Cogito, Ergo Sumana
Sumana oscillates between focus and opportunity

: On Nóirín Trouble Plunkett's Death: I was devastated today to learn of the death of my friend Nóirín Plunkett.

This is a terrible thing and I am still shocked and saddened to learn of their death. (Per their profile, please follow their pronoun preferences and use "they".)

Some things to know about them:

Their bold honesty about being sexually assaulted at an open source software event moved us to action; it helped spark the creation of the Ada Initiative.

As Geek Feminism's wiki documents, they were facing tremendous legal bills because of a legal conflict with an ex.

They had just started a new role at Simply Secure, one that combined their open tech expertise with their writing and coordinating skills and their judgment and perspective.

When I was volunteering on the search for the Ada Initiative's new Executive Director, I worked closely with Nóirín and could always count on their wisdom, compassion, and diligence. I am so grateful, now, that I had a chance to collaborate with them -- I had hoped to work with them again, someday, in some organization or other.

One of the last times I saw them, they were crying with happiness over the passage of the Irish same-sex marriage referendum.

I don't want to end this entry because there is no ending that can do justice to them.


(0) : Slides & Code from HTTP Can Do That?!:

a bespoke header in an HTTP response My slides are up, as is demonstration code, from "HTTP Can Do That?!", my talk at Open Source Bridge last month. I am pleased to report that something like a hundred people crowded into the room to view that talk and that I've received lots of positive feedback about it. Thanks for help in preparing that talk, or inspiring it, to Leonard Richardson, Greg Hendershott, Zack Weinberg, the Recurse Center, Clay Hallock, Paul Tagliamonte, Julia Evans, Allison Kaptur, Amy Hanlon, and Katie Silverio.

Video is not yet up. Once the video recording is available, I'll probably get it transcribed and posted on the OSBridge session notes wiki page.

I've also taken this opportunity to update my talks and presentations page -- for instance, I've belatedly posted some rough facilitator's notes that I made when leading an Ada Initiative-created impostor syndrome training at AdaCamp Bangalore last year.


(0) : HIV Prevention News, and Grief: I miss my mother-in-law.

Most of you never got to know Frances Whitney. Here's her obituary, which, like all obituaries, is incomplete. She was so sharp and no-guff, so constitutionally opposed to quitting. Work is love made visible, as the saying goes, and she put so much love into her extended family and her community. Her testimony "On Being a Single Parent" starts: "Sister Lewis asked me to talk about being a successful single parent tonight and I've been quite flummoxed by her request, firstly because I don't feel particularly successful." But she survived the death of her husband and successfully fought illness and money struggles long enough to raise three children and see them all graduate from college, and she enjoyed teaching, gardening, reading, cooking, traveling, writing, filmgoing, and her church (Latter-Day Saints) till the very end.

Frances WhitneyFrances died of AIDS.

Dr. Amin said he presented my case at a conference for infectious disease specialists in San Francisco in December and the doctors there couldn't believe I'm still alive. But I still am. Viral load through the roof, and only one T-Cell, but I got out of bed this morning! (January 8, 2004)

I met her in the spring of 2001, just before she started blogging. This week I went back and started rereading her blog. I can appreciate it differently now -- for instance, right now, I'm going through a dead friend's correspondence to archive it, just as Frances did in 2003. And then there's stuff I'd forgotten, like how she vexed the home health service by consistently leaving her house.

The home health service thinks I should live my life lying around in bed at home, ready for their beck and call. I keep TRYING to educate them otherwise.....

It turns out the nurse was looking for me all morning, and they ended up calling Kim Cornett (my emergency contact), and Kim called Jill and Sara [because they have a key] so the Langleys could come over and see if I was dead in my bed with the cats eating me. I have told and told and told the agency that I work until noon. They don't believe it. (June 28, 2004)

Frances was mordant, liberal, angry about inequality. I reflect on her loves and woes that I also see in her son; she loved history and good fiction, well-made things, geology and paleontology, seeing the impact of her work, quiet contentment; she detested incompetence, waste, missed opportunities, boredom. She tried not to indulge in self-pity or Pollyannaism about the slings and arrows that had come her way. She was sensible, and she wanted us to be sensible too.

I should have driven to Utah today to attend Melea's funeral tomorrow. I'm still really sad about this. But my body has been doing that thing where my temperature shoots up and down, and I'm usually running a fever. Also the stomach has been acting up more than usual. Therefore, I thought if I made that drive it would be to MY funeral....

I should be in Utah. But like many things I would have liked to do in life, the HIV virus wins again. Don't anyone catch HIV. You WON'T win. The virus is always triumphant. (June 3, 2005)

Here is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage about how you can prevent getting HIV. One recent advance: PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily pill you take that "has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92%" when taken consistently. I only heard about PrEP this month, and I thought I was pretty up-to-date on sexual health news. So maybe you didn't know about it either; take a look.

Frances died in 2006. I miss her. She was great.


(3) : "Inside Out" and Maturity: I saw Inside Out last night on a date with my spouse.* I recommend that you see this film, and that you see it with someone you care about.

I stay through the credits when I watch movies, which means I saw Pixar crediting its consultant psychologists including Paul Ekman. (Ek is Hindi for "one" so whenever I see his name it feels like a trailer voiceover: One man...)

Leonard and I walked out of Inside Out wanting to know more about how accurate its metaphors for emotion and cognition are. I'd still like to know more, and look forward to more making-of commentary. A Fresh Air interview with the movie's director discusses how, for instance, memory realllllly doesn't work like that. But it's refreshing to think about the purpose of disgust, of anger, of fear, or of sadness, and I'm pleased that a mainstream Hollywood movie is telling people -- especially girls -- that each of these emotions has a legitimate role in our personalities and our lives.

Spoilers start here.

Sadness is the most interesting character in the film and I am still wrestling with understanding her, and I don't know whether that's a mark for or against this movie. Maybe the occlusion between me and her is in my own emotional blockage. Maybe Pixar couldn't quite get at the heroism of sadness. Maybe her very nature is one of empathy and relationship-building, one that does not make sense only as an aspect of interiority, so it's hard to demonstrate her powers and purpose in the confined set inside Riley's head. Maybe since Riley feels such pressure to be joyful and to perform joy, we rarely get to see Sadness's natural flow and ebb, and I need to see baselines as well as extremes to understand a system.

Leonard and I both think it's super-intriguing that Riley's mom evidently keeps Sadness in the driver's seat. What does that mean? How did that happen? Is this nature, nurture, other? The adults we see into seem to have emotions of all the same gender, which the director called "phony"; might Fear and Anger in Riley's head shift as her gender identity strengthens, or is this a hint that she's genderfluid? I am particularly interested in these nuances because I wonder whether they're in any way based on the science consultants' research.

Spoilers end.

When I was younger I wondered: what is maturity? What is the special skill or knowledge that you get from being older? In recent years I've begun to understand. Mindfulness meditation has helped me take a step back from the momentary caprices of mind. People I've loved have died, and I've achieved things I'm proud of and that will last; this too shall pass. Mel Chua's guidance gave me one lens, Dreyfus's model of skill acquisition; with more experience comes an entirely new way of seeing situations. And I've seen enough of lots of kinds of things -- people, elections, businesses, relationships, homes, jobs, cities... -- that I can pattern-match and predict outcomes better, and I can help people who haven't paid attention as long as I have.

...it's common to feel this way, and it's also common to feel more comfortable as time passes and you experiment with different strategies. To use Kathy Sierra's construction, these problems are typical and temporary. Quickly recognizing when you're in one of these failure modes and changing your habits will help you make the most of the opportunity you have before you. (Allison Kaptur, detailing four common failure modes of Recurse Center participants)

Inside Out is an entertaining movie, but it's also a primer in some emotional failure modes and how to recognize and stop them. I wish I could have seen it ten years ago. Maybe I should make a note to myself to watch it again ten years from now.


* For many years I've used "spouse" or "partner" much more often than "husband" because I didn't want to use the gendered terms until same-sex married people could use them too. Since June 26th that's less relevant in the US, but we don't yet have legal same-sex marriage worldwide. I also like de-emphasizing heteronormativity; it's more important for new acquaintances to know that I'm married than to know that I'm married to a man. So now it's a habit. I wonder whether I will ever try to change this habit.


: Ripples In The Information Stream: Media consumption! I read various books recently: a bunch of Courtney Milan, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (my first Austen!), Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal, and the whole run of Gotham Central (Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, et alia). I've been bookmarking links via Pinboard and sometimes making a short comment or highlighting a particular excerpt, but I haven't blogged much recently about interesting stuff I've seen; here's a delayed update.

seekingferret recommended and analyzed my vid "Pipeline" and I'm honored! I met seekingferret by happenstance at a scifi/fantasy reading in Brooklyn, having already appreciated his vids and his vid analysis online, and asked him to beta my vid; within about a day, I had such detailed, thoughtful feedback that I nearly cried with gratitude. You should also see his Iron Man vid, which also premiered at WisCon. "Cassavetes", in just a minute and a half, wittily assays fannish conversations about Tony Stark and reminds you to listen to more Le Tigre. And thanks to sasha_feather for WisCon vid party notes!

Beatrice Martini's "An intersectional take on technology, rights and justice" includes some nicely summarized lessons for us as individuals and as organizations, including "evaluate when it’s the case to go beyond short-term single-issue funding".

I also thoroughly appreciate Martini's "Menstruation Matters: A Guide to Menstrual Hygiene Day". I've been browsing the Net since the mid-90s, and Martini's link roundup wows me, because there is so much more information available about menstruation than there used to be!

Tinsel is a necklace that "will have the complete functionality of headphones built into it, without compromising a woman's style." It looks marvelous and I may well buy one, depending on the price and depending on the labor conditions under which it's manufactured. I bet several folks I know will also find this appealing.

An "On Diversity" roundtable by several makers of speculative fiction, poetry, and art gets at some interesting thoughts, particularly about the flattening effects of the "diverse" label. I made inarticulate surprised noises upon seeing Zen Cho refer to Randomized Dystopia!

If you're interested in reading more translated stories, check out Read Paper Republic and look at Ben Rosenbaum's translation offer.

I have a note here about a "flattening effect" discussed in Leigh Alexander's recent piece but I'm not certain why. I do recommend reading it.

Mel Chua, once more, shares a fascinating perspective on her experience of grace and of community-building: "There are three stories that join into the way I understand the flames of Pentecost: Babel, the summer lake, and Cana...." Gordon Atkinson's Foy Davis stories also speak to the burnout of community managers (specifically the clergy) in a way I've found insightful.

I'm curious whether any of my readers have used DevonThink, and if I ever embark on another big vidding project, I am thinking of using something like it to track my notes and clips.

Seriously, Slashdot?

Eleanor Saitta writes: "Silicon Valley companies must recognize that the law won’t do this work for them, and that if they want to avoid undermining freedom globally, it’s time to ditch the dated and dangerous ad model and start building decentralization and content and metadata privacy into everything they create." Relatedly, Cory Doctorow makes an interesting argument about the free and open internet as the meta-fight crucial to all others.

A list of unsayable things has some interesting thoughts about death, abuse, menstruation, and various other topics; I like Nalo Hopkinson's very short thought experiment best.

The "rando" article, Not One Of Us, from the New York Times Magazine, provoked thought about trust boundaries, about defaulting to open or defaulting to closed.

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: Love Wins: I took the train west to Open Source Bridge and AlterConf, crossing in and out of states that supported or prohibited same-sex marriage. And then, a week ago, the Supreme Court's ruling changed that landscape. I crossed a freer country, on my way back home.

Nine years ago I wrote a now-obsolete newspaper column asking how long the waiting period would have to be. I am so glad that period is over. Consider reading the full opinion, and the dissents.


: Apology: Earlier today, during my stand-up comedy act at AlterConf Portland, I failed at living up to the AlterConf code of conduct and to my act's title, "Stand-Up Comedy that Doesn't Hurt". I made a joke that hurt members of the audience. The joke was in a section about attempts to be perceived as a cis ally:

I try to be intersectional in the media I consume, and sometimes that leads to carbon credit-style bargaining, like, "How many memoirs by trans women of color do I have to read before I go see 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'"? [laughter] And then sometimes there's cheating on that diet, like, "Does 'Mrs. Doubtfire' count?"

In this joke, it is not clear enough that the cis ally narrator is completely wrong to categorize "Mrs. Doubtfire" as having anything to do with the goal of reading and supporting trans narratives. I won't make it again and I'm sorry that I made a joke that hurt.

For this act I practiced in front of audiences that included trans people, and I asked them for feedback, but I was not thorough enough about checking beyond that for offensive material. In the future I'll be more thorough.

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