Sunday, October 23, 2005

Breaking ground

As I woke up this morning, the radio station was interviewing a professor at the BU medical school who did some breakthrough research in the effects of green tea on cancer cell movement. Yes, I should drink green tea, if I can get over the fact that it tastes like grass...

But that's not what affected me in the interview. They spent an entire 5-10 minutes on *her* groundbreaking in another area - being a female science student in the early 70's. She was one of 3 chemical engineering students in a school in NYC (sorry, it was early and I don't remember the name!) She spoke of being challenged by professors, and given more difficult assignments (the unknown compound she was given to identify in organic lab was a lachrymate).

I started college in the fall of 1972, as a Chemistry major, as the only female out of 17 freshmen in the department. My college, Canisius, had been all male until about 3-4 years before, and I think I was their second female Chemistry major. Overall, the school was still about 80-90% male. So I guess I was an anomaly, but I didn't really focus on that, nor did those around me. If a school is 90% male, it doesn't seem unrealistic to have one major be 95% male. My grades were high because I answered the questions correctly; in science, there's no doubt of that. If I was treated differently, I just didn't notice, and I really don't think I was.

I can't point to the cause, maybe it was being an only child, maybe it was supportive parents, maybe it was that my mother had a college degree as well as my father, but I just have never considered it a possibility that my academic pursuits would be different because my birth announcements were pink instead of blue.

So I don't quite know how to react to hearing interviews like that. My career so far has also been in a traditionally male arena, but only rarely have I encountered anyone assuming I should be bringing them coffee instead of building a product. Maybe the gift my parents gave me was an understanding that any reaction like that was the other person's problem, not mine.

Which brings me back to the fact that if I'm supposed to be one of these women groundbreakers, why are my experiences so different? Why do I not value that experience the way a radio interviewer would? I want to be evaluated by the code I produce, not the amazement that someone of my gender could write it. I am happiest when praised for my work, not that I have done it as a female.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Goodbye Samantha

Sam was 15 years and 1 month old, and we have had her since she was a puppy. She was never a brave dog, but she was always very sweet. Today we took her to the vet one last time - it was time to let her go peacefully. I'm sad today, but also glad she is no longer in pain. This picture was taken this morning - she's clearly a tired, old girl. A few years ago you would never have been able to see a picture of her without a tennis ball in her mouth, and I hope they have a fresh can of them ready for her at the Rainbow Bridge.

Long may you run, Sam.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Home again :-)

The demo went well, and after that worry was removed, I had a beautiful day in Paris. The sun was shining, it was warm, and I walked through the Jardins de Tuileries - an amazingly beautiful place full of flowers and incredible statues, fountains with little sailboats in them, a carousel, and children on pony rides. Looking in one direction, I could see the Place de Concorde, down to the Arc de Triomphe; doing a 180, I could see the Louvre and the Arc de Triumphe de Carrousel. Just magically beautiful.

Had a strawberry-filled crepe for lunch sitting on a bridge over the Seine... Wore my feet out in the Louvre, and only managed to see a small fraction of what was there (the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory, of course), but was actually really intrigued by the medieval Louvre and the underlying older sections. Went shopping, but the prices were pretty astronomical, so didn't do too much.

I was tired enough I was going to just grab some food at McDonald's (somehow when I'm alone, I don't really think of eating more formally), but an IM from Brian set me straight... So I had dinner at a little cafe not far from the hotel. And it was much better than McDonald's!

So I guess I'm glad I did this. It was a stressful few weeks preparing, but it was a beautiful day. It was kind of lonely being by myself, but also fairly peaceful - a mother of 6 boys doesn't get time alone very often.

I arrived home yesterday afternoon - and it's also good to be home. And I want to go back someday to see more!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

je suis arrive

That's probably not quite correct French. After three years in high school and a year in college, I really ought to be more fluent, but I have forgotten much of what I once knew. I can almost read some of the signs, and maybe being here will awaken whatever part of my brain that knowledge once was in - but it is frustrating to feel that I should understand and I really cannot follow a spoken conversation. It's more than possible that data has been overwritten....

The flight was actually nice. I was able to sleep in cat-nap intervals. In between two of the catnaps, I opened up the windowshade and looked out. The big dipper was hanging upside down in the sky. It looked huge, and so much closer than it normally is. I suppose I was 35000 feet closer, but that should not really be significant. But it was beautiful - and I felt a peace looking at the night sky that I have not felt in the past few weeks putting this demo together. I think it is the sense that there is a world around us so much bigger than what seems so huge in our daily lives. Regardless of how the demo goes tomorrow, the big dipper will still light the night sky, and as long as I can see the sky, everything will be all right.

And I really am jet-lagged right now.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Paris in a day

So I've been quiet for a while. Work is eating my life again.

There's an Ellis Paul song called Paris in a Day that keeps running through my head - next week I will be doing a demo in Paris. After the demo, I have about 24 hours in Paris to relax, be a tourist, and maybe shop a little :-) It's hard to decide what to do with 24 hours. After all the work this demo has been, some time is bound to be sleep, but still... Jim Morrison's grave? Le Louvre? Not sure yet. Hard to even think about life beyond the demo.

I get obsessive about things - demos loom large and consume my attention until they are fait accomplis. I hope I can get my brain back soon... Intense focus helps me do my job reasonably well, but it isn't great for a balanced life.

Maybe it will all make sense when I'm drinking a cup of tea on the Champs Elysses. Maybe this cycle of focus will just repeat with the next stress point. Stay tuned.