Lion of the Blogosphere

Podkayne is biracial

Halfway through Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein.

Heinlein likes having characters of different races in his novels to teach his white American readers in the 1950s and 1960s that racism is wrong. He also tries to show that females are capable of performing in traditionally male occupations. Therefore, it’s really a travesty that Heinlein is hated because he’s supposedly racist, misogynist, and fascist. That’s what he gets for trying to address certain topics in what seemed like a progressive manner for the era in which the books were published.

Podkayne’s great-uncle Tom is Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand), which would make Podkayne herself one-quarter Maori, even though she has blonde hair and blue eyes.

Heinlein normally doesn’t give detailed physical descriptions of his characters, but in this novel we get a lot of very specific information about Podkayne, who is 5’2” and 110 pounds. She also lifts weights with barbells that weigh approximately 60 to 70 pounds given the gravity differential. She sounds pretty strong for a small girl in the early 1960s, a time when I presume lifting weights was something that 16-year-old girls didn’t do. Heinlein once again trying to be progressive.

Going back to race issues, Heinlein shows that while Mars is free from prejudice about such things (with Podkayne’s Maori uncle being an important Martian Senator), the people from Earth (at least the old rich women on the spaceship traveling from Mars to Venus) are still racist and look down upon non-whites and race mixing.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 17, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Books

16 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Haven’t non-tech journalists, feminists, and politicians been complaining about the lack of females, blacks, and minorities in programming for 20 or 30 years now. My BS CS graduating class was 40% female 30 years ago. Why would any tech employer hire an inexperienced boot camp grad when there are plenty of recent CS grads, experienced programmers and, of course, H1B immigrants that’ll do the work at the same rate? I call B.S. on $85K salary after “coding boot camp.”

    OT: NYT, 04/16/18 – A High-Paying Job? Go to App Boot Camp.

    College students who want high-paying, interesting jobs should choose a major in one of the STEM fields — science, tech, engineering and math. So says the conventional wisdom.

    But that advice is somewhat misleading. STEM jobs are concentrated in one area: over the next six years, nearly 60 percent will be in computer science. Those jobs are increasing at three times the overall rate of job creation.

    Computing doesn’t mean just Facebook and Google. “All companies are now becoming tech companies,” said Tom Ogletree, director of social impact at General Assembly, an organization that runs courses in computer science in 20 cities around the globe.

    Those good jobs, however, go primarily to men. “Women make up the majority of college grads and nearly the majority of family breadwinners,” said Reshma Saujani, the founder and chief executive of Girls Who Code. “But less than 25 percent of the computing workforce is women.” And the gender gap in tech is getting worse.

    As for minority women, Latinas hold 1 percent of all computing jobs and black women hold 3 percent…

    Here’s one approach to diversifying the field: Last week at Google in New York, a few hundred people — mostly young, mostly non-white — gathered to watch 33 students in a web-development boot camp titled Access Code unveil their first projects.

    The students showed off web apps for saving money, booking art studio time and allowing people alarmed by the news they’re reading to make quick donations to relevant charities, among other things.

    Tasilym Twinamaani and her four teammates presented an app called Chatterbox…

    Ms. Twinamaani, 29, attended Kean University in New Jersey, majoring in film and literature, but left one semester short of graduation when her money ran out…

    “When I was a kid I was always messing around with HTML and CSS for my Myspace page,” she said. “Making websites has been in the back of my mind.” She decided to look for a coding boot camp — an intensive course to learn the skills of web or smartphone app development.

    But boot camps cost $10,000 or $20,000, depending on length. Ms. Twinamaani already owed student loan debt in the high five figures, and decided not to take on more.

    At the same time, Mr. Papas at Blue Apron was also looking for boot camps. He said that the company employed a thousand workers, the majority black or Latino, in the Linden center. “Lots of them are very smart, motivated and driven, but they didn’t have the opportunity to pursue careers in different fields,” Mr. Papas said. Training those with talent to be software engineers could bring needed ability and diversity to the company’s largely white and Asian staff of 132 software developers in Manhattan.

    “It was difficult to find a boot camp taking people who didn’t have a college education, or coming from underserved backgrounds, and giving them tools,” Mr. Papas said.

    Then he found Access Code, a 10-month boot camp run by an organization called C4Q (formerly Coalition for Queens), which was designed to do exactly that. It offers a day or a nights-and-weekends program…
    By June, the five-year-old program will have 483 graduates, all previously low-income. Half are female, half lack a college degree. Sixty percent are black or Latino, and 40 percent are immigrants.

    Instead of demanding traditional credentials, the program evaluates applicants as they solve logic puzzles and spend two days learning basic coding. One in 10 is accepted. C4Q says that upon entering, those students are earning an average of $18,000 a year, but when they graduate and find work in software engineering —which almost all do — they make an average of $85,000…

    Alongside tech skills, Access Code teaches students how to work in a corporate culture. They visit tech companies and meet engineers. And they grapple with the ways they might sabotage themselves…

    In the kitchens, Ms. Twinamaani’s salary was just over $20,000. As a Blue Apron software engineer, she’ll make at least $85,000 and potentially closer to six figures, Mr. Papas said. The first thing she intends to do is move her sister and their children out of their basement apartment in Elizabeth. “It’s my dream to live in a place where my son can go outside and play on the lawn,” she said.

    Access Code is one of several new efforts to diversify the software field. Another organization, the Last Mile, is trying to cut recidivism by teaching coding to inmates at San Quentin prison and helping them find jobs…

    Boot camps are for adults who want to change jobs. But part of the struggle is getting a wider group to see a tech career as an option from the beginning. Several people I interviewed told me, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

    The giant in that field is Girls Who Code; about 90,000 girls, from every state, have joined its afterschool clubs or taken summer courses, where they develop websites and apps to attack a problem they care about.

    Girls make up 20 percent of high school computer science classes, and there is likely to be only one black girl, if any. “At every stage of the pipeline it’s leaky for women and people of color,” said Ms. Saujani of Girls Who Code…“We’re filling the pipeline with talent. Now my major problem is: Are you going to hire them?”

    The “bro” culture in many companies perpetuates itself. Ms. Saujani said the head of engineering at a major financial services firm told her he often starts his interviews with a question about baseball. “How many women are getting their Ph.D at M.I.T. or Stanford and can’t get through the door at top-tier technology companies?” Ms. Saujani said…

    More diversity among developers should mean more diversity in products. Affluent bros create apps for affluent bros: Bring me beer and burritos! Clean my apartment! Walk my dog!…

    E. Rekshun

    April 17, 2018 at EST pm

  2. I think RAH may have gotten a bad impression from NZ from travels: He makes them out as racist (against Maori natives) assholes in one of his last novels, Friday.


    April 17, 2018 at EST pm

    • The Maori were speciesist against the poor moa.

      Jokah Macpherson

      April 17, 2018 at EST pm

  3. Polynesian features tend to be recessive; Jason Momoa, Keisha Castle Hughes two examples of half Polynesians.. Plus, you would never guess Keisha’s kid to be 1/4 Maori.

    A 110 lb female lifting 60-70 lbs is beyond outlandish, though.


    April 17, 2018 at EST pm

    • “A 110 lb female lifting 60-70 lbs is beyond outlandish, though.”

      I’m sure I can find a video on YouTube that shows otherwise.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      April 17, 2018 at EST pm

      • 60-70 lbs on a barbell is a lot or little, depending on the movement: For curls, that’s a lot, for dead lifting it is practically nothing: Example: I weigh 160 lbs and can shoulder press 125, Squat 210, dead lift 270 and have clean and jerked 165. My guesstimates for a fit 110 lb 5′ 2″ girl are 70, 150, 185 and 95 respectively.


        April 18, 2018 at EST am

    • I wouldn’t say beyond outlandish but it’s still very unusual. Like I’m a reasonably fit 170 lb. guy and I would use 70 lbs. for barbell curls for a set of 10. For a 110 lb. women, that’s not only a much larger percentage of her body weight but she most likely has more of it made up of fat in her hips and ass relative to muscle in the biceps. And she doesn’t have the aggression boost that male levels of testosterone give you.

      Same with bench press; I rarely see any women that does more than the bar (45 lbs) or maybe 55 lbs, and the ones that do are not 115 lb. petite ingenues.

      A lower body exercise like squats or deadlifts would be more plausible. I’ve seen even tiny girls squat around 100 lbs. and presumably there’s ones out there that can do much more.

      Jokah Macpherson

      April 17, 2018 at EST pm

      • About a month ago I was at the gym, and a somewhat chunky but by no means large young woman was doing squats at 275 pounds.
        The most I’ve ever seen a woman bench press was 185, years ago. Anything over 135 is very very rare. I don’t think it’s so much that women can’t bench heavy amounts, as that they don’t really try.




        April 18, 2018 at EST pm

  4. “She also lifts weights with barbells that weigh approximately 60 to 70 pounds given the gravity differential.”

    Darn right she does. I knew the metric system would lose in the end.

    Jokah Macpherson

    April 17, 2018 at EST pm

  5. “She also lifts weights with barbells that weigh approximately 60 to 70 pounds given the gravity differential.”

    But seriously, not sure what exercise she is doing, but it is on the very high end for women for lots of exercises, especially one that weighs 110 lbs. It’s easy to forget since not many women lift free weights but men and women are like completely different species when it comes to upper body strength (~3 SD difference).

    Jokah Macpherson

    April 17, 2018 at EST pm

  6. It’s somewhat astounding how invested even smart people were in the boasian explanation of racial differences. A little busing here a little head start there and presto, everybody is equal!

    I have a vivid memory of a girl I knew absolutely convinced that Head Start would close all gaps. She possessed no doubts whatsoever.


    April 18, 2018 at EST am

  7. are still racist and look down upon non-whites and race mixing

    Is this racist? Or just elitist?

    E. Rekshun

    April 18, 2018 at EST am

  8. I was going to generalize and say that whatever side Heinlein seems to be on — whether he’s being libertarian or prematurely progressive — the one thing you can depend on is that he was awfully pleased with the righteousness of his own opinions, and he loved scandalizing the conformists. But then, to be fair, I remembered something he had one of his characters say (maybe even in Podkayne??) — something not remotely political — which has stuck in my mind for decades: something to the effect that “snobbery against tourists” is the cheapest form of snobbery, and that at one time or another we are all tourists. I treasure that bit of unexpected wisdom.


    April 18, 2018 at EST pm

  9. I don’t understand why some individuals who have a non-trivial amount of non-Euro ancestry, who are yet in all ways phenotypically white, try to identify with or play up the non-Euro ancestry. I’m in the low 20% range of non-Euro ancestry from my maternal side (mostly Amerind), but I would never dream of pulling an Elizabeth Warren or even calling myself multi-racial.

    Today, Podkayne would get a Maori tattoo and write articles about the evil colonials.

    Kind of like this “native American” Supreme Court law clerk:

    Seth Largo (@SethLargo)

    April 19, 2018 at EST pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: