This is not the sort of topic that I ever felt I would decide to publish on this blog, but I found a very intriguing and thought-provoking book chapter that honestly, I feel can be applied to anyone in general, regardless of their religious background. It comes from the book “Religion Saves + Nine Other Misconceptions” and it is a chapter on Christian Dating. You can find the chapter on the author’s website. Before I comment on some pieces of the chapter, I first want to present a disclaimer that my comments will avoid religion wherever possible and ignore the points that cannot be touched upon without doing so. I think that the most useful part of the chapter was the respect that it really gave women, which is sometimes something that can be missing in non-Christian dating.

The sections that I found most interesting start on page 13 of the PDF, “Sixteen Christian Dating Principles for Both Men and Women”.

First, the author talks about getting the most out of your singleness and recommends that while you are not dating, you should be doing other exciting things with your life, whether that is getting an excellent education, traveling, establishing your career, or what have you. Basically, his advice is to “invest your single years in a way that they later pay a great return.” I think this is something that we often miss the point on, feeling like we always need to be with someone else to complete ourselves, when in fact a relationship will work the best when we are happy with who we are and independent on our own, rather than needing someone else to be happy with our lives.

His comment about being reasonable is also important. Non-Christian dating often tends to lead to more ups and downs in relationships, which can allow you to learn a lot about yourself, but at the same time, this can make our list of what we want and don’t want in a partner to become way too detailed. A good way to make sure that your list isn’t too specific or extravagant is to share it with some friends (of both genders, if possible) for their feedback. That being said, knowing what you want from a partner is extremely important before getting into a relationship, or it is a lot easier to compromise for momentary attraction to someone or to forget about aspects that are actually quite necessary for you to be happy.

I also really appreciated his comment that “In 1 Timothy 5:1–2, Paul tells Christian single men to treat Christian single women like sisters.” This puts a totally different angle on Christian relationships from what I have tended to assume – that it is about the man having the power, the woman working until she gets pregnant, and then staying home with the children – it adds a significant level of respect that is often missing in non-Christian relationships. But really, this sort of situation boils down to the saying we were taught in kindergarten, to do unto others as you wish others to do unto you. (Although I suppose that bypasses the men who don’t care for having a relationship – but that’s not what I’m trying to get at here.) Having respect for one another is very important and this goes both ways – women should respect men and men should respect women, equally.

I have often heard that non-Christians should not date Christians and I think that the author really helped me to understand this idea better. I think that for people who are not strongly religious, this basic idea applies as well. You should be in a relationship with someone who you have an emotional, physical, and mental attraction with and anything that is so deeply important to you as religion is to Christians who will only date Christians, should also be important to your potential partner. This also relates to the author’s idea about investing in a romantic relationship only with someone who you are entirely attracted to. Yes, to a point, compromise is key in a relationship, but there are certain key things that you cannot possibly compromise on. (Remember that list? You should have classifications on each item, such as should have one characteristic from a small set or this characteristic is absolutely important or I will not go out with this person at all.)

I do not agree with the author’s suggestion that “He should initiate and she should respond.” We are in a modern society where women have a lot more rights and capabilities than they used to. I think that it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to ask a man out – why should we sit around wondering if a man will call us back and he doesn’t have to? That’s not fair! I think that since a relationship is a partnership between two people, both people should reasonably equally take part in paying and organizing outings.

I skipped over most of the “Seven Dating Questions for [Women/Men]” sections, but the following stood out to me.

“Any man who does not consult with you, make decisions with you, ask what you think, and inquire how you feel is a selfish and inconsiderate man.” Again, this statement applies to anyone! It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, but women really need to learn that a man who does not respect her does not deserve to be with her.

Advertisements

I had originally planned on attending the “Communicating Powerfully Across Gender” session, but since it was cancelled, I chose to attend this one instead. I hadn’t originally looked at it since it was listed in the Academic track, but I am glad I went since it was very interesting to hear about some methods of teaching first-year courses that other universities have tried.

There were 4 presenters, each from different schools: Duke University, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Union College, and The College of New Jersey.

First, they talked about some of the issues that they had had previously with their introductory CS sequences. The major one that I noted was the 30-40% attrition rate in the CS major. Some of the issues they talked about helped not just women, but also men.

What they found was important in designing the first year courses:

  1. Choosing the right tools
  2. Peers, teams, expertise, and ownership
  3. Relevant problems
  4. Not dumbing it down

At Duke, they tried a peer-led team learning approach where the first year students would solve problems in groups of size 4-8, led by a junior/senior student, sort of like the tutorials run at the University of Waterloo, but on a much smaller scale. They found that having the social group was very encouraging for the students, especially for the women. Also, they taught the non-majors course in Alice, which drew 50% women.

At RIT, they had an introductory sequence focusing on game software development, sponsored by Microsoft. This helped the students since they were motivated by real issues, instead of just conjured up problems. They also had a higher retention rate in this sequence than in the normal one. The social aspect of game development brought out early collaboration and showed the importance of code analysis and peer critiquing to the first year students, something that most other courses don’t introduce at all.

Union College is a liberal arts college, so the first year courses serve as a significant recruiting tool for the various majors. They chose to offer a themed approach to their introductory CS course, with studio-style teaching combining lectures, discussions and hands-on activities such as pair programming. These themed courses include: computational science (applications in the sciences and social sciences), game development, artificial intelligence, robotics, media computation, and engineering applications. They found that students were more interested in working at the problems since they had chosen the interest.

The College of New Jersey had similar ideas to the other three schools. One of their comments was to stay away from using the term gatekeeper to refer to their introductory CS courses since it suggests that the course is a hurdle or that if they can get through the course, then they can get through CS, whereas the term door opener conveys a much more positive, but otherwise similar meaning.

I presented some of my notes on this session at the University of Waterloo Women in CS lunch after the Grace Hopper conference. One attendee seemed interested in the ideas I presented, but since our program sees such a significantly higher number of students per year (around 900 in total) than the schools who presented at the session, the information wasn’t nearly as valuable as it could have been.


As students, we don’t necessarily keep normal “work hours” like people do in industry or while working. We don’t just check our e-mail between the hours of 8 am and 5-6 pm. How do we ensure that e-mails that we send to professors or to recruiters still maintain a professional air? And is it acceptable to send e-mails at 3 am?

Gmail has a multitude of features that can help in a situation like this – you can have certain e-mails skip the inbox, for you to read and respond to them at a particular time. One of the features that I believe Gmail is missing, however, is the ability to “schedule” the sending of an e-mail. Surprisingly, Microsoft Outlook has this feature and Gmail doesn’t. I’ve used it on several occasions as it allows me to draft an e-mail at my own leisure and have it sent at a reasonable hour.

I have, for example, set up my Gmail filters so that most of my MarkUs related e-mails skip my Inbox. This may sound like I’m putting a lower priority on MarkUs, but what I am actually doing is ensuring that I am only responding to these e-mails when I am in the appropriate mindset – when I am sitting down with the intention of doing work on MarkUs and one of the items on my to do list is to go through the e-mails. Since I put aside time to work on MarkUs on most days during the week, this isn’t a problem, but I need to ensure that if I don’t on a particular week, that I do allow for time to respond to e-mails each day.

For now, when I choose to compose messages at 3 am, I will leave them as a draft and then send them in the morning. I am curious to hear your opinions on when you should and shouldn’t be sending e-mails!


Megan Smith was the keynote speaker on Day 2. She completed her undergrad, as well as her Master’s, at MIT and she is currently the Vice President of New Business Development at Google.org.

Before she delved into her speech, she talked about the essay topic that MIT had set out in her year – to pick an animal that represents you and explain why. I thought that this was interesting because of the difference in the reasons that men and women gave for their choices. Most men picked the eagle to represent them because they wanted to see everything and to be on top of the world, whereas most women picked the dolphin for its level of communication. This reminds me of some of the issues that women face in computer science – the overconfidence of men and their portrayal as being more important than anyone else.

In her speech, she talked about the role of technology in lesser developed countries. She showed a satellite map of the world, coloured by language and showing the Google searches across the globe – Africa was grey. There, cell phones are popular, but there aren’t many broadband connections – an issue that I explored last winter in my African & Caribbean Literature class, the digital divide in Africa (“la fracture numérique en Afrique francophone”). She talked about something called M-PESA, offering telephony based money transfers, which sounded pretty cool. Google has recently opened up some new offices in Africa: in Senegal, in Ghana, and in Nairobi.

She talked about how Google.org tracks flu trends, with a 80-90% accuracy rate real-time, and showed us that there is a high trend in the U.S. now. Hospitals, on the other hand, have a 3-7 day lag in tracking these trends due to people needing to actually come in for help, compared to real-time search.

Megan made an interesting analogy comparing the usage of Twitter in the recent Iran election to fax machines back with the events at Tiananmen Square in China. She talked about how seeing other people going through the same problems helped people to realize that they weren’t actually alone.

And finally, some of her last remarks were about the effects of Google Earth and that it has both its upsides and its downsides, such as members of Al-Qaeda being able to access it as well.

I definitely enjoyed this keynote more than the one on Day 3. I found it much more relevant and intriguing to see how technology can be brought to more rural areas.


One of the courses that I am taking this term is covers the French novel in the last decade, i.e. since 1997. After deciding to recommend the English version of the book we are currently studying to a friend, I decided to write a discussion of the first two books of the course. Keep in mind that although an English version of a particular book may exist, I read the French version and that’s the cover I am using and the version that I am linking to.

Dora Bruder

Dora Bruder, by Patrick Modiano

This book was published in 1997, but it is the story of a young girl named Dora Bruder, re-created by Patrick Modiano, who was born in 1945, after the war had ended. Why do I say that her story is “re-created” and not simply “told” by Modiano? Well, the fact is that we don’t know what happened to many people during the Second World War, so this story is a piecing together of Modiano’s suppositions about what her life was really like and the facts that he is able to dig up through his and Serge Klarsfeld’s research. Some may argue that the book is non-fiction, such as the Seattle Public Library, and this is a topic which we debated in class. Personally, I think that the suppositions on the part of Modiano and the fact that it isn’t entirely a factual representation of Dora’s life, make it into a piece of fiction.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found Modiano’s obsession with understanding Dora’s life to be a bit weird, until I looked at it from the perspective of wanting to ensure that the French don’t continue to forget about the true events of the Second World War. In a way, we can look at Dora Bruder as a name representing many of the young girls whose lives were tied up in the war and Modiano helps to make sure that her story is known. What I enjoyed most about the book was the artful way in which Modiano crafted the story – piece by piece, he revealed little bits more about Dora’s life, keeping you around to find out what happens next. And for those of you whose French reading level is iffy, but still somewhat there – this isn’t a particularly difficult read language-wise in French, though the topics are a tad tricky to read at times.

Stay tuned for a brief discussion of the book we are currently studying – Un Secret by Philippe Grimbert, whose English version is titled “Memory: A Novel”!


Unfortunately the “Communicating Powerfully Across Gender” session today was cancelled. That was to be the first Industry-track session of the day.

The first speaker at the Welcome was a woman who worked with Grace Hopper in military computing. No matter how much time I have spent in the U.S., it still astounds me how much larger of an influence the military has than it does in Canada, and how much more people actually care about it. She presented a special coin to the Anita Borg Institute (whose representative I actually met while supervising the cyber cafe yesterday!)

I Am A Technical Woman: video put on by the Anita Borg Institute to encourage young women to join computer science. I liked how it even had men saying that they support technical women and that they showed women of all shapes, sizes, colours, and languages wearing anything from jeans to business clothes to dresses – we look just like everyone else.

From the ABI staff: This is the toughest time for industry and academia since the Great Depression, yet the sponsors are still here in full form! They help to keep the student registration costs so low (only $250). This conference was even sold out this year!

Special guest: Dame Wendy Hall, President of ACM

Dame is the female equivalent of a knight and the title was created only in the 21st century. She is also the first non-NA president of the ACM.


GHC Day 2+

02Oct09

Unfortunately due to how long these sessions are and how much I have to say about each one, I will be trying to post one session’s notes per day. I have 12 pages of notes from yesterday’s sessions!

One thing that I have to say about the experience here is that the best part isn’t about getting the information or the notes from the sessions, but from firsthand hearing the information – that’s what’s really inspiring. For example, at the Imposter panel, the most useful part was listening to all of the anecdotes that people shared, which really helped to make me feel less alone.

Also, one other thing to note about the conference if you ever come to it – a lot of people may try to give you advice about what sessions you should go to and what else you should be doing, but only take their advice as advice, don’t take it as the final word and do what you’re interested in. The fact is that you’re here for yourself, not for other people. (Well, unless you come with a group of people on a recruiting trip.) It’s important to get what you need out of the conference. On that note, my only piece of advice is to make sure that you get the food when it’s available or you’re hooped!