Showing posts from 2017


This site is being mothballed. I have train tickets to another state and will be leaving California soon.

I have a tendency to try to be as literal as possible online. The internet is a highly multi-cultural environment. Multi-cultural environments work best when you try to speak as plainly and directly as possible.

Yup, I just said about two days ago that I had no specific plans to stop being Michele in California online. This was not planned. Like a lot of the things I do, this decision was spontaneous.

This is how I feel

You can only assume positive intent in situations where intent is not clear and you need to infer or assume. Once there is a proven track record of bad acts clearly establishing intent, assuming positive intent amounts to deluding yourself. I said that on Hacker News. It happened about a week ago. Today I said some critical things about Metafilter on Hacker News. And some asshole registered a new anonymous handle to attack me on that point. This is not the first time some Mefite has done so. I have a couple of ugly anonymous comments on my blogs somewhere that appear to be from Mefites.

The asshole in question asked: If you're so anti-Mefi, why do you continue to take advantage of the site's resources, including posting questions to AskMe? Why not just disable your account? And, in part, I replied that I participate less and less.

I also said that I don't like letting assholes win by default. I like to believe that if I take the high road, things will work out.

I incr…

What's in a name?

Michele is my actual legal middle name, and I actually live in California. I have long used Michele in California as a handle on the internet. Currently, I have tentative plans to move to another state. If I actually do so, Michele in California will become merely an internet persona and will no longer be an accurate literal description.

A lot of people know me by that handle, so I do not currently have plans to stop using that designation online. However, it is possible that I will gradually migrate away from that handle organically.

If so, the first step in that migration may have already occurred. Yesterday, I spontaneously decided to move my resume business to its own site. The business began casually because someone asked for my help with their resume. But, I am getting clients, so I felt that I need to start handling it a bit more professionally.

The link to it remains in the list of pages for this site, but it is now an external link. I set that site up under my full leg…

Pro Vaxxers and Anti Vaxxers

I am not an Anti Vaxxer. I am also not a Pro Vaxxer.

I tend to be given hell by both camps because they are both ideological extremists. One of the problems is that Pro Vaxxers fail to recognize this about themselves at all. Anti Vaxxers usually at least know that about themselves and are usually less crazy than Pro Vaxxers.

In most cases, Anti Vaxxers are merely wanting to be free to choose for themselves and their family. In contrast, Pro Vaxxers are trying to force all people to comply with their agenda.

Pro Vaxxers justify this with the idea that Anti Vaxxers are a threat to their welfare. For years, Anti Vaxxers said "If your vaccines actually work the way you think they do, why the hell do you care whether or not I get a vaccine? If you are right, you are safe anyway."

So, now, Pro Vaxxers talk about "herd immunity" to justify their Nazi-like insistence of control over the bodies of other people.

The reality is that a lot of people skip some vaccines b…

Poverty is not merely a lack of money

I have been thinking about this a long time and just never had the words. Maybe I still don't have the words. But, poverty is not simply a lack of money.

That's what everyone seems to focus on: That poor people do not have money. But, I think that is more like a symptom, not a cause.

Granted, it compounds the problem. Once you have enough other problems that you just can't come up with the funds you need, then a shortage of money can be the proverbial missing nail that costs you the war.

Poverty is basically about having more problems than solutions. If that is extreme enough, then you have extreme poverty, such as homelessness.

Some of those problems can be intractable personal problems, such as chronic health issues, mental health issues or a learning disability.

Some of those problems can be systemic problems, such as racism, sexism, a general lack of affordable housing or living in a country with a broken healthcare system (like the US).

Some of those problems …

Hacker News: How's that work?

Hacker News can be pretty opaque. I spend a fair amount of time there, yet I only recently learned that the vouch button appears for articles only after they are [dead], not just [flagged]. So, now I no longer have to wonder if I did some mysterious Bad Thing and lost my article vouching privileges. If you spend less time there than I do, maybe this quick and dirty run down will fill in a few missing puzzle pieces for you. This is off the cuff and my understanding. If it is really critical that you know a true, accurate and up to date policy, your best bet is to check the guidelines and FAQ or email the mods. Here are the guidelines. If you have never read them, read them. If you haven't read them recently, read them again. It is generally a good idea to review them periodically.The two front men for the mod team are Dan (dang) and Scott (sctb). There is a site search function, FAQ and other important things at the bottom of the page. A lot of people fail to notice these things. J…

Well, for the moment, there is a woman on the leaderboard

I can't make a screenshot because I am on a public computer that doesn't let me do things like that, but I am at position 91 on the Hacker News leaderboard as I type this:

75. cpeterso 25253
76. walterbell 24462
77. philwelch 24232
78. tlrobinson 24222
79. sliverstorm 24086
80. minimaxir 23996
81. nostromo 23949
82. signa11 23700
83. ghosh 23680
84. pjc50 23590
85. wmf 23328
86. vidarh 23234
87. lisper 23184
88. derefr 22548
89. Retric 22511
90. adventured 22121
91. Mz 21969
92. ars 21804
93. eli 21598
94. barrkel 21576
95. jashkenas 21201
96. Alex3917 21181
97. tzs 20947
98. mhb 20905
99. craigkerstiens 20459
100. nl 20408

I expect this to be incredibly short lived. Unlike the top of the leaderboard, the bottom is pretty unstable. It is usually above 23k these days. The last time I looked, I was around 1400 points from the bottom.

The last time I saw the bottom shift dramatically, it momentarily put me about 400 points fr…

The Damore Hubbub

There has been a lot of hubbub surrounding the so-called Google Memo written by some guy named James Damore who got fired over, as I understand it, writing a 10 page opinion about how Google is handling gender issues in tech all wrong (or something like that). I haven't bothered to read his 10 page paper that some people are calling a manifesto.

I actually tried to read it, but couldn't get through it, in part because I wasn't clear what portions of what I was reading were written by Damore and what portions were some kind of summary of key points by whomever published it online. Maybe it was all written by him, but I soon noped out of the confusing organization of the thing I was trying to read and not really following all that well.

But, my general impression is that if he had written a 10 page manifesto on how Google was doing office furniture all wrong, he likely would have been fired, sooner or later, for being an egomaniacal jackass who doesn't know how to pla…

We need a Rooney Rule for Tech

So, I logged in to Hacker News today and tripped across this article: I’m An Ex-Google Woman Tech Leader And I’m Sick Of Our Approach To Diversity!

The subtitle is: We must stop fucking it up for the amazing women in tech!

Wow, how professional sounding. Yes, given that I swear like a sailor, I am aware that is a completely hypocritical thing for me to say. But, hey, I am currently chronically ill and homeless. Blogging is merely a means to occupy myself so as to distract myself from my shitastic life.

I have never been taken seriously and I think I am basically throwing in the towel on hoping to ever get taken seriously. This space is just a space for me to howl into the void because, unlike Ms. Ex-Google Woman Tech Leader and woman entrepreneur, yeah, no, no one fucking cares what I say.

Now onto critiquing the article. Here is a first quote from it: As a woman entrepreneur, I wanted to build a company that had a diverse team. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve failed miserably so…

In Transition

I am 52 years old. I have spent my whole life ill. Just before I turned 36, I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder. My official diagnosis is atypical cystic fibrosis.

I can't prove that. I haven't been to a doctor in about a decade. I have heard they destroy medical records after seven years. So, there may be no record of my diagnosis anywhere.

Additionally, the initial test for the most common alleles for CF turned up nothing. Given that I have a milder variation of the condition, this isn't really surprising. My CF specialist did request a more comprehensive -- and more expensive -- panel. My insurance denied the request.

At the time, I was fighting for my life and just happy to have a better label than hypochondriac for the first time in my life. I had better things to do than fight with my insurance company over this small detail. I did not expect it to ever matter.

I was diagnosed based on medical history and sweat chloride results. My CF specialist was happy to…

Communicating with Strangers on the Internet

I have some handwavy recollection of recently seeing some quote, possibly from Linus Torvalds, to the effect that there is no point in trying to be nuanced on the internet. It won't be understood.

I think there is some truth to this idea.

High context cultures are ones in which a large portion of communication depends upon having a lot of overlapping experiences and shared points of reference. Individual words are chosen carefully because they can carry enormous weight due to shared context. These are cultures in which much is left unsaid and you depend upon inference to communicate most of the intended meaning.

Low context cultures are situations where you say what you mean, and you mean nothing more than what you explicitly said. In a low context culture, you don't drop hints or expect people to infer anything. Such cultures do not assume that two individuals share a lot of points of reference. They are more blunt and direct.

The direct questions and answers common in…

The Only Good Answer to a Stupid Question is Silence

I have been meaning to write about this idea for a while: Men tend to ask questions, and women tend to answer them. This can be a very problematic pattern for a woman, even in cases where there is no malice aforethought or intent on his part to be predatory or otherwise ill behaved.

But, now I am pissed off because some asshole asked me a stupid question and I was dumb enough to answer it. The result: He began attacking and insulting me because I made the mistake of trying to reply in good faith to some asshole who was too lazy to click into my profile.

The cherry on top: At the end, he justifies his right to not bother to check my profile rather than admitting he was in error and it was his lazy ass choice to write out a comment rather than click on my profile. Because, like a lot of men, he is an overprivileged asshole who expects the world to serve his needs at his convenience.

And, also, it is pretty standard for men who don't think they are sexist pigs to feel tremendous…

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 …