Google’s tribute to Ada

December 10, 2012

Yeah! The Google doodle for today is a tribute to Lady Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace. Click on the doodle and you’ll find a list of excellent resources.

I’ll add my own here — a paper I write in 2000 called Ada and Grace: Practical Visionaries. I wrote the paper for a computer science class I took (in C — imagine that…), and I remember getting 110 on it. But then, I had my PhD in comparative literature and had been teaching college for a while. I think my computer science teacher was deliriously happy to get a literate and well-researched paper, and she also knew I worked my butt off in the class. Just a bit competitive academically, I got one of the highest grades.

Sue Bogar’s class taught me that coding was like writing poetry, and Ada — only legitimate child of Lord Byron — knew how math and language interwove. My favorite quotation from my research comes from a letter Ada wrote to her mother: “You will not concede me philosophical poetry. Invert the order! Will you give me poetical philosophy, poetical science?”


excellent review of Fifty Shades of Grey

July 29, 2012

Gail Dines’ review in Counterpunch, “Why Are Women Devouring Fifty Shades of Grey?” is excellent. Fair warning: it will make you weep at the popularity of the book.


anybody else got that old-time “Handmaid’s Tale” feeling?

February 16, 2012

Perhaps the creepiest book I have ever read is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I read in 1985, when it was first published. I was so creeped out because the novel offers a reality that is one shade away, palpably imaginable, almost present. The Evangelical right is dystopian fantasy in The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985 and present reality in our government’s discussions of women’s autonomy in 2012. Or haven’t you been listening to the discussions on contraception?


no men allowed to legislate on rape, abortion, birth…

May 5, 2011

Let’s just get this over with. Will somebody please make it illegal for men to legislate against women’s bodies?
The House just passed HR 3. Here’s a summary from the Credo Action email. I’m too spitting angry to summarize the stuff myself:

The Republican bill — which was supported by 16 anti-choice Democrats — represents a vicious assault on women’s rights. “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” or H.R. 3 goes far beyond any other anti-choice measure that has been proposed in the House, including the Stupak Amendment that passed the House last year.

H.R. 3 would sharply reduce access to safe, legal abortions for women in this country by virtually eliminating insurance coverage for abortions. The redefinition of rape could be used to block women who were victims of incest involving statutory rape from using Medicaid to pay for an abortion. And in some cases, the bill would force women who were sexually assaulted into the hellish scenario of proving to IRS agents that they were victims of “forcible rape” or incest.

Let’s be clear about what the anti-choice supporters of H.R. 3 want. They want to “redefine rape.” The want to make it impossible for low-income women to have access to abortion services. They want to force women whose pregnancy is causing major health risks short of death (such as blindness) to go through with the pregnancy. And they want to eliminate insurance coverage for abortion in order to make reproductive care unaffordable for women.


Technomama – Ana Sisnett — my tech heroine for Ada Lovelace Day

March 23, 2009

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Ana Sisnett (1952-2009) was Executive Director from 1998-2006 of Austin Free-Net, a community technology center. But her pioneering on the internet began earlier when she co-founded Technomama with Gisele-Audrey Mills. Technomama worked with the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) back when the text-only internet presented more opportunities for social justice activism than for consumerism. Funded in part by the Foundation for a Compassionate Society, Technomama trained women left out of the digital revolution and viewed equal access and ability as an international human rights issue.

An early adopter who delighted as much as the next geek over a new application or gadget, Ana nevertheless always thought through the complex questions of access, training, and ability. If the technology excluded, well, then…where’s the fix? She admired the work of Knowbility, whose annual AIR-Interactive (Accessible Internet Rally) features a web-design contest focusing on assistive technology and accessible design.

Over the last three years, Ana struggled with ovarian cancer, and she passed away on January 13. She leaves behind many, many people who were touched by her vision of a usable and just technology that bridges differences and helps us realize our better selves.


Turing award goes to woman for first time

February 24, 2007

Frances E. Allen, who began work at IBM in 1957, has received the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2006 Turing award and is the first woman to receive this honor in the forty years that it has been offered. Her work has focused on compilers and machine architecture. For some historical perspective on pioneering women, check out Ada and Grace: Practical Visionaries.


16% — up from 14%

January 5, 2007

Much is being made of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker of the house, especially since the 110th Congress began yesterday. Wow. While it’s important to applaud this moment, let’s put it into perspective. Patting ourselves on the back for finally having a woman speaker of the house is like throwing a celebration party for a pampered athlete who’s won a race after 109 attempts: the victory rings hollow and should have happened a long time ago.

16% of the members of this nation’s governing body is made up of women — that’s 2% more than the count on Wednesday, the Republicans’ last day as majority party. Women make up 52% of the population. You do the math.