Catherine is speaking at WordCamp Vancouver 2010

Posted by & filed under Blogosphere, Catherine, Events, Vancouver, Web 2.0, WordPress.

WordPress LogoHappy news, Vancouver-area WordPress users!

I’m pleased to confirm that, yes, I will be at WordCamp Vancouver 2010 on June 12. I’ll be speaking with Tris Hussey about the upcoming (Possibly just-released by then!) WordPress 3.0 and child themes. For more information about child themes, check out Tris’ blog.

Personally, I’m excited about the new content types and menu features available in WP 3.0 and I’m looking forward to seeing what people do with them. Remember, WordPress isn’t just for blogs!

As a longtime Drupal developer, I’m particularly impressed to realize that all but three sites I’ve ever worked on could be implemented in WordPress 3.0 as or more easily than the Drupal, ExpressionEngine, or Plone backends they were built with. As such, I’ll be paying close attention to the “WordPress as a CMS” panel discussion with Christine Rondeau, Cam Cavers, and Dave Zille.

I’ll also be volunteering at the WP Genius Bar, where I’ll be free to answer any questions you might have or help fix any problems you might be having with your blog. I’m particularly happy to offer advice on WP 3.0 or child themes, topics I enjoy doing more than just give talks about.

If you don’t already have tickets to WordCamp Vancouver, I’m afraid they’ve sold out, so tough beans. However, as the WordCamp Vancouver site notes:

Tickets are currently sold out, but we’re hoping to release a few more before the event, so hang tight!

Fingers crossed!

I hope to see you there–and if you have any questions about child themes, leave a comment on this post! I’d love to hear about what people are interested in.

In which Catherine attends FreelanceCamp Vancouver

Posted by & filed under Catherine, Events, Law, Vancouver.

Last Saturday, I attended the first FreelanceCamp Vancouver, the unconference for people who don’t have bosses or paycheques. I am happy to report that I had an excellent time and had several questions answered most satisfactorily.

See? Photographic evidence:

Catherine Winters typing on iPhone

Catherine Winters, typing on her iPhone. Photo by Jeremy Lim.

“Hey,” you might exclaim, upon seeing the above photo, your voice pitching with excitement in having caught me with my iPhone out. “Catherine’s not paying attention to the speaker at all! Look at her tweeting away!”

Pernicious lies! Zoom in, and you’ll find that’s not this “Twitter” thing all the kids have been talking about at all! No, in fact, I’m using the excellent cloud-based note-taking app Simplenote to take meticulously detailed, hierarchically-indented notes! Ha!

In fact, I took a great deal of notes on my iPhone that day, as FreelanceCamp Vancouver turned out to be extremely useful. I was particularly interested by the session I was at when Jeremy Lim snapped the above picture, Contracts for People Who Hate Contracts. Led by Martin Ertl, cofounder of Vancouver open-source contracts startup LexPublica, it covered a number of contingencies and best practices surrounding the most inconvenient of all business practices: agreeing on things for money.

Martin clarified a few issues for me, including, when I, as a designer, ought to write a single project-spanning contract as opposed to a preliminary contract to determine project scope and one to cover the actual work as outlined in the resulting scope document. Which is as important as it sounds. I’ve used one of LexPublica’s contracts before, and I plan to continue to do so in future. One point he did emphasize: the most important part of such an agreement is a good explanation of the actual work to be undertaken. It turns out that, “I’ll have one website, please” can mean somewhat different things to different people. Who knew?

Other highlights included Kemp Edmonds’ talk on how to ask Kemp Edmonds to not call you a plagiarist when you plagiarize his presentations, and one particularly interesting discussion on “solopreneurs”. Google indicates this is indeed a word, and it seems like everyone is using it to mean roughly the same thing. (“It’s not quite a freelancer, not quite an entrepreneur, but OH MAN–”)

The big distinction between a freelancer and a solopreneur seems to be that the solopreneur has somewhat more infrastructure–they’re able to go after larger projects because they can outsource, team up with, or subcontract to other freelancers and solopreneurs, dividing up labour, while still not having all the overhead of an actual company with employees.

Which sounds appealing. After all, companies are expensive, right?

In any event, whether it ends up being a direction I choose to go in or merely interesting food for thought in a changing economy, the solopreneurs session was fascinating, and you should’ve been there. So there.

If you weren’t able to make it, I strongly recommend any future FreelanceCamps Vancouver1 and I wholeheartedly endorse it as one of the most informative — and demographically representative – –Camp-suffixed events I’ve ever attended in Vancouver.

  1. That’s the correct plural, right? []

Boobquake: in which Catherine gets annoyed at the press

Posted by & filed under Blogosphere, Canada, Gender, History, LGBT, Memes, News, Politics, Pop Culture, Vancouver.

“So! Boobs, huh?”

That’s right, boobs. Or what-have-you.

“I don’t get it.”

Well, the other day, Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi–yes, he’s not even an Ayatollah. I know, right?–went and said some crazy shit about boobs and how they cause earthquakes.

Or more specifically, no, he didn’t really. As PBS explains:

While delivering his weekly address, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, Tehran’s hardline Friday prayer leader — the man who replaced Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the role — revealed what had caused the strange prognostications. “Adultery causes earthquake,” explained Sadeghi. “The incidence of sin has proliferated. Sins — such as the laxities of some women or the way some young people harass and ogle on street corners or some families don’t observe religious values and practices while they are traveling — have mushroomed,” he told millions of television viewers on April 16. “These allurements that some women and some girls apply to themselves outside their homes, the young people who are tempted and turn to promiscuity and commit sin — all this increases adultery. According to our sacred transmitted texts, this is one reason for the incidence of natural calamities. When sin proliferates, earthquakes become common.“

So of course, this was picked up by the international press. They love this stuff. The greatest focus, of course, was the sentence about “some women” and their “laxities”: namely, the “allurements” they “apply to themselves outside their homes”.1

This isn’t about boobs. It’s a nod of support, under the guise of religion–and frankly, I’m not even sure if Sedighi means it as some kind of badly-translated “we will bury you”-esque metaphor–for Ahmadinejad’s odious, dissent-quelling plan to depopulate Tehran.

“Depopulate Tehran? I hadn’t heard anything about this!”

You don’t say.

As you will no doubt recall, former Friday prayer leader Rafsanjani is currently Chairman of the Assembly of Experts. He’s also a former President of Iran and political opponent of current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the 2009 Iranian election crisis, Rafsanjani’s July 17th sermon (ostensibly) called for an end of censorship of the press condemned the state-sanctioned violence against protestors.2

Consequently, he is no longer Friday prayer leader.

Flash forward eight months, and Ahmadinejad is throwing out crazy ideas like maybe moving five million people away from Tehran:

The issue of moving people and organizations from Tehran has received much publicity since the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent call on Tehranis to pull up stakes and move to other cities.

Last week Ahmadinejad called on Tehranis to move to other cities because Tehran is earthquake-prone and if a massive quake hits this overpopulated mega city, the ensuing crisis will be unmanageable.

“Thanks to people’s prayers, Tehran’s fault lines are not active now,” but the occurrence of a massive earthquake in Tehran is certain, so at least five million should leave Tehran to make the crisis more manageable, Ahmadinejad said last week.

“Wait, wait, wait. Speaking as a hypothetical pro-Ahmadinejad Iranian-Analogue-to-the-Daily-Mail-reading Tehrani, I have to say that this proposal exists solely to save us from earthquakes.”

No. No it does not:

During the post-election events Tehran was the heart of the protests. Initiating rallies in huge numbers and acting as a model for other big and small cities of Iran with a concentration of most of the top universities and political, civil, cultural and economic organizations and a great magnet for young people coming to Tehran to either work or study.

So, good luck with that, Iran. Sorry about the press focusing on the boob thing.

…which brings us to last Monday, when Jen McCreight, Outgoing President of the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University, threw up a quick blog post proposing an experiment to show Sedighi what’s what:

Time for a Boobquake.

On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble.

As of this moment, the Facebook group for “Boobquake” boasts 60,000 members, and Google News is reporting over 430 separate news articles around the world. Countless blog posts have leveled criticism against McCreight, accusing her of…well, pretty much every nasty thing. I particularly enjoyed the concern over what would happen if there actually was an earthquake today. Cheeky know-it-all-ism–meet–Islamophobia, awesome.

“Say, this raises a good point! What do you have to say about this Boobquake stuff, Catherine?”

I’m glad you asked that question! It’s silly and irreverent and I’m going.

“Wait, you’re going!? But! But!”


The most obvious criticism leveled against Boobquake is that it promotes the objectification of women.3 And honestly, it’s easy to see why. Vancouver’s print media have not exactly paid much attention to anything beyond ZOMG BOOBS:

News1130 is on the street, finding full support for the shaker. “God has given me eyes to appreciate beauties,” says Vikram. He may see some beauties!

He asks what’s wrong with seeing the human body. “I’ll be the happiest man in the world if a woman comes in front of me and asks, ‘Can I buy a soda?’ And why not? I’ll open it for you… I’ll open the soda for you!”

Is that a euphemism?

The Boobquake will be shaking from 4:00pm-8:00pm at the VAG.

That’s some classy stuff, News1130.4

However, I really want to emphasize that while this story promotes the objectification of women, it is possible to write one that keeps it to a minimum about the same topic.

Even still, that Vancouver Province article annoys me for a variety of reasons.

First, what the heck do those women from Mission in the photo have to do with the rest of the article? There’s no explanation given as to who they are or why they were interviewed. They do have a very nice photo though–ohhhhhh. Good one, The Province.

Angela Squires will be monitoring seismic activity Monday from Vancouver as she and other women take up the busty bid to prove the cleric wrong in a show of solidarity at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Right on, Angela. Of course, Metro Vancouver (yes, yes) does note:

“I thought, ‘how ridiculous,’” said Squires, who will be showing off her legs instead of her cleavage because she’s had a double mastectomy.

Yes, that’s some super fact-checking, The Province.

Metro Vancouver further quotes Squires as saying:

“People — especially (those) who have a perceived authority — are coming out with ridiculous statements that are not necessarily questioned. And it’s important for all of us to question what comes at us.”

Honestly, Metro Vancouver wins this one,5 though the Province does at least mention the word “skeptic”–though not any of background of there being a broader skeptics and humanists movement.

“But aren’t you afraid that if you show up wearing a low-cut top, guys will stare at your chest?”

First of all, my chest is at eye level for most dudes. It happens. Second, no. I’m not going to let concern over what guys may or may not do impact how I dress. That absolutely stinks of victim-blaming and I find it despicable.

Straight Dudes, I really hate to be blunt here, but I don’t notice you as sexual humans. At most, you are rivals–and let’s face it, even that’s a stretch. I don’t care whether you find me attractive, and I’m not going to use that as a consideration in how I dress. However, I am going to allow whether or not other lesbians find me attractive to influence how I dress. Sure, there may be overlap, but that’s one venn diagram I really don’t care about.

I want to be very clear on this: I do what I do for me, not for anyone else, and I do so because I have the freedom to choose.

  1. “Outside their homes” is a great qualifier. Why, he’s practically Pierre Trudeau. []
  2. On the other hand, he’s wanted in Argentina on terrorism and murder charges. So really, this is a case where I can–at most–support his Selma-killing policies. []
  3. As we know, women’s bodies should be hidden away beneath a chador at all times. Y’know, so they’ll be respected. []
  4. Also, you can’t spell. []
  5. I know. I’m scared too. []

Catherine’s Guide to Backups, Part 1

Posted by & filed under Apple, Catherine, Gadgets, Learning is fun!.

So there I was at Best Buy, finally taking care of that “backups” business.1

Since Apple added their super-convenient Time Machine app to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, I’d been meaning to get around to using it. A year later, I bought a simple external USB drive, a Western Digital MyPassport. Easy. Tiny. USB-powered.2

So I finally made it to the counter to pay for the thing. No, I hadn’t shopped there before. Would I like to sign up for the Best Buy blah blah card thing? I sure would! And I proceeded to do so. Take that, people behind me in line.

“Oh, my email address? Certainly. It’s ‘catherine’…”

*tap tap tap*


*tap tap tap*



“Uh…no. I mean, yes, my name is Catherine. You spelled that correctly. My email address is Catherine at”

*tap tap tap*

“Catherine with a ‘C’.”

And so on and so forth. So that was pretty fun.

Protip: Once Best Buy security agrees not to call the police if you promise never to set foot in the store again, you can partition your external drive as half Time Machine and half storage, formatting it for convenience’s sake as NTFS, not MacOSX-native HFS+. The NTFS 3G driver for OSX allows you to both read and write NTFS-formatted drives, and you’ll still be able to connect to Windows PCs should need arise.

If you do this, however, you have to be really careful about ejecting the stupid thing properly. If any files get damaged, you’ll lose write access to the NTFS partition and the resulting error message will in no way be helpful. If you suddenly find that you can’t write to an NTFS-formatted disk, plug the thing into a Windows PC and run chkdsk on it to fix the errors.

Congratulations, I just saved you three hours of Googling.

Next Time: In Case of Fire.

  1. Yeah, you know that time that your computer died and you lost everything and you said, “next time, I’m going to do regular backups” and then you didn’t? I’m marginally smarter than you. []
  2. Unfortunately, my 5-year-old Dell 24″ monitor has a crappy, crappy USB hub that causes my MacBook Pro to kernel panic whenever Time Machine starts–Windows users: that’s the OSX version of a bluescreen. There’s an app for that. So I lose a USB port; no hub for you, WD My Passport! This is actually a good reason to use Firewire, come to think of it. []

In which Catherine is even more conspicuous than usual

Posted by & filed under Catherine, Complaint Department, Exercise, Talking to Catherine.

“Wow, Catherine! You’re wearing a sling and everything!”

Yeah! I tore my rotator cuff1 doing extreme sports.

“It’s a good thing you wore your loosest possible jeans to work then, isn’t it? Really tight ones would make going to the bathroom really, really difficult.”

It sure would. Dammit.

  1. Yes, again. []

Catherine is not speaking at SL Pro!

Posted by & filed under Catherine, Events, Second Life.

Contrary to popular belief, I will not be speaking at the upcoming SL Pro! conference this month. I had some recent questions about that point, so I wanted to clear things up in case you were planning on emailing me:

  • To say you are excited to hear I was speaking
  • To ask questions about why on earth I would speak at SL Pro!
  • Expressing surprise that I have been in Second Life at all in the past 2 years
  • Telling me I have no business speaking about anything
  • Complaining about a video you saw of me
  • Complaining about LSL
  • Complaining about a script I wrote in 2004
  • Asserting that women who use computers or are literate taint the purity of the Aryan race–yes, even women of colour–and that gays and lesbians should be arrested and sent to concentration camps.

So yeah, I just wanted to clear that up.

On Haiti and Sarcasm

Posted by & filed under Canada, News, Suggestion Box.

Dear CBC Commenter:

I understand that “some of [your] best friends are Haitian” and that you’re only talking about the “bad ones” when you say “Canada will be overrun by gangs and HIV” if we fast-track the immigration process for Haitian refugees. I get that you’re not really a racist, I do.

In fact, I totally agree with your thoughts on it being “their problem” for living on a fault line, or that “those people” should have taken matters into their own hands and risen up against the succession of vile dictators more frequently. Clearly a country with such a rich history of coups could do better. Heck, the Americans were there for 20 years to help out, and where are their thanks?

And let’s face it, a country that poor? “What would they do for us,” indeed?

…you complete asshole.

A decade in the life of…

Posted by & filed under Apple, Catherine, History, LGBT, Vancouver.

January 1, 2000
The Y2K bug does not result in airplanes falling from the sky, stock markets crashing, or nuclear missiles launching on their own. Pundits decry the wasteful spending of billions to ensure nothing significant happened. IT departments worldwide sputter in bewilderment. “But! But!”

October, 2000
I come out to a few select friends and family. My parents immediately fight over which one of them is most accepting of it. It later turns out the answer is “neither”.

September 11, 2001
The American Century comes to a close. The subsequent decade sees Western civilization dig its heels in, ineptly seeking security and short-term gains at all costs. I watch CNN for 6 months straight.

October 23, 2001
Apple releases the iPod. I fail to see what the big deal is. Investors disagree significantly on this point.

December 20, 2002
Second Life? What’s that?” I ask as I click the link. “What a stupid name!”

February 1, 2003
I move to Vancouver on an ill-advised whim. The next three years are…interesting. To this day, I still wake up thinking cockroaches are eating dead skin off my face.

January 14, 2006
Some dude cuts most of my face off and totally goes to town on my skull with power tools. Fortunately, he was a doctor. I can breathe through my nose now.

August, 2006
As a part-time contract LSL developer, I am paid in US dollars. Currency fluctuations force me to give up LSL development in favour of working a minimum wage retail job. I like it a lot better.

November 18, 2006
I manage to get published for the first time. It is not exactly my finest work.

December 20, 2006
I’ve just been told about this new CMS that’s supposed to be pretty good. “Drupal? More like Poo–pal!” I exclaim to a circle of blank, embarrassed faces. Nice.

April 21, 2007
A lab test indicates I may have cancer. Subsequent tests indicate I have stress. I consider remedying both by having alcoholism.

July 22, 2008
My Palm Treo dies. I buy an iPhone. Unfortunately, everyone I know can be divided into two camps: People who already have iPhones and people who don’t care that I am now the coolest person ever.

August 15, 2008
I learn my knee pain is likely to be the result of osteoarthritis. At such an early age, the implication is that I will not be able to walk in 10 years.

September 1, 2008
I am told I do not have osteoarthritis after all. As such, I am likely to continue walking for some time. “Your knees look great,” the doctor says, peering at the x-ray. “Say, how much exercise do you get?

January 1-Dec 31, 2009
I endure a great deal of bullshit. My friends are kept appraised of the situation–to their dismay.

And that’s what I did during the aughts. How about you?

Mount Pleasant burns down… again.

Posted by & filed under Vancouver.

I just got back from Kingsway and Broadway, the scene of the latest highly suspicious fire in Mount Pleasant.


For now, I’ve uploaded a Flickr set–tags to follow shortly.

With typical Vancouver cynicism, consensus among most of the bystanders (also, news media, city workers, firefighters, etc.) seemed to be that the soon-to-be-constructed condo towers at Kingsway and Broadway and Main and Broadway would be very nice and profitable indeed.

Update: The Vancouver Sun has also posted an extensive gallery of pre-dawn photos.

Update #1: I made a Google Map illustrating what might be in store for Main Street when developers get some of this land rezoned.

Better living through labels

Posted by & filed under Catherine, Mental Health.

“Your family just moves from one crisis to another,” my therapist said.

As an introverted, queer teenager, I’d been forced to talk to a pretty long list of psychologists and psychiatrists. Despite this, I’d certainly had never heard one make a lot of sense before. Psychotic fundamentalist bullshit, certainly, but an accurate observation?

I was shocked. I hadn’t seen her long, but so far, we’d mostly talked about my strained relationship with my parents. And she was right. We totally did. She emphasized to me that she was my therapist, not my parents’, but made no bones about the fact that she thought a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder was pretty fitting for one of them.

Ten years later, I suspect I’ve still got the ‘crisis’ habit, despite my best efforts. My friend S. disagrees, convinced mine is a calm, measured response to the universe’s inherent anti-Catherine nature. Still, my therapist’s words have always stuck with me, as I worry about whether I might have inherited anything more serious than a habit.1

On that note, this article from Scientific American was particularly interesting to me, as it discusses biological components of BPD, but also implies that, as with autism, ADD and mood disorders, there exists a “drama queen” spectrum. Neat. Maybe there’s a drama queen Kinsey scale.

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Deal with a Drama Queen” (via Pete Quily)

  1. Remember kids, the secret to not being crazy is to constantly ask yourself if you might be. []