An interesting, interesting event.

The entire evening/morning was scheduled around panels (and meals), including a student (undergrad) panel, a career panel, and a bioinformatics panel. There was a speech and a single panel the first evening. The others were Saturday morning.

I always find myself in a sticky place at these types of events, in which a minority gets together to discuss the fact that they are a minority, which much of the conference felt like. Okay, so women are a minority in the computing field, and it ain’t getting any better (worse, in fact). Why are we sitting here finding all the differences between male and female coding methods, and the differences in management styles, and differences in job opportunities? If we are here to celebrate women in computing, then let’s avoid male-bashing, let’s avoid ostracizing, let’s avoid separating. Because I think we all know women can do that quite well. (Kidding, kidding. Sorta. Um, not really.) It’s not a matter of how (stereotypical) male programmers hate documentation, it’s a matter of the fact that yes, women do tend to bring more of that to the table. It’s a matter of semantics, yes, but it also puts a very different spin on the conference. I wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable with some of the questions posed to the panels on those topics, because a very cool grad student brought that point up, seconded by several of us.

There was also a bit of affirmative action rah-rahing (blatant “let’s take advantage of the system while it’s open and we have the advantage”–don’t forget blacks aren’t the only ones used to fill quotas) that made some of us squirm. Actually, that same grad student and myself, openly.

This was the first time a regional women in computing conference (modeled after the national-level Grace Hopper conference, apparently) has been held, so it was very much a pilot run. Some things could do with improvement (there were, of course, evaluation forms), but it was really a very fun conference, and it was a heady feeling to be pioneering (even if I can’t stand the head pioneer) regional, more affordable, more accessable discussions on some of the issues in computing for women.

There was mad networking taking place. For example, many of the women present are involved in women in science/computing/etc. organizations at their universities, and I made friends with a couple of women (“older” women–they’d done the family bit, and both were back in college for CS/bioinformatics) that are holding another conference in April I may drive up to that focuses more on bioinformatics. The grad students were so interesting–almost exclusively Asian and Eastern European, which I didn’t expect, and friendly and willing to be made into exhibits for examination for us undergrads. They told me that most of the grad students at their colleges were international students, which surprised me. We discussed the differences in culture that cause the low rates of women in computing in the U.S.; apparently, it’s not unusual for a third of CS students at a university in India or Albania to be women.

I even crawled out of my shell (took me a couple of hours, though), and made friends with some crazy girls from DePauw. One was ridiculously immature, and got us yelled at by their next door neighbor for excessive noise (is it our fault the walls were paper thin?), and the other reminded me eerily of a super-smart girl I knew in high school. I got along very well with the latter chica.

An interesting situation with my room came up. For some reason, I was given a room with a single queen bed. And I had a roommate. Imagine my surprise when my door just opens seemingly at random as I’m settling in. Better yet, this roommate is the most notorious freshman CS in our school. Juniors and seniors know this chick and loathe her. Now, I had listened to the problems people had with her, but I didn’t know her well myself, so I sort of reserved judgement on her personality–she’d always been nice to me. I did believe the rumor of her questionable hygiene, however, and what was the first thing she said to me when she came in the room? “Sorry, but I overslept this morning and didn’t get to take a shower before my [Diff. Eq.] test, and I’ve been running around all day getting ready for the trip.” Okay, ew. I don’t want to hear the words “no shower” and “running” in the same sentence from a roommate, particularly when we carried some stuff down endless-seeming flights of stairs to load up the vans. And we were not sharing that bed–there would be none of that. I volunteered to take the couch, but she insisted on taking it. No, really, she did.

We actually got along surprisingly well. We talked for about an hour before I hit the hay that night, and there was no open strife at all. She’s got multiple interests, seems moderately smart, is borderline anti-social, and cares very little about external appearences. But she believes all the hype about Rose. And that’s scary. We were sitting at a breakfast Saturday morning with the DePauw chicas I met before and a moderator for the next panel, and anytime we started talking about some issue like professor discrimination or small campus attitudes toward women versus those of large campuses, she would always pull one of those, “Well, at Rose-Hulman, we’ve got…” and she would talk about how great and important RHIT is compared to other people’s universities. WTF, mate? She actually sat there and said, “You know, I visited [insert college, like IU], and thought the campus was very ugly. Rose is much prettier.” How disgusting. I like Rose, and I joke about it being superior (with the way they fly the damn “Best Engineering School” banners all the time, it’s a joke around here), and I think it’s pretty, but to sit there and say, after someone remarks that they enjoy the prettiness of their campus, that your campus is actually prettier, is just… Grr. Why didn’t she just whip out her non-existent dick and a ruler to set the matter straight? And she happened to be on the student panel. I was thoroughly embarrassed by some of the comments she made. I wanted to stand up and go, “Okay, now wait a minute…” even though we were on the same team. It was disturbing. Next year, I’ll volunteer for the damn panel, even though microphones and cameras are involved.

The event was… fun. I’m not sure it was mind-blowing, or particularly inspiring, but it was a unique social situation (90+ computer science women in a single damn room? Wow.) and it was wonderful to get to talk (one on one, and during the panels) with women with such a variety of different perspectives on some of the issues with computing jobs, education, and social stigmas. Well worth the loss of study time (finals next week–yay!) and the discomfort of not being home (I dislike hotel life).

"Scratchity-scratch-scratch." – No. Bad Lissa.

The first spring I lived in North Carolina, I had the worst allergies I’ve ever had in my life. I normally suffer through sinus problems, asthma-esque symptoms, and occasionally hives on my scalp (there’s nothing quite like the feeling of scalp hives–it’s like a thousand bugs crawling through your hair). That spring, though, I went through all of the above plus another interesting one that I’m still not sure what to call. To show me how it worked, my doctor took a wooden pokey stick and drew it lightly down the inside of my forearm. Aside from the tickling sensation, nothing happened immediately. In about 20 seconds, however, a large, itchy, burning welt had raised along the precise line he pressed with the stick. Weird. That entire spring, my arms and legs welted anytime something even lightly scratched me. Even more oddly, I never had that reaction any other spring I lived in Charlotte.

It’s funny how one forgets the “advantages” of moving ever northward. This is until, of course, you’re sitting at work for the fifth night in a row (jeebus this was a long week), and realize your entire forearm is inflamed from where you had just scratched it vigorously. Oh, and is that why your back won’t stop itching? And why you feel like you’re about the claw through your pant leg to tear the flesh off your thighs? I love the warm, spring weather (it’s given me so much energy it’s scary), and yet I hate it.

During my eigth grade springtime fun, Allegra and other allergy medicines that are purportedly good for skin allergies didn’t help a fig. I may have to have a go at that again, though, because I refuse to suffer through the panic this causes in me (it’s such a creepy fucking reaction) and the incessant itching while I’m taking a maximum load of classes next term.

Oh, well. What’s a girl to do?

In other news, I just finished registering for an independent study with my current chemistry prof. She does environmental chemistry research, and although I’ll be spending most of this quarter catching up on the theory (particularly given that I’ll only just be learning electrochemistry next term), I can still do basic labwork and number-crunching for her, and the project sounds really, really interesting and has far-reaching implications, if she can find out what she’s trying to learn. I’m not even going to describe it, because I’m sure I’ll just butcher it and show my ign’ance. But I want to help, however I can. The only problem is, it requires a four-hour block of time, and the only time we both have open is Thursday. That means that on Thursdays I’ve got a six-hour block of class/lab, followed by the Thorn (and I will be the full News Editor, next term, although I have an assistant). I’m slightly less than thrilled about this, but she’s got lab on the two days I would have prefered, so c’est la vie, eh? And I really want to do this. If you can’t stand the pressure, get out of the cooker, I guess. Or is that heat and a skillet? Either way.

But I’m really excited, despite the hell that will be my Thursdays. Dr. M. is friendly and helpful, and I think we’ll work well together. And, of course, if I like it, I’ll just keep that course in my schedule next year and keep helping her out as I take more chemistry classes.

Oh, and here’s next term’s schedule. Yes, tables will break my layout, the ugly sons of bitches. Get a higher resolution.





















MONDAY   Intro to Database Systems Engineering Chemistry II   Calculus III Gender Issues        
TUESDAY   Intro to Database Systems     Calculus III Gender Issues        
WEDNESDAY   Intro to Database Systems Engineering Chemistry II   Calculus III   Chem. Lab  
THURSDAY   Intro to Database Systems     Calculus III Gender Issues Chem. Research
FRIDAY     Engineering Chemistry II   Calculus III Gender Issues        

Resolved – nntp//rss install

Goal: to use nntp//rss as an RSS aggregator, using either Blackdown JDK/JRE 1.4.1 or Sun SDK/JRE 1.4.2.

The main problem here comes in running the actual NNTP server. Normal users do not have access to the ports in use by the app. My initial thought was to create a script that could be executed from /etc/init.d as a daemon via the rc-update command. Alas, this wasn’t as simple as I hoped, and was abandoned.

The final solution was to perform a chmod a+s on both nntprss-start.jar and nntprss.jar, and to edit the nntprss-config.xml file to use a port larger than 1024. Something like 1199 instead of 119. The chmod command sets those files to be executed as though root were executing them, giving them access to modification of ports.

Banal Happiness

Today was a beautiful day.

I’m not even going to say “despite it being Singles Awareness Day and the fact that I am singularly single”. It was just a beautiful day for me.

I slept in until about 09:00, woke up to find the sweetest Valentine’s Day card from Mae taped on my door, played around with the 2.6 kernel and bootsplash after hearing good things about it at the Linux Users’ Group meeting last night (blatant geekfest–I haven’t had so much fun on a Friday night in a long time), and then left campus on my own for the first time in about a month.

Today’s off-campus excursion was brought to me in part by Incubus, Everlast, a half-full tank of gas, the remaining majority of my last paycheck, and a burning determination to enjoy the spring-like weather.

My spirits have been incurably lifted.

I moseyed on over to the mall, in search of cheap sweats, and ended up spending some extra cash I had on Erykah Badu’s latest CD and a big ass book (we’re talking over a thousand pages, easy). I then headed to Wal-mart and picked up some things I’ve been needing for the past… well, month.

I got back just in time for the dinner thrown by Mae. She makes a wonderful sauce for pasta, full of flavor despite it being something even she can eat. Sounds harsh, but she can’t even eat certain types of tofu ice cream because it was made on the same equipment as the company’s dairy ice creams. Kinda scary. She’s a wonderful cook, though, and makes all sorts of stuff, including things she can’t eat herself (like that hot chocolate with Ghirardeli baking chocolate).

If it’s still warm tomorrow, I’ll be running outside. Outside. If this spring weather lasts through my quarter break, I’ll be so happy.

#^$*@# – A pissy rant

I am so pissed right now I am vibrating with anger. My physics lab partner, who’s been dragging his heels all damn term, missed our lab, the lab he is supposed to be doing, this morning.

A couple of weeks ago, NSBE was invited to a plant trip at Caterpillar, and Daniel said he wanted to go. I didn’t give a damn–a tour of a Caterpillar plant is for the Mechanical and Chemical engineers, but I’d tag along. I agreed to arrange a make-up lab with our lab prof, and made sure I was set with my other missed classes. I was up at the ass-crack of dawn (05:20) to go on the plant trip, sick from a cold and barely able to keep food down. Guess what negro didn’t show up? Turns out he had a computer programming night exam that evening. These things are schedules weeks in advance. To top it off, the fuck up didn’t even go to lab while he was here and I was stuck cavorting around a plant. He didn’t want to go because I wasn’t there. Now, given that I ran my labs all by my damn self, did all the write-ups my damn self (and got us decent grades), and still helped his lazy ass on his first lab, he could have felt perfectly fucking free to take some damned initiative without me holding his hand. Instead, he slept in.

Fine, so we still have a scheduled make-up lab for today. It started, however, during my last class, and I have enough absenses in there to actually matter (plus, we’re talking about Langston Hughes, who is quite the man), so I told him to start without me, and I’d show up the next hour.

Class is over, I go down to the lab, and can’t find him. The prof isn’t in there at the time, so I come back to my room and see he’s online, but idle. Online. Meaning his computer is not in the laboratory, taking measurements, which I already knew. So I stomp up to his room (and boy, did the path clear when people saw my face…), and there he is, having a good time “chillaxing” (I cannot believe that non-word is becoming a part of my speech.). Options included snatching his ass out of bed onto the floor and yelling at him while pummelling with feet or fists, or just leaving and having a friendly chat with my lab prof to get our grades separated (which would certainly boost my average). I managed to find a middle ground upon seeing the fearful look on his roommate’s face, and attempted to get out a coherent sentence explaining that fourth hour does, in fact, begin earlier than the present time and that labs are not held in residence halls. I may have sputtered a bit. Just a bit.

Conversely, my chemistry lab partner got better over the quarter, and managed to run our lab yesterday smoothly. The lab was actually interesting–we’re studing integrated rate laws, and essentially watched a cube of CO2 sublimate for a half hour, taking mass readings every thirty seconds. Kinda tedious, but our data turned out to be a sexy smooth curve.