Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cooking and nostalgia

Today, I'm cooking wild boar ragu in the slow cooker, and polenta. And it reminds me of when we lived in Italia.
Wild boar is something we ate with my step-son's girlfriend - her family had local hunters give them wild boar. The flavor is rich and gamey in a good way.
But Polenta will always remind me of our honeymoon - up in the Italian Alps. The little hotel we stayed at invited all its guests to lunch at their Malga (a traditional farmhouse up slope from the village). To get there, we all walked along a path, through woods and flowers, along a creek, and then emerging to a pasture, high in the mountains, surrounded by grass, and rock, and flowers, with the sound of the creek audible below. Children played, running around with the dog that had accompanied us up, a happy little dog who was all energy and bounce. We sat and drank wine and chatted and explored while the hotel folk cooked over an open fire. The meat had been roasting since the morning, but the polenta - oh, the polenta pot was a thing to behold. A HUGE copper pot, over a wood fire built into the side of the farmhouse, at just the right height for us to take turns stirring with a wooden spoon that was at least 2 feet long. The polenta bubbled and boiled like the proverbial cauldron for hours, getting thicker, and creamier. Meanwhile, they plied us with coldcuts and bread and wine, but then came the grilled pork sausage and then the roasted venison and the polenta. All the picnic tables were set with bottles of red wine, as we sat at picnic tables under the summer sun, and ate until we couldn't eat any more. And as the evening began, we all walked together, down the long path, (very glad it was downhill), back to the hotel, before the next day's adventures.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PyCon Awesomeness

I was just looking over the talks and tutorials for PyCon 2010, which is coming up in February in Atlanta. All I can say is, wow! This year's lineup is incredible. We've got 2 days packed of tutorials, 3 days packed of an incredibly variety of talks aimed at all levels of pythonista, PLUS open space, poster sessions(new this year), lightning talks, and more. I can't wait!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why I'm riding the bus

EDIT: I'm talking about BICYCLES here except for one mention of motorcycles. Bike == BICYCLE, not motorcycle, in this post.

About 20 years ago or so, I was waiting at a busstop, minding my own business. Some guy walks up to me and asks: "Do you know why I'm riding the bus today?" I wasn't sure what he was up to, but figured it didn't hurt to chat with him. "No, why?" "Because I'm alive."

And he reaches into his backpack and pulls out the two halves of the bike(as in BICYCLE) helmet he was wearing the week before, the helmet he was wearing the day a car ran into him on his bike.

I had always been pretty conscientious about wearing a helmet when on a motorcycle but hadn't been as much on a bicycle. I hadn't really been biking much lately, so didn't even own a bike or a helmet.

But ever since then, whenever I get on a bike, the helmet goes on. Period. Or I don't get on.

I'm really glad I met him. Especially last Wednesday, when someone in a car ran into me on my bike. I knew my bike helmet was on, and I think that allowed me to relax enough to just go with it and not tense up much. So nothing is broken. My back is sore, my shoulder where I landed is a bit bruised. But nothing is broken. Including my head - which I think connected with his windshield and I know hit the ground when I slid off his hood flat on my back on the ground.

My thanks to the man with the two helmet halves - whoever he was - and I wish him a long and happy life. And thanks to my friend Jacquie who tightened my helmet straps a few days before the accident.

There may be long-term effects to my back or things that haven't shown up yet. But my head ain't cracked open. And I'm alive to tell this story.

Time to get a new bike helmet.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why women don't talk enough

So, the call for proposals for PyCon is out and has been out for some time. It's been circulated around. I've personally sent it to a number of women's lists I'm on. So, why don't I see any proposals from women yet? (Besides mine...)

Some reasons I've heard when I've asked women friends over the years about why they haven't proposed a talk:

a. I don't have time
None of us have enough time. I know we women have a lot of "extras" that we do every day and hobbies tend to fall by the wayside. I'm a full-time student at Stanford, with a husband, a house, 2 cats, and a teenager who doesn't want to do his homework. If I can submit a proposal, so can you.

b. I don't know enough
No one knows everything. And if you're closer to the n00b level, you'll understand what a n00b needs to hear better than an expert. Which brings us to:

c. There are experts/package creators there
Even if the creator is there, they may not be speaking, or they may be so deep into the package that they have no idea what real users of the package actually have trouble with and need to know. You do. So tell the rest of us about it. It's okay to have talks about the same package at two different levels!

d. I only use Python for this limited weird niche:
There are a lot of people interested in how to use Python for niches, and the more niches that presenters explore, the more the rest of us learn about the rich breadth of our favorite language.

e. I'm scared to speak in public:
PyCon is one of the friendliest, most tolerant conferences out there. We're all just a bunch of fellow enthusiasts: you're speaking to friends. So get out there and teach us all about something Pythonic that you love. Trust me, before I speak, not only do my knees shake, my *cheeks* shake! (It's hard to speak when your cheeks are shaking - try it sometime. ;-) But people at Pycon are ON YOUR SIDE - they *WANT* you to succeed. So, it's okay if you're a little shaky at the beginning. They'll be polite and listen anyways, because they want to hear about what you're presenting on. And once you've started, you'll be okay. Trust me on this.

So women of Python - please submit your proposals. Don't let the guys have all the fun and glory. I want to see *you* on stage at PyCon!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Status Expectations and Gender

This is a repost of something I wrote for a women-only mailing list so that I can point to it publicly. Many workplace and other community issues between genders may be related to Status Expectations on interactions. Here I try to summarize some current sociological theory on gender:

Subconscious beliefs about status affect our expectations when we interact:
*Lower status people are expected to be less competent than higher
status people, by default.
*Lower status people are viewed as having less "legitimate" claims to authority.
* Finally, the higher status person is expected to act authoritative
(decisive, proactive) and the lower status person is expected to act
"communally" (working to ease social relations, inclusive, considerate
of others, reactive, etc)

When two people interact in a situation, these expectation color our
perceptions and interactions, so, for example, the higher status
person is given "the benefit of the doubt" and their skills,
behavior, outcomes are judged less harshly than the lower status
person. The lower status person's skills are judged more harshly
(mistakes are evidence of their lower competence, while successes are
downplayed - is this sounding familiar to anyone?), and any attempt by
the lower status person to act authoritative is viewed as an
illegitimate power play. The lower status person doesn't have "the
right" to act authoritative.

Women are lower status than men (in contemporary US society, and in
many/most contemporary societies.) While education and experience can
increase our perceived status regarding competence, we are still
viewed as not having "legitimate" claim to authority. In other words,
women can be competent, but we still have to "be nice" otherwise,
we're violating what it means to be a woman (in contemporary US
society, "being a woman" includes "being nice".) Women are perceived
(rightly or wrongly) as having higher social skills than men, we are
held to higher standards on social skills than men (because we are
lower status).

Unfortunately, (white) women were socialized with the same status
expectations as men, so we hold these same expectations when we walk
into a situation. (There is some evidence that African American women
have different status expectations when interacting within a group of
African Americans - but share the hegemonic beliefs when interacting
in mixed racial groups.) We assume the man is more competent by
default (unless we have some reason to believe otherwise, such as
higher education), and we assume the man will be in charge (again,
unless we walk in with a higher "rank".)

snip of a description on the mailing list of being seen as "difficult"

This is the problem of how the lower status person is supposed to get
ahead - they're perceived as less authoritative, so they don't get
promoted to positions of authority, but if they act authoritative,
they are violating norms, and are not promoted because of their
"inappropriate behavior". (Yes - it is a double standard and a serious
catch22.) Women fall afoul of this regularly (the glass ceiling is
partly based on this effect.)

Women who *do* get ahead, often are the ones who were able to smooth
ruffled feathers by "being helpful" and playing on their social skills
strengths, to get the men to accept them as peers. At that point, they
are sometimes able to act more authoritatively without it being viewed
as "illegitimate". It's hard to accept this, though, as not just
continuing the stereotypes and reinforcing them. Either way, it's an
ugly tangled knot. Do we act "nice" to get along and perpetuate the
stereotypes? or do we act "authoritative" to get ahead, and run the
risk of being stuck in a position where we're not allowed to advance
because we're viewed as "too bitchy"? Ugh.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On trust and diversity

First read The Terrible Bargain
Then read Just below my skin

Everyone should read those - both of them. Because they give two different perspectives on what it's like to live in a world defined as heterosexual male, able-bodied, neurotypical, with most everything else a "diversity issue". What's funny for me is, I don't feel like I "fit" even in this sort of story. And I want to give my perspective because it falls somewhere in here - just different enough to, I hope, spur people to keep thinking.

I have never experienced the sense of fear and distrust portrayed in the Terrible Bargain about males. Primarily, I think, because I'm NOT neurotypical, and my enculturation or socialization or whatever you call it, didn't really take. I do remember people (especially my mother) talking to me about my interactions with others, especially males, and I suspect, trying to convince me that I was doing things that might be dangerous somehow. But, honestly, I've rarely had trouble from men, as a woman. I have had occasions where there was overt sexism - the principal at my junior high who was convinced that "wargaming is for boys", the two men who tried to threaten me (one carrying a baseball bat) at night at a busstop, being accused of being a "bitch" on occasion (which I mostly found amusing) I'm not immune to harrassment. But I am, I guess, mostly oblivious. I have never really felt a sense of exclusion or being dismissed for being female when pursuing my interests - whether those were RPGs, firearms, electronics, or computers (among others). And I have never felt the sense of generalized mistrust of males that is described in The Terrible Bargain.

I have , otoh, experienced that sense of mistrust - not about males -but more often about women, and mostly, female neurotypicals. (I was, for example, terrified before my first Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, but had no fears of walking into OSCON, or any "mixed" conference.)

You see - I don't *get* cultural norms. I have a form of what's best described as "culture blindness" - I don't just pick up the "unspoken rules" of behavior. I don't think the same way that "everyone" seems to. I keep learning more about the ways I think differently, by reading and asking and learning. But the biggest problem I've had in life is with neurotypical assumptions (especially from women) of what I "should" just "know". When I do something that ticks someone off and they respond to my query of "what did I do wrong" with "if you have to ask... " then I just can't learn anything about how to fix it. Worse is when they simply decide that I'm deliberately intending to be rude or whatever, because of my phrasing, when I had no idea that it would be interpreted that way, and don't ever bother to *tell* me or *explain* to me that it's taken that way. I've fallen afoul of that sort of thing numerous times in my life.

It's *NOT* that I don't care. It's that my perception of "norms" or of "courteous behavior" or "politeness" or whatever you want to call it is DIFFERENT because of my different brain. Unfortunately, since I grew up in the Midwest of the US, and am white and female, I'm *assumed* to be somehow empathetic and better at socializing and all sorts of things that - I just am not. So when I violate those norms, it's assumed I'm doing it *on purpose*.

When I'm with women, I get this more than with men. Because with men, *generally* (not always but more often than with women) if I *ask* about why they're acting pissed, they'll tell me. Or if I upset them, they'll challenge me on my behavior - and I get to find out what I did wrong - at the time, so that I can avoid it in the future! If they never tell me, I don't know!

I treasure the people in my life who have taken time to explain to me when I've done something that offended them. The African American woman who explained to me that the term "buckwheat" (which I'd been using for my son for a couple of years at that point) was racist, or the person who explained to me why "Indian giver" is a slur. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to explain to me so that I can avoid unintentionally offending others.

So - what's it like in my world?

What if you had to move as an adult to an alien culture that just happens to speak your same language, but with different meanings for many of the words, with different ways of "being polite". What if, because you happened to speak the "same" language, you are assumed to just know the cultural norms - for example, the holidays, the rules of the road, the little rules of interaction, that are just different enough from your own culture so that you get tripped up regularly. And what if, instead of explaining patiently to you what you did and how to avoid it in the future, everyone assumed you were tripping up on purpose because "everyone knows that" and anyone who does it "wrong" is deliberately being a troll. How comfortable would you feel in that society?

Welcome to what it feels like to live in neurotypical society.

So yeah - I tend to be, I think, more tolerant of those who have sincere questions about things like "disability 101" and "feminism 101" because frankly, most folks don't grok "neurodiversity 101". While I understand being tired of explaining what it's like to be a woman in a man's society, I perhaps have less sympathy than I might if I were neurotypical - because I am different in an invisible way. Because the neurotypical has no idea how many assumptions they are making about everyone - and when they refuse to explain in response to an honest query - they're doing *no one* any good.

No - you don't have to *personally* explain every single thing in great gory detail to every single person. But please provide pointers and a brief, clear explanation: "when you said x, I felt y, because z" and "you can get more info about this at url..." If that's too much to ask, then you have insufficient tolerance, imho, for the neurodiverse who actually *need* that explanation or for those who are simply new to your form of diversity and don't know your cultural assumptions.

Maybe this makes me a bad "ally" for whatever 'ism' you're promoting. Could be. Or, it could be a plea for everyone to please assume the best of everyone's intentions, particularly when we're *asking* for help in understanding. Because there's too much out there for *any* of us to learn on our own. The more you explain (or point to explanations) that help us all understand better why you feel the way you do and react the way you do, the better off we *all* are, and the easier time we *all* have to avoid tripping over landmines that we were unaware of.

So - thanks to the posters of The Terrible Bargain and Just Below My Skin. It *helps* to read these perspectives. Thank you for taking the time to help others understand. Including me.

Now, where'd I leave that asbestos long-underwear...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On Python and diversity

After Kirrily's OSCON Keynote, several of us had some great hall discussions and lunch discussions on the topic of women in opensource. As a result of the discussion, Aahz, a fellow pythonista, posted a call for diversity and created a new list for Python users to discuss improving diversity in the Python community.

So far, we've had a great discussion - lots of respectful participation from people of varying viewpoints. I'm so proud to belong to a community that cares about this topic (not just women in opensource, but all forms of diversity) and is taking steps to address it. I've always loved the Python community for its welcoming, friendly, accessible nature. I am also aware that, like most Open Source projects, (and indeed, the tech field in general) there is room for improvement in the diversity of our membership, committers, and officers.

If you're interested in Python and want in on the discussion, the new list is at

Join us in working to make the Python community even better than it already is!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Working with excel from Python

A new site for gathering up-to-date information about with Excel files in Python. Working with Excel Files in Python

It has links to tutorials and modules, and even a googlegroups mailing list. Looks useful for anyone who has to work with Excel from Python.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trippin' thru the Twitterverse with #captaintripps

The first posts from @larry_underwood on April 29 set the stage:

Been having some weird, weird dark-ass dreams lately. Maybe I'll write a song about them. Something about @VegasWalkinDude

Whoa. This thing is serious. RT @healthmap alert phase is 5 per WHO press conference #swineflu #h1n1

And some people are calling #swineflu and #h1n1, #captaintripps. Baby, I'm not digging this at all.

If these names (@larry_underwood, @vegaswalkindude, @motherabigail) bring to mind dreams of cornfields and crows, then you should follow @larry_underwood et al as they tweet their way thru #thestand, as it might play out nowadays with social networking and cellphones.

An impressive performance so far. I'm following over 2 dozen related accounts -- I've set up in a folder in my rss feed. I can't keep up as well on the standard twitterclient - even seesmic. But I'm an oldphart. I expect younger folks will be able to keep up just fine. In any case, if you haven't read Steven King's The Stand, now's the time. And if you have, follow these folks.

M O O N, that spells Twitter. Even Tom knows that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dirty Pitchers and Conference Presentations

Due to the nature of the discussions I've seen on this topic, I am disabling comments for this post.

I like dirty pitchers.

I like looking at sexy images of men and of women (I've made no secret that I'm bi). I enjoy watching pr0n movies on occasion, and consider a bit of whips&chains to be added spice. I've posed for some, ahem, risque photos (in my younger, more adventurous days).

Yep - I appreciate pr0n.

What I *don't* appreciate is the use of pr0n, or sexually suggestive (or so-called "glamour") images of scantilly-dressed women, in tech conference presentations.

Now - I've already said I like pr0n. So what's the big deal?

The problem is the effect the use of such images in presentations is likely to have on the (inevitably) few tech women in the audience - women who've already overcome stereotype threat, low self-efficacy, and other barriers to entry to the field and who still may suffer from imposter syndrome (don't know the terms? look 'em up!), who have made the decision to attend in spite of the low numbers of "people like me" (other tech women) - who are likely to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, who may feel, once again, that they don't really belong here (here == 'the tech field').

And no - this isn't about being a "repressed American". I lived in Italia and have seen and enjoyed the myriad sexy images of women (and men) in magazines and billboards there. But be honest with yourself: those images on the magazines and billboards are there *because* they are sexy and because sex sells (blame a million years of hardwiring for that). That's an appropriate context for those images. But what does being sexy have to do with a professional tech conference? What is showing images of "sexy women" saying about the role of women in tech? To far too many women (and men) it says that women belong at conferences as decoration - welcome as boothbabes, tolerated as marketers and maybe recruiters (after all, sex sells) - but not recognized as colleagues, as professional programmers or sysadmins or hardware techs.

The more images like this in conference presentations are viewed as appropriate by presenters or organizers at tech conferences, the less women will feel they "belong" in tech, or at least, at tech conferences. Is that the message you want to send? Is that a consequence you're willing to accept for the sake of a lame joke, or brief moment of tittilation?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Last April, my friends Harry and Michael invited us to get tickets with them for Cal Performances. One of the performances was for Valentines day - Academy of St Martin in the Field. I bought a pair of tickets, conspiring with them over dinner and a nice hotel - they're far more familiar with Berkeley than I.

So, last night we all four went to the concert. My beloved and I checked in to our lodging, and Michael and Harry picked us up and took us to dinner at a nice Thai place. The concert was great.

We stayed overnight in Berkeley - at the most delightful little B&B. The Rose Garden Inn on Telegraph st in Berkeley. It was kitschy and quaint and lovely - several buildings placed around a central garden full of fountains and gazebos and murals and wrought iron bistro tables. The room was small, with a queen bed (but nicely firm mattress) and had a gas fireplace in the corner, and a little balcony where he could step out to smoke.

I brought along a Cava and we shared a toast with Harry and Michael after the concert. This morning, the skylight awoke us with natural light (my second favorite way to be woken), and my beloved brought me a glass of Cava in bed! After a while, we wandered down to the complimentary breakfast - eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, pastries, etc. And at lunchtime, we checked out and I drove him to his bridge tournament at an SFO hotel. I'll see him late tonight.

All in all, a most pleasant valentines day and night.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Testing new app

MacBreakWeekly recommended Blogo. So I'm trying it out. We'll see how well it works for me. Consider this a test.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Serious levels of geekitudinous love!

Today, My sweetie switched iPhones with me. I had the original iPhone -paid the geektax and everything (the $100 refund from Apple went to an iTunes certificate that I'm still using... ;-) My sweetie had a 3G iPhone. Life was good.

But - he just doesn't use his iPhone the way Ghod (Steve Jobs) intended. I mean, he only used it as a *phone*. Hardly any other apps on it!

I, on the other hand, have been lusting after one of the Clarifi , a lens to slide over the iPhone lens so you can read barcodes!It works with Snappr.

Did I mention that I have *everything* on my phone? I've read several books with Stanza, listen to music with Pandora, do my grocery shopping with iNeedStuff, use both iCal and googleCal on the phone, it's even my alarm clock (because, unlike my regular bedside clock, I can set it to ring at 6:30am MTF and 7:00am W and 8amTh, to fit my son's wacky school schedule), and it's got all my contacts, and it syncs with mobileme so I don't have to worry about losing stuff. And did I mention that mine is an 8gig but his is 16gigs?

So - yeah, we stood in line today at AT&T and after a while, they called us up, swapped out the sim cards, and sent us home. I'm in the middle of re-syncing after restoring the phone. As soon as I restored it, it asked 'restore from backup?' oh yes!

I love my phone. And I also love my sweetie. And he loves me. Obviously.