Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Business Card Backs

14 March 2014

I’m redesigning my personal business cards, so thought I’d show off the backs of the ones I used to have.
It had a few requirements:

  1. A lot of people at conferences have told me they like to write on the backs of business cards, so I deliberately didn’t use an obtrusive design.
  2. Because people could write on it, it had to be a simpler form of what was on the front, and with none of the writing to interfere with whatever the recipient wanted to do with the back.
  3. The logo was on the front of the card as well, just flipped and in color.

Specific steps:

  1. Copy the image later to a new Photoshop document the same size as the front.
  2. Edit -> Transform -> Flip Horizontal
  3. Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate
  4. Set the layer opacity to 10%.
  5. Create a new layer beneath that, fill with 100% white.

dsm-card2007-back

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A Wonderful Post About Chronic Illness

14 March 2014

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Health Care (Until I Got Sick)

[B]ut people suffering from the condition often spend years shuffling painfully between baffled specialists before getting our necks mercifully slashed open like an Opposite Day episode of Dexter.
Or you’ll visit six different psychiatrists who all fail to cure your crippling depression, because none of them ever thought to test to see if it was caused by an asshole thyroid.

Speaking as someone with a differently-assholish thyroid? This. So much this. Especially since I’ve been advised that I’m going to have to do the Opposite Day Dexter thing at some point in the fairly near future.
So, do you happen to know one thing that can show a thyroid problem? (Lack of it doesn’t mean there is one.) Thin or disappearing eyebrows, especially the outer third. I used an eyebrow pencil for this photo shoot, not that you can tell.
I heard someone say they didn’t know spoon theory recently, so here’s a link to that post also.

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My Crackpot Theory About Malaysian Flight MH 370

13 March 2014

So a friend of mine asked me what my theory was about the disappearance of flight MH 370.
Honestly, I think it’s sunk, but that’s not a very interesting answer, is it?
So let’s assume the far more interesting answer of: it’s hijacked. First question: where?
Let’s look at the Washington Post’s map.
From there, let’s exclude:

  1. All of continental Asia, Australia, and Africa. Because it’d have been detected with multiple possible ATC contact points in any of those countries.
  2. Diego Garcia. There’s US military there. I don’t think so. Besides, who the fuck goes to Diego Garcia? I mean, really. THEY HAVE COCONUT CRABS THERE.
  3. Maldives, because the jet would be taller than anything else in the country (outside of Mahé, which is quite built up) and it’s mostly a country of air taxi floatplanes anyway. Meaning: water landings. A Boeing 777 is not designed for water landings. Not twice, anyway.
  4. Sri Lanka, as it’s too close to India and therefore becomes part of #1. Same for Madagascar, which is just at the very edge of the possible range.
  5. Anything else remote in the Indian Ocean, including Seychelles, Reunion, Socotra with its amazing trees because there’s not really sufficient reason to go there.

So unless they went scuba diving in Palau, that leaves two large collections of landmasses:

  1. The largest archipelago in the world: Indonesia.
  2. One of the largest countries (and archipelagos) in the world: Philippines.

Both have an amazing assortment of ethnicities, politics, languages (the Philippine father of a friend used to have to speak to relatives in English because they didn’t speak the same language). Yet, I can’t think of a reason to hijack a plane and take it to the Philippines. I admit this is a failing in my geopolitical education, so let’s just move along.
I was a big fan of Indonesia for this all along. Let’s just say that Indonesia and I got off to a rocky start. Then, when I was still feeling unhappy about it, I read Patrick Lynch’s book Carriers. Which I loved because durian. And because hemorrhagic outbreaks in Indonesia, and if you know me like you know Seanan McGuire, you know I love that shit too. And then there were the hemorrhagic outbreaks because durian. Awesome.
Around 10 years ago, I worked as a Network Geographer. I loved the research aspects of it. Where in the world is this IP address? I loved that, if latency was small, you could use millilightseconds to determine real distances.
One of the tasks of interest to a three-letter agency (I did not work for the gov’t) was the mapping of Schlumberger, which does oilfield-related stuff around the world. All of their IP addresses went through their headquarters in Texas. However, they provided a lot of information about end host names. Sometimes these were people’s workstations, and some research on the Schlumberger spouse’s association might provide a clue.
Then the idea was to map to the nearest city, which meant one of a population 10,000 or greater. Which, frankly, doesn’t map particularly well when you’re talking a company where a lot of its IP space was on oil rigs, because oil rigs are often pretty far from cities. I remember spending a particularly frustrating period trying to map oil rig IP spaces in Indonesia, previously unaware how many of them were actually quite far from any population centre. So I’d be working with one map in one window and Google maps in another, and a list of cities in that part of Indonesia in a third, trying to make sense of it all.
I was, however, surprised at how many of these otherwise sparsely-populated places had significant air strips.
Which is why my crackpot theory of choice involves oil rigs in Indonesia.
As for the rest, well, that’s an implementation detail.
On Indonesia, I visited again last year, and this time we had a far more pleasant interaction despite the pouring rain.
Maldivian Air Taxi Safety Card:
Maldivian Air Taxi Safety Card

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Bare-Faced Messiah Back in Print

13 March 2014

Russell Miller’s amazing book about L. Ron Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, sued into oblivion in the United States, is finally going to be re-published. Tony Ortega article.
About the private investigator Scientology frequently uses for harassment:

Eugene Ingram was certainly the major figure, because later on they then tracked down virtually everybody I knew in the United States and Europe. I mean, it was amazing to me. They found every single person I knew in the United States, and I knew a lot of people there because I worked there frequently. So they were in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, and it always seemed to be Eugene Ingram turning up.

What you may not know: after I left Scientology, and again in 1995, Eugene Ingram went around to all my friends, exes, and known ties telling them crap about me.
Even more amazing about Russell Miller’s re-publication is Marty Rathbun’s apology for his part in the dirty tricks. For those who don’t know, Marty has not historically been big on apologizing for this kind of stuff. Good on him.
As he says:

I encourage people to purchase his book once available and read it. Not just because it will make me feel a bit better about my own efforts to suppress it, but because I believe it is essential reading for anyone involved with Scientology.

Linky links: Amazon iBooks Nook Kobo

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Sell to Where the Reader Reads (and Shops)

12 March 2014

I’m not a book marketer, okay? But I do know how you can sell books to me, and I’ve worked in a bookstore, so I know how things work at the other end, too.
Sell to where the reader reads (and shops).
There’s a book I’d like to buy, but it’s only available for Kindle (which I read on my iPad). My main ebook library contains 829 books (all items I bought; I have been buying ebooks since 2005). How many Kindle books do I have?
24.
One of them is QF32, which is an awesome story.
So, when I’m looking for books to read, where am I looking?
Not in my Kindle library. I never think of it unless I happen to remember it’s there. When I buy a Kindle book, I read it right away, and never think of my Kindle library again unless I want to read another book I can’t get another way.
Every book on the digital shelves I peruse, meaning my not-Kindle library, is an advertisement for your next book. I have lots of bookcases there, and I sort my books. I keep most of the books I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year on my iPad. Books are small.
If you want me to think of your book, remember your book, remember it the next time I’m looking for another book to read by an author I liked (and, honestly, I’ll like your book better if I get to read it in an application where the font choices don’t annoy me), then you’ll make the choice to sell it in one of two ways:

  1. Through Apple’s iBooks.
  2. Non-DRMed through another vendor (e.g., Nook, Smashwords, your own website) so I can sideload it into iBooks. This means it’s got to be an EPUB, which isn’t the Kindle format.

And yeah, I could de-DRM the books and convert them using a piece of crap usability nightmare like calibre, but I’d actually like to use the remaining hours of my life for something actively, you know, useful. Plus it only works for one of the two underlying Kindle formats, and I can tell you that the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction is of the other format.
Frankly, most people won’t bother with this. They shop where they shop, and if it’s there, it’s there, and if it’s not, they don’t buy it.
Every fucking time I have to go to the Kindle store to buy a book, I’m annoyed, and that’s not how you want me to feel right before I start reading the sample for your book. I will sometimes buy books without having read a sample on iBooks, but there’s NFW I’ll consider it for Kindle.
On the other hand? If I want to read a piece of trash and never have it sully my iBooks library again…. Ever bought that thing you’re completely embarrassed to have? Hate to be reminded of it every time you look at items “Not in My library”? Filed a feature request for a “Never Let Us Speak of This Again” button? (Unless, you know, you’re overtaken by insanity and you actually want to hear Duffy again. And by Duffy, I mean the meh solo works by Stephen Duffy, not the rather awesome Welsh singer.)

Well, my Kindle library is a great place for that kind of book, even if it’s available on iBooks. Just so you know what kind of company you’ll be keeping in those 24 books.

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Baen, Heinlein, and Me

11 March 2014

I’m a (very minor) Baen author. I’m embarrassed by this. Honestly, I couldn’t read the whole thing. I got to this pair of sentences and bounced out:

Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

Easy peasy. Life is short.
I don’t like Heinlein’s work, generally speaking.
His female characters were, well, not believable female characters to me. On the other hand, as Rick pointed out when I had wound up to quite a rant one day: Heinlein wrote female main (and major) characters at a point in time when few other people did. So, credit where it’s due. He tried. Maybe not very hard, but he tried at a time when few others even bothered.
All the Heinlein stories that I do like are neatly collected into this anthology. “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants” and “And He Built a Crooked House,” for example.
What I dislike even more than some of Heinlein’s stuff is some Heinlein fans. My least favorite group to interact with in fandom is The Heinlein Society. Why?
Because when I told them that I didn’t want to have single-author panels for next year’s convention, they went to the chair of a convention I was attending to get her to help them lobby me (in person, live) to change my policy. After that, I never wanted to speak to them again. Never got an apology, either.
I don’t believe in single-author panels for two reasons:

  1. Panels should be about conversations that expand the audience’s appreciation about a topic. Single-author panels only appeal to big fans of that particular author, and thus have a more-limiting maximum audience than a broader topic.
  2. I consider it disrespectful to the Writer Guest of Honor to have single-author panels that aren’t about the WGoH’s own work. (In the case of someone like Scalzi, including a discussion of Heinlein influences in Scalzi’s work would be a two-author panel, but I’d be okay with that kind of thing, sure.)

One of the things various Heinlein fans have said to me over the years is that Heinlein wrote about his wife Virginia, usually followed by something like therefore he must understand women.
My usual response to that is, “So she married her rapist?” Somehow the topic always drops after that. Mind you, she only married the “good” rapist. IMHO, for a much better book with some Friday-esque themes in it (and without that problematic ending), Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is a far better book.
Let’s just say there are reasons that BASFA occasionally auctions off a used copy of Friday, someone drives over it or otherwise abuses it, then it gets re-donated to be re-auctioned. Maybe it’s time to scour the local used bookstores for a fresh copy.

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Apple's Treatment of Mobility-Impaired Employees

10 March 2014

Last weekend, I was on a panel at FogCon about invisible disabilities. I told this story for the first time.
After I’d been working at Apple for a while, I needed a handicap placard. I’ll go into why later.
Apple culture has had an “execs get a pass” culture as long as it’s been around. There’s a story (possibly apocryphal) that Jean-Louis Gassée once saw Steve Jobs park in a handicap space (long before SJ was seriously ill) and JLG quipped, “Being morally handicapped doesn’t count.”
Now, I knew that story before I started at Apple, but what I didn’t know was that more than just SJ got a pass.
At the time, I worked in Infinite Loop 3. There were 4 handicap spaces outside the building, and 3 underneath the building. For pretty much anyone handicapped, the spaces underneath the building were the better accommodation for reasons I’ll explain later.
An average of once every two weeks, there would be a car without a placard in one of those spaces. The first time it happened, I asked the building receptionist (at Apple, they are part of Security) what I should do. She said to give her the license plate #, so I did. In practice, it was easiest to do so by taking a photo on my phone. Over time, I got quite an iPhoto library of said license plates on one of my work computers.
If someone without a placard parked in the handicap space, there’s always the possibility it’s someone who actually needs the space (and the striped zone for a wheelchair)—and they’ve just managed to screw up somehow and forget to put their placard out. Anyone who’s had a placard for a long time has managed that once or twice. So, essentially, it means I was denied a space I was entitled to, and I didn’t know if I was denied for a good reason or a bad one.
Depressed that nothing was happening, I filed a complaint with HR about it.
It kept happening. I kept reporting it to the receptionist.
I go on vacation. Specifically, we go on a cruise. (April 2011, so Tim Cook was interim CEO)
When I come back, my manager pulls me into a meeting, but not a normal one-on-one kind of meeting. He says that while I was gone, some Apple exec got their car towed, and Scott Forstall was angry about it. The way my manager said it at first, I thought Forstall’s car had been towed. Maybe so.
I said, “I was in Morocco on that day. Would you like to see my passport?”
I was actually trying not to laugh at the whole situation, because, looking at it from the point of view of my frustration, it was pretty hilarious.
So I pointed out that there were three handicap spots under the building, and there were three handicapped people using those spaces every single day. Some days, one of us would have to use the outside spaces because another handicapped person was visiting our building.
My manager, I had noticed, was not at all clued into mobility issues. He bicycle commuted from Santa Cruz. Over the mountains. Hardcore stuff. That doesn’t prohibit understanding, of course, but it sure seemed to elude him.
My manager said, and I wish I were kidding, “Well, couldn’t you park in one of the handicap spots in another building?”
I was so gobsmacked, I couldn’t even form curse words in my head. What I wanted to say was, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
So, in order to protect the able-bodied special snowflakes and save them two minutes, I’m supposed to put myself at risk?
What I was aware was that I didn’t need to share the specific details of my disability, so I did not. What I did, however, was say how much accommodation I actually required. I pointed out that I wasn’t in a wheelchair, so I didn’t need the striped part of the space. So if they parked in the stripe zone next to my car (and not next to the car owned by the dude in a wheelchair or the person I didn’t know), I’d know the regular part of the handicap space was available for me.
Which started happening.
Instead of Apple accommodating the disabled properly, I accommodated the able-bodied.
My manager detailed a different way of reporting violations that cc’ed some honcho in facilities, but I never needed to use it. Not long after that, my group moved to City Center, where there were not only green parking spaces (which I could use), but there were also more handicap spaces.

The Why

There are a lot of reasons people get handicap placards, and mine is a fairly common reason. When I was shopping one day, my leg suddenly went numb. Terrified, I went to sit in my car (using a shopping cart for support to get there) while I waited for the others to finish shopping. As I sat, the numbness went away.
Turns out, I’ve had a defective lower back for some time, it’s just now gotten bad enough that that happens, and I never know when it’ll happen, how quickly or how fully numb my leg will become (sometimes it’s just slightly tingly), or how much time I have until I actually fall. Because it happens, it makes it unsafe for me to walk across traffic (which is why the outdoor spaces were a significantly worse accommodation, especially since drivers tended to speed around that end of the Infinite Loop oval).
On the other hand, continuing to walk really is my best long-term strategy.
I’m also significantly stiffer in the morning (every morning), and being that much closer really did make it easier to get into the office every single day. The accommodation was important.
In addition to falling, one of the other side effects is extreme pain if I stand too long on hard surfaces, and “too long” can be a minute or twenty. I don’t know until the pain hits. In this case, the pain flare usually precedes numbness, but again, I don’t know how long I have for that, either.
Which brings us neatly to the next section….

Stand-Up Meetings

My third (and final) manager at Apple believed in the so-called stand-up meeting. For me, that’s an inherently problematic name to call a meeting when you have a mobility impaired person as a part of your staff, though I’m all for the concept of more frequent shorter meetings. It excluded me by its very title.
A good manager might actually come to the new staff member being transfered into the group (as I was) and ask if there’s any accommodation that needed to be made. Which didn’t happen.
A good manager might actually invite the mobility impaired person to the daily meeting. Which didn’t happen. Really.
Only quite a few weeks later did I hear about it from one of my coworkers, but I thought it was a new thing. Turns out it wasn’t, I was just forgotten. In a company where physical presence is as important as it is at Apple, that can cause huge perception issues.
Now, I will grant you: people are mobility impaired in different ways. Some people need to stand instead of sit, and regular meetings are hard for them, so a stand-up meeting better accommodates their needs. For those who need to stand, Apple provides standing desks as an ergonomic accomodation. And I did make a point of standing some every day at mine.
Still, if you’ve got meetings where most people stand, really try to make the person who has to sit comfortable and feel like they’re really a part of the team and not just some fucking afterthought. (Likewise, the reverse for the reverse situation.)

Wrap-Up

I don’t know how common the execs parking in handicap spaces problem is in other companies (I’d never encountered it before), but it’s surprising that it survived that long at Apple. Much as I liked Tim Cook’s statement about not comsidering the ROI of catering to blind users, it left me even angrier about my own treatment when I was at Apple.
When will people who can’t walk or have difficulty walking be as fully human to Apple?

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One of My Pet Peeves

09 March 2014

…is when indigenous words show up in dictionaries show up with derivations that are non-indigenous.
Today’s example: mosquito

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Spanish and Portuguese, diminutive of mosca, from Latin musca ‘fly.’

O rly.
And where did the Spanish get it?
(See also: desert.)
Ahh, didn’t expect to ragequit transcribing my notes from Nicaragua.

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Two Volcano Pics

07 March 2014

Kilauea, of course.
Except for being resized, these are straight out of camera. Taken in 2010. These were taken with a wide-angle (28mm) lens half a minute apart.
close volcano
water over volcano

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Speaking at FogCon

06 March 2014

I’ll be speaking at FogCon this weekend:
Friday, 4:30: Invisible Disabilities in Salon C.
Saturday, 1:30: Cryptography and Codes in Salon A/B.
Hope to see you!

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