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Four years and four months ago, almost to the day, I started a humble little blog way over in a tiny corner of the blogosphere. Back in the day, there were few voices of women scientists in the blogosphere, and even fewer of women computer scientists. I had never had much luck keeping any semblance of a journal before, and I had no idea what I was going to say, really, because who really wants to hear the rantings musings of a lowly pseudonymous computer scientist? I'm not a betting woman, but I thought this little experiment would last one month, tops. Boy, was I wrong. People actually…
Recently b* (who is my tenure buddy, apparently! we're going up at the same time! w00t!) wrote a post that, I think, captures perfectly the angst, anxiety, stress, and mental craziness that the tenure process induces in otherwise sane people. In her case, it was a procedural change that sent her into somewhat of a tailspin, emotionally. This post struck such a chord with me, because not so long ago, I too found myself in an emotional tailspin over tenure, and I must admit that I was completely blindsided by it (which I don't think helped me get over it as quickly as I should have). So b…
I have a To-Do list that's longer than my arm. I have multiple deadlines that are Looming Large this week. My scholarly materials are due fairly soon, and there are a couple more things that need to be sent out into the Great Reviewing Stream ASAP. I have about 20 research-related tasks that must be done Right Now. I have been completely neglecting Mr. Jane. We are not even 2 ships passing in the night....we are 2 ships flying in completely different solar systems. So what have I spent the last 4 hours doing? Writing a homework assignment. (And actually, much of that was tweaking the…
Today, as I was driving around and flipping through the radio stations, I heard a song from late in my college days....on the classic rock station. (At least it wasn't the oldies station?) I've recently been friended on FB by friends from waaaaay back....and they are all posting hideous photos from junior high and high school. (There should be a law against this sort of behavior.) Toddler Jane's upcoming birthday....she'll be 2!! 2!! How did this happen? I'm having to explain more and more of my cultural references to my students. Today I had to explain what I thought was a pretty common…
I probably should have noticed the warning signs about my graduate program earlier---like, in the first week, when I went to meet my temporary assigned advisor and he said "Oh, uh, I don't want any more students right now. Go find yourself another advisor." (I guess he didn't really understand the whole idea behind "temporary advisor".) I probably should have trusted my instincts to run away to saner pastures, but I decided to stick around for a bit. What I didn't realize at the time was that things would soon get much, much worse. Fast forward to the end of my first year. I had finished…
For my Ada Lovelace Day post, I wanted to focus on someone who is doing interesting and interdisciplinary work in computer science, and whose work has interesting and important applications. Justine Cassell, Director of the Center for Technology and Social Behavior at Northwestern University, is just such a person. I first heard about Dr. Cassell's work in this article: Using "virtual peers" -- animated life-sized children that simulate the behaviors and conversation of typically developing children -- Northwestern University researchers are developing interventions designed to prepare…
Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow, March 24, is Ada Lovelace Day, a day devoted to highlighting women in technology. Get your posts together! (Even if you didn't sign the pledge, please join in on the fun!) Details on how to post and tag are here. I am so excited about my own post---the woman I am posting about totally rocks, and I can't wait to introduce you to her and her work. Also, while we are on the subject of reminders: If you're not familiar with fellow scibling Isis the Scientist....well, why the hell aren't you reading her already? Anyway, you definitely want to click…
One of the questions on the exam asked the students to explain the efficiency of a particular solution to a common problem. We've been doing variations of this analysis since Day 1 in this class. I believe we even did an almost identical problem in class one day. Two-thirds of the class got the problem wrong on the exam. Another question was taken word-for-word from one of my exams from a previous year. No one seemed to notice. Most people got it wrong. Note to students: If the programming portion of the exam is worth 40% of the points on the exam, and you do not hand in *any* answers…
Um, hi. Apparently I've been gone for a while. Yeah. Sorry about that. Life's been a bit crazy around here lately, and I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. I'm not sleeping. I'm not taking care of myself. I'm sick. I'm stressed to the gills. I have way too much to do. I feel like I work all the damn time. Hmmm, maybe that's because I *do* work all the damn time. In addition to not having time to breathe blog, I haven't really been in the headspace to blog. I have a ton of stuff on my mind, but I'm not sure how to blog it. It's all about tenure, of course: the…
I'm supervising a few independent studies this year, with groups of students working on fairly large and fairly fuzzily-defined design projects. These groups couldn't be more different from each other in terms of the way they act as a group, act as individuals, and interact with me. It's got me thinking a lot lately about group dynamics among students and the strong influences that certain individuals have over the behavior of the entire group. One of the groups is highly functional---on the surface. The students all get along really well with each other and appear to complement each other…
Dear Circadian Rhythm and Brain, Cut it out, both of you. I don't know if this is your idea of a sick practical joke or what, Circadian Rhythm, but I really, really, really do not appreciate being jolted wide awake at 4am. The first time it was regrettable, but now that it's been happening for several days running....well, I am not amused. It's not like I'm going to bed super-early lately---no, bedtime has been our same old, normal time. So what gives? Are you bored? In a bad mood? Did I piss you off somehow? It's not funny. Stop it. And you, Brain....you know, I expected better from…
I don't normally ask you, my dear readers, for help, but this time I think I need some. You see, my motivation seems to have taken a loooooong vacation. (I mean, who can blame it, really---it's February, which is a really sucky month, so why not disappear until it's over? I hope at least that my motivation is sitting on a beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais and having some hot cabana boy rubbing sunscreen on its back.....but I digress.) OK, so my motivation is gone, and my usual tricks----tricking myself into working, tricking myself into thinking things are not all bad, tricking myself…
Sometimes, when I look at Toddler Jane*, my heart aches over how beautiful she is, inside and out. Nothing in the parenting books, nor the advice and stories from other parents, can prepare you for what that feels like. Call me crazy, but I really do enjoy advising undergrads. It's a different kind of problem-solving: should I drop this class or talk to the professor? do I have time before I graduate to double-major? if I major in X, will I still be able to take classes in Y? Plus, I really like getting to know the students one-on-one, and getting a glimpse into their lives, their…
Well. It certainly was not my intention to go more than a week without blogging, particularly with all that's been going on around here lately. I'm ok. I'm coping. I'm still micro-managing everything way too much (out of necessity, unfortunately). But on top of that, I've just been too damn busy to do much beyond the bare necessities. Getting sick---twice---certainly didn't help things. Nor did the business trip which took up much of the week. Nor did the (seriously) day o' meetings, and when I say day o' meetings, I mean DAY o' meetings, as in ENTIRE DAY o' meetings. Yeeesh. And…
I'd really like a do-over on this week. This was probably the least productive, worst week I've had in a long, long time. It started with this lovely incident, and went downhill from there. Astute readers may recall that I really couldn't afford any distractions this week, so the fact that I basically did just the bare minimum to not get me fired really was not my best career move. So instead of making progress on my frighteningly long to-do list, I've been: dealing with a backache that won't go away, no matter how many tried-and-true yoga stretches I do feeling intermittently like I am…
Long time readers of my old blog may remember that earlier in my career at my institution, I was the recipient of a number of harassing phone calls. And that the resolution of these calls was largely unsatisfying. But it's been three years since the last one, and so I thought that maybe that was it, that I could start to relax. Ha. I got yet another one this weekend. Same modus operandi as usual. This one, at least, didn't mention me by name, but it definitely sounds as if it was targeted at me. There is one key difference this time: I have the support of my colleagues. My chair…
I did something this weekend that, to be honest, I'm not sure I could afford to do: I took the entire weekend off. Now, lest you get the wrong idea, I have a ton of work that I could be doing. But, by some strange act of the universe, none of it is due immediately. And I spent basically all of Friday afternoon staring into space instead of working because my poor brain was just too fried to think anymore. And my calendar this week and next is frighteningly full, including (a) a weekend workshop, (b) a business trip, and (c) multiple late evenings at school for various functions, several of…
Text messages from numbers I don't recognize. One of them was creepy enough to put me on edge for the rest of the day. This is especially annoying because I don't have a text plan, so I end up paying for every one of these messages.* Hey stupidheads, stop texting me already! Having to micromanage my tenure process. Oh sure, we have all of these nice checks and balances in place to make sure this doesn't happen and make life somewhat easier for the tenure candidate. Is anyone surprised that all of my senior colleagues are by and large ignoring all of these checks and balances? At this…
I've been in a situation this week where I've had to give my elevator pitch about my research quite a few times to quite a few people. Now, I have the standard spiel that I give, with various tweaks depending on how tech-savvy my audience is, that has evolved over time. But as I was repeating and repeating and repeating myself, I realized that it's time for an overhaul. I'm not talking a complete overhaul---the fundamentals of what I do haven't changed. But my story is much different now. Or, at least the way I need to frame it is much different. Because I've had a lot of really good…
I am fortunate in that in general, I deal with very few grade-grubbing students. Way back when I was a brand-new assistant professor at my current institution, I dealt with quite a bit of grade-grubbing, along with a host of other let's-test-this-chick's-authority shenanigans, from my male students. (It's always been the male students. I've never had a female grade-grubber or troublemaker. I don't know if this is just percentages---I teach many fewer female students than male students---or if there's a gender component to it. But I digress.) As time has gone on, and as the students here…