Saturday, April 12, 2003


Yum yum yum! I just got, as an out-of-the-blue gift from Janis, all eleven of the Horatio Hornblower novels.

Oh, my god. I haven't read these since I was a teen. I am thrilled to have a whole set all to myself! Wheeeeeee!

In return, I've loaned her the first three Honor Harrington novels, by David Weber.

And, of course, I'm still sitting here at work, and yes, starting to chafe over the fact that there are 11 books singing lusciously at me from my desk, sirens perched on an unassailable rock, above a sea of MIS help requests, whilst I slump before The Infernal Machine one desk away.

If I breathe very deep, I can smell them from here.

reeeeeeead me

reeeeead me....

I shall, however, dutifully stand my watch.

The Tender Trap

I went with a friend to see the play "The Tender Trap" at Actor's Asylum in San Diego last night.

We had a great time, 2 afficionados sitting in the back row of the tiniest theatre I've ever been in (excepting the last time I was at this theatre), watching a 1950's romantic comedy about a New York louse who finally falls in love.

Sexist? Hell, it was written in the '50's. You bet. Didn't stop us from having a good time.

"The Tender Trap": the play was turned into a film (starring Frank Sinatra) in 1955. I haven't seen it, can't compare.

The performances were good, the venue was lovely -- what more can I ask for?

Friday, April 11, 2003

Stupid Security

Winners announced in the Stupid Security Competition.

"If you thought the accounting profession was bad news, just wait till you hear how stupid the security industry has become. Even before 9/11 a whole army of bumbling amateurs has taken it upon themselves to figure out pointless, annoying, intrusive, illusory and just plain stupid measures to "protect" our security."

Categories were broken up into "Inexplicable", "Intrusive", "Counterproductive", "Annoying", and "Egregious". The judges included privacy specialists and journalists.
Musical Friday Five

1. What was the first band you saw in concert? The first band I ever saw in concert -- ooh, it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is. No, sorry. Do bands playing at state fairs, county festivals, or ren faire like things count? First band I ever paid money just to see them was the Cocteau Twins, spring, 1991.

2. Who is your favorite artist/band now? Err. Uh.... There's "favorite group to dance around fast to", which would be artists like Ricky Martin, Army of Lovers, and a bunch of dance/house/techno types I don't even know the names of (hey, I listen to a lot of soundtracks). "Darn good fun" bands would be Cibo Matto and Moonlife. There's "people to sing along with", Annie Lennox, The Beatles, Sting, Jeff Lynne, Marc Cohen, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Don Mclean and Manhatten Transfer. Then of course there's "romancin' music", music good for a rhumba, vertical or horizontal -- Cesaria Evora . Music great for late night gotta-stay-awake coding: Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein. Life's soundtrack in general: Vivaldi, Bach, and Howard Shore.

3. What's your favorite song? Song-song? Not instrumental? Babylon, by Don Mclean, dona nobis pacem, and Blackbird, by The Beatles.

4. If you could play any instrument, what would it be? The cello. Then the banjo. Then the violin. I've had voice training, brass, and woodwinds, but no strings.

5. If you could meet any musical icon (past or present), who would it be and why? Oh, that's impossible. Bach, I suppose, so I could say 'thanks'.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

You Will Be Missed

They put us all together at the same table, the "techies", thinking that we'd have something in common to talk about (rightly so). Janis (Marshmallows & Bile), me, Kim, Cindy, one or two others too far away for me to talk with, and Anita Borg.

Yeah, I had dinner with Anita Borg at the 1999 Journalism and Women Symposium. (I feel guilty almost for being so impressed. ) The aforementioned 4 were the segments of The 3rd WWWave who were able to shake loose the time and money to attend, and even that was only with the (much appreciated) backing of my employer at the time, Alpine Electronics Research & Development.

We didn't talk much (Janis and Anita talked up a storm, you would have needed a crowbar to get them apart -- not a bad thing). The next morning, I stood up and spoke, as the designated 'voice' of the 3rd WWWave, in part because I was still in my 20s at the time. Anita spoke, and then we had a panel on third-wave feminism, and the ball really got rolling. It was one hell of a weekend.

I disagreed, and still do, with Anita Borg regarding the significance of any spikes or dips in the stats on women getting CS degrees. In my career as a computer scientist, I've worked with more people who have a non-CS degree than those that do. Best software designers I've ever met were physicists, biologists, and EE's. Put us in a room together and we don't solve the problem, we *annihilate* it.

So my answer, whenever she would bring that stat up, was that CS degrees are barely even an indicator of women in the industry, (as indicated by anecdotal experience, only, I admit) and what you need to do is survey women in the industry directly. How many women work as software engineers, architects, designers, or programmers?

But god damn, I respect the woman. She founded IWT, the Institute for Women and Technology, to ask questions about technology to make it useful to everyone, not just the stereotypical blinkered binary-spouting 'early adopter' geek. "Everyone" includes women. Just bring a woman into technology assessment , IWT promotes, in full partnership, and be surprised by the new ideas you'll get out as a result, the market you'll open up. So, naturally , IWT pushes R&D, pushes education, pushes political envelopes -- everywhere to promote the full, active involvement of women in society.

Damn. Anita, requiscat in pace.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Statistics Redux

Being as I lamented recently over the ease with which statistics can say, oh, anything you want, I thought I'd point out to everyone an example of rigorous results of a poll/survey/study. I'm not dissing Gallup or Knight-Ridder, or at least, not actively. I have no data, y'see?

Hope And Despair For The Obese

The article actually describes two studies, one having to do with self-rated 'quality of life' information from obese children, and the other related to the efficacy of a known drug in a new role -- weight loss. I'm going to talk about the numbers in the latter, and compare them to blanket statements like "40% of Americans believe the it's the earth, not the moon, that's made of green cheese."

Firstly, the obesity study is quite clearly peer-reviewed, as a publication in the Journal for American Medical Association.

Secondly the obesity study lists the group running the study, the lead researcher, the number of participants, their average weight, age range, and gender. The relevant article reveals that the diet of the participants was monitored by a dietitian, lowered by 500 calories (for the control and the experimental groups), and participants were encouraged to increase their activity levels.

These details are important to any scientist who wants to prove or disprove the -- admittedly preliminary -- finding that the drug in question may contribute to "signficant weight loss". Why? Because anyone who wants to duplicate these results needs to know the parameters of the experiment.

This is why it's impossible to take an off-the-cuff '40% of anything' statement at anything more than 1/20th of the value of the paper it's printed on. Because you don't know anything. But this obesity study? You know enough to replicate the experiment and support or contradict its results.

That's the difference between "science", and "making shit up", friends and neighbors.

Monday, April 07, 2003

I wish I read Arabic

I'd give a limb to be able to next-day papers from that part of the world right now, and read 'em raw. Errrrrrg. Instead, I've been reading the Arab News, Arabic News, and my more traditional, non-American news sources. You know, where I've got a shot at getting actual news.

There is no news in the US, as far as I'm concerned, with, maybe, 2 exceptions. NPR, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

The Reason Why

Excellent article by George McGovern, if you haven't spotted it already from M&B.