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February 26, 2001

I am SO disturbed!

Have you ever seen something so gross, well, so gross that you couldn't help but SHARE IT WITH EVERYONE? Ok, maybe not quite that gross, but you get the idea.

Anyway, one of my roomies was nice enough to share the Stinky Meat Project with me. Go there. Now. Just don't do it if you've just eaten. Really.

Boy, I'm so glad I'm still not feeling well. This might have extended it a bit....

February 21, 2001

Cold's suck!

You know what? Colds suck! I developed this year's version (soar throat for a day or so, followed by congestion and running nose for, well, going on 4 days, now transferring its momentum into deep-throated painful coughs) just this past weekend. No fun. Especially not in the midst of the mid-semester crunch. Seems to be going around, too. There was a constant cacophony of sniffles and coughs in all of my classes today. And a constant fog, emanating from somewhere deep within my sinuses. No good at all.

That's it for now. Just a quick note to say I'm miserable, and wish the rest of you well.

February 15, 2001

Ah, so that's the problem!

Hrm. It's pleasing to see that at least one or two people have thought to contribute to the geekdom process. Someone even paid enough attention to my Quick Quiz to find an error in it I hadn't noticed since I wrote it, over a year ago. That's cool.

Anyway, today was a good day. As some of you may know, I've been sitting on a job offer from Lincoln Laboratories, a primarly government funded "national needs" sort of research lab. I'm pretty psyched about it, because it looks like a great direction to go. Of course, I'm also a little leary, because it's government research. You know, they only hire American Citizens, they only make you get a security clearance, that sort of thing. Not that I'm against that sort of environment, it just sheds a certain light on the direction of my work if I take a job there.

On the other hand, ever since I saw them at the fall Career Fair, I was excited about the possibility of working for Xerox PARC. For those of you not familiar, this is the highly underrated lab Xerox created like 30 years ago to explore new ways to use technology. And, boy, have they. Researchers at PARC invented, and invented. The mouse. The GUI. Ethernet. Current stuff includes directions like digital paper, very-high-resolution displays, and, well, lots of other stuff. Anyway, before I drool all over the keyboard, you can see why I like them - they do cool stuff. Unfortunately, Xerox by and large didn't listen to them (did the Alto get a huge product push? No. Did the Mac, so heavily based on the work that made Alto? Well, that's history...). And, now Xerox isn't in the best, uh, long-term financial situation. So, anyway, though it's a bit scary to be trying to get a job with a company that most investors consider largely doomed, I'm still excited. PARC has a lot of value that transcends just belonging to Xerox, and I've been told they're looking to get a few more investment partners.

But, long story short, they've asked me to come out for a visit. I hope I impress them. Beyond that, only time will tell.

So, that's what it's down to. I graduate in May. From there, I'll either go to work at Lincoln Labs, or PARC. Since I imagine a lot of other folks reading this are graduating soon, why not drop a comment at the end here and share where you'd like to end up, and what your prospects are. If you've already got a job, tell us where you'd like to go next, assuming your current job isn't so awesome you'll die if they ever have reason to ask you to leave.

Anyone else notice my sentences are really long and gangly? It's how I talk, so what's so wrong with writing the same way? Huh? Yeah, that's right!

February 14, 2001

Transparent Windows, good or bad?

If you know what Litestep is, chances are you have seen those screen shots where some of the windows are transparent. Now that Windows2000 comes standard with that feature everyone can have their own transparent windows: transparent taskbar, Netscape, ICQ, you-name-it-we-can-do-it. Is this really a good thing? I don't want to look at my desktop while I am editing my homework. I don't want a chaotic desktop. Then again, I wrote the first transparent plug-in for Winamp. What can I say... :) It's cool.
Note:Chime in folks. Transparent (yes, there'll always be overhead), or plain-old overlaid windows? Do you need that Winamp transparency plugin? Grab it here

Another day, that much less sleep....

I shouldn't even be messing with this. What a day.

Sometimes I really wish I'd, oh, I dunno, finished my work last semester. Job hunting and classes really don't mix, you know that? Now I'm being swamped by follow-through for an independent study (interesting stuff, manageable, just hard to get the others working on it to be motivated, or help me feel motivated), and follow-through for the project from the other class I took an incomplete on last semester, where the prof expects 80-100 hours of work to go into the final project. Yikes!

Anyway, that, and I just discovered that PHPNuke doesn't timeout very quickly on its "headlines" updates. Slashdot is down, so it was stalling page loads. Very not-nice. I'll have to look into why it would be so non-robust to things like that later. Now, after being up and busily working for nearly 16 hours, it's time to head off to sleep. More interesting gripes, hopefully, to follow.

February 12, 2001

Relationship irony

A funny thing happened this weekend. My ex sat down a couple of rows in front of me at an a cappella concert. Why is that funny? Funny you should ask....

See, the last time I had seen her, was, well, at an a cappella concert almost a year ago. In a nutshell, that event was also the first time I'd seen her in a long time.... it had been about a month since she dumped me. At that point, we hadn't said a word to each other in that last month. And, I didn't say a word to her then either. Why? Well, I was stressed out from the day (8 hours of largely not-according-to-plan, broken promises, ugly a cappella concert prep), and wasn't ready to confront her. And I didn't even have the faintest thought in my head that I'd be running into her after so long. So I didn't even talk to her. We communicated a bit after that by e-mail, but really haven't spoken since.

So, you might ask, where's the irony? Well, see, I wanted to talk to her then. I'm the "closure" type, and I hadn't gotten anywhere near enough closure. Spending a month groping about what "could have been" doesn't really help you feel better about yourself. But, when she sat down in front of me this past weekend, a similar situation in so many ways, I had no desire at all to speak with her. Something about a lack of closure and a year of largely unanswered correspondance. I have a nagging feeling any attempt at conversation would have been unwelcome, anyway.

Call me a cold, heartless bastard. I prefer to think maybe I'm finally getting the message. Disagree? Let me have it in the comments section!

What is a She-Geek?

What is a she-geek? The simplest answer would be that a she-geek is a geek who happens to be female. The creator of this page has a very nice definition of the word "geek" on the main page of this web site, so there is no need to go into that. One might think that the female part of the word is also fairly obvious. In some ways, it is. But as with everything else, being female carries more distinctions with it than what part of the store you shop for clothes in. Some of the distinctions are fairly obvious, as when I'm the only person in the machine shop who has to make sure that my hair is pulled back so it won't get caught in something, and others are more subtle. It's the subtleties that get you every time. Note:The rest of the article is inside

I can never be completely sure that my classmates reactions to me aren't biased because I'm a woman. I don't think they do it deliberately. On the eve of the 21st century, any man who still thinks women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen", or even in more traditional female careers than engineering is usually blunt (read: rude) enough to say so. But I still can't help wondering if I am viewed as more of a threat, or less of one, than a man with the same behavior patterns would be. And at the same time, I can't just ask my male counterparts if my gender is skewing their perceptions. The polite and correct answer is that of course it isn't. A more accurate answer might be that he didn't even think about it. If he does decide that my gender affects his reaction, his safest course would probably be not to mention it anyway, lest it lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit. But men and women are different, and they do interact differently. There is nothing wrong with this; the problem comes in learning to accept this and work with it rather than against it.

I can't deny that I do tend to notice the genders of my classmates, particularly in the situation of a group project. It's not uncommon for me to be in a class of fifty students, only half a dozen of whom will be women. I've been in classes where I've been the only woman in the class, and in most group projects I am the only woman in my group. I admit, it does influence my perception of what goes on around me, particularly in my interactions with male classmates. I rarely think of another woman "Is she responding that way because I'm a woman?" At the same time, I have great difficulty working on all-female teams. I do respond to situations differently when I am with a group of women than I do when I'm with a group of men. I am not used to adjusting my behavior patterns in a group project situation to my reactions around other women. I am generally more comfortable working with a group of men than with a group of women, but I suspect that this is due at least in part to the fact that I so rarely am in a situation where there are enough women to form a complete project group.

Being in such a significant minority in my classes has done strange things to my perception of a proper gender balance. I am always in the minority in any engineering or computer science class I take, and unless I register for a course specifically intended for women in engineering, I will remain in that minority until I graduate, and likely afterwards in the workforce. I accept this as a fact of my life, and in fact have come to expect it as a typical situation. However, when I take a class in the humanities, the number of women in the class is usually at least equal to the number of men, if not greater. More than once, I have been in one of those classes and found myself wondering if I was in the right place, and what all these women were doing there, and where all the men were.

This skewed perspective of gender balance to some extent carries over into my personal life. Social skills were never one of my great strengths. After all, why settle for being fashionable when being witty attracts considerably more attention? Having lived for two years with female roommate who is decidedly not a geek has helped my social skills and fashion sense somewhat, although given the choice, I would still rather be witty than pretty. I am now more comfortable socializing with non-geeks than I used to be, particularly non-geek women. And I do well enough in mixed groups of geeks and non-geeks, and often act as a translator for the two groups. But I am still most comfortable socializing with other geeks. The gender balance may not be tipped as much as it is in some of my classes, but the skew is definitely still there. This is the world as I know it, and as I expect it to be.

So all you other she-geeks out there, stand up and make your voices heard as part of the geek community, not just on women's sites, but on sites for the average geek like this one. After all, most of us realize that none of us are average anyway, so how can there be an average geek? You young women and girls who are entering adolescence and feeling pressure to fit in, don't hide your geekdom, embrace it. Yes, this is a rough time in your life to be different, but it's also too short to waste pretending to be something you're not. And for all you male geeks who deal with she-geeks on a regular basis, try to avoid these two traps. Just because the you're dealing with a woman, it doesn't mean that she is any less intelligent, skilled, or talented than the man sitting next to her. And just because she is as intelligent, skilled, and talented doesn't make her a man with breast implants. Her reactions and perceptions will be different. Respect that, but never forget that she is a woman as well as a geek.

Quick Quiz #1

Here's a quick quiz from the world of Finite State Automata Welcome to the first of many geek.quizzes. This one comes from the webmaster's own course work, and isn't necessarily for the faint of heart. What's worse: I'm not going to teach any theory, so you'll have to wait until a future article or search separately on the web for an explanation of what's going on.

Just in case you've forgotten the notation, though, here are some reminders:

  • Each solid dot represents a state in the finite state automata.
  • Any unlisted transitions are assumed to go to a "dead state", or, if you prefer, stall the machine in a non-accepting state.
  • A circle around a state means that it is an accepting state for the machine.
  • And, for review, the regular expression that the FSA above represents is (00)*(11)*

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the correct regular expression for the following FSA?

  1. (11 | 110)* 0
  2. 1(11)*(0|00)
  3. (1 | 0)*
  4. (0 | (11 (011 | 11)* (0 | 00)))
  5. (0 | (11 (011 | 11)* 0))
  6. (0 | 110 | 11 | 1100 | 11110)

spaces are for readability

A. (11 | 110)* 0 is Correct! This is actually the regular expression which was originally used to derive this FSA during a recent class I attended. But, there's another valid expression. Have you found it yet?

Back to the quiz

B.1(11)*(0|00) is incorrect. In fact, if you look closely, none of the strings it generates are correct. All valid strings from the FSA shown have an even number of 1's. This one requires an odd number, and doesn't allow 0's to occur all of the places they would from the provided FSA.

Back to the quiz

C.(1 | 0)* is incorrect. While it does match all of the strings in the language of the FSA, it matches many many more. In fact, this expression will take any string that can be constructed from the alphabet {1,0}.

Back to the quiz

D.(0 | (11 (011 | 11)* (0 | 00)) is correct. It is a much more complex regular expression than is necessary for the task, but it does correctly match the same strings as the FSA accepts. Have you found the simpler version yet?

Back to the quiz

E.(0 | (11 (011 | 11)* 0) is not correct. Nice try. This expression doesn't find 1100, which is one of the acceptable strings according to the FSA.

Back to the quiz

F.(0 | 110 | 11 | 1100 | 11110) is not correct. While it does include several of the shorter strings which this FSA accepts, this FSA recognizes strings of nearly any length, which are not represented by this expression.

Back to the quiz

Weblogs are all the rage, eh?

So, weblogs are a big things these days, eh? People keep an "online" diary - preserving their thoughts for posterity. To the world. It's certainly a nifty concept. And, yeah, I'll buy into the idea.
Open the article to read on...

Basically, the thing that bugs me about weblogs is the target audience. I pretty much don't expect anyone to read mine. Who would? I suppose it could serve as a replacement for the periodic mass e-mails some people use to keep friends apprised of their situations. Or, it could be a way to gain fame on the Internet - but how? I mean, unless you're already doing something noteworthy, it's not like writing a weblog is going to make you more interesting to your friends.

To me, the primary appeal is to "document" myself. Yeah, sounds weird. But, anyone who knows me knows that I like to talk. A lot. And, so what? This way, I sort of feel like I'm puting my thoughts out "into the ether". If anyone wants to collect them, they're free to. If I say something profound, it may be that someone notices someday. And, otherwise, it's something to be proud of, and *cough* forward friends and relatives to when there isn't enough time to really catch up.

Well, figure I'll start docmenting my life soon. Just got this system setup (kudos to the folks who authored the environment, PHPNuke! It went in easily, once I got PHP set up. Rocks, too!), so it'll be a learning process. That, and I'm trying to catch-up/graduate. Oh, what fools these mortals be....

More about me (Web calendar, background, technology geek)

Ok, yeah, so there are going to be a ton of articles up front. That's life, I suppose.

Anyway, here's some more info. For one thing, I'm a tech-collector. I build my own computers (including the one this site is being hosted on). I dabble in technology wherever I can. This has, unfortunately, lead to less-than-stellar resume fodder, though. More on that later, I'm sure.

Anyway, one of the things I live by is the Palm. I have a Palm IIIe now... I originally had a PalmPilot Pro, which had been upgraded to a PalmIII board. But, I wore it out after about two years, so I had to buy a new one. I tried living without it, and it was just too tough. So, I bought the Palm IIIe. Anyway, Palm then nicely bought out AnyDay.com. Since then, they fixed it up so that it supports the Palm better. I now regularly sync my Palm with that website. So, not only do I always know what I'm doing, but so can the rest of the world! I try to keep recently-added events in the web calendar (I'm still not quite sure why there's no way to say "Just always display" for newly added events - you've got to trudge out to their website and do it yourself. Trying to sell more banner ads, I assume). Anyway, you can check out my current schedule at this link. Aren't you excited? I thought you would be.

I pretty much tinker with hardware whenever I can. I've been trying to find a comfortable way of combining free Internet phone services (see such great places as DialPad.com or, to a lesser extent Net2Phone. Anyway, it's hard to make things work out to be nicely within the usable range. Either there's too much delay (much better with lower-latency links, like DSL or campus ethernet), or there's a problem with the amplitude of the sound. More often than not, it's the amplitude that is the problem. People can get used to some extra delay, but not being able to hear each other makes it very hard to communicate. Anyway, updates on that sort of stuff later.

I have a passion for audio electronics. I dunno why. I just do. On my limited budget, I've acquired a bunch of speakers, an SBLive sound card (you simply MUST experiment with this card. Get the APS drivers for it, too!). Put together a little bit of multitrack missing software (n-Track studio. Decent multitrack with editing controls, for, uh, $30? Not bad), and an optical out to my portable MD recorder, and all is well. I regularly use this setup to variously screw around with sound, or record live performances. I've mixed sound for something like 14 hours of live a capppella now. I'm just a sound phreak. No doubt more on that later, too.

Man, I'd better stop now. If I add too many more promised future topics, I'm never going to get to write anything new, but just have to finish all of my old thoughts for the rest of the time I have this weblog. That could be many, many years. Yikes.

February 11, 2001

Weblogs are all the rage, eh?

So, weblogs are a big things these days, eh? People keep an "online" diary - preserving their thoughts for posterity. To the world. It's certainly a nifty concept. And, yeah, I'll buy into the idea.
Open the article to read on...

Basically, the thing that bugs me about weblogs is the target audience. I pretty much don't expect anyone to read mine. Who would? I suppose it could serve as a replacement for the periodic mass e-mails some people use to keep friends apprised of their situations. Or, it could be a way to gain fame on the Internet - but how? I mean, unless you're already doing something noteworthy, it's not like writing a weblog is going to make you more interesting to your friends.

To me, the primary appeal is to "document" myself. Yeah, sounds weird. But, anyone who knows me knows that I like to talk. A lot. And, so what? This way, I sort of feel like I'm puting my thoughts out "into the ether". If anyone wants to collect them, they're free to. If I say something profound, it may be that someone notices someday. And, otherwise, it's something to be proud of, and *cough* forward friends and relatives to when there isn't enough time to really catch up.

Well, figure I'll start docmenting my life soon. Just got this system setup (kudos to the folks who authored the environment, PHPNuke! It went in easily, once I got PHP set up. Rocks, too!), so it'll be a learning process. That, and I'm trying to catch-up/graduate. Oh, what fools these mortals be....