Pride in Alan Turing

Apple Logo-A symbol of Gay Pride and remembrance of Alan Turing’s death? Last night I was reading the book Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. (Thanks for lending it to me Justin!) I’m only a few chapters in but I learned something really important about the history of computers. Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, was gay. I mention this not in shock or surprise but in pride. I think it’s wonderful. I’m just really concerned that I’m just now learning this. Maybe it’s because I never researched it. Maybe it’s because people don’t talk or write about it. Well, I’m going to write about it.

I feel that the public history of computer science is incomplete. When we teach the history of computer science or even just talk about it online we need to mention the details of people’s lives. Why? Details inform their work. They give us a fuller image of the men and women we respect and admire. They give us something to connect with. I know that you can be great at what you do no matter your sexual preference, gender, or race – but these things do make a difference. We need to celebrate our uniqueness. Especially freedom loving computer geeks. 🙂

The fact is the majority of geeks online are men – white, heterosexual, men. Not all geeks are men, but a majority are. (Once I have the data to prove this I’ll link to it. But a safe theory I believe.) I happen to be a heterosexual male and am ashamed of this majority I belong to.

The age of hetero male geeks ranges from early teens to senior adults. Sadly many guy geeks where once nerdy teenagers that were uncomfortable with their own sexuality. Young geeks can be pretty immature about sexuality online. Could this contribute to the lack of mainstream discussion of gayness among computer geeks?

While researching the Alan Turing some more I discovered that right before his death he was convicted by Britian’s discriminatory anti-gay law known as,

gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. Turing was unrepentant and was convicted. [Why the hell should he repent?] Although he could have been sent to prison, he was placed on probation, conditional on him undergoing hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. He accepted the oestrogen hormone injections, which lasted for a year, with side effects including the development of breasts. His conviction led to a removal of his security clearance and prevented him from continuing consultancy for GCHQ on cryptographic matters.

Via Wikipedia

This is so incredibly sad. Imagine how many MORE wonderful accomplishments for humanity Turing could have given if he wasn’t harassed, tortured, and possibly murdered. How disrespectful it is to have treated him this way. No man or woman should be treated this way – no matter the time or place. But for such a person who has given our planet so much to be treated this way is difficult to comprehend. We need to make sure that all history books discuss sexuality – and other things – relating to historic people while teaching their accomplishments. To hell with don’t ask don’t tell!

More interesting information from Wikipedia about Turing:

In 1954, he died of cyanide poisoning, apparently from a cyanide-laced apple he left half-eaten. The apple itself was never tested for contamination with cyanide, and cyanide poisoning as a cause of death was established by a post-mortem. Most believe that his death was intentional, and the death was ruled a suicide. It is rumored that this method of self-poisoning was in tribute to Turing’s beloved film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His mother, however, strenuously argued that the ingestion was accidental due to his careless storage of laboratory chemicals. Friends of his have said that Turing may have killed himself in this ambiguous way quite deliberately, to give his mother some plausible deniability. The possibility of assassination has also been suggested, owing to Turing’s involvement in the secret service and the perception of Turing as a security risk due to his homosexuality.

In the book, Zeroes and Ones, author Sadie Plant speculates that the rainbow Apple logo with a bite taken out of it was an homage to Turing. This seems to be an urban legend as the Apple logo was designed in 1976, two years before Gilbert Baker’s rainbow pride flag.

From now on I’ll always think about Turing and his accomplishments when I see the rainbow Apple logo. It’s design may have not been intentionally symbolic but in my mind it is forever repurposed. Here’s to Alan Turing’s accomplishments! Cheers!

Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice

Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice

From Mobile to New Orleans March 14-19, 2006

March 19, 2006 is the 3rd anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Veterans for Peace is organizing this five-day march along Gulf Coast Highway 90 to demand the immediate return of our troops from Iraq, and to call for U.S. tax dollars to be spent on human priorities and rebuilding of the devastated Gulf Coast, instead of the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Support Americans in Iraq and the Gulf Coast—bring them home NOW!

Find more info at Here is a pdf of the flyer. Download, print, copy, distribute.

Unisex Bathrooms

Unisex Ok… this post isn’t spam beacuse it’s title has the word sex in it. (might attract a lot of spam. tho’…) The fact is gender is a very important part of our lives. It’s who we are, literally. Gender is Political. How we function and live is very important. Dis-Ability is Political.

So this morning I saw this sign. It is a xeroxed peice of paper COVERING a permanent women’s bathroom sign in a university building. It reads; “UNISEX” “It Does not matter if you have a vagina, penis, or other, ALL bathrooms should be accessible to ALL people.”, and “Should be Accessible to Differently-Abled People”

Interesting awareness campaign. I’d call this protest art. (Sidenote: I took these pics with my Treo 650 camera, then uploaded them to Flickr. Capturing stuff like this is what makes a mobile camera with a network connection awesome!)

Unisex pt. 2

Unisex pt3

Audio from Greensboro’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings

Listen to testimony during the third round of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission public hearings held Sept. 30-Oct. 1.
Recorded and edited by Ed Whitfield, a volunteer for the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

There are twenty five mp3s that are approximately thirty minutes long. Wow! Ed Cone and other Greensboro bloggers have been covering the recent events of this story well. A big thanks to the Greensboro newspaper the News and Record for hosting this audio. I agree with Ed this is good journalism.
Via: Ed Cone

Loving America

Via the Blog from Bolivia:
“As I see it, the people who love “America” best are not those who see immorality in the commitment of two gays who love one another and see morality in warfare based on a lie. All that, to me, is what is resolutely “anti-American”. I believe that the people who love America most are those who seek to hold it to the standards which we set for ourselves at the start: truth, justice, liberty, freedom, equality.”

Dr. Cornel West on Racism and Hurricane Katrina

Dr. West drops some serious thoughts on us. Here is only part. Read the whole thing.

In the end George Bush has to take responsibility. When [the rapper] Kanye West said the President does not care about black people, he was right, although the effects of his policies are different from what goes on in his soul. You have to distinguish between a racist intent and the racist consequences of his policies. Bush is still a ‘frat boy’, making jokes and trying to please everyone while the Neanderthals behind him push him more to the right.

Thank you for linking to this Sally.

The local legacy of James Cates

Here is a very small part of Mr. Cates story. Matt Robinson, a local historian, posted more on Here is a bit:

James Lewis Cates, Jr., was born in 1948 in Chapel Hill. A life-long resident of the town, he was born into the predominantly African-American Northside community, and he bore witness to the monumental changes of the 1960s. He participated in civil rights sit-ins, was arrested along with hundreds of his peers, and was a member of the very first fully integrated graduating class of Chapel Hill High School in 1967.

James Cates died on November 21, 1970, fatally stabbed in the course of a knife-fight that occurred just outside the doors of the snack bar at the UNC Union. He bled to death lying on the bricks of the Pit. His killers were members of a Durham-based motorcycle gang, known as the Stormtroopers. They were notorious figures in the area, unmistakable on their Harley Davidson bikes and decked out in Nazi paraphernalia.

Last night Ruby and I went to Blood Done Sign OUR Names: The Lessons of Censored History For Our Struggles Today’ held on the UNC campus last night. It was sponsored by Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth (CHAT), CampusY, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Student Action with Workers (SAW), UNC NAACP, United Electrical Workers Local 150 (UE 150), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), UNC-Chapel Hill Feminist Students United (fsu).

The place was packed with about 150 people to see the four person panel. (scheudal to be five) One panelist was Tim Tyson, the author of Blood Done Sign My Name. His words were very relevant to the students in the room because his book was a summer reading assignment for freshmen. (Called the Carolina Summer Reading Program) Yet another so called “controversial” selection. In the last few years UNC students have been asked to read Nickeled and Dimed which is about the struggle of low payed workers and Approaching the Qur’an which discuses the Muslim holy book. It’s great that these choices create such controversy. It gets people young and old thinking.

The absolutely riveting part of the night for me was when Matt Robinson told the story of the 1970 murder of African American James Cates in Chapel Hill. Matt wrote his master’s thesis on this terrible event. He gave so many details from so many perspectives. It was obvious he has spent years interviewing eye witnesses. It’s one thing when a historian reconstructs a story as fact but quite another when they provide first person accounts. I hope to bring Matt back to the AudioActivism studios and record his telling of these sad events.

All Americans need to organize and attend events like these. It is so important that all races, genders, and classes get together and discuss the difficult topics.

The irony of bloggy spokesmodels

Roxanne Cooper asks a interesting question over at Morph, the media center blog. Her words, “There are a handful of old white men who usually serve as the official spokes models for blogs/ citizens-based media/ two-way media/ grassroots media as it relates to the future of journalism. Most of them spent their younger, productive days toiling in legacy media. Does anyone else see the irony in this?” Hmm.. this is ironic. I posted a response. Read it there or here.
Continue reading “The irony of bloggy spokesmodels”