Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Exciting New Year

2011 was special, particularly with the arrival of our daughter Molly.  But 2012 is looking pretty great, too!

Although I wasn't able to get an NSF grant application in for Gram's House as planned, one of the researchers I was working with and I have teamed up with another group doing something similar.  If that grant gets funded, it leaves us with an opportunity to extend it later with Gram's House.  At the same time, the Gram's House researcher is (hopefully) running a pilot project at her university this summer that will help us learn more about how to approach both projects in the most effective way.

I'll be off on maternity leave until September, but I'm looking forward to doing some reading and trying to nail down my thesis plan (I have gone through some iterations already, but am not quite there yet as it turns out).  I like knowing that everything I can get done (and feel like getting done) is a bonus, and that I don't have to put myself under a lot of pressure.  After all, I want to make sure I enjoy my time with Molly!

I'll be teaching my mini-course (Computer Science and Games: Just for Girls!) for the fifth year.  It's only a week long, but that will probably be the first time I'll be away from Molly for so long, so that will be interesting.  I'm also considering putting together a programming course for Girl Develop It Ottawa using Processing, which would be fun to teach in the summer.

And perhaps most exciting of all, I'm trying to make attending Grace Hopper 2012 in Baltimore with Andrew and Molly a possibility.  It's only a 9 hour drive from home, and if I can get my trip funded, the only cost would be Andrew's conference fee and food (and maybe we can even get him in as a volunteer?).  I've wanted Andrew to attend for years now both for the technical content and to get to see into my world of women in computing.  As an added bonus, the conference offers free daycare!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome Molly, Future Girl Geek!

Andrew and I are delighted to announce the birth of our first child, Molly! She was born on December 16 at 5:47pm and weighed 7 lbs 3 oz.  We're all doing well and enjoying our time together as a new family.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Digital Media - New Learners of the 21st Century

PBS aired this program back in February this year.  It is almost an hour long and features many of the big names in 21st century learning, including James Paul Gee and Katie Salen.  If you're interested in game-based education, educational games, and digital media for learning in general, it's a good watch.  I quite enjoyed it.  (Note: It looks like you can't watch the whole thing in the embedded video, so if you have an hour, head to the full link.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kudos to the New RCMP Commissioner

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our federal police force, recently had its 23rd commissioner formally installed.  There have been problems with the previous commissioners, but from what I'm hearing so far from Bob Paulson, things are looking up.


Paulson's take on women deserves kudos.  While the organization has nearly 38% of its ranks as women, not many are in the upper ranks.  In one article on TheSpec, he is quoted as saying:
“My view is, we bring more women into our decision-making process at the executive level; we have a much more representative decision-making body in the force.”
But he doesn't want to boost the numbers for the sake of equality.  As a CTV article reports:
"I recognize that most of our women are concerned that this increase in numbers in the senior ranks will be a measure that is just adding numbers," he said.

"I want to make sure that those employees and members that merit promotion get the promotion. I don't want people to think that we're moving women into the senior ranks just because we need more women." 
It seems that Paulson believes that there are many women who deserve to be in the higher ranks but are being overlooked.

Sounds an awful lot like what we need in tech companies and academic institutions, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

About to Get Nutty Around Here

Things are about to get really nutty, and I expect I won't be able to post to the blog too much in the next 6-8 weeks (though I will still try to get some content here!).  So here's a quick update to keep you going.

I've been trying to get as much done for school as possible before baby arrives, but there have been a few factors making this difficult.  The main thing is that baby is still in breech position, meaning its head is up instead of down where it should be.  Traditionally, this has meant an automatic c-section, which is something I desperately don't want for a number of complex reasons I can't fully articulate here.  Fortunately, safe, regular breech deliveries are starting to come back into fashion, and there is a chance that if baby doesn't turn in time I could still avoid the surgery.

But, of course, the best outcome of all would be to get baby to turn and not have to make the tough decision on what to do when labour hits.  We've been trying a few things, from the Webster technique to various inversions.  We even had an ECV yesterday, where the doctor tries to manually turn the baby from the outside.  That was unsuccessful, but we are planning to try again next week and continuing doing everything we can, no matter how silly it seems.

So that's going to be consuming my attention for the next little while.  I will still try to be optimistic about getting more done for school, but there may be a point I have to just throw in the towel.  I'd be disappointed, but ok with this.  You can only do what you can do, right?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Who Knew Science and Dance Could Be So Closely Related?

So often we think of the arts and science as opposites.  Many who are talented in one feel hopelessly lost in the other.  But the two are more related than it might seem, sometimes in the most unexpected ways...

Take last year's Dance Your PhD contest winners from the chemistry department of my own school, Carleton University.  Their dance explains a technique called Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment (SELEX).

Or how about the series of videos that explain how sorting algorithms work? I've used these with great effect in my own introductory CS courses, and recall showing it during a TA workshop I attended, where some participants suddenly understood how quick sort worked as a result.

John Bohannon is the man behind the aforementioned Dance Your PhD contest.  He recently gave a talk at TEDxBrussels with a modest proposal.  He thinks that "bad PowerPoint presentations are a serious threat against the global economy." (A man after my own heart!)  Instead of sitting around and wasting time being distracted by pretty pictures and too much data, we should use dance to explain challenging topics and issues.

I think dance is just the start.  Art and science are both important and they could be connected in so many meaningful ways.  Let's get our thinking and creative caps on and see what we can come up with.