Booth Babes, Street Clothes, and GDC: Thanks But You sort of Made It Worse

I’m not a lady easily upset by the silly things that happen in male-dominated cultures. When I went on stage to speak at DEFCON 19 a series of events escalated to a portion of the audience shouting for me to take my shirt off. While I was a little sad that conference security had no idea how to de-escalate that (I sure hope they teach them now) and I had to do it myself, it isn’t fair to hold a whole conference, much less a whole culture accountable for the actions of about 2-dozen piss-drunk semi-asshole dudes who thought they were “just being funny.”  I was proud to speak at DEFCON 20 as a member of a community I dearly love, and I plan to apply to speak at DEFCON 21.

Yesterday was my first time at GDC, and for the first time I felt really uncomfortable at a conference. It wasn’t that anybody was being unkind, it was a simple numbers game. We all know there aren’t many lady developers, especially in video games. There are, however, a lot of companies that have hired women who are pretty but not models, dressed in normal street clothes to push whatever product they have. Products range from energy drinks to some developer program to help market your app. This meant that when you first met a girl, it was statistically safe to assume she was not technical and just there to push something. This assumption was remarkably hard to break. When trying to join lots of interesting conversations, I either had to be that asshole who casually drops her credentials, or deal with a few rounds of being told things were “complicated engineering stuff.”

Eventually, I found it socially easier to introduce myself as a tag-along to my boyfriend than to try to break my own path, and wound up spending most of the day either stuck to his side as my “see? I’m not here to be evil” mascot or walking around with other dudes. It was incredibly depressing. I met some really wonderful people in the game community who accepted me for who I am and who I am sure I’ll be friends with for a long time, but the overall atmosphere was very grim, and I was a little relieved to go home.

The only reason I find this to be worth bringing up is because even my extraordinarily egalitarian boyfriend didn’t quite see my plight until I explained it. He commented a few times on how few “booth babes” there were, only counting the ones who posed in bikinis with men holding plastic swords in photographs, and thought it was a great sign of progress. Me? I found them way easier to deal with than their plain-clothes counterparts. I’m not a model, nor was I dressed in stilettos and a bikini, so nobody would ever mistake me for being one of them. It was their plain-clothes fairly-ordinary-looking counterparts that made my life hard. Goodness knows, if I had the power to bring tons of other technical women at the conference that would be an optimal solution but barring that, selfish as it may sound, if I could have substituted all the plain-clothes promoters for traditional booth babes, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Then I’d be free to have a great time being what I normally am at conferences: a curiosity, an anomaly, and an excitable nerd.

Hacker Images

In early 2012 a hackerspace with the words Hacker and Dojo that I don’t want getting SEO linked to these images was having a lot of trouble with a series of news articles using the Dojo logo to round out any generic article about “bad guy hackers.” Sending take down notes was getting tiresome, and so one day a gentleman named Joel had an idea.

Perhaps we could make a “press” page where we could provide some guidance on how to learn more about “hackers” and “hacking” as well as provide images they can use for their articles. “Are you looking for an image of a badguy hacker? … Well, we aren’t really about that but here are some images you could use to convey that, I guess” – for extra points we’d sneak jokes into those images, for example, the “badguy hacker” could be using a keyboard plugged into a Nintendo, or they could be playing a video game that looks like “hacking”, or watching “The Net” and taking notes.

The result of this was beer and a hilarious photoshoot and an evening of dicking with SEO:

As you probably learned in the 1995 movie “Hackers,” all Hackers wear roller blades.

Roller Blades

This man is hacking so hard that smoke is coming out of his feet.
Hacker doing a Wiretap

This hacker has a ham radio and a wrench. He’s probably pretty ready to wreck your internet connection with those.
Security Hacker

Yesterday, we found one of our images in Wired.

It’s all about the little victories…

Conversations in modern medicine

So I went to the pharmacist today. Pharmacist rang up my medicine and, with insurance, it came to be about $430. Due to previous paperwork fail I have been unable to get my medicine for over a week and me walking away without my medicine is medically inadvisable. My pharmacist knows this.

Me: What is this? Did you get my new insurance? Did my new insurance raise the price?

Pharmacist: Maybe you have a deductible to meet?

Me: Yeah, but I use to buy this medicine without the insurance and it was $210. Why is it more expensive now? Can I read the bag? [reads] Yeah nothing has changed except now you’re giving me 60 30mg pills instead of 30 60mg pills.

Pharmacist: 60 pills is different than 30 pills

Me: Not when you’re prescribed two a day and because they are half as strong. If it is the same to you though, can you give me 30 60mg pills?

Pharmacist: We would have to redo all the paperwork with your doctor. Would you be willing to wait another week?

Me: Why is it so much more expensive to get double the half-sized pills then?

Pharmacist: We had to package them in two bottles.

Me:  Can you put them in one bottle?

Pharmacist: Do you want this medicine or not?

 

Bank of America Wins A Facepalm

So, today Bank of America decided to freak out and place a hold on my credit card for “unusual account activity.”  It is coming to the point where I wonder if I ever have usual account activity.

Anyway, after being rejected from the automated card reauthorisation system by Bank of America’s incorrect information about me, I was given a number to call, where they asked

  1. For my address
  2. For my current employer
  3. For information on the credit card

And then proceeded to remove all the holds on my account to let me continue to use this card.

Now, let’s pretend you stole my wallet, which is why you have been abusing my credit card.  How would you obtain these things?

Address:

  • The driver’s license in the wallet
  • The white pages (online or old school in a dead tree)
  • Domain registrar for any website you own

Employer:

  • Business cards in the wallet
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Online copy of your resume

Bank of America should not be verifying people with things which are obviously public data.   Bank of America, you win a facepalm, for saving me from people who can only selectively read.

Paypal wins a facepalm

I recently transferred a relatively large sum of money on PayPal.  Concerned about fraudulent activity, PayPal challenged me to answer a phone call and enter a code.

paypalfail2

Awesome idea right?  There’s just one problem: the page prior to this invites me to update my phone number and requires no verification at all. I took the liberty of adding a phone number this PayPal account has never heard of.

paypalfail

So thank you PayPal, for protecting me against terrorists and account hijackers who don’t have phones.

Picard does a little facepalm just for you