Recent blog entries for hypatia

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 WordPress.com)

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 puzzling.org

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 puzzling.org

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 puzzling.org

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 puzzling.org

Thursday 4 June 2015

I’ve been thinking about sympathetic magic a lot lately, since we moved house.

We lived in Glebe for a bit over three years, starting with a night of calling to two year old V wandering in the wrong direction on the landing searching for us. I finished my PhD thesis almost exactly three years ago, looking out the window over the autumn leaves in the street, just like they looked today when we walked through the empty house for the last time. For a long time, every vendor of food for half the length of Glebe Point Road knew V’s name and his taste in food (chocolate), especially when he was blond and his face was round. I slept in the house for years, I found out I was pregnant again there the day after my thirty second birthday, I laboured with A there in the middle of the night, we brought her home at lunch time that day and Andrew carried her in her car capsule up the stairs. She nursed there for the last time she ever would. The night after we moved our things out, our former neighbours invited us in for tea and sent us home with soup for dinner.

That’s a lot of work and grief and love and indeed some actual blood, in three years.

I had begun to think we’d stay in the suburb forever and we didn’t.

We’re quite close by still, and our new suburb is pretty similar in many ways. A few more pricey yoga studios and less failing bakeries. Bully for it. And I almost always feel like this for a while after I move, and it’s more acute this time because of the village feel and because we go back to Glebe most days because V is still at school and A still at daycare there.

It will help just to get settled here. To figure out what time we need to get out of bed and go to bed and how far it is to the shops and how long the daycare run is and unpack all our clothes and be able to walk into the room that the toys are stored in. (How do we have enough toys to completely carpet a room?) Walk to the nearest playground. Hang some pictures. Take some local photographs.

Syndicated 2015-06-04 12:16:45 from puzzling.org

Saturday 23 May 2015

It’s been alternatively sunny and cloudy in our last week in our current house. Dark clouds gathered and thunder rumbled as we heard that second hand furniture buyers are booked up into June, and can’t come and help us with our nice wardrobes which we’d be sad to trash. The sun shone and birds sang when the friends we had over for dinner on Thursday turned out to be moving in the same week we are, only to an apartment with absolutely no storage whatsoever, and they would take our furniture from us. Little rainclouds descend every time some unreliable jerk from Gumtree fails to pick up stuff from our front porch. And so on.

Overall, at the moment we are proving to be a cheap way for other people to furnish. Earlier today two weedy young removalists came today and effortlessly hefted our sofa bed, bookcase and barbecue to Julia’s place. (I got to assume the risk of transporting the gas bottle for the barbecue; that they don’t do.) Our older bikes are off to Bikes For Humanity. Our largesse is getting down to a cheap white cupboard and some plastic outdoor chairs. Thank goodness.

Tonight the up and down reached amusing proportions. Because we will now have a cross-suburb childcare run to do, we’re considering buying a car again after several delightful years car-free, and tonight Andrew did our first test drive for a car on sale by a private seller. All went well with the drive, fortunately, well enough that we took the vehicle identification in order to run the standard checks. And so we sat in a McDonalds running the history checks… to discover that it had a write-off history. I guess there are situations where I’d buy a repaired write-off, maybe (although for the last couple of years that hasn’t even been a thing that’s possible to do in NSW) but buying from a private seller who didn’t disclose it isn’t one of those times. Then on the way home, A had such a nasty cough that we had to stop the car so that Andrew could take her out and hold her up so she’d stop sounding like she was choking on a fully grown pig. She was overtired and frantic and he had to fight her back into her carseat. Then we made it another couple of kilometres before I shut V’s window using the driver controls… right onto his hand, which he’d stuck out the window.

V’s hand is fine. A can still inhale. We don’t have a car that’s a undisclosed repaired write-off. Sunny day.

Syndicated 2015-05-23 12:38:38 from puzzling.org

Photo circle shots

I recently ran a “photo circle”, consisting of a small group of people sending prints of their own photographs to each other. It was a fun way to prod myself to take non-kid photos.

My four photos were:

Photo circle: sun in the eucalypts

I took Sun in the eucalypts in the late afternoon of Easter Sunday, as the sun was sinking behind the eucalypts at Centennial Park’s children’s bike track. I tried to take one with the sun shining through the trees but didn’t get the lens flare right. I like the contrast between the sunlit tree and the dark tree in this one. It feels springlike, for an autumn scene.

The other three are a very different type of weather shot, taken during Sydney’s extreme rainfall of late April and very early May:

Photo circle: rainstorm

This one has the most post-processing by far: it was originally shot in portrait and in colour. I was messing around with either fast or slow shutter speeds while it poured with rain at my house; I have a number of similar photos where spheres of water are suspended in the air. None of them quite work but I will continue to play with photographing rain with a fast shutter speed. In the meantime, the slow shutter speed here works well. I made the image monochrome in order to make the rain stand out more. In the original image the green tree and the rich brown fencing and brick rather detract from showing exactly how rainy it was.

Photo circle: Sydney rain storm

This was shot from Gunners’ Barracks in Mosman (a historical barracks, not an active one) as a sudden rainstorm rolled over Sydney Harbour. The view was good enough, but my lens not wide enough, to see it raining on parts of the harbour and not on other parts. All the obscurity of the city skyline in this shot is due to rain, not fog.

Photo circle: ferry in the rain

This is the same rainstorm as the above shot; they were taken very close together. It may not be immediately obvious, but the saturation on this shot is close to maximum in order to make the colours of the ferry come up at all. I was the most worried about this shot on the camera, it was very dim. It comes up better in print than on screen, too. The obscurity is again entirely due to the rain, and results in the illusion that there is only one vessel on Sydney Harbour. Even in weather like this, that’s far from true. I felt very lucky to capture this just before the ferry vanished into the rain too.

Syndicated 2015-05-21 23:08:18 from puzzling.org

Monday 11 May 2015

When I left you, I was hiding out in my hotel room in San Francisco feeling sad. I did end up having a perfectly nice time, that’s always part of travel too. A highlight was walking through the Mission and running into someone we knew, and then dinner at Bar Tartine. Oh, and chicken and margaritas at Zuni Cafe the following day.

It’s possible that I live to eat rather than eat to live.

It’s also possible that I’d leave the house a lot more if I didn’t have kids. Travel is my visit into a childfree world.

I also saw some sweet toy poodle puppies. I didn’t eat them.

I had fantasies of spending the Saturday driving out of San Francisco, but ended up spending the entire day in my very dark hotel room as well. No surprises there. I’d like to be the sort of person who flies to Canada, works really hard, flies to the US, works really hard, and then on her day off goes driving on unknown roads in search of wine, redwoods, beaches, or something like that. It turns out that after all that work travel I am the kind of person who huddles in a hotel room with a laptop. I regret nothing.

On the Sunday I walked up, I think, Octavia Street, quite quickly, or at least by Val’s measure. That was painful, but it turns out that walking up hills slowly is even more painful. Either that, or I’ve just grown tied of cajoling children up hills after all this time. Just think, I walked up a whole hill without having an argument with anyone and without anyone wanting me to carry them while I was already carrying their bag, nappies, toys, and/or bike. And then I sat up in Lafayette Park having surreal thoughts about what I would need to get done the next day in Sydney. Intercontinental travel is very implausible.

I increasingly find flying odd too. I was in the middle of a group of four on the way back, so I basically had a slumber party with three strange men, all of whom studiously ignored me, albeit one time with difficulty when I dropped a shoe on one man who had been sleeping up until that point. Of all the things you’d think to do imprisoned in a flying metal tube, would sleeping sandwiched between strangers and watching Captain America: The First Avenger while shoes rain down rise to the top of your list?

I arrived back in the pouring rain. The pilots warned us coming in that the wind was approaching 100km/hr, but, fortunately (apparently) right behind the runway. It seemed a smooth enough landing.

I had heard it was raining in Sydney and I should have thought more carefully about the source. When the guy in the electronics shop in San Francisco has heard about rain in Sydney, there’s quite some rain in Sydney. Not as much, and not as tragically, as in the Hunter Valley, but enough that rain blew through the taxi rank at the airport as people wrestled with their luggage to extract any coats they had.

You should know that I am burying the lede in all of this. As I wrote the last entry, Andrew was preparing our side of the contracts to buy a house, and the exchange of contracts took place the following day. At the moment it’s very strange and hard to cope with, as we have to do a lot of work (finance, removalists, getting rid of furniture, figuring out schools and such) without any of the pay-off of hanging pictures or having built-ins at long last or being free of our current rental and its endless mysterious water problems. I have dark memories of the fog we walked around in for weeks after we moved to this suburb. Not to mention decidedly mixed feelings about leaving the first suburb in Sydney where we’ve ever been on chatting terms with other adults as we go about our daily business.

Good things will come of this, in the medium term, and if we work for them. Now to face into the wind.

Syndicated 2015-05-11 11:42:56 from puzzling.org

Wednesday 15 April 2015

So many things about travel are only things I remember when I travel. Which is a shame, because some of those things I forget when not traveling are bad things about travel and I wouldn’t spend so much of the rest of my time puttering around being all “why am I so mysteriously averse to traveling? how strange!” Sure, I never forget the things about airports and aircraft being hostile to all things normal and human, I remember my three continuous days of insomnia after getting home from Romania in 2007, things like that. But that’s physical discomfort. I forget the emotions. I don’t remember the defensiveness of wanting to spend multiple consecutive days in dark hotel rooms (probably culture shock), I don’t remember the constant loneliness that nicely counterbalances that so that I’m unhappy even in the hotel rooms and I don’t remember the homesickness on top of it all.

I don’t remember the punch in the gut of “almost everything I love best in the world is somewhere else entirely”.

These memories obviously brought to you by being in San Francisco rather than Sydney right now. How else would I be accessing them? And you shouldn’t think of this as an unusual trip for me, this is pretty much every damn time. Not non-stop of course, or I probably would remember better why I have mixed feelings about travel. No. It’s an acute problem and I’m right in the target zone for it: more than halfway done with the travel, mostly done with the reason for the travel, why can’t I go home now?

As I’ve been telling people, last Thursday night was my first night away from A, ever. That Friday night through to this coming Monday night were/will be the second through twelfth nights, respectively. So that’s not helping either. Apparently she’s been pretty fine with it, which is in character. She doesn’t mind when we get babysitters, she doesn’t mind being dropped at daycare, it turns out she doesn’t noticeably mind that I vanished a week ago and that a couple of days later, V vanished too. (He’s gone to visit my parents.) C’est la vie?

On the bright side, I’ve finally been to Montreal! Which is actually part of this whole sad pattern too: I get this way worse when I travel as far as the US East Coast, or Europe, than I do otherwise. But still, I’ve finally been to Montreal! I didn’t really understand their seasons until I was flying in and I noticed that the waterways were still iced up, which I have never actually seen before anywhere, let alone anywhere in the middle of spring. I didn’t leave the city, but I did go and specifically look right at the river at Vieux Port. The ice was pretty slushy but it was extensive. I went to Notre Dame, which I wouldn’t have chosen for myself but am happy about; I wasn’t aware of the French Catholic history of Montreal and the cathedral is beautiful.

I was very Australian about the temperature, which is to say, it was above freezing, so why wear a coat? I run very hot in any case, even other Australians regularly look at my outfits and say “but aren’t you cold?” However by Monday, it was 22°C anyway (up from about -5 the week before) so I didn’t have to shock everyone for long. There was definitely much less ice visible on the way out.

Australian or not, I will admit that walking in the rain on Friday when it was about 3° and I had left my raincoat, conscientiously lugged all the way from Australia, in Outremont was a bit of a challenge.

I was there for PyCon and AdaCamp. The former confirmed that if I want to go to PyCon, some day I just need to go to PyCon and stop thinking that I can go on a work trip and actually attend the conference too. A number of people I know were very surprised to hear I was there given that they didn’t see me at all, and probably some more will be surprised when they read this. I have a more reasonable approach to AdaCamp: I can attend some of it and I do, and it is much as I picture.

I’m in San Francisco now. I think five hours or so is the worst length of flight. Long enough that I spend about four hours thinking “OK, surely we’re nearly there” and checking out the flight map to find out that nope, we are in no way nearly there, short enough that there’s no institutionalisation to the plane environment. Just non-stop outrage the whole way. Plus no one feels sorry for you afterwards, unlike my Sydney to Vancouver to Montreal itinerary which caused some appreciative intake of breath from Montrealers.

Four more nights.

Syndicated 2015-04-16 06:55:30 from puzzling.org

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