Archive for January, 2006

Contradictions

My job contradicts my upbringing. As a computer scientist, part of what I do is solve problems. I love problem solving. The difficulty is that the problem solving I learned as a kid is opposite of what I need to be able to do today.

When asked, “How would you make this piece of software better,” my response has been that “It does what I need it to do, and if it doesn’t, I find a way to work around it.” I have had numerous arguments about this because I’ve been looking at it from the wrong side of the tracks.

Growing up, we didn’t have much money. I tried not to ask for frivolous things, and often wore hand-me-down clothes from cousins I barely knew. I’m not saying this because I feel sorry for myself. I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything because it taught me how to appreciate what I have. I entertained myself with things I could find in the forest. I spent a lot of time outside, inventing things with what I could find. If I needed a shelf in my room, I searched around the house and found materials that would work without having to buy anything. It wasn’t necessarily pretty. I learned the difference between want and need. I am grateful for understanding the distinction between the two, but it has caused me much grief when it comes to software.

When writing software, I prioritize the wants and needs of the user and make it happen. I have to look at an application and say, “I NEED it to do X, Y, and Z.” The problem for me is that I find it very difficult to escalate something I want into something I need. Thus, in the past, I was satisfied to get by with what I could find in the software forest.

It is hard for me to look at something and say that it could be better. I just want to find the good in it and work around the bad. I realize now that there is a difference. Filing bugs on software so that it will do more, faster is not going to cause my parents to look for a second job. Asking for an enhancement request is helping the software to mature. New features challenge programmers to solve more problems. Isn’t that what I love to do? Solve problems?

My next goal is to be able to figure out what the user needs before they even know they need it. That is what inventors do. That is where I’ll find the great ideas and bleeding edge software. Being a problem solver is great, but being the one to realize there is a problem to begin with is even greater.

Check back in a few years. This isn’t going to happen over night…

Visit by baby KFJ and Mom

Baby Kennedy and Mom came to visit me while I was home for a week. Isn’t he a cutie!

A face only a mother could love

Ducky and Kanga. How cute are they?


Congratulations on becoming a citizen

Last week, I went to a naturalization/citizenship ceremony. My sister-in-law became a citizen a while ago, and I was bummed that I missed her ceremony. So when a co-worker happened to passingly mention that he was becoming a citizen last week, I convinved another co-worker to sneak out of work with me to show our support.

The ceremony was fascinating. We got there late, so instead of being in the guest balcony we were seated with all the people being naturalized. I actually felt like I was part of the ceremony. At the beginning of the ceremony, they read off each of the countries represented and had people stand. Most people were from China or India. There were also large groups from Russia and Mexico.

Everyone had to stand and recite an oath that included phrases about rejecting your former country and bearing arms for America. It was all very surrealistic. There were a few speeches given. The new citizens were encouraged to register to vote. As a treat, we all said the pledge of allegance. It ended with a video of President Bush.

The ceremony wasn’t nearly as exciting as the feeling of being there. Over 400 people became citizens. Each with their own unique story. For my co-worker, his story started 25 years ago when he first came to the US as a child. I was grateful that he shared his life story with me. It was moving. And his was just one story. It made me realize all that I take for granted. All that I’ve been born with and never knew life without.

Below is a list of rights granted to naturalized citizens. This doesn’t really seem like much, but they are only the advantages once you’ve gotten past the green card. It just makes me start to think of what rights people do or don’t have in other countries. Something to think about.

* A citizen does not generally have to reside in the U.S. By contrast, Green Card holders can have their Green Cards revoked if they fail to reside in the U.S. If you become naturalized you do not have to be concerned about replacing your Green Card with newer versions. For example, the INS announced the expiration of the old Green Card forms I-551. All people in possession of the card had to apply for replacement with a secure, machine-readable Alien Registration Receipt Card. Citizens do not have to do this.

* Only American citizens can obtain a U.S. passport.

* Entering the United States is easier with a US citizenship than with a Green Card.

* Many countries waive visa requirements for U.S. passport holders.

* With a U.S. passport, you are eligible for U.S. citizen services from U.S. embassies and consulates when traveling throughout the world.

* U.S. citizens do not have to carry proof of citizenship. On the other hand, INS feels that permanent residents must always carry their Green Cards. INS has detained permanent residents who forgot to carry their Green Cards.

* Ability to vote in the United States.

* Immigrate other family members to the United States.

* Prevent risk of deportation. A non-citizen can be deported for a convicted crime while a citizen cannot.

* Eligibility for state and federal jobs.

* Ability to live outside of the U.S. and never lose citizenship.

* The right to run for public office.

* No need to file green card renewal applications.

I can hear you even more now…

I know. I’ve been bad at updating my blog lately. I’ll try to get better at it, however, there really hasn’t been all that much to write about. I spent a week at home after the surgery. I was bored, but couldn’t keep my mind focused on anything. For the past week, I was working, but dizziness had set in. I’ve tried to figure out a way to explain it. One explanation is that it feels the same way as when you first get out of a bouncy fun house and the world is moving even if you aren’t. Another explanation is that it is similar to having “the spins” only without being drunk. Finally, by Thursday I decided that if this is how it is going to be, I will just have to learn to live with it. It was kind of like the world moved like waves in the ocean anytime I moved. A bit disorienting, but I could get along. At least I wasn’t nauseous.

Well, once I’d resigned to living my life feeling like I’m on a boat, it started getting better. Today I cleaned and took the dogs to the park, and washed them (which is why I had to clean after. ;-) ). I feel great. Tired from all the work, since I haven’t done diddly for weeks now, but good. Dogs are tired too. Dog tired.

I’ve noticed that I can hear more now. I just plugged in my headphones and I already feel like my hearing is better than it was before the surgery. I think things are healing and I think it is all going to work out. I still have a lot of ringing in my ears, but it is getting better too. I have a hearing test at the beginning of February. Cross your fingers for me!

Two out of three top US Stories on CNN

An online conversation between me and Meine Schwester (MS).

Me: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/01/09/starbucks.bomb/index.html

Me: how much you wanna bet Dad asks us about it later since it is on the front page of cnn.com

MS: oh man.

Me: third item down on “more news” on the right hand top.

MS: yeah, he will.

Me: ah. no worries. he couldn’t call us anyways: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/01/09/sprint.outage/index.html

MS: our phones are broken?

Me: I think it is better now. not sure. you could try calling someone.

MS: they work!

Me: you are funny. calling me. haha. funnier I guess that you are calling the east coast in the livingroom from an island in the office.

MS: hahah. thats true!

Can you hear me now?

So it is a bit of an over used joke now, but I’ve successfully had a stapedotomy. The picture here shows a stapes, the prosthesis to replace it, and a dime. So for the last few years, I’ve had otosclerosis. Basically, there was extra bone growing around the stapes in my inner ear. I had lost about 50% of my hearing in my right ear, especially the lower tones. This didn’t really bother me much when I was teaching teenage girls, but working with a bunch of soft spoken guys makes it difficult to have a conversation.

Laser stapedotomy is an outpatient surgery, but they kept me for observation overnight. The surgery involves moving the eardrum aside, using a laser to put a hole in the footplate, and replacing the stapes with a prosthesis. Newer prostheses are actually small pistons. So I am now officially on my way to becoming a bionic woman.

Recovery has been going fairly well. I’m not as dizzy as I thought I’d be. Maybe I’m just dizzy all the time and so I don’t notice it. I do have to move slowly so that I don’t throw myself off balance. Right now I don’t have any real hearing in that ear and the ringing is still there. Meine Schwester says that the ear canal is pretty full of junk right now, so she isn’t surprised that I can’t hear.

The best joke that anyone has used so far was my grandmother.
“I’ll have to figure out when I can go back to work this week.”
“So you are playing it by ear?”
“Pun intended?”
No response because she didn’t hear me. She just changed subjects. =)

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