Saturday, May 31, 2008

Being Bad At Arithmetic Has Heart Healthy Advantages

My first year of graduate school was the year I got a cellular phone. It was also the year I met my friend Iu. She's from Eastern Europe, and is fantastic at doing arithmetic figures in her head. She told me, "We were too poor for calculators, like Americans have."

That first semester, she and I met weekly to do our computer architecture homework together; she teased me about my inability to divide in my head. I tried to get better at it. The day she brought marshmallow cookies to share was the same day I got her phone number from her. So, in my phone, her name is "Marshmallow."

I really hated the interface for my clunky old phone. It didn't have a good way of getting to a certain name; it just listed stuff alphabetically. As I listed new contacts in my phone, I assigned their name according to how often I called them. Three phones later, I still do this. People I call a bunch are A-B-C/W-X-Y-Z. People I don't call much are in the L's and the M's. My mother is "Labor Pains" because it took her 14 hours to give birth to me. We don't talk much on the phone. Marshmallow and I tend to keep in touch over e-mail. My boyfriend is "B Guy" or Buddy Guy, one of the Blues kings. My friend Amy, with whom I arrange a bike trip every weekend, is wAmy because the A's and B's got full.

Last weekend, during our bike trip, wAmy told me about this book she's reading, "You: Getting Younger" by those two smug sons-of-bitches doctors who are on Oprah once a month. She knows I don't care for them too much, but she likes to give me health snippets from the book. Wearing sunglasses. Omega-3s. Heart health.

She told me that one can easily measure cardio health:

1. Calculate your maximum target heart rate, or MTHR. It's 220 - Age.
2. Work out at 80% your MTHR.
3. Time how long it takes to go down 66 bpm. If it's less than two minutes, that's great news.

So for my experiment: I work out at 152 and time how long it takes to get to 86 bpm.

I tried it. I can drop 66 bpm in less than one minute. Eh? What? That means, according to wAmy's book, that I'm in "primo cardio health."

I surprised myself. I wondered how I did it.

Bad arithmetic.

Last year, I bought a heart rate monitor to help with my weight loss. I was going to the gym, but I wasn't working out effectively. Now I try to work out in "the zone" for at least thirty minutes. It's interesting data and it's motivating.

But when I entered my "target range" in my monitor, I did the calculation in my head. And I calculated wrong. So, whenever I'm at the gym, I'm working out at about 90%.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Broadening and Narrowing My Fashion Horizons

I met my friend Sk. about 4 months before I moved to GradShitTownVille. We met at the shoe store where she works. I'm not Imelda Marcos, but I do have a healthy collection of shoes. Six years later, Sk. and I are still close despite the miles in between; when I'm in Portland, we still hang out at the shoe store where we met.

I am about 40 pounds lighter than I was three years ago; it hasn't sunk in. I think I have an reasonable self image. Over 50% of the time, I seem to like what I see in the mirror. But all the other days, I feel squishy, ugly, and whiney. The boyfriend gives me his frownie face on these days.

I visited Sk. in Portland last week, between attending a faculty meeting (!) and surprising my mom for mother's day. We went shopping.

Scene 1. At her shoe store.

Sk. "Try on these wedges."

I give my skeptical face.

Sk. "Just try 'em."

I've never liked wedges really, but I'm happy to try on shoes. Sk. brought me my regular size 39. They were huge, but super super cute!

Me. "I like wedges?"
Sk. "Your feet got smaller?"

I bought these in the 38:

Scene 2. At Ann Taylor, shopping for "non-dowdy professor" clothes.

Sk. "I don't think you are the size you think you are. Try this dress on. Don't look at the tag, just try it on."

Me. "But it's a 10. I wear a 14."

In my defense, I was at least no longer wearing my size 16 jeans.

Sk. "Just try it!"

Yeah. It fit. It's probably a fluke. Or I'm deluded. Either way, I'm really looking forward to seeing Sk. more often again.


For many, I think that "networking" is like flossing. It's good for you, but it's time-consuming and it makes your gums bleed. Unlike flossing, which is pretty easy, networking seems mysterious, magical.

I'm reading "The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career into Gear," and the authors make the following statement about how not to network:

Don't tell someone you're networking even if you are. Networking should be a somewhat organic exchange between two people who like each other or at least have a lot in common professionally. If you don't click personally, it just won't go anywhere. It's like dating--you know there's the possibility of sex, but you don't talk about it.

Don't start out asking someone what they do. That should never be the only thing that defines you, and if someone is focused only on your career, it leaves you feeling pretty cold.

Introduce yourself when you meet someone new, not five minutes into a conversation.

I think my buddy at W3C2 could benefit from the last one.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Temper, temper!

Walking down the street to the coffee shop, I was giggling out loud to myself. It was my evil giggle, the one that slips out when I'm thinking about my recent evil doings.

* * *

Today there was a meeting on my campus for the World Wide Women In Computing Conference. The W3C2 is a fake name, but the meeting was real. Since it's on my campus, I volunteered to help out: driving a shuttle bus, fielding questions about ATM locations, and taking meeting notes. I try to be a good hostess, which generally involves keeping my cynical mouth shut.

Fifteen minutes before today's meeting, I approached the W3C2 representative to let him know I would be taking notes.

I said, "I was sent down here to be your scribe."
He replied, "Oh great! I'll assume that you don't know what we're doing."
I said, "I'm a graduate student in computer science, I think I'll be okay."
He said, "Well, you may not know that W3C2 is ..."
I stopped him, firmly, "I'm very familiar with your institution."

And then he explained their topic of conversation, which is where I wished he had started. He never bothered to learn my name.

I was very mad. Shaking hands mad. Here is a representative for an institution trying to get more women in computing, and he did the very thing that makes me feel invalidated and invisible. He assumed I didn't know.

Of course, I took beautiful notes. I know the area of diversity in computing quite well, so it wasn't hard to keep up with the conversation. I've also seen many of the attendees at other conferences, so it wasn't hard to add names to the things that were said. But all the time I felt like I needed to swat this guy gently on the nose.

After the meeting he came up to me to arrange to have the notes sent to him. After I got his e-mail:

I said, "I hope you've learned your lesson."
He asked, "What's that?"
I said, "When a woman is standing in front of you, don't assume she's a secretary."
He stammered, "I didn't assume that...I...I just assumed that you didn't know what we were doing."
I said, "Given that you are in W3C2, it's very important for you not to make these kinds of assumptions."
He stammered, "Yes, I'm learning that
I said, smiling, "Have a safe trip home."

At least he faked being receptive to his lesson. Let's hope he learned.