Archive for November, 2006

Ahhhhhhh life

November 28, 2006

The past week has been pretty hectic, I feel like now I’ve finally got a minute to breathe.

My good friend Nadia had a terrible tragedy fall on her family when her brother-in-law, Bruno, passed away last week. She wrote a very touching entry about him and the memories she has of him here. I’d ask you all to keep Nadia’s family in your prayers, especially her sister Jen and their son Nicolas, I just can’t imagine how they’re going to go on living each day.

I went down to Niagara Falls last Wednesday night for visitation at the funeral home, and we ended up getting into an accident on the highway (don’t worry, we’re ok) and then the next morning Donata’s car got towed from where it was parked in front of my apartment. It was all just so ridiculous, but put into perpective considering where we had just come from.

Thursday night I coincidentally had two events to attend in the same building, an hour apart from each other. How’s that for convenience? The first was a U of T Alumni Shaker, which apparently has been going on for a while and is a really popular event (my guess is that it has to do with the free food and booze). I ran into some old friends from University and made some new ones. Right after, we went to check out the new bar called Route 365 where VFM (another JLA company down the hall from us) is having their Christmas party. I’m sure it’s going to be a very interesting event, as the bar is equipped with 4 brand new shiny brass poles. Nice.

The following evening I made the trek down to Buffalo to visit the boy and his family. I got a very pleasant surprise when he surprised me with tickets to see the Nutcrakcer! I looooooove the Nutcracker and didn’t think I was going to be able to see it this year, with our crazy schedules and tickets going quickly because it’s in the new opera house. We saw it on Saturday night at Shea’s in Buffalo, which is an incredibly gorgeous theatre. The whole lobby is made from marble, it’s just really beautiful, and of course the show was amazing. I bounced up and down in my seat throughout the whole thing.

The bus ride back to Toronto on Sunday night was aboslutely ridiculous. Because of the Bills game that evening and the fact that it was a long weekend, the ride form the Buffalo bus station to the border, which usually takes 5 minutes took AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES. Then when we eventually got there we had to wait for 8 buses to clear customs before us. Oh well, it gave me a chance to catch up on my reading. The part that actually got me irritated was when the emergency exit on the roof of the bus blew open with a huge bang and couldn’t be fixed so we all had to ride from St. Catherines to Toronto with the roof open. It was not warm.

Ahhhhh. Now I’m back with a little bit of time to be able to start dealing with the funny smell that is being emitted from somewhere in my kitchen.


Gender and Technology

November 23, 2006

This post has been a long time coming, and I feel that being at DemoCamp on Monday night really emphasized how important the gender imbalance problem really is. I’ve resisted talking about this in the past because the majority of responses that I get are negative and assume that I’m overemphasizing the disparity, being a “feminazi” or just plain whining.

The fact is that there is a problem when 90% of the attendants of an incredible event like this are male, and it shouldn’t be ignored. I previously held the belief that things were slowly and surely getting better and it would only be a matter of time before the gender imbalance propagated its way through generations and soon enough the ratio of male to female executives in most fields would become more representative of the population. Throughout university, specifically in my sociology classes I learned that this is simply not the case, especially in mathematics an computer science. The National National Science Foundation reports that the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in mathematics and computer science was actually lower in 2001 than it was in 1964. This is not indicative of a trend that is improving.

The underlying problem starts with our deeply ingrained stereotypes about men and women. Have you ever met someone whose gender you were unable to determine and it distracted you to the point of not being able to pay attention to anything else? We all have at one point, and this simple example shows how important male and female stereotypes are in our judgment of people. If we are unable to determine someone’s gender, we are missing one of the key pieces by which we then continue to judge that person.

We are all well aware of the idea that men are simply better at math and computers then women. For those of you who were at DemoCamp 11, you would have seen a prime example of the stereotype in the AutoSSL presentation (side note: I’m not dogging this group, it was just a very obvious example) where they showed pictures of what “tech support” looks like – all pictures of males – and then a picture of a non-technical user, which was a cute older lady with the ends of two cables in her hands making a face like she had no clue what to do with them. I realize it was also a play on how technical knowledge decreases with age, and I did find it funny and cute and laughed out loud, but the blatant stereotype was also something I noticed.

In our world of political correctness we have stopped being able to express these types of opinions aloud, which ultimately compounds the problem because there is nothing explicit, out in the open that everyone can see and hear to understand where the problem lies. It wasn’t until I took a course in university that I even was able to identify the problems that exist. The only way to solve these issues are to expose them and to educate people about their own prejudices. In the meantime, we need to identify and mentor women to ensure that they are realizing their own potential and not being left out of technical fields because of stereotypes that are being subtly conveyed to them.

Phew. This is getting pretty long and I think I’ve conveyed the key points here, so I’ll put this issue to rest for a while. Hope it gets you thinking.

Smart is Sexy

November 22, 2006

I went to my first demoCamp last night! Apparently it wasn’t the best demoCamp ever. Actually, Rohan thought it was the worst (yes, that’s right, I met Rohan!). However, it wasn’t the actual presentations that impressed me about the event, but more the community that is built around it. Everyone seemed to know each other through several different channels, or at least had read each others blogs. The funniest thing I overheard was an introduction being made and instead of a “hi, nice to meet you” one of the people said “hi, I think I read your blog this morning”.

I was surprised to find that I actually knew, knew of, or had some connection with a fair number of people there. Who knew I was a part of a community I didn’t even know existed?

That’s the whole spirit of the event, really super smart techy people are able to meet and discuss ideas with other super smart techy people in a very open environment. I hate to use the word “networking” because I feel as though it has icky connotations, but it was a great, non-icky networking night.

The only problem I noticed…90% of the people there were guys. What’s up with that?

I found this cool little toy on Bobby’s blog. htt…

November 18, 2006

I found this cool little toy on Bobby’s blog.

It thinks I look like Shirley Temple. That’s funny.

Cycling petition

November 18, 2006

A while ago I wrote about this crazy guy who decided to cycle to work from Toronto to Oshawa. He writes a really great blog about cycling, climate change, sprawlurbia, peak oil and other related issues, that’s really worth the read.

He’s created a petition with some ideas of tax credit programs that will incent people to cycle to work, rather than taking the car. Take a look here and put your name on it.

Every little bit helps.


November 14, 2006

My dad thought it was pretty funny that I walked into a no parking sign yesterday and insisted that I post this video. Very funny dad.

Just one of those days

November 13, 2006

I woke up and it was absolutely freezing in my apartment. Apparently the heating system in the whole building is broken and will be fixed tomorrow, as I was politely informed by the note left taped to my front door. So I woke up all warm and cozy, wearing my down filled slipper socks and did the quick sprint to the bathroom and jumped in the shower as fast as humanly possible to avoid losing body heat. The drain in my shower has been clogged for a while now, which caused the conditioner I used on my hair to pool at the bottom and make a big slippery mess, which was not helpful in keeping me in an upright position as I stepped out of the tub. Ouch.

I managed to make it out of the door just as the streetcar was pulling away, which turned out to be a good thing because as I was walking to the stop I realized I forgot my proof of residency, which I needed to vote today after work. So I ran back in the house, grabbed a hydro bill and came back out just in time to see the next streetcar driving by. Seriously.

I then attempted to cross the street, and while walking and looking at traffic coming from behind me I cleanly walked into a No Parking sign. As a streetcar full of people is driving by. Seriously.

Thankfully, I managed to avoid catastrophe the whole way to work, the only minor annoyance being the jerk that had the window open a couple of seats up from me.

Hoping that things start looking up soon.

An education in farming

November 13, 2006

Chris and I went to the Royal Winter Fair on Friday, and though I’ve been going since I was a kid, for some reason this year I learned a lot more about farming than I ever wanted to know. The most important being that farmers don’t gloss over anything. Issues relating to life and death that we city folk deem inappropriate and politically incorrect, they just throw right out there in the open.

Look at how absolutely adorable these little piggies are!

The man standing near the display was nice enough to answer a few questions about the piglets and we learned that these little guys were only a few days old and that pigs grow very fast. The piggies in the next window were only 2 weeks old and already they weren’t cute enough to warrant taking a picture of. We also learned that by 5 months, they’re ready to be slaughtered 😦 No kidding. Here’s the sign above the pig display:

These people don’t mess around.

Oh yeah, they dress up their sheep like the Klan too.

We walked by a huge display that was sponsored by a large corporation, their logos everywhere, giving out pens and buttons and taking souvenir pictures of people. We were hoping that we might be able to get in on one of the pictures and when we walked up they asked “are you Semex customers?” Not knowing what Semex was, we asked. At which point my face went very red and I started giggling nervously and asking “are you serious?” Oh, they were very very serious. If you haven’t figured it out yet, here’s one of their displays:

Seriously. Now picture me giggling hysterically. I have no idea how these people go to work on a regular basis and keep a straight face. I’m embarassed even to look at that picture. I’m taking it down soon.

Some more pictures to take your mind off that last one.

The blue-ribbon pumpkin, weighing in at 950 pounds!

Apparently llamas make good guard animals. No kidding! The picture is blurry because the damn thing wouldn’t stop moving.

I like to call this one “beefcakes to the right” 😉

Abercrombie & Fitch

November 6, 2006

I had a terrible experience at the Eaton Centre this weekend, which consisted of fighting hordes of 16 year old girls who were all going to my favourite stores, stealing the good sizes, making them a ridiculous mess, and creating huge lines for the change rooms and cash registers. The experience has made me swear off malls forever (not shopping, just malls, you can close your mouth now). The one thing that did make me smile (actually, not just smile, I laughed out loud) while fighting the crowds was the Abercrombie and Fitch store.

Now, I have never bought anything from A&F because they’re selling an image, rather than actual quality clothing and thank you, I’m not 14 anymore, I know the difference and I don’t buy it. So while I’m walking by the store, I casually glanced at it and saw a very shirtless, very ripped, male model standing at the entrance. Seriously. Just standing there. This is their idea of a marketing ploy. I felt so embarassed for this guy! Ridiculous!

I wanted very badly to take a picture with my camera phone to prove that I’m not lying, but I couldn’t actually bring myself to do it, so here’s some pictures I found on Flickr from some other abercrombie stores:

Growing up and crossing the chasm

November 6, 2006

I’ve been learning a lot about what it means to be considered a “youth” recently. Not just from a research perspective, but from my own point of view as well. For all intents and purposes, I’m considered an adult. I live on my own, I have a job, I pay the bills. However, I’ve felt younger than ever because I’ve crossed over into a world where I am one of the youngest people and my youth is a novelty.

I’ve been actively resisting the label of “professional” because it seems to be a label that is mutually exclusive to other characteristics such as “young” and “fun” (this is the point where I piss off professionals worldwide). I felt as though I was selling my soul to corporate america by putting my profile on Linked In and I still shudder at the thought. I’m not ready to grow up yet!

This weekend, I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen since first year university and the icky memory that I have of the night is not of me dancing on the bar or throwing up from overindulgence (I feel that I have to point out that neither of these things actually happened), but the fact that while socializing I was also networking. That’s right folks, I was fully getting business cards and talking about different ways that my company might collaborate with different people that I met. I feel dirty.

The funny part about this is realizing that I’m in the precarious position where I’m straddling the chasm. I’ve got feet in both worlds. Even though I’m networking, instead of asking for a business card I’m saying “Are you on myspace or facebook? Add me and we’ll talk”.