Category Archives: Society

Women in Computing/Linux

Hanna Wallach wrote recently about the article HOWTO encourage women in Linux. I had read that article some years back, maybe in 2002 when it was first written, but it is interesting to re-visit it. It is a good read, and a thought-provoking piece even if you disagree.

I find myself mostly agreeing. There are some truly appaling examples of sexism there, such as a conference inviting someone to speak on a “wives of hackers” panel instead of give a more technical talk that she was qualified for.

I also wonder how much has changed in the 2-3 years since the document was written. For instance, the “Computing perceived as non-social” section. I know this was the case not long ago, but is it still? With the proliferation of IM software, it seems that it is sometimes becoming the trendy social activity.

In general Linux or Debian lists, there are still people that act disrespectful towards women, just as there are in society at large. I have noticed that when this happens, the other people on the list — especially the men — are far more likely to take action today than they would have been a few years ago. Personally, sexism in either direction offends my sense of treating each human being as a person, and feel it reflects poorly on Debian/Linux/whatever context it’s in. I wonder if women feel that it’s getting better too, or am I just not reading the right lists? (Yes, there have been ugly incidents in Debian, but my point is that the instigators of these incidents were roundly criticized. Granted, this is not where things should be, but it’s an improvement.)

I would like to suggest expanding this howto to be “HOWTO encourage *people* in Linux”. A number of things mentioned there would apply equally well to most men.

I was particularly amused the authors thought that these tips applied specifically to women:

* The article complained about LUGs that have pizza all the time, or meet at 10PM in a warehouse downtown. I’d prefer fruit to pizza too, and would probably avoid the slimy warehouse at 10PM.

* “Try to schedule your meetings at family and school friendly times” — men can have families and kids, too, and we seem to be seeing more of that in the Linux community of late (though they are probably still a minority). Perhaps we also need to explore why there are so few older people in the community and why there are so few “family” types here. CS has been around longer than many people think and there are incredibly talented people in the (very broad) 50-80 range.

You might not live in the country if…

with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy…

You might not live in the country if…

  • you ever say “depending on the traffic” when estimating how long it takes to get somewhere
  • you never say “but I can’t come if the road is muddy” when estimating how long it takes to get somewhere
  • you never say “but it’ll be later if I get stuck behind a tractor” when estimating how long it takes to get somewhere
  • you have known some of your neighbors for less than 20 years
  • no random strangers give you a (friendly!) wave as you drive down the road
  • you think “the road” is an ambiguous phrase
  • mail addressed just to “Your Name, Town” might not get to you as fast as usual
  • you can’t remember what church someone goes to
  • you’d never consider someone that lives 2 miles away to be a neighbor
  • you think an auger is something unpleasant at the dentist’s office
  • you think “imporoving your irrigation” means buying a $2 attachment for your garden hose
  • you think “your beans are weird” is probably an indecent joke
  • you wouldn’t be seriously insulted if someone told you “your beans are weird”
  • when looking for a house, it never occured to you to avoid the highway so you don’t get so many comments about whether or not your crop’s rows are straight
  • you have no idea where your nearest gravel supplier is
  • you don’t have to install anything on your roof before you can watch TV
  • you think a lagoon is something from Scooby-Doo
  • when driving down the road, you can’t identify some of the crops alongside it
  • you’ve never driven down a road with crops next to it
  • your indoor plumbing still works when the electricity is off
    alternative test for Amish: the nearest phone is less than a mile away
  • you moved to the area from out of state last week, and you haven’t met any distant relatives (or at least made any distant connections) yet
  • when people refer to “the Old Country”, you wonder which country they mean
  • families whose native language isn’t English have probably lived in the United States for less than 100 years where you live
  • something more than 30 years old would never be considered “new”
  • you know less than 10 that can remember a time when electric service wasn’t available in the area
  • you’ve never lamented the invention of touch-tone dialing, since you don’t miss getting updates on the local news from the operator
  • when doing genealogy research, you start somewhere other than the church archives
  • when someone suggests having dinner together, you ask “at which restaurant?” instead of “your place or mine?”
  • “at which restaurant” isn’t a stupid question where you live because there’s more than one good choice within 20 miles
  • less than half of the radio stations in your area have a noontime ag report
  • your high school sports teams have winning seasons periodically
  • your graduating class had more than 25 people
  • you think “the fifth grade teacher” is ambiguous because there are several 5th grade teachers at the local elementary school
  • you don’t think traffic is heavy if there’s someone ahead of you at the stop sign
  • you don’t think that the mere presence of stop signs is a scary indicator of urban sprawl
  • as you stroll through a parking lot, there’s a car you don’t recognize
  • fresh horse droppings on the road might cause the city to send out a street cleaning team
  • you have no connections with people that can give you a discount on beef because it was alive on their farm last week

And the #1 way to tell you might not live in the country:

The waitress at a restaurant explains they’re out of chicken, and you think that means something other than your fried chicken will arrive 20 minutes late, but extra juicy.

Today’s Reading

I think I’ve enjoyed every Paul Graham essay I’ve ever read. He’s got a new one: What You’ll Wish You’d Known, a speech he was going to give at a high school. He persuasively undercuts most graduation speeches and provides an interesting outlook on life. I found his comments on procrastination and curiosity interesting. I, and a number of people I know, have both those qualities. Graham argues that they’re almost innate once you’ve found something you’re interesting in.

In true American fashion, after the school learned that Graham was going to say something interesting, they withdrew their invitation.

Someone in #haskell pointed me to Lambda the Ultimate, a great programming languages blog. While there, I read an interesting critique of OOP in general.

And finally, IBM has a great article on HaXml, advocating its use instead of DOM or SAX for processing XML and HTML documents. They have some quite effective examples to boost their point, too. I tried HaXml and I like it.

Reducing Health Care Costs While Expanding Coverage

I heard an interesting interview on KMUW this morning while driving in to work. They were talking to Kansas Governer Kathleen Sibelius about her health care reform package.

One point she kept making is that providing basic coverage to the uninsured eventually reduces costs for everyone. They are no longer showing up at the expensive ER for everything, and a lot of costly illnesses get prevented by having good regular medical care. This translates into lower insurance premiums. That argument makes a lot of sense, and I wonder why it has taken people so long to realize it. And it also benefits the uninsured, who get better care.

She is also proposing ways to reduce overhead — “paper shuffling” in the system. Apparently 1/3 of the cost of health care is for administration.

On the more mundane side, she is combining several state agencies — including the one to run this new program — into a single health care office in the state government to reduce bureaucracy and expand negotiating power.

And part of the program is encouraging personal responsibility — expanding education programs targeted at both children and adults to encourage healthy lifestyles. She says that will give us healthier citizens down the road, which translates into reduced medical costs.

She plans to pay for it with a $0.50 increase in tobacco taxes. Fitting, somehow.

There’s also an article in the Wichita Eagle.

The Olympics: Be Searched for Unauthorized Flags

There are two interesting stories about the Olympics over at Slashdot. First is a chilling story about the restrictions placed on athletes. They are not allowed to blog about the Olympics while it’s going on. They’re permanently prohibited from ever publishing photos taken at the games, even if those photos are of themselves or their teammates.

Then there’s the story about “advertising terrorism”. Apparently, if you have a soda, flag, unbrella, purse, shirt, whatever from a competitor to official Olympics sponsors, you can have that item confiscated. The comments in that story are interesting too. One poster wrote about the political control exerted there as well. Taiwanese flags were confiscated.

It seems that the Olympics is now less about the athletes than the advertising show. Serios reform is needed at the IOC for sure.

Redefining Patriotism

To many Americans, it seems that patriotism is the flag-waving unquestioning devotion to the United States and its armed forces. July 4th and Memorial Day bring out these sentiments everywhere, and we are constantly reminded to be patriotic, support our troops, to pledge allegiance to our government above all else, and remember those in the armed forces that died for our freedom.

Many “patriotic” people get mad at those that point out that the United States has never, in its entire history, lived up to those words in the pledge: “with liberty and justice for all.” In fact, when the pledge was written in 1892, slavery was not yet a distant memory. Segregation and racial discrimination were still the norm. White juries, especially in the south, sentenced black men to death on the flimsiest of evidence, while exonorating white lynchers that were clearly guilty. It’s considered “unpatriotic” or “against America” to mention these things, especially around July 4.
Continue reading Redefining Patriotism

Virginia Law Accidentally Gives People Weekends off

Check out CNN.com – Working for the weekend? – Jul 1, 2004. I’ve just got to ask — what’s so bad about letting people have either Saturday or Sunday off, and 24 consecutive hours off in a week? I think we need to all step back and ask whether the 24/7 lifestyle is really a good thing overall. I think it’s not. And living in a small town where most places are closed on Sunday (and a fair number on Saturday too), I can say that it is easily managable and works just fine.