Showing posts from July, 2017

Self Deprecating Humor

I recently had a private conversation with someone in which I made some self-deprecating jokes. They were incredibly kind in response, but my impression is this person sees me as having a negative self-image and/or poor self-esteem. This is a misperception.

The reality is that part of why I engage in self-deprecating humor is because I have high self-esteem, and I intimidate a lot of people. It is basically a lame attempt to try to put people at ease.

It tends to not work all that well. In fact, I decided quite a while back that I should stop doing so. I have managed to cut back on it in public comments on forums, but I don't talk with people privately all that much these days, so I haven't had as much opportunity to practice establishing some new habit for private conversations.

In fact, my lack of friends means this habit is becoming entrenched in private remarks because most of my private conversations are with my sons. They laugh at my self-deprecating jokes because…

Public, Private, Male, Female

One of the things that has driven me crazy over the years is that when men are personable, friendly, etc to each other, this becomes the basis of trust and leads to business for them. When I do the same, I basically get asked for a date -- or assumed to be some temptress, trying to ruin some guy's marriage.

For a couple of decades, I did the homemaker and mom thing. So, I lived a much more private life than is the norm for a woman of my generation. In the years that I have been trying to move more into the public sphere, I have really wrestled with how to deal with the public. It has not at all come easily to me to make that transition.

I have recently had a couple of men engage me in meaty, meaningful private (email) conversation about actual business-related goals of mine. This is basically a first for me. The one thing these conversations have in common is that both men basically refused to engage me in "personal" topics. They either politely ignored those pieces o…

The Secret of My Success

A criticism of me from a recent discussion I had on HN: appear to prioritize appearances and your perceived likeability/unverifiable impression of how other HNers perceive you over momentary discomfort. My background isn't all that technical. I do have a Certificate in GIS and I am a few classes short of a Bachelor of Science, but, for various reasons, I have a lot more skill points invested in soft sciences, not hard ones. My impression of how people on HN perceive me is not unverifiable. I am also not shooting for likeability. I am shooting for trustworthiness.

In my early days on HN, a lot of people talked about me like I was "prominent for a woman." They clearly remembered me as someone who posted as openly female and clearly saw me as some kind of representative of women on the site.

This seriously weirded me out because I didn't have a technical job, and I didn't have all that much karma at the time. I joined the site when I had an entry level j…

The Big Chill

Found on HN: Why avoiding women is the wrong response to sexual harassment scandals in tech. Submitted by a member with a handle that implies said member is female. The title was changed. The actual article title is: Dear tech dudes, stop being so dumb about women

I flagged it and left the following comment: Well, on the upside, it is at least written by a man, not a woman, which makes it less cringe-worthy. On the downside, god, what a fucktard, horrible way to handle this issue. So, on the one hand, I really, truly, honestly have zero problem with women who have already been harassed coming out of the woodwork and talking about it as they see fit. On the other hand, this is why I have written a great deal on this subject over the years and did a recent series in reaction to all this stuff being in the news wherein I suggested we need to find some means to more clearly distinguish between dating behavior and business relationships.

The hang-them-high atmosphere that has developed…

Online Etiquette in Forum Discussions

I don't know why people do this, but I wish it would stop. There's a difference between technical jargon and obfuscation. If 80% of the people reading your post (audience considered) need to google 20% of the words, when equivalent words exist that are more common, it is bad writing. This individual was aggressively criticizing the comments of two neurosurgeons who graciously shared of their wealth of knowledge and didn't dumb it down enough for his tastes.

It is an internet forum. The two neurosurgeons who were so gracious as to share their knowledge with us were not being paid to explain it. It is an extra burden for someone familiar with those words and comfortable with them to try to translate it to laymen's terms, in part because there may be no laymen's terms that actually mean exactly the same thing. Sometimes a jargon word requires a paragraph to adequately explain. Additional paragraphs can hinder communication instead of helping it.

Plus, lots of …

I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV

I'm tired, it's been a long day and I don't want to work anymore.

I write for a living. Then, when I get tired of doing paid writing, I blog as a hobby.

Go figure.

Anyway, today I participated for a bit in a discussion on HN about cancer treatment. I always struggle with such discussions.

On the one hand, I very much want to participate. On the other hand, my mental models tend to be serious statistical outliers and it makes for big challenges in trying to communicate.

This is compounded by the fact that I am not a doctor, but I probably have just as big of an ego of a doctor and you can't convince me I am just some clueless fool who has no idea WTF they are going on about, never mind that I might sound that way to other people at times. Sigh.

Here is some of my background and why I think I know whereof I speak, in spite of disagreeing with a lot of big pieces of "standard medical wisdom":

My mother wanted to be a doctor. She delivered a few bab…

My Old College Rail Plan

Before life got in the way, I was studying to become an Urban Planner. I spent substantial time doing research on a rail project in Solano County, including attending real world planning meetings.

I was pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Resource Management through CSU-Bakersfield in an online degree program. I remain a few classes short of my Bachelor's.

However, I did complete a Certificate in GIS from UC-Riverside in their GIS Summer School program, condensing what was normally a year-long certificate program into eight weeks. They didn't require a bachelor's degree to enroll, but GIS school was the equivalent of Master's level work.

For some of my classes in both of those programs, I researched the above mentioned real world project: An alternate plan for Solano County rail development. I then put it together in a horrifyingly ugly PowerPoint presentation (you have been warned -- if you value your eyesight, do not click the link to the origin…

Ambiguity and the Power of Framing

This piece is framed as being about potentially ambiguous situations between men and women of a sort that can foster sexual harassment and provide opportunities for terrible misunderstandings or outright bad behavior. It is part of a series of pieces I have been doing on that topic. But the concept of waiting to see and actively using framing to get desired outcomes is generally useful in all kinds of social settings. Being slow to accuse people and quick to suggest a more positive direction or intent can have subtle, but powerful, pro-social effects.
One of the pieces that came up on Hacker News recently was called I Had Sex with an Investor and I Am Sorry. In it, the author talks about having "a high threshold for abuse" and indicates that it would not have occurred to her to call what Dave McClure did to Cheryl Yeoh "sexual assault" because of this "high threshold for abuse."

I am pretty thick skinned and I have a really high threshold for ambiguity. …

Are You and I Romantically Involved?

Me on me:I am a chatty extravert. Sometimes people imagine they are close to me when they are not.Men sometimes seem to get this idea that because I "spoke" with them more than once or twice or for more than just a few words, this is a budding romance. This sometimes happens online when I talk to a guy on a public forum or exchange emails with him. Since I am healthier here lately and being chattier than I have been in recent years, I thought I would post this to try to prevent a few awkward misunderstandings.I got married at age 19 to my high school sweetheart and best friend. I was married for more than half my life by the time the divorce was final. I have had a seriously intimate relationship of the romantic variety.I also did the full time wife and mom thing and homeschooled my kids. So I have also had extremely close non-romantic relationships.It takes 15 to 20 hours per week of mostly private interaction to establish and maintain an intimate relationship. So if you ar…

No Appearance of Impropriety

One of the things I have been thinking about is that serious business people often want no appearance of impropriety. It isn't enough for things to be all above board, they also need to look above board. They don't want there to be rumors, even if those rumors are completely unfounded.

I previously told an anecdote about a powerful man I worked with at BigCo. I had planned to write more about it, but life got in the way.

In reading through it again, I think it fails to adequately convey the detail that I won this man's trust in part because I wanted no appearance of impropriety.

I was comfortable talking with him. He was a warm, genuine person and very approachable.

Had we known each other under other circumstances, I could well imagine we might have dated. However, I felt confident he would not say or do anything inappropriate. He wasn't the sort. But I still did not want to engage in behavior that other people might misinterpret.

I was a military wife for a …

Not Drinking Alcohol in Stealth Mode

I know a woman with a long standing, serious career. She has long done her best to dress very professionally, downplay her sexuality at work and avoid both alcohol in professional settings and drama with men. I am pretty confident that what little I have been told is merely the tip of the iceberg, but some of the things I have been advocating the past few days are things this lady was doing decades ago.

She used to attend business functions where alcohol was involved. She would go early, order a non-alcoholic beverage that looked alcoholic (say, a Sprite with a cherry in it) and leave a big tip for the bartender. For the rest of the night, any time she needed something more to drink, she would order "My usual."

The bartender would collude with her in covering up the fact that she wasn't drinking alcohol. She had established herself as a big tipper and the bartender wanted more tips. Duh!

Once when she was traveling on business, one of the guys she was traveling wit…

Deal-making and Implied Sex

When I was 17, I had a good friend in my high school class who dropped out of school. She and I began to grow apart for various reasons, one of which was that she was gradually turning into an alcoholic.

Then one day she began telling me how to get your drinks for free. It boiled down to flirting with men while out dancing and the like and then just not putting out.

I think that was basically the end of our friendship. It was dying anyway and that was where I noped out and wanted nothing more to do with her. I don't think I ever saw her again.

The expectation that men make money and use it to get a lover is so entrenched in societal norms that it is generally assumed that men pay for dates with women. "Dating" as is typically practiced amounts to a polite form of prostitution in some sense.

It is a sex for money deal, but one in which the prices are not set directly and there is no guarantee of a pay off for the guy. He can spend all kinds of money and still not g…

Status Quo is Not God

So, I submitted the post I wrote yesterday to Hacker News. It briefly popped up on the front page, then dropped to the second page. But, overall, it did pretty decently and has a few comments, most of which are quite good, especially for the subject matter in question.

One comment was pretty dismissive. I am going to liberally quote this long remark and address it in pieces. If one person bothered to write these things, probably other people are thinking them.

Flirting is always an exercise in plausible deniability. You do something legitimately (or plausibly) platonic, while working out what the other person wants. The post in question is addressing the issue of unwanted romantic interest in a business setting from people you need to keep working with. In my experience, doing my best to avoid behavior that could be construed as "flirty" is the single best way to make sure this does not go someplace bad and is the only way to do so without unnecessarily burning bridges.�…

Sex, Drugs and Muddy Waters

I participated in a discussion on HN about the article Shedding Light on the "Black Box of Inappropriateness." As is often the case, the only reply to my comment was an incredibly negative interpretation of a very evenhanded, non-accusatory position. I had chosen my words and framing very carefully. My position is incredibly moderate. I think there are situational factors that foster these kinds of unfortunate outcomes. I would like to look at how we can change the rules of the game so as to reduce the number of such incidents instead of waiting for things to go wrong and then trying to decide who is in the wrong.I am frustrated, I am in a bad mood and this piece is being written off the cuff. Any stats cited will be ballpark. I have written about my track record of avoiding drama while I had a corporate job. You can read through this blog to find more detailed accounts of the two most concerning incidents. In one, I emailed a colleague and copied our bosses and I told him t…

Yes, I am Currently Homeless

Someone asked me what a day in my life is like. This is an edited version of what I told them:
I wake up usually between 6am and 7:30am without an alarm clock. I decide if it is warm enough to get up yet or not. I pee on a tree and leave for the park ahead of my sons. They meet me in the park for breakfast and then we head to the library. They usually only escort me part way, then take off because they walk faster than me and I only need help getting past the main road.

I spend an hour or so at a computer doing piddling things like Bing searches and reading webcomics and checking my mail and other minutiae. Then we do lunch. After lunch, my brain works well enough to write.

If I am having a good day, I prioritize doing paid writing because I am fond of eating and what not. If it is a not so good day, I may do a lot of blogging.

I often take a break in the afternoon for snacks with my kids or I go to the taco bell. We do snacks and drinks in the evening and then go home to our hu…

For Starters, We Could Use a Right of Recusal

There have been a number of women coming forward here lately about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. Many people are basically suggesting witch hunt type tactics for trying to resolve the problem. I view this approach as highly counterproductive.

Before I go on, let me state clearly that if you have been the victim of sexual harassment and have come forward or are considering coming forward, this piece is in no way a criticism of you. It also is in no way intended to suggest that the "correct" answer is for you to keep your mouth shut.

Deciding whether or not to tell, whom to tell, how much to tell and how to tell it is both a very personal decision and highly dependent upon context. When I had a corporate job, I dealt routinely with men who de facto closed doors on me (career-wise) because they were attracted or whatever. So I am aware this is a very real problem.

In most cases, those did not go to HR. There was one incident where I emailed a colleague and informed…

The Crux of the Problem

Quoting myself from a discussion on HN about sexism where someone was talking about "fighting that fight" etc: "Going to war to preserve the peace is like fucking to preserve virginity."

Business connections don't happen by being aggressive, ugly and fighty. They are based on hard won trust. In a nutshell, the problem women face is that when men trust them and like them, their first, middle, last and only thought is often "I'd hit that!" Here is another relevant comment by me from today on HN, but I am not going to quote here.

As I noted in a recent post on this site, 2342 days ago (calculator tells me this is 6.41 years ago), I backed a guy on HN who was being punishingly downvoted under circumstances where that was basically asshole behavior. At the time, he was one of the top three guys on the leaderboard, all of whom were basically neck-and-neck. After that, he became the clear frontrunner and now has obscenely more karma than anyone el…