Ada Lovelace Day 2014 (by )

Ada Lovelace Day is an annual celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (I would also add medicine into that as well!). This year has mainly been taken up by a Post Grad Cert in Practical Science Communication at UWE for me which has also led onto Cuddly Science.

As part of it I created some colouring in sheets one of which is Ada Lovelace - I will be leaving it here for the next week if anyone wants to down load it and use it :)

Ada Colouring Sheet

Ugarit archive mode progress (by )

Ugarit's archive mode is getting along nicely. I now have importing from a manifest file that specifies properties for the import as a whole, and a list of files to import with their own properties, and basic browsing of the audit trail of an archive in the virtual file system. That includes access to the properties of an import via the virtual "properties.sexpr" file. Note also that lots of import and file properties are automatically added, such as the hostname we import from, the input path for each file, a MIME type deduced from the extension, and so on.

Below the fold is a transcript of it in use, which probably won't mean much to many people...

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Dads & Lads (by )

popped up in my local news today: Lads and Dads Club to strengthen family unit.

"That sounds a bit... 'last century'", thought I. What activities might require male-only participation? Getting women pregnant probably isn't a task that fathers and sons would traditionally share, so it pretty much had to either be mustache/beard management or targetted urination, right?

But, no, it's a club for doing outdoorsy/adventurous activities. Exactly the kinds of things my wife and eldest daughter enjoy doing, as it happens (our youngest daughter, on the other hand, is scared of mud and trees). So, why the "father/son" branding?

Well, what I suspect they're trying to do is to give fathers motivation and opportunities to spend more time with their children. With the kinds of careers that make the money required to raise a family still much more accessible to men than women, a lot of kids are largely being raised by their mothers, which will indeed give kids a skewed view of the world. For a start, it'll tell them that parenting and domestic chores are for women while going afar and earning money is for men, which sucks. And it'll tell young boys that their destiny is to grow up to be a distant wage-earner, while girls are told that their destiny is to be a carer who's always hanging around the home and spending somebody else's money.

Yep... That sucks. Fathers spending more time with their kids is a good thing, and help in doing that - in telling them that they should, and that it's an OK thing for a man to do, and in giving them ready-made group activities to turn up so they don't need to organise stuff themselves, and to get them in with other similarly-minded people to exchange tips and make friends - sounds awesome to me.

However, I think it's been unfortunately tainted with gender stereotyping. That it's sons that need more time with their fathers, but daughters don't. There's an assumption that the boys need to learn MAN THINGS from their MAN DADS, while the girls are fine learning woman things from their woman mums.

But kids don't have these gender stereotypes as to what activities they should do, unless we force them onto them. And forcing gender roles onto people causes misery.

The Lads and Dads club have a rather defensive-sounding statement on their site saying that mothers and daughters are welcome too, but the rest of the site is full of statements like:

Lads and Dads Club is about creating fun and inspiring male environments. We’ve got great events for grown-up sons and their fathers, from hill walking to sky diving and weekends away. And because not all sons have a dad around, and not all dads have sons, mums and daughters are welcome too.

Boys need to be boys ... At the core of the Lads and Dads Club we are all about supporting fathers in their efforts help their children to grow and develop and have lots of fun along the way. This necessarily means that we are creating a very male oriented environment and we think that this is a good and necessary thing for Fathers, their Sons and often their Daughters too. (and, at least when I fetched it, the bottom of that page had a big ad for " Men's fashion at its finest")

So they've clearly given some thought to gender issues, but seem a bit confused, as no attempt is made to reconcile "Mums and daughters are welcome" with all the hyping of "male environments".

What's going on here? Did somebody complain about the sexism, maybe citing "discrimination", and they felt compelled to quickly wedge in the statements about accepting girls to avoid "trouble"?

You see, I think that organising outdoorsy/adventure activities for kids is great. And encouraging fathers to take a more active role in raising their children is great and particularly needed, because sexist stereotyping tells men they're supposed to be distant and leave the parenting to the mothers. But restricting this parenting to sons, and using it to reinforce the very gender role assumptions that are the root cause of the problem, isn't exactly the best way of dealing with it.

I'm worried that this thing will succeed, and in doing so reinforce the "men work all day, then go to the pub with their mates to avoid going home to their families, and then hide in their sheds all weekend" stereotypes.

And I'm worried that it'll become the target of feminist anger and be destroyed, leaving all the people behind it feeling angry that women came and destroyed their attempts to build a male-only space, leading them to become men's rights activists and try to fight the feminazi conspiracy, rather than trying to help fathers to do cool stuff with their kids (of all genders).

What would be AWESOME is if they realised that the problem they're seeing (fathers aren't getting to do much parenting, at the cost of both themselves and their kids) is a symptom of false traditional ideas of what gender means, and work to solve the problem in ways that break down those gender models, rather than reinforcing them. Now, to market it to fathers who, themselves, will have been brought up with those kinds of gender stereotypes, they'll need to be careful to make it look acceptably "manly" so that the fathers aren't turned away from it; there's a very fine line between "not offending gender stereotypes" and "promoting gender stereotypes", but it can be walked. The organisation's current description of themselves (starting with the unfortunate name...), however, is nowhere near that line. There's no reason to actually use the word "father", rather than "parent"; if the content is all written without touching on gender stereotypes of any kind, it can be "not unfatherly" without being "exclusively fatherly" (and, therefore, "not unmotherly" without being "exclusively motherly" either!).

The United Kingdom is full of "mother and toddler" groups. Even if they're called "parent and toddler" instead, they're invariably female-dominated, which reinforces itself as fathers are left feeling quite out of place at them. It would be great to fix that, and a logical place to start is by making "father and child" groups for various age groups of child, so fathers at least have a comfortable place to share fatherhood with each other. Given a chance to build their confidence in that role, we would be able to break down the barriers and migrate towards everything truly being "parent and toddler"; but as with whenever we apply "positive discrimination" to try and encourage people to do something society historically tells them they shouldn't, this needs to be handled with utmost care and sensitivity, lest it becoming divisive and discriminatory in its own right.

This can happen alongside "adventure activities for kids" groups that encourage mothers and fathers to go and do fun stuff with their sons and daughters - which would start off being dominated by fathers and sons, because of our social expectations; but there's no reason to give into that and assume it's the natural state of affairs.

We're all suffering because of gender stereotyping. There's no reason to force that onto another generation.

Recent Ugarit progress (by )

I had some time to work on Ugarit yesterday, which I made good use of.

I really should have worked on raw byte-stream-level performance issues - I did a large extract recently, and it took a whole week - but, having a restricted time window, I caved in and did something fun instead; I started work on archival mode. As a pre-requisite for this, I added the facility to give tags a "type" so we can distinguish archive tags from snapshot tags - thereby preventing embarrassing accidents that end up with a tag pointing to a mixture of snapshot and archive-import objects...

(Not that I didn't think about the performance issues. I have a plan in mind to rearrange the basic bulk-block-shovelling logic to avoid any allocation whatsoever by using a small number of reusable buffers, which should also avoid the copying required when talking to compression/encryption engines written in C.)

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A Possible Break Through (by )

So the diet... yeah that thing the Dr sent me to a special nurse for, well it has been a strange roller coaster.

Last Monday I was in tears, I didn't make it to Jean's Drama group, I got half way and felt for too woozy, I had stars and felt sick. I gave up for fear of passing out on Jeany who is still only 9 after all. We had tea in the Morrisons that was across the road and Al had to get her to rehersal. I was not so annoyed about being hungry or anything like that but more mega frustrated. It seemed that in trying to make things better I was crippling myself again and that was a huge huge step backwards.

I'm not sure if it was the food or the chronic fatigue or the fact I'd forgotten to take my headache / blood pressure tablet but it was the day I found hardest with the 1000 cal a day diet anyway. Week two was much harder than week one and this was week three - it didn't look good - how could I look after the girls?

But then Tuesday dawned and I lost the savageness of hunger, I was still hungry but it was ok and not like the fighting I must eat I've had around pregnancy and hormone stuff. And my energy was fine. I decided if I hadn't lost weight by Friday I would stop and try my friends full 100 hundred diet/exercise thing.

Then Wednesday happened, I got up and it was toddler climbing day, I wasn't hungry, actually not hungry, I had breakfast anyway because I would be walking a good 6 miles during the day min and had two hours of catching a three year old, although she actually does independent climbing now (she did sulk as she wasn't allowed on the big big wall this week). It is autumn and early morning has a bite to it so I grabbed my coat, the coat that has failed to do up around me since the last part of Moos pregnancy. Infact it has no buttons as I tried to do it up when we went to see the first hobbit film and the strain was too much and I did a Bilbo getting into our car much to Al's amusement as we had spent the whole film going "O my! I am Bilbo!".

The coat wrapped around me, if it had had buttons it would have done up with room to spare - I don't weigh myself as with the water retention etc it always seemed pointless and something you could get obsessive about ie to get an idea on my weight I would be looking at having to weigh myself multiple times a day etc... not healthy.

Basically my stomach had stopped sticking out and being hard at the top, people who hadn't seen me for a few weeks instantly noticed the difference. I also got through the entire session without pain, and then struggled to eat lunch and then walked home with min pain and then got stuff ready for Cubs and ran cubs as Mr Alaric has had to have ouchy tooth stuff done but more on that later. And we got home and I was still going!

I felt really good, my shoulder was on fire and the pelvis was a little creaky but everything else was gone.

Thursday was the same and included a trip to Bristol to see Science Show Off and stay with friends, they commented on how well I was looking and the energy levels and I felt good. I still had to use the stick but that that's not the same as the tiredness or the arthritic pains etc...

Friday I walked to the Watershed from my friends house after staying up half the night writing and ordered a gluten free lunch - just incase because you see the easiest way for me to get my calorie count down low was to cut out bread. We know I have some issues with wheat from when I was being tested for intollerances and stuff 10 yrs ago - the biospies were inconclusive but from the results of the exclusion diets they thought I should avoid white mono grain bread and eat multi-grain. But my aunt turns out to have Coeliacs and I kind of didn't want to break the spell I've found.

Wheat products are def. causing bloating - enough that Alaric notices, but that doesn't mean it's the gluten and of course it could be a mix of blood pressure tablets and controlling blood sugar better by not having bread products etc... What ever it is I just don't want to tip the balance again!

I managed to walk around Bristol with a giant wooden robot thingy on me! And though I had to then use the stick to the station it was amazing to get that far. I then got a very confused staff member trying to sell me a child/teen ticket for the train home and bumped into people who didn't recognise me due to "looking so well".

This happened again on Saturday as I ran my first workshops on my own with the girls in Cheltenham, it was tiring but would have been for most people, again issue with people taking double takes and almost walking past me.

I am hopeful, trying not to be too so as the fall back will then be worse but if it is just gluten or wheat or the yeast or some such then I could get rid of everything except the actual physical damage to my shoulder, back and pelvis! From what I've read everything from my can't eat milk to the collegen deficiency to the aneamia to my mouth ulcers maybe due to this.

I'm still currently on the 1000 cals a day but am now enjoying the increased energy, I am actually starting to think I can sort this out, I talk to the Dr again tomorrow. PLEASE WORLD.

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