally a good place to go for intelligent discussion of interesting subjects. It is also a space in which to network if you are in certain kinds of work. (For a small subset of people, it is also the funnel into the Y Combinator program.) But it is a mostly male environment and topics like this seem to mostly bring out the worst in people and I think it makes it harder, not easier, for women to cross The Gray Zone on Hacker News itself.

Because it is a business space in which mostly businessmen often wheel and deal, …

A Tale of Two Women and Hacker News

Just a few days back, I tripped across the fact that a woman on Hacker News had been banned some months ago. She had very high karma for an openly female member. In fact, as far as I can tell, she held the number one slot for a woman on HN. I looked through the comments and the like and I understood why she had been banned. I didn't feel it was without cause.

I checked out her blog. She had hair with wild, unnatural, obviously dyed colors. She swore a whole lot. She had previously written some very foul-mouthed things attacking Paul Graham, startup culture and similar -- basically attacking everything people on HN value. She came across as very, very offensive and disrespectful.

I found myself uncomfortably correlating her foul mouth, hair color and so on with my negative view of what went down. I kind of swear a lot too, though I try to keep it kind of pg-13-ish online. It hit a nerve for me personally but, also, I just don't like being judgmental in that fashion. I don't…

Frist Psot: A Tutorial for Posting an FPP on Metafilter

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This is intended as a tutorial for people on MetaFilter who want to do their first FPP on the blue and are feeling a little intimidated. This isn't intended to be an explanation of a "right" way to do it. (You can get some tips on that kind of thing on the Wiki.) This is just how I did it (on one specific occasion) and the process I went through.

I am posting in hopes that demystifies it a bit for people having some trouble. I think it would be great if others shared their process because different strokes work for different folks. I think process is something that trips a lot of people up and that's what I hope to address here. One of the things I am including is screen shots of both the form you fill out and the final post showing which pieces of the form correlate to which pieces of the post because I found that especially hard to understand at first.

This is the post I did that I am going to use as my example (and here is the actual post on Metafilter):


This pos…