Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interim notes

If my Tumblr seems quieter than usual, I haven't been checking my Feedly in a few weeks.  A combination of busy with classes, homework, family things and a hardware malfunction on my electronics.

I have some tenuous first thoughts that I want to make note of for later depth.  I have a sense that they're all interconnected, but they aren't complete thoughts yet.

I've been a Geek for as long as I can remember.  I was "Star Wars Katie" long before the internet existed.

But as a young, originally-conservative engineering student, I did not tend to identify with the feminism I encountered at that time, primarily newspaper articles with quotes from NOW.

Even as I became liberal over the course of my undergraduate studies, there were particularities to the ways in which I did or did not claim feminism.  Many of these connect to my background as a military "brat", to my chosen career in STEM, and my own dreams as a Space Advocate.

When I was working on my M.A. in Humanities, I specifically tried to avoid "women's studies" classes, and sometimes the professors.  I didn't think that I needed that type of understanding, particularly not for the work I was doing.  I was not wholly successful, and two of the three women's studies professors I took classes with turned out to have a lot to teach me.

So when I started looking for other Geek Women online, I found the Geek Feminism blog.  From there, I began to learn about intersectional feminism, a concept developed by Kimberle Crenshaw.

More recently, I read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and have been active in promoting STEM careers for women.  I have many thoughts about the book, but have been busy with schoolwork and have not taken the time to fully analyze them.

So I recently discovered bell hooks review, "Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In."  It is a powerful piece, well-written and passionate.  I have been trying, in recent years, to understand feminism and go beyond the "faux feminism" that bell hooks disparages.  I'm not sure how successful I am.

But just as I had struggles as an undergraduate, I have struggles with this piece now.  I feel as if I am being called to choose between my work in corporate America and my caring for social justice.  To choose between my career as an engineer and STEM advocate, and the "true feminist" ideal of remaking the world.  I would like to think that by being who I am, where I am, here at the intersection of these issues, that maybe I could help find the common ground.  Corporate Social Responsibility is a mainstream concern now, my business classes have nearly all addressed it.

Ah... that was the other piece.  Changing the world someday.  I saw "In the Heights" when it came to town.  That could be another bundle of posts on female expectations...

I knew a young woman in Houston, that I would have sworn would change the world someday.  But she won't now.

Probably not a coherent post.  Like I said, the hope is that I can come back to these issues and create good essays on them later.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not Abandoned, just Quiet

I've been very busy, as usual.  Summer business classes are over, the fall engineering class has begun.  I think I forgot how comparatively easy business classes are vs. the mathematics of engineering.

I finally read "Lean In" over Labor Day weekend, and will probably write something about that eventually.  The short-short version is that it was better than I expected.

Chorus is in rehearsal.  Over the summer I started taking real dance for the first time ever, (Well, I square danced in college as part of a club.  I'm not counting that.)  and I'm keeping it up this year.  It's not martial arts, but it is fun, challenging, kinesthetic, and these things make me happy.

I plan to pull together thoughts I've learned about online classes.  Things that work, things that don't work for me, ways instructors can help out distance learning students.  It's going to take some time, since I have other higher priorities right now.

The whole point being, I'm not doing a lot of long-form blogging right now.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@stargazer412) and Tumblr (a similar handle, linked to my Twitter account) for the ultra-short and short forms.  When I read the news, I usually queue a lot of articles about a variety of topics: books, movies, geeky things (both SF / Fantasy and STEM), career and business articles.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Technology Tuesday: Cyborg posting

How do you keep up a social media presence with a full-time job?  I don't want to set up a bot that does everything without me, but I can't be on social media day long.

Well, there are a few tools to help:

1) Buffer
2) Tumblr
3) If This Then That

Friday, August 2, 2013

Working Together

I once read a book review that spoke about how every change begins with a conversation.  Ten years ago when I worked in Houston, it was just like that, a conversation that spun into something bigger than anything I could have done alone.

I was at the International Conference on Environmental Systems, in Vancouver, B.C., July of 2003.  A woman that I had seen around the office, but who worked on a different team than I was on, talked to me about how few woman engineers she saw at work.  I immediately started introducing her to so many of the women I had met through my work and at the conference.

At that time, I was the second woman on my team.  The first had been active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and encouraged us to see what we could start in the Houston area.  I had gone to one SWE meeting as a freshman in college, and never went back.  In college, it just didn't feel like something that I needed.  And if it had just been me, I probably would have given up on starting an organization in my community as too much work.  But with three of us, every time one or two was busy, the third would usually find one more piece to the puzzle, that would inspire us to move that ball a little bit further.  Within two months I had paid my dues and joined the Society.

As advised, we sent out an invitation to lunch at a local restaurant, that brought out a couple of dozen women engineers in the area, some with SWE experience.  We started meeting for lunch on a monthly basis, and it snowballed from there.  In 2004, I joined about 9 other SWE members in signing the Charter for the Texas Space Center section of the Society of Women Engineers.

I'm still proud of that accomplishment.  I've stayed on that section's e-mail distribution, even after I moved away.  Ten years later, it feels like I have come full circle, as I get involved in my local section again.

Every new iteration is a chance to learn something more, to do something a little bit better. I know I made mistakes ten years ago, that I mean to learn from and not repeat.  I've also learned other skills and theories that I didn't know then.

Last weekend I was at a training workshop.  The closing quote said "One woman can change anything. Many women can change everything."  Ten years ago, we accomplished more together than I ever could have done alone.  That is true again today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Atlantic: The Problem With the 'Privacy Moderates'

The Atlantic: The Problem With the 'Privacy Moderates': The Atlantic: The Problem With the ‘Privacy...

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teach For America's Civil War

Teach For America's Civil War: This article comes from a friend on Facebook. I think it raises...

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Technology Tuesday: Codecademy

{Note: This was supposed to post on Tuesday, June 4th.  Apparently Publish Failed, and I am just now getting it out of my Draft-box.}
I know it's late, but it's still Tuesday.  Some months ago I thought I might start talking about Technology occasionally on Tuesday.  Today, I want to mention a website called Codecademy.  It's a free, online resource for learning how to program.  I've been slowly working my way through the Python course, and I've learned a lot from it.  The site includes other languages for programming on the web.
If you are just beginning to code, or if you already know the basics and just want to pick up another language, Codecademy can help.
Also, especially if you are a student, no matter what gender or what major you want to go into, I strongly encourage you to learn the basics of coding.  It doesn't have to be something you love, it doesn't have to be something you do for a living.  In an increasingly automated society, learning to code can help you to "speak computer."  Computers are in your car, in your phone, and increasingly in other appliances.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

First summer on-campus (Part 1: Work & School)

I had been writing about the journey that got me here.  Last time I wrote, I was up to my first internship.  While I had worked temporary positions since high school, this was my first "real job" out in the corporate world.  As I wrote, it wasn't the easiest of journeys.

There are a lot of movies and tv shows out there about U.S. culture, that promote one's Sweet 16th birthday as a time for a big celebration, lots of presents, possibly even a car.  My Sweet 16 was nothing like that.  I was allowed to invite a handful of friends over for the night, and I asked for no presents, and I certainly didn't get a car of any age.

During the internship, I was able to get a ride to work with another intern.  My roommate and I, both car-less, could also get rides to the grocery store, the bank, or the post office, when we needed to, but the apartments were not in walking distance of most of those needs.  I walked to the library, I walked to church, and mostly stayed in the apartment and read when I wasn't at work.

But as the semester wound down and I prepared to move back to campus, I needed my own ride.  It took a lot of looking, a lot of evaluating what I could afford, where I might get a loan.  I had tried saving up during the semester, but did not have enough.  In the end, an uncle lent me the money, and I paid him back over the next year.

My now-husband worked out the details for how we would make it through the summer.  Since he was in school the usual spring-fall terms, he usually went back to live with his parents over the summer.  When I first got the job, I had feared that we would be living in different cities the entire year.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The naming of things

Taking a study break to pull together some thoughts I've been having lately.

One of my aunts passed away suddenly, two summers ago.  At her funeral I realized that interest in languages and cultures is not uncommon on my dad's side of the family.  She was into those things too.  And American Sign Language, which I gather she studied as part of her work.

Even state-side, being a military Brat tends to encourage those thoughts of a bigger world, knowing people who were born in Germany, or were stationed in Japan, or other parts of the world.

I can remember reading articles in the 1980's, about the idea of the United States as a melting pot, versus a salad bowl. 

The problem with melting pot imagery is that it implies that we lose our individuality.  That everything mixes together, that everyone loses their previous identity, and we all become one homogeneous alloy.  In fact, Globalization of the 1980's often seemed that way, like the imposition of Western cultures upon the rest of the world.

Many people would prefer to keep their language, traditions, holidays, cultural foods.  Keep them, enjoy & share their own traditions, and sometimes pick up other traditions learned here.  That's the salad bowl, where lettuce and carrots and tomatoes do not lose themselves.  Each difference can add something new to the mix... but we don't have to eat everything.

Along with this idea, comes the idea that each person has a right to name themselves, to name their heritage, to name their culture, whatever blend of cultures their family has.  I don't have the right to impose my name for things on another person's reality.  It is their right to name themselves.

More recently, I see this in social justice work, applied to both gender and sexuality.  Each person has the right to name their own reality; their own gender, their own sexuality.  Trying to force someone into one of your label boxes is an act of violence.   By denying their name, one denies their reality.  Denying their reality is a step towards denying their very existence.  That is violence, and unacceptable.

I've tried to apply this to my understanding of languages and cultures over more than twenty years. 

As I became UU, I carried it over to my philosophy about spiritual practices. 

It is not my right to name another person's religion or spiritual path, only they can do that.  I can ask them if they think this name I know that seems to fit their beliefs is one they wish.  But it is their decision, to pick it up and wear it with pride, or to set it aside and say "No, thank you.  That label doesn't fit me right now." 

Just as I give that courtesy to others, I will insist on that courtesy for myself.  I am the only person who gets to name my spiritual path.  You may offer ideas and suggestions for what you think my path might be, but I choose whether to accept those ideas or not.  While my spiritual path is chosen, it is very deeply rooted in my being, and a very important part of my life.  To deny my name for this piece of me, is to deny my reality and my existence.  That is violence, and I will not accept it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A month, really?

Has it been that long since I posted?  It's been an incredibly busy month.  On the rare occasions last month that I got to tuck my son in to bed, I told him that March was probably going to be my worst month for a while, but April would be better and May even better.

My concert was last weekend, and went very well.  While I love the chorus, practicing & performing the music, it is a large commitment.  It's nice to have finished this season and have a bit of a break.

The Annual Budget Drive celebrated our results today.  We are still hoping to hear from several more people, but the end is in sight.

My spring short class starts its final week tomorrow, it will be nice to wrap that up.

Still a busy week, though.  My engineering class has homework 3 due in the morning, and Midterm 3 on Friday.  Then all that will be left (besides continuing to watch lectures & read the textbook) will be a final exam in May.  I got my presentation done a week or so ago, and have my grade back from that.

Of course, my summer short class will start before my long class is over, so I won't have a break from school until June.  Still, my schedule is lightening up, and that helps.

Lots of other things going on.  This week, I found myself grateful for all the reading and I had done about bullying two years ago, trying to understand what was happening with my son.  Well, I also learned more about myself in that process.

As the schedule lightens up, I'll try to get more of a weekly schedule going here.  Monday Music, Technology Tuesday, Follow Friday.  Maybe even a Wordless Wednesday here & there.  One of my friends has been holding Discussion Wednesday on his Facebook page, and I may re-post some of my comments to this page.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Number crunching

There's a video going around, Wealth Inequality in America.

It reminds me of a sermon I heard at the UU church in Lafayette, Indiana, when I was an undergrad.  The co-speakers were talking about poverty.  There's this persistent myth, that people are poor because they're lazy.  The women pointed out that the poor are working their hineys off just trying to get by.

That fit, with what I saw in my senior year of high school, when my parents were working three jobs each.  Dad had a full-time day job, a part-time afternoon job, and then a part-time evening job.  Mom's schedule was very similar.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Parent's Censorship of Media: Time and Content

My mother-in-law pointed me to this article about children and media consumption (TV, video, video games, internet, etc.).  This article talks about the Sesame Street argument, that it's not purely the amount of time that children spend on media, but also the type and quality of the content that matters.

Basically, media teach us about behaviors.  Media like Sesame Street, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Blues Clues, can teach cooperation and positive social behaviors.  Violent media (the article mentions Power Rangers) can teach violent behaviors.

When my son was two, we were visiting the Children's Museum of Indianapolis Dinosaur exhibit.  There was a table with dinosaurs on it.  My son played with the dinosaur calmly, exploring & eating.  A nearby boy had a dinosaur in each hand, crashing into each other and fighting.

Beyond that, the article reminded me that I had been wanting to discuss some differences between my parent's and my censoring of our children's media.

A few examples: 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Small Group Ministries

Some thoughts that have been on my mind lately.

My first experience with small group ministries happened when we moved to South Bend, during my senior year of high school.  Holy Cross, the Catholic parish my family attended, started having Faith Sharing Groups that year, and my parents volunteered to host.  With 4 teenagers and two toddlers in the house, they were one of the child-friendly hosts, holding meetings on Friday nights. We were drafted to babysit any kids that came along.

After a short experiment, they had the option to deepen the commitment to Small Faith Communities, which my parents chose to do.

One of the families in the small group was a married couple with two daughters, one a teenager that somehow I never really saw as "my age," and one preadolescent.  During the first two years as a small group, there was a weekend where the father went to a Promise Keepers convention, the mother was at a different convention with the younger daughter, and the teenager was left home alone.

That night, their house had a fire.  We found out later that the teenager had gone out with a friend, returned to see the emergency vehicles at the scene, and finished the night at a friend's house.  So the people were all fine.  If I recall correctly, the dog was not.

I was taught that because we were in small group ministry with their family, it was important that we make a special effort to be there for them during this crisis.

As my college career continued, my experiences with small groups shifted.  But when I arrived in Houston, my UU church began the effort of having small group ministries of our own.  I was part of several Covenant Groups during my time at Bay Area UU Church, attended several workshops about the concept, was trained and served as a facilitator several times.

One Friday, I was at the Church preparing to take two youth to a Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) event.  I don't recall now, we were either going to The Woodlands to join up with more youth and Advisors for the Oklahoma City Rally, or I was taking them to Waco, TX for a YRUU Leadership Development Conference.

While we were there, our minister had to leave quickly.  I didn't register what he said about leaving until later.

On Sunday, I returned with the Youth and released them to their parents.  When I got home, my husband informed me that a family in the congregation, one that we had been in a small group with, had had a fire at their house, and lost everything.  They were now living out of a hotel room.

Our small group chose to do hold a special meeting to support the family that Tuesday night.  One of the facilitators made arrangements to use a room at the church.  I had been gone all weekend, worked during the day, and had class on Monday night.  On Tuesday, I went from work, to a martial arts class, and then to the church to support this family in their crisis.

Having been raised Catholic, I am very aware of the Catholic - Protestant divide between Faith and Works.  Some Protestant religions believe that faith is sufficient to bring a person to heaven.  Catholics believe that faith alone does not suffice, Faith must be supported by Works.

Unitarian Universalists don't worry so much about a heaven in the afterlife.  A joke has it that, before the merger, one denomination believed that "God is too good to damn us," while the other believed that "We humans are too good to be damned."  As UUs, we worry more about creating a better world, something like heaven, here on earth, in this world.

So, we don't worry about having the right creed, we don't worry about faith.  But I still think we should say something about conversation, about words.

Because we UUs do love to talk.

In fact, for thirty days surrounding Martin Luther King Jr's day in January and Valentine's Day in February, many UU churches celebrated 30 Days of Love.  In theory, it's supposed to be a time of spiritual practices reflecting on what it means to be part of a loving community, about education on social justice issues, and working to build a more just world.

I chose not to overtly and publicly advertise my practice.  The small group I am part of did discuss the issues in one of our meetings.  I did listen to the sermons, and read my congregation's Facebook posts.

But see, to me, it's words are not enough.  I know that we do need to take time to educate ourselves and reflect on issues... but we also need to translate what we learn into actions.

To me, building the beloved community is about the actions we take on a day-to-day and week-by-week basis.  Do we welcome the stranger?  Do we reach out to bring people into the community?  Do we spend time with each other?  Do we break bread together, an ANCIENT ritual of human connection going back to antiquity?  Do we listen to what they have to say, both the good and the bad?  Do we listen to their stories?  Do we know what brings them here?  And not just the high-level surface stories, but wait to hear and learn the deeper reasons?

Or do we isolate them?  Do we ignore them, make them eat alone?  Do we ignore them?  Write them off?

So many of us have heard the prayer, "If there is to be peace in the world."  But it's more than that.  Peace in the home, peace between neighbors, they take listening to each other.  They take getting multiple perspectives, the 360 degree view, the criticisms along with the compliments.  It's not about suppressing criticism.  Because without criticism, we cannot grow.  It's about hearing out the criticisms, listening and drawing out the issues, and then working *together* to find a win-win solution.

Love takes work.  It's about actions, not mere words.  From 1 Chorinthians 13 (New International Version)
"If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing."

Friday, February 1, 2013

A decade.

Finished watching Wednesday's lecture.  I had started it while my son was in an evening class, but the school got too loud and their wi-fi is slow, so I stopped it halfway through.

It's late enough that I don't really want to watch today's lecture, I'll take care of that tomorrow.

And I haven't blogged all week.  This is a week where a part of me feels like I *need* to blog, every year.  I (almost) always remember.  A part of me thinks we need to talk about these things in order to remember and learn the lessons they teach.  And another part of me wants to keep my thoughts and my journey to myself.  Because this week of remembrance is somewhat private, my own retreat to remember and recommit.
46 years ago last Sunday, my parents were in school, probably junior high.  But as a student at Purdue, I found both Gus Grissom's autobiography and his wife's book.  And on the occasions when I entered Grissom Hall, I'd mentally say hello to his ghost as I passed his photo.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New project

My husband would say that my middle name is "she of the hundred projects."

As if a full-time job, graduate school, chorus and family were not enough, I am beginning to learn how to sew.

See, about five or six years ago, I was at Walgreens and saw this itty bitty sewing machine.  I needed something to keep the edges of my cross stitch projects from unravelling, so I bought it.

Well, the first time I used it was while my mother-in-law was visiting.  The good part about that, was that she knew how to help me set up the machine.  I was able to stitch around the blanket.

So a couple of years later, she gave me a full-size sewing machine for Christmas.  And I guess it's time to start learning to use it.

I have a list of projects I want to make.  Tonight I repaired two of DS' reusable bags, and put together this tissue pack cover from directions here:

As we say in Kuk Sool, "We need more practice, sir!"

I've been thinking over the emotions and attitudes toward this the past few weeks, and have a blog post brewing, about gender and class and making things.  But that will be another day.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Setting budgets

I keep coming back to money-talk.  One of the triggers for this recent round, is the glasses I got last December.  When I get some good photos, I'll post them.

Sometimes I think my earliest memories are about my parents arguing over their finances.  Two posts ago, I wrote about needs and wants, and linked to a CNN Money article, "I'm first generation white-collar," where the writer talks about changing habits to start saving 20% in her 401k.

While I am all for paying down debt, living within one's means, and building up savings... I think the highest I set my 401k to was 12%.  Even at that, I very much felt as though my lifestyle was falling behind.  Now, that was in the 2000s, where I heard an awful lot about "leveraging"... and at least I was educated enough to avoid THAT, a second mortgage or a home equity loan.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Follow Friday: Geek Feminism

When I have time to keep up with my Google Reader feeds, one of my favorites to check on is the Geek Feminism Blog.

This has been an excellent resource for connecting with fellow Geeks, many of whom (but not all!) happen to be women.  It has pointed me to many scholarly articles for discussion on Twitter or this blog, many cool and Geeky craft projects to share with my Facebook friends, and a community for sharing what it means to be a woman in STEM.

My spring semester of classes has popped up on me faster than I expected, so I don't know how many posts I'll get out before I have to drop this to focus on school.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just a quick post

If there is one thing the internet is teaching us, I think it's that humans are, well, human.

And that means that we have emotions, the full gamut: delighted, ecstatic, happy, okay, not okay, sad, despondent, furious, etc.

It also means that every one of us makes mistakes somewhere, somehow.

I know there's a lot of talk about digital dirt.  But I'm also starting to see more awareness that people are not a single impression.

Getting to know anybody takes time, conversation, more than just one blog post, or tweet, or meeting.

Everybody has good days and bad days.  Sometimes weeks, or months.  Who we are is not in isolated instances, but in the pattern that shifts with time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Needs and Wants

I was starting to think about an article about needs vs. wants, but some of my recent browsing has adjusted that train of thought. 

A couple of years ago on my old blog, I wrote a post titled Second-Generation White Collar.  I see that the link hasn't stayed with that post, it's based on a CNN Money blog post, "I'm First Generation White Collar."

As I start to pick up the threads of my story again, this becomes more relevant.  Because when I was *just* a college student, I could side-eye the Greeks, and classmates who spoke of "luxuries" as "necessities."   I could feel frustrated by the co-op interviewers who seemed to put too much stock in the clothes I wore.