Reading some history

This week I read Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. What an excellent read! It is very dramatic and full of situations that had me screaming with surprise or outrage or sadness, and sometimes with celebration of Brown’s fierceness or laughing with affection for her when she would start describing some guy’s cheekbones and you know she was about to fall into bed with him. A book that led me to look up many events and many different people and to line up more reading. I have so many questions! I’m not going to summarize the events though. I am in the middle of Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton now, enjoying it more than I thought I would based on how mad I got at him from Elaine Brown’s book. Also I have lined up Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party: A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy edited by Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas as well as Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson.

One thing that struck me was the moment when Brown describes her anger at Gwen Fontaine (who has just gotten married to Newton while they were in Cuba) and then how she sees Gwen suddenly as a sister, resolving to respect her mind and work. I noticed this alongside how she describes Kathleen Cleaver — never getting to that point of respecting anything about her but seeing her in that same way she saw Gwen, as a patsy or a sucker following her man and taking abuse unquestioningly. I had to roll my eyes since Brown also is in love with various men in the Party and takes abuse from them too. It just shouldn’t delegitimize any of the women’s work or their politics that they are in a relationship with … anyone. But I also got very curious about Kathleen Cleaver (because Brown disses her so badly – mostly by passing over her). Naturally as soon as I looked it was clear that Cleaver was super legit, was intensely politically active and known as an effective writer and great speaker. As Brown describes her she was just hanging out looking pretty, getting pregnant and smacked around by Eldridge. More than anything else this undermined my desire to trust Brown even halfway.

Now let’s not even go into the level of what the fuck, as Bobby Seale orders her to get actually whipped on her back in a basement of the party headquarters for not putting more of his articles into the newspaper. Seriously what the fuck, all around.

Another thing that left me with a million questions was the book’s ending. What about those other women from the Central Committee? What happened next? After they broke Regina Davis’ jaw in the name of party discipline. It is very ominous. When I look them up (only casually so far) they’re mostly mentioned in paraphrases from this very book. I want to know more about their work together.

And then even more questions about Elaine Brown’s amazing strategic politics in Oakland and plans with the mayor, governor (Jerry Brown) and others and her thoughts on what could happen if she and the Party controlled 10,000 jobs in downtown Oakland. And then the Port of Oakland itself and then having some momentum to get Jerry Brown the Democratic presidental nomination. Super fascinating! What if that had happened? An excellent alternate history to write. I can’t help but admire her grab for political power. Maybe her socialist approach to distributing those jobs would have worked a little better than whatever else was going on.

It took me a bit of background reading to wrap my mind around the split in the Black Panther Party(s) Between Huey P. Newton and Elaine Brown and their faction vs. Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver. OK so in a nutshell, Newton and Brown don’t like the “revolution right now” style talk of the Cleaver faction or at least of Eldridge himself. The Cleaver bunch were super pissed off that the Oakland BPP had turned reformist. Well, meanwhile Brown along with the women (and men) she appointed to powerful postions were gathering people and power, then Newton rolled back into town and fucked everything up with his macho trip and drug addiction. (& his support for patriarchal power in general despite what he writes… which I want to believe as I read it even now…) Brown accuses Newton of destroying the organization and trust that she built.

And, according to at least the beginning of Kathleen Cleaver’s book, the BPP basically ended in 71 before Brown even was leading. Now that’s a dismissal right back…. how harsh!

Everybody is complicated!

Anyway, Elaine Brown wrote a great book very useful for getting into the mind set of people forming and coming into the BPP but is somewhat unreliable as a narrator and since so many others involved wrote about it all, it’s good to read them too.

The bits of Cleaver’s work that I’ve read so far, she speaks to me pretty strongly,

In fact, according to a survey Bobby Seale did in 1969, two-thirds of the members of the Black Panther Party were women. I am sure you are wondering, why isn’t this the image that you have of the Black Panther Party? Well, ask yourself, where did the image of the Black Panthers that you have in your head come from? Did you read those articles planted by the FBI in the newspaper? Did you listen to the newscasters who announced what they decided was significant, usually, how many Panthers got arrested or killed? How many photographs of women Panthers have you seen? Think about this: how many newspaper photographers were women? How many newspaper editors were women? How many newscasters were women? How many television producers were women? How many magazine, book, newspaper publishers? Who was making the decisions about what information gets circulated, and when that decision gets made, who do you think they decide to present? Is it possible, and this is just a question, is it possible that the reality of what was actually going on day to day in the Black Panther Party was far less newsworthy, and provided no justification for the campaign of destruction that the intelligence agencies and the police were waging against us? Could it be that the images and stories of the Black Panthers that you’ve seen and heard were geared to something other than conveying what was actually going on?

Yes!!! That’s true of just about everything. You look beyond the surface and there are women doing the work (too) and the processes of history formation start to leave them out until there’s just a couple left and then maybe just one —

Honoring the sisters poster

Meanwhile, thinking of this from an epigraph in Newton’s book —

Ho Chi Minh’s “Wordplay”:

A man, once freed from jail, will build his country.
Misfortune is the test of loyalty.
He earns great merit who feels great concern.
Unlock the cage – the true dragon will fly.

or translated another way,

People who come out of prison can build up a country.
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

Good to have a little grounding as #BlackLivesMatter protests continue and deepen. People try to watch the cops with cameras and report on them more closely, rejecting the bullet for the …. camera and I guess, the ballot. I don’t have any faith in either bullet or ballot. Our images and words will move people or at least speak to the future. This isn’t anyone’s first go-round and it won’t be the last and when it heats up the backlash is horrible. Though the horror is already unspeakable with our daily acceptance of our lives within the prison industrial complex — vile complicity.

Hooray vacation! Goodbye shingles

I’m in Akumal (again) and it’s amazing! Last night the kids and I were lying in shallow water looking up at the Milky Way! I saw Cygnus and a shooting star (Thanks Perseids! Perfect timing!). I can scooter down a short walkway and then walk onto the narrow beach. Perfect for me and very easy for me to get to the water.

There are sea kayaks here! I took one out experimentally. Maybe I can go further as I get stronger and rest more. The kids went snorkelling a little with another family who have younger children.

I have seen some yellow finch-like birds, a ton of grackles, constant Magnificent Frigatebirds overhead, and a woodpecker of some sort. Spending a lot of time in lounge chairs with my binoculars.

beach view in akumalDigression time!

The first week of July I got shingles. It was pretty intense the first two weeks. I barely remember it. My mom came to visit and cooked us amazing food. I had a house call doctor from ERDirect.com. I recommend this if you suddenly fall ill on a holiday weekend. This guy came out within an hour, prescribed me antivirals and steroids, and saved me hours of pain that I would otherwise have had to spend in the ER. The shingles covered most of the left side of my torso (in multiple dermatomes). It was difficult to have any clothing or anything touch that part of my body for the first couple of weeks. Lots of vicodin. I was off work for 3 weeks.

I had that bus hearing in the middle (in week 3). That was kind of wild. I was barely coherent (for me). Did it, somehow! My sister and my son came with me and there were a lot of TV people from local channels.

The things that ended up helping the most were high doses of gabapentin, and ice packs. I feel like the prednisone was also kind of good. At least, it helped me walk better (my knees and ankles were in less pain than usual.) The gabapentin was scary though, in that it made me dizzy and unsteady feeling. It also made my vision blur. I had to increase the font on the computer about 3 or 4 times to see words clearly. But, it still worked better for the shingles pain. It didn’t get me to “pain free” by any means but to a tolerable situation. I also recommend listening to music if you ever end up in severe pain. Albums that kind of hang together, old school style hip hop where you have to carefully listen to get all the words and there is plenty to think about, jazz, opera, and some classical music (baroque – Bach!!) were best. I must have listened to the Mingus “Ah-Um” album at least 3 times a day for a while.

One thing that was unexpectedly difficult was going in a car. I went in taxis or got rides and I could hardly bear to lean back into the seat of the car. I had to hold the seat belt off myself. No way could it touch my body. Horrors.

I also got pain down my left arm (which didn’t have the rash) and in the area on my front and back below the rash but above my hip. It was scary to have my arm affected. It is getting much better. Now down to a low “buzz” feeling.

It was a relief that people seemed to understand the severe pain level, and that life was more difficult for me because I already have pain and some impairments. My son got a sudden crash course that I am calling “Chore Camp” in weeks 2 and 3 of this ordeal.

I recommend you not get shingles, ever.

Luckily I felt pretty decent by last week. I dealt with a sudden intense 2 days of work working 14 hours last Thursday and doing a pretty good job. Not perfect but decent. I did normal things like go out to get groceries. This is so comforting after being ill. The plane ride was OK. Danny got a seat upgrade (he travels a lot and so gets all sorts of perks) and gave me his seat in first class while he sat with the kids in the back of the plane. I didn’t need any painkillers until we were off the plane. Then I kind of gave in and had half a vicodin.

Painkiller free today, still tapering down gabapentin. I am down to 900 mg total per day. Things are so much better. Soon I’ll be completely off of this drug.

My arm is better enough that I kayaked for maybe 10 minutes. Halfway to the reef. I have also walked around a fair bit and have gone “out” to the little mini mart.

Beach paradise, nice breeze, birds flying around, lizards and hermit crabs crawling over everything, hibiscuses and coconut trees, and the sound of the gentle waves in this protected bay!

I’m hoping to swim short distances several times a day, and also kayak!

And I am hoping to find someone willing to be my tutor in (Yucatec) Mayan. I have made a list of words and phrases, and some flash cards. I have also read a fair amount of local history at this point. Very interesting.

Last visit, we were only in Akumal for two and a half days. I explored around the point where the cannons are, and looked longingly at the tide pools (not walking well enough to go to them), found the Lol-Ha restaurant (fabulous) and visited the minimart (Super Chomak) about twice a day. This visit I’d like to explore further — but may instead focus on swimming and resting while the kids explore independently.

There is more seaweed on the beach this visit and the “visibility” under water near the shore is bad, which many people on the beach complain about! I have a scheme to practice getting into the kayak from the water. Not sure that is possible for me. But if it is then I will kayak out to near the reef and then jump in to snorkel! I can kayak a hundred times better than I can walk. Like a sturdy voyageur! But I will need to work up to it.

Running mochitests for Firefox

I’m experimenting with automated testing for Firefox and figured it may be useful to record what I learned. I had a look at the Mochitest page on MDN as well as the main page on Automated testing at Mozilla. It is hard to know how to even begin to explain this. Mochitests are a huge ball of tests for Firefox. They run every time a change is pushed to mozilla-central, which is the sort of tip of the current state of our code and is used every day to build the Nightly version of Firefox. They’re run automatically for changes on other code repositories too. And, you can run them locally on your own version of Firefox.

This is going to have ridiculous levels of detail and jargon. Warning!

The first thing to do is to download the current code from mozilla-central and build it on my laptop. Here are the Firefox build instructions!

As usual I need to do several other things before I can do those things. This means hours of twiddling around on the command line, installing things, trying different configurations, fixing directory permissions and so on. Here are a few of the sometimes non-trivial things I ended up doing:

* updated Xcode and command line tools
* ran brew doctor and brew update, fixed all errors with much help from Stack Overflow, ended up doing a hard reset of brew
* Also, if you need to install a specific version of a utility, for example, autoconf: brew tap homebrew/versions; brew install autoconf213
* re-installed mercurial and git since they were screwed up somehow from a move from one Mac to another
* tried two different sample .mozconfig files, read through other Mac build config files, several layers deep (very confusing)
* updating my Firefox mozilla-central directory (hg pull -u)
* filed a bug for a build error and fixed some minor points on MDN

The build takes around an hour the first time. After that, pulling the changes from mozilla-central and reticulating the splines takes much less time.

Firefox build

Now I’m to the point where I can have a little routine every morning:
* brew doctor
* brew upgrade
* cd mozilla-central, hg pull -u
* ./mach build

Then I’m set up to run tests. Running all the mochitest-plain tests takes a long time. Running a single test may fail because it has dependencies on other tests it expects to have run first. You can also run all the tests in a particular directory, which may work out better than single tests.

Here is an example of running a single test.

./mach mochitest-browser browser/base/content/test/general/browser_aboutHome.js

Your Nightly or Nightly-debug browser will open and run through some tests. There will be a ton of output. Nifty.

Here is that same test, run with e10s enabled.

./mach mochitest-browser —e10s browser/base/content/test/general/browser_aboutHome.js

BTW if you add “2>&1 | tee -a test.log” to those commands they will pipe the output into a log file.

Back to testing. I poked around to see if I could find a super easy to understand test. The first few, I read through the test code, the associated bugs, and some other stuff. A bit overwhelming. My coworker Juan and I then talked to Joel Maher who walked us through some of the details of how mochitests work and are organized. The tests are scattered throughout the “tree” of directories in the code repository. It is useful generally to use DXR to search but I also ended up just bouncing around and getting familiar with some of the structure of where things are. For example, scarily, I now know my way to testing/mochitest/tests/SimpleTest/. Just by trying different things and looking around you start to get familiar.

Meanwhile, my goal was still to find something easy enough to grasp in an afternoon and run through as much of the process to fix a simple bug as I could manage. I looked around for tests that are known not to work under e10s, and are marked in manifest files that they should be skipped if you’re testing with e10s on. I tried turning some of these tests on and off and reading through their bugs.

Also meanwhile I asked for commit access level 1 (for the try server) so when I start changing and fixing things I can at least throw them at a remote test server as well as my own local environment’s tests.

Then, hurray, Joel lobbed me a very easy test bug.

From reading his description and looking at the html file it links to, I got that I could try this test, but it might not fail. The failure was caused by god knows what other test. Here is how to try it on its own:

./mach mochitest-chrome browser/devtools/webide/test/test_zoom.html

I could see the test open up Nightly-debug and then try to zoom in and out. Joel had also described how the test opens a window, zooms, closes the window, then opens another window, zooms, but doesn’t close. I have not really looked at any JavaScript for several years and it was never my bag. But I can fake it. Hurray, this really is the simplest possible example. Not like the 600-line things I was ending up in at random. Danny looked at the test with me and walked through the JavaScript a bit. If you look at the test file, it is first loading up the SimpleTest harness and some other stuff. I did not really read through the other stuff. *handwave* Then in the main script, it says that when the window is loaded, first off wait till we really know SimpleTest is done because the script tells us so (Maybe in opposition to something like timing out.) Then a function opens the WebIDE interface, and (this is the main bit Danny explained) the viewer= winQuerInterface etc. bit is an object that shows you the state of the viewer. *more handwaving, I do not need to know* More handwaving about “yield” but I get the idea it is giving control over partly to the test window and partly keeping it. Then it zooms in a few times, then this bit is actually the meat of the test:

 is(roundZoom, 0.6, "Reach min zoom");

Which is calling the “is” function in SimpleTest.js, Which I had already been reading, and so going back to it to think about what “is” was doing was useful. Way back several paragraphs ago I mentioned looking in testing/mochitest/tests/SimpleTest/. That is where this function lives. I also felt I did not entirely need to know the details of what the min and max zoom should be. Then, we close the window. Then open a new one. Now we see the other point of this test. We are checking to see that when you open a WebIDE window, then zoom to some zoomy state, then close the window, then re-open it, it should stay zoomed in or out to the state you left it in.

OK, now at this point I need to generate a patch with my tiny one line change. I went back to MDN to check how to do this in whatever way is Mozilla style. Ended up at How to Submit a Patch, then at How can I generate a patch for somebody else to check in for me?, and then messing about with mq which is I guess like Quilt. (Quilt is a nice name, but, welcome to hell.) I ended up feeling somewhat unnerved by mq and unsure of what it was doing. mq, or qnew, did not offer me a way to put a commit message onto my patch. After a lot of googling… not sure where I even found the answer to this, but after popping and then re-pushing and flailing some more, and my boyfriend watching over my shoulder and screeching “You’re going to RUIN IT ALL” (and desperately quoting Kent Beck at me) as I threatened to hand-edit the patch file, here is how I added a commit message:

hg qrefresh -m "Bug 1116802: closes the WebIDE a second time"

Should I keep using mq? Why add another layer into mercurial? Worth it?

To make sure my patch didn’t cause something shocking to happen (It was just one line and very simple, but, famous last words….) I ran the chrome tests that were in the same directory as my buggy test. (Piping the output into a log file and then looked for anything that mentioned test_zoom. ) The test output is a study in itself but not my focus right now as long as nothing says FAIL.

./mach mochitest-chrome browser/devtools/webide/test/

Then I exported the patch still using mq commands which I cannot feel entirely sure of.

 hg export qtip > ~/bug-1116802-fix.patch

That looked fine and, yay, had my commit message. I attached it to the bug and asked Joel to have a look.

I still don’t have a way to make the test fail but it seems logical you would want to close the window.

That is a lot of setup to get to the point where I could make a useful one line change in a file! I feel very satisfied that I got to that point.

Only 30,000 more tests to go, many of which are probably out of date. As I contemplate the giant mass of tests I wonder how many of them are useful and what the maintenance cost is and how to ever keep up or straighten them out. It’s very interesting!

You can have a look at the complicated nature of the automated tests that run constantly to test Firefox at treeherder. For any batch of commits merged into mozilla-central, huge numbers of tests run on many different platforms. If you look at treeherder you can see a little (hopefully green) “dt” among the tests. I think that the zooming in WebIDE test that I just described is in the dt batch of tests (but I am not sure yet).

I hope describing the process of learning about this small part of Firefox’s test framework is useful to someone! I have always felt that I missed out by not having a college level background in CS or deep expertise in any particular language. And yet I have still been a developer on and off for the last 20 years and can jump back into the pool and figure stuff out. No genius badge necessary. I hope you can see that actually writing code is only one part of working in this kind of huge, collaborative environment. The main skill you need (like I keep saying) is the ability not to freak out about what you don’t know, and keep on playing around, while reading and learning and talking with people.

Happy Year Everyone!

Happy Earth’s orbit time unit demarcation point! Here is a sort of mass holiday letter, via blog, to ceremoniously open the year. Starting with a picture of me looking like a happy Time Lord, wrapped in a silk scarf with the Puppis Nebula on it and with a giant bow on my head, grinning like a fool.

Happytimelord

It’s been a good year. I met many new fabulous people mostly through Double Union and conferences, read a lot, worked on a new zine, published some articles including some in Model View Culture and a year-end review of books and culture at the Aqueduct Press blog worked super hard at Mozilla, had my ups and downs physically and with mobility, visited Portland a couple of times for Open Source Bridge, AdaCamp, and for work, went to Montreal for PyCon, went to WisCon, played a ton of Ingress, worked with Ada Initiative and a little on geekfeminism.org (as usual). Got to hang out really a lot with my friends. So many lovely, warm, interesting people!! I adore them. Had a fabulous, sweet, talented roommate for a month. Made a tiny zine, Heterodoxy to Marie. I got to see Sandra while I was in Montreal and found out at the end of the year that her and Sophie’s film, The Amina Profile, will be at the Sundance Film Festival (I am in this movie, somewhere, interviewed.)

Feminst hacker lounge (year 2) from PyCon:

Feministhackerloungepycon2014

Zine Workshop at Double Union:

Zineworkshop

Movie poster for The Amina Profile:

Amina profile poster

I have admired this is the movement and #ThisTweetCalledMyBack this year. Solid.

In the fall, I missed a trip I had planned with Danny, to Mexico City and Bogotá hackerspaces, but I felt good about the decision not to go especially once I saw the many flights of stairs I would have had to negotiate somehow. (!) Sad about it though. Spent a month and a half in CAM walking boots (the ankle moon boots) which was a nasty wake-up call. And which freaked me out and upset me greatly. Re-focused my life around physical therapy, kind of (in that it is my top priority to go to the Very Warm Pool (92°F) to exercise and strengthen my legs, any time I can make time).

I lost a friend to sudden unexpected death this year. I miss her every day. Another part of my feelings of refocusing on health and drawing inwards a little. What a privilege I have had to reach this age without very much of this kind of loss. Had a bracing-myself feeling like, “And so it begins”. Our lives just fly by. I dearly wish she were here to appreciate #ThisTweetCalledMyBack. Surely she knows or knew how deeply she would be missed by so many of us. Please hold your friends and compañeras close, everyone.

Here’s what I keep saying to myself. How will I try to model sustainable feminist activism for others and for myself? (Is it possible? Maybe not.) What if I get off that mustang? Can I? What would life be like if I “gave” 60%, not 110%? Will I ever feel that I do “enough” or experience “enough”? (No. Must CHILL.) (Thanks for these pointers, awesome new behavioral pain/disability/insomnia therapist.)

Life generally fabulous with Danny. Yesterday afternoon we were there just doing our thing, alternating between domestic things, editing and writing (sometimes together), half working and half not, and zoning out playing our current video games (Elite Dangerous and Clash of Clans). A few friends were about to come over. He went, “wait, this is what people THINK we do all the time” (writing together on the couch) Well, we do….. just not every moment obviously since the garbage needs to go out and we are often both ill and exhausted and just slumped around the house. But then we have this great synergy and can communicate and understand each other better than anything. *hearts*

Over all, I settled more and more into living in this little rented earthquake shack in San Francisco with Danny and our kids, who are beyond awesome.

Kids effparty

Many horrible, sad, annoying things happened this year as well and to all of that I call BULLSHIT. Enough said!

Bullshitbutton

Here is the most frivolous milestone for the year I can think of (demonstrated last night) After many years of patiently lap-training Danny’s cat, I can now turn her upside down. She purrs and stays upside down on my lap. TRIUMPH.

"Hey, hey sister it don't matter
Whether I do labor fast or slow,
There's always more labor after."

NIght at the Opera with teenagers

On dress rehearsal nights the San Francisco Opera lets school groups in free. Milo’s high school choir class came up to see La Cenerentola, armed beforehand with scripts and analysis and background about opera. I was super excited to get to go along because I can’t make it very often to Redwood City to his school events, which is sad….. I miss out on a lot. But I can’t drive — and it takes 5-6 hours of cab/bus/train to get there and back even though it would be 40 minutes one way by car. So, I can’t show up as a parent at his school very often. Bah.

It was a fabulous night out. A bit hard to try to keep up with everyone and manage wheelchair, crowds, elevator, stairs — winging it all the way, and it worked out well. Milo and Danny and I sat together with the kids and the choir teacher. I could tell Milo and I were both enjoying the music and you can see our excitement from the picture…. We were feeling inspired!

Milo and Liz at the opera

It’s been a while since I was at the opera house. We saw Nixon in China (which I loved a LOT). And some years ago a friend of mine took me to various operas because she had a box and season tickets. I can hardly remember which ones but do remember the fun of dressing up, the box itself being awesome, and thinking about all the books I’ve ever read where people go to the opera and have a box and a complicated social scene. Very fancy. I also have a lot of thoughts about how rare and splendid this kind of music must have been a couple of hundred years ago, and how amazing it is that there were beautifully designed music halls before there was electronic amplification. Imagining what the experience would have been like back then makes me feel like I’m traveling in time or am seeing eveything on more than one level at once.

Opera house curtains

The entire night was extra fun because of the energy of the whole audience, all the kids very excited to be there and commenting to each other on the theater, the show, their unusual formality (many kids were dressed up) and their commentary on the songs. I liked hearing from the cheers and appplause which characters and songs appealed to them. Basically anything that was comic. They were more fun to be in an audience with than the usual rather uptight overly quiet and suppressed/suppressive classical music audience!

Opera with class

My own favorite bits of the opera were the arias where there are 4 or 5 characters singing at once and the notes and lyrics interweave in a complicated way. This is one of my favorite things in any kind of music. I go into a trance trying to pick out separate parts and then add them all together, hearing them separately and together at the same time. I get very excited and want to bounce around in my seat. I may have done this and punched Danny and Milo in the arm a bit or squeaked with excitement.

A nice break to end my month and a half of arthritis flare-up, not going out except for doctor appointments or physical therapy. Could not tell if I was going out foolishly or if it was going to be ok. It was more or less ok!! With lots of painkiller though. It was physically gruelling but didn’t set me back any in my ankle rehab.

Just blogging a bit frivolously to break my trend of not writing anything because I feel like I have to say something super meaningful or well thought out. Screw that, right?

Yelp removes accessibility review

Today I got a notification from Yelp that they removed one of my reviews. In my review I reported that ironically, a therapist who advertised as serving a diverse group of people with a focus on coping with health challenges and “aging gracefully”, did not have a wheelchair accessible office.

The review was removed by Yelp as not being substantive.

I have to assume that this was done at the business owner’s request. That seems pretty sad to me. It would be better practice for her to ask former clients for reviews.

Yelp is often very useful for me. I don’t review businesses often and when I do, it is normally to say positive things and thank people for doing a fantastic job. I also try to mention businesses that consider access or are particularly thoughtful or accessible for wheelchair users. But I feel stubborn here.

Yelp should not remove reviews for reporting lack of wheelchair accessibility. Lack of accessibility in any business is incredibly useful information for many of us. My review potentially would save other people who have difficulty with stairs from wasting their and Dr. Schochet’s time.

When I wrote the review, I was feeling bitter and sad that I had gotten my hopes up at finding a fabulous sounding therapist who would understand what I needed to talk about so I wouldn’t have to explain all of disability politics and the feelings of loss and worry I was coping with.

Here’s my old review, admittedly sarcastic –

“Her ads say that she deals especially with “Adjusting to health changes” and aging gracefully, but her office is up a flight of stairs and the bathroom is up another flight of stairs. So if you are disabled, you will likely need to look elsewhere.”

Seriously, is that all that bad? That was it. That was all I said.

Here is Dr. Schochet’s description of her practice from Yelp:

Specialties

* Diverse San Francisco practice includes:
Visual and performing artists, creatives
Newcomers, immigrants, expats
LGBTQI, alternative lifestyles

* Guidance with navigating life transitions:
Adjusting to health changes
Improving the quality of your relationships
Adapting to work challenges
Management coaching
Grieving losses
Approaching retirement
Aging gracefully

Here is my newly submitted review:

In 2014 I called this doctor to try to get counseling as I coped with ill health, physical impairment and increasing loss of physical mobility and the challenges of having a full time job while being a wheelchair user in chronic pain. I understand that not everyone’s office can be accessible, especially if someone has a home office. However, as this therapist advertises her practice as focusing on topics like “aging gracefully” and “adjusting to heath changes” I thought this might be a great fit for what I was looking for. After some phone conversation Dr. Schochet, who seemed very nice, let me know that unfortunately her office had many stairs to get to it and the bathroom is another flight of stairs away.

I think it is useful to note, for other wheelchair users or people with mobility limitations, this practice is not wheelchair accessible. I believe that not being able to physically access a business due to its lack of wheelchair accessibility counts as a substantive consumer experience.

My 3 star rating is based on the fact that Dr. Schochet seemed perfectly nice and professional on the phone when i spoke with her about her practice and what I was looking for.

Let’s see if it stands. I think it is perfectly fair. This review explains more clearly that I had some personal engagement and experience with the business owner, and how this information is a useful addition to Yelp.

This blog post is for the meta issues. I don’t approve of the action of the psychologist who may have requested my review’s removal, if that’s what happened here. She may be a very nice person and a good psychologist. My impression of her was fine. But, if she petitioned Yelp to have my accessibility report removed, that does not speak well for her as a therapist for a “diverse” population. This is the opposite of what a person who believes in diversity, and being a good ally, should do.

I also think deleting an honest and fair review is just silly. As should be clear from this post, it will only have the opposite effect from what you may intend, because I can just post my experience somewhere else and describe it even more thoroughly, including the sad and embarrassing part where someone tried to silence a fairly reasonable and minor critique, unlikely to affect anyone’s decision who isn’t also a wheelchair user . . . . Truly a bit ridiculous.

I would like to call out Yelp for bad judgment in this small and more or less unimportant decision. My concern is that it may stem from a very bad policy.

Is it Yelp’s policy to not allow criticism of accessibility?

The review was removed “because it lacks a substantive consumer experience”.

I hope my new review makes it clear that I did have a substantive consumer experience. I had the experience of not being able to use the business at all.

If I can’t GET INTO a business to use it, then do my reviews not count? I believe they do count, and that they are useful information for others to make their decisions.

My own house has stairs and is not accessible. If I have a bad day and can’t manage the stairs or am in too much pain to handle the stairs and still function after I get down them, then I don’t leave the house.

Any time that I know in advance that a business or venue is not accessible, I feel deeply appreciative. I can choose not to go and make other plans, or I can decide how to navigate or negotiate its barriers, or I can make sure I have someone with me to help. Any sort of information about barriers to access is helpful!

That’s ultimately why I mention accessibility. It is because I am thinking about the experience of other people with disabilities and am acting in solidarity with them. It is a political act. It’s not to punish anyone for being in an inaccessible location. It’s to improve the world for everyone one step at a time. Bitter humor is often helpful but it is not necessary and you will note I tried to leave that tone out of my second attempt at a review.

Meanwhile, here is an amusing list of Wheelchair Inaccessible businesses in San Francisco, also from Yelp.

I would never have thought about this again ever, if Yelp had not removed my trivial two sentence comment about lack of wheelchair access, but now I’m a bit ticked off, enough to write a blog post for half an hour. Cheers and peace out.

What I did on my Portlandia vacation

Hello from SUNNY PORTLAND! It’s gorgeous here. I’m enjoying scootering all over town, seeing friends, eating delicious food and loafing around with Danny.

I spent Friday with Selena and her awesome cute baby and her cat Funny. We talked about a million things and had coffee and doted on the baby. I do love babies!!! We talked about work and general stuff about our lives, feminism, children, and so on. I gave her a whole bunch of zines from Double Union. I also finished reading an academic paper on feminism and programming and culture clashes by my friend Luis Felipe which delved into many of the implications of the C plus equality parody/impersonations and similar instances of aggression by way of parody code. I look forward to its publication . . . I also worked on getting some of selena’s code up and running and we talked about ways to extend it for other uses and the indie tech/web decentralized-everything shift or course correction in how people are thinking about making tools these days.

Pambla lizzardLiz birdnerd

Both the baby and I have saucy tshirts on. Mine says “Macho Pero No Mucho” and the baby’s says “Bird Nerd” as she is clearly destined to be a future birder like her parents.

Then went to the Mozilla office to say hello to Lukas’s Ascend Project students. There was not much time to do a lot other than say hello and drop off my stickers. They were making stuff with Webmaker and pushing/pulling/merging to their git repos. It looked like a lot of fun and like the class had good cameraderie. I talked with Dino as well about the upcoming Ada Initiative ally workshops.

Then got a cool email from the State Department. How often does anyone say that sentence? Weird eh? They have a delegation from Egyptian hackerspace organizers and teachers who want to come visit Double Union and talk about making hacker and maker spaces for women. This made me super happy!!

Danny and I then went to the Wieden Kennedy office which was hosting a party for the XOXO Festival. I have been in there before but only remember it dimly; it was very pretty. We hung out in the “Nest” which is hard to describe. The center of the building has high ceilings and walkways across it. On one of the walkways there is a hangout space with …. giant twigs all around it so it’s like being in a nest. The couches are fuzzy grey and and look like rocky outcrops with boulder pillows. It is 100% awesome. Robin and Dan Hon’s tiny kid sat on my scooter saying “vroom” for like, an hour and dinging the tiny bell on the handlebars. Apparently he had just spent a weekend recently getting to ride on tractors so his life is fabulous. He taught me the sign for “bike” and “motorcycle”. I not only like babies I really like tiny children (At least when they are not screaming or covered in body fluids.)

The rooftop party was also very relaxing, it was sunny, people were super friendly, I saw Tim and Pamela and Evan P. and Kanane and tons of other people I know while we ate, ok, the hipstery-iest ridiculous food: deviled quail eggs, chocolate covered (peeled) tiny apples on sticks, homemade marshmallows with candied lychee, can’t remember what else. Cocktail that tasted like a sweet-tart with dragonfruit in it which looked disturbingly like a tentacle. I enjoyed all of this greatly. The rooftop was decorated with tiny succulents (or epiphytes) in glass terrariums which reminded me of the brilliant design-critique tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table .

Xoxo dragonfruit

Xoxo tinysucculents

It was amusing that part of the “festival” for XOXO was going to different tech company offices. I would have gone to the Slack one but the timing didn’t quite work out. It reminded me a little bit of the vibe of BarCamp Block but less unconferencey and much more luxurious. At BarCamp Block we persuaded 9 different tech companies in downtown Palo Alto to let us use their office space over a weekend for our decentralized unconference. We made a mesh network specially for it. It was lovely… Anyway, XOXO felt very decadent. I have ambivalent feelings about it even while enjoying it greatly.

Pambla lizzard

We then checked into our airbnb place and had dinner and took a cab to the Yale Union building where there was a night of video gaming and demos which sounded right up my alley but unfortunately the building was not accessible. Danny went up the stairs to scout for me, ie, to see if I should give it a try to go (painfully) up the giant flight of stairs while he carried my scooter, or, if he could find out if there was an elevator. Meanwhile I scouted around the outside of the building. There was a ground floor entrance with a phone number to call for access which implied maybe there *was* and elevator so I called it but it went to voicemail. After hanging out for a while at the foot of the stairs talking with friends I found that there was some bustle and consternation perhaps about no one knowing how to make the elevator work or unlock it or find a person who might have the key to it. From Danny’s description of the elevator it sounded like one of those murky freight contraptions that I should emerge from with a fog machine generating a cloud to make me look like a special super villain. We decided to move on to another venue of the conference, the main one called the Redd Building.

Xoxo yaleunion

Xoxo redd

The Redd Building is gorgeously industrial. I liked the patio with its cubist-ish mural, awkward tables and mural-echoing sunshades. This whole bit of town reminds me of Austin from 25 years ago. Lots of brick buildings and patios and beer. Less trellises with xmas lights. (Are trellises with xmas lights on outside patios still a thing in Austin bars?) I gossiped more with Robin who told me about an ARG she worked on where you learned about art or art history by pulling off a (staged) heist from an art gallery and then forging some paintings. It sounded amazing! EVERYTHING SHOULD BE LIKE THAT. The actual talks did not appeal to me as I do not care about tv shows so i hung out in the pleasant outside patio with food trucks talking with people for a while then we went home & I realized I had been running on tramadol and coffee fumes for most of the day and collapsed into bed whimpering in pain and taking ALL THE POSSIBLE MEDS. My left ankle feels worryingly fucked up. I hope I don’t end up in a boot again. The pain is also intense down my right sciatica line-of-horror and messed up peroneal nerve but that will wear off over the next few days from the injection earlier this week, I trust. The other day someone I have known for a while went, “wait, are you actually in *pain*?!” Uh hahahaha yes. I thought that everyone knew that I am in constant pain and it is just an endurance game of how long I can power through it and stay good tempered and have intellectual focus. I also feel like I whine all the time about pain and exhaustion. Apparently this is less apparent than it feels. We should all have fuzzy red halos around us like in video games so it can be apparent who has the fewest hit points or constitution is low or whatever.

Morning renewed me somewhat, so with my trusty holster of fucking Tramadol by my side, I went out to hack some portals and find a nice cafe while D. stayed asleep which is his ideal vacation (and our usual pattern when traveling). I admired a lot of bulidings. I think bricks are beautiful. They often seem so human. However they were manufactured you know they were laid down by hand by a person and often by people who thought about creative ways to design a wall or a window archway or put a pattern with different colors or sizes of brick. San Francisco does not have a lot of creative brickwork. . . . I also just love the warm vivid colors of brick. Check out this stone and brick wall with a planter with horsetail fern. It did not have to be beautiful and yet it is! Someone loved it when they made it and it is clearly still tended well now. I like aesthetics that manifest appreciation and love in a space.

Portland greywall

The cafe I was aiming for is called Commisary; its yelp reviews mentioned light and fluffy scones and good coffee. I have nto been drinking coffee because of my recurring gastritis but I figured this weekend I can go off the rails a little. Therefore, if I’m going to break my no-coffee rule, it has to be DELICIOUS coffee. The cafe has cute outside tables and a pleasant atmosphere. When I rolled up there was a step which made my heart sink a little. I can manage to over it but it usually just feels depressing or sad, it is awkward and a bit painful for me, and it perturbs other people who express their freaked-outness, worry, or discomfort with disabled people by acting very annoying towards me in a whole range of possible ways. I also have a sad alienated feeling like no one gives a fuck when I encounter a barrier like this even if I personally can negotiate the barrier because someone with different impairments than me will not be able to and no one cared to think about that. Steps are like a huge fuck you. Then… yay…. behind the planter there was a tiny ramp. This is actually a very lovely and clever ramp design. I’d like to see more entrances like this! The one thing that could improve it is a handrail on the “step” side for people who need steadying while going up a step and for whom ramps are harder than steps. My minor angst was assuaged. I felt very happy while enjoying my scone and coffee. It started to really feel like a vacation. No responsibilities and no one expecting me.

Portland caferamp

I had also scoped out another cafe that is INSIDE A BIKE SHOP. Oh yeah. I figured it was worth a look because often I can find perfect scooter or wheelchair accessories in a bike shop. I have also been looking for someone with decent machine tools to cut the bar that holds up my scooter seat back to shorten its distance from my back and lower it. Well, thank you Portland bike scene because Western Bikeworks is the most fabulous place. I didn’t try the cafe but I got some nice new wheelchair gloves, very dapper, and a cup holder, and a thing to strap around the scooter back to hold my battery charger while traveling. The sales people were all super nice. NO one acted like I was a weird intruder with astonishing never before thought of desires for bike stuff to bolt onto my wheelchair. One of the mechanics in their shop sat with me to have a look at the seat back. We talked it over and he cut some lengths of the metal bar off and drilled a new hole to hold the spring clip and set it all up beautifully for me. Thank you Doug, you’re a rock star! My chair is so much more comfortable now!

Portland bikeshop

Portland scooter

I’ve been talking with April from EFF and my friend Zach about holding another hackability night for wheelchair, scooter, and mobility/access gadget hacking and modifying, but this time at Bike Kitchen while also inviting bicyclists and bike mechanics. This should happen soon!!!

Though I am not heavily participating in xoxo I have a critical observation of it, beyond my usual eyerolling about lack of accessibility. I was expecting , and willing to put up with, uncertain or bad accessibility. The thing I didn’t expect is this: It’s been like going back in time for me to a tech conference from 15 years ago where it is a total sausagefest in a deep way. It is not just that there are way more men than women. It is that the men I’m meeting and talking with though they seem mostly quite nice and interesting, are talking to me and the other women around me as if we don’t do anything interesting, creative, technical, or amazing ourselves. I am spoiled by years of San Francisco and feminist activism and choosing to be in spaces where I am respected. But, I haven’t been treated like that or seen other women treated like that for many years in this kind of context. It is a pervasive assumption that I must be here to be a fan, or in a support role, or because I am just a passive consumer of whatever amazing things ‘independent tech” men are doing. You can’t fix this by inviting a couple of women on stage, at least, you can’t fix it right away. It reminds me of pre-2005 SXSWi and I found that just astonishing. What the heck. So, I feel like a time traveler or an anthropologist on Mars. I would far rather hang out on the fringes with non-douchey people. It is not even that people are horrible it is that their deep rooted assumptions are showing. It’s so embarrassing. They are only focused on themeselves or other men who they consider capable of being Important. How ludicrous! How sad! How much they miss out on! The harm to our civic creativity! The loss to society! The damage to the emotional and creative wellbeing of the women around them! As usual, that Marge Piercy poem comes to mind, where she realizes the sexism of male poets and philosophers and decides to go hang out in the kitchen instead where things are more interesting. I am sorry to make anyone sad by these observations but I gotta say it because like 500 women in various portland scenes will be reading it thinking YES EXACTLY ALSO WTF and I care more about what they feel and think than about hypotheical dudes being defensive or explaining how they cannot be sexist because they have a daughter and mean well, etc. etc. bingo, etc. etc. etc.

Quote of the day: “I have something to say about this whole “Maker” bullshit. I made a human. OUT OF MY VAGINA.” Now there is a creative endeavor. LOLZ!

This long chatty blog entry brought to you by my need to rest in bed for a good long while before going out again. To downtown Portland now to fool around and maybe go to Powells Books and have no real destination for a while. D. is having more of a day in bed as he does not feel very well (as is often true, of the two of us he is in many ways more impaired than I am ) And I think we will meet up in the evening at the Redd building and figure out what’s happening there, music, games, maybe wrangling someone to unlock that dammed freight elevator . . . . Peace out.

Editing Wikipedia 101 session from AdaCamp

After the Welcome and introduction and first session of AdaCamp in Portland I joined Netha Hussain and Rosie Stevenson to facilitate a session on editing Wikipedia. Everyon in the room introduced themselves and talked about their connection to open knowledge, information, and wikis. There were several people who had never edited Wikipedia.

We started by briefly describing what a wiki is. It is a collection of documents that are editable by multiple people; usually each page has a revision history and some transparency around who made specific edits. So, you can see who wrote which bits in a document with multiple authors. Often, a wiki page has words that are linked to other pages in the wiki. We accepted that we were mostly talking about Wikipedia here and acknowledged that “what wikis are” and their philosophy has a rich, interesting history.

Netha talked a bit about her work adding useful information from medical textbooks and journals which she started doing as a medical student.

Rosie jumped right in to an example of the kind of work she does; taking a biography of a notable woman who has a Wikipedia article in a language other than English, and creating an English language Wikipedia article about that woman. She had an example prepared. “I like that there’s a photo of her and she’s dead,” Rosie said enthusiastically. I chimed in with, “I *love* dead people!” We tried to explain why we love dead people. It is because editing the biographies of living persons is often a lot more contentious than writing about people who are not around to mind that you’re writing an encyclopedia article about them.

We paused to discuss what “notable” meant. There was not time to get into it, but Notability as defined by Wikipedia policies is an often contentious point, and often applied with gender and other biases. It is therefore important to try to establish the notablity of your subject, whether that’s a person or some other topic, by including good references that show they are important or significant.

Rosie’s example was Ángela Figuera Aymerich. She created an English language page for Figuera Aymerich. We all helped go over a brief tour of the page editing view. Rosie knows a little Spanish and uses Google Translate to read the source page. She made a very basic page with one sentence. We pointed out edit summary box where you can describe what you’ve just done.

Then we added a reference. Rosie did a search to find a book that talked about Figuera Aymerich and found one in Google Books. She used an online tool to format a nice looking Google Books citation for Wikipedia, then copied and pasted it into the edit page.

A new editor asked if it was ok or if it is considered rude to edit someone else’s sentences. Someone else explained it is not rude, but can take some tact. Often, men don’t pause to ask themselves that question, they just jump in and change things around. This is a good example of gender differences in the ways we begin engaging and the assumptions we make about interaction and collaboration.

This led us to do a quick tour of the article’s Talk page. Every article in Wikipedia has a “meta” page called hte Talk page, where people can discuss what might or should go into the article.

We then touched on adding images. Rosie advised always using images from Wikimedia Commons, because they will be licensed correctly for use in Wikipedia(s). If you have a properly licensed photo or image you want to use that isn’t there, you can go through the image upload wizard which will walk you through adding it to Wikimedia Commons. Then, use that version in your Wikipedia article. We did this all a bit too fast to follow.

There was some discussion of Categories, what they mean, how to search Wikipedia for articles similar to the one you are about to add, to see what categories it includes.

Categories that identify gender or other identity based information, such as “Women writers” or “Women writers from Bilbao” and so on, can be contentious topics. I talked a bit about how this is often exactly the sort of information I’m looking for that I consider valuable and important. But other editors or admins sometimes label this information as “sexist” or irrelevant, undoing important work.

Some of the new editors in the room wondered why anyone would be “a deletionist” so we discussed that a little bit.

It can be a good starting point to edit existing articles, either from a category like Articles needing cleanup or from some area of your own expertise, a book you’re reading, or something you’re learning about for which you have good sources that you can cite.

It was a good session! Several of us had lunch together and talked more about Rosie’s passion for translating articles from one language into another! She spoke very movingly about the politics of translation, especially as it is relevant to women’s history. If we don’t put this information online, it can more or less disappear from public awareness.

Supporting The Ada Initiative, and making more room

People ask me all the time what they can do to help change our culture. How to get more women in F/LOSS, in tech, get more women coding and working with us? I have a suggestion! Please donate to The Ada Initiative! I realy believe that it’s helping, and wil continue to help!

Personally I donate monthly to The Ada Initiative as well as participating on its advisory board. Over the past couple of years I’ve benefitted directly from The Ada Initiative as I see conference after conference put anti-harassment policies into place, which TAI has worked hard to facilitate.

Earlier this summer I had an amazing experience at AdaCamp in San Francisco. The Melbourne and DC AdaCamps bore fruit too, as they connected so many women in open tech and culture with the communities I’m already part of, and made us visible to each other.

The synergy from the feminist hackerspace discussions at AdaCamp SF led to the first meeting for a new feminist hacker and maker space in San Francisco. After a whole weekend of talking at AdaCamp, it was like we couldn’t stop! I ended up with a dozen or so fierce activist women in my living room describing their vision for how we could make actual physical room for our projects and ourselves, a space we would invent, define, and maintain. It was really a dream come true.

As an long-time feminist activist, I have felt tremendous relief from the amount of peer support I’ve gained from working with The Ada Initiative. The people who are part of TAI have a tremendously sophisticated view of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and what we need to make it happen. I deeply appreciate the professional commitment of everyone at TAI and everyone I met at AdaCamp! That’s part of why I’m posting to ask you to donate. It’s important to make support for women in free and open source tech and culture truly part of our infrastructure. We can do that by funding that work! Here’s some ways to donate!

Donate now tai

Put a gear on it: The Art of Steampunk

This morning I’m reading the gorgeous review copy of The Art of Steampunk (the revised second edition). Its full title is The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement. It’s a coffee table paperback, with beautiful photos of steampunk art and short articles, focused on the 2009-2010 Steampunk exhibit at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science.

The photos are awesome, glossy and often full-page, and I liked having a collection of them. The art is admirable! I especially enjoyed Mikhail Smolyanov’s motorcycles and Jessica Joslin’s mechanical animals.

Jessica joslin animal

My favorite art piece by far is Joey Marsocci’s Amelia Earhart Navigational System which has a brain in a bubbling, steaming jar on top of what looks like a wooden radio cabinet and which you can type on to get audio clips of Amelia Earhart’s voice (as a paranormal connection). It looks completely amazing, and I’m a sucker for anything that’s a complex framing of history. Here’s a short video about the piece:

Richard Nagy’s steampunk laptop designs are also just great!

As I read The Art of Steampunk this morning I spent some very enjoyable time looking up the artists and their work. I think this book could be a fun starting point for anyone interested in adding some biographies to Wikipedia, and their notability is easily sourced.

I am very fond of analyzing anthologies, who is in them and why, how genres or cultures are defined, looking at who’s in the index or table of contents, and so on, all in a political context. It is a lifetime habit! As maybe is obvious from my enormous anthology project on Spanish-American women poets I particularly like to look at the inclusion and non-inclusion of women.

Of the 17 artists featured in the museum exhibition, or at least in the book’s description of the exhibition, only 2 are women. The book’s introduction says,

Although it’s technocentric in styling, Steampunk design is definitely not just a “boy’s club” of enthusiasts. Its fans and creators are equally divided among women and men, young and old alike, from around the world.

Claims to diversity stand out to me in anthologies when they are not actually reflected in the work represented. It would be better, I think, to acknowledge the diversity represented — in this case artists from several different countries — and also acknowledge where it is lacking or flawed.

A section at the front shows work and biographical profiles for eight more artists whose work was perhaps not known to the book’s editor until after the exhibition, and the work featured dates from after 2009. 6 of these 8 artists are women. I note it as an improvement in apparent diversity in the book, even if it was not reflected in the museum exhibition.

I was somewhat annoyed, in this context, that the book’s editor referred to Mary Shelley in another attempt to be “diverse”, but spelled her name wrong.

While reading this book I thought of postcolonialist steampunk and Jaymee Goh’s blog Silver Goggles, always worth reading. I like her critiques of racism and colonialism in steampunk communities and the framing of “what steampunk is”. Beyond Victoriana: A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk by Ay-leen also explores, well, actual diversity in the culture and its representation.

Beyond Victoriana is the oldest-running blog about multicultural steampunk and retro-futurism–that is, steampunk outside of a Western-dominant, Eurocentric framework. Founded in 2009, Beyond Victoriana focuses on non-Western cultures, underrepresented minorities in Western histories (Asian / Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, First Nation, Hispanic, black / African & other marginalized identities), and the cultural intersection between the West and the non-West.

The Art of Steampunk didn’t overtly focus on pith helmets and celebrations of colonialism but it does not go deep into the possibilities despite its sweeping claims of diversity. So while I love the book, I wish that there were more of it!