Saturday, September 27, 2014

Weekend Reading

Welcome to your weekend! Here are some great longreads for your reading pleasure!

Walter Isaacson has an informative historical piece about The Women of ENIAC
As ENIAC was being constructed at Penn in 1945, it was thought that it would perform a specific set of calculations over and over, such as determining a missile’s trajectory using different variables. But the end of the war meant that the machine was needed for many other types of calculations—sonic waves, weather patterns, and the explosive power of atom bombs—that would require it to be reprogrammed often.

This entailed switching around by hand ENIAC’s rat’s nest of cables and resetting its switches. At first the programming seemed to be a routine, perhaps even menial task, which may have been why it was relegated to women, who back then were not encouraged to become engineers. But what the women of ENIAC soon showed, and the men later came to understand, was that the programming of a computer could be just as significant as the design of its hardware.

Mary Hudetz has a great interview with Sarah Deer in her She the People article ‘We’re not done’: MacArthur Fellow Sarah Deer finds justice for Native American victims of violence
“You know it seems like every few years, a sports figure, a celebrity, commits an act of domestic violence or child abuse, and there’s a big discussion that happens, but then it goes away,” she said.

She’s hopeful that this time the dialogue continues. In the meantime, she said, she finds it promising to see an ongoing conversation in Native circles. “I’m really grateful to see a discussion on social media, and among a lot of Native men in particular who are talking about the topic of domestic violence and holding each other accountable.”

Sady Doyle's piece Who Killed Adulthood is a great response to this article in The New Yorker accusing feminism of the deed
Now, I’ll admit: The day before I read Scott’s essay, I actually found myself crying because my life had contained so few of the rites of passage I’d once envisioned as constituting “adulthood.” I don’t have kids, or a retirement plan, or real estate. I didn’t foresee those ever being realistic possibilities. Like Peter Pan in reverse, I found myself cursing the fact that I couldn’t grow up. Which is to say, I think Scott’s largely right. Adulthood, particularly for people of my generation (“millennials,” if you can bring yourself to use that word; I’m at the older end of the curve) is dead, or at least on life support.

But the online sub-hed tells a different story: It advertises the piece as “charting the final, exhausted collapse of the adult white male.” Scott’s thesis is not just that behaving like a grown-up is increasingly outrĂ©, but that the era of stern, controlling, authoritative father-figures—the patriarchs who supposedly made up the patriarchy—is ending.

Harriet Minter has a fantastic piece in The Guardian about Nancy Honey, the photographer behind the 100 Leading Ladies exhibition, a piece highlighting some of the most successful women in the UK
As a country, the UK has a serious problem when it comes to highlighting senior women. There’s much discussion on how we encourage more women into senior roles, of whether we need quotas for the number of women on company boards and do women need to put themselves forward more. But what the media in particular is not good at is finding the women who are already there, who have made a name for themselves in their own sector but perhaps not outside of it. Maybe these women aren’t aware of the value they have?

Honey agrees, “I think all of the women are confident women but I think some of them don’t consider themselves to be someone who is leading their field. One woman kept saying, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure you want me?’. And I kept saying, ‘Yes, I’m sure,’ and her story is great and her picture is great and yes of course I wanted her.”

Elizabeth Weil has an in-depth piece on Sarah Marquis, The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles
On June 20, 2010, Marquis’s 38th birthday, she set out to walk from Siberia through Asia and, once back in Australia, trek to her beloved tree. The video of Marquis walking away from her starting point in Irkutsk feels like the setup for a horror film. “Hello, O.K., so here we are,” she said just before turning away from the camera. “Time to go now!” On her back is a 75-pound pack, and trailing behind her, overflowing with gear secured by bungee cords, is a custom-made cart that looks like a cross between a wheelbarrow and a giant roller bag — her dry-land sled. After Australia, Marquis couldn’t handle slaughtering more animals; she says it felt “like killing a friend.” So she decided to carry rice and hard biscuits (the latter inedible without “a nice, hot cup of tea”), which meant she would need to pull a cart. It now weighed 120 pounds.


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