Fall Week 5

I have yet to have a blog post this semester get published on time.  I am endeavoring to correct this.  Perhaps this is the week I get lucky!  This week I had to make some tough decisions and figure out what was going to get cut from my schedule because I am just too busy.  Between working (research), school work, home life (some of my home life is feeling sorely neglected at the moment), traveling, and getting ready for grad applications I have zero time.  It’s getting me sick and I’m super exhausted.  So, something has to give.

I decided to drop the Game Design class, even though it is by far my favorite elective.  I am still going to attend the lectures, but I simply don’t have time for all the homework.  I was spending ten times more of my outside class time working on projects for that class than all my other classes put together.  Not a good balance.

This week started off the first round of exams.  This coming week I have GREs on Monday, Web Data Management on Tuesday, and Algorithms on Thursday.  Luckily, then I’m off to Baltimore for Grace Hopper!  I have finished downloading the conference app on both my phone and tablet.  I’m starting to figure out exactly what I need to pack.  I’m super excited!!

Since dropping the extra class, I’ve actually managed to get some things accomplished.  I’ve finished fixing up my DREU section of the website, so that I can get my last paycheck (which I could really use right now).  That was a huge weight on me.  Now I have to build a new section for my CREU work, which I’ve been putting off.  I think I will actually have enough time this weekend to get that done too.  I’ve also gotten a nice chunk of research work for CREU done as well.  I’ll hopefully get around to updating my website, so I can start sharing snippets of that.

I also attended the club orientation on campus so that our ACM-W Chapter can be official.  I got some good ideas for things I would like to do with the group, so I need to start organizing meetings for that.  I still have to work on the website, but I think some of this will have to wait until after Grace Hopper, unfortunately.  There is just not enough time in the day for everything!

Fall Week 4

This week was kind of a blur, except that the newest member of the family was born Thursday night!  I was able to go visit him in the hospital Friday afternoon.  Here’s a picture of me with Thane:

Auntie Kate and Little Thane, September 14, 2012

School has been very overwhelming.  I feel like I don’t have time to spend on the things I really want to be learning and spending time on, like my research, because everything is just sucking up all of my time.

I did do a quick run (THANKS to Kyle for driving me!!) to Seattle Thursday afternoon to attend the iSchool information session.  I had an opportunity to talk to the PhD advisor and hear a bit about the program.  The biggest thing I realized is that I really need to get on this whole writing to professors, drafting up my essays, and generally getting more serious about grad school applications!

Fall Week 3

This week was short because of the holiday on Monday.  Also, on Wednesday it was my husband’s and my second anniversary.  I have been pretty much swamped with school work, research, and ACM-W, but we did manage to make it out to dinner at least.

Time is going by way too quickly.  Grace Hopper is only a month away.  Pretty soon I’m going to be out of time for things like grad school applications! AHH!

I have managed to play a little bit of Guild Wars 2 and can’t wait until December when I’ll have more time to get into it.  I’ve made a plant person who casts awesome spells.  Pretty fun.

I helped move my brother back up to Seattle (at least for a while) as he’s taking a class up there.  It’s weird having the house a little more empty.  But it was nice heading north and visiting with my grandmother for a bit.  I spent most of the weekend working on my game for game design class.  When it is good enough for public consumption I’ll post it in my portfolio.  Stay tuned.


Fall Week 2

Well, as it might be imagined, I am super swamped.  I feel like I’m being pulled every which way and I need to get a better system for organizing my life.  I’ve this giant running to do list that is a little overwhelming.  I’ve started breaking things down by day and trying to organize one 24-hour period at a time.  We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been trying to get my DREU final report finished up and sent off.  I’m actually quite happy with the results.  I migrated my work into LaTex and am starting to feel pretty proficient in editing in it.  I’m going to post my paper in my portfolio, if you’re interested.  I am a little bummed I couldn’t participate in some of the interviews and maybe work on getting something into CHI for this year.  I guess I could still possibly submit something for the Student Posters in January.  We’ll see.

I’ve also officially bought my plane tickets to Balitmore for Grace Hopper the first week of October.  I’m excited to have won the scholarship.  I’m looking forward to seeing Baltimore again too.  I’m already planning on meeting up with my friends from UMBC that I met during the DREU program.

I think that’s all for now.  I’m hoping I can use these blogs to get myself organized too.  We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

Fall Week 1

First week of school is already over.  I definitely hit the ground running.  I am taking Physics 2, Intro to Networking, Game Design, Web Data Management, Analysis of Algorithms, and Social Psychology.  Phew.  It’s going to be a bit of work keeping all my homework straight.

I also had my first CREU meeting.  I’m looking forward to doing some research this school year.  Find this whole “work/life” balance thing is going to be tough, but I have to just keep this up until I graduate in spring.  I’ll be doing more work with energy usage and the smart grid.  Our paper was accepted to the IEEE SmartGridComm, which is happening in November.  I’ve applied to travel funding, but I won’t find out if I get it or not until the end of September.

Lots of exciting things in store this fall.  Counting down to grad school application due dates and everything else super fun like that!

The Worst Offenders

Imagine a scenario where a group of women are gathered in a meeting planning a spring event to promote and inspire women in technology. They are tossing around the idea of how they are going to get a website online to promote their event. First they are discussing where it will be hosted and so forth. Then it comes down to who is going to build the site for them. “Does anyone know anyone with web development experience?” “Well… I do have some.” But no one in the room listens to the second girl. They just keep talking about who they might know. Their list? All guys. Are there any good computer science guys that might be able to figure it out? Oh, he might not know how but I’m sure he’ll figure it out… On and on like that.

Well, this is a true story. It happened to me this week. A group of women in the process of planning how to help out women in technology and they don’t even think of the women in the room let alone at all first before going through their list of technical guys. Now, I do admit, for others reasons, I didn’t really want to get landed with building a website for these people. Mostly to do with time constraints and other obligations, but… I would have liked the opportunity to turn them down. However, I didn’t push after my initial admission of web knowledge to have everyone know I love building websites.

Fighting for change, especially in the face of adversity, is always going to be an uphill battle. I accept that. I mean, look at Facebook’s new timeline and how much people are resisting that. How can I expect people’s opinion of women in technology to change overnight? I don’t.

Sitting in a room full of technical women who purport to be fighting for change and still having to fight to be accepted as technically savvy is some other kind of beast. We will never have change if the people we are fighting for don’t even believe they deserve the change.

The steps I am taking to fight for the change I want: a) I never make assumptions about someone else’s knowledge or lack of knowledge. I try to clarify what they are comfortable doing and what they want to do and what they would love to get more experience in. b) I am making an effort to educate people. When someone makes an assumption, I am training myself to correct them when they are wrong. c) I am doing my utmost to be the best technical woman I can be- I want to be a role model for other women and I want to feel good about my accomplishments. I don’t want to settle for mediocre or put some effort in. I want to excel at what I choose to do. I am pursuing something I am truly passionate about, I just have to find the confidence to let it shine through.

It Pays to Think Ahead

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it starts out badly and then everything seems to snowball into a giant mess by the end of the week? Well, it was one of those weeks for me. And, therefore, I do not have a carefully crafted blog to post this week.

This semester I am taking some fairly hard classes. I am taking Programming Language Design, Systems Programming, and Human Computer Interaction. I was taking Physics until this past Wednesday, but I’ve decided to hold off on that for another term. This is the first time in almost a year that I have had to do any actually programming for my computer science program. I am so rusty and am having trouble remembering how anything works. It’s a little nuts. But without the worry of physics hanging over me, I can really spend time relearning all the nuances of programming languages.

To top it off, I am dedicating a very large portion of my time to figuring out ways to increase the number of women enrolled in our program. My ACM-W Chapter is finally taking off the ground. There are moments where I am very overwhelmed by the idea of running the chapter, but for the most part I’m just filled with excitement. Events for spring are being planned and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.

However, I know all of this work is going to be worth it in the long run. I will be able to graduate and get a job that pays well, has good benefits, and is something I will enjoy. If anyone asks me what they should be studying in school, I will tell them: technology. Computer science is the best possible way to ensure yourself a better future, even if you don’t consider yourself a nerd or geek. It’s a way to make a decent living AND you will be marketable in many industries, not just the software industry. Technology is the future, so I hope more people, especially women, will realize this soon and start taking care of their own futures by learning all they can about it.

Slaying the Beast

Google Censor

In terms of the internet, this was a pretty exciting week. A lot of publicity went out about SOPA and PIPA in order to get the bills quashed. Anyone with internet access Wednesday probably noticed the blackout. While Google took a more reserved approach and only censored out their name, others went on strike, taking their sites down completely for the day.  It even got covered by the New York Times.

Finite Universe Strike
Even Finite Universe was on strike January 18th.

I thought it was a bold move and I think it got the message across to some people. SOPA has already been put off to the point where it will have to be rewritten before it can be considered again. But I think this is just the beginning for this flavor of anti-piracy tactics. And until the congressmen and senators become a more informed group of people, these types of bills will keep showing up. They either need to educate themselves about what the internet is and what it’s all about, or they need to actually listen to the experts about such matters. It’s that or we as a people need to vote for someone else. The internet is an integral part of this country’s operation now and a part of many people’s daily lives. Citizens (that means YOU) need to stay vigilant for more legislation that will be infringing on their rights.

GWOB Censor

Wiki Strike

Nerdy is the New Cool

Spring semester has begun. The readings have been assigned and the first homework assignments have been passed out. I am now counting down the days until my first (*squee*) ACM-W planning meeting on campus. It’s five days, in case you’re wondering. I thought I would find the task of being our campus’s first ACM-W Chapter President daunting, but instead I am so excited I might pee my pants. Well, I hope I don’t pee my pants, that would make for a very awkward first meeting. And really, this is just the preliminary brainstorming session to see how we are going to make this chapter work for the campus and for the girls of the Engineering and Computer Science Department.

A little bit of back story: The ACM is the Association of Computing Machinery. It’s the big organization that does all things computer science related. It releases all sorts of journals with research from the various disciplines and holds conferences and so forth. ACM-W is the branch of the ACM devoted specifically to women. Yes, we get our own branch- mostly because there is such an under-abundance of us in the field. I decided back in October that I really want to start a chapter of the ACM-W at our campus to help promote more women entering the computer science program. Even more than that, I wanted to have a group to help the women that were already in the computer science not only stay in the program, but get out of the degree everything they want (i.e. learning about the various disciplines, being able to talk about the kind of careers available, getting internships, etc.). After attending the Grace Hopper Celebrating Women in Computing 2011, my friend and I decided we were going to make this group a reality.

Just in the wake of me sending out the Facebook group invites and the emails confirming our first meeting time, this article in The Guardian came out. There is a growing crisis in the ratio of men to women in the tech industry. According to their article, only 148 girls took the computing A-levels out of 2,271 students. That’s 6.5% girls taking the examination to be able to study computing at the college level. That’s not a good number. Instead of improving, these numbers seem to be getting worse. Even in the United States, the numbers are pretty dismal. From personal experience I can say that I am the only woman in a class of 22 students taking Systems Programming, which is the prerequisite class for all the senior year courses. That means if I have any hope of working with other girls in my senior level classes next year, they will be transfer students. And what are the odds of someone transferring in for just their senior year courses?

The Guardian article links to another interesting article from the BBC Magazine from 2010 about Computer Engineer Barbie. There is no way that this Barbie doll has anything to do with the reality of being a computer engineer. I don’t know if the doll does more harm than good by portraying such a bizarrely feminine tech freak. Beyond all the obvious flaws with the doll, I take issue with the fact that for a girl to be a computer scientist that it is all about appearance. I believe a woman can dress however she feels comfortable (and if you’re at your desk coding all day, you’re going to want to be comfortable). The important part to being a woman in computer science is you have to have passion. You have to enjoy technology, learning new things, figuring out puzzles, creating the stuff that other people will want to play for hours on end, making the world a better place for everyone. It’s all about pushing boundaries and seeing how far you can get a program to take you. With that passion, you will be an excellent computer scientist, no matter your gender. Do we get that message from a doll like Computer Engineer Barbie? No, not especially. Is there a good way to have a doll transmit that message? Maybe.  I’ll admit, we’ve come a long way from 1992’s “Math is tough” Barbie.

I think it’s high time for society to send a new message to the young girls. It’s okay to be passionate AND have fun doing math and science. Nerdy is the new cool. Unfortunately, I’m not a great singer, so I’ll have to figure out another way to get that message out there beside to my readers on this blog.  As soon as I do, I’ll be doing it. I want the daughters of tomorrow to grow up thinking that the best job in the world would be to have the job their moms have- computer scientist.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Rumors have been flying around the various social media sites this week as lawmakers gear up to vote on SOPA and PIPA. The biggest rumor being that the big internet companies that have sent a letter recommending the acts not be passed are threatening to shut themselves down if lawmakers fail to listen.

So my first question was, what exactly is SOPA? The “Stop Online Piracy Act” is a 78 page bill that attempts to eliminate online piracy. It does this through a variety of ambiguous methods including saying that anyone who posts copyrighted material will be prosecuted and can spend three years in jail. The website, if it fails to take down the offending copyrighted material within five days, will be shut down. So, every time a 16 year old girl sings a cover of her favorite new pop song, she could be thrown in jail and YouTube could be shut down. But it gets better. Any offending off-shore websites can be censored. Much akin to how China and Iran censor their countries’ internet.

The companies supporting the bill are those in the music and video industries. Disney and ESA (who represents game companies including Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, and more…) are just to name a couple supporters. Basically anyone who is feeling the pain of piracy in the checkbook department.

In response to this bill, several large internet companies have banded together in opposition. Among these companies are: Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Mozilla, Zynga, and LinkedIn. If on January 24th, the bill is passed, these companies could do the unthinkable and disrupt their own services. I like to think of it as mutually assured destruction. Our country’s economy relies on the internet more than anyone would care to admit. If all the major players decided to fight back, life could get uncomfortable for a lot of people. Or maybe not having Facebook for a day will prove to people they really don’t need it after all. Who knows?

I personally think that this whole SOPA thing is a really bad idea. People should be writing to their congressmen and telling them to get their heads out of the sand! The internet is here to stay and censorship is not the answer! Perhaps it’s time for the video, game, and music companies to come into this century and let THEM change their ways of distribution. The American people are telling these companies how they would like to be able to access their entertainment through their behavior. It’s time to listen and give them what they want instead of inventing new ways to throw them in jail!