Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Doctors Think: A review

How Doctors Think How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a phenomenal book that changed the way I looked at every doctor's visit I've ever had, along with questioning at least one diagnosis from my past.

Groopman told story after story about how once one doctor gives you a diagnosis, most other doctors will shut down their "cognitive reasoning" and never question that diagnosis and will keep trying to treat something you may not have. In some stories, this resulted in the death of a patient. He also talks about how physician lore and influence from drug and device companies perpetuate incorrect diagnoses and treatments.

For a personal example of a bad diagnosis sticking, I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome by a nurse practitioner who referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed the diagnosis and was ready to operate. I then was lucky to meet my friend's cousin, a Harvard Med student, who within moments said "you don't even have the right symptoms for carpel tunnel - you have a pinched nerve in your neck and any surgery to your wrist would just cause you more pain and discomfort". My problem was corrected by a series of chiropractic adjustments - no surgery and now I'm pain free (and have been for years).

One poignant set of examples in the book that really stuck with me was about spinal fusion surgeries - these are very common and are well reimbursed by insurance companies, yet there is little evidence that they cure low back and extremity pain. There is little follow up done by the actual surgeons to see how the procedure impacted quality of life, and when follow up is done and the patient hasn't improved, they are simply told "well, you're one of the people this treatment doesn't help". Basically, if you don't have a spinal tumor or an actual broken back, back surgery probably won't help and will likely make things worse!

Groopman keeps things real by even referencing his own mistakes.

This book isn't a scary book, but rather one that gets you to think more about your own health and teaches you how to communicate with your doctor to help them keep out of the cognitive traps and really question what *else* could be wrong with you.

It is a must read for everyone! Really!

Thank you, Stormy, for recommending this. I wish I had read it years before!

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sun Carolers do it again!

The Sun Carolers did it again this year, touring the campus and delighting our fellow employees! This year was different, though - it was caught on video!

I can't embed this first one, but please check it out: The 12 Bugs of Christmas!

These other two were recorded by Deirdre Straughan and feature "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year" (ala Hallelujah chorus), "Carol of the Bells", "Jingle Bells", "Hanukah, Oh, Hanukah" (partial), and "Let it Snow". Enjoy!

'Tis the Season for Giving

This is the time of year that we all get pinged by charities hoping to talk us all into a last minute charitable (and in the US, tax-deductible) donation. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a challenge, but with sites like Charity Navigator, it's easier than ever before.

Then along came Jen Yates, of Cake Wrecks fame, and she's doing the coolest thing: using her massive quantity of blog followers to do GOOD! For 14 days this month, Jen and her husband are selecting a charity to give at least $200 to and asking her minions^H... followers to each give just a dollar to these same charities that she has prescreened for us. It is so inspiring to see how many wells for clean water will be available now, how many children will have meals, how many homes can be built, etc. just due to this super simple plan. Jen's appeals appear at the end of each of her daily wreckports, and are neither preachy nor too pleading.

I've found myself giving a few dollars each day to each of these charities - and am so impressed at how quickly a lot of people just giving a bit can add up so fast! Jen's even made a "round-up" page if you want to catch up on the giving!

In addition to those charities, I've lent my support this season to Second Harvest Food Bank, The Family Giving Tree, Heifer International, West Valley Light Opera, Purdue University (Women in Science & Computer Science funds), and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

It seems in this day and age, everyone needs a little bit more help to stay afloat. If you can, help out the Cake Wrecks charity drive - even a dollar or two adds up when enough people participate. Where are you giving this season?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Number of women on staff == "Best Place To Work" ?

I've read countless "Best Place to Work" lists over the years, and usually happy to find Sun on those lists (and knowing when it was missing that the people compiling the list obviously asked the wrong questions if they missed a wonderful company like this one).

The latest list I saw today, posted on Brazen Careerist's site, took a different approach - while specifically looking for companies that would be attractive to Gen Y (aka Millennials) - the looked at companies that offered a lot of flexibility. Realizing that nearly every company now-a-days self reports as being very flexible, the authors decided to use the metric of number of women employed being close to at least 50%.The rationalization was that women wouldn't tolerate a company that didn't offer true flexibility.

My first response was, "Cool! Who doesn't want to work with more women?!", and then I remembered that my teams have always been the exception (often with near 50% women, and never an all white team) - not sure why that is, are women just more attracted to security? But I digress...I know my personal experience is not the norm.

Sun wasn't on that list. In fact, only two tech companies (Google & Yahoo) were, and I realized, that's probably because the saturation of women in technology is nowhere near 50%, so even tech companies that are very flexible and have "lots" (as a relative term) of women would not have qualified for this list. What do you think? Should we be using a different metric for gender equality for tech companies? or just hope that the trend reverses and women start joining the tech force in droves?

Sun is a fantastic place to work and very flexible, btw, as recognized by many other lists - and by me :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Team Salty Dawgs Rides Again! Can you do it?

It may seem a bit early... but if you don't have plans for June 26, 2010, how about coming up to wine country with us and riding 30, 66, or 100 miles to raise money for the American Lung Association!? We'll make lung disease walk the plank! Argh, mateys! :)

Why am I bringing this up now? You can save $20 on the registration fee by registering before December 31, 2009. So, it's only $30 right now! The ride is wonderful and the support is great. Minimum fund raising is $150 - but you have more than 6 months to do it in, so it'll be easy!

This is my first year attempting 100 miles - I may end up only doing 66, but I'm going to train for the 100 and hopefully pull it off! I'm a slow rider, though...but anyone that wants to join the team can know that you can ride faster with Mark :)

So, what do you say? Ready to ride?! Sign up on the team page!

Friday, December 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, December 9, 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, December 5, 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, December 1, 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 unusual. 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, November 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, November 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, October 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, October 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, October 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, October 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, October 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, October 2, 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 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!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

GHC09: Imposter Panel

Last year's Imposter Panel was overwhelmingly popular, and I'm sitting here in the Star Circle Pavillion looking at five very talented women from industry that have convinced themselves time and time again that they had somehow ended up above their level, somewhere they didn't belong.

The moderator, Shamsi T Iqbal from Microsoft, started us off with a fun video that explains the imposter syndrome - hopefully it will end up on the wiki! It was interesting, though, that even she feels like she doesn't deserve to be leading this panel of women (I can relate, I'm still so nervous about my panel this afternoon at 3:15 that I'm moderating!)

Rachel Weinstein Petterson, Google, has had quite an illustrious career with ILM and Google, as well as having worked in a great research group at Stanford, yet she still doesn't feel like she's where she deserves to be.

Someone in the audience asked about when the panelists first felt they were imposters. Rachel said it was when she got a part in a school play - she was convinced someone else must've been sick or screwed up their audition - there was no way, in her head, that she deserved the role. Another panelist, Jennifer Tour Chayes of Microsoft, said she didn't have this as a child, but started getting it in grad school after she started hitting brick walls, such as advisors not wanting her as a student, because her husband was also in the PhD program and they were convinced they couldn't *both* get jobs, so they shouldn't spend time with her.

Chayes noted, though, that she and her husband worked so very hard to prove they could do this together and they got tenure in just 4 years. Unfortunately, their personal lives suffered irreparable damage.

Tanzeem Choudury from Dartmouth explains that she began to feel like an imposter when she started getting rejected for grants and having papers dismissed from publications. Instead of letting it roll off of her like water on a duck's back, she took all of these rejections and negative comments very personally. This made it seem like everything she did win or get right, that it wasn't really deserved. For example, she really thinks that some of her awards are simply because she is a woman of colour and that the organization must want to look "diverse".

Her advice is that you need to keep in mind that you can't fool everyone all the time, so if you are successful, you likely really deserve it.

Nancy Amato, again another super qualified woman, talked about she doesn't feel like she deserves to have an assistant or even fly in first class. In fact, this uncertainty has led gate agents to question her when she got in the boarding line for first class and others got confused about whether or not the woman she was mentioning was her assistant or not.

Another question from the audience brought up the "old boys club" feeling many of us get. Amato noted that on one business trip, she went out to dinner with all of the colleagues and then realized during dinner that she had put a fly in the ointment for their normal after dinner plans... While she wasn't interested in that activity, she is well aware that the business conversations and decisions would still be going on well into the night, yet she didn't belong. That can reinforce the feeling of being an imposter.

Chayes got us all to laugh when she answered the question on how best to cope with the feeling of being an imposter: talk about it on a panel in a conference. :-)

Another wonderful panel this year!

GHC09: Technical Track: E-voting & privacy with health records

This session started out with a fun talk on electronic voting by Dr. Kathy S Faggiani, though it's unfortunate that she seemed to be preaching to the choir. It's not her fault - it seems only people really interested in security of voting and wary of the existing digital voting machines came to the room.

She did a fun experiment with her son that was inspired by California's Secretary of State, Debra Bown who had stated that she had to de-certify California's electronic voting machines because of all the mistakes they made that a first year computer science student wouldn't do. As her son was in his second year, he went and wrote a voting system... turns out his also wasn't as secure as it should've been :-)

Electronic voting is really tricky, though, as you all know. We, as individuals, want to know that our vote counted - but if we're given a receipt that shows how we voted (or with a number where we can look up later on the internet who our vote was cast for), you would be susceptible to vote coercion. This is also why I do not like absentee voting, and am saddened by the state of California's push to force us to do this by taking away polling places and "reminding" you about three times a year to sign up for permanent absentee voting status.

I've read too many stories about voter fraud and simply cannot trust our society to do the right thing in their own homes. I've already heard stories about ballots being stolen from mail boxes. *sigh*

Faggiani mentioned that Hawaii did "successfully" run an all electronic election, managed by Everyone Counts. While it was deemed a success, the voter turnout in this already low-voter state dropped by 83%. Seems like a disaster to me. Clearly the voting was not as accessible to all of the voting public as they thought it would be - since it was all done by cell phone or Internet.

The next talk was on A Cryptographic Solution for Patient Privacy in Electronic Health Records by Melissa Chase. Another area where we are very concerned with the integrity and privacy of the data, yet she pointed out many successful attacks on this information over the last few years. One very egregious example was a doctor that was blogging about his patient's records without their consent. Who needs hackers when someone is giving away your private data for free? *yikes*

Chase covered problems with different encryption key schemes, including saving the private key on the primary server and escrow systems, and went on to propose a hierarchical encryption scheme which seems promising.

She is a strong advocate of making sure the patient is in control of the data and decides where it can go and which doctor can see the data.

This is a fascinating area of research, very important to all of us, and could revolutionize health care in industrialized nations, but there are still many issues to solve like how to handle emergencies when the patient may not be able to "unlock" their data.

GHC09: Welcome Session!

I'm in the Welcoming Session at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and just saw the coolest short video, "I am a Woman in Technology" - how inspiring! Please check it out - it will only take a few minutes!

One of our opening speakers is Dame Wendy Hall! She just became a Dame this year as well as a Fellow of Royal Sciences. Dame Hall got to sign her name, with a quill pen, in the same book that Charles the II and Isaac Newton did. Guess she had to be *very* careful not to smear anything :-) I don't think I've ever seen a Dame in person before!

Our keynote speaker, Megan Smith, VP of New Business Development at Google! She's so full of energy - and at such an early hour! She has a really cool graphic that shows search queries around the globe (color coded by language). It's neat to see all the rays of color shooting out of Europe, but what's interesting is the complete lack of "light" coming out of Africa. Africans, in general, just do not have access to the Internet - the infrastructure is just not there. Seems hard to imagine, here I am complaining about the constant drops of my connection that is happening in this session, when entire countries would be thrilled to have this much access.

Smith shows us many examples of people using technology to better their lives - like using SMS in Kenya to manage banking, which before was rather inaccessible which came people from using banks in the past. Building on that, she showed us a great picture of a march in Columbia against the FARC druglords that was organized solely on Facebook. Wow!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog about to explode... in a good way...

In case you hadn't noticed yet, I'm in beautiful Tucson, AZ staying at the wonderful JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I'm an official blogger, plus I just like to use my blog as a way to take notes for sessions I'm not even the officially assigned blogger. What this means is that I'm about to have MANY posts over the next few days. The should all be under the GHC09 feed, and I'll try to start all the subjects with "GHC09" as well, in case you aren't interested. I should be back to irregularly scheduled and randomly themed blog posts by next week. :-)

GHC09: Jo Miller's Person of Influence: Another Perspective

I'm so glad I got here early! The tables filled up well before the 2:15 start time, a common theme at this year's sold out Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing! While I'm not the official blogger for this session, I want to take notes - so I figure I can type them into my blog edit window instead of a terminal window and share them with the world.

Jo Miller let us know from the top that unlike other presenters she's met, she's quite happy with people blogging and tweeting during her talk. Right on :)

Miller starts off strong: if you want to be a leader, you have to be a leader! Nobody will ever tap you on the shoulder and tell you they think you should be one - you have to take charge yourself.

She notes that power & influence can be used for evil manipulation, but it's obviously not her goal to send us out of here as her evil minions :)

Miller notes that if you want to become a person of influence, you need to make the impression from the get go that you are someone that has something to say and should be listened to. As an example, she says that at meetings you should arrive early, be prepared with talking points and sit near the main group. Your behaviour teaches people how to treat you.

We broke off into groups to discuss people we know who are influential and try to figure out why. Only one person at our table came up with a fully positive person of influence. The rest we came up with had negative aspects of their personality, but we knew they could get their way when they really wanted it. This is distressing. I like to think of myself as a growing person of influence, but I don't want to be disliked for it.

Elements of Influence:

  • Positional Influence
    • This is the influence you get out of the gate simply by your job title and role in an organization. What this tells me is that no matter what other people say, title really does matter, though Miller says title is not enough alone, you need a 30-second "commercial" for yourself:
      • Name, Job Title, "I am responsible for...a, b, c" and "Come directly to me when you need... x, y, z"
  • Expertise Influence
    • The influence that comes from you background, qualifications, experience and expertise.
    • Make sure you don't downplay yourself, don't defer questions to someone else not in the room if it's something you yourself can figure out, promote your accomplishments and set up presentations yourself to promote your expertise.
    • Miller quotes a Newsweek article that women underestimate their own intelligence and experience while men overestimate theirs, which may help explain the promotion disparity.
  • Resources Influence:
    • Having access to the resources you need to do your job well, knowing how to best use the ones you have and demonstrate that you can do so responsibly.
  • Informational Influence:
    • You've got to try to stay "on the pulse" of the business, both personnel and organizational issues, but you have to be able to filter out the noise and the gossip. Doing this will help you make better business decisions and be able to change directions sooner when necessary.
  • Direct Influence:
    • You've got to be firm, professional and direct when you've encountered behaviour is detrimental to the team or organization.
    • BUT: this can't be how you run your team or organization or you will just have people that are afraid of you, don't like you, don't respect you and are demotivated. Miller recommends doing this for only the 1% of the cases, doing it in private, being direct, giving specific examples and giving the individual a positive vision for how things will change for them if they change their behaviour.
  • Relationship Innfluence
    • Knowing who the key people are in your organization, profession and industry and building a network of them.

Jo Miller put the entire presentation on-line!

Grace Hopper: PhD Forum 4

Sitting in my second packed room of the Grace Hopper conference! Considering we're still before "official" launch time, I can't believe how many women are here and how packed every session is! Here in my first session in the PhD series, I'm excited to see three PhD students present their research.

An n-gram Based Approach to the Classification of Web Pages by Genre: Jane E Mason, Dalhousie University:

Mason is looking for a novel approach to doing classification of web sites by actual genre - not just keywords. For example, searching for a health condition and only showing you information pages instead of pages by drug manufacturers attempting to sell you something.

Mason chose to use n-grams, because they are relatively insensitive to spelling errors, are language independent, and relatively easy to program. She combines these and then processes them with the Keselj Distance Function, which is apparently "simple", but it has been awhile since I've been in Differential Equations :-)

Mason and her team have been looking at how to let some web pages have multiple genres, which means that some pages end up with no genre - noise! While it's easy for a human to identify a nonsense/useless web page, I think it's pretty cool to get a computer to do this for you, so you won't even see it in the search results!

Ant Colony Optimization: Theory, Algorithms and Applications: Sameena Shah, Institute of Technology Delhi:

I've never heard of this type of optimization, so this was very interesting for me. Shah chose to study this area of optimization because ants don't have centralized coordination and they make great decisions based only on local information. She sees this as a great method to apply to distributed computing. Now, how do we get computers to leave pheromones on the path of least resistance?

Other than the lack of pheromones, another problem she had to solve is that ants don't always find the shortest path - if enough ants have taken a longer path before the short path is discovered, all of the ants in the colony will use the longer path and ignore the short path. Obviously, she doesn't want that short coming in her algorithm :-)

Shah does have a slide in her presentation which shows the statistical "solution", but it's a much more complicated formula than I ever saw in my intro to statistics course at Purdue. :)

Using Layout Information to Enhance Security on the Web: Terri Oda, Carlton Univeristy:

Ms Oda is a woman after my own heart, starting her presentation with a xkcd comic :-)

She starts her talk out talking about different types of security, like secure networks between companies. Oda tells us about how the threat models are no longer obvious: those seemingly innocuous applications in facebook that have access to your private chats on the site and private emails, websites that don't properly protect passwords, and malicious users on the same forums. Her talk moved onto the types of threats she's actually trying to protect you against: cross-site scripting and previously good sites that have gone bad.

She makes an excellent point that most (all?) web pages are done by web designers (aka artists), NOT web security experts and with all their deadlines and basic functionality bugs, there is no time to even think about security. Is it any wonder we have so many attacks and vulnerabilities out there?

but how can we solve this? Schedules will never have enough padding and most people designing web sites did not receive a BS degree from Purdue (where we were told over & over again that security must be designed in from the beginning, not as an add-on)

She's looking at using heuristics to correctly identify different elements on a page so that it's visually evident which components on the page are from the site you're visiting or being served from an external site (like an ad). I can't wait to see how her research turns out, and how much she can protect the user with a simple browser add-on!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just can't stop reading the Sookie Stackhouse books....

Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3) Club Dead
by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another wonderful fast read from Charlaine Harris. Sookie's adventures with the vampires continue in this book as she gains more exposure (although unwittingly) to other "supernatural" cultures - werewolves and shape shifters!

It is wonderful how Sookie's character evolves and changes - much as any of us would do - as she is now experiencing the downside of falling in love when the relationship has trouble. In this case, her boyfriend was kidnapped - but not before deciding he was going to end things with her.

Sookie finds herself in between a rock and a hard place, knowing she has the power (telepathy) to help find Vampire Bill, but having a broken heart makes her just want to stay home in bed.

She travels this time to Jackson and spends a lot of time with a werewolf, Alcied. Harris does a great job of developing his character and Sookie's conflicted feelings.

My only "nit" in this book is the lack of any historical fiction, which is an aspect I really enjoyed in the first book (and the TV show, TrueBlood, relies on heavily).

At this point, it seems that the book and the TV show no longer have much in common.

View all my reviews >>

Lots of Fun East Bay Activities

While I'm normally a San Francisco Peninsula or South Bay kind of girl, I've spent the last two weekends in the East Bay.

Last weekend, we went with our friends visiting from Seattle to Niles to hop on the steam powered Niles Canyon Railway train! What I loved about this train was that it made the *exact* noise that all trains make in cartoons... which, apparently, is unique to steam trains (and a sound guy was there recording it as it pulled into the station). And it had a great whistle, as well! It didn't go very fast, but that was all the better to enjoy the beautiful rolling hills and other quaint scenery from the open top rail car. The train took us to Sunol, where we had a picnic lunch in the park that is right across the street from the depot.

After lunch, we thought we'd get a cup of coffee in the Jazz Cafe. Unfortunately, a couple of lattes ended up being a complicated order. The barista had problems with the order... twice. The first time, she couldn't read her own hand writing, so we had to tell her the order again. After about 30 minutes with no coffee, we checked again, and she'd forgotten to make them. Fortunately for us, the train was running late so we had plenty of time to finish our coffees once we got them. The atmosphere was very cool, but not sure about the service.

We ran into some other women at the station that had such bad luck at the other restaurant in town that they'd missed their earlier return train. Apparently their waitress forgot that they ordered food, too. Strange little town, Sunol. I think when we do this again, we'll start out in Sunol and take our chances in Niles for lunch and coffees, as their looked like there was a lot more options there.

The train ride itself was very cool and unforgettable - hard to believe it is totally staffed and run by volunteers! Many paid employees at other establishments could learn a thing or two about customer service from these friendly folks! I can't believe I've lived in this area for so many years and had never taken that train ride before!

This weekend, we ventured to the East Bay again with a different set of friends - this time for an even more rugged experience - camping! Okay, it's car camping, and we ate like kings, but still, we were roughing it! We camped in Lake Chabot at a great campsite. The fire pit and picnic tables were well set up, bathrooms clean and well stocked and HOT showers! The big pluses of this campground: close to the bay area so we only had a short drive, and mountain bike friendly!

I've had a cold, been traveling or just generally busy lately - that's kept me out of the saddle for more than a month! This weekend, I thought what better way to get back into shape than doing a long mountain bike ride! The trails in this park were totally my style: wide, shaded, not very technical, lots of good climbs. I could ride them for hours - in fact, we did: 5 hours of riding! *whew* and that's when the nice, clean, hot showers came in very handy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just finished Living Dead in Dallas

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2) Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2) by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, which takes Sookie (the telepath) deeper into the vampire underground culture. Again, the book varies wildly from the television show in that it has fewer characters and fewer plot lines. As the book is written as Sookie, it only follows things that she actually sees, thinks or knows about. While Jason, Tara & Eggs have major parts in the TV show, they are practically nonexistent in this book. In fact, one person that is a major player in the show dies at the very beginning of this book, so I guess plot drift will be inevitable going forward. That's okay with me, as it means that even though I've watched most of season 2 of TrueBlood, I was still surprised by things in the book.

This was a quick and fun read. Sookie visits Dallas and the headquarters of the Fellowship of the Sun and learns that as much as they preach about loving God's light, they have a very dark side as well.

Harris has no problems exploring all subspecies of supposed fantasy creatures, figuring that if she can make telepaths and vampires real, why not throw in some maenads, shape shifters and werewolves while she's in there. :-)

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Merger for Delta and NWA seems to be ... awkward

We recently traveled to the "south", giving my other half his first true exposure to the Bible belt and the United State's "interior". This was a fun trip, which will be written up later, but the flights were... complicated.

We booked what is known as an "open jaw" trip in the industry, or as "multi-city destination" by normal humans - flying from San Francisco to Memphis then from Memphis to Atlanta and home again to San Francisco. I do stuff like this all the time - it rarely costs extra, and in this case, cost way less than flying directly to Atlanta from San Francisco.

I am well aware of the NWA and Delta merger, as my brother-in-law is a Delta pilot, but I still booked my flight on the NWA website since I've been a long time frequent flyer with them and all of my information was already on their site.

Our first problem was encountered when our credit card was rejected. I tried multiple times, assuming I had done something silly like type in the wrong expiration date. No luck. Finally called our credit card company, CitiBank AAdvantage card, who claimed that buying airline tickets was an "unusual" purchase for us so they determined it was fraud and blocked the purchase. Hrm. I have racked up several hundred thousands of air miles with American, United, and Northwest. How is buying airline tickets suddenly an unusual activity for me? I think it was unusual for me to buy non American Airline tickets, so the company decided to make it awkward. Now, this was totally a weird problem with CitiBank and had nothing to do with Delta/NWA (except they weren't AA).

We were off a couple of weeks later - I reviewed both Delta and NWA's websites for information on the merger and where to check in at each airport, and everything started very well when we checked in with Delta in SFO. No problems.

Now, when it was time to go from Memphis, TN to Atlanta, GA, we hit a snag. First, I noticed the check-in reminder email came from Delta instead of NWA (unlike the first one), but figured they are actively merging more things each day so no red flags were raised. We arrived at the airport and went to the e-checkin kiosk, which made us choose if we wanted to check in with NWA or Delta. I chose NWA, because that's where I booked my tickets. The kiosk let me check in my bag, but reported an error about our boarding passes. The agent was ready to help us, but she could not find our itinerary in the computer under either Delta or NWA. Uh, oh.

She noticed my bookmark was my boarding pass from San Francisco to Memphis, so she asked to have it. With that she was able to pull up my itinerary, but not my husband's. So we dug through our bag until we found his old boarding pass and she was able to do the same thing. This took about 20 minutes and quite a line stacked up behind us. I'm glad we showed up with more than an hour 'til take off time.

Convinced I did not want to go through this same thing again at the airport when leaving Atlanta, I clicked on the email from Delta to check in the day we were flying home. My husband's seat was the same one on our reservation, but I was not able to get a boarding pass - only a "Seat Request Card". That's right - Delta had moved me to standby! Bumped me right off the flight! Now, why would you split a party? Also, I didn't think they could do this without making requests for passengers to volunteer off of the flight. This was a disaster. Fortunately, a call to a very wonderful kind soul in Delta Reservations got this worked out, but even he could not figure out why I had been bumped.

The actual flight experiences were very nice, and I really enjoyed the DirecTV on the flight from Atlanta to San Francisco. Just a heads up to any of you that might be traveling on an itinerary that crosses combined routes from these merging airlines, that you'll want to check in in advance if at all possible. I'm sure once the kinks get worked out, things will be great - but in the meantime, beware.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just finished the first Sookie Stackhouse novel!

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) Dead Until Dark: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Continuing on the theme of vampires (thanks, Jen!), I've started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books. Having watched a few episodes of True Blood, I was worried that the books would've already been spoiled - not the case at all! The show, while true in character to the books, has different characters and doesn't follow the exact same story line, either.

I enjoyed Charlaine Harris's writing style and the way she could keep the suspense going all the way to the end of the book. The characters were very interesting, and so far none of them falling into strictly black or white. They all have subtle nuances, and even our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is not perfect in thoughts, actions or deeds.

This book does what every good vampire book, in my opinion, should do - gives you a glimpse into the past. I love historical fiction and feel that Harris did a great job of weaving in Bill's (the vampire) past into the book.

So far, I'm enjoying this series a lot more than the Twilight series and have already started the second book.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preparing for my panel at Grace Hopper!

I'm moderating my first panel at a large conference at the upcoming Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing. I've been on panels before. I've done entire hour long presentations before. But I've never moderated a panel.

Now, in just a couple of weeks, I will be moderating "Open Source Community Development" where we'll be tackling issues about how Open Source communities grow, thrive, and possibly die or wither away. Interesting topics I hope we can explore will be about building trust and encouraging women to participate. All of these things I think will be helpful for the OpenSolaris community.

The question remains: how best to moderate? I know from personal experience that I appreciate a moderator who keeps the flow moving, knows when to take a discussion "off line", and keeps up a slide of all of the speakers' names so the audience doesn't have to remember. So, it's a given I'll do those things (and hopefully do them well).

But after reading several great "how to moderate a panel" blogs (thanks, Stormy, for the intitial link that got me started on this), I've gotten a lot of conflicting information, so I'm going to have to make some decisions myself. For example, several folks who have moderated other panels argue that the moderator must always introduce the panelists, while others suggest letting the panelists themselves do it. Personally, I've always introduced myself, either while presenting alone or on a panel.

Some recommend assigning a few questions to certain panelists in advance and making sure you all meet as a complete group before the panel, while others say that doing so will ruin the spontaneity of the panel. I believe that at least a short meeting before hand is warranted so we will at least have the name to face thing down.

All the advice is clear, though, I need to make sure I am personally familiar with all of the panelists' backgrounds and areas of expertise so I can direct questions appropriately. While I know a few of these women personally, or follow them on twitter, and clearly learned about them when we were proposing the panel, I still need to make sure I do all the appropriate research.

Do any of you have any advice in this area? After all, as the audience, you will be my customer!

Here are links to the advice I've been reading:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why I'm glad I went to the Grace Hopper Conference in '08 and can't wait for this year

Last year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing was such an amazing experience for me, that I can't wait to attend again this year!

There is something almost magical about being surrounded by technical women. I didn't have to worry for one second about sounding too nerdy or about asking questions about something I didn't understand. At this conference I felt an unparalleled sense of belonging.

I spent some time working at the Sun Microsystems' informational booth, which was an incredible way to connect with students and other women in the industry who were interested in the technologies I've worked so closely with over the last decade. I'll be around there again this year, so please stop by and hear about the work I've been doing in the field of computer security over the last year.

This conference has such a great balance of technical content and soft skills that I don't feel overwhelmed by either aspect at the end of the day. In fact, I can't wait to get together with other attendees in the evening to hear about sessions I missed and share my own experiences from the day.

Last year's conference was intense, educational and life changing, that I cannot imagine for one second missing this year's event. Hope to see you all there! I'll be the woman with the laptop...

oh, wait, unlike other conferences, that won't be enough to identify me by. :-)

Friday, August 28, 2009

OSCON, Women in FLOSS, me and a puppet named Jack Adams

A month ago, I was lucky enough to go to a few bits & pieces of OSCON in San Jose with my exhibit pass.

While there I got to meet a TON of really cool, really clued in folks at the OpenSolaris booth. This was a different experience than I've had at other conferences doing booth duty. First of all, our booth was right by the front door, was large with couches for lounging, and we had a lot of cool stuff to give a way. Anyone that installed OpenSolaris (even just in a virtual box) on their laptop got a free t-shirt. We were also giving away install media and getting started guides, of course, as well as cool stickers for your laptop that said "Powered by OpenSolaris" (I got one myself!). The people that approached the booth not only knew what Sun did already, but were at least relatively aware of Solaris. Some hadn't used the OS in awhile, some wanted to know the big differences between OpenSolaris and Solaris, others just had questions about very specific technologies.

I got to show my lack of skills at Guitar Hero as I was pitted against Microsoft's Sara Ford in a battle of the operating systems. To be fair, I'd only played the game once before, and that was more than 18 months before. If it had been Tekken or even Wii Bowling, it would've been a different story, I tell ya!

(Photo by Pınar Özger)

I attended the Women of Free/Libre Open Source Software BoF (Birds of a Feather) session run by Kirrily Robert, which had an impressively large turnout - around 25 people, mostly women (the rest were "advocates" :). It was good to meet a lot of other women working in Open Source and just in technology in general. Like a sneak preview of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, though surprisingly few of these women were familiar with that conference. We tried to keep it from turning into a venting session about some clueless and/or rude men we've all worked with in the past, and tried to give each other suggestions for things we've found has worked. Kirrily then had us all go around the room to discuss our favorite woman themed book. Mine, of course, was Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. I'm hoping she'll post the complete list soon, as I heard some very interesting titles come by!

Our Solaris Security BoF was just after that, so I couldn't stay for the entire Women in FLOSS BoF. When I got to our BoF room, I was dismayed at discovering the facilities team had taken away our projector! I had checked everything out the night before, to make sure our OpenSolaris laptops would work with their projectors and even confirmed with the A/V guy that we would have the same equipment for our BoF on Friday. Everyone I asked that was working for the site said we'd have the equipment, but apparently not. This started us off on a bad foot - but fortunately, many of us had brought laptops with the presentation on it that we were able to distribute through the small crowd so they could follow along.

I will admit, I was very disappointed by our small turnout we had at our BoF. The guys that were there (sorry, except for Sun staff, it was only male attendees) were very interested in our topics of discussion and asked a lot of great in depth questions. It was taped, so hopefully we'll have the video soon!

Speaking of videos, I was also able to help Jack Adams, a puppet, with his OpenSolaris security concerns and problems. This came out well, considering the lack of prep and script. All that improv training at the Gaslighter Theatre comes in handy, even for technical talks. Enjoy!

(though I really should've taken off my badge, so you could see my "I HEART OpenSolaris" shirt better :-)

Friday, August 14, 2009


You haven't entered an alternate universe where evil men that look like your friends except they have goatees.... I've just mirrored by blog. Okay, I just created the account on blogger and Katy Dickinson’s daughter, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, took my extracted entries and comments from 5 years of blogging and got my mirror on blogger.

Jessica was easy to work with and completed the move in just a couple of hours, fixing it up so it looked oh so nice.

For those of you that read my posts via Facebook as "notes" won't notice anything different. Most of you probably don't even know you're reading my blog right now. Gotta love this Web 2.0 stuff! :-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Managing Your ON Mercurial Gate

Working on my recent projects, I became frustrated with a lack of one-stop-shop for Mercurial for use with OpenSolaris development. My focus is on the ON (Operating System and Networking) Consolidation, of course. As an internal developer, my steps assume access to things like usr/closed. If you are external, you will need to get your closed binaries from the closed binary tarballs.

I did find the HG Workflow document helpful, but not complete for my every day tasks. You should read that as a starting point, as it has lots of good tidbits on backing up your changes and managing project gates.

Please send any corrections or additional tips you might have this way, and I'll update this post.

Setting Up Yourself

First and foremost, make sure you have set up for cadmium and have your .hgrc set up as follows:
$ hgsetup
$ more .hgrc



filemerge.args=-a $base $local $other $output
filemerge.executable = filemerge
filemerge.checkchanged = true
filemerge.premerge = false



username=Valerie Bubb Fenwick

without the style settings, your Change Request Team Advocates will have difficulty reading your "hg outgoing -v" output and will likely put your RTI (Request to Integrate) on hold. I have customized my filemerge utility to be TeamWare's familiar filemerge.
Note: Email addresses used in here need to be real, routable addresses!

Setting Up Your Gate

Our build server leverages ZFS, which I highly recommend, as it gives you the quick ability to create snapshots before doing a major rewhack of your code. Here's what I do on the build server with ZFS:
$ zfs create builds/bubbva/{gate-name}
$ cd /builds/bubbva/{gate-name}
$ hg init
$ hg pull -u ssh://onnv.sfbay//export/onnv-clone/
$ hg update
$ hg reparent ssh://onnv.sfbay//export/onnv-clone/
$ hg clone ssh:// /usr/closed

Now, if you're not using a ZFS pool for doing your development, it's a little easier to setup:
$ hg clone ssh://onnv.sfbay//export/onnv-clone/
$ hg clone ssh:// /usr/closed

Note that the seemingly extraneous slash is not so, it is part of the communication with ssh and is indeed required. I don't know why hg clone won't work with an otherwise empty directory as its target, which would make dong this with a ZFS pool much simpler, but it doesn't.
On the ZFS snapshots, I recommend coding the date into the snapshot name, as the default listing of snapshots does not include that information, which makes it very tricky to figure out "what did I call that snapshot yesterday!?".

Finding Files in the Source

I often find that I know the name of the file I want to modify, but really have no idea of where it resides in the source - or perhaps I just know a partial name, like "softtoken". In teamware, I would always just grep the nametable, but since Mercurial has no equivalent concept, there is nothing quite that fast. Here's what I do now instead:

$ hg manifest | grep

Editing Files

Unlike with SCCS, there is no need to checkout files - just use vi/vim/ed/emacs/xemacs/etc and have at it. If you don't like your changes, simply revert.
$ hg revert
I've had mixed results with this, so find out what the previous revision to your changes was with:
$ hg log | more
If you need to create a new file:

$ hg add

To remove:

$ hg rm

To move (this works on entire directories, as well):

$ hg mv

When you are satisified with your changes:
$ hg commit

Managing Children to Build

It's always a good idea to do builds on both SPARC and x86, even if your changes seem like they're architecturally neutral. In fact, many members of the Change Review Team will require it. Some folks will even recommend you don't build in your "change master" to ensure you haven't forgotten to commit a file or "hg add" a new one. That's not strictly necessary, as long as you've done a build from a child of your main gate on another architecture, though, if you've done a lot of moving things around or creation of new files, you really should do it.
The problem comes from if you have done multiple "recommits" in your build master, this confuses your children. One way you can manage this is to always bring over a fresh build child. That's cumbersome though, at best.
$ hg pull
$ hg update -C

Preparing for Review

First, commit your changes. This will give you a chance to put all the relevant CR IDs into your comments. Unfortunately, every CR will be associated with EVERY file in your changeset. That's just how mercurial works.
$ hg commit
If you're working with simply open source, this convenient option has been provided to prepare and publicly post your webrevs to [1]:
$ hg webrev -O -U
I've been using a wrapper (hgwr, formerly wxwr), originally from Bill Sommerfeld, for webrev for a long time that keeps revisions of reviews available. This is handy so that you can incorporate changes from one code reviewer & post the updated webrev for that reviewer to verify you understood their comments, while not changing the code under another reviewer.
This is great for me, as a developer, as well, because as reviews trickle in, they all refer to a specific line number. If I've already incorporated changes, then the line numbers may have changed significantly. Having the original review source available is invaluable.
If you use this script, or something like it, the -U option to webrev is not useful. Instead you can use scp (MAKE SURE YOU STILL SPECIFIED -O for OpenSource to the wrapper, or your bug links will all be to the internal site):
$ scp -r .
(Note: that trailing ":" is not a typo, but required scp syntax.)
If you're additionally working in closed source, you'll need to utter the following:

$ cd /usr/closed/
$ hg webrev

In case it's not obvious, do not load this webrev to ;)

Resynching With The Clone

This starts with a simple:
$ hg pull -u
but you will always have to merge, even if nobody changed the same files you did. One thing I've learned the hard way about Mercurial is that if it can't open a tool to do a merge (in the case that someone has updated the same file you did) it will simply do the merge for you and do nice things like add a blank line in the middle of an enumerated list...)
So, if like most of us you don't have your workspace on your desktop, but rather on a build machine, you'll want to start this process like this:
$ ssh -X
Which will allow the graphical mergetools, like filemerge, to open when you get to the next step:
$ hg merge
and you'll need to commit again:
$ hg commit

More Unusual Tasks

Finding what changeset changed which lines:
$ hg annotate

Finding out which changesets impacted a file (useful for backing out individiual changes):
$ hg log

Finding History of a File if It's Been Moved

Because Mercurial isn't really a file based source code management system,
when you move a file the history does not move with it. That is, it appears as if it's a new file. You can still pull some of this history (like which changes were introduced under what name):
$ hg history -f
$ hg log -f
$ hg annotate -f

I Made Changes to a File Then Moved It and Want To Back Out the Changes (but not the move)!

Oops - I did this. Once. Because of how poorly mercurial handles file level operations, this is difficult to correct. For example, I made some minor edits to a file, including updating the copyright date, then I moved it. hg revert no longer worked! I was able to manually revert the changes, the file still showed up as changed in my workspace and 'hg outgoing -v'.
While I was told that it would have been acceptable to push this junk, it seemed sloppy to me. Due to the lack of per file controls, it is actually pretty easy to apply your changes to a new workspace using patch(1) and the "patches" provided by webrev, then redoing the moves, as needed.

Ready to Integrate!

Of course, you've read all of the RTI Nits, done all your testing, filed any documentation and test bugs and made sure they can be fixed at the same time as your integration and gotten your RTI (Request to Integrate) approved by a member of the Change Review Team... then you're ready to go! The problem is, so are lots of other people...
This is what I call the Mercurial Push Dance. All it takes is one more implementor heading for the gate at the same time, to begin this nasty tango...
$ ssh -X
(because you will have to merge...)
$ hg commit
$ hg pull -u
$ hg merge
$ hg commit
$ hg recommit

If you had actual conflicts (ie same files changed), CHECK THE MERGES. Run webrev again and make sure only your changes are there. Because the mergetools hooked into Mercurial grab focus when they come up, they are known to grab spare characters and insert them into your code. I've found stray "$" and other things that just wouldn't be a good thing to push.
Rinse & Repeat, until other folks stop beating you to the gate. When you're ready:
$ cd usr/closed
$ hg path default > /tmp/closed-mommy
$ hg reparent ssh://
$ hg push

[Closed gate changes always need to be done first, because once you push to the open gate, the incremental build will start.]
$ cd ../..
$ hg path default > /tmp/open-mommy
$ hg reparent ssh://
$ hg push

After you finish the Tango de la Muerte... I mean, the Mercurial Push Dance and have successfully gotten your bits into the gate, don't forget to:
$ hg reparent `cat /tmp/open-mommy`
$ cd usr/closed
$ hg reparent `cat /tmp/closed-mommy`

[1] These all assume you've set up your SSH key on the site. This is required for posting webrevs and doing integrations into the main gate.
Many thanks to the other developers who hang out on irc.sfbay/#hg-help and, particularly Rich Lowe, Mark J Nelson and David Powell.