Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Release Day for Love and Other Happy Endings

It is release day for the second "taster flight" of classic short stories that I've put together.

Love and Other Happy Endings has five short stories:

  • The Singing Lesson, by Katherine Mansfield
  • Akin to Love, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Mr. Lismore and the Widow, by Wilkie Collins
  • Head and Shoulders, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Other Man's Wife, by James Oliver Curwood
All are love stories, and all end on a high note. I like them all (obviously) but my favorite is Head and Shoulders. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the one with the most thought-provoking ending. Some might argue with me that it is actually a happy ending at all, but I explain why I consider it a happy ending in the afterword of the book. I don't want to explain here, because it would ruin the story if you decide to read it!

As usual, you can get all the purchase links on the book's webpage, but I'll put them here for convenience:
You can also buy the paperback directly from CreateSpace if you'd like.

The GoodReads page is still in process. I can't run pre-order periods on Amazon on books of public domain stories, and that delays getting the GoodReads page created. Once it is available, I'll include a link in a Friday links post. 

If you want to help me spread the word about the release, here are some easy things you could do:

My release day was marred somewhat by having to spend two hours this morning dealing with a hack on Tungsten Hippo. I wasted a bunch of time trying to deal with it last night- lesson learned, wait for the US support team to be back online. I don't think the offshore support people are less skilled, but I think their processes don't let them be as helpful. There's an interesting post in that for some other time. For right now, I'll just note that staying up until after midnight trying to fix the site last night was an error in judgement, and I'm very tired and maybe should just go take a nap now. I have things I want/need to do, but am perhaps too tired to do them effectively.

But still, hooray for release days! 

Friday, February 05, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Back on Track Edition

I am pleased to report that I successfully reburied the feelings brought on by the Jason Lieb story and I got boatloads done this week, despite losing a fair amount of Wednesday to a combination of dealing with that and the effects of the illness Petunia and I had and despite losing half of Tuesday to said illness.

The cost of getting a lot done despite those things is that I don't have very many links. But the links I have are good, so let's get to them!

First of all, here are some really good things written about the sexual harassment scandals in science: Tenure, She Wrote on how this shouldn't be her job to fix and Mathbionerd's letter to her students. I'm sure many more good things have been written, but I decided to stop reading about this topic, in the interests of reburying unhelpful feelings and getting a boatload of stuff done.

Next, wow, here was another story that hit me in the gut. Ann Friedman on being the "No woman" at work. Let's just say I strongly recognized myself and my work history in that story and move on.

This story about medical bias against women is equally infuriating. It sucks to think that we need to be ready to fight to be taken seriously in the doctor's office, but I guess I'm not surprised we do. Doctors are humans and humans have biases and we're only just starting to try to figure out how to tackle them.

I love this:

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Beware the Narrative, Part II

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that the latest sexual misconduct in science news comes from the university where I did my undergraduate studies.

I was taken by surprise by how much more strongly this news affected me compared to earlier revelations. My undergraduate years were also when I experienced what is objectively the most severe gender-based harassment of my career. As I tweeted last night, I let it be handled quietly by the PI of the lab I was working in, because I needed the PI's letter of recommendation to go to graduate school. A friendly professor in a different department had already alerted me that the PI in question had damned me with faint praise in a letter submitted for a scholarship competition. I'd addressed that and was fairly certain future letters would be better... and I couldn't afford to upset that balance if I wanted to go to graduate school.

I should be clear. The PI and I never discussed "the deal" by which I didn't raise the harrassment to the higher authorities and the PI wrote good recommendations. Perhaps, if given the chance, the PI would have written glowing recommendations even if I had involved others in my complaint. I'll never know.

I do know that as things happened, I got accepted into several really good graduate programs. I picked the one that seemed like the best fit for me, went to graduate school, landed in a lab with a truly great PI, and had an overall good experience. I also, for the record, had an overall good experience during my undergraduate studies, and still think that choosing that particular school was one of the better decisions I've made in my life. As I wrote about in an earlier navel-gazing expedition, University of Chicago was good for me.

Anyway, I got my PhD and spent 15 years in the career that the PhD launched.

And then, a little over two years ago, I left that career path. In one way of looking at it, I left abruptly. In another way of looking at it, I just moved up the start of a plan that had been forming for some time.

Which is the right way to look at it? I honestly still don't know.

I wrote last night that one of the hardest things in making the decision to change career paths was feeling like I'd let my younger self down. She'd put up with a lot to get to where I was, and I in a sense threw that sacrifice away.

What I eventually came to think, though, was that her sacrifices had allowed me to get to a place where I had some genuine options, and it was OK to choose to stop putting up with the things that continuing on that career path required me to put up with.

It is hard for me to compare how hard it was to deal with that undergraduate harassment experience with how hard it was to deal with the "energy tax" I wrote about earlier this week. If I wanted to really understand how those things did or did not lead to my decision to change career paths, I'd have to do a lot more work than I am willing to do right now. I will say, though, that I personally found the constant second guessing of my own experiences really hard to handle. Was I being "over-sensitive"? Was I wrong to not want to always be the one smoothing things over? Was my perception that I was always the one smoothing things over wrong? Was I misinterpretting things? Maybe I just wasn't as good, or maybe my ideas weren't as good, or.... Gah. It went on and on. I still feel like an unreliable narrator of my own career, particularly the last five years or so of it.

Beyond that, you could also tell the story of my decision to change career paths multiple ways. I've written about that before, too, and still believe that trying to make sense of people's messy lives with neat, clean narratives is a mistake.

I was flippant about it last night on Twitter, but I really have made peace with the fact that younger me made sacrifices to stay in a career that current me decided she didn't want. I view all of my career experiences as building on the previous ones, and not just because the money I earned in my first career is what gave me the space to try this new one. It also gave me knowledge and skills that are relevant, even as some other knowledge and skills are getting left behind, at least for now.

Also, I'm truly excited about what I'm trying to do now. There are definitely problems in science and technology that are related to gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, and other factors about which people are often biased. I applaud and support the people tackling those problems.

There are also problems related to the fact that the cultures of science and technology undervalue the skills required to manage groups of people working together. This undervaluing leads to people managing groups of people working together with no actual clue how to do it well. Sometimes they have good instincts and do OK. Sometimes they don't, and really bad things happen. I don't think these career paths burnout so many people  because they are working on such hard problems- a lot of the people who choose these fields choose them because they enjoy working on hard problems. I believe the lack of management skills contributes directly to the burnout rate. That is just a belief right now, because I've never seen any data on it, but this is where I think I can make a more direct contribution. And that is one of the things I'm trying to do in my current work.

I'm trying to do other things that really matter to me, too. But this post is getting long and rambly, so I'll save that for another time.

My point here is that: yes, bad things have happened over the course of my career. Some of those things probably had a role in my decision to change my career. But other things also had a role, and some of those were positive- I saw different problems I wanted to work on. In the end, it doesn't matter why I, personally, left my old career path. What matters is that on average, more women leave than men. Personal stories help people make sense of that overall trend, but don't expect any of them to be neat and tidy stories.

And I'll leave it there. I needed to get this much out, to finish processing what I was feeling when I read that story last night, but I don't want to delve deeper. I have enough work booked and enough money in the bank to be certain that I'll get to stay on this career path for the rest of this year. If it becomes clear that I'll need to go back to something closer to my old career path in order to pay the bills, then I'll need to examine what caused me to leave a bit more closely, so that I can find a way to go back and stay healthy and happy.

Until then, though, I think I'll bury this again. I have work to do.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Sick Days and Advance Notices

Yesterday at about lunch time, the school called to tell me Petunia had a fever. Unfortunately, I didn't get the message until almost 45 minutes later, due to a dead zone in the building I was in and my failure to check my messages promptly.

So, poor Petunia had to wait almost two hours for me to come get her. She may never let me forget this.

She's home from school today, too, of course. She still has a fever, but once that is controlled by Tylenol, she wants to do things. Mostly, she wants to do art projects based on those shown on some shows she likes watching.

This is not entirely conducive to me getting work done, but I have managed to get a couple hours' worth of work in this morning. Mr. Snarky comes home in about 45 minutes, so that I can go to a meeting I have scheduled.

I'm not feeling 100%, either. This seems to be the same old thing that we've been dealing with since Petunia was a baby: she gets a fever for three days, I get a sore throat and a little rundown feeling, and everyone else is fine.  I just fell down a rabbit hole looking for old posts about Petunia's fevers for any curious new readers. Here's one, but the story wasn't as over as I thought when I posted it. Here was the start of the great health scare, round 2. Here is a post written at the time we were in the midst of the worst of it. In the end, we did nothing, and the fevers got less common as she got older... and I noticed the correlation with my mild sore throats. My current theory is that there is some family viruses that hit Petunia hard, gives me a sore throat, and don't bother most other people. But to be honest, I don't think about it much anymore- I just work out the logistics for a couple of Petunia sick days and we all go about our business.

In a perfect world, I would have just given up on work for the day and spent the day snuggled up next to Petunia on the sofa, reading. But, this is not a perfect world, and I really don't want to get behind again after just finally catching up... so I've been working.

I even have things to show from my work!

The next Annorlunda Books Taster Flight is making its way through my proofing process. I am now confident I'll get at least the ebook versions ready for a February 10 release date.

The book is called Love and Other Happy Endings. Here is the cover:

And here is the link to the webpage where purchase links will appear as they become available. Since this is a collection of public domain stories, I can't have a preorder page on Amazon, so I'll just try to time the release.

And most importantly, here is a link to where you can sign up to be an advance reader. I should have advance e-copies to distribute by Friday.

In other advance-y news: I'm starting to put together a plan to promote my latest 1 hour, $20 online seminar, which is a seminar version of the time management workshop I gave recently. You don't have to wait for me to get the promo plan sorted out, though- the seminar is enrolling now, and if you sign up before February 9 and use the promo code NEWSLETTER you'll get $2 off the price.

The seminar is a distillation of some of my favorite time management techniques, along with a discussion of how to use the data you collect by tracking your time to figure out which techniques will help you the most. I was really happy with how the workshop turned out, so I decided to take the information I presented and turn it into a seminar. When I gave the workshop, I had several hands on exercises to help people try out the techniques we were discussing. I've moved those to a "next steps" document that you'll get with the seminar.

And speaking of that workshop... I just got an email from the people who are supposed to be paying me, indicating that they need yet another form filled out. So I think I'll end this post here and go fill out the form. Getting paid is nice, after all.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Hidden Costs

I've been thinking a lot about the hidden cost of the way things are, and how hard it is to see the costs when you aren't the one paying them.

The line of thought was kicked off by a stray tweet that came across my timeline and made me think about how much I still haven't fully processed the events that led up to me quitting my last full time job. I oscillate between thinking I should drag all of it out, perhaps with the help of a therapist, and really deal with it and thinking that I'm doing pretty well now, so why dig all that up again?

And really, the particulars of what caused me to spin out aren't novel and aren't all that interesting. Even I'm a bit bored by them at this point. What is interesting, at least to me, is the way that I could like and respect everyone individually, but that the culture that they made working together was pretty much toxic to me. And how they didn't really notice, even as I was slowly imploding from the stress of it, and how some of them never understood why I left and to this day think I just wanted more time with my kids. (Note: I do not spend more time with my kids now than I did then. I do spend happier time with my kids, but that's just because I'm happier pretty much all of the time now.)

I don't think these guys are particularly clueless. I think that the costs I was paying were so foreign to them that they didn't even see them. I tried once to explain that the way I had to be to interact successfully at work was bleeding over into the rest of my life and making it hard for me to interact successfully with my friends and my kids' friends' moms. But that didn't go well, because I was pretty sure the person I was trying to explain this to just thought this meant I was friends with silly people, and that is not the case at all.

I did get at least one person to understand that a confrontational approach would backfire if I used it at work. But they didn't see the way that meant I was constantly getting stepped on by the people who could get away with a confrontational approach, and the way it meant that I had to just absorb a lot of other people's aggravation. They could direct their emotions out, but I couldn't respond in kind, and just had to carry mine with me.

I never even tried to explain the cost of having to prove I knew what I was talking about over and over and over, because I knew without asking that in their view, that was what everyone has to do. They didn't think they were interrogating me. They thought they were interrogating my ideas, and may the best idea win. And maybe they were. I was certainly not an impartial observer. But since my perspective- both because of who I am and because of the different expertise I had- was often so different from theirs, my ideas were more likely to be interrogated, because they were different.

Ugh. This is getting boring again. Back to the general point about costs.

I've been around long enough to have practice navigating all of those issues. The problem, which I probably should have seen coming but didn't, is that all that navigation had a cost. It was like a tax on my energy and enthusiasm that I had to pay and most of my colleagues did not have to pay.  Probably the easiest way to explain what happened is that I didn't notice the extent to which that tax was draining my reserves, and I went broke.

In fact, I went in debt, and it took me a good six months or so to pay that back and build up reserves again.

Think about all the myriad people this sort of thing happens to, and all the different energy taxes there are. I paid some of them, but I am exempt from a lot more. There are no doubt a bunch that are as invisble to me as the ones I paid were to my colleagues. I have almost certainly contributed to someone else's energy bankruptcy, without even realizing I was doing it.

This has got me thinking: would it be possible to build a workplace that was energy tax-free? I doubt it. But we could perhaps build a workplace that recognizes the taxes exist, and tries to compensate for some of them. I have almost no idea what it would take to do that, but I think it is worth thinking about, particularly if we want to build truly inclusive workplaces, because the taxes are not uniformly distributed and probably never will be.

I don't have a conclusion for this piece, but it has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now and I wanted to let it out. If you're so inclined, help me think this through in the comments. What energy taxes do you pay? Do your colleagues see them? How could your employer help minimize them or at least compensate for them?
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