Friday, May 01, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Holy Cow, What a Week Edition

This has been quite a week! As I mentioned in my last post, I had a meeting with a potential client. That meeting came out of nowhere (literally: I got a LinkedIn connection request out of the blue) and was scheduled really quickly, so I already had a full list of things I had planned to do this week... and now, I'm behind.

But I'll never complain about a meeting with a potential client!

I also took an hour and a half out of my day today to go into Pumpkin's class. I took popsicles for a very belated birthday treat- I thought we were supposed to wait until the end of the month and have one big party, but this teacher is doing individual celebrations. So, Pumpkin's "birthday party" was almost a full month late. But better late than never.

The teacher asked if I'd read one of my books and talk to the class a bit, too. So I took the new bilingual edition of Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess,and read it to the class (in English). They seemed to like it! They listened quietly and a few of them took the book and looked through it once I was done reading.

The questions were hilarious, though. There were a few about how I come up with stories, and what my next book will be about. And then they started suggesting what I should write about. Dragons! Dogs! Robots! And more.

The teacher asked me to talk a bit about my "real" job, too, and that was also hilarious. To try to help them understand what I do ("I help make software that scientists use to discover new drugs") the teacher said "software, like video games..." and then everyone wanted to ask me what video games I play (answer: none).

Still, it was fun to meet Pumpkin's classmates.

But- I really wanted to finish the registration page for my upcoming class about using the tools of project management to get more done (cleverly called: Get More Done). I am about 75% done with the registration page. Maybe I can finish it off later tonight. The class will be in June and I'm planning a short early bird registration period that will get you a discount on the fee... so stay tuned!

In the meantime, how about some links?

I was glad to see that the officers involved in Freddie Gray's death are now facing charges. If you haven't watched the D.A's press conference announcing those charges, you should. It is worth 20 minutes of your time.

While the riots and protests were going on in Baltimore, some folks in Texas were worried that US military exercises were actually a military invasion. Of one of the United States of America. By the US military. I would love to hear whether any of those conspiracy theorists who are so worried about government tyranny see any parallels between what they fear and what actually happens to Black people in this country.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech calling for changes in policing and a decrease in incarceration. I was glad she did that. I want my leaders to address these issues! I am thinking of donating to her campaign and indicating that this is why I am donating. Anyway, here is Jamelle Bouie on why that speech is important.

I have one quibble with the discussion I saw about the speech. A lot of people were saying it was cynical because her husband was involved in the Democratic crack down on crime. Maybe it is. Maybe her opinion has changed over the years. Or maybe she never shared his opinions in the first place- I certainly don't share all of my husband's opinions about policy. I find the way people discuss Hillary Clinton's policies as a continuation of her husband's policies insulting.

Still talking policy... we're increasingly relying on algorithms to implement our policies. Having spent a lot of time working on algorithms, I think that is a scary thing. Developing a robust algorithm to handle complex situations generally requires a lot of iteration, as real world use uncovers edge cases you had not previously considered. I worry about whether we are leaving the most vulnerable people in our society to suffer while we iterate the algorithms. If we are even iterating the algorithms.

Bad Mom, Good Mom had a good post about California water use that I missed last week. Again I say: better late than never!

This post from a teacher at a title I middle school is so sad. The way we fund our schools is broken. Schools that server poorer kids need MORE resources, but since we so often tie funding to property taxes, the often get LESS. And even in places where we attempt to address that inequality, the PTA donations are vastly different. I've written before about how the amount we donate to our title I school gets us personal phone calls to make sure we didn't make a mistake, whereas that same amount is only a little bit more than the suggested per student donation at the wealthy school some friends of ours attend. And I'd wager our school has a better funded PTA than most title I schools, since it is a magnet school that attracts wealthier families like ours.

Anyway, enough policy.

If you somehow missed the uproar over the unbelievably sexist review an all-female group of coauthors got: here it is. PLOS has apologized and removed the reviewer and the editor who approved that review. I'd like to know what they plan to do about the much harder to detect implicit bias that almost certainly lurks in their reviews. (To be clear: I don't think PLOS is the only journal whose reviews suffer from implicit bias. I think all journal's reviews will suffer from implicit bias unless they take steps to minimize it.)

I really like this post about there being no such thing as lazy... and no need to glorify busy. Coincidentally, one of the things I was working on this week was my Chronicle Vitae post for May, which is about setting boundaries. (I have a different post, about handling job uncertainty, going up on Chronicle Vitae next week. I always share those posts on my "real name" Twitter account. Let me know if you can't find them.)

I'm trying to brush up on my French in advance of our French vacation. I went looking for a podcast to help me, and settled on Coffee Break French. I am not ashamed to admit that I settled on that one because I enjoy the hosts' Scottish accents (it is produced in Glasgow). It is pretty well done, though, and I'm enjoying it. I may try to learn some Spanish later this summer using the sister show.

I posted two things on Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining this week: a Barbie kitchen I made for Petunia, and a vintage photo of the cardboard play kitchen my parents made for me and my sister.

And a smile to end on... this might have been my favorite thing on Twitter this week.

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