About the patriarchy and feminism

OK, so this is pretty extreme behaviour even for an engineering nerd:

He must have been wishing he could have just flipped the switch.
For tech fan Mark Rittman spent 11 frustrating hours trying to make his nifty WiFi kettle boil.
The WiFi kettle – which ranges in price from £50 to £100 – supposedly allows people to flick the kettle on with their phone from the comfort of their bed or sofa.
But after trying to make a cuppa at 9am, Mr Rittman quickly ran into troubles in what was to become a 11-hour long struggle

We’ve all seen the story around. Now, try rewriting the story in your head so that it’s a woman doing this.

Doesn’t work, does it?

Not that there isn’t some female engineering nerd out there who would or has done this sort of thing. But our experience of life is that it is predominantly men who are prepared to go to such ridiculous lengths to make something work.

And the problem we have on the larger scale is that absolutely every advance inhuman civilisation requires that one or more people do some ridiculous piece of work like this.

There’s a value to this male stuff.

56 thoughts on “About the patriarchy and feminism”

  1. Thank you, Tim, for providing some justification for all the hours I’ve spent over the years trying to get x, y, z to work in a particular way because I’m sure that when, finally, I do crack it, it’ll be labour-saving.

    Automated VAT returns, I’m looking at you …

  2. I’ve spent a godawful number of hours recently working on my home media server – the original pi solution was very temperamental if not properly shut down before being turned off.

    The wife just got Netflix.

    (somewhat justified: We still have netflix and amazon video but I’ve got it all configured so we can watch amazon, netflix and locally stored files all on the same device with the same remote – and the local stuff gets watched the most)

  3. Would be nice if more women could get in on the game too – a potential doubling of the rate of human progress!

    It’s definitely a stereotype grounded in reality but I’m not sure whether it reflects something deep and genetic, or just social expectations about who does what, or how long you’re allowed to do something before it becomes an official “waste of time”.

  4. @Dongguan John:

    Only if you don’t have some automated way to fill the kettle. We have a machine here at work which is plumbed into the mains, but it just keeps a tank full of boiling water all the time. What would be really good is some kind of device to monitor everyone’s thirst, linked in to a desktop brewing machine that automatically made a cuppa whenever the relevant person needed one.

    And none of that crap you get out of vending machines, either – I want a proper cup of tea made with tea leaves, or a proper cup of coffee made with a filter. And it should all be no bigger than an everyday kettle, should automatically order in new supplies when they’re running low, should be near-silent and should check your cup to make sure nothing’s growing in it (because some people here never bother to wash their cup).

    I reckon it’s probably worth me spending a few weeks inventing such a device so I don’t have to occasionally get up, pick up a teabag, lob it in a cup, press a button on the boiling water machine, stir it, chuck the teabag away and pour some milk in.

  5. It will certainly empower the pseudo-puritan CM scum of the state to browbeat people about excess tea drinking. And the waste of precious green power.

  6. I reckon it’s probably worth me spending a few weeks inventing such a device

    God got there first – it’s called a wife 😉

  7. There was a cracking quote from an autism researcher a few years ago – “If it’s such an evolutionary disadvantage, why has autism survived as a genetic trait? Well, who made fire by learning to rub sticks together? Give you a clue, it wasn’t the people sitting around chatting”

  8. Now, try rewriting the story in your head so that it’s a woman doing this.

    We wouldn’t see the story because the usual suspsects would browbeat the writer out of journalism for writing such a sexist article. But with a male protagonist, the story is just as OK as all those advertising tropes about men being useless around the house.

  9. At least the Mail shoehorned the most important fact into the story: “…his £550,000 home…”


  10. @Rob Moss,

    Give it time and your office tea boiler will have an AI program built in to save energy by ensuring there is always just the right amount of hot water available for expected demand at any one time.

  11. “It would be nice if more women could get in on the game too – a potential doubling of the rate of human progress!”

    Or it might halve it.

  12. Kettle manufacturers, wireless or otherwise, are on borrowed time though, surely. Those instant boiling water tap thingies look like the future.

  13. I always felt sorry for those poor guys on the Enterprise who had to get up, walk across the room and press a button before the replicator thingy would build them a cuppa char and a wad out of quarks.

    The thing should have been voice activated at least, and mobile like the tea trolley they had at my first place of work.

  14. As has been mentioned on these pages before, women’s hobbies tend to differ from men’s. Men tend to have hobbies which intensely focus on a single thing which takes ages, and are often extremely obscure or specialised. You can be sure that 95% of those people who make working models of jet aircraft are men. Men like to obsess over this stuff more than women. I have a colleague in the office whose hobby is making old-style valve amplifiers using glass valves he gets from the US online. I bet there’s not more than 5 women in the world with the same hobby.

    It’s the same with music, but to a lesser extent. Women will listen to music, they might even get into some of it quite deeply, but they won’t be obsessed with a genre or particular group in the way that a man will. In general, of course: exceptions abound. If you go to a guy’s house he’ll show you his jazz or rock collection. A woman will flick on some elevator music while doing housework.

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    MyBurningEars – “Would be nice if more women could get in on the game too – a potential doubling of the rate of human progress!”

    They are trying to get into the programming world via Silicon Valley and its start ups. That is to say, they are trying to force programmers to defer to what women want, pay them off, prevent any sort of honest discussion on any topic at all, stopping being beastly males and so on.

    So if women got into the game, they would just turn it into yet another soap opera of petty bitching, gossip and mean girls.

  16. I thought women were already in on the game.
    Have heard many women over the years say they were on the game for a bit.
    Not the same game?

  17. What this reminded me of most was a client from my old auditing days. They were a very unprofitable heavy engineering firm that was pretty much all that was left of a once great British engineering group. The problem was that the company was run by engineers. The criteria for deciding whether to take on a job or not was not some function of risk and return, but rather “Ooh, this would be an interesting thing to make. I wonder if we could do it. Let’s give it a go.”

    That’s exactly the sort of thinking that leads to spending 11 hours faffing around with a wifi kettle.

  18. Edward Lud,

    Those instant boiling water tap thingies look like the future.

    Absolutely, but they still cost a grand (including installation). A kettle costs £4.99 from Argos and any half-wit can install it.

  19. @E. Lud/ Andrew M

    They are also a faff to use- safety button plus flip switch arrangement. youre fucked if you’ve limited dexterity

  20. Rob Moss: I want a proper cup of tea made with tea leaves

    Quite right too. But of course if you want a decent pot of tea you want freshly boiled water from the cold tap.

  21. IIRC one of the first webcams was set up by the IT department in MIT so they could check the level of the coffee machine a floor down.

  22. “It’s definitely a stereotype grounded in reality but I’m not sure whether it reflects something deep and genetic, or just social expectations about who does what, or how long you’re allowed to do something before it becomes an official ‘waste of time’.”

    It’s not social expectations. I’ve infuriated my wife and kids numerous times because of the weekends I’ve wasted solving trivial computer problems, which even I acknowledge are a waste of time.

    And what about golf and cricket etc. widows? There’s more social pressure on them not to go off all day playing a silly sport than there is for them to do it.

  23. Meissen,

    ‘freshly boiled water from the cold tap’

    I’m fascinated by your plumbing, my cold tap only gives out cold water

  24. Why would you do this?

    I bought a home automation kit, 3 * socket adaptors and a remote control for £29.99 from Maplin.


    It took me about 20-minutes to get all three sockets working with a couple of lights and a radio set. Can’t see what would be so hard about a kettle, other than the fact that it has an additional “heat on” switch, which could be solved by just using a rubber band to keep it pressed down, but then you’d need to turn the kettle off when it was boiled (and how would you know?)

    Seems a lot of hassle for not much benefit. Why not just get one of those Chinese always-on water boilers? Then he always has hot water and quit the worrying.

    The Breville VKJ142 Hot Cup is available on Amazon for £24.00 & Free Delivery in the UK.

  25. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    A few weeks ago, I inherited an ADSL router, which was a little bit better than the one I’ve been using for the last decade.
    I bought a cable and some 9-pin plugs from Maplin and spent a few days knocking together a console cable via a break-out box. I then hunted down a manual on the Interwebs and taught myself how to reprogram the box. I spent days on and off getting it just right and sure enough the last step caused it to crash with an internal kernel error.
    I had to wipe the config because there was no way of tracing what caused the error and have just reprogrammed it again, but only now does half the things that I wanted it to do in the first place.
    I might get around to doing the enhancements one day and considering that the money and time I spent on it would have probably bought me a really smart router, I feel a slight frisson of pride on achieving all that wasted effort.

  26. Of course, if you think a Wi-Fi controlled kettle is an advance in human civilisation, then you’re probably correct.

    Some of us might disagree.

  27. Thomas Fuller: God got there first – it’s called a wife

    Yes, and it took Him less than a day and He did it out of recycled materials.

  28. Why not just get one of those Chinese always-on water boilers?

    I had one of those in Sakhalin, for some reason they were ludicrously expensive there (I mean north of a hundred quid) but I swiped one from somewhere and had it at home for ages instead of a kettle. Eventually it broke but it was awesome.

  29. ELECTRICAL goods specialist Maplin is a front for cottaging, it has emerged.

    The chain of stores, which sell things that no woman will ever desire, provides the perfect excuse for discreet gay action.

    Network engineer Stephen Malley said: “All the other excuses – walking the dog, checking the guttering, watching the J-League play-offs on Al Jazeera Sport – wear thin eventually.

    “But tell the wife you’ve got to nip to Maplins for a phono audio to HDMI converter and she never asks any probing questions.”

    Undercover police discovered the sex ring when an inquiry about high-performance graphics cards saw them ushered into the back where a naked man asked if they were after a positive or negative terminal.

    After no more than 10 further visits to confirm their suspicions, the officers reported their findings.

    Eleanor Shaw of Bristol, whose husband is a Maplin regular, said: “I knew he couldn’t need that many external hard drives. Deep down, I knew it.

    “It even has pulsing disco lights in the window.”

    A Maplin spokesman said: “I’m confused about this ‘sex with women’ people keep mentioning.

    “Is it something like a four-pin male to 15-pin female adaptor? Because we do stock those.

    Words…just fail me.

  30. I’ve just ordered an Energenie Pi-mote Control Starter Kit with 2 Sockets 433 MHz for my Raspberry Pi from Maplin.

    Whilst this may have raised the UK’s GDP by some £22.99, I suspect that the time lost playing with it to get it working will result in a net loss…and I am just a single techie.

    I wonder how many like minded people have read this and are thinking… I bet I could do that.

    Net effect is that I will be able to turn on a lamp and radio in my flat in Perth, Scotland remotely from my winter lodgings in Penang, Malaysia. While this might keep thieves away it is hardly the invention of sustainable fusion energy generation.

    More a form of technical self-indulgence…

  31. @ Alex
    I’ve seem a survey that said females were only 10% of those on the autistic spectrum, so that cannot be the answer – autism would just have died out.

  32. The current betting is that autism isn’t directly genetic. It’s more to do with hormonal influences in pregnancy/brain development. Which could, themselves, be genetic of course but don’t have to be.

  33. I’ve long said the same thing about music. The reason metal guitar rock gods are usually men is that you get that good at guitar by practising for five hours a day between the ages of twelve and twenty. The reason girls tend not to do this in their teens is that the world contains other people who actually want to spend time with them.

  34. I look forward to the discovery that these kettles can easily be turned into spambots.

    Also, stolen from the Guardian, and God it feels good to steal from lefties, quite the change eh? – top comment, from one AlabasterCodefy , “Sounds like a case of the port not calling the kettle back.”

  35. Bloke in Costa Rica

    There is a set of people for whom arsing about with kit trying to get it to work has a good payoff. For example, I learnt how to configure iptables, DHCP, BIND9, udev, OpenVPN etc. when I set up my Linux firewall/router at home (segregating your WiFi from the wired network is generally only doable if you have an actual computer as a router). That is a highly transferable skill I can put on my CV. Similarly, the stuff I do at work enables me to do things with my RasPi that would be hard otherwise.

    I still wouldn’t spend eleven hours trying to debug a WiFi kettle, because a) I don’t want a WiFi kettle, b) it probably wouldn’t take me 11 hours to fix it.

  36. @ Tim
    Autism is a syndrome – i.e. it is a condition which may be the result of a multitude of different causes, some of which have a genetic component. It may be caused by birth trauma, toxins absorbed during pregnancy or traumatic brain injury but the majority of cases have a significant genetic factor. In a majority (or, perhaps, a large minority) of cases with a significant genetic factor, the environmental factor is insignificant. Attempts to “cure” autism in the past have often failed to cater for there being a variety of causes for someone being on the autistic spectrum.
    There are widely advertised cases where an individual appeared to be autistic and was “rescued” by a change in diet but these are (in the whole world) less frequent than “man eats dog”. Autism is defined by its symptoms not its causes and it can be caused by hormonal influences in pregnancy or by peculiar allergic reactions to food.
    However the probability that there is not a significant genetic component in a majority of cases is vanishingly small. Most families with a child on the autistic spectrum do not have a yonger child because caring for an autistic child is very demanding but a large percentage of those who do find that they have two children on the autistic spectrum.

  37. Steve Davis made this point a few years ago when talking about women in snooker:


    “Davis thinks women lack “that single minded determination in something that must be said is a complete waste of time – trying to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick.

    “Men are ideally suited to doing something as absolutely irrelevant in life as that,” he said. “They’re the ones who have train sets in the loft. They have stamp collections to die for. Right? These are stupid things to do with your life. As is trying to practise eight hours a day to get to World Championship level.

    “So therefore I think we are also the idiots of the species as well. The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have.””

  38. John Galt, at the risk of asking you to explain a joke, why do words fail you?

    Do indulge my naivete…

    Because the idea of Maplin as a venue for cottaging is simultaneously ridiculous and yet alluring. The thought of the gaggle of spotty, unwashed autists looking for love among the HDMI adaptors.

  39. @ njc
    *Only* eight hours a day?
    My coach used to train from dawn to dusk when *she* was trying to get to world championship level (and succeeding, especially if one ignored males but championship level anyhow).
    I only got up to sixteen hours.

  40. This bit makes me suspicious that *he* was taking the piss.

    Well the kettle is back online and responding to voice control, but now we’re eating dinner in the dark while the lights download a firmware update

  41. Steve Davis made this point a few years ago when talking about women in snooker

    Was he immediately black-balled by the SJWs at the BBC?

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