Category Archives: Thoughtful

On Impurity, by J. Seale [for little red sailboat aka Olde Indie]

i emailed out to a few lists “selling” my sailboat for the cost of a poem. The sailboat found a happy new home with Alex H, a MITERS member & Hannah & their baby. I did get another poem though, by someone who enjoyed the prompt, and found it again in my inbox just now:

J. Seale
On Impurity

True voyages are never maiden nor the hands that helm them
Fearful of falling afoul of that form.
Sometimes joyful but always impure the sea is impervious,
Gently hugging the shores it meets,
Lying spread betwixt them and a comingled firmament,
Then mounting and roaring in the face of rocks and spitting gods
in the same unconcerned coupling that brought about the first cell’s split.

In a permanent embrace that stays true only to its indifference,
disrespected creed, code, race, gender are all ignored in favor of
the same militaristic contract known to voyagers across millennia
with its blue-black ink of clicks and luffs
as a pledge to the unknown,
possibly beautiful and possibly vile,
signed each day in whatever bodily issue
might be demanded as partial payment
with trembling hand lashed to the tiller if so bidden.

On pain of death all who greet the cold wind from the rail
with digits raised on both hands
in so doing leave innocence on the dock
and instead thereby pledge to sport this same death as needed
while waking and dreaming, on hand and on brow:
As her breed I will respect the intricacies of the sea.

– For Nancy Ouyang, September 2017

on strange battlebots mind-allergies

watching battlebots just makes me sad.

i don’t how to express it–

as one of my friends put it, he got into battlebots and decided to become an engineer because he watched battlebots 10 years ago.  now battlebots is on the TV again, inspiring more young boys to become engineers.

people participating in battles are overwhelmingly male-dominated. it’s all about competition and destruction.

robotics to me is something that brings me joy, and happiness, and a feeling that i am competent and skillful, a medium for me to express my creative muse.

i want everyone to enjoy building robots. but where’s the TV show that exposes the funny robots, the creative robots, the helping robots and wondrous robots that people build?

where’s the show that will get more girls interested in robotics than boys?

i am sad because i see a future ahead of me where i am always abnormal.

sure, i can be dedicated to my craft and ignore all this and just be badass and build robots so amazing that i inspire all the girls to be roboticists without even having to pay attention to these issues. that’s probably the only way to do it, to have a single-minded dedications and hone my skills in robotics until i’m near or at the top of the field. that’s how all the people interviewed on MAKERS Women in Space seem to have done it. but some part me is just —

watching battlebots — i should enjoy it, because my friends participate in it and find a lot of joy in it. but where are the grassroots competitions and friends for me to enjoy making dancing and drawing robots and educational robots with?

for whatever reason;

watching battlebots just makes me incredibly sad.

Waterjet pastries? Edelweiss Patisserie Plant Visit (April 2015)

Did you know your trader joe’s brownies in Boston are cut with a waterjet?brownies

first, youtube

On the internet, I watched a video about waterjets containing a shot of a waterjet cutting pastries.
A few more (well, a lot) youtube links later,
Inline image 1
Inline image 1
turns out that right in Medford, MA there is a waterjet being used in production at a bakery called “Edelweiss Patisserie”.
Inline image 1
Based on their website, they are essentially a contract manufacturer for baked goods. So cool!

        We produce more than products that fit your business needs—we create pastries that enhance your product line.

Our customers are category leaders in the food industry, including supermarket and club store chains, restaurants and cafes. They demand innovative, unique products to meet the needs of their sophisticated consumers and their own margin and turn standards.

We invest in product development and have the manufacturing flexibility to create almost any dessert our customers could imagine. Our business is driven by what our customers want, and we deliver! When we say we offer only the highest quality products, we mean it.

I emailed the contact email, and lo and behold, a few weeks later, the very kind owner of the place replied! He was held up by the Easter holidays.

plant visit

Thus, one spring day we drove over to Edelweiss.
edelweiss_outside
We got a sweet tour of the place by the owner himself. The place is gigantic (the pictures don’t do it justice). Here, the owner talks a little about the supply chain and inventory management needed to run the place.
tour
There was a recycling machine that crushed boxes
recyclemachine
into neat cubes, WALL-E style 🙂
recycle
Industrial quantities of strawberries
strawberries
and trash bins full of tapioca starch put the batch ingredients we use for putz’s (where I lived during undergrad) liquid nitrogen ice cream event (cryofac) to shame.
tapiocastarch
Vat of oil half as tall as me.
oil
There were horizontal bandsaws used to plane pastries
planars
horizontal_bandsaws
Here’s just a few croissants
croissants
croissants_closeup
The ovens were pretty cool because
oven
they had this mechanism inside that would lift an entire rack of pastries up so that they could be rotated and evenly heated while baking. Sort of like an industrial version of the toy vending machines with the claw you use to try to grab plushies.
ovenmechanism
 Giant chocolate machine, chocoma (I think the name is funny)
chocoma

waterjet machine for baked goods

Note: This waterjet uses water only (at 60kpsi), no garnet (it’d get all over your cake! :P)

Finally we came to the highlight, a waterjet from ?Spain? that cuts baked goods (and is in use all the time when the plant is running).

waterjet

machine_side

Here’s a closeup of the interface.
bats
The designs are pre-programmed, there’s a simple shape editor, and then other designs are emailed in to the manufacturer to be converted into DXF or whatever

video of it cutting

in more detail

what was cut:

hearts

filters

filters

right side (pump?)machine_rightside

left side (intensifier?)machine_leftside

They told this awesome story of the seal on one of the components breaking, and then they cut it themselves on the machine. Secretly, they are engineers now too 🙂
Here’s the part they fixed (maybe a water trap??), which is to the rear of the machine on the left side:
watertrap
chiller
chiller

 

The mechanism

waterjet_mechanism

mechanism

The grille
grille
The grille was a little worn!
worn_grille

misc. technology

 face detector for a high-tech version of punching in and out
 face_detector
labelmaker
labelmaker
wrapping
wrapping
all ready to be shipped!
croissants_shipready

and our going away present

brownies

The end.

edelweiss_box

gallery

same pictures in more modern webdesign look (idk what is google doing with all their photo services):
https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipP4l6DjOm33q_sNXtFdvoF0heVceXYI27uKR_BQ

nail saloon parties: laseretched stamping plates, water marbling / hydrographic printing, toner transfer, and magnetic nail polish

nail saloon

I’ve been holding nail saloon parties at my place, the idea being it would be a place where people should feel welcome to ask questions about things they might feel awkward about normally, and also a chance for me to learn about other people’s experiences that I don’t know much of anything about.

Although it turned out to be mostly preaching to the choir, I’ve improved friendships through it, learned about other people’s lives, and also experimented with nail art with folks!

Here’s a few “pieces”. I drew this with the applicators that came on the bottle (and a toothpick, I think)

laser-etched stamping plates

I tried to make stamping plates (lasercut) — here’s how the professional ones look: https://youtu.be/HxIFgvfPC1c?t=1m29s — however, I think, because I was in a hurry, the etch depth was not deep enough

(and also, we were using test tube stoppers instead of soft round stamps that conform to your nail more).

newspaper toner transfer

One person successfully did newspaper transfer, but that was perhaps one successful one try out of ten…

Here’s the instructions, using rubbing alcohol.

And if you’re not having luck, just fake it with sharpie 🙂

ombre

aka, a color gradient. this is a simple technique, just take a cosmetic sponge, put two or three colors next to each other, and then dab away — tada, you have a gradient!

the middle finger is “ombre” here

magnetic nail polish

it works! turns out you need to get the magnet patterns.

the thumb and fourth finger have gold magnetic nail polish applied

Update 8/16/15: For those wondering about MRI compatibility — it so happens I had an MRI done recently with some magnetic nail polish still on my nails. It was totally fine (not even a slight pull), and they also have a nifty device that checks if you have metal things on you before you enter the MRI room.

stickers

these sadly only lasted maybe a few days, even with a topcoat applied on top of the stickers

tools

I hunted around for a local source of things like dotting tools (for making dots) and eventually found them right at Target!

the sticker “masks” above did not work too great, but the dotting tool was handy 🙂

testimonial

“I guess I never noticed how often I take off my socks in the presence of other people until now. An eye-opening find on it’s own! I think I shall paint them from now on. It’s like the personalization of a tattoo without the peril.” — K. S.

water marbling

This is just dropping different colors into a cup of water and dipping your nails in it. I did this successfully (you want solid colors usually, and some nail polishes do not work (just dissolve into the water)). Here’s a friend’s:

Inline image 1

Here’s the coolest water marbling of nails I’ve seen

Here’s the fun technical equivalent at SIGGRAPH

conclusion

Overall, quite a bit of fun 🙂

Addressing the “skeptics” on reddit: Woman up and talk to people in real life.

as before, posting my response here because I’ve handed off my reddit account to a friend so I can’t keep trying to fix the internet. I’ll re-post to reddit when I get access again in a week.

In response to “he said she said” comment, as replicated below:

guh-internet-suchfail
4:29 AM: the point distro is now 3 for miotoss, 1 for me, instead of 2:2 as shown here. love you too reddit

I’m sure an arrest would satisfy your desire for truth [/sarcasm].

The fact that there are laws against something is evidence that it happens (so we make a law against it, e.g. no one is seriously making laws against murdering unicorns), not that it doesn’t happen. For instance, there’s laws against speeding and jaywalking, and they definitely still happen. Another example, rape is illegal and people do get arrested for rape, yet people still doubt it happens. Therefore, nothing you read on the internet will convince you, especially if you start from “everyone is lying to me / people are all liars” and the thought is on the tip of your tongue ready to leap out the second you read something contrary to your beliefs.

So seriously, just go talk to people in real life—everyone will be much happier, you and I included. In real life, you will have to look people in face and stare them in the eye and deal with the fact that you could end up feeling sh***y about yourself when you call your friends a liar to their face.

I tell my friends in real life when they are being wittingly or unwittingly sexist, and I feel sh***y as f**k all when I do so. But I deal with it, I deal with their anger and resentment and backlash, I deal with them saying “bulls**t” to my face, I deal with them saying “I’m too busy dealing with my own life and issues to listen to you”, I deal with them saying “I only care about hardcore technical issues and I’m proud of that”, I accept they will tell me “I don’t care about your pet cause, stop talking about it”, I listen to why they are feeling the way they do—I do all this so that we can grow together, and because I’m a grown-up woman and I’m their friend. Because I accept that, if I want them to listen to me, I need to listen to them too.

I listen to them, because I know what it feels like to not be listened to.

I’m far from perfect at listening instead of reacting in anger, because I’m human. But at least I try.

I’m challenging you to do the same. Get off the internet and go talk to people in person. Woman up, like I did, and confront them in real life. Engage with people in order to grow your empathy and understanding of why other people believe what they do, instead of trying to prove to yourself what you already believe. And don’t sleep easy until you do.

It will take effort and time away from honing your technical skills. You will have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and distressed. You will have to accept people’s anger and distrust and hurt and discomfort and apathy and backlash at you. You will have to work to seek out opposing opinions instead of shutting them down. You will have to work to gracefully accept criticism when you inevitably get angry, fail at listening, and fail to hold yourself up to your own standards.You will have to acknowledge the limitations of statistics and the limitations of your knowledge—you will have to put all your opinions aside so that you can fully be there when your friend is asking you to listen to her. You will have to work to broaden your circle of real friends, not just token friends, so that you can talk to people with diverse life experiences with whom you have a history of doing things for in return, instead of just demanding their knowledge and opinion and attention in a one-way relationship—you will have to ask for their trust in you, instead of asking them to lay their painful life stories before your skeptical eyes for you to tear apart while you call them liars “who have zero issue lying” and give them no trust nor respect in return.

And this is the effort you have to put in to be a grown-up woman.

tl;dr Woman up and talk to people in real life. Don’t sleep easy until you are better at listening than at arguing, until you are comfortable doing to your friends in person the things you do to strangers on the internet.

Addressing the Fallacy: “people must practice in their spare time to be good in a field”

i haven’t posted this response since I swore off reddit for a bit — but thought this might be interesting to other folks.

Let’s take a step back. I find it really dangerous to assume there’s a causal link or 1:1 correlation between [people who spend all their time studying a field] and [people who are extremely competent at a field].

For one, this leads to a culture of “all work, all the time.” For instance, professors are expected to work essentially all the time by default. Another example: In programming, there’s this growing trend of using contributions (often unpaid) to open-source projects as a benchmark for competency.

This becomes problematic when, for various reasons, people cannot devote their spare time to the study of a field. Maybe it is financial: they don’t have time to spare to make unpaid contributions to OSS. Maybe it is life-related: a small child or family is taking up a lot of their spare time.

The overly-simplistic thinking you outlined leads to people in positions of power / employers discriminating against or manipulating young women in the field because they might get pregnant and have less spare time to study the field for a while (there are other issues at play here, for instance maternal / significant other leave, and the expectation that women do most of the child-rearing work). Another possible result is systematic exclusion of lower-income people from the field, because they can afford less unpaid work relative to high-income people.

Secondly, I think it’s absolutely true that people (whether for nurture, e.g. previous exposure, learning styles, presence of mentors, presence with curricula that matches their learning style, enjoying studying instead of thinking about family members getting shot up, etc. or nature) will pick up a new field at different rates. Thus, it is definitely possible for motivated people new to a field to catch up very fast with people who have been studying the field for a while (not to mention bringing in fresh perspectives and new ideas). I don’t know any names off the top of my head, but I can look around for examples if you would like. [1]

This could, fortunately or unfortunately, mean there exists

  • an extremely intelligent and motivated 9 to 5 brogrammer who has officially been in the field for 10 years

who is as technically competent as

  • someone who toils night and day and has been officially in the field for 30 years

Whether this actually happens, or if so the frequency with which it happens, I have no idea.

Conclusion

Therefore, I find it much less problematic to assume something along the lines of

  • “people who enjoy a field so much they would study it in their spare time if they could, or who study it whenever possible, tend to be the ones who persevere and become extremely competent at it”

rather than

  • “only people who study the field in their spare time are extremely competent at it”.

FOOTNOTES

[0] I apologize for the bad syntax. I meant 10x, not O(n). I think my brain went “abbreviate Order of magNitude” and shat out O(n). I find it no more rude than correcting usage of “I could care less” or “should of”, which some people may find rude, but which I tend to appreciate.

[1] Perhaps Einstein is an example of someone who caught up in a field rapidly without officially studying it full time, although now I feel obligated to pull up examples of non-dead-white-men, since someone on the Internet will make the wrong conclusion otherwise.

Sadly, so far in my life most of my curriculum has given me biopsies of white male geniuses, so I can’t say for sure as I don’t know the life history of many non-white-male people (also, I don’t know the life histories of many not-famous people).

Technical people I could try to vet to see whether they could be considered “examples”:

  • Non-male: Emmy Noether, Marie Curie, Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, Hedy Lamarr, Émilie du Châtelet, Laura Deming (living). (thanks quora). Sufiah Yusof [2], Kathleen Holtz
  • Non-white: Srinivasa Ramanujan, Kim Ung-Yong (still living), Akrit Jaswal (err… reportedly not at all humble), Jaylen Bledsoe (living)
  • Non-male non-white (black): Rochelle Ballantyne (living), Brittney Exline (living)

[2] (now that was sad to read about, but happy update: http://inquiringfeminist.com/2015/02/13/neil-tweedie-of-the-daily-telegraph/)

APPENDIX

crazy ideas, crackpottery, open-source hardware, and economics

I consort with some interesting people now on the open-source-hardware mailing list.

I suspect this is how my ideas would all end up looking like if I didn’t have some awesome friends who put up with my crazy rants and criticize me and force me to make sense… (function sort of like academic reviewers, but in-person and my friends can unplug me from the internet and force me to go sailing when I get really unhinged)

nrp-frictionless-blob-humans
Full slideshow: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1JEPsxJOjEMHNhvIGLXzcvovrpXqpoY75YaPHDKI0t9w/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000&slide=id.g368effe15_020

Sensorica has some interesting ideas behind it, but it’s hard to access through a layer of what, for lack of a better term, I must describe as “crackpottery”. maybe genius is just refined crackpottery?

side note/pun: https://www.pinterest.com/artoftea/crazy-teapots/ get it? crazy crack-tea pot? heehee

Hennie Meyer | Dancing Teapots

However, the term craze is also used to refer to minute cracks in pottery glaze, again suggesting the metaphorical connection of cracked pots with questionable mental health. (src)

Heck it appears I’m halfway there according to some made-up-indexing method…

1. Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.

2. Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, being uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions.

(src)

http://basicinstructions.net/basic-instructions/2010/9/26/how-to-react-to-a-crackpot-theory.html

2010-09-26-crackpot

frictionless human blobs

Anyway, my friend’s opinion:

it’s assuming humans are frictionless spheres a bit

but I’m always down for a novel utopia

I think it’d be a terrible way to run an economy or manufacturing chain tho

there doesn’t seem to be any planning for predictability, contract, risk

in that way seems a bit Valve-like, in their ideal of their internal structure

Here’s the valve new employee PDF, which is now on my commute reading list:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9r0HZeoMbmgYTZNTkJnU3ZvNEk/view

Anyway, here’s my own (mostly coherent, but very long) post on the topic of open-source hardware and its relation to economics.

long post is long

I agree that our current economic system (capitalism) has inspired an amazing amount of innovation via the (greed + cash + ego –> innovation) cycle. I would much rather live in 2014 than in 1714.

However, we can definitely say that this incredible innovation / economic system has its downsides — unwillingness to confront global warming, marketing cigarettes to developing countries since advertising is heavily restricted in developed countries [1] [2] [3], marketing baby formula instead of breast milk[5], verizon/comcast [6], these are some obvious examples of how corporate systems have led to evil / “not good”, without even talking about the overall distribution of resources in the world (why does poverty still exist?).

I agree that open & closed ecosystems are not exclusive. But I sometimes wonder if as a society we are kind of like the Hollywood studio execs — “each movie is 500 million dollars, let’s not risk doing anything different like having perse female characters.”

For instance, from what I understand, the Republican point of view is that “our current economic system has led to great advances in technology that has bettered everyone’s life. This system may be unjust and rife with a whole host of issues, income inequality may be set to worsen forever, the planet may become inhospitable to humans, but we should not risk trying anything else.”

There’s actually no way to tell who will be right in the short- or long-term future. However, I strongly do want to encourage or get out of the way of people who want to experiment with these more “peer-based” models of production, where “everything is shared and people benefit from each others’ knowledge and contributions.”

I personally think this is what we should move toward in the future, and these pangs of “open source work / socially conscious work / academic research is not rewarded equivalently in cold, hard, cash” are the result of a transition between the two models, where ultimately we end up in 100% opensource land. But my personal opinion is pretty irrelevant, it’d take hundreds of years to arrive at this sort of scenario, and for all I know a mixture of the systems may be the most stable or ideal state. I recognize the human limitations to my knowledge and personal beliefs. tl;dr I don’t make for a great revolutionary ;P

Getting back to the original point, yea, cool people work for both lots of money and lots of purpose, and although working for lots of money can lead to bad things, working for lots of purpose can lead to bad things too [7] [8], so we shouldn’t unilaterally judge people either way (although, as puny humans, we invariably will stereotype in order to function in life).

Anyway, philosophy hour aside, now I’m going to go back to rabidly supporting opensource just like Apple fanboys support Apple! 😛

““`Links““`

[1] News article summarizing recent move to expand market in developing countries http://thinkafricapress.com/health/big-tobacco-african-young-smokers

[2] Overview of scientific research http://www.who.int/tobacco/media/ROSS2000X.pdf

[3] (pictures!) Packaging http://www.fctc.org/images/stories/CCS-intl%20warnings%20report%202012-English.pdf

canada-cigarette-health-warnings

[4] check out how many cigarette ads were in the old Tech http://tech.mit.edu/V74/PDF/V74-N48.pdf

MIT-tech-V74-N48-advertising
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 1955: “Your own college-and-class pipe” ?? o___O Thanks, but no thanks.

[5]  UNICEF Formula for Disaster (Nestle, Phillipines) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PBtb-UDhEc

[6] “it appeared that Verizon learned a valuable lesson: it can flat out lie to governments, promise 100% fiber coverage in exchange for subsidies, then not deliver, and no one will do a damn thing about it” . https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131012/02124724852/decades-failed-promises-verizon-it-promises-fiber-to-get-tax-breaks-then-never-delivers.shtml

[7] http://matadornetwork.com/change/7-worst-international-aid-ideas/

[8] http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/technology/personaltech/an-outspoken-voice-for-women-in-tech-foiled-by-his-tone.html?referrer&_r=0

toread

other people’s emails on the thread:

“Yes, [x], you’re right.  I recently saw Linus Torvalds in Central begging.  Richard Stallman hit me up for a job washing my windshield.

Just joking of course, people make lots of money off of commons-based production.  Check out some of the economics of “free revealing” of ideas by Eric von Hipple (MIT) or Yochai Benkler (Harvard).  It’s not the zero sum game you represent.  Benkler’s book is affordable, even if you only make 90k”

Review: While some of Benkler’s arguments and examples are fascinating and easily read, they are sandwiched between portions of confusing, thick, often heavily theoretical prose. […] In spite of these attempts to make this book more accessible, it is probably best suited to an academic or technical audience; those with an interest and background in the topics discussed. (src)

“Eric von Hipple’s books are really good, too.”

Review: There is no doubt that the continued lower costs and democratization of the tools and distribution of things previously the realm of pros is reshaping our world. But this book reads like a college textbook. More academia than Malcolm Gladwell or Chris Anderson. Which I guess is good if you’re a true researcher. (src)

Heehee. Guess academics try so hard to distinguish themselves from crackpots that to laypeople they reach another dimension of incomprehensibility.

Update: Just read this thanks to Ned —

relatively flat networks can quickly generate hierarchical structures even without any attempt at a power grab by emergent leaders or by any organizational, coordinated action.

http://technosociology.org/?p=366

basically, for networks to remain flat, they must be engineered to stay that way, since they’ll strongly tend to un-flatten, especially thanks to social media

 

why the **** does everything around me assume I’m a guy (updated)

unfortunately lately i have been very angry and random passerbys have been bearing the brunt of my rage. sadly i’m also too angry to be coherent enough and calm enough that it won’t just pass over their head. oh well.

like this tv show casting company (brand removed).

ugh-tvshow-makers

sigh. the individual ad by itself isn’t sexist per se. but the cumulative weight of all these ads and tv shows and everything around me is sexist. what they say is, “you don’t exist.”

i fixed it by changing the blue to hot pink and adding in some fingernails with nail polish. not to say “since your ad was masculine instead of feminine, you’re being sexist”, but rather to point out how stereotypical they were being without even noticing or acknowledging it.

tvshow-makers-poster-fixed

probably most guys (aka most of my friends) missed the point and just dismissed it as “oh another crazy person advocating political correctness”. oh well. but especially the people who work in media, if they’re not conscious of what they’re doing — well, basically they should at least be self-aware enough to admit they are okay with perpetuating these stereotypes and publicly admit it. basically, all I want them to do is include a little line:

“we welcome all types of people even if our ad is a little stereotypical!”


There is growing hope for the media industry, though, which makes me really happy.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/female-macgyver-contest-reality-tv-csi/

MARCH 18, 2015 9:55 PM
Hollywood’s Best Will Pay You $5,000 To Help Find a Female “MacGyver”
White House supports effort to create programming highlighting women in STEM

oh here’s another angry lady (oops, when you tell women to stand up for themselves, be prepared, they might take you up on the offer!) who impressed me

Phoenix Perry – Female Game Developer Community http://vimeo.com/81481624 for some classy examples, like this (i removed the brand, because *** them)

ugh-gaming-ad-perry-oshw


I concluded my reply email with “but in more seriousness, if you ever want to talk person-to-person instead of stereotype-to-stereotype, let me know”.

ball’s in their court now. i’ll let you all know if they follow through on talking to me.

UPDATE 3/25/15

One of my friends was able to act as a de-anger-translator and better articulate what I meant than my snarky email.

pitmancasting

 

Note the lack of stereotypical white-male stock photo, and that they now ask for pictures of what you made, not pictures of your team (I didn’t even catch the words the first time around!). -^-^- I’m happy they were able to fix their poster without much effort at all, and (I’m told) that the casting company seemed entirely sincere. As suspected, the issues was simply that they “just pulled a stock photo to get it done quickly.” (who knows about the Major Cable Network they are feeding into…).

I do feel that visually the poster is less strong as a result of the lack of human interest. Ah well, so it goes — I guess the tricky thing to do, if you include “human interest” in visual design, is to not fall into stock-photo-corporate-blandness. Maybe that’s where a sincerely-worded short sentence could help.

I feel really happy about this outcome overall. It resulted in a lot of fruitful conversations with my guy friends who were previously avoiding gender issues and now reached out because they themselves felt confused or alienated, and the casting company updated their poster.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Changing society is a long, slow, and frustrating process, and it’s been very gratifying to put effort in and get concrete results, however small in the grand scheme of things, out. A+ would do again.

FAQ

I confused some of my friends (who perhaps haven’t thought or listended as much about gender issues) with these pictures. They corresponded privately with me, prior to the casting company releasing their updated version.

Person A: Is your problem with the image that it depicts a white male wearing a dress shirt to reflect a hobby and industry largely dominated by males. It seems the words on all these images are the same, merely the gender or presence of the hand and the color of the background, neither of which seem relevant to me with regard to stereotyping or sexism.

Me: Yes, my problem was with that image. Specifically, the context of the picture was not “here is a reflective picture in our academic article detailing the current demographics of the industry”. They were saying, “here is an image with which we are soliciting people to represent an industry to a large number of people not currently in the industry”.

Thanks for clarifying your confusion !___!

Person B: Wouldn’t it be better to congratulate them on making an ad that is not sexist? In fact, their ad seems far more gender neutral than your suggested ad.

Me: I personally don’t want to them to be gender neutral, that’s boring… I’d rather they celebrate diversity, but in an honest way, instead of a corporate-mandated hokey way. That’s why I suggest a single well-written not-canned sentence would go far.

ga4gh proposal. Beacon Versioning: Simple, Current, Future (three use cases)

Foreword

I am posting this on my blog because I spent a lot of effort on this email & there’s no reason for it to be buried inside a private mailing list.

if you, dear reader, are like most of my real-life friends and call biology “bi-lol-logy” — ignore this post, save your sanity, and come back to bioinformatics in a year. i think things will be much better then. in fact, i’m not even going to attempt to explain what’s going on here except to link to ga4gh: http://ga4gh.org/#/beacon.

otherwise… down the rabbit hole we go…

Email

Hi all,

I’d don’t want to stall momentum, since I care much more that Beacon v0.2 happens rather than a particular Beacon v0.2 happens, but as an engineer I’d also hate to see us be too hasty and make poor design choices.

Unfortunately it’s possible to describe a single variant in multiple ways in VCF

Yep, that’s concisely the problem with state-of-the-art.

From my perspective, there are three conflicting use cases and we’re trying to smush them into one Beacon/Server/Variants API spec, which may or may not be advisable.

USE CASES

1. Simple

You may only query for one position, limited to precise string

  • “Does AAG exist at position 1” –> implicitly asking, does an insertion of “AG” exist between positions 1 and 2 on the reference genome
  • Vision is “painless way for organizations to visibly commit to wanting to share genetic data by adopting a single standard, i.e. GA4GH”
  • Sidestep genetic data privacy and security issues by trading [usefulness to research] for [painless adoption]

2. Current

VCF-based

  • “Does an insertion of AG exist between reference coordinates 1 and 2”
  • Vision is “people share useful data for researching functional impact using the current industry-standard, VCF” — definitely better than silo-ed no-sharing world, but
    Source: Quote Investigator. Attribution: 1942 June 3, Florence Morning News, Mutt and Jeff Comic Strip, Page 7, Florence, South Carolina. (Newspaper Archive)
    Source: Quote Investigator. Attribution: 1942 June 3, Florence Morning News, Mutt and Jeff Comic Strip, Page 7, Florence, South Carolina. (Newspaper Archive)
    • Lamppost = current standards, which sort of support population/functional impact research if you try really hard
    • Dark = hopefully the future, where it’s painless to query for things like frame-restoring indels
    • …I hope this lamppost analogy makes sense outside the confines of my brain…

3. Future

population-based / reference-free

  • “Does an insertion of AG between query coordinates 1 and 2 exist where-ever the query ‘ATTATAGAGAG’ is best aligned on each genome in the population”
    • query string ‘ATTATAGAGAG’ used to locate position on genome
    • specific variant we’re looking for is AG, that is, we want to find genomes that say “AAGTTATAGAGAG” in the place where population-wide most genomes say “ATTATAGAGAG”
  • Vision is “future-oriented standard for developer to implement toward / iteratively develop”

IN MY OPINION

My gut feeling is #3 is beyond the scope of Beacon v0.2 and we should be clear that Beacon v0.2 is meant to support the #2 use case.

My personal opinion is that Beacon v0.2 should actually be a standardization of use case #1, but it seems like I’m in the minority (if anyone else cares about #1, please speak up!).

FURTHER NOTES

With respect to, “+1 for consistency with other GA4GH APIs” —

My concern is that currently the GA4GH APIs are very VCF-oriented, and VCF is very reference-oriented and not very population-scale-oriented [1]. On the other-hand, Beacon is population-oriented (no sense in having a Beacon to query two genomes, that doesn’t preserve anonymity at all).

My gut instinct is that the Variants API will move toward being population-oriented (reference-free). Consistency is very important, however, I think we should be cautious about moving toward consistency with Variants API in its old state. In fact it’s already starting to reflect this shift —

“graph”, in which all variation is associated with `Allele`s which may participate in `Varaints` or be called on their own. The “graph” mode is to be preferred in new client and server implementations.

[1] people are spending months merging VCF-based datasets and then indexing them with Tabix and wormtable, then they have to reindex for something as simple as querying a subset of the population … oh, I could got on but I hope I’m preaching to the choir here. If not, I’d much appreciate knowing where I’m incorrect if you’d care to explain. I’m certainly not an expert in bioinformatics.

THANKS

Thanks Mark Fiume for taking the lead and Stephen Keenan for organizing Beacon work.

CARBON COPY?

I think more lists (specifically ga4gh schema, & ga4gh server) needed to be included in this discussion, or we need an “Issues” for all of GA4GH, or something, but it’s getting very hard to keep tabs on Issues, some of which are closed, in three repositories at once. Or maybe I just need to “watch” and get email notifications on all three repos? How are people handling this crazy explosion of GA4GH work?

PUBLIC MAILING LIST

I also would note that I strongly prefer all ga4gh mailing lists be made public going forward. It’s really ridiculous to have people forward me emails from 3 different private mailing lists and link me to 10 issues on 3 repositories.

Although ga4gh-dwb-beacon is private mailing list :/ I’m still emailing instead of opening a public Issue on Github because it keeps feeling like “my calls are dropping” and no one is hears me…

other links

wow, the more i poke around on ga4gh github the more related links I see… here are some I need to read

https://github.com/ga4gh/schemas/pull/257/files

How your “Team” pictures influence my desire to even apply

Lately it’s the “startup thing” to put pictures of your team up on your website. Now, I don’t speak for all female engineers, but as a female engineer who’s kind of sensitive about these things, fairly or not, it’s an immediate turnoff to see pictures like this

Screenshot from 2015-02-25 17:59:40

Screenshot from 2015-02-25 17:59:36

It goes roughly like this:

  • I open my email.
  • Someone forwarded me an email. “Cool drone startup that’s looking to hire!”
  • I click the link and read about it, then somewhere along the way I see a picture of the Team.
  • I get irked and leave.

Sure, you all could be a bunch of egalitarian feminist dudes, and if I just go work for companies with a lot of females already I’m exacerbating the problem in some ways, but really, just kind of a turn-off.

If you at all care about getting a more diverse team, here’s two simple solutions:

1) Just don’t post pictures of your all white-male founders / leadership / engineering team. No pictures are better, then I can’t form preconceptions (yes, I recognize the irony here) about your team. Also, the more people you have, the more I’ll look specifically for females in engineering leadership positions. Mixing in your female HR / support department does not help you.

2) Or, just put a simple statement to the effect that you’re aware that your team is very white and male and that you’re working on it.

That’s enough to let me know that you care, which is a big deal to me. Working in a place where no one cares about feminism or feminism is an awkward topic would make me bitter and unhappy (and I’d leave) within months. You’ll have to word your statement to overcome people’s jadedness (“yea, right, that’s probably just their HR talking.”) and show that your statement reflects your company culture.

Oh! Ladies, one thing I’ve discovered is that older guys are pretty alright. Something about marrying and having a family… My current co-workers are almost all older white males, but it’s in some ways a lot more comfortable than hanging out at MITERS, because feminism isn’t a dirty word or somehow less important than the latest in kilowatt lasers.

Today, I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed. I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal.

Congressman Tim Ryan

(Source: Rep. Dillon, Rep. Ryan)

p.s. This also goes for conferences… I’m looking at you, NERC.

nerc
nerc speakers