Archive for January 22nd, 2008

Walked to work

I know. I’m crazy. I just walked the 4 1/2 miles to work. The thing is that I walked the extra mile to the bus that would take me directly to work rather than the bus that was half a mile away and required a transfer. But I missed the bus by three minutes and the next one wasn’t for half an hour. So I started walking to see how far I could get before the bus caught up to me. It passed me about two and a half blocks from work. The total trip took me an hour and fifteen minutes. Along the way, I stopped at a fruit stand and bought two oranges with half of my bus fare.

Those last two and a half blocks were the hardest though. It is about 40˚F today. There was a bitter wind blowing straight at me. My face was cold and there were tears forming in my eyes. Not real tears, just the kind that you get when you are walking into a head wind. But it reminded me of the tears streaming down my face the day in first grade that I decided to walk the four miles home from school. I thought that I’d been forgotten. So I started walking as far as my little six-year-old legs could get me. It was January and there was already a snow base. My grandfather picked me up about a mile into my trip. Here I was, a three-foot snowsuit blending into the snow drifts on the side of a dark back road in Maine. I was embarrassed beyond belief, but relieved at the same time.

Today’s walk was much more pleasant.

Okay, I have weird dreams

Fine. I’ll admit to the ones I had this morning that woke me up. The first one at 5 am went like this:

He and I were having lunch. Without him realizing it, I took his phone from him, popped out the sim card, copied it on this little device that I had, put it back in the phone and placed it back in his jacket pocket. I used to work at a one hour photo place that didn’t have a dark room, so you’d be amazed at what I can do with my hands without being able to see.

Lunch ended and I was back in my office (which happened to be a desk in the hall next to the bathroom). I unpacked the new phone that had been left for me. I popped in the sim card. The phone started ringing constantly. Now everything he did on his phone was duplicated on the phone that I had. I could listen to all the calls, read all the text messages and view his email without him knowing. Geezus, his phone didn’t stop ringing, I don’t know how he deals with it. And the text messages. That is when I realized he was cheating on me. The text messages he received from at least three different women gave it away. But that isn’t what woke me up.

The thing that got my heart pounding was when I realized that I had been blackmailed by my employer’s security team into spying on this guy. I had a price at which I was willing to deny someone else of their civil liberties. And that really bothered me. And the phone just wouldn’t stop ringing. I couldn’t make it stop…

That is when I woke up and tried to figure out if there was any way that someone really could blackmail me into doing something I didn’t want to do. I couldn’t think of anything directly related to me. An hour later, I finally went back to sleep.

I was in a chair in our lobby with some friends. A couple walked up and asked if we knew where there was a game of Twister or a dart board. I knew the guy. Used to work with him on another team. I told them where to find a dart board. They left.

Now I became the girl in the couple that just left. Instead of going to the dart board, the time changed to an hour before.

I was at home with my little sister. I’m 25, she’s 15. Our parents died in a car accident a few years ago. I’ve been taking care of her since. She is teasing me as I get ready for my date tonight. Then she gets serious and says, “Have you told him yet?”

“No. And I don’t plan on it.” I’m dying of cancer. A very rare cancer. One that the government wants to put me in a lab where they can poke and prod me with needles. I don’t want to die that way, so my sister and I have been on the run for the last two months. I go into my bathroom to finish getting ready to go out.

Now I’m on the date and we are walking up to the dart board. I don’t see the men in suits until it is too late. They grab me. I don’t struggle. My poor date is looking bewildered.

And that is when I wake up.

Monday again?

So I had a nightmare. Now I'm wide awake, heart racing, and I can't decide if I just try to go back to sleep or if I just get up and figure out how to get to work (my car is in the shop getting the bumper fixed). I'm hiding beneath my covers using the iPhone (that was the source of my nightmares) with the sound off so that my pets don't know I'm awake yet.

I checked my mail. I changed my facebook status. I thought about checking the stock widget but the market is still closed (and I know today is going to be painful based on the world markets yesterday. Hoping our financials today will help for tomorrow.). I checked the weather.

I waited for the weather widget to update because it already seems busticated. Every day in the valley is showing rain. Then I noticed that it said today was Monday. Again!

Seriously. This isn't funny to someone who just had three Fridays. I know I sucked at Monday, but to make me do it over again is just cruel.

Maybe this is because Yahoo! Just announced it is laying off a bunch of employees? Thus, the person in charge of updating the weather info has left the entire east coast in the dark and is keeping all cities in Monday again, except for Cupertino, which magically gets to have a Tuesday instead?

This is really encouraging me to get out of bed now, bike in the rain to work just so I can have Tuesday instead of a second Monday.

If only the weather widget would tell me it isn't still dark outside the sheet tent I'm using to hide from the hungry cats. The dog found me but is back to sleep already.

I wish I was.

Update: the east coast is out of the dark now, but out of the eight cities I have listed, only Cupertino is having Tuesday. Is this a ploy to keep wallstreet from opening today?

MLK Day

FSJ make some good points about diversity, or lack thereof. I don’t think this is a problem that is restricted to Apple, but to the entire tech industry. Being female, I’m a minority in my field. On most days, it is easy to forget that, but occasionally, it is painfully obvious. For example, the most uncomfortable I felt was when my Jamaican Chinese friend and I went to a local geek meeting. He was the only person of color, and I was the only female. It wasn’t that anyone there treated us any different, but we felt different. And we never went back.

After reading FSJ’s post, I sat in the lobby this morning and watched as my fellow employees came to work. Overwhelmingly white male. Yet I love the Bay Area for it’s diversity. And I couldn’t seem to figure out how these two statements could both be true. Maybe it is just that my group of friends happens to be diverse. I’ll often look around a table and realize that I’m the token white girl. And that never bothers me. I love it. It never happened to me in New England. But I don’t face the same kinds of challenges that other people face.

I had some interesting conversations every year on MLK Day with my students. There is still a lot of racism and prejudice out there. Stories one of my favorite kids would tell me about how strangers would cross the street if she and her friends were walking towards them. Another talked about being charged with shoplifting for no apparent reason other than being black. Another friend told me about times he’s been racially profiled by the police.

I realize how sheltered and easy my life has been. Being a minority because I’m female in the geek world is nothing compared to some of the challenges that my friends face just for having a different skin tone. I like to think that the world we live in is getting more color-blind, but it is taking longer than I’d hope.

Government funded censorship

I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out at work lately. Since I can’t talk about that, and since it is raining (which always makes me extremely grumpy as you can probably tell from earlier posts), I’m going to complain about my old job instead.

I used to teach and do sys admin work for a small, all-girls, private, boarding school. I loved teaching. I hated being a sys admin. The school and I didn’t always see eye to eye on some very fundamental things having to do with technology. One of those was a certain government grant (that I can’t seem to find right now). It was a couple thousand dollars to be invested in the school’s technology plan. It had a simple application, and was pretty much easy money. There was one catch. You had to install a firewall to block certain sites.

I refused. The government was offering money for censorship. I told the school if we needed the money that bad, take it out of my salary because I would never accept those terms.

Sure enough, as soon as I left, they took the money and put in a firewall. Now the teachers have a password that they can use to get around it, but the kids are blocked from more and more sites every day. This was supposedly meant to protect the kids, but they use it to protect bandwidth. Any time the school decides the kids are spending too much time on a particular site, they block it.

Here are a few of the things that I find wrong with this approach.

1. Censorship.
The last time I checked, I am guaranteed free speech. To me, adding a firewall to a network to restrict access to specific websites is denying my right to free speech. This is similar to banning books from a library. Sure, I don’t want to have a porn collection in my high school library, but I also don’t want someone telling me that I can’t have a copy of Catcher In The Rye. Oh, and if any of those books in the library could possibly be thought of as “fun” and “non-educational”, those have to go too! (My kids would be happy to tell you all about the discussions we had in class about the profound effects the porn industry has had on technology, as well as how the porn industry, like gaming, has been mostly dominated by men and that there is a lot of room for growth producing female-directed porn and games.)

2. Learning.
Many of the websites being blocked are social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. As much as I don’t want the kids wasting their day away twittering to their friends, the school is missing out on a number of learning opportunities.

A. Getting girls excited about technology and programming.
One of the reasons that girls don’t go into computer science is because computers just weren’t all that exciting when I was growing up. Yes, we used them to write papers, but as a whole, we didn’t get into gaming. Games are really the gateway drug of choice for getting guys interested in programming. So what gets girls excited about programming? Social networking. Girls love text chat, voice chat, and video chat. Girls love email and making web pages. Girls love making friends and communicating through Web 2.0 apps like MySpace. All the stuff that the firewall is blocking, I can use to get a girl interested in programming. Get her to start writing css and javascript to make her blog cooler. From there, it isn’t much of a leap of faith to convince her that she can learn how to write her own apps for Facebook. And some of the girls that I can hook on web programming, I can get to dig a little deeper and find an interest in writing native applications. And a few of those I can get excited about writing operating system level code…

It isn’t just programming though. It is using the internet as a creative outlet. Sponsor a blog on which to publish their fiction writing. Suddenly they have comments about their writing styles from people all over the world, not just their English teacher. Have the kids make videos and post them to YouTube. Show their photography skills off on a Flickr site. The more feedback these kids get from outside sources, the more effort and creativity they will expend making their art. You can have meaningful conversations about copyright laws (and try to convince kids to stop stealing music). And other classrooms can use the educational videos you make.

Okay, maybe not that one, but you get the idea.

B. Time management.
A problem with all of these sites like YouTube is that kids will spend hours searching the web for funny pictures and videos when they should be doing their homework. Personally, I’d rather that my kids (students) learn time management skills while they are living under my roof (school) rather than when they get to college. In high school, I have the opportunity to watch them closely, and have a chance to teach them better skills. I don’t want to shelter them from all worldly distractions, then send them off to college where they will be left completely to their own devices. I’d rather that the novelty of the web wear off a bit in high school than be completely new in college. But then again, I think the drinking age should be abolished too.

C. Data management.
Kids have a hard time understanding that everything they put up on the web is in the public domain. What they write in their blogs is fair game to everyone; friends, family, teachers, and stalkers alike. And it is persistent. Google has a hard time forgetting information and likes to give it to anyone who asks for it. Again, I think that this is a teaching opportunity. Be proactive rather that reactive. Instead of pretending that the kids aren’t posting on the internet and get angry when you find out what they have done, have open and honest discussions about what kinds of things that they should and shouldn’t be posting. Have a night where everyone in the group tries to find out personal information about other people in school and talk about what kinds of people may be doing these same kinds of searches. Show the kids how to use privacy settings properly. Talk about the realities of chat rooms. One of my favorite video’s to show is The Parlor.

I wanted to rip the world wide open. Use the internet to our advantage to learn and create and explore. Let disruptive technologies influence how we teach. As teachers, we might just be able to learn if we are willing to change.

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