Security Theater

Last night, I had my first confrontation with the full-body scanner employed by the TSA in the "interest" of aviation security. My palms began to sweat and my heart raced as I rehearsed the scene where I tell the officer I am opting out. It's a scene I've gone through numerous times as I've flown since the new procedures were implemented, but it was finally time to perform the act.

I took off my shoes, put my things on the belt and tried not to hyperventilate. I reached the front of the line and the grey haired gentleman directing people into the machine. "I am opting out of going through the machine" I said, and managed to do so without letting on that my heart was attempting to breach my chest wall. He was surprisingly nonplussed, and flatly told me that it wasn't an x-ray machine and that I would have a pat down by a female agent instead. I originally heard him as saying I *wouldn't* get a female agent for my pat down so I asked him to repeat himself before agreeing and stepping to the side.

I stood in my socks by a TSA officer who called for a "female assist" (quickly follwed by a "male assist" as Gregg opted out behind me). I waited there for a female officer who directed me over and told me to "stay there" while she changed her gloves. I was feeling much less freaked out by this point, since no was seems liked they were going to give me shit for opting out. The officer came back with fresh gloves and explained what she was going to do, asked if I had any areas of my body that were particularly sensitive to touch and whether I would like a private screening. I declined a private screening and told her that I didn't have any particularly sensitive areas on my body. She explained that for "sensitive" areas (which she never defined but I came to understand as my butt and my breasts) she would use the back of her hand, and on all other areas she would use her full hand, palm down. She explained that she would put one hand on the outside of my hip while sliding the other up the inside of my leg until she met resistance. I nodded along. She asked if I had any internal or external "devices" and I said no.

I was instructed to stand facing back towards the scanner and the rest of the security line and put my arms out, palms up. She felt down my arms, down my back and sides, informed me she was reaching a "sensitive area" and used the back of her hand to feel down my butt. She informed me that she would put her hand on my hip and feel the inside of my leg until she met resistance, which she did from behind on both legs, then felt down the back of my legs. She instructed me to lift my shirt to expose my waistband of my pants and informed me she would feel inside, which she did. The procedure was repeated on my front side, with the exception of my arms, which were already completely patted down. When she got to my chest, she informed me she would use the back of her hand, which she did, and she felt down the top of each of my breasts, and around the outside and underneath. As she felt down the front of my legs, she asked what was in my pocket. I reached in, and said "nothing" then reached into the other pocket which had a receipt in it.

Once the pat down was completed, she instructed me to stay where I was while she swabbed her gloves (I don't remember her explaining why for, but I'm guessing it was to test for trace explosives and the like). She swabbed and stuck the paper in a machine about five feet away, waited for a second and the results came back negative. She told me to have a nice night and I wished her the same.

My stuff was at the end of the belt waiting for me and I gathered it up and went on my way. Thankfully the line wasn't crazy busy, so it was left unmolested (I had a glass thing in my carry on that might have gotten broken if someone wasn't careful).

So that was that. All in all, it was a totally fine experience for me. Everyone was nice enough. I did not feel like the pat down was invasive. It was certainly more thorough than the pat down I had gotten pre-enhancement but it didn't get as up in my business as I was expecting. I'm not sure if that's because the pat down technique varies from officer to officer or if I'm just more comfortable with being touched in a situation like that. It did take a lot longer than going through the scanner would have, but not excessively so and I felt like the officer was pretty efficient.

Of course, my experience was greatly informed by the fact that I am a white person, a cis-person, a non-disabled person and a person that doesn't need to wear a medical device or prosthesis. Take that as you will, and opt-out if you feel comfortable doing so.

A MetroTransit Vignette

Abby and I are on a *very* full 21 bus on our way home from Target/Cub last night. There are people in every seat and crammed into the aisle. The bus stops and I hear a woman behind me say "I'm tryin' to get off!" A gentleman offers her the option of exiting through the door she is conveniently next to, but instead she pushes her way through the full aisle screaming "I ain't no backdoor bitch! Please, I don't even give a damn!" The last part of her statement is obvious by the way she full body pushes her way through to the front door, knocking the unfortunate souls standing in the aisle left and right. After she exits, I hear a fellow behind me asks his lady companion "what's a backdoor bitch?"


Great Kitchen Awesome of 2010

The dishwasher was delivered and installed last Tuesday and this weekend I went on a massive kitchen deep clean. It was awesome. I even finally bought knobs for all the cabinets (and even put them on the fake sink drawers because I'm a classy lady like that).

MinneBar Debrief and the Fail of She's Geeky

I went to the MinneBar conference Saturday and for the most part it was a worthwhile experience. It left me with a lot of thoughts and processing around what it means to be a woman in a very male dominated environment. I began to take note of the latent sexism in the room:

  • The use of "guys" to refer to the folks in the room or tech folks in general (multiple encounters)

  • "Gentleman's game" in reference to the early days of start-up funding

  • Women being added on as an after thought, eg: "All the guys in the room, oh and women too"

  • The panel for the start-up workshop being composed of 6 guys

These things may not seem like very big issues, but the tech field is so male dominated and well known as being hostile to women. For men in these situations, modifying their language slightly to use more gender neutral terms would definitely help lower the latent hostility level at events like this. Like, it's already totally apparently I'm an outsider in this situation since I'm one of 1-5 female presenting people in a room of 100 male presenting people.

I unfortunately had to take down one note of blatant sexism during the day. In a workshop about consulting versus being part of a start-up, the speaker was talking about "selling yourself." That phrasing in and of itself is pushing a line somewhat. The kicker was the picture that was part of his presentation: two pairs of fishnet covered legs with high heeled boots and the lower part of two torsos with short skirts belonging to bodies leaning into the windows of a red car. The idea was that we were supposed to think these two people were female sex workers, "selling themselves" to the john in the car. The first issue is comparing tech consulting with sex work, which when done involuntarily is a literal selling of the self rather than the selling of services. The second is making sex workers the butt of a joke in a totally dehumanizing way.

The hardest part of this 20-30 second experience was that the room erupted in cacophonous laughter that lasted even after the slide changed. I was too shocked to look around and see who was and was not laughing, but the sound indicated the majority of the room thought this was fucking hilarious. And I no longer felt safe there.

So I had been noting all these experiences throughout the day, waiting for the "She's Geeky" workshop in the last time slot to talk about the environment that women face in tech circles. Instead, I got a clusterfuck of epic proportions. After the presenter introduced herself, the first few things she said caused me to clench my jaw and stare in disbelief. The conversation was totally binary focused and people made blanket statements about gender: "women talk more flowery than men" and shit like that. It felt like the presenter had no real clue about facilitating any dialog, never mind one as hot as this. Folks were saying some really busted shit. Guys with daughters kept bringing up their daughter's interest in boys or lack thereof. On guy mansplained about how women have more white matter in their brains and some bullshit, when he was supposed to be talking about his formative geek experience. Someone equated transgender with asexuality. Someone used the term "retarded." There was lots of minimizing how hostile the tech community can be to women. All in all it was 50 minutes of pure rage for me and I honestly shut down about 10 minutes in to save my sanity. It was a total let down and I'm still trying to process what happened in that room.

Next time there is a MinneBar unconference, I think I am going to propose doing a workshop that actually deals with this shit, for all folks that deal with the hostility of the environment and people saying busted things about them. And for dudes that want to help fucking change that.
abby's tree

Garden Update

I did a lot of gardening yesterday wherein I planted:

  • Bok choy

  • Shallots

  • Chocolate mint

  • Lemon balm

  • Pineapple sage

  • Regular sage

  • Fennel

  • Acorn squash

  • Thyme

  • Rosemary

All of the above where in plant form and all except the rosemary and thyme are new. The rosemary and thyme were brought inside over the winter. I put the Thai pepper outside a week or so ago too. There is another mint, oregano, chamomile, cilantro, walking onions and garlic chives from last year that have come back. Everything that was planted/started earlier seems to be doing well. I planted more lettuce, arugula, cucumbers, peas and beans before I left but they have not sprouted yet. The red currant bush I transplanted a few weeks ago seems to be doing quite well and has a bunch of green berries on it. We still have lime, sweet and Thai basils that will go out when it gets warmer as well as the tomatoes: Pruden's Purple, Red Fig, Lemon Plum, Garden Peach, Moskovich, and Costoluto Genovese. The biggest project will be digging out space for the raspberry, blackberry, blueberries and lingonberry and building a mound for the strawberries.

At some point I need to mow the lawn in the back and kill some grass around the vegetable bed.

(no subject)

Yesterday we began an experiment, more of a gamble really for this above freezing weather to hold out, by doing some planting outside. I planted a row of French radishes that I had started inside and everything else was seed: kale, chard, spinach, beets, peas and the most experimental of all - lettuce. All pretty cold tolerant plants, so we'll see what happens if they do sprout and then the temperature dips down. All the indoor seedlings have sprouted and are doing well.
geography of the heart

Advances in Inhaler Technology

I haven't filled a prescription for an inhaler since I was in high school (maybe even middle school). I've mostly grown out of my asthma and don't have full on attacks anymore. But I do get a tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing when I run and my doctor said I should use an inhaler before I go running. This fancy pants inhaler has a counter on the back for the number of sprays left and a little connector bit to keep the cap attached to the inhaler so you don't lose it. Nifty. Now for a run!

(no subject)

Started cold tolerant seeds: beets, spinach, chard, radishes yesterday and brussels sprouts and dino kale today. Jean-Luc snuck out the sliding door when I was bringing in a stand to put the seedlings on and normally he just sits there and marvels at being outside. I turn to get him and in walking over the deck, I scare a rabbit out. JLP takes off after it and I after him into the neighbor's yard where thankfully he lost the rabbit and stopped running. Disaster averted. Other housekeeping involved cleaning up the beds in the front and raking up the dead foliage, turning over the compost pile.
abby's tree

United 93

I was warned that United 93 would be a very depressing movie, but I found it far more complex then that. It had a profound physical effect - symptoms of anxiety: chest tightening, shallow breathing, feeling detached from the room around me. Emotionally, the movie itself was not depressing to me. It was deeply sad as it is when anyone dies senselessly. But so too was it inspiring and in some ways hopeful. That not all of humanity is bleak and selfish and unthinking. We can come together.

It forced a lot of self reflection, thoughts of what I would do in that situation. Both from the stand point of how whatever courage I have would manifest and the feelings going through my mind when death is imminent and wholly unavoidable. Reflection on a life that is bountiful in some ways, completely empty in others? Comforting memories and regrets of things done and not yet done? When I reach for the phone on the back of the seat in front of me, who will I have to call? What would I say and what would they say back to me?