Showing posts from June, 2016

Two Sides to Every Story: A Timeline of Drug Use

I do freelance writing. I was doing some research for a perfectly respectable, mainstream business that treats addiction when I tripped across this: Timeline of Events in the History of Drugs

Humorously, it is a pro-drug organization of some sort. It frames the history differently from what is typical. I like that it lists the discovery of tea in the history: 3000 B.C. Approximate date of the supposed origin of the use of tea in China. Also, coffee and smoking were not always so casually accepted: 17th century The prince of the petty state of Waldeck pays ten thalers to anyone who denounces a coffee drinker. [Griffith Edwards, Psychoactive substances, *The Listener*, March 23, 1972, pp. 360-363; p.361]

17th century In Russia, Czar Michael Federovitch executes anyone on whom tobacco is found. “Czar Alexei Mikhailovitch rules that anyone caught with tobacco should be tortured until he gave up the name of the supplier.” [Ibid.] .

c. 1650 The use of tobacco is prohibited in Bavaria, …

This will never be a Metatalk

How to be an asshole on Metafilter and get away with it:

1) Cite your credentials and expect people to defer to your professional expertise while hiding behind "This is not medical/legal/professional advice".

2) Routinely stalk individuals that are not popular on Metafilter and disagree with them every chance you get, while claiming you just want people to have The Facts. Never, ever agree with them ever, even if you both say the same thing. Go out of your way to agree with someone else in the discussion, NOT the person you are harassing.

3) Be one of the popular people and shit all over someone not popular. No one will care. If the unpopular person complains, the mods will swear it isn't happening.

4) Shortly after the person posts, pull out a personal detail about an unpopular person that you don't like and go on at length about that issue, totally unrelated to the actual question being asked. As long as you do not quote them or mention them by name, the mo…

Project: Sheroes

I tripped across this a few days back. It describes itself as An interactive, online video talk show featuring inspirational stories of women in technology. The actual title is The Sheroes Project.

I have watched the Intro video and Episode 1: "The High Tech Girl in High Heels" .

They have a website:

And a YouTube Channel: The Sheroes Projects

It is pretty new, so, unsurprisingly, it is a tad unpolished. Hopefully, that will improve over time. I looked for a blog posting or news story about the piece. I didn't find anything. It is along the lines of what I would like to see more of. It has an approach that seems both positive -- giving more exposure to female role models instead of bitching about everything the men are supposedly doing wrong -- and it seems to be very practical.

It is surprisingly hard to find things that meet both of those criteria. Idealists are often not very practical. Pragmatists are often not very positive. So, in spite o…

Context, Culture, Communication and Crassness

On Metafilter, there is an answer that gets referenced a lot which describes Ask Culture versus Guess Culture. This is most of it: This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it's OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't even have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you're a Guess Culture person -- and you obviously are -- then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem pres…

Promoting Gender Parity Online

Below is an edited excerpt of what was once in my profile on Hacker News. Some of it is very specific to that forum, but I think some of it generalizes. In some cases, you may need to think a bit about how to translate it into useful ideas for some other social environment. Here are my thoughts on how to promote gender parity on HN:

If you are a female lurker, open an account and start exercising your right to vote. Upvote articles you like. Upvote comments you like.

If you actively participate as an openly female member, here is the general formula I have followed for participating in discussion in good faith while minimizing the gender issue.

Whatever your gender, try to post more good articles by women about substantive topics, such as this one that spent a good bit of time at #1, got a lot of upvotes, and generated good discussion:

A story about <input>

I feel there is too much focus currently on women complaining about how they are treated and too little focus on actua…


This is being written the evening of Tuesday, June 21, 2016 while offline. I expect to publish it the 23rd. I don't know how many links, if any, I will add to support my points. I am not sure it matters. It isn't being written with any expectation of winning anyone over or improving my life in terms of receiving better treatment from other people who are currently treating me crappily. On the one hand, this blog generally gets piddling amounts of traffic. On the other hand, the few posts that have gotten much outside attention are mostly kind of "gossipy" and it mostly gets twisted into a reason to judge me and crap on me some more. It doesn't seem to do much in the way of winning friends or influencing people or even making money.So, I have one foot in the camp of "My points do not need to be supported with links to evidence because no one will read it anyway, it is basically for my own edification" and one foot in the camp of "I have the right to…

Challenges in Writing About Social Issues

The single most successful piece on this blog is The Gray Zone. Someone other than me posted it to HN and it was well received and generated decent discussion. I briefly tried to run with that and did a few follow up posts. I then dropped it. I didn't feel I knew what I was doing and I felt I was in danger of really stepping in deep doodoo. So, I stopped for a time. I still do not know how to reliably recreate that surprise success.

Social issues are always a difficult space to talk about. Making general statements without specific examples is usually poor communication. But, for social issues, the minute you give specific examples, you are criticizing someone. Many people will interpret it as "gossip" and the person or people you talk about will feel attacked. It is an excellent way to win enemies and alienate people and it is not a very good way to really improve the situation for all concerned parties.

Because of that reality, years ago, I got in the…

Sexual Politics: What Most Women Are Doing Wrong

I really hate it when I run across a woman online chastising men for their interest in politically incorrect expressions of the fact that they are heterosexual and like women. I have seen this repeatedly in forums with a professional purpose, like Hacker News.

I am talking about things like this: Back when I was at university, we had a computer graphics course. Each week we got new assignment that we needed to program, write to a floppy disk (it was before Internet became widely available) and give it to the prof next week. Dithering was one of the assignments. We were required to implement black-white quantization and then Atkinson and Floyd-Steinberg. We were given the freedom to choose our own images.

During development at the dorm my favourite picture to debug on was pretty racy (think along the lines of full version of "Lena"). I totally did not intend to put it to the floppy disk...

Not only I got the 10 - the highest number of points for this assignment, I …

Working Alone

109. What’s hardest about programming?

What a solitary task programming is.

This is the hardest thing for me to explain to others. And still one of the hardest for me to get used to myself. It takes a lot of time working alone to get anything done.

It may also be one of the many reasons Hacker News is so popular. I don’t know about you guys, but if I didn’t have this place to break up the loneliness, I’d probably go nuts.

August 31, 2009

The Best of edw519 In terms of trying to figure out how to make my work life work for me, this is one of the most valuable things I ever read. I always misremember that full statement as a nutshell version of itself along the lines of "Working is lonely."

I am not a programmer. I do write a little HTML and CSS, but I make my money as a freelance writer and I also blog.

Prior to getting a paid work life, I spent about two decades or so as a homemaker. I was a military wife and homeschooling mom with special needs kids. My family too…

Gig Work Done Right: Portable Income for the People

The general belief is that gig work is the wave of the future: By 2020, more than 40% of the workforce will consist of freelancers, solopreneurs, independent contractors and temps.

The Ultimate Guide to Co-working Spaces I think that's got potential to be the solution we need. When the Industrial Revolution came along, it also threatened to leave many people out of work, which is exactly one of the concerns people have these days about automation potentially eliminating large numbers of jobs.

The answer at in the era of the Industrial Revolutions was the invention of 40 hour work week. Before that, people routinely worked 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days per week.

I think we need a new change in how the world works. I think gig work done right is potentially the 21st Century's version of the 40 hour work week. It is the revolutionary change in the relationship the common person has to paid work that we need. I also think it is much a better answer than basic income, w…

The Ultimate in Video Conferencing: A Conference Room Divided in Two by an Ocean

Aflac is (or was when I worked there) the largest employer in Columbus, Georgia. Their headquarters building is the tallest building in the city. It gets referred to as The Tower. If you search for "Aflac tower" you can see pics.

I think I have been to The Tower twice in my life, once during a high school field trip and once during employee orientation week. I worked elsewhere.

I toured the Aflac tower during employee orientation. They have an incredible conference room whose purpose is to help the CEO get face time with operations in Japan (which actually accounts for most of their profits -- about 75 percent when i began working there and 80 percent when I left).

They hired an artist to build a custom oval table in two halves. One is in The Tower and the other is in Japan. It faces a wall that gets used for the video feed. It is arranged such that you are "facing" the other half of the table and the people sitting at it who are actually thousands of miles a…