There is no shortage of stories about how uncomfortable things can be for women in tech, how hard it is for women to be taken as seriously as men, etc. Well, here is the nth installment of that saga. I attended GOR, the General Online Research conference, a couple of weeks ago hosted at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences. When I walked in, I was greeted by several women wearing the following T-shirt:
I found this rather curious. Why would the T-shirt for the staff/volunteers of a research conference on Internet use measurement and behavior have this word on it? I’m not so dense as to not get the GOR part, but it seemed completely out of place. Soon I started looking around the room for a male staff member, because I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would be wearing the same shirt. What do you think, dear reader? After the jump, I show you what the male volunteers were wearing.
So apparently the Hugos suck this year, thanks to an organized voting campaign. See Patrick Nielsen Hayden on the voting campaign, which seems to be in part a product of internal disputes within the field (various right wing people upset that f/sf isn’t ‘their’ field any more, and belongs to teh_women/teh_gay/teh_PoC) and in part overspill from Gamergate. I don’t know many of the slate of nominees put up by the campaign, with the minor exception of Marko Kloos (whose self-published book I read and thought was unexceptionable military SF with the usual odd politics), and the unlovely John C. Wright (whose work and political opinions remind me of Gene Wolfe if Gene Wolfe had been subjected to an involuntary lobotomy). I did read and like Katherine Addison’s (Sarah Monette’s) The Goblin Emperor (although I liked her Melusine books even more) but apart from that I don’t have much advice to prospective Hugo voters on what they should vote for. What I do have is opinions on other work that didn’t get nominated but that seemed to me to be worth reading, and I hope that CT readers have too. One of the important functions of awards is to point readers towards good work that they otherwise might have missed. Since the Hugo Awards won’t be doing much of that this year, other people should do what they can.
It’s World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The Independent has a very accessible piece debunking 5 myths regarding autistic people; it takes only two minutes to read. The piece also reports that in the UK 87% of people living with autism think the public has a bad understanding of the condition.
While my family has also come across a lot of ignorance over the years – some of which hurt badly – there are also wonderful strangers who have restored faith in what is possible. So, I want to dedicate a post to those people who are reaching out to people with autism, and tell them how important it is what they do. [click to continue…]
MIGRAINES ARE THE WORST. Well, no, I mean, obviously having your children be sick and not having money for the doctor is the worst.* Our domestic helper here in Singapore is prone to really bad migraines and yesterday she was totally felled, lying down in the dark and vomiting so much I had a hard time bringing her water—since you can’t drink water just after you’ve thrown up. We have O.R.S. but she hates them, and she was so miserable I didn’t want to force them down her. It is so hard to make her rest when she’s ill that if she ever listens or lies down of her own accord we know she is feeling truly awful. John half-hoped some common unknown environmental factor was the culprit and that she and I would both get better when we moved out of our old, colonial-era house. Sadly, no. I have also been having terrible migraines for the last 18 consecutive days, and unfortunately they are remodeling in the flat upstairs. This has been a source of unhappiness. THEY HAVE BEEN DRILLING.
I have also cut my pain pills down slowly over the last six months, which was clever and virtuous of me, but now I don’t have enough pain medicine and I’m like “I forgot quite entirely how horrible this was! Pain! It’s your body’s way of saying, ‘hey something is probably sort of broken or something.’” Also topamax, medicine which I take for migraines, and which I am taking more of, makes you stupid. It’s called “dope-a-max” for a reason. The combination of all these factors has made it difficult for me to learn my Japanese characters (kanji), I’ll tell you what. This is some Harrison Bergeron shit on the 24th floor. I got all 15 right on the practice quiz Zoë made for me and then I blanked on a full five when I took the real quiz half-an-hour later on Sunday evening. Years of caring about academics make it very painful for me to do badly on quizzes. Really, it is like a knife in the guts. If she would just give us a list of the English meanings it would be OK. But our tutor gives us an actual sentence with any other, as-yet-unknown-to-us kanji spelled out (in Japanese they can write the pronunciation in hiragana or katakana on top of them, small and light; they would do this for very rare words, I think, in an adults’ book, and they do for commoner ones in a book for children or learners), and then the hiragana or katakana for the kanji we are meant to have learned underlined, and we have to write the kanji below that. So we need to read the sentence correctly as well as remember that, for example, ‘ka’ can mean ‘borrow’ as well as like five other things (I say this, and we have learned only about 50 kanji so far.) Violet continues to enjoy mocking me (in the most friendly, cheerful way imaginable!) about my troubles, criticizing my disinclination to use the large full squares in my notebook (I have small, very neat handwriting, and the big boxes don’t appeal), and writing Chinese characters in the margins that are similar but a million times harder, just to put things in perspective for me.
Now, a person can listen to music in this situation, but sometimes that’s just like turning the whole thing into a rock concert. It’s better than drilling, though, usually. I don’t like to listen to podcasts, but John does and he listened to one about a year ago that was an interview with Brian Eno. In it, the interviewer was saying how much he loved Here Come The Warm Jets and Eno said that he hadn’t actually listened to it in over twenty years?!? This was flabbergasting and wrong and bad, since we should all be listening to it, be we Brian Eno or no which, on balance, we are unlikely to be. I feel awkward about your experience of this song, because on the LP, the harsh intro of the next song, “Blank Frank” starts really soon after the last note of this—sooner than the start of a hypothetical next measure. I thought of linking to within a youtube clip of the whole album but am not certain it would come off. It’s distinctive and crucial, though, so I recommend you listen to the whole of Here Come The Warm Jets on principle.
This song somewhat resembles the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” in that the sad, sweet vocals only enter after what seems an unexpectedly-long music-only intro, and that it is shorter than you want it to be, such that you want have to re-play it. [click to continue…]
Last September, Joe Biden spoke to a group of invited guests, including leading American Jews, about Israel as a haven for American Jews:
Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.
Yet no one has remarked upon the fact of a sitting vice president telling a portion of the American citizenry that they cannot count on the United States government as the ultimate guarantor of their freedom and safety. The Constitution, which the vice president is sworn to uphold, guarantees to American citizens the “Blessings of Liberty” and equal protection of the law. Despite that, despite “how deeply involved” Jews “are in the United States,” the occupant of the second-highest office in the land believes that American Jews should look to a foreign government as the foundation of their rights and security.
A country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world now tells its Jews that in the event of some terrible outbreak of anti-Semitism they should… what? Plan on boarding the next plane to Tel Aviv? It’s like some crazy fiction from Philip Roth, except that when Roth contemplated an exodus in “Operation Shylock,” it was to imagine the Jews fleeing Israel for Poland.
I talk about JFK on the Irish, Bernard Williams and Hobbes on the state, and Malcolm X on the UN. And begin my conclusion thus: “The reason no one has been ruffled by his statement, I suspect, has less to do with any special sensitivity to Jewish experience than with an ancient, not altogether wholesome, notion that the Jews are somehow different.” Read on here.
I was at a conference with CB when Bert Jansch died, and neither of us recorded the death here. Now Renbourn is gone too. Both gone too early. Guardian obit for Renbourn here. Jansch here. I have a lovely memory of seeing them both, with Jaqui McShee, at the late lamented Palms, in Davis CA, just after I married; and being simply in awe of them. Just listen.
Do you ever wonder what a Wes Anderson horror film would be like? I have a good idea for one. It’s set in 1963, in a junior high school in Auburn, California, birthplace of “the bard of Auburn”, Clark Ashton Smith. An over-ambitious junior high drama director (Jason Schwartzman), in a misguided attempt to make the English teacher (Gwyneth Paltrow), fall in love with him, is staging an 8th grade production of Smith’s The Dead Will Cuckold You.
One of the things that makes me crazy about the media’s discussion of higher education is that so much of it is driven and framed by elite schools. During the 90s, when it seemed like every college and university was fighting over whether Shakespeare should give way to Toni Morrison on the syllabus, it occurred to few pundits to look at what was happening in community colleges or lower-tier public universities, where most students get their education. And where the picture can look quite different.
The same goes today for the wars over trigger warnings and safe spaces: on both sides of the debate, this is primarily an argument at and about elite schools. Which has little to do with a place like Brooklyn College, where I teach. Seriously: just check out Judith Shulevitz’s recent piece on the topic in the Times, which got so much notice. In a 2100-word oped, here are all the institutions that make an appearance: Brown, Columbia, Northwestern, Oxford, Smith, Hampshire, Barnard, and the University of Chicago. There are fewer students in all of these institutions combined than there are at CUNY alone; between them, these institutions enroll less than .4% of all students in America (not counting Oxford, of course, though it wouldn’t really change the numbers).
The similarities between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and 16th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei are remarkable, according to Cruz. In an interview on Tuesday with the Texas Tribune, the newly-minted presidential candidate compared himself to … Galileo when discussing, of all things, whether climate change was actually occurring. “Today the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” Cruz said. “You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.” … “Anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate. What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic,” Cruz added.
The late John Sladek discusses the ubiquity of this trope among crankish defenders of pseudoscience (specifically palm-readers) in his glorious book, The New Apocrypha.
Palmists are of course in no doubt as to who was right. As with all cranks, they feel they haven’t been given a fair hearing and that orthodoxy is ganging up on them. [quoting palmistry author Noel Jaquin] “The reward of the pioneer is so often the ridicule of his fellow-men. We are not very much more just today. Of recent years men of genius have been deprived of their living and literally hounded to death by the ridicule of their more ignorant brethren.” How true, how true. They laughed at Galileo, they laughed at Darwin, they laughed at Edison … and they laughed at Punch and Judy.