Wednesday Apr 08, 2009

Interesting George Takei interview

I listened to a great interview on the Adam Carolla Podcast yesterday of George Takei, who you all know as helmsman Sulu on the original Star Trek television series, but he is really a very interesting man once you get past the cheese factor of that classic science fiction show.  George has been interviewed in the past by Adam Carolla, so he did not go into great detail of his time living in a Japanese internment camp in California during World War II, but his recollections of soldiers removing his family from their home at gun point, of losing his home, of his father losing his business - are all heart rending.  Back in the midwest, I had never really heard much about this shameful part of US history, and I was surprised to get such a lesson from an Adam Carolla podcast, but it was compelling and I do recommend you give this edition a listen.

On a completely unrelated note, when I got home last night from watching Grease in San Francisco, I was dismayed to find a snail pigging out at my little seedlings that I had put out yesterday morning for "hardening".  I lost a couple of pepper plants and all of one kind of basil. I had started those from seeds weeks ago and they were the ones that were actually doing well. Stupid snail.

Monday Apr 06, 2009

Dropped the satellite

Looks like we're in a growing number of consumers who find the price for cable/satellite not up to what it was actually providing.  For us, we get most of the shows we watch for free, over the air with an antenna, in HD.  And the $65/month fee for satellite to watch a couple of cable programs, most of which are aired for free in their entirety on their cable network's website, just not worth it.  Of course, we still have our TiVo - can't possibly live without that! ;-)

Thursday Mar 26, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: Women in Technology

Okay, Ada Lovelace Day was actually March 24, so I am a couple of days late, but I believe the bad cold I am finally getting over is a good excused to be a little bit late and doesn't really diminish one of my great sources of inspiration in technology.

Two inspirations, really.  Ada Lovelace herself was one of my first inspirations to pursue computing, when I found my self taking a programming class in Ada88 at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne (IPFW, for short).  I was a completely undecided major - literally taking calculas and Ada programming for fun, while otherwise focusing on core electives - English, Philosophy, etc.  The text book came with an excerpt explaining who Ada was and why the language was named after her, and I found myself inspired. Surely if she could accomplish technical work more

I transfered to the Purdue main campus the following year, fairly sure I wanted to pursue computer science, but dismayed to find that my two Ada courses would count for nothing and I would need to start over again with Introduction to C++ (CS180).  Was it going to be worth it? That's around when I met a wonderful woman, Barbara Clark, who was an advisor for the school of science undergraduate students.  Barbara, a former mathemitician turned punch card programmer, was positively beaming with energy around the Purdue Computer Science department and was actively engaging women in computer science and the science department in general.  She taught me first hand the importance of diversity in any program, all the while seeking out funding from the School of Science head and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to move these initiatives forward.  Barb didn't do all of this alone, but she did draw people into her cause (including me) and inspire us all to stay in technology, network and strive to aim even higher. Under Barb's watchful gaze, the Women in Science program has flourished at Purdue, there are dedicated floors in dorms to women in science majors, and retention rates of women in these areas are up.

Friday Mar 06, 2009

OpenSolaris Governing Board Candidate Positions and Bio

I am so honored to have received a nomination for the OpenSolaris Governing Board election for 2009-2010. I am currently a staff level development engineer in the Solaris Security Technologies group at Sun Microsystems, where I am a core member of the Solaris Cryptographic Framework team.  I am running with the approval and support of my  management.

Background

I have a bachelors degree in Computer Science from Purdue University, where I was first exposed to Sun hardware and the Solaris operating system. One semester the engineering department took back the SPARCStation5's they had lent us and we found out they were going to be replaced with Intel boxes running Windows.  I joined the group of rabblerousers that wanted to continue to do our work with Solaris, and we soon found ourselves with a lab full of Intel machines running Solaris 2.5.1. :-)

That summer, I did an internship with Amoco Oil (now BP) and got a job as a systems administrator for Solaris & SunOS machines. I fell in love with the big iron, the desktop systems and the operating system and decided then and there I wanted to work at Sun.

I joined Sun early in 1997 in the Solaris test group, starting out as the gatekeeper for the Solaris Test Collection. I was the first gatekeeper to actually version the test suites by the OS they were developed for, which was a great relief going forward for the sustaining organizations - who now found that they could run the Solaris 2.6 tests successfully on 2.6 patched systems, without worrying about test changes introduced to support new features.

It's been a long time since then, and I have found myself working in sustaining on the SunScreen bridging firewall appliances (back before appliances were cool), as an architect for the network address translation component of the layered releases of SunScreen, IPsec, as a developer for the Solaris Cryptographic Framework, and actively working on simplifying access to cryptography in Solaris and in OpenSolaris.

While here, I have worn many hats, in addition to my "day job". I have been representing Solaris for defect tracking concerns for ten years, was the technical lead for the Operating Systems and Networking (ON) consolidation for Solaris 10 Update 1, worked closely with the webRTI team on their initial deployment and successive updates, worked with the OpenSolaris sponsor program, and am the Chair for the ON Change Request Team.

Additionally, I spent 3 years on Sun's Security Ambassadors Board of Directors, where I evangelized Solaris security features, assisted customer facing engineers find the tools and the contacts they needed to get their jobs done, and helped organize our annual conferences.

I am a Core Contributor in the OS/Net (ON), Security and Tools communities.

I believe in the open community. I have worked on getting many defect tracking enhancements done to improve community access, like pushing for external bug update notification emails, coming up with the concept for and assisting in how to implement the Public Comments field in bugster, working with people to open their bug tracking components to the world, and am currently involved in attempting to move us to a solution where external developers can participate on equal footing.

I am also a huge proponent of women in technology, starting with involvement with the pilot Women in Science program at Purdue and restarting the Women in Computer Science program there as well, and most recently as an official blogger for the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conferences.

If there is anything that being a woman in technology has taught me is how important community is - without it, women in technology abandon the field.  I know we have problems with the OpenSolaris community and I want to help make this better.  Communication is so key to a community (in fact, they share the same root :-), and we all need to work on this area. I don't want the community to disappear.

If I am elected to the 2009-2010 OGB, I hope to use my position on the board to help accelerate the seemingly stalled true opening of defect management for OpenSolaris, engender open communication with Sun, and build this community up to what I know it can be.

Hobbies & Personal Information

I was raised in Fort Wayne, IN and was formerly a Bubb (hence the handle, bubbva on IRC and here).

In addition to writing code and reviewing RTIs,  I love to ride my bicycle, perform in various community theater groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, read, listen to music, sing, ski, bake, take pictures, neglect my personal website due to all of these activities and spend time with my husband and my very demanding Ragdoll cat. And I can't get enough of American Idol Season 8... :-)

If you got this far, I'm impressed and I really do appreciate your vote.

Thursday Feb 26, 2009

Coraline in 3D

I went to see the latest movie based on a Neil Gaiman book, Coraline, this past weekend. It was in 3D! And not at all like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets throwing popcorn at you, either, it was really 3D! This was a really cool use stop-animation and old camera techniques to really bring the audience into the movie, without any of the silly gimmicks like throwing ... well, popcorn at you.  I did find I had to sit very still when the movie first started, to avoid getting queasy at the perceived motion.  After the intro, though, the motion seemed to slow down - avoiding the problem that the latest Bond film had for me, so I could actually focus and look at what was going on. The protaganist was a smart young woman, played by Dakota Fanning, that was so reminiscient of my niece. :-)

The fact that this was done with real object, vs computer animation, brought a certain quaint realism to the characters, endearing them to all of us.  I can't imagine all the knitting work that must've gone on!

I am a huge Gaiman fan, and while I haven't read this particular book, the story definitely had his traditional mark of slightly creepy, intriguing and delightful on it.

To truly appreciate this film, you do need to go see it in the theaters in 3D. I'm sure that's why they filmed it this way (and why we saw so many previews for more movies coming in 3D). It's a good way to get butts in the seats instead of people waiting to see the film on DVD.

Friday Jan 23, 2009

What happened to book stores? And why the smell?

My family and I are celebrating a belated Christmas, so I went to the Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Center - a giant mall in Santa Clara/San Jose - to hit the sales.  Some of the kids I'm buying for are really into Abercrombie & Fitch (to quote my college roomates, "MUST BE TRENDY!!!!"), so my husband and I took a stroll through there. We were nearly overcome with the blaring loud music and the overwhelming scent of cologne.  Now don't get me wrong, I like loud music - I worked in two different music stores for a total of about 6 years in the industry. I just don't like it so loud that I literally can't hear my husband shopping next to me, nor the cashier behind the register.  And the smell - it was so over powering! Who would wear so much cologne?!?

Well, off for the next person on our list, we started looking for the book store. Was it Borders? Hrm... where was it again? Unable to find the book store where it used to be, we checked the store directory. No book store. None.  Giant mall and no readers. That's depressing.  Well, more reason to spend money in downtown Mountain View, where we have at least three book stores.

Arriving home, I discovered another disturbing thing about Abercrombie.  All of the items purchased from the store reeked of their cologne. They obvsiously spray the garments in the store in order to encourage people to buy their cologne, too. Now my house smells like Abercrombie. Note to self: don't ever shop their for anyone who has allergies!

On a completely unrelated note, why do the producers of American Idol insist on showing people suffer through miserable auditions, and hardly show any of the people going through to Hollywood?  As someone who has auditioned a lot, and knows when I've had a bad audition, I certainly wouldn't want it televised!

Thursday Jan 01, 2009

Miss you already

Rest in peace my dearest grandmother, just a few weeks shy of her 90th birthday. Her contagious laughter and  unending desire to have a good time (and to tell you how to do it) will never be forgotten.  Also, to my beloved uncle, who passed away just 45 minutes before his own mother in different parts of the country. You will both be missed terribly.

Friday Nov 14, 2008

What on earth are the credit card companies up to?

I've heard a lot of cautionary advice over the last few weeks about watching the mail for updates to credit card agreements and that the credit card companies were doing a lot of sneaky tricks to attempt to get more money from the consumers, so I was surprised when a letter from my Chase United Airlines credit card came and informed me that my fixed rate would be lowered from %14.99 to %7.99.  Then more surprised when an innocuous "update" to my card holder agreement arrived saying that as of January 2009, the card would switch to a variable rate of up to %29.99 APR.  No indication of what the initial rate would be or of any controls on when or how often the rate would change.  The first letter looked like a regular personal letter, the "update" was a small piece of seeming junk mail. Now, I don't carry a balance on this card, so it doesn't really matter to me, but this really seems like a bait-and-switch type activity. Tell folks loud & clear how low their new fixed APR is, right before the holidays to encourage spending - then slip in a large rate increase in January. It was very clear that the new rate would apply to existing balances.

Isn't this the type of thing that is now known as predatory lending? Of course, neither piece of mail came with a phone number or contact for questions...

Tuesday Nov 04, 2008

Voting

I got myself to my polling place around 9AM this morning, finding it a bustle of activity, but no real lines.  California is trying to really push voting-by-mail and if your polling place does not have enough in-person voters, it will be shut down and anyone in that precinct will be required to vote-by-mail.  There are many concerns about voting by mail: ease of coercing a vote, stolen ballots, undelivered ballots, ballots returned with insufficient postage after the deadline to vote, etc. There are provisions for people who did not receive their ballot to go & vote by person in their polling place, but then they only get a provisional ballot - one with a complicated procedure for determining whether or not it will be counted.  For those reasons I show up in person, but the thing I found odd is that there are three polling places in the one building where I go to vote. Wouldn't it make more sense to combine these polling places rather than get rid of them all together? Really, it wouldn't effect my voting at all - two of the polling places are in the same room, but I have not heard of any cases of combining polling places.  If my polling place ever goes extinct, I guess I'll have to go line up at the registrars office.

All the same, I believe this is a very important election for our country and for the state of California, where we seem to love ballot initiatives. If you haven't done so yet, please get out there and vote!

Monday Oct 20, 2008

Welcome to Avany Llyse

I now have an third niece, bringing my total nieces and nephews to 11.  I've now seen a bunch of pictures of her, and all 8 pounds 3 ounces are as cute as can be! I can't wait to meet her in person. :-)

Tuesday Aug 26, 2008

Pat Mitchell talks to Sun Women!

I was so lucky to get to attend in person the talk by Pat Mitchell, a Sun board member, given to women at Sun a few weeks back. Ms Mitchell, an energetic and intelligent speaker, captivated the "in studio" audience as she regaled us with tales of starting her own production company for women, starting her own talk show, Woman to Woman, and acting as an anchor on the Today show.  Now, you have to wonder how a woman so involved in television came to be involved witht he Sun board of directors.  Her career path is a staggered one, starting out just trying to do something she enjoyed - teaching!  She then moved into writing articles for Look magazine and others, finding a new path for her to release her creative juices!

Ms. Mitchell talked quite extensively about how the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) actually helped her and other women to get jobs in the 1970s - and helped her get a myriad of experience. When the EEOC first went into effect, each TV station only had to have one woman in some job, but they liked to put their token hire in a position of prominent position so that everyone could see they were compliant. This is how she was able to hit the ground running and get real experience - though she did note that having such visible jobs that she didn't necessarily have all the training up front for did lead to extra scrutiny and occasional negative attention.

Ms. Mitchell found that women in media in the 1970s and early 1980s were expected to dress like men (we all remember those power-suits, right?), lower their voices to sound more like men, and to never discuss women's issues - but she decided to follow her own voice, which led her in very different directions!  She soon discovered, though, that "talent"didn't get to make decisions on what stories were covered, who got hired or who got promoted.  Feeling the frustration, she started her own production company to do things her way and to get all the experience associated with the business.  Doing this led her to her first real executive position at Turner Broadcasting - a job she held for 10 years.  Mitchell found Turner to be a fantastic mentor and only laments that her mentors were few & far between, and that she never had a woman mentor (as she seemed to always be breaking ground!).

When she found she no longer had a place after Turner merged with Time Warner (she notes that many women seemed to have lost their grounding), she nearly went back to teaching - only to get a call from PBS out of the blue.  Mitchell loves her job at PBS, but found the pay was not quite the equal of a company like Turner.  That is when she began taking jobs on corporate boards to make up the pay gap, and found she really enjoyed being able to contribute to companies she otherwise would've found unapproachable. She finds many boards appreciate her communication skills, knowledge of the entertainment business and her general business acumen.

Mitchell gave some fantastic advice for us all as well. She stated that women need to be comfortable with their own power - not only is it okay to have power, but you should use it and be able to redefine it, to have it work for you in a way that is not intimidating. Do all that and still be authentic.

She notes that you should also not be afraid of taking risks and that she's never seen anyone win anything through patience.

Related to that, Mitchell shared some of her grandmother's wisdom with us all: "Falling on your face is at least a forward movement."


Wednesday May 07, 2008

Professional Business Women of California Conference

I was so fortunate last week to get to attend the Professional Business Women of California's conference in San Francisco. This was my first time attending the event, and I was overwhelmed with everything that went on.  Every speaker was top notch, even at the sessions, and the booths in the expo were filled with many interesting things - some career oriented, others more personal - like jewelry or health care.  My only complaint is that with 6000 women in the Moscone Center, the 30 minute breaks were not really long enough.

The opening keynote from Martha Beck was surprisingly inspirational, as I don't normally find myself going for "feel good mumbo jumbo" - but I guess that's why her talk worked for me, she had substance behind her stories.  Dr. Beck was talking about her own life and how she learned to "follow her joy" to find a career that both inspired her and that she was successful in.  She noted that many people come to her, in her role as a life coach, and tell her they just don't know what to do with themselves.  She found that they actually do know, but either think they can't do what they love or don't know how to get started.  This gave me a moment to reflect in the joy I find in the work I do. True, there are days that aren't so "joyful", but having a rewarding job that I generally enjoy makes me a very lucky person, I think!

David Garibaldi, "Rhythm & Hue", was an amazing performance artist who made 6 foot portraits of both Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Madeleine Albright live, to perfect rhythm of the music, right before our eyes. It was very impressive!

I spent my morning in "Going Green: How Women's Economic Power and Counterintuitive Business Practices Can Make a Difference" where Diane Maceachern, Big Green Purse LLC, and Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm, spoke about green practices in our every day lives and in businesses and how they can actually save money in the bottom line.  Diane, who also authored Big Green Purse, noted that women are responsible for spending of 85 cents of every consumer dollar spent - making an excellent point that if we all make wise consumer choices, we can shift the market.  As an example, she noted that in 1999 there were no hybrid cars being sold commercially.  Suddenly in 2004, there were 88,000. Car makers took note. In 2004 there were not enough hybrids to meet demand and by 2007 more than 315,000 hybrids were sold.  Automakers went from pushing back on legislators demanding more fuel efficiency, saying there was no demand, to coming up with more options on their own.  A perfect example of how consumer demand can shift the marketplace faster than legislation.

She strongly recommends everyone to install water filters in their own house and use refillable bottles for water on the go - it's cheaper, and much more environmentally friendly.

Gary Hirshberg was also very interesting, talking about how sometimes searching for a more environmentally procedure for your business, you will find something that is also cheaper.  As an example, he noted how UPS had changed many of its routes to eliminate left hand in town turns - saving millions of dollars of fuel costs/year.

My highlight came at lunch time when I got to hear a very fascinating Cokie Roberts talk about the founding mothers of our country and all of the work they contributed to the US in our early years, and Madelein Albright talk about women's issues in general.

Albright spoke so eloquently, really giving me pause to think about everything that is going on in the world.  She noted that it is impossible to have a true democracy in a society where women are treated as second class citizens, and that anyone who abuses the dignity of one group, whether it be women or a specific race or class, is a security threat to us all.  In that vein, she urged all women to be willing to help each other, stand up for each other, and fight for education of women around the world. When the issue of the Queen Bee Syndrome was brought up, Albright noted that it is indeed an actual problem, but she felt "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

The day wound up with an energizing talk from Meagen Johnson on the four different generations in the workplace right now, Traditional, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millenials. She talked extensively about how baby boomers are really team oriented, whereas Gen X folks are more self motivated and generally prefer working independently.  A neat technology point she made is that most boomers did not work with a computer until they had a full time job after graduating college. Folks from the Gen X generation on the other hand grew up with computers in the schools (I still remember my schools Apple IIe and playing Oregon Trail!).  Millenials, though, grew up with a computer always around.  It was a fun talk that made light of many multi-generational issues, yet at the same time got me to thinking.

Overall, the conference was amazing and I could not recommend it enough!

Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Absentee ballot voter fraud

I've long had my suspicions about the potential for fraud with absentee ballots, and this article out of the UK shows just how easy it is to abuse the absentee ballot situation. Someone actually used this to rig an election! This is a tricky issue, because obviously we do not want to disenfranchise folks who cannot make it to the polls, whether due to travel, work or disability, but a lot of states, including California, are trying to move as many people to vote absentee as possible.  We've already seen problems with stolen ballots in the state of Oregon, which votes 100% absentee. I wonder what it will take to get the powers that be to seriously look into the implications of all of this.  Not that voting in person is much better. I reregistered with my new name this year, but my polling place still had me under my old name. They let me vote with a normal ballot (vs a provisional one) anyways.  Also, my parents said that for years after I left Indiana my name was still listed at the polling place by their house. 

Monday Nov 05, 2007

Caltrain based pubcrawl!

We had a blast! There are lots of pubs & dive bars near Caltrain stations, which we've seen every time we've taken the train up to San Francisco from Mountain View - so on Saturday, 11 of us hopped on the 11:19AM train from the Mountain View station and got of at 4th and King in the city. 

We arrived just in time for a fantastic lunch at the 21st Amendment. The beers were tasty and the food was hot and delicious.  We hoped to get another pretrain beer at the Hotel Utah, only to find they were not open at 2:30PM on a Saturday. No hours were posted, either, so I don't know if they were supposed to be or not. (checking their website: they are not open on Saturday afternoons - bummer!)

When we arrived at the train station, we noticed an announcement saying the southbound train would be leaving 15-20 minutes late, so thinking we had 45 minutes 'til the next train left some of our group went off hunting an open bar.  I got nervous when I saw the northbound train arrive only about 5 minutes late (especially since it arrived at the platform marked "next train"). So instead of going to the bar, we all just picked up travelers for the train (some got coffee, some got beer). It turns out, the sign was out of date & had been a message left up for the 2PM train which was running late! Our train left right on time! \*whew\*

We hopped off the train Burlingame to drink beer at the Steelhead Brewery Co.  The one bartender was a bit frazzled, but we got all our beers and pool balls in a timely manner and had a very fun hour hanging out in the relaxing pool hall portion of the bar. Amy & I split a beer sampler, which was a fun way to try 8 beers without over doing it. :-) When it was time to get to the station, we were all a bit disappointed.  After seeing all of the other bars & restaurants near this train station, we really could've spent all day in Burlingame!

We wandered back on to the train, bypassed San Mateo, and got off in Belmont, meeting up with the 12th person from our group and headed over to Ausiello's Tavern. We had even more fun here with the tasty pitchers of micro brews, peanuts in their shells, shuffleboard and darts.  It turns out that our visitors from Boston are very serious about the rules for darts (cricket), and there were no "do-overs" for really lousy shots.  As it was, we still had a close game (though they ruled with the points). We were having so much fun, we decided to stay at this stop for 2 full hours.  Of course, about 10 minutes after 5:43 left Belmont, our group got antsy and started asking when the next train was going to be.  Another round of beers settled the natives until we could catch the 6:43 out of town.

We then went on a hunt of dive bars in San Carlos.  Our first choice, which will remain unnamed, was filled with people smoking cigarettes. As we had several folks with asthma in the group, not to mention nobody wanted to smell like that, we gave it a miss.  We then popped our heads into Sneakers, which looked like fun - but were told we would have to wait 10 minutes just to even think about ordering drinks.  We were on a schedule! No way were we going to spend 10 minutes of our already dwindling hour just waiting to step into the place!  So, we settled on the Carlos Club - arriving mere moments after happy hour ended. No $2 PBRs for Paul, then!  The beers were good here and service was quick - Karaoke didn't start 'til 10, though, so we had to leave without singing our hearts out. :(

Next stop was in Redwood City at the City Pub!  Our group of 12 was promptly seated, and beers were quickly brought out. The eccentric menu proved to have something for everyone. I loved my crab cakes & heard great things about the turkey burgers. Yum! While they are not a brewery, they did have a large selection of micro brews which we all enjoyed.  As we realized this was going to be the last stop for our San Jose couple, we attempted to get them a quick shot - only to find out that the City Pub does not have a license for hard liquor. Ah, well, it was probably for the best!

Our last stop was at the San Antonio station, where we wandered through back roads (led by our Mountain View native) to Fred's Place. It is one of our favorite local dive bars in Mountain View. A large selection of beers on tap, good drinks & friendly bartenders.  Always a good way to cap the evening (and walking distance home for the remainder of the group).

Friday Oct 26, 2007

Good geeky fun song

this just popped up on IRC - a guy singing about the basic mess we're in with IPv4 to the tune of American Pie. Definitely worth the extended version listen!  You just might be a networking nerd if you find yourself laughing out loud more than once... ;-)
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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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