Welcome to the first Charity Sunday of the new year! In case you’re new to this blog, Charity Sunday is a meme I created almost five years ago (wow!), to provide a way for me to regularly support different causes that are important to me – while hopefully engaging some new readers. On the final Sunday of each month, I highlight a charitable or non-profit organization here at Beyond Romance, then invite readers to comment. For every comment I receive, I make a donation to my chosen charity.
Over the last year or two, the event has expanded into a blog hop, with other authors posting about their own favorite charities. If you’re a blogger, you’re more than welcome to join us. There’s no commitment. You choose whether or not to participate each month, what organization you want to support, and how much of a donation to offer. For more information, please email me. (Address in is the blog sidebar.)
Anyway, today I’m throwing the spotlight on Girls Who Code, an organization devoted to educating girls and young women in computer technology, encouraging them to pursue careers in tech, and changing public policy to make the computer industry more equitable and inclusive.
Girls Who Code runs coding camps and clubs, with a special focus on minority and disadvantaged girls; develops and disseminates “code at home” projects to excite young women about computer programming; works with legislators to include computing in K-12 curricula; and sponsors research to document the gender gap in computing as well as to measure the impact of their programs.
Given the incredibly urgent problems facing humanity – disasters, war, famine, refugees, government repression, religious persecution - you might wonder why I’m choosing what might seem like a “First World” cause. With the rise of “Artificial Intelligence” - machine learning, robotics, algorithmic decision making and so on - computing is now on the front lines of nearly every social problem we face. Research has shown that including women in tech teams leads to a stronger focus on real world problem solving and human needs. Computing has tremendous power, either to improve the human condition or to exacerbate its ills. Getting more females into the tech sector can directly affect this balance.
Of course, as a woman in tech myself, I have a personal interest in helping my younger sisters prepare for a career that is both rewarding and critically important.
Anyway, for every comment I receive on this post, I will donate two dollars to Girls Who Code.
Meanwhile, as usual on Charity Sunday, I have an excerpt for you. This is from my very first novel Raw Silk, originally published in 1999. My heroine Kate is a software engineer who comes to Bangkok to take a job at a digital media company. She is working on a project to create artificial three-dimensional displays from two-dimensional video. This is a contract from Gregory Marshall, the charismatic owner of a club in the red light district who has awakened Kate’s submissive instincts.
Raw Silk is full of arousing sex scenes. But this snippet is pure technology. The technical ideas are my own; who knows, they might even work!
Kate had not heard anything from Gregory since his email the previous Friday, and for now she hoped he’d keep his silence. Their sexual encounter had strengthened her determination to demonstrate her professional expertise. She could, perhaps, accept the apparent fact that debasing herself before him, offering herself as his sex toy to manipulate and control, excited her beyond belief. But she could only bear his mockery, she felt, if she earned his respect for her intelligence and technical skill.
It was a quiet week, and she worked hard. By Thursday afternoon, she actually had a prototype. She asked Ruengroj to help her set up the equipment in the conference room—a digital video projector, linked to her computer, and a cylindrical screen, constructed of finely-woven mosquito netting stretched tightly around a frame.
The basic idea was simple. Humans see the world as solid and three-dimensional, but, in fact, depth, the third dimension, is an illusion constructed by the brain. Various types of information available in a scene allow the visual system to infer the relationships between objects, or parts of a single object. One of the most powerful cues is parallax, the differences in the motion of objects that are nearer versus farther away from the viewer.
Kate had written software to artificially generate parallax cues. She could take a pre-existing or computer-animated video sequence and selectively change the motion of specific parts of the images, so that an observer would see the objects in the video clip as having depth. The free-standing screen would enhance the illusion by making it seem as though the motion was occurring in positive space, rather than in the space ‘behind’ a screen.
The algorithms that identified sections of the image to be modified, and the mathematics involved in computing the correct motion, were definitely complex. The principle, however, was straightforward.
Roj finished attaching all the cables. The screen sat on the conference room table. Katherine signaled him to dim the lights then turned on the projector, and adjusted the focus.
A moving image took shape on the table—a female figure, a dancer, undulating in time to unheard music. Her body was gilded, from head to toe. Her hair was gold-plastered against her head. Her eyes were closed. Her long fingernails trailed threads of gold through the air as she raised her arms in a gesture of entreaty.
Kate had chosen to animate the credits sequence from an old James Bond movie, one of her favorites. She could hear the theme song playing in her head as she and Roj watched the dancer.
The effect was surprisingly convincing. Occasionally she noticed some discontinuity in the movement, a slight jerkiness or an unnaturally swift change. Overall, though, the dancer appeared to be real, solid, her curvaceous figure inviting the eye. One could almost reach out to touch those rounded limbs, to cup those swelling breasts.
The room suddenly went dark, as the video clip ended. “Whew!” said RuengRoj, whistling his appreciation. “That was amazing! She seemed so real!”
She realized the imperfections she had detected were probably not apparent to her co-worker.
“Thanks!” she said. “It still needs a lot of work. Plus there are many problems remaining to be tackled, such as how to deal with different points of view in the same image. Also, Mr. Marshall wants to somehow synchronize the images with the mood of the music.” She couldn’t help noticing the way her heart beat faster when she spoke his name. “That will open up a whole new set of issues.”
“Still, this is a great start,” Roj continued, his enthusiasm unabated. “Mr. Edward will be excited that you’ve done so much in such a short time.”
Of course Kate was pleased with his praise. Back in her office, she set to work looking for the logic or calculation errors that had produced the few flaws she’d noticed. Deep in concentration, she jumped when Harrison knocked on her door frame.
“Katherine! Ruengroj tells me that you already have a working prototype of your projective 3-D technology. I’m leaving town tonight, but I’d really like a demonstration early next week. Would that be okay?”
“Of course, Edward. Have a good trip.”
“I will,” said her boss heartily. Then he lowered his voice. “By the way, don’t say anything to Marshall about this yet. I want to make sure that we get everything that we deserve, before we turn this over to him.”
“Oh, this is nowhere near ready to be delivered to the customer.” Kate avoided speaking Gregory’s name. “As I told Ruengroj, there are many issues and problems that I’ve just begun to look at.”
“Even so, keep it quiet for now.”
“I will,” she replied, a bit irritated. He should be cautioning Roj to be more circumspect, not her.
You can buy the updated and expanded version of Raw Silk (2016) here:
Barnes & Noble
Add on Goodreads
Meanwhile, please do leave a comment. Every one means more support for ambitious and talented young women. And I hope you will visit the other authors participating in today’s event, to learn about their charities as well.