The Holy Grail

Everybody has a quest, or a problem they would like to solve. This I truly believe.

It could be Fermat’s Last Theorem (wait, that’s been solved) or something from Graph Theory. Could be Cold Fusion. (I had a client who wanted to make a video documentary on the subject.) Or a cure for cancer. Maybe all it takes is eating pumpkin seeds. Who knows? We all want to believe that we have something special to impart to the universe. A little gift that we can leave behind.

Now I find myself with some time on my hands. It’s true I’m facing a truly horrific job market. Just watched a longtime development partner’s business implode. He wouldn’t take seriously my warnings to tighten up his ship, even when I found and shared with him a subdomain that was blatantly hacked in February of this year.

I could send out 50 resumes a day, I guess, and hope to hear something back, but that’s really not my style. I am going after my own Holy Grail. It involves me getting significantly more technical (hardware, networking, and OS as well as client-side) so that’s always a plus. In every business I’ve run, I’ve delegated as much as possible — while taking primary responsibility for marketing, sales, bookkeeping, raising capital, and market research / long term strategy. All of those tasks take time — a lot more than you would think. I am just going to put those tasks by the wayside for a while and concentrate on tech. Some of what I’m doing relates to my work on Lotus Petal Architecture. That part may actually be marketable in a year or three. Some of it is pure creative inquiry. I think that’s the best way to describe my goals and motivation, since I’m not a scientist (self-taught, took one computer science class in college in PASCAL, plus a summer course in Java).

I have the luxury right now of living cheap and living well. For instance, I found out you could buy a two-lb bag of bacon ends and pieces at the local Safeway for only $6. Great in salads. I like it with some fresh strawberries, spring greens, hard boiled eggs, olive oil and lemon juice. Plus of course salt and pepper. Maybe I’ll post a picture later.

“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
Ecclesiastes 9:11

How Do You See Gender?

I submitted this as draft post to Hacker Noon just under a week ago. Haven’t heard anything back from them. I know I could get it published in one of the other Medium zines I contribute to, just by changing the title to something like “My Pronouns are She and He.” Then I could do a little educational segment on what it means to be genderfluid. The more you know, right?

Transphobia is only part of the problem. Because the issue isn’t just how you present your gender — it’s also how you treat everyone else, regardless of whether their gender presentation (cis, trans, queer, nonbinary) matches up with yours.

Don’t Call Me a Cool Girl

Women in tech need to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes

Sexism is old news. Nothing special, right? We know what women are supposed to do. We are supposed to stick together. We’re supposed to have each other’s backs. But what happens when other women don’t do their part? What happens when our sisters betray us?

Some would accuse me of falling into the “Cool Girl Trap” because I have male friends. Huffington Post defines this conundrum as “the one who goes out of her way to say that she gets along with men better than women. The one who considers herself one of the guys.”

The problem with this rhetorical “trap” is that not all of us fall neatly into the gender binary. What is wrong with liking kickboxing, fast cars, and electric guitar? I consider myself genderfluid — which means I possess some stereotypically male traits as well as traits culturally accepted as female.

To be clear, I think sexism is less of a problem than racism. But it is still a huge problem. In 2021, women make 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes (NBC News). We have yet to elect a woman president. I work in the male-dominated tech industry, which brings unique challenges. One of these challenges is gender presentation.

I generally present as “femme,” or feminine. This makes me a target of partner jealousy — a situation that occurs when men’s wives or girlfriends act as gatekeepers, controlling access to women that they see as a threat. On one occasion, I was trying to recruit a male programmer for my new company. I wanted to share a demo that contained proprietary information, but he insisted that his girlfriend attend too. The end result was that the demo didn’t happen.

Many men allow their significant others to police their relationships and forbid them from getting too close to other women. This arrangement is known colloquially as being under “lock and key.”

In theory, this should be no problem for women in business. We should simply connect with other women and kick ass.

Sort of like that Ghostbusters remake. Or something.

The problem is, separate but equal is not equal.

I actually did put together an all-female founding team for a mobile app. We bonded and put a lot of time and effort into our new startup, but we were never funded at the level we needed to be competitive. I almost cried when we lost our tech lead to a full-time, well-paying job in the public sector.

I had a prominent mentor and member of the tech investing community beg off from advising me because, he said, “Most of the entrepreneurs I work with are older dads, like me.”

It took me two years and three months from the date of that conversation to find a female mentor in my industry. There are simply not that many of us. My new female mentor helped me get my presentation accepted at a well-known conference; however she didn’t show up for my talk. To my knowledge, she never watched the video recording.

COVID-19 and school closures have increased our isolation, as more women stay at home and take on increased responsibility for housework and childcare. “Cosmos with the Girls” and “Craft Night” become distant memories instead of something helping us get through our week.

Partner jealousy can affect both men and women. All that I can say is that I prefer to believe in a world where people trust each other — and see each other as people first, and sexual objects second or not at all. My personal belief is that if you can’t trust your partner, you shouldn’t be with them at all.

I do not say this lightly.

I lost my husband to infidelity more than a decade ago. He was tall and handsome, a Harvard Law grad, and a “catch” by anyone’s estimation. He always had more female friends than guy friends. Many of these were colleagues at his firm or friends from college. We planned backpacking trips in the Sierras with our mutual female friends. Another single female college friend, who was in training to be a rabbi, flew down to North Carolina to visit and took part in an egg hunt at our new house. These friendships were part of the tapestry of our community. I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

I love Harry Potter as much as anybody else, but J.K. Rowling made a serious misstep when she attacked the transgender community. Most people exhibit a combination of gender traits. Trying to force people into one box or the other is cruel and shortsighted.

Rigid gender apartheid is also a great way to isolate people and keep them from finding genuine common ground. Partner jealousy and mistrust of other women keeps women isolated and focused on the basic survival tasks of caring for themselves, their elders, their children, and in many cases their husbands or boyfriends. We are not taught to look beyond gender or to recognize each other’s basic humanity.

Trust, boundaries, and clear expectations are what form the ties that last. This holds true for business and creative partnerships as well as dating and romance. I want to envision a world where all people are free to interact with each other as equals.

“Divide and conquer” won’t work on women for much longer. We’re too smart to keep being fooled.

A Really Bad Day

Ever have a really bad day? That was Friday, March 12 for me. I still wonder whether I may have had brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning. It has been nearly a month and I still haven’t heard anything back from official channels, so I am re-posting below.

Written Statement for Law Enforcement

March 13, 2021

Tess Gadwa
Founder and Product Architect, Lotus.fm LLC

I wish to provide a statement concerning the events that happened the first week of March 2021, while I was staying in Charlotte, NC. I do not know whether these matters fall under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but none of this information is privileged. My wish is that it be shared with law enforcement prior to being shared with anyone else.

On the morning of Friday, March 5, I got into my rental car, rented from the Charlotte, NC Douglas Airport Budget Rental Car Agency, to drive from my hotel, the Airport Hampton Inn to South Park Mall. I was just a few minutes into the trip when I noticed myself getting sleepy. I had noticed this problem in the car before, but chalked it up to jet lag and stress. That morning it was much, much worse. I found myself rapidly losing consciousness. It occurred to me suddenly that this might be carbon monoxide poisoning. I looked for a spot to pull over, and found myself at the Exxon station on Clanton Road. I got out of the car and after a few minutes I was fine. I called for a tow, which eventually arrived (pictures attached). I explained to the tow truck driver how the vents pushed out only hot air, even when you turned them all the way around — and that the AC didn’t work. I showed him the vents and cautioned him not to drive the car.

Whatever the possible explanation, it is my belief that the car has a carbon monoxide leak and should be recalled from the rental agency and labeled unsafe at any speed. The attached pictures clearly identify the vehicle — a black Kia Forte, license plate Massachusetts 9EH-189.

I currently reside in Portland, Oregon, but can be reached by phone, Zoom conference, or email. I would be willing to travel to North Carolina to testify in court.

TFW (The Band-Aid Solution)

Originally published by Rose C. on Medium on .

For anyone not up on slang, TFW stands for “That Feeling When”…

TFW when you first heard about George Floyd’s death. You just realize the cops have gone too far this time. This time is different. You wonder what’s going to happen next.

TFW when you hear about the protests, and you think, “If Black lives matter, why are people putting themselves at risk by marching in large crowds and gatherings?” COVID is not gone. In fact, infection rates are still growing all over the country. They are just growing more slowly, i.e. 10–20% growth rather than exponential growth.

TFW when you get texts from friends in other parts of the country (Denver, Minneapolis) about the protests and the riots, with violence happening only a few blocks from their houses. You check the local news and see reports of buildings on fire and cars overturned — only a few miles from your neighborhood.

TFW when you realize you may be personally at risk, more from roving gangs of white supremacists than from the protesters themselves. You can just see those ugly skinheads driving over the bridge in a pickup truck loaded with guns and picking your apartment complex as an easy target.

TFW when you say something stupid on a private hacker forum.

And you realize it could get you in trouble.

We’ve all had that feeling, right?

What I said was that I wanted a gun, whether it was legal or not. I panicked. I was totally panicking, in that moment. That’s all it was. By the way, I’m not a gun nut, or a gun enthusiast, and one week later I think that was almost certainly a bad idea.

Why was I even talking to a bunch of 2600 people in Albany? I guess because I thought they were my friends. I’ve always felt like I had more in common with computer geeks than almost anyone else, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore hacker. Definitely not a cracker. (Except I guess in the other sense. That can’t be helped.)

To be totally honest, I don’t “hack” into anything. No DOS attacks or aggressive actions. I build things. My specialty is more UX/UI. The languages I know are nothing to write home about. And I write my own code, albeit slowly. I do have a boutique cryptocurrency (Omni blockchain) but I guess what I’m best at is developing new kinds of user interfaces. For AR, VR, or just plain ol’ web and mobile. The more technical the product, the better.

TFW when you start to wonder if your system has been hacked by the Feds.

Because…

Let’s see. You gave them probable cause. Assuming there were any law enforcement agents hanging out in that particular cell of 2600 (as seems extraordinarily likely… I think I even knew who it was), they now maybe have something on me. Keep in mind, I changed my mind about seeking to possess an illegal firearm about two seconds later. But a screen cap can be taken out of context. Context is everything.

Other reasons why I have wondered this week whether I am being surveilled…

  • My computer abruptly slowed down. I could only open one power app (for example Photoshop) at a time. Sometimes running even a web browser dragged like a wheelbarrow full of bricks. I could barely run Spotify at all.
  • Weird artifacts that I have not seen before — such as having the Firefox icon appear in the taskbar twice.
  • Internet was also intermittently, quite slow. We are talking 4MB files that took over a minute to download, from my own gmail account.
  • Most worrisome of all, my phone, which runs off a totally different ISP, was also intermittently slow. Some secure domains would not load at all.

That’s all, really. Still much more likely that I downloaded a virus or have a hardware failure on my main computer. I know all this. You could say I’m a little on the paranoid side. But it messes with your head when you think you’re being watched.

The Band-Aid Solution

My solution was to finally do what I had silently mocked other paranoid people I knew for doing: cover up the camera on my main computer. I used a band-aid, so that I could easily restore and remove the covering for teleconferences and the like.

Now I need to get some better firewalls. For Mac.

I have no idea why I would be singled out for this kind of treatment and again, I should stress that it’s far more likely this is all in my imagination. This didn’t prevent me from cussing out the NSA before I put the band-aid over my camera. I used the worst words I could think of.

I am guilty of being scared shitless, saying something stupid, and immediately changing my mind. That is all. I have nothing to hide. No illegal activities at all. I don’t even torrent.

I guess it’s possible that having a former cofounder who was offered a job working for the government (she wouldn’t tell me where), and an ex-boyfriend who built a darknet might attract undue attention. It’s also possible that being openly out and female might draw some special scrutiny in the hacker world. That’s about all I can think of.

Hopefully the law enforcement community has better things to focus their time on. I am very law-abiding.