Wednesday, December 31, 2008

101st Post!

I just noticed that this is my 101st post. How exciting!!! However, that is not why I am posting. I am posting to, as usual, regurgitate random thoughts to the Inter-Net.

Christmas Haul

I gots some really cool shiz for Christmas this year, including a Panasonic DMC-FZ28 camera. Seriously, this camera is THE BOMB. I know myself - I don't really need a DSLR. Beside, with a DSLR I'd just have to buy lenses, and more lenses, and more lenses. Instead, I went 80% of the way with this camera in terms of manual knobs and lens quality, very flexible but not overkill for me. I seriously love this camera.

Ipod Shuffle - I haven't used an iPod for several years now, not since my first and last iPod decided to hold charge for only 30 minutes before dying. But now I have a shuffle and I ahve been dancing around the house like a maniac. This has both good and bad side effects. The good side effect is I am actually getting some semblance of exercise. Seriously, I am dancing until I am out of breath because I am a dancing machine. The bad side effect is that I am realizing that my lack of running over the last several months has put my cardiovascular system and general musculature into a tizzy and I am now extremely out of shape. Seriously. Maybe I can get back into shape by dancing like a maniac for the next few months. I'm loving it.

Some North Face Clothes. As mentioned previously, I am a fan. So I am happy.


I am giving an invited talk soon and I am basically falling all over myself in nervousness to get knock their socks off, which I think I can do. Working on this talk has made me think about the little meta-aspects of a talk that many people don't think about. Not *you guys* of course, but I've seen many people give talks that totally break these rules.

Obviously, first and foremost you have to have DATA. That's what I've been stressing like crazy about lately - my lack of data. However, it has finally come through as I expected and I can move on to constructing a fucking badass talk. But assuming you have good data, you can still have a bad presentation. Here's how to avoid that.

Once you have your data, is it ok to just throw up some graphs and ask people to worship your numbers? NO. It's not.

The first thing to think about is what your motivations are for doing the research you're doing and present them convincingly. If you can't convince your audience that what you are trying to do is worthwhile, they will tune out of your talk from the get-go. Now, it can be hard to step back and think about why your work might be important to a general audience because you've been buried in it for a long time - obviously you think it's important. But if you knew nothing about what you're doing, would you immediately think it was cool? If so, then awesome. If not - you better make a kickass slide that convinces people to hang onto your every word.

Next is the storyline - you need a story arc. Starting first with your motivation, then a description of how you approached the problem, then some methodological slides explaining what you've done, and then your results. No one wants to just see graphs on the 3rd slide and hear readouts of percentages.

Finally your results - are they readable? Are your axes clearly labeled? Could a freshman in college at least figure out what you are plotting, even if they don't know what it means? Have you thought about the best way to convey what you want to convey? Should you have done this in line graph form, bar graph form, scatter graph form? What are your axes ranging from? What's better, higher numbers or lower numbers? Are they normalized to a particular value, and if so, what is it? Never assume your audience knows the audience magically knows the answers to these questions.

What are your font sizes? Are you absolutely sure you have nothing smaller than size 18 on your slides?

Are you confident? Have you practiced? Do you have page numbers on all your slides? Is your title page appropriately done (title of talk, your name, your institutation, date)?

In the end, what you absolutely have to know is what the most important points are and why they important. And this has to come through. And a good rule of thumb is this: Audiences really can't take in that much information at a time, so it's never a bad idea to tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em what you're telling 'em, and then tell 'em what you just told 'em.

These are all little things that need to be done prior to giving a talk. They might not be as important as having beautiful data, but they are very very important once you have your data in place.

Now - wish me luck as I try to knock some serious socks off with my talk.

Movie Meme

I'm not a huge movie watcher but I saw this meme over at R.E.S.E.A.R.C.H.E.R.S from Dr. J and had to try it.

Rules are simple: Xs next to movies you've seen, and if you've seen more than 85, you apparently have no life.

****PhizzleDizzle addendum, I will annotate some with brief comments! Woot! ha.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease -- did not like this at all, is that a crime?
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
( ) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
( ) Blazing Saddles
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 6

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving -MAS
( ) Flubber (original only)
Total so far: 7

(x) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle -- awesome
( ) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 8

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You -- my favorite teeny bop movie ever
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans -- who doesn't love a GOOD sports movie???
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 12

(x) Bad Boys
(x) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
(x) Lucky Number Sleven -- a good one that went under the radar
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity -- i *heart* this one
(x) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled (original only)
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 19

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds -- great book, eh movie
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 24

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days -- actually kind of a good RoCom
(x) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways -- 4 stars!
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After -- surprisingly excellent
(x) Wizard of Oz -- i *think* i've seen this but honestly I'm not sure.
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
( ) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 32

(x) X-Men -- I *heart* Patrick Stewart
(x) X2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid -- I memorized this ENTIRE movie as a child.
( ) Freaky Friday (original only)
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions -- surprisingly mesmerizing
(x) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 43

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
(x) Old School
(x) The Notebook -- didn't cry, liked it ok. I know, I lose my chick card with this one. Whatever.
( ) K-Pax
( ) Kippendorf's Tribe
(x) A Walk to Remember -- I have no idea why I watched this. Ech.
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
(x) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total so far: 47

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring -- who doesn't love Lord of the Rings????
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
( ) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
( ) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 51

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History
( ) Three
Total so Far: 51

( ) The Jacket
(x) Kung Fu Hustle -- I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
( ) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
( ) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 53

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
Total so far: 55

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 56

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 62

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
(x) Team America: World Police -- this movie is freakin' awesome. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 66

( ) Battle Royale
( ) Battle Royale 2
( ) Brazil
( ) Contact
( ) Cube
( ) Dr. Strangelove
( ) Enlightenment Guaranteed
( ) Four Rooms
(x) Memento
( ) Pi
( ) Requiem for a Dream
(x) Pulp Fiction
( ) Reservoir Dogs
( ) Run Lola Run
( ) Russian Ark
( ) Serenity
(x) Sin City
(x) Snatch
( ) Spider
(x) The Sixth Sense -- I found this movie surprisingly funny. I enjoyed.
( ) The Village
( ) Waking Life
( ) Zatoichi
( ) Ikiru
( ) The Seven Samurai
( ) Brick
( ) Akira
Total so far: 71

ok, I guess I do watch kind of a lot of movies. Heh. Oh well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In which I discuss how I am hot shit

I have been working a long time on a particular problem (duh, I am a late-year graduate student). You might recall that I recently had a paper deadline in which I worked desperately to the end but it didn't seem to work out. I was extremely disappointed.

Since then I have continued to work on this problem - basically I had a theory and gobs of analysis to support this theory, but when it came time to test the theory there were all sorts of problems. The results didn't line up. They in fact, flat out sucked. So I have been troubleshooting and troubleshooting, panicking and panicking, putting out fire after fire and finally, finally, I got some


I have finally got results that make sense considering the oodles of preparatory analysis I've done. I finally can be confident about what I've been spending my time doing. Lately I've been so stressed that in the back of my mind was always the thought that I would end up as some sad sack who worked many years on a PhD but just couldn't get 'er done. I thought, "if it came down to it, would I quit or would I continue knowing I had to start anew and take a few more years?" It was making me break out, both in zits and in fever blisters. As someone who as only ever had 3 fever blister breakouts in the last 8 years, I have had 3 since my paper. Mr. PhizzleDizzle is about going crazy because I won't kiss him when I have a fever blister and that's been 3 weeks in the last two months where I have refused to kiss him. I actually think it's kind of been bad for our relationship.

Fortunately, I think that's over now....finally I'm at a point where I can just finish up some stuff and write it up, maybe do some more experiments but the primary bulk of my idea base has finally been validated. I was so afraid that my analysis was just wrong and I had nothing. Thank FSM that's not true. And I am so so so happy. All results after this is GRAVY.

I feel like I have to reiterate what I said in this post. You really have to persist and just put your head down and suck it up. Truly, my sense of success at this moment has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that when I felt down (and I've felt down, oh, about 30 times in the last 2 months), I did not allow myself to wallow. And let me tell you, I thought about it.

I thought about giving up the thought of academia, because I couldn't take the roller coaster ride, plus I probably would suck at it anyway.

I thought about backing out of the invited talk I am giving soon.

I thought about quitting my degree, despite having put years into it.

I thought about all sorts of doomsday thoughts. I came thisclose to asking my advisor for advice on backing out of the invited talk, particularly given recent difficult news which made me feel like I could not spend the time on troubleshooting this holiday that I needed to.

One thing I do remember thinking though, after my 20th "down" episode was that "well, with the last 19 down episodes I've had 19 ups, so I just have to hold out, keep working, figure this shit out, and then I'll have my up again." It got easier, just knowing this. When I was in high school, I would occasionally have serious teen angst episodes where I felt like life was pointless and I was just going through the motions...not really anything crazy, like I still got out of bed and got good grades and stuff, but I was not getting much joy out of life, which I normally do. After a few of these episodes, all I had to tell myself when I was having one was that one day I would not feel bad anymore, and to look forward to it. And it was true - it always happened, I just had to make it to that day. Not only did my episodes get fewer and far between, they got shorter...until one day, I had my last teen angst episode, around the age of 16. I have enjoyed life pretty much every day ever since, more or less.

ESPECIALLY today :).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays to all!

I love Christmas. Even though I am a Flying Spaghetti Monster follower, I loooove Christmas for the giving. I love the lights, the music, buying presents....most of all buying presents. I often buy a few for myself too, but one thing I really enjoy is getting something for someone I love that I think they will really really like. It is so wonderful when said person opens their gift and looks genuinely happy/excited. I love it. LOVE it.

I have much to be thankful for this year, and I am having a fabu time with the family. We will soon be departing for the in-laws place where we will try to maintain a normal and happy holiday.

I hope everyone in the blogosphere has a lovely holiday season, whichever holiday you may celebrate. May your break be filled with love, laughter, fun, and of course, maybe also a few gifts you'll love ;).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Genius vs. Prodigy

Right now on TV I am watching Good Will Hunting. I absolutely love this movie.

When I first saw it in the theaters, I was hooked from the moment I saw mathematical equations shifting across the screen in the introductory montage. I just was entranced by this whole movie, and I wished that I could be as brilliant as Will Hunting, and the Matt Damon would somehow find me and want to marry me.

This brings me to an article I read a while ago, but has resonated with me for a long time. I've been wanting to write a post about it but have not had the time to really put the appropriate thought into it.

The article discusses how we as a society tend to equate genius with precocity, whereas he says in reality, there really are two kinds of genius, the kind that builds, builds, and builds into a late-career apex, and the other is the kind we are accustomed to, precocious genius. The analysis he performs is truly fascinating. I *highly* recommend that you read this article.

I think that we as academics tend to focus on precocity. After all, it's the easiest way to to determine near-term success, and since we need results sooner rather than later this works. However, I think that there are a lot of "non-traditional" people out there who are capable of great genius later. I like to think of myself as having this possibility, not necessarily of genius but of improvement over a lifetime. I've always been pretty good at stuff, but my recent development as a computer scientist has really made me think the best is to come. I just hope that whomever looks to hire me in the future can see and accept that.

Will Hunting is clearly a precocious genius, but I wonder what his later career would be like. Did he flameout? Did he continue to be brilliant? Was he happy? Did he contribute to the world?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Tribute

To North Face Nuptse Boots:

Yesterday I walked home in a serious snowstorm. I saw like, no one outside, no cars, no people on the streets. Very few at least. It was desolate. And cold. My face was really, really cold. Normally I think anyone who wears a balaclava is insane but I kinda wished I had one. And my jeans were soaked through when I got home and my quads were freezing. It was a cold walk. Into the snow. Uphill. Both ways ;).

Normally, my hands and feet are pretty cold, but in this snowstorm, these boots kept my feet so toasty warm I almost could not believe it. That's because there's DOWN inside the boots!!! Woohoo!! And they're cute too. Thank you, North Face!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Difficult Holiday Season

I have a crapton of work to do to prepare for a talk coming up soon. It sucks that it has to happen over the holidays.

And then...we find out that FIL's cancer has spread and there's nothing to do.

Talk about an eye-opener. I'm so sad. This will be a difficult holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ok, what the heck peeps?

recently when i was not so busy and eagerly checking google reader every day for posts from science chicks, there was nothing....

now, i am so busy i am not really checking google reader, but today i looked and i have 45 unread posts. 45!!!!!! seriously, i am not in sync with the blogosphere.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I am pathetic!!!!

seriously. I just spent nearly 2 hours making an awesome awesome dinner. it looks SO AMAZING.

but....then i dropped a plate and glass went EVERYWHERE and now it's too dangerous to eat any of the food. literally, there was glass all round the place. so now i can only smell it and look at it. i am SO PATHETIC.

ok, i am too lazy to take real pictures but here are some pics from my mac camera:

roasted green beans with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, goat cheese:

pesto baked chicken topped with mozzarella (worse picture and looks much less appetizing but whatever, IRL it looks and smells AWESOME!)


This is the third piece of glassware I have broken in probably the last month or so. When did I become such a klutz? I never even broke any plates or glasses as a little kid.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best Snack Evar!!!

I haven't blogging much lately (busy busy!) but I thought my dear readers might enjoy this (or not):

EthidiumBromide - any chance this will be at your next Super Bowl Party? :):)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The "Other" PhizzleDizzle

Thanks to Gail, who informed me about Google Alerts, I've discovered who the "other" PhizzleDizzle is. He's a music guy. Check it out. It's pretty crazy how we picked the same nome de plume, but are in completely different areas of interest....I bet he's the one with phizzledizzle@gmail!!

Being in the Zone

Lately I have been in the Zone. I have been working a LOT. The house looks like shit. Since my deadline is over I have been trying to pick up the slack from all the work my dear husband did, but I am not quite succeeding in anything except a bit of cooking. The picking up/cleaning still needs a lot of work.

I am so in the Zone because I have so much to do in order to prepare for life after grad school - first, get everything done to get out of grad school, and next to make sure I have something I enjoy to do once I'm done.

The other day, I woke up, looked at Mr. PhizzleDizzle, and mumbled "page table allocate." No, it wasn't dream talk - it literally was the first thing I thought to say. That's sad.

So, in my post Tit for Tat, I asked about how things go when both parties in a marriage are stressed. Right now, we are approaching that point. Husband is very concerned with his research, and working long hours, as am I. We are both at crucial points where all our spare mental energy is spent thinking about our work. I realized this when we went out to dinner yesterday, and we kept talking about our own work. There'd be pauses, some chewing....and then out of left field we would say, "The thing about what I've been working on is....." or "Oh, maybe if I tried.....". The other would then say, "yeah, that sounds good." Then we'd continue chewing and pausing....only to have this same sequence happen again. We are both totally in the Zone and have not had a real conversation in a while, I think. I hope this doesn't last. We need better together time. Snuggling on the couch while watching the Daily Show (and me with my computer on my lap) does not count.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Favorite Imbibations

Ambivalent Academic posted a Kick-Ass Chili Recipe that calls for beer that is not "pee in a can", and in one of her comments said that "lousy beer is an abomination." This made me think about beers that I like.

So, I'll list my favorites and invite you to do the same in the comments:

In general, I like darker beers. I'm not a fan of tons of hops, I like rich, smooth flavor, not too bitter. My least favorite type of beer is the IPA. My most favorites include:


Smaller brews that I like:

Monkey Butt (seriously, it's good despite the name)
Long Trail Amber Ale
Blue Point Toasted Lager

What do you like?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I am getting OLD

Back in my heyday, I used to loooove to go dancing. In college, I would often go dancing and get all hot, sweaty, and gross, but dance the night away. I loved it. It's easy to do in college - just blow off a night of work, walk 15 minutes, and bam, you're in a dance venue.

Oh yeah, and ladies, don't forget that enjoying yourself is the best way to be hott. I remember there were a few times where I could not keep dudes from asking me to dance on days where I was convinced at the last minute to go out dancing and did not have time to get dolled up. One day, I even wore a baby-T. For a night out. And dudes be asking me to dance because I gots da moves and I was smiling and having a great time anyway.

Ok, back to the original subject. Since "growing up" and "getting married" I have not done this sort of "dance all night" event in a looooong time. So yesterday, it happened to be that I was in the car for a while and all these dance-a-licious songs came on the radio. I seriously wanted to go shake what my mama gave me. I was dancing in the car, I was dancing in the kitchen, I was itching to go dance dance dance!!

I was kind of heartened by the idea that last night we were supposed to go to a holiday party. I had the passing thought "maybe they'll have dance-a-licious music at this party." But I quickly scrapped that thought become the invitation said, "children welcome."

Party began at 7pm. It is at my best friend's house so I didn't want to be late. We hit traffic there and got there at 7:30. We walked into a FULL HOUSE. With oodles of children. I have NEVER been to a party not thrown by someone of my parents generation with children. EVER. People began leaving at 8:30 because they had to get the kiddies to bed. It was insane. Whaaa????

Seriously. When did this happen? Have my days of partying gone just because I am old and married? Husband is not into going out and dancing all night so much, so I guess I'll just have to gather up my girlfriends sometime for a trip to Miami Beach and hit the dance floor.

I was inspired by Dr. Isis' posting of a Britney performance (Womanizer was one of the dance-a-licious songs I heard), so I will post my latest favorite booty-shaker. I seriously heart this song. That beat!!! I am loving the beat.

I can't embed this video, so just check out the link.

Dance away, people!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What does it say about me if...

This is what Amazon thinks I want??

Santa, for the record, that is not what I want. :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Geeks and TV

I read an article in a recent WIE magazine about how to get more women into computer science/engineering. The lady said all this stuff about how law has done it (not at the partner level, but at the law school and associate level), and so has medicine (I think women are now 50+% of medical students). Why not in engineering?

After I read that article, I thought long and hard about the best way to get more women into engineering - I think it really boils down to a perception issue. You want to know why Law and Medicine did it? Two answers:

ER and Ally McBeal.

Ok, not really, but there really are a lot of shows on TV that totally glorify law and medicine, and on top of that the shows are really about hot sexy people having hot sexy sex with each other. Think of one show about hot sexy engineering having hot sexy sex in an engineering building. Mmmm....ZERO.

Honestly, I think this raises the mental accessibility of Law and Medicine to women, because obviously there are lot of women in these shows in order for the men to have someone to have hot sexy sex with. Thus, both genders are well represented in these disciplines, and moreover, they are always having hot sexy sex so everyone wants to be a Doctor or a Lawyer to have this life.

In the last few years there have been a few geeky shows on TV that at least SHOW geeky people are somewhat main characters instead of just ancillary caricatures. Of course, they are all men, but I suppose it's a start. Geek representation on TV is a whole other subject. For now, I'll just review these shows.

Big Bang Theory:

This show airs on CBS and is about a bunch of total geeks who are friends, and the shenanigans they get into because a beautiful blonde girl moves in across the hall. These are geeks at their most...stereotypical.

The Indian Guy - in the few episodes I've seen what I learned about him is that he cannot speak to women. He is like, physically unable to speak to a member of the female sex, he's too scared.

The Jewish Guy with the Bowl Cut - he is the one who thinks about sex all the time.

The Arrogant Sociopathic Guy - this guy is not REALLY sociopathic but he totally denigrates things like feelings and emotions, reveres only logic and rational thought, and considers himself God's gift to Science.

The Nice Guy - This is the guy who is just that lovable geek that could totally be a girl's best friend, all the while pining for Beautiful Girl while she pines for Wrong Guy, and in the end she may or may not realize that he's the only one that will treat her right and possible also bring home millions as the next Mark Zuckerberg.

All in all, I enjoy the show enough to watch when I channel surf and see it on, but I'm sure it doesn't reach a wide audience. A lot of the jokes are totally out there, but it's quasi-real geek representation. However, it's not the kind of show where people will be saying, "I decided to be an X because of Big Bang Theory" the ways I've heard lots of people say, "I decided to be a lawyer because I loved Law and Order" or "I wanted to get into forensics because I love CSI". No one wants to be these guys...unless you already are total geeks, because these guys are alpha geeks. But I like it, it makes me think fondly of all my geeky friends.


This show is soooo dumb but cute. I kinda like it, enough to actually TiVO it and watch it every now and then.

First of all, Zachary Levi (the dude who plays Chuck) is ADORABLE. I have a soft spot in my heart for geeks, I find extremely "classically" hot dudes kind of repulsive in a way. I have NEVER been a girl to swoon over some abs. I am a girl who swoons over humor and brains. So...Chuck is like, freakin' adorable. I love his hair, his Converse shoes, and his short sleeved button downs.

I watched a TiVO'ed episode yesterday, and he made all these geeky references which weren't over the top, but are the kinds of things that regular geeks (i.e. the ones who aren't stereotypical like the ones in Big Bang) do just in normal life.

1) He talked about how Pluto was no longer a planet and how he was kind of bummed out about it.

2) He talked about using the Force. He was trying to reach something he couldn't reach and just said in passing to himself, "C'mon Chuck, use the Force USE THE FORCE!" That's so something I would do. But I don't think everyone does that. And it's not *out there* but it's just regular geek.

3) He talked about MacGyver. The way he said it you could just tell he was one of those dorky boys as a kid who lived for MacGyver and watched every episode. It was cute.

So...none of the above are crazy geek markers the way the things the dudes in Big Bang do are totally geek markers - Chuck is a normal guy who happens to be a geek, and happens to be adorable. We need more geeks like this on TV. Now, he just needs to have a lot of hot sex with hot sexy she-geeks, kind of like his ex-girlfriend Jill, and we are all set. I loved the exchanges between Chuck and Jill a few episodes ago where they got all gaga over each other from totally geek references. That's how I get over Mr. PhizzleDizzle. When he knows something or figures something out that blows my mind, I want to just jump his bones.

In short, I vote for more hot sexy brainiac geek chicks on TV. We need a engineering Addison Shepard/whatever her maiden name is, an engineering Dr. Noah Wylie, an engineering Ally McBeal, and they need to get into a love triangle meanwhile saving the world over at the NSA with computers and technology.


Last night, I dreamed that I was washing my hair with beer. Like, I was pouring it out of a bottle, into my hair, lathering, and trying to rinse out the beer with....more beer.

That's all I remember, and I don't understand it, but damn, it was funny.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A fellow chick computer scientist!

Here is one of the lady computer scientists I found when I searched via google reader. Her latest post is a great one about why CS is such an interesting field. The scope is just so big! Check her out. I'm excited to have a new addition to my blogroll.

Google and Successful PhDs in Computer Science

There are few fields in this world, as far as I know, where the speed of a PhD can be extremely dependent upon how you spent your time as a 10-year-old.

I was thinking recently about why I have been pretty slow in getting my PhD. One of the reasons is that I did not grow up a hacker. This means that when I have an idea that I need to implement in order to test and experiment, the success of my experiment rests very highly on my ability to implement it quickly, effectively, and successfully, and I had to learn all those skills all on my own. In the biological sciences, bench skills are usually taught either in lab classes, or at the very least in the lab when you get trained by a prof or a postdoc. But few people enter the biomedical sciences having had a decade of experience with bench work and the various techniques PRIOR to entering even college, let alone graduate school.

In my world, no one uses the word "train" describe what they do to nascent graduate students; they either know shit about computers or they don't. If they don't, they usually drop out because it's so hard to compete - you might have good ideas but if you can't implement them, you lose. End of story. This may be a reason why there are so few girls in the area, I don't know many girls who hacked all their lives, even fellow computer scientist chicks. In graduate school for computer science, all focus is on idea generation and testing of said ideas, and very little about training.

Because of this, I will totally and unabashedly say that if there were no Google, I could not get a PhD in computer science. Hands down, absolutely, totally true. There are too many things out there that I just don't know about that I had to use Google to figure out. Some are basic and some are complex. I think I will thank Google in my thesis acknowledgments.


1) Compiler error X when building software Y.

Thanks to google and experience, I now understand and recognize most errors. However, sometimes I don't know how to fix them, but the plethora of mailing lists usually helps me figure out fixes or patches. I don't know how many blogs, mailing list archives, and whatnot I've trolled to figure out various things that have NOTHING to do with the idea I am trying, but everything to do with figuring out how to properly set up an environment to test the idea I am trying.

2) Finding helpful tools.

Without google, I would not have found various software tools that help me with my work. Writing your own tools is a bitch sometimes, and in the end, it's just great when someone else has written it already. But I wouldn't know about it without Google.

3) Little definitions.

Sometimes I just can't remember this little technical definition or that. Instead of having to go to the library, find the section that I think covers what I want to know, flipping through the index only to find that I'm wrong, and moving on to the next book until I find what I want to know, I can just ask google. For example, recently I needed to know what a Gini coefficient meant with respect to forming a decision tree. I had no idea - but Google did. Thanks Google!

In short, I think Google has revolutionized my ability to do what I want to do. It has (sort of) leveled the playing field such that it wasn't such a bitch to catch up to my fellow graduate students who have been living the dork-lifestyle since they were small children. It frustrated me to no end in the beginning of grad school about how I just didn't know stuff that I needed to know to get shit done. Not only did I have to learn about the field in order to properly think of new research directions, but I had to learn a crapton of other shit in order to be an effective researcher. It was a tremendous barrier to entry. Tremendous.

How can this be changed???? I don't know. I'll have to think about it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In which I wax poetic about matplotlib

Every scientist needs to make graphs. It's one of those necessary evils in order to effect information transfer. It's also kind of unsexy. What's sexy is the research, what's unsexy is the meticulous work that can be required to put it into graphical form.

It's like in college, when I was talking with a girl who was working on her senior thesis. She said, "I'm almost done, I just have to do the bibliography" and she had 3 hours before the deadline where she had to physically turn it in. I looked at her and said, "Oh you poor girl, get on that right now." Bibliographies are also necessary evils and always take longer than you think/hope.

So, fortunately, in the computing world there are lots of people working on lots of free projects and software to make people's lives easier. Out of the goodness of their hearts. It's lovely and wonderful. I myself work on such a project. I won't tell you what it is though - I'd lose my anonymity in a heartbeat that way. But anyway.

One of my favorite free projects is called matplotlib. It's a most excellent piece of graphing software, extremely useful for me, as someone who does a lot of work in Python, as well. Anyway, you know MATLAB? You'll probably be just fine with matplotlib too.

Check out this gallery of screenshots for all the things you can do with matplotlib. It's incredible. It's awesome. It's magnificent. I LOVE MATPLOTLIB. Almost as much as I love mercurial. Hubby HATES Excel and recently asked me how I made such pretty graphs - I told him, matplotlib!!! So I made a few graphs for him. Lickety-split, he has pretty graphs.

What matplotlib is ideal for:

  • If you already use Python to do your scripting, matplotlib is a MATLAB-ian interface within Python, so your transition to matplotlib will be very easy. Just download the egg file to get all your prereq packages and you're set to go.
  • People who need documentation. Matplotlib has some of the best documentation for a free software project I have ever seen. Active mailing list, lots of examples, documentation for every class/function/everything, and even more examples.
  • People who have to turn massive textual data into graphs. This is the best part about matplotlib, in my opinion. Python is my favorite workhorse language. It's very easy to pull out bits of data from massive amounts of textual data. The language is EASY, READABLE, and AWESOME. Since matplotlib is within Python, you just pull out your bits of textual data, and plop them into a graph of your choosing - bar graph, histogram, line plot, whatever. Woot!
  • People who hate Excel.
  • People who aren't afraid of trying new things and doing a little digging on how to get something to work. If you're totally unfamiliar with everything I'm talking about, you can still love matplotlib, you'd just have a learning curve issue. But once you get it, you'll love it. But only if you're willing to put in some time to get away from Excel.
  • People who are cheap. Matplotlib is free. FREE.
  • People who like to control things. You know how in Excel, you can't force it to do certain things? You just can't - if it's not built-in, you can't get it to do it. Not so with matplotlib - if you can code it, you can make it. And you can always code it.
Ok, I guess I'm done waxing poetic about this piece of software. But I think it's worth sharing. Because as I said, every scientist needs to make graphs sometimes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Veritable Cornucopia of Thoughts

I've been away for nearly a week now, both recovering from my paper and celebrating Thanksgiving. I have a lot of posts bottled up in my head, so I will just combine and randomly write.

On Ethics and Integrity in Academia

I've mentioned before that my advisor is a really really good guy. He believes in publishing quality work in quality venues, and that's all. He's very methodologically meticulous, and extremely well respected in this regard.

This necessarily means that his students don't publish that much, me included. Some because I didn't push myself enough (he's not pushy or demanding), but then also because he kind of nixes pieces of work as not good enough.

So now I find myself in a pretty shitty position when it comes to an academic job search, to the point that I don't even want to try. I talked to him about it recently; I told him that I respected his reputation and his good work, and I didn't want to stray from it, but also that I friggin' need some more pubs if I ever want to be a prof at a semi-reasonable place.

What to do?

Then there is a whole other, more insidious level of academic integrity. What I've been talking about is pretty forgivable, just submitting semi-frivolous work to low- and mid-level venues just to pad a pub list. But this other level is different. When I was working on my paper, there were numerous ways in which I could have semi-fudged what I was doing, but I draw the line there. Not explicitly making up numbers, but methodologically skewing results to look better. I know people do this all the time. It sucks, and it means reviewers have to be really on the lookout, but they aren't always. It's pretty easy, in my field, to do this skewing in non-obvious, and not even intentionally insidious ways. It could just be from carelessness. Anyway, with this paper I worked on, I could have, but I didn't. It might cost me a pub or two or ten over my life, but I learned well from my advisor and I don't want to be that kind of researcher. But I also don't want to be out of a job.

What to do?

Thanksgiving and giving thanks

I had a very nice Thanksgiving weekend with my in-laws, where there was food, laughter, love, and fun. It was lovely. I have much to be thankful for this season, and I think it's important we remember that, all of us, that we are very lucky to not be living in a society where things are so plentiful in the grand scheme of things.

Things I am grateful for:

  1. My health - it is easy to forget that just being able to go about your day normally is something to be grateful for.
  2. My husband - I've talked about how wonderful he is, and he is such a huge boon to the quality of my life. I *heart* Mr. PhizzleDizzle.
  3. My family - not only is my entire family awesome and functional, but they too, are healthy and happy. This also makes my life easy. I know enough people who are totally awesome themselves but are dragged down by f'ed up family dynamics or family health issues, and this is not the case for me. Thank goodness.
  4. My in-laws - the fact that they are not monsters and in fact, are nice people, is probably one reason why Mr. PhizzleDizzle is also so awesome, so woohoo for me.
  5. Our lack of debt - Thanks to our respective parentals, who shelled out big $$$ for college, we are both free and clear in terms of college debt. We owe nothing. To anyone. This is suuuuuch a weight off of us and allows us to easily live within our means, despite making very little money. The other thing that enables us to live within our means are our awesome parents who taught us how to do so. We don't have a lot of "stuff" but we have enough and are very happy.
  6. My looks - I sort of just added this on from reading JLK's post on hotness. But let's face it, society cares about beauty and I'm just happy I was born reasonably good looking. Add to that a healthy sense of self-confidence and I am able to navigate lots of this world pretty easily. I do all the right things, eat reasonably well, exercise (sort of - not lately), and all that, but also am blessed with a pretty nice rack, a pretty nice ass, a pretty nice figure, a pretty damned awesome metabolism, and a variety of pretty nice other features that just make my life easier. And I am thankful for that as well. One of the most annoying things in the world is a chick who complains about how ugly she is when she is in fact very aesthetically pleasing. I am not one of those chicks. I am grateful for what I've got.
  7. My friends - I have the least catty, most supportive, bestest friends in the world. I just wish they all lived near me. They're all the things girlfriends should be, and none of the things girlfriends shouldn't be. I love them.
In short, I have a rich, blessed life. And I'm grateful for that.

I had more to post about but I just finished making brownies and it's time to eat them. So it will have to be another time.

But I hope everyone had a marvelously happy Thanksgiving filled with love, family, and laughter.