terriko: Yup, I took this one. The eyes are paper, not photoshop (chair)
2012-10-01 12:42 pm
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Urban fantasy and the rape trope

It's a sad, sad statement about the tropes of urban fantasy that Seanan McGuire's "No, I will not rape my characters. Ever." statement makes me want to Read All The Books. I mean, I was a casual fan before, but knowing that they'll be staying rape-free? This is actually a huge selling point for me.

I don't suppose anyone else wants to recommend any other good rape-free modern fantasy?
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
2011-09-17 02:48 am
Entry tags:

Accomplishments: Thesis, My Little Pony

I submitted my thesis!

My defence date is set for October 14th at 9:30am, which is going to hurt a little since I'm currently 2h shifted, but I'll have been back for a week then so I should have time to adjust.

I have a computer at work! And access to stuff on other systems! And things to learn! And have already been watching totally inappropriate videos with my new labmates and got invited to play League of Legends with them once I have it set up. ;)

And then I came home, had dinner, and wrote about my little ponies. Learn about how My Little Ponies helped me make my first "videogame" and then read the interview with Lauren Faust to find out how Michael Bay helped bring us a show for girls worth watching (wait, what?):

OMG, Ponies! (Or… my love affair with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

I always thought my friend Sarah summed up the appeal of My Little Pony the best:

Once you believe in rainbow-coloured ponies who can talk, there isn’t much limit to your imagination.

PS - for those who haven't been reading my private posts, take special note of my new "Serious Academic" icon. ;)

PPS - I may be more myself again with a break in the thesis grind.

PPPS - Also, I might have internet at home come Monday! And John might manage to visit! Everything is awesome!
terriko: (Default)
2011-02-17 12:38 am

Recent writings: Wordpress themes considered harmful, confessions, and my sexy gamer guy-pals

Bunch of posts elsewhere:

Web Insecurity: Free Wordpress themes considered harmful

It's illegal in many places to compromise someone's site to force them to serve up spammy links. But it's not illegal to put them in a Wordpress theme and then offer it for free...

Web Insecurity: To whom are you confessing?

The Catholic church has given its blessing to a new iPhone app that helps you prepare for confession. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada isn't so sure they'd approve it, though, pointing out the the developer collects a lot of information and doesn't provide a policy about how it will be used.

Geek Feminism: “How could they not have known?!”

A post about how our male compatriots are often floored by the sort of sexism women deal with daily. Also about FatUglyorSlutty.com, troll visualizations, and ...

*grin* In that post, I wrote "my male gamer buddies don’t have people freaking out or getting, er, excited when they speak on voice chat" and it took some effort to resist adding "but some of them should. Yum." Seriously, some of my gaming buddies have incredibly sexy voices and on the entirely too rare occasion when one of them sings on teamspeak... mmm...

I know, TMI, but I've wanted to brag about my hot gamer guys all day. ;)
terriko: (Default)
2011-02-02 10:29 pm

"It's funny" does not imply "it's appropriate" -- an incredibly disgusting analogy

Trigger warning for... well, mostly for just being gross, but this is an analogy for an argument regarding rape "humour."

A number of commenters on my last GF post seem to believe that "It's funny" is a defense for doing anything you like in a public space, so I'm working on an analogy for why it isn't:

You may be familiar with the over-the-top gross-out humour of Team America: World Police. For many people, this is an incredibly funny movie. For the friend I was sitting next to, one of the best scenes seemed to be one where one of the characters starts throwing up copiously. After heaving many times his own body weight worth of fluid, the scene ends with him lying in a pool of vomit in an alley.

Let's suppose you've gone to a job interview, and it turns out one of the guys interviewing you is a big Team America fan, and he decides to re-enact said scene while showing you around the office. You turn to ask him a question, and he starts vomiting in your face. Maybe after a few minutes of vomiting, you realise that he's re-enacting a scene. Does that make it funny? Or are you busy wondering how much it's going to cost to clean vomit out of your suit and hoping that you haven't just contracted a very serious disease? Sure, he and his like minded co-workers might get a huge laugh over the look on your face, but you're probably not going to think it's funny. And neither is the CEO who hand you're supposed to shake next on the tour. Maybe you'll find it a funny story to tell later, but not right now.

Funny is very context-dependent. "It's funny" does not imply "it's appropriate." In fact, sometimes quite the opposite.

Edit for feed readers who are missing the first comment/punchline:

However, if you really want to keep making this argument, we can find someone incredibly ill to vomit on you. Because that would be funny.
terriko: (Default)
2011-01-20 01:11 pm
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Geek Feminism: Women in modern games: Let’s hope for a trend towards more awesomeness!

Another post up at Geek Feminism: Women in modern games: WoW Cataclysm has some pretty cool women in it. Let’s hope for a trend!

We've filled a lot of linkspams with discussion of negative reviews of World of Warcraft from the feminist perspective. While I still think "I KILL THINGS WITH MY LADYBITS" may be the best description of fantasy art I've ever read, it does get tiresome hearing again and again how dubious the gaming industry's attitude towards women can be. (Not because that's the wrong impression, but because it's so bloody obvious at times that it hurts to be reminded.) So I was really happy to see Now that’s what I’m talking about: the women of Cataclysm (Alliance edition). It's nice to see Blizzard improving upon their often problematic depictions of women.

Read on for more about one of the WoW ladies and one female character who surprised me.
terriko: (Default)
2011-01-07 02:16 am

Recent writings: privacy, young scientists, academia

Some fun recent stuff:

And then some more sad stuff in the form of a round-up of the links I've seen lately about women leaving academia. Poignant for me given that I've got a contract that'll take me away from academia... although I'm actually leaving mostly for the "work that has impact" reason and not so much for the others.

And then one thing that I didn't write (but I wish I had):

Let's say that fighting sexism is like a chorus of people singing a continuous tone. If enough people sing, the tone will be continuous even though each of the singers will be stopping singing to take a breath every now and then. The way to change things is for more people to sing rather than for the same small group of people to try to sing louder and never breathe.

Isn't that just the way of it? Thanks Mary for sharing that one.
terriko: (Default)
2010-12-14 12:28 am
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Geek Feminism: Letting down my entire gender

Last night, a post that has been percolating in my head for literally years came out in a rush:

Years ago, probably around when I started my master’s degree, I had a chat with a friend about grad school, and she was telling me about how she’d made the decision not to continue on for her PhD. She had a lot of good reasons that just made a lot of sense for her life and her family and her goals, but she mentioned that although she was sure it was the right choice for her, sometimes she felt like she was letting down her entire gender because so few women continue on to do a PhD.

You can read the whole thing here. It's about how hard it is to quit or say no when you're a minority within whatever it is you're doing, and it's about how leaving makes you feel guilty, and it's about dealing with that guilt for not being a shining paragon of people like you.

Once I was done the first draft, I looked at it and wondered... should I post this? Will it help anyone? I try to be very careful about what I write for geek feminism, trying for stuff that I think will maybe people's lives better in some small way. But this felt like a topic I'd seen covered before -- should I bother? Was I adding something useful to the discussion?

I did revisions to make it more coherent, more useful, easier to scan. But I still felt unsure about the post when I made it public. And today, I got one of those rare posts that makes me feel like it was really worthwhile.
terriko: (Default)
2010-10-28 10:43 am

Recent writings: Geek Feminism, Web Insecurity, CU-WISE Blog

Tuesday's post on Geek Feminism entitled : "Quick Hit: Men, Medicine, and Meritocracy vs Affirmative Action" has some interesting discussion going on in the comments. The article is about how med schools in Canada are seeing more female applicants than male ones (and are accepting a lot of women) and some of the "stealth" affirmative action that's been taken to keep medicine from getting very disbalanced.

Wednesday's post on Web Insecurity is about firesheep. Nothing too insightful, just lauding the cleverness of it in a social hacking sense, and thinking, "why didn't we ever bother to build this in university?" (We did similar hacks for fun and education of our peers.)

Wednesday's CU-WISE blog post is on the subject of Dot Diva: The Webisode. (You can also see an extended version of the dot diva post on Geek Feminism.) We see a lot of outreach aimed at teaching girls computer science, but this is a project that tries to tackle the image of computer science. Their inspirations included the changed attitudes towards forensics thanks to shows like CSI. I'm torn because I found parts of the webisode awkward, but others fun, and I really think they've got some good brains and ideas behind this project.

Thursday's Web Insecurity post Why 12 year olds may be our best bug hunters is about this cool 12 year old boy named Alex Miller who collected on one of the Mozilla bug bounties. I always find adult reactions to smart kids can be a bit strange and sometimes condescending, so this is me musing on how the 12 year olds I've worked with are actually pretty awesome.

In non-blogging news, I'm working on some stuff about web standards vs attacks and vulnerabilities that I'll probably be posting privately soon for comments and ideas before I start putting together more comprehensive ideas for the IETF websec group. Their current discussion on dnssec irks me because it seems... mildly irrelevant to some of the real problems I assumed the group was destined to solve. I'm biased on the subject of DNSSec (see The Futility of DNSSec), but surely websec should be talking about more broad initiatives?
terriko: (Default)
2010-10-10 12:24 am

Meritocracy? Might want to re-think how you define merit.

This has been cross-posted from Geek Feminism, but I found this research really fascinating so you're getting a full copy here too.

Rock on!
You might think if you put together a lot of smart people, you'd get a smart group, but new research into group intelligence shows that's not always the case. (For those of you who don't have access to online journal subscriptions through your local library or university, there are more details in the Carnegie Mellon University press release.)

What we found is that the intelligence of the team members was not significantly related to the collective intelligence, either positively or negatively.


Our first observation and the one that surprised us the most was that the proportion of females in the group seemed to be strongly predictive of the collective intelligence of the group.

However, when they looked more closely they realised that it wasn't the gender that mattered, but rather the social sensitivity of the group members (previous studies had shown that women tend to score more highly in social sensitivity).

It's not the intelligence of the group members that matters; it's their social sensitivity.

So the more your group members were socially sensitive, the better the group performed in measures of collective intelligence. The key here was that group members need to collaborate, and to do that they needed those social skills to help them work together. This includes some different conversational patterns: groups where one or two people dominated conversations exhibited low collective intelligence, while groups where more people contributed had higher collective intelligence.

This scientific research is potentially a big blow to the standard "meritocracy works" theory often espoused in open source and computing groups. Standard meritocracy rules say you do clever things and you get accepted, and this will make for perfectly good teams. But given that there's often bias that dismisses "soft skills," it turns out that folk may actually be using typical geek meritocracy rules to weed out some of the people we need to make the group most effective as a whole.

Some of my female colleagues would like to conclude that you simply just need to hire more women. While that might be easier, what it really suggests is that you need to pay attention to what people refer to as these "softer skills" and thinking about who's going to be a good team player, not necessarily focused solely on individual achievement, individual accomplishments.

So if you want to claim that the best way to build tech teams is meritocracy... you might want to think more carefully about how you define merit.

Rock show DS

The quotes in this article are drawn from Bob McDonald's conversation with Dr. Anita Williams Woolley, the lead author, on the Quirks and Quarks interview aired October 9. You can download the podcast of the segment on collective intelligence here.
terriko: (Default)
2010-09-22 01:50 pm

CompSci Woman: How I Quit Computer Science (And What Drew Me Back)

I know, I know, I don't really need to be writing for another blog; I need to be writing my thesis. But my friend Cate and her friend Maggie started this cool project trying to make it easier for women to find real women in computer science when they hit up google trying to get a sense for what things are like. Their subject for Sept/Oct is "how I got into computer science" and I joined the group by sending in my story.

I suspect many readers of this blog have heard this story (some of you lived through it with me!) but here's a teaser anyhow:

How I Quit Computer Science (And What Drew Me Back)

To explain how I ended up in computer science, you have to understand the story of how I quit.


First year computer science was geared towards students who had little to no experience with computers, and I realised that I’d be wasting several years of my life waiting for my peers to catch up. On top of that, it was boom times and CS was being viewed a shorter path to a 6-figure salary than the more education-intensive med school or law school. The people who were there weren’t really in love with the discipline; many were just in love with the idea of being rich. I wasn’t interested in paying thousands of dollars per term to waste my time with peers I didn’t respect in a program that was boring me to tears.

I was disappointed, disillusioned, and wanted a challenge that was clearly going to be a long time coming in CS. So I dropped out.

Read the rest here.

(Those of you who are women in computer science are also welcome to join! the bottom of this page has more details.)
terriko: (Default)
2010-06-17 11:43 pm

Geek Feminism: On feminism and clothes

I'd been trying very hard to avoid answering any of the feminism and clothing questions because they didn't really interest me, but I was personally disappointed with the first post about them, and then got inspired by one of the HL Project books, so I wound up writing two essays about women's clothing, business, and geekery:

Who are you dressing for? re-evaluates a reader question, keeping in mind this quote I got from a 70's feminist business guide:

In business you are not dressing to express personal taste; you are dressing in a costume which should be designed to have an impact on your bosses and teammates

And this spawned another post regarding the question Can you dress well and be taken seriously as a woman in technology? (Which was actually part of the first post originally, but it was too long so I chopped it in half.)

Clothes are a common hot-button topic on another mailing list I frequent, and it's clear that womens' experience in this area varies wildly (which is why I was trying to avoid these questions myself). So unsurprisingly, my answer wasn't satisfying to at least one person (although I don't seem to have the stream of disgust evident on the earlier post that I didn't write, so I feel pretty decent about the whole thing).

Anyhow, what I'm getting at is that Mary sensibly put up a call for guest posts on the subject of appearance and presentation issues, because as she says, we don't really have anyone who's willing or able to write some of the posts that people seem to want. If you can help, we'd love to hear from you!
terriko: (Default)
2010-04-20 02:31 am

Women in computing groups considered harmful?

I saw Hilary Mason's post, "Stop talking, start coding" and realized she had put in 4 words what I'd been debating taking as a personal philosophy.

Theory: The more time we spend on women in computing initiatives, the less time we have to actually get stuff done.

I've been turning down a lot of opportunities lately, and most of them have been in relation to women in $foo initiatives. Where $foo can be all manner of male-dominated geekdom. I've turned down chances at serving on a board of directors, recruiting, mentoring, speaking, giving campus tours, or running new women in $foo groups.

Why? Because I sat down and looked at my time a few years ago, and decided that I wanted to be the sort of person who gets stuff done, much like Sarah Mei articulates the answer in her post, "Why I don't work at Google." I like groups of smart people, but smart people like the GNU Mailman team who were working on version 3 held a lot more appeal that the Linuxchix folk who were just talking.

It'd be easy to blame women's groups as the problem, but then you'd miss the thing that I love most about women's groups:

The best women's groups aren't about separation and segregation: they're about providing an incubator for people who need a leg up to be part of the wider community.

That pretty much sounds like a recipe for making change and getting stuff done, and means the wider communities I care about are getting more awesome people. I love teaching. It's such a rewarding part of my job that I never feel that my time in the classroom working with my students is a waste. So why had I begun to feel guilty about my involvement with incubator organizations?

I recently went to a talk by Jane Goodall. She didn't talk about being a woman at all: she talked about the positive changes she's seen in the world, and how talking about these positive changes helps to inspire people more than shaking her finger seemed to. She believes this so strongly that she spends 300 days a year travelling and talking. But she says she's very careful to choose the right initiatives: Sometimes people are so desperate to Do Something that they sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. This isn't a problem exclusive to women in computing groups.

So I'm working on a checklist for choosing the right things for me:
  1. Do I want to do this?
  2. Am I the best person for this? (Or can I refer them to someone else?)
  3. Can I do it without negatively impacting my other commitments? (Will it take up too much of my time? Does it happen at a time when I'm busy?)
  4. Am I reasonably sure this will result in getting stuff done, so I'll be able to look back and be proud of what I accomplished?
I still answer my email and occasionally post a blurb from an organization that doesn't otherwise know how to reach women. It takes minimal energy to be polite and provide basic help, and I know I appreciate it when people do the same for me.  But the initiatives that get the bulk of my energy are going to be the ones where I feel like I'm really making change.
terriko: (Default)
2010-04-14 03:00 pm
Entry tags:

Don't forget to be awesome: Self confidence tricks for those in geeky fields

I took on one of the Ask A Geek Feminist questions: "How do you keep up your inner reserves of self-confidence?"

And that resulted in this post on Self Confidence Tricks.

The short version is:
  1. Remember that you're not alone
  2. Cultivate your shield of arrogance
  3. Find your cheerleading squad
  4. Celebrate your accomplishments
  5. Don’t forget to be awesome
And as usual, you can read the much longer post here: Self Confidence Tricks @ GeekFeminism.org.

Thanks especially to [personal profile] miko, who not only regularly reminds me to be awesome, but also provided that last tip. She's always an inspiration of awesomeness both in what she does and how she encourages others.

PS - Have we told you about our latest project? We're so darned cool. Watch for filming coming soon!
terriko: (Default)
2010-03-26 01:10 am
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Geek Feminism: Showing your awesomeness for Google Summer of Code

Continuing Mary's brilliant idea of having a GF classifieds article for GSoC projects, I decided to provide a second thread with tips and questions in hopes to encourage more GSoC applicants from the GF community:

Showing your awesomeness for Google Summer of Code

The short tips:
  1. Get involved with the community early.
  2. Spend some time doing research on your proposed project.
  3. Ask smart questions.
  4. Contribute to the project in advance.
  5. Don’t be afraid to apply!

See the article for more details, including a short story about how lots of women think they aren't awesome enough to do GSoC... but they really are!

Those of you involved in GSoC as mentors, we'd love some more tips if you can think of any! I'm new to this, and while I polled a couple of mentors and a former student for the ideas that made up my list, I'm sure there are more ideas worth mentioning.
terriko: (Default)
2010-03-04 02:22 pm
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Geek Feminism: "The biggest enemy of hackerspaces"

New post to Geek Feminism, in which I try to get people talking based upon this link that [personal profile] radhardened pointed out:

"The biggest enemy of hackerspaces"

I think commenter Meg nailed the more interesting problem on the head by saying that the real question is how to adapt the hackerspace model so that it's useful to a wider range of people, including those who may have not as much time. It seems like dreamwidth has done a pretty interesting job of making the open source model more attractive to more folk, and I'd love to see this done for other geek pursuits...

I'm trying to imagine drop-in fees for hackerspaces. Perhaps do it like the yoga studio I used to attend, where rather than paying for x months, you pay for x classes (or x days at the hacklab). Or playgroups for adults with kids (although I suppose some of the things around hackerspaces are dangerous, it might be possible to make a play area and have parents take turns watching the kids). Or... Hm. I'm curious as to what people already do. Perhaps another post will have to follow later.
terriko: (Default)
2010-03-02 01:12 am
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One more flaming hoop jumped through!

Latest draft is off. To celebrate, I went out for dinner, practiced clarinet, and watched Dr. Who with Ken. Life is good.

And then, after saying I wouldn't be able to do any writing for GF for a bit, I got inspired by a twitter link and wrote this:

Quick Hit: Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women

Everyone knows Hollywood isn't so good at depicting women, especially in blockbuster films. This is why we have the Bechdel test. But while I've seen a lot of good articles on the subject, Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women not only makes some great points, but it makes some of them with hilariously snarky photos:

A Strong Female Character? Not so much.

It's tempting to link more, but seriously, just go over there and look. Don't miss the one with the queen. And if you're as busy as I am lately, don't feel guilty if you're reading the article just for the pictures. ;)

So, um. Now you know.

And while I'm all link-happy, doesn't this look delicious? Plus, I've been wanting to get a copy of Fat since I heard about it. Basic premise seems to be that fat is tasty, and by having some we'll feel more satisfied by our food and thus wind up eating less in total. Sounds both fascinating and tasty.
terriko: (Default)
2010-02-12 12:46 pm

Geek Feminism: Barbie Becomes a Computer Engineer

Here's the 140-chars-or-less version of a link to my latest post at Geek Feminism

Barbie Becomes a Computer Engineer: http://ur1.ca/m6lo It is interminably weird to imagine Barbie as a potential coworker!