that Dawn guy's musings|
Here are the 15 most recent journal entries recorded in
yes, *that* Dawn person's LiveJournal:
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|Sunday, January 8th, 2017|
|Hidden Figures: spoiler-free review
Hidden Figures is the story of three black women who worked for NASA. These lead characters are specific individuals and facts about their contributions and lives appear to be drawn from truth. Many of the other major characters in the story, particularly their colleagues and other engineering staff at NASA, appear to be composites.
I've read descriptions of this film that call it a feel-good drama/biopic. The protagonists are seen as succeeding in their own lives and contributing meaningfully to the space race. The story is well paced with tight writing and few errors.
Racist and sexist institutions and people (as individuals and as groups) present problems to overcome with various social, logical, and emotional tools. Militant blacks and deliberately racist whites are mostly kept off screen or very out of focus. White feminists may notice a difference between the attitudes of white women and black women throughout the film. I was not politically aware at the time the action takes place and have not studied this time period, but what I know of feminist and civil rights history rings true in the portrayals, if a little watered down to be palatable to white and male audiences. I am left wondering what portion of NASA's male technical staff included black men: I didn't know going in and won't comment on what I saw in the film.
There is nothing about the visuals or the audio that requires a professional theatre setup to appreciate. The soundtrack is on point, particularly in its choice of popular black music from the era. Costumes seem historically accurate, as do most of the vehicles. It was good to see a reasonably diverse set of bodies and faces in a major movie. I didn't see visible signs of physical disability anywhere, but that may have been accurate for the context of employment at NASA in those years.
I encourage you to see the film in theatrical release because I would like to provide more feedback to the producers that this is a valued story. A non-action film with not a lot of recognizable names in the cast that keeps people interested and engaged for over two hours (we were far from alone in the theatre at 10 on a Sunday morning, though it was not packed) is impressive. The story it tells is accessible to many demographics. It won't change your life, but you may think about your assumptions a little differently down the line.
And you might learn something about the heyday of the space race that the big budget films with astronauts as heroes glossed over.
|Sunday, December 11th, 2016|
|Moana: a colonial story for girls
I'd been interested in seeing Moana since I saw the trailers. It looked like a Polynesian coming of age story in which a young woman goes on a heroic adventure with a demigod.
The short feature that preceded the film was cute, standard Pixar fare. The message I took away from is was that one is allowed, if one is very brave, to step a little bit outside the box enough to have a little life in the drudgery of servitude to the system. Don't change anything that might make a difference; don't leave; just live enough to keep your contribution to the monolith at an acceptable level. Living is for the elites, not you.
The animation, costumes, and scenery were good. I liked the attention to detail in things like the never-shod appearance of feet, coconuts of various ages, richly drawn and animated flora and fauna, and some diversity of body types among the people on screen. There were adults and children of various sizes and morphologies, including skinny and muscular and slightly corpulent men, thin and thick women. I don't remember there being much variation on hair texture or skin tone and frankly don't know enough about Pacific Island peoples to know whether it matters.
The soundtrack was well done, never clunky, effectively supporting the story. The songs were well written and fit into the story, though I was displeased with the "singing face" on characters holding sustained notes in most of the songs. But there was something missing: a foley. Why did the film sound like it was all done on a soundstage? No background noises.
The story was a disappointment.
A girl, the only child of the island chieftain and a mother that may as well be absent or dead for all her contribution to story and character development, is chosen by the sea to mend the damage to Te Fiti, creator of the world (the goddess Hina by another name?), that had been wrought by the demigod Maui (trickster in Polynesian mythology). Against her father's wishes, with the encouragement of her paternal grandmother and the sea (good, fun, creation of a character without a face here), she embarks on a quest that fits the European hero's journey narrative.
The original screenplay, written by Taika Waititi, had five or six brothers for Moana and a gender-based theme. The directors wanted a "girl empowerment" story focusing on Moana's journey. Apparently many drastic changes were made to the story and character motivations until it looked like a lumpen thing wrought by a committee. In the end, the story that remained was a plucky girl standing up to a hostile, abusive male partner, cajoling and bribing him into doing the right thing, and having faith in herself. There is no message for boys and men here: they are written off as incapable of self improvement, reflection, or emotional growth. The message for girls and women is a stale crust of "do all the emotional work, play the games of abusive and powerful people to achieve the common good, demand the right to learn, and be born to the right circumstances".
The script repeatedly acknowledges its own shallowness. At some points, Moana is called a [Disney] princess. The grandmother slyly tells us she is the designated crazy woman. The characters take actions to break out of their roles only to be put back in their place by The Sea or other characters ... "well, I tried". Moana is implied to be the first woman chieftain of the island, which might have meant something if there had been any competition for the role she was shown as fully capable (and somewhat reluctant) to assume.
This wasn't the insight into Islander culture I wanted to see. It was colonized all the way down to the tribe's ancestors voyaging until they found a new land that would provide them rich resources with little work and staying put like sea cucumbers. There were hints of legends and oral tradition but so covered with Disney paint and patchwork they were hard to see. Were the coconut pirates anything other than an homage to Max Mad: Fury Road? Did no monsters other than the laughably incompetent crab exist as anything more than shadows in the deep?
The tattoos were nice. I'm curious how much authenticity there was in the depiction of applying them.
I'm glad I saw it. For all my criticisms, I enjoyed the experience and much of the story itself. I would not see it again, though I could see myself recommending it to others interested in Western depiction of Polynesian stories and as media to be critically consumed. In the current global political climate, it may be as much as we can hope for in the coming years.
|Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016|
|With apologies to The Arrogant Worms
Our fair country Canada is north of the USA
Our immigrants are welcome and our health care is okay.
You might think you ‘Murricans are better than us Canucks
But when we see a swastika we say “That Nazi sucks.”
We like to watch your SNL, on Colbert too we dote,
But we don't have Fox News and our minorities can vote.
We can watch your politics and shake our head for hours
But we have Kellie Leitch and TO’s Mayor Ford was ours.
We're proud to be Canadian:
Respecting diff’rent backgrounds is our blessing and our curse.
It's cool in many ways to be Canadian:
We may not be much better; it's just that we're less worse.
The refugees who settle here help make our lives complete.
Our winter’s cold, so ev’ryone wears hoodies on the street.
Our snowbirds travel stateside to enjoy your southern charms
But we get sunburnt when we exercise the right to bare our arms.
We're proud to be Canadian:
Politeness in the face of assholes could be thought a curse.
It's cool in many ways to be Canadian:
We may not be much better; it's just that we're less worse.
Hip front-man Gordon Downie is our latest pride and joy.
He started out in Kingston playing covers with the boys.
We watched him at the K-Rock as he sang out strong and free
For reconciliation ahead by a century.
We're proud to be Canadian:
We’re far from perfect but we value ways that we’re diverse.
It's cool in many ways to be Canadian:
We may not be much better; it's just that we're less worse.
|Monday, November 14th, 2016|
|Monday, November 7th, 2016|
|Top employers, or how to game a checklist
$Employer made, for the first time, a list of top employers. A big deal is being made of belonging to this elite group. I note in passing that organizations need to request evaluation in order to be considered: an excellent employer that does not apply for the designation will not be sought out.
How does the report compare to employee perceptions and documentation?
- defined benefit pension plan
- health benefits that extend to retirees with no age limit [caveat: benefit reductions have previously affected retirees and may again]
- LEED Platinum building [which relates to sustainability, not so much employee wellbeing]
- bicycle centre [run by student volunteers with a focus on students]
- nearby amenities [lists resources in the city and region at various driving times/distances from the workplace]
- annual staff conference
- Canada Day celebrations [run largely by student volunteers]
- summer picnic [part of a fundraising drive]
- company newsletter
- multiple employee group benefits vary by position
- no waiting period for coverage [provided employment is for indefinite term or longer than 2 years]
- life and disability insurance
- family-friendly policies may [do] vary by position
- parental leave top-up
- unpaid leave options
- paid holiday break from Christmas to New Year's
- short term disability varies by employee group [and is self funded to reduce costs]
- employees receive individual performance reviews every 12 months [using a common template, with executive officer oversight]
- long service awards
- teaching awards [for teaching employees, mostly faculty, who are nominated by students]
- exit interview option [not actively encouraged by managers or human resources]
- career planning services [on again, off again for employees; typically one resource person for 2500 employees; career planning focuses on students]
- training and development programs [which are under-resourced, not well advertised to the people who would gain most benefit from them, and not required in some cases where they would be highly advisable]
- support charitable organizations [participates in United Way campaign]
Misleading or partially accurate:
- three weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving to four weeks after four years of employment
- vacation is earned up to one year before it can be taken; until an employee passes the institution vacation year date (days to months after starting), they may in exceptional circumstances request to borrow against vacation earned; compare with UofT where employees may take vacation within a month of it being earned
- onsite amenities including a quiet room for meditation and religious observance, a cafeteria with special and healthy diet menus, a fully equipped fitness facility
- these amenities are provided for students and incidentally available to employees: a multi-faith room largely used for one religion's prayer times; multiple food service outlets; cafeterias in student buildings and student residences [students with special dietary needs have noted accommodations are far from ideal]; pool, ice rink, squash courts, climbing wall, gym are used by school clubs, students, and teams as well as the much smaller employee population
- transit subsidies
- no better than anywhere else in the region; require locking in to extended purchase plan
- secure/sheltered bicycle parking
- for less than a dozen bicycles on a campus where thousands of students commute by bicycle
- nap room
- nobody I have spoken to has a clue what or where this resource is, or to whom it is available
- outdoor barbecue
- several groups run seasonal outdoor fund-raising events aimed at students by selling hot dogs and hamburgers at near cost
- employee lounge with comfortable seating and fireplace
- presumably there is a room that senior administrators have access to that matches this description; or maybe the faculty club
- subsidized meals
- food services runs as a profit centre; subsidy is a 3-5% discount (same as given to students) on purchases from non-branded food service outlets provided the employee puts funds on a preloaded identity card
- employee sports teams, business casual dress, casual dress daily, casual dress Fridays, music while working
- strongly dependent on management in the area an employee works
- individual salaries reviewed every 12 months
- performance is rated every 12 months; fixed pay rise is awarded based on performance rating relative to rest of group, which is highly skewed in many areas
- alternative work options
- not available in many circumstances, depending on department and supervisor
- managers receive performance review training
- managers have no mandatory training at this point; all training is at the manager's/supervisor's option
- 360 feedback option
- dependent entirely on the evaluator's initiative; not consistent
- tuition subsidy coverage up to 100%, regardless of whether job related
- for employees taking courses offered by $employer only
- excluding full cost recovery programs
- partial subsidy for third party education related to job can be applied for, is not guaranteed
The relations between and among employee groups seem to be, from my broad perspective that includes regular discussion over several years with employees of many types, much better than between employees and Human Resources or Senior Administration in general.
|Wednesday, September 21st, 2016|
|perhaps you have nothing to fear
Google's decision to allow legal requests to gather Allo data
is a loss of privacy that some people (and presumably Google's legal team and leadership) find reasonable and acceptable.
I have the privilege and life of a person in a fairly high income bracket, performing a societally valued white collar job, appearing to be completely healthy, seemingly cisgender and heteronormative, cleaving within acceptable parameters to my society's overall values, with no known or suspected obvious defects aside from persistent feminist and periodically other equity-prompting views. Clearly I have nothing to fear.
The person you perceive is not the person I see in myself. I have, from an early age, experienced reasons to not put my faith in several types of authority figure and witnessed others' experiences that confirmed my formative conviction. Your "white hats", your "good guys", your "heroes" are not mine. My experiences and views may have more in common with those of people you may not realize you value less than others: the poor, the mentally ill, the refugee, the victim of those with power and a positive reputation, the outcast.
It's common enough to mistrust politicians, to the point many consider such opinions normal. How are you with captains of industry? Technology leaders? Law enforcement? Teachers? School staff? Social workers? Family doctors? Hospital department heads? Health care specialists? Religious leaders? Small business owners? Scholarship winners? Your buddy who is a stand up guy and is involved in community or charity work? There are more but those are my personal top of list.
It's a nice life you've got there. Or maybe you don't: I haven't got your experiences and may not be aware of your stories, so you may be more marginalized than you appear. A little bit like me.
|Friday, September 9th, 2016|
|local theatre review: OutFest
Caution: unvarnished opinion may seem less complimentary than necessary because I point out mostly areas for improvement rather than high points.
For a few years there has been an annual queer-themed performance event at the Registry Theatre. This year is no exception, though they changed the name of the organization from Modus Vivendi to Page1 Productions and it's now called OutFest. Four shows over three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday matinee, Saturday evening).
This year's productions were much less fraught/angsty than previous years. The pieces have gay characters central to the plot and the story lines themselves revolve around life in general without focusing intently on the hardships of being closeted, mistreated, trans, or looked down on by society. Yay representation. Gay and lesbian representation almost exclusively with no transgender characters, but that's the way the community seems to be structured (and why I tend to find local queer events somewhat uncomfortable).
It's long. Thursday's show started at 1930h and the intermission began at 2138h, after which there was a second half almost as long as the first. Some of this is trying to pack too many pieces into one show: this could easily be a semi-annual or two-event festival given the quality of material now available. Some is playwriting: every locally written piece dragged in places. Some judicious direction would have helped: the piece that came from The Producers had an unnecessary encore, some directing decisions could have been made in the environment of the plays themselves.
Highlight of the evening was a two-person scene in which we saw two characters having their first online dating experience, with excellent portrayal of tentative chemistry. The two actors are married to each other in real life but you'd not have guessed it from their performance.
One actor (David) demonstrated in several pieces that he hasn't learned how to be a supporting character. He was over the top in every play he was in, stealing the scenes that belonged to others. He was in his element as Magenta in the Rocky Horror show I saw recently and so out of place in every role last night.
One piece, centered on a presumably bisexual person who never leaves their apartment and lives online, desperately needs a dramaturge.
The musical act, an 18 year old singer/songwriter/guitarist, was out of place for profound heteronormativity. It was a strange choice given there is plenty of queer musical talent in the region.
The evening was well worth the $18 ticket price. [Side note: it's a pity local theatre in this region is largely attended by friends and family, though understandable given the calibre of most of the work.] I'd have been happier with half to a third of the material being cut before the call for auditions, especially given the doubling, tripling, etc. of roles (acting and non-acting).
|Sunday, August 21st, 2016|
|I am a terrible, fake, Canadian
I could sing you a surprisingly large fraction of David Bowie's, Prince's, Bruce Cockburn's, and even some of the Crash Test Dummies back catalogue given anything from a fragment of a line to a karaoke track. But I can't tell you the name of a Tragically Hip song without going to look up their discography.
The music of a well loved Canadian icon isn't part of my internal soundtrack. Downie is reported to be 52: odds are the music that might have connected with me or with my offspring came out when popular music in general and the stories the band had to tell weren't on my radar. I listened to a few songs yesterday to see if I could recall something, anything: I heard competently written and performed music that didn't have deep meaning for me. I'm an alien: I'm a legal alien [and yes, I know I just quoted Sting].
I respect the band for achieving and maintaining commercial success for an extended period. I respect that a lot of people I know, and millions I don't, value The Hip in ways analogous to my love of Bowie and Prince. I'm in awe of Gord Downie's professionalism, stamina, and love for fans and for this country.
Downie is on a hard road that is reported to be near its terminus. As is often the case with people with a terminal diagnosis and resources to do more than barely survive, he is making miracles in the time he has left.
Take the space you need to remember, reflect, and respond to the end of an era that matters to you. It's good to see people doing just this on social media.
It's not so positive to see the shaming a small number of people are engaging in. Please don't belittle others who don't share what may be a huge part of your life and culture. Please consider how little you know of others' circumstances before sharing the ableist memes you see as motivation to rise to challenges in your own life.
|Tuesday, July 26th, 2016|
Also twenty. The twenty is the one that shines wonder about my being.
More folks would make congratulations about the lacy one.
|Sunday, July 17th, 2016|
|I tell stories to myself
I started to write "I tell stories to myself to survive," and thought how familiar that phrase, that thought was, as though I'd read it. And because we have the store of words that is the internet (who lost her battle to retain a Proper Name some time when I was still a prescriptivist about it) I checked.
Dorothy Allison wrote in "Two or Three Things I Know for Sure"
"Let me tell you a story. I tell stories to prove I was meant to survive, knowing it is not true. [...] I am here to claim everything I know, and there are only two or three things I know for sure."
I am fairly certain I haven't read that book, hadn't read that vignette those words come from, but telling ourselves stories is part of who we are, so of course I would find a match.
I tell myself the story in which I have a purpose. Sometimes my difficult times have a noble reason of tempering my spirit; sometimes they are my reward for failing to be what I'm capable of. The path, the tapestry, the narrative are so much cleaner in the stories I tell myself than the begrimed, overgrown view from what we call reality: we edit, and I am a superior editor.
For now I read from others' wisdom and experiences, setting aside the task of telling myself stories for a while. There is work other than surviving to be done, and I'd best get to it.
|Wednesday, June 29th, 2016|
|Tell me about yourself
I'm passionate about identifying brokenness in systems (computing/network related, human, and business) and sustainably fixing them.
The first production code I wrote was a reversible encryption routine in COMPASS for a mail utility that relied on globally writable shared files, to reduce the likelihood of abuse of the utility. The original mail system had been written by John Bennett and was maintained by Fred Whiteside, who showed me the wonders of the language simply because I asked.
My first job after graduating from McMaster with my Computer Science and Systems degree was developing and maintaining a suite of tests for the C/370 compiler that used the ANSI standard which was still under revision at the time. Because I held the job for less than 6 months, I tend not to list it on my resume.
I owe a great debt to my father, who made time to do important things with and for me, involved me in all the maintenance tasks a boy should learn as he grows to manhood, and encouraged me to work hard to excel even when I was ahead of any visible competition.
Now that I'm nominally eligible to be an astronaut (which has been a lifelong unattainable goal), I wonder whether I should bother to apply for the two open positions with the Canadian Space Agency.
One of the people I admire greatly is my younger daughter, who has gone through hell yet is both compassionate and well loved by many. It was hard on me when I had limited resources to help her, though in retrospect I accomplished much that still helps others in similar circumstances.
I played a small role in the maintenance of Usenet after the Great Renaming as a way of giving back to the communities where I found more seemingly kindred folk than I ever did in real life.
Joining Mensa as a teenager was an eye-opening experience. I am glad I quit.
Not all of these answers are suitable for a phone screen (which mode of interview I dislike because I rely heavily on visual as well as audible cues to interact effectively with people -- yet my professional writing is reportedly exceptionally clear, albeit not executed in real time).
|Monday, June 20th, 2016|
Not the "but we have to give them a part, it's community theatre" kind, but the ones who do something that violates professional behaviour in work-related situations.
I recalled an incident from back when I went to Large North American Conference about as often as I missed it due to the way funding worked in various areas of some employer or other, and I tweeted it.
Later in the day, I tweeted another incident where someone in an employment-related context (again away from the workplace -- this time on off-site training) violated the bounds of professionalism.
I have enough of these memorable incidents that involved me to provide a few every day from now through Friday. Not all of them are related to my presentation as a woman in a technology-oriented workplace, though I could fill a week that way if I chose.
Because the incidents themselves were out of place in the expected background of salaried employment (I won't be doing any from my various hourly wage jobs), I'm providing no special hashtags. Read my stream, some of it will be the usual and some of it will seem like a flashback to something unpleasant. Kind of like a compression of my career to date.
I'm interested to see whether anyone notices, and how they might react.
This is particularly interesting given my ongoing search for employment that better fits my needs and desire to contribute meaningfully to the world.
|Wednesday, June 1st, 2016|
Izak Ezekiel --
Ululant, claw-clicking, touching-you Jack --
Studied the Way of Cat
Mastered his role:
Now the Wheel takes him back.
[*] does not scan, which fits Jack's frequent attitude of being a little outside himself to verify he was Catting as Required
|Friday, May 27th, 2016|
|a man about a cat, as it were
I have always been somewhat of a private person. The more time and distance I log in leadership roles, especially in my day job, the closer I keep certain information. Not out of fear something unsavoury will get out about me or someone in my life but because my larger presence in the world makes my voice in all things louder.
I am grateful for those with whom I choose to share information about my burdens. And I continue to grow in appreciation for public figures whose troubles may seem nonexistent until the enormity of them reaches far past the point of privacy.
|Wednesday, April 13th, 2016|
|I don't think it means what you think it means
A filmmaker creates a short public service piece in which a Mediterranean-featured woman wearing a hijab is visibly nervous when a black man wearing run of the mill street clothes (short sleeved t shirt, chinos, trainers IIRC) is walking behind her on a sidewalk with no other pedestrians in view. He deliberately crosses the street to walk behind her early in the clip. The tag line about racism being bad comes when the man grabs and saves the woman (who at this point has changed from being clearly wary to being absorbed in using a mobile phone or small tablet) from walking into the path of an oncoming bus.
Comments about the film [in one of those social media forums] run strongly along the lines of (mostly) women saying the fear/alert response to anyone (but especially a man) walking behind them is trained into girls [hence it's not a suitable message to highlight assumptions about people based on visible racial characteristics] and others who see no sex- or gender-related overtones in the piece [so of course it's about racism, because nothing else would explain the woman's attitude]. Few on either side appear willing to engage in a learning and/or teaching dialogue.
I think it's cool that someone (presumably) paid and credited two actors who are not white men to make something that is getting an audience of non-trivial size. I have considerable difficulty accepting the filmmaker's apparently intended message of the dynamic between the characters as being motivated in more than a minor way by racial or cultural issues. I have had discussions with people (mostly straight men) who don't seem to understand that following someone fairly closely in an area where there are few others around is an intimidating claim of personal space and implied threat to the person being followed.