Thursday, March 11, 2010

can you give me five minutes?

OMG! I was on the phone with Robyn at the LWV office just now, and she said, "Can you give me five minutes?" This, after I'd waited through a couple minutes of music on hold, which I hate unless it's baroque chamber music.

I told Robyn, in the nicest possible way, that I could not GIVE her five minutes because I did not HAVE five minutes. In my book, I explained, time is not HAD but USED. Well, it's HAD in the sense that everyone gets an equal amount (24 hours a day).

So I thought, why not USE the time Robyn wants GIVEN to her to write something and post it on my blog? I'll just keep writing until she calls me back (unless it takes her a really really long time), and then I'll post the blog. Fun, huh? Also an experiment that
   [ here's where Robyn called me back ]
reminds me of Ada Lovelace Day (coming up on March 24) and my pledge to post a blog on that day about an important woman in technology or science.

Last year, my Lovelace Day post was about Grace Murray Hopper, USN (1906 - 1992). I didn't have my own blog spot at that time, so posted it on the generic page set aside for blogless bloggers.

So what does all this Lovelace/Hopper stuff have to do with the giving (or not) of five minutes? One of Hopper's signature questions was: "How do you value your data?" She illustrated her answer by pulling out a piece of wire and talking about how much time it took a certain amount of data to travel through that wire. At least that's my recollection, which of course may be flawed.

Somehow I'd like to try to establish the value of five minutes by calculating the amount of writing I can do in that amount of time. I used to assign students to write a '15 Minute Essay' (in class) on a surprise topic at least once a week. I would write along with them. Of course I had the advantage of knowing the topic in advance, but it's surprising how much a person can write in 15 minutes. By the end of the semester, most students (and I!) could write considerably more in 15 minutes than they wrote at the beginning.

A compulsive knitter of my mother's acquaintance (this was back in the 1950's) used to value her time in terms of how many yards or skeins of yarn she'd managed to use. I think this is very similar to the concept of Murray's piece of wire and my blog-length measure -- whatever it turns out to be.

I'll come back to this post and add a bunch of links later.* Right now I don't HAVE TIME!

* DONE, at 3:23 pm!

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License