Ada Lovelace Day 2010

Happy Ada Lovelace Day to all the women out there toiling in the technology sector and the sciences!

Today, I want to write about the second woman to have a element of the periodic table named after her, Lise Meitner.  She could arguably be the first woman in her own right to do so, I don’t know if curium was named after Marie Curie alone or Marie and Pierre;.  (All praise is due to the divine Kate Beaton for the awesome shirt, I treasure mine.)

Lise Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, but got shut out of the Nobel Prize in chemistry her colleague Otto Hahn got in 1944 (grrr).  In addition, she independently discovered the Auger effect in 1923, where electrons emitted by surface atoms under bombardment with an electron beam have characteristic energies.  Pierre Auger seems to get all the credit in 1925 for this (double grrr).  A few of my co-workers do Auger electron spectroscopy as part of their jobs.

Interestingly enough, she has element 109, meitnerium, named after her, and Otto Hahn can’t have an element of his own, because the Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry rejected hahnium as a name for element 105 (dubnium), according to Theodore Gray, in his awesome book of chemistry pr0n (pretty pictures and interesting information about all the elements discovered to date).

May her memory last far longer than the longest lived isotope of meitnerium (mass 278, half life ~30 minutes per Wikipedia)!

Ursula, you widened my life, and I thank you for it.

Today is Ursula Kroeber LeGuin’s eightieth birthday, and also the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Left Hand of Darkness.

I came across the Earthsea books at least thirty-five years ago (the actual date is rusty) at my local library and was never quite the same after that. Besides Left Hand and the Earthsea books, the LeGuin books that continue to rock my world with every re-read are The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home.

It was very important to me that Potlatch 18 (in Sunnyvale, CA earlier this year) honored Always Coming Home as one of its books of honor this year, because that book captures the physical reality and spirit of Northern California. Having Ursula there as part of the con made it even more special to me, because it was an opportunity to honor and thank somebody who created a special book while she is still here to hear it.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ursula. May we have the blessing of your presence for years to come.

January 20, 2009 (we made it!)


Here’s my parting gift to Messrs. Bush and Cheney (size 9 New Balance 810). Don’t go planning any overseas travel, you might get diverted to den Haag.

Why I must say no to Sarah Palin

I just sent this to Women Against Sarah Palin:

If it was imperative for McCain to choose a woman as his running mate, there are certainly many more qualified Republican women available.  I knew enough already about Palin’s record in Alaska when the announcement was made to know that she is a extremely bad choice for Vice President.  As I learn more about her, that feeling just gets reinforced.  Learning that rape victims were charged for the evidence kits needed to prosecute their attackers while she was mayor of Wasilla enrages me.  Because the Alaskan legislature had to take action to outlaw this travesty of justice, I cannot believe that she was unaware of this policy while she was mayor.  For McCain to assert that she is his best choice sends two messages, the first that justice is contingent on your ability to pay for it, and the second is that his own judgment is seriously lacking.

Guest post on Body Impolitic

I was asked to write a guest post on Body Impolitic regarding the troll attacks at WisCon 32.

New feminist sf/fantasy community open

There’s a new livejournal community called femsfaward open to discuss works of sf/fantasy written by women. Go forth and blog.

There are saints among us.

I said goodbye to one last night.  No, she didn’t get the official designation from the Vatican, but Sister John Marie Samaha of the Sisters of the Holy Family was the closest thing I’ve seen to one to date. And, if there’s any such thing as a Catholic version of a bodhisattva, she’d probably fit the bill. I’ve got a whole lot of issues with the Church as an institution, but Sister John Marie embodied the very best ideals of Christian living.

Sister John Marie died last Wednesday at the age of 84, and she spent sixty-four years as a nun. I met her over twenty years ago when she became a pastoral associate at my home parish; she was a great comfort to my family when my maternal grandmother died in 1985. Besides her duties in the parish, she established a pantry where people, and particularly families, in need could get some extra supplies or a little help with the bills to get by when money got tight. It didn’t matter what religion you were or even if you were religious at all, if you were in need, she was willing to help. As the Pantry grew, it worked in close coordination with local agencies serving the poor and homeless. My late father worked with Sister on toy drives and at the local free dining rooms.

Sister John Marie approached her work with smiling enthusiasm; you couldn’t help but be willingly carried along with her. She became bedridden in these last few years, but she was always a presence behind the scenes, and the guiding principle would be “what would Sr. John Marie do?”. I figure this will remain the case now that she’s no longer here. May her work continue, and her memory remain forever unwithered.

Eternal rest grant her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all sentient beings never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger that holds some close and other distant.

(also posted to my lj)

Crumbling infrastructure

First the exploding steam pipe in New York City, now a problem with electrical power in San Francisco that caused a transformer to explode under Mission Street. This latest power outage has taken out many websites, including LiveJournal.

Our urban infrastructure is crumbling around us, and nobody wants to pay for it. I’m also wondering why folks like SixApart don’t have some sort of backup plan for their colocation. What if the Goddess of Plate Tectonics decides to have a major hissy fit? You know She will, one day.


Melissa over at Shakesville posted an entry yesterday about a Brazilian yogurt ad that featured three larger women in sexy poses from movies (one was the famous Marilyn Monroe pose) but communicated the message that these women will never meet men’s preferences unless they eat that yogurt and get rid of that weight. Yes, it’s more of that heteronormative fatphobic stuff, and yes, even these models got airbrushed.

Lots of folks on my livejournal friends list pointed out that those women were damned attractive (yes, I thought they looked good too), and lots of the early commenters on the Shakesville entry were as appreciative. Unfortunately, as comment threads often do, you get some later folks that had to chime in with their chorus of fatphobic things to say (like concern trollish cries of “unhealthy!”).

I give Shakesville some mad props for adding Kate Harding of Shapely Prose to their cadre of bloggers, and I’ve also started following Junkfood Science. Body Impolitic is another must-read.

Call for submissions

Naamen of Words From The Center, Words From The Edge will be hosting the 13th Feminist SF Carnival on her his new blog and is looking for submissions. Go forth and give her him plenty of stuff to post about!