My main goal in being unemployed right now is to not launch entire new projects or businesses and so far I’m being very successful in restricting myself to a zine and maybe a eventually forthcoming short series of podcasts. But the zine — a very small run for a group of friends — was fun and not very hard. I like this trend of fun and not very hard. Next in fun and not very hard is my Christmas cards.
Zero businesses launched and not counting!
We’re building up to Australia’s all-in summer, compressing what the US, say, has to spend three periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas/late December, and their summer) on into six weeks beginning mid-December. We finally made it to Wet’n’Wild for the first time this summer. We picked a grey mild day for it, which was a good decision in most respects but it turns out there’s a downside to smaller crowds. Andrew took A home after a few hours to nap, and I discovered that no queuing means riding waterslides over and over and over and over, which means getting motion sick. Especially since Wet’n’Wild, in the parent-child scenario, makes the parent ride the raft facing backwards. But once I convinced a sceptical V to give me a break on the relentless stair climbing, raft-hauling, and being ill on slides, I had more fun. Wet’n’Wild is a two parent experience for sure. Liking speed and getting motion sick is my curse.
For better or for worse I’ve reached the age where my expat friends don’t come home for summer any more. So in the next few weeks we merely have a trip to my family, an extended family gathering, a friend’s annual houseparty, birthday drinks, the Google party for children, and carols. Also, hoping to squeeze a few beach trips in there. We are also rushing up on V’s last weeks at his current school, with three weeks to go yesterday. He is fortunately fairly excited if anything to go to a new, larger, school with children whom he knows from the neighbourhood. I still feel bad that he also won’t get the experience I longed for, of going to the same damn school for the whole primary years. A big part of my attraction to buying a house — in Sydney! — was to have access to that for them, so fingers crossed from here on in.
It turns out to be hard to write about what you’re doing when a big part of what you are doing is looking for work. But I can say that I set a new family record for short intercontinental trips. Little did we think Andrew’s three nights in Japan last year would be improved upon within the year, but I spent two nights in San Francisco in October. And a night on each side flying diagonally across the Pacific Ocean, of course.
I didn’t especially want to be back in San Francisco so soon after August; San Francisco’s still dust and ashes and those nights I spent pacing up and down Valencia Street completely insomniac. I certainly didn’t want to be there for about 50 hours ex Sydney. I feel like I’ve just about worked out long haul flights after all this time with a combination of pop music, fluffy books, podcasts, and very unchallenging movies. Even so. The natural state of the quite pair-bonded mother is not spending 15 hours at a time incommunicado, twice in four days.
Andrew took the week after that off to spend staycationing with me, the highlight of which was the Bondi to Bronte walk which I’ve never done in full before (only Bondi to Tamarama). Sydney has had a stormy spring and we finished it up in the rain; luckily my favourite kind of weather.
I was back to Sydney for all of five nights before blowing all my mothering credentials entirely out of the water by heading back to the USA — Hawaii — for a long-planned holiday with friends, sans husband and children. Well, I wouldn’t have gone back to Australia in between at all if it weren’t for my kids, but I also could have chosen to stay there once I got there and not gone gallivanting. I was strongly tempted to take A along but couldn’t face the 10 hour flight with her each way. She seems to have recovered quite well other than tending to yell when I leave the room, and constantly dragging a wheelie bag around saying “bye bye” to everyone.
The highlight of Hawaii was also its lowlight: riding the side of a motor boat for an hour with salt spray in my face. The lowlight was the setup: I was just standing up with the crew’s help to go to the side when the boat slammed into the water and I shot into the air and cut my foot on the floor of the boat. It was a shallow cut though, and blood and salt for the next couple of hours. I snorkelled several times, but that had the usual effect of just vividly reminding me how great SCUBA is. Some day I will go to the Big Island and dive and see the lava. At the same time in the unlikely event that’s a thing people do. I read Rainbow Rowell’s amazing Carry On when I should have been resting up for snorkeling adventures. I got so wound up I ended up roaming around on the lawns of the resort in the middle of the night, locked out of the room. I ate a lot of ahi and mahimahi. In Mexican dishes. I didn’t hear a single song on the radio released in a year beginning with 2. It was a good holiday.
I’m back in Sydney until at least the end of the year now. I am not sure what I am going to fill the time with. That is a great luxury and I intent to enjoy it.
Telsa is the direct inspiration for the entire 15 years of content on this website, especially the personal diary. Before joining LinuxChix, I first knew Telsa through her online diary (its archival title, “This was a diary, once”, is painful to read now), which I heard about through someone who read Alan Cox’s diary, and I was struck by how striking daily life could be in written form. Telsa’s diary was full of personality and snark, and singlehandedly inspired me to begin writing about my life online too.
I thought of her as a net celebrity, although not in the usual way of “married to Alan Cox”, but as “writer of one of my favourite websites”. I was therefore a little bit shy about directly interacting with her when I initially joined the LinuxChix lists in 2000, but I first met her in person in 2001 at linux.conf.au when she and Malcolm Tredinnick were hanging around debriefing and complaining about CVS, on which he was teaching a tutorial that year which Telsa later wrote up. She was grumpy and kind and normal, even if she did know CVS.
Andrew saw her again at LCA in 2003, but I didn’t go and I think I only met her one more time, in Wales in 2004 when we visited their house and due to poor planning with trains, ended up staying the night. Telsa and Alan were kind hosts and we enjoyed Telsa’s huge knowledge of local history as we walked all around Swansea.
Telsa’s final diary entry in 2006 says she “plain[ly] and simpl[y] los[t] interest in running to stand still just to understand how to use anything mechanical.” However hard she worked for it, I remember her as profoundly technically knowledgeable and an excellent teacher. A great deal of my initial learning about both CSS and character encodings came from her, and she was well known as a high level user of DocBook. A friend shared one of her posts to a private LinuxChix technical list today, walking through the differences between library packages and -devel packages in Linux distributions, and their implications for compiling software.
I hadn’t been in contact with Telsa since she withdrew from our common online communities, so since 2007 or before. I kept an eye on the very occasional updates to her website, and was pleased to think that she had found a more satisfying life outside her free software community volunteering. I still find this a happy thought.
Telsa was also a critical inspiration to me as an activist: in the early 2000s (and still) it was hugely controversial to either believe that open source communities could still work if they were more civil (the entire LinuxChix project was partly an experiment with that), and even more so to insist that they should be. Telsa is the earliest person I can think of who stood up in an open source development community and asked it to change its norms in the direction of civility. I don’t know how heavily her online harassment experiences played a part in her departing Free Software and some online communities — I hope it wasn’t a large part — but I’m sorry it happened and I’m angry.
Telsa was a brilliant and kind and strong person, and I am sorrier than I can say that we will never be in contact again. To Alan, Debbie and others who loved her: my profound sympathies for the loss of an amazing person.
After a tough month for all kinds of sad and difficult reasons, the obvious thing to do is to do something physically and psychologically challenging, something at which I progress slowly, fail regularly, and against which my comparison point is Andrew, who is both absolutely more skilled and progresses faster. So I was thrilled to open September with our intended-to-be-annual snow sports trip.
Yeah, that was sarcasm.
It went surprisingly OK, after it started exactly that promisingly. After a super difficult day at home, we got up to pack for a week in an hour with both children awake and grumpy. Everything bar the DVDs (so, beginners mistake) made it into the car and we had a good run down to Thredbo, taking about eight hours for the five hour drive, going out of our way through Goulburn, driving past my old infants school and the motel we lived at while my parents managed it, and hugely confusing and upsetting V who seemed to believe I was trying to tell him we were about to move there.
The first day, Sunday 30th, Andrew had a day looking after A while V did ski school and I skiied by myself to see if I could recover my skills. I felt fairly confident after the first day. My instructor on Monday was less impressed, and I was worried that this would be my second year entirely on Friday Flat, Thredbo’s bunny slope. So after some online encouragement I went up to Merrits with Andrew and spent Monday afternoon and part of Tuesday feeling challenged, ie, unhappy. Wednesday was my day off with the kids and the challenge paid off on Thursday when my instructor cleaned up my technique on Merrits and pronounced me “Level 4, if you ever need to tell anyone”, ie, about the same level of skill I reached as a snowboarder except in less time and with less dinner plate sized bruises. And I can get off chairlifts as a skiier. Presumably next year I will start skiing easier intermediate runs. I did a run with Andrew in which he was so thrilled I was doing well that he slid down to tell me about it and accidentally knocked me down.
On Friday though I was just about cooked. Which is OK. In an ideal world I’d do two or more long weekends of skiing a year rather than one entire week of it, but we live six hours drive from the ski fields and it is what it is.
V also had a fun week, in his case an indefatigable one. (Instructors: “he doesn’t really… get tired does he?”) With the bonus of a day off that featured the local water slide, and the anti-bonus of getting a nasty face scrape from falling off a trampoline, of all things. Someone suggested to him that he should tell people he hit a tree, but he doesn’t really understand that hitting trees is a skiing possibility. I think he imagined walking up to a tree and head-butting it.
When we came to Sydney, spring had come. The European invader trees apparently follow the European invader calendar; they reliably leaf in the first week of September. Everything is a slightly noxious looking light green while the new leaves mature.
Otherwise, my time is taken up by winding up my job and by job-hunting, as you can imagine. This included a day in Melbourne this past week, where I wandered around wondering why everyone wasn’t driving on the right, and realised that I need to travel domestically perhaps a touch more often. Drive on the left. Use multicoloured money.
I went to San Franciso a month ago this Friday, for the final stages of planning the Ada Initiative’s shutdown. The first morning I woke up there to the news of Nóirín’s death. I wrote “Nóirín was also one of the strongest and bravest people [I] will ever have the privilege of knowing” that same morning and that’s everything I want to say.
So, the only thing about that trip that makes sense to tell is some images.
Staying in the Mission and being in the sun in the streets full of trees and brightly painted houses finally made San Francisco make sense to me. As was probably inevitable, coming from another beautiful city full of gentrifiers.
Long weekday evenings in the dusk at Dolores Park, watching the fog from a distance. Seeing a rainbow.
Mad Max: Fury Road which I had never expected to see, much less like, even though I had heard about it from feminists more than action fans. (Or maybe they were both!)
But instead of rushing into Furiosa’s cab like everyone else I know, I developed an obsession with Pitch Perfect instead and walked up and down Valencia for hours in the middle of the night listening to its soundtrack.
Eating berries. And paté on apple slices.
My family sending me so much Lindt chocolate in San Francisco that I still have about ⅓ of it now. But I ate all the peanut butter balls before I left.
Broken choppy video chat images of V and A smiling at me.
Cutting down my SIM card from my broken phone with scissors rather than waiting another day to call home.
Walking on a hillside in the hot sun near Muir Woods, in a country where pines are supposed to be and eucalypts are pests.
The purple windows of the 787 that brought me home.
I’m proud of all the work we talked about in the announcement, but a few things of mine over the years in particular that I enjoyed doing a lot and that I hope will have a continuing impact:
AdaCamp. AdaCamp Melbourne was my idea, and was, for me, something of a followup to the LinuxChix/Haecksen miniconfs I founded in 2007, but, as we had done with the Ada Initiative, decoupled from the Linux community specifically, and explicitly feminist and incorporating what I’d learned from organizing earlier women’s events and meetups. It grew into much more over time, incorporating ideas from other events like quiet rooms and inclusive catering, and solving problems that plagued the events that all of the Ada Initiative staff and AdaCamp staff had been to over the years.
The guide to responding to harassment reports as an event organizer. This was based on a email I wrote to a conference organizer who was wondering what one actually does when a harassment report comes in, which, as I tend to do with my best emails, I later edited to put on the web. The wiki text has been somewhat edited and expanded of course, but is substantially similar to my initial version. It formed the basis of the enforcement manual that PyCon developed.
The AdaCamp Toolkit. I wrote more than half of this in the month between closing the AdaCamp program and launching the Toolkit, and edited the remainder from material developed internally. Not since the Geek Feminism wiki have I had so much (rather intense) fun emptying the contents of my head onto a website.
I also did a great deal of the behind the scenes project management and technical work (web work, systems administration, payments processing setup) throughout the life of the organization, and internally my documents are the core of our institutional knowledge. (I am hoping to edit a few of the fundraising documents for publication this month.) Valerie’s life will never be the same again now that everything goes in a spreadsheet. I am hoping I can offer my project management skills to another organization soon.
Thank you to Valerie Aurora, my friend and co-founder, without whom the Ada Initiative could never have existed in the first place, would never have had the vision or the conviction to do 95% of what it did, and who made a very unlikely and very lucky gamble on me as a co-founder four and a half years ago. I’m in San Francisco right now, my last trip for the Ada Initiative, so that we could do this last thing together and go out leaving as much for the community to use as possible.
Thank you to the many many people who worked and volunteered for us over the last four and a half years, who came to our events, who donated, and who advocated for, amplified, and improved our work.
As for what’s up next, I’ll be at the Ada Initiative for another couple of months. During that time, if this sentence of our shutdown notice was of interest, let’s talk:
Mary will be looking for a new position based in Sydney, Australia, working in a leadership role with the right organization.
I’ve lived in Sydney for sixteen years and I am living in the tenth residence I’ve had in Sydney. So I have a lot of experience of moving houses, and a lot of experience of drowning under a deluge of mail directed to the previous residents of my current home, sometimes several “generations” of them.
You’re not supposed to open or throw out other people’s mail, you’re supposed to mark it “return to sender, no longer at this address” and put it back in a post box. And doing this does — eventually — help as slowly the banks, governments, ex-lovers and debt collectors sending mail to the previous residents get the picture.
But it’s also a total pain in the neck. At the best of times, writing “return to sender, no longer at this address” exceeds my weekly pen output quota, and that’s before you get to trying to write on shrink-wrapped mail and other such things.
We survived our second school holidays; suddenly V is halfway through his first year of school. And by “survived” I mean “he spent 5 days a week at vacation care rather than 5 days a week at school”. The big impact on my life was needing to walk into the school grounds in order to sign him in in the mornings, required by vacation care and not by school proper. The vacation care centre is even on the school grounds so really the change was minimal, other than that he got to go on excursions most days. The school ought to have a word with them, because they can’t compete with Luna Park.
We spent the middle weekend with my parents, which was fairly par for the course. Take a toddler away for the weekend; they will defy all your ecstatic descriptions of their lovely personality and spend a substantial amount of every day being a grump.
We made it there for a snowfall last year, but missed it by a week this year, with it falling this most recent weekend instead. I’m not sorry, considering that the roads were closed for much of a day. Apparently Sydney has had its coldest day in five years or something of the kind, after an extremely mild start to winter, but we haven’t noticed because we no longer live in Sydney’s coldest and darkest house. It’s quite delightful to be inside the house and yet sometimes have sun on us. What is this revolution in construction?
We’re still reconciling ourselves to our new suburb. Honestly, this will probably be the work of a year or so. So far my list of ways that it clearly wins is quite short, but growing. Our house is (a lot) nicer. The public transport is better, even if it is buses (buses that shoot straight over the Anzac Bridge like lightning aren’t really what normally bothers me in buses). And a touch of the truly sublime: watching two winter sunsets and counting from the Iron Cove bridge. Even V throwing an epic tantrum about not wanting to walk fails to spoil the memory of the first one. At this time of year the sun sets over the ridge in Drummoyne; I’m looking forward to it coming a bit further south over the water.
Both kids are doing swimming lessons for six weeks, which means that we can swim on Saturdays. Again, that ended up being surprisingly nice, because it’s an outdoor pool so we can swim in the sun, and then there’s a west-facing glassed-in cafe to warm up in afterwards. Andrew’s picking up an after-work yoga class, perhaps I’ll pick something local too. I should be ecstatic about the cycle paths around here, first I need to overcome a whole lot of inertia to do with wrestling my bike out from under a pile of bikes and so on. I like cycling routes I already know, I think, which obviously fails after a move. But being able to cycle over the bridges will be great once I work up the nerve.
Meanwhile, Andrew and I went back in time on Friday night. We had dinner with friends at Harajuku Gyoza. That wasn’t the step back in time; precisely, although it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten in Kings Cross. We’ve never been to Harajuku Gyoza, and I don’t think I’d go to a place where the big appeal is that they yell at you when pouring sake. Probably more fun with more sake, admittedly. No, our step back in time was deciding to walk home. It was just over seven kilometres and took around an hour and a half. To complete the return to our twenty year old selves, we did it without referring to a phone or a map. Not exactly a challenge in a city we’ve lived in for half our lives, but definitely a flashback. I don’t even go outdoors much after dark now, since the kids go to bed soon after sunset, so I was even able to discover the basic joys of it simply being dark out there. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is.We walked out of our way up through Woolloomooloo and through the Domain and admired the sudden onset of skyscrapers looming over the park and cut through the hospital with its odd fluorescent fountain and puzzled at the small pine grove off the Anzac Bridge.
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
… 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.
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!
Image credit: Cheers! by Susanne Nilsson, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike. The version used in this post was cropped and colour adjusted by Mary.
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.
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.
The email output of the script has three components:
a plain text email with the list of links
a HTML email with the list of links
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:
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)
RSS/Atom feeds where links can be found in the ‘body’ of a post (postfeed in the configuration file)
Twitter searches (twitter in the configuration file)
comments on WordPress blog entries (wpcommentsfeed in the configuration file)