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(2) : Some Books: Recently read, don't want to forget:

A Year Without "Made In China" by Sara Bongiorni: a quick read, finished in a few hours (long after receiving it as a gift, I'm embarrassed to say). The author gets caught up in edge cases and logistics, as you always do when you make a rule-based change to your lifestyle (sometimes that heightens your appreciation of the intention you're manifesting, and sometimes it fogs it). She makes it engaging, but don't look here for recommendations on finding non-Chinese-made alternatives. Much more a memoir than a how-to.

World War Z by Max Brooks: I started reading this before bed and had to finish it before going to sleep, or else zombies would haunt my dreams. Hard horror (like hard fantasy), first-class worldbuilding, grim satire, chills, thrills, relentless inevitability yet surprises and twists on every page.

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach: seems to start out a family-scale fantasy, expands into space opera, epic in scope but always personal and believable. Empires fall and rise, investigators work on eons-old mysteries, and you see bits and pieces from several perspectives. Very good. Translated from the German.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, as I mentioned a few days back.

I've also reread most of Bury the Chains and The Left Hand of Darkness. (Jo Walton's book reviews make me feel better about spending time rereading for pleasure or curiosity.)

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(3) : Assortment: I keep hearing about cool people & events in Portland, Oregon. Punk rock mathematicians, Michael Schaub, and the Open Source Bridge conference, whose call for proposals closes in two weeks. (I should just decide whether to go to that, since I can't buy my WisCon plane tickets until I know whether I'm flying back to New York or westward to Oregon when WisCon ends.) And then in July Portland hosts the Community Leadership Summit just before OSCON. Brendan, Jade, maybe I should just show up and crash on your couch for two months. (Not really.)

I responded to Julia's questions, "Where do you find music? How has it changed over time? Do you have certain people to thank for helping you develop your musical palate?" in an excessively long series of comments on her blog, should you be interested.

A gripping quote for anyone who wants to lower mental barriers to growth:

The State is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.


(4) : Sweatshop-Free Linux Laptop Search, Part II: I got a few recommendations when I recently asked where to find ethically sourced laptops that come preinstalled with some flavor of Linux (Debian, Ubuntu, or Fedora). My notes are below; I ended up going with ZaReason.

I'm going to note here the research I've done so others can correct me or stand on my shoulders. To repeat, I was looking for laptops with the following characteristics:

I don't really care about a laptop's weight or looks.

So, I'm trying to make a reasonable effort to buy a sweatshop-free/fairtrade, green/sustainable, and Windows-free laptop. All those buzzwords together cause a bit of a problem if you live in the US and want to buy from a mainstream retailer. (And when you get down to the component level, it's probably impossible, but I had to try.)

Dell offers some Ubuntu laptops (the Vostro and Latitude), and they give at least lip service to greenness, but they're all assembled in China and at least one report says their plants don't treat the workers as I'd like them treated. ("Environmental Commitment Trumps Respect for Human Rights," notes the NLC report - backhanded praise of a sort. That same report indicts IBM/Lenovo, Microsoft, and HP.)

At least one comprehensive ethical-buying guide recommends IBM products, but I worry that it's out of date, since (as far as I can tell) IBM's PC hardware is no longer made directly by IBM, but by Lenovo in China. Lenovo Thinkpads are reliable and run Linux well. Collabora provided me an x200 when I worked there, and I loved it. But again - made in China, labor practices not so hot. And, as far as I can tell, all Lenovo laptops come preloaded with Windows.

Lenovo is or was partially owned by the Chinese government via Legend Holdings, until that stake got sold to the private China Oceanwide Holdings Group (my financial research fu is not strong). I'd be unhappy about supporting bad governments with my purchases, but it's not like any large companies have only benevolent stockholders, and who knows where the manufacturers are getting components! (This comes up in Sara Bongiorni's A Year without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy; to simplify, she decides not to look too hard at Chinese-made components.)

Other buying guides were incomplete. I rather wish the National Labor Committee had a stamp of approval. The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition depends mostly on voluntary self-reporting, which isn't terribly trustworthy, although the third-party audit data might be good if it weren't at least a year out of date. The Treehugger.com guides are obsolete, greenlaptop.com seems to be an SEO site without specific & up-to-date recommendations, and Laptop Magazine's green buying guide is eight months out of date and only looks at environmental friendliness, not human rights. And of course it's rare that any of those laptops come without Windows preinstalled.

Stuart said he's had good experiences with EmperorLinux, and they do indeed sell laptops with Linux preinstalled. But they're reselling the machines that Dell, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Panasonic, and Sony manufacture. Dell and Lenovo are out as mentioned above, and I don't particularly want the Fujitsu tablets EmperorLinux has on offer. I started looking up Sony and Panasonic manufacturing locations (mostly Japan, I think?), but was discouraged to see that EmperorLinux offerings from Panasonic and Sony started at USD1750. I'm willing to pay extra for what I care about, but $1,750 was several hundred dollars more than I'd budgeted.

Then, thanks to a pointer from Leigh Honeywell, I looked up ZaReason, which seems to be the end of my search. ZaReason builds Linux laptops in Berkeley, tries to monitor its Chinese component factories/sources for fair labor practices/greenness, and is run by Cathy Malmrose ("The Un-Scary Screwdriver," GNOME Journal, November 2009). Their prices are reasonable, with laptops starting at USD599. And when I emailed them to ask where they assemble their products (Berkeley), Malmrose wrote me a long, clear, comprehensive, and thoughtful reply.

So I'll be placing an order for the Strata 2660 later this week. Thanks, Malmrose & Honeywell!


(6) : ZaReason Response: As I mentioned earlier, I wrote to ZaReason to ask them about their manufacturing practices and their CEO, Cathy Malmrose, wrote back. I asked her if she wouldn't mind me posting her response here, and she said "Go for it!"

Sumana,

Thanks for contacting us.

* Come without Windows pre-installed (I'm sick of paying the Windows tax)

Not only is Windows not installed, our hardware has *never* had it. Unfortunately, some vendors will make a "Linux-only" laptop by using older prepackaged Windows hardware, wiping it then doing an Ubuntu install. We get our components from the individual OEMs who manufacture the individual components (wifi, HD, motherboard, case, etc.) Since we don't have to build it to be compatible with both Windows & Other we have the freedom to select whichever parts are absolute best for a Linux-only system. No compromises needed.

* Most or all components ethically sourced

From what we can tell, yes, but I'm sure we could dig deeper. Generally we use MSI, ASUS, Shuttle, etc. They are the current standard suppliers. More below.

* Manufactured/assembled someplace with real labor standards.

In Berkeley!

We're governed by State Labor Law, Federal Law (EDD), and all sorts of other agencies. We even pay an Electronic Waste Recycling Fee. The money is funneled through the State of CA Board of Equalization to the recyclers like ACCRC who then follow best practices in recycling the hardware. (Although these regulations could stand a lot of improvement.)

Labor standards: Our pay is good but not great since we are still small. It's the going rate for a university town / Bay area. We try to compensate by giving our employees benefits that are meaningful to them personally -- home office work for research, flexible (very flexible) hours, etc. One of our dearest employees brings her infant with her and it adds a sweet element to the office. We are a small shop on Hopkins Street in Berkeley. We have 14 employees. We hire people who are good, kind, and highly motivated to build hardware specifically for free and open purposes.

We are growing quickly and hope to open a second shop soon.

* General laptop desiderata (sturdiness, battery life, thinner is better)
All of our components are the same as those used by Dell, HP, System 76 and other builders. The difference is:

1. We do not have to navigate around license agreements. Not only do we not use Windows, we also do not do deals with distros. Some distros approach hardware builders with a "Please pay us $x for every system you sell." When that happens the focus shifts from cool hardware to dollar and numbers sold. Not good. We do not have any strings attached other than to our office staff and our customers.

2. We are privately owned, no investors and the board members actually work in the shop. We put our laptops through a child-test, where we let a 7 yo (here he is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9609130@N03/2929692722/ ) and a 17 yo use the laptop for a week. They are generally able to find any weaknesses in the case.

3. We have battery life equivalent to those of other builders. The ARM is coming out soon which could and should shoot netbook battery length up to 12-14 hrs, but it is a low power processor.

4. Thinner is better? We agree! Our Hoverboard is about as thin as the MacAir. The Hoverboard is approx 1/3 the price.

An acquaintance pointed me to you. I'm glad you sell laptops preinstalled with Linux and tested here in the States! But where do you manufacture/assemble the laptops?
We do our assembly / partial manufacturing in the US, but the base components are made in China. There are a few component "manfacturers" that have shops in the US but nearly all actual manufacturing is done in China. We have seen the factories in Shenzhen where they are made and we agree that there are many, many bad labor practices, but the OEMs we have chosen are fully compliant when we view them. (That's not to say they are compliant when we leave!)
Can I get assurances that the people who made the laptop were paid fairly, and that the assembly process is reasonably environmentally friendly?

Your message became a topic of conversation with a few of the builders when it came in. Several said, "I'll reply to that one!" saying that they would gladly reassure anyone that they have a lot of fun and are not only treated fairly, but fully respected.

I used to live in Berkeley myself so it would please me to get to purchase a computer from you. Please let me know -- I looked on your site but couldn't quite find any mention of the location where ZaReason computers are assembled.

Wow, that is an oversight. Thank you for mentioning it! We recently did a website redesign, went live approx 12 days ago. The part listing our actual location did not make it into the redesign... I'll chalk this up as yet another helpful comments from the community. We also need to have a section on the site, possibly in Our Story / About that addresses the questions you asked.

We are in a sweet little shop at 1647 Hopkins St, Berkeley, up the street from Monterey Market and across the street from Goioa Pizza and Hopkins Bakery.

Thanks for asking,

--Cathy Malmrose, CEO ZaReason, Inc.
www.zareason.com

I really appreciate her candidness; it's refreshing to hear a CEO talk openly about what needs improving. And of course this kind of personal response is something I was never going to get from Lenovo, Dell, or HP.


(1) : Dream Time: Dream last night: Other than the obligatory "why is Fog Creek having a meeting in my house?" scene, I mostly remember the time travel. I went back in time to some sort of "diamond rush" (like a gold rush, you see) and pretended to be a Russian woman who wanted her husband to take care of all this messy appraisal and trading. Nice to get some speaking practice in -- dreams count, right? I can barely believe my Russian convinced anyone, and upon waking, I had to wonder whether US residents 200 years ago would have believed a person with my skin color could be Russian. Fridge logic.

Within my dream, I read an amateurish webpage with tips for time tourists. "Read this Dave Barry piece about how annoying it is to carry a DiscMan when you're used to an iPod. Think ahead about how you'll deal with that," it advised. Right next to that, the author cautioned that you might alarm the natives by asking whether particular genocides have happened yet. "Don't ask, 'Have millions of people died recently?' or ask, 'Is such-and-so still alive? Is such-and-so still alive, too? What about such-and-so; is she still alive, too?'"


(1) : Some Fanvids I Like: I was just telling a pal about Archive Of Our Own, and then I was explaining why an episode of Psych mentioning "Shassie" was fanservice [0]. And Kirrily just linked to a feminist fanvid sampler. So I decided I should publicly bookmark some of my favorite fan fiction and fanvids.

First a few vids:

Fics later.


[0] "The Head, The Tail, The Whole Damn Episode" also featured a Leverage shoutout and guest appearances from Jeri Ryan (late of Star Trek: Voyager and Leverage) and Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh on Battlestar Galactica). Much as when I heard Obama had put Tufte on a panel, I'm feeling all pandered to.


(8) : Cautiously Opening That Door: A few weeks ago, another Indian-American and I were talking and agreed on one benefit of that particular childhood: if your parents are well-off enough to drag you to India & back a few times, you get used to long flights such that they're not much of a bother later in life.

This got me thinking about other advantages I got by dint of being born in the US to South Asian immigrants (educated middle-class ones, to be sure). That is, where did I get a leg up on children born to US-born white parents?

A few thoughts:

I had a hard-to-ignore set of lessons on intersectionality and multifaceted diversity. My parents aren't just Indian, they're Karnatakan Kannada-speaking Hindus from the Brahmin caste, and they didn't come from ease or wealth. And I'm leaving out some markers here: aesthetics, politics, culinary tastes, the places they've lived, the jobs they've had, their ages, what other languages they speak... I never could have believed that The Rest Of The World was a homogenous, forgettable mass.

From the start, I've had a taste of what it's like to be Other, or at least an edge case. My name didn't fit on forms. A classmate pointed to Indiana on a map and said, "That's where you're from!" A logic tutee, astonished at my US accent, said, "But you're Indian! ... Didn't you ever think that accents were innate?" Back when I was writing my newspaper column, after I wrote a piece about Indian-American TV shows, someone wrote in and complained that all I wrote about was "not being white." My parents looked hard and fast for US flags to put on their car and house after 9/11. And before that was the jerk in the car repair waiting room who called my mom a Satan worshipper, harassed her because of her kumkum (red dot on the forehead), and made her cry. Being brown in this majority-white country has given me a zillion anecdotes amusing and bemusing, from little irritations to strange, nebulous frustrations to disheartening dismay. So, the seeds of my reflexive sympathy for the underdog and pain-in-the-butt edge-case pedantry, check.

My parents spoke English and an indigenous Indian language (Kannada) at home. My parents could easily talk with my teachers and friends, but I also got sensitized from birth to the possibility of other tongues, other orthographies, and other ways of thinking. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and take my parents' Kannada lessons more seriously, but I couldn't see the point in it. Silly me. I do have ready access to study materials and practice partners should I wish to get fluent.

Growing up Indian-American tends to correlate with learning to handle spicy food. I in particular also grew up vegetarian. I never quite understood how omnivores could stare at vegetarians and ask, "but what do you eat?!" until I understood that, in the standard late-twentieth-century US meal, there is one high-profile meat chunk surrounded by bits of starch and vegetable for flavor and texture. If you think "vegetarian = removing meat chunk" then of course the plate seems empty. I grew up with a cuisine that gives beans, nuts, grains, leafy greens and other veggies first-class status.

Timezones. I was used to hearing people talk on the phone late at night, and got used to looking at the clock and quickly calculating the time n hours away. That's come in handy since.

Those are all effects I can at least take a stab at articulating. But I can only begin to think about the giant assumptions I take for granted, like "of course we've travelled abroad" and "this is a country of immigrants, Exhibit A, us" and the positive (and negative) effects of the Model Minority, doctor-or-engineer expectation. And I'm trying to limit this list to stuff common to middle-class US kids of professional-career South Asian parents (Canada seems rather different). I'm working towards some reminiscences specific to my dad and mom, but that's divergent.

Other children of South Asian immigrants, tell me what I forgot.


(4) : Fanfic Recommendations: Some fics I've liked:

Erin Ptah's Colbert Report archive includes "The Thing With Feathers", the fifth time Jon terrified Stephen, and "In Time".
"Theories About Nuclear Winter" by hollycomb (continued in Part II), the best Calvin and Hobbes Susie/Calvin fic ever. The end still makes me cry.
"Second Verse (Same as the First)" by Friendshipper/Sholio. "The Marines call it the Planet of the Willing Virgins, you know." I don't know much about Stargate but this still kicked me in the gut (here's a warm-fuzzy chaser).

And recently I've tried out some Psych fic, most of my favorites centering on the relationship between Lassiter and O'Hara:

Elisa, these two reminded me of your discussion of useful vagueness in sex scenes, which reminded me of this analysis (caution, includes shoulder-biting).
Flirting. Possibly my favorite of all the tension-on-the-job stories.
Carlton almost majored in theater.
Someone has nothing to do on Christmas.
Buzz/Carlton? Sure.
There's a lot of schmoopy they-know-each-other-so-well fic. Exhibits A, B, C, D, E.
Do they comfort each other after trauma? Sure do!

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: Huzzah: I offer my congratulations to Dr. Danielle Lee on her successful dissertation defense. It got streamed live on the web which would have given me pause at my oral defenses (for my master's)! Her blog, "Urban Science Adventures!", seems really cool too. (via BoingBoing)


: QuahogCon and Open Source Bridge: In the US style, the date is now 3/14, which makes it Pi Day. Happy Pi Day! (I'll have to remember to celebrate Mole Day on 23 October; I always forget, despite Mr. Marson's success in making me love chemistry.)

More calendrical news: I'm going to QuahogCon in Providence, Rhode Island, April 23rd-25th. They have infosecurity and DIY/maker tracks. I'm especially interested in a few talks:

but of course there's way more advanced stuff about SQL injection and WiFi vulnerabilities and bone-chilling madness, &c., &c. Let me know if you're going; I'm interested in splitting a hotel room with another woman. WILL YOU BE HER?

I've also nearly decided to go to Open Source Bridge in Portland, Oregon, at the beginning of June (right after WisCon, which may be a bad idea). I've submitted a proposal for one talk ("The Second Step: HOWTO encourage open source work at for-profits"), and plan on submitting one or two more.

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(2) : Web: About eleven years ago, I saw a link from Slashdot to a geek humor site called Segfault. I started reading it, then started reading the homepage of one of the editors. Leonard Richardson. He posted something new nearly every day, like a diary. (I didn't know the word "blog" in 1999.) He shared funny lines from his friends, his mom, his colleagues. I kept reading.

About ten years ago, I started reading Joel on Software. Just a few years previous I'd discovered Gerald Weinberg, specifically his The Psychology of Computer Programming, and loved it. So this Joel guy was talking about things I found interesting, and was introducing lenses, metaphors, models that immediately spoke to me. Fire And Motion. Ben & Jerry's vs. Amazon. The Law of Leaky Abstractions. Managers as the developer's abstraction layer (I later heard the synonym "windshield"). Smart and Gets Things Done. The iceberg problem in software development. Five Worlds. Architecture astronauts. I could go on.

Almost exactly nine years ago, I saw a funny line ("Those guys are gods of applied physics!") in an article on SFGate, decided that Leonard guy would appreciate it, and sent it to him. He and I started corresponding, and then hanging out. I went down to Bakersfield with him one weekend to help his mom move. Eventually we started dating.

About four years ago, I saw another pivotal blog post. I was living in San Francisco, in my third year working for Salon, and realizing that I'd like to go into management, and this Joel guy announced that his company was looking for me. Well, for someone who wanted to lead geeks, not necessarily a programmer. I saw that post, then woke up at 3am the next day, thinking, "I have to apply."

I applied, thinking I hadn't a chance in hell. Joel phone-screened me. I'd been told to prepare a short lesson ahead of time, on a topic of my choosing. So I came up with my stand-up comedy lesson plan, which I still use today. He asked whether, if accepted, I could move out to New York the next month. I hesitated a second or two, then said sure. They flew me out for an interview. I got an offer and said yes. Fog Creek paid handsomely to relocate my household. Leonard, who had left Collabnet to work on Ruby Cookbook, came with me. He'd never seen New York before we arrived in January of 2006.

Leonard and I were unhappy that we were moving so far from his mom. Frances had been fighting HIV for more than a decade, and had lived far longer than the doctors had ever predicted, but her health was still perceptibly declining. So I told him he should fly back once a month to see her. But he didn't get much of a chance to do that, because her health started getting much, much worse a few months after we moved. Leonard flew back and spent several weeks with her as she died. I took some time off to go be with her; later I discovered that Fog Creek had quietly, kindly given me those days for free, and not counted them against my paid time off.

Of all the job perks I ever got at Fog Creek -- relocation, half a Columbia Master's paid for, lunches, Broadway tickets, unlimited sickleave, Metrocard, a great library -- that one sticks with me most.

Oh man, this thing is getting long. Anyway. I learned a lot from Joel, before, during, and after my time at Fog Creek. I appreciate his decisiveness, his straightforwardness, his species of eloquence and encouragement, his financial generosity, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his insight. Sure, it wasn't all roses and sunshine, but he changed my life, mostly for the better.

A few days from now, Joel Spolsky will retire from active blogging, ten years after he started. Leonard and I are married, and still live in New York, and will for the next year at least. We still miss Frances terribly. Segfault's been gone for nine years. My Fog Creek salary subsidized Leonard's work on Ruby Cookbook, then RESTful Web Services. I have a master's degree in tech management and am looking for my next job in that field. Fog Creek was 6 or 7 people when I arrived, and now it's thirty or more. All those articles of Joel's are up on the web, ready for us to reread or brandish or rip to ribbons.

And so are my archives, and Leonard's, and Frances's.

It really is a web, isn't it.

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(4) : In Which I Offer To Do Research For You: So far, no one has suggested things for me to look up at the NYC TV/radio archive. Leonard and I added two items to my list. Frank's Place is a well-regarded eighties dramedy that used a bunch of great music and thus is unlikely to ever come out on DVD due to licensing issues. And the "Persistence of Memory" episode of Cosmos is up on Hulu, and has an anachronistic computing-related montage near the end. Specifically, although Cosmos dates from 1980, the montage includes a Shoemaker-Levy 9 webpage as viewed in Netscape. So Leonard is interested in learning what the original montage featured.

Any other suggestions?


: Predictions Come True: A French reality/game TV show has reproduced the Milgram experiment. You know, the one about giving a stranger electric shocks, even when he begs you to stop. (Why couldn't they redo the other Milgram experiment?)

About eight years ago, I was thinking of reality shows as psychology experiments that the Human Subjects Committee wouldn't let you do. Turns out I was really right.


(3) : In My Dreams, I Know Everyone: "I was friends with Jerry Seinfeld. We were just hanging out. He had a plot in a community garden so we went over and worked on that for a while...as he dropped me off at the train station, I told him I was worried that I didn't treat him enough like a regular person, because sometimes it was hard to get around how famous he was. He said, 'I think you do a pretty good job.'"

"Sumana's ultimate celebrity fantasy."

"And then I remember being worried about how to talk with my other friends about this. I mean, I don't want to be name dropping, but if it comes up in conversation, 'Oh when I was hanging out with Jerry the other day --,' and the other person asks, and I say 'Jerry Seinfeld,' then it's just coy. Like, either I'm name-dropping, or I'm pretentiously not name-dropping..."

"This sounds like a Seinfeld episode."

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: Careful What You Wish For: Suddenly the daytime temperatures here have jumped to 75F and plateaued there. My body isn't adjusting well. I got a haircut from the barber on Crescent (and buzzed Leonard's hair myself), so at least I don't have that sweaty, brain-fritzing perma-hat feeling. But I'm still grumpy and look pale. Let me just add to the whining to fill up this whineglass: computer problems, communication problems with Leonard, procrastination, WOW health insurance companies hate us. I'm sure I could go on, but perhaps it would be more productive to drink some seltzer water and watch The Rotten Tomatoes Show and try to get into a more agreeable mood.


(1) : On Dreamwidth: I have an account on Dreamwidth, a social blogging service. It's neat! I can watch the Latest Posts scroll and see people writing interesting things. Who's hit hardest by the recession? What is fanfic for, and what can it be? Bleahs and yays, fanfic, pretty pictures, exasperated thoughts on education, and only a tiny bit of random childish spew. Dreamwidth is rather a place for people who make things, and it's good for me to virtually hang around people who make things, as the ambient role models/expectations/examples will inspire me when I'm waffling.

And they have the basics right, too: there's an active open source community around the DW codebase, DW is committed to outstanding openness principles and sticks to them, and the whole community is very woman-friendly.

If I post anything there, I'll link back to it here. If you've been looking for a free, friendly place to start blogging (Brandon, Dorée, and Jade spring to mind), here are some invite codes to start a free Dreamwidth account:

FNG6KDTSB44XDAAADYZU

9EH8VC2Y85KTMAAADDNR

QR27YMWHM2MF6AAADDNS

[A longterm goal of mine is to unify all the publicly accessible stuff I emit on the web into a metablog -- a lifestream or firehose, some people call it. Twitter (which is a copy of my Identi.ca microblog), my MetaFilter activity, and of course twenty comments a day on other people's blogs -- I'd like to have a unified feed of all those. Suggestions/tools welcome.]


: Cheering Things: Indeed The Rotten Tomatoes Show cheered me. Ellen Fox and Brett Erlich have great lines, great editing, and great delivery. They and the community reviewers point out screenplay cliches, muse bizarre casting coincidences, and get all nerdy about accuracy, as in Fox's roundup of rock-n-roll biopic accuracy:

Also, I cannot help but love when Fox moves her arms as she says "The Anticipatron!" or awkwardly rhymes "Weekend Peek...end." And I think Erlich has found his calling. Check out his informative and entertaining three-minute review of Tim Burton's career.

And They Might Be Giants' "My Brother The Ape" (from Here Comes Science) makes me sniffle the same way Dar Williams's "The Christians and the Pagans" does.


(2) : Less-Beaten-Path New York City Tourist Suggestions, With A Side of Whoo: Saturday: Got an Archive of Our Own account for encouragement in writing fanfic (today's awe-inspiring AO3 discovery: Oregon Trail fanfic!), got lovely orange roses from my husband, ate baked beans on toast, discovered that a member of the British Fantasy Society nominated Thoughtcrime Experiments for Best Anthology of 2009, talked with Mel, and took an out-of-town friend to Home On 8th and Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for dinner and a show. Hmm, written out like that, it sounds pretty good (ignoring my failure to exercise, write more of my GNOME Journal article, or write conference proposals, or follow up on myriad errands).

Ah yes! I wanted to post a short list of some favorite NYC experiences I like to share with visitors. The Circle Line tour is great, the Met and MoMa and the main library and whatnot are good, but here's some more idiosyncratic stuff.

There's more that I can't cudgel out of my melon at the moment, but that's the current braindump.

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(1) : Gussied-Up Link Blogging: I am accumulating draft posts as I focus my days on GNOME Journal work, errands, and preparing for conferences and other appearances. So, very little blogging; even my Ada Lovelace Day post will be days late. But I can at least mention some interesting links.

"The reason this exists is because every time we watch Parks and Recreation we sing 'Jabba the Hutt' along with the theme. So naturally we had to make this video." I like the way you think.

This New York Times article on China's cyberposses, or "human-flesh search engines", was scary and enlightening.

Searches have been directed against all kinds of people, including cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, amateur pornography makers, Chinese citizens who are perceived as unpatriotic, journalists who urge a moderate stance on Tibet and rich people who try to game the Chinese system. Human-flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the political issues, polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China.

It also led me to feel less sympathy for an Encyclopedia Dramatica moderator.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, as often, eloquently states something that gets my head nodding:

But I think any sort of conservatism intellectual critique of liberalism and minority rights, really has to reckon with American conservatism's appalling record on that front...

Moreover they have used a skepticism of change, to mask a defense of institutional evil...

There is a fundamental problem here, one that can't be elided by pointing out the differences between "true" conservatism and Republicans. A bias toward time-tested, societal institutions almost necessarily means a bias toward institutional evil....

Derek Powazek's recent foolproof guide to nurturing houseplants reminded me of a heartwarming houseplant story he once wrote.

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(1) : Multipass!: Julia, chief interviewer for the Outer Alliance, today posted an interview with me. Thanks, Julia! Outer Alliance is a group dedicated to education, support, and celebration regarding LGBT contributions in speculative fiction. Julia asked me about WisCon, diversity in Thoughtcrime Experiments, Creative Commons, my interest in trans issues, and tips for social confidence. I sneak in a hint on grad school.

Other links and observations:

Fred hits it out of the park again. This put a smile on my face all the way through, a YouTube effect most commonly reserved for OK Go. (via)

If Caldera was "Linux for Business," shouldn't Linux for mobile be Calder?

A memory from 21 January, 2009: Obama said, information will not be withheld just because I say so. And from March 1 last year: McCain stuff in a Washington, DC airport gift shop was on clearance for $1.99.

A pal, upon seeing me kvetch about misspellings of "Mediterranean": "Maddittiranian!"

Some vids I've loved recently: "Power Trekkers" (Star Trek Reboot Plus), "What About" (Multifandom), and "Grapevine Fires" (Star Trek, several incarnations). That last one embedded below so you can taste it, though it's best as a high-res download:


Find more videos like this on BAM Vid Vault

My wine tastes, as recorded in notes from a single Vesta wine flight: the Aglianico is bleh, I don't like the Rubio or Pinot Noir, the Molto Montepuciano is eh, and Orvietto is nice.

When I was last in India, I saw Vestige brand toothpaste for sale.


: Angie Martin: Last week, bloggers commemmorated the annual Ada Lovelace Day. It's a day to honor influential and inspirational women in technology and science. To quote one participant,

We are not Unicorns. We are everywhere. But our history is easily submerged, discounted and dismissed. Too easily forgotten.

Following the Women in Free Software blog aggregator today showcases how many women, living and dead, deserve this honor. Please excuse my belated post; this was hard to write.

Last year I listed some of my influences; now I'm realizing that every year I'll have the chance to celebrate at least one person in depth, so I'm going to speak about someone I deeply wish I'd gotten to know better.

mySociety core developer Angie Martin changed her name from Angie Ahl a few months into 2009, when she got married, and a few months before she died.

I'd met her on the Systers email list in October 2007, when she'd mentioned that she was up for a job with a UK org that created systems that helped facilitate government-public interaction and democracy in general. She doubted any Systers outside the UK would have heard of them, so of course I emailed her asking, TheyWorkForYou/mySociety? She got the job, and was "so chuffed": "I've been grinning for about 48 hours now," she told me, her morale sky-high that she'd impressed these people she respected so much. And she'd beat out an all-male field for the job:

Who says girls can't compete.

This was after she'd worked several years as one of a two-person web design firm, which was after hostmaster work at an ISP.

I mentioned that I knew Danny O'Brien, who was also in the UK digital-rights/participatory-democracy-tech scene. "...small world - I know him from years of reading need to know. I was jokingly going to wear my old battered NTK T-shirt to the interview... I should have done ;)", she replied. We talked a bit back and forth over the next few years. I'd hoped to meet her on a trip to London, but she lived in Cumbria (in the Lakes Districts), so we never met up.

She migrated the mySociety website to WordPress even while ill. She went on an org retreat, and got an Ada Lovelace Day shout-out from her colleagues.

Angie is mySociety through and through. A born perl hacker, never happier than knee deep in some grungy regular expressions, she's also gifted with an inate understanding of the possibilities of technology for democratic reform. At interview I asked her what change she'd like to see happen from the government side of our sector, and she replied that she thought the biggest possible win was to publish Bills in parliament in a proper format. You might have heard all this before, thanks to Free Our Bills, but Angie was commenting several months before we ever discussed the idea for the campaign with anyone else. She'd just looked at the world and the obvious problem had jumped out, clear as day.

She was eager to see Open Rights Group grow, and to see fair usage rights in the UK established properly. She loved the idea of Quinn's Symphonic Conundrum and wished it could be done. She loved Perl and jested that a bone scan that briefly turned her radioactive might give her superpowers.

In February 2009, Ahl learned that her cancer was terminal. She got married about a month later -- about a year ago. (Her widower, Tommy, is a photographer, and he loved to photograph her.)

Martin died of cancer in July 2009, having only begun the mySociety work she'd passionately wanted to do. Her partner, her colleagues, and friends and peers grieved their loss:

Angie was one of the true pioneers of the Lasso community.

Her contribution to the Lasso community was absolutely immense.

Angie and I often talked offlist about ways to move our programming ahead - about how to bring levels of functionality into reality that no one else was doing yet. Her level of understanding of the most abstract concepts, and how turn them into code was absolutely astounding.

She pioneered the error.lasso method, which so many people use today. She was also the first to figure out how to build search engine friendly URL's with Lasso. She contributed a ton of innovations, too many to list. Her contribution to the Lasso community is immeasurable.....

The fact that Angie was talented enough that she could have walked into a very high paying job with virtually any company in the world she wanted to work for (and could have named her own price salary wise), but chose to use her skills and her time to help a not for profit organisation like mySociety, speaks volumes about the immense depth of her character....

Given her habit of plain speaking, it is pointless to pretend that Angie was able to make the contribution to mySociety’s users or codebase that she wanted to. What she achieved in terms of difficult coding during recovery from chemotherapy was incredible, breathtaking – but she wanted to change the world. It now falls to the rest of us, and our supporters, to live up to the expectations she embodied...

What's that saying about the last full measure of devotion?

I hope this remembrance helps us appreciate all the tough, brilliant, geeky, dedicated women in our community, and work in memory of the ones who have left us, like Martin.

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(1) : My First Seder: Yesterday evening, our friend Beth hosted a Passover seder that Leonard and I attended. She and Dara had created the haggadah by splicing together elements from three haggadot, including a few moments where (as Beth explained) "this page is in here because Dara wanted everyone to see this amazing illustration of the locusts with lion heads." When I mispronounced "paschal" as "Pascal," Beth suggested that we could call the matzoh "paschal's wafer," possibly the most awesome pun I've heard yet this year.

Lucian said that many Jewish holidays revolve around the theme, "they tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat." And in that context of prayer, remembrance, and celebration, there is something touching and amazing about hearing your friends sing a song, in a language you don't know, that people have been singing every year for thousands of years.

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: I'm Looking Forward to Open Source Bridge & WisCon: I'll be at the feminist science fiction convention WisCon this year, arriving Thursday the 27th and leaving Monday the 31st for Portland, Oregon. I'll be in Portland till Saturday the 5th for Open Source Bridge. I found out while planning my tickets that at least two other women are also going straight from one conference to the other, so we get to fly together (although they will probably shout down my "matching outfits" idea).

As I mentioned to Julia,

This year, I'm of course interested in several panels, like "Facebook and Its Discontents," "Fighting Imposter Syndrome," the "Once Upon A Time" game-playing panel, and panels on small presses, worldbuilding, supportive artists' SOs, forgotten women writers, and fanfic. I hope I get to participate on a panel or two. I look forward to seeing friends I saw last year. I'll be seeing college pal Shweta Narayan again for the first time in years, and I'll get to meet Alexandra Erin, whose Tales of MU I've been reading for years. And Mary Anne Mohanraj, whose "Jump Space" appears in Thoughtcrime Experiments, is a WisCon Guest Of Honor, so I shall puff out my chest and bask in reflected glory.

Open Source Bridge received 197 proposals, of which three are mine:

    I'm Submitting a Talk to Open Source Bridge – June 1–4, 2010 – Portland, OR
  1. "Thoughtcrime Experiments": CC/FLOSS Lessons From A DIY Sci-Fi Anthology: Last year, two FLOSS enthusiasts edited a Creative Commons-licensed anthology of original fantasy and science fiction stories and art. We did it to give back, to give readers more choices, and because documenting and sharing are in our blood. Here's how we published a great anthology, why, and how you can do it too. (Culture track)
  2. Blocker Talk: confessional-meets-Scrum: What are the three highest priorities for your FLOSS project, what's blocking you, and can we help? A guided discussion. (Cooking track)
  3. The Second Step: HOWTO encourage open source work at for-profits: Even at pro-FLOSS businesses, logistical obstacles and incentive problems get in the way of giving back. I show you how to fix that. (Business track)

Three isn't that many, as you can see if you look at Josh Berkus's seven proposals. You can check out my incomplete list of proposals that look neat, like Melissa Hollingsworth on SQL vs. NoSQL and Liz Henry & Danny O'Brien on "Applying OpenStreetMap to the High Seas".


: GNOME Video Site, Mysterious Bugzilla Upgrade Patron, Mallard, Acire/Quickly, An Interview & A Goodbye: I'm an editor and the release coordinator for GNOME Journal, which just released its 19th issue.

This issue has six articles:

Paul, Jim, the authors and I put some hours into this and I think it's worth it. Check it out.

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