Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Stories We Tell Edition

This as been an interesting week. On Monday, I started to suspect that the sore throat I'd had for awhile might not just be allergies, and on Tuesday, I was sure I was I was sick. I figured I was probably too late to have zinc lozenges do much good, but I used them anyway... and woo hoo! I was only really sick for Tuesday. Now, I wasn't all that great on Wednesday, was probably operating at 75% yesterday, and didn't have the lung capacity for a run today. But still. The fact that I didn't spend several days sacked out on the sofa feeling miserable is a minor miracle.

(I take Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges, and have use them to fend off colds with reasonable success since graduate school. There is some so-so scientific evidence supporting the use of zinc, but I would still classify this as "hey, it might be a placebo effect, but I'm not complaining!" If you do use zinc lozenges, make sure you get ones that do not also contain vitamin C, since ascorbic acid chelates zinc and inhibits its absorption. You also don't want to have fruit juice immediately before or after using the lozenges. And that is the end of my somewhat suspect medical beliefs spiel for the day.)

Anyway, I do have some links for you. Here they are!

First up, a bunch of stories about women in tech.

There has been a very disturbing set of events recently, in which Shanley Kane (a prominent activist for diversity in tech, perhaps best known as a founder of Model View Culture) came under attack from weev, GamerGaters and their ilk. I believe the precipitating event was her speaking out against some remarks Linus Torvalds (the founder of Linux) made about diversity and not being nice... and I'm going to summarize it poorly, so you can read this excellent post about why abuse in an open source community is not OK, which includes the background at the top.

Anyway, people started voicing their support for Shanley Kane, often while acknowledging that she has a style that many people find difficult. I don't want to go into the entire history of this here, but Kane's tone and style are direct and confrontational. It is not a style I would be comfortable with, and frankly, it is not a style I would want to associate with, even when I agree with the content of her comments. However, there is a case to be made that she has managed to make progress and draw attention to issues where those of us with more agreeable styles have not. One of the best comments I've seen on that came from @leeflower's tweets, where she observed that Shanley has moved the Overton Window for the rest of us.

But then Amelia Greenhall posted about her role as a co-founder of Model View Culture, and why she left.

I've been impressed with the nuanced reactions and apologies from some of the people who were prominent voices in the original discussion. See for instance @leeflower's post and also Betsy Haibel's post.

I agree with them. The abuse Shanley Kane is receiving is wrong. Amelia Greenhall's treatment is also wrong. Model View Culture publishes some wonderful writing on diversity in tech. I struggle with whether to support it in light of these revelations. On on hand, Shanley Kane is just a human, and humans make mistakes and have baggage and sometimes that baggage makes them perpetuate abuse they have received. On the other hand, I haven't ever seen much evidence that Shanley Kane is willing to listen to criticism and learn and grow from it. Perhaps she is. I am a spectator of these events from very, very far away. But I don't think anyone should get a free pass for being horrible to other people, no matter the reason or the background. There is a difference between being willing to be confrontational towards systemic issues and the people who stand in the way of fixing them and being an asshole. I have no idea which side of the line Shanley Kane is on. I am undecided on whether it matters.

So, back to the actual issues facing women in technology, eh? Here is a report with some statistics on the fate of women in technology. Page 16 has a particularly interesting breakdown of the mid-career quit rate for women, by sector of the industry. This post from Kieran Snyder provides some details about the women who stay.

Speaking of women who stay in tech, the executive team of Lyft certainly seems nicer than the Uber executives who were in the new recently. That doesn't solve the labor-related issues, of course.

The issues women in music face sound pretty familiar....

Alice Dreger writes about what women are allowed to say, and relates that to her upcoming book, Galileo's Middle Finger (which looks really interesting). look like an interesting

Moving on to other topics...

You may have heard about an upcoming movies about the high school kids who beat MIT in a robotics competition. Here's the story of what happened next, which isn't quite so feel good as the press buzz about the movies might lead you to believe. The cost of not fixing our immigration policy is high. (Edit: I haven't seen either the documentary or the George Lopez movie, so I have no idea if the movies themselves show audiences what happened after the competition. I've edited this passage because it unfairly implied that the movies do not show this part of the story.)

You may also have heard about the movie Selma, and seen some controversy about whether or not it was "fair" to Lyndon B. Johnson. Amy Davidson has a wonderful take down of that argument.

This makes me angry. The fact that it happened during Aida is just too much.

The problem with weight loss as medical advice. Pair that with this report on how inactivity is more harmful than obesity. One of my Twitter friends decided that this year she was focusing on exercise and eating what she wants. I think she's on to something.

When I decided to start a newsletter, I subscribed to a few to see how other people run theirs. One of the ones I've been really enjoying is the one run by Jen Myers. Each installment has a story, which she also archives on their own site. I really like today's story, which is about our own origin stories.

Speaking of newsletters... did you know that you can now get a Tungsten Hippo newsletter? It is a weekly digest of the content I post (usually one or two book recommendations and a quote, sometimes a blog post) plus a random bonus recommendation selected from the archives. I'm having a lot of fun revisiting my archives this way! Sign up here.

This is a nice post about early motherhood. I didn't follow the rule of "make no major life decisions in the first year," but I did have a rule that I couldn't make any without contriving to get a night or two of really good sleep first.

And now, for the happy ending:

I want one of these.

I laughed so hard:


  1. Anonymous6:35 PM

    I think I want that ladle too.

  2. It's a great ladle. I also liked and agreed with the new motherhood post. Our dog actually came along in my second trimester, and by "came along," I mean that she really did follow Mr. Sandwich home from the corner store. We looked for her owners and took her to the shelter (it's one place you would look for your missing pet, and legally we had to), but when no one came for her, we adopted her officially. Five years later, I can't believe how lucky we've been with this dog.

    And someday I must write a post about taking the baby out of the house. I agree that it's important, and have anecdotal evidence to support it.

  3. Elodie12:56 PM

    Musing about women leaving tech, one surprisingly common factor I've noticed in women who stay is....early divorce. When I got divorced at 30, I, all of the sudden, started becoming aware of how many women I looked up to had also had their first marriages end by 30 or so. (Sheryl Sandberg, included!). Oftentimes I had not known they had even been married previously, but in the process of changing my name back, I heard a lot of "I'm sorry to hear that...I got divorced around your age, too. Life really will get better!".

    For me, personally, I know that that experience had a profound effect on the likelihood I stay in tech. I went to a top ranked engineering school, got a fantastic job after graduating, and intended to work for 5 years or so, save as much money as possible, and become a stay at home mom. One of my best friends (also a very well educated engineer) is living that life; she and I married less than a month apart; she got pregnant a year later, took a year off, and then decided she'd rather stay home. She's never loved her job that much, and, with a spouse who could support the family (also an engineer), it was an easy decision. Now she's a happy stay-at-home mom of 3. I, on the other hand, also didn't love my job, but my attention was mostly focused on deciding how to deal with my husband's abuse, and trying not to get pregnant. During those years work became a much more important thing to me emotionally - it was where I could go and people conveyed that they thought I was competent and gave me a place just to be, without fear. And by just showing up for enough years I started getting to do really really fun things at work. I'm 34 now, and single, but I still hope to marry and have those kids I still really really want. Yet unlike my 25 year old self, I'm very inclined to keep working even after having kids. Work has become important to me emotionally, I value my ability to earn a high income, and, thanks to just the passage of time, I have now seen lots of examples of how moms can work and raise wonderful kids.


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