holzman_tweed: (Default)
2011-09-30 12:52 pm

Tevatron, hail and fare well


My first job out of college was maintaining the software library for the DZero collaboration, one of two such groups directly observing what happens when you slam Tevatron strength beams into each other. Hundreds of physicists at scores of universities in 18 countries around the world, and my job was to make sure they all had the same software on their computers. Between D0 and CDF, we discovered a bunch of predicted particles, including the top quark. We brought physicists from as far away as Latin America, Russia, and China to the US to do physics -- during the cold war. The cryogenics, superconducting wire and magnet industries had to expand to meet our needs, creating hundreds if not thousands of skilled-labor jobs across America. Hundreds of world class (if I do say so myself) engineers, computer experts, physicists, and technicans now working in the private sector got our start on the TevaTron.

Today is it's last run, because certain people in government have rather poor fiscal priorities.

Hail and farewell.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2011-08-01 01:15 pm

Thoughts from Black Hat Day 1

It's good to finally be back here doing this.

In past years, it would have also been an opportunity to see and get caught up with friends like [livejournal.com profile] docstrange, [livejournal.com profile] unclevlad, Gabe, Jayson, and so many more. Perhaps some are here, I am checking.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-24 09:18 am
Entry tags:

A friend asked me to write some about problematic jokes.

[Not because they want cover to tell problematic jokes, but because they want to be able to lay it out for other people why they shouldn't.]

Question: Why are *ist jokes a problem?

Short answer: Because they hurt the feelings of people who have done nothing to merit such pain, whether you meant it to or not.

Longer answer: Because they are based on either validating or making light of something that’s been used for a very long time to hurt a whole lot of people. The ability to remove that thing from its real world context and treat it only as a source of humor is a privilege some people have, and exercising it hurts other people. Further, acting as if one’s audience is composed solely of people who have that privilege marginalizes those people who might be in one’s audience who don’t have that privilege, which compounds the harm being done.

Quibble: But I don’t actually mean it!

Retort 1: Yeah, you do. You’re just not honest enough to come right out and say it, so you leave yourself an out by calling it a joke. If you didn't mean it, the fact that it's hurtful would be sufficient reason for you to stop. You’ll have to figure out if you’re lying to yourself or only to everyone else.

Retort 2: So what? Your not meaning it doesn’t make it any less hurtful.

Retort 3: There’s a real good chance that someone in your audience does mean it. Why would you want that douchebag to think for a moment that you’ve got his back?

Quibble: But people say mean things about Dan Quayle/George Bush/etc…

Retort: Making fun of the powerful and making fun of the powerless are not equivalent acts.

Quibble: But Jackie Mason/Chris Rock/etc. said something similar about Jews/Blacks/etc.

Retort: Members of a community laughing at themselves and members of the community that oppresses laughing at the community that they oppress are not equivalent acts.

ETA:[1] Quibble: But there's no right not be offended!

Retort: This isn't about anyone's rights, it's about how to not be a douchebag. Choosing to hurt people for no good reason is douchebaggery even when no one's legal rights have been infringed.

I don’t have specific cites to point to for where I got these ideas, but I got them all through informal conversation between people working on learning to oppress less and with members of various oppressed communities. None of it is original, at most I've worded it a bit differently. If this piece is giving you any epiphanies, there’s a really good chance that a you heard it first from someone who is a woman, a person of color, LGBT, disabled, a religious minority, a combination of the foregoing, or somehow otherwise marginalized and oppressed in this society – only you didn’t have that epiphany when they told you.

It’s worth spending some time contemplating why that is.

[1] Thanks to [personal profile] marnanel for the quibble to add.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-16 10:36 pm

Most awesome Grandma Shiffie Story EVAH!

Today we buried my Grandmother. We had a memorial project, in which her children, nieces, and nephews shared stories about her. I found that as a Grandson I had nothing to add, just variations on the same themes.

One of the stories has been kept secret for about 80 years. My Great Grandfather had a general store, back when Flushing, NY was still a farm town. Like most mobs, the one in Flushing had a protection racket, and like most shopkeepers, Great Grandpa felt he had no choice but to pay, even though he was going broke with this store[1]. Grandma -- then a teenager -- marched into the office of the mobster in charge and told him her father couldn't pay, her father wouldn't pay, and if he lifted a finger against her father she'd go straight to the police, and how'd he like them apples?[2]

The mobster backed the fuck down. The mobster cut Shiffee a deal: he'd stop collecting protection money from her father so long as she didn't breathe a word of this to anyone.[3]

Many years later, she told one of us, and now that one has told the rest of us.

Both of my Grandmothers were women with whom you did. not. fuck. Shiffie hid it better than Rose. I understand alot more about my whole family knowing this.

[1] Two of my Great Grandfathers completely missed all that Shrewd Businessman training we're supposed to get along with our Hebrew lessons and went broke running stores.

[2] "How do you like them apples?" is a phrase she'd reuse all her life.

[3] He kinda had to. A 15-year-old girl, even a Jewish one[4] vanishing or turning up dead would have brought down far more heat than any mobster wants to cope with.

[4] Remember, this was well before Ashkenazim became white.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-15 08:31 pm

Link Salad

holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-10 12:30 pm

Link Salad

  • [livejournal.com profile] silviamg has a Mexican Steampunk short story, Distant Deeps or Skies, in Expanded Horizons. Well worth a read.
  • Speaking of Stempunk in Expanded Horizons, check out James Ng's The Key Keeper. And on back to his site for more.
  • Yes, I'm a partisan in Professor Elemental's beef with Mr. B. Elemental is actually a rapper and a Steampunk. Elemental actually shows a social awareness in his work. Elemental is actually fun to listen to. Mr. B is a washed up Britpop reject who describes himself as "re-acquainting Hip-Hop with the Queen's English from whence it came." How much fail can be squeezed into a single sentence fragment?
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-09 02:51 pm

Link salad

holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-08 03:11 pm

Link salad

Some days there's too much to give each its own post.

  • One can argue whether the jury that convicted Johannes Mehserle for manslaughter with a gun enhancement should have convicted him of murder instead, but that's kind of moot at this point. When the judge elected to overturn the gun enhancement and sentence Mehserle to a paltry 2 years, with double-credit for time served, there's a very clear message sent that the law doesn't think brown skinned people's lives matter and that it's not afraid of saying so. It's hard to count the number of ways that's bad message to send.
  • Hey geekboys! Stop harassing women at our events. Stop excusing the harassing of women by focusing on their behavior rather than the behavior of the harassers. It shouldn't be necessary to say any of that, but apparently it is. Here's some resources for those who have to deal with the folks who have chosen to disregard the memo -- no one hasn't gotten the memo.
  • Once upon a time, same sex marriage was a Christian rite.
  • Via [livejournal.com profile] delux_vivens, a history of lies told to make you afraid of Muslims, starting with the song of Roland.
  • I love having good authors for friends

holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-05 02:06 pm
Entry tags:

On language, costume, and empire

Over on Tor, [livejournal.com profile] fantasyecho has an excellent essay on how – indeed whether! – Steampunk costume alone can interrogate and deconstruct imperialism, or if additional performance is necessary. Unsurprisingly, it has spurred a discussion that has given rise both to fine insights and unfortunate displays of privilege.

I by no means wish this piece to draw anyone away from continued participation there, but by the same token I want to riff on some of our dialog there without derailing – and boosted signals are always good.
Read more... )
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-05 09:51 am
Entry tags:

(no subject)

There seems to be a trope going around that Steampunks are reacting negatively to people voicing the opinion that they don’t care for Steampunk. Nothing could be further from the truth. Read more... )
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-04 12:44 pm

Transfail at "deviant"Art

via [livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna on FB:

deviantArt apparently doesn't deviate so much that they care to stop pretending there are only two sexes, let alone genders.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-04 10:05 am

Regarding Sturgeon's Law, or how on earth did we forget this?!?

I was inspired to write this in reaction to reading Catherynne Valente's recent unfortunate[1] article on Steampunk -- to which I presently decline to link. The specific exchange arises from her defense of her comment that if something calls itself steampunk she is entirely justified in assuming it will suck, because 90% of it does.

I can already hear the groans of any surviving First or Second Fandom who actually read my e-scribblings.

Let me now take everyone back in time, courtesy of James Gunn, to the 1953 WorldCon, at which the great Theodore Sturgeon spoke about the poor quality of Science Fiction criticism:

"When people talk about the mystery novel ...they mention The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. When they talk about the western, they say there's The Way West and Shane. But when they talk about science fiction, they call it 'that Buck Rogers stuff,' and they say 'ninety percent of science fiction is crud.' Well, they're right. Ninety percent of science fiction is crud. But then ninety percent of everything is crud, and it's the ten percent that isn't crud that is important. and the ten percent of science fiction that isn't crud is as good as or better than anything being written anywhere."

Most people now refer to "Ninety percent of everything is crud" as "Sturgeon's Law," though he called it "Sturgeon's Revelation." In 1958, he expounded on it further:

I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud.

Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.
-- Venture Magazine, March 1958

I imagine the fact that SFF authors are saying "ninety percent of X is crap" to dismiss a subgenre of SFF has Mr. Sturgeon turning in his grave. Happily, he illustrated the bankruptcy of the critique and gave the proper rebuke: it's the other ten percent that matters.

[1] Stronger language did occur to me, but I will defer using to such time as I'm willing to devote the time and energy necessary to unpacking them.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-02 07:25 pm
Entry tags:

"I closed my eyes and joined them, guarding the young Amongst the amazing grays"

Hail and Fare Well Esther "Shiffie" Mirkin Holzman DiLiberto, 1915 - 2010.

Daughter of Samuel Mirkin and Anna Jaffe Mirkin
Sister of Abraham Mirkin and Diane Mirkin
Beloved wife of Stan Holzman and Charles DiLiberto
Mother of Richard and Robert Holzman
Grandmother of Daniel Holzman-Tweed and Diane Rebecca Holzman Tranum
Great Grandmother of Alexander Elias Tranum

At age 95, my Grandmother died of natural causes.

These are the mysteries: Love, Death, and Rebirth. None can be without the other two. My Grandmother is now reunited with those of our family who had gone before, and in time they will again dance across this stage together.

But right now I miss her.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-11-01 02:11 pm

Shorter Charles Stross on Steampunk...

Shorter Charles Stross on Steampunk: Nothing says “deconstructing my white male privilege” like policing women's clothing choices and acting as if women and people of color using Steampunk as a way to deconstruct colonialism don’t exist. Where’s my cookie and pagehits?
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-10-28 03:55 pm
Entry tags:

Taking the stuffing out of a scarecrow

When people put together conferences to have discussions about chemistry, they don’t mean they want to argue about phlogiston.

When people put together conferences to have discussions about biology, they don’t mean they want to debate creationism.

When people put together conferences to have discussions about physics, they don’t mean they want to debate the Pons and Fleishmann “cold fusion” experiments.

When people put together conferences to have discussions about World War II, they don’t mean they want to argue whether the Holocaust was a hoax.

When people put together conferences to discuss gender, they don’t mean they want to debate whether women should be permitted to vote.

In each above case, there are topics that are considered not only settled, but settled so thoroughly that someone asserting to the contrary is rightly regarded as living somewhere in the triangle bounded by the points “ignorant,” “crackpot,” and “con artist.” There are some spaces that address such introductory questions, but they are no longer regarded as controversies worthy of discussion by serious people of good will.

When Wiscon says it encourages discussion, debate, and extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race, and class, they do not mean they regard Elizabeth Moon’s virulently bigoted statements as worthy of debate.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-10-27 06:34 pm

Gonna write about Multicultural Steampunk? Don't fail, son.

Steampunk for the Win: Being a Primer on Writing about the Steampunk Phenomenon while eschewing Assorted and Sundry Forms of Ill Mannered Fail


Gonna write about Multicultural Steampunk? Don't fail, son.

Read more... )
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-10-22 02:35 pm
Entry tags:

A quick review for fools regarding Moon's disinvitation from Wiscon

Point the First: If you've heard of WisCon but don't know why SF3 rescinded Elizabeth Moon's Guest of Honor invitation to WisCon, you're either living in a shoebox, lying, or a troll.

Point the Second: Free speech is the right to say what you wish and be free from the government penalizing you for it.

If someone tells you they've decided not to honor you because you said some dumb shit? Your freedom of speech is intact.

If someone tells you they don't want to buy your books because you said some dumb shit? Your freedom of speech is intact.

Point the Third: If you think being dis-invited in reaction to saying some dumb shit is anything like book burning, hanging in effigy, witch-hunting, or speech suppressing? If you think Wicon is anything like a government or a Church? You're a dumbass.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-09-17 12:01 am

(no subject)

Author Elizabeth Moon wrote a particularly Islamophobic entry in her LiveJournal in which she spent considerable effort displaying her failures as a citizen of the United States. Quite a few people, including I, replied with a variety of reactions, mostly expressing our disappointment in her failure as a citizen.

For reasons she has not seen fit to share, Ms. Moon has deleted all these comments and locked the entry against further comment. There may be a way to view this action on her part that redounds to her credit, but for the life of me I can't imagine what it is.

As luck has it, I have a copy of my reply to her and I decline to be silenced. Thus I repost it here:


You have a number of good points to make about citizenship, though I suggest that the next time you enjoy a frankfuter, hamburger, pizza, taco, or gyro, that you reflect on the fact that the process of immigration and entry into American culture is not the one-way assimilation you describe. That list, after all, could be much longer and not confined to popular food options.

That said, I must respectfully bring to your attention that in this post you yourself are failing as a citizen.

You fail as a citizen when you describe, as you do, the bigotry with which Americans receive immigrants with the subtext that that's just how it is, or even that such bigotry has justification, rather than condemning it unequivocally as one of our great failings as a nation.

You fail as a citizen when you treat bigotry against Muslims, as you do, as having a reasonable basis to which Muslims should show a deference that you do not expect Christians, Jews, Atheists, or any other group to show.

You fail as a citizen when you treat, as you do, the entirely manufactured outrage as something with any rational basis whatsoever. A Muslim community that has lived in that neighborhood for years, that was a part of the economy created by the World Trade Center, that itself lived through and were victims and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, is building a community center because they need a community center. They are building it where they are because that's where their community is and that's where they could find a building they could afford. Out of the kindness of their hearts, instead of building a mosque -- because the reason this all started is that their current mosques are so overcrowded people have to kneel in the street on cardboard boxes to pray -- they're building a community center that will serve the needs of people of all faiths.

Republicants created outrage out of nothing because they really don't want to head into November talking about the economy and how it got here. And you're carrying water for them by saying it's a reasonable reaction. It's not, and you fail as a citizen for being hoodwinked, for not calling bullshit.

But me no buts about how close it is to the World Trade Center site: if it was another 2 blocks or 20 miles away Republicants would have manufactured the same outrage. You should know this because if you bother to look, you will see them manufacturing this outrage all over the country, anywhere Muslims are trying to build Mosques.

I challenge you to stop failing as a citizen: Unequivocally endorse Park51 not only as something a patriotic Muslim American community has a right to do, but as being exactly the sort of thing a patriotic Muslim American community would and should be doing. Unequivocally condemn those who manufacture irrational outrage. Address that outrage in those who have been hoodwinked, or even in those few who sincerely can't yet think of any Muslim thing with the same compassion and firmness that you would a drunk friend asking you for their car keys. Become an active part of the growing dialog between actual Muslim and non-Muslim Americans, get past the big monolithic shadow Islamic stereotype you write about and pay lip service to denying.
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-09-13 12:02 pm


Hail and fare well, cousin: husband, father, and patent collector Paul Karger
holzman_tweed: (Default)
2010-09-10 06:11 pm

(no subject)

Hours away from the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9 September 2001, I join in remembering that day -- including the neighbors I did lose and the friends and family I didn't lose through blind, dumb chance.

I also remember some things that I don't see called out often enough:

  • The most successful rescue operation in history: over 20,000 people evacuated before the towers fell.
  • The first time in the history of history that hospitals had to turn blood donors away because they were booked solid taking blood for the next week.
  • People coming in from all over the country to participate in the rescue effort, only able to do so because they knew someone who could get them in to make coffee and food for the front line rescue workers.