Monday, March 30, 2009

Other March News

Of course, my other March news is that during our spring break, Tim proposed! So I now I have a fiance instead of a boyfriend. Pretty crazy! This also means that we will definitely be dealing with a two-body problem when we are applying for jobs; but we were already assuming that would be the case anyway. I'm not too worried about it though; it will be one more variable, but other people have done it before. I have another year before I have to worry about that anyway though, so I think I'll save my stress for wedding planning!

Last week we looked at scores of reception and ceremony sites (I would like an outdoor wedding), started on registries, looked at dresses, started guest lists, and thought about our budget (not necessarily in that order). We also started a wedding website and blog, where I will post all of my wedding thoughts that don't relate to being a computer scientist.

Overall, it's very exciting, and already stressful! I have tons of research deadlines that I absolutely will not be compromising due to wedding planning, but still the planning has to happen. So far working on wedding in the evening and work during the day has been successful, but that can't go on indefinitely! So this will definitely be an interesting time management experience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MS Degree

A few weeks ago I received the paper version of my Masters degree in the mail! In our program the MS degree is just proof that you've gotten to a certain stage as you work toward your PhD so it's not as exciting as it could be (this concept still baffles my family). However, it did give me something exciting to tell my family at the beginning of March! My grandfather was the most excited, I think. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote back to everyone on the e-mail I sent (I've edited using standard punctuation to denote my edits):

...We now have five such degrees, either MA or MS, in the family. This includes your dad, [cousin's husband, other cousin's husband, cousin,] and yourself. I was within two credits of completing mine, when attending night school and summer sessions on the GI bill while teaching full time, when the first of my credits earned started rotting because of excess time. By that time I was within just a few years of my second retirement and decided that the increased effort to reinvigorate old credits would not be worth it. I do admit, however, that I would LOVE to be in the group listed above and I have the greatest respect for the intelligence, focus, and willingness to persevere required to achieve this and higher objectives. You GO girl, we all love and admire you...

I share that part of that e-mail because I think it's very indicative of a lot of things. The first, is that I have a very supportive family that totally encourages both the men and women to pursue whatever type of career/degree path they desire. A lot of women don't have that, and I believe that's one of the reasons that technical fields in general see fewer women in them.

The other aspect is that it is not assumed that anyone will go for a graduate degree even if they do pursue an undergraduate degree! It's amazing to me that some people I know have parents with graduate degrees, grandparents with graduate degrees, etc. They are all almost expected to obtain that level of education; even if they aren't actually expected to, there is at least that perception growing up. I will be the first in my family to get a PhD (at least as far I am aware of!), which makes it feel even more exciting! I guess the MS qualifies for that general type of status as well (being part of the first generation with a large number of MS degrees). I certainly don't think I'm better than other relatives for having done this, but I do think it's interesting to have chosen this path despite not having many family members to have also done so. This is especially true when I think about how few women in the US go for the PhD in general!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barbara Liskov wins Turing Award!

What an amazing day! I was just casually checking my e-mail and what do I find out? That another woman has won the Turing Award!

MIT Press Release
ACM Press Release

Although I feel bad to be surprised about the fact a woman has won (why should anyone be surprised about that??), I don't know how I could not be excited. When Fran Allen won it seemed like a barrier had been broken, but it still seemed like it would a long time before the community was willing to honor another woman. Apparently we are better than I thought! From reading through the press releases she sounds like an amazing researcher. I wanted to share a few paragraphs from the ACM Press Release:

The award cites Liskov for her foundational innovations to designing and building the pervasive computer system designs that power daily life. Her achievements in programming language design have made software more reliable and easier to maintain. They are now the basis of every important programming language since 1975, including Ada, C++, Java, and C#. The Turing Award, widely considered the "Nobel Prize in Computing," is named for the British mathematician Alan M. Turing. The award carries a $250,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation and Google Inc.

The first U.S. woman to be awarded a Ph.D. from a computer science department (in 1968 from Stanford University), Liskov revolutionized the programming field with groundbreaking research that underpins virtually every modern computer application for both consumers and businesses. Her contributions have led to fundamental changes in building the computer software programs that form the infrastructure of our information-based society. Her legacy has made software systems more accessible, reliable, and secure 24/7.

I want to go dance around the block! Maybe one day (in many decades) my research will be great enough to receive this type of acknowledgment. Once can only hope! Despite her obviously being a deserving recipient, her success will help highlight what great things women can do (and are already doing) in the field of computer science.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Guitar Hero World Tour!

Last month was Tim's birthday, so some friends and I got together to buy him Guitar Hero World Tour with the complete band. We had a huge debate about Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero, and in the end Guitar Hero won out.

Since then, we've played many times. Recently we bought 2 more Wii controllers (we only had 2) and a second guitar so that we could have 4 people playing at once! Our first Guitar Hero "party" was a big success, and we plan to have more. Since our living room is small, we can't have very many people over at a time, but we'd like to have everyone over eventually who helped buy the game for him. Between that and Killer Bunnies, we have lots of weekend activities and not enough time to do them!

I've become a big fan of the drum set. I didn't realize that it came to me more naturally than others until we had our Guitar Hero party and multiple people had problems with the basic drum beat. I've never played drum before (although I've always thought it would be "cool"), but I've been involved enough in music that I can easily keep a beat. It's a lot of fun to learn how to control your hands independently so you can hit the 5 different drums/cymbals in many different patterns. I'm nowhere near an expert, but I hope to be able to play all of the songs on Medium difficulty soon on drums!

One of our friends actually plays guitar, and he was a natural at Guitar Hero guitar. He was very quickly playing on Medium difficulty, and had no trouble with songs that Tim and I couldn't play (even though we'd played Guitar Hero guitar for many hours on Medium before then)! So it seems that musical experience can definitely help in this game.

Overall though, it was a great investment. If you can find a way to afford the $200 for this game, you should definitely get it. We use it to wind down in the evening, or take a break from work on the weekends. It's great for multi player or single player, and it feels great to see yourself getting better! Although music experience may give you an edge, you don't need it to play. You don't even need to be able to keep a beat to start playing this game, although the drums may be the hardest instrument for you. I can't see us getting sick of it anytime soon though!