Friday Dec 11, 2009

Sysadmins: do you like answering questions?

A debate started up in our hallway over the last few days, and while I am aware that this is water under the bridge, I am curious - am I the only person that likes answering questions while installing an OS?

Before I came to Sun, I was a system administrator. I administered systems running AIX, HPUX, IRIX, Solaris, SunOS, WinNT, Win95, and Win3.1. When installing the OS or any software, I always choose "custom install" or "advanced install". I like having that choice, as the software invariably makes the wrong choices for me.  At the very least, I like being able to validate the choices the software has made before they are committed to disk. I am impressed when the software can correctly figure most things out, if it can, but no software, in my opinion, can possibly predict the correct answers for all installations.

There is a lot of lore here in Sun that system administrators and developers don't like all the questions we used to ask during installation of Solaris, which is why this has changed so drastically for OpenSolaris. My experience, though, is limited only to my own and those administrators I worked with at Intel and Amoco (BP, now), so I'm curious - what do you think? Do you abhor questions during install time of software? Or would you rather have the option to review the choices it made for you? Or make the choices yourself?


Wednesday Dec 09, 2009

Monk's Kettle: November Beer Pairing Dinner!

I can't think of a better reason to take the train up to San Francisco than the Monk's Kettle's Beer Pairing dinner.  My second (or was it third?) beer dinner there was the November 4th event hosted by Firestone Walker Brewing Company.  We all got comfortable and finished our happy hour beers (note to self: happy hour beer not necessary when dinner comes with 6 beers) in our seats along the kitchen. It took me awhile to write this up, as I left my notes there and had to return again to retrieve them (for December's dinner). :)

Our host welcomed us and quickly told us, "No driving. The training wheels are off. These are real beers," and beer service began! All of these beers were barrel aged and got their primary fermentation in oak barrels, and they got stronger as the night went on.

We started with a nice English style pale ale poured from the cask, Double Barrel Ale. It was light and fruity, coming in at a nice 5%. This was paired with a delightful crostini with white bean puree and olive tapenade. YUM! This small amuse-bouche was delicious and a great way to start.

The salad course was served with a saison, Lil' Opal. We learned that this beer was actually an accident when it was created when a batch of Big Opal ended up too much sugar. I love happy little surprises like this!  We all loved this beer, for its lemony and sweet flavor, with just a touch of hoppiness.  My friend Lucas said, "It tastes like when doves cry". An unexpected and apt 80s references. but... then the salad came. The salad itself (red Belgian endives, baby letuces, shaved red onion, pomegranate seeds and feta) was delicious, but the "Lil' Opal Vinaigrette" did not pair well with the beer, changing the flavor to a distinctly PBR taste.  Not terrible, but nowhere near as good as the beer tasted without the food. In the future, I hope that Chef Kevin stays away from vinegar in these dinners.

My favorite course was the house-cured bacon stuffed dates drizzled with a balsamic reduction and topped with pickled shallots, served with house made cheddar bread. They came with Walker's Reserve, a very robust porter. Four pounds of oatmeal go into each barrel, along with chocolate malt and cascade hops. The beer I could've repeated this course several times - delicious!

(Yes, I know Balsamic is a vinegar, but in this reduction, it was sweet and not acidic.)

The main course was "A Drunken Lamb, A Rare Bird" - the lamb leg had been marinated in the beer that was paired with the course, Black Xantus, and came out very tender and the match was made in heaven.  The Black Xantus was a Russian Imperial Stout, made with Mexican coffee which made for a slightly bitter, but very nice, flavor. This is a beer that can really get you in trouble, coming in at 11% ABV!

For dessert, the scrumptious chocolate fondant cake was served hot with a side of Chantilly cream and mint.  There were also some "drunken Fuyu persimmons", but they had been left in the "cheap" bourbon a bit too long and we couldn't really eat them.

The bonus? Dessert came with two beers! Yay! Abucus, which was an American Barleywine coming in at 12% ABV, paired wonderfully with the chocolate cake, with its own dark cherry and chocolate flavors soaring when enjoyed together with the cake.  I also enjoyed the Firestone Twelve (which had been cellared for one year), another 12% ABV.  The Twelve had been aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, and then blended.

I really enjoy these dinners, as there is no rush, service is outstanding, and you get to hear directly from the brewers so you fall in love with the beer as much as they have. And while the event is not rushed, the staff is aware that we've all come via public transport and we always finish with time to pay the bill and get to the Caltrain station. :)

Saturday Dec 05, 2009

Cake Wrecks: a delighfully silly read!


Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a silly book that has you laughing out loud and scratching your head as you wonder, "what \*were\* they thinking?!".

I'm a big fan of the website, so I've seen a lot of the material before - but loved how Yates added new cakes and additional background for some of the others. While this is no major literary accomplishment, it is a great way to pass time on a plane or with family or friends.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday Dec 01, 2009

Solaris Security Essentials is Out!

I found out just before going on Thanksgiving break, by searching Amazon myself, that I am now a published author! Solaris 10 Security Essentials is officially released!

I would've thought the publisher would've let us know, but apparently that's not an unusual problem. All the same, I am so excited to be counted among the elite of the published author!  We debuted #68,242 on Amazon's Best Seller list, and climbed to the top 20,000 by the end of the week! And since publication, we're now available on the Kindle!

While the title suggests this is only for Solaris 10, all of the concepts are applicable to OpenSolaris as well, though some of the examples may differ slightly in OpenSolaris. In fact, the working title had been "Solaris Security Essentials" and I wasn't even aware of the change until I saw it on Amazon. :)

Writing a book was such an interesting process! Starting with just a basic idea from our director about writing a book about what we all do and love, to all of us contributing suggestions for what topics would be interesting, volunteering to write specific chapters, generating outlines, arguing with the publisher about why 80 column width was required for command line related text, and working with great co-authors, editor and project manager to see the finished product! \*whew\*

The book is also available on Safari and in brick & mortar bookstores everywhere.

I am so proud of each and every one of us for pulling together and getting this project completed. Let me know what you think of the book!


Monday Nov 23, 2009

Amazingly Compassionate Sun Employees!

Last month, tragedy struck a member of the Sun family, a woman who is a member of my building's custodial staff.  She lost her son in a tragic manner and suddenly found herself in a position that no mother should be in: she had to bury her own child. He was only 23 years old.

It turns out that a burial plot, services and a coffin are not all cheap in the SF Bay Area, and this mother had no idea how she was going to make sure the last thing she did for her son was the right thing.  Where was she going to come up with $8500 for a basic state funeral?

This is where the inspirational Patricia Hill came in. Pat is a director here at Sun and has many tasks on her plate, but she's always had time for a quick chat with any member of the Sun family and always has time to help. When she found out that one of the other custodians was collecting donations to help, she sent out an announcement to all the Sun employees on this campus.

Word got around to other offices in the Bay Area and soon the rest of the world, and Pat found herself inundated with donations coming from as far away as Europe. Pat said people came to her office and gave her literally every piece of paper money they had in their wallet. Others made a trip to the ATM. I went up to her office one day hoping to find Pat, and instead found a FedEx envelope overflowing with cash. I stuffed my cash in and walked away - knowing that the money was safe.

All told, Sun employees collected over $12,000 for this mother. Enough for her to pay for the funeral services and grief counseling.

Nothing will ever replace this woman's son, but the work that Pat did, along with hundreds of other employees of Sun Microsystems, at least meant she didn't have to start out the grieving process with mountains of debt.

Thank you, Pat, for helping us all to do the right thing!

Friday Nov 20, 2009

James Patterson's Sam's Letters to Jennifer

Sam's Letters to Jennifer

Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A friend lent me this book, so you really can't complain about a free book... but I will anyways :-)

In the prologue, it's established that the main character, Jennifer, had lost her young husband, Danny, in a swimming accident 18 months before. She laments that she mostly went through this grieving on her own, with the exception of support from two friends. One of those two friends was named ... Danny. Okay, four characters have been introduced and two have the same name? Not a Danny and a Daniel, but both Danny. I had to reread a few pages to make sure I had it all straight. This is fiction - pick unique names! Why couldn't the friend be called Bob? David? Charles? the good news is that the friend Danny was only mentioned in the prologue and never again.

The book covers Jennifer's ability to love again and her mixed up emotions when she finds her self falling for a childhood friend that ... is dying. Oh, and her grandmother is in a coma, likely dying. Fortunately for Jennifer, her grandmother has left her a series of letters detailing her life, so it would all be written down. Of course, Jennifer learns secrets so shocking she isn't sure what to do with them, but eventually learns to accept her grandmother for the imperfect woman she was.

The book was a bit sappy for my taste, but due to the way it was mostly presented in "letters" it was a very fast read.

View all my reviews >>

Friday Oct 30, 2009

Sebastian Maniscalco at the San Jose Improv!

My friends and I caught Sebastian Maniscalco last night at the San Jose Imrov.  The host was very cute & funny, though the opening act was a bit of a groaner. I'm sure that his jokes about women were quite funny with just his guy friends, but in a mixed crowd they did not go over well, though I did enjoy his 90s alternative rock quoting hobo bit.

Now, the main act - he was hilarious! Maniscalco started out with a great tribute to Michael Jackson - he'd obviously also just watched This is It!  He moved on to talking about how cool Prince is, and as a huge Prince fan, I couldn't possibly disagree. :-)

Maniscaclo did a nice long set and our server made sure our whistles never went dry by keeping our beer glasses full.

If you're looking for a fun night out this weekend, check out Sebastian Maniscalco at the San Jose Improv, but be prepared to pay out the nose for drinks.


Michael Jackson's This is It!

Wednesday night, my friends and I went to the Century Cinemas 16 on Shoreline to catch Michael Jackson's "This is It".  I can only say that it was so much better than I expected, and I was amazed at what they were able to put together, considering this was clearly not a planned film.

I've always loved Michael Jackson - I think anyone born before 1990 was a fan at least at one point in their lives. True, I lost interest in him as he got more and more out there, but always appreciated his incredible talent. I even found that his more recent albums would grow on me, as their tracks would come up on my iPod's random shuffle.  I expected him to just fade off with other aging rock stars, but never to die so suddenly of a drug overdose.

This movie was a touching glimpse at what this tour could've been. We start off with the announcement by Michael of his last tour, and quickly move into watching hundreds of amazing dancers hoping to make one of the few spots as an "MJ principal dancer". After getting their slot, each of the dancers takes a moment to reflect on camera how much it means to them to work with Michael and what an influence he's been on dancing - each of us in the audience relates and knowing how the story ends, our hearts just start to break a little.

Many of the numbers are a cut-together of several different rehearsals, which shows us all what a professional and perfectionist Michael was. The dance sequences continue with no breaks, even though you can tell it was cut-together due to the different outfits he is wearing.  Really, if nothing else, the editors for this movie deserve an Academy Award.

I will admit that Michael's taste in clothing did seem to actually be getting more eccentric. I mean, glittery gold pants? as rehearsal clothes? He also had some new funky expression of shoulder pads that seemed more appropriate for Dracula than a pop star, but I guess being a pop star gives you more leeway in your wardrobe than the rest of us have.

It was clear that everyone working with him on the tour were amazingly talented, had great visions for the concert, and were "yes men", which may have been Michael's undoing. Sometimes you need a good friend to tell you that you are going off the deep end, or that you shouldn't be doing things like taking surgical grade anesthetics to go to sleep...

One thing that so impressed me is that Michael Jackson is a true performer. There was absolutely no lip syncing going on. Even in rehearsals, he was in full voice (though sometimes he openly worried about losing his voice). He knew every word to every song he's ever sung, and was constantly working on ways to freshen up the classics while not taking away from anyone's memory of how the song should be. Every dance step was done with passion, integrity and focus - never marked. Modern day "singers" should watch this and be ashamed of themselves.

Michael Jackson had planned on incorporating aerialists, "pole dancing experts", a new 3D Thriller sequence, never before seen lighting and pyrotechnics, and amazing costumes. None of that will ever see a real audience. This movie is a wonderful glimpse at what was and what could've been. I understand it is a limited time release, so go catch it now while you can.


Wednesday Oct 21, 2009

Still time to register for the OpenSolaris Security Summit!

Advanced registration for the OpenSolaris Security Summit that is going on in Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday, November 3rd in conjunction with USENIX LISA 09 is open until October 26th. After that, you'll need to register on site, space permitting.

Why should you go?  This free summit will include some of the top people in the field of computer security and networking, including author and luminary Bill Cheswick!  This will be your chance to learn about technologies already shipping with the Solaris 10 Operating System as well as get a peak at what is coming in the future for OpenSolaris!

Did I mention this is free? While you're in town for LISA conference, why not spend a day getting free training from Sun Microsystems? btw, you don't have to be attending the LISA conference to go to this summit - so if you just live nearby, you should take advantage of this opportunity!

Oh, and it comes with lunch and a chance to win free prizes, too, FTW!


Tuesday Oct 20, 2009

GHC09: Pictures and video!

Okay, I still haven't downloaded my pictures off of my camera (if only I had more hours in the day...), but fortunately Terri Oda is more on the ball and she put this gem up on flikr:

That's me, Terri, Kathryn, Stormy, Sandy and Teresa!

Ed and Ashley have been busy as well, putting up these interviews of Sun women that attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing:


Deirdre Straughan and Teresa Giacomini are interviewed about community development!

Me getting interviewed about Open Source, OpenSolaris and my work at Sun Microsystems!


Monday Oct 12, 2009

GHC09: What a fantastic conference!

I knew in advance that the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing had sold out, but that did not prepare me for what I encountered once I arrived: the largest, most diverse, most intelligent gathering of women I've ever been surrounded by. The women were students, industry luminaries, open source hackers, coders, program managers, managers, CEOs, directors, mothers, and everything in between.  I swear the age range of attendees was probably 16 to 80.  I met more women from Africa during that conference than had ever in my life before. Several from Nigeria and Kenya, in particular.

The conference schedule, as always, was intense. There just are not enough hours in the day for all of the stuff we all wanted to do.

I attended a full day of sessions Wednesday, each room just as packed as the last, even though official conference launch wasn't until 7PM that evening.  I met with most of my panelists on Wednesday night, which did mean I missed most of the poster session, which was disappointing - but I had so much fun talking to the interesting women that were going to present with me on Thursday, that I couldn't see any other choice!  The conference was off to a fantastic start!

On Thursday, I was lucky to catch up with Dr. Susanne Hambrusch and the students she had brought from the Purdue Computer Science Department. As a graduate of that great university, it is always so rewarding to meet these ambitious and intelligent students. For some of us, we have met at other Grace Hopper Celebrations - others, it was our first time. We all had so much to talk about and I really could've spent a lot more time with them, too! 

You can see my blogs for most of the sessions I attended for the rest of the week, but I just wanted to say something about both receptions.

Thursday night's dancing was deejayed in the style of 80's Wedding Dance Party, but sometimes it's a lot of fun to just get out and dance to those old silly songs! He did mix in some fun Indian and Arabic music to mix it up, and I've never before seen a woman dancing the Macarena with a baby strapped to her front in a snuggly. Dancing with hundreds of women with total abandon is good for the soul!

Friday night was sponsor night! Thank you Microsoft, Google and Intel for the delicious dinner, t-shirts and additional opportunities to meet and talk with amazing women from all over the world.  This evening's deejay was playing much more current music, and you could see the college students dancing like there was no tomorrow.  Well, as this was the last evening of the conference, that did kind of fit the bill...

I was very impressed with the technical support staff in the conference center at the JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort. One of their staff members followed tons of women at the conference on Twitter, so he (or was it a she?) knew instantly if there were networking or temperature issues and they were addressed so quickly! Everything just worked and help was always a tweet away.  The resort itself was lovely with lots of nice dining choices, and even free tequila shots on the patio every evening.  I was very impressed with all of the staff and would attend another conference here in a heartbeat.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is more than just a professional skills and technical conference. It is a place where I can reconnect with old friends and companions from industry and academia. I get to meet so many interesting women, that every one of them inspires me in some way.

This year, I even got to meet a lot of the women I follow on Twitter right there at the conference!

I've seen a lot of blogs and tweets lately on Women in Technology vs Women Who Do Technology. Personally, as a women who designs and developers software, I am happy having women around me in any capacity.  Yes, it is very nice to have technical conversations with other women, which I find often focus more on how a solution to a problem was found instead of what the final solution was, but at least knowing I'm not alone in the organization or on my team is worth something, too.  I'm lucky, I know. I work with several women who are also developers on my team, as well as females on the management team. The last project I was on, 2 out of 3 developers were women. :-) I met lots of women at the celebration who are not so fortunate.

I am thankful for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing that it brings me closer to my peers and more women like me. I've been inspired to try to start an affinity group for Women in OpenSolaris, and to try to inspire younger women to investigate technology careers. Any suggestions or any one that wants to help, please share or let me know!


Sunday Oct 11, 2009

Two More Sookie Stackhouse novels down...

Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)

Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4) by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars This had to be my most favorite book in the series (so far!). Witches, both Wiccans and the ladies from scary movies, feature heavily in this story, as a coven moves into the Shreveport area and wants to wreak havoc amongst the other supernaturals in town (at this point, this includes Werewolves, shape shifters, vampires and a telepath).

Eric, who's kind of the head vampire of Shreveport, is put under a spell so that he suffers a debilitating form of amnesia. The other local vampires are not sure what to do with him, so they put him in the care of Sookie Stackhouse (our heroine and telepath). I don't want to spoil the book, but a lovely romance blooms and the book has such a bitter sweet ending I could read over and over again.

Finally, Sookie's friend, Tara, starts making some serious appearances in the books - from which she's been nearly absent, even though the TV show, True Blood, has her as a main character from the first episode.

I have a stack of other books I've been meaning to read for months now, but since my friend Jen gave me an entire stack of these Sookie Stackhouse books, I find it's just too easy to pick one of those up instead. They are all fast reads with really enjoyable characters and fascinating plots.


Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5) Dead as a Doornail (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 5) by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The suspense continues in this book, as Sookie's brother, Jason, has now joined the rank of the shape shifters - and someone has it out for shape shifters as they are turning up dead all over the tri-state area! Jason's brother becomes a prime suspect, as he was made a shape shifter by a terrible ordeal in the last book, so Sookie has to work double time to try and clear her brother's name.

The Bon Temps detective, Andy, is finally coming around to admitting Sookie might be a telepath... and is ready to test it for helping to solve some crimes, all the while the Werewolf community in Shreveport is in the middle of a raging political battle to find the next pack master.

Yes, really.

Okay, I know this is all very silly, but I love how Charlaine Harris takes you to the deep south where you can just imagine everything is not as it seems. I love the local flavor all of these books have and how unique and varied all of the characters are.

Again, Sookie finds herself the subject of the affection of many supernaturals, but never seems to find the right "guy". All the same, I'm already well into the next book seeing how she fares now that she's got fairies in her life... :-)

View all my reviews >>

Friday Oct 02, 2009

GHC09: Open Source Community Development: A Moderator's Perspective

I was so nervous yesterday hosting my first panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I had put off writing my introduction until arriving at the conference, thinking I'd have plenty of time to do it... not realizing that I would be reconnecting with friends that have moved across country or students I met last year or just this year. Time, suddenly, didn't exist, so I ended up skipping the plenary session on path to executive leadership so I could take the introducion I'd written in my head & put it on paper to make sure I wasn't missing anything nor was my introduction going to take up too  much time.  Sure enough I had to do a couple of edits to get it right, so while I was sorry to miss out on that session, I'm glad I took the time to do so.

When I got to the room, it was a bigger space than I expected, but at least everyone could have a seat :)  My OpenSolaris laptop worked right away with the projector, which made me very happy.  The technician setting up the room recommended I set my computer so the screen saver wouldn't come on. I thought I'd done that before... so I didn't bother checking. Stupid hubris.

I only had two slides - which are on the GHC wiki - the first with the name of the talk and the second had the names of each panelist, in the order she was sitting, with their affiliation. After the session finished, I got a lot of positive feedback on that - it's good to know I'm not the only person that can't keep track of all of the panelists (particularly when we all seem to have last minute changes in our panel lineups).

As I started introducing each of the panelists, I had all of the advice on running a panel running through my head - terrified that I'd screw something up: mispronounce a name or affiliation, stutter or knock my paper list of intros on the floor.  Fortunately, none of those things happened in the first few minutes :)  I did step on Stormy's self-introduction a bit, but she forgave me and made sure she was heard.

One piece of advice I had read, which was really counterintuitive for me given my melodrama training at the Gaslighter Theatre, was to not look at your panelists when they are talking. In melodrama, you say your lines straight to the audience, then turn and face the next speaker. This draws the audience's eyes to the speaker.  But, I found as I did this, just as the advice said would happen, the panelists looked at me instead of at the audience. As rude as it felt, I had to force myself to turn my gaze back to the audience. It worked!

I was so happy with how each woman on the panel had prepared their introduction and had thought about the questions from our proposal, though I was surprised when they didn't naturally follow-on to each other at first. I think this was because I said I didn't want more than 2 women answering any one question, so we could keep the flow going. :-)

About ten minutes into the talk... my screen saver started to kick in. \*d'oh\* I wiggled the mouse. Something happened and the display "flipped out" - it started flashing and was filled with horizontal bars.  I couldn't get the console to respond, so just rebooted... which took us to a brief OpenSolaris advertisement as the system happily restarted. Thank goodness for the fast boot, though!

I did finally stop shaking about a third of the way through the panel and was able to replace my forced smile with a natural one, as I could finally relax and enjoy the panelists.

I was very impressed with what some of the other communities have done to encourage women to join their community and that got me thinking about doing something for OpenSolaris. We're such a big thing - with many sub communities - any suggestions for doing this?

I was so happy with all of my panelists: Stormy Peters, Kathryn Vandiver, Sandy Payette, Teresa Giacomini and Terri Oda! Thank you, ladies!

GHC09: Susan Landau: Bits and Bytes: Explaining Communications Security (and Insecurity) in Washington and Brussels

Susan Landau started out giving us her history about how she went from a theoretical computer science faculty member at a university to someone working at Sun Microsystems on public policy. A path she said she wasn't working towards, but feel she must've been just a little bit, or she wouldn't have ended up where she is.

The US first started doing wire tapping during the Civil War! Wow!  Apparently we didn't slow down - not only did the US use wire tapping to watch criminals, but they were also doing it on congress people and supreme court judges! In particular, a congress person could be talking about the FBI budget and the FBI would be listening in! Clearly a conflict of interest!

Congress didn't like this and put in a law to regulate this - requiring wire taps to only be for a specific person at a specific number

In 1994 a US law was passed that required all digitally switched telephones to be built wire tapped enabled!  The equipment was to be designed by the FBI, much to the chagrin of telephony providers.

This is problematic - in 2004-2005, it was discovered that some non US diplomats had been wiretapped - but not by a government entity! (at least not officially.) This was discovered when there was some problems with text messaging on one of these phones. They found the switch in Greece, which had been bought from a US company with the wire tapping software disabled - so no auditing software was enabled.  Someone very knowledgeable with the switch used a rootkit to get in, turn on the wire tapping software and then targeted these diplomats! With no auditing software enabled, the Greek phone company had no idea this was happening until there were problems with the text messages! Once this illegal wire tap was discovered, the phones that were listening in suddenly went dark and the perpetrators were never found. Very scary stuff!

This is a clear example of how software made to "protect" us can actually be used to spy on innocent people - terrifying indeed!

All of this gets much more complicated with technology like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) where people do not have a set phone number, it is done with the IP address which will vary every time you reconnect your laptop or mobile device to the network. What this means is it is very hard to pinpoint the caller - one of the risks here is that the wrong person will be eavesdropped upon.

Landau knows it is very important for society to have secure communications - to enable conversations with first responders, for example, and we need to have the technology to do this.

Landau continues on about how much more devastating natural disasters are than terrorist attacks, yet for some reason they don't get nearly as much news and political coverage as a terrorist attack. I wonder if we all feel we're more protected from a random natural disaster? Or if we are fascinated with how evil someone would have to be to purposefully hurt another human? hrm.

President Bush apparently authorized warrantless wire tapping in 2001 - and this was relatively unknown and undiscovered until 2007. She wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on this topic, and next thing she knew, she was the expert on privacy. This is good, in that she now has Washington's ears, but she realized she needed to find more people to help support her in this and she was happy to find many intelligent, bright and like minded folks.

Now she's been working on reviewing public policy - basically doing law reviews. Landau jokes that she feels she's in training to be a lawyer.

If you want to get into public policy, you need to learn their stuff: "laws, policies, motives", to speak well, write well and have great courage.  She believes these are all the traits that a good engineer should have as well, so perhaps it's a career path after all. :-)

GHC09: Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award Winner: Nadya Mason

This award is given to an emerging non-tenured leader in academia that is under 40. Nadya Mason received this award for her work encouraging woman and minorities in academia, and it turns out she's a minority at this conference: she's a physicist! :-)

Her research deals with a lot of things that are very small - nanotech - and what happens to things when you shrink them that small, specifically around chips and quantum computing. She told us about some of the interesting things she's working with: a nanotube! It is super small in diameter, yet it can be long, which allows you to actually hold it in your hands. neat.

Mason has some wonderful pictures that show how nanotubes are grown - in a 900C oven with a carbon source, gas and an iron catalyst. She clearly loves her work and her enthusiasm shows and makes this the most interesting talk I've ever seen on nanotech.

Mason credits a lot of her success with support and inspiration she's gotten from family, peers and conferences like Grace Hopper.  She said she was very fortunate to get scholarships targeted to women of color for math and science related work.  This let her know that people were interested in her as a person and in her work, and just opened so many doors.

Mason puts a lot of focus on her work, but notes that it's critical to her that she saves time to give back. She does this by actually scheduling time for research as well as time to do outreach. She does all she can to encourage women in the sciences by taking every event and interaction seriously. She knows that just adding one more woman to the field can actually make a big difference in the percentage.

Happily, Mason shares a lot of advice with us on being successful in our own careers

  • don't underestimate yourself: work hard and you'll know you deserve to be where you are
  • you'll still be underestimated by others: do your work, stay professional and find outside support
  • you might be lonely: combat this by seeking outside support and realize you're not the only person that feels alone in your field.
  • Find balance for family & career: set limits on work hours - for example, no work between 5:30-8:30PM or on Saturdays, think about your priorities.

There were a lot of questions from people in the audience about how Mason \*knew\* she was in the right field. Obviously, her passion for her work is so evident and I think a lot of the students here want to make sure they find that passion in their own work.  She is a big proponent of doing internships so you can get real world experience in a job without a long term commitment.

This was a great and inspiring talk and I'm so glad I came!

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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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Today