Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Three Gifts from Penny Rheingans

My mother's given me an awful lot over these 23-odd years, but here are three gifts from her I'm particularly thankful for:

1) An instinct to not assign to malice that which is explained by ignorance -- to seek first to teach, rather than fight. It's easy to assume that the person causing you harm thinks the same way you do, and so is doing it on purpose -- but surprisingly often, that's not the case. And when the culprit really is malice or active apathy, I learned from Mom just how strong relentless politeness can be at clearing problems.

2) A thorough appreciation for the power of good visual design. Mom's a computer scientist with research interests in visualizing data, and to this day, I'll call her when a problem at work seems to call for some special technique. Some of the best tricks I know (and regularly use!), she taught me.

3) Open eyes to problems of gender bias in the field of computer science. It's easy to see the obvious statistics and cases of blatant discrimination; it's harder to realize the ways that implicit bias creep into the behaviors of well-intentioned people. But they're easier to see after years of deep and thoughtful dinner-table conversation about exactly that topic.

Not a week goes by that these lessons and instincts don't serve me well in some way. And for that, and for them, and for so much more, I'm enormously grateful.