On Competence and the Wringing Of Hands – Kate Paulk

On Competence and the Wringing Of Hands – Kate Paulk

It should surprise no one here that, me being a software tester by day job, I read a fair few software blogs. Mostly they stick to the nitty gritty of the programming world, sometimes with ranting (oh, who am I kidding. Get a software geek ranting and you have something epic that chances are most of the world not only doesn’t understand, but even if they did they wouldn’t see the point. It’s a bit like the operating system wars). Largely, though, it’s a very merit-based world. If you have good things to say you’ll be followed.

 

Occasionally though, you get things like this [http://blog.codinghorror.com/what-can-men-do/]. Now, I respect the living hell out of the guy who writes this blog. He’s one of the people who created the Stack Exchange network. He knows software like few others do. And here, he’s drunk the ink. Big-time.

 

It’s no secret that programming is an incredibly male dominated field.

  • Figures vary, but somewhere from 20% to 29% of currently working programmers are female.
  • Less than 12% of Computer Science bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women at US PhD-granting institutions in 2010.

So, on average, only about 1 out of every 5 working programmers you’ll encounter will be female. You could say technology has a man problem.

Really? Let’s take a look at what programming actually requires. It’s a demanding field where there’s little room for perspective. The software either does the job or it doesn’t. If it does do the job, then you can start throwing in things like how well it does it and the design and so forth. But at the sharp end, you’re talking about 1s and 0s that are do not have an indeterminate state.

More than that, it requires very specific syntax and instruction sets, because when you strip away all the fluff computers are nothing more than very fast morons. They will always do exactly what they have been instructed to do, they do not read the minds of the operator or programmer, and they don’t do what the operator or programmer wanted them to do unless that happens to be what they were told to do. In very specific steps.

The analogy I was given back in my software engineering degree was that you can tell a person to cross a room by saying “Go to the other side of the room.” To tell a computer this (we’ll presume a robot here), you might start with something in a high level language that does the equivalent of telling your robot to go to the other side of the room. That is broken down into steps along the lines of (in pseudo-code because it’s easier to follow):

While not (at destination) do

Begin

TakeStep(left)

TakeStep(right)

Loop

Stop

End while

The TakeStep breaks down even more, describing what to tense, what to loosen, which direction to swing the hips, how to balance on one leg while the other is making all those complex movements, how and when to shift balance, and so forth.

All of that decomposes even further into a whole lot of 1s and 0s.

In most entry level software engineering classes, maybe one person in five is capable of the kind of logical breakdown that can go from “walk across the room” to the hundreds of tiny changes that are needed to actually do it. Of those, most will be male.

Why? The male sex hormones are the biggest factor in the development of the parts of the brain that handle things like formal logic, analysis, and so forth (also spatial reasoning, direction sense and hyper-focus). Pretty much by definition, any women who are good enough to do this will be atypical.

In an earlier post I noted that many software developers I’ve known have traits of Aspergers. Aspergers is a spectrum disorder; the more severe the symptoms, the closer it is to autism. And did you know that autism skews heavily towards males at a 4:1 ratio?

Interesting. I might even go so far as to say some of those traits are what makes one good at programming.

Leaving aside the question of whether autism spectrum is being massively over-diagnosed where the real classification is “typical boy”, yes, the skill set that is best suited to programming does overlap rather a lot with what’s called high-functioning autism. In a way, this even makes sense, since one of the core issues with autism spectrum issues is the ability of the brain to filter out unwanted input. In people with autism spectrum issues, that ability is somewhat hampered, forcing the person to develop their own filtering routines. These routines do, at a certain level, resemble the way software works.

I’ve compared programmers to auto mechanics and plumbers in the past. And you’ll notice squarely where those occupations are on the above graphs. There’s nothing wrong with being an auto mechanic or a plumber (or a programmer, for that matter), but is there anything about those particular professions that demands, in the name of social justice, that there must be 50% male plumbers and 50% female plumbers?

Funnily enough, I’ve never seen the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa crowd agitate for gender equity in plumbers. I’m sure the fact that plumbing is a dirty, smelly, and often unpleasant job has nothing to do with this. Really. Stop laughing, you.

Now Atwood quotes Sara J. Chipps on why all of the above is problematic. I won’t quote the quote in full, just the key points and my observations.

1) Diversity leads to better products and results

Really? Diversity of what? This is a load of shit, frankly. A diverse customer base leads to a diverse range of products and results. It doesn’t matter a damn who creates that range so long as the people doing it are smart enough to recognize that their customers aren’t widgets.

Not to mention, reducing “diversity” to a combination of skin color and possession of dangly bits is frigging insulting. I have pale skin and an innie. The idea that this makes me just like everyone else with pale skin and an innie is laughable. Most of my “diversity” is going on inside my skull and is completely invisible to the wider world.

What’s more, I work in the damn field. I’ve worked in other male-dominated fields. I’ve never been treated differently because of the innie – but then I’ve also made damn sure I’m competent and I do the job I’m being paid for.

2) The Internet is the largest recording of human history ever built

And? The Internet is full of applications that are used by people all over the world. The people using those applications are what is recording the history, not the people who write them. If your 80 year old grandmother who’s never seen a computer before can figure out how to write and update a blog, if kids from a village in Africa can work out how to use laptops and how to hack them without any instructions, then I guarandamntee you it doesn’t matter if the people who write the software have an innie or an outie.

3) Women in 10 years need to be able to provide for themselves, and their families

And men in 10 years don’t? Is there any guarantee that software engineers 10 years from now will be able to support their families? Nope. There is only the assumption that software engineering is going to stay a relatively high-status and high-pay occupation.

You know what is going to be around in 10 years and provide a living? Plumbing. Electricians. You know, all the heavily male careers that are also hard work, hot, dirty, and often dangerous. The ones that frequently also call for a fair amount of brute strength (yes, electricians, too. You know how much those mega-sized extension leads weigh?). Programming is already being outsourced to places where the programmers will work for a dollar an hour and think they’re doing well (we won’t go into the quality of the software they write… let’s just say that there are always a ton of assumptions behind software and many of them are cultural so someone from a different culture isn’t going to get them…).

Atwood’s next effort is a long list of things that can be done to make programming a “more welcoming profession for women”. Hell, it’s not a welcoming profession for most men. It attracts weird, it attracts poorly-socialized people (yes, I’m one of these. I can fake it for a while, but sooner or later the truth shows). Programming is ultimately for people whose focus is on cutting through the crap that makes up most of everyday life and teaching a very fast moron to do things that the ordinary everyday people think are valuable. If you don’t have the basic competence, you might as well not bother.

Now, I think Atwood meant well. He is, for the most part, a decent person who likes good software. What he doesn’t get is that women in the USA have been told for years that they are capable of anything, and that any criticism of them is sexist. These two concepts are not compatible. Nor are they true.

Women are not capable of defeating men on a pure strength-for-strength basis. They need an equalizer of the Sam Colt variety. This is not sexist, it is biology. Women have a different center of mass, a different balance, a lower muscle mass and lower muscle density. Yes, a female body builder will likely wipe the floor with an average male about her size. She won’t be able to do that with a male body builder about her size. That’s just one example. There are many, many more.

As for criticism, well, you have to learn to distinguish between personal attacks and critique. It doesn’t matter who you are (or whether you’ve got an innie or an outie) you will make mistakes. Some will be minor mistakes. Others will be such a breathtaking “oh my god what have I done” balls up you’d swear there was a bull elephant on his back somewhere. Critique that looks at what was done and how to make it better and/or not make that mistake again is not racist, sexist, or anything-else-ist, even if it comes in the bluntest and crudest wrapper imaginable (if you’re dealing with poorly socialized males, this is pretty much a given).

Are we clear? Good.

Now, let me point out that in my varied career attempts, I’ve been a field geologist in a 6 person camp. I was the only female there, and I was dealing with manly! men, the kind of men to whom a woman being pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen was possibly dangerously liberal. I had no problems. Why? I did my job. I did not complain. I did not ask for help unless I’d already tried to do something and couldn’t. I hauled the bags of ore chippings myself because that was part of my job (with one exception – the bag that contained the chips from three meters of damn near solid silver-lead-zinc ore. That thing weighed about double what I did and I couldn’t even drag it). I dealt with the heat, the dust, and I didn’t treat the men’s language or their discussions as anything to be upset about.

As a result, they respected me. Not as “a woman” but as “Kate, the field geo”.

The same thing applies in software engineering, or anywhere else. If you do the job and don’t make a fuss over stupid shit like everyone calling USB drives “dongles” or the way connectors are labeled male or female depending on whether they’ve got innies or outies, you’ll get on fine. I have. And do. Not only that, I feel like I belong because I know damn well I’ve earned the respect of my co-workers.

So no, there is no need to “encourage” anyone, be they black, white, purple, male, female, “yes please”, or anything else. People will seek the fields that interest them. The traditionally male-dominated fields are still largely merit-based: those that do a good job will be respected regardless of the nature of their dual couplings.

And shame on the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas for conflating merit with bigotry.

449 responses to “On Competence and the Wringing Of Hands – Kate Paulk

  1. I work in the maintenance department of a university. The entire department is Caucasian. Aside from the departmental secretary, the entire department is male.

    Recently the university was audited to maintain accreditation. (A regular occurrence for universities.) One of the factors that “needed to be addressed” was the lack of diversity in faculty positions, so several new positions were created specifically so that properly diverse people could be hired to fill them. (It was either that or fire a bunch of white men, many of whom have tenure.)

    Oddly enough, no mention was made of the lack of diversity in the maintenance department. It seems that unclogging toilets and replacing light bulbs is still considered “man’s work”.

    • Did the accreditors actually look in detail at the maintenance dept? Institutions I’ve been around, maintenance people are generally treated like mobile parts of the facility by nearly everybody but the maintenance people themselves.

      • No, we’re not considered real people by the academic community.

        • That explains why the guys at Flat State were willing to bend over backwards after I asked them about cleaning out an office, warned them it would be messy and asked where should I leave the discards. I moved the heavy stuff out into the hall for them, bagged what needed to be bagged myself, swept and mopped the floor myself. Before working hours, so the maintenance guys had plenty of time to deal with the pile in the hall. Apparently this was not normal.

          • I always get excellent treatment from our trash collectors. IF I forget to put the bin out, they come and get it.
            Two things — we give them Christmas gifts AND if I’m out when they’re collecting, I say hi and chat. They told me this is not normal.
            (Of course the truly excellent treatment until the crew who worked my street changed was because on our first pickup they didn’t know we’d paid with their service (it’s private in col. springs) and were driving past. So I ran out, in pajamas. I stopped them and told them we were now subscribed with them. They smiled and picked it up. It wasn’t till I got back in kitchen I realized in the run well… I was half hanging out of the top. BEST pickup EVER for a year. I half expected them to offer to round up our bathroom trash cans, too.)

            • My mother ALWAYS left a six-pack of beer with a Christmas card on top of the trash can put out on the first pick-up after Christmas day. Yeah, a bit classist, perhaps – but it was always accepted gratefully. The laborer is worthy of hire, and a little extra something once yearly.

              The guys who came in to do the total revamp of the HVAC in our house last fall – they got some bottles of home-brewed beer as a bonus when they were all done (although we made no guarantee as to quality – it could have been mega-good, or not …) and the last guy out the door wistfully admired the hall bookshelves, with particular attention to a novelization of one of the Star Wars movies, which I had on the shelf since FOREVER. No, I didn’t care if it was worth umpty-ump many dollars – I gave it to him as a ‘tip.’
              If he is the tech who comes back every year for the routine service call – yes, we will be so attentively taken care of. Or even if not, as I am certain that word of these courtesies get around.

              • sabrinachase

                My trash hauler–not the garbage guys, the guy I call when the pile of wreckage from the latest remodel project gets too high–refers to me as the Lady of the Grapes. I get *superb* service, because I have these wonderful sweet seedless yellow grapes growing on my property, and they were ripe one time I called him in. I think he is addicted now. I’ll call him when the grapes are ripe even if I don’t have trash to haul. I want to stay on his good side ;-)

            • I think you’ve put your finger on something important. YOU treat those “beneath you” with respect and as equals.

              OTOH, the political class regards themselves and their peers (of the peerage?) as better than others. I saw this when at a computer convention that was co-located with the national governors association. Curious about the fellas in suits wearing hearing aids and talking into their cufflinks, I approached a black lady in a business suit and asked, “what’s up?” She spoke with deferential awe of the Important People in our midst. I rolled my eyes.

              If you are the person who gives and craves that deferential awe of the Important People, then it will be really important that the Important People include the right ratio of your race/sex/orientation/religion. Your deferential awe makes a lie of your words about equality–it is all about power.

              Ignore their words, look at the way the crew running things treats the help.

              • Momma always said that if you wanted to know the true character of a person watch how they treat the hired help. As I grew older I realized that here she intended hired help to be understood broadly, covering the whole gamut of the service sector.

                Of course, she grew up in the Great Depression, at a time when simply having work was something for which to be mightily thankful. She could remember her father being paid for his doctoring services with a chicken and produce from a person’s garden.

                • I don’t even know how to talk to people differently, based on perceived station. I had a hard enough time learning how to speak to them differently, based on education and interest, so that I could avoid the crossed eyes and other indications of having melted someone’s brain.

                  • THIS was a huge issue in Portugal, where you ARE expected to “give yourself respect” — i.e. if you’re not in the bottom wrung, you’re supposed to behave Speshul. My mom still tears her hair out when I go back. Fortunately it’s for short stays.

                • Momma always said that if you wanted to know the true character of a person watch how they treat the hired help.

                  Something like “those over whom they have power, who can neither grant them favors nor do them harm”?

                  Minus what our demonic little minds may come up with, I mean.

                  • All way round. There are, I am sure many variations.

                    And regarding what our demonic little minds may do, I believe we have agreed in the past that this is one of the more unfortunate aspects of being human in a fallen world. It amounts to no end of trouble. Such as: All pigs are equal … but some pigs are more equal than others.

              • Meh. The only people “Beneath me” are those who are bad at their job or don’t do it.

    • karllembke

      When I was working at the sewage treatment plant, we had a bit of a tussle over “fair” division of labor. Someone was arguing that the Admin staff really ought to share equally in the work of the unit.
      Part of that work was breaking down pallets of supplies that were delivered to the loading dock and stacking supplies in piles for each lab section.
      But that stuff was heavy, and it was very hard to do in high heels, and two thirds of the Admin staff were female.
      Somehow, equality was less attractive when it meant moving heavy stuff around.

      • Properly speaking, aren’t they supposed to have admin for paper only and physical work for the physical guys?

        It’s one thing if it means picking up the usual office supplies, but “Admin” usually means the people who are supposed to look nice in order to do their job.

        I know in reality they usually over-staff admin and they’d have the bodies, but….argh, it grinds my gears to apply “fair” to the point that it actually makes it much harder to do what’s supposed to be done.

        Side note: the Navy frequently has the “admin” office not sending bodies when each department is supposed to send a set portion. ‘cus they’re busy, you see.

        • I worked retail for an idiot store that required us to wear heels and skirts (late eighties) BUT then required us to help unload trucks. IDIOTS.

        • Ummm… admin used to think that it was my husband’s job to put paper in the copiers. He didn’t agree. ;-)

          • Rob Crawford

            One of my brothers worked for a while at a construction site for a nuclear power plant. Putting paper in the copiers was a job for the Teamsters, and only the Teamsters.

            • You’re kidding right?!

              • Never worked on a union job site, have you?

                That’s really only a very minor issue. I know of a union shop that shut down for two weeks on a work grievance because one of the salaried staff made photocopies of some specs and plans on the wrong copier…

                Ever wonder why government costs so much? Talk to the unions…

                • Years ago, I worked with a guy who had at one time worked for a union grocery store as a stock boy. He told me that he used to get extra pay by visiting the store during the day and catching baggers and/or cashiers stocking shelves, when the contract said the store was supposed to call in a stock clerk and pay them a minimum 4 hours pay even if it was probably a half-hour job. He would then file a grievance, and be compensated for the contract violation.

                • I have been told that in New York City, if you have a dealer’s booth at a convention, you have to hire a union electrical worker to plug and unplug your own equipment.

                  • When I went to the Game Developer’s Conference in SF last year, I couldn’t use a tripod for filming the segments I was shooting, only a monopod. If I wanted to use a tripod , I had to hire a union camera operator, through particular channels, and pay for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours or some such.

              • Obviously you’ve never worked on a union job. My cousin started work out of the Operators Union, having operated equipment all his life. Got in trouble multiple times for checking the oil and adding it if necessary before starting whatever piece of equipment he was going to be using. Not because the oil wasn’t supposed to be checked, but because that is a Laborer’s job, and Operators aren’t allowed to do Laborers work, or vice-versa. He was also certified through the Laborers Union, but could only be hired through one Union Hall at a time, so on the next job, when working as a Laborer he couldn’t move the hoe that was in the way. Well actually he did and ended up having to go to arbitration, because they were supposed to call in an Operator (there were none on the site that day, so one would have had to been called in from home/the union hall) and sit around twiddling their thumbs for hours until an Operator showed up to fire up a trackhoe and back it up twenty feet so they could continue to work.

    • Kate Paulk

      Nobody ever mentions the lack of “diversity” in the maintenance department. The “underprivileged minorities” don’t want the dirty, smelly, physical work.

      • What’s really fun is the shock and awe on the faces of the faculty when they find out that I–the guy who works on the pipes and the lighting, and never even finished high school–have published two novels and a boatload of poetry. You can hear whispered “that’s the maintenance guy who writes” in the same tone they’d say, “that’s the horse that talks!”

        • Kate Paulk

          Oh, yes. The idea that you can have a manual labor job and a brain is foreign to some of these specimens.

  2. On plumbing, some of you might remember the last time you had to call a plumber. Cost quite a bit, right? Like electricians (which are not, by and large, *electrical engineers*), they are skilled professionals and get paid as such. Take the smelly, dirty, side out of it and what we’ve got, basically, is a high paid technical career.

    That evidently most people are okay with having a “man problem” in. *chuckle*

    A key difference between that and software is on the user end, nobody really knows the creator of the software- but they know his product. That cuts away all -ism based discrimination and cuts it down to, as you said, the simple “does it work or not? If it does, how well does it work, and is there something else that works better for me?”

    One would think that if they were truly concerned about “equality” the worriers would be flocking to such fields like crows to carrion.

    Also, the MIT article that Chipps links does not seem to say what she thinks it does. Read between the publish-eze languange and certain types that they try very hard to define discretely *may* improve specific types of outcomes. Mostly it seems to be trying to clarify the muddy waters of earlier research on diversity that said “diversity” wasn’t a good predictor of work related outcomes (inconsistent results).

    • My Momma’s Father, a doctor, argued that the greatest advance in the history of public health was plumbing — both for the cleanliness and for waste disposal.

      Several years ago, on the second Christmas day in a row that he had to find a plumber to come in, my father, an attorney of no small standing, observed that plumbers are really far more necessary to the our world than he.

      There are more people who can learn to plumb than to do what either my grandfather or father did. (Which is actually a good thing. Rational people hope to ever need the services that my grandfather could provide. For the most part, the same could be said of most of those aspects of the law in which my father specialized.) Grandpa and Daddy had/have rare skills and they were well paid for them. Still, I bet that the hourly wage of that north eastern city unionized plumber who came out on Christmas Day wasn’t far behind.

      • Birthday girl

        Last time I had a plumber out, we had this conversation. I told him my opinion that plumbing is a holy calling and the foundation of all modern civilization. He blushed a bit and aw shucks’ed a bit, then said he thinks of it like being a doctor — you never want to need the doctor, but when you do you need him NOW. So right.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I knew an EE and a Mech E who were apparently pretty solid electricians.

      • Apologies if I wasn’t clear- my neighbor is an electrical engineer. He’s told me stories of people who mistook his job to be a mere electrician- which he can hum along with, but I’m given to understand his work is a bit different (and much better paying, to boot). *grin*

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I think you were perfectly clear.

          I think I understand the difference between an EE and an electrician about as well as anyone who is neither.

          I have the impression that the skills of a competent electrician, like those of a machinist, a welder, and various other trades, can make a good engineer a better engineer. That said, I may be confused by having known some really good students of engineering who were excellent at hands on problem solving.

          • “I have the impression that the skills of a competent electrician, like those of a machinist, a welder, and various other trades, can make a good engineer a better engineer.”

            Completely agree. Theory is all well and good when you’re drawing plans… But practical experience is what will make the contractors very happy or frustrated as all hell.

            Case in point, when I was working for Local Plumbing and HVAC, Speck Div., we were ripping out the old steam lines and installing modern ducted heat in an old school. Our engineer was going by the blueprints he was given. Without walking the site and checking it against the 1956 original he had.

            We drilled more double-thick, filled block walls that were supposed to be single brick and “adjusted” pre-cut systems more on that job than any other we worked on, bar none. We finally got him to come to the job site to see what we had to work with. Poor guy, he kept thinking we were messing up his clean, detailed vision, and it was just bad information and quite possibly lack of experience (he was very young).

            Gave me a very healthy appreciation of what a good engineer gets right.

            • Always, Always, ALWAYS, check as-built, before drawing your plans. To bad 90+% of engineers never learn this cardinal rule.
              Which is why in the lexicon of construction workers, surveyors, etc. the term “engineer” always has a prefix that isn’t acceptable in polite company.

              • As a corollary I wish that more developers(IT) would understand the importance of testing. And the importance of people talking to each other. Meetings are a pain the ass, but if no one knows what the other guy is doing the project will go badly. IMO only.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                The map is not the territory.

                All models are wrong, but some are useful.

                Engineering should have a bias towards Kipling’s Sons of Martha, but it would be hard to keep Sons of Mary out. The current situation may well be complicated by Pournelle’s Iron Law, and certain of those issues of human nature and organizations that Kratman speaks of.

              • The Other Sean

                This assumes somebody is willing to spring for as-builts. Sometimes “closeout drawings” or “as-designed drawings” are the final drawings produced.

                • No, never trust as-built DRAWINGS (which are seldom made in this part of the country anyways, and always out of date) check as-built ON THE GROUND. Send a survey crew out to take a few shots on curbs and pavement where you are going to tie in, shoot and dip manholes you are going to tie into, make sure water and utilities are approximately where they are supposed to be, and note any other significant diversions from the original plans; and you will endear yourself to both your surveyors and construction workers. Adjust as necessary for other types of engineering.

                  Fail to do so and you will be classed as just another m%@$ f*&() c@%$ s*&() engineer.

            • Jeff Gauch

              When I’m crowned god-emperor one of my decrees will be that nobody gets an engineering degree without at least 2 years of practical experience in the field they’ll be engineering. Mechanical engineers would work as machinists or pipefitters, civil engineers on road crews, electrical engineers as electricians, etc. Up to one year of shop class can substitute for an equal time of experience.

              We waste so much time in the shipyard because most of the engineers – who write the paperwork telling us how to do the job – have no clue how the job is actually done.

              • My idiot son I THINK was born an engineer. At two he was building rube-goldberg machines so he could turn off his light from the bedside table, without walking to the door of the room, (Victorian, so.)
                I must encourage him to get internships…

                • Lazy, always a fine quality in an engineer.

                  • Oh, LORD, yes. The funny thing is that he’ll work feverishly for three days to avoid doing two seconds of work a day for the rest of the time he lives in the house — if that makes sense. But yes, he’s bone lazy. He could wear a t-shirt called “I’d rather be sleeping.”
                    This is why I need to remember to prod him into getting some internship work — because left to his devices, he’ll come on vacation and sleep for two months, save for some feverish activity to avoid being awakened so often. (Like, he learned Java so his brother wouldn’t wake him to whine at him about wanting some mod to a game and not knowing how to do it. Marsh makes mods for Robert in exchange for peace and quiet.)

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Make sure he gets an internship.

                      Tell him that at least one senile old guy on the internet says so.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                On the one hand, I *mumble* *mumble* *mumble*, but then I *mumble* *mumble*.

                On the other, I know a PE with extensive pre degree discipline related work experience, who isn’t necessarily the best problem solver.

                On the gripping hand, my instincts worry that the practical gains wouldn’t be enough. That said, if we went by other portions of tertiary education, how would you make it worse? Education majors… (I do think there are significant portions of many engineering schools that are very functional, and if they do have the illnesses of other portions of academia, they are not so bad on net.)

                Plus, there is the whole ‘even if the academic training is/was perfect, there are all sorts of other things that can go wrong.’

                One theory is that the mandatory OJT, the PE exam, and the oversight by the state boards of licensure are enough to keep the worst issues at an acceptable level.

                However, if enough of engineering is practiced at dysfunctional companies, who segregate occupations, thereby keeping people from getting the clue by fours they need… Five, ten, twenty or more years is likely to outweigh a couple of years long ago.

                I dunno.

                • Sounds like what they put Medical Doctors through, and there are plenty of those I wouldn’t want to do any work on my hardware, thank you very much.

                  Or software, for that matter, for the head shrinkers.

                • The Other Sean

                  Don’t forget that many fields of engineering don’t actually require the engineers to go for PE certification.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    By fields, are you talking about disciplines? Because the state board not having authority over all disciplines is not something I’m familiar with.

                    My understanding is that, basically, at least in some states, one is legally required to be a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) if one wants to advertise engineering services to the public.

                    Otherwise, if you are working for a private company doing private work, your employer’s requirements are relevant. There is nothing magic about the work. You don’t even need a degree, depending on your ability and the employer.

                    But if you want to have your own engineering practice, or firm, you should have a PE in every state you operate in. If you want to hold certain government engineering positions, they may require a PE or EIT by statute or regulation.

                    In my understanding, engineer as on a train, and engineer as in, say, a MCSE are outside the scope of professional engineering licensure.

                    Furthermore, the likes of Gore and Mann making statements to the public about thermodynamic models, said statements having implications for human welfare, are apparently also outside the scope of what engineering boards regulate.

                    Is there a paper that requires the stamp of a PE to go forward? Then it needs to be stamped by a PE, as per the requirements set by the state on using the stamp.

            • I thought that engineers, as opposed to pure science types, were hands-on types?

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Science and engineering are both ancient and closely related.

                Running the training for both by way of academia is a recent thing, and I’m unsure how universal.

                These days, the training is cheap enough that most formally trained engineers have formal science training, and some scientists have engineering ability.

                One formulation: A scientist asks ‘how does…’, an engineer asks ‘how do I…’.

                Or we can paraphrase a TF2 video: An engineer solves practical problems.

                There are still a lot of scientists who haven’t enough engineering background to be an English major. (This isn’t necessarily a problem. Science has different requirements, except maybe where it becomes engineering by having a significant impact on human welfare.)

                There are a lot of definitions of engineer. Many of them assume that the first step is getting an ABET certified degree.

                There are some degree programs that do really valuable things to develop the practical skills of the students. Firstly, one can’t simply require that a program implement those things, and have the requirement cause this to work. Secondly, even in a good program, in a discipline where, say, common sense and mechanical aptitude are really valuable, one can get a degree without either.

                Thirdly, you’ve heard the stories of newbie officers in the military? Or those awful fresh out of college useless studies majors who certain politicians appointed to positions of trust and responsibility?

                Engineering school, properly taught, is challenging. One might be forgiven for thinking that one comes out of it knowing something. There are probably at least a few confident beyond their wisdom technocrats graduating.

                The expectation is that a graduate of an engineering school will learn much of actual engineering by on the job training before they really become engineers. The school itself probably can’t teach real world problem solving using bookwork. Perhaps at most it can do is some prep sort, and let the students sort themselves into those more and less suited for the OJT.

                Fourthly is what an engineer’s personality causes them to do in their spare time. Someone who enthusiastically pursues hobby projects that complement one’s discipline will be wider and deeper than someone who does the requirements of the job (or licensure) and nothing else.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Look at me, I mistook your question for something more like I wanted to say.

                Yes and no.

                Yes, that does match some formulations of the difference.

                No, engineering training involves much book work and theory. There are some academic engineers whose work looks so meta to me that I question its quality as a practical solution. (I might just be that ignorant.)

                a) There is a limited amount of training time b) perfect measurement of the human heart and mind is no more feasible for the professional development engineers than for anyone else

                Then there are sources of magical thinking that result from additional sources beyond the inherent human ones. 1) Have you looked at what certain organizations have set as goals for future generations of engineers? 2) Is our society having a lot of magical thinking related to technocracy? Marxism may well count.

    • I’ve said for a long time that the Social Justice Warriors (ok, I didn’t use that term, because I only heard it recently) are only interested in the more obvious, more visible, careers which have been traditionally dominated by men, with Construction, particularly road construction, being among them.

      Trash haulers are not often mentioned. I’ve met only one woman working on a garbage truck, and I’ll guarantee the trash company doesn’t care, as long as you can do the job.

      • I’ve also met one garbage woman; and she should have been fired. She started working here and all of a sudden my garbage can isn’t emptied, I call them up and ask them why and they decide it is because it was too heavy. So I ask them what the weight limit is, since there isn’t one in the contract. They can’t tell me, because they don’t have one. I haven’t seen the new employee yet, I just know that for years I have never had a problem, and I didn’t put near the weight in the can I have in the past, so being my usual PC tactful self I ask them, “what did you do, hire a woman?” The lady on the phone starts spluttering around, but eventually admits that yes, they did hire a woman, this is her first or second week. I inform them that I don’t care who they hire, but if I have to pay for garbage pickup, I expect it to be picked up. The next week I happen to be home and watch as they pull up to my driveway, the woman riding shotgun. The stop, the driver jumps out, him and the woman walk to the back of the truck, and he dumps my can while she watches, then they get back in the truck and go on. Lo and behold that evening I get a phone call from my mother, asking,”did they pick up your garbage today? Because they didn’t pick up mine.” The next day she calls them up and asks why they didn’t pick her garbage up, they inform her it is because it is too heavy. She informs them that she is woman and if she can carry her garbage can two hundred yards down the driveway to the county road, their garbage man surely ought to be strong enough to dump it in the back of the truck. They fail to inform her it is actually a garbage woman until she asks, (having been prepped by me) “what did you do, hire a woman who is afraid of breaking a nail lifting up a garbage can?” (being as she is a woman she can get away with being considerably less PC than a man could). They then inform her that they are implementing new rules, and that cans can no longer weigh more than 50 pounds. She goes and weighs her can; thirty-seven pounds. She is considerably less PC or tactful when she calls them back. After complaints from several more neighbors the ‘garbage woman’ is moved to different duties, but since she isn’t fired she has not been replaced. So instead of having a driver and a guy riding shotgun (or usually hanging on the side of the truck) who jumps off and dumps the cans in the back at every driveway; for the last two years our poor driver has had to stop, get out, dump the can, get back in and drive to the next one. Because his assistant was a woman who couldn’t hack it, but they didn’t fire and replace her because that would be discrimination.

        • Ah… That road paved with good intentions… Makes me wonder what the driver thinks of all of it.

        • Blech. I feel for you. The one I was talking about actually worked.

        • A note on weight limits: Before our our garbage and recycling service trucks went to a truck with an automated lift we were restricted to a fifty pound load per can. My first reaction was that The Daughter can certainly lift more than that. But, while a large number of us can do likewise, there is one question to be considered: Can we do it repeatedly, throughout an entire day, and then return the next day to do it again?

          As to the driver who is now doing both driving and pick-up duties? It is entirely likely that at some point the system is going to collapse under such inefficiencies driven by such political correctness. Or your service will, when they replace their trucks, go for ones with automated pick-up, such as we have now.

          • But, while a large number of us can do likewise, there is one question to be considered: Can we do it repeatedly, throughout an entire day, and then return the next day to do it again?

            Bucking bails.

            Yes, folks can– my dad did that job from the time he was a teen to when he was drafted during Vietnam, and when he entered bootcamp he was literally 98 pounds. (5’8)

            • I get the picture of a slight wiry man, made up of mostly bone, sinew, long muscle and gumption.

              • With fore-arms like Popeye, and shoulders you don’t notice are pretty dang broad until he does something like pick up a 150 pound calf like it’s cool.

                When I read Pratchett’s Pict-sies, dad is the model I put them on.

                Other than being a few inches shorter that his brothers and most of his cousins, he’s normal for our Scottish relates.

            • Used to put in hay every summer as a teen, made very good money doing it, too (well except for the hay I had to put in for my parents, I didn’t get paid for that). Let me note that after doing a field of alfalfa, fifty pound grass hay bales were a treat. Oh and while I’m generally a libertarian and not in favor of more laws, I would totally get behind a law to outlaw three-strand wire alfalfa bales. :D

              • While I cannot comment on the law proposal, I would point out that the only field that is put into bales requiring bucking now that Dad is manager is the one where the round baler cannot go…..

                We also try to time it so that the kids and grandkids are bringing their families over when those will be picked up, because a bunch of town kids trying to show how they’re tough in getting a ton of the lightest bales dad can manage is hugely amusing.

                *grim*

                That tradition started when one of our favorites, who is a county lawyer in the Blob, was in the Child Victims unit… he dang near worked himself to death because at least when he was moving bales something was FIXED.
                The idiot who decided to move a guy with two young kids into that unit needs to be slapped.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, yes. Skilled professionals who do dirty, smelly, physical labor are allowed to be mostly male. The special snowflakes don’t want to get mud (or worse, sewage) on their glitter.

      • That’s okay, though. Some of us actually *like* playing in the dirt, every now and again. Not very far inside many a grown man is a little boy delighted by how stuff works. And dirty jobs have the added bonus of generally showing immediate concrete results when you get it done. *grin*

        • Kate Paulk

          And every now and then, some of us grown women don’t mind getting dirty for a good cause either.

          • Jeff Gauch

            That’s because there is a significant number of women with a little boy inside. And only some of them are pregnant.

      • “Skilled professionals who do dirty, smelly, physical labor” are the backbone of this country.

    • More amazingly, all the “not enough women programmers” idiots are even worse about “not enough women in open source.”

      OK. Do what I did. Pick up a few programming manuals. Install perl or python (or linux!) – learn to admin a computer, start teaching yourself javascript, or Java, dig books on C or Objective-C out of the library.

      Buy a frigging computer and spend time hacking away at it like me, my son, and hundreds of others did. Not a damn thing stopping you but your time choices.

      • Note: I’ve never donated to the GNOME project, but I know some people who have and also devoted time, code and work to it as well as money. So this is only as I know it from what I was told.

        That idiotic kerfuffle about the GNOME project, because the SJW who became head devoted more of the GNOME time and money to LGBT-women concerns instead of GNOME development and seemed shocked and surprised that people stopped donating. I’ve heard some dark rumors about what happened to funding. Also, I’ve heard that they stopped being so transparent about what they used the money for. A few donation options (like a checkbox that says ‘do we have your permission to use your donation to help support (say) the American Cancer Research Association; or a checkbox list of other similar things’, which I’m told people liked. So if the target funding was reached, you had the option of choosing to allow your money to be used for XYZ support as well.)

        Hilariously, I’m told the original internship for women wasn’t a problem (KDE has a similar one – KDE Women) and the original forums and internship and all were open – ergo, people could come in to their forums/IRC chat and ask questions, or talk to them without worry of being screeched off the place. More importantly, the community could see that the people supported by the internship were doing stuff to help GNOME development. But after the SJW weenie came, the forums and IRC channel became locked only to members, it was deemed a ‘safe place for members only,’

        I’ll note my information is somewhat out of date by now but I’m still shaking my head over that. Where did these idiots get the idea that donators would LIKE IT if someone arbitrarily decided “I’ll use this money for THIS social justice concern without asking anyone!” Then be all surprised that donations dropped off.

        • They live in bubbles and can’t imagine anyone objecting to anything social justicy.

          • One wishes they would crash and burn once their bubbles pop, but… eh. The social-justice weenies seem to have a +18 resistance to Perceive Reality.

            Fortunately, reality has no issues rolling crits.

            • Those who do get smacked in the face with reality enough tend to gain the unmatched fervor of the converted. Once the wool is pulled from their eyes and they see they’ve been *lied* to, consistently and unceasingly, nearly all their lives, the indignation is quite understandable.

              The thing is, there is such dug in resistance everywhere to simple personal responsibility and consequences that folks get quite good at ignoring what should be in their faces and smelling like fresh manure. Virtues like compassion and civility get warped and twisted to perverted ends when the perpetrator of a crime is cast as a victim of circumstance with no more control over his own actions than an automaton. That culture is sick. The symptoms are everywhere.

              Fortunately for the rest of us, it cannot continue indefinitely as it is. In the long run they lose, because they cannot live without the Sons of Martha- and the reverse is most definitely not true from our end.

              • In the long run they lose, because they cannot live without the Sons of Martha- and the reverse is most definitely not true from our end.

                I’m worried for our children. They don’t have the experiences that would bring about the resilience and experience needed to not have the wool pulled over their eyes by idealism. The idiotic snowflakes have done their best to keep us from giving them these life experiences, to make stupid the ‘norm’, to constantly lower standards… it’s depressing as hell.

      • More amazingly, all the “not enough women programmers” idiots are even worse about “not enough women in open source.”

        *Gurgle… gurgle… BOOM! (Head asplodes)*

        Not enough women in a freely-associated, volunteer environment? And? (Walks off, muttering about convenient asteroids and how to arrange them)

      • More amazingly, all the “not enough women programmers” idiots are even worse about “not enough women in open source.”

        I wonder how many of the “male” programmers are married, with wives that provide input and support.

        Part of the advantage of working at home is that you can call your wife over to check to see what you don’t; even if you work at the office, if it’s an insanely demanding job that means the husband can’t do the basic things required to survive on his own…. hey, look, women are absolutely required. Unless they’re going to set up Programmer Dorms or something. (Which I could totally see.)

        • programmers on the road stay in hotels where cleaning etc is included in the price the co pays for the rooms. The other meals are eaten in restaurants which are covered by per diem money. I know Oracle does this. I don’t know what other companies do.

  3. The real reason for the desire for more “diversity” in software engineering really isn’t about “diversity” at all. It’s so these socially awkward but bright software engineers might just be able to meet a girl. With luck, these women will be socially awkward as well, so these guys will actually have a shot! :D

      • My dear, departed uncle was a software engineer. He died at age 39, and he’d had exactly one girlfriend in his entire life.

        Yes, he was the stereotype in soooooooo many ways.

        • What did he die of? 39 seems awfully young to die.

          • Alcohol induced pancreatitis coupled with the hospitals moronic decision to give him insulin at 3:00 in the afternoon before discharge when he’d had nothing to eat.

            Yeah, it was really young. Unfortunately, dying at 39 was something of a family tradition. I was terrified to be 39. My 40th was an extremely happy occasion. I dared people to try and screw with me over it. :D

      • I contend the real solution is find a women dominated field, and organize mixers.

        • This used to happen at my college. Which is why most engineers marry language majors…

          • Well, that and it is a fair division of work in the relationship – the engineer stays quiet and doesn’t embarrass the language major, whilst they handle all the communicating… :)

            • yeah. My family is weird. Doctors marry engineers. Engineers marry doctors. I’m a linguist and married a mathematician. Yep, I’m the purple sheep.

              • I can’t see you as a Dr. Maybe as a PhD.

                • I COULD have been an engineer, if someone had explained to me transposing numbers was not stupidity but disability and given me the few tricks needed to control it. My kids both have it, and both excel at math. With me it depended on how understanding the teacher was to sudden digit switching. I loved anything mechanical, too, from very little. Ah, well. The US wouldn’t have recognized my degree, anyway.
                  As for phd. I’m a year from it. No, I don’t intend to finish it.

          • At my alma mater, they regularly organize socials like that, except it’s the electrical engineers and the elementary education majors – call ‘em 4E mixers.

      • Science Fiction conventions are a female odd’s dream. All these guys and very little female competition. At least that was the scene I encountered in the mid 90′s. It worked for me. I met the man of my dreams at the Chicago WorldCon in 2000.

        • Met the man of my dreams in the Navy– he was also in electronics and was retiring at that time. We were married four and a half years later.

        • I found the military to have been perfectly splendid for dating … having come from a woman-majority English major at the local state university. Being rare and in demand did wonders for my ego – and I set my own personal best for dating in tech school; one weekend, four different dates, four different guys.

          • In contrast, for a quite man such as myself, the Navy wasn’t all that conducive to my dating life. The only women I ever met that found me interesting were townies who saw the uniform as a meal ticket. Not a good thing for a guy who didn’t feel he was even close to being ready for marriage.

            • Re meal ticketage, it’s been related to me that, back when Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School and Primary Flight Training were both located in Pensacola, the local Florida panhandle prospective Mother-in-Laws would line up and pretty ruthlessly elbow forward to introduce their young daughters when either Candidates with a rare Sunday Services pass or new Ensigns showed up to off base church services.
              Since the service commitment for the flight training pipeline was more like 7 years of guaranteed income after flight school vs. the shorter total of some other officer career paths, proto-naval-aviators were apparently very desirable as Son-in-Law targets.

              • Wasn’t that a good bit of the premise behind An Officer and a Gentleman?

                • FlyingMike

                  Funny thing is, I have never actually seen that movie all the way through, on bits and pieces on the tube, and even then likely only the pushups in the mud puddle part.

                  I did hear a tale of a collection of Officer Candidates at Pensacola who were shuffled off into a holding company during AOCS for various shortfalls (termed as “rocks” – swim-rocks who failed the mandatory swim test and were retrying, nav-rocks who failed one of the scholastic tests but were retrying, or some who had contracted some temporary illness that kept them from keeping up, but from which recovery was expected in short order, etc.) and while in limbo and being allowed TV privileges, happened upon a showing of that very movie.

                  From the unique perspective of being in AOCS while watching the fictive version, the mostly unanimous verdict was that A) there were not nearly enough pushups in the Hollywood version, and B) the Hollywood Drill Instructors were, um, overly nice guy pajama boy wimps, to rephrase for polite company and update a bit.

                  • That’s how that kind of thing usually goes.

                    Unfortunately, I rarely see anything that depicts Navy boot camp, which is a shame because at least then I can go “No, it’s not like that at all!”

                    Of course, boot’s also changed a bit since 1993 when I wen through.

        • As female fan friends have occasionally remarked to me about finding romance at SF cons, the odds are good, even if the goods are odd.

        • Mensa Regional Gatherings in the ’80s. The goods were odd, but the odds were good indeed – if you were somewhat presentable, showered regularly, and were at least moderately familiar with the social graces.

          Thankfully, much of my competition wasn’t. ;)

          • 88? 89? AG? Might have been 90. Atlanta.

          • I couldn’t pass the test for Mensa membership.

            • Yeah. It doesn’t test JUST IQ but being good at tests. The highest IQ in the household freezes in tests. The only way the psychologist could get decent results out of him was to make it as untest-like as possible. (Let him have music and work at what looked like a kitchen table. — was. Employee’s break room.)

              • I’m highly verbal and have very poor spatial sense. I have poor hand eye co-ordination with some things. When I was young I needed explicit directions like a robot.

              • Honestly, I’ve found the best way to deal with tests is to not give a . At best, they are a synthetic measure of how well you absorbed what was taught in class. At worst, they have no relevance to anything at all.

                Of my siblings, I am the best test taker. All of use went into engineering. My middle brother, (4.5 years younger than me) has been in the work force about 2-3 years, and it already making more than I do.

                My youngest brother (9 years younger,) is still in college, and, while he will freely admit he has the hardest time with tests of the three of us, did the mechanical design for an electric powered tricycle before his senior design project. I have no idea what he’s going to do for his senior design project.

              • Fortunately, The Daughter views such tests as fun mental puzzles. Only recently, when it finally dawned upon her that the results could control her access to what she wanted to do has she developed any anxiety about sitting them. For some reason MENSA has never interested her.

                Sadly, right now she is facing the kind of challenges that are not in her strengths — navigating various bureaucracies. Hopefully, next will come not telling people what absolute insufferable idiots they are for asking her stupid and irrelevant questions.

            • He’s getting better, now, but he will go into the “formal finals” with As and come out with B average. BUT at least he’s passing the finals. He used to crash and burn.

              • Most of my younger son’s professors let him skip the final if he made A’s on all the major tests. The angst in this house reached explosion levels before it all got sorted out. The Differential Equations prof actually had a quota of students he had to flunk or get dinged by the department.

            • Eh – supposedly my stratospheric score on the AFQT should have qualified me – since I took it before some cut-off date when it was ‘adjusted’. I took the trouble of pulling a copy of my test scores out of my personnel record, getting it notarized and sending it in with an application … to some regional MENSA authority in Houston, I think. I think I got a reply back from them saying that they didn’t accept blah, blah, blah. I bagged perusing it at that point – I had enough of taking tests at that point in my life and I have always been easily bored … hey, was that a squirrel?

  4. Martin L. Shoemaker

    “So no, there is no need to ‘encourage’ anyone…” No, but I do see a need to expose them to the potentials. My niece saw computer programming as “geeky guy stuff” (a.k.a. “What my geeky uncle does”), and nothing could interest her less. Then, desperate for a science credit, she signed up for a programming class; and what she discovered was a set of fun, challenging mental puzzles, and she was quite good at it. That almost didn’t happen because no one ever showed her what programming was about.

    (Of course, just to confound the diversity mavens, she later moved on to project management, because the people problems were even more challenging. And then to really piss them off, she moved on to happy full-time mother!)

    • sabrinachase

      Absolutely true. I was raised by a mother who loved science and had trained as a technical writer, and a father who *adored* airplanes and aerodynamic engineering, and would bring home his hand-me-down drafting tools for me to play with. (How I was supposed to use a french curve 4′ long was never clear to me, but I appreciated the thought.) My father expected me to learn drafting just like ordinary parents expect their children to play sports. And I thought math was just a chore to be avoided if possible until I FINALLY got a competent, intelligent math teacher (who happened to be female) and I saw it was a fun intellectual challenge.

      I am not sure who got me intrigued with computers, but I was first in line when my school district offered a summer course with the new *top of the line* Trash-80′s ;-) and it was all downhill from there. Just a few examples and a bit of encouragement is really all it takes. Kids of both genders are naturally curious, and it is tremendous fun introducing them to new things. But you have to have instructors who actually know what they are doing and LIKE it. Makes such a difference…

      • I could program — way back — but the debugging took forever because I had detail issues (same problem I have with punctuation.) I daresay I’d have got over it, but translation paid better in Portugal, so I trained for that. I trained for scientific translation, of course.
        My parents didn’t want me to take engineering because… too many guys. (Seriously. Mom was terrified I’d try to marry four of them at once. All because I’d had two boyfriends at once in fifth grade. Geesh.) BUT in high school I was expected to be good at all the subjects dad considered fun: history, languages, math, physics. I was allowed to be bad at art (because my brother had broken dad’s heart by being really lousy at it. As it turns out, if I’d been encouraged or even told I had to have decent grades in it, I’d probably have developed it as a core competency. As was, I usually had a B while totally goofing off.) And I was encouraged to be bad at “Crafts and domestic work.” Since it happened on Saturday morning, I usually spent the time doing homework for other classes or talking to friends. The teachers couldn’t fail me, because other teachers wouldn’t allow them, because “it will ruin her average” so I usually scraped by with a c.

    • Kate Paulk

      Exposing to the potentials, sure. Everyone should get that, then they have a chance to decide if it’s for them or not. And good for your niece. It sounds like she’s a lady who knows what she wants.

  5. So the programming field is not sexist, it’s normalist?

    And yeah, you’re spot on about the merit. The magic thinking is truly insane. All the well intentioned force outcomes will not change biologically based differences. A lot of professions are going to be skewed one way or another. Teaching and nursing are going to be skewed toward female. Engineering and sciences skew male.

    I have noticed that the men in female dominated fields and the women in male dominated fields tend to be very good at what they do. If they weren’t, they’d go do something else that didn’t involve swimming upstream against the current. Which is a strong argument for letting people choose their own desired fields of endeavor, without being pushed to do something that would be PC, to be steered into positions of being tokens, getting very little respect.

    • I have noticed that the men in female dominated fields and the women in male dominated fields tend to be very good at what they do. If they weren’t, they’d go do something else that didn’t involve swimming upstream against the current.

      Exception:
      when someone is trying to meddle and “balance” stuff out.
      Then you get the unusual folks, plus some (depends on the field– sometimes it’s one in five, sometimes it’s nine out of ten) that give the rest a bad name.

      • Oh yeah. Once you get someone in to make things “Fair” my old rule-of-thumb gets tossed out the window and everyone assumes any woman/Black/Hispanic is incompetent and hired for PC.

        • That’s the most insidiously evil aspect to the whole “affirmative action/diversity” BS. I’ve seen it happen too many times, and I honestly can’t blame the parties who’ve fallen for it, either–Because, all too often, they’re right.

          I used to work for a black officer, in the Army. Then, I worked around him, on staff. When you first met the guy, he came off as “big, dumb, frat-boy football player”, and the first reaction was generally “Wow… Who reminds this guy to breathe?”.

          Experience with him taught me that he was neither dumb, nor your typical frat-boy jock. Most of that was protective coloration he’d adopted at some point, and he’d become the mask. Reality was that he was a hell of a sharp guy, with a degree in Engineering instead of physical education, which he’d usually claim because it was his minor, and he’d coached football in order to pay for college.

          Now, what pissed me off? Most people who encountered him for the first time would meet him, talk to him a little, and then come to me with a “…uhm… Who’s really in charge, here? It’s surely not him, is it?”. Part of that was self-inflicted, and the other part, the much larger one, was caused by the huge number of truly rock-simple types who really were “diversity hires”. It still pissed me off, because this gentleman was someone who deserved to be there on his own merits.

          I had a talk with him one time, a frank one, and told him what I saw. His response was to tell me that what he was doing was just not something he could easily change, because he’d been doing it so long. And, what was worse, he said, was that the alternative was worse–If he didn’t act like the big, dumb football-playing “trained ape” stereotype, he wouldn’t have any friends, black or white. The blacks would ostracize him because he wasn’t “acting black”, and the whites would avoid him because he’d intimidate them. He’d long since decided that he’d rather present as he did, and have some friends.

          I blame affirmative action for a lot of the troubles men and women like him have–If there weren’t this raft of actual incompetents who had their jobs because of what they were, rather than who they were, people wouldn’t automatically assume that every black man in the US was there because “diversity”.

          The real answer to not having a diverse workforce is not to select and promote based on skin color or background, but to try to find out why there’s a dearth of a particular melanin content in a particular job. If it’s that they’re not passing the damn test, don’t dumb down the test, offer those people additional help or remedial instruction so that they can pass. Lowering standards doesn’t help anyone, especially when those standards are there for a good reason. What’s really messed-up is what I observed in an emergency room, once: A black family freaking out when a black doctor was assigned to their mother’s case–They wanted the best for her: A white doctor, preferably “…one of them Jews…”.

          The expression on that poor resident’s face was something to behold. I thought she was either going to burst into tears, or go berserk and strangle a bunch of people with her stethoscope. Either way, I felt sorrow for the situation she was in.

          • That happened on an episode of _Sanford and Son_ once. Fred Sanford wanted a white doctor, said doctor decided to refer him to a specialist, said specialist was the black doctor who Fred had rejected in favor of the white doctor:-)

            Of course I can’t find the clip on YouTube right now:-(

            • I watched it play out in real life, sitting in a Tacoma ER, back around 1993 or 1994. My jaw hit the ‘effing floor, because I couldn’t believe what I was watching. No shame, no embarrassment at all–Just “Get this black bitch out of here, and get my momma a real doctor, one of them Jews I know you got back there…”. The black guy who said that was not in the least ashamed to be broadcasting it across the ER, either.

              I never knew that was a “thing”, before that.

              • Weirdly one of the best doctors we’ve had was black…

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  My parents’ doctor was black and a woman but guess what bothered me about her? She looked “too young” to be a doctor. [Wink]

                  Note, this is a joke on myself.

                • Rob Crawford

                  The surgeon who fixed my feet when I was 9 is black. We share the same last name, which led to a few jokes.

              • I can remember working on the ignition switch in an old GM car, and the steering column had been partially disassembled before I got there and then reassembled incorrectly. As soon as I noticed it, I asked who had worked on the car before I got there, and could I ask what exactly had been done. (To save me time in diagnosing the problem.)

                The owner of the car admitted that he had a friend of a friend “help” him with the car, who then gave up and never came back. One of the onlookers then launched into a rant:

                “Are you crazy, boy? Don’t ever let a brother work on a car. Get some white boy who knows what he’s doing!”

                At the time I was probably the only white boy withing several blocks, and the entire crowd of Blacks nodded their approval.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I certainly have actively avoided teaching, nursing, and medicine.

      I attempted to measure the gender ratios of a certain chunk of engineering seniors again this year.

      Hadn’t reported it yet because a) I was wrecked and busy b) it wasn’t particularly topical. Anyway, one discipline was about nine and a half female, and another was twenty. Bunch of potential issues with my methodology, but this isn’t exactly a journal, and they probably go without saying for most of the people here anyway.

      I think it is good for people to study engineering, and good for those who decide they don’t really want to go through with it to switch to something else.

    • “…it requires very specific syntax and instruction sets…”

      Programming has a language component, a logic component, and a creative thinking component. On average, women outperform men on language and do at least as well on creative thinking. Men, on average, have an advantage in logic. Therefore, based on this reasoning, men and women are equally capable of being programmers. Women, on average, would do better at creating or modifying a programming language. Men, on average, would do better writing complex programs with many conditional branches.

      However, we don’t see a 50:50 mix because a) modern programming is mature, and there’s more need for program writing logic than language development and b) the programming jobs are not conducive to anyone who wants 8-5 hours and plenty of time for significant others, especially children. That’s why most programmers are single men.

      • My husband is a lead software tester on his current contract. He can hyperfocus on anything he chooses. His hours are nuts. He also works out of town. I balance out the disadvantages of his job with the good salary and great benefits he gets. He works for a very large corporation that has offices worldwide.

        • Kate Paulk

          Oh, hell yes. I’m at a better place now than I was a couple of years back, but the job periodically advances and devours my life in a single gulp. Software programming and testing are NOT 8-5 jobs. Ever.

          • When his hours are truly insane the co fly me and the puppy to be with him. This is how I’ve come to know San Diego and Portland.

    • Kate Paulk

      Pretty much, yes. And the ones who have worked their way there against the current really, violently LOATHE the PC tokens.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        Oddly, the only against-the-current person I ever knew embraced, enhanced and emphasized the hell out of the PC shibboleths, though I don’t know what she thought of the actual token individuals. But god forbid you say something like “many women enjoy”, because you would invariably get “*I* don’t!!” followed by at least five paragraphs on the travails she’d had to endure in This Sexist World.

        Then again, this is the same woman who didn’t believe in sexual dimorphism in the animal kingdom…

        • But god forbid you say something like “many women enjoy”, because you would invariably get “*I* don’t!!” followed by at least five paragraphs on the travails she’d had to endure in This Sexist World.

          To be fair, I sometimes do that when folks SAY “many women” and then act like it’s “all women” in their following argument.

          Sort of like how some folks rave about “Millennials” and women voting in Obama, when in reality we were only slightly more likely– on a person to person basis– to vote for him. (I think it was something like a 15% difference in either direction– something like if you have ten “Millennials,” ten women and ten random folks over 35, you’ll have six six and four Obama supporters. Example chosen because it popped to mind, not to start a political fight.)

  6. Hats off to Kate!. I wrote computer code in the 1970s – enjoyed the challenge and my mind (majored in Mathematics) enjoyed the challenge of writing good instructions for some task. It was a challenge to get a good “compile” quickly.

    I got recruited to transfer into an operating department in management and enjoyed that too – made it my preferred career path, so I got the best of both worlds.

  7. I don’t know if women can swear well enough to be programmers.
    GD&R

    • I was on a local Saturday TV game show for high schoolers in the 60s as the only freshman on the team from my girls’ school — as the science rep. I flubbed the definition of a lunar eclipse and realized it as I said it. My chagrin was bleeped (to the horror of my watching family & teachers). (I was 14).

      And you should have heard us curse in an all-girl environment in my social class (preppies in the 60s).

    • How to tell software from hardware:

      Hardware: the part of the computer you can kick. If all you can do is swear at it, it’s software.

      • My IT department at the college used to have a sign over the time card desk that read something like:

        IFF {on fire} = TRUE
        Software = 0
        Hardware = 1

        Unfortunately for me at the time, I worked in software/helpdesk. *chuckle*

        • Also, if it’s on fire, it’s not something IT helpdesk can help with, especially if the person answering the call is in Australia.

          That was one the whole guild managed to listen in on. “Hang on, you mean to tell me your computer is actually on fire?! *whole raidforce falls silent*

          • *chuckle* Got to listen in on one very similar call.

            “Wait, on fire, on fire? Smoke, flames, whole bit?”

            . . . (whole office falls quiet)

            “Hardware Problem!” *sound of transfer key being righteously hammered down!*

            • me, waking up, sitting in bed, watch curl of smoke come up from my laptop across the room in my office area (yeah, I know it sucks. Next house, separate office.) “Dan, my computer is on fire.”
              Dan, hand patting me down. “You’re dreaming, go back to sleep.”
              “Dan, there’s smoke.”
              Dan, wakes up, sits up. “OMG, your computer is on fire.”
              We unplugged it. However, it was too late. The smoke had come out. It was a small rock.

            • “…No, your warranty does not cover your router being covered in cheese and then partially eaten by your dog. Even if you rename your dog Linksys we can’t service him under warranty. You’ll probably need a vet for that.”

    • Sweetie, Kate is Australian. Swearing is a specialty.

      • I would argue that Kate is quite capable of swearing a blue streak without even opening her mouth. She has presence.

      • Imagine a floor filled with Aussie programmers, computer techs and network admins, and other similar jobs.

        Now insert onto that floor, if you will, a pet cockatoo. Beautiful bird. Would suddenly burst into strings of invective, often highly sexist and very descriptive in tone and vehemence, of which ‘fuck’ was probably the mildest word to hear. That’s where my housemate used to work for a few years.

        The new floor manager visited with his wife one day. She saw the bird, and asked if it talked. The bird replied with ‘F—ing c–t!’ Good thing the lady had a sense of humor and later got along quite well with the rest of the staff, I’m told.

        • Kate Paulk

          Oh, that sounds positively delightful!

          • The stories I have heard from him range from the comedic pranks the IT staff loved to play (and how one guy tried to forbid them, which only lead to increasing escalation of pranking all of which were targeted to the manager in question) to ‘oh gods, how do those people manage to continue breathing???!’

            There was this one time he set up replacement cables for the floor’s intranet. He was almost finished, saw it was his lunch break, and since he was ahead of time, decided to get the food out of the way then get finish the job. He left the big cabinet where everything was connected open, knowing nobody on his staff would touch it. The connections were up and running and there were a few bits and pieces left to do that didn’t interfere with work.

            He’d just started eating when he got called up and told “You gotta come back. Everything’s down.”

            “I just set it up! It should be working fine!”

            “I don’t know what happened, everything just went offline!”

            So he ran back… and saw the cabinet. Every wire was connected… but in color-coordinated rows of red, orange, yellow, blue… you get the idea. He saw the most junior tech in the team looking very unhappy and cringing.

            “It’s not my fault!” the tech replied. “She wouldn’t listen and made me do it!”

            Enter a very angry, very shrill new manager, who immediately got in my friend’s face and started yelling about how incompetent he was. He out-shouted her by calling her a stupid bint and asked her why she’d forced one of his staff to disobey his orders.

            “I didn’t like the way it looked, it was all messy! So I had it fixed!”

            The CEO at that point had come to the floor to ask what the hell had happened, and saw the head of IT calling one of the managers a massive pile of deserved slurs upon her (lack of) intelligence and gender, and hoping that she never had children, because she was clearly all kinds of genetically defective.

            The manager got fired. And my friend had to redo an entire morning’s work, because a lot of those cables got fried when forced into the wrong sockets.

    • I know a couple of women that swear well enough to be welders. Because they’re welders.

        • sabrinachase

          Welding is FUN! Did you know, if you turn up the acetylene mix just a tad too high on an oxy-acetelyne torch you can make black carbon flakes appear out of nowhere? Like black snow! Incredibly messy, but fun. And you learn the hard way about heat transfer properties of different metals, too. Steel you can heat cherry-red on one end and five feet downstream hold it with your bare hand. Copper, no way in hell. Whole thing heats up pretty much instantly.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I miss welding a little.

            Had to give it up when I noticed I was getting sick from it.

            Don’t miss it as much as one might expect, as I never got past practice pieces, and my dexterity and other issues might’ve meant I never would.

          • Yup. I enjoyed welding up to the point of doing six-component cluster joints. That broke me. I’m a sheet metal and engines gal at heart.

          • William O. B'Livion

            Just because the steel stops glowing doesn’t mean it’s cool enough to touch.

          • Another fun* thing to do with oxy-acetelyne is to fill any low spots in someone’s workplace, cracks between fire bricks, pipes setting upright, etc., with acetelyne before they get there to do any welding or cutting.

            *I am not recommending this and thus cannot be held liable for any injuries either to the welder or the prankster, resulting from this or the retaliatory acts of the welder.

        • Welding PAYS.

          Yep, pretty much everywhere, but even out here. One of the last apprenticeship-based training programs in Silicon Valley is a welding program, graduates from which immediately get offered crazy high starting wages to work in medical technology companies, where the skills required to make two little tiny stainless steel tubes become one little tiny stainless steel tube which does not leak remains very much in demand.

      • Our local technical college was promoting welding as a career path for women as early as the 1970s. Welders were well paid, they were in demand, and women are able to do the job very well.

        I do not recall if they offered a class in, um, specialized language. I suspect that it was thought that if it were necessary you could pick up on the job…

    • Ummm– conjugating F*ck was a requirement in the electronics shop I worked in– I heard (and developed) some interesting curses that I have conveniently forgotten since I became a civilian.

      • Conjugating is a requirement because when you start conjuring it, you end up with some F*ck walking through the door with some disaster they want you to fix *RIGHT NOW* before the boss finds out what they had conjured into existance. Like the other day when I was asked to restore something from a 7 year old backup.

      • When I moved to the southeastern region of the U.S. I discovered the innumerable inflections that could bring different meanings to the simple word sh*t. Amazing.

      • I’ve had entire conversations that consisted of that word, substituting it for verb, noun, pronoun, adverb, and just about everything else. I’m afraid that one of my friends in the service was probably right–Many are coarsened by service in the Army. I, on the other hand, managed the signal feat of coarsening the Army…

        Or, so he claimed. I’m not sure I could assert the opposite, and maintain any form of credibility or honesty.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, trust me, I can.

      • OT: Any more Con books in the works? I loved ‘em!

        • Once I’m through my own backlog, I’m going to visit Kate and tie her to her desk chair until she finishes two more con books.

          For a little extra geld, I’ll install a webcam for the gentlemen ;)

    • Rob Crawford

      “I don’t know if women can swear well enough to be programmers.”

      The book “Programming with Curses” is on my shelf at work. No one understands how important it is.

    • Okay, here’s a question that people here might actually know–is there a socially acceptable version of the resister code? (Yeah, I know, nobody uses individual components on a breadboard anymore, it’s all printed circuits.)

      The version that I learned (from a high school shop teacher no less) I will take with me to my grave.

      Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue Violet, Gray, White, Gold Silver, None.

      • The only one I heard, came from my high school Physics teacher. I guess it’s not particularly socially acceptable, either:

        Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly

        Didn’t have anything for the QA stripes, though. We were just supposed to remember those.

      • The below are available here: http://www.8051projects.info/eetut1.asp

        Bye Bye Rose, Off You Go – Birmingham Via Great Western
        Bad Boys Ring Our Young Girls But Violet Giggles Willingly
        Bad Bacon Rots Our Young Guts But Venison Goes Well. Get Some Now!
        B.B. ROY of Great Britain had a Very Good Wife, Good Son
        Buffalo Bill Roamed Over Yellow Grass Because Vistas Grand Were God’s Sanctuary
        Bully Brown Ran Over a Yodeling Goat, Because Violet’s Granny Was Gone Snorkeling
        Buy Better Resistance Or Your Grid Bias May Go Wrong
        Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well Good Sir.
        Bongo’s Buy Randy Ocelot Young Girls Buy Very Groovy Walruses
        Black Beetles Running Over Your Garden Bring Very Good Weather
        Black Brown Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain and the Good Women Grieve Sadly

        • Bongo’s Buy Randy Ocelot Young Girls Buy Very Groovy Walruses

          Ok, I admit I don’t know who the ocelot is, but we should all know that the walrus is Paul. ;-)

  8. I started as a programmer (ex-Math major) and eventually became a small-scale entrepreneur in software & consulting. Always liked programming (mostly FORTRAN — I’m not young) but the thrill of intimacy with a couple of operating systems and programming languages eventually wore off (diminishing returns of intellectual rewards).

    One of the pleasures of moving into business management was taking bunches of programmers in their 20s and pointing out to them that there weren’t very many programmers in their 50s (unlike, say, plumbers & electricians) and letting them draw the obvious worrying conclusion. Then I got to help many of them discover that running businesses was a lot like writing code, just different tools and units. A surprising number of them “got it” and eventually went in that direction.

    • Of course there are no programmers over fifty. It’s because they get phone calls from recruiters like this:
      Recruiter: Why, your resume is awesome, we’re looking for your skills, why, we can place you any where in the world …
      Me: I’m over fifty.
      Recruiter: We’ll be in touch! (disconnect tone)
      You want a sure-fire business idea? Start a software company and hire only programmers over fifty. Oh, and any that have been forced out for political opinions too.

      Sorry, this is a subject that annoys me. And frightens me.

      • 61, female, and still writing code. What I have found is that startups and contracting houses are much less ageist. They want someone whose been around the block a few times, knows their stuff, and doesn’t panic easily. That’s me. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve been out of work several times. But if you are good at what you do (and live in Texas – that helps), people will hire you.

        On the more general topic, the idea of discarding all that talent and knowledge because “you have gray hair so therefore you are no longer useful” infuriates me. I know it’s unChristian, but I really do hope some of my old companies reap what they sow.

        Programming is hard work, long hours, and big challenges. I’ve always enjoyed it because of the challenges. I get bored very easily. I think Martin nailed it with the story of his niece. Many young women I’ve talked to about programming want much easier pickings. They have been taught to avoid challenges (because failure!) not realizing that’s where the fun is.

        • Where in Texas are you? I’m in Dallas.

        • masgramondou

          Some startups definitely discriminate against the aged ones. Those are generally the trendy social media ones. The ones that actually have real revenue goals and a business plan beyond “eyeballs” or “Step 1 collect underpants” appreciate the genuine diversity in experience that someone older has.

          Well that’s my experience, YMMV, E&OE etc.

      • Yes. I know someone who built a consulting firm / agency / body shop on using people over 50. They got the job done, and he made loads of money !

      • The same goes for technical writers, they must spoil or something after 50. (The one escape seems to be shifting into management, and there’s no way I’m going that way, for anyone’s sake.)

        I’m 64 so far, and it’s been nothing but short-term contracts in the past five years. My guess is I’ll be going back to programming, after to move to Minnesota in a couple of months. It’s been a while, consider that the last time time I did much of it, it was Forth. Objective-C ought to be fun to learn…

        • And for academics. I’m “aging out of the market”, which is why, when a prof at Flat State chided me for pushing so hard to graduate (only 7 years from start of MA to PhD sheepskin), I had to bite my tongue to keep from reminding him that I wasn’t 22, like the rest of the MA students.

      • Old programmers get to be that way by being very good.

        I know a number of working programmers who are over 50, and I’ll be one myself in six months or so. As a matter of fact, the main complaint that I’ve heard from them is that they can’t retire because every time they try to, someone stacks money in front of them until they agree to go back to work.

        Of course, it helps that we don’t work for conventional software companies. I prefer working for engineering houses, myself, because the schedules approximate sanity (although not always very closely) and they don’t mind if I actually want to use the vacation they offered me.

        The main downside is that it takes an hour to explain what I work on. It’s been suggested that I just say “it’s a secret.”

      • 66 and contracting for 30 years. Current gig is full of brilliant geezers. Somebody in management is sharp enough to mine the nonlinearity there.

    • Kate Paulk

      I sidestepped into testing. You don’t get the recognition of the star programmers, but the people that do figure it out will bend over backwards to keep a good tester.

      • Rob Crawford

        I value good testers more than gold, but still believe every test should be automated the second time it’s run. :-)

        Sadly, my employer chased away two of the best testers I’ve ever worked with.

        • Kate Paulk

          Employers do that… Very few of them get it. And I’m with you on automating tests.

          I tell people I’m lazy. I want to do it once, right. Then have a dumb computer do it for me so I can keep doing the interesting stuff.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            A Good Programmer writes code that always works. [Nose In Air]

            Of course, a Smart Programmer tests his code to make sure it works. [Smile]

            As for testers (like Kate), most places I’ve worked if I didn’t test my code, nobody else would. [Wink]

      • Sometimes. Other times you are a scapegoat.

        • Kate Paulk

          Usually I answer that one with “Would you rather I found it or the customer did?” and if the customer DID find it, “So would your rather I missed these uber-serious bugs to find that one, or the other way around?”

          Funnily enough when the last place I was at ran into financial issues, my name came up on the layoff list… I’m way better off where I am now.

  9. One notes that the “cross the room” program given will work only if there are no obstacles. Any obstacles, you need to program how to identify them, and how to get around them.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      My favorite one was “go through the door/gate”. [Wink]

      • With umbrella? Pfui. That’s not a realistic representation of a human being… ;)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Nope, if you don’t instruct the robot correctly, you have a broken door/gate or a broken robot. [Evil Grin]

      • LOCKED door. Tell them how to identify the key hole, tell them how to put in the key, tell them how to turn the key, tell them how to jiggle it if it jams. . . .

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          You got me there. [Wink]

        • Can you do that for our shipping manager … he seems totally incapable of operating the deadbolt on the shipping man door.

          • Is that a bug or a feature? ;)

            • bug.
              We have one OCD fellow who will go around and check everything. Mon-Thurs we work a night shift and I too have to run around and check things, but if I am running late I know I can count on him having checked them … unless he left early or took the day off. When he does that on a Friday, the building has several times been left wide open … once Completely open as in bay doors up and front office doors unlocked.
              Once they fired a good manager for leaving for a bit while the doors were closed, but not locked or the alarm set … he came back soon after leaving … the several times it has happened when OCD was off… nothing, and once it was not found until Monday morning. When the doors were up the police called the alarm company who called in someone to lock up.

              • This is why you need to pay attention to the personalities of your employees/team members. You’ve got a guy with OCD, who everyone has come to rely on to check security, so they never check it for themselves. Pull him out of the picture, and all of a sudden you’re having issues with things not being secured properly.

                So, you either have to set up a system that’s resilient enough that his absence doesn’t cause chaos, or you have to compensate for his absence. Couple of things come to mind: Find another OCD type, and make sure one of them is always around to secure things, or figure out a system that makes sure that the last guy there always checks for security. Often, when I ran into this sort of situation doing physical security analysis in the Army, the root reason was that they didn’t have a set system in place that mandated someone do a check. Even something as simple as a log kept so that the last person there did all the security checks they were supposed to oftentimes served as a useful back-check. Informality is the enemy, with these things, and if you want to ensure that the place is getting locked up, make sure that the last guy there is doing the checks. One technique I’ve seen is that the employer makes it a policy that the hourly employee doing the checks always gets an automatic 15 or 30 minutes added onto their hours when they make the checks, and that’s an easy way to supplement their pay a little, and save the company a lot of money. They used the security check sheets as part of the payroll process. You signed off saying everything was secure, and you got the extra time added on. If it wasn’t, and you lied by signing it? Well, there were methods to deal with that, like firing.

                • Sound like they need something like brown M&Ms — the infamous contract rider that was the way the band could figure out whether a venue had read and complied with the contract.

                • So, you either have to set up a system that’s resilient enough that his absence doesn’t cause chaos, or you have to compensate for his absence.

                  Navy tech offices tend to just give the guy who always checks anyway the position of “guy who checks doors.” (I ended up with a LOT of the….argh, can’t remember the word for “jobs that have to be done but aren’t about the office’s real job” positions that took actual work, because they knew I’d actually do it. Only hit we ever took on my stuff was from the guy in the main office screwing up what I’d fixed.)

                  • In the Army, we call ‘em “Additional Duties”, and they often wind up taking more damn time than the ones they assign by duty description. Especially around the time they do inspections…

                  • Extra duties, as defined – I think that’s the phrase you are looking for.

                    • No, the ones like “EPO” and “Hazmat PO” and stuff.

                      ARgh, blocking HARD on this.

                    • I used to suggest – in a rather sarcastic vein, let it be noted – that their ought to be an established military career field for ‘additional duties NCO and given a large enough unit – an additional duties officer. They would take over performing all those additional duties – OJT, security, facilities, and all those others which I would rather not recall to mind – and do them full-time as their military specialty.
                      I used to suggest this, fairly often … alas, higher authorities failed to see the logic, efficiency, and good sense of this. Pooh. Likely this is the reason I retired at 20. No one appreciated my genius.

                    • Because it makes so much sense to have someone you spent thousands to educate, with a backlog, spending one tenth of their work day sweeping the floor and polishing already shiny bright work, or doing the paperwork that someone is PAID to do in Admin, down in the Hazmat office and up in the department office.

                    • Collateral Duty! They’re called Collateral duties!

                  • Collateral duty?

                    • Yep. About ten minutes after I banged the keyboard to bits trying to find any mention of it. :)

                      Can’t believe I forgot the phrase “collateral duty.”

                    • Yep, that’s a Navy-ism. The Army would hear that phrase, and give a puzzled gruntle… “Urrhgghm?”

                • Been complaining about it for several years now. Ever since we went on nights and someone noticed things didn’t get locked up on night and they asked me what happened … Yeah, I ain’t here on Fridays so I wasn’t around to lock things up. I have a binder with check lists I have to fill in but no one else is required to do it.
                  As for the pay, the guy not getting the door and the fellow with OCD are salary. I’m not, but shutting down is part and parcel to being the second shift, and the other two guys do a good job when I am absent.

          • Are you sure he’s a robot?

            The reason why we use robots rather than, say, earthworm, which are much more intelligent, is that robots take directions better.

    • Makes me think of The Door Into Summer, when he was explaining why it was so difficult to program the robot to do the dishes. Except then it was the woman friend who was surprised that a man was able to appreciate the complexity of the job.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, of course. When you start breaking it down to all the possible things that can happen, you get into the realm of multiple nested case statements and all hell breaks loose.

      This is why all non-trivial software is in fact Lovecraftian and will summon the Great Old Ones given sufficient time.

      • Rob Crawford

        You have to calm the software by sacrificing chickens to it.

        • Kate Paulk

          And trying not to get too much blood on the carpet.

        • Funny you should mention that. I’ve been fighting a stupid bug for days, and finally posted it at StackOverflow on Saturday night. I mentioned that the only thing I hadn’t tried yet was slaughtering a black rooster over my PC, but I was getting pretty close. Still am for that matter (#$&* IDE…) Sometimes this line of work is more like magic than science. Alchemy at best…

      • Which is why the wise computer user keeps a five-pound sledge near at hand at all times. Occasionally, the hardware requires “encouragement”.

        I used to have to run the networking/IT crap for a fairly good-sized section, back before the Signal weenies took the job over. I had one laptop that was a huge pain in the ass to work with, constantly requiring a re-boot, usually right in the middle of doing something. You’d almost always wind up losing work.

        So, one day, I’m sitting in the Tactical Operations Center during an exercise, and the damn thing starts into its usual preliminary “I’magonnaf**kyou” mode. I reach over and grab the hammer I’d recently used to set some tent stakes, and meaningfully set it down near the damn thing, saying something to the effect that “…there was going to be a hammer-related accident, here in a second…”.

        Said laptop immediately quit with the misbehavior, and started flying right, and so long as that hammer was placed in that location, never again lost its shit.

        To this day, I have absolutely no doubt that these things are quasi-living entities, and that they will respond suitably to threats of physical violence.

        Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself. I haven’t descended to lining the laptops up and beating one of them into a pile of silicon and plastic, the way one of my IT guys did, however. I walked in on that one, and I just turned around and left. He’d literally set them up in a row, and had the misbehaving machine out in front of them, and proceeded to turn it into so much confetti with a largish hammer, a la Gallagher. The high, mad laughter he issued forth with while he was doing that was pretty disturbing, and I’ve seen some bad stuff over the years. He came out of the IT workshop with a flushed face, sweaty hands, and just said “I’m sorry you had to see that…”.

        What was shocking was that it appeared to work, because all those machines quit playing games with us. Coulda been the driver/OS patch they applied at about the same time, but then again…

        • Gremlins.

          They know a good house.

        • Back when Steve Jackson games had done a collectible version of Illuminati: New World Order – they had published an addendum book with the rules and variants.

          One variant was to bring TWO decks. One you played with, and one placed on the table with great fanfare to “observe”.

          When you did well, you pointed that out to the “observer” deck (in front of the other players). When you did poorly, you muttered dark things.

          At the end of the game, if you lost, you would theatrically tear up the deck you played with and turn to your observer deck and say “see what happens to crappy decks?”

  10. One notes that most discussion of discrimination are obviously conducted by people who obviously never took Statistics 101. (Odds are, someone who flunked it would still have a better grasp.)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Years ago, I was waiting for a ride. There were still newspaper kiosks in those days, and I’d read the displayed front page of a major city’s paper out of boredom. Then a guy I knew came by, and I started talking to him about it.

      ‘The feds are investigating these members of this city’s government. It is asserted that they are choosing who based on race, but the paper hasn’t mentioned the city government’s racial demographics, which is critical to the argument.’

      I think they mentioned the demographics of the suspects, but I certainly didn’t know enough about that city to say if it was significant or not.

  11. Oh yes– I have worked in male dominated fields (electronics) and female dominated fields (child care) and I would pick working in a male dominated field every time. The only time I had a hard time with the job when we had to wire a hallway for twelve phones. Pulling the wired was beyond my strength (although I tried) and almost beyond the three other guys strength put together. We did get it done.

    I still talk to the guys in that group. I was never Cynthia the female (except for one– and I had to talk to him about inappropriate touching) but Cynthia the repair goddess. I was the only one in that group who had worked on a system computer (filled a room) and repaired it for approx. four years. So I was the only one programmed the phones in the switch. I was the only one with computer training. The rest had done wiring and more electrical applications.

    • I was never Cynthia the female (except for one– and I had to talk to him about inappropriate touching) but Cynthia the repair goddess.

      Now THAT goes beyond the pale, as in over the line, as in should’ve punched that dude directly in his nose. Or maybe just arrested. That would’ve worked too. But, as pertains to this post, I guess the thing is that it would have been all of that no matter where it happened. (Sorry dudes, you can’t just grab a woman whenever you want to.) I guess my point is this:

      What drives me crazy is when women come into an occupation and expect the men that have been working in the field for years, sometimes decades, and change the entire culture of their work environment. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s like the woman who sued the Fire Department because a man sitting around reading Playboy created an “uncomfortable work environment” for her. Seriously. If you can’t be in a male environment then don’t work in one.

      Sure, cultures change over time. But cultural change is both gradual and slow. Walking in an expecting the entire environment to change because “I have a hoo-hah” is more likely to create discrimination in the future than it is to prevent it.

      • Every workplace that I entered I had to deal with “inappropriate touching” at least once. After that, I usually didn’t have a problem. I have told the story where I dropped a guy by raking his sensitive areas. This other time, the guy was older and I had to use stronger means. Playboy– who cares. Touch me without my permission and I go Viking on you. ;-) When I mean inappropriate… it wasn’t a tap on the arm.

      • I figures that with 20 guys in the shop, most over age 50, and me, majority rules. I left the seat up when I finished, and they took down the rudest of the signs (had a couple in flagrante delicto with the caption “to do list: 1.) And if the really senior guys needed to swear, I’d get out of sight or cover my ears, because they felt bad cursing around ladies. I’m sure the GHHs and SJWs would have a cow, but we got along very well.

    • Kate Paulk

      Yup. Male dominated fields, while some of them might need the steel-capped boot of correction between the legs to figure out the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching, they’ll *always* respect competence.

  12. don’t make a fuss over stupid shit like everyone calling USB drives “dongles” or the way connectors are labeled male or female depending on whether they’ve got innies or outies, you’ll get on fine. I have.

    Oh man. The connection label thing reminds me of something that happened a few months ago. We had a gay guy call up – long distance, from America to Australia! – to bitch out my housemate for a simple little free script he wrote that had ‘male and female’ socketing defined in it. Or something. Most of the nearly half hour call was spent yelling about how sexist it was and demanding that my housemate change the definitions because it wasn’t being respectful to his homosexuality. It interrupted a conversation we were having and I sat there watching my housemate’s expression as his brain hard-locked on trying to figure what the complaint was about, and trying to figure out why this was so important. When the complainer ran out of breath, he asked ‘uh, are you familiar with how your dvd player plugs into your tv? Yeah, I didn’t make those definitions-’

    The next was so loud I heard it: “I ALREADY CHANGED THE LABELS ON THOSE!”

    “The script is a free script and there are better ones, use them. I’m not going to dream up a whole new programming language just for you.”

    “I have a right to use whatever script I want! This is America! We have LAWS here that enforce equality!”

    “I’m Australian. Your laws don’t apply here. Yes, I’m Australian. I live in Australia. You’re calling long distance.” Housemate hangs up.

    Five minutes later, this sterling specimen of special snowflakeyness rings up threatening to sue unless his demands are met.

    “Sure. I can use the money I’ll get from you when the court rules in my favor,” was the unimpressed reply.

    He hung up, and said “I didn’t believe all the stuff you rant about gays suing bakeries and schools before. I do now.”

    This housemate says that the few female programmers he knew – as well as the very few female network security admins – tended to be even more vicious and protective about their work and machines – he’s been a bystander observer to what they’ll do when some misogynist male hacker tries to bust their security because of the misconception that girls can’t program worth a damn. “Hardware is expensive,” he notes.

    He flat out doesn’t care if the person programming is a male or female; bad coding is bad coding and that’s that. Someone female screeching that they should be taken more seriously because they’re a woman, not white or gay, or all of the above, is going to be ignored entirely if their skills aren’t worth the attention. (If they are? Then their weird fixation on sex organs and skin will be shrugged off as a quirk as it has nothing to do with programming or code or computers.)

    • sabrinachase

      I had fun with some guys who thought they could fluster me by asking how to tell the difference between the male and female electrical connectors. (Hey, they were awkward and the Sears catalog lingerie section can only do so much.)

      I would put on my best evil grin and say, “Oh, that’s easy! The female connection is the one with the power.” Which is both confounding and true–since you don’t want line voltage exposed on a poky-outy metal bit, do you?

      But if you really want a good double-entendre field, try vacuum tech. There you can say, with a straight face, “Put the nude gauge on that nipple with studs.”

      • But then, why is a female connector called a “Jack”? *grin*

      • I would put on my best evil grin and say, “Oh, that’s easy! The female connection is the one with the power.” Which is both confounding and true–since you don’t want line voltage exposed on a poky-outy metal bit, do you?

        But if you really want a good double-entendre field, try vacuum tech. There you can say, with a straight face, “Put the nude gauge on that nipple with studs.”

        Such terminology and jargon must blow the minds of the snowflakes. “Perverts! There’s no OTHER reason for you lot to have adopted those terms!”

        The part about the female side of a connection having the power makes perfect sense to me. After all, I don’t stop to think about the globally sexist ramifications of a power outlet the way the GHHs seem to.

        • Such terminology and jargon must blow the minds of the snowflakes. “Perverts! There’s no OTHER reason for you lot to have adopted those terms!”

          To be fair, that PARTICULAR accusation may have merit. A lot of the scientists and engineers have, shall we say, a “scandalous” sense of humor.

        • Man – you should have heard the weeks worth of dirty jokes after our machinist mate (nuke school) class finished the section on pumps – especially reciprocating pumps.

    • “I will sue because you won’t change the world to suit ME!”

      Oh good lord. I wonder if said caller spends his life in a perpetual froth, and how much his life will be shortened thereby…

      • and they are the “reality-based community.”

      • I wonder if that’s his standard to go to yell. Maybe he used it as an excuse to not pay that long distance charge.

        “I HAD to all up this asshole Australian bigot because he wouldn’t respect my sexuality! He wouldn’t change the code of his script to not include heteronormative terminology! WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO PAY THE BILL?! I’M FIGHTING FOR MY EQUAL RIGHTS!”

        I can almost see it too…. more depressingly I wouldn’t have been surprised if it happened.

        • BTW. he’s wrong. In the US they’re also referred to as male and female. It’s not only not illegal, it’s normal.

          • *mock horrified gasp* Sarah! ‘normal’ is a bad word! It discriminates against the disabled, the homosexuals and anyone falling outside the norm and implies that there’s something wrong with them!

            Or so I found out lately. Ah! My eyes! They’ve rolled away again! ‘scuse me gotta catch them.

            Out of curiosity, would such a charge have been thrown out of court over in the US? Given the prevalence of GHH special snowflakey cases these days I have my own doubts, but I’m told (have no personal experience in, thank Gods) that Aussie courts don’t take kindly to nuisance suits.

            • Yes, it would have been thrown out of court. The only way to be considered would be if he’d suffered material damage. Depending on where the charge was made, it would probably be LAUGHED out of court. Where it would get traction is with the HR of a large company, who are so scared of issues with their public image, they’d probably change all the labels.

              • *eyeroll* even the techs don’t make the terms, especially in manufacturing. That’s R&D and R&D might consider it rather insane.

                • And there are plenty of places in engineering, steam plants, regulators, and yes, settings for IDE-connected hard drives, where the terms “master” and “slave” still apply…

              • There is always the ninth circuit, which appears to take great pride in being the most overturned by SCOTUS.

                Do you know the basis of advertisements including wording to the effect that ‘items displayed on the shelves are not included’? I have been told that someone took it to court, arguing that the picture of the stereo stand in an advertisement flyer showed a stereo, but when they bought the product it did not include said stereo, and therefore constituted false advertising. Such a case (if it existed) may well have been thrown out of court. Still, just the idea of the nuisance costs such a case can entail would drive lawyers to advise that you include disclaimers in the future.

                A lot of present practices seem to be proactive. The precious snowflakes may not wish to be disturbed, but they will certainly disturb others, using the fear of *please insert the deity / force that will not upset here* to cow tow those who get in the way of their specialness.

            • There is a saying that you can take a ham sandwich to court. Showing damage is harder, but apparently not as hard as it used to be.
              A few states have barratry legislation (about nuisance lawsuits – Lawfare is the new term). Texas considers it a felony, which is why I am fond of TX even though I’ve only seen DFW airport.

            • But you see, since Sarah (and pretty much everyone else here) falls outside the norm (falls? Most of us jumped.) it’s empowering when she uses the word “normal.” Like black people using the word “nigger.”

              You obviously need to check your privilege. (dangit, where’d they go. No, wait! Those aren’t toys! Stop batting…BAD CAT!)

              • Oh, Kitty, don’t chew on that, it’s bad for you.
                :D Seriously I love you guys, you make me laugh.

                And yeah, I think I was along the group that jumped off the norm, because oh dear gods ‘normal’ looked very very disturbing to me. If I wanted to be generous, about 75% of what ‘normal’ considered perfectly reasonable to do, I thought flat out pointless or insane.

                Very old fashioned sensible normal, not so much. The ‘normal’ of today though… ugh.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh wow. Yes, bad code is bad code, and if you make the grade, anything else is just a quirk. With testers it’s very similar – and since I code well enough to make the grade as a coder, I tend to fit in pretty well with that crowd.

    • Wonder what he relabeled his DVD socketing as? Male and excrement?

  13. Yes, a female body builder will likely wipe the floor with an average male about her size. She won’t be able to do that with a male body builder about her size. That’s just one example. There are many, many more.

    And, implicit though not stated, the chance of a random guy she has to face BEING about her size– rather than bigger– is pretty small.

    I don’t care what people say about the average woman being about three four. I can’t help noticing that for every woman I can comfortably stand next to and look in the face, there’s at least one elbow and a half-dozen shoulders. Even figuring in shoes, folks aren’t walking around in six inch heels by default.

    • I knew the outlier who proved the point. She was only 5’1″ or so and whe going out with friends for drinks would show up with really large body builder guys. These were not her dates. They were to keep her from hurting people when she got drunk.
      She was a bicycle racer (mostly track, and time trials) and did Nautilus competitions. The one fool among us at work (A ‘roided out maroon whose dad was a pro football player) once boorishly try to get her to hook up with him and got a punch to the ribs I think might have cracked them.
      Now, she certainly wasn’t average, but even so (when not drinking) preferred to be armed for protection over just beating the snot out of people … there was always the chance the baddie was stronger than she.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, absolutely. The average woman is smaller than the average man. So unless she’s quite a bit bigger than the average woman, she’s mostly looking at bigger men.

    • There’s also the fact that the guys women really have to be worried about – the violent criminal as opposed to the boorish suitor – tend to live rather violent lives. They’re far more likely to be involved in fights and thus have received advanced practical training in how to avoid and deal with pain. You can hit a guy like that in the dangley bits, but you won’t be the first, and he’ll probably have learned something from his prior experience.

  14. (I have now had the privilege of meeting our guest blogger. As I read this piece I literally hear it in her voice – and see those brilliant eyes flashing. Wicked nice.)

    Most of what this gentlemen wrote that is quoted is the kind of nonsensical pabulum we have see regularly in public argument. It seems that any argument for the point these ideologues make is thrown against the wall of public zeitgeist to see if it stick.

    They have gotten so far into the deep end that it doesn’t seem to matter if any of the various points contradict other parts of their argument or if they are logically cohesive at all. They are wed to the present dogma. It is the nature of these times that such arguments go largely unquestioned.

    Aren’t these the very same people who started out arguing that we should be able to pursue our individual callings, talents and dreams? Therefore, they argued, women should be allowed to choose to enter the professions or the trades. It was later that I began to hear the argument women who failed to enter a male dominated professions were letting their cause down.

    Now it seems to have little to do with individual preferences or abilities, the goal is parity in numbers. Maybe I missed it, but is there equal pressure to move correct the imbalance in what have been female dominated professions, or are we just going to let those jobs go undone?

    Never mind. They don’t want to recognize that throughout history men, even white Anglo-Saxon men, have faced limitations in opportunity.

    And now, there is the argument that within 10 years all women need to be able to support themselves and their families. Could it be that they are finally beginning to see where tearing down social structures have been leading us? In the emphasis on one vision of equality we accept that there will be, outside of the business sphere, separate lives for men and women. This is a world where it is assumed that women will not only be working, but raising their families, and men will be cut off from their families.

    I don’t see this as a promising future for anyone. Except, maybe, those frail snowflakes who don’t really want to live in a world with men (particularly manly! men). And bureaucrats who are employed to oversee and provide the various governmental services (nursery care, three and four year old kindergarten, extended school days and years, etc.) that will be demanded to undergird such a system.

    • Aren’t these the very same people who started out arguing that we should be able to pursue our individual callings, talents and dreams?

      Strikes me as analogous to the libtards who move to another state and Californicate it — as in Colorado.

      M

      • Likely, or they were the direct precursors of them — their parents and teachers.

      • We should be able to pursue our individual callings. talents and dreams so long as they fit into certain groups’ worldview. They want to see the world as they want it, rather than let things like facts get in the way.

        For example, a lot of women out there actually like being housewives. No idea why, because I’ve done that kind of thing while unemployed and it freaking sucks, but they love it. However, since that’s a sexist thing, it can’t be tolerated.

        • For example, a lot of women out there actually like being housewives. No idea why, because I’ve done that kind of thing while unemployed and it freaking sucks, but they love it.

          Different brain working things, broadly speaking.

          Guys are really good at doing one thing and doing it completely.
          Housewifery takes doing a lot of things partly, and jumping around between them.
          My husband is actually a better cook than I am, we’d just starve if it was up to him to feed us because it takes two hours of total focus just to make the stuff, which is good to outstanding; I spend ten minutes here, five there, two here and make something that is alright to good and manage to leave the kitchen in better condition than it was when I started.

          Gals get a sort of charge out of martyring themselves on little things that make life more comfortable, for months on end; guys get a sort of charge out of big huge major things where you can REALLY tell the difference from side to side.
          Look at the archetypes for “great sacrifice” for either sex; women live their giving-it-all in caring for someone (say, Mother Teresa) while men tend to die for their giving-it-all. (throw yourself on the grenade to safe the squad)

          You’re right on why that upsets ‘em, though. Reality is sexist.

          • Guys are really good at doing one thing and doing it completely.
            Housewifery takes doing a lot of things partly, and jumping around between them.

            Yeah, but I’m ADHD. I jump around doing different things as it is. I should be a natural!

            • *laughs* Ah, but it sure seems like the ADHD folks I know are REALLY FOCUSED on what they’re doing it for however long they’re doing it– and only switch because something else seems to be more important, at which point they’re totally focused on that…..

              • It depends on what it is they’re focused on.

                ADHD people develop something called “hyperfocus”. If it’s something they’re in to (and in a lot of careers, it’s because it’s a hyperfocus thing). When they focus on stuff that’s a hyperfocus for them, they lock onto it.

                Cleaning my house? Soooooooooooo not a hyperfocus for me. :D

                • A member of the family was diafnosed with, among things, ADD.

                  I initially questioned this diagnosis, because this child, if engaged, could concentrate like no I had ever met before. I would joke that under the circumstances you could drive a Mack truck through the room and it wouldn’t be noticed at the time. Maybe sometime afterwards you might hear a small voice asking, ‘How did that great big hole get in the side of the house?’

                  It was then explained that the issue of ADD is not the inability to concentrate, but difficulty in being able to concentrate by choice.

                  • Exactly. I really hate the name, because people develop expectations of behavior based on the name. The problem is, the name is far from accurate.

                • *tries not to look at the livingroom floor*

      • Aren’t these the very same people who started out arguing that we should be able to pursue our individual callings, talents and dreams?

        Strikes me as analogous to the libtards who move to another state and Californicate it — as in Colorado.

        It’s always struck me that there’s something else going on with these people, aside from their named goal of “enabling women/minorities/whatever” to do better for themselves in these fields of endeavor. There is a definite side-goal of not only enabling the under-represented, but of also tearing down the people who are already there. You can’t just enable someone who is “other” to succeed in a field or endeavor that they haven’t historically been engaged in, you must also destroy the success of those who have been historically engaged in these things.

        Title IX is a perfect example. The effects of that “program” were entirely predictable, warned of, and yet… They went ahead and did it. With the expected results, pushing men out of college. And, for what? How many women are actually that interested in athletics? How many are engaging themselves and taking advantage of all these programs? I know of quite a few that are mere vestiges of what they were when they were set up, and are ghosts compared to the male-focused ones they supplanted.

        I’m sure you can make a good argument that athleticism has no role in education at the college level. Hell, I think college football is ludicrous, myself–But, the fact remains, those athletic programs got a lot of men into education that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. Maybe the over-emphasis is a bad thing, but… Why did we feel we needed to make that change, in the first place?

        The various “-isms” aren’t about celebrating differences or enhancing opportunities, from where I sit. It’s all about tearing established things down, in favor of things that heretofore were not traditional. Never mind the good those traditions enabled, just tear them out by the roots, and to hell with the consequences. Ideology trumps all.

        • It’s always struck me that there’s something else going on with these people, aside from their named goal of “enabling women/minorities/whatever” to do better for themselves in these fields of endeavor. There is a definite side-goal of not only enabling the under-represented, but of also tearing down the people who are already there. You can’t just enable someone who is “other” to succeed in a field or endeavor that they haven’t historically been engaged in, you must also destroy the success of those who have been historically engaged in these things.

          Yeah. This is the “White Privilege” argument. It’s as good a way to decribe things as I’ve ever heard.

          • The best suggested response that I have seen on the intertubules this far to a request to ‘check your privilege’ is, “Thanks, I’m OK – I had it topped up last week.”
            This provided as a public service to those not gifted with a talent for snappy repartee…I live to serve.

        • I think that the reason traditional things have been taken out and others put in, is so that things can now revolve around the new people.

        • The goal isn’t just reconciliation. The goal is revenge, because they’ve been taught that white men are the oppressive oppressors who oppress, and are therefore the evil super villains that must be destroyed by their ultra-superpowers of understanding and love and non-oppression, or something.

      • Strikes me as analogous to the libtards who move to another state and Californicate it — as in Colorado.

        Just a note: Please don’t send them back. Some of us are fighting behind enemy lines here in the Golden State and we don’t need any more opposition.

        As to where they should be sent when you help them on their way – I hear northern Canada is nice and empty. If urban life is all they can handle, perhaps somewhere like Quebec. Canadian politics wouldn’t really be that impacted from what I can see from this remove.

        • I wish a lot of them that promised to move to France when we elected Bush would hurry up and get moved.

    • There has always been a strong vein of false consciousness reasoning in the feminists, particularly from the Marxists during the 60s. radical wind’s “colonization” is merely the latest variation.

      A subset of Typical Mind Fallacy, actually. Unfortunately one of critical importance, since they are out to evangelize and your actually differing is a crucial obstacle.

    • Kate Paulk

      Thank you! Flattery like that will get you everywhere. And what this gentleman has done is pretty common – he’s an expert in his field, and he’s made the mistake of thinking that the loudest voices are experts in theirs at least in part because in his field, expertise is what *makes* the loudest voices loudest.

      • It’s so blasted frustrating to see people as frigging brilliant as Atwood get sucked into stupid ideas like this, with ridiculous unexamined assumptions and assertion of facts that are nowhere in evidence. There are a number of people I know who are similar, friends and colleagues that I like and respect who buy into the idea that there is this terrible scourge of isms afflicting and beating down everyone who isn’t a white Christian male.

        I had a good friend and boss gush to me about how wonderful it was that (judging by the names at the time) none of the nominees for the Campbell this year were white guys. I can kinda see the importance of people from a given culture honing their craft enough to earn awards (if awards mattered, cf. Kilted Dave re: Lincoln, Jackson, and Franklin Awards) but what is the value in their having displaced the demographic majority? In short, who cares? Then I realized that to her, the only reason that it didn’t look like that all the time was because of racism. So she saw this as a victory in winning over hearts and minds to consider stories written by brown people. Sad and frustrating.

        • Kate Paulk

          Oh lord, yes. I think the problem there is that in software, the really good ones usually ARE the loudest because it’s very much a judged by results/judged by your peers society. If you don’t spend much or any time elsewhere the obvious assumption is that’s how it works everywhere, not what actually happens (which is that it’s a refreshing breeze to hit a group where the loudest voices have the most expertise).

          And yeah, Atwood is brilliant, which makes it all the more frustrating when he gets it by the pointy end.

  15. If you do the job and don’t make a fuss over stupid shit like everyone calling USB drives “dongles” or the way connectors are labeled male or female depending on whether they’ve got innies or outies, you’ll get on fine. I have. And do. Not only that, I feel like I belong because I know damn well I’ve earned the respect of my co-workers.

    That’s why they’re now trying to call that *points at Kate’s actions* as giving in to sexism.

    MASSIVE DIGRESSION!!!!!

    On a side, I think being a bit Odd is helpful for dealing with the idiots who are trying to be jerks and do things rather worse than basic stupid shit. I’ve run into two geeks who really, honestly, could not deal with me because I’ve got an innie.

    Rather amusingly, they both sucked at what they were doing, too.
    One dislikes ANYBODY who is better at anything than him (and just reacts different to different sexes– really, really bad trash talk), and the other just has an issue with women who weren’t subordinates. I had the misfortune to be the same rank and not care about rank. (Apparently he was fine to work for, but folks made sure he didn’t deal with female department heads.)

    In both cases I had to be told that the “bad stuff” aura I was getting around them wasn’t my imagination, and in both cases simply not showing up was an option and it worked. More because I like feeding people than because I’m some sort of great person to hang out with.

  16. And shame on the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas for conflating merit with bigotry.

    It’s not bigotry to bring an end to the era of male privilege by creating a more inclusive environme….>GAG<

    You forget that you're dealing with the left here. To the left there is no such thing as merit. People are successful either because they have "privilege" or because leftists have forced companies/government agencies to hire them. Seriously. I've seen it. Until you've sat in a classroom full of lefties and heard them flat out state that most of the people in Ivy League colleges haven't earned their spots there and have been accepted only due to the fact that they're rich and white this might not sink in. It's the way they think though.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh I don’t expect them to feel any shame for what they’re doing. It makes ME feel better to waggle the finger of scorn and chant “Shame, shame, shame.”

    • Kate Paulk

      Chuck-K – never – ever – under any circumstances mistake management decisions for the attitudes of the geeks themselves.

  17. I can attest to the differences in spatial visualization skills. Drafting came very hard, especially if I did not have the thing in front of me. And instrument flying took me a long time to master. Not the flying by the gauges part, but being able to visualize the approaches in my mind, in 3-D. To this day I’m happiest if I can have one finger on the approach plate (the little map), following my lateral progress through the initial aspect of the approach. Especially when the air traffic controller throws in the usual curve balls. 95% of the guys I’ve talked to never sweat that part. It’s the talking on the radio while flying the approach that throw them off.

    • Kate Paulk

      Yup. I have pretty decent spatial visualization for a female, but with odd quirks like never being able to remember which side is left, and sometimes needing to turn the map around to use it (if I’m having a bad day I simply can’t translate which direction to look for the next road unless “up” on the map I’m looking at matches the direction I’m going. Thank Dog for GPS systems).

  18. NB: Asperger’s is not equivalent to “mild autism”—there are mild spectrum disorders that do not fit the Asperger’s profile. (I happen to have a kid with one of them… the fun part is that because of early intervention, most random people off the street would never guess, but people who work with autistic kids invariably spot it within five minutes.)

    I would only trust a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder from an expert, because so many of the signs have been misinterpreted in popular culture to the point where people think that “geek” is the primary signifier. My husband and I have very compatible personalities, and from the outside might look similar, but I’m neurotypical and he most definitely is not. (And as he’s basically the same profile as our kid, but *nobody* spots it, coping strategies do eventually erase the obvious differences.) (He doesn’t work in programming, but in the related field of data analysis and procedural design. He’s very good at it.)

    • I have to wonder about why people feel the need to “medicalize” the whole range of personalities they describe as “Asperger-like”. Why the hell does something like that need to be excused/explained by describing it as a medical syndrome? Have we not always had these people, the vaguely obsessive about issues that are small and minor to the rest of us?

      There’s something about the way society is handling this stuff these days that I find disturbing, and I can’t put my finger on why it bothers me so much. The idea that the behaviors they’re terming Aspergers need to be set apart and made “other” is more than a little disquieting–And, it makes me wonder how long it will be before someone starts labeling the kids who we used to label as “gifted” are set aside as being “other”, and marginalized because they’re not part of the herd. I don’t care for a lot of what came out of Vonnegut’s typewriter, but the Harrison Bergeron short story rang a lot of bells for me. Way, way too many.

      It’s long been my observation that if you want an effective team, the thing you need is a mix of personality types. You can’t have everyone be average, because all you’re going to get in that case is average performance. If you want something that’s better than average, you need a mix of personality and intelligence types in a team. Some people are smart in severely trunked ways–Brilliant in some aspects of life, and dumb as posts in others. You want a superior team? You’d better include a solid mix of what you have available to you in each one you build. And, as a corollary, it does not pay to marginalize or disrespect one particular sort over another–Smart guys need to have some not-so-smart guys working with them, in order to keep them grounded. Likewise, you need a couple of deep thinkers who glory in the details in order to keep the surface-dwellers aware of possibilities and pitfalls.

      Team-building is a definite skill-set we don’t think a hell of a lot about, and organizations usually seem to do this by accident more than by intent. And, once they have an effective team, what happens? They break them up. Rank idiocy, whether its on the football field, the field of battle, or the workplace.

      • Because it allows them to think it should be cured?

        Here’s another medicalization:

        There is something to be said here about the word “depression,” which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one’s state of mind, or one’s mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one’s life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct.

        from here:

        http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.html

      • It’s long been my observation that if you want an effective team, the thing you need is a mix of personality types.

        Completely agree. Although I’d add that you also need folks who look at problems differently. e.g., The place I last wrote code had a team that included a systems thinker who could visualize the entirety of the system being designed (who wrote code that worked), a guy who knew data bases (and wrote elegant code), and a guy who knew the user base (and wrote pretty good code). We wrote a system, in about 2 months, in use today (9 years later) that provides consistent and legally correct court documents for an entire state.

        I’d also note just because. I started writing code in my mid 20′s and quit writing code when I retired at 65.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, I know Aspergers is its own beast, but I do think the autistic spectrum disorders are massively misunderstood and way, way overdiagnosed. Which makes it hellishly difficult for both those who really ARE on the spectrum and for those who are introverted and have bugger all in common with the people they’re forced to spend all day with.

  19. masgramondou

    1) Diversity leads to better products and results

    I think this is actually true, but not in the way the original writer meant it.

    Firstly, if you want a product to be appealing to a wide range of people you do need input from a decent sample of them. But that isn’t a PROGRAMMING requirement it is a PRODUCT MANAGEMENT requirement. It is (or should be) the job of product management to write the specification and to amke sure that what comes out of engineering meets that spec. It may (in fact I think it does) make sense to look for some diversity in Product Management. That way you get a product that is more widely useful and you get to avoid the worst naming oopses (e.g. a name that has an unfortunate slang meaning too – a friend of mine worked for a large Japanese company in Prod Mgmt/Mktg and managed to get them to change the name of their smartphone tablet thing from “Woody the Internet Pecker” before they launched because she knew English slang and the others being Japanese did not). However that diversity of outlook doesn’t apply to the programmers. They just write what the PRD says to do and it is important that they write efficient code accurately and quickly not what is the color of their skin, their age, sex, sexual preference etc.

    OTOH a good programmign team does benefit from diversity of prior programming experience. There’s nothing like wasting months reinventing the broken wheel because none of the team had ever tried building a wheel before to teach you the value of broad prior experience. And as someone who is on the older side I can tell you it is amazing how stuff that you solved decades ago in say DOS token-ring network drivers turns out to also be relevant in something more modern like virtual cloud database replication.

    Finally – and to go back to my point 1 – it has been pointed out by various people that the (Bay Area) VC industry and developers are not solving problems for families in Peoria, let alone peasants in Uganda. Where (for example) is the Uber or AirBnB for childcare or school runs? That *is* a problem.

    • Where (for example) is the Uber or AirBnB for childcare or school runs? That *is* a problem.

      Oh that’s easy. Look up “stranger danger”. People are absolutely terrified that children are in perpetual danger and if not watched at all moments of the day by their mother (not parents, mother), then the child will instantly be snatched up, molested, run over and then chopped into tiny bits and served with a side of fava beans. There are onesies that monitor your child’s heard beat and o2 sat levels and send it to your phone. There are diapers that analyze your child’s waste. There a keurig like machines for baby formula, because you might make it too hot. Children are followed down the street by concerned busy bodies thinking they’re in mortal danger walking home from school. A man in a station wagon slows down in an empty lot where a child is playing and it’s reported as an attempted child abduction. Schools are buying and installing panic buttons. L. Frank Baum termed these people “flutterbudgets”. An application that allows you to connect with other people in your community to share child care and pickup/dropoff responsibilities? With people who might be strangers? You might as well fire up the barbecue and start thinly slicing your children now.

      • I’ve always preferred the other path: Make the kid such a hard target that the kidnapper winds up being the one who has Bad Things ™ happen to them…

        Friends of mine raised their daughters right, from my perspective. They lived rural, and the girls were often alone at home. Couple of rather unsavory types followed the girls home one winter afternoon, having opened a pair of gates and driven up a half-mile of gravel road to get to the house. Not the wisest of moves–They were met by a pair of teenagers armed with a 12-gauge and a scoped .30-30, and when they refused to leave, they got a warning shot into the trunk of their car. Youngest daughter wasn’t a nice girl, and didn’t take to the insinuations they were making to the older girl with the 12-gauge. My guess is that I’d have never heard the story, if they’d have gotten out of the car, because that family had a standing policy of “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up”.

        You might say that the pair of dipshits left in a flurry of gravel, but that would be a bit of an understatement. Turns out, the phone line to the house was cut (days before cell phones, you see…), and the girls went to the neighbors to call parents, more worried about having fired the rifle than anything else, and reported what happened. Both turds were picked up, having outstanding warrants for a laundry list of felony complaints. Local sheriff, being the girl’s uncle, did not like what had happened, not one little bit. From what I heard, both of the two were quite grateful when they were finally extradited back to California about a month later, and were never heard from again.

        Rural Oregon is not a good place to try things like that. Not then, and probably not now.

      • There a keurig like machines for baby formula, because you might make it too hot.

        Heh. We used to heat the milk for formula (GASP!) in the microwave. In fact, I had it down to a specific number of seconds for our microwave, so it was always essentially the same temp. But look on the can of formula powder, and it says NEVER DO THAT!!!

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        In fairness to the concerned, look at the mores for adults in our society.

        The values officially celebrated by young adults are not so far from Bundy as may be desired..

        Yes, many of them do not translate theory to their own behavior. Yes, those that get married and raise children often change to where they can’t even pretend to endorse what they used to.

      • Look up “stranger danger”. People are absolutely terrified that children are in perpetual danger and if not watched at all moments of the day by their mother (not parents, mother), then the child will instantly be snatched up, molested, run over and then chopped into tiny bits and served with a side of fava beans.

        In the last few years we’ve had kids grabbed and never found, we’ve had “missing, presumed dead” little girls show up when someone breaks into a freaking DUNGEON, we’ve had kids tortured to death…. and that’s just the random events, not counting the “victim knew their attackers” ones. There’s been how many serial offender school teachers who molest tons of kids, and then are defended by their co-workers?

        It’s a low probability event, but the cost is also low, retail end. Freak out when folks are too interested in your kids and don’t let your kids get in the wrong place. I’d lay money that it started happening after the expectation of responsibility for neighbors waned, too– I’ve got a great neighbor right now, but it took a week or two of dancing to figure out that we’re cool with minor scolding of each other’s kids.

        I know there are feral children out there, and feral adults; I spend a lot of time protecting my kids from real dangers while letting them have the little ones. Not sure if you’re a real danger? I’m going to be watching. Just like with a dog I don’t know.

        Like *she listens to the baby monitor set up so it covers the back yard* chasing eachother and the neighbor kids with sticks, it sounds like….

        • The problem is, not only are these things rare, but they’re almost all rarer now than they’ve been at any time since the 50′s or 60′s. Most people are predominately good (or at least neutral) but our perception is warped by the media and the new cycle such that we think most people are bad and intend harm. And worst of all, it’s self perpetuating. Fear of strangers keeps neighbors from talking to each other (and other people) which leads to more people being “strangers” which leads to more fear which leads to anger which leads to hate which leads to the dark side … or something like that.

    • Kate Paulk

      Diversity in customers should lead to project managers generating diverse products. (Giggling madly about “Woody the Internet Pecker”). Experience in programming, hell yes. Algorithms never die, they just get sexier wrappers.

      The VC industry is doing what the VC folks find sexy. You won’t find them doing things like funding better payroll entry systems. But the not-sexy stuff is where most programmers and testers work.

  20. Oh excellent point! Male computer/network engineers, coders, sysads, aren’t normal *men*, either.

    • Kate Paulk

      Lord no – for which I am devoutly thankful! It’s nice to work in a room full of geeks and have people GET my off the cuff Lord of the Rings or Monty Python or Princess Bride or 2001 references.

      • Hey, I worked for 15 years in various low-end manual labor jobs, primarily with “normal” people. *shudder*

        • Kate Paulk

          You have my deepest condolences. Not for the manual labor jobs, but for having to spend a large chunk of your waking hours with normal people…

      • I’m suddenly reminded of petrology lab one day toward the beginning of the semester… we’re all nose down in our microscopes and having this general conversation across the room about some science fiction fandom something or other and one of the guys says, “OMG, we’re a bunch of Nerds!” And the one female Ed major (I *think* she’s an Ed major) says… “Well, I’M not!

        LOL!

        • Kate Paulk

          LOL! And guaranteed she HATED being in the minority for that class.

          • She was a nice, friendly girl. But I do think she might have found it a wee bit “odd” sometimes.

  21. A GHH type finally said something that makes sense, sort of, although it comes around from the far side and isn’t in context:

    “Whiteness isn’t skin color … skin color is a marker of whiteness that can signify to others, this person may be white … I act white, and by acting white, I prove to everybody else that I’m white, and that at that point the privileges that are associated with whiteness are ones that I take on.”

    http://beeshasim.com/2014/05/12/white-privilege-lecture-at-portland-state-university/

    See, if “white privilege” means that by “acting white”– which has been variously described to include following basic laws, studying, applying logic in a formal debate, following traditional morality and I’m sure I’ve left a lot out– a person of any color can be of Whiteness, then it suddenly makes sense. You know how Sarah Palin with her lovely little brood is somehow “not really a woman” while Fluke is so much a “woman” that she can speak for all the rest of us? That makes sense if we’re not talking about objective reality as previously understood to be described by those things.
    “White Privilege” would then, indeed, provide you with benefits– you’re not put in jail for assaulting people who insult you, you’re not charged for writing a check when you really felt you deserved the thing you bought but didn’t have the money, etc.

    I THINK that means that the guy who wrote the article Kate is responding to is applying White Male Problemsolving to something that isn’t quite right; he wants to make it so there are more cisfemales, when what the folks that get outraged want is more “women” in the form of “says and does what ‘real women’ would.”

    • So the thing to do, then, isn’t to vilify “white privilege” but to find a non-race referential term to use instead… so it’s not “acting white”, but…

      Well, “conversant with a Protestant ethos” is a bit too wordy.

      (And not meaning to insult Catholics.)

      • Only works if you’re trying to persuade or explain, rather than do whatever it takes to get a desired result or emotion.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, so the real answer is that if you want some of that “white privilege” then all you have to do is “act white” – you know, work hard, get a job and keep it, and do all that stuff.

      Or am I over-thinking things?

      • Sounds like how I saw it, but coherent and to the point…..

      • Yup, and then you even get more than your fair share of “white privilege” aka abuse.

      • As I’ve said before, to the extent there is “white male privilege” it’s in recognizing that there are assholes* in the world and not becoming completely unglued when you cross paths with one.

        * And some people are going to be assholes to you because of your race and/or gender.

    • Which is why Black Conservatives are not considered Black by liberals. They “Act White”, are successful, thus they must be enjoying the benefits of White Privilege.

  22. Related: http://city-journal.org/mobile/story.php?s=6596#.U3Eu5vldV8E

    Such questions about goals and plans—which get at the essence of how to escape the underclass—didn’t fall on immediately receptive ears. Urged to think about her future, Darlene erupted, “All that’s easy for you to say—you’re white!” The outburst stunned Elder, who was not only darker-skinned than her client but had herself been a teenage mother in Atlanta before earning a counseling degree from Georgia State. “Just because I’m married and drive a Honda Civic, now I’m white,” she says. Her colleagues join her bemused laughter. I ask them whether, from the perspective of the projects, Barack and Michelle Obama are white. “Definitely,” one says. “Success is white,” says another, “except for athletes and rap stars.” The FSCs’ challenge is to make clear that in America, success isn’t simply the result of privilege. Raines uses herself as an example: she tells her clients that “they can achieve, just as I did.”

    • That story and Kirk’s description of the doctor kerfluffle both break my heart. These are people who have internalized the idea that success is impossible for their tribe, in this case to the point where success disqualifies you from being a member of the tribe. It’s disgusting and horrifying and so, so sad. The people who created and perpetuated those memes have a lot to answer for.

      • Mine, too. I have known and worked with so many astoundingly-talented persons of color – and yet, knowing that the standards were so much lowered, that the general public wouldn’t be deceived in assuming that a person of color would be less qualified … there was a California legislator/person of influence a good few years ago (name escapes me for the moment) who campaigned on a platform of eliminating affirmative action. Because with it in place, the general public automatically assumed that a person of color in a challenging field just wasn’t up to it.
        The dear innocent man assumed that everyone would see the logic in this … never got anywhere with it, IIRC. Some sacred cows are just too damn holy to be slaughtered on the altars of reality.

        • One of the most vehement and eloquent opponents of affirmative action was a young lady (not just a girl, I assure you) I knew as a teenager. She was truly accomplished for our modest community: winning athlete, top of her class academically, student government, a real go-getter who could take any idea and make it happen, sometimes seemingly by sheer force of will. Beautiful, too: tall, stately, she had presence even at that age. Oh, and she was black. I remember watching her stand up in class, all six-plus feet of righteous indignation to inform the uber-liberal instructor (this was California) that she wanted nothing to do with such a program. If she accomplished something, received something, she wanted it to be because she’d busted her butt for it, because she had the skills and the determination, not because of the color of her skin. I lost track of her eventually, which is a shame, but that memory has always stayed with me.

      • Their chains are invisible and in their heads. How could you convince people who believe this that they really could succeed?

    • Kate Paulk

      Who was it said that you can’t free a slave whose chains are in his own mind?

  23. Birthday girl

    ” … don’t make a fuss over stupid shit like … the way connectors are labeled male or female depending on whether they’ve got innies or outies.”

    Oh, so that’s what happened to me! My first “real” job out of college, as a female engineer, was working for a company that manufactures electrical connectors … every single one of which is either “male” or “female.” That must be where I developed my Stockholm syndrome of sympathy for men …
    eh?

    • Birthday girl

      Bwa ha ha! I just realized my 2nd job as an engineer/programmer was for a company that manufactures FLUID connectors … also always male or female … omigerd … I never saw that pattern before … oh my … oh … wow

      *wipes tears from eyes*

      • You are a victim, sister.

        (Runs from the carp.)

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        *Thinks back to a company named victualic, who had a product, which may have been appropriate for fluids.*

        Are you saying that engineering is a tool of the patriarchy?

        Grins, ducks, and runs away. :)

        • Spent a few years working with Victaulic, back in my younger and less wise days… *chuckle*

          And didn’t you hear? Logic is a tool of the patriarchy. *flees!*

      • I was trying to make a joke here about hosebibs, but I couldn’t make it work out.

        On the other hand, I need a sillcock – mine’s broken (yeah, sounds like a personal problem, doesn’t it?).

  24. Boy do I have some stories … sadly, the statute of limitations hasn’t run on them yet.

    • You know, I’ve always wondered, is there, perhaps in a dark corner of a law library somewhere, an actual Statue of Limitations? Maybe it’s dedicated to the ancient greek god Malapropia, or alternately the Roman minor god of slightly misspelled inscriptions?

      • If there isn’t, there needs to be.

        • Don’t encourage him.

            • You just want to see another Greek/Roman nude dude. Although on second thought, a statue called Limitations might not have much to see.

              • *wicked cackle* I like the way you think.

                How WOULD Malapropria and Limitations look though…?

                • Given the feminine ending, Malapropia is a goddess, not a god. Given the Greek, that’s probably not a toga…

                  Limitations is also the God of Fences. When seen together, Malapropia is usually trying to sell Limitations some stolen goods and limitations is coming up a bit… short. *chuckle*

                  • hmm, I wonder if that can be drawn…

                  • Oh gee. Now I’m coming up with a mental list of deities that don’t exist, but should. Sort of like Sir PTerry’s Bilious, the Oh-Gawd of Hangovers.

                    • Staple that idea to the wall and start an anthology. Gods that weren’t (But Very Much Should Have Been.)

                      *grin*

                    • You know, us individualists… and it’s hard to do indie anthos, I’ve tried. But how would it be if I threw out a challenge a week, the loonies here write on it, and then we all put them up a month later and tag them with the ‘series.’ “Sarah’s March Challenge” or something.

                    • Hell, I’d be down with giving it a shot when the schedule permitted. :)

                    • A week, a month, heck, whatever ye like.

                      Granted, it’d be a time drain on anyone judging the works, but hey, more reading material! *chuckle*

                      If I ever finish this short essay, that exercise, and nail down these wandering thoughts I’d be game to try. September/October will probably be slow for me, as it’s part-time work season, though.

  25. I can sort of relate to this idiocy (the idiot blogger), and replies. I grew up wanting to be an engineer. When I finally got to study it (engineering) it wasn’t engineering any more. To me, and I suspect real engineers, it means design/build/test repeat until it does the required job. In 1980-1, it was design/hand over to tech to build-test-report back results, loop as necessary. I had to take an obligatory FORTRAN class, and was hooked (*real* engineering type work), and was *hooked.* :-) I spent until I was hurt in a car-pedestrian wreck (I was the pedestrian) 4/4/94.
    For me, programming was like building 3D jigsaw puzzles in my head. Pain rattled my thinking so much, I couldn’t do it any more. As far as ADD, my mind always (until ’94) worked at about 90MPH (144 KPH), after ’94 it dropped to about 50MPH/80KPH. After the car wreck in 12/2000, it dropped to about half that (25/40). It only works that fast, because I can still concentrate really hard. (Between a TENS unit, and 20 mg/day of hard narcotic, I can function with “minimal” effort.)
    The problem with “programming” today, is that *apparently* “Analysts” don’t analyze properly. (Engineering school classes are good prep for that.) They certainly don’t test, or at least not to any great extent. The problem is not male/female ratio, but ability to analyze/organize/pay attention. Most people don’t have the discipline/ability, not gender. Programming is very binary. It either works properly, or it doesn’t. Political theory has nothing to do with it. If you can’t “see” at least a major portion of the project, and how it works, you can’t do it. Opinions don’t count, only facts. “But it *ought* to work that way,” Is not going to cut it.:-)

    • [i]When I finally got to study it (engineering) it wasn’t engineering any more.[/i]

      You know, I’ve noticed something similar in my engineering education. I’ve wanted to get involved in actually designing something (as something other than an entirely abstract exercise). The ultimate test/exercise as to whether I actually have enough skills to do something useful is to do something useful with those skills. But it’s almost as if there’s this sinister cultural force that is attempting to insulate me from the concrete world, and keep me far away from the tools and the people who use them.

      I recently designed and built something. (Fairly straightforward, requiring almost none of the ultra-advanced math I was learning, and yet it did require learning a lot of other simpler yet necessary things that were entirely absent from my present experience). It was glorious. I had to do it, in part, by sneaking into the machine shop for a week or two and learning how to use their equipment (vertical mills, grinders, saws, lathe, etc) from the machinists there.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        There are schools of engineering that operate machine shops with the expectation that students can go in, learn how to use the machine tools, and make the apparatus they use.

  26. William Lehman

    Yes even electricians… We run anything from TT 11/2 cable 1/4 inch thick up to T 600 cable that weighs over 10lbs a foot, and you have to bend the damn shit into the proper shape to get it to hook up to the stabs. forearm strength is as vital as lifting strength, maybe more. Then there’s climbing with a 50lb toolbag…

  27. Thing is, not everybody who can do programming wants to do it. One of the fannish ladies at work took tons of programming classes but then discovered that she really found the process too tedious to do it for the rest of her life. She retains her various tech skills, but she moved over to being a voice major. (Her husband is a programmer, though.)

    • My husband is a programmer, network engineer, etc., etc., starting at the operating system level. He says (and I’ve said) that I’m certainly *smart* enough to do what he does but I’d hate it. And I would.

      I also feel that way about the idea of being a lawyer. Some parts of it are fascinating, but day to day? I think it would be too tedious for words.

    • Me, with translation. It’s fiddly, detailed, heavy on research work — if I’m going to do that, I’d rather write!

  28. Any male programmer who sincerely believes that there need be a better ratio of female to male programmers has a simple and effective way to directly address the “problem.” A simple “gender reassignment” procedure would have the double benefit of increasing the count of female programmers and reducing the tally-whacker number. Win-win!!

    It even has the additional advantage of correcting nature’s mistake and properly unifying the advocate’s plumbing and gender identity.

    • I worked in a division in the early ’80′s that had a guy who was trying to implement your advice even then. He’d show up to work one month with ladies’ socks on …. then the next month he’d show up with a female blouse that looked like a men’s shirt but for the buttons being reversed … then he’s work himself up to a more feminine blouse the following month …

      We just ignored him.

    • masgramondou

      Seems to be relatively common in the IT Security field. I know or at least 2. It’s very odd when an email thread starts of with emails from Joshua but later emails are from Jessica and then there’s the voicemail messages…

  29. Oh my – thank you! I’d never heard of a “dongle” in my life before my Aussie friend mentioned them a few times. I assumed it was a brand, likely specific to Australia. I suppose I could have just looked it up, but it never occurred to me to via the context.

    I know, least important part of your post.

    • Technically, a dongle started out as a hardware crypto key that had to be present for certain hardware to work. Generally, it was attached to a parallel or serial port, and was a “pass-through” device. This was a much more common means of enforcing software licensing schemes in Europe and Asia than it was here in the US, which is why the US IT community has kinda started using the term to describe short patch cables meant to attach peripherals to the computer. It can also refer to a converter cable that turns a USB port into a serial or parallel port.

      • I am educated now! But will retain approximately 30% of the information. It’s still appreciated, though. I write a lot of tech geeks for someone who isn’t particularly techgeeky!

  30. On a related note – I think in large part the shift from focusing on shipping a kick-ass product (to whatever extent you love Firefox) and to focusing on the social inclusiveness of its CEO’s is a sign that Mozilla is going to lose what relevance it had.

  31. Hmm, programming is a funny profession to go for if you don’t like criticism. The computer will criticize you continually and directly every time your beautiful “flow-state” induced code meets the compiler/runtime meat grinder.

    BEEEP – failed to compile, because you misspelled a variable, forgot a semicolon, or lost track of how many sets of nested brackets you had.

    ERRRP – Hey, look! I did exactly what you said to do, and here’s your pile of barf that’s not at all what you wanted. Try to figure out why one doesn’t do the other, sucker!

    BSOD! – you forgot that you were using the same variable name for a mathematical operation, a loop index, and the index of an array. You’ve now pointer-walked into the program memory and poured gibberish in your processor’s gears.

    • PS- the computer, which you will be interacting with for the execution of the job, doesn’t care about your gender at all. Or your goals, hopes, dreams, or sanity. :-P

      • Given how some computers seem to be… aware… of who’s using them and work better for some than others, some may all too aware of your sanity, and not have your interests at heart….

        • I believe that’s what pushed Piers Anthony to move to a Linux based OS, and had him come up with the villainous Com-pewter.

          My housemate refurbished a couple of his machines for me to use, and he notes somewhat disgruntledly that they ‘behave’ better for me than they ever did for him.

        • Some?!?!?

          They all seem to recognize me, and will pull random junk– but seldom actually fail unless it’s something like *looks at laptop she’s on* they keyboard being improperly connected and disconnecting two hours after I got it and updated it, or other very obvious hardware issues.

          So, just like people– they give me $4!t all day long, but don’t usually really do me wrong.

          Crashing the registers at random stores excepted. (Yes, really. The first one was Disney Land. I was like twelve! Paying with cash! And it’s still happening, 20 years later.)

          • Housemate notes that I seem to have a Murphyonic Field of WTF when it comes to computers. Sometimes the results are negative; sometimes, positive. I’m just grateful I don’t have a hex that kills tech like in The Dresden Files…

            • I’ve relatives who I *swear* have the anti-technology field about them.

              One lady in particular has been through, at one point, three entire changes of computer in three months, one entire wiring harness on a ’94 Toyota (yes, the *whole thing* was unusable- but the car didn’t burn), two cell phones, and several new (at the time) flatscreens.

              At one point a laptop fizzled, sparked, and died a smoking death the very moment she walked into a room. No outside cause we could tell for it. Streetlights flicker and die. Poor girl has had it rough. *shakes head*

              • THANK G-d it got better after puberty (but I live in fear of menopause) but for a while I wasn’t allowed to turn on the tv. If I touched the d*mn thing, it fried. Also electrical watches, radios (all except the oldest tube-type. Lightbulbs exploded if I got too close. It sucked.

                • They seriously take pity on me, and while I get a lot of odd bugs– stuff that shouldn’t work, still does.

                  This resulted in a *worse* than usual record in my calibration office, because I’d try the stuff that nobody else had gotten to work and half the time it WOULD work….

                • Even minor curses can be terrible for those they are inflicted upon.

                  Now if I can ever manage to lift this hex of poverty I got stuck on me, maybe, just *maybe* I’ll get the time to finish any of the thousand-and-one projects on the back-burner… *chuckle*

                  • Has anyone ever tested to see if she has a really high EM field? Supposedly I have a higher than normal EM field (supposedly only because this is what I’m told.) Strong emotions make mine stronger, it seems because housemate’s computers actually pick mine up as a transmitted signal. When they try to translate what I ‘transmit’ they crash (only because Housemate was like ‘wth is this transmission?)

                    • I’ll have to recommend that to her next time she’s in town. She has the same issue with strong emotions, so it very well could be EM for all I know.

                    • I’ll note that it’s strong emotions full stop for me. Housemate came out of his room once to see if I was upset, and I asked him why. He said I was transmitting really strongly. I said no, I was actually feeling very happy because I was liking the progress I was making in a drawing I was doing.

                      But it’s interesting that some people’s bio-EM fields can actually do that…

                    • That’s my go-to explanation for some people for whom computers just won’t work – and why they seem to work better whenever I’m around. We had one student back at the law school who just could NOT get her laptop to work for her – but whenever I got ahold of it to troubleshoot, it worked fine.

      • Hell, a lot of times, the guy sitting next to you doesn’t care about any of that stuff either.

  32. All these professions mentioned have something in common with programming. When you are done making something it either works/or not. The tap is opened and water comes out. The toilet when flushed either takes the waste away or floods your floor. The light switch either produces a lit bulb or nothing (or burns the house down).
    Professions like a reporter or social worker or even doctors it is hard to tell if they have done a good job or not. The article written may have lots of good words and convey nothing, but what is harmed if that is the case? Apparently a newspaper can stay in business for YEARS even if the editor can’t spell or use common grammar or THINK. A doctor may only be known as bad if he loses twice as many patients as most others. Truthfully he will probably not be fired. The other doctors will cover for him. An attorney may have clients in jail who should have walked but who will stop him from practicing law? An investment adviser can lose ALL your money for you and his peers will tell him how sad it is because he did ALL THE RIGHT THINGS. As long as you follow generally accepted practice in these sorts of professions it doesn’t matter if you kill or impoverish people. Your fellow practitioners will say – There but for the grace of God go I – and give you a free pass.
    I used to be a mold maker and once was given prints for a mold that I knew would not work. I told my foreman and he said he’d already told them and was informed he wasn’t an engineer and his place was to build it – according to the print.
    When it was put in the press and ran the whole side of it blew out first shot. The engineer (new and young) tried to say – Well it was a GOOD EFFORT. That may fly in the unaccountable professions but a mold either makes a good part or it is an expensive useless boat anchor…
    Tell your children to chose a profession in which there is no accountability if they are too dumb to be a plumber. Something like a psychiatrist or a history professor.

    • Even scarier – we may go to the doctors too often, and when they start running tests or doing things to fix the perceived problem, may often make things worse. Yes, they are necessary, but on many occasions the advice they give is something we could have figured out ourselves. Take an aspirin (if necessary), get some rest, and if things get worse or something else crops up, then we’ll take a closer look.

      I think there’s even a stereotypical quote along that lines that used to be associated with doctors before this age of “test everything for CYA.”
      ;)

      God knows, while I believe in preventative maintenance, checking and replacing oil, etc., yanking apart machinery that was working is a great way to break something.

    • Kate Paulk

      Absolutely. Professions where it either works or it doesn’t have no room for feelgood bullshit. The people working with them have to be able to do the job or there will be Consequences and those Consequences will not be pleasant.