greensword: (ada)
Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.

All you need to do is sign the pledge, pick your tech heroine and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009 (Ada Lovelace Day). It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about - everyone is invited.

This may be a slight stretch, but I'm going to pick as my 'tech' heroine Mahzarin Banaji. Although she's primarily a psychologist (and more of a social psychologist than a neuroscientist), she's well known for developing the Implicit Association Test, which you can take here. The IAT is a way of measuring people's unconscious biases by asking them to sort people into categories and measuring small but consistent differences in error rates and reaction times. For instance, it takes me a little bit longer to sort non-white faces into the category "American" then into the category "foreign". The IAT has been used to probe a number of different prejudices - including the tendency of people to not see women as scientists and technologists. At a time when public disavowal of prejudice is the norm, yet discrimination seems to keep on keeping on, I think her work is especially relevant.

Since she works and teaches in my department, I've had the pleasure of hearing her speak several times. She is unabashed in her support for women in science:

[Banaji's] implicit association experiments have shown that even female scientists can unconsciously associate men with terms like “astronomy” and “chemistry” and women with “music” and “history.”

Knowing this prejudice well, Banaji says she always goes out of her way to support aspiring female students in science.

“For younger women whose identity as women in science is not fully formed, I need to keep an eye out,” Banaji says. “If somebody like that comes along and asks, ‘I wanna give up mathematics for social studies,’ [I would suggest to her] ‘well, hold on, maybe you should go. But maybe you shouldn’t.’”
greensword: (this bunny is checking livejournal)
I've had a couple of really good discussions recently about what it means to be a Jew, and how as an American diaspora Jew one is supposed to relate to Israel.

Judaism is a quirky sort of religion, in that it doesn't really require belief, per se. Nor does it require a specific set of practices. I don't believe in God, or that any of the stories of the Torah really happened. I don't keep kosher or go to temple. I don't know Hebrew or Yiddish. And yet, I'm Jewish.

Even if I converted to another religion. I would still be Jewish. And even if I never told my children I was Jewish, they would still be Jewish.

It's such a tenuous connection in some ways. What does it mean to be Jewish, if it is such an unchangeable state of being? I didn't ask for it. I can't help it. Why should I feel any responsibility for or special compassion for my fellow Jews? But I do.

I don't think any one arbitrary group of people are better human beings than another. But the tenets that a group lives by, and their shared history, can shape their behavior. And that's why I've never really rebelled against this arbitrary thing I am, this random label that's applied to me. Because so far as I can see, being Jewish is a good thing.

Like I said, there's nothing you have to do to be a Jew. But there are things we have tended to do.

Jews don't proselytize. We don't try to convert you. I mean, not only do we not hang you upside down and slowly drown you in buckets of water until you believe what we believe - we don't even try to pressure you at cocktail parties.

Jews understand suffering. Of course we understand it - we have lived it. And I don't even mean the Holocaust. I mean 2,250 years of suffering. From that comes - at least, I hope - a natural sympathy for the discriminated against, the oppressed. On passover, we dip our fingers into our wine and take out ten drops, one for each of the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians. We lessen our joy out of respect for those who have suffered - even when those who suffer are the very people who enslaved us. Because we understand that all suffering is wrong. Not just because it was done to us, to Jews. It is wrong, period.

I won't pretend to be an expert. Or to speak for other's conceptions of Judaism. But this is my understanding. These are the thoughts that have made me comfortable and happy in identifying as a Jew.

And so the actions of Israel recently have been... almost disconcerting. Because this is not what Jews do. We don't use our superior power to harm others at little risk to ourselves, because their lives are more expendable than ours.

Maybe this is because in two thousand years we have never had a land of our own to defend. Maybe this is because we have never had the power to harm others. Maybe all we were waiting for is the opportunity. But that's a depressing thought.
greensword: (Default)
Do you have any good biographies and/or books about interesting periods or events in history that you'd like to share with me?
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I've been reading a lot about Jean-Jacques Rousseau lately, although of course I haven't had enough time to read everything of his or think about it in too much depth. One thing that really intrigues me is his novel Emile, which imagines the "perfect" education for a child by following his life in narrative. There's a full copy of it online here if you're interested. It's, like, 500 pages though, be forewarned.

It's just such an interesting idea and I wonder what it would look like if someone did that today. For all I rail against the modern education system I'm not sure what my concept of the perfect education would be. Perhaps it's impossible to do a modern-day Emile. Perhaps we have too much appreciation for the vastly different needs of different people. Perhaps you'd have to write about a thousand Emiles.

I also have been reading Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, where he suggests abolishing the school and making discrimination based on level of schooling as illegal as discriminating based on sex or race. He supports a focus on skills as opposed to broad certifications, which I like, but at the same time, I think this approach might make interdisciplinary and critical thinking harder... but how much harder can critical thinking be than in a totalizing institution?

Anyway, what do you think? What would an "ideal" education look like? What things are most important in education?
greensword: (Default)
Along the lines of Rachel's post -

Kill, fuck or marry: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin.

Or, if you're feeling less modern: Julius Caesar, Napolean Bonaparte Jesus, Alexander the Great.

Answer, and suggest your own killfuckormarry's here.
greensword: (Default)
Does logging on to the internet render you fucking incapable of sourcing your work? I can't seem to find an actual, legitimate document discussing the Umma-Lagash conflict. Hey, maybe somebody just made it up. That sounds like something an archaeologist would do.

I mean, er.

*hides from [ profile] deralte*
greensword: (Default)
Re-reading Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. The first time I read the book was for class, so I was hurrying, and caught up in the story anyway. Now I find myself appreciating the details and the background.

The most interesting character is not a character at all, but rather a historical figure discussed among the main characters - Fra Dolcino. It is said that Dolcino preached and practiced violent rebellion, and had obsessive, apocalyptic visions; this is generally accepted as true, although of course history is written by the victors, especially when the victors are the only ones who know how to write. That aside, Dolcino preached a number of remarkable things - humilty and poverty in the church, opposition to feudalism and the establishment of common property, sexual freedom and equality of the sexes.

He was, of course, burned at the stake.

In 1307.

I want to know more, but unfortunately there's not very much information on him, and most of it's in Italian. Apparently he's mentioned briefly in Dante's Inferno, which was written right in the middle of Dolcino's rebellion. Still, I think he's a remarkably interesting historical figure, and if anyone knows anything, please pass it my way.
greensword: (Default)
I always say I'd rather take back congress than the White House, and it's not just because I'm a Henry Clay fangirl. If Democrats controlled the congress Bush would've been impeached by now.

Think of the three instances of impeachment proceedings in our past. Andrew Johnson, a Democrat impeached by a Republican house. Richard Nixon, a Republican who resigned before the Democrat-controlled congress could impeach him. And Clinton, of course. What other impeachments might there have been, if only a different party had controlled congress? Maybe if Republicans hadn't controlled congress, Harding would've taken a harder hit in the Teapot Dome scandal. I'm not sure what to think of Iran-Contra, though - Democrats did control congress, and they sent several Reaganites to jail, but one could argue that it should've (and could've) gone further.

It's not just that Republicans won't vote to impeach Bush. It's that they'll never let it get that far. They'll never hold preliminary hearings into Bush's behavior. They'll never demand the appointment of an independent counsel. They'll certainly never initiate the impeachment process themselves. So it's not just that impeachment won't happen, but it will never come close. You can't get that far without all the little baby steps.

So, short of ridiculously high disapproval numbers or a change of power in 2006, we're stuck with Bush for his full term. Sorry.
greensword: (Default)
I was going to make a post about how I have a day off tomorrow from work, which, by the way, is going great. I was going to suggest that people in the area give me a call and we can hang out or whatever. I was going to ramble about being trained as a waitress and free food and cool people.

But today's irregularly scheduled livejournal post has been interrupted for...


Apparently Deep Throat was Mark Felt, the number two man at the FBI. I'd always pictured him as being a White House insider, but then, I'm hardly any sort of expert. I mean, come on. "I'll bet twenty dollars that it's Henry Kissinger!"

I was kinda sad to see no one else on my friendlist had posted this. I guess not everybody else is a journalism junkie and a political history nut, but - oh, well, hell. Who am I kidding? The only reason I care so much is because I watched All the President's Men two dozen times. But not entirely for Robert Redford! A little bit of it was for Dustin Hoffman, too.

I'm really really tired, so instead of trying to offer any sort of intelligent, useful commentary, I'm just going to sign off by sending Disappointed Looks at anyone who, when they read this, first thought of the porno.
greensword: (Default)
In researching for some last-minute work, I came across this description by the Bush Administration of Eleanor Roosevelt.

They don't mention the her work in the New Deal, her defiance of segregation laws, or even that she drafted the Human Rights Declaration, but they find room to describe her thus:

Tall, slender, graceful of figure but apprehensive at the thought of being a wallflower, she returned for a debut that she dreaded.

As she had written wistfully at 14: " matter how plain a woman may be if truth & loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her...."

She never shirked official entertaining; she greeted thousands with charming friendliness.

When he was stricken with poliomyelitis in 1921, she tended him devotedly. She became active in the women's division of the State Democratic Committee to keep his interest in politics alive. From his successful campaign for governor in 1928 to the day of his death, she dedicated her life to his purposes.

And not because, you know, she actually had her own beliefs and opinions.

It's not exactly lying in order to send thousands to die in an ineffectual war, but still. *annoyed*
greensword: (Default)
Warning: What follows is a pretty long essay filled with politics, historical tidbits, and hand-wringing.

I feel as though the Democratic Party is breaking apart. )


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November 2009

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