Recent blog entries for hypatia

Sunday 13 September 2015

After a tough month for all kinds of sad and difficult reasons, the obvious thing to do is to do something physically and psychologically challenging, something at which I progress slowly, fail regularly, and against which my comparison point is Andrew, who is both absolutely more skilled and progresses faster. So I was thrilled to open September with our intended-to-be-annual snow sports trip.

Yeah, that was sarcasm.

It went surprisingly OK, after it started exactly that promisingly. After a super difficult day at home, we got up to pack for a week in an hour with both children awake and grumpy. Everything bar the DVDs (so, beginners mistake) made it into the car and we had a good run down to Thredbo, taking about eight hours for the five hour drive, going out of our way through Goulburn, driving past my old infants school and the motel we lived at while my parents managed it, and hugely confusing and upsetting V who seemed to believe I was trying to tell him we were about to move there.

The first day, Sunday 30th, Andrew had a day looking after A while V did ski school and I skiied by myself to see if I could recover my skills. I felt fairly confident after the first day. My instructor on Monday was less impressed, and I was worried that this would be my second year entirely on Friday Flat, Thredbo’s bunny slope. So after some online encouragement I went up to Merrits with Andrew and spent Monday afternoon and part of Tuesday feeling challenged, ie, unhappy. Wednesday was my day off with the kids and the challenge paid off on Thursday when my instructor cleaned up my technique on Merrits and pronounced me “Level 4, if you ever need to tell anyone”, ie, about the same level of skill I reached as a snowboarder except in less time and with less dinner plate sized bruises. And I can get off chairlifts as a skiier. Presumably next year I will start skiing easier intermediate runs. I did a run with Andrew in which he was so thrilled I was doing well that he slid down to tell me about it and accidentally knocked me down.

On Friday though I was just about cooked. Which is OK. In an ideal world I’d do two or more long weekends of skiing a year rather than one entire week of it, but we live six hours drive from the ski fields and it is what it is.

V also had a fun week, in his case an indefatigable one. (Instructors: “he doesn’t really… get tired does he?”) With the bonus of a day off that featured the local water slide, and the anti-bonus of getting a nasty face scrape from falling off a trampoline, of all things. Someone suggested to him that he should tell people he hit a tree, but he doesn’t really understand that hitting trees is a skiing possibility. I think he imagined walking up to a tree and head-butting it.

When we came to Sydney, spring had come. The European invader trees apparently follow the European invader calendar; they reliably leaf in the first week of September. Everything is a slightly noxious looking light green while the new leaves mature.

Otherwise, my time is taken up by winding up my job and by job-hunting, as you can imagine. This included a day in Melbourne this past week, where I wandered around wondering why everyone wasn’t driving on the right, and realised that I need to travel domestically perhaps a touch more often. Drive on the left. Use multicoloured money.

Syndicated 2015-09-12 22:43:39 from

Wednesday 26 August 2015

I went to San Franciso a month ago this Friday, for the final stages of planning the Ada Initiative’s shutdown. The first morning I woke up there to the news of Nóirín’s death. I wrote “Nóirín was also one of the strongest and bravest people [I] will ever have the privilege of knowing” that same morning and that’s everything I want to say.

So, the only thing about that trip that makes sense to tell is some images.

Staying in the Mission and being in the sun in the streets full of trees and brightly painted houses finally made San Francisco make sense to me. As was probably inevitable, coming from another beautiful city full of gentrifiers.

Long weekday evenings in the dusk at Dolores Park, watching the fog from a distance. Seeing a rainbow.

Mad Max: Fury Road which I had never expected to see, much less like, even though I had heard about it from feminists more than action fans. (Or maybe they were both!)

But instead of rushing into Furiosa’s cab like everyone else I know, I developed an obsession with Pitch Perfect instead and walked up and down Valencia for hours in the middle of the night listening to its soundtrack.

Eating berries. And paté on apple slices.

My family sending me so much Lindt chocolate in San Francisco that I still have about ⅓ of it now. But I ate all the peanut butter balls before I left.

Broken choppy video chat images of V and A smiling at me.

Cutting down my SIM card from my broken phone with scissors rather than waiting another day to call home.

Walking on a hillside in the hot sun near Muir Woods, in a country where pines are supposed to be and eucalypts are pests.

The purple windows of the 787 that brought me home.

Syndicated 2015-08-25 22:26:38 from

The Ada Initiative’s sunset

This morning, the Ada Initiative, which I co-founded in 2011 and have been employed by between 2011 and now, announced our shutdown.

Sunset over San Francisco, original by  Nan Palmero
Sunset over San Francisco, original by
Nan Palmero

I’m proud of all the work we talked about in the announcement, but a few things of mine over the years in particular that I enjoyed doing a lot and that I hope will have a continuing impact:

AdaCamp. AdaCamp Melbourne was my idea, and was, for me, something of a followup to the LinuxChix/Haecksen miniconfs I founded in 2007, but, as we had done with the Ada Initiative, decoupled from the Linux community specifically, and explicitly feminist and incorporating what I’d learned from organizing earlier women’s events and meetups. It grew into much more over time, incorporating ideas from other events like quiet rooms and inclusive catering, and solving problems that plagued the events that all of the Ada Initiative staff and AdaCamp staff had been to over the years.

The guide to responding to harassment reports as an event organizer. This was based on a email I wrote to a conference organizer who was wondering what one actually does when a harassment report comes in, which, as I tend to do with my best emails, I later edited to put on the web. The wiki text has been somewhat edited and expanded of course, but is substantially similar to my initial version. It formed the basis of the enforcement manual that PyCon developed.

The AdaCamp Toolkit. I wrote more than half of this in the month between closing the AdaCamp program and launching the Toolkit, and edited the remainder from material developed internally. Not since the Geek Feminism wiki have I had so much (rather intense) fun emptying the contents of my head onto a website.

The Impostor Syndrome Training and our Impostor Syndrome Proofing article. AdaCampers had been discussing Impostor Syndrome since the event in Melbourne. I developed the version given at AdaCamps from Portland onwards, and which I will teach in Sydney shortly, built up around an exercise developed by Leigh Honeywell for AdaCamp SF, and we’re releasing it publicly after the Sydney workshop.

I also did a great deal of the behind the scenes project management and technical work (web work, systems administration, payments processing setup) throughout the life of the organization, and internally my documents are the core of our institutional knowledge. (I am hoping to edit a few of the fundraising documents for publication this month.) Valerie’s life will never be the same again now that everything goes in a spreadsheet. I am hoping I can offer my project management skills to another organization soon.

There’s a lot of smaller things that I would never have without the Ada Initiative, like quite good double-entry bookkeeping skills, passable knowledge of Javascript, and too much knowledge of US non-profit tax law.

Thank you to Valerie Aurora, my friend and co-founder, without whom the Ada Initiative could never have existed in the first place, would never have had the vision or the conviction to do 95% of what it did, and who made a very unlikely and very lucky gamble on me as a co-founder four and a half years ago. I’m in San Francisco right now, my last trip for the Ada Initiative, so that we could do this last thing together and go out leaving as much for the community to use as possible.

Thank you to the many many people who worked and volunteered for us over the last four and a half years, who came to our events, who donated, and who advocated for, amplified, and improved our work.

As for what’s up next, I’ll be at the Ada Initiative for another couple of months. During that time, if this sentence of our shutdown notice was of interest, let’s talk:

Mary will be looking for a new position based in Sydney, Australia, working in a leadership role with the right organization.

Sunrise in Sydney, original by Tom French
Sunrise in Sydney, original by Tom French

Image credits:

Nan Palmero, You Heading to Oakland or Space?, CC BY, cropped and colour adjusted by the author of this post.
Tom French, Harbour Sunrise, CC BY, cropped and colour adjusted by the author of this post.

Syndicated 2015-08-04 22:54:30 from

Return to sender stickers: the littlest life hack

I’ve lived in Sydney for sixteen years and I am living in the tenth residence I’ve had in Sydney. So I have a lot of experience of moving houses, and a lot of experience of drowning under a deluge of mail directed to the previous residents of my current home, sometimes several “generations” of them.

You’re not supposed to open or throw out other people’s mail, you’re supposed to mark it “return to sender, no longer at this address” and put it back in a post box. And doing this does — eventually — help as slowly the banks, governments, ex-lovers and debt collectors sending mail to the previous residents get the picture.

But it’s also a total pain in the neck. At the best of times, writing “return to sender, no longer at this address” exceeds my weekly pen output quota, and that’s before you get to trying to write on shrink-wrapped mail and other such things.

Which is why you can go ahead and order sheets of my “return to sender, no longer at this address” Vistaprint design and stick it to incoming mail deluges rather than need to involve a pen at all. I’ve been doing it for about five years and my wrists thank me.

Conflicts of interest: none, as far as I am aware only Vistaprint gets any monetary benefit if you order that sticker from them.

Syndicated 2015-07-23 02:13:26 from

Tuesday 14 July 2015

We survived our second school holidays; suddenly V is halfway through his first year of school. And by “survived” I mean “he spent 5 days a week at vacation care rather than 5 days a week at school”. The big impact on my life was needing to walk into the school grounds in order to sign him in in the mornings, required by vacation care and not by school proper. The vacation care centre is even on the school grounds so really the change was minimal, other than that he got to go on excursions most days. The school ought to have a word with them, because they can’t compete with Luna Park.

We spent the middle weekend with my parents, which was fairly par for the course. Take a toddler away for the weekend; they will defy all your ecstatic descriptions of their lovely personality and spend a substantial amount of every day being a grump.

We made it there for a snowfall last year, but missed it by a week this year, with it falling this most recent weekend instead. I’m not sorry, considering that the roads were closed for much of a day. Apparently Sydney has had its coldest day in five years or something of the kind, after an extremely mild start to winter, but we haven’t noticed because we no longer live in Sydney’s coldest and darkest house. It’s quite delightful to be inside the house and yet sometimes have sun on us. What is this revolution in construction?

We’re still reconciling ourselves to our new suburb. Honestly, this will probably be the work of a year or so. So far my list of ways that it clearly wins is quite short, but growing. Our house is (a lot) nicer. The public transport is better, even if it is buses (buses that shoot straight over the Anzac Bridge like lightning aren’t really what normally bothers me in buses). And a touch of the truly sublime: watching two winter sunsets and counting from the Iron Cove bridge. Even V throwing an epic tantrum about not wanting to walk fails to spoil the memory of the first one. At this time of year the sun sets over the ridge in Drummoyne; I’m looking forward to it coming a bit further south over the water.

Both kids are doing swimming lessons for six weeks, which means that we can swim on Saturdays. Again, that ended up being surprisingly nice, because it’s an outdoor pool so we can swim in the sun, and then there’s a west-facing glassed-in cafe to warm up in afterwards. Andrew’s picking up an after-work yoga class, perhaps I’ll pick something local too. I should be ecstatic about the cycle paths around here, first I need to overcome a whole lot of inertia to do with wrestling my bike out from under a pile of bikes and so on. I like cycling routes I already know, I think, which obviously fails after a move. But being able to cycle over the bridges will be great once I work up the nerve.

Meanwhile, Andrew and I went back in time on Friday night. We had dinner with friends at Harajuku Gyoza. That wasn’t the step back in time; precisely, although it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten in Kings Cross. We’ve never been to Harajuku Gyoza, and I don’t think I’d go to a place where the big appeal is that they yell at you when pouring sake. Probably more fun with more sake, admittedly. No, our step back in time was deciding to walk home. It was just over seven kilometres and took around an hour and a half. To complete the return to our twenty year old selves, we did it without referring to a phone or a map. Not exactly a challenge in a city we’ve lived in for half our lives, but definitely a flashback. I don’t even go outdoors much after dark now, since the kids go to bed soon after sunset, so I was even able to discover the basic joys of it simply being dark out there. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is.We walked out of our way up through Woolloomooloo and through the Domain and admired the sudden onset of skyscrapers looming over the park and cut through the hospital with its odd fluorescent fountain and puzzled at the small pine grove off the Anzac Bridge.

Syndicated 2015-07-14 11:22:39 from

Blogging for Geek Feminism, a short history

With yesterday’s release of Spam All the Links, I’ve finished my long awaited project of departing the Geek Feminism blog.

I was involved in the blog on, if not from the first day of its existence, at least from the first week of it. My involvement in the blog was huge, and comprises among other things:

  • over 200 posts to the blog
  • founding and for a long time running the Ask a Geek Feminist, Wednesday Geek Woman and Cookie of the Week series
  • doing a linkspam post by myself multiple times a week for about a year
  • recruiting the initial team of Linkspammers and setting up their manual, mailing list and of course, the script that supports them
  • recruiting several other bloggers, including Tim, Restructure! and Courtney S
  • a bunch of sysadmin of the self-hosted WordPress install (it’s now hosted on

My leaving the blog is delayed news. I initially told the co-bloggers I was leaving close to a year ago now (mid-August, if I’d waited much longer on writing this I could have posted on the one year anniversary), because my output had dried up. I feel in large part that what happened was that I spent about ten years in geekdom (1999–2009) accumulating about three years of material for the blog, and then I ran out of things to write about there. I also have two more children and one more business than I had when I was first writing for it, and, very crucially, one less unfinished PhD to avoid. But I had a handover todo list to plod my way through, and Spam All the Links was the last item on it!

I remain involved in Geek Feminism as an administrator on the Geek Feminism wiki, on which I had about 25% of total edits last I looked, although the same sense of being a dry well is there too.

The blog was obviously hugely important for me, both as an outlet for that ten years of pent up opinionating and, to my surprise, because I ended up moving into the space professionally. I’m glad I did it.

Today, I would say these are my five favourite posts I made to the blog:

“Girl stuff” in Free Software, August 2009:

Terri mention[ed] that she had resisted at times working on things perceived as ‘girl stuff’. In Free Software this includes but is not limited to documentation, usability research, community management and (somewhat unusually for wider society) sometimes management in general. The audience immediately hit on it, and it swirled around me all week.

Why we document, August 2009:

I do not in fact find writing the wiki documentation of incidents in geekdom very satisfying. The comment linked at the beginning of the post compared the descriptions to a rope tying geekdom to the past. Sometimes being known as a wiki editor and pursued around IRC with endless links to yet another anonymous commenter or well-known developer advising women to shut up and take it and write some damned code anyway is like a rope tying me to the bottom of the ocean.

But what makes it worth it for me is that when people are scratching their heads over why women would avoid such a revolutionarily free environment like Free Software development, did maybe something bad actually happen, that women have answers.

(I’d be very interested in other people’s takes on this in 2015, which is a very different landscape in terms of the visibility of geek sexism than 2009 was.)

Why don’t you just hit him?, December 2010:

This is the kind of advice given by people who don’t actually want to help. Or perhaps don’t know how they can. It’s like if you’re a parent of a bullying victim, and you find yourself repeating “ignore it”, “fight back with fists” or whatever fairly useless advice you yourself were once on the receiving end of. It’s expressing at best helplessness, and at worst victim-blaming. It’s personalising a cultural problem.

You are not helpless in the face of harassment. Call for policies, implement policies, call out harassment when you overhear it, or report it. Stand with people who discuss their experiences publicly.

Anti-pseudonym bingo, July 2011:

Let’s recap really quickly: wanting to and being able to use your legal name everywhere is associated with privilege. Non-exhaustive list of reasons you might not want to use it on social networks: everyone knows you by a nickname; you want everyone to know you by a nickname; you’re experimenting with changing some aspect of your identity online before you do it elsewhere; online circles are the only place it’s safe to express some aspect of your identity, ever; your legal name marks you as a member of a group disproportionately targeted for harassment; you want to say things or make connections that you don’t want to share with colleagues, family or bosses; you hate your legal name because it is shared with an abusive family member; your legal name doesn’t match your gender identity; you want to participate in a social network as a fictional character; the mere thought of your stalker seeing even your locked down profile makes you sick; you want to create a special-purpose account; you’re an activist wanting to share information but will be in danger if identified; your legal name is imposed by a legal system that doesn’t match your culture… you know, stuff that only affects a really teeny minority numerically, and only a little bit, you know?

But I’m mostly listing it here because I always have fun with the design of my bingo cards. (This was my first time, Sexist joke bingo is better looking.)

I take it we aren’t cute enough for you?, August 2012:

… why girls? Why do we not have 170 comments on our blog reaching out to women who are frustrated with geekdom? I want to get this out in the open: people love to support geek girls, they are considerably more ambivalent about supporting geek women.

The one I’m still astonished I had time for was transcribing the entire Doubleclicks “Nothing to Prove” video. 2013? I don’t remember having that kind of time in 2013!

Thanks to my many co-bloggers over the five years I was a varyingly active blogger at Geek Feminism. I may be done, at least for a time and perhaps in that format, but here’s to a new generation of geek feminist writers joining the exisitng one!

Hand holding aloft a cocktail glass
from an image by Susanne Nilsson, CC BY-SA
Image credit: Cheers! by Susanne Nilsson, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike. The version used in this post was cropped and colour adjusted by Mary.

Syndicated 2015-07-01 22:25:59 from

Code release: Spam All the Links

The Geek Feminism blog’s Linkspam tradition started back in August 2009, in the very early days of the blog and by September it had occurred to us to take submissions through bookmarking services. From shortly after that point there were a sequence of scripts that pulled links out of RSS feeds. Last year, I began cleaning up my script and turning it into the one link-hoovering script to rule them all. It sucks links out of bookmarking sites, Twitter and WordPress sites and bundles them all up into an email that is sent to the linkspamming team there for curation, pre-formatted in HTML and with title and suggestion descriptions for each link. It even attempts to filter out links already posted in previous linkspams.

The Geek Feminism linkspammers aren’t the only link compilers in town, and it’s possible we’re not the only group who would find my script useful. I’ve therefore finished generalising it, and I’ve released it as Spam All the Links on Gitlab. It’s a Python 3 script that should run on most standard Python environments.

Spam All the Links

Spam All the Links is a command line script that fetches URL suggestions from
several sources and assembles them into one email. That email can in turn be
pasted into a blog entry or otherwise used to share the list of links.

Use case

Spam All the Links was written to assist in producing the Geek Feminism linkspam posts. It was developed to check WordPress comments, bookmarking websites such as Pinboard, and Twitter, for links tagged “geekfeminism”, assemble them into one email, and email them to an editor who could use the email as the basis for a blog post.

The script has been generalised to allow searches of RSS/Atom feeds, Twitter, and WordPress blog comments as specified by a configuration file.

Email output

The email output of the script has three components:

  1. a plain text email with the list of links
  2. a HTML email with the list of links
  3. an attachment with the HTML formatted links but no surrounding text so as to be easily copy and pasted

All three parts of the email can be templated with Jinja2.

Sources of links

Spam All the Links currently can be configured to check multiple sources of links, in these forms:

  1. RSS/Atom feeds, such as those produced by the bookmarking sites Pinboard or Diigo, where the link, title and description of the link can be derived from the equivalent fields in the RSS/Atom. (bookmarkfeed in the configuration file)
  2. RSS/Atom feeds where links can be found in the ‘body’ of a post (postfeed in the configuration file)
  3. Twitter searches (twitter in the configuration file)
  4. comments on WordPress blog entries (wpcommentsfeed in the configuration file)

More info, and the code, is available at the Spam All the Links repository at Gitlab. It is available under the MIT free software licence.

Syndicated 2015-06-30 23:25:56 from

Sunday 28 June 2015

We’ve had our used moving boxes picked up, and we’ve returned my overdue library books from Glebe. We’ve hung the pictures we haven’t seen in three years because the previous place didn’t have hooks. There’s things we aren’t on top of (at least two lights need electrical work) but on the basics we really are moved in now.

We had our housewarming party last weekend. That and my then-missing photos hard drive motivated the bulk of the box unpacking. I like to occasionally have parties and invite a huge number of people that I know. In lieu of culling the guest list, I give fairly short notice. We live in a short street, which made it easy to invite the new neighbours too. It fell on the solstice. I used to have solstice barbecues up at Balls Head Reserve and heat mulled wine in a pot on the electric barbecues in the dark. Not since V was born. But since the housewarming was on June 21, we made mulled wine in the crockpot and had heated party pies and sausage rolls. The latter used to be a welcome treat on dive boats, served with mugs of instant soup, restoring our body temperature between dives.

The next two weeks are school holidays, which will be less of a contrast for V than they were for us. He’s spending the two weeks in his usual after school care provider, in their full day vacation care program. They do a lot of excursions and activities and generally contribute to the school holiday crowding in public places. We’re visiting my family for a weekend but not otherwise going away because we’re going to the snow in September (if there is snow this year). For a while my life will be mainly house things.

We aren’t far from an adult education centre, so I’d like to enrol in a few courses over the next couple of years. Music, studio photography… And I’m excited about the possibilities of a house I can change over time. The biggest project I can imagine is getting the back courtyard substantially redesigned. There’s a lot of small stuff that can go before that though. I’ve even joined Pinterest to track inspiration; I’m reminded that in my Wikimania keynote in 2012 the issue of women using Pinterest rather than editing Wikipedia came up once or twice, which now seems mostly odd, since one is an encyclopedia and the other is a visual inspiration bookmarking site. Probably my “find interesting pictures of courtyards” moments will not overlap terribly much with my “find sources for recent Australian crimes” moments.

Syndicated 2015-06-28 11:31:45 from

Monday 8 June 2015

Moving house is an exercise in unlearned helplessness and assumptions. For example: evening, an Esky sitting on our kitchen bench, having transported some of the intermediately perishable contents of the fridge. I asked Andrew if he’d unpacked it. He gave me a strange look and pointed out that he had been sick all day. But, but said my hindbrain… unpacking the Esky is… an Andrew job? The kind of thing that Andrew thinks to do? I’d thought of purchasing the thing, then bought it, then brought it home to be packed. Once I’ve provided the tools, apparently the execution is mentally filed under “Andrew”. Oops.

Likewise, after a week I finally gave up on hoping that I’d be coincidentally in the kitchen while he ran the dishwasher and thus able to show me how to, and went and searched for a manual for it. (And then went upstairs to confirm my understanding of it with him. It’s one of those “drawer” models which is actually two small dishwashers, very clever and very unnecessary for a household with four people in it, and as I suspected, wasteful. There’s no mode in which it becomes one dishwasher.)

We were both sick during the move. Mildly in terms of duration, but severely in terms of utility. It’s a rare illness when I have to take both panadol and ibuprofen to stop the pain and that was a bit terrifying when it was happening the night before the truck was to arrive. Luckily by the next morning, I was up to “walking around like a ghost” capacity. No doubt this looked delightful to the people carrying our stuff down and upstairs: the woman who needed to rest after watching them for too long. But my knowledge helped Andrew get through that night when it was his turn, cutting straight to panadol and codeine. Then he was sick enough the next day (Saturday 30th) that he spent the day being screened for contagious illness, which had negative results and bought him a good lie down, but on the minus side, no Esky unpacking happened.

The stress of the whole thing seems to have caused V to regress a few years and behave like a three year old all week, including a lengthy howling tantrum this Saturday. So that’s been tedious. Who knows, maybe I’ve shed a few years behaviorally too, it’s just harder to tell. At least A isn’t acting like a zygote. (Hard to find, makes me nauseous.) We’re continuing with V’s lifelong trend that he’s always happier outside the house. Which admittedly means that living in inner Sydney doesn’t suit him so well but it does give us all an excuse to get out of the house every day. Today we took him into Darling Harbour to go to Madame Tussauds and Wild Life Sydney while we still have an annual pass, and at the end of the trip he even thanked us and talked enthusiastically about what a fun day it had been. So not all the way three then.

Syndicated 2015-06-08 06:47:16 from

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