Sunday, October 01, 2017

NY Times Opinion by Devorah Baum: Jewishness

In response to a NY Times piece in the Opinion section We Are All Jew-ish Now, with the synopsis "Jewishness” can be the sensibility of whoever feels unsure of who they are — a bit peculiar, a bit funny", I wrote the following:

Comment #1

The more basic one, that most Jews would agree about, is Jewish means being of Jewish ancestry. Beyond that, Jews themselves think that being Jewish means remembering the Holocaust, being ethical, working for justice and equality, and for being intellectually curious.

Personally, as someone who is married to someone of Jewish ancestry, and whose friends over the past four decades have been almost exclusively Jewish, I've sometimes wondered why. My own musings, based on certain facts of behavior, is that Jews, especially the ones that I know, are highly intelligent, highly verbal, and interactive communicators. Conversation is rarely about taking turns and has always been a bit more intense and intellectual, but then again, that's me too.

Comment #2

In a previous comment, I wrote about the more salient aspects of Jewishness, but one that I have mused about was triggered by an article on The Matrix movie. I don't remember the actual reference, but it had to do with perception. I don't have the original article, but I imagined it had something to do with the multiplicity of perception.

My own personal take has more to do with wondering why all of my major personal attachments have been with Jews. The most obvious reason is that we share high intelligence, along with a strong verbal ability and an interactive style, but I have a few more personal ones. Maybe it is because we have a feeling of being successful outsiders. Maybe it is the strong concern with ethics, justice, and equality. Maybe it's my mitochondrial DNA line, of the same branch as 30% of Jews, although, in fact, I know that my spouse is not from that branch. Who knows?

Comment #3

I can see the point of being the successful outsider, even though one is an insider by intellect or ability, and one's outsider perception can lead to great insight, comedy being one venue. It is certainly possible for many of us to experience this sense of not quite fitting in, but the internet has had the opposite effect, making insiders of the fringe. Although our connectivity can bring together diverse and positive elements, allow us to find people, ideas and materials that were not available locally, it is also how misogynists, racists, and antisemites find their brethren.

Friday, September 08, 2017

What the Rich Won’t Tell You - The New York Times

Responding to What the Rich Won’t Tell You - The New York Times
First, I can see the resentment in the comments, and certainly, some of it is justified, but it is often overgeneralized so that the affluent are presented or assumed to be all one way of another. It is always more nuanced.

Second, empathy matters, although not for everyone. If one has friends of different economic classes, older people on fixed incomes, women who've gone through divorces - women suffer more than men when couples divorce -, or those who've become victim to the changing job landscape, those still thriving feel some pain when realizing the tough times others might be going through. One avoids [mentioning] those things that are likely out of the reach of others.

Third, for those that are aware of their [fortune] - the 'luck' of having smarts, a good family, social supports, and who lived in a period of government munificence - doing good is another choice, as is charity, not necessarily to offset guilt, but wanting to change the unequal and harmful structures we live in.

Monday, August 28, 2017

More Responses to an Open Letter to James Damore

As part of the Damore-related article I responded and posted about , I later wrote responses to other posters in response to a NY Times article An Open Letter to James Damore by Debra Sterling. Additional responses are below:

To someone criticizing, rightly, Damore's gender views...
In Hofstede's cultural dimension models, the drive for status is part of the masculinity dimension, and it varies a great deal, with the Scandinavian societies on the low end, having equivalent gender expectations, as opposed to the more traditional societies like the US. Although one might find that such traits are heritable, it is obvious that culture has a large influence on social norms.

Equally important, Damore does not realize that the men entering the profession have turned the industry toxic, e.g., high pressure, not that the industry was toxic and therefore drove women away, or that what he assumes is the profession is simply emblematic of life in corporate America. Several years ago tech was touted as an industry with high compensation and low stress. Along these lines, I have seen studies that showed causality in compensation, that when men enter the field pay rises. it was not that the profession paid well and then men entered it.
To someone that described programming as only requiring technical abilities...
Have you ever developed software? I do and have and my sense is that developing solutions requires technical creativity, insights into human behavior, understandings of the problem domain and innovation. Only yesterday, when I responded to one of our quant interns about work she obviously found exciting, saying that it seemed mentally engaging, she responded, that it was more like creative than intellectual.

Like almost any endeavor, the task is what you bring to it, and if you bring genius, your work is genius. If you are intellectually lackluster just following orders, then not much ability is required.
I was offended by your statement for two reasons, and have already responded to your perception that programming was only technical. I'm also offended by your idea that there is no science to programming, although when I say programming, I am writing about the larger field of software architecture and development.

Since when did "expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences" become synonymous with genius? When one thinks of the real genius of thought today - granted this is my biased opinion - most innovations seem to be coming from the computer science world, revolutionizing analysis in the humanities, economics and social sciences, and if not now, the hard sciences.
To someone assuming that irritating product, in particular, Apple's, were the result of
Actually, it is not tech-nerdism that is driving those decisions, it is Apple driving users toward a revenue stream, storing information and then music on the cloud. It is a form of lock-in, making sure you make future purchases from them.
To someone disagreeing with a poster that assumed the driver for a computer science career was about money...
Although I disagree with many of your posts in this forum, I really have to agree with you on this one. Although I often work as a project manager, and when I code use modern languages and paradigms, I could easily tell stories about my first time working with BASIC (1982), the sheer joy of getting good results out of COBOL (1984), literally spending entire days over a week to put together a new website (2000). Afterward, although I was being hired as a PM and lead, I decided to focus on software development, where I could be paid to do what I loved. Even then, there is the intellectual engagement I have in designing solutions and solving problems. As an example, I have blog setup to explore data analytics using F#, R, and Python. It's a pleasure, although my initial driver was to share the work with others, it now includes a certain amount of self-promotion for the next phase of my career.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Response to an Open Letter to James Damore

I posted a comment in response to An Open Letter to James Damore by Debra Sterling, below:
It doesn't get mentioned, but some of the same stereotypes that Damore claims make women ill-suited for technology, e.g., extroversion and emotional management, are the same traits that in some studies have been shown to make teams more productive. The concern about managing relationships, regardless of gender, has been shown to correlate with more effective team leaders. Extroversion in programmers has also been shown to correlate with team productivity.

I'm sure there are findings that might contradict the above, but Damore seems to have a very narrow view of what makes one effective. Leadership, or at least getting to the top, in Damore's view, and in traditional masculine societies, might require a desire for dominance and a penchant for combativeness, but ideal styles of leadership typically require driving consensus, presenting a vision, social cohesion and charisma, obviously absent from Damore's understanding of leadership.

Damore's ideas are cherry-picked to support his flawed world view.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Review: The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

An excellent, incredibly insightful and informative book, somewhat marred by the tedium experienced in the authors' rehashing the ideas of organizations working for change. For most of this book, the writers masterfully tie together concepts in systems, mathematics, consciousness, the environment, society and biology, and for that, it is a brilliant read.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who Pays on the First Date? No One Knows Anymore, and It’s Really Awkward - WSJ

In response to Who Pays on the First Date? No One Knows Anymore, and It’s Really Awkward in the Wall Street Journal I wrote the following:
I am by no means a traditional man, but when I was dating via the personals, I paid. I make more than women, by virtue of my gender. I am smart, but only as smart as my now wife, and I am in a well-paying profession in a well-paying industry, but some of that is becuase of the sexsim of our culture. My wife has more education than I have, but works for a non-profit. I am sure, without the limitations placed on our respective genders, she could excel in my field, if allowed.

Although I have always paid in the beginning of a relationship, I knew that, if it lasted, the relationship would become a partnership, with each contributing as much as we could. Maybe not always the same amount, but fully.

NY Times Opinion by Devorah Baum: Jewishness

In response to a NY Times piece in the Opinion section We Are All Jew-ish Now , with the synopsis "Jewishness” can be the sensibility o...