NYC: Women, Wifi, Winehouse and more

Well, its my last day in NYC before flying home to sunny England. I’ve had such a fun time. 

The reason for my trip was to attend a strategic meeting for ACM-W. The meeting was all day Friday, and was very inspiring. Being a women in tech, t’s not often that I get to sit in a room all day with really clever, switched on people, working on strategy….and they are all women. It’s also rare to sit in a meeting where everyone just “gets it”. Gets the fact that we still need to take big steps to ensure that there are more women coming into computing, that they have a good time while they are there and that once in they don’t leave. It was a great day, and I look forward to becoming more involved.

On Thursday when I arrived at the hotel where we were all staying I was surprised to find that it would cost me about $40 for 4 days wifi, surely wifi should be free in a business hotel? I was even more surprised when I tried to connect to the wifi from another device and a page came up asking me for another $40. I phoned the service number and asked if that was really the case, that in this hotel you pay separately for each device that you use to connect. The lady on the phone apologised said “that’s how it works”. I couldn’t believe it. So I tweeted about it in my frustration and found that its quite common at business hotels in the US. I expect it’s common at business hotels in the UK too, and maybe worldwide. But, surely very short sighted. If you want to provide a good service to business people, charging them a crazy amount of money for a service that is free at most coffee shops seems insane. 

An hour or two after tweeting about it I was tweeted by the hotel chain and asked to contact the hotel desk manager to sort the problem out. In the evening I went to the desk and they told me that I shouldn’t have been charged and that it is fine to use several devices, that the charge would be taken off my bill, which it has.

But what if I hadn’t tweeted, or didn’t have eight thousand followers on Twitter, what then? I don’t really like that idea that if you make a big noise about something that is wrong it will be corrected, but if you don’t then you live a less empowered life.

That kind of, but not really, brings me on to something I saw on Twitter this morning. 



If you read the blog post, it just sounds really weird. Is this an example of not “getting” someone’s sense of humour, or of rampant sexism? I’m guessing it is probably the former, but possibly not a smart move by Dell. What do you think? Also, if you were there I’d love to hear from you.


Another tweet I saw this morning was from @mashable:



Am I alone at despairing that the sites that “Every Mom should know” feature mainly shopping, cooking, makeup and childcare etc.? I’m a mum, and I have some interest in those things, but come on Mashable! 3 million people follow you. That’s not really reflective of the most interesting sites that I can think of, or use. Doesn’t this type of article just continue hackneyed stereotypes? Or am I turning into a grumpy old woman? Don’t answer that.


It does make me think however of the shock I had after having my fourth child at age 41. I’d been a professional working woman for some years before that and had not pushed a buggy for quite some years. I was used to people being polite to me, on the whole, as I went about my life. What a surprise it then was to walk around  pushing a baby buggy. So many people were rude and dismissive towards me, it was a real shock. A typical example is, after picking my daughter up after work from nursery, I went to a shop to get some food for dinner. Standing in line to pay, the cashier told the man behind me to come in front of me to pay because she could see he was in a hurry. It kind of happened before I realized what was going on and left me standing there thinking “Huh?”. If something like that happens once, it probably doesn’t matter. But when it happens several times a week you get the message that you don’t matter. You are not important. Now for me that’s irksome. But imagine what effect it has on a young, less confident mum. Not good. Not good at all.


Anyway, back to the fun stuff…


Yesterday was a lovely sunny day in NYC. I met up with an old friend Prof Jonathan Bowen to hang out for the day. After finding out that it would cost us $29 to get into an exhibition at MOMA and that it would be really busy, being cheapskates, we settled for going to The New York Public Library which was free. Result. I’m so glad that we did. On the way, seeing a café in next door Bryant Park we stopped there for lunch and caught up on all of our news. What a lovely place to hang out.


So then the library, what a fabulous building. We first stopped in at the Shelley’s Ghosts exhibition which is in a small room at the library. I’m so glad that we did. Jonathan was at the same Oxford college as Shelley, and was therefore able to bring even more colour to an already very interesting exhibition. Through letters and personal items the exhibition subtly draws you into the world that the Shelleys lived in.  Walking around and reading the letters and descriptions of their lives left me with an intense sense of anguish at how the lives of some really intellectually trailblazing people had been blighted by the perceptions of others around them. For me it was a story of ridiculously talented young people, full of energy and life, wasted due to the opinions and actions of those less gifted around them. It may be that I’ve got that wrong and just picked up on what I wanted to see, but to me it seems that this is a common story in humanity. People with amazing talents and/or extraordinary insights are commonly vilified and derided while they are alive and then glorified when they are dead. When it is too late. Alan Turing is a name that springs to mind, but I also mean people like Amy Winehouse and even Diana, Princess of Wales. Why does that happen? And why don’t we look after these people rather than destroying them, or helping them to destroy themselves?


Shelley died at 29 years old (my eldest daughter is 29 this year, so that makes me feel really old ;-o) leaving a remarkable legacy for one so young. Go read one of his poems now, or visit the exhibition if you can and let me know if you get the same sense. I left the exhibition fighting back tears, but maybe that’s just because I’m an old softie.


After the exhibition we went on a tour of the library with an amazing lady who very entertainingly told us all about the history of the library and its benefactors. She started off by telling us what the most commonly asked questions were at the library. What do you think would be the most frequently asked question in such an august building? Something learned and interesting? Nope:


“Where are the restrooms?”


I had to laugh as that is exactly what Jonathan had just asked them when we walked in.


On the tour, which took in the room that was used in the film Ghostbusters and a great moment when finally getting to a room with books in I looked at a couple of screens of people on PCs as we wandered through. What learned things were people looking at online in the library? The first one I saw was a young guy on Facebook looking at photos of scantily clad young women, the second was an older guy looking at a video of how to hunt and kill a deer. Ah well.


After the tour, we had a look around some of the exhibits in the corridors and spotted this card on the wall next to an exhibit

Hilarious name, I had to tweet it and of course that was the most retweeted and favourited of my tweets that day.


After the library we walked on down to the Old Town Bar to meet  Twitter friends @adampknave and @xalieri for a beer or two. Despite never having met in person before we got on well and had an evening full of dangerous ideas and lots of laughs. I love Twitter for connecting me to the most interesting people, I never would have met many of the people that are now great friends of mine if it weren’t for Twitter.


So, I’m now off to meet my lovely friend Eve and her new husband Ramiro for lunch. I’ve had a great time in NYC, just a short trip but full of interesting people and places, I look forward to coming back again soon.



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