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2017-08-19 11:45 am

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Context note: I originally wrote this particular not-quite-essay up for my brother after some discussion. He is the "You" referenced along the way.  

So. I started doing a point by point examination of Damore's manifesto, fisking style, and while it helped me pick apart his arguments, it wandered wildly off the actual questions at hand. So instead I am trying again, with a reframing. It will include significant excerpts of the fisking, but with an attempt to stay on topic.


Question number one: Is Zunger's interpretation "we should stop trying to make it possible for women to be engineers, it’s just not worth it." remotely an accurate depiction of the memo and its final gist? If not, is the interpretation you gave (in extreme short form: "That gender ratios in tech are not well-explained by sexist behaviour in tech companies ... It's a major recurring theme, arguably THE theme, of Gary's memo that people should be judged as individuals and not as members of groups") itself a fair and complete interpretation?

 

The really really short answer is "Zunger is overstating at best, and you are right to take him to task for it -- but there's a lot more unpleasance going on than you seem to think." Most of the rest of this will be focused on coming back to this answer.

 

Question number two, added later: Is Damore plausibly a well-meaning but socially clueless and possibly-on-the-spectrum person or an actual bigot as he is portrayed by detractors?

 

Not really a short answer, but an immediate one: I'm not exactly sure what led you to read him as possibly autistic. My read is a bit socially clueless, but more in the vein of "spends too much time coding and reading articles about people and not enough time interacting with them" AND actually a bit of a bigot.

 

While the dividing line is fuzzy between being socially clueless because he hasn't gone out and practiced, and being socially clueless because his brain literally works differently, I do not subscribe to treating him as a case of prejudice against autism. If nothing else, my impression is that the prejudice he displays is very real. And his actions, no matter his neurology, warranted firing.

 

I'm also wary that this falls close to a common trope in geek circles; the tendency to attribute bad elements (sexual harassers in particular, and other social assholes in general) to possible Asperger's, when such people most often display GREATER social acumen (in the case of sexual harassers in particular, in how they isolate their victims and code-switch when their audience is more mixed or all male. But, well, as examples, neither Thrym nor Mike read as remotely Asperger's, and nobody in Winnipeg that I know of has suggested it, but in other circles, men who have behaved exactly like them have had someone ask "in all innocence" if it explains them...)

 

In this case, there is a veneer of intellectualism to Damore's bigotry, which could be read that way, but I really think is better attributed to general life inexperience. A lot of NT men, especially post-grads/intellectually inclined, have talked about things they have said in their twenties that were in this range of "I read too many articles and didn't talk to enough people".

 

None of this above is aught but opinion, but it's also as complete an answer as I can give to question two at all.

 

Back to question one.

 

Here's my interpretation of the memo in the TL:DR version:

 

Damore's memo's central point is a combination of the key things in his own TL:DR (short version: Google has a strong leftward bias which makes it likely they are both stifling conservatives and committing to unproven programs out of ideology), and the desire to be rid of those same programs, which he sees as discriminatory; those that are aimed mostly or exclusively towards training of or hiring of minorities and/or women.

 

He accuses that leftward bias of encouraging extremism and authoritarianism by the left without producing evidence that anything in Google is in fact authoritarian. (It IS true that a leftward bias might move the Overton Window too far and open it to the biased excesses of feminist extremes, but it is not a given that this has happened to Google. Even his own firing, which is justifiable on many grounds besides ideology, is evidence of it only to people like Vox Day or the white nationalists talking about protest marches on Google headquarters this coming week. ( http://amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/08/11/google-diversity-memo-alt-right-protest/?source=dam ).

 

To support this, he calls on science, discussing the average tendencies of women to try and demonstrate that there should be little need to fight the gender gap at all (including paragraphs acknowledging that these averages are overlapping and full of exceptions but then making suggestions which treat the nature of women as vastly more uniform and immutable).

 

He suggests changes to narrow the gender gap which have no data to back them, and the abolishment of programs he sees as discriminatory, including not only those related to gender but those related to race.

 

He endeavours to paint Google's leftward bias as equivalent to climate change denial, the desire to support a better gender and racial parity in the workplace as coming from a paternalistic protective streak towards women and "those seen as weak", and emphasizes a need to support the psychological safety of conservatives over that of minorities more traditionally discriminated against.

 

His decision regarding delivery mechanism -- essentially sending it to every fellow employee -- is itself a major problem. Not just for use of company resources, though that alone is a firing offense, but because it literally forces every woman and every racial minority on the spot to worry whether their coworkers believe that they are there on their own merits, despite Google already being known to hire the best of the best as regards software skills. Because by describing the programs that support their entry as discriminatory, and stating aloud that they possibly lead to lowering the bar (yes, there is a line to that effect present), the memo leaves it possible to point to any of them and say "You're only here because the bar was lowered for you, so you are not *really* my equal." The same memo that suggests that affirmative action practices increase racial and gendered tensions and that this is bad increases them severalfold by laying out that implication and essentially making sure every minority and woman in the place has to see it.

 

This does not read to me as the work of a centrist looking to ask for better understanding across the board. This is the work of someone who genuinely believes that attempts to support people who are traditionally held back from entering some fields is discrimination against him as the prior norm.

 

He does not at any point say anything like Zunger wrote, and you are partly right that he makes a few paragraphs of bending over backwards to acknowledge overlaps and averages. But I do not disagree with those who inferred that he wishes to exclude more women from the job, and who feel that what he has said, if allowed to propagate within Google without active disapproval, is actively detrimental to the life of women and racial minorities in the company.

 

Rereading Zunger in the wake of picking apart the manifesto in more detail, I am much less satisfied in general with Zunger's approach -- his intro paragraph is a mess of that exaggeration you noted and a few others -- but I see a whole lot of merit still in his entire section 2 (about engineering), and I have just laid out a defense for his section three -- not far enough for the whole "Want to punch you in the face" but still for "large swathes of people at the company now feel they could not work with you."

 

Here are pieces of my initial fisk-style examination (Memo in blue. My commentary not.)

 

My basic impression of Damore's memo: He says a lot of things which are either factually correct or reasonable. His memo is 90% these things. But the other things overwhelm that, and they are sometimes hidden in the middle of the reasonableness.

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.

Freedom from offense.

This is a common framing for people not wanting to hear explicitly prejudicial statements against them -- statements which have had a demonstrated negative effect on work. There was a study which showed that simply mentioning a statistic indicating that black people perform worse on a given test to a group of black students right before they take that test (However neutrally and "just the facts" the statement is made) has a visible and demonstrable negative effect on the students' test scores. (First google failure; I kept getting results linking to the Harvard Implicit Bias test…)

Freedom from offense also implies people want to be protected from things that they don't like, no matter what they are. This is a classic framing: being "offended" is literally not, in itself, a bad thing. A person can be offended because a mom is on her phone at the playground, because a person is on a bicycle on the street, because a person is on a bicycle on the sidewalk… any number of things which one has zero right to be "offended" by. In fact, the usage of the word offense for reactions to everything from outright hurtful shit to breastfeeding, and to describe responses ranging from incandescent rage to eyerolling laughter is part of the reason I am beginning to hate the word.

Describing not wanting to hear discriminatory statements as "freedom from offense" is a statement intended to make such a desire seem more trivial and less of a resistance to actual damaging statements. It's part of the normalizing of prejudice.

"shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety."

Sounds good. If some people can't say what they think, then there isn't safety to be themselves. Pretty tautological… almost.

But then I have to look at what I call the moderator's dilemma.

Which is this: Any place with no moderation whatsoever (beyond deletion of actual spam like "I earned X money working from home!"…) turns into a toxic stew mostly inhabited by trolls spewing profanity. AT BEST, it contains some useful discussion threads that need to be carefully sifted from the whole. And most people either don't bother or refuse to even participate in the first place. You literally lose swathes of people who have much better ideas than what is being aired BECAUSE you refuse to silence anyone.

To maximize the genuine free expression of ideas, you need to remove enough toxic elements to allow those who are silenced by the toxicity to actually appear and speak up. This is why conversation at places with active moderators (eg, Making Light) tends to be much more productive and interesting and varied in subject matter than discussion on say, youtube threads. And it's not just the obvious -- simply having people who like "Arguing passionately" (to the point of haranguing or not letting a subject drop) also drive others away, who are less likely to speak but more likely to have something to say that wasn't already heard. (Abi at Making Light talks a lot about this).

Of course, an excess of deletions can stifle conversation in the "Echo chamber" sense. (it also means you lose evidence trails, but that's another discussion). This is why there are some areas, even in the social justice spheres, where deleting your own comments that brought on a negative reaction is something get castigated for doing, even when the moderator themselves blocks. This is why TNH came up with disemvowelling to indicate comments (or in some cases, sections of comments) of which she or another moderator disapprove. People can reassemble the evidence and see for themselves, if they are concerned the moderation is stifling ideas, but people can also see explicit disapproval. (It's worth noting some comments end up entirely deleted even though the people are allowed to comment again, some people get their right to post revoked short term, and people are still banned outright. And some people are forced not to post for 24 or 48 hours -- this last happened to Will Shetterly virtually any time he talked about race. One can consider this the debate on tactics, though.)

So, yes, actually, SOME types of ideas do need to be silenced to maximise psychological safety. The debate from there tends to be what is too far.

Of course, this fellow asserts Google culture goes too far. For evidence, he provides…. Well, let's keep going. (Skip a bunch that is not really arguable or terribly problematic, though some of it is in loaded language)

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

Left Biases

Right Biases

Compassion for the weak

Respect for the strong/authority

Disparities are due to injustices

Disparities are natural and just

Humans are inherently cooperative

Humans are inherently competitive

Change is good (unstable)

Change is dangerous (stable)

Open

Closed

Idealist

Pragmatic

 

5/6 of these are merely subjective preferences, with argument reasonable for both sides. But right there in the middle. "Disparities are natural and just" is a really nice way to say "You're poor because you deserve it" and "Black people are half-savages" and "women just can't handle things men can".

SOME disparities can be concluded as just. A fast food counter-minder or floor-sweeper should not make the same as a chef or electrician. (Though they should all make a living). A junkie will lose their job to a sober person and that is just (though the junkie deserves some compassion and access to support in getting off drugs). An amateur singer should enjoy their singing but not be expecting to make millions.

But somehow, outside satire like Harrison Bergeron, these are not the "disparities" that are meant when conservatives argue disparities are just. When poked, when examined, they are nigh universally trying to justify disparities between gender or race or the offering of services to poor people.

Pretending that shrugging off disparities as just is no different from debating whether it's better to be idealist or pragmatic is a pretty horrid false equivalence.

…. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

Can he demonstrate how Google is ashamed of its core business or overly trusting?

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.

Query, though this is random and beside the point: is there any corporation, left right or middlin', that doesn't strive for a monoculture on some level?

Second, does he have actual evidence Google has deliberately taken steps to shame people into silence? Every article he links meant to support that is about the field of psychology or university campuses.

Lastly, define politically correct?

Because if one goes with Neil Gaiman's framing of "treating people with respect", then shaming people who don't "treat people with respect" into silence seems… healthy?

Does it mean "Don't say 'retard' or 'lame' or tell rape jokes or dead-name someone"? Again…

Here's his own footnote: 'Political correctness is defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which makes it clear why it’s a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.'

That doesn't look far from "treating people with respect". It really doesn't look far from "Don't say 'retard' or 'lame' or tell rape jokes"

It may seem obvious to HIM why this makes it a bad thing, but the freedom to use the word retard or use the wrong pronoun doesn't seem like a way to foster the very psychological safety he wants.

He may dislike the phrase "perceived to", because there are often a few assholes who overuse rules against anything with the appearance of insult or exclusion. These are called rules-lawyers and they are jerks no matter their political stripe.

The actual reason for the "perception" phrasing is the reverse; it's to fend off rules-lawyers on the opposite side, who want to BE insulting and discriminatory and who would find a way to twist up any firm rule.

The article he links to discussing PC-Authoritarians discusses them as one of two groups of advocates for political correctness. Whereas he paints all usage of PC as falling into the one camp.

 

For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment

So by his own admission, he is attacking an extremist position, which he has offered no evidence is in fact that of anyone inside Google.

and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

Affirmative action programs are authoritarian. Looking at definitions and examples of authoritarianism, this only makes sense to me if one believes any social support program meant to correct a prior systematic injustice is authoritarian.

Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech [3]

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

So here's what YOU see as the thesis. Damore, by contrast, declares it the first piece of evidence against the extremism and authoritarianism above.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways.

On average, I would not disagree.

 These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:

  • They’re universal across human cultures
  • They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  • Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
  • The underlying traits are highly heritable
  • They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective

Evolutionary psychology as a field has a bad reputation among social justice groups overall. Some argue it has some merit, just not as initially applied. Others pretty much distrust anything that comes from anyone who claims the name without some kind of caveat recognizing its problematic origins.

I gave myself a headache of sorts looking into evolutionary psychology, both defenses of and criticisms. My final conclusion is that it has some merit as a tool, but is still easy to twist in support of sexism.

The gist of it is this: we can look into some of the ways people (across populations and in general) behave now, and attempt to make a conjecture why that trait evolved. Then they take that theory and attempt to test it. Well, not the idea why the trait evolved, that's physically impossible to test. They usually test whether the behaviour they claim exists actually exists.

The problem with this is… testing the existence of the behaviour NOW actually teaches nothing about whether it was an evolved trait or a societally driven one. The base assumption that a trait that exists now has existed for 100,000 years or more literally cannot be tested. The closest they can come are traits common to most/all societies, which are implicitly more likely to be older. (Another issue that has been raised is the assumption we are not still evolving.)

Even more, the people who started evolutionary psychology as the thing pretty much outright did it in an attempt to prove that gender roles as they were in the 1970s (with a focus upon sexual relations and sexual appeals) were something humankind has always had, and that we should therefore preserve gender roles, not strive to alter them. In short, they were trying to give a scientific veneer to sexism.

The roles we are talking about are much more egregiously sexist than the roles that modern supporters tend to link and cite, and supporters of evolutionary psychology see this as proof it's a science and uses the scientific method. "See, we rejected the bad data and now we're getting closer to the truth."

But there are those who consider this itself a variation of iterated Naziism (to refer to something I linked before): "We couldn't prove the gender differences included all the things we wanted to prove, but what if we claim we have data for this much of the gender difference? We do if we massage it right and elide these bits." And I have to say, the evidence both for and against seems to massage data or shrug off nuance before presenting it. A LOT. some of what some of its proponents seem to think is proven is… really more debatable than they want to make it sound. (and some of what its detractors take as utterly destroying it… doesn't do any better.)

Part of the reason some responders appear to be saying there is no real gender difference whatsoever is a rejection of this iterated Nazi effect.

Yet … most people when asked about it without evolutionary psychology, would grant SOME difference between genders. Physical science has also seen some differences between male brains, female brains, and transgender brains. (trans brains seem to tend to include many, though not all traits of the gender the person declares themselves… and often, a few things that fit neither their assigned gender or their declared gender, but resemble neither. Another whole discussion though.) So observing some differences in behaviour and general trends between genders, is also to be expected. Some of these WILL logically have developed longer ago than others, even prehistorically

Sounds great, until you start reading someone saying that women don't go into jobs like upper management because the long hours, frequent travel schedule, unpredictable crises, and amount of work required outside of work hours are detrimental to the work-life balance women prefer.

Then look at how many low-status jobs women are known for also contain the above.

Until you see these trends being applied to all people of that gender regardless of how many caveats are written saying this is on average. Unless you see it being used to excuse wildly different treatments despite the visible overlaps.

In any case, all that history, all that explanation why some people flinch or throw things at the mention of evopsych is beside the point. So far nothing stated has been terribly wrong.

Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

This is the paragraph (And attached diagram, which I am cutting out but am aware exists) you seem to see as his central point, despite the fact that if judging people as individuals were the point, he wouldn’t have had to raise evopsych or the actual differences between men and women at all. Remember, he's defending himself here against an extreme stance he has not actually proven is more prevalent than a more moderate stance.

 

Reading over my comments in the Female traits section, other than the note that he does not acknowledge the studies showing women being assertive in business environments are punished socially for it, I mostly didn't have big objections or pick apart much of interest. My biggest objection came at the end:

 

The problems women mostly talk about when talking about discrimination in tech are not problems of having the inclination, or having the ability. By the time we're talking about the people trying to work for Google, we're looking at people who already skip past all these averages and have a declared interest in a non-feminine field.

I have more to say in the next area, though again, this is all more of a side trip than the general point.

Men’s higher drive for status

We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs.

I literally cannot see a way you can ask the one without asking the other. When we are looking at what traits women lack, we are implicitly suggesting the men have those traits. When we are looking at aspects of a job women prefer, we are implying what men prefer. When we are looking at systematic exclusion, we are implicitly noting systematic INCLUSION. Assuming a binary, and for these purposes, we can briefly elide those populations that do not fit the binary -- unlike in tech, in most of these positions they suffer if anything MORE discrimination -- you literally cannot examine why women are not in top leadership positions without some data suggested about men. EVERY STUDY about women in power is pretty much obliged to use men as a control sample.

 These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.

Again, so do many jobs typically held by women, they're just low status. The argument about women and ability to cope with stress seems much more suited to arguing why women are so much less often firefighters than why women are rarely CEOs. Besides, what has this to do with tech? Tech jobs aren't top leadership.

Status is the primary metric that men are judged on [4], pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.

Are they the literal same drives? I am skeptical. Some of these areas also have an explicable difference in the physical divergence between the genders, not in their psychological differences. And coal mining is geographically focused -- in locations which tend towards much more conservative culture and gender roles.

I wonder how many studies have been done on how much more often women insist on, and/or follow, safety regulations?

But this is nitpicking, really. I don't disagree with the general point.

Still, this entire thing seems like a non-sequitur for tech jobs, few of which are as high status as is required for the gender difference in status-seeking to be a big part of the problem. Equating software engineering with top leadership is definitely as weird as comparing it with coal mining.

Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap

Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women’s representation in tech without resorting to discrimination. Google is already making strides in many of these areas, but I think it’s still instructive to list them:

This section is part of where I started really feeling skeeved out. And confused. If the gender gap is determined by our psychology, then why is it necessary to help reduce it? His caveats so far have included ONE line which implies sure, the psychology is not the complete story, and lots of "on average" caveats.

Let's assume this was a blip in writing, he meant to say, "despite these differences, some of the gap is based on discrimination against women. So how do we help reduce the remaining gap?"

Which he does… with the same thing he is using to explain why at least some of the gender gap is explicable and pardonable.

Never mind those women who want the job as written, who are exceptions to averages.

I feel like I'm seeing several contradictions in those last four paragraphs of mine. We don't need to make this job more appealing to women, but we can do these things to make them so. Women should be judged as individuals not subsumed in average differences, but we need to accommodate their blanket different thinking by these methods.

This whole section also suddenly becomes weirdly citation free. He provides no evidence these things -- without any other initiatives -- actually reduce the gender gap. And several of them are either vague or counter-productive, with one another if not with the stated goal.

He later goes on to suggest getting rid of all affirmative action type projects -- he's technically already done it, just not at length -- but this is all he has to replace them. It's like replacing the ACA with Trumpcare. There's no evidence any of this has a real impact, and where it does, some of it seems intended to do the opposite of the declared objective.

This is one of the places that, whatever else you feel about Zunger's commentary, he makes  a lot of points directly addressing these things.

  • Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things
    • We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this). (evidence? This sentence is clearly speculation, but it's also alarmist in tone. There's nothing cited to suggest any program is deceiving its students about how people oriented the tech jobs are, but neither is there proof  that telling people at this late a stage that tech jobs are not people-oriented would put women off the job.)
  • Women on average are more cooperative
    • Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive. (Which means what?) Recent updates to Perf may be doing this to an extent, but maybe there’s more we can do.
    • This doesn’t mean that we should remove all competitiveness from Google. Competitiveness and self reliance can be valuable traits and we shouldn’t necessarily disadvantage those that have them, like what’s been done in education. (This article goes to considerable length to say that what men need is a more traditionally masculine upbringing and more father figures and masculine roles.)
  • Women on average are more prone to anxiety.
    • Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits. (Another generic solution for a specific problem. Also of note later.)
  • Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
    • Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in tech.

On the reverse, it seems like the way to get men to actually embrace more work life balance is simple, and it has nothing to do with women. If more men take time off for family, and come back to their jobs with no ill consequences, more men want to take time off for family. This is what has happened in companies and countries where parental time off is an option for both genders -- nothing happened with the fathers until some man actually took the leave and became a seed crystal to catalyze the others. So why is this not a part of his offered solutions?

Part time is rarely a solution in high tech jobs because it's darn near impossible to either rise in a company by part time means, or to do the upper level work on lower hours. Offering part time jobs almost always means offering them as low-status positions only. By contrast, flex-time options that still add up to full hours and a lot of time shared with fellow employees tend to be preferred higher end solutions for work-life. And once women demand and get it, some men start taking it too.

 

  • The male gender role is currently inflexible
    • Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles. (So shortly after endorsing traditionally masculine upbringng and attitudes, he endorses feminizing men. Maybe he thinks he means being the seed crystal guy in the point above? Or maybe he's just unaware he's offering opposites as solutions. He's certainly implying that men who are allowed to be more feminine will want to leave tech -- which is itself another implication "women don't really want to be here anyhow" -- not just seek options that allow more work-life balance.)

 

Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principled reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that.

 

Which sounds like admitting he doesn't have any proof for any of these, and doesn't even really want to bother with any of them and these solutions are all coming out of his ass. But oh, yes, by the way, he really does want diversity.

 
The Harm of Google’s biases

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more. However, to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices:

How you could let him have a pass for something like this while complaining about the logical gaps of his detractors, I don't know.

When did race come into this? Why are we suddenly talking about racism when he has talked this far exclusively about gender gap and gender bias? Does he have evidence of racial disparity being based on genuine difference? I doubt it. I highly doubt it. I also suspect he skipped that because if he tried to include such a section, his opinion would lose the veneer of respectability.

  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race.
  •  A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
  • Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate (link is private. Not very helpful. )

I've already noted that even accusing a business of lowering the bar to let in certain minority candidates is a way to increase hostility towards those candidates by raising doubts bout their qualifications. And "Oh, but we didn't mean you, Julie. You're a good one." comments aren't that reassuring, as they represent a kind of "divide and conquer" or "exceptional female" attitude which is the reverse of really embracing diversity.

However, I also have to say, almost every time someone has argued that one is lowering the bar for diversity, there's some evidence that mediocre, just-barely-hired people in the NON-diverse group are the main ones to suffer, and that the candidates perceived as "less qualified" are at least as qualified as the mediocre candidates they replaced. So you're not generally losing good people to less qualified candidates. Often, too, at the top level of resumes, the differences aren't nearly as meaningful.

  • Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)

I'm not even sure how this works. In what way should a diverse group be "reconsidered" if they are already diverse? In what way are non-diverse groups reconsidered? Does he mean non-diverse groups have their actual production questioned and diverse groups do not? That WOULD be heinous and I think it's what he wants us to think, but it's also unclear that this is what is happening.

I suspect all it means is that if a group forms that is 8 white dudes, the upper levels mention it should be more diverse, but if a group of 8 gets formed that includes three women and three PoC {in overlapping circles}, the upper management doesn't blink.

  • Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination [6]

Illegal discrimination sounds horrible. But what does it mean? His footnote doesn't especially clarify.

I also have no idea what the techy words in this translate to, or the footnote except that he wants smaller groups within the company to hire diversely, not the company as a whole. I think.

  • These practices are based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions. We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology [7] that can irreparably harm Google.

That last link is worth reading and thinking about.

It is not, in itself, proof that Google as a whole is failing to observe the effects of its policies, especially since working for Google itself, in a specific diverse department, with a specific (diverse) team, creates a basis for "Common interests" which is one of the main things the very same article cites as helping to decrease tensions.

Does he have evidence they lack evidence? Does he have evidence they have made changes this large, and don't know what they are doing or who it benefits?

Overall, the whole gist here is "Eliminate ALL of the known programs to promote diversity because I feel they discriminate against ME." After presenting what he feels is considerable evidence to  indicate that the gender bias against women is natural and to be expected, he proposes "solutions" with no supported evidence they will fix the gender gap, suggests removing nearly every instance of actual programs to help increase the number of women in the industry, and claims they are harmful to Google without presenting evidence how.

He offers NO evidence suggesting the racial gap is natural or normal, yet nonetheless suggests deleting all programs designed to decrease the racial gap, citing only one article discussing increased tensions in universities (Which article itself proposes solutions he never mentions.)

The footnote is another evidence-free opinion.

 

(And whatever the demerits of its awful title - I hate the title so much - the essay "I'm a woman in Tech. Let me Ladysplain the Google Memo to you" has some pretty firm points on this section:

 

"Many defenders of the manifesto have eagerly, and, as far as I can tell, earnestly, pointed me to the manifesto writer’s frequent claims to support diversity in the abstract, as if these are supposed to be reassuring. (“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists. ...”) They are not reassuring. The object of his memo is to end programs at Google that were designed, with input from a great many people who are educated and focused on this issue, to improve diversity. If those programs are killed, absent a commensurate effort to create replacement programs that have plausible ability to be at least as effective, the result is to harm diversity at Google.

 

He does make some recommendations, but they range from impotent (“Make tech and leadership less stressful”) to hopelessly vague (“Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive”) to outright hostile (“De-emphasize empathy”).

 

In the end, focusing the conversation on the minutiae of the scientific claims in the manifesto is a red herring. Regardless of whether biological differences exist, there is no shortage of glaring evidence, in individual stories and in scientific studies, that women in tech experience bias and a general lack of a welcoming environment, as do underrepresented minorities. Until these problems are resolved, our focus should be on remedying that injustice. After that work is complete, we can reassess whether small effect size biological components have anything to do with lingering imbalances.

 

 At this point, I only really want to cite one line of his next section:

 

In addition to the Left’s affinity for those it sees as weak, humans are generally biased towards protecting females.

 This is his claimed explanation why there are diversity-supporting programs at all. To protect the weak and female.

 His comparison of Google's leftward bias to climate change warrants little attention. His description of people trying to discuss male problems getting dismissed, is supported not by psychological studies or neutral articles as he tries with everything else, but with an explicitly anti-feminist link -- I can't even.  (He, and it, are not even factually wrong about some of the men's issues, but he didn't write this to discuss changes to the dress code to allow men to wear a greater variety, or to discuss men as victims of physical violence.)

 In fact, at this point, without picking apart every bit of the remainder of the memo, I think I've advanced a pretty good case that there is a whole lot of actual discrimination present against supporting women or minorities in tech, that the science is not the issue. If you really want me to comment on the section about allowing conservative voices and de-emphasizing empathy etc., ask away. I won't do it now. I have a literal headache.

 

As an addendum, your interpretation of the memo:

Gary's ACTUAL central point is one we've discussed before and you seemed to agree with, or at minimum be open to: That gender ratios in tech are not well-explained by sexist behaviour in tech companies. Whatever is keeping women out of those companies, most of it happens WAY too early in life to be plausibly explained by that, as gender ratios in high-school programming courses are similar or even worse. And in any case, lots of far more sexist, less feminist-friendly organizations (the Catholic Church jumps immediately to mind) have far better gender ratios! Not to deny that sexist treatment can have an effect, but you can't just read the prevalence of sexist behaviour from an organization's gender ratio in a simple one-to-one fashion. There's something else going on.

You don't have to believe anything overtly un-feminist to think it's entirely possible, even probable, that even in a situation with no sexist discrimination and perfect equality of opportunity, there would STILL be less than 50% women engineers at Google. This does not of course mean that you can assume any GIVEN women isn't a capable engineer; individuals need to be judged as individuals, that's the entire POINT here. But nevertheless, *in the aggregate* women and men are not identical, even feminists are happy to admit this when it suits their immediate rhetorical purposes. The surprise would be if they WERE interested in the same things in the same ratios.

(Writing this is making me pissed off at Zunger all over again. It's a major recurring theme, arguably THE theme, of Gary's memo that people should be judged as individuals and not as members of groups, and he repeatedly acknowledges that there are many solid female engineers at Google….)

 

You'll notice that very little of this actually falls into the category of "Stuff I had a problem with".

 

No, I would not expect genuine equality of opportunity between genders to lead to gender parity, though I would expect a smaller gap, a hugely decreased reportage of sexist behaviour and harassment, and more equal gender percentages reflected when assholery IS reported. I WOULD expect genuine, pie in the sky equality of opportunity between racial groups to lead to percentages of representation close to those in the population as a whole, but we are so far from that, so much farther than we are from gender equality of opportunity. Similarly, for disparities in class.

 

You'll also notice that almost none of your interpretation is related to his TL:DR summary of his intent, or his final list of suggested solutions either to the gender gap OR to Google's bias.

 

 

lenora_rose: (Default)
2017-05-26 02:21 pm

(no subject)

I love the wild and crazy tumblr story idea posts as much as anyone (this is one example of the phenomenon. there are a lot of others, a whole series of them about humans and how they interact with or are perceived by aliens), but I think they demonstrate something writers have been saying for a long time.

Ideas are the easy part.

These posts are almost all series' of quick sketches of really amazing ideas. Vignettes get written, and they're good. But they remain vignettes.

Take the example above.

Someone posits a silly idea. Someone else writes the opening scene - frankly, it can stand against some published short stories and a solid short story in its own right. (Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer is actually a similar story, a bit more polished and with more of an arc, but proving it can be done.) Someone draws a cartoon.

Someone else then says "I would watch six seasons and a movie."

Note the wording, though.

I would WATCH.

(no suggestion of "Can I help you guys turn this into...". Please note, this is not a bad thing of itself. We want watchers and readers. We love people who witness our art. The more the merrier. And this is true even when the art is unpaid stuff for fun.)

The next person sketches out a paragraph of the town's initial reaction, and a one-line thought for one story arc... in the fourth season.

The next person similarly posts a summary of some of the details that could become scenes throughout, then another story arc.

The last two people who post ideas, not reactions, post an extended plot summary of the final episode, and scripted dialogue for the last minute of that episode, respectively.

Arc done. Whole six seasons of a tv show (With a spin-off movie in the middle, presumably, since the ending is, er, final) in 2,832 words -- 1,410 or very very close to half of which is the opening scene written out by one contributor.

THAT is how easy it is to come by an amazing writing IDEA.

I'm not dissing these ficlets. Please understand. I adore them. I want people to keep spawning these ideas all over the place. I want to see them in comment threads discussing why a particular book was good, or bad, or deconstructing them. I want to see them tossed out under a photo or a piece of art or fanart someone particularly liked. I want them to pop up all over facebook, tumblr, anywhere else people make and collect random story ideas. I've thrown one up myself in the comments to a review of the Disney movie Rapunzel, though rightly speaking that was more of a plot sketch for a fanfic, not for an original story like many of them (Although i love and encourage direct fanfic, too. And formal written short fiction.)

And as I understand it, if you happened to meet such a fic in tumblr via a different person, you might see a different thread of responses, spawning another sketch-out of the same kind of six-season arc, with a different ending, different suggestions for scenes along the way.

But... six seasons of a tv show is a sustained effort. A different thing entirely. Multiple writers throwing out these ideas across a table in front of critics and executives, and then expected to come back with a polished and perfectly 42-minute-long script (with the right commercial breaks) out of their one-line sketch, which also needs to be added to and accounted for in continuity by every writer after them, just as they had to account for every script ahead of them AND the already agreed upon seasonal arc. The existance of tv producing forms that no longer have to leave room for commercials leaves wiggle room for exactly how to set up the arc and the exact length of an episode, but audience expectations still hold a writer within a fairly short distance both of ultimate length and of where to fit in plot points and reversals and beats.

And that? That is exhausting. Because if you're the one tasked with introducing Nettie's birth family (And the true fate of the real Todd) into the business, based on the equivalent of somebody's (Even your own!) one-paragraph tumblr comment, you have a lot to think about that simply isn't in that paragraph, which the reader of that paragraph can create for themselves in a flash. You now have to set out every single breath of what's in your head in concrete terms for everyone from the actors to the lighting crew to the set designers to the wardrobe crew to the storyboard artist turning your ideas into each and every camera shot and exact actor's mark on the carpet.

This is why "I've got this great idea, you just have to write it, and we split it 50-50..." is so nauseating for writers. We see those ficlets, and we love them, and we rejoice at people who would not call themselves writers tossing out yet another new idea into the mix, and making everyone squee. But there's a noteable difference between that and ongoing sustained effort. And now we can point to tumblr and say, "Look. If I want ideas from outside myself, I have a literal thousand to choose from. Why do I need yours?"
_________________
* One of my current novel ideas is spawned by a series of posts deconstructing another popular book, AND by the commentary and mini-fanfics and fix-fics caused by that deconstruction. I really really enjoy these things.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2017-04-10 09:58 pm

(no subject)

1) This is NOT crossposting to LJ. I think I may simply abandon my LJ and not delete, since deleting requires me to agree t the new terms long enough to get in. I am hoping to retrieve comments. I do intend to contact two people I see there and check if/how they plan to post in future, but otherwise, anyone I know who was posting there either crossposts here or has effectively abandoned this style of blogging.

2) This is a repeat of my last facebook post, so no new content for anyone who sees me post there.

Two in a row "why I suck as a person". Took Elise to the vet today because 2 claws had overgrown so far they were cutting into her paw, deep enough one of them left a bit of necrotizing tissue. (Cue all my freaking out about how none of us noticed sooner even though she cuddles up in peoples laps and gets petted still - but within the weekend alone me, Colin and my mother all held her and missed seeing it. It was a friend who finally said he saw something wrong with her paw.)

She's fine, home and stuck in a cone for a week while it heals. And pills, yay.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

So the litter boxes were a disgrace and with an injured cat, I was bound and determined to clean them up. The day was cool but nice enough I cracked a window for the upstairs box. Normal so far.

The downstairs boxes have no convenient window, so I popped the front door open.

Shortly thereafter Joseph appears at my side, first commenting on what I'm doing (I already had to stop him "helping" once while upstairs) then stepping out onto the porch. I grab him ag once and bring him inside, telling him both it's not time for a walk and it's too cold to be out barefoot. He heads around the corner and plonks at the piano for a while. Colin, incidentally, is well within earshot and attention, or would be if he weren't worn out and sick . So he misses all of this. And stupidly, I don’t point it out.

So neither of us sees Joseph quietly slip right behind me and back out the door. And up the alley barefoot.

So after a dpuble check of the house I grab my phone and shoes and head off. Colin calls 911.

Two streets down, a woman, leaving her parents' house, sees a barefoot boy in a light shirt cross the street, and brings him over to their house. They get his name out of him (kinda, he says Joseph Patrick but he also adds something they interpret as David, which was probably "Dave and Ava") and also call 911. (The mom also recognizes a child with some kind of developmental delay, and seems quite taken with him, both further points in her favour if "sheltering lost child" isn't enough.)

So a minimal amount of panic later we're reunited. But I am left feeling like a horrible person all around.

(Let me make clear; nobody else did or said anything to make me feel that way and I am not looking for reassurances about my own nature. Just recognizing my own fragile emotional state, itself a reasonable reaction.)
lenora_rose: (Default)
2017-03-14 12:42 am

(no subject)

To get this ball rolling, since I seem to have started slow. This is a collection of a series of things I posted on facebook, collected (And re-ordered, the formatting made more uniform, and edited) partly so I can find them again. I may also slightly amend final scores as I think my early and later calibrations were slightly different.
________________

As well as the packages I picked up while in Abbotsford, I came home to a seemingly giant box of David's Tea. Seemingly giant because they packed it in something much huger than I would think strictly necessary.

This is because one thing I got was a 60% off one of their winter samplers, itself a slightly unwieldy box for the quantity of tea therein. To get this out of my kitchen at maximal speed, I made the personal ruling that I have to try, and ideally finish, all the samplers (or, if I genuinely HATE one, at least give it a fair try) before I go on to any other tea. This adds up to 13 teas - 10 from the sampler (Which started as 12, but two I owned already, know what they taste like, and melded the samplers with my other containers) and three of the freebies David's throws in. There's enough of each from the big box for 2 pots, more in some cases, and enough in the freebies for one.

Ratings Reference:

F= Did not finish the cup.
D= Finished the cup, will not ever make more or willingly drink
D+= lowest possible passing grade. Would drink if I was desperate and it was all a restaurant had. Think Lipton, or maybe cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when the pot has steeped too long and it's gone bitter.
C= Bare bones tea, drinkable but not a top choice.
C+= Red Rose or cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when fresh. Staple teas, enjoyable but not ones that thrill.
B= Enjoyable, might need to be in the right mood. GOOD Chinese restaurant green tea, or the sort of brands higher end non-Asian restaurants might pick up and bring a selection to your table in a wooden box.
B+ and up: Varying shades of "Would drink again or put in my tea cupboard."

Apple cider (herbal): (not to be confused with the also included spiced apple.) When hot, the flavour is smooth, and very like apple cider - the powder kind, not the real apple kind - if a touch less sweet (Less sweet is good). It roughens up fast as it cools. B, maybe even B+, while hot, C or lower cooled down.

Chocolate orange (pu'erh): Solid B. Not as good as the hot chocolate pu'erh, might be better if the orange were a tad more pronounced so it didn't feel quite so much like "the same thing but not as good". Still, it hit the spot on the day I tried it. Made a second pot teh very next day (And used only 2/3 of the tea so far).

North African Mint (green): A green tea that's closer to chai than mint. The firstr pot was made during an RPG, and my immediate impression when drinking distracted was C+ to B range, but I tend to be harsh on green teas.

The second pot - a couple of weeks and several other teas later: I definitely felt it earned itself a raise. The mint softens the spice burn a little, keeps it smooth -- but I kept getting a strong aftertaste that was familiar, and sweeter than the tea proper, slick but pleasant and I was having trouble placing it. I reread the ingredients list to see if it was artificially sweetened (though that's usually an *un*pleasant aftertaste). Nope. But it does contain licorice root, which is what I was getting, and strong enough to make me wonder why mint is the ingredient they emphasize. So if you like licorice or licorice spice, this is a good tea. I do, so it ended up nudging into a B/B+ rating. (It probably won't quite become a staple.)

Spiced Apple (herbal): Also tried during the same RPG, but retried the very next day. Exactly what the label implies. Not as applish as the apple cider, and the other spices don't jump out enough to make it much more exciting than an apple cinnamon herbal, though it IS better than the standard restaurant teabags thereof. Drinkable, inoffensive, would make again, not excited. C+

Nutty and Spicy (Oolong): I sipped this, and thought, "Ooh, I like this!" And kept thinking it through 2 pots. It's a little sweet, though well within my taste parameters. Pretty firmly A.

Also a reminder that I have had pretty good luck with Oolong; it feels like the same niche as green tea, but I enjoy it much much more consistently (flavoured or straight). I thought it was a bit pickier about steeping duration, but it didn't seem an issue when I left the leaves in the pot or did a second steeping with just a few fresh leaves added for support.

Toasted Walnut (Green): Decent. A flavour profile I like, but the tea is overwhelmed by the flavours, making it feel to me like what a friend has described as "hollow". B.

I also have a green and black blend "Maple Walnut" tea I got from a different vendor, which is highly similar but stands up better. Following on the review above, and based on the other tea, my feeling is that this should have been an oolong or a mix of more than one kind of tea.

Alpine Punch (rooibus): So I drank this on three separate occasions to the equivalent of two pots ... and I still can't clearly formulate what it tasted like. A bit fruity, a bit coconutty, sweetish. The rooibus came through well. C, maybe C+, but clearly just not memorable.

I will say this was better than feared; I had gone off rooibus for a while there. I'm thinking maybe it's just rooibus and apple (or orange) or rooibus and spice (and the stuff plain.) I gave my Mom several rooibus samplers I hadn't even quite been able to bring myself to try, based on their smell. I knew I still liked it with apricot, but then I like apricot. A lot.

At this point, I took a day as a palate cleanser and drank a bunch of two different plain black teas.

After which, I decided that since the first rooibus went better than feared, I'd try the less likely winner -

Cinnamon Rooibus chai. Less likely because, see my last post re rooibus and spices.

I'm not sure how this justifies the chai rating: "Chai" as a word means tea as in the tea plant, which rooibus isn't, and in North America is specifically associated with tea (or tisane) mixed with multiple spices, cinnamon and ginger most often, cardamom and pepper close behind. This rooibus is mixed with some apple and cinnamon and cinnamon flavouring and NO other spices.

But that being said ... WOAH, cinnamon! A LOT Of cinnamon. The artificial cinnamon flavouring tips it closer to cinnamon heart territory than cinnamon pure, with extra heat. With no listed sweetener I have to assume the apple is the source of the sweetness. It barely tastes of apple, especially compared to either of the apply herbals.

I kinda like it. More than I recall doing on a previous try, but that could have been self-sabotage -- I had found another spicy rooibus actually took to being drunk with a splash of milk (not something I normally try with rooibus but my association with chai is with milk tea).

If I was in the mood for burny cinnamon drink (Not that unlikely, I suppose), this is the place to go. B+, though it's maybe too specialized a drink for a staple.
_____________

An observation I realised at this point: Almost every tea sampled to this point strongly pinged on the sweet scale.

I associate Teavana with the "every flavoured tea is sweet even if there's no justifying it" school of flavouring, and David's usually with a more balanced mix of sweets and others (Le digestif, a ginger/fennel herbal mix, is NOT sweet, for example). I have a sweet tooth, and so far most of them have seemed to justify and support it, but it might be altering my view of David's. Or maybe they're shifting that way in response to customer demand or competition from Teavana. or maybe it's just a Christmas tea thing.
______________

The Spice is Right (green tea): Another cinnamon based mix (cinnamon is the first ingredient before tea). Less sweet than the cinnamon rooibus, and without the cinnamon heart burn both (there's a tiny bit of spicy burn -- but chili pepper is another ingredient.) The spice mix underneath is nice enough. Not a strong sense of the tea, but it's not *absent*. Did not like this as much as the cinnamon rooibus chai (to my surprise) or the nutty and spicy oolong, it's about even with the North African mint depending on your relative opinions of licorice and cinnamon.

Notably the least sweet tea so far. In a good way. B for me.

Chocolate covered almond (black): The almond is actual nut bits so works pretty well. (My family includes people for whom artificial almond flavouring is a killer.) A decent chocolatey tea but not a fabulous one. I had a cup of the hot chocolate to compare, and the difference really is as boring as remove the earthy strength of the pu'erh, replace with a lighter nuttiness. There's yerba mate in it but I don't feel I noticed it much.

Steeps weak, so be generous scooping into the pot, but even the weak-for-me tea had flavour.

Nothing wrong with it, but I don't see what this is bringing to the table that I personally want and it loses out to at least two other chocolate based teas from David's alone. But this is the weakness AND the strength of the "hundred flavours" model; there are teas with very similar profiles and relatively subtle differences so everyone can have their exact perfect ideal. And I never mind giving it a try just in case this small variation is the one for me.

I did slightly regret not trying it in the vicinity of the chocolate orange because of that; they're both in B-land but no idea which would win.

Moroccan Mint (green): Despite the geographic location of Morocco, this bears little resemblance to the North African Mint green tea, being purely mint and tea. Alas, I oversteeped it, putting it firmly on the bottom of the teas tried. And it was one of the mini samples, so only one pot's worth, so I can't retry. But it contained no surprises as far as the basic tea-and-mint goes. So: experienced as a D+, could just barely drink, but steeped right I would guess a C+ if you like green minty. Also, not sweet.

Cocoa Boost (pu'erh): another mini sampler, though i then proceeded to get a 50g freebie. Cocoa and chicory. I half expected another "Yawn, Hot chocolate does it better but it's the same thing" reaction - but actually, the chicory makes it stand out nicely. Also, the pu'erh isn't mellowed with any plain black tea, and it's a bit more cocoa than chocolate - despite the addition of stevia as a sweetener, it's not as sweet. This may duke it out with the hot chocolate tea for which one stays long term on my shelf. A. (A second pot, steeped long and very strong even for my tastes, tipped the scales towards Hot Chocolate but was still eminently drinkable.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait (herbal): The last multi-pot sampler. A cheater of sorts, as I have had this in the house before. It's pleasant; as with the pies, the flavours complement well, the rhubarb cutting the implied sweet of the strawberry. In fact, it's less sweet than most of these. I was actually advised when first introduced to it that it works better with just a hint of honey or sugar added to counter the astringency, and that's true for me. B+

____________

As a passing note, the two teas I got in the sampler and didn't sample because I already own them are Cardamom French Toast (black tea, sweet and heavy with spices but not spicy per se, strong emphasis on the cardamom as you'd expect - C+ when oversteeped, A when steeped right) and Santa's Secret (black tea and candy canes, basically - *sugary* minty, B+ to A)
lenora_rose: (Default)
2017-02-19 03:11 pm

(no subject)

Well. I didn't intend to take months of hiatus. I'm hoping to revive this in the next while. Again.

The last few months have been waaay too busy to sum up. Joseph's school went much better than the last couple of posts might suggest, but I still have struggles - not so much with the school program or with St. Amant, but I literally could not find a tutor. EVERY person who might have been a possibility changed their mind in the last minute, before they even got interviewed. We finally have someone who might be willing, but she'll need training.

Alex is... a bundle of energy and wants much more attention specifically from me than I entirely think is healthy; and yet I've also been struggling with providing actual focused attention to him, so he gets a lot of Mommy time, but it's distracted time. I've been spending my time off work January and February trying to undo a few of my own bad habits. A small bit at a time.

I'm not working, again, for the same company. It's all about their budget timing, not any failing on my work, but I was hoping I would have heard from them by now. It's my plan to call Tuesday, but we'll see if I can get myself to do it. It's the WORST kind of having to phone people.

Everyone know what's been happening politically. I refuse to give in to it. I'm not in a position to protest much in the US, but I can stay active up here, I can comment and repost news. I can find ways to make it clear I meant to stand for the less enfranchised.

My next couple of posts will be mostly stuff posted before at facebook or the like amalgamated into one mega-post, but I expect to get into trying to write my thoughts at length as well.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-09-07 11:28 pm

Further to

Yesterday's aggravation with Joseph's school.

Today, we found a letter from the school in our mailbox (Technically this probably means yesterday's mail). This is the one we should have had last week, and whose absence cause d me to call int he first place, but at least it showed, and it could as easily be the postal system as anything the school did.

Specifically, we found the letter at 10 AM. One of the things it said is that for Kindergarten, they do a meeting with the teacher this week and proper classes start next Monday.

Our scheduled meeting time? 10:45 today.

There was time enough, just, for me to shower, and because Joseph got excited to be out and about and ran most of the way there, we even arrived early.

I decided I both like and trust his teacher and the EA to handle him right. he started off resistant to going in at all, such that i didn't trust to leave him in the hallway, and I thus invaded her room and found a puzzle I knew would calm and distract him until she arrived. This didn't overly perturb her to discover, or at least she didn't indicate so, and she found him even better distractions in her designated quiet area, and they did all the right things in dealing with him (sometimes well more than I can do). Listened when I talked about his plusses and minuses, including a few quick notes.

I'm a little sad Kindergarten is only 9-11:30, though; he's done 3 hours in the Montessori he was originally at and 4 hours at his pre-K prep. I didn't want to schedule him for all day kindergarten, but I do feel he could handle an hour or so more -- well, it will be roughly twice the kids he's ever been in class with, though, and near 4 times his regular, which could make a difference. (Both Montessori and pre-K maxed out at 8, and most of this time in the latter was with 3 other kids).

(It did mean I pretty much jumped to hear from another source that his music classes can resume, now on Saturdays.)

When we were done meeting the teacher and EA, we went out to the playground for a while. Colin and Alex went home, as this playground isn't as toddler friendly as the others we visit.

A good sign; when I declared us done in the playground, Joseph tried to take me back into the school to the kindergarten room.

I took advantage to talk to the principal and the counsellor (the latter is the clueless person I spoke to on the phone yesterday) for a while, and to pretty much make sure we're all on the same page and all is well for starting him on Monday. And it is, though I still think the counsellor is at best less familiar with things under his purview than he ought to be. (I think the principal's chief crime was delegation to the person who should know his job, which I usually approve of. And she seemed fairly sensible at least.)

Anyhow, it all worked out.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-09-06 10:28 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

Twice within the last week, my world seems to be being turned upside down because someone made an incorrect assumption and never actually asked or cleared it up. in the first case, i can say with my own experience the person is someone competent and capable in other circumstances, in the latter, I have no idea.

Event number one:

I've been working full time for the last several weeks on a temporary contract (basically as a file clerk, but with a particular file reorganization project in mind). I am at best partway through the project I'm supposed to be working on (partly due to a snafu with supplies but also because two other departments have borrowed me for their own projects, to the tune of roughly 3 weeks' work.) and my immediate manager had made it clear in casual conversation that she assumed I'd be around for a while yet.

Well, my contract was up September 2nd, and while all the unofficial conversation assumed I was still going to be there, I had seen nothing from the temp agency or the company that officially extended my contract. So, since I tend to let things lie until they're almost due (that part of both snafus I will happily own), I pointed this out to my manager on Thursday.

Because the other two temps working there (at another location) had contracts that run to September 30th, she'd believed mine did, too.

But normally, one day's notice is still time enough to extend a contract. It's happened to me before, and not just once.

Turns out, though, that the CEO of the company, somewhere down in the US, had put out word of an hiring freeze WITHIN THE WEEK. So they literally could not extend my contract despite pretty much everyone involved on the ground really really wanting to. (Me included. Despite this incident, it's a lovely place to work, I really liked it.)

There's some hope that my manager can eventually get some kind of a special permission, or something, and summon me back, and I have made it clear to both the temp agency and everyone involved with me directly that I'll show up as soon as I'm called. But I'm at best on unpaid leave again for a couple of weeks.

Just in time for the first week Joseph goes to real school.

Which leads directly to Event number two.

I hadn't heard anything from the school (which had my application since just after last year's spring break), but when I called the School Division's Special Needs Support person (Not her title but I am too tired to look it up), she'd said I probably wouldn't hear anything from them until right before Joseph is due to go to class.

Well, that's now, and I still had nothing. So, being off work, and with a husband who HATES doing phone calls more than I do, I finally called today to find out how exactly they arrange Kindergarten.

The school said they thought he was going to another school.

A couple of phone calls more, and I finally twig to what happened.

St. Amant is a private organization that does (among many other things) a whole lot of programs for autistic children, including a full blown home tutoring for preschool children (which Joseph never got due to being diagnosed late enough he aged out before the waiting list hit the end), a pre-Kindergarten preparatory class (Which he has been doing, and thriving in, and which ended last week), and sending tutors to schools to help support children whose needs they feel the school division support system alone can't handle. (school divisions vary in both budget and staff, though not as drastically as in some places.)

We got our acceptance letter for St. Amant's School Age program within the last 2 weeks.

So did the school. But they thought it meant J. would be going *to* St. Amant and not to the school division, not that they would get additional support.

When, after calling the school, having the school staff member in charge of special needs (not the principal as I was told to expect) call me, calling St. Amant, and calling the school back, I finally figure this out. It took that long partly because the guy talks in buzzwords a bit, and partly because I had assumed that someone working for a school would, well, know how this works better than a first-kid-in-school mom.

I pointed this out to the person I was talking to, and he went to call the person in charge at St. Amant to clear things up. I hoped to hear back before the end of the day, but nobody called me today.

If they don't call tomorrow AM, I'm debating whether it's better to walk in and deal with this in person, or phone again.

HOW DOES A SCHOOL NOT KNOW THIS? I was told when I applied that another child with autism will be in Kindergarten, so they can't have never had this support before, can they?

All in all, though, not exactly the way to impress a nervous mom that your school will be remotely aware of what inclusion and integration actually entail, or that he'll get the support he needs from them.

The first of these two has me sad and a bit frustrated more than anything. The second one has me simmering.
lenora_rose: (Baby)
2016-07-06 10:41 pm

Last week...

So; this is how the week has been:

Saturday:

- I turn 40. Celebrating with family is put off until next day because Mom is sick, and we all suspect that won't be long enough.

Sunday:
- Nice church service. Family celebration put off again until Tuesday. Not surprising. Alex is a bit fussy from a long-running running nose, and Wilma asks a couple of times if he feels warm to me, and he doesn't, any more than usual, I think.

Monday:
- First day at my new job, a few weeks' term position for a company that makes pharmaceuticals. ("All" I'm doing is sorting and documenting and other paperwork tasks). This day is pretty much all training meetings: First an intro to the company and its vision, then health and safety, then Good Manufacturing Practices (And why they exist; the long history of how and why the regulations for pharmaceuticals exist, including everything from snake oil up to the person who tainted Tylenol on store shelves). Then good documentation practices, the only part directly relevant to me, I hope, health and safety being the sort of thing you need to know but where you don't want to have to use the knowledge.
- I get home to learn Alex has been feverish, very fussy and altogether not well. He throws up a bit in the evening before supper.
- Regardless, I get to go out and do the planned birthday thing with some friends, which is essentially go to Baked Expectations for dessert. I bypass my entire general favourite category of dessert (cheesecake!) of which they have many excellent ones, in favour of a hazelnut meringue torte. The hazelnut meringue part is amazing. The hazelnut buttercream filling is excellent but starts feeling very heavy at the end. I give it 8/10, would order again, but maybe to split a piece with someone.

Monday Night/Tuesday Morning:
- Alex is very fussy and ends up sleeping with me in bed from midnight or so on. Around 3, he starts wriggling and kicking and being very awake, so I move him from where he's kicking Colin to the other side of me (Also so he can try to nurse a new side) ... and he promptly throws up instead. Clean up, temperature taking, anti-fever meds, and a long slog to convince him to go back to sleep ensue. He falls asleep after 4:30, but before 5.
- Fever was 103.1, enough we know he's going to the doctor in the morning, not enough to run him to Emergency on the spot.

Tuesday:
- Work starts giving me real work. Yay! Also, there's a lot of what's effectively self-directed on computer training to do. I am closer to zombie-like than I would like to be on my second day, but it seems alright.
- Colin takes Alex to the doctor around lunch; the doctor sends him for blood tests and asks for a urine sample to be dropped off next day. I contemplate the logistics of getting such a sample from a 15 month old; my best suggestions is tell him we're going to give him a bath, and stand him naked in the bathtub for about 30 seconds (water in tub optional).
- Later, the doctor calls back, and says that the fever (103.6) plus the elevated white blood cell count means Alex should be seen by emergency. Which Colin has to do, me being at work at the time.
- At least this means I can go for my usual run with Joseph... although Joseph does in fact make this a bit less fun when he both tries to run down to the river in the park without me, AND has a minor accident (The kind that means he needs to change his pants, not the kind that means he's hurt or upset). While the fire pit near the river is a frequents spot for some of the transitory and homeless populations and that meant that this time he was being watched before I got there, "Down to the river" is really a place I do NOT want a 4-year-old with a tendency to run off to ever get the idea it's safe or permissible to go alone.
- Colin and Alex stay at the hospital until past 1 AM. this at least means I get 4 hours of unbroken sleep first, before they get home and I nurse and settle the baby in bed.
- Alex, alas, had been catheterized and given a battery of tests (as Colin put, it, probably the worst day of his life to date) while they tried to find out what was wrong. They eliminated many possibilities but didn't yet have a concrete diagnosis; some tests take longer to resolve. They're expected back the next day.

Wednesday:
- More work. I'm more awake and getting the hang of the general idea, though there are a lot of things about how a typical day will go that aren't gelled yet. I also chose an earlier start (eek) and end time, because the earlier end time works better for seeing the boys.
- Colin takes Alex back to the hospital. More tests, more items eliminated. Alex is home before I am.
- Alex seems on an upswing; lower fever, and some cheerful play. Right up until bedtime, when he gets warm, gets fussy, and is up late. And up a LOT. Basically it feels like a reoccurrance of the worst of things, though he does not, in fact, throw up in the bed this time.

Thursday:
- Would have been an employee appreciation day, over at Investors Group Field (The football stadium), except I call in "Baby sick". The manager's remark was, "If you're going to miss a day, this is the day to miss."
- This means when the doctor calls and says Alex has signs of bacteria in his blood, and we should go to the hospital, it's my turn.
- The good news is, this also means they can start giving in an antibiotic because they know antibiotics as a genre are the thing to do. Details about whether the antibiotic is a resistant strain left as guesswork. Less good; the IV comes loose in the last few moments (while flushing out) so it can't stay in to the next day. Which means more needles for the repeat dose, hurrah.
- Alex seems to start feeling better, but also he and I get a nap in the afternoon. His fever by nightfall is borderline maybe-still-there maybe-not.
- and as a minor insult-to-injury, my brother has been sick a couple of days by this time, so even if we'd wanted to push Alex, we couldn't do the family gathering.

Friday:
- Canada Day!
- Starts off with ANOTHER trip to the hospital and another shot of antibiotic. On the plus side, his fever seems to be gone at last, and this was more like a routine doctor's visit, even if it happens in the emergency ward. And the IV stayed in.
- Taking Joseph on his usual run is not nearly so usual, as it weaves us in and out of the Osborne Canada Day stuff. He really doesn't like the crowds but did seem to like his ice cream sandwich. He tried some bouncy castle type stuff (Even said an explicit yes to trying one. Explicit yesses are less than 3 weeks old at this point and usually meant), but was less than wholly delighted after all.
- the fireworks go off shortly after Alex woke and fussed anyhow, so he fell asleep not long after they ceased without being overly troubled.

Saturday:
- the LAST shot. The last hospital visit. We go home with a prescription for more antibiotics. (And they call to confirm Sunday that it's not going to be resistant to the change in medication.)
- I get to do a get-together with my brother and some friends for my birthday. Not quite the long since cancelled family gathering but great anyhow. Alas, the Indian place we wanted to go for dinner was closed for some event (My first thought seeing the saris through the window was a wedding but it could have been any kind of banquet) so we had to make do with good burgers. Nice but not the same...



This week, incidentally, is no better for busy-ness, even if it's much more cheerful and much less fretful - work is settling in nicely, and the real project is starting to take over, but also, it's Folk Fest time. I was on shift at the fest today, I'll be at work tomorrow, and on shift volunteering again on Friday at the crack of seven AM.

This will be the first time EVER I have been working but not had the opportunity to take the Monday off.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-06-03 11:44 pm

Sometimes doing the right thing is really damn easy

The other day I got a call from Conner Cochran of Conlan Press, mentioning that I had won his monthly draw from all the fans who were at the Last Unicorn tour; any one item from the tour page including expensive prints, etc.

Some of the stuff is really pretty, as I recall from buying during the tour.

I said no thanks. And that was that.

It's notable that he basically said Ok and that he'd draw another name until someone said yes. Notable because it means he gets a lot of people saying No, with or without thanks.

An honest business doesn't get a lot of people who went out of their way to get to a special event, purchased stuff there, and squeed all over a longtime favourite author, to later end up turning down lovely and sometimes fairly costly free stuff.

I wish I'd known about just how skeevy his operation was then; it's soured an event I quite enjoyed at the time, and a meeting with Beagle that I felt was nice.

Some people said they found the way Cochran pushed himself forward creepy and felt like Beagle was squished a bit out of his own event. I have to say I was not one of them.

I was clueless. I thought it was the natural way things fall in the teamwork of a born salesman and an introvert, and Cochran didn't give me quite the crawly feeling some aggressive salespeople do. I could see myself and someone with a bit of showmanship striking a similar balance. Beagle was charming and erudite and talked to fans with some pleasure.

I had no idea Beagle was basically being pushed to exhaustion, all the money from the lovely things there filtered away from him and into Cochran's pocket, and that anyone Beagle tried to talk to alone would get Cochran telling them how old and confused he was -- including cutting Beagle off from his own family.

That Cochran, after getting Beagle out from under a predatory contract, turned around and preyed on him all over again.

I had no idea, since I wasn't planning to buy anything that wasn't on the table at the time, that many, if not all, of the people who did sign up to pre-pay for special packages have never received them, that Cochran keeps promising late and later dates. Up to 12 years. (I did sign up to be notified when the tour book comes out, but wasn't going to pre-pay.)

I did find it unfortunate that the e-mail I sent requesting a copy of the photo taken with me and Beagle never got a reply, but I assumed it was because the tour was busy.

Not until the lawsuit against Cochran and Conlan Press was filed last year, alleging fraud and elder abuse.

It's soured me also on some of the stuff I bought there - not that I would lose one word of the books, and the art is lovely. But now I know Beagle, who was right in front of me, never saw a dime. I'd almost like to pay again, cash straight into his hand - and my only hesitation would be the awkwardness of it. (I wonder if the artists get their payments on time, or demand payment upfront before releasing stock? I hope so, but I have no idea. Fans Against Fraud has a reference to one of the artists not having been paid in full, but it's not one of the ones whose work I paid for.)

This isn't hearsay:

Beagle's legal Complaint

Another legal complaint, from a company that invested in the tour.

Fans Against Fraud (Collects a LOT of pull quotes. gets repetitive, but lays it all out.)

________________


One of the things I got, and it wasn't purchased but won, was a shirt that reads "Damn you, Peter S. Beagle, it's all your fault". It's meant to be referring to the Last Unicorn, and the fact that she's supposedly the first known reference to a female unicorn and unicorns as a feminine thing.

It feels a bit sour now, and I can't wear it.

I have considered marking it with editor's corrections in some form, some red pen to make it better. (The only one I am completely certain about, though, is to strike "damn" and put in "Thank".)

Even then, though, I'm still not positive I could wear it in comfort, and not ever in front of Beagle.

I still like my unicorn wand. I just really wish I knew for sure that THAT artist got her payment.
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
2016-05-24 02:01 am
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I talked about this on facebook, but I have longer thoughts, too.

Joseph and I go for walks after school most days, and sometimes on other days (like Sunday). Well, as I joke, they are more like "runs"; he will run whenever there are cars moving on the street, as if he's trying to keep up with them -- and a bit extra for things like buses or motorcycles or oddities. I usually jog as much as I'm willing, so it goes in bursts of speed-up and slow-down as the waves of traffic pass.

I also let him pick the route *most* of the time, although I may put my foot down on going home once we've been at it a while. My focus has been on teaching him street crossing, reminding him to look for cars, and to wait for lights. I sometimes make him go my chosen way, or make a stop, partly to train him for when I really need him to go with me in a particular direction (like, again, Sunday). But mostly he has his little routes; they almost all start almost always up the alley the same way, down the first street the same way. It varies afterwards, but I can make some pretty good guesses where we're going, and it loops back on itself; we sometimes go right past home, and sometimes come pretty close. He tends to stick to major streets for much of it, because more cars.

He's been, I think, also using it to get a mental map of the area and how it all links up. Some of the repetition is autistic routine, or bits he particularly enjoys (We often make extra repeats of ramps), and some is testing his map, especially when he unexpectedly varies his path.

I kind of enjoy the routine, even if I often come out of one tired and footsore. It's also pretty good exercise, trying to cooperate with a 4 year old's energy level.

I feel even more glad he mostly chooses the routes, and that this means I know his most likely choices.

This is what I posted on Facebook:

Anyone who also has Colin on their news feed knows Joseph ran out of the house earlier today. He was found by a young woman who took his hand and tried to get him to lead her home. He led her instead on one of his walking routes (exactly the wrong way from home, though it would have looped back eventually.) Colin, at home, called the cops while one of the people I (out searching) asked flagged down a pair of paramedics on bicycles, who found her and then let m know she was bringing him my way (meanwhile the police Colin called also ended up intercepting her and brought her and Joseph to me and then me and Joseph safe home.)

We owe thanks to so many people; the woman who took his hand and looked for where he belonged and who, most of all, meant he was travelling safely and not running into traffic, the people who talked to me at River and Osborne who loaned me cell phones (my phone? Are you kidding? I left the house without putting on shoes. Granted, if such an awful thing happens again, I'm taking the phone if I can, but still screw the shoes.) and/or walked/biked the neighbourhood to search, the woman who flagged the paramedics while my panicked mind was still thinking, "but that's the wrong emergency services", the paramedics and police themselves. Even the one person I talked to who remembered a blond boy with a woman going by.

I'm still shaken, though.


It's so easy to second-guess everything.

This has happened now two and a half times for real, and a couple of other close calls. (The half is when he made his escape after leaving the car, not out of the house). The other two involved us being close behind, even in sight, so not quite the same as not being sure exactly how long, how far.

We have a latch on the door to the back hall but we know he figured out what to climb onto to reach it. Should we have moved that thing, so he at least needed to drag a chair over? We have a different fastener on the outside door we know he CAN get at, again with something to climb onto, but again slows him and causes trouble. We even have a windchime set so that opening the door will make it ring, and it's audible on both floors, though probably not in the bathroom with the fan or shower on.

I was upstairs in the shower. Well, except after I finished the shower I sat upstairs alone for a long time, just reading a book. And I mean half an hour or more. (Colin was downstairs, and could speak to his own reasons for not catching on; I will say that while they weren't any better than mine, they weren't worse, either.) I went downstairs, past Colin and into the kitchen, thinking we were overdue to deal with lunch; and saw the door. I don't remember what I said, but enough to get him up and moving, and then I was off, shoeless and purseless, down the alley as I was.

Colin was a bit more active than I make it sound; he made sure Alex was safe, checked Joseph's route the opposite way, and the playground, then sat down at home to call the police and mind Alex (and the phone). I found most of this out afterwards, when I borrowed the phones, or even after I got home.

Do we need to have a more orderly plan in place? More than just "Next time I bring my cell"? Colin did exactly the right thing. I was keeping it together in most ways until Joseph was safe (I had a really obvious increase in panic and stress symptoms once I was told he was found, and more once I had him, but I was aware even as I was managing to think out plans while I walked that I wasn't thinking entirely clearly.)

Had I come downstairs sooner, would I have seen Joseph while he was still in the house? He starts working on getting outside when he's bored with indoor stuff; I could have started an activity with him. We need to do more of that; more things that aren't default habits. Might I have at least arrived soon enough to nab him in the first block? Did I hear a chime and assume Colin was in control? I don't remember doing so, so probably not, but the other escape out of the house happened when I heard the chime but had thought Colin (who was working on renos) was doing work that involved going outside as well as into and out of the basement.

There's the things I have done lackadaisically, like teaching Joseph to say his name (Which he can do -- but the officer said he never got a peep out of him, and the only thing Joseph said to me in the police car on the way home was "octagon stop sign" when we reached an intersection.) I've talked about making him an "all about me" book to teach him rote answers to "what's your name?" and "where do you live?" but haven't made it.

I keep wondering if we should get him some jewellery that has his name and address, but teaching him to wear it, all the time, would be some doing; he doesn't like wristbands, and he's very good at figuring out fasteners (see again: everything we've done to our doors to slow him down)

I've also wondered about preemptively flyering the neighbourhood with his picture and home address and an explanation that he's a flight risk with poor verbal skills. The houses and apartments and condos, probably not; not only would it be a dauntingly huge undertaking, but it carries a lot of OTHER issues. But maybe the businesses, at least the ones that have a view out the window? I keep thinking this is a bad idea, but is it a worse idea than not doing it, if he vanishes again? And yet again, most of my samaritans were just people shopping or going about their day, although the woman who flagged the paramedics is one of the people who runs a street kiosk.

We're planning on building a fence around the yards this summer; that was part of the plan already.

The other bit I posted on facebook:
And for a super-fun follow-up: we were at a party at the house of one of Colin's old friends this afternoon, in their back yard. We'd figured out how to keep him from opening the gate right away. Then he followed the other kids inside once ... and inside, went instead to the front door, opened it and was off down the street. In Fort Richmond, which he doesn't know and where we would have no idea where to look after 5 minutes. One of the other parents caught on and chased him down, so he was brought back quickly (he leaves doors open behind him), but we had to spend half of the rest of the party minding all possible exits. It's that fast.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-05-07 09:39 pm

A No-Pressure Club : First meeting

So I had this idea a while back, partly from reading Felicia Day's memoir. There's a stretch of time when she's in a sort of support group for artistic endeavours, and everyone else seems to be taking active steps to assure their goals, while she... is playing World of Warcraft or making schedules. Well, until eventually she pretty much tortures herself into writing the first script for the Guild.

And I thought - I've been wanting to do an in person writing group for a while. BUt I don't know many fellow writers in Winnipeg, and of the ones I do know, many of them write slowly, piecemeal, or do NaNoWriMo (And maybe the Camp) but not much else. And I thought, I'd love to see some of these people more, but I'd hate for the seeing of them to become a source of stress and pressure. Where and when Felicia was in her life, she really had both no excuse and need for a really hard push. But I'm looking at new moms, divorcees, anxiety disorders, depression, huge workloads...

So I sent this e-mail to some people (And I am considering at least one more):

I've been toying with an idea for a bit, so I'm going to throw it out there at you all. FEEDBACK IS VERY WELCOME. Nothing is finalized or set in stone. At the very least, if you like the idea of a get together, let me know what times you might be available?


As far as I know, all of you do some SF/F writing, and enjoy doing it. Some are aiming to go pro (Or already have) and some are just in it for fun.

But ALL of us have one other thing in common; a life so busy and full of other projects and obligations that we really don't write as much as we want to, or used to, or you-name-it.

Which means that for most of us, a traditional writing group doesn't work, because they often expect a certain amount of progress daily, or weekly, and sometimes the message, intended or not, is that you aren't really into it if you don't hit some magic number.

Which can be discouraging instead of inspiring. Or, when it inspires you to force out words, can make you miserable instead of happy. Deadlines make some people stubborn instead of purposeful, and some people write or edit once or twice a year in big sprints, spending the rest of the time thinking, planning, and researching, which works very badly with most writing groups. Some people are only productive with a strict schedule, some find strict schedules break them.

However, it's also true that just hanging out with other writers in a group can often be itself a motivator to do stuff, or to ask questions about the things stalling you. it can also give opportunities to brainstorm, blather, and just generally squee, about your own writing, about books you love, about all the things.

So I am proposing a club that gets together about every two weeks to sit, talk about writing, plot problems, worldbuilding, research, tea (Or beverage-of-choice), books, and life. Each session would be in three phases; a semi-formal organized section where everyone in turn talks about storyish stuff they're thinking about, any progress they made if they wish, or asks questions for everyone to try and answer (45 minutes to an hour), a more general conversation and loosening up for a while (this would happen anyhow, why not make it officially allowed?), then one 45 minute writing session, which is optional participation, can be on your ongoing project if any or just an outpouring of words, or can be a set exercise (Multiple set exercises will be available, not just one) followed by a last burst of comments etc. about the writing session. So 3 hours or so total time.

And one of the things about it being a no-pressure club is that the same pressures of life that make writing hard also mean some people will NOT be able to make it every time, and that's okay, too, as long as they do show about once every 3 months or so. (That'd be one session in 6). We need a minimum of three people showing for a session to go forward, though the more the merrier.


Today was the first meeting. We had a total of four people (the couple hosting, me, and one more.) Because the last person arrived rather late (to be fair, even I arrived late; Alex nursed to sleep right when I was ready to leave). The thought that there were only the three of us, and the fact that these are people I don't see as much as I'd like, meant we started very informally, chatting before veering into writing related stuff, did a lot of meandering off topic. Ultimately we didn't do the writing sprint because there wasn't time (though one person, not me, was doing research and notes for an ongoing project while listening and talking). Most of us agreed a more structured approach the next time would be good, but this also allowed us to get some of that out of our system now. (I do kinda regret not doing the writing sprint, but I was half an hour late in leaving their place anyhow).

All in all I call it a success, though a minor one, and we'll have to see how the next one goes. If they all end up this informal, I'll be sad.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-05-02 12:58 am

Argh! Indie?

(Interesting timing for this set of thoughts...)


I thought I would only consider selling any of my stories Indie if I exhausted all other options, or as reprints. But looking at the markets available out there for a 30k fantasy novella.

-The place that pays the best pro rates and actually gets their books in bookstores is firmly closed to unsolicited submissions for, as far as I can tell, ever.
- The only other place that pays pro rates decided to drop back to 20k as a top limit (even though the guidelines I was going by said 40k).
- The place that pays a half-decent rate and seems to be getting some attention and word of mouth (More important than the money) cut their guidelines back to 25k between my first research and the rejection from the pro place.
- Most of the other places I saw listed had poor rates, weird red flags in their guidelines (not necessarily that they are at all dishonest, just that they might have no idea how other publishers work or what's professional), or terrible cover art and design. Or some mix thereof.

Really, Eggplant Productions was a teeny tiny operation that was staffed by about three people and shut down because the woman running it was having personal difficulties, so not exactly top-line. And yet they had guidelines that made it plain they knew how publishing works as a whole and what writers want to know, a low but clear and honest pay rate (And actually, the second time around, it wasn't *that* low) and decent cover art/design.

So... Should I try and go it sorta-solo for the novellas? I still fully intend to submit novels to publishers.

If I do, should I get a more professional editor's eye on the thing first, just in case?
lenora_rose: (Default)
2016-04-10 11:52 pm

The Shepherd's Crown

Well, it's only been since December.

I think I'll make this reopening post a review.

In my heart of hearts, I really kind of wanted Terry Pratchett's last book to be a real, true Swan Song*, a work of excellence to rival his prior bests. (Exactly which books are those bests is up for enough debate as it is, although Night Watch, one of my two picks, is frequently cited. Nation less so, but I'm not its sole advocate.)

I knew it wasn't likely, but he still had a pretty solid grasp on Tiffany Aching in I Shall Wear Midnight, and I knew his editors had been praised for making this one a fairly solid work.

I will say it was better than the books right before it, in many ways, but I also felt like I was getting that impossible chance to beta-read an early draft, not the final. There was so much that was here that was Pratchett through and through -- interspersed with all the bits that wobble and wibble and get written in as one is looking for the heart of a story - things that would be cut in later drafts, scenes that would be expanded upon.

Spoilers ahead.

The death of Granny Weatherwax, and the reactions of the living in dealing with it, were among the jewels, the pieces carved out at their best and most precise. I have little doubt that was among the parts, as mentioned in the afterword, Pratchett had written earlier and had the greatest chance to revise and polish. I also have no doubt it was a part he most cared to get right, alongside coping with his own mortality.

I was mostly amazed it happened so early on, as the catalyst of the plot rather than as part of its resolution, or as a key turning point in the centre. But it makes sense.

The thread about the farming family with the triplets, and young Tiffany, I thought was one of the pieces where Pratchett had the most to say that never got written. It felt like there would have been greater ties, greater thematic resonances, with the main story, if this had been written ten years ago. They might not have been any better parents or learned much more than they already did - Pratchett was never one to shy away from the folly side of humanity, or its failings - but it rang one note, and usually it would have made a chord.

I feel rather the same about Geoffrey and his goat - things seemed to open for him a bit too easily. On the one hand, the bedrock of the witches has fallen, and the world has been changing steadily a while, so one more change feels like barely a blink -- and the more so for Tiffany herself, who is already following a rather unusual path. HER reaction is spot on. On the other, there should be some pull back, even if it's not the explicit, solid wall 'you can't do that' kind. In fact, I'd have been disappointed if it was that. But something on the order of micro-aggression, condescension, the occasional soft nudge aside - let me do it dear, I've been at this for years, I know my stuff, you can just watch for now - would have been much harder for Geoffrey, used to hard walls, to break past. It should have felt more like a pleasing turn when at the end even Mrs. Earwig approved him. Especially since it might have seemed peaceful so his calming tricks wouldn't work. I liked him and loved Mephistopheles as characters, though. Distinct even at this brief an intro.

By contrast, there were far too many bits affirming Tiffany Aching as THE witch, too many times the possibility of big resistance was raised, only to be waved off. I feel certain Pratchett would have crystallized the number of times it was asserted, by the number of people, that Tiffany was indeed the right choice.

The battle with the elves, and indeed their incursions into Discworld, were more clumsily handled than they might have been -- Nightshade's transformation was too quick, and in some ways far too likely to have reversed again when she got her power back. Her awareness of the changes in the Disc started before she lost power, and probably would have stayed, but I could easily imagine her understanding of humans fading again if she was back on a throne over elvish courtiers, and more if the elves found a different, less iron-advanced, world to harass. Peaseblossom was far too one-note to be a solid villain, and the scenes with the King were disjointed and confusing, even as his motives, too, were one-note. Their themes "The world is changing and we are being left behind" AND "Let's make elves in Discworld Great Again" both got repeated too much, with too little of the depth Pratchett has previously given to the opposition, making their resemblance to certain real-world aspects weaker and less convincing, and making them less scary.

The climactic battle had a much more solid feel of pieces coming together as they ought -- which felt surreal when my impression of the rest of the book was that the pieces were less than fully realized (or overemphasized).

And the epilogue fit Tiffany well.



* I felt the same about Diana Wynne Jones, and I didn't get it then, either, not quite. Her last novel written entirely by herself was fabulous except for the very last two pages, which added an extra and unnecessary and rather squicky revelation. Her very last book, finished by her sister, had a promising DWJ start and a not-wholly unsatisfying ending that nonetheless was also rather clearly, to me, not written by her. I can't point to exactly where the transition happened, her sister is a better writer than that. I also can't say for sure it isn't the PLOT she intended, it could have been - only that the prose and the flow of it were no longer hers.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-12-15 09:50 pm

(no subject)

We have a friend who paints a stained glass style nativity scene on her front window. (She also often does ones for Easter or Hallowe'en). Technically, it's often a group endeavour; she does the black outlines, and various people, including her, fill in with colour. (Then we redo the outlines)

This year, she's been sick, so while she had her painting party. it didn't get finished. I offered to come by the week after, and continue it. Which I did (I didn't finish it either, but I got it far enough to make it a much easier job; all the figures were done with the exception of some hat details.)

However, I badly misestimated how much of some colours of paint I'd need, and felt badly for it. These colours were finished in her place, there was literally nothing to do but dump them.

Or was there?

We have an alcove off our living room with one exceedingly annoying window. That is, in midafternoon, the sun glares through it right onto the couch. We'd even stuffed a cushion from a long-gone couch into it, but this was only a partial solution. In fact, much of the day, light coming in is good... If only it were muted.

I had been thinking for a while that her window-painting might be the answer. But I have acrylics, which are rather more permanent than her tempera/soap mix, and probably less translucent.

And now I had a bunch of colours that needed getting rid of. Specifically, purple, green, orange, red, russet, dark brown, and grey. No blue, which put paid to my initial impulses, which tended towards peacocks or mermaids.

So I went obvious. Well, obvious if you're me.

The first photo shows the sketched in stained glass outline and the first colour (and a demonstration why every line has to be redone at the end to actually look darker than the colour panes.)

Alas, I finished after dark, so the second picture is what it looks like when lit from inside the house.



Tomorrow I take pictures of it from inside, lit from without, and probably vice versa in the evening.

To give credit where it's due, here are my two sources.
artist listed on Deviantart as tempusnox

sagaciousblonde
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-11-24 12:36 am

(no subject)

I'm failing this Demi Wri Mo Challenge, but succeeding at getting stuff written, so I can't quite say I'm failing as a whole. But it's not helping my mood. The last few days were, in order, 63 words, 1429 words, 156 words, and 993 words, to a total of 15389. I need all 1400 word days from here on to make it. I'm skeptical.

It also feels very me right now. Doing the right thing but not enough of it. Doing half-assed at everything. I'm not going to go into details, specifically so people can't say, "but look at this part you are doing right!" I know. There's still half a glass of water. Forgive me if right now I say don't try and send feel-good flag waving or reassurances. I'm processing.

My baby still does not sleep as he ought. He also has a cold (and gave it to his grandma) so this is not the week to push it. That really doesn't help, because if he don't sleep, neither do I. Starting to reread on sleep training, though.
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
2015-11-17 11:44 pm

Word count

I had three days of about 300 words each in a row, after one day with a zero count because exhausted. On the second, I was *this* close to calling it because I was already behind, and just getting further, and dammit, this was only HALF a NANO I should be able to do better...

It doesn't help that I'm not feeling this story yet. I'm getting a lot of "This feels dumber on the page than it ever did in my head, and I'm stuck in set-up, and none of the cool stuff is happening for a while."

Then I told myself 300 words a day is more than I have done on average for a long time. And 300 words a day is 109,500 in a year. Which is a short-for-me novel.

Then I did some math and found that my word count per day to finish by the 30th had gone from 833 words per day to 1,123 -- and I had a couple of days this November that were right around there.

So. No more slacking (and I dread tomorrow's count, with the whole family birthday party), but also not an impassable barrier. Not the 1,667 words of Nano, either.

Today's count was 1,133 words, ending just before a scene I think will help really get the ball rolling. Total to date: 10,417.

AS for not feeling the story? Well, I've only been thinking about some of the bits and pieces that have become this story since Joseph was an infant. And the point was to get 25,000 words into it so I would know if it was worth pursuing further, since it's always hard to tell when one is noodling with it in one's head.

I can DO this.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-11-13 12:12 am

(no subject)

So I missed one day entirely and ended yesterday at 6,970. Tonight, I'm stopping at 8036 words - which is about 2,000 behind where I should be.

I can still catch that up witch a bit more discipline.

And I may have created a better opportunity for being that disciplined, in that I moved the active file to my google drive, so now I can type downstairs on the same keyboard I normally use (and which my husband recently replaced so it now has a working o, hurrah!) and don't have to continually switch to and from the Dana, which is a too-complicated multi-step process.

It does mean having my cruddy rough draft up on the big screen for all to see, but as long as that all is JoJo and Alex, that's okay. It would be awkward if/when Colin or his mother (or mine) are about, because I can be EXTREMELY prickly about people seeing my rough drafts. But if they're present, then chances are, I can switch to upstairs and some privacy, even if it's with Alex all over me napping. And the nigh continuous auto-save is a wonder. (I STILL remember losing words to the old style computers where if you closed a file without saving, it just closed and everything vanished. And that was junior high. The new computers in grade 9 with the ICONs and the question whether you Want to save were a beauty of a thing.)

And this has grown longish for what was meant to be a quick-post, though part of that is that just as I was starting, and intending to get to bed, Alex woke and started to fuss. So after a baby-free hour of typing, I'm doing this post one-handed whilst cuddling.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-11-10 12:00 am

(no subject)

So yesterday's count stopped at exactly 5,000, which was a bit low but I was tired and t was past midnight.

Tonight's, stopped at 11:59, is 6,381 words and a scene end.

Someone cheer me on?
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-11-07 11:37 pm

Words!

4275 words. Which is 1347 words today. Which is above what I need per day for my intended goal, but maybe not enough to catch up. But sleep now.
lenora_rose: (Default)
2015-11-07 12:36 am

Words!

2928 words for Demi-Wri-Mo - despite forgetting when i blithely thought I could catch up tonight that tonight was our gaming night. Duh.. Not quite doubled, but definitely an improvement. Still behind, but if I do this pace a couple times more, I will be on track for 25,000.