01/11/2015

Traveling Mercy: a letter from time, if time travels by airplane Travel

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I opened an old favorite book this evening. I ruffled through the pages with the well worn, and thus loved, tags and underlined passages. I flipped to the end and saw a note I’d written on my solo flight back from my first over-seas trip September, 2001.

I smile as I read the scribbled letters. I remember this flight very well. It was four days after the terror attacks of Nine Eleven. I flew from Heathrow to Seattle alone in the very back of the plane, scared, deathly afraid of everyone, just wanting to be home with my new fiancé.

How many miles have I flown since? How many trips have I taken to those same countries?

I read the page like an older soul, like I’m reading a letter from a previous version of myself.

I’m tired and worn. Sick of people leaning into my space. I’m on the back row of the plane and the line for the bathroom allows for bottoms, boobs, coats, and purses to bump me, hit me, pinch me. I’m too tired and weary to retaliate but I wish I could.
We are starting to land. I’m starting to pray again.
I admit to total paranoia. I suspect anyone. But as I look out the small, 10 inch window onto the gray/brown rolling mountains and the clouds that lay like glaciers, I know we’ll make it. At least I have to trust we will.  We are above the clouds. Aside from sparse tree-topped mountains, there is nothing to see but an ocean of clouds. This is my favorite part of flying:
  Being done.


I wonder what I will say and think when I read this page in fifteen years. With any luck, I will smile knowing how little I knew back then and forgive my previous self for her shortcomings and dramatic mannerisms and whisper a small prayer in the space of breath that transcends time to say everything will be ok.

06/09/2014

Conference Talk: Leiden 2014 Travel Women in Technology

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Today I am giving a talk about women in technology. This is something I’ve been preparing for since I first learnt Basic at age 13 on a Commodore 64. I’ve had several amazing men encourage me in this field and even in the age of feminism and women’s rights, there is still a lot of speculation and discussion around women equality in technical and scientific fields.

As one of only two women in my Graduate program at Western Oregon where I studied computer science, the idea that more women weren’t in the undergrad or graduate program boggled me. At the same time, however, I struggled with things like Java and building Server Sockets until I would vision jamming a knife under my large toenail as more enjoyable.

My Professor at one point noted, “You can get 100% of the logic on the quiz but you don’t know your ass from a whole in the ground when it comes to the syntax.”

I preferred to study PHP, which seemed to make more sense to me than Java. I pursued Python and Ruby and HTML/CSS instead of the huge, monolithic class structure of Java. Networking, routers, the IP stack; these are all things I found intuitive and interesting whereas the standard course for most computer science majors was the single hardest program for me to learn.

I figured I was not alone in this. I submitted a dissertation proposal in the winter of 2004, which was accepted at Oregon State University, and excitedly planned the research for my doctoral degree on women retention rates of undergraduates in the computer science departments and the correlation of programming languages taught.

06/02/2013

How to not be a tourist: AKA: ten things I learned in London today Travel

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Wandering around London, alone, amidst crowds of families, strangers, losers, businessmen and lepers, I learnt a bit about how to fit in. The irony of that last sentence is that I’ve never quite learnt how to fit in at home. But here, lost in the crowds bumping shoulders with thousands of strangers, I find a way to quietly assimilate to the expectations of local society. Let me ‘splain.

1. Don’t carry around a paper map. Instead, hunt and peck on the map on your phone. You’ll look just like the local texting his or her mate to meet up for drinks later. Only tourists use a paper map.

2. Purchase your souvenirs at the end of the day, not at the start. Nothing shouts tourist like carrying around a bag full of “I LOVE LONDON bracelets” and “My mom went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” (P.S. Family and friends, you’ll be receiving these shortly.)

3. If you find yourself unsure which way to go next, stop and ponder a menu outside a restaurant. This gives the illusion you’re considering a place to eat whilst giving you the opportunity to check the location of the sun and triangulate your next move.

4. Dress like you were going to your local coffee shop. I know you think you’re going to be walking a bunch and want to wear your white sneakers, but leave the stark white shoes at the hotel. You’re not actually walking a marathon. Be comfortable but sensible. Take breaks as needed. See #3.