Cards Against Humanity for women in STEM

31 03 2015

BuzzFeed tells me that the sly wits over at Cards Against Humanity are producing a new add-on pack to help them generate funds for a new scholarship.

If you’ve never played CAH, you really should. It’s a great way to break down barriers between parents and teenagers. Or random strangers at a party. They even do different packs to cater for cultural differences – UK and Canadian variants are available as well as the US one. The insults are the same, but you get a different selection of political and TV personalities to aim them at.

This new scholarship will help fund women in STEM courses. A good thing in itself, but personally I’m not convinced funding is the major reason women are under-represented in the sciences.

Cards Against Humanity’s New Pack Will Pay For Women To Study Science – BuzzFeed News.





Art meets… well, art!

24 03 2015

This Richard Wilson piece was inspired by the last line of “The Italian Job” (The 1969 original, not the travesty of a remake.) Installation Art Sees A Bus Precariously Hanging Off The Edge Of A Building – DesignTAXI.com.

I guess Kowloon is probably relieved it wasn’t inspired by that other great quote from the film…





Don’t regret regret

24 03 2015

Personally, I find TED talks a bit hit and miss. That’s not to say they’re not a great vehicle for spreading ideas. Not all ideas are great in any case. Others depend on your perspective as a recipient of that idea.

This one came to me via a LinkedIn page. I’m not familiar with Kathryn Schulz as a writer, but I found her presentation style a little staid. All that said, I thought her piece was quite thought-provoking. Her message, ultimately is this:

Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly; it reminds us that we could do better.

I can buy that.

Kathryn Schulz: Don’t regret regret | Talk Video | TED.com.





Perenthood

19 03 2015

The best thing about parenthood (apart from all the practice beforehand) is that you get to boast about all the achievements your kids have. They’re not your own, for sure. Though biologically the children are “half you”, the input they receive from education, society in general and who knows what other stimuli more than outweighs the input you have into who they become. The achievements are theirs alone. Their mistakes you can take blame for though. 😉

I am very proud of all three of our offspring. They’re all very different, and way more rounded individuals than I could possibly have hoped for. They’re each very broad-minded, caring, sensitive and thoughtful. In short – all the things I am not.

Number one offspring is just finishing off her Life Sciences degree at Waterloo University out in still-frigid Ontario.

Wikipedia: University of Waterloo

 

It is a co-op course which meant it ran long, but she will graduate with some real-world work experience as well as a degree. (Useful things like dissecting rats and quality testing factory made pasta. Not at the same job, I hasten to say.) Plus a string of Dean’s Roll certificates to-boot. She’d skipped a grade when we moved from the UK, so the course running long was kind of absorbed in that. To say she’s focused would be like calling the sun “a bit bright”. She’s the type of personality that is gutted by a 99% mark… for getting one wrong. Again, nothing like me.

Anyway, today’s a great day. She’s finally heard that she’s been accepted into Waterloo’s school of optometry. They have an inhuman application process that culminates in announcing the results “some time in March”. This forces all the candidates to fret all day every day in March until the school deigns to publish the results online. Couple that with “the system” being down for hours on end here and there. Stress on a stick, I think you’d agree. And normal studies are still on-going during this. You’ve still not quite finished your degree.

Today she finally breathed again. And I get to be even more proud of the achievements she’s attained. Oh, and my promised fishing lodge – when she makes her first million – is one step closer…

Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science





Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 1

18 03 2015

Route: BCMC Trail

Time: 1:25 (unofficial – GG timer not available)

Bunked off work a bit early and got there dead on 5pm. Car-park was empty. So much so, they’d fenced off the overflow car-park altogether. The resort must really be hurting by insisting that the Grouse Grind remain closed “due to current conditions”. For Pete’s sake…

Some community-minded soul had wedged open the gate and a couple with the obligatory large dog were warming up and stretching as I arrived. I’ve suffered a lot less leg cramp on runs since a great friend had recommended this stretching nonsense, so I too began my cursory regime of calf stretches – more for show and to fool myself into thinking it helps. At this point a red-coated Grouse Mountain Resort employee stomped over to the gate and slammed it shut. The lady with the hound asked why, and he grumpily pointed at the many yellow placards loudly declaring that the Grouse Grind is still shut due to “current conditions”. Completely unruffled, the couple descended the steps over the little bridge and began to walk the 15m to the end of the fence to enter via the completely un-gated alternative route. Assuming I would also take this route, I continued my stretching as a couple of Asian ladies approached the gate and called to a bloke on the inside who was still performing his own elaborate pre-Grind regime. He happily opened the gate from the inside and all three of us began our hikes. The ladies were indeed doing the Grouse Grind, but I set off on the BCMC Trail via the BP Trail. After about 20 minutes I was over-taken by the couple with the Cerberus wannabe, so I guess they went a really long way around the fence!

The BCMC is always a lot quieter than the rat race up the Grind, but out of season and close to dusk it was delightfully empty.

Around the 3/4 mark there was a definite shift in the temperature and though there was no low cloud and lovely glimpses of the sun reflecting off Howe Sound through the trees, it was definitely a lot cooler. I was glad I had my MEC fleece jumper in my rucksack, though I didn’t need it until I’d actually got to the top. The “current conditions” were absolutely fine. Admittedly the top 1/4 was still pretty wet from snow melt, but it was perfectly safe, and I imagine the Grind was just the same. I totally support areas being closed off for safety concerns, but this seemed to be nothing more than an economic decision. A bad one at that. Closing the main entrance to the Grouse hikes was dissuading people from hiking up and spending cash at the top. Presumably in the mistaken belief that they’d be forced to pay to ride the gondola instead. Nope – they just stay home.

At the top, I had the best laugh yet. Though the impressive looking chain-linked fence and gate at the bottom seem to deter most people from hiking up (those that can’t be bothered to walk the 15m or so to circumvent this stupidity), at the top, they relied on a particularly large yellow “closed” placard and a single hurdle – like the kind you’d use for crowd control at a public event.

Eastern Fence: Barrier

Yup – that should work! No attempt at all to fence off the myriad of other trails that go down the Grouse though. Bizarre. Sadly, its apparent effectiveness goes to show just how unimaginative most Grouse Grinders really are. They do it for “the time” or whatever, not for the joy of hiking the mountain. Let’s face it, if they did… they’d never choose the Grind. It’s got to be the least scenic hike in BC!

The chalet was empty. Probably no more than 20 people in it. They’d even closed off the main restaurant part. It was a bad ski season this last winter, but by unnecessarily keeping the Grouse hikes closed they must be haemorrhaging money. There was no snow anywhere at the top, except bizarrely for a little bit around the ice rink – presumably shipped in from elsewhere for effect. There were puddles on the rink. Temperature was ~12C today.

I was the only one waiting for the gondola down, and they were making the one girl do everything – check people in and ride shotgun up/down. I asked her if it was individual limousine service this evening, but a handful of others arrived before we actually descended. There was even a couple of kids with their mum – they’d apparently just had a skiing lesson, so I guess the snow blowers installed for the 2010 Winter Olympics are being put to good use on at least one of the runs.

I quite enjoyed pretty much having the mountain to myself. It’ll be in contrast to the merciless pounding it’ll receive when the Grind officially opens and the hoi palloi descend in droves.

 





The thing about unconscious bias…

16 03 2015

… is that you don’t know you’re doing it!

Google chairman gets called out for cutting off a woman while talking about diversity.

Mashable: Eric Schmidt

Kudos to Judith Williams, who heads up Google’s unconscious bias program for calling out her own boss Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson for continually interrupting the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in a SXSW Interactive panel discussion.





The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

15 03 2015

What ever happened to Roger Waters?

Years ago, a great friend of mine asked if I wanted a CD of an album that he just couldn’t “get on with”. We were both Pink Floyd fans (indeed he even got to see them live), and this was a solo album by Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.

Wikipedia: The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

I’ve learnt over the intervening three decades that it is definitely a divisive album. Even those that love The Floyd and even Waters generally can have polarised views on this particular album. He sketched it out alongside The Wall in the late 70s and offered the band one, the other was to be a solo project. It took him until 1984 to finish it.

Even the cover is controversial. The more keen observers will note that the naked woman has been relieved of her face, and arguably then further objectified. The really keen observers will note she’s on the right of the road making her likely a hitcher in the UK, facing traffic driving on the left.

Love it or hate it, it’s a clever concept album. Each track is titled with a time (in realtime if you’re an insomniac) as the narrator spends a sleepless night having various dreams and recollecting his fears, memories and thoughts of adultery.

There are really strong saxophone and guitar elements from  David Sanborn and Eric Clapton. That said, I was personally drawn by the typically clever Waters lyrics. The guy can be provocative for sure, but he can tell a story and wields words with the grace and precision of any master painter.

And she smiled as she finished her sandwich
And her cold eyes fixed me to my dark history
As she brushed the remains
Of our love from the bed

 

Fixed on the front of her Fassbinder face
Was the kind of a smile
That only a rather dull child could have drawn

 

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat