Saturday, November 26, 2011

Job Change for Sidra

Well, I gave notice at my firm and am now looking for "bigger and better" (or at least, different), things.

Monday, November 07, 2011


So, a trending hashtag on Twitter right now is #mencallmethings, and that takes me back to the halcyon days of the web.

Why are there no pictures of Sidra online?

Well, I'll tell you why: Toupsie's Babes of the Web. Remember Toupsie's? And other things like it. I don't remember others by name. Toupsie always just struck me as a really good name for a miniature poodle, so I remembered it even after all these years.

Here's what horrified me about Toupsie and his ilk: the idea that I'd be sexually objectified by men I couldn't even see, that I couldn't even know were looking at me, was fucking creepy. More importantly, that I'd be judged before I opened my mouth, before I even posted a blog, all of that, just pissed me off. So I implemented a no-pictures policy from my first days online.

Now that I'm in my 40s, and therefore, by definition, fat and ugly (should be so lucky to be raped, amirite, all you woman-hating trolls out there?), I have allowed a very small number of pictures online, still just for marketing purposes when you get down to it (Writers of the Future, JAWS Symposium, my legal fellowship, etc.).

Yeah. If I sound bitter, it's because I am. It's because I watched feminist associates, higher-profile bloggers, get subject to the Internet equivalent of a mob screaming rape and death threats at them.

So, this is why I'm going to tell a story now. This story is about racism, and feminism. The moral of this story, is that if you haven't lived it, you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, and you need to sit down, and shut up, and listen to those who have.

I've been reading bells hooks' ain't I a woman? the past week or so. I never read it before. I had one of those epiphanies you have when you realize you're being a privileged jerk. Hence, my moral. hooks was talking about black women's experience of the word 'matriarchy', among other things.

And I, reading along, was comparing it to what I thought I knew about race and being female in America, and was basically pooh-poohing it because the word didn't bother me. It was like my own private version of intersectional examinations of the Slutwalk phenomenon. So I got about halfway through this particular chapter, and suddenly thought to myself, "Sidra, you are being a racist jackass." Why? Because I was sitting there, *white*, questioning this report of black women's experiences drawn from multiple in-person interviews and other sources, and because it had no immediate connection to my experience of growing up white and female, I was prepared to blithely discard it as simply inaccurate. I was making white the meterstick. What an idiot.

Remember the moral of my story: if you haven't lived it, sit down, shut up, and pay attention. 'It' - racism, sexism, happens all the time, you just don't notice it so much if it's not happening to you. And you really don't notice it if you're at the top of the heap doing it to other people and thinking that you're righteous.

So, to any man who reads tweets tagged #mencallmethings and says "but...but...but... this just doesn't make sense!" I say unto you, "Patriarchy: you're soaking in it."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Protests at Belo Monte Dam site (Brazil)

Hundreds Occupy Belo Monte Dam Site in Brazilian Amazon

The protest arrives one day after the second judge from the Regional Federal Tribunal voted against judge Selene Maria de Almeida's landmark decision against the Belo Monte dam.

Judge Selene Maria de Almeida's decision (which is not to be confused with last month's decision by judge Carlos Castro Martins to suspend the construction of the dam) found that the government illegally issued the project's environmental licenses because it failed to properly consult affected Indigenous peoples beforehand. That failure, according to judge Selene Maria de Almeida, is a direct violation of Article 231 of Brazil's Constitution.

"The trial is now tied at one vote in favor, and one vote against," says International Rivers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Moment is Now: Save Wirikuta

The Moment Is Now: Save Wirikuta, The Sacred Heart Of Mexico! Oct. 26-27, 2011

The Wixarika People are calling all social movements, activists and Indigenous Peoples around the world to join them in solidarity from Oct. 26-27, 2011, to help Save Wirikuta, The Sacred Heart Of Mexico.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wow - Pushing Back the Desert

"The Man Who Stopped the Desert"

So [Yacouba Sawadogo] began planting trees. It not only saved the land from degradation but also restored ground water to unprecedented levels.

"People thought I was mad when I started planting these trees," he said. "It is only now that they realise how beneficial the forest is."

People are coming back to his region after fleeing years before. See! One person can make a difference. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this.

What desert do *you* live near?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sea Level Rise and Cow Power

IPCC predictions of less than half a meter sea rise is 3 times too low.

The results are that the sea level will rise between 0.7 and 1.2 meters during the next 100 years. The difference depends on what mankind does to stop the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If we seriously reduce the emissions of CO2 globally, the sea will only rise 0.7 meters, while there will be a dramatic rise of 1.2 meter if we continue to increase CO2 emissions with the current use of energy based on fossil fuels.

In the calculations the researchers assume that we continue to emit CO2, but that we move more towards other energy supplies and reduce our use of fossil fuels and with that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. This scenario would give a rise in sea levels of around 1 meter.

In other news, Vermont Experiments in Cow Power

I can't help it, I just love the title. Cow Power! The Moo Rules!

"A recent case study in the State of Vermont suggests that deriving electricity from cow manure may be economically feasible."

So, yes, seriously: interesting. Good to see regional solutions, because there is no one right answer for a vast nation such as the U.S.A. Wind is a great idea for certain states, hydro, geothermal, or cow is great for others.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paraguay: Aché Community Removes Brazilian Farmers From Ancestral Lands

Paraguay: Aché Community Removes Brazilian Farmers From Ancestral Lands

I'll be darned. I think I've become so accustomed to reading things that go the other way (i.e., farmers/military/whatever displacing indigenous community) that I couldn't read this headline properly at all.

On Tuesday, October 11th, members from the Aché community of Chupa Pou sent individuals armed with bows and arrows into a 2,000-hectare (nearly 5,000 acres) area to defend it from Brazilian farmers who were on the land. The Chupa Pou community not only claims the land as their traditional territory, but that in 2007 the Paraguayan government — after a struggle of many years — purchased the land for the Aché people, thus giving them legal title as well. Although there were no reports of bloodshed, the Community’s maneuver did successfully get 250 Brazilian farmers to leave the area, although they told the media that they would return.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Lake Offers Clues to Climate Change

Lake Agassiz Demise; Long-Lost Lake Offers Clues to Climate Change

Quoting from the latter:

“My work focuses on abrupt or rapid climate change,” Lowell said. “The Younger Dryas offers an opportunity to study such change. The climate then went from warming to cooling very rapidly, in less than 30 years or so.”

Scientists noted that the Younger Dryas cold spell seemed to coincide with lower water levels in Lake Agassiz. Had the lake drained? And, if so, had the fresh water of the lake caused this climate change by disrupting ocean currents? This is the view of many scientists, Lowell said.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Proposed Alaska Coal Mine Divides Community, Elicits Racism

Proposed Alaska Coal Mine Divides Community, Elicits Racism

The Wishbone Hills coal mine, a controversial project proposed by the Usibelli Mine Company five miles west of the small community of Sutton, Alaska, and Chickaloon Village of the Chickaloon Tribe, is driving a wedge between local community members.

At a contentious September 7 town hall meeting that overflowed the building’s capacity to discuss the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ mining renewal permits for the project, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly favored positively. The borough’s petition cited the mine as a 'God given resource.' A Chickaloon Tribal resolution was against, said Ahtna Athabascan/Suqpiat and Chickaloon tribal member Shawna Larson, a spokesperson for Chickaloon Village Coal.

A news story September 8 in the Anchorage Daily News elicited a racist rant in the comments section that ran for at least one day before the newspaper pulled it.

This reminds me of the Brockton Power plant project - "Neighborhoods have sprung up since the original remote mine went into operation, and since the last small scale mining in the 1980s, and now lie within a half mile of the proposed project." Just because it made sense at one point, or was environmentally reasonable at one time, doesn't mean it is now.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Cosmic Weight Watching Reveals Black Hole-Galaxy History

Cosmic Weight Watching Reveals Black Hole-Galaxy History

Using state-of-the-art technology and sophisticated data analysis tools, a team of astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has developed a new and powerful technique to directly determine the mass of an active galaxy at a distance of nearly 9 billion light-years from Earth. This pioneering method promises a new approach for studying the co-evolution of galaxies and their central black holes. First results indicate that for galaxies, the best part of cosmic history was not a time of sweeping changes.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Hydropower in China With Devastating Consequences

Liu Zhi: “Chaos reigns in China’s river valleys”

Despite fatal mudslides, disappearing fish stocks and parched riverbeds, China’s headlong dam-building rush shows no signs of slowing. Liu Zhi, of the Beijing-based Transition Institute, examines why. He argues that government control of rivers, rewards for ‘growth’ and bribes from dam-builders give local governments incentives to approve dams willy-nilly. Since the losses are borne by the public, while the profits go to local officials, they get built anyway. The situation won’t change, Liu writes, until Chinese governments face the rule of law.

Overdoing anything, or doing it in the wrong spot, even something as green-seeming as hydropower damages an ecology (or multiple ecologies, as in this case). Development, even of green energy projects, without close examination of the environmental impacts of that development, helps no one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SF Couple Needs to Keep Fighting - Please!

S.F. gay married couple loses immigration battle

I'm reading between the lines (I'm an immigration attorney in private practice here in the United States) and my belief is that the couple had an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and a I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status to Lawful Permanent Residency (green card application), possibly filed with it, denied on the grounds of the definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is the agency that runs the Citizenship and Immigration Service, which decides these types of marriage-based petitions. They have some options, which I sincerely hope they take, including but not limited to:

  1. Allowing the alien spouse to be put into removal proceedings so that the Department of Justice (DOJ), which runs Immigration Court, will have to either enforce DOMA or not via the Immigration Judge's decision, which can then be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (also part of DOJ), and on to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as necessary.

    The letter that Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives earlier this year saying that the Department of Justice would no longer argue in favor of DOMA in jurisdictions where the legal standard of review is "heightened scrutiny" only comes into play, for sure, in my opinion, when the matter gets before a Circuit Court of Appeals (one that's applying that legal standard). However, since the DOJ is the agency in charge of running the Immigration Court, I'm very VERY curious to see what the A.G. thinks the ImmCourt's responsibilities are in terms of an Immigration Judge applying DOMA. If the head of the agency says the law is insupportable, how can an adjudicator under the agency (Immigration Judge) enforce it?

  2. Request Deferred Enforced Departure, which is a status granted by the DHS-Citizenship and Immigration Service, to aliens where the DHS says it has a low "priority" on removing the person from the country. In such cases, they may be allowed to obtain a work permit based on that status.
  3. I forget if you can appeal a denial of an I-130 directly, but obviously, if that's on the table, do that until you get out of the agency and before a federal court.

If I were in California, I'd be hunting this couple down to volunteer my services pro bono - I hope they have an attorney, because immigration petitions or court rarely goes well without one. It's that sticky.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Critique of G+ Names Policy

I've reviewed the recent G+ answers on names setting out the current name policy at G+ (aka and have some notes for the team. Be advised that I'm a software engineer turned lawyer and part-time professor of legal research and writing. Which means, doing this amused me *immensely*. It may or may not amuse you. Regardless, this is a serious critique of the way the policy is written.

Nutshell Critique: Your rules, as stated, do not successfully implement your policy.

More Detailed Breakdown:

This is the policy that the rules, enumerated further below, will attempt to implement:

"Google+ makes connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world. Because of this, it’s important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you. Your common name is the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you."

(Emphasis added). Now, the rules that attempt to implement this policy are:

a. Use your full first and last name in a single language.
b. Put nicknames or pseudonyms in the Other Names field.
c. Avoid unusual characters in your name.
d. Your profile and name must represent one individual.
e. Don't use the name of another individual.
f. Name Changes - one per 30 days

Let's review them together, shall we? Google defines a "common name" in a specific way - the name "your friends, family, or co-workers usually call you" - and wants you to use that name for a specific purpose - to make you easy to find by the people who you want to be able to find you and connect with you.

None of the rules enable implementation of this policy in any significant way, and half of them hamper it.

a. If your commonly used name is "Skud", just to pick an example not at all at random, the rule that you use a first and last name increases rather than decreases the difficulty of the people with whom you want to connect finding you, because those people will be searching for you via the name "Skud".

b. Ditto the requirement that you put nicknames or pseudonyms in your 'other names' field. If your commonly used name is a nickname or a pseudonym, then that is the name people with whom you want to connect will use to look for you. See, e.g., "Skud", or "James Tiptree, Jr." So, that should be your primary name, not your 'other' name, by definition.

c. Unusual characters: If your common name has unusual characters than that is what must be used to express it. Any other name is not your common name, and thus fails the definition given above and can't satisfy the stated policy.

d. One entity at a time. - This rule I'll address at a later time of my choosing.

e. Don't use someone else's name. This is problematic because names, however much we'd like them to be unique, aren't. There are many Johnny Smiths out there, and more than one might want to be on G+. However, the rule, as written, is not too atrocious - the goal is clear: don't impersonate someone else. Why not make that aspect more explicit, though?

(I call this the 'don't impersonate Wil Wheaton' rule. Because breaking it would make you a dick.)

f. Name changes - once every 30 days. This rule is murky at best (why 30 days and not 15, or 60?), but if you read between the lines, you can see the goal of persistent identity. Why don't you try to tease that out a little more? The problems inherent in this list come from the prior rules, that hamper rather than facilitate establishing your persistent identity through assumptions of what a 'common name' must looks like.

So, Google, your names "rules" as written do not implement your stated "policy" of making it easy for users to be found by those with whom they want to connect.

I give your draft a C-. Maybe a D+. (And that means, not even professionally competent.) Don't be too downcast, though, because I'm going to give you more time to work on it. Why don't you get it back to me in a week, and I'll give you some more critique. We can see where you stand, then.

Friday, August 05, 2011

G+ and names

I've been less visible on this subject than others, due to time constraints.

I happen to use my real name in my Google Profile, which, funnily, isn't[*]. In part, because I never planned to do anything with my Gmail account. But then I wound up using it for work, and then someone sent me a G+ invite, and I felt obligated to give it a try. So, it's mere coincidence that I actually conform (apparently) with the G+ community standards for naming, or whatever it is.

Skud has been great as the go-to person on this subject. Check out Google+ names policy, explained

The whole 'give us a government issued id with your name on it' thing from Google is quite creepy, aside from the issues of one's commonly-used names and one's i.d. not always matching and how being asked to use your 'real name' on your profile is problematic for minority communities (trans, women, etc), as so many have written so eloquently already.

They're asking you to scan a copy of your government issued i.d. and email it to them. What?

This insistence on a government issued ID that they claim will be deleted immediately causes a situation rife with the possibility of identity theft, doesn't it? I mean, come on, how many reading this work in IT, or used to? We all know how easy it is for things NOT to be deleted. Backups, rollbacks, cron jobs that don't work right, and the ever-popular "I'll get to it eventually."

I'll be on Diaspora, instead.

[*] Isn't my real name. Except when it is. Like, on most of my government IDs. It's just not the name on my birth certificate, which is also a government ID. Why? Because my mother remarried when we were 8 or 9. And it caused a whole big drama when I tried in my 20s to get a passport in what I *thought* was my name, but is actually an alias, let me tell you. Holy crap. So, dear Google, I've been using a pseudonym almost my entire life. Which name *should* I give you, really?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

If Your Website's Full of Assholes, It's Your Fault

Morally, if not legally. This blog post by Anil Dash, is so very very right.

I've been waiting all day to make a post about this, and my own experience moderating communities and I simply don't have the time. In fact, not having the time is why I closed down a mailing list I ran around about 10 years ago - the nature of the debates we intended to have, and did have, quite successfully, required close attention, and I couldn't give it with Silicon Valley sucking my life away - and handed over moderation of another list for Webgrrls-LA around the same time, and never enabled comments on this blog, either. Because I didn't have the time. Don't have the time? Well then, don't host the community. Because you do have a moral obligation to police assholes, call them on their racism, classism, sexism, or general jerkiness. We have that obligation because we're human beings and we live in the same communities, even when they're online ones.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lawyering as an Intrinsically Self-Sacrificing and Thus 'Female' Profession

All of the really interesting stuff I have to talk about right now is Too Personal, so there. That leaves us with links, film commentary, feminist commentary, etc. So, you know, the usual.

Feminist Commentary Portion:

I was talking to someone yesterday and commented on the fact that as an attorney you're supposed to be self-sacrificing and not allow "inconveniences" to interfere with your competent, zealous representation of your client.

Well, shit, when you put it that way, doesn't that sound like the ideal of the self-sacrificing woman, who puts her career on hold, or waits to go back to school to finish college so that she can raise the kids, or basically all the mom-type behaviors - explicitly self-sacrificing behaviors - we validate as worthwhile in women?

And yet lawyering is, paradigmatically, a male profession.

Film Commentary Portion:

Watched Dr. Zhivago last weekend (Omar Sharif) and just *loved* it, especially accompanied by vodka. Interesting to watch all the Brit actors running about pretending to be Russian. After watching and getting an Amazon gift card I promptly plunked it down for a copy of Dr. Zhivago of my very own, both the book, and the DVD.

Links Portion:

No links. You should read Hullabaloo. And International Cry. And Feministing. And Tiger Beatdown. And I Blame the Patriarchy.

Sidra has spoken: obey!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"God Told Me to Run" is Not a Qualification for Elected Office

Just for the record: I do not think that "God told me to" is a great reason to run for elected office in the United States. I'm also not keen on "God mentioned it to me the other day as a possibility", or "God and I were at the same barbecue and He didn't say anything about my idea to run for office so it must be OK," or even "God never replied to my email on the subject."

Anyone who claims God is telling them to do so specific as to run for President is, IMO, lying to cover up some other reason. You know, like an extreme thirst for power. Or something like that.

OH, wait, or (but possibly in addition to an extreme thirst for power) demonstrating their total contempt for people trying to live simple, moral lives with careful thought about their actions relative to their religious beliefs, as opposed to cookie-cutter Capitalist Jesus wankery.

(I am annoyed at my country's attitudes toward religion today, as well as at many people who keep wanting to run my country on the basis of their Awesome Love of Jesus. Can you tell?)

This post brought to you by Dubya, Sarah, and Michelle, and I'm sure, so many more idiots who try to claim divine right.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's New? I'm Mad at Google, That's What.

I have a Google+ account, but I'm going to be using my Diaspora account quite a bit more than G+, because of this problem, and this problematic treatment of perceived 'violators' by Google.

Google+ requires you to use your "real" name. Unfortunately, "real" names aren't well defined, and it's often in users' best interests to allow the use of pseudonyms and names that may not seem "real".

Friday, July 22, 2011

Accelerating Impacts from Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Threaten Human Rights

Accelerating Impacts from Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Threaten Human Rights:

Black carbon soot, ground-level (tropospheric) ozone, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are collectively known as short-lived climate pollutants. They remain in the atmosphere for days to a few decades, and are responsible for up to half of global climate change and the associated adverse impacts. They can be cut quickly using existing technologies and often using current laws and institutions. Reducing them can cut the rate of global warming in half and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds. The Arctic is currently warming at twice the rate of the global average, and Arctic melting is predicted to contribute to sea level rise of as much as 5 feet by the end of the century, according to the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. This is more than two and a half times higher than the sea level rise projected in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In addition to causing up to half of global climate change, these short-lived climate pollutants are causing serious harm to public health. Black carbon soot kills as many as 2.4 million people each year, mostly women and children. Ground-level ozone also causes other debilitating health effects, as well as significant damage to food crops. Protecting vulnerable people and places from increasing climate impacts requires fast mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Anonymous targetting tar sand developers

Intercontinental Cry reports that Anonymous announces targetting tar sands developers including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., Imperial Oil, the Royal Bank of Scotland, "and many others."

I find this interesting, I suppose, because I've always associated Anonymous with issues? I don't know, this seems like a sea change for them, and also, given that it's Anonymous, possibly a sea change for environmental activism (or at least how its viewed).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Help a Friend Out

I will accept donations via Paypal for this cause (at my email, sidra at vitale dot net, just note in the comments that it's to 'help a friend').

My friend P is going through a really tough time right now, she's homeless and unemployed and waiting on various housing lists but with no proper place to live right now. She's a good person who had to take some off time last year for medical reasons, and, like most of us, was only one 'medical reason' away from homelessness. And now that's happened. I have one of her cats, another friend as the other, and she is carrying her chihuahua with her.

So, now she's homeless and feels like a complete and utter failure because a mature grown-up who has worked all her life shouldn't be in these straits. She's in her 60s. She can't sleep out on the sidewalk. She needs help right away, and all the waiting lists with the Boston Housing Authority, and retirement income starting in a few months, all that *crap* won't help her put a roof over her head *right now*.

So, here I am, asking you, Internet, for help. I am trying to help this good friend of mine, who has always done right by other people, and lived in this neighborhood for over 20 years, keep her shit together for a few more months, or even longer.

If there are deities you talk to, please ask them to help. If you can help financially, please do. I will accept donations via Paypal, and if you are in the Boston Metro area and work for or with an organization that can help get this woman some immediate assistance, that won't require her to give up her pets, either, I'd be happy to hear from you via email (sidra at vitale dot net).

Thank you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Reason Better When We're Forced To Show Our Work

Interesting commentary I have not fully explored yet, however, I wanted to comment on the apparent narrowness of the principle being derived here:

The recent theory by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber about how human reasoning evolved for the purpose of argument uses as evidence findings that people get more reasonable when they argue. In other words, we reason better when we are trying to persuade. I am sure that is not a general rule, but when I read a good point-counterpoint I am struck by how much I can learn -- not just by a journalist saying "he says-she says" but a real back and forth, with supporting evidence from each side, not limited to what will fit in a 1000 word newspaper piece, as interpreted by a generalist.

"we reason better when we are trying to persuade." I conduct as well as teach legal analysis and writing, which means I think about persuasion somewhat regularly. This principle should be boiled down further to the blindingly obvious:

We reason better when we are forced to.

(When are you forced to explain why you think what you think, or, often, what your gut tells you to think? Well, among other things, when you have to convince someone else that what you think is RIGHT. That is, persuade them.)

We reason better when we make ourselves reason, rather than simply "know".

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Woot! The parade for the Bruins is today. Too many people for me, but I watched part of it on TV.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Human Relationships: It's the Same Old Patriarchal Story.

For whatever random reason I was searching for INTJs and something on displays of emotion (for info on INTJs, see the Meyers Briggs Temperment Indicator) and ran across a thread in a forum back in '08. The guy in a relationship was asking how to better meet the emotional needs of his INTJ girlfriend.

It was very educational, in a discouraging way.

For starters, the men in it uniformly seem to be operating from the idea that INTJ women like stereotypically feminine stuff, even when they've demonstrated in the relationship (via what might be perceived to be classic masculine, i.e., emotionally closed off, behaviors) that such is not true. Basically, the patriarchy is overwhelming these poor guys' perceptions of what their relationship should be like, so they couldn't see what their relationship actually WAS like.

All of the suggestions for what the clueless INTP guy should do for his INTJ girlfriend were flowing primarily from those sexist belief structures, rather than any awareness of what INTJs might actually like. I saw one or two comments from INTJ women who actually bothered to say anything in this thread, but, when what they said ("alone time, please") was completely ignored, I was, shall we say, less than completely surprised.

For this reason, I believe I will have to update my "care and feeding of your INTJ mate" blog post that I wrote sometime in the last decade.

For now, however:

What do INTJ women want? Time. Independence. Consultation on decisions affecting both of you. Intellectual stimulation. Self-reliance - in you. (An INTJ woman has to be very disciplined to pick up after your ass, so, be a polite roommate even after marriage.) Lots and lots of alone time - which means, you go do something with your friends, and leave her behind. Seriously. Join a soccer league or bowling, or cooking class, that gets you out of the house so she can sit and read, or meditate, or take a long walk and think deep thoughts, by herself. Buy useful gifts like an emergency kit for her car - and consult her on which one she thinks is best. Tell her you were thinking going to (poetry reading, art gallery, film festival, play, CES, IEEE annual conference) might be interesting, and ask would she like to go together? If she says yes, ask her if she would like to plan the weekend/day/evening, or just play things by ear once you get there? ALWAYS follow through on plans once you've agreed to them with her. INTJs are very good at backup plans, so if Plan A is falling to pieces on the fly, call her and tell her, so she can present Plan B and you will both remain in synchronicity with each other, and she will not be nervously wondering what the hell you are doing to her tidy plan. Romantic dinners with flowers, etc., aren't that thrilling to us unless you've proposed a "romantic date night" well in advance, but browsing different sections of bookstores or libraries on a Saturday afternoon and then regrouping to share what you've discovered is lots of fun.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Attorney General Orders Board in DOMA Cancellation Case

I don't plan to make this an immigration law blog, but:

The Attorney General has ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to make specific findings regarding a (potential) same-sex spouse's eligibility for cancellation of removal.

Cancellation of removal is a type of relief from removal granting someone a green card (permanent residency) if they have been in the U.S. for 10 years or more before being placed into removal (deportation) proceedings, are of good moral character, and show that it would cause "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to a qualifying relative such as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child. Immigration and Nationality Act 240A(b)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1).

Here's the language of the Attorney General's order:

Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a 'spouse' under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a 'spouse' under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a 'qualifying relative,' the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

1 U.S.C. 7 says: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

What 1 U.S.C. 7 means is that any time a federal agency - like the Citizenship and Immigration Service (part of the Department of Homeland Security) or the Immigration Court (part of the Department of Justice) - interprets a federal statute or federal regulation, the word 'marriage' only means opposite sex unions. Therefore, same-sex married couples are not recognized as being married.

Now, the Attorney General has stated that the Department of Justice will not defend DOMA in court under the heightened scrutiny standard. If you read the letter to House Speaker Boehner, it may not appear obvious to the lay person, but what's happening between the lines is that the AG appears to be saying the reason the DOJ can't defend the statute in court is that it would be a frivolous argument, which is unethical for a lawyer to put forward. AG Holder explains why DOJ believes that a "heightened scrutiny" analysis is required, as opposed to a rational-basis standard being applied, when examining the constitutionality of the statute. A "heightened scrutiny" analysis requires the DOJ invoke, solely, Congress's actual stated justifications for the law, and, as AG Holder puts forth, the legislative history of the statute undermines any defense the DOJ might put forward. What AG Holder says, translated into English (or at least, Sidra-English) is "we can't defend this thing, because there's no legitimate legal argument we can put forth under this legal standard". And lawyers, for all our presentation in the media as manifestations of pure evil, are not permitted to advance frivolous arguments. We face disciplinary action should we do so.

Holder is not saying that the U.S. will fail to defend the statute when the different, lower, rational-basis standard is applied, which means in federal circuits where those courts have already determined that is the appropriate standard, they'll continue to advance arguments under that standard, because the arguments available to make under that standard are legally different.

What's this got to do with the Board of Immigration Appeals? The AG can take up an issue decided by the Board and issue his own ruling. The Board hears appeals of actions taken by Immigration Courts and the Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) (I'm simplifying, but...) So, the AG decision above is a decision where the AG is overturning something the Board did, in response to an appeal by somebody of a decision of an Immigration Court or CIS. Executive agencies will still apply DOMA, at least according to Holder's letter to Boehner. Equally obviously, given what he says in this decision, the AG is overturning a decision where someone, either the Court/CIS, or the Board (or both), employed DOMA to, my guess, deny someone cancellation of removal because their proposed qualifying relative was a same-sex spouse.

So, maybe, that assertion in AG Holder's letter that agencies will execute the law even if not defend it when heightened scrutiny will be imposed, is less cut and dried than we might think. Can the DOJ, when tasked to act as a quasi-court (i.e., Immigration Court/Board of Immigration Appeals) do any less, when the Attorney General, the head of the agency, has articulated the proper legal standard for analyzing DOMA, and that under that standard the statute is unconstitutional?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Joanna Russ, RIP

Bye, Joanna. Your words and ideas live on, reaching into the future and touching minds you will never meet directly.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When "marry me" is used as a compliment, it isn't, really.

I was reading along, some various times both past and present, and encountered the use of "are you married?/I want to marry you" as short hand for extreme approval of some statement. I've done it myself but am putting stop to that habit for the reasons below.

Here's the thing, complimenting someone by telling them you love what they've done so much you want to marry them (in jest, of course, because you don't actually, unless of course you do, in which case, this little diatribe of mine is not for you) is an attempt to compliment someone through offering them something of great value, value in accordance with their own demonstrated worth. And what is the thing of great value to which the individual's worth is compared? The marriage state.

Because marriage, in this patriarchal society, is still the mountaintop for which all (women) are told to strive.

This form of compliment, thus, perpetuates the idea that marriage is a state so devoutly to be desired and of such great value that you, having demonstrated your awesomeness, have shown your worth to enter into it, is really pretty backhanded.

This woman has demonstrated great value! What a prize she is! Marry her and claim that prize!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Apt Lesson

Help the oppressor by preventing him from oppressing others

Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed.” People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! We help the one being oppressed but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand (preventing him from oppression).”

Monday, March 21, 2011

This is what those who yearn for the "Good Ol' Days" ask for

Triangle: Remembering the Fire

We don't teach this history in our schools, so I'm glad to see HBO doing this sort of documentary. It's important that we understand what it took to get so many of the things we take for granted right now and now easily we could go back to these days if we don't understand that the ultra-rich basically consider most of us a commodity that's expendable. And before you read the excerpt from the book below, a warning that some of it is not safe for work due to a few curse words. It's pages 186-191 of the book and recounts the incident at Triangle and the other strikes and the lifestyles of the Robber Barons around the time of the fire at the Triangle factory.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The rich are using the same playbook now that they did back in the early 1900's. Control the press so you propagandize the public, go after public education, use religious leaders to help your cause and trash unions.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

So. It is International Women's Day.

I am a woman with predominantly First World Problems. In the grand scheme of things, like most other people (women and men) my life is pretty meaningless. We're born, we live, we try to add meaning to our lives, and then we die. But it's *my* life, and that means my problems matter a great deal to me.

Whether the problems a woman encounters are the first world version or otherwise, many of these problems are caused by a global system called "patriarchy". These problems root themselves in a fear and hatred of women. These are problems that women on this planet steep in, every day, to varying degrees and in different ways.

Some examples are:

Rape as a tool of war.
Fistulas caused during childbirth and no access to medical care to repair them.
Being denied jobs or being underpaid for a job due to gender.
Having ones ideas dismissed by co-workers, teachers, supervisors, due to gender.
Domestic violence in the home being considered as normal.
Religions that consider women lower than men.
Rape as a tool of oppression of women.
Rape culture - dismissiveness of rape, victim-blaming, rape jokes, etc.
Being evaluated based on one's desirability to men.
Objectification of women as anything less than real, whole human beings.

What can you personally do to change this world? You can change your attitude. You can donate to micro-loan programs that help women. You can stop making rape jokes. You can make yourself a better person. It's what you, personally, can do. You can advocate for equal rights for women in the workplace. You can take complaints of sexism seriously. You can listen. No one said changing the world was easy. But it is a thing worth doing, if you operate from the basic assumption that we are all human on this planet together, and that each of our lives matter to us, as much as your life matters to you.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Power Corrupts. Absolute Power...

Representatives of the One True Church, the Universal ('catholic') Church, raped, pillaged, and then covered it up. Women died. Children grew up suffering the trauma of abuse. And it mattered not to the leaders of this Church.

Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries.

23 Countries. That's not some "certain negative situation" that should be allowed to be swept under a rug. It's criminal. It's immoral. It's betrayal of the community of faith.

I try not to hold the acts of the Church against those who are members of it. You know, you don't get to choose what crimes others engage in in the name of your faith. The problem is, when you embrace the name Catholic, when you go to Mass and put your money in the poor box or the collection plate, you are supporting in word and deed the actions of your church.

If you disagree with the things this Church as done in the name of your faith, you must act. You must disavow. You must investigate. You must punish. You must make restitution. And as long as the leaders of the Catholic Church don't, how can any "good Catholic" continue to be a member of this Church at all?

How to Write Good Code

You know, after years as a software developer, trying to explain that it is impossible to accurately estimate development times (hence the building in of extremely large safety margins - how long do you guess this subtask will take? OK, multiply by 3, because the only thing you know is that you are wrong, dead wrong, in your guess, or that something else will be hideously buggy and take forever to get right), and how you can either do it fast, or do it right, when I could just have let XKCD do it for me.

Good Code

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


QOTD: "Break thou in pieces and consume to ashes, Thou foul accursed minister of hell!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist."

More women than men discuss sexism, and it is not because we find the topic more fun, entertaining, or enjoyable than men. It is because sexism gets in the way of our freedom. I blog about sexism in geek culture not because it’s my passion, but because it gets in the way of my passions.

Emphasis added.

I don't blog and care and argue about patriarchy and oppression and gender roles because I think it's fun. I do it because sexism is an obstacle in the way of a full and complete enjoyment of my life. If you had a thorn in your paw, wouldn't you bitch about it, too?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

So, let's do this rather than make me eat cat food in my 70s

Budget baloney: Social Security isn't to blame for deficit. "In a former life I was a trustee of the Social Security trust fund. So let me set the record straight."

Remember, the Social Security payroll tax applies only to earnings up to a certain ceiling. (That ceiling is now $106,800.) The ceiling rises every year according to a formula roughly matching inflation.

Back in 1983, the ceiling was set so the Social Security payroll tax would hit 90 percent of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90 percent figure was built into the Greenspan Commission’s fixes. The Commission assumed that, as the ceiling rose with inflation, the Social Security payroll tax would continue to hit 90 percent of total income.

Today, though, the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 84 percent of total income.

It went from 90 percent to 84 percent because a larger and larger portion of total income has gone to the top. In 1983, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 11.6 percent of total income. Today the top 1 percent takes in more than 20 percent.

If we want to go back to 90 percent, the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000.


Sounds good to me. Let's do it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lady Antebellum

OK. First, points for a name that requires some exposure to Latin to fully parse.
Second, points for winning 5 grammies! Well done, and congratulations!

Third, wow, that's a hell of a name with its racist connotations evoking slavery and an implicit yearning for the period when it was a common practice. I really have to ask how deliberate that was. Or was it just privilegedly thoughtless? Seriously? If the answer to "where'd the name come from" was "we just thought it'd be cool", I guarantee you the band members are all white. (Yep, just checked the band's website.)


So, you should really just go read What Tami Said on this subject, because Tami is far more eloquent than I.

I wish to make one critical point - whenever you yearn for some feudal, antebellum, medieval, whatever-nostalgic-past - you always yearn to be at the top of it. Those from oppressed minorities, however, shall we say, have a much harder time with the necessary suspension of disbelief to imagine oneself in that position. Because one knows that the place of a member of such a group, in such a nostalgic, dreamy, racist, sexist, classist past, wouldn't be at the top, but the very bottom. Or dead in a field/ditch/shallow grave/Atlantic Ocean/etc.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Viva Free Egypt 11 Feb '11

Mubarak has stepped down as President, in what has, given the what can only be called minimal violence for a fricking REVOLUTION[*], been an absolutely stunning example of what (relatively) peaceful, unified insistence on their rights by a people can bring into the world. Congratulations, people of Egypt. That was self-determination in its purest form.

[*] To the families of the dead: that does not make your loss any less painful; I am truly sorry.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Life in the Patriarchy

Picture this conversation, if you can:

Guy: I loooove cake!

Girl: Not a big cake fan, myself. I prefer cookies. With M&Ms.

Guy: What?

Girl: I said I'm not a big cake fan.

Guy: What? But you have to love cake!

Girl: Huh?

Guy: What's wrong with you?

Girl: Nothing's wrong with me. I like cookies more than cake.

Guy: You can't love cookies more than cake. Trust me, you love cake. You have to love cake. Everybody loves cake. You need a perspective adjustment.

Girl: But I really like cookies.

Guy: But I love cake.

Girl: So, love your cake. And I'll love cookies.

Guy: I love cake, so you have to love cake, too.

Girl: I. Prefer. Cookies.

Guy: Prove it. What do you have against cake?

Girl: I don't have anything against cake. Cake is fine. You should love cake. I'm glad you love cake. I don't love cake.

Guy: Listen, I'm the man in this relationship and I love cake. That's just the way it is. You're going to have to live with it.

Girl: Fine! Love cake! Why do I have to love cake, too? Why is my preference automatically invalidated while yours isn't? Cookies! With M&Ms in them! Are great!

Guy: I know you really love cake. That's why you can't come up with a good argument against my cake.

Girl: *blink* *blink*

Guy: See? I'm right. I'm always right. You love cake. Told you.

In the radical feminist ending, she takes a flamethrower to him.

In the real world, he nags her endlessly until she agrees with him just to get him to shut up.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Missed this the first time around: "Don't Get Raped"

This is one of my new favorite blog posts on the subject, and I'm sharing it with you after missing it the first time around: "Don't Get Raped." Or, Everything Leads to Rape.

QOTD: "Rapists rape. Rapists raping lead to rape." Victims are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What To Do When You Realize Your Privilege Is Showing.

Step 1: Strike self on forehead.
Step 2: Say "Oh, crap!" (feel free to be creative here by substituting the term "crap" with another term such as "shit" or "fuck". NB: avoid terms that might be construed as having racist, sexist, or classist connotations, as you already know your privilege cluelessness. Keep it simple to avoid an iterative loop.)
Step 3: Say "I'm such an idiot for not seeing that before!"
(Optional steps 3B-3C may be initiated by member of relevant minority saying, "Well, that's because you're privileged and didn't have to think about it before." In which case, you may respond by saying, "augh! I know!")
Step 4: Say "Now I know better. I won't do that again."

Final step: KEEP THE PROMISE YOU MADE IN STEP 4. This requires you pay more attention to the oppression of people different than you. However, by noticing your privilege once, you've demonstrated you can do it again. So, practice.

(This public service announcement brought to you by a recent moment of recognizing my white privilege.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I agree with every single word

The Sunday Morning Come to Jesus Moment on Second Amendment Solutions

Here’s the real question, what exactly do these people think “Second Amendment Solutions” are?

Seriously, when you talk about “taking back America,” when you talk about “taking our guns to Washington,” when you talk about “taking them out,” when you talk about “the blood of Patriots” and civil war what exactly are you talking about? When Chuck Norris talks about a “second Revolution” what exactly is he saying? When Sharron Angle talks about “Second Amendment remedies” what does she mean? When Joe Miller talks about the Second Amendment and then hires a security company made up of radical militiamen who talk of taking up arms against the US Government, hell, who have taken up arms against the government, what exactly does he mean? When Glenn Beck stands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and talks about Second Amendment rights, when he invites the NRA onto his show to explain why Americans, each and every one, need access to fully automatic assault weapons and 30-round magazines, what are they getting at?

I’ll tell you what they mean.

They mean a women, a US Congresswomen, the wife of a US serviceman and astronaut, shot point blank through the head and lying in a puddle of her own blood.

That’s exactly what they mean.

Because that, my friends, is exactly what a “Second Amendment solution” looks like.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Naomi Wolf Wants To Out Rape Survivors?

Julian Assange's sex-crime accusers deserve to be named The shielding of sex-crime accusers is a Victorian relic. Women are moral adults and should be treated as such.

Oh, Naomi, I think your use of the word "relic" is entirely misplaced. For relics are old and dead, and sexism, honor killings, and the vilification and hatred of women, are not.

1. Wolf asserts that the idea a woman is fragile and unable to withstand public scrutiny is a core reason for not naming sex-crime accusers back when women still wore corsets every day, but ignores the idea that a woman's 'honor' was considered so vital that she was perceived as, by being "sullied" through the crime committed against her, as having shamed her entire family in addition to herself.
2. Wolf asserts that not naming a sex-crime accuser makes the crime harder to prosecute. I'm not sure that it does, but if you accept that premise as true, the anonymity of the accuser is not the problem, nor the cure, but a symptom of a system that is unwilling to take sex crimes seriously. Endemic sexism and sweeping accusations under the rug will not go away by allowing accusers names to be published so that they can be vilified directly and by name as part of the process of a sexist system sweeping them and their accusations under the rug. The problem is the system, not whether the accuser's name is published.
3. In fact, publicizing an accuser's name will enable the prosecution to be swept under the rug through trying, judging, and executing the accuser in the aforementioned court of public opinion, by slut-shaming the woman, and thereby dismissing her and her accusations. Ergo, publishing her name doesn't improve the perceived situation, it just allows women to be disregarded in a particular way. Come, come, if there's anything the experience of being a woman subject to some sort of sexual assault has taught us, it's that no woman is safe from the rending claws of being judged a slut in the court of public opinion, or, having her assault treated dismissively ("oh, come on, it wasn't really *rape*"), or, incomprehensibly, both at once.
4. The examples Wolf gives are disingenuous - she conflates accusations within a private university and the military-sexist complex with a criminal case in state or federal court. How, when someone has been charged with a crime and is being prosecuted, does not publishing the name of their alleged victim(s) stop that process from going forward? It's already going forward.
5. Not publishing the name of a victim protects their privacy and protects them from #3 listed above. It is the *accused* who has the right to see and cross-examine his accuser in a court of law (at least in the U.S.), not "everybody else."
6. Wolf says that publishing the names of rape victims helps show others that anyone can be raped. Disingenous again, as the class of persons most often victimized (women) know this already. We are taught it every day.
7. Wolf asks, "Can judicial decision-making be impartial when the accused is exposed to the glare of media scrutiny and attack by the US government, while his accusers remain hidden?" - her implicit answer is 'no', but how is it rectified by publishing his accusers' names? After all, can judicial decision-making be impartial when the accusers are exposed to the glare of media scrutiny and attack by the crushing weight of a patriarchal system, while the accused's 'honor' remains untouched? Or he's even considered, approvingly, as a 'stud'?
8. "It is no one's business whom a victim of sex crime has had sex with previously, or what she was wearing when attacked. Laws exist to protect women from such inquiries." And yet, still, she is judged. And vilified. And threatened. And treated like she is the criminal. Anonymity is not the cause of those behaviors.

The problem isn't that women should be treated like adults (moral or otherwise). The problem is that women aren't treated like, you know, men.

Honestly. What crap will I read next?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Don't Sit There and Pretend That You Had Nothing To Do With It

You purveyors of hate speech against liberals, you normalizers of violence against people for being a different political party than you. You made this possible. You incited this. You. You. You.

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot

Latest Developments in Arizona Shooting


Political 'Vitriol' Cited in Arizona Shooting

Following Giffords Shooting, Sarah Palin's Crosshairs Website Quickly Scrubbed From Internet

Grijalva: Tea Party Must Look At Their Own Behavior

Such Mind-Blowing Hubris from the Religious Set

This is what I have to say to those who claim God will smite down California for letting two women get married:

If your god is truly infinite, all-knowing and all-powerful, how can you ever presume to know His Will? To suggest that God will strike down California with a mighty earthquake is appalling hubris, claiming that you know what God wants, thinks, truly desires. How dare anyone claim to be humble before their Lord and God and also claim to know His Mind with this clarity? How can an imperfect creation contain His Perfection?

The two concepts cannot be reconciled, and thus I say unto you who try to wield God's wroth as your own weapon: you lie. You lie vilely, and you betray your faith in the process. I pity you for your smallness.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bye 2010, and Good Riddance

I was just reading Wil Wheaton's end of 2010 post, and happy that 2010 was a good year for him. It's funny how you feel you know someone you've never met, but Wil has that gift of being real, only online, and yet maintaining his privacy, and it's something I've admired about him for a long time.

But I wish 2010 had been a good year for me; I believe, overall, it hasn't. I have a day job, that's good. I quit working as a librarian (job #2), which was good (tired...too tired) and bad (money) and continued working as a professor in the fall (job #3). I like professoring. You always learn when you teach.

Basically, I struggled a lot to keep my head above water and it doesn't seem to have made any difference. Like large chunks of America, I'm pretty fucking depressed about the whole thing. From the bottom of this deep hole, 2011 doesn't look like it'll be any better.