People Writing

I am nuts about Herb Caen

If San Francisco can be represented by one person, that person is Herb Caen. And this week he is being celebrated: It’s Herb Caen week in San Francisco.

I wasn’t raised in San Francisco, but I know of Herb. And even if I didn’t know of “Herb Caen”, directly, I know of the type of man he was — the ultimate newspaper man. A symbol of days both more glamorous and grittier, weightier and frothier, and somehow more elegant than anything we can hope to achieve today.

In a reprint of one of Caen’s articles, What is San Francisco he wrote:

IT’S THE dramatically sudden appearance of more men in uniform than you’ve ever seen on the streets — symbols of a giant awakening to conflict, perhaps to blot out the peace and loveliness of All This . . . It’s the raucous, stark revival meeting at Third and Mission — where a man yells hysterically that he’s been “Saved!” while all about him drift broken men who’ll never be Saved, and the sightless windows of the surrounding buildings throw his words back at him scoffingly.

Herb Caen — 1940

There will never be another Herb Caen in print. There will never be a Herb Caen in the glossy pages of a magazine. And there will never be a Herb Caen in makeup in front of the camera reading from a teleprompter. However, if you read what he writes, if you read how he writes, then you know that someday, somehow, there will be another Herb Caen…

… and he’ll be here, among us. Another weblogger.

Take a moment and read about Herb:

Making the Rounds in Baghdad-by-the-Bay
Herb’s Homepage
Herb Caen Days
Herb Caen: We’ll Never Go There Anymore
Herb and the Samoans — we know this one — a simple gaff leading to dangerous misunderstanding
FBI hated Beloved San Francisco Columnist
Herb Caen: Once more with Feeling

Just Shelley People Political Weblogging

Where weblogging shouldn’t go

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I made a mistake last Friday — I thought to introduce conflicting viewpoints to demonstrate that one can, intellectually, appreciate more than one viewpoint on an issue. This was a mistake because there are some issues that one cannot discuss from the detached, bloodless core that exists at the root of all intellectual discourse.

We’re seeing the collapse of the Arab Summit amidst more suicide bombings in Israel. We’re witnessing a seemingly non-ending spiral that can only have devastating consequences. Ira Riftkin writes of the conflict:

Israelis cannot kill Palestinian aspirations without obliterating the Palestinians, and no number of Palestinian attacks will force Israel to surrender meekly, certainly not after the Holocaust.

Faced with such stark words, what possible intellectual spin could we put on this issue? Without sounding hollow and vain?

I was a foolish woman who forgot for a moment that blood issues such as this go beyond any form of “reasoning” one can do with the written word, no matter how eloquent the writing, no matter how intelligent the communicator, no matter how erudite the audience. To have brought this topic up in my weblog was the absolute height of vanity and arrogance. And I have paid for this attempted intellectual encapsulation of such a dire, incredibly sad, and heartbreaking situation as exists in the Middle East.

My desperate hope is that there are others out there more capable than I that can find a solution to this tragedy before we are faced with the complete extermination of a people — whether the people be Israelis or Palestinians, or both.

And now I apologize to all of you for having originated this topic in this weblog, first out of intellectual vanity, and later in a fit of anger and self-righteousness. If I decide to continue with this weblog, I will not do so again in the future.

Diversity Just Shelley People

Stand and Fight

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I received a BS in computer science, the first one within a specific sub-discipline (programming languages and compiler design) that was issued at the college I attended. I also received a BA in psychology — emphasis on industrial psychology. I took courses for both disciplines at the same time, usually having computer classes in the morning, psych classes in the afternoon.

One thing both fields required was that I take math, sometimes very advanced math, including graduate level statistics. I had little trouble in all my subjects, but my math grades were heavily erratic. For instance, I did fairly well with my first quarter of College Calculus, getting an A-. You can imagine the puzzlement of the head of the Math department when I almost failed my second quarter of Calculus, taken with a different teacher.

We had meetings on the topic. He was puzzled because my first teacher actually had an reputation for being a bit of a hard ass when it came to not cutting any slack to any students. So why did I do so well with him, when I didn’t with the second teacher who actually wasn’t as tough when it came to tests and requirements.

I wondered about that, myself. It wasn’t until later that I realized the big differences between the two teachers: interest in answering questions.

Mr. Knobel was a no nonsense teacher who was also extremely adept at explaining concepts. There literally was no such thing as a stupid question to this man. If you asked him anything, he would take the time to answer you, dispassionately and in detail. He wouldn’t stop answering until you could prove to him that you understood what he was saying. An incredibly patient man.

The second teacher, whose name I can’t remember, was passionately in love with math, and loved to talk with others who loved math just as passionately as he did. If you asked him a question he would quickly flip off an answer and then get frustrated if you didn’t catch what he was saying the first time. The only way to get the detail you wanted was to “weather” the frustration until you got the answer you needed.

I did very well with one, and almost failed with the other. I’m not stupid. I am capable of learning. I currently own several math books and have pursued math on my own, quietly, since college. I like math. So why did I almost fail with the second teacher?

Now, I bet your first reaction about now is that I’m going to start a long conversation about how the second teacher needed to change, to become more approachable, to learn to work with women differently and so on. Well, I’m not. You see, he wasn’t the one that needed to change — I was the one who needed to change.

Other students in that second teacher’s class also had the same problem I did. However, many of the male students would pursue the question regardless of the teacher’s frustration. They wouldn’t stop hitting at him with questions until they got the answers they needed.

As for me, I now know that everytime I hit the teacher’s frustration, his disappointment that I didn’t understand what he was saying, I backed off. I couldn’t face his disappointment, even though it really wasn’t personal. I couldn’t face his frustration, even though it really didn’t impact negatively on me.

Skip forward, modern day weblogging world:

Elaine posted a note about Opine Bovine at both her weblog and BlogSisters. She says:

Once upon a time, there was a clever young blogger whose address was She’s disappeared off the web as far as any of us know, and she disappeared purposely. She made herself disappear because, as she explained before she packed up her bags and blogs and moved on, that she was being cyberharrassed and didn’t know how to make it stop. It makes me so mad to think that all of that pain is following us here. Is there so safe place for women?

I also talked via email with Elise about the problems she had. I was aware of the harrassment she’s endured for a considerable time. However, I am also frustrated that she left. My first reaction was, and I posted this in a comment at Elaine’s:

I had discussions with Elise about this before she quit. I respect her quitting, but I wish she hadn’t. What I would rather have happened is her tell the world about it and enlist several techies to help her in dealing with it. Then she could have continued and we could have taught some asshole a lesson.

Isn’t the lesson we’re learning from this is to run rather than stand and fight?

Stand and fight.

My first impulse to some (not all, some) of the reaction to my postings this weekend about BlogSisters, and ultimately about sexism was to drop the subject as being too difficult a topic to cover. However, that’s an action that women have been taking since the dawn of time — when faced with disapproval, anger, disagreement, fall back, give up, compromise.

Kath was right when she said in my comments, “Sexism is NOT ‘percieved’ if you are on the receiving end.” She supports this statement by a posting that discusses this topic more detail. And her sentiment was echoed by Sharon in a comment when she says “What bothers me is when people say things like ‘this *perceived* gender bias’….perceived?? Like we make this shit up??”

Jeneane says in a posting at BlogSisters, “…I have noticed that the posts of women bloggers are often overlooked when it comes to linking and discussion in the greater world of blogging. And I think that’s wrong. We do have something to say.”

These are topics worth pursuing. This is a discussion worth having. And if you’re not interested in listening, then turn the channel because I’m just getting started.