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Dreamwidth, Livejournal, and moving forwards

Posted on 2009.07.21 at 12:17
I'm moving my journal to Dreamwidth: http://terriko.dreamwidth.org/.

There's a few reasons for this move. Dreamwidth is a neat new project with a lot of women involved, and I love supporting women-friendly projects. Dreamwidth's values seem pretty sound, and match up better with my own. They've made some nice improvements to the codebase that make the whole system nicer to use. And they let me have a nice, ad-free journal (turns out those ads bugged me a lot more than I thought they would).

What does this mean for my old journal? It's going friends-only, although I'll probably cross-post so that people can still see my entries on their friends pages. So if you're reading this on lj and you're not logged in, please update your bookmarks, otherwise everything should continue the same for you because I've already updated the aggregators to use the new url. You can all comment on the new journal using OpenID (just give your lj url as your OpenID and go), and if any of you are interested in moving to Dreamwidth, you can try it out using openID or drop me a line to get my unused invite code.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth. Please feel free to comment on the original entry using OpenID.

I think my talk on attracting women to open source went well enough. The room started out looking pretty sleepy and passive, but I'd managed to seed the crowd with some talkative friends, and once a couple of them got the ball rolling people got down to discussion in a good way.

I think the most interesting point made is that if we want more women in open source, we should really make an effort to pay them to do it. As someone who loves doing this as a volunteer, I want to protest, but think about it for a minute: What challenges do women face in open source? Feeling like they don't belong? Paying them is a pretty strong "we want you" signal, both to the woman herself and to others who might challenge her. Not having enough time because of other life-work commitments? Making it your paid gig makes this the "work" part of that equation, rather than some part that just doesn't quite fit. Fewer opportunities for mentoring? Again, having the structure of a company behind you can make it a lot easier to ask for help within a known structure rather than trying to guess the social norms of an open source project. There aren't many women? Well, hiring a few is a great way to get the ball rolling, hopefully making it easier for future women.

Paying women to do open source work isn't going to solve all our problems, but it cuts through a lot of the gordian knot that's there, which is awfully nice.

Of course, then the related problem is "how do we find women to hire?" There's a whole body of work around hiring diversely (which I thought was linked from the geek feminism wiki, but I don't actually see those links at a glance -- anyone want to add them or send me a pointer?), but one of the things I started with talking about was extending an invitation. I don't want to say that women need an invitation, but the benefits of specifically advertising to women are a bit more subtle than that. The big thing is that your message is more likely to get out to more women: If someone tells me they're looking for people, I'll pass around the job to a few friends who might be interested. If someone tells me they're looking for women, I'm more likely to mention it to the larger women's communities I'm involved with. And those women are then more likely to pass it on to their communities... But beyond the exposure, the fact that you're specifically looking for women tells me that at least someone in your company cares about the problem, and is working to solve it. Way to make you sound like a more attractive employer at a glance. Do women need an invitation? Maybe not. But can a female-specifc invitation help your organization attract women? Definitely.

Most of the rest of the discussion was stuff I've heard before, although perhaps new to the assembled folk who may not get bombarded with this stuff regularly.

Unfortunately, I realised halfway through the discussion that I really, honestly, am sick of talking about this. Thankfully, by the time I hit that point the discussion was well away on its own and I had little to do other than point at people. I talk about feminism and geek issues all the time with my CUWISE women, but standing up at a conference where the totals were maybe two hundred folk and maybe less than 10 other women? I won't lie -- it was really disheartening.

I had a great time otherwise, though. Despite being the only girl in a gaggle of guys nearly every day, I never feel out of place with those people. It has always been my fellow open source folk that make the linux symposium worthwhile.

Cross-posted from Dreamwidth. Please feel free to comment on the original entry using OpenID.


Top-paying jobs for women

Posted on 2009.07.17 at 12:13
Tags: ,
A friend sent me this, and I'll probably blog about it more coherently for cu-wise, but for now here's the link:

Top Paying Jobs for Women

I like to believe I'm not hugely financially motivated (as evidenced by remaining a student so long) but I have to admit I feel a twinge of happy to see that computer software engineering is #4 on the list, IT management is #5, and computer scientists come in at #10.

The confusing part, for me, is that computer science and computer engineering are commonly interchangeable jobs (Canada requires engineers to be actually specially trained, but I could go be an "engineer" in the US with my current qualifications), so I'm not sure why the disparity in average salaries.


Attracting Women to Open Source

Posted on 2009.07.15 at 00:09
Current Location: Montréal
Tags: ,
I'm running a Birds of a Feather session about attracting more women to open source software at the Linux Symposium tomorrow (err, today. Weds, July 15th, 3pm).

Thus far, I have seen a grand total of two other women at the conference. Probably my fault due to my staying on "hallway track" mostly, but even so. (Hallway track = sitting around chatting with people in the hallway rather than attending sessions. I failed to signup in advance for the tutorials so I've been taking a couple of great social-geek days.)

I'm really hoping I'll see a few more women out and about tomorrow. But even if not, it should be interesting. Last year, I blew a few people's minds by talking about the death threats against Debian women (and others. Lucky me -- I've gotten one of those death threats since last year! *sigh*) I've got some good stories and some bad stories to talk about, and hopefully they'll stimulate some good discussion. If I can at least make sure a few people are aware that there are issues, then I'll count this as a win, but it'd be even better if we could actually find some ways to help solve the problem!

So here's hoping for some great new ideas, and an interesting session!


Done proposal draft, returning to Monkey Island.

Posted on 2009.07.08 at 13:06
Tags: ,
Got the latest proposal draft sent off late last night. Not entirely pleased with it, since I was getting somewhat incoherent towards the end, but I'm pleased to see it go.

Promptly installed the new Monkey Island and played 'till I was ready to sleep. The first episode had been released earlier that day, so I wasn't even too late getting to it!

My brother and I played quest games before Monkey Island, but it was pretty groundbreaking for us. Monkey Island was the first game we played where not only were you not penalized for taking the funny conversation options, you were rewarded, and no stupid thing you tried got you killed. It was absolutely fantastic, suddenly having a game that really encouraged and rewarded exploration... and humour! We were hooked, and as my sister got a bit older, she was hooked too. So obviously, we've all been waiting for this game for a long time.

And I most definitely haven't been disappointed! I find the movement system a bit kludgey, but I'll get used to it, and the game has hilarious nods to the old games for those of us who played them, as well as plenty of modern references for people who are jumping into this pool for the first time. And oh, the voice acting! That sort of thing can add a lot to a game, done well, and it's most definitely done well here! My siblings and I still quote our favourite one-liners from previous games, and I'm sure we'll pick up more from the new ones.

One of the perks for fangirls like me who preordered the game was access to a special forum. I thought initially that this was a bit of a lame perk, until I saw that voice actor Dominic Armato was answering fan questions in there. And not just the standard "how do you like voice acting?" but also the hilarious questions one might expect from Monkey Island fans, answered with appropriate wit. And not just a few questions, but pages and pages of them! That's one dedicated and funny man, and I look forwards to hearing him to voices on the re-released monkey island 1, when it comes out too.

So... yeah. I'm taking a couple of days off from writing while my supervisor reads the Frankensteinian monster that is my latest thesis draft. And I'm guessing I'm going to spend a lot of that playing Monkey Island. Thanks Telltale Games, for such impeccable timing!

I've been busy, first with the workshop that kept me at the university 12hrs/day, and now with finishing the latest thesis proposal draft on a suddenly tighter deadline. (Turns out it is quite late, and while that won't be a problem, I've been told to finish ASAP.) Not to mention Canada Day and my visiting boyfriend who, sadly, has wound up largely ignored so I can write write write.

But apparently while I've been writing for a living, my blog has been surprisingly active. Or rather, this post complaining about Rachel from Cardholder Services has suddenly become abnormally popular and garnered a small collection of comments, months after it was written.

I am mystified and amused by this development. I guess my search rank went up somehow, and now that entry gets to be a place to vent about phone spam. I'm ok with that.

But the funny thing is that I haven't had one of these calls myself in months. Perhaps I just haven't been home enough, or maybe Canada's do not call list is more effective than the US one? Early on, there reports that the the list was being abused, but apparently the CRTC has investigated the claims, and says that it turns out to have been an urban myth. Others remain concerned about the potential for abuse even if there isn't yet evidence of same, particularly because few fines have actually been levied despite many complaints. But somehow, I haven't heard from Rachel from Cardholder Services or that irritating foghorn thing in a month now, so no complaints here!


MBL Canada Day plans

Posted on 2009.06.30 at 13:29
For those interested in hanging out with the MBL folk, our plan is as follows:

Meet inside city hall (by the pool, the usual spot) at 1pm

Wander as per usual.

We'll be in Major's Hill park around 6ish, if anyone wants to meet up just for dinner and fireworks. We usually sit to the left of the stage, under the trees, and can be found by the bubbles and children surrounding us.

(Mental note: buy bubbles today)

I realise the weather forecast doesn't look so good (thunderstorms in the evening). If it's raining and miserable, we may hit up museums and stuff downtown for a bit, then you're are all welcome back at my place for games and general hanging out.


How NOT to get a PhD

Posted on 2009.06.23 at 15:23
Every year, I get a couple of emails from random researchers who want my help finding papers or learning about the area. It's flattering that they think it's worth asking me, I suppose, but many of them do so with such an utter lack of tact or understanding that they border on insulting. They manage in so few words to indicate that they have no clue what they're asking. Here's part of one I got last week:

i am Interested in doing my Phd from one of the very good Candian University.but i dont know which are the best schools in canada.please help me out in this regard.

Now, at least he wasn't insulting, but... umm... I sincerely question the wisdom of cold-emailing a stranger on the internet for advice about a PhD. Doing a doctorate is more of a personal intellectual pilgrimage, and where you do it is, as far as I know, generally heavily reliant upon who you want to work with. This is actually not that far off asking some random stranger, "I hear there are nice girls in Canada. Who should I marry?"

Edit: I should mention that he says elsewhere in the mail that he's currently doing a Master's at an American university, so there shouldn't be a huge cultural divide here. I'm really quite perplexed that he would ask the stuff he did of a complete stranger.


Dear Lazyweb, is my spam a ciphertext?

Posted on 2009.06.21 at 22:53
I got the following message as spam. I'm 99% sure this is random spam noise, but I'm curious to see if it translates to anything. I *think* those are largely real words with other stuff stuck in, like thiskioqlceremony. Anyone feel like making sense of it or pumping it into a decryption algorithm for fun?

Subject: htnm eprd ftz fcygps vj

qcwq txpg positxamion
vkioqthe cfhtpart
you miep by dift
youffcygme syvjfrom talnhtart.
Illbektqo beijnrgfore snqcw.
beqtxp pouncedxamkpony.
fhtnm fileprdlsmy ftzff.
a punygpsych toy vojlallunteer khfktqnee.
is cijalu wargesnnt tohcwqqear
axpgdnd aamkvkyou woqlcsee.


Symbol of my deranged subconscious

Posted on 2009.06.15 at 23:55
I'm not sure what it says about me that when the assignment is "take a picture of a chair" with the dare of "make it something you'd hang on your wall," this is the first thing that springs to mind:

The secret lives of patio chairs

(Also, the runner up photo, "Patio chair in the wild")

Actually, as far as symbols of my deranged subconscious, it's got nothing on my dreams. Two days ago, I woke up as I was controlling water a la Moses. Saving friends and the world and all in the process. Now if only I could take a picture of that.


Back to westfest

Posted on 2009.06.14 at 14:17
A photo from yesterday before I go catch my bus:


(And no, that's not me, for those who are familiar with my penchant for bubble-blowing)

I'm at westfest this weekend. Good times! Here's some photographic highlights from yesterday.

WESTFEST_7708Unlike most festivals, westfest allows (even encourages!) people to bring their dogs. My sister amuses herself by playing spot the puppies in the crowd. It's amazing how they're all well behaved! Frankly, I thought ARCTIC and "The Latest Artists" left some to be desired, so the dogs gave us something to distract us from some of the horrible songs wafting from the stage. "The Latest Artists" had a song early on that sounded like a headache, filled with screaming something that was waaaaay too loud. Even earplugs weren't enough; my sister and I were debating finding places badmouthing their CDs anywhere they might be sold, just out of spite. It was that bad. Thankfully, their later stuff was more pleasant.

WESTFEST_7712I wanted Jenn Grant's set to be awesome, because seriously, bass clarinet! But sadly, although I felt like they had all the talent they needed, something just didn't come together for me in that show. However, the songs she mentioned were new were among the best, so I have hope for the future!

WESTFEST_7723WESTFEST_7728One of the odd features of Westfest is that they do performance art as entracte. Yesterday's was the best yet: they brought out balloons attached to wrapped packages, and we played "pass the package" while the music went, and when it stopped, you tried frantically to open the package (which was many-layered). Once the packages were opened, they revealed collections of
glow-sticks which everyone passed out to their neighbours. Thanks to Cara Tierney, the artist who put this together. It was pretty neat seeing the glowing crowd!

WESTFEST_7746WESTFEST_7752Danny Michel was the headliner for Friday. And although he did have to compete with some pretty awesome performance art, he was more than up to the task. No disappointments here! I'm used to seeing him as a solo show (the man does an amazing job of transcending the "guy with a guitar" with the help of a loopback device, although it's subtle enough that you might not notice at first). So it was a big treat to see him with the new, big, band. It seemed like it was quite the treat for him too, and they did some goofing off on stage, playing his old songs a bit faster, and generally having a good time. And the music was as lovely as always. I was impressed at how much crowd there was given that he was competing with game 7 of the Stanley Cup, but although I did see a few younger guys ducking out of the crowd, most people seemed pretty spellbound. I hope he'll do more with the band in the future!

So I'm back at westfest today and probably tomorrow. If you're there too, keep an eye out for me!


Hi from Fredericton!

Posted on 2009.06.02 at 16:34
Too busy to write much about the conference and the city, so I offer up instead a tourist photo while I head out to dinner. There's a few more in the set, and more to be processed, and more to be taken!

Fredericton Lighthouse


TubaFest 2009

Posted on 2009.05.31 at 21:48
When I was looking for things to do in Fredericton, their tourist website helpfully suggested TubaFest. Turned out that after two days of workshops and masterclasses, TubaFest had a concert the day I arrived in Fredericton. That was too unusual to pass up, so I scurried back to the university after I'd grabbed dinner downtown yesterday. And it was totally worth it. I think the neatest part for me was hearing them do a movement from one of the Holst military band suites which I know and love... with nothing but tubas and euphoniums. A whole stage full of them!

Here's a photo from one of the smaller ensembles, showing some of the different shapes of tubas:

TubaFest 2009

Definitely a surprisingly little treat to start off my trip!


Grace Hopper latex template

Posted on 2009.05.28 at 18:00
Tags: ,
Strangely (to me, anyhow), the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing only provided me with Microsoft Word templates rather than LaTeX ones. Most academic conferences I've attended provide both (or only LaTeX), and I greatly prefer to lay things out in LaTeX for reasons too numerous to list.

So just in case anyone else is looking for it, here's a brief "template" using the measurements I got out of the .doc file. Feel free to use and edit as necessary.




\large{\textbf{Author Name}}\\
address \\
address \\

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean id felis purus. Duis dictum euismod ultrices. Vestibulum tempus congue turpis, non vulputate tortor gravida ut. Fusce venenatis eleifend libero, nec egestas sapien aliquet accumsan. Quisque risus nunc, fermentum at interdum vitae, fringilla at augue. Phasellus libero nisl, porttitor vitae convallis vitae, rutrum ut purus. Fusce sit am
et urna odio, ut auctor urna. Pellentesque at dolor ac enim adipiscing interdum
ut vel metus. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Proin et convallis erat. Mauris eu elit et mauris dignissim molestie. Nulla diam massa, mattis ornare blandit vel, fermentum ut odio. Nunc facilisis massa molestie felis faucibus pulvinar.

Nam euismod nunc sem. Integer vulputate nunc vitae risus sagittis et convallis dolor pulvinar. Donec eleifend elit nec urna consequat ut facilisis leo sollicitudin. Proin erat sapien, dictum eu adipiscing eget, ullamcorper in orci. Mauris erat urna, ultricies lobortis gravida sit amet, consequat sit amet lacus. Duis dapibus pretium elit, a pharetra tortor cursus nec. Vestibulum ac orci quam, id luctus mauris. Vestibulum id dolor non lacus dictum adipiscing dapibus vitae purus. Curabitur nibh elit, sodales vitae ullamcorper egestas, faucibus non nulla. Nu
llam id ante nibh. Suspendisse ornare tincidunt sem, eget tincidunt massa rhoncus sed. Fusce nec orci lacus. Cras et est purus.


The bibliography info is left as an exercise to the reader (as in, I haven't done it yet)


I won!

Posted on 2009.05.22 at 14:50
Forgot to mention here: My Fire Angel photo won for last week's assignment, "See the Light." Go me!

I'm particularly thrilled because it's such a talented group, so it's a real challenge to even get a single vote sometimes! Let alone getting... more votes than anyone else ever has before. I'm a little shocked, but totally pleased.

Now, if only I knew what I was going to submit for this week's assignment, "What do you dream about?"

(Suggestions welcome!)


Fire Angel

Posted on 2009.05.18 at 02:02
Fire Angel

This is for my weekly photo assignment. The setup took me forever, and this was far from the first idea I had in mind, but I'm pretty happy how it turned out!

Depending on where you're viewing this, you might want to click here to see the photo on black



Posted on 2009.05.13 at 00:35
Thanks to my weekly photo assignment group, I learned how to do digital lomo treatment. It's a weird little process, but when you get the right photo, the results can be pretty eye-catching.

Turns out, it's pretty neat on tulips:

Lomo: Red Parrot Tulip


Beautiful things are more functional

Posted on 2009.05.09 at 17:14
In the course of doing some thesis research, I stumbled across this fascinating paper in aesthetics and usability.

I'm not sure I've ever read a paper where the researcher seems so thoroughly flummoxed by his/her results.

The idea of the study was to test whether objects rated as more beautiful would also be rated as more functional. The author, I suspect, found this idea faintly ridiculous, but previous work in Japan had shown that people did indeed rate prettier banking machine interfaces as more usable. He suspected that perhaps this was just an effect related to Japan and its "culture is known for its aesthetic tradition." He would repeat the study in Israel, where the culture has a stronger emphasis on action over form. Surely, he thought, the practical Israeli people would not be as affected by aesthetics.

But what happened? "Unexpectedly high correlations" The author says, "usability and aesthetics were not expected to correlate in Israel" but they did. Oh, they did.

Even though I'd not read this paper until this week, it's something I'd noticed in doing basic testing of my web projects (back when I made more of a living writing web code rather than deconstructing and mocking... errr... inspecting its security). I used to test designs on clients, friends and invariably, I'd get more positive results (and useful!) feedback if I spent the bit of extra time to make the first draft look clean, if still aesthetically simple. Pretty matters.

It's kinda nice to have a couple of scientific papers to back up one's gut feelings, eh?

Want more than a gut instinct to explain why attractive things work better? Don Norman suggests an answer in his book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. (I noticed it when seeing who had referred to this study and am working my through it. Research is fun!)

The theory goes like this: pretty things change your emotions in a positive way, make you happy, less stressed. Your emotional state changes your perceptions and ability to work. When you are happier, you often find things easier to use. Thus, pretty things are easier to use. And ugly things make you more easily annoyed, stressed out. Stress makes you perform poorly. Thus, ugly things are harder to use.

And in honour of the new Star Trek movie, I'll finish with a single word:


The story thus far:

Terri, stuck in one of those bits of PhD that seem never-ending, realized that she needed two new sections in her thesis: one on typography & design, to prove a point about web pages and one on security policy, to prove a point about how difficult getting it right can be. But then all of her hardware decided it needed replacing Right Now, thus making it nigh impossible to work, and after spending entirely too long debugging and replacing stuff, she decided to console herself by buying a zombie game to test her new network equipment. That's a perfectly valid response to stress, really.

We now return to her regularly scheduled thesis development...

In the course of working on these two pieces at more or less the same time, I've noticed that security policy shares a bit more with visual page design than I might have initially thought.

Security policy is designed to be both rigid and flexible. The idea is that if you do it right, it should be hardened, unbreakable, no loopholes. But the policy languages have to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate varied types of policy and capture desires from different organizations.

Graphic design is one of places where "the rules are made to be broken." Flexible first, but with a rigid structure to help guide you. And practical constraints regarding readability, screen sizes, printing sizes, etc. also affect design choices. It feels a bit like it's backwards from security policy: in graphic design, the flexibility is stressed first, and the rigid constraints are acknowledged after the fact.

There's a lot more math than one might expect in design. And in security policy. I took the grad security course at Ottawa U, and wanted to smack some of my colleagues as they complained incessantly every time the prof so much as mentioned math. I don't know how they thought they were going to comprehend basic cryptography without at least a few equations... but after reading parts of The Elements of Typographic Style last night, I wonder how many designers expected to learn about the golden mean and regular polygons? I'm a mathematician originally, so I delight in finding such things, but I know that's atypical in general (less so among geeks).

Good security policy is nigh invisible to the legitimate users. If it prevents you from doing your job, it's probably not good policy, right? Ditto for graphic design, in some ways. It seems weird to talk about a visual medium as "invisible" but in a lot of cases, you want the content to be doing the talking -- the design is a way to frame it nicely. It should be quietly doing its job, making the viewer feel better about the content, without the viewer noticing.

Of course, invisibility isn't always the desired thing for either medium: Sometimes you want attackers to see that big impenetrable wall. Sometimes you want someone to be drawn in by the artistry of a design. But a real whiz about either security policy or design is likely to need to be able to cover both ends of the spectrum (and a good chunk in between).

I'm not sure entirely where I'm going with this train of thought, but I thought it was kind of interesting that they're not as dissimilar as one might think.


Alas, not a software problem

Posted on 2009.05.03 at 17:28
Flashed the router last night. DD-WRT is really nice, but it seems to be a hardware fault -- same spotty connectivity.

Bought a new router. So far so good, but it's only been a few minutes. :)



Posted on 2009.05.03 at 01:51
Old router doesn't work at all with modem, even reflashed and reconfigured. Darn.

New router gives me internet, but denies the server. Afraid to flash it since it's better than nothing.

Can buy an even newer router for $40 tomorrow. Probably worth it to save on sanity. But Grr.

On the bright side: Left 4 Dead = fun.

Evil soup

Hardware still hates me

Posted on 2009.05.02 at 23:20
So the current bet is that it's my router that's causing the problem. I swear I tried the other one before making them lend me a modem, but... *shrug* maybe that wasn't the problem then, or maybe both my routers are dying, or maybe it died after I got the new modem just to spite me.

The thing works fine some of the time. I mean, the modem-router combo worked perfectly for me on Thursday when I was playing city of heroes with some friends. But as of yesterday, it's up to no good half the time. Its current trick is that it works consistently if I let it get a DCHP address from the modem. Which sounds all hunky dory, except that then it doesn't get the static IP that it's supposed to have, and it doesn't, you know, route things. Which means the server in my basement goes offline. And of course, sometimes it just plain doesn't work. I thought it was DNS related, but I think it's probably just randomly wonky. Grr.

In a fit of what is hopefully genius, though, I bought a router that I can flash with DD-WRT (unlike my previous/backup/just-for-playing-ds-games router, which is a lobotomized wrt54g) so if I'm lucky and it's software rather than hardware corruption, I may be able to fix it when I sit down and flash the thing. Or I might brick it, again. I hate flashing stuff. Sure, they can be unbricked, but it's tedious and frustrating. (and I used to have to do it all the time for work, back at the wireless graphics company.)

Meanwhile, I'm reconfiguring the old router and we'll give that a go when I'm done with it.

... well, maybe after I finish downloading Left for Dead. ;) (Couldn't resist the sale, especially with the promise of being able to play with my siblings, who are still my favourite gaming buddies!)

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