Index - Parenting / Motherhood
- Math is Yummy (November 04, 2010)
- Fuming (January 15, 2010)
- Blarg (September 20, 2009)
- Daycare pickup (July 21, 2009)
- Making the right decision is still hard (July 21, 2009)
- Puff ball (July 11, 2009)
- Torturous Boredom, and Enlightenment (July 02, 2009)
- On stretch marks (June 02, 2009)
- Going to sleep: oh, the pain! (May 13, 2009)
- The "Women in Computer Science" entry (January 07, 2009)
November 04, 2010
I would like to share a cute story about an interaction with my toddler while I was studying a book about stochastic modelling processes.
She came to peer over my shoulder. I said, "Look sweetheart! This is math."
I continued, pointing, "This is a summation, and this is an indicator function."
She exclaimed, "I try it!"
Then she reached out toward the equation in my book, she pinched at it, then she brought her fingers to her mouth as if to eat it. Yum, yum, yum! Reaching the book again, she said, "Now, Mommy," and then she fed me some math. Then, she said, "Bunny!" and went to go and feed some math to something else (apparently a bunny? I could not identify any stuffed animal or anything that matched her words.)
Isn't that cute? Eating math! hehehehee
January 15, 2010
Have you ever sent an email that's kind of thrilling, like you take a risk with a new idea with a new person and then can't wait to see how they will react? I have. Often, I receive a reply that is equally thrilling or unexpected and progress continues. Sometimes, sadly, I do not receive a reply at all and the idea just kinda dies or goes into waiting for another opportunity.
I am at the opposite end of this situation right now. I have about 5 or 6 thrilling emails from other people that I desperately want to address. Some are from students, some from colleagues, some from my "higher-ups". :) They are all ideas-related and require just a little bit of thought-crunching and reference-checking on my part. So why am I writing this blog entry when I could be working on these thrilling responses?
It is presently about 4am and my daughter has been awake throwing up. She is finally asleep right now, in my lap. I am typing this on my iPod. I can't access my notepad or my journal or my database of papers. I can't have 3 files open at the same time and read back and forth between them to bounce around my idea. Basic copy and pasting is arduous. I must take a sick day tomorrow, which is Friday, and I have full meeting schedules Monday & Tuesday, and working in the evenings simply isn't an option for me. So I am looking at sitting on these hot emails for almost a week. I feel stunted, stifled.
I am extremely frustrated. But I know it's not the end of the world. I am actually very lucky to be safe and relatively healthy. Maybe I can find a way to re-directsome of this frustration in a positive manner.
Also re-reading this it sounds selfish, like I care more about my reasearch than my poor sick toddler. This is not true. If she were REALLY sick I would not be here moping. :-)
September 20, 2009
The baby is FINALLY asleep for her nap, and I am FINALLY at my computer with some quiet time, wanting to do some research, but I just realized that I left my notes and latest scribblings/ideas to myself on my iPod, which is in the baby's room. I'm afraid that if I go in there she will wake up and I'll have blown my chance. But I'm having a hard time remembering where I left off, and to get back into the "research grove" I would really like to have my notebook. Blarg.
Okay, I'm going in. Wish me luck.
July 21, 2009
Just picked up my daughter. When I arrived, she was sitting on her caregiver's knee, along with another infant, bouncing to the music. They were in the facility's community hall, and a man was at the front with a guitar and a microphone. People were clapping their hands. The performer noiced me as I collected my baby (there were only about 30 people in the room) and said something good-naturedly into the microphone like, "op, we're loosing someone from the audience!". People were smiling. My daughter has a new temporary tatoo type thing on her arm. The staff told me that there was a carnival today. I was handed a little green plastic toy, and was told that it belonged to my daughter; someone had fished it out of a barrel for her.
I felt a wash of relief. My baby was fine, and she seemed happy. The staff told me that she loves their baby swing. They had trouble getting her down for a nap because every time they put her in the crib, she would cry. (that's no different from at home!). So they've been letting her fall asleep in the stroller. That's okay with me! If that's the worst of what's going on, then I feel like I'm in good shape, that I can do this.
I also felt gratitude to the staff, the man with the guitar, and whoever organized this carnival. I feel lucky and relieved that my daughter is in a healthy environment for those seveal hours each weekday when I'm pursuing my own hopes and dreams.
'Just dropped my baby off at daycare. She's been going for part-days, two days per week for two weeks now, this is week #3. The first few times were not bad at all, I kissed her goodbye and told her when I was coming back to get her, and that was that. But now I think she's starting to associate "arrival at daycare" with "Mommy leaving me behind". She cried pretty hard this morning, and I'm left feeling pretty shaky myself.
There's no doubt in my mind that returning to the workforce is the right choice for me; I know I've made the right decision. But I didn't choose the easy road. (I'm not implying that being a stay-at-home-mom would be the easy road either; I'm doing that right now and it is very challenging in its own ways!) It's also tough when you get feedback from some people in your life that you are making a mistake. I keep thinking about my decision, feeling out the pros and cons, and knowing what I know about myself, and knowing what I know about my daughter, I know I'm doing the right thing by returning to work and putting my daughter in daycare.
But each day, sticking with my decision - even if it is the right one - is still hard.
July 11, 2009
I just wrote a long post, and then bungled up a cut/paste operation (I was trying to split my entry into 2 posts), and I ended up deleting one of them. UGH! So I had a moment where I felt like I shrunk into a little wee ball that kept getting more and more concentrated and was just quivering with intensity until - poof! - it exploded like a dandelion gone to seed in a windstorm.
I am so tired. Wheee! But at least I still have the 2nd half of the entry. It's not done because I'm really sleepy and having trouble getting my thoughts straight.
Baby is awake now. L8ers!
July 02, 2009
A few months ago, I found myself thinking about how I might describe my maternity leave experience to other people. I came from a demanding (but enjoyable and rewarding!) job in a high-powered environment and experienced a really different lifestyle being a stay-at-home mom. The first few months was indeed a blur: recovering physically from childbirth and adjusting to being the primary caregiver of a very needy infant. But then as the months went by and the blur transformed into routine, I started to experience something else: a torturous boredom. I had been living in this mindset - i.e., if you asked me how I would describe my maternity leave experience, I would have told you about torturous boredom -- until this weekend when I listened to a talk by a Buddhist monk named Pema Chodron. I think she changed my mind.
Going back to torturous boredom. To understand this feeling, I'll put myself back in the shoes of the high-powered career woman. This woman thinks, What would it be like to suddenly take one YEAR of your life when you don't have to go to work every day? I am an incredibly self-motivated person; What happens when you turn me loose with no professional obligations? I thrive on quiet time, and become energized when I have the opportunity to create my own ideas and to build upon my own initiatives. Wouldn't being a stay-at-home-mom be perfect for me, then? Wouldn't I accomplish a zillion amazing things? Build a few of the systems that I had designed in my head? Try out some new tools? Read some new articles or plough through a bookshelf of material?
Nope! The problem is that all of these projects & ideas require focus and attention. These things are taken away from you when you're the primary caregiver of an infant; you can't devote your entire attention to your aspirations. One eye, one arm, and one thread of your internal processing power must always be devoted to the baby's needs: keeping her safe, fed, clean, entertained, etc..
The boredom part kicks in because caring for the infant does not take up all of your brain power. There's enough left over for your thoughts to wander and for boredom to set in. You get tired of watching your kid crawl around the house all day. Sure, there's lots to do: go to the park, the mall, attend moms groups, take the kid swimming, etc... but it's hard to devote your energy to these things when your heart is actually longing to continue with your personal projects & your research. So even as your body is busy caring for the kid, your mind is actually getting quite bored.
This was hurting me to the point of causing physical pain. So, my coping mechanism was to walk, walk, walk! At least while I'm pushing the stroller around, I have my thoughts to myself. I can't read a book or use the computer or write notes.... but at least I can think. I've also been able to keep my sanity by feeding my brain during those precious, precious times when the baby is asleep. But those quiet times are rare and are frequently eaten up by other responsibilities. And I'm sure I have complained about this on my blog before. Anyone tired of listening to me yet? LOL.
Anyway, the perspective I described above has been "Me" for the last few months. But as I said, I listened to a talk on the weekend that changed my mind, I think. It's still sinking in.
The monk, Pema Chodron, described enlightenment as a state of mind. I think of it as being in the centre of a flower. Imagine you're sitting still, in mediatation. It's normal for thoughts to bubble up and your mind to wander in all different directions: these thoughts in all directions are the flower petals. But you can always bring your mind back to the middle, when you are just "existing", between the threads of thought. Those who live most of their time in a "centered" state, not being distracted so much by wandering down the flower petals of stray thought can be said to be in a state of enlightenment.
So, I'm sort of thinking of my experience with my baby as a "forced enlightenment". I can't get distracted by my stray thoughts, ideas & initiaties. Instead, I'm forced to be "in the now", only dealing with what's in front of my face. Instead of feeling resentful, I should just appreciate the chance to stop and appreciate the moment. To maybe find value in something other than producing & researching. To somehow bring whatever I'm searching for "out there" to be back "in here" while still continuing my efforts in research. I've got a lot of work to do on this, but I think a little seed has been planted in my mind, and at least I have improved my perspective on life a little, I think!
Now, if you were to ask me how my maternity leave is going, I think I would say, "enlightening". This experience really does tear apart your life into little pieces, and it's a slow process building yourself back up again, establishing yourself as a good parent, but also discovering how to devote your energy in the way YOU want to devote it, while braiding in this new parenting part of yourself into your life.
Before hitting "publish", I just noticed that Mrs. Comet Hunter has a post up on Career vs. Family. A very timely discussion -- go check it out!
June 02, 2009
This post is for women who may one day have children, and would like to hear a little story about stretch mark prevention. For those who read this blog only for artificial intelligence research, for the first time ever, I'm going to use the "extended entry" box when composing this blog entry. I assume this means that anything I write in that box will show up on my website for those interested in clicking through to read it, but it will not show up in your RSS reader.
So, if you want to hear a stretch marks story, by all means, welcome aboard to clicky through! Otherwise, you are not missing much; I promise I'm not talking about AI research in the rest of this entry. =D
So, on to my stretch marks story.
A friend told me that starting from when you are about 4 months pregnant, it's a good idea to start applying stretch mark cream, daily. So, I did. For the first part of my pregnancy, I used Biotherm, and when that was empty, I bought Vichy. I do not have any stretch marks where I applied those products. I would recommend either of those products to other mommies-to-be. =)
However! I DO have stretch marks. Pretty visible ones, too, and I mourn a little bit every time I step out of the shower. I guess I should just think of them as battle scars and let them give me a sense of pride and accomplishment instead of letting them make me feel less fresh & young & beautiful.
So, why do I have these stretch marks, even though I faithfully applied the cream every day? Because I had no idea *where* stretch marks could possibly occur, and I didn't apply the cream everywhere I should have. I applied the cream where the instructions said to: all around my pregnant belly, bum & breasts. Unfortunately, I didn't know that you could also get stretch marks on your hips and on your inner thighs. This is where my marks are, and they are quite visible, even 9 months after I've given birth.
I guess it goes to show you that every woman is different! Your best bet is probably to moisturize everywhere between your neck and your knees - LOL - but this can get expensive; that cream is not cheap!!!
So ya. Just wanted to share that little piece of wisdom with any other future mommies who may be reading these words right now. =D
May 13, 2009
Why do children have such a hard time going to sleep? Baby is sleeping fine in my arms, then I put her down, oh so gently... and... gah, she explodes into wails and shrieks. Why does this happen? Sleep is GOOD for babies, so, evolutionarily-speaking, wouldn't it be beneficial for them to be able to just go back to sleep nicely? Or maybe this is supposed to teach some kind of lesson to the parents?
Anyway. My parenting book says that for babies older than 6 months, if this happens to you -- i.e. they have fallen asleep in your arms but then when you put them down they freak out -- you should let them cry for 5 minutes and give them a chance to try to fall asleep on their own.
So that's what I did. And that is why I am ranting on my blog. And it has now been 6 minutes, and baby is still wailing. Sigh. I have a huge mess in the kitchen I want to clean up. I desperately need to sweep the floor. Not to mention having time for myself, but you can throw that idea out the window right now. So, off I go.........
I don't mean to sound bitter. It is only 3 days after Mother's Day. I love being a mom! Really! It is wonderful!
Ok bye, thanks all for listening to this mommy rant. =P =D
January 07, 2009
So, I'm a Woman in Computer Science and I've been blogging about artificial intelligence applications for a couple of years now. But -- I haven't actually blogged about being what I am. (Well, not much... two other posts mention it.)
The truth is, as an undergraduate student I was always aware that I was in the minority, but I didn't think about it much or really do much about it. I went from class to class with my mostly-but-not-all-male friends, enjoyed their company, messed up on those very-rare times when one of them actually asked me out (ugh, I was such a dork!), and generally just did my work in an alone-but-not-alone sort of way.
Very often, I thought that I wasn't as smart as the rest of my friends because I thought that I was struggling more than they were and had to fight harder to finish assignments. My transcript isn't spectacular... mostly 70s, lots of 60s, a smattering of 80s and a couple 90s in some some first-year classes. Oh, and a 47% in math. I worked *so* hard, and everyone around me seemed to be able to get better marks with less effort. I didn't understand why (and still don't!). Maybe it was just my perception, I don't know.
Sure, I showed up at the odd women-in-science thing, and even spoke on a panel once, but, in the back of my mind I had this yucky feeling that such groups were promoting a "poor me" mentality, and that people like me should just stop their complaining and get back to work. Accepting any support because you're a woman would be a sign of weakness or inferiority.
I hope that all the women reading this right now don't hate me. :) Honestly, I think my feelings on the issue were just a reflection of how brutally hard I am on myself. As I've said to my husband on more than one occasion: "I am my own worst enemy."
I started a maternity leave in September 2008. I return to work in August 2009. Before my leave, I was registered in 2 grad classes and was hot on the trail of an M.Sc. which I wanted (and still want) *so* badly. Well, it's not that I want the letters behind my name so much as I want the experience of diving into research, taking a topic by the horns and learning it inside-out while using ideas of my own to improve all of human knowledge by pushing this one area of research just a little further. That's why I have this blog: it's a way for me to have some research in my life even though I haven't got my act together yet for getting myself into a graduate program. (Regarding the 2 grad classes... I decided to back out of both of them. I was pregnant and exhausted, and couldn't put in the oomph to finish them at the graduate level. I still think it was the right decision. Actually, I was hospitalized at one point, when only 8 weeks pregnant... and I'm *still* slightly questioning my decision. Good grief, I am hard on myself!)
As I was saying, I started a maternity leave in September 2008. As I write this very moment, my baby daughter is sleeping wrapped up against my chest in a baby sling. I've been using my maternity leave as a chance to dive into further research: Every day, I set my baby down on a blanket, surrounded with toys, and next to her I spread out my books, papers, binders and iPod Touch (for internet access -- try using a laptop while breastfeeding -- doesn't work! I love my iPod!) and conduct my research in little snippets, between jiggling a toy in front of her, or talking to her, or singing, or breastfeeding, or changing a diaper, or cleaning up spit-up, etc.. I get on average 1 hour of research in per day. The rest of my free time goes to e-mail/facebook and keeping family & friends up-to-date about baby as she grows. Oh, and not to mention eating, showering & using the bathroom!! Many-a-day it is too difficult to find time for these 3 basic things.
This hour-or-so-per-day of research is so precious to me, and I'm a little scared of what will happen when the time comes to return to work. Actually, I know exactly what will happen: I will lose what I love unless I claim this time for myself, and away from my family. And I feel so GUILTY about doing it! And there's no one making me feel bad about this except for moi.
The point of this post was to express gratitude for the other blogs of women in computer science out there. Reading them, I realize that there are other women like me who are so hard on themselves, but love their work so much, and somehow manage to battle their way through an M.Sc. or Ph.D. while still being loving mothers/wives/girlfriends/etc..
I think that becoming a mother has changed my attitude. I no longer feel that being a woman in computer science is insignificant. It does mean something. Maybe I don't know what that is yet, but, lately in my own mind I've stopped belittling the fact, and maybe I can accept that part of myself not as a source of weakness or "poor me"-ness, but, as a source of that type of strength only a woman has.
Index to Steph's NotesFeb. 24th 2007 - Weee! This new part of my website is not an entry, but rather a permanent fixture whose purpose is to "Look Down on All Those Notes With Some Grand Vision of Organization". Wish me luck. LOL
- Representing meta-data (fuel) & the different kinds of "hooks" that intelligent systems can use (how fuel is injected into the motor of the engine)
- Motivation: Semantic net / Rationalizable to a machine
- Semantic network
- Genetic graph
- Prerequisite AND/OR graph
- Constraint Satisfaction Problems
- Bayesian networks / causal graphs
- Technology & Philosophy: RDF, modus ponens,
- Predicates, Logic & situation calculus
- What kinds of data? - What kinds of meta-data would an AIEd system possibly need, and how is it represented?
- task domain knowledge
- "is-prerequisite-to"-type knowledge
- interactions with learning objects & other learners - (location, composition is-a/part-of, sequencing by restricting navigation, personalization, ontologies for LO context)
- lesson plans, curriculum plans, practicing sessions (What is stored, what is generated on the fly? What is remembered?)
- How to organize it - When is it stored in a database? Meta-data? Agent memory banks? Protocols? Repositories? XML files? Home-servers? WSDL services? Frameworks? Portable banks? P2P access?
- Database of object-agent interactions
- Concept of "Home" on a P2P network -- maybe the bulk of a learning object's usage data is on its home server and can be queried using WSDL or something ? Similar homes for each student's usage history, etc. Baggage problem.
- Links to the ontologies
- referring to a concept/relationship - ex. AgentOwl?
- Generation of this data
- Rationalization: For use by other AIEd systems
- What is generated - discuss items under part I.C.
- When it's generated - describe procedural model, which parts of the engine generate what (isa-part-of data, XML feeds, web services, meta data bout groups and collaboration, protocols, examples Friend of A Friend FOAF project)
- Technical notes of HOW it's generated: JENA, issues of implementation demo, my Hermione & Ron agent examples, lol
- Usage of this generated data - see part IV. A.
- Given the engine, who uses it?
- Students / Learners / "Me"
- instructional planning, student model, pre-requisites, tutoring, coaching, collaboration,constructivism
- Teachers / Educators / "Me"
- putting together lessons
- be able to browse through task domain knowledge in an objective / encyclopaedia format, then be able to pick-and-choose what you need for your students
- compose examples, design explanations, pull together diagrams, learning objects, etc. Haystack Relo?
- Administration / Governement / Structure / Crowd Control
- as restrictions/obstacles/sand pit to the robot in agent environment
- can't just have a swarm of students and teachers out there -- need structure of courses, curriculum, objectives, requirements (at least, we do in this day and age!) - Report cards, evaluation, feedback
- government, marks, certificates, requirements, funding, curriclum, attendance, delinquent, non-attending, motivation
- school''s images, goals, strengths, payroll, HR, security, accounts, permissions, privacy
- registration, failed courses
- User Environment -- How does this engine work? What does the user see on the screen?
- Introduction - Given a background in educational psychology, how does the system present itself -- what does the user see, and were does this data come from? Links to thoughts from part I.)
- Task Domain Browsing - Suppose you're you're just idly browsing through the "raw" content. How would it look when it's not wrapped around a learning-context or lesson or tutorial or anything. 'Cross between browsing a raw task domain ontology and browsing a learning object repository.
- Cleaning up the data -- Visualizing the data for humans to pick through the task domain and work on it. Suppose the "Subject Expert" discovers an advancement in science and needs to update the "world's" domain knowledge. (I used the "Subject Expert" terminology from Ontologies to Support Learning Design Context - Thanks Chris) How would they make corrections to ontologies and learning objects, or at least point the users of "old" objects towards adopting the newer ones.
- "Modes" - Learning & Lessons / Checklist - Homework, Assignments, Courses being taken / Collaborative mode / Teaching mode / Calendar- email -adminisrative mode -- See also the different kinds of scenarios in the ActiveMath system
- Evolution of this engine
- target some key implementation hooks discussed in part I - design an experiment/demo
- scrape a page - (Note, scraping can only give objective data, not in-context dat)
- LO repository - related to browsing the task domain?
- a learners "To Do" list - where does it come from? Assignments, courses.
- sample group scenario
- sample teacher lesson planning
- sample data "left behind"
- sample use of that data
- Data mining (for what? lol )
- discovery / generation of ontologies - when do you need to hunt for them, and when do you have to have a solidly-known & predictable ontology?
- I/O - where it happens, which languages, protocols, which agents perform i/o and when, precepts, actuators
- Role Assignments
- My Environment Adapts to me
- Displaying feedback from the server on JSP pages (Software engineering considerations)
- Sketching out a design (Content planning vs. Delivery planning)
- agent negotiations / social structures / ummm... Web 2.0 ?
- garbage collection of meta data
- Artificial Intelligence & Evolution
- Memory Culling: Necessary part of intelligence? (artificial or human)
- Applications for the Genetic/Evolutionary algorithm
- open learning environments
- Agents, pets, grouping, Community modelling
- Protocols - finding groups, cyber dollars, state diagrams (?)
- "Community Studies" - graphs & communication hubs, types of communities (free-for-all, hierarchy of authority, etc.)
- implications of joining a community - what do you share, which parts of your student model are relevant
- Walls & sand traps -- deliberate restrictions as problem-solving for learning
- Communication channels - individual-to-individual, individual-to-community, chat channels, agent-only "administrative" communications, ex. requests for related learning objects in a particular community, etc.
- Educational/Pedagogical focus (this part probably shouldn't be its own section but rather incorporated into the whole picture, but it's separate for me right now because I'm still only just starting to learn about it.)
- Semantics - what there is to talk about in Education
- ex. Merril's First Principles of Instruction, linking educational terms to AI terms
- Pedagogical skills for tutors -- supporting human *and* artifical tutors
- Student modelling - what the machine needs to know about the student, pedagogically-speaking, about learning history/preferences
- Roles - Simulated students, Coaches, Tutors, Teachers,