flewellyn: (Default)
Admiral Hopper was, among other things, the first woman to achieve a flag rank in the United States Navy, oldest officer in the Navy when she retired, and the inventor of the programming language compiler (and the assembler before it). She was a pioneer in the field of computer science, and without her, we would not have the software we do today.

A compiler is a program which translates software from the language it's programmed in, an abstract and more easily understood language than raw machine code, into the raw machine code that computers understand. Or, more accurately, into assembly language, which is a mnemonic representation of that machine code. Assemblers then translate the mnemonic language into machine code.

At the time Hopper came up with the concept, working at Remington Rand in the 1950s, programming was done in raw machine code. Then-Lieutenant Commander Hopper wondered if it might be possible to program in a more natural langauge, and worked on writing software which would translate mnemonic representations for machine code into the raw bit patterns that the computer would execute: the first assembler. This led to her creating the first compiler for a programming language that she created: A-0. It was by our standards a very low-level language, not very abstract by comparison to today's programming languages, but the important thing was that she'd realized her idea: the machine could be programmed using a language other than its raw machine code.

This breakthrough led to her work on other, more advanced programing languages, and paved the way for the invention of the first higher-level languages, FORTRAN, LISP, and COBOL. Hopper went on to work on the standardization of COBOL in the 1960s and 70s, working for the Navy Programming Languages group. In the process, she was promoted to Commander, and then Captain.

Her other major contribution to the field of computer science and information technology, was promoting the idea of standards for testing computer equipment and software, which led to the creation of the National Bureau of Standards, today known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Hopper was promoted to Commodore by a special Presidential appointment in 1983, in honor of her achievements. This rank no longer exists: it was converted to "Rear Admiral, Lower Half" in 1985, making Hopper the first woman to achieve an admiralty rank. When she retired in 1986, she was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, highest non-combat award in the US armed forces, in a ceremony aboard the USS Constitution. She was the oldest officer in the Navy (79), aboard the oldest ship in the Navy (commissioned under George Washington).

Hopper is honored by the Association for Computing Machines with their annual "Grace Murray Hopper Award for Outstanding Young Computer Professionals", which was first given in 1971 to Donald Knuth. She also has an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named after her, the USS Hopper, and was the first woman to be made a distinguished fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973.

Aside from pioneering new ideas, one of the things she was best known for was education. She was known for telling fascinating stories about the early days of computing, including popularizing the term "bug" to relate to a software or hardware defect: Hopper and her associates found a moth stuck in a relay of the Mark II computer at Harvard, which she taped into the log book with the wry note "First actual case of a bug being found."

She would also, at lectures, pass out lengths of wire just under a foot long, which she called "nanoseconds", the length being the distance light would travel in one nanosecond. This was a useful visual aid for people wondering why satellite communication took so long. She would contrast these small lengths with a 1000 foot coil of wire, which represented a microsecond.

I've always found Admiral Hopper a fascinating person, both for her amazing accomplishments, and for the fact that she achieved these things beginning in an era when few women were able to achieve professional distinction due to prejudice, much less serve in the US military. She paved the way for many women to follow her, and had a large part in creating the digital world we now live in.
flewellyn: (Default)
I'm all in favor of people inventing new and interesting ways to experience each other sexually. So long as everyone involved is a consenting adult human, nobody is injured, and everyone has a good time, I don't care what two or more people enjoy doing in the privacy of their own home/hotel room/RV/tent/empty field in the middle of nowhere with a wisk, a can of shaving foam, cellophane, tights, and a miner's helmet. I may not want to see the pictures, mind you, but I figure, as long as it's safe, sane, and consensual, whatever! I really don't care who's doing who, what they're doing with each other, and where they bought the equipment...usually.

There are, however, some things I happen upon which I think are truly screwed up and wrong. Things like the Gigimo Artificial Virginity Hymen.

The description, unedited:
No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable. Its easy to use, clinically proven non-toxic to human and has no side effects, no pain to use and no allergic reaction.
I think it should be obvious why my reaction to this was (no pun intended), "What the FUCK?"

Are there really that many men out there who care that badly about their girlfriends or wives being virgins, that there is a market for such a thing? Apparently, there are. And apparently, there are enough women who feel, for whatever reason, that they must deceive their boyfriends or husbands into thinking they are virgins through the use of this device.

I would imagine that women who buy and use these devices do so to protect themselves from retribution, either from their boyfriends or husbands, or the larger community; it's not unheard of in some places for men who find that their new wives are not virgins, to kill them as a matter of "honor", or for the woman's family to do the same. And even if that's not the case, they may suffer great public shaming and social ostracism.

This is one of those things where, at first, I laugh, but then the implications hit me, and I sigh and get depressed. The sheer batshit insane patriarchal fuckedupitude is absurd on one level, but on another, it's deadly serious.
flewellyn: (Default)
Apparently, the latest "official story" about the VA Tech shootings is that the gunman was "made" to do it by a young woman who broke up with him/cheated on him/wouldn't give him enough attention/whatever.

At least, that's how they're spinning it.

Do I need to say what an absolute travesty it is that they are even implying that this young woman was somehow responsible for, or provoked, or "sparked", this massacre? Even the barest implication of it is monstrous.

(Never mind that she did not, after all, have any prior relationship with the shooter.)
flewellyn: (Default)
So, today is Blogging For Choice day, and I thought I would talk a bit about why I am pro-choice. Those not inclined to reading political discussions can skip this entry.

Cut for lengthy essay )
flewellyn: (Default)
I wrote this originally on another forum. The question someone was asking was, "Why can't straight guys who get hit on by gay guys just take it as a compliment, and be flattered?"

Here's what I said:

Straight men, by and large, can't think that way.

The reason, I think, has to do with (what I believe is) the real source of homophobia. To a great many men, there are two sex roles, and the equation works out like this:

Man = one who penetrates.

Woman = one who is penetrated.

Woman < Man, because woman = sex object, not person.

Therefor, being penetrated < man, because only sex objects are penetrated.

Now, men with this mindset will react with confusion and fear to the idea that a man could be penetrated, and thus made "less than" a man. These men are used to objectifying, not being objectified, so the idea that a man could find THEM attractive in a sex-object way is terrifying to them, because it upsets their conception of the natural order of things: man fucks, woman gets fucked. Because, you see, to these men sex is a form of power, not intimacy, where the man shows his dominance and his "fitness" by penetrating a worthy woman. A man being penetrated would mean the man lost his power, and turned into something less than a man (which, to these men, means woman).

So if we really want to combat this sort of idea, the first thing we need to do is convince these men that 1) Women are not sex objects, and 2) Sex is not all about power. This may take awhile...
flewellyn: (Default)
Those of you who have read me for a long time know that most of the time, I post things that are silly or meant to be humorous.

This is not one of those times.

I want to call your attention to this news story, concerning a woman whose body was found Monday morning in the small Colorado town of Surrey Ridge; she had been noosed, the noose then tied to the back of a car, and dragged to her death, leaving a mile-long trail of blood on the road. She has not yet been identified, as her body was mutilated beyond recognition.

When I heard about this case, I was immediately reminded of the similar lynching of James Byrd, Jr. in 1998, in Jasper, Texas. He was also dragged behind a car until he died; his body was also horribly mutilated. Within 24 hours, the police had determined that this was a hate crime, as his assailants were known white supremacists. The FBI was called in, the murder was immediately condemned as an act of racism, and Byrd's death instantly became the focus of a national conversation about racial politics and hate crimes. It even became an issue during the 2000 Presidential campaign.

Well, this unidentified woman has been dead for a week. The FBI have not, apparently, become involved. The suspect is apparently an illegal immigrant, so INS is involved, but the murder case itself is being pursued by state and local authorities. That in itself isn't so wrong, in my eyes.

What is wrong, is that this case has gotten nowhere near the same amount of attention. It's all over their local news, of course, but while national news has carried stories about it, none of them were on the front page. The woman has yet to be identified positively. And most importantly, in my mind, is that there is no discussion, in law enforcement, in the mainstream media or in the general blogosphere, about calling this a hate crime. Outside of explicitly feminist circles, those words aren't even mentioned. Nothing about violence against women in general, nothing about how much this resembled a lynching, nothing about how, gee, maybe there is a growing problem with violent acts against women.

Where is the outcry?

I have seen various discussion boards where the subject became one of illegal immigration, with the usual bigoted shitstains trying to blame it on the fact that the suspect is Latino, or talking about how "those people" are just the sort of people to beat and murder "their" women. Nothing, though, about how common assault and murder of women is in this country (for example: the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the US is homicide). Nothing about the problem of rampant misogyny. Nothing about invoking VAWA for this crime.

Where is the outcry, I ask you?
flewellyn: (Default)
Through [livejournal.com profile] pope_guilty, I found this blog entry, in which the author writes about his past arguments against enacting hate-crime legislation, and how he has now found convincing counterarguments which have put him squarely in the "yes, enact these laws" camp. It's a great read, and heartening to see: it's not every day someone will publically admit that they were wrong, and change their minds, AND provide the reasoning behind doing so. Good stuff.

One thing he wrote (which I agreed with) was that, under the definition of hate crime that he was using, rape was thus a hate crime. This is a good realization.

But...one of his commenters did not understand it, and replied thus:

I disagree with your construction of rape as a hate crime, because it happens regardless of gender (male-male, female-female, female-male.) It's a crime of power and domination, not hate. Perhaps self-hate... but I kind of get your point.

Umm...yeah. Where to start with this? The "it's a crime of power and domination, not hate" bit? Or the "it happens" bit, as if rape were some sort of natural event that just...oh...happens, like the weather? I had to respond.

So, in the interest of A) preserving my writings on the subject where I'll be able to find them, and B) sharing my wisdom and brilliance (yeah right) with you all, I have reproduced my response below, under the horizontal rule.

I disagree with your construction of rape as a hate crime, because it happens regardless of gender (male-male, female-female, female-male.) It's a crime of power and domination, not hate. Perhaps self-hate... but I kind of get your point.

Ah, but, since 95% of rapes reported are male perpetrator, female victim, AND rape constitutes an attack on the woman because she is a woman, I would say it definitely qualifies as a hate crime.

Men who are raped are almost always raped by other men, such as in prison settings. The lingo for this is "making him my bitch", which is a term that misogynists also use to refer to women. So...the rape of the male serves to devalue him by making him "play the woman". The viewpoint here is that women are less important, less valuable, and thus things to be used.

It is true that men can be raped outside of prison, and sometimes even by women. I myself know two men who were raped by women. However, I know hundreds of women who were raped by men. This is anecdotal, but it is borne out by the actual crime statistics: men can be raped, but they need not fear it the way women are forced to. Rape is thus a crime overwhelmingly directed at women, as a group, and qualifies as a hate crime.

Historically, and today, women have been the group of people most hated, most reviled, most oppressed, and most devalued in the world. This occurs across cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. Even minorities who have been oppressed themselves often oppress the women in their group (ask Sandra Cisneros, for instance, about how Latina women are treated by Latino men). If this doesn't make violence against women a hate crime...there is no meaning to the term.
flewellyn: (Default)
I posted this on this blog, discussing the 17 year old Oregon girl who, after accusing her boyfriend and two of his friends of raping her, was convicted of filing a false police report; the apparent reasoning by the judge was that, since the prosecution couldn't find enough evidence that the rape had taken place, she was obviously lying. Several commenters on the blog proceeded to do the usual misogynist bashing of women, feminism, and the notion that rape actually happens all that often, and went off accusing women of lying about rape as often as 25% of the time.

Several other people, of course, took them to task for their nonsense, and cited actual statistics showing that the number of rape reports which turn out to be falsified is around 1.6%; nonetheless, I felt compelled to respond, thus:

Aside from the statistics cited above showing that women lie about rape charges in as few as 1.6% of reports, there is a simple, logical reason why assuming that women will lie about rape just doesn't make sense.

Look at what happens to a woman who accuses a man of raping her. Her name is dragged through the mud, her sexual history is questioned, she is slandered with all sorts of vile names by the defendant's supporters, lawyers, and by men of society at large. She is told that it was her fault, that she shouldn't have been doing whatever she was doing when her attacker raped her. She is accused of making it all up, of lying to be vengeful or (if the rapist is rich, such as Kobe Bryant) of seeking money. She faces long odds of getting a conviction; in Oregon, apparently 10% of reported rapes result in a conviction. Rape being one of the most underreported crimes there is, the real numbers are surely much higher.

She receives all kinds of "advice" from people which can be summed up as "don't have a social life, don't ever drink, don't go out of your house, and if you still get raped, it's still your fault". Her family and friends may well abandon her, or even turn against her. Her religious community may well turn their backs on her, as well.

Given all of this, what sort of logical reason would there be for women to lie about being raped? The 1.6% who apparently do, I would surmise, are probably mentally ill; otherwise, anyone sane would realize that accusing a man of rape is extremely difficult and has all kinds of social and psychological penalties, whether he is convicted or not. The man accused, or even convicted, of rape has many allies in society, many people trying to excuse what he did, or blame it all on the woman. Look at how many people today still think Desiree Washington was just a golddigger, even after Mike Tyson was, in fact, convicted.

Quite simply, sane people do not lie if there is no benefit to them in doing so. And the simple fact is, lying about rape has no benefit for women. So, given these facts...who would benefit from lying about rape? If it's not women, then who?


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