Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's like the 17000 Yen Shinkensen ticket

Has anyone else seen an iPod vending machine? I just saw one yesterday. Am I so five minutes ago or what?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The first of these that actually looked fun.

Four jobs i've had:
Orange julius-er,
Book illustrator,
Software engineer.

Four movies i can watch over and over:
The Last Unicorn,
Sixteen Candles,
Groundhog Day (oh, the irony),
Garden State.

Four places I've lived:
Salem, Or,
Portland, Or,
Vancouver, Wa,

Four television shows i love to watch:
Law & Order,

Four places i've been on vacation:

Four of my favorite dishes:
Lentil soup,
La Bourride.

Four websites i visit daily:


Monday, October 16, 2006

Occlusal guards

I went to the dentist today for the first time in four years. I hate the dentist. I go only when my gums start to ache. Dentists are too much like car salespeople for me to do otherwise. Everything is fine. I have no cavities, and I floss like a pro.

Dentists and I have a long history, starting with the moment I met my sadist orthodontist, Dr. Greenbaum. He had a lustful eye for my father's teamster's insurance, and demanded every possible procedure my little mouth would merit. At the end of it all, I had two surgeries, 10 months of head-gear, two years of braces, and a fake tooth.

Despite all that, I have the teeth of a 50 year old woman because I grind them. I grind during the day, and at night. Today's dentist demanded I get a "night guard" at a price of $263, none of which is covered by health insurance. As a result, I've decided to send a bill to each person who has contributed to grinding my teeth.

  1. Alan the professor. $54. For consistently answering questions during other people's presentations at research meetings.

  2. Mocra. $110. For not understanding the concept of "wire wrap gun" and multiple other offenses.

  3. Bartender at campus bar. $12. For referring to the women assisting with the barroom game as "Bingo Bitches."

  4. Advisor. $10. For delaying my prelim until I publish more papers.

I've no doubt I'll think of more. Maybe I'll be able to afford two of these things.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What we learn from each other

I find myself to be the department's official "moderator." Yes, like Phil Donahue. If there is a panel somewhere in this building that needs to be moderated, I'm often called upon to do it. The reasons for this are as follows:

  1. I have a loud voice.

  2. I listen to what people say, and formulate interesting follow-up questions.

  3. I am funny, which means even if the panelists are boring, the event will still be somewhat engaging.

  4. I am mean, which means I will interrupt people who talk on too long about one question.

  5. I do not embarass easily, which means I can talk in front of a room of very important people, and not really give a damn.

That said, there have been times where I wished I was asked to be on a panel, rather than just moderate for one. This happen to me most recently last summer during a middle-school-girls-in-computer-science event that my College of Engineering hosted. The panel consisted of a group of women in computer science who were gathered together to inform young women about the ins and outs of computer science.

Even if no one was interested in my own life stories, it was nice to be in the room. The panelists themselves were quite good, ranging from undergrads at my university, to recent undergrads, from graduate students to tenured professors. After the panel, the panelists were asked to mingle with the students. I met Isis, Alex, and Jocelyn. I especially identified with Alex, who said she came from a very poor family. When I asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said, "I want to be a doctor when I grow up so that I have enough money to follow my other dreams." I replied, "I did that exact thing. I was very poor growing up. I went into engineering so that I'd have a high-paying job, so that I could write a book..." Isis, Alex, and Jocelyn were all writers. Alex was writing screenplays, Isis was writing novels, and Jocelyn was writing poetry. I was instantly reminded of myself at that age, when I carried a little notebook around filled with my little stories.

Thing is, I'm still working towards that "job so that I have enough money" and I haven't written that book yet. Last night, I was flipping through the pages of my writing journal, seeing all of the little stories and ideas that I've recorded over the last eight years. Some of the notes are sketches of entire novels, some sketch chapters or short stories, and some are just two sentences describing a woman eating lunch. I think I have something in that big book of mine, and I think I owe it to myself to sit down and try.

I turn 30 in five days. Some people wrestle with 30, feeling that they are officially "an adult." I feel the opposite. I feel like I've earned 30. I've gone through all the self-doubting, body-hating, self-sacrificing crap. Since entering engineering, I've been mistaken for a business major, fired, mistaken for an account manager, laid-off, mistaken for a project manager, sexually harassed, and told I'm not creative enough as a Ph.D. candidate. And I'm still here. I've successfully made it through the bastions hidden within the dark and dank pipeline, yet having forgotten some of who I was before all this began.

But because I'm only 30, it is definitely not too late for me to do as Alex said; to "follow my other dreams." To that end, I definitely need to do a better job of carving time out for myself. I've been good at making sure to swim and go to yoga, to make healthy meals and spend time with friends, but I also need to make sure I sit down in front of the lappy and get started on something that's been a long time coming.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Three scenes which decrease the weight on my shoulders

Scene 1: It's the morning. Boyfriend is reading last blog post while I'm getting ready for school. He says,

"This is so depressing. I don't want to be in the faculty husband's club."

At which point we have the jokey argument about which of us is smarter.

* * *

Scene 2: Talking with my friend Moira over e-mail. I'm frustrated with all of the female faculty in our department who are in the faculty wives' club. They include Emma who is married to Alan and Lisa who is married to Gary. I say,

"I don't want to be another Emma or Lisa."
Moira replies, "You won't. Besides, your boyfriend isn't another Alan or Gary."

Which is very true. I won't say anything more than that.

* * *

Scene 3: Sitting in my chair, trying to work, thinking about all the reasons why I shouldn't even be where I am today.

  1. First-generation students are less likely to complete the necessary steps to enroll in a four-year institution. Of first-generation students, only 36% aspire to a bachelor's degree or higher, 45% take the SAT or ACT, and only 26% apply to a four-year institution. By comparison, 78% of students for whom at least one parent has a bachelor's degree aspire to a bachelor's degree or higher, 82% take the ACT or SAT, and 71% apply to a four-year institution.

  2. At top research universities, about 15 to 20 percent of [computer science] majors are female (Moreover, it's embarassingly much lower at my own department).

  3. About two-thirds of doctoral students entered their doctoral programs free of financial indebtedness.

If I got this far against the odds, then perhaps I can get further.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What weighs heavy on my mind.

Elizabeth Dewberry, the author of "His Lovely Wife," articulates perfectly my current life concern. The characters of this particular scene are Lawrence, a Nobel prize winning physicist and his "trophy wife" Ellen. Lawrence and his wife Ellen are discussing the upcoming engagement of Lawrence's colleague Eric and Eric's graduate student girlfriend, Mart.

Lawrence begins,

"...they are getting engaged over dinner, and he wants us to be the first to congratulate them."
"They're getting engaged? You know that for a fact?"
"What if she says no?"
"She won't."
"And that's what he expects? That she's already made up her mind to drop her whole life for him? And what? Join the UCLA Faculty Wives' Club?"
"I don't see Mart in a faculy wives' club."
"Me either, That's my point. Can he get UCLA to give her a job?"
"I don't know. I'm sure he could."
"Yes you do know. He can't. Not in this economy when they know he's not going anywhere whether they give her the job or not. If she wants to teach, she'll have to do adjunct work and get paid beans, and if she wants to work in a lab, she'll never get her own lab, she'll have to spend the rest of her life being someone's assistant."
"Not necessarily."
"It's what happens in dual-scholar marriages. I've seen it a zillion times. If you haven't, it's because you haven't thought about your colleagues' wives. But one of them gets the real job, usually the man, and the other does the shit work for a few years, hoping they'll prove their worth and the university will give them a real job, and eventually, they either get fed up and quit, if they're lucky, or they continue to care about their work and believe in themselves and they get bitter that nobody else does, or they start believing the implicit message of their bottom-of-the-totem-pole status, that they're there because they don't deserve anything better, which becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy, and they start shutting down intellectually and creatively, which drives down their self-esteem, which keeps them from being able to produce anything publishable, and they start blaming their spouse, which is not altogether unfair, though not really fair, either, because the spouse didn't create the system, but usually, the spouse isn't rising up against its inequalities, either, and in fact, the more successful the working spouse is, the more that person has invested in keeping things as hierarchical and unfair as they are, despite the harm it does to the person they supposedly love most in the world. So either they divorce, or the less-accomplished spouse decides she's got to find a way to live within the system, or without it, and she takes up a hobby like painting or photography or poetry, none of which she's particularly good at, and the next thing you know, she's trying to create an identity for herself, but it's somebody she's not, and her whole life becomes devoted to living this lie to herself long enough and convincingly enough that eventually, she believes it. Is that what Eric wants for Mart?"
Lawrence hesitates. He picks up his wineglass, which is empty. Puts it back down.
Then: "I don't know what the fuck he wants for her," Lawrence says. "He just wants to marry her."