Some Books of 2015

I read some books this year! Even though I’ve been always busy and/or tired (working full time, then going home even if your partner does most of the household and family maintenance is still tiring). But I read some books this year and some I want to share.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

I made pumpkin pie for the first time this Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law using the Bittman recipe. She then sent me her preferred recipe. This is what I did to make a version with eggnog.

Coconut and Pineapple Mashed Sweet Potato (aka Yam) Casserole

A typical Thanksgiving dish is a sweet potato casserole made with mashed and spiced sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows and then baked. I’ve been making this variant using coconut and pineapple for topping (as well as coconut cream inside) for a few years. I’m doing it again this year, so I thought I’d post the recipe somewhere public.

GHC and feelings on being experienced

I went to my first Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing a couple weeks ago. I graduated from school with a computer science degree in 2001 (and had a student programming job even before that). I’ve been working in industry ever since. Unsurprisingly, I had feelings about the experience. I spent most of the time there overwhelmed by all the people (not a fan of crowds and there were 11,000 attendees!). I talked to many excellent women, both young and more my age. I bonded with some of my women coworkers more than I had in the past. I felt a renewed sense of drive to do awesome things. But I was frustrated by how far we haven’t come and that GHC is necessary-useful at all. Many of the career and organizational change tracks I avoided — I’ve heard it all and don’t need to be reminded. But most of all I was glad to see so many different women in different places in life.

How to become internet famous for feeling persecuted on social media!

So you’ve looked at Twitter and you’ve read through a few angry social justice hash tags and you’ve decided being the target of that is definitely right for you. The following “how-to” guide will make it more likely that you can join venture capitalists, academics, CEOs, politicians and many other famous (and infamous) people on the front page of Gawker!

Shiny technology!

I’ve been playing with Octopress 3 off and on for a few weeks. Finally my theme and available plugins are such that it’s close enough and I can move onto much newer versions of everything. I ended up removing a fair bit of stuff - the sidebars, all the social media plugins, etc. There’s no longer any javascript other than the disqus stuff to pull in comments.

The birth of my daughter is not a disability

The birth of my daughter is not a disability. But that’s how I was being paid the past two months. I’m lucky. My employer offers paid maternity leave (but not paternity leave so I can’t in good conscience call it parental leave). Most parents in the United States aren’t so lucky and have to make do with unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid vacation. But when I first looked into what my employer offered, I discovered my leave was paid for under the company’s short-term disability insurance. My first reaction was anger. How dare people call my pregnancy and new baby a disability! My child is not the same as breaking a leg or getting sick! Short-term disabilities are by definition abnormal and undesired events.

Breastfeeding is not compatible with the American workplace

I am “supposed” to exclusively feed my daughter breast milk until she is six months old. After that, most of her nutrition should still come from breast milk with solid foods added gradually until she is one year old. That’s according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The World Health Organization recommends continuing to breastfeed until the child is two years old. Breastfeeding is recommended for a long list of health reasons including reduced rates of obesity, asthma and type 2 diabetes as well as likely reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Why wouldn’t you breastfeed if you can?

Label GMOs BECAUSE of Science

Yes, you read that headline right. We should support labeling “GMOs” because of science, but not any science about the process of genetic engineering or agriculture or pesticide use. No, the science I’m referring to is psychology. The current political and cultural environment of the United States is heavily polarized on several major issues where science is an important factor (e.g. climate change). I don’t want genetically engineered foods to become one of them. Opposition to labeling “because the science doesn’t support it” plays into a narrative that I believe will increase emotional and cultural reasons to support or oppose crop biotechnology regardless of the evidence.

You can't claim sabotage without evidence in the GE wheat incident

Yesterday, the USDA released an update on their analysis of the unexpected presence of an uncommercialized transgenic wheat in an Oregon field. There’s been a lot of unjustified attraction to the idea that since we haven’t figured out what happened yet, it must be sabotage. Unlike actual cases of anti-GM activism, there’s no direct evidence. When a lab is blown up by anti-biotech activists, it’s obviously a malicious act. Labs don’t just blow up for no reason. If a field trial goes up in smoke unexpectedly, it’s pretty obviously a malicious act. Fields that are behind locked fences with restricted access don’t light on fire spontaneously.

How to Really March Against Monsanto

Today was the March Against Monsanto. There was an event in Seattle. I didn’t go. I think the entire thing is misguided. There are real problems in our food system and the sustainability of our civilization. There is a lack of transparency. There is a lack of fairness. But Monsanto, as far as it does “bad” things, is a symptom, not a cause. Monsanto is a cartoon villain we’ve created to give us a sense of control, a real target to direct our anger at. Unfortunately the problems we have are diffuse and we’re all part of the problem.

A Story about Anti-GMO Activists Should Have a Few More Facts

The headline was so promising: Anti-GMO Grass-Roots Effort Gains Ground in U.S. I hoped it would be about just how strange the alliances in the anti-GMO movement are. We have groups like the Environmental Working Group or the Union of Concerned Scientists along side organic industry boosters, organic food companies and off to one side (but louder and shriller than most) groups that claim dire risks from GMO foods. It’s a topic that deserves more attention.

The Double Standard for Golden Rice

When I saw that NPR was doing a story on Golden Rice I was glad. I was even more happy when it aired on their national morning show. While I could quibble with parts of it, it was overall good. Sadly, one idea went unchallenged. In the story, a Phillippines-based member of the ETC Group is paraphrased saying that Golden Rice “will be more expensive and less effective than traditional nutrition programs”. A Food and Water Watch post even repeated a common claim in their headline: “Here’s Why Golden Rice Is Not A Golden Bullet”. Nothing in agriculture or social policy is a golden (or silver) bullet. So, why is Golden Rice held to this standard? Why must it work perfectly and always better than alternative solutions? Why is it held to this arbitrary unfair standard?

Not Everything Is Worth the Same Outrage Even If It Says Rape

I started seeing the tweets on Friday. Apparently there was a shirt that said “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot” being sold on Amazon’s UK website by a third-party company called Solid Gold Bomb. People were outraged. Initially so was I, but I’ve been trying not to just knee-jerk retweet. I didn’t have a lot of time, but it was quickly apparent to me this was a case of an automated process gone wrong. I didn’t give it much more thought. As it turns out, the shirt was in fact produced by an automated process, the company has apologized, the shirt is no longer available … but people are still outraged.