Mattel thinks I’m too stupid to code

In college, my math professors liked to give us “problems of the month.” A problem of the month was a particularly difficult problem to solve, and we were required to try to solve at least one problem of the month, once a semester. We could earn extra credit if we correctly solved the problem.

During my sophomore year, I realized that one “problem of the month” could best be solved iteratively. I checked the official rules for “problem of the month,” and noted they were silent about HOW I solved it. The rules only covered who could not help me (i.e. other human beings). Since the rules did not forbid it, I sat down, did some basic coding, and wrote a computer program that I could run overnight on a lab computer to solve the problem. The next morning, I collected the correct answer from the computer and printed out a copy of the code to show my work. While it certainly wasn’t what the department was expecting, I got full credit. I got some good-natured ribbing about being a computer science major and using java code. I was told that my professors were surprised someone thought to code a program to solve the problem (this was not how problems of the month were traditionally solved). What I didn’t get was anyone suggesting they were shocked I coded because I was a female. (You go, Gettysburg College! Four for you, Gettysburg College!)

I have to admit, it was a nice change from my high school experience. In high school, when I signed up for a C+ class, the teacher pulled me aside before the semester began to ask if I really wanted to take the class. His reason for why I might not want to? I was the only girl in a class full of boys. To this day, I’m not sure why being the only girl should be a reason not to take a class. I wanted to learn how to code, so I took the class. Not only that, I was good at it. I blew through the assignments so quickly and easily that the teacher had to develop entirely new, more difficult projects for me so I would have something to do other than stare at the wall.

Look, here’s the deal. I’m a female, and I’m a damn good coder. Coding is intuitive for me. My mind naturally processes data in the same way a computer would. I’m also highly skilled in mathematics, and hold an advanced degree in chemistry. I’m not an anomaly. I have a large number of female friends who could make these same statements.

It can be frustrating being a female in the STEM fields. We are constantly being misrepresented in the media, and even by some of our male peers. Just today, I read a comment a male coder wrote online about how women coders are only hired to meet affirmative action guidelines. (I almost responded with “I’m sorry I code better than you,” but then decided I didn’t feel like getting into a pissing contest with a skunk three days before my second degree black belt test. I’m too busy training to kick ass to argue with a neanderthal).

While there are ignorant idiots out there, recently there’s been a push to encourage females to embrace engineering. Commercials like this one from Verizon demonstrate how little things we say to girls can impact their beliefs as to whether a STEM career is appropriate for them. There’s now a line of engineering toys for girls. And, while I believe that blocks, tinker toys, and train sets are and always have been “girl toys,” I have to commend people for trying to encourage girls to be comfortable in pursuing their interests in the STEM fields. It’s a nice change.

But then we had to go take a few steps backwards.

If you haven’t been following the Internet today, this happened. And by “this,” I mean Mattel published a book that teaches little girls that they are not smart enough to be software engineers.

Yes, the book is called “I can be a computer engineer.” No, that is not the actual message of the book. Instead, the message is – and I kid you not – that the girl is only good for design tasks. The boys do everything else. And what do boys do that girls do not? Coding. And, apparently, running anti-virus software (the book implies this is too hard for the poor, pitiful female brain to grasp, despite it requiring nothing more than clicking on an icon and hitting “run scan”).

You guys, I never realized male genitalia were required to be able to press buttons on a keyboard or move a mouse. Silly me. I’ve been using my fingers for that.

All snark aside, I know I’m beating a dead horse here. I know I JUST BLOGGED ABOUT THIS. And yet, here we are. Again.

We have got to stop telling our girls they are not smart enough to be scientists, mathematicians, and computer engineers. If a girl wants to design the graphics and storyline for a video game, that’s awesome. If she wants to be able to code the game as well, we need to make sure she knows she can do that, and that it’s awesome, too.

Our failure to encourage women to pursue STEM education and careers only hurts us, as it takes capable minds out of the process of finding solutions to our problems. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to live in a world with less disease and better standards of living. I’d like to see a cure for cancer and HIV/AIDS in my lifetime. I’d like to see more advanced robotic surgery techniques that allow better treatment and speedier recoveries. I want to see better diagnostic tools, safer transportation systems, and faster, more robust global communication. We should have all the best minds on these things to ensure we’re working towards a better future. When you take half the population out of the running to do so, you’re cutting your chances at success.

When you tell a girl she’s not smart enough to be a scientist or engineer, you’re hurting all of us. So stop it. Stop it right now.

UPDATE: A graduate student in a computer science program wrote this – https://cfiesler.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/barbieremixed.pdf – and it is awesome.

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I’m a Geek, a Nerd, and 100% Proud of It….but it wasn’t always that way

Growing up, I was the “different” kid. While my peers were discussing which one of The New Kids On The Block they would one day marry or playing with their mother’s left over make-up, I was daydreaming about fantasy worlds and make believing I was my favorite heroes and heroines from obscure literature or reading books my aunt got me about super cool science experiments. As I got older, my imaginative and creative streak isolated me from many of my classmates. I was “weird” and “a freak.” It certainly didn’t help that I had too-thick hair that always tangled and a set of coke-bottle eyeglasses, or that I was the kid who thought school was fun and enthusiastically participated in class, or that my parents restricted my television viewing to age appropriate material so I never knew about the “cool” new thing my classmates would discuss at lunch. I was a natural target.

The bullying started when I was nine.

In high school, I learned to hide all those geeky parts of myself so people would like me. I joined sports teams, and tried to pay attention to fashion (though, to be fair, I’ve never been good at that). I started to make friends with the jock clique, which came with protection, and my chief tormenter ceased attending my school. Things got better. I focused all my attention on being “perfect” in an attempt to trick people into liking me – and in doing so, completely lost myself.

As an adult, I finally began to learn to accept who I am – a fangirl, scientist, sometimes-crazily-eccentric, geeky girl. To my surprise, I found that my adult peers were more than accepting of this. In fact, many of them were geeks as well and had suffered through similar childhood bully trauma. These days, I’m completely comfortable with my geekiness. If someone wants to give me a hard time for knowing obscure werewolf facts or wearing my Ravenclaw scarf or bemoaning whether I want to risk going to see yet another Star Wars sequel that “will never live up to the original trilogy” – then fuck them. I don’t need people in my life who don’t realize how great geekiness is and or who try to rain on my awesome.

Unfortunately, the school scene has not changed since I went through. There are still little girls (and boys) who are relentlessly bullied for liking geeky things.

Several years ago, I read about a story about Katie, a little girl who was bullied because she liked Star Wars. The bullies told her she couldn’t like Star Wars, because she was a girl and Star Wars was for boys. You can read about Katie’s story here. When I read her story, I wept, because I knew what she was going through and how much it hurt. Fortunately, the geek community learned about this and responded in a positive way, showing Katie she was not alone.

Today, Facebook group “A Mighty Girl,” posted that another little girl, Allison, was being tormented for also liking Star Wars, and that Katie and Star Wars fan group the 501st Legion reached out to her. You can read their post about the story here. When I read it this afternoon, it stopped me and uprooted me to the point that I had to blog about it right away. Every time I hear a story like this, I cannot help but remember what it was like to be that little girl. And, while it is awesome when the geek community bans together to help one of our own who is experiencing bullying, it breaks my heart that we continue to have to do so at all.

The bullying needs to stop.

As adults, we might not see everything that goes on in schools. We can, however, stop giving the bullies ammunition. We need to stop saying that some careers, games, or media is “for boys” and some is “for girls.” Girls are allowed to like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and boys are allowed to like My Little Pony. There are not “boy” subjects in school and “girl” subjects. There is no reason why boys should not be fascinated by English literature or for girls not to find physics interesting. Girls are free to take part in the martial arts and boys are free to pursue an interest in dance. Gender stereotyping happens every day for no realistic reason, and it’s used by bullies to target kids who don’t fit into those stereotypes.

We also need to stop telling our kids that it isn’t cool to be smart, or artistic, or different. As a society, we need people with an interest in science to provide innovation. We need people with an interest in art to remind us of our humanity. We need those “weird,” “different” people, because they will be the ones who change the world for the better. We have to stop perpetuating false and hurtful stereotypes of geeks. Mainstream media phenomenon “The Big Bang Theory” is especially offensive (and unrealistic) in its treatment of scientists and participants in the fandom community, although it is not alone. For those of us with the power to control the message, let’s applaud the future thinkers instead of teaching them that they don’t want to be what they are.

I’ve ranted quite a bit, so I will end with this:

To those doing the bullying – why does someone being different than you scare you? Why do you feel so badly about yourself that you have to hurt someone else?

To those suffering from bullying – you are not alone. There are so many of us who have lived what you’re living and have your back. Stay strong. It will get better.

New Training Goals

For the past few years, my training goals have evolved.  To be honest, in the beginning, other people had to set my goals for me because the whole training thing just seemed a bit too impossible.  This is actually one of the great things about martial arts – each belt level provides you with a small set of skills to accomplish and builds on the skills learned at the previous level.

For the next year, I’d really like to concentrate on strength.  While strength has always been part of training, it hasn’t been front and central.  I’m also not stupid enough to go “let me try to add weight lifting every day to my routine” – that sort of thing will result in burn out, injuries, or both.  But I’m going to see what I can do with a year.  Dun Dun Dun…….

How To Fix Your Endless Auto Repair Loop (Toshiba Windows 8.0)

Two weeks ago, my Toshiba laptop (which I’d had for less than a year) crashed.  Every time I would try to start it, it would just sit in an auto-repair loop.

First, I searched the Internet.  Various people offered suggestions, and I tried all of them.  None of it worked.

Next, I called Toshiba.  Twice.  Both times, the person said there was nothing I could do but reload all the software and go back to the beginning.  Because the computer itself wouldn’t allow for the reload using its internal tools, they had to send me a memory stick with the information.

Before I rewrote my entire hard drive, I decided to try to recover my data using a recovery tool I own that allows some hard drives to be used as USB drives.  I removed the drive and recovered the data.  Afterwards, I returned the hard drive to the computer and it miraculously worked. It turns out that Customer Support doesn’t really know what’s going on with this error.  The error is caused by a faulty security permission.  By accessing the drive itself, the security permissions can be reset and your drive will then become usable once more.

 

In case this happens to you, here’s how to fix it:

 

What you’ll need:

– phillips head screw driver

– dynex hard drive converter kit (or similar kit)

– a second, working computer

 

(1) Using the screw driver, remove the hard drive from your laptop.

(2) place the hard drive in the converter kit.

(3) plug the converter kit into your USB port for your second (working) computer.

(4) Go to USERS.  Select your User ID and right click.

(5) Select Properties from the drop down menu.

(6) Go to the Security Tab.

(7) There is a button allowing you to reset permissions.  Hit the button.  For every user group listed, change all the permissions to allow anyone to read, write, access, etc.  Some of them will throw errors and say they cannot be changed.  Just hit Okay and keep going.

(8) When done, hit the OK button at the bottom to get back to the Security Tab screen.

(9) In Security Tab, choose Advanced Settings.

(10) In the first panel, select the option to change all the children and parent settings of the user groups so that they may be accessed, read, written, etc. by anyone.

(11) Choose Apply.  (This will fix the errors from above that say they cannot be changed).

(12) When complete, keep hitting OK until you are out of the Properties window.

(13) Double check that you can now access the user group.

(14) remove the hard drive from the kit and return to original computer.

(15) start original computer.  It should work now.

Depression

By now, you’ve probably heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. There have been a variety of reactions to it. For me, personally, it hit hard. Every time I hear about the suicide of someone with depression, it hits hard. Not because suicide is tragic – although it is – or because depression is a horrible disease – although it is. It hits hard because I know it could be me.

This fall is my ten year anniversary. Ten years ago this November, I walked into a doctor’s office and asked for help, because I knew if I went home that night, I was going to harm myself (I was planning to start cutting). I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was able to recognize that what I was thinking wasn’t something other people thought about. Even then, it took the encouragement of an acquaintance to get me through that doctor’s office door. After talking with several doctors, I learned what was wrong – what had been wrong for many, many, many years.

I have clinical depression.

It is not my fault.

My depression has a very physical cause – genetics. My brain is wired a little bit differently than most people’s brains. My DNA tells my body to make too much of one chemical and not enough of another. It has always been this way. It always will be this way. Most of the time, I can live a completely normal life. Sometimes, though, those biological differences cause me to get sick again. By learning to recognize the symptoms and by developing coping mechanisms, I can emerge on the other side and go back into what I call “remission” – a time when my depression falls silent and lets me live normally once more. I know, however, that it is only a matter of time until I become sick again. This is the nature of the disease.

These days, most people have no idea that I’m sick. Even when my depression re-emerges, I’m quite skilled at hiding it. Most people will never know unless I tell them. This is where things get complicated. People recommend that I not talk about my illness. It “makes people uncomfortable” or “suggests [I’m] weak.” And maybe people are uncomfortable when I talk about depression. Maybe people (wrongly) believe I am weak because I have an illness. My staying silent, however, isn’t helping anyone – not others and not myself.

Mental illness comes with a huge stigma. There is a pervasive belief that depression is not a real disease, and that anyone can overcome depression if they just “suck it up and deal.” I’ve even had someone tell me that my depression was caused by me “not loving Jesus enough” and that if I prayed, it would go away.

Normally, I ignore these types of remarks, because I know they’re wrong. However, I felt compelled to write this – to speak up – after a friend linked me to an article by blogger Matt Walsh. Mr. Walsh wrote several pages in which he argues that suicide is a choice, and that Mr. Williams made a fully informed, fully capable choice.

People who have never lived with depression have no idea what it’s like. They’ve never experienced what it’s like to look at the world and see it as a lonely place in which there is no love and no hope. They don’t know what it’s like to believe that they have no one who gives a damn whether they live or die. They don’t know what it’s like for there to first be pain, and then for there to be nothingness.

When you’re in the throws of depression, when you’re contemplating suicide, you are not capable of seeing the world as it actually is. That’s what makes depression so dangerous. Severe depression removes a person’s ability to appreciate what that “decision” means.

This is not a new concept. We have long recognized that a person suffering from mental illness may not be capable of fully appreciating their actions if they commit a crime. This is why we have the defense of “not guilty due to mental disease or defect.” We recognize that, when the mind is impaired, one is not capable of forming a legal contract or consenting to sexual activity. These are legal principles that have been understood and enforced for decades. We know that an impaired mind is not capable of making an informed choice. By that same logic, suicide is not a choice.

I recognize that Mr. Walsh and those who say the same things as him think they are helping. That is why I have to speak – so there is a chance they might see that they could be harming those they are trying to help. Someone struggling with mental illness who is told that they are to blame for their contemplations of suicide only has the stigma accompanying mental illness reinforced. They feel judged and worthless, which only forces the depressive cycle deeper. I know this is the effect these types of words have on people with depression, because people said these same things to me. It made it worse. I didn’t get help for years because of people in my community saying these sorts of things. I believed those people. I believed I was weak. I believed it was my fault. It wasn’t. I can’t control my genetics. I am not my depression. And I am a remarkably strong person. I know this now, but I didn’t know it then.

I don’t want those who are depressed to feel the shame of the stigma, to believe that something out of their control is their fault. We need recognition that depression is a disease. We need to stop blaming those who suffer, and start focusing on finding cures.

EDIT – I want to add a link to http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html, which is a blog article where the author tries to explain what her depression is like. It does a good job of explaining what it’s like to go from pain to nothing and then be in that hopeless, nothing world that depression can cause.

The Bat Story

In early 2014, I had an…let’s call it an incident with a bat in my home. Afterwards, I wrote up an explanation of the story and posted it on Facebook. As it seems to be a favorite, I’m reposting it here for all eternity….

January 28, 2014:

Despite years of training to be a strong girl at White Tiger, tonight, I epically failed. There was much not-strong-girl screaming involved.

Here’s what happened. I was sitting in my room, watching SVU while surfing the internet for Remus Lupin fanart. The SVU episode was one I hadn’t seen for a while and I was trying to remember what happened next when Elliot was pushed off a roof by the perp. My attention was suddenly directed 100% at the television. Now, my television is right beside the door to my bedroom. As I’m watching to see what happens next, I notice Cyana running back and forth in front of the door to my bedroom. Now, let’s be completely honest – this cat does not run like that these days unless a can of food is being opened. Wondering what’s going on, I start watching the door and I notice something floating past my door in the air right before Cyana runs past it each time. Hmm. That’s odd. As I continue to watch, I realize the floating something is sort of big. At first, I think “moth?” and then realize it’s too big for a moth.

And that’s when I realized I had a bat in my house.

I responded by immediately locking myself in my bedroom.

Now, for those of you who aren’t in North Carolina, right now we’re having a “snow storm.” Thus far, the roads are wet. Nonetheless, the fact that something white is coming from the sky means the state is in full out terror mode. Everything has closed. Even Wendy’s closed. There is no question that, if I called animal control, I would have been blown off. If I’m not calling about snow, North Carolina doesn’t want to hear from me.

Unsure what to do, I called Jane, who usually has good ideas on how to solve grown up problems. Jane suggests that I try to hit the bat with a towel. Okay. I tell myself. I might be able to do this. First, I have to get dressed, since I was in my pajamas and I’m not going to fight a bat in pajamas. I put on the hooded sweatshirt I wore to gymnastics last night, a pair of sweatpants I found on the floor, and socks. Next, I cracked open my door. Didn’t see the bat. For a moment, I thought I might have imagined it, until I realized Cyana had just chased it into the living room.

So that the bat couldn’t get into any of the other rooms, I shut the doors to the spare bedrooms and guest bath. Then I found my gloves, put on my snow boots (no, I don’t know why I thought that was appropriate footware for bat fighting), and grabbed the orange beach towel that had been on the back of the door in the guest bath. I slunk down to the kitchen and peeked into the living room. The bat was still flying around in a circle while Cyana watched it. I ducked back behind the china cabinet and wanted to cry. Unfortunately, crying wouldn’t make the bat go away. I tightened my hood so only my eyes were visible, opened the front door, and started swatting at the bat. In my mind, my plan was to try to trick it into flying out the door. This plan failed. Instead, the bat kept flying around. Every time it came near me, I started to scream and thrash about with the towel.

And then the towel hit the bat. The bat skidded under one of my chairs. I held my breath and watched. The bat didn’t move. I moved closer, and the bat suddenly sprung up and started flying again. Cue another round of hysterical screaming and swatting with the towel. Finally, I made contact between towel and bat and knocked the bat on the floor again. The bat didn’t move so I grabbed a clear, plastic bucket and inched closer. When the bat continued not to move, I dropped the bucket over it. Now, I had a trapped bat, but I had no idea how to get it out of my house. While I thought the bat was dead, there was a chance it wasn’t, and I didn’t want to have it flying around my house again.

I went downstairs and got the cat food box. Once the cat food box was empty, I cut it open and laid it flat. Returning to the living room, I began to slowly ease the flattened box under the bucket. As I did, the bat – which was not dead – started flying around the bucket and flapping against the sides. Unsure of what to do, I put a fan on the box so the bat couldn’t knock the bucket over. I then finished getting the cardboard under the bucket. Because the cardboard was bendy, I was worried that it wouldn’t stay in place with the live bat flapping around, so I found a plastic lid for one of those big storage boxes and then eased the cardboard-bat-bucket combo onto the lid.

Pinching the lid and bucket together, I carried the whole combination outside, shut my house door, and then carried the combination to the far side of the driveway. I pulled the top off, turned, and ran back to the house. The bat did not follow me. I’ll get the lid back tomorrow.

Don’t Worry. You Will Not Get Ebola At DragonCon.

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed a number of posts on Geek websites and social media, expressing fears that going to the fan convention DragonCon in Atlanta will result in a risk of exposure to the Ebola virus. These concerns stem from the transport of two Ebola patients from Africa to a special isolation facility at Emory University Hospital. Since there was a time in my life where I became a bit obsessed with this disease and read everything about it that I could get my hands on, I figured it might be helpful to assuage some fears if I made an Ebola Primer.

 

Q: What is Ebola?

A: Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever found in Africa. In early stages, Ebola symptoms look a lot like influenza symptoms. Late stages of the disease can include organ failure and/or bleeding.

 

Q: How do you get Ebola?

A: The Ebola virus that is causing the current epidemic in Africa is the Zaire strain. A person contracts this type of Ebola when he is exposed to the body fluids of someone with the disease. You can also contract Ebola if you come into contact with the body fluids of an infected primate (monkeys) or some species of bats (in Africa; the bats in your backyard are not a risk; please do not harm the bats in your yard). Unlike viruses like influenza, Ebola is not an airborne disease. You have to touch an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids to become infected.

 

Q: If Ebola is not airborne, why are so many people in Africa contracting Ebola?

A: There are several reasons. In Africa, when people get sick, they typically don’t go to a doctor. Instead, their families take care of them. If the sick person has Ebola, the family members who are taking care of him are exposed to his blood and bodily fluids, and often contract the disease themselves. Many people who live in the region of Africa where the current epidemic is occurring also have certain burial and funeral rites that require them to wash the body of the deceased. If the deceased died from Ebola, washing the body would bring the washers into contact with the victim’s infected blood. Although doctors have tried to explain why these activities are dangerous, doctors are not always understood or trusted in these regions. Additionally, the sanitary conditions of the countries in Africa where the epidemic is occurring are not on the same level as those found in first world countries, which also leads to higher risks of infection.

 

Q: If doctors in Africa contracted Ebola from treating Ebola patients, won’t the doctors at Emory face the same risks?

A: No. The African countries involved are poor countries. They often do not have the funds for or access to treatment and safety devices found in the hospitals of wealthier countries. From the pictures of the current clinics that are being circulated in the news media, it appears that the clinics do not have the proper equipment for safely treating Ebola patients.

In first world countries, doctors and scientists use special safety suits when interacting with very deadly diseases (i.e., biosafety level 4 diseases). These suits look a lot like space suits. Here is a picture:

biosafety suit

Because of how the suits are designed, the diseases cannot get into the suits. In addition to using these suits, doctors and scientists interacting with Ebola are subjected to a series of decontamination procedures after leaving the room with Ebola. These procedures include things like safety showers and/or treatment with certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light that kill viruses. This keeps the disease from exiting the isolation rooms when the doctor leaves.

The isolation rooms themselves are set up so that only certain people with special clearances can get in. The people who go in will have to wear the special suits discussed above. The rooms are designed so that air can flow into the room, but not back out. The rooms that the two Ebola patients will be staying in were actually specially designed in case scientists at the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) accidentally came into contact with a dangerous disease they were studying and needed medical treatment. This is the exact sort of thing the hospital is equipped to handle safely. Ebola is not going to get out of the isolation rooms at Emory.

 

Q: Is there a risk that Ebola could get out during transport of the two Ebola patients from Africa?

A: No. The Ebola patients are arriving via special planes that are designed to prevent diseases from escaping. They will be put into special suits during the time they are not in the hospital so that Ebola cannot leave the suit. Ebola is not going to get out.  And again, you have to come into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids to contract Ebola.

 

Q: How can you be sure this stuff is going to work? Ebola has never been in America before.

A: Actually, Ebola has been studied in America for many years, to include studies using non-human primates (monkeys). Those laboratories are set up similar to the isolation rooms at Emory. Ebola does not get out. There is also the Reston virus, which is a type of Ebola that only infects monkeys and was discovered in a monkey house in Reston, Virginia.

 

Q: Why should I believe you over Donald Trump?

A: I have an advanced degree in biological chemistry. Donald Trump builds vacation resorts.

 

Q: So you’re saying I won’t get Ebola at DragonCon?

A: You will not get Ebola at DragonCon.

 

Q: Why are some people saying that we will all get Ebola and die?

A: There’s a lot of misinformation floating around on the Internet. There is also human nature – when we don’t know about something but it sounds scary, we tend to become frightened and react. The best way to address these sorts of things is with knowledge. When you know the facts about something, it becomes a lot less scary.

 

Q: Where can I learn more about Ebola?

A: Here are some useful links to get you started:

The CDC’s webpage on Ebola is here and their FAQs are here.

Here are the Wikipedia pages on Ebola generally and the Zaire strain.

The non-fiction thriller “The Hot Zone” is about the Reston monkey house events. It’s a bit sensationalized, but it’s a good read and what originally got me interested in learning more about the Ebola virus.

Here is a blog post from a researcher who specializes in studying deadly diseases about why there is no reason to be scared out about Ebola patients being transferred to a secure hospital in the United States.

Mashed Potato Eggs

Had some fun in the kitchen this morning and made a breakfast that is one part scrambled eggs, one part mashed potatoes, and 100% yum.

What I used:

1 small potato
1 tbspn olive oil
1 slice of onion (chopped)
2 eggs
some chicken breast (I keep this precooked and precut in my fridge)

-Chop the potato into cubes and boil in water for 20 minutes.

-Put potato in pan with onion, chicken, and olive oil. Mix together, mashing potato cubes while mixing.

-crack eggs over mixture. Continue mixing until eggs scramble and are scrambled with the mixture.

-Eat!

What I Do (and don’t do) at Taekwondo Competitions: A Primer In Pictures

In honor of my upcoming tournament trip, I’ve decided to explain my taekwondo tournament life in pictures.  You’re welcome.  (None of the pictures are me.  I just googled).

Whenever I tell people I compete in taekwondo, I make sure to emphasize that I compete in forms.  Forms are a set of choreographed movements that depict a series of defenses and offensive counters.  Forms competitors are judged on their accuracy (4 points in WTF scored events) and performance (6 points in WTF scored events).  Forms are the “art” part of “martial art.”

What I actually do:

Poomsae (forms); this is from the form I will do in my next tournament.

Despite explaining what I do, people are generally convinced that I am totally badass fighting all the time.  Even family members have expressed interest in how I fight in tournaments (even though I do NOT fight in tournaments).  To be fair, I’ve had family members think I do “karate” and “judo,” so I’m excited these days when they remember my sport is called “taekwondo.”

Regardless, having now fielded these questions for the better part of the year, here’s what I’ve realized:

What people think I do:

(This is MMA, not taekwondo; most of these movements aren’t even LEGAL in taekwondo)

What people who know MMA and taekwondo are different think I do:

Getting warmer …..but still, no.

What people who have seen the Olympics think I do:

This IS taekwondo, it’s just a different event (sparring)

And once again, what I ACTUALLY DO in tournaments:

This is from a form called Koryo. This sequence is one of the most wicked hard things to do EVER. I literally spent six months face planting on the mat trying until I learned how to do it.

Questions?

Little Belts Are Watching….

When I was a little belt, I was intimidated by all the bigger belts.  To put it in perspective, I was easily intimidated as a little belt, but, damn, those big belts were good.  I would watch them in their classes and wonder if I would ever be able to do those things.  (Answer: yes.  eventually.  with a lot of hard work).

These days, when I take a class, I give 110%.  I’m not always the most athletic, and sometimes it takes me more practice than other students to learn a skill, but I always try.  I try for a lot of reasons – it’s the only way to get better, I’m paying for this and want to take it seriously, I really love taekwondo and want to be the best taekwondo person that I can be.  I also try hard because, when I was a little belt, there were some big belts that I saw trying really hard, and I wanted to be like them.

One of those big belt students was in the class after mine.  When my class was over, I would sit and drink my Gatorade (and try not to pass out) while the class after mine would start.  That class was predominantly male, but there was this one chick who attended.  She was super bad ass and was always, always, always pushing herself.  I want to be like her, I’d think while I watched.  Of course, I’d never actually voice those thoughts, because I was a little belt and was intimidated by everything.  But I did try to push myself because I saw how that student pushed herself to get better, and I thought that, perhaps, if I pushed myself then I might someday be able to be bad ass, too.

And then one day, when I was a blue belt, I was filing out of my class and the class behind us was coming in, when the aforementioned bad ass student stopped me and complimented me on my effort.  I did not even realize the bigger belts knew we existed (let alone big belts in other martial arts disciplines).  I mumbled one of those awkward thank yous and then sort of shuffled out of the class, but I beamed all the way home.  It’s awesome to littler belts when the bigger belts compliment them, and I was just floored that one of the best students in the school thought something I did was worth stopping me and complimenting me on.  And I tried even harder.  By the time I was testing for my bodon belt, I was training five days a week.  And you know what?  I did get better – and I’ll receive my black belt in two days.

Why am I telling this story?  Three reasons:

First – to those of you who are not white belts and are reading this entry – look out for the belts who are littler than you.  You set an example for them.  Be the sort of role model you’d want to have.  Also, remember that your encouragement can help them succeed.  Not to go all Sasha Belov on you, but remember that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

Second – to any white belts who stumble upon this entry – choose to learn from those who have been where you are now.  Emulate their good habits, because that will help you succeed.

Finally – I’ve found that sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest differences, but we often don’t ever learn how that small thing we did had a huge impact to someone else.  I seriously doubt Sherry knew how much she helped inspire me to be better.  I wanted to share this to say thank you to her as she tests for her third black belt this weekend.  (She’s totally going to kill it).