How to write like a man

by Steve, January 5th, 2009

Or: How to govern like a woman

On the day that Portland’s seventh-ever woman city commissioner was sworn in, Anna Griffin ran a non-apology in The Oregonian for once (or was it twice?) having called then-candidate Amanda Fritz “shrill.”

Fritz objected to this, naturally, as sexist (how many times has an Oregonian columnist called a man shrill?).

In Griffin’s completely insubstantial column Saturday [warning! Oregonian link; will be dead within two weeks], she begins with “an apology” but goes right on to repeat the original offense:

Fritz can be shrill, in the dictionary sense of the word. Her voice rises to a sharp and sometimes scary point when she’s irritated. Her tendency to nitpick and parse every last syllable and statistic might prove beneficial for taxpayers but can be… an obstacle to building consensus.

Griffin goes to some length to show her feminist cred, but in the end, she can’t rise above her own glee in thinking she’s getting away with it just one more time.

Give ’em hell at City Hall, Commissioner. Just don’t be too shrill about it, OK?

That’s right, folks, on this historical day for women in government in the state of Oregon and the City of Portland, a columnist for the biggest daily in the state called Amanda Fritz “shrill” not once, but twice, in a column ostensibly intended as an apology for having called her shrill in the past.

Hey, why not go ahead and call her hysterical, too?

I can appreciate that Griffin is trying to be humorous, in the mold of old-boy newspaper columnists paid good money to crank out 15 column inches of pablum a couple times a week.

But even if she were any good in that role, what purpose does it serve in the age of electronic media? Her column won’t even be easily available after 14 days, so who cares what Griffin writes in the rapidly declining Oregonian? (This blog entry, gods and goddesses willing, will be available in the archives as long as there is an Internet.)

Fortunately, Amanda doesn’t care what they say in the ol’ fish wrapper. She didn’t want me to write this. She thought it best just to let it go. She’s probably right, but there are a number of lessons here.

One lesson is about the waning relevance of the Big City Daily and the limited range of voices they publish.

A more important lesson is about women of substance, especially those unafraid of appearing feminine, who seek and attain power, and the higher standards by which they are judged when compared to men (or to women who act like men). Griffin clearly doesn’t get this, or can’t articulate it if she does. She mumbles through a few paragraphs about Condoleezza Rice and Hillary and Oregon’s political women, but somehow fails to say anything of substance vis-à-vis Amanda Fritz’s election as a woman who did not play the good ol’ boy game to get elected.

She got elected on her own terms, with massive popular support in a very crowded field of men — all without acting like a man.

I supported Amanda in part because she is a woman, and because she thinks like a woman. We need her attention to detail, and I want her to take stands on principle, even if it blocks consensus. If you call that kind of passion, conviction and steady ferocity shrill, you need a better thesaurus.

Soupin’ it up

by Steve, January 5th, 2009

For the first time in our avocation as a Web publishers, the family server has been upgraded to a brand new machine.

Until the last box could no longer keep up with the load, I was committed to using only discarded hardware running free software to keep the ol’ Wacky Enterprises blog farm humming. I’m still committed to open source software, but ever-increasing traffic had grown beyond the last machine’s ability to cope.

The last straw was when a disk on the old box started showing errors, and the price of a new machine was only a little more than the price of a new disk. Go figure; I guess the time had come.

The new unit features a modern, fast, 64-bit dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM. This may not sound impressive, but it replaces a single-core 32-bit machine with 256MB of RAM, which was a replacement for the original box, a 200MHz Pentium Pro with 32MB or RAM.

For the non-nerds, that basically means that performance issues we suffered due to memory swapping on our old machine should be non-existent with this one.

For the nerds, on the old machine I had to tune apache to keep it from spawning too many child processes, lest the machine run out of memory, start swapping, and bring the blog farm to its knees. Even with careful tuning, the old machine was so short on memory, it was constantly teetering on swapping, and I had to have a process monitor the load average and kill and restart Web server processes from time to time. That meant the Web server would get itself wedged into a corner, visitors would have timeouts and authors wouldn’t know if their post got saved.

The new box hummed through its first day today without a hiccup (and without the load average rising above 0.31).

For those who are really interested in the nerdly details, here are the particulars:

  • Intel Core Duo CPU E7300 @ 2.66GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Linux x86_64 (openSUSE 11.1)
  • MySQL, Apache, PHP, WordPress