Today I Learned...

Putting the edible back in credibility


Review: Black Mirror.
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
Black Mirror just showed up on Netflix, and multiple sources described it as "brilliant" and "the British Twilight Zone." Having watched two episodes, I think that is simultaneously accurate and misleading. Most things described as "new Twilight Zone" feel like "The Twilight Zone, modernized." Black Mirror feels like the contemporary cultural equivalent of the The Twilight Zone. Mostly it is bringing up uncomfortable ideas in proximity to one other. I don't actually want to spend too long chasing down the symbolism or implications because I don't think they're coherent, and I will be annoyed at wasting my time on them. But they are definitely probing the unconscious, and that is neat.

Chris Rock
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
Chris Rock's interview with Vulture has been making the rounds, usually with a quote about Ferguson. The Ferguson quotes are good, don't get me wrong, but what made the bigger impression on me were more slice-of-life quotes:

"[My younger daughter] Zahra was 4 when Obama was nominated. So as far as they’re concerned, there have always been little black girls in the White House."

"Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich"

"[Comedy is] the only thing that smacks Hollywood out of its inherent racism, sexism, anti-­Semitism. It makes people hire people that they would never hire otherwise. Do they really want to do a show with Roseanne Barr? No, they want a thin blonde girl."

And while there isn't a single emblematic quote, the whole interview is suffused with aging gracefully. By which I mean, accepting both his new limitations (he thinks Hulu is a social networking site) and the gifts and responsibilities age has brought him.

Dear Men of OKCupid
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
I know you have been told over and over again to respond specifically to a woman's profile, not just send her a generic greeting. It is true that almost all successful contacts will be personal, but it is not true that all kinds of personal approaches will be successful. For example, here are two approaches that definitely demonstrate that you read the profile but will almost certainly not be successful.

1. Shotgunning 5 or 10 questions about different things she mentions on her profile. Asking one, maybe two, questions is an excellent idea, but the returns decrease and then go negative. If your message in any way resembles a cop shouting questions at a suspect with a lamp in his face, consider rewriting it.

2. Pointing out a contradiction in her profile. Especially if one of the statements is obviously a joke, but honestly even if they're both perfectly sincere this is a bad idea. It telegraphs that life with you will be a constant exercise in justifying your own existence.

Bonus tip: do not cookie seek for reading her whole profile. Either you enjoyed reading, it which case you're welcome, or you did not, in which case I don't understand why you're messaging her.

(no subject)
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
"My impression of your dad is that he has more emotional intelligence than a brick"

Blog Moving
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
More and more of my blogging is going on at a blog associated semi associated with my real name, that I hope to use for professional purposes. If you are reading this, I am almost certainly fine with you reading the new one. But I can't post a direct link, because the whole point of this new blog is to not send people evaluating me on a professional level to political opinions I held at 18. Plus the name is stupid. So if you would like the url of the new blog leave a comment, and if I don't already have your contact info, send that as well.

Numbers once again prove to be the better measure of which of two things is larger.
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
Someone did some math and it turns out that #gamergate is about attacking women.

Moments in Morality
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
I talked before about finding your moment in which you have the skills and the position to make a real difference in the world. I found a really great example of what I mean in The Warmth of Other Suns, a book about the great migration, specifically in the story of George Starling.

Starling was the son of sharecroppers, who moved to New York City. It's been weeks since I read the books so I don't remember all the details, but the important part is he worked as a porter in north-south train routes, so he got to experience the full spectrum of types of racism. Until a certain year black people could buy tickets for specific seats in the nice car in the north, but needed to move to the Jim Crow car when they reached the Mason-Dixon line. This wasn't just a symbolic problem, although the symbolism and the annoyance of moving would have been bad enough: the Jim Crow car was close to the engine, which produced a lot of pollution.

At some point the federal government outlawed this. But not everyone knew that, and life was easier for the railroad if it stayed that way. People who had paid extra for designated seats were being told to move. George Starling couldn't take this to court, or argue with the conductor (one of whom tried to kill him for less), or stop them from asking. He couldn't quit in protest. But he could inform passengers of their rights. Not all of them, because if they informed on him being fired would be a stretch goal and "clean death" would be in the upper half of outcomes. But he would sound people out as the boarded and quietly tell those he thought he could trust. Not everyone acted on that, but some did. He enabled some number of people to hold their ground and claim what they were legally entitled to.

From one point of view, it's a few pebbles. But you never know which pebble starts the rock slide.

Oh Thank G-d Clarity
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
Eron Gjoni, Zoe Quinn's boyfriend, doesn't regret posting the cheating accusations, and by implication all the harassment of Quinn, which he dismisses as "not that much". That's not okay. The most plausible theory is now that Gjoni emotionally abused Quinn, which led her to slam the self destruct button via cheating, and then try and salvage the relationship because Stockholm Syndrome. I am so glad we cleared this up.

Inequality and purchasing power
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
I am unconvinced inequality is bad for people, separate from absolutely deprivation at the lower end. Moreover, if inequality is bad, I'm not convinced the solution is "make things more equal" rather than "change how people react to inequality." So I asked a friend who believes inequality is a big deal for book recommendations, and now I'm reading The Spirit Level, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson.

One thing that occurs to me as I'm reading: measuring inequality is hard. Right now they use money, and I can see why they thought that would work, but I'm not sure it's fair. I posit that money hits diminishing returns much faster now, in part because of the shift from artisinal production to mass production. New tech gadgets are expensive and increasingly not optional, but they drop in price very quickly. I don't know what medieval nobleman spent their money on, but I assume it took more than 4 years for goods to go from nobles to peasants, while smart phones are increasingly accessible, even in among the global superpoor. Being denied medical care sucks, but there's actually very little correspondence between money spent and life span. The things one can spend truly stupid amounts of money on- vacations, jewelry- seem to me to be strictly less useful than getting a nobleman's allotment of calories vs. a peasant's allotment of calories.

Of course American poor seem to be doing pretty badly despite owning microwaves and iPhones. Which suggests either that they're super bad at buying what will make them happy, or there's something else going on. I believe that poor decision makers will be overrepresented among the very poor, but I don't think that accounts for all of it.

Women in programming
pktechgirl
pktechgirl
When Women Stopped Coding.

I don't know if I buy his explanation that the rise of personal computers explains the exodus of women from computer science (in part because his statistics don't even distinguish between the number of women dropping and the number of men rising, and because the discipline itself was evolving in a way that makes the numbers unreliable). But I will say that assumed familiarity was a huge issue when I started. I didn't program (beyond HTML) until college. This wasn't a big deal in the 101 class, because it had a lot of non majors. But the second semester freshman class assumed a lot of knowledge the 101 class hadn't covered. It was never the stuff we were graded on, but it was the stuff you needed to know in order to learn the stuff you would be graded on, which was in many ways more frustrating. And most of the students in the major did know it, because they'd learned it on their own or in their vastly better high schools.

As it was, my grades suffered for lack of assumed knowledge. And it's still an issue at work today- I just don't have the fluidity the top people seem to.

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