Posted by banane on March 20th, 2012 — in feminism
1. Star Mites
My niece invited me to come see her in Star Mites. Yeah, that’s right, I’m the mean auntie critiquing a community theater performance. The kids were great- the play though… it’s based on the 1989 Broadway production, a science fiction romp of comic book heros turned real, and an adolescent girl as the main character.
Thing is, the feminism is super dated. Yes, the leading character is a girl. And that’s about it. Throughout the entire play she’s whining that she’s not good enough or not strong enough, and it’s just tough to watch that much annoying struggling with confidence. There’s a bit of Shakespearean mistaken identity with the evil Queen’s daughter, and an arranged marriage. There’s a time when the girl falls asleep and the captain of the fighting Star Mites kisses her (while she’s sleeping). Agh! The arranged marriage was just painful to watch, and then, the double for the lead girl goes and sacrifices herself for her mother. So basically what I get from this play is, to survive you have to marry the captain or die. Granted, she does find this hidden superpower, but has to choose between the real world or the fake world.
Second, What TV shows pass or fail the Bechdel test?
I was pleasantly surprised to find the following TV shows pass the Bechdel test- which is- two female characters talking for more than 30 seconds about topics, relevant to the plot, and not about men:
- Good Christian Bitches. Total she-drama.
- Downton Abbey. While there is an obsession with marriages and engagemetns, I can recall (and tell me if you debate this) Duchess and Lady talking about their daughters, their daughters talking about each other while getting dressed, the maid Anna talking about Mary, etc. A reason to re-watch it!
- Arrested Development (“Her?” haha) Lindsey and her Mom usually talk about other family members, which are all men.
- New Girl. Fish out of water story, so only one woman generally on the screen at one time. There is one spot where Zooey’s character is talking to Rich’s new girlfriend and they’re discussing her twee style. Otherwise, notsomuch.
- Alcatraz. Another fish-out-of-water story, so that’s relatively obvious.
Picture: 1944: IBM co-develops its first computer, the Automated Sequence Controlled Calculator aka Mark I, with Harvard University. It was used by the Navy to calculate gun trajectories. IBM’s illustrated history
In this social experiment of going off social networks, I’ve come to realize a certain calculation, or equation, in my head. I will automate it, but for now, this is the plan.
On each channel: # of new people you’ve met * (talking to loved ones/ time spent online social networks)
The “quality social rate” is the (talking to loved ones / time spent online on network)
Hopefully this shows that the ratio of quality social time is very diminished by various factors that I need to work in (oh where is my 7th grader niece and her math skills that I was “helping” with this weekend?)
- lower the score if the ratio of quality to quantity
- increase if new people involved
- decrease if large time spent (less efficient)
- show improvement if IRL events planned via network
Will probably do this all with a weighting system.
What’s Going on, or, the Why:
What I’ve noticed after weaning myself from our contemporary social networks, is the basic lesson that In Real Life (IRL) interactions are vastly more efficient than our digital replacements. And, as I wrote earlier, that there’s this compulsive “Friend anxiety” about the digital social networks.
So the weighting/calculation here is that: Facebook and Twitter, while social networks, don’t deliver the full healthy meal of a real life encounter. They’re like the McDonalds compared to the Whole Foods’ quinoa salad. They serve in a pinch, but if you subsist on a diet of it, you’re going to be sadly lacking. Oddly, or conversely, and yet just in line with my metaphor, they have addictive gaming elements that make you want to stay on them far past the desireable time period (which makes them not only less nutritious, but less efficient).
It’s not all bad, as these evolve and as we learn our behaviors in relationship to them, we can use them for their beneficial qualities. Meeting new people, that evolve into new friendships and relationships to me is the goal, the optimal health marker in social life. Though Facebook has a lot of benefits, it’s not a relationship creator, but a relationship maintainer, which is important. Twitter, though less interesting than Facebook, does lead to new friends and acquaintances, making its worth and efficiency far higher. Still, I’m going to automate this so that you can calculate and compare your score, hopefully in a way of leading a healthier social life.
I write in my head a lot. When I wrote novels more, I wrote whole chapters in my head. And when I took pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, rather, I’d change it all significantly. This blog post was actually something I wrote in an earlier post and took out. I had a few ideas during a call the other night, and wrote them down, and when I read them this morning, it jogged my memory about how I’d written about writing longer emails, but not about reading longer things.
The percolation of an idea is nice, but what’s really great is the first mental draft. As a writing technique, it takes the obvious and puts it in the trash. Will the heroine and the love interest meet up finally in chapter 3? Yes, at yoga. Then, when writing, no, it’s because he asks out the new temp in accounting and he gets stood up, leaves for a cafe, sits next to the heroine, who, all shiny and happy after yoga, commiserates with him over lamer dates.
Using social media, for one, there’s no mental drafts, and two, they’re small and shitty. It’s reduced my mental writing paper to a Post-It – the average room available from Twitter and Facebook.
As a reader- it’s not your fault. The way media comes at you determines your attention span, in a way. Imagine reading down the Facebook feed before you pour yourself a cup of coffee or open the mail. Then, imagine getting a personal letter in the mail. I literally savor those letters for some good couch & coffee time, and sometimes give it a first over read on the way up from the mailbox, then sit down to re-read. Email? Notsomuch. I noticed earlier on in this social-media-blackout that my email reading skills got a lot better. I started slowing down. I was basically over-estimating the sheer amount of stuff I could read and take in, in a day.
Now, I’m realizing as a writer, I’m slowing down. I’m expecting the reader to sit and give a bit more than the purported 3-second reading time (How much time people spend on Facebook statuses in their feed).
One aspect of the world being faster than me, that there’s a whole lot of junk out there. When it’s going by fast, you don’t really care, unless you get one or two good ones a day. And who wants to be judgmental of your aged aunt or niece anyway? In the ye old internet, you went out and found good stuff. So, I’ve started using Google Reader more, and my old and wonderful sites are still subscribed. Diary of a Bookslut, GoodReads, Jezebel, NYTimes Most Emailed Articles, etc. I’m in a la-la-land of good writing. This just makes me *feel* smarter. (*technical note: while Facebook has set up “subscriptions” it largely hasn’t been embraced by the areas of interest I follow)
As a creator-of-things, going fast is in a way a blessing and a curse. When you’re on the fifth chapter of Woodward’s Garden, you need to get yourself writing and “in the world.” It’s not hurried, but it is movement. Distraction is to avoided at all costs. I haven’t actually written since the first week of my social network diet, but I have created a ton of other things, and the overall “opening up of time” in my schedule is pretty awesome. My sister was worried I wasn’t coming back to Facebook, and I told her when (first typed “if”) it would be in proscribed amounts. It’s not like I knew all this time was being taken up, but it definitely was.
Posted by banane on March 10th, 2012 — in technology
I got a funny postcard from my brother-in-law who is not on Facebook. It’s all the living (at the time of photo) First Ladies, and I have to name them in order. I recognized maybe 3, and made some poor guesses on the other 3. And then he made me list the ones that were really still living. (answers below).
Hung out with another friend-not-on-Facebook last night, and he teased me that he used this ancient piece of technology called the PHONE and texting to coordinate things like- his four friends all DJ’ing at the bar, picking up another friend who met us later on that night, etc. “We all coordinate, it just works, we do this every week.” I asked him about old friends, that he would use to connect on Facebook, he explained he just signs up again, gets their info, and deletes his account. The privacy and security issues of Facebook make him uncomfortable.
While it’s been largely positive being offline in the last few weeks, I have to admit yesterday was a low. I hadn’t planned anything for Friday night, and my garbage disposal broke, and while fixing it has a minor reward- wow, I fixed my own appliance- it also has the major suckitude of “I’m spending hours under my sink.” I messaged a few friends trying to horn in on their plans, but for various reasons couldn’t, called my sister and brother-in-law of the postcard fame, to chat, received a nice long letter from my niece, and managed to cobble together what turned out to be a very fun night out. Bookstores were enjoyed, neighbor dogs were coddled, John Coltrane was discussed not twice but three times. Indian songs were identified in rap songs on restaurant speakers: one hit wonder Truth Hurts, (feat. Rakim), “Addictive” 2002, sample: Lata Mangeshkar, pictured. Part of quite an interesting court case regarding the attribution- also, when I heard this song, the Mangeshkar original, I was surprised by just how much of the original song sounds like the “sample”- so I’d say that she was vindicated in getting some attribution and rights out of the label. Mangeshkar has received the Guinness book world record of the most recorded artist in the world. That case seems so avoidable, ha.
(standing: Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, sitting: Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford. Alive: Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan. Photo taken: 1991)
Posted by banane on March 8th, 2012 — in technology
I cleaned out my old Google Reader, abandoned when I started using FriendFeed, and now it’s full of fun stuff, such as the video above (via SFist. I’m not sure which urban cyclist I am, maybe a mix between the commuter-hipster (work in the Mission).
Google reader is amazing. Why did I ever leave it ??!!?? Helps with the solitude and news blackout I was suffering from my loss of Twitter. Facebook was never much of a good newsreader.
Hanging out after a conference with another female programmer, or, “bragrammer,” I will admit that the first thing we talked about was our clothes. I had admired her dress during her talk, and I was wearing a kind of new sleeveless bike/street jacket vest with scarf, going for a monochrome grey-blue look.
Later on in the conversation, she admitted, “I’ve noticed, when I’m working with more women, I dress more girly. ” She works with 100% guys at her workplace, “… that we talk about clothes, and our appearance more. So I’ve started doing that with the guys.” She’ll comment on a new sweater, a new haircut, etc.. They seem taken aback, but not in a bad way, in a “no one ever notices me” way.
I work in a 50/50 workplace, well, it’s a start-up with 4 people so it’s easy to be 50/50. I’m probably creepily interested (and discuss it in SCRUM) in how their haircuts all change weekly. Still, they all have short hair and haircuts get creative then. Mine is boring, I comb it forward, trim, done. Takes about 5 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I have dropped a lot on a good haircut.
She and I were talking in a positive way about it, but there is definitely a negative way. She and I both noticed that if we wear high heels or skirts at work, it’s going to make people uncomfortable and/or get comments. It’s not that you’re wearing them to not get comments, but it’s also not an invitation to talk about your love life. Some of us, honestly, just want to wear good-looking clothes.
In programming circles, there’s a growing stereotype of the women-programmer: she’s more a punk Girl With a Dragon Tattoo than a woman in high heels. I understand it’s a sign of an evolving idea– a kind of next-step to men who want to make programming more inclusive. “Yes, I can imagine working with a woman,” the guy thinks. But when a woman walks in the door with more of a: “woman I see outside my apartment walking her dog,” “woman at a PTA meeting,” or “woman downtown drinking at that wine bar” look – who is also equally in love with gadgets, social media, github, and hackfests- they’re a little freaked out. They want that “20-something roommate’s little sister who started that comic store” back. Sometimes I get the “do you work in marketing?” or “did you actually code this by yourself?” phrases, that are a tip off. I have my hipster/punk days, sure. The ironic (usually cat) t-shirt, hair in knots, biking up to the conference. My way of handling that moment of incongruence is to sit it out, and, usually, they warm up to the new idea. I’m a hopeless believer in meritocracy?
I’m going to bring this up even though it’s more of an aside: believe it or not, it’s not about looking provocative, but I know that can be the consequence. I was trying to explain the idea of “women dressing for women” to an ex-boyfriend. He was adamant that women dressed for men, that this theory was wrong. My argument is: women, and anyone really, dresses for the best appreciator. If fellow women are also shopping all over Chinatown for the new baggy bright orange purse, they’re going to appreciate that you’ve got it, since they knew how hard it was to find (for under $40). I’ve found that to attract men, a cute sweatshirt and jeans do just fine. If I want to wear nice clothes that I think are nice and fashionable, then I’m dressing for others who also follow the trends. So, I could be dressing for men who like to shop (straight or gay, they exist), it’s really about, dressing well. BTW he was no fashionista- but wore the requisite SF uniform of black North Face and (somewhat cheap, loose) jeans.
Before you go off and talk to your local bragrammer about her clothes, be warned: if a guy mentions what you’re wearing, it’s far different than another woman. I know it’s unfair, but repeated situations have taught us this. I’d recommend to first observe and document before you start out doing it. There’s a safe way of talking about clothes: don’t talk about how it looks on their body. It will be seen more as a talking point about shopping vs. a personal comment.
Posted by banane on March 6th, 2012 — in technology
Last Tuesday I spoke on “Winning! At Hackfests” for Women Who Code. 12-15 lightening rounds of women talking about coding. It was really awesome! Favorites: using genetic algorithms to solve computing problems, and digital visualization.
Back to me. Ever since seeing myself on cable access, singing and dancing in a musical at the age of 12, I’ve really cringed whenever I see myself on screen. Mostly because of the disconnect between how I think I appear, and how I really appear. Not that I’m judging the quality of my haircut or anything. It’s just that the brain can be talked into things, etc. But this, oddly, is pretty much how I see myself, ha. I’m moving around bit and the the sync is a bit off, but I got my views across pretty clearly. Note to self: practicing really helps.
Yesterday, it was gorgeous in San Francisco. Sunny and windless like a summer’s day, well, a summer not in San Francisco. I walked up to the roof with NYTimes and settled into a reclining deck chair. Life doesn’t get much better, but wait! It does, my neighbor and her friend showed up with her adorable dog and we sat and chatted for a while. During that conversation, I arrived at the theme of this post: the unobserved life.
Does sitting on a roof, in the sun, with a view of Alcatraz, Angel Island, Martinez, wealthy yachters and Fisherman’s Wharf become much sweeter telling people about it? Or can I enjoy it without telling anyone. Is it sweeter either way? I’ve been a fan of documenting the day to day trials, not so much to sweeten them but because of the joy of sharing, perhaps. So my conclusion the other day, when I really thought of this theme, while changing my laundry, was that it is nicer not to document things like “changing my laundry.” Any daily blogger knows it reaches a compulsive height at some point to document each and every action, fed probably by comments and responses. In our blogging/writer’s circle it became “Do we write about taking an umbrella to work? It’s useful information, but are daily tasks good writing fodder?” I call this the “don’t tweet what you ate for lunch,” but in reality, I do it all the time.
I knew a woman once who took a picture of herself at work every day. A mutual friend and I discussed this- I’d done a daily photo project before, but only pulled the printed binder out when someone expressed interest. The thing about this woman is that it had a whiff of “checking if I’m still cute.” If that’s possible to decipher from a photo.
My brother-in-law takes amazing photos, and tons of them. You can tell how much beer he’s had by the frequency and number of photos. It’s an expression of loving life, and loving what he’s doing, and documenting it. It’s all fine, but a bit unnerving if you don’t know him (or this habit).
Back to the roof- it is awesome just sitting there, and I’ve had enough friends up there on sunny days to know that folks know it. There’s no point in bragging, there are definite downsides to living there- like the drugs I just confiscated from a planter, or the exorbitant housing costs. But it is possible now, with this FB hiatus, to enjoy without documenting. Oh whoops, just did, ha.
I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter for Lent. Day 11! Image from an article on how this tradition is actually American- traditional Lent observation is giving up meat, abstinence, and actually, “adding one thing,” et al. Image is a search he did on “giving up one thing.”
My co-worker was using #lent as a reason to detox. No coffee, no alcohol. We had a brief chat this morning via IM on the real/religious meaning of Lent. We had talked about it a bit the other day, I had just forgot that she didn’t know what it meant. That’s kind of dangerous- note to self, never participate in a religious holiday I don’t understand, lol. I tried to tell her something like, “Oh lapsing is part of Lent.” I’ve been on Facebook 3x, mostly to transfer my application credentials to my test user (this is work related). I went on Twitter the other day to post a #hackfest message. I had just been at a talk and promised to keep up the hashtag. I sent 2 tweets via friends, which is a bit of a circumnavigation of the rules. Still, keeping strong and not logging in.
Funny how non-practicers of Lent have *a lot of opinions*. Last night, I was told IM, gmail, linkedin, and pinterest were all social media. Well… at least I haven’t included them in my “no-go” list. One of my Twitter friends has actually placed a bet on when I’ll be back, and, when I did post the #hackfests tweet the other day, wrote me back *immediately* that I’d lapsed.
So a couple of friends have been like “I didn’t know you were Catholic,” and it doesn’t make sense, because about 99% of Swedes are Lutheran. turns out, my dad’s Mom was Southern German. She’s also the oldest American relative I have- her grandfather had fought in the Civil War and was trying to get a pension from the government years, as well as being a non-English speaker. My dad is slightly obsessed with his fights with the government.
One interesting thing about those who follow the “old religions”- Judaism and Catholicism- is that they aren’t literal bible-readers. I’m thinking because of that, they’re pretty liberal. The personal responsibility of your actions isn’t on reading and interpreting the text, but on the practice of your congregation. There’s a big rift between what is “taught” and “practiced.” With all the discussions of contraception in the media, in regarding the Republic Primary, it does call into mind religious upbringing. I remember at one point, perhaps my early teens, looking around church and realizing that most of these adults must practice contraception, or else the pews would be *really* full. Growing up in the age of AIDS, educating the young teens in not using contraception was a bad idea. I think our congregation didn’t talk about it. We just didn’t “go there.”
Photo: adorable Catholic parish church of St. Sebastian in winter, Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden
Wow, one of the biggest impacts of not reading social networks is that I’m getting much better at reading emails. If anyone has been in an online email thread with me, or on chat, they know I’m “concise to the point of being totally misunderstood,” or something along those lines, my sister Sally told me once. So, I’m reading, and re-reading (because nothing else is going on) emails. I’m including things I think are obvious, I’m acknowledging their point of view, I’m opening up other options, etc. It’s resulted in great things so far – smoothing out ruffled feathers, lining up travel plans, figuring out better logistics. Yay. To the art of the slow read.
The reason I think this is – because I was a little over-ambitious in how much I thought I could handle. Having 500 FB friends and 1800 Twitter friends, a busy inbox and various mailing lists… it’s not that it’s overwhelming, it’s just that I may be a bit disconnected in how I appear, and how I communicate.