Thursday, July 29, 2010


What year is it? 'Cause last time I checked, we were out of medieval times and women were actually being accepted as functional members of society. How is it that a subject as benign as Women in Computer Science could bring so many closed-minded, sexist extremists out of the woodwork to pollute the airwaves with comments of negativity and hate? If you're not familiar with the current debate over Google supporting women in CS, here's a link that will bring you up to date.

First, let me state that I don't consider myself a feminist. As far as I'll go in that direction is "Femininist," a trait that I blogged about just shy of two years ago. And while I don't go around bashing men or blogging about the supremacy of women, I do believe that women can do whatever men can do...even if they accomplish it differently.

I was so mortified by some of the comments in the twittersphere that I couldn't focus as I headed to teach my CIS170 class yesterday. I was still shaken when I got there, so we took a little time out and I decided to have a discussion with them. My students are from all over the world, diversified in age and plan to go into a varied mix of majors. Of those 10 students, only one was of the opinion that men were better than women at logic and math. He said it was a fact. But he said women were better at languages, so that made it okay.

The other students were just about as in awe of the situation as I am. Many of them are going in to fields where women are an equal or greater percentage of the population, so they're quite comfortable working with the female gender. Not one of my students had an issue with a private company offering grants to help underrepresented groups attend a prestigious conference.

I mentioned that I could understand that filling chairs with unqualified women would be an abomination (trust me, it doesn't make us look good to be filler) but if the women are equally qualified and need extra encouragement to attend an event such as this, I see no problem in offering that encouragement. To me, it's the difference between "This group is underrepresented in a field that could benefit from having more people like them." and "We just like this group better." The first is commendable, the second is not.

In my opinion, Google is simply adding depth and diversity to a field that is currently risking levels of stagnation due to the lopsidedness of the participants. If we can fill out the base of creativity a little more, it will benefit everyone. Oh, and in case you're wondering, we're not *taking* jobs from anyone. According to NCWIT, almost half of the CS jobs out there will be unfilled by the year 2018. We need more people, period. Our largest untapped resources just happen to be women and non-white men. Let's tap that!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time

Time travel isn't that hard. I've done it about half-a-dozen times now. The problem is that it takes me such a long time to put the machine together, then I only get back as far as when I've almost completed the damn machine before it comes apart and I'm left to pick up the pieces again.

My friend just shared an article with me about Time Travel Without The Grandfather Paradox. It made my brain feel like it was about to explode. I've never done well with scientific solutions that require that we get to set our own conditions. When in real-life do we get to set our own variables so that things work out exactly as we had hoped they would?

I happen to have my own theory on time travel, that is probably not going to be well-received or popular to any sci-fi/fantasy subscribers out there. I think that if one were able to travel back in time (they would have to be unaided by hardware to prevent the repetition I describe in my opening paragraph) I believe that one's body would also regress. Just as moving through space causes a location change, I believe that moving through time would cause a change in age. I don't think it's possible for our current selves to go exploring previous generations. Instead, I think it would be very much like pressing 'rewind'. One copy of us travels backward, getting younger and ending up in the same position that we originally were. The question then becomes, would our brain retain any of the knowledge of the life we rewound from? If so, we still have the potential to go back in time and change events, we just have to live them over. Like 'back' in a web browser, any changes we made in our surfing would change the course of 'forward.' It *would* therefore be impossible to go back and kill your grandfather, because you couldn't possibly go back any further than when you were in-eutero...and if you did, you'd still have to wait for your egg to get dropped and fertilized.

An interesting thing happens when I consider that one doesn't get to keep the thoughts that we build as we originally age. Suddenly, time travel seems feasible. In fact, time could constantly be moving back and forth, but we have no knowledge of it...except maybe that faint whisper of deja vu that we get when we reverse through a moment and then immediately begin forward again.

No, I don't think time-travel needs to be invented. I highly suspect we're all already going in every direction at once.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tick Tock

Not too long ago, I watched a movie called Timer. Basically, it's about a timer that people can install in their wrists that tell them the exact day that they will meet their true love. The movie follows three main stories: One woman who finds out that her true love won't come along until she's 46, a boy who finds out that he'll find the love of his life at the age of 14 and the main character who's timer hasn't even started because her yet-unknown partner hasn't been fitted with his chip yet.

Having recently separated from a man that's more than I ever dreamed of - knowing we love each other but can't end up together - this movie has been rolling around in my brain. The phrase "bad timing" has been used between us more than once. The phrase "too late" has come out a time or two, as well, being that I didn't meet him until after I was married, even though we were still both in our very early twenties.

I can't help but use the characters in the movie to predict all of the things that could have happened. Take for example the boy who finds out that he will find love three days after he receives his timer, at age 14. Think of all he gives up by resigning himself to that relationship the day he meets her. Since he "belongs" to her from that first day together, he never goes out and makes mistakes with others to appreciate what a wonderful woman he'll eventually end up with. He doesn't have to feel the loneliness or heartache that makes one so grateful of the real thing when it comes along. How will that change the overall enjoyment of their life together? Is there something to be said for knowing the person you're going to end up with and coming back to them after you've grown-up emotionally?

Now take the sister who learned at age 14 (currently at age 30) that she wouldn't find her true love until she was 46. Because of that, she gave up on having anything real or meaningful in between time. She went from fling to fling, torturing herself and others in the wake. Had she not known, she could have had a lovely and beneficial relationship for years, perhaps decades, before her "true love" came along. She may have had children or maybe even a partner in young-adulthood to help her on the road to her dreams. Instead, since she knew she wouldn't be with any of these guys for the rest of her life, so she checked out. She missed years of possible love and growth because she was holding out for a guarantee.

What about our ingenue? The girl who's timer isn't even activated? One might argue that she's the luckiest of all. She has plenty of opportunity to test the waters - having lots of potentials who end up getting timers and proving that they aren't right for her in the end - but also experiencing the moment when you know that someone isn't right for you without even needing a guarantee. Even she eventually finds her match and it's easy to see that they probably wouldn't have ended up together without the help of the timer.

There's one more character I would like to mention. She has a small, but important part. She's the woman who is so in love with a man who is not her "one" that she has her timer removed. She knows that she's destined for someone else, but chooses to believe that being happy in the moment is far more important than any guarantee. I wonder what my timer would be doing.

What would I do if I knew? Is it worth missing out on even a minute of love if you know that it won't last forever? If you hold on to something that isn't meant to be, will it prevent you from finding something that is? Can any two people eventually become "meant for each other" if they love each other enough and are willing to grow along with one another? Perhaps most frighteningly, what happens if you blow it with "The One"? Do you get a second chance or are you forced to settle for second best? For now, I'm choosing to believe that new "Ones" continually make their way to you, until the day you realize that the one you're with makes you happier than anyone else you've ever loved.