Link Blog: May 15, 2019

Trashserver.net is an XMPP server that’s 100% powered by renewable energy.

Offices Can Be Hell for People Whose Brains Work Differently: “Work spaces today come with strong smells, harsh light, lots of chatter, and constant messages on email or Slack. For neurodivergent people, this can be a big ask.”

The AI Supply Chain Runs on Ignorance: Even if you could decipher the legalese in apps’ terms and conditions, the fact of the matter is that not only are developers opaque about how users’ data will be used, developers themselves often don’t know how that data will end up being used.

I’ve Been Committed To A Psych Ward Three Times — And It Never Helped: A personal account with plenty of research data about how psych hospitals aren’t actually helping people when they involuntarily imprison patients.

If You Care About Health Justice, Stop Clicking on “Florida Man” Stories: the so-called “Florida man” is actually code for “Man Likely Suffering From Mental Illness or Drug Addiction.” Stop laughing at other people’s suffering, and stop clicking those links.

The rise of fear-based social media like Nextdoor, Citizen, and now Amazon’s Neighbors: Crime is going down, but you wouldn’t know it when you join a neighborhood social networking site.

Purism’s bigotry problem

Purism has created its own fork of Mastodon, but has removed the ability to report posts, and has basically taken a pro-bigotry stance by not condoning some pretty basic anti-bigotry concepts.

It turns out they’re going to be blatantly allowing hate speech on their servers, as long as they don’t harass individuals, whatever that means. See this Pleroma post with screenshots.

The author of the post, Chris, says he had a phone call with one of the execs at Purism today, so maybe things will change.

But it never should’ve gotten to the point of having to blow up on social media in order to be heard.

Taking an anti-hate-speech stance and spelling that out in obvious ways (like the Contributor Covenant) should not be so difficult. Expecting an organization to say “racism/sexism/ableism/sizeism/all forms of bigotry are not tolerated here” should NEVER be controversial.

Sadly, this is not limited to Purism, but I do think it’s a smidge bit extra hypocritical for a company to be all about liberty and that brags about creating a safe workplace.

Tech has a very long way to go.

another python specialization completed… now what?

This weekend I completed the University of Michigan’s newest python specialization on Coursera. It was a great followup to Python for Everybody, which was just perfect for new programmers. This newest specialization covered advanced topics like classes and working with large sets of data. My capstone involved learning image processing, facial recognition, and OCR libraries (Pillow, Tesseract, OpenCV, Kraken), and it was definitely hardest course I’ve taken on Coursera so far.

My capstone was the 30th Coursera course I’ve completed. Thinking back on the amount of course work involved in my two bachelor’s degrees (chemistry and forensic science), I think the 30-course-mark for computer science courses via Coursera is comparable to what’s required for a university BS degree.

That said, I’ve decided to suspend my Coursera subscription for now. I will be focusing on personal projects and the job I started at the beginning of the year (not in tech, but I love the work and I especially love my coworkers).

I started on my “learn tech skills to get a tech job” journey almost two years ago, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot. I’ve especially learned about tech’s diversity problem, and experienced those obstacles firsthand.

I’m not sure what’s next for jmf dot codes, but jmf dot person’s arms are tired from constantly trying to swim against the current.

Mozilla broke Firefox

Yesterday, after an update, all my Firefox add-ons stopped working. Even the ones owned by Mozilla.

The newest update seems to have broken all plugins. This has made Firefox completely useless to me, because I rely heavily on ad-blocking and a default zoom adjuster in order to keep webpages from giving me migraines.

Nice job, Firefox.

Link Blog: May 3, 2019

One type of diversity we don’t talk about at work: Body size. Despite all the documented evidence of anti-fat bias in the workplace, and all of the pro-diversity initiatives happening, companies continue to disregard the importance of fighting size-related microaggressions and discrimination. I’d argue they’re actively promoting size discrimination in workplaces that continue to cling to wellness programs (which are known to be ineffective at improving employee wellness).

The Bad News About Delivering Bad News: This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever received bad news from a doctor, but it turns out doctors have no idea how to deliver bad news to patients. They’re looking to researchers for guidance, and researchers are asking healthy volunteers…. apparently no one’s considered asking those of us who’ve received bad news how doctors could’ve handled themselves better.

Patients ‘Discouraged’ As US Announces It Won’t Ban Cancer-Linked Breast Implants: Despite mounting evidence that macro-textured implants are causing long term health problems (including a very rare cancer), despite evidence that manufacturers are hiding negative health outcomes to the public, and despite other countries’ decisions to halt sales of these same implants, the FDA says it will do nothing.

A biomarker for chronic fatigue symptom may have been identified: a new blood test identified people with and without CFS (or myalgic encephalomeylitis) with 100% accuracy in a very small (40-subject) study. The same test may also potentially identify patient-specific drug treatments.

China’s recycling ban has sent America’s plastic to Malaysia. Now they don’t want it — so what next? The US is sending its garbage to Malaysia (illegally under Malaysian law) because other Asian countries are refusing our poorly-sorted refuse. Instead of taking care of our own waste, we continue to heap it onto poorer regions, expecting them to clean up after us.

Link Blog: April 29, 2019

Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The Planned Obsolescence of Old Coders. The author admits that he neglected to reach out to older coders to add to the diversity of PyGotham, and discusses the challenges faced by older coders. As a disabled Jewish woman over the age of 40 who has not received a single job offer by the tech industry, this article hits especially close to home.

Apologies for linking to Medium. If you’ve reached your limit of free articles and are hitting a paywall, you may be interested in this article instead:

Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM: Propublica’s investigation of IBM’s massive layoffs of older workers (or strong-arming them into retirement) while hiring younger replacements.

And, relatedly:

Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they’re talking about, study suggests. An admittedly small study (of teens no less) evaluates how people perceive their aptitude for 16 math-related skills, including 3 that don’t exist, and rich males were more likely than anyone else to boast about their skills in these areas.

Link Blog: April 26, 2019

Just two today:

An investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity about copycat legislation: At least 10,000 bills were almost entirely copied from “model legislation” (authored by corporate interests) over the past eight years, and more than 2,100 were signed into law. [CONTENT WARNING: animated graphic above the fold.]

What a Deleted Profile Tells Us About Wikipedia’s Diversity Problem: Clarice Phelps was the first Black woman to discover a chemical element (tennessine), but her Wikipedia page was deleted on February 11, 2019. That’s right in the middle of Black History Month and on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

April Fool’s Day

I hate this day. The vast majority of pranks aren’t funny, and almost always rely on social or cultural differences and naïveté in order to be considered “a good prank.”

Personally, I use this day as a way to make my inbox more manageable, but unsubscribing to every list that sends out an April Fool’s joke. It’s extremely effective, and I’ve never regretted any of my unsubscriptions.

Link Blog: April 14, 2019

been sitting on this list awhile…

Teen boys rated their female classmates based on looks. The girls fought back. I am pleasantly surprised to report that at least one of the misogynistic boys may have learned from this experience.

Sci-Hub and Alexandra basic information: Alexandra Elbakyan, the creator of Sci-Hub, talks about who she is and why she created Sci-Hub.

For decades, Garfield telephones kept washing ashore in France. Now the mystery has been solved. A shipping container of classic Garfield phones was finally found wedged inside a cave alongside cliffs hanging over the sea.

‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention. “With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant. We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”

Nigerian Hospitals Are Locking Up Women Unable to Pay Their Childbirth Bills. A chilling article about what’s actually a global phenomenon known as hospital detention.

Vietnamese supermarkets go back to leaves, leaving plastic bags. In happier news, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pretty packaging.

Counting the Countless: Why data science is a profound threat for queer people. “We are attempting to negotiate with a system that is fundamentally out to constrain us.”

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong: An extensive, but not exhaustive, summary of all the ways science, medicine, and the media is harming fat people in its mission to eradicate people of size.

The World Economy Is A Pyramid Scheme, Steven Chu Says. “Increased economic prosperity and all economic models supported by governments and global competitors are based on having more young people, workers, than older people. Two schemes come to mind. One is the pyramid scheme. The other is the Ponzi scheme. I’m not going to explain them both to you, you can look it up. But it’s based on growth, in various forms.”

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse: The end of the article best sums it up: “what if all the fixing and mitigating and adapting fail? Perhaps we will have become worthy human beings, having acted during this time of crisis with extraordinary love and integrity. We will turn toward one another and all the beings on the planet, with clear and humble love, knowing we are one living whole. On bended knee, we will weep in abject gratitude for the gift of life itself entrusted to us. In this is profound meaning and purpose.”

Sleep or Die: Neuroscientist Matthew Walker Explains How Sleep Can Restore or Imperil Our Health. “Adults have ‘stigmatized sleep with the label of laziness.” We are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic” and lack of sleep can be attributed to loss of creativity, poor short-term memory, mood swings, decreased immune response, and higher risk of heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Link Blog: March 29, 2019

I promised myself I’d post more positive and enjoyable links… unfortunately, this post does not contain any.

Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left: “Since the 1980s, psychiatry has been increasingly colonized by Big Pharma, documented in many books, including Psychiatry Under the Influence (2015). Big Pharma has utilized psychiatry for marketing and sales by controlling it through funding: university psychiatry departments; psychiatry’s professional journals; psychiatrist ‘thought leaders’ who promote new diagnoses and drug treatments; and the American Psychiatric Association itself. Psychiatry’s official diagnostic manual is called the DSM (published by the APA), and each DSM revision adds new mental illnesses that expand the psychiatric medication market. In 2012, PLOS Medicine reported, ‘69% of the DSM-5 task force members report having ties to the pharmaceutical industry.'”

Struggling to stay alive: Rising insulin prices cause diabetics to go to extremes. “Canadian scientists discovered insulin in 1921, treated the first diabetic patient in 1922 and sold the patent to the University of Toronto for 3 Canadian dollars. The university did not charge royalties to drug companies that wanted to make the medicine…. Last month, the powerful Senate Finance Committee asked the three dominant insulin makers detailed questions about the drugs’ price increases. The price for one vial of Eli Lilly’s Humalog surged from $35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015. From 2013 to this year, Novo Nordisk’s Novolog jumped from $289 to $540 and Sanofi’s Lantus from $244 to $431, according to a committee letter.”

Fear of a Black Homeland: The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional “Black Identity Extremism” Movement. The headline makes this sound more surreal and innocuous than it is. The FBI is labeling black and brown people who are fed up with police brutality and racism as “extremists” and domestic terrorists.

Big Tech is Spying on Us: a collection of articles to freak you out and convince your doubting friends. The headline cannot be understated: I found this collection very unsettling, so make sure you’re in a good place emotionally before you click.

FEMA data leak exposes personal information of 23 million disaster survivors: “The Office for the Inspector General for the DHS issued a report [March 22, 2019] that detailed how FEMA did not appropriately safeguard the personal information of 2.3 million survivors of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires in 2017.”

Over-the-Air TV: You probably have cable TV, or you watch all your TV online. But if you’re like me and occasionally (or frequently) turn on a TV to watch over-the-air (free) channels, you might be as disappointed as I am. Gone are the days of distant and snowy stations where you can still watch old Doctor Who broadcast from over 100 miles away, even if it’s fuzzy. Here are the days of glitchy, pixelated, laggy, and downright unwatchable stations based just a few miles down the road. This site talks about the technical side of why digital TV sucks.