Friday, December 10, 2010

#reverb10 - December 10th

#reverb10 Prompt - Wisdom

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

Wisest decision? I don't make a lot of big decisions over the course of any particular year that would impact me in a large way. In small ways, though, I think that choosing to meet people in person that I only knew from online is probably my wisest decision (or series of decisions) of the year.

I've met three people (at least!) in person this year who are fantastic. This wouldn't have happened if I'd not taken steps to contact and engage with them. It's always a risk to add people to my collection. I collect people, primarily strange or eccentric, but I normally don't go out of my way to do so. This time I did, and it was worth it.

Note to self for next year: Remember to take the emotional risk and engage with others, especially new and interesting strangers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I forgot to update: I hit 50k for Nanowrimo on November 30th.

I've still got a little under half of the book to write. I'll keep ya'll posted. :)

Need a better nickname for my main character because she... never fully set into the one I had for her originally and it bothers me every time someone uses it for her. So. It has to change.

Any suggestions on good nicknames that someone might get while part of a pseudo-military organization? :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And now for something completely different.

Still writing! As of 1pm, I was at 37354 words, with a goal tonight 40k.

However, I plucked this meme from Antick Musings, just for fun since I'm the only one at work today and singing really loud while I putter through testing.


All the animated movies in the world, sort of

- X what you saw
- O what you haven't finished/seen or saw sizable portions
- Bold what you loved
- Italicize what you disliked/hated
- Leave unchanged if neutral

[X] 101 Dalmatians (1961)
[X] Alice in Wonderland (1951)
[X] Bambi (1942)
[X] Cinderella (1950)
[X] Dumbo (1941): I watched this over and over and over when I was a sprogling. I still remember snippets of dialog.
[X] Fantasia (1940)
[X] Lady and the Tramp (1955)
[X] Mary Poppins (1964): My adoration for Julie Andrews knows no bounds.
[X] Peter Pan (1953)
[X] Pinocchio (1940)
[X] Sleeping Beauty (1959)
[] Song of the South (1946): Never seen. o_O

[X] The Aristocats (1970) : Because a cat's the only cat who knows where it's at.
[X] The Black Cauldron (1985): I only remember parts of this, though, but I'm pretty sure I got my hands on it since I devoured the books and went on an investigation into the sordid history of the film.
[X] The Fox and the Hound (1981): I don't remember WHY I don't like it, but I don't.
[X] The Great Mouse Detective (1986): This was one of me and my sister's favorites.
[X] The Jungle Book (1967)
[X] The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
[X] Oliver and Company (1986): I used to have a Christmas ornament that played one of the songs when you squeezed it.
[X] Pete's Dragon (1977): I've seen this, but I don't remember liking it very much at the time.
[X] The Rescuers (1977)
[X] Robin Hood (1973) : This one still pleases me to watch.
[X] The Sword In The Stone (1963): This is another one where I have whole long sections of dialog stored somewhere in my head that will pop out occasionally, complete with sound effects. I have no idea where they come from.

[X] Aladdin (1992)
[X] Beauty and the Beast (1991): I honestly think the Beast is not very handsome in his human form. I have no idea what the animators were thinking.
[X] A Goofy Movie (1995): This one's just charming. A lot of good character interaction forming the basis of the emotional plot. The actual events of the movie were just, erm, vehicle.
[X] Hercules (1997)
[X] The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
[X] The Lion King (1994)
[X] The Little Mermaid (1989)
[X] Mulan (1998)
[X] Pocahontas (1995)
[X] The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
[X] Tarzan (1999)

Note: These were all when was the correct demographic for all of the 80s-90s movies, so that's pretty much why I've seen everything.

[] Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001): I'm not actually sure I haven't seen this one. Hrm.
[X] Bolt (2008)
[] Brother Bear (2003)
[] Chicken Little (2005)
[] Dinosaur (2000)
[X] The Emperor's New Groove (2000): The emperor's lost his grooooooooove.
[X] Fantasia 2000 (2000): Stunning, but not as memorable as the original Fantasia.
[] Home on the Range (2004)
[X] Lilo & Stitch (2002)
[X] Meet the Robinsons (2007): Big head! Tiny arms!
[ ] Treasure Planet (2002): I really want to see this.

Note: I missed a lot of these, probably because I was end-of-high-school-beginning-of-college.

[X] A Bug's Life (1998):
[X] Cars (2006):
[X] Finding Nemo (2003):
[X] The Incredibles (2004)
[X] Monsters Inc. (2001): The fur looks SO SOFT and I love it. This movie cemented my adoration of 3d animation by Pixar.
[X] Ratatouille (2007)
[X] Toy Story (1995)
[X] Toy Story 2 (1999)
[X] Toy Story 3 (2010)
[X] Wall-E (2008)
[X] Up (2009)

[X] All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989): Another movie full of soundbites I can recall at will. I named my car after the main character, Charlie. I've watched it... a lot.
[X] An American Tail (1986): So sad and sweet and lovely. It's definitely better to watch when you know what's going on within the historical setting, though, because then there is a whole 'nother layer to everything.
[X] An American Tail: Fieval Goes West (1991): Inferior to the original, I still find parts of this movie to be little moments of brilliance. Overall, though, it went straight to 'goofy', leaving out most of the graceful, timeless elements of the first one.
[X] Anastasia (1997): All of the female lead music is in my vocal range, so I've got most of it memorized.
[X] The Land Before Time (1988): I watched this ten zillion times. At the end it says, "They grew up and lived happily ever after." I'm not sure why they made equals when WE KNOW they grew up and lived happily ever after. Oh wait, I do know why. Money. >_>; None of the sequels count.
[X] The Pebble and the Penguin (1995): Don't remember much, but I know I watched it.
[X] Rock-a-Doodle (1991): It's ELVIS and rock and roll and so silly. Don't judge me. *grins*
[X] The Secret of NIMH (1982): This movie is amazing and hands-down one of the best animated movies ever.
[X] Thumbelina (1994): "Romeo and Juliet were very much in love when they were wed. Were are they now? They're DEAD!"
[X] Titan AE (2000): The dialog hurts. The plot is stereotypical. But this movie is so utterly gorgeous. The main character for this one is the same model as the male romantic lead from Anastasia, or close to it.
[X] A Troll in Central Park (1994): I watched, but I barely remember it.

Note: I. Love. Don. Bluth. The animation style of all of his movies is so distinctive that it's an intrinsic part of my childhood and has influenced both my art and animation (if I animated) styles.

[ ] The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986)
[X] Chicken Run (2000): First movie I saw out of this studio. Amazing.
[X] Corpse Bride (2005): It was okay, but nothing special.
[X] James and the Giant Peach (1996): I adored the book, so I had to watch the movie. He didn't screw it up. :)
[X] The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Why is it 'hail to the pumpkin song'? That makes no sense. It SHOULD be 'hail to the pumpkin throne' because that rhymes (same 'o') and ALSO makes sense. Gah. It drives me absolutely bonkers every time I see it.
[X] Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
[X] Coraline (2009): I pretty much love Gaiman anything, and this was a satisfactory interpretation, preserving the Creepyness of the book.

[ ] Antz (1998)
[] Bee Movie (2007)
[X] Happy Feet (2006)
[X] Ice Age (2002)
[] Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
[] Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
[X] Kung Fu Panda (2008)
[X] Madagascar (2005)
[] Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
[X] Monster House (2006): I really liked this one.
[X] Over the Hedge (2006)
[X] The Polar Express (2004) I think I saw this one, but I might have thought it was creepy and blocked the memory.
[X] Robots (2005)
[ ] A Shark's Tale (2004)
[X] Shrek (2001)
[X] Shrek 2 (2004)
[X] Shrek The Third (2007)
[ ] Shrek Forever After (2010): There was a fourth?
[O] Monsters vs. Aliens (2009): I've seen big chunks, but never the whole thing.

[X] Arabian Knight (aka The Thief and the Cobbler) (1995): This is a wonderful, wonderful movie. It's got a unique art style and utilizes optical illusions as part of the fabric of the world. Excellent and I recommend it all over. I watched adverts for this forever, since it had some production issue (?) and was delayed for years and years.
[X] The Last Unicorn (1982): Classic. Essential.
[ ] Light Years (1988)
[X] The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
[ ] Persepolis (2007)
[ ] Waltz With Bashir (2008)
[ ] Watership Down (1978)
[ ] When the Wind Blows (1988)
[ ] Wonderful Days (2003)
[ ] Yellow Submarine (1968)

[X] The Cat Returns (2002)
[ ] Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
[X] Howl's Moving Castle (2004): One of my all-time favorite movies ever. I can watch this, finish the credits, then watch it again.
[X] Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
[X] Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
[ ] Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
[ ] My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999)
[O] My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
[X] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
[ ] Only Yesterday (1991)
[ ] Pom Poko (Tanuki War) (1994)
[X] Porco Rosso (1992)
[X] Princess Mononoke (1999) I didn't like this when I saw it the first time. It was 'too weird'. Also since it was the first Miyazaki i'd ever seen. It has since grown on me.
[X] Spirited Away (2002): I can also watch this one over and over. It never gets old.
[ ] Whisper of the Heart (1995)
[ ] Ponyo (2009): Soon. Soon.

[X] Millennium Actress (2001): This was so amazing. I want to tell everyone to watch it, but no-one has ever heard of it.
[X] Paprika (2006): I absolutely adore this to little bit.
[X] Perfect Blue (1999): This one hurt my head. Very dark.
[ ] Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

[ ] She and Her Cat (1999)
[ ] Voices of a Distant Star (2001)
[ ] The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
[ ] 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

[X] Akira (1989): I saw this when I was really young. So when I watched it during high school when I could actually remember images, I was really weirded out by the constant sense of deja vu.
[ ] Angel's Egg (1985)
[X] Appleseed (2004): The movie takes a couple of watches to make any sense, but I'm in love with Briareus, the cyborg.
[ ] Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)
[ ] Arcadia of My Youth (U.S. Title - Vengeance of the Space Pirate) (1982)
[X] Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)
[ ] The Dagger of Kamui (U.S. Title - Revenge of the Ninja Warrior) (1985)
[ ] Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)
[X] End of Evangelion (1997)
[X] Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone (2007)
[X] Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance (2009): Rainbows make EVERYthing better.
[] Fist of the North Star (1986)
[ ] Galaxy Express 999 (1979)
[X] Ghost in the Shell (1996): Didn't like it when I watched it. At all. I still think it's got a better concept than execution, but I should probably watch it again.
[X] Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
[ ] The Girl Who Lept Through Time (2006)
[ ] Lensman (1984)
[X] Macross: Do You Remember Love (U.S. Title - Clash of the Bionoids) (1984): I think I watched this with Josh? I know I watched Macross Plus, which is not on here but has the most gorgeous music.
[ ] Memories (1995)
[X] Metropolis (2001): Pretty sure I've seen this once.
[ ] Neo-Tokyo (1986)
[ ] Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
[ ] Ninja Scroll (1993)
[ ] Patlabor the Movie (1989)
[ ] The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)
[ ] Project A-ko (1986)
[ ] Robot Carnival (1987)
[ ] Robotech: The Shadow Chronicle (2006)
[ ] Silent Möbius (1991)
[O] The Sky Crawlers (2008): I own this, but haven't had a chance to watch it.
[ ] Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
[X] Steamboy (2004): The quintessential Steampunk movie. Um, ever. It also has a gorgeous representation of Victorian era architecture.
[ ] Sword of the Stranger (2007)
[X] Unico and the Island of Magic (1983)Weird. As. Hell. One of my favorite. I also have the first Unico movie, which is even weirder, where the bad guy gets /impaled/ on a steeple at the end of the movie.
[ ] Urotsukidoji: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1982)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D (1985)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust (2000)
[ ] Wings of Honneamise: Royal Space Force (1987)

[ ] American Pop (1981)
[X] The Animatrix (2003)
[ ] Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996).
[ ] Cool World (1992)
[X] Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
[X] Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
[ ] Fire & Ice (1983)
[] Fritz the Cat (1972)
[ ] Halo Legends (2009)
[] Heavy Metal (1981)
[ ] Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)
[ ] Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
[ ] Lady Death (2004)
[X] A Scanner Darkly (2006): This counts as animation? o_O Huh.
[ ] Sita Sings the Blues
[ ] South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
[ ] Street Fight (Coonskin) (1975)
[X] Waking Life (2001)

[ ] The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
[ ] Animal Farm (1954)
[X] Animalympics (1980): I wish this was on DVD, but the rights are in limbo and the only copies are crap.
[ ] Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon The Movie (2007)
[ ] Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
[ ] Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
[ ] Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
[X] The Brave Little Toaster (1988): Besides Dumbo, this was the other movie I watched until I could recite it. I can still do huge chunks of this movie for anyone who will sit still long enough to listen.
[ ] Bravestarr: The Movie (1988)
[X] Cats Don't Dance (1997): One of my sister's favorite.
[X] Care Bears: The Movie (1985)
[X] Charlotte's Web (1973)
[X] Fern Gully (1992)
[ ] G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986)
[ ] Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
[ ] He-Man & She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword (1985)
[X] The Hobbit (1977): The music. THE MUSIC. It is magnificent.
[X] The Iron Giant (1999): One of Josh's favorite.
[ ] Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
[ ] Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
[X] Lord of the Rings (1978)
[X] Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992)
[X] My Little Pony: The Movie (1986): Hush, this was amazing. Another sound-bite repository in my skull is filled with this movie.
[ ] Pink Floyd's The Wall (1982)
[X] The Prince of Egypt (1998)
[ ] Powerpuff Girls: The Movie (2002)
[ ] Quest For Camelot (1999)
[ ] Ringing Bell (1978)
[X] The Road to El Dorado (2000): The main characters are so smarmy.
[ ] Shinbone Alley (1971)
[X] Space Jam (1996)
[ ] Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
[ ] Superman: Doomsday (2007)
[ ] The Swan Princess (1994)
[X] Transformers: The Movie (1986) They say 'damn' AND 'hell' and still get their G rating.
[ ] Wizards (1977)
[X] Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988): Still a favorite. Everytime I watch I pick up more little details.
[ ] Wonder Woman (2009)
[X] Balto (1995)
[ ] Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002): I love horses, I should have seen this. Not yet, though.

There are several not on here that I recall, but one which I don't remember. It might be Wizards? About a guy who is playing a board game and flies on dragons who produce their own lift by chewing stone and land by breathing fire? Still haven't figured out what that one is.

Also missing is Felix the Cat: The Movie, Magical Princess Gigi, and Clémentine (which is French and the main character is in a wheelchair). To be fair, though, the latter two are - I believe - compilation 'movies' of popular tv shows. They are, of course, fantastic.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Polish and Writing

Yesterday, Gen informed me that I hadn't sent her any of my polished short stories.

Well, the conversation was mostly that Gen was sad that I didn't finish things. I informed her that it was patently untrue and bombarded her with old work I've just had sitting in my folders waiting for someone to read it.

No, nothing novel length polished. The only thing even remotely novel length that I've written is Princesses. I finished Princesses, but it's draft zero, needs a complete rewrite of the beginning, and I still have to write some song/poems for it and remove some of the detritus from the ending.

So I says to myself, I says, "You need to polish a full-length book and soon." Alright then, self, I will take your advice.

After Nano is over I would like volunteers to read my Draft Zero of Red Riding. It'll be rough, but entertaining. :) Any takers?

Additionally, you can peek at my writing sketchbook over at Dreamweb on Tumblr or I can send you larger pieces that I have hiding out online elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Empress has Lost her Groooooooove.

I skipped writing on Sunday and only managed about 800 words a day on Monday and Tuesday. Luckily, I was a couple days ahead. Now... I'm basically right on track, but I've completely lost my groove.

Now, I'm going to keep writing because I'm not blocked. I have at least 20k words planned out and coalescing ideas about the end of the book. I know the shape and I know how to make it go even when I have only the cool parts planned out. I am not feeling it, though, and I'm thinking I'll have to do something else to improve the outlook because whatever I'm doing now is not working at all.

So, I'm off to find a source other than wikipedia and see if a little research will cheer me up. Josh flies in tonight which should improve my mood tenfold, but it remains to be seen if I'll get any writing time this weekend at all. *grins*

Monday, November 8, 2010

On Blog Comments

I stumbled across something that affected me today while puttering through blogs.

"I translated it into Arabic, please let me know if you would like a copy." - Tima888 commenting on the post I am your Mother on Axis of Fat.

This rings a bell in the very deep part of me that likes to share knowledge, to feel the click of understanding between two participants in a conversation, and cherish the idea that anyone can boost the signal, even me with my cobbled-together homebrew operation. This is why I love the internet.

On a completely different note, I love westerns. There's something comforting-fuzzy about them in all their sepia-toned glory. There was one on during lunch at the cafe I write at and I have no idea what it was, just that there was a horse race and a woman who wore a french hat (a casquette!) and there was an awful lot of awkward romance. I kept trailing off writing and staring at the screen with a fond smile on my face. I'm pretty sure the horse was named Durango, they repeated it about a zillion times.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nano report day 3 and 4.

My novel - which I have named Red Riding - is going pretty well. I learned that I can crank about about a thousand words during lunchtime. This is an improvement from last year, where my lunchtime wordcount was about 600-800. I don't know where the extra 200 words an hour are coming from, but hey. Gift horse.

I'm still slightly ahead of the curve for when I start to fall behind because I'm, oh, GMing a game of Dnd or mooching gourmet food off of the guy who runs Exalted for us. Or, yanno, family holidays or the week that I'm /hoping/ Josh will get off work before they start whipping him to put more fur on digital puppets.

Either way! Writing.

In my story last night, my main character (MC) Red (Yes, I know she has a stereotypical name, but it's kind of required because of the natureof the fairytale/horror/epic poem storyline) was talking on the phone while riding in a taxi. Since my taxi driver could obviously hear her, he stopped her on the way out and basically told her she should claim her city as territory like her parents did to protect it from supernatural beasties. The only problem with this is, of course, that he used some really reactionary, extremist language to do so. So now Red is posed with a philosophical conundrum. She nominally agrees with him that someone should do something about the influx of dangerous netherworld creatures, though she's not convinced it should be her, but she is greatly disgusted at the blanket bigotry being applied to Physical In-The-World People-Eating Monsters.

Red got real uncomfy real fast, especially since her plan - even though she doesn't want to admit it - is to hunt down the people/creatures who attacked her friend and deal with them in what probably won't be a 'throw 'em in jail and let the authorities sort it out' kind of confrontation. She doesn't want this random guy's extremist argument tarring her actions, because she already knows she's stepping into a moral gray area by falling back to vigilantism however justified by the world built around her.

Anyways, this bit just came out of nowhere last night. Don't know if it will stick in the final version, but for Nano it's turning into an interesting part of the 'following in her parents footsteps' subplot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 1 (and 2) report.

Happy November!

I have begun Nanowrimo in earnest and have, much to my surprise, completed the first chapter of my scrawny little book as of *checks watch* about 1 pm today.

I'm not sure how I feel about how things are going so far. I'm writing in a new style, some of which is choice and some of which is just so utterly 'I have no idea what's going on' that I can barely stand it. I think it has something to do with the perspective I'm using. Since it's first-person and my main character is very no-nonsense, the prose is very no-nonsense.

I just hope it's not also very boring.

It seems to be the order of the day to not have wireless internet at any of the places I've been choosing to write, so I've been trying to scatter multiple copies of my baby book across several computers and have been attempting to use DropBox and Gmail to save bits and pieces, just in case. Never can be too careful.

First chapter events: Red shot a monster, called an ambulance, and chatted briefly with a psychopomp.

Current word count (CWC): 3800 or thereabouts.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nanowrimo Approacheth

I don't think I'm a natural blogger. I'm a wordsmith-in-my-head-on-boring-days-at-work writer, but not a sharer. I think I'd have to be more of a sharer to blog as often as some bloggers do. I love reading bloggers', um, blogs. I also love reading writers' blogs, but writers' blogs don't update nearly as often.

It occurred to me today that I haven't posted since July. July! I even skipped past my birthday and didn't even mention it. (It's the 19th of October, btw)

It's not that I haven't had anything to say. I simply don't post because I forget I have a blog. Blogging isn't in my blood like writing is.

I am doing Nanowrimo this year! (The peasants rejoice~) So, I figure if I remember that this is here, I might post updates on my progress.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Little Rules

If I had a list of rules, this would be it:

* Never stop learning.
* Never apologize if you do not regret your actions, even if that is the appropriate social response.
* Do not make excuses. Explain if necessary, but own your responsibilities.
* Get pissed off if you're pissed off. Get sad if you're sad.
* If you have a problem, sort it out. Address the problem directly and asap.
* Don't try to fix everyone.
* Bask when others shine.
* Parse constructive criticism from opinion.
* Don't hurt people through carelessness and/or cruelty.
* Tell the truth as you know it.
* Omit the unnecessary.
* Communicate

The rule I break most often is 'Communicate'. I neglect to tell people what I'm doing, when, and with whom. This mis-communication has resulted in more than one upset person, especially if that person was one with whom I have plans or was supposed to have plans.

The thing I must work on the most is 'Bask when other Shine'. Sometimes I err in my judgment of situations and bring in a buzzkill. I've been scolded by others to be happy for them. I love it when my friends do awesome things, so I am always happy for them. :) When the high is half fantasy, however, it's hard for me not to say something - anything - because I know they'll be disappointed when the high wears off and reality sets back in. It's happened around me more than once, but I've been training myself to keep my mouth shut and trying to adopt an 'enjoy the high' outlook.

The rule I follow most closely is 'Never stop Learning'. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Playon is posting!

Playon is starting to post results on their longitudinal study of WoW players. This is utterly awesome for the very simple fact that I love Nick Yee on principle. He's been a huge hero of mine since I found his Daedalus project while I was in college. I would definitely fangirl if I ever met him, if I could manage to say anything at all.

Anyhow, he and Nic Ducheneaut (who datamines and thus is cool in my book) have been posting very interesting things on their blog for the enjoyment of the internet.

One of the things I noticed they mentioned was that they have a higher reporting of women players in the US than average estimations. I'm thinking that's probably because someone (might have been me >_>, but I don't remember) posted the study announcement on WoW_Ladies. As far as I know, the WoW_Ladies livejournal community is the largest collection of wow-community-active women on the internet. The fact that many of the Ladies love this kind of thing probably has skewed the results a teeny bit.

So far, the most interesting post - for me - has been their Gender-Bending prelim results.

The graph above shows how often (in a ratio of days played) a male or female player chooses to play a character of the opposite gender. This isn't self-reported data, this is them combing through reported characters and registering their up-time. The very interesting thing is that women play male characters about 10% of the time and men about a third of the time.

I could posit why more males gender bend than women and it has to do with the concentrated gamer culture. Women get way more shit than men for being women (men get shit, but it's for other reasons) and compounding that with 'but y u play a boy?' it gets really uncomfortable really fast. My first 'main' charrie was a boy and it was frustrating for a long list of reasons. Now, I know that my experiences don't map 100% to other women gamer experiences, but I've been in enough discussions to know that the uncomfortable-factor plays a part in more than just mine. Not all, but a significant amount.

To change gears, however, on the longer-term that has nothing to do with male vs. female, one of my pet theories of why women don't reflect men in some activities is that there are a lot of women who are brand new to gaming within the last two or three years. It takes a while for the gamer mentality to percolate (for good or ill).

The activities that are ostensibly androgynous at a certain level of detachment/involvement take a while to get to. The only other example I have is that online long-format roleplayers (who essentially write collaborative stories online) often play only their gender when they first start out before creating characters of the opposite. Or authors only writing convincing opposite sex characters after they have matured as writers. It's a comfort thing, and a stereotype thing.

So when I say that women are new, I mean that for the women who didn't get their start in MUDs and wander into graphical MMOs, WoW was the beginning and it has only been out about 5 years and change. If women who game do not have the incentive of roleplay to explore opposite-gender characters, 5 years makes no impact.

I hypothesize that the ratio for women gender-bending will look the same as men in ten years - with the caveat that some gamer culture change would have to take place. Additionally, since the Playon survey does not include minors, I hypothesize that the picture of male minors looks an awful lot like the picture of female minors. I honestly think that gender-bending - all other things being equal (which they're not, but if they were!) - would boil down to simple experience.

The radical difference in the gender-bending ratios by gender ask 'Why?', which I think is an interesting discussion no matter where you're coming from.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Best Diet == Sustainable Lifestyle Change

1. The usual food and drink of a person or animal.
2. A regulated selection of foods, as for medical reasons or cosmetic weight loss.
3. Something used, enjoyed, or provided regularly

A diet-with-respect-to-food, for me, is a combination of all three of the official definitions. A enjoyable, sustainable regulation of intake that constitutes your usual food and drink. The concept that you can go 'on a diet' for a temporary period of time and expect it to have long-term results stops making logical sense after I process the word temporary.

My weight is my weight, and your weight is your weight. Even if there are health issues involved, or there is a lack of access to food that doesn't screw up your body, or you have psychological issues and damage as a result of any number of chronic or acute mental traumas, or you have low activity (for whatever reason), or any other factor that makes up your weight, your body is doing the best it can with the tools it has. Don't hate on your body for doing what bodies are designed to do.

Sometimes your body wonks out, trips a circuit breaker and goes haywire, or starts breaking down. Your body is a collection of algorithms, processes, responses, reactions, and automations. It doesn't necessarily know how things are going to turn out for you 10 years down the road, but it sure as hell is trying its best to run right now no matter the circumstances. Your meatsuit is gamely trying to keep up with everything happening that makes it respond and adapt.

The cumulative algorithm analogy, of course, works best under the assumption that you are not your body. That your totality cannot be expressed with the physical alone and, even further, that your physical is not under your direct conscious control. Treating the body as a machine, computer, or vessel works from the fundamental idea that human beings are greater than sum of their parts, that a human's gestalt incorporates the body, but is not defined by the body.

To be absolutely fair, certain disciplines can (or at least claim to) give you amazing conscious physical control over usually automatic processes. However, for me and most of the people I know, our bodies are like our cars. I know how to change oil and flat tires, but the intricacies of the timing belts for an interference engine is a little beyond my immediate capability or interest. Additionally, this viewpoint is based heavily on the mind/body dichotomies or mind/body/soul trichotomies of western thought.

My point is that the best diet is a sustainable lifestyle change. It's not an isolated thing. Every algorithm your body uses to determine weight and health has hundreds of variables, some as blatant as 'I ate a Big Mac every day for forty years and I feel fine' and some as subtle as 'I function better in dry climates or low altitude'. As Dianne Sylvan (in the post that prompted my post/rant) says, "Each person has a [...] healthy zone of size, diet, and activity in which they function optimally without having to do anything extraordinary to maintain that health." I wanted to jump up and down and scream 'Yes! This!'

Your body's doing the best it can with the tools it has. You can sometimes offer it better tools, but that's not always an option. Punishing yourself - or having others punish you - for 'choices' that you have no control over is ridiculous. If there are ARE choices you can make (the ones that are not dangerous, short-sighted, uninformed, or unpleasant), then give yourself different tools and don't confuse your body by swapping them around constantly.

I hit a point a year or so ago where my activity level dropped to nothing, my food intake shot up with access to new-job money and increased stress, I was coping with a new sleeping schedule, and trying to sort out a new routine. With all of these factors, I offered my body a set of tools that it took and I gained about 25 pounds. Not much, nothing near what others struggle with, but enough that I /felt/ the difference.

It was little things. I panted more going up stairs. I had less energy. I was crankier and even more asocial than usual. Tiny, insignificant things that said, "you are not running on all cylinders" and "there's a bug in the system."

I have a very blase attitude towards food and weight. I am privileged in that I could, in High School and College, eat whatever I wanted to and because of my activity levels, it never adversely affected me. Even when I grew out of 'gawky string-bean' and into 'I have hips!', I basically said, "Fuckit, I love my hips and anyone who tries to make me feel bad about them will get a sock in the nose." I'm lazy as hell, I know it, and I embraced it because I'm Contrary and trying to keep up with the 'ideal' was something my Contrary side fought against. When I started actually feeling physically bad I kind of had to smack myself in the forehead and say, "Well, shit. You can't lean on luck and circumstance anymore." I am thankful that I am employed and able-bodied enough to buy body-friendly food and perform physical activity. I made a lifestyle change towards walking and biking more places and started informing myself about ingredients and quantities of food I was intaking and lost the weight and - more importantly - returned to my happier, not-panting-up-the-stairs self.

I'm physically a very large person, about 200 lbs at my natural weight, and comfortable with that. By BMI standards, I'm fat. I only care because I prefer to be informed; I do not think it applies to me. It's my body, my machine.

Keeping myself within optimum operating parameters is sensible, so that is what I strive to do. My body is chugging along the best she can, and I respect her for her effort. It's not fair of me to blame her when nothing about her weight, shape, or size is actually her fault. She's simply a machine and what I put in is what I get out. If something breaks, I adapt for her sake and mine. She's not a conscious entity out to get me. I must be kind to her, accommodate her and understand her when she does something strange, but as a machine, she can never be inherently bad.

There is so much more to me than just my physical appearance, and I object most strenuously to being defined by it. I object to being defined by any facet of myself, but that's another rant for another time.

Anyway - a diet must be a sustainable lifestyle change if there is any hope of changing the operation and response of my body. Garbage in, garbage out. There is no ideal, shape or weight that anyone else can define for me because statistics can only go so far and - as part of how they are generated - are not tailored to individuals who are magnificent chemical cocktails and masses of moving parts, and any one part might never approach average (or even functioning). I can only attempt to put Non-Garbage in and trying to get Non-Garbage out. On top of physical food and exercise input, mental and situational factors can determine how much Non-Garbage I have to work with. This is obvious to me, especially after my stressful no-job period after college and watching my other stressed-out, unemployed friends gain weight.

The bottom line is that temporary diets are logically fallacious, my body can never be out to get me, and my weight is natural no matter what it ends up or how far from supposed 'correct' it gets.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The creek behind my apartment

Behind my apartment there is a creek. It could also be considered a ditch since it serves the purposes of collecting runoff and swinging it down to the larger creek, and then to the river that runs through town. It is natural, or at least more natural than the ditches I grew up near - all concrete, uniform, and deep - named the Rough and Ready and the Oligarchy. I wonder if I could find the name for mine.

It's a lovely creek. There's about ten feet of grass, bushes, and trees on either side of it and the trees leaf out in the summer and keep our apartment cool. During the winter, I can look through their branches to the mountains and it gives the place a decent view.

Last night, rolling back to the apartment after a thrilling game of Mutants & Masterminds where we finished our story arc, Gen and I were startled by the noise of the creek. Normally, it's a dinky little crawdad-fishing kind of creek. Just a trickle of water. Last night, because of the rains, it had spread out into an 8-foot wide rush of runoff.

This morning, when I left for work, the creek was almost back to normal, but all of the grass around it was flattened and squashed into the mud as evidence.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Silly Name I Use For This Blog

I started this blog a few years ago and I always pick faintly pretentious names to represent me on the internet. Whenever I pick them I choose something that sounds like a name, and follows fantasy-writing naming conventions. It's an old habit, and despite my desire for web presence and the fact that I've even sent my mother the link to this blog (because, really, it's not like I post anything I wouldn't mind sharing with the universe), I still use made up names for pseudo-anonymity.

Anyone who knows me in real life - or anyone who cleverly delves through the internets to find out my secret identity - already knows my name. For everyone else, I'm comfortable responding to Alii.

That said, I pulled the name out of thin air. Supposedly nonsense, 'Alii' was to be a handle for a niche website and was never intended to creep into the internet at large. The reason I kept it is that the word alii means lady (more or less) in the Hawaiian language and there is meaning beyond just my own attributions. I used the name for long enough to attach it to a representational avatar rather than leaving it a one-shot name. It stuck, and when I wandered to write a blog it was my main handle at the time.

I've become rather fond of it, though I often wince that it uses two 'ii's, even though that's how the word is spelled. It's a 'weird' letter combination and while I like the name, it does not mark itself as non-European enough to explain the combo. Subsequently, I look like a goofball because it appears to use RavynSparklePryncess spelling, even though it is simply a not a Latin/Roman title. There is also a 50% chance that the first 'i' will be an 'l' when others spell it, despite not being a shortening of Allison. People's brains are marvelous things and that's what people expect.

Silverwing, however, is just silly. It's very dragony, used on New Age, dragon, and floofier forums, and a simple google search will turn up a young-adult series, several types of vehicles, a server on WoW and any number of other things. There's nothing to recommend using it. 'Silverwing' is very common while 'Alii' is not.

Perhaps that's part of the allure. I'm one of many Silverwings. My last name - the offline one - is long, somewhat complicated, and I can probably count on fingers-and-toes how many of us use it in the US. Distinctive, sure, but difficult to pronounce, consistently butchered in pronunciation and spelling, and generally bothersome in other respects. In some ways, saying, "Hey, I like dragons. Mmmm. I think I'll use the name Silverwing," shows that I consider my online stomping grounds a simpler place. The name is random, silly (Very silly!), and I didn't worry too much about it when I shoved it into the blog creation engine where it spat out my new url.

I can, however, change it. Unfortunately, despite the ability, it means that the address I've been using for several years will no longer work, which is a problem. As soon as I can figure that one out, I'll most likely change the url for this blog, and possibly eliminate 'Silverwing' from the name I use here altogether.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Rant : Warning for Language

I don't know quite how to express my utter loathing for April Fools Day.

It's on this day that people 'prank' others with childish malice and flat out lie to each other about life status changes (I'm engaged/pregnant/moving to China!), or about things that will cause them to panic (Disaster in aisle four/your kid fell down a well/you're being fired) and is basically only fun for the people who are lying to the butt of the joke.

Did I mention I hate April Fools Day for the license it gives asshats to make shit up and scare people?

Now, I personally like April Fools jokes that are obviously jokes, or that are tongue in cheek, or that make you sit back immediately and go 'Waaaaiiiitttt, a minute....', but are essentially harmless. Things like ThinkGeek's Tauntaun sleeping bag, Wow's In-Game Pizza Service, and Google changing it's name to Topeka for today are hilarious and don't /hurt/ anyone, or make them panic, or do anything other than entertain. I enjoy these. They're pretty fantastic and actually clever.

Since April Fools Day isn't ultimately used for harmless amusement but by the horrible people who take advantage of others and then whine that we can't take a joke, however, I protest on fucking principle.

I end this rant with a huge fuck you to basically everyone. Especially those who try to get me to see the lighter side of April Fools. Yes. I know. It's cute. Now fuck off, it's still a horrible idea. No, I'm not taking myself too seriously, I'm trying to get through my day with a minimum of avoidable frustration. Come up with something clever if you want me to appreciate your prank.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Datamining is the MVP of the future

Data Mining is the process of extracting patterns from data (Go, Go, Wikipedia!) and I firmly believe that being a Data Miner is the Most Valuable Profession of the future.

I bring this up because I watched a Ted presentation from 2006 last night by Hans Rosling on the topic of Social Health Statistics. This Ted talk is the best presentation I've seen in forever. I'm still puzzling over whatever gorgeous program he used for the graphics that did such an excellent job conveying information instantaneously with very little explanation. The two points of the talk that are absolutely required are at 3:50 and 11:30. Rosling stands in front of the graph while it is animated and gestures at the data points explaining why they are moving in the direction they are moving. Later in the video, he states that his interpretation of the data is made possible because the has been aggregated and formatted in a way that it is easy for humans to grok.

What is marvelous about this talk is that, in 2006, Rosling speaks of Data Mining without referencing it by name. He ends his talk by saying we need a 'garden' of interfaces to the vast amount of data we've been hoarding like misers against a time when we will actually be able to use and understand it. Our recent history is boiled down to data points, numbers and keywords, and stored in banks within organizations who, as Rosling says, have an attitude like the Head of UN Statistics he mentions. These organizations say 'we can't do it', at least as of this talk in 2006, but the option is there for others to try.

Data Miners are already digging fast and well, trying their hand at these banks of information, and it is only getting more prevalent as 2010 flows past. Data Mining, the type that shoots for human readability, combines art and statistics while providing relevance and suggesting relationships. This budding profession requires someone who has a notion of presenting information in understandable ways as well as someone who can wrangle the analysis required. Most of the data representation ends up in a graphic, if not a graph, and if it moves or is interactive, so more the better. Data Mining leads to Chart Porn. (Totally Safe-For-Work despite the name!)

Sites like Data Mining, Strange Maps, Information is Beautiful, and Weather Sealed, present data in visual form, extracting meaning (or at least interesting relationships) out of meaningless heaps we've saved just in case we might need them. Additionally, ever more specific datasets can provide very specific information about just how broad or narrow certain trends can be. For WoW geeks like me, there is Armory Data Mining, which mines through the huge database called the Wow Armory that Blizzard provides for public access.

To rephrase the earlier definition, Data Mining (and subsequent Chart Porn ^^) is the process by which we take large quantities of data and poke at it until it makes a picture.

Science Fiction has been pointing at this idea and jumping up and down about it for years. The books/series that I recall off the top of my head that mention the idea of Data Mining and the representation of data for easy consumption are Otherland by Tad Williams, and Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem. In each of these books, they contain the seed of an idea in which data (news, in this case) is aggregated in a visual or aural fashion, through what I assume is a process very like Data Mining, and presented to a character.

Otherland is especially interesting because Williams uses the same metaphor that Rosling does in his Ted presentation, a garden. This garden has roses and weeds, and each plant and flower is weighted by so that color, health and other variables to correspond to frequency, reliability and whether or not the observer considers it a positive or negative trait.

Gun With Occasional Music takes a different route, as a science fiction dystopia that extrapolates from a point where visual media never really took off, and a morning symphony provides the daily news. A low, ominous tremolo suggests violence and percussion suggests murder, which sparks the main character to pick up an investigation. Both of these representations utilize Data Mining for information presentation, except they pull from a constantly changing dataset.

With these representations comes that the idea that any representation of sufficient complexity could be utilized, especially to assist in keeping the differently-abled up to date using sound, visuals, numbers, and patterns. Humans are wild awesome at finding patterns and connections even where none exist.

Designing weighted patterns to put value and meaning in context, Data Miners provide one of the most valuable tools that our future has. With the volume of information at our fingertips getting more and more overwhelming, another layer of abstraction is absolutely necessary to be able to see the big picture. The 'big picture' requires us to zoom out, and the bigger the picture the further out we must go.

The Wikipedia article on Data Mining does not mention this sort of 'social' application and sticks mostly to business and science. However, Google proves that the social applications are already being explored. Google's algorithms operate on the basic assumption that you can mine almost any dataset for relationships and outside of their intense search algorithms, their Google Reader has a feature where you ask it to find interesting things based on what you've already said you liked. Similarly, most music databases can stream radio for you based on a 'seed' song or artist because it has gathered data from others who like the same things that you do. Data Mining as a concept has been around since the 80s and is being applied everywhere in small ways now that the internet has provided access to data to work with.

But what is it GOOD for? How is this useful other than in a 'information is fascinating' and beyond 'big picture'?

One limited example is that Data Mining can be coupled with sufficiently complex Artificial Intelligence to look for flagged relationships within datasets. Credit card companies and other large corporations that deal with fraud in billing look for things like 'Purchase in Houston', with an immediate 'Purchase in Anchorage', and then again a 'Purchase in Houston'. The AI needs to be able to discern whether or not that is suspicious behavior (maybe they're local business selling through the internet?) and if someone's card needs to be frozen. My mother once got a call querying her if she'd used her credit card for gas. She had the previous week, for the very first time, and it was atypical enough that the credit card company gave her a courtesy call to make sure her card hadn't been stolen. Even ten years ago it was not usually people flagging these instances. AI Data Mining of this sort is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each year as it cuts down fraud.

Another example of what Data Mining is useful for comes about through Facebook, Myspace, and other high-volume social networks which have huge marketable databases. However, how ethical is it for the company that owns this database full of such an enormous volume of personal information to sell it to marketing firms or other places who might want to peek at all that delicious data? Not only does Data Mining present opportunities for marketing, but it also brings up huge glaring questions on how this information can be used while still protecting the individuals who provided the information.

I'm of the opinion that some data is meant to be mined, as if someone brought a dump truck of ore to your foundry and said, "find me something useful!" As a caveat, however, I think that the data should have been collected specifically to be mined, like the US Census and the daily news. With consent being the biggest factor, I believe that personal information should be protected as a type of media.

Professor Lev Manovich of the University of California, San Diego, suggested in 2001 (Nearly a decade ago!) that Databases are a Symbolic Form. In other words, he posits that databases, because of their unique structure without a beginning or an end, should be considered a new form of media. In this, I use the word database rather than dataset, primarily because database includes some element of structure and meaning to the collection of data and can include objects instead of datapoints, while dataset is a more mathematical term where the data within the set must have meaning applied.

Traversing a database, then, according to Manovich, is a non-linear way of navigating our shared experience. Where a story has a narrative and a photograph encourages movement of the eye to each point of interest, a database uses a webbed approach to convey information driven more by the user than the artist who created it. As anyone who has lost hours on TvTropes, Youtube, or Wikipedia could tell you, this type of presentation - a media full of other media, a meta-media - can be both edifying or a total waste of time. Manovich ends his essay by stating that there is nothing inherent within a database that 'fosters a narrative', but there are hundreds of thousands of narratives - a linear path compatible with human interpretation - lurking within any one database. These narratives, which he also refers to as interfaces, are the 'garden' of Rosling's Ted talk. Manovich talking about how the seeds from which the flowers grow are a type of essentially different new media.

With the idea that databases are a new media comes the idea that they can be treated ethically as media. In this vein, databases and datasets should be subject to a new form of copyright law incorporating basic rights of privacy wherein the individuals providing their information have the right to withhold it from the repository. If by simply living we are constantly creating and generating information for the consumption of others, then we should be able to hold the copyright on those creations like we do other types of created media.

With these concerns in mind, the internet and its ever-growing network of fascinating information - mostly unintentional and full of meaningful implied spaces - now gives us the capability of taking a stab at something very much like Asimov's Psychohistory to predict what the general trend of events. We're approaching the point where everyone's personal data on the web, tracking their online lives and the gaps representing their offline lives, could feasibly be used to predict the future the same way we predict the weather. Google searches can already anticipate outbreaks of the flu and it is only a matter of time before judicious Data Mining turns up other trends and behavior we can identify as important.

We desperately need this type of data acquisition and make-sensey-ness in every field under the sun. The social sciences, government, business, medicine, education, computer science, news, the internet, and I need data mining. And, really, how can you say no to the internet?

This will be a baseline skill required everywhere once people figure out that this IS a skill, an art, and a profession. It is a field that requires new, developing structures and a way to compartmentalize so that people who do not know HOW this works still know they can hire a Data Miner to perform crucial functions. Even with an official title and trying to wedge themselves into other professions while requiring similar skillsets, Data Miners will be hired to the AI/Fraud department of credit card companies, to high-profile research projects that need a code monkeys(for science!), to marketing companies hoping to pinpoint their demographics by prodding twitter, and to news outlets to produce pretty graphics for multimedia news presentation.

We need this. It is a skill and a profession that should be taught as such. Just as there are programmers, researchers, artists, and statisticians there should be data miners who incorporate elements of each of these other professions and combines them into a field the future will find essential.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Computer Science and Institutional Sexism

My senior thesis was a rather pathetic grasping towards a concept that never ended up fully coalescing over the course of my final year at school. What I wanted to write and what I was writing were so completely different that I gave up trying to reconcile the two.

To make it clear: I'm very bitter about my actions during this period and am frustrated at my pure, unadulterated failure to produce something worthwhile.

The man who mentored me was a typical thesis adviser; Distant, busy, and overawing. Credited, he tried to steer me out of my directionless flailing, but the suggestions only heightened my stubbornness (Woo. I love it when my Contrariness kicks in.) and left me scrounging for data and digging through research barely related to my desired thesis. The paper ended up being a short, thinly-veiled rant about my educational experience.

As an example of how vague I ended up being was how dealt with the question, "Well, WHY do we need more women?" I had a proto-answer, but it wasn't clear, firm, or easy to articulate. Of course now, when it no longer matters for my thesis, I've got an uncomplicated answer that I firmly believe in. We need more women because men don't have a monopoly on good ideas. Every individual able to contribute means a bigger pool of good ideas that might solve problems in ways that someone else might never think of. The top 1% of a larger group is a larger pool of talent to draw from. With the future in the hands of technologists, we need all the pool we can get.

That I could not answer that question says a lot about how hard I worked when I was writing my thesis. The results of my flailing were that I had no thoughts on curricular improvement, nothing to show for my research except an ambiguous hand-waving solution of 'teacher reeducation' (to what purpose I could not say) and the goal of further data acquisition. Not my finest hour. I admit that I was lazy - pure and simple - and there was so much more I could have done.

Coulda-woulda-shouldas aside, I have been continuing my research in a haphazard fashion since I graduated. I can only imagine that this preoccupation is an attempt to salve my bruised ego by rectifying a failure, if only in my own understanding of the topic.

My original concept of my thesis was this:
"Women - as a group - have such a goddamned hard time forcing themselves over the learning curve because the theory and books and logic for most institutionally taught CS were written for men, by men."

Self-indulgent, pretty narrow, and not precisely true. With the proper background information and framework around it, it would be a fascinating thing to study in and of itself, but I had neither background information nor framework to even contemplate a study. Before, my understanding of this topic was just some nebulous 'wait- I think... er-' and there was no supporting evidence. I did find papers about the physical and mental differences between genders, some interesting research about spatial vs. relational learning, and gender differences in how students connect to material, but I had no idea how to use the information in them to clarify my point.

My thesis was rooted in the disconnect that I experienced in what I wanted out of my CS degree and what was available to me, similar to how the thesis I wanted was not the thesis I wrote. Because of my lack of knowledge, I conflated my disconnect with the constant sexism I experienced.

I would like to believe that attributing my frustration with the structure of CS to gender is understandable considering that, currently, CS curriculum is directly related to CS culture, which is festooned in sexist trappings. However, curriculum can be separated from culture on a structural level, if not an individual level, so the tendrils of sexism can be severed, with time and effort, once they're identified. A sexist culture can be hard to change, but modifying the method of transmission can make it equally hard to perpetuate.

I've been to Grace Hopper all of once, and at the conference I don't remember hearing the world sexism. It is very possible that the conference did tackle this topic over and over again and that I was still self-absorbed enough to ignore mentions of sexism and feminism 'cause they were scary *isms. I do remember, however, that I was very focused on my thesis at the time and I went to every panel/discussion/lecture even remotely related to how to improve CS so that women were more comfortable there. No mention of feminists and the substantial work done to chart and define sexism.

Instead, we talked about how rough it was to be part of a work community because we're disrespected, how important it was to educate girls early to show that science was cool, and what kind of effort we put forth to support women who don't leak from the pipeline. Every single inspirational story had a woman kicking ass and taking names and conquering a male field because she was the BEST at what she did. I am in awe of the sheer tenacity and obstinacy it took for every single one of the panelists or keynote speakers to become the amazing women they are today.

Sexism, if it was mentioned at all, was never discussed but obliquely even though every topic was related. Since I'm oblivious to reality, I never picked up on it. (I am pretty oblivious most of the time.)

Women working in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) deal with carving out a space and getting results through action. Every counter-move is a practical, algorithmic approach to systematically subverting sexism. Without referencing feminism, however, there is a significant lack of shared definitions except for the above-linked 'pipeline'. Since there is such a focus on the 'How to Fix' - we are scientists and engineers, after all, and sometimes the stereotypes have the ring of truth - there is very little emphasis on 'How to Talk About It'. It's hard to come up with feminist language without the benefit of a feminist vocabulary.

All I had was the everyday, ongoing, low-grade, and omnipresent enemy that I had no name for, while the people on the other side of campus were talking about *isms and the history of *isms and how they're viewed today. Every thought I had that touched upon sexism was along the lines of, 'My goodness, I'm the only girl in my class and my teacher is surprised and gratified that I'm not asking him to do my homework for me'. Or, 'we lost one of the three freshman girls this year'. There were no words for this, only an unease that had no outlet other than to prove that I can do it just as well as the boys can.

I had to wrestle with how little I cared about my own degree, bogged down by being financially unable to justify a switch out and no longer having a passion for the field. I wish I could say that my fire was never smothered, but it was. Thoroughly and without conscious malice.

I even envied some of the foreign students in a passive, frustrated fashion. English was their second language and if something was lost in the translation it wasn't a fault of their gender, but merely that they hadn't learned that vocabulary word yet. My failures were blamed on being female; my successes were blamed on being a fluke of my gender. When I was not feminine, I was intelligent.

There was no crossover between the floofy feminism of Women's Studies - the only view I had of Women's Studies and feminism. Convenient - and the sharp discrimination that I had to deal with on a class-by-class basis. It lurked, silently underneath the curricula and the assumption that I would treat the discipline how it was meant to be treated according to the culture established by a very small slice of tinkerer-type men. I spent my share of 3am lab nights in laughing camaraderie, always with the underlying knowledge that it was /3am/ and I was on campus and, at some point, I would need to walk home in the dark, alone.

There was no crossover. No way to explain even to people who knew about feminism that this is what was going on for me every single day that I walked into the classroom. I could share my experiences, but there were no words to describe why it was happening and no solutions but to tough it out. All the ones who made it have run the gauntlet before I did and I wanted to be one of those who made it.

In the end, I didn't quit. I gave up instead. I rejected both the box and the labels. One one side of campus, coasted through a theatre double-degree with great interest and little effort, acing most of my classes. On the other side of campus, I struggled to care in most of my CS classes and walked away with 'c's. Not as good as I could do, but about as much as I was willing to do. I began to deliberately remove myself from the path of opportunities. All of this and I am still fascinated with the concept of artificial intelligence, and natural language processing, and the zillions of ways that humans can interact with their machines. My passion, however, is now reserved for writing speculative fiction and following the development of new technology at a spectator's distance.

My boyfriend wanted to know why I went to school for something that I didn't want to do. The problem is that I did want to do it. I just didn't want to do it their way. Everything got complicated in ways that I did not know how to deal with, both because of my immaturity and the complete left-fieldness of such blatant sexism to someone oblivious like me. This starts to sound like an excuse. In a way it is an excuse, because I could be pursuing my computer-related interests right now and I am not. I also stopped caring about them years ago and once you stop caring it is hard to start again.

My conversations about sexism until this point have been swapping incidents like vets swap war stories. Beyond the stories, however, we just kind of look at each other and tentatively suggest that we can form organizations. Then we do social things, enjoy being women in CS, and generally try and give ourselves a culture to replace the one giving us so much shit. That only works so far, I'm afraid, and I want more permanent solutions that address both the structure and the culture of CS.

My ultimate goal is to find a way to educate both male and female CS students early about the language of feminism and how it can - in very practical ways - benefit everyone learning and studying one of my favorite topics, computers and technology. Being able to tell a young man, "do not disrespect me by insinuating that I'm only here because my gender was needed to fill a quota," and having him understand what I am talking about would have made my college years so much more pleasant. Education is key, in both sexism and feminism, and dispelling damaging inaccuracies benefits men just as much as it benefits women.

This isn't so much about dismantling the pervasive sexism (though it could help), as much as it is me desperately wishing that I had known and been exposed to this so that the wheels could have started turning earlier. I was a senior or a super-senior before I was ever sat down and educated about racism, and it still has taken me three or four years after finding the related subject of sexism to reach this point even though I was well-acquainted with the concept through experience. The earlier this formal introduction and education happens, the better. I want to take the work done in one field, Women's Studies, and apply it practically to the steps that STEM women are already taking.

If anyone knows how to design a class, I'd love to any advice you might be willing to give. :)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Slowly Updating

It occurred to me that I had just shy of a dozen unfinished posts in my draft cache, created about one a month since December of 2008. I'll be trying to finish and post them over the next week or so.


An Open Letter For a Second Chance

Dear friends,

This letter is not about me. This letter is about all the people who offended you years ago, and with whom you severed ties. This letter is about people who were going through something difficult that, while it did not excuse their actions, meant that their actions were a temporary response to a greater situation. This letter is about the people who destroyed their first chance with a rocket launcher.

The price of immaturity is the loss of second chances.

I ask for your understanding and for a little forgiveness. The person who harmed you in the past has grown, changed, and is now different and yet the same as they once were. They are stronger, more aware, and more mature. They have learned from their mistakes and while they are not perfect, they have discovered you and themselves valuable. One disaster does not mean the disaster will repeat forever.

Sometimes there is no way to be friends. Sometimes there is no way to come to middle ground and start over. Sometimes you or the other person understand the world completely differently. Sometimes the disaster really will repeat forever and you must rid yourself of the toxicity.


But not always.

Sometimes the cause is this: Tragedy. Depression. Misunderstanding. Uncertainty. Frustration. Abuse. Solitude. Pressure. Bullying. Living a Lie. Miscommunication. Mistakes.

These are not excuses. The behavior that harmed you cannot be excused, only taken responsibility for and rectified if possible.

But I ask for forgiveness for those with depression. I ask for forgiveness for those suffering from abuse - at their own hands or others. I ask for forgiveness for those whose circumstances leave no room for understanding how to deal with something that is eating them alive. I ask for forgiveness for those whose circumstances make their lives incomprehensible to outsiders and so they cannot receive reliable help.

The desperate flailing of the drowning can break noses and wound hearts.

I ask for forgiveness because sometimes, the way to be in other people's company can be consumed by living life. The emotions and sensitivity others demand dissolve, leaving only the sharp edges of hurt and pain for everyone else to deal with. There is nothing left for others when all of the person's power is being poured into simply surviving. When surviving or trying to fight their way to a life more honest, more truthful, less confusing, more joyful, sometimes there only way someone sees to move forward is to defend against all comers.

When a person defends themselves, the defense does not always differentiate between friends and attackers. And, then, when a mistake is made, sapped self-confidence destroys the idea of reconciliation. There's no way to say, "I'm sorry" if the wound is deep enough.

There's no way to know there's a wound if there's no feedback, and a second chance is feedback. Not everyone can offer a second chance, and not everyone should. But if you can, I implore you to try. You might be the better for it.

I just want you to remember, not all harm is caused by cruelty. At some point, it may be you desperately seeking forgiveness for the past.