Saturday, November 22, 2014

A is for Art

I discovered my passion for space history in COMM 114, the required Freshman Communications class.  In 2002, I attended a Lunch-and-Learn on Space History, which rekindled my interest in the subject.  I always learn something a little new, and the engaging speaker reminded me that there was more to unpack from that era.

Soon after the Lunch-and-Learn, I became aware of a course being offered at the nearby University of Houston - Clear Lake (UHCL), titled "International Space Politics and Technology."  The course was part of the Space & Exploration Studies concentration for UHCL's M.A. in Humanities.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rocket science, feminism, and professional attire

Here's the deal.  I graduated college, and I went to work in Houston, on the International Space Station program.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wrapping up the undergrad story...

Maybe I'm not quite ready to begin writing about 9/11 or graduate schools just yet.

In 1998, after 14 moves in 6 years, I decided that I wanted to settle down for a little while.  I wanted the chance to stay put.  While I had friends on campus and locally whom I had kept in touch with as I ping-ponged between work and school, I wanted the stability to be in community, to stay put for a while.

So I redid my plan of study to add a sixth year.  I didn't have very many engineering courses left, which gave me time to continue my language studies.  I turned both of my languages into Minors.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Social Complexity

I've recently learned that another term for the impact of the Web of Connection that I described, is Civic Republicanism (from The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System).  Because we are all connected, it is in our best interests to educate our children, to have libraries, to have roads, etc.  I believe my sister has blogged about similar ideas, the importance of nation building, although more of that is in her LiveJournal posts from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Last time I promised to write a bit about the principles and guidelines that I keep in my compass.  Here are some of them:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Web of Connection

One of the things I observed as an undergrad, was how the different groups of people that I met interacted with each other.  The ways in which the SCA crowd intersected with the RPG gaming crowd, and so on.  And each person also brought unique aspects to the community, as I also went to classes and did other things where most of my friends were not.

I started to see each activity or event as a node, and the people connected all the different nodes together, to form a web of community.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Question everything, including this

I've hit the point in both my "becoming an engineer" and "path to social justice concerns" stories that I can't avoid discussing my spirituality. I'm pondering a post about "the far side, where the fringes meet," but this will not be that post.

My parents were conservative, Catholic, Charismatics.  There's a lot to unpack from those three words.  One of the blogs that I subscribe to and periodically read, is Love, Joy, Feminism on  Things were a little different in my family, where she was homeschooled by Evangelical Protestants, we went to Catholic schools and Catholic church... but that also is another post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wanted: Names of Top Women of Color in Engineering for Working List

Karen James (@kejames) has put together a working list of top women of color in biology.

Rachel McShane asked if she could do one for other STEM fields, and I volunteered to pull one together for Engineering.

Please Tweet or Leave a comment to add a name to any of these lists (or add a category, if I missed a discipline). Self-nominations welcome.

If you wish to be identified as a Woman of Color, please also let me know that.  Since the original list was intended to recognize women of color, I want to honor that intent in an appropriate and respectful way.

Top Women in Engineering

  • Aerospace Engineers
    • Nicole Chase, on Twitter @SpaceAgNicole, (self-nominated)
  • Biomedical
    • @Prinda (nominated by Cheng Lee)
  • Chemical Engineers
    • Kim Brooks, on Twitter @kbrooksfit, (self-nominated)
  • Civil Engineers
    • Katie Bates, on Twitter @kb8s (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Hannah Farrant, on twitter @hannahfarrant (nominated by Katie Bates)
    • Roma Agrawal, on Twitter @RomaTheEngineer (nominated by Katie Bates)
  • Computer Engineers
    • Tracy Chou (nominated by Kim Curry)
  • Electrical Engineers

  • Environmental Engineers
    • Carolyn Green (nominated by Rachel McShade)
    • @gkygirlengineer (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Laura Mixon, @MorganJLocke (self-nominated)
  • Industrial Engineers

  • Materials Engineers

  • Mechanical Engineers

  • Software Engineers
    • Joyce @joycehoUT (nominated by Cheng Lee)
    • Renee @BecomingDataSci (nominated by Cheng Lee)
  • Systems Engineers

  • Interdisciplinary Engineers

Monday, August 18, 2014

St. Louis Movie Nights

Two of the major inflection points in my life, both happened in the greater St. Louis area.

I have written several times about the Space Shuttle flying through Scott AFB while we were stationed there in the early 1980s.

As a college student in the late 1990s, I was hired as a cooperative education student for a company in St. Louis.  I lived in an apartment in Hazelwood, perhaps 5 miles away from Ferguson, MO.  My roommate was a Mechanical Engineering student from Florida, studying at Tuskegee.  Yes, she is black.

We moved in, in January, and she didn't have a winter coat.  I taught her what I knew about getting through snow, ice, and winter.  She taught me more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Owning My Privilege

If you are reading this, please go check out @gildedspine's tweets about the #yesallwomen hashtag today.  She is the one who started it all.  I knew, that evening, however given the hate and bullying she was receiving I withheld her name on my previous post.

As I read through her tweets, as I think about what has happened in Ferguson, MO this weekend, and I listen to the Twitter response... what all of my blog posts are coming to, both the "becoming an engineer" series in progress AND the "social justice background" posts, are about owning my privilege.

Because engineers do make a decent amount of money.  I do not own a yacht, nor any kind of boat.  I do, however, live in a comfortable house, I pay my bills, I have medical care, we keep food on the table, and we have a little bit for investing & discretionary spending.  All of that, is privilege.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Big City - Small Town

In a previous post, I began the story of my own understanding of diversity and social justice.  I said then that I was not sure when or if I would be ready to tell part 2.  However, I have had time in the past seven weeks to think about it, and to begin to tell the story.  This is turning into a longer series than I thought.

As a child, I wished I grew up in a small town, the kind of place where I might have a teacher who had taught one or both of my parents, where aunts and uncles were around, and where people knew who I / my family was.  Not that we needed to be famous, popular, or rich.  Just, I wanted to be in a place where my family belonged.

My sophomore year of high school, my father was discharged from the Air Force.  Dad finished his degree (a second Bachelor's), and over the summer they began job hunting in earnest.  When he was hired for a job in rural Indiana, we moved.

Culture Shock

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer of Art

I have been working on Part 2 of my social justice series, but today I'm going to take a break from it and talk about my summer of art.

Before I do that, I want to backtrack and talk a little bit about my grandmother.  See, her mother died when she was only a week old, so my grandmother didn't really know her mom.  Into her 80's, she could be heard saying "My mother never taught me...".

Now... I love my grandmother, and I am sorry that she lost her mom.  But I figure, that's something that dominated the first 20, perhaps 30 years of her life.  I'd accept that excuse from a youngster.

Eventually?  Somewhere in the 20s or 30s, I would hope, I figure that I am responsible for my own life.  Whatever happened in my childhood that held me back then... well, now I'm a grownup, and responsible for my own learning.  If I want to learn something, I'm going to set out to do it.  Even old-school, I could always go to the library and find books with ideas, read the newspaper for classes and seminars, check the phone book for schools.  New-school, it can start with Google.

In the past, I have written about the hangups and holdups that I had with my music and art.  As an undergrad, while I did participate in the bands, I focused my non-class activities on engineering homework and other things, rather than music practice.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Want Peace? Work for Justice.

Lately I have been looking back at my own diversity journey, my social justice journey.  This is part 1 of perhaps 3.  I'm not sure how much of part 2 I'm ready to share.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Yes All Women

It has been a long weekend.  We traveled some, got to visit with family, and had some quiet family time.

My husband and I went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past.  I enjoyed the action, I was entertained, and I am interested in what I notice in a second viewing.  That said, as with most Geek things these days, there are always things that could be better.  The Mary Sue has a good post on the diminishing of Kitty Pryde's role.

We got home from the movie Saturday night, and I got on to Twitter intending to share a couple of thoughts, only to discover that #YesAllWomen had begun, in response to the Santa Barbara shootings.  Three hours later... I took a break for some sleep.

Over and over again, as I begin to talk about my experiences with colleagues at work, I find this "bury my head in the sand" reaction.  Some of the responses have been mansplaining.

Other responses have been from Men's Rights Activists.  Which is pretty weird because feminism cares about the rights of fathers to paternity leave.  Feminism cares about the respect and well-being of at-home parents, whether mothers or fathers.  Feminism cares about the abuse of power.

I'm done with the hashtag now.  There has been interest in keeping it going, to keep light on the subject.  I know that the conversation must continue, however the originator of the hashtag is getting unwanted attention and would like some peace now.

If you are a man, you should know that women experience those things from a young age.  For white women, it might begin around pre-adolescence, around 9-13.  For Women of Color, #YesALLWhiteWomen indicates they start having problems even younger.  I would like to believe that it has gotten better with time... but sometimes I think that what changed is that I drive more than I walk.

[Update 12 August 2014] After two months of avoiding the topic, the originator of the #YesAllWomen hashtag has chosen to speak up.  I now have her permission to give credit to Kaye, @gildedspine.  On this date she posted a series of tweets about the commercialization, monetization, and overall appropriation of the hashtag, and the accounts that have taken on the name.  I encourage you to read them. [/update] 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Triggered Memories & Associations - Purdue shootings

Content warnings for discussions of violence, shootings,  death, and suicide.  I write about my connections to two different shooting events at Purdue.  One happened around January of this year.  The other happened a long time ago.

This is a tough post to write.  Suffice it to say, I don't plan to get a third degree from Purdue at this time.  I enjoy learning, but as graduation approaches I am looking forward to having more time for my family and personal projects, including my garden and this blog.  I'm very aware that "fear of studying at Purdue again" is my own superstition talking.  Intellectually, I know that neither shooting had anything to do with me, or my status as an enrolled student.

I definitely recommend Purdue as a good school for students to attend.  I have many fond memories of the place.

Campus safety is something that all colleges, universities, and other institutions work hard to accomplish, and I believe that the Purdue University Police Department and the administration care about the students.

This is two for two now.  Two degrees, two shootings.  I know that I was away from campus both times.  That I have not had to evacuate, or be in lock-down, and I don't know the victims.

So this is all indirect trauma.  They were still closer to home than I like.  Therein lies the story.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On Women in STEM and the "Other"

As a woman in STEM, I've come to appreciate reading the perspectives of other women in STEM, whether we work in related fields or not.  This morning I read Xykademiqz post about Honorary Dudeness.  I started to reply, but the reply got long and merged with the thoughts I'd been having about "growing up global."

Then I saw this post by Sociological Images, "To Whom is George Zimmerman a Hero? And Why" and it all came together.

I've come to realize that one of the things that makes me different from many of the Americans I have interacted with is my Brat heritage, growing up military.  Now, we were only ever stationed State-side, so I didn't get the full-up expatriate Third-Culture Kid experience.  Sometimes I call myself a Third Subculture Kid, because the Brat semi-suburban culture was very different from the rural culture my parents were raised in.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Xykademiqz blogs about the experience of teaching female students, and how there's often a sharp dichotomy between the female students she develops a mentoring relationship with and the female students who seem to decide "this professor sucks."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I Cannot Bury My Head in the Sand

There is a story told, of two young fish swimming along.  An older fish swims by, and asks them "How's the water?"  The one young fish looks at the other, and asks "What's water?"

In the Harvard Business Review article "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" (Registration required, paywall may exist), the authors explain that "Most women are unaware of having personally been victims of gender discrimination and deny it even when it is objectively true and they see that women in general experience it."

In my short class this spring, we discussed seven forms of power.  Over the discussions, I asked my classmates to tell me where women stand on examples of those seven forms of power.  Rather than answer the question, they spent two days arguing that a problem does not exist, because they could point to specific women who had achieved power.

Image courtesy of blakeimeson covered by Creative Commons license.

Ignoring it works for them, because they are not affected by the problem.  I do not have that luxury.  One cannot solve a problem one does not acknowledge.

I answered my own questions:

  1. Expert power – 2012 doctorate degrees awarded[i]:
Total: 27,390 (54%) men        23,562 (46% ) women
Life Sciences   5,331 men       6,698 women
Physical sciences 6,393 men   2,551 women
Social sciences 3,488 men       4,861 women
Engineering 6,527 men           1,883 women
Education 1,501 men  3,297 women
Humanities      2,654 men       2,847 women
Other   1,496 men       1,425 women
  1. Reward power
Fortune 500 CEOs – 23 women (4.6%)
Fortune 1000 CEOs - 46 women (4.6%)[ii]

Graphic visible here:
  1. Coercive power - Women make up less than 25% of most US reserve forces, less than 20% of active duty personnel, and the percentage decreases for Flag/general officers.
Graphic visible here:
  1. Legitimate power
As of July 14, 2013, 19 women were presidents or prime ministers.[v]  Women hold 99 seats (18.5%) in the U.S. Congress.[vi]
  1. Referent power - This is subjective.
  2. Informational power – Computer Scientist statistics:
Women earned 34% of Computer Science degrees in 1984.  It had fallen to 25% in 2004.[vii]
  1. Personal power – This is subjective.

[i] National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Doctorates
[iv], particularly:
[vi] Women in the U.S. Congress 2014.