Monday, August 23, 2010

In Defense of Curse Words

If I had a native tongue other than English, it could be sailor.  In my unfiltered state, I've been known to use a lot of words of the four-letter variety. 

Why?  Because I like the feeling of stress relief as they roll off my tongue.  And because I enjoy being reminded, if only briefly, of the very natural bodily functions they evoke.  So it satisfies both my inner Hulk and my inner three-year-old (whose enjoyment of these bodily functions is eclipsed only my real-life three-year-old's).

Speaking of Hulks, my role model Feminist Hulk recently* said
 I couldn't agree more.

At the lowest level, words are collections of sounds that we speakers of a language mutually agree have meaning.  "Bjurmp" is not a word, for example, at least in English.  "Shit" is, however, and it is a word, one to which we have assigned a particularly derogatory meaning.

There are some people who banish words like shit, and asshole, and fuck from their vocabularies.  I don't have a problem with that; everyone should be free to use words that they feel comfortable with.  At the other extreme, there are people who pepper their speech with these types of words to the exclusion of other, better descriptors, which earns my pity rather than my ire -- it is a sad thing that some folks' verbal expressiveness is limited by their vocabularies.

Ultimately, I do not see the offense in describing excrement, or the sphincter whence excrement exits the body, particularly because there are synonyms to these words that are not considered offensive.  It's not the meaning behind the words that is taboo.  It's these particular collections of sounds that have been labeled offensive, something I find ridiculous.  Feminist Hulk has it right: the only bad words are those that are used to make people feel less than others.

So, while many consider "shit" to be a bad word, I much prefer it to hysterical, mouthy, or ball-busting, terms that are applied exclusively to women** to make them feel small for asserting their wants, needs, and rights as human beings.

* Okay, July 5, which is recent for large values of the word recent.

** or sometimes to children, but only to men as a double insult -- they are as bad as women.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Okra Extravaganza

We've been enjoying our CSA this summer.  We've gotten all kinds of great fruits and veggies.  My favorites have been the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches.  I've also enjoyed learning how to cook some new stuff such as bok choy and kale.

The only thing is, we have gotten way too much okra.  I am not a big fan of okra myself, but I felt that it was pretty important for us to use it if we could.  So I looked on the internet for recipes.  Something I came across was a recipe for "Arkansas Fried Okra."  I made it for dinner last night and Jeff and I both liked it.

We still have a bunch more okra to eat, so maybe I'll make that again or make something else on this great okra resource (where I found the above recipe too).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Success Stories

All my students have now left.  The last one's final day was yesterday.

I think it was a very productive summer for all three of them.  My high school student had some amazing opportunities that most high schoolers don't get.  She learned a lot about nuclear physics, visualization, and working at a science lab.  She was very appreciative of the opportunity and I hope she'll be able to come back next summer.

My undergraduate student learned Unix, Fortran, and how to use a supercomputer.  He was a very bright young man and the work that he did was top notch.  I think it was a good experience for him, and he may be here again next summer.

My best success was with my graduate student.  She worked for me last summer, and came back again this summer.  My goal this summer was to get her a job, and I succeeded!  She'll be starting next month in a sibling division at my workplace.  I am really excited for her!

The summer was fairly stressful, though, and I realized that three students were too many for me to really be able to handle.  Just mentoring them was a full-time job unto itself.  Also, two of them were sitting in my office, and that meant I didn't have much of a chance to be alone.  And then, I was starting to get stressed out but did not feel like I could take a vacation because I had three students depending on me.  And unfortunately, because of my big project, I can't take vacation for another six weeks at the earliest.  So my stress levels are pretty high and will remain so for the near future.

I'm having another student come for 10 weeks beginning in October.  I worked with him last summer.  But he is a senior grad student and just coming to work with me on developing a new algorithm for his code.  My role will be to brainstorm with him about developing a more scalable parallel algorithm, which he will then implement.  So I think this will be fun rather than stressful.  He's going to be in and out, so I'll plan my time off around him.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Breaking the Glass Ceiling and Falling off the Glass Cliff

I found myself nodding in agreement with every sentence as I read this article on diversity in the workplace.  The article at first seems negative (listing bullets on "what not to do" rather than "what to do"), but within the sarcastic wrapping there are plenty of positive suggestions to be found.  I showed it to a colleague of mine and together we identified workplace initiatives or situations that fit every single "what not to do" bullet in the article.  I saw that it was adapted from a book and I'm thinking I should buy a pallet of the books and give it out like candy to every high-level executive across the entire country.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Personal Shout-Out to Judge Walker

Judge Walker, I just wanted to thank you for advancing this country one step closer to the day when half my first family can experience true equality.  I read the entire findings and conclusions document for Perry et al. vs Schwarzenegger et al. and it brought tears to my eyes.  Marriage has indeed changed over the course of history, and it is becoming more egalitarian as it should be.  You are a fair-minded man for being open to this evolution of society.

If I actually knew you, I would bake you the most beautiful and delicious cake that I could, in thanks for your help in making this country better and stronger through the fair-minded application of justice.  Instead, just know that I appreciate you setting us on the path toward equality for all Americans!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Electric Cars of the Past and Future

First of all, let me say how much I cannot wait to get my new Nissan Leaf.  Thanks to my employer, we are among the first markets for its release.

But it's not an original idea.  My sister alerted me to the fact that a century ago, there was a company that released a line of electric cars aimed at doctors and women (because electric cars didn't have to be cranked before starting).  The cars had a rage of 80 miles between charges -- only 20% less than the advertised range for the Nissan Leaf.  I don't know how fast these cars could go, and I suspect that the Leaf is a bit safer.

Speaking of the Leaf, you might worry about the fact that water and electricity do not mix, but the batteries have undergone extensive testing.  And in other news, I may be eligible for a free charging station installation in our garage, but I just need to call the company who's determining the eligibility back sometime soon.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

There and Back Again

We were gone for a week, headed up to Wisconsin for a family reunion.  Overall, a good time was had -- both of my sisters and their families were there, and Vinny had a great time playing with his cousins -- but there were some hair-raising moments.  Family is a double-edged sword -- it can bring out the best and the worst in people.  It was quite interesting (in a horrifying sense) to see sibling rivalries still playing out, fifty years later.  It was somewhat jaw-dropping to see the blatantly rude glares and dagger-throwing stares of family members whose fundamentalist views were so rigid that they condemned their nearest relatives.  But it was also refreshing to see the fierce loyalties between family members whose views may differ, but still share the bond of love and mutual respect.

As you might guess from the previous paragraph, although I took vacation days to attend this event, it was no vacation.  But it was at least a different type of tension than the one I experience every day at work, and there's something to be said for variety.

All of this is to say that I am a woman in desperate need of a vacation.  I've been (to quote Dr. Isis) losing my junk a lot lately.  The stress is enough to drive a person crazy.

I can't take a substantial vacation yet, though.  I have a big review the middle of this month, and then it's crunch time for my super-hard project.  I won't have a chance to take more than a long weekend until October.  In the meantime, I believe I will have to plan that week in October, to have something to look forward to.  So, vast blogging audience, any suggestions for a family with a will-be four-year-old, a destination that won't break the bank, won't take too long to travel to, and will be enjoyable for all three parties involved?