Friday, March 27, 2015

Weekend Links, The Oh Well Edition

I'm not going to comment on the Pao/Kleiner Perkins verdict (which is not technically in yet), except to note that legality and morality are two different standards.

There are still biases pushing women out of STEM.

The natural communication style of men and women is still received differently. Kieran Snyder did an interesting analysis on differences in resumes men and women write. It would be interesting to delve into that finding a bit more deeply. Why do women write a different sort of resume? Does a male-style resume perform better for women than a female-style one does? We know that in some cases, male-style verbal communication can backfire on women because it violates our social norms.

Speaking of social norms... they are the topic of the latest installment in Kate Heddleston's blog series about how tech culture works against diversity.

No wonder women are angry.

I'm not going to read more about the Pao/Kleiner Perkins case because I think I need to ignore all of this right now, and just put my head down and work on my projects. I already know the deck is stacked against me. Sometimes it is best just to ignore that fact and plow ahead.

So, let's have some other links!

Uh oh, I don't have any other links.

So here are two adorable bunnies cuddling:

foinzz:

Mogli & Schoki

Reeepost Thursday

(source. But be warned, music will play when you click on that link....)

Also, here is a really nice picture of some of my favorite sea birds.

And it feels a bit mean to laugh at this... but I can't help it.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Random Things, Mostly Good

I feel like writing a blog post tonight, but not like doing the work of writing one of the meatier posts I have on my "to write" list.

So instead, I'm going to write a bunch of random things.

Do you remember the dress that prompted my meltdown a couple of weeks ago? It arrived today. It fits beautifully. It needs ironing, and I need to get some shoes to wear with it. Once I get those things sorted out, I'll take a picture and show you guys how great it is.

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Last night, I was in the mood to make something, so I decided to work on my next t-shirt design. This may actually be more of a mug design, but whatever, let's call it a t-shirt design. My basic method is to take a picture of something, read it into GIMP, subtract the background, and then do some other things until I have a design I like.

For my first design (the dragonflies), subtracting the background was easy, because I could just tweak the contrast until my starting image was black and white, and then remove the black.

My second design (the popsicles) was a little harder, because I wanted a color image. However, I was planning to "cartoon-ify" the image and put it on a black background, so there was a fair amount of leeway in the background removal process.

The design I'm working on now is not so forgiving. I worked on it a bit last night, but I got stuck. I couldn't get the background removed cleanly and I was just getting frustrated. Since the point was to play around with something fun, I quit and went to bed instead.

Today, the solution to my problem was obvious. It involved changing the background (so taking a different starting picture) and adding a step before I attempted to subtract the background. I essentially started over and got several steps further than I had been last night, all in less than 30 minutes.

Here is a sneak peek of the design in progress:
Coming soon to a mug (or t-shirt? or shopping bag?) near you

I am still deciding if it needs further tweaks, and what sort of products to put it on. But I'm fairly happy with the work in progress.

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Yes, the links to the designs in the previous sections go to my tumblr and not to my Etsy shop. But the links in the tumblr posts go to the Etsy shop. I'm still keeping one level of separation between my full name and this blog, not because this blog is super secret but because I write about my kids here and want to make finding this blog relatively hard for their eventual junior high school friends. At some point, Google's algorithms will catch up with me and this will no longer work. My hope is that by that point my kids will be too old to care what random crap I wrote about them on this blog.

My whole charade of separation is fairly ridiculous, I know. But it helps me sleep easier at night, and that's worth something.

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Speaking of things in my real name, I have been using my Pinterest account again, trying to better understand that network. I still don't really get it. I've found a few of you to follow (and if there are more of you who want me to follow you on Pinterest, let me know in the comments or by emailing wandsci at gmail dot com). I've found a few other accounts to follow. I mostly pin pictures of places I want to go, pictures of recipes I want to try, and pictures of clothes, shoes, and jewelry I want to buy. Pinterest tries to help me expand my horizons, but so far its algorithms are close... but not quite right. It suggested a beach here in San Diego as a "travel destination." It is a lovely beach and definitely a good destination for someone who doesn't live here, but it is old news to me. It tries to pick clothes I would like, but is currently showing me "modest dresses," which isn't an entirely accurate match for my personal style. And for some reason, it thinks I want tips on camping.

But, I am determined to figure this out. I'm going to be pinning ideas for our upcoming trip to France, and I keep pinning clothes I like, even if the majority come from eShakti because that's what is in my feed.

Anyone out there have Pinterest figured out and want to tell me how to better use it?

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My latest Chronicle Vitae post is up. I can't link to it because it is published under my real name, but it is about personal productivity and how it is both simpler and harder to improve than you may think. If you can't find it, I can email you a link. I can find it right now by Googling my last name (which you can guess from my books), "Chronicle Vitae," and productivity.

I am already working on my next post, because that is how deadlines work when editors are involved. (Don't misunderstand: I love having someone to edit my work. They just need time to do their work!) I wanted to write about argument culture at work, inspired by the Kate Heddleston post that resonated so strongly with me. I was talking about that post with Mr. Snarky, and he reminded me of the culture of the project on which I first met him, which could at first glance be characterized as an argument culture. But I thrived on that project, and clearly got along well with my colleagues since I married one of them. After much thought, I think I know the reason: I don't think that was actually an argument culture. I think it was a dialogue culture, and there are important differences between argument cultures and dialogue cultures. I want to explore that a bit... but I realized as I started to dig in that this was going to take more than the week I have left before my deadline.

So I came to my senses, and drafted a post about handling job uncertainty instead, which was something that was already on my planned topics list and doesn't require new research. I'll do the argument culture post next time.

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To support my planned post on argument culture, I went and borrowed Deborah Tannen's book The Argument Culture from the library. I decided I wanted it yesterday morning, and was proud of myself for looking it up on the library website instead of just buying it for my Kindle. I determined it was available at the branch in Pacific Beach, which is not far from where I live. So I thought I'd drop by and pick up the book and a guidebook to France on my way to my lunch meeting.

I forgot- AGAIN- that library hours are shorter now than they were when I was a kid. The library wasn't open yet, so I sheepishly drove off without any new books. Luckily, it was Pumpkin's parent-teacher conference yesterday, so I was able to go back and get my books before dinner. Pumpkin came with me and found another book in the Humphrey series that she's loving. All's well that ends well.

And with that, I think I should end this post and get to bed!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rebuilding

Reading Kate Heddleston's post about the negative impacts of an argument culture produced a bit of an "a ha!" moment for me. I think I'm closer to understanding what happened to make me abruptly quit a job that was perfect for me on paper. It has been almost a year since I quit, and although I am glad to be on the track I'm on now, I would like to understand what happened.

I am usually quite good at sticking to a long term plan, and the long term plan this time last year was for me to stay at that job for another 2-3 years, building up money to support an eventual foray out on my own. Striking out on my own 2-3 years early has certainly made the transition more perilous for our family finances, and although I still think it was the right thing to do, I want to understand what made me throw my long term plan out the window and just quit, so that I can better protect myself from future issues.

I will probably write more in the future about the ways in which the culture at my last full time position was a poor fit for me. I'm not quite ready yet: I feel like I'm still gathering the pieces that will allow me to put together the puzzle and understand what happened. I now know that there was a cultural mismatch and there was a commuting problem, but those don't seem like all the pieces to me. I'd like to understand the entire picture before I start expounding too much about what is shown on any one piece.

What I can say now, though, is that in some ways I would probably have been better off if I'd left that last job earlier. It did a fair amount of damage to my belief in my own capabilities, which is something I've been working to build for decades. I am surprised by how easily years of work can be undone, but I have to face the truth of where I am now and just start rebuilding.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I sat and watched my daughters' gymnastics classes. Petunia has recently moved up to a harder class, and is thriving, Yesterday, I saw her walk confidently along the high balance beam, without even the pretense of holding her teacher's hand. Her arms were out to her sides, and her head was up and she just walked along the beam, ignoring the teacher following along and spotting her. I thought back to when she first started gymnastics. She would inch tentatively along a beam that was just an inch or two off the ground. She picked her way along slowly while her classmates ran around her. She started out far more timid than her classmates, but has worked on her skills and is now as confident as anyone else in her class.

There is probably a lesson for me in that story. I've had a setback, and feel more timid than I did a few years ago. But I can work my way back from that deficit. I just need to focus on working on my skills and build my way back to where I was- or better.

Tungsten Hippo was initially conceived as a side project to help me build new skills and also protect my own belief in my technical skills as I worked in a job that was undermining that belief. I haven't been using it in that way lately- I've been focused on content, and not on making website improvements and the like. So today, I didn't just add another taster flight post (this one about assassins). I also added a new taxonomy for blog posts and now you can see all the taster flights at once. This is not hard to do in Drupal, but it is not as straight-forward as it is in WordPress or Blogger, which have tags enabled by default.

I'm also bumping my efforts to learn how to create Android apps up in my priority list, and I'm making time to include more background learning about Java and the theory of programming while I learn the specifics of Android programming.

I think the final thing I need to do to shore up my confidence is start studying more of the academic literature about management. I was by all accounts really good at this aspect of my job. The problem was that it was not an aspect that got a lot of respect. I think management is worthy of respect, but maybe part of me has internalized the negative opinions about it. To combat that, I'm toying with setting up a schedule for "journal club" like posts over at my "real name" blog. (As always, send me an email or DM if you want a link to that blog- I'm happy to share, but am hiding the association of this blog with my real name from Google, so don't make many actual links.)

I have to find the right balance between doing what I need to do to bring money in for short term needs and doing what I need to do to support my long term mental health and goals. I'm finding this balance difficult to strike, but perhaps if I just keep inching along I will eventually find my way back to the confidence I need to walk confidently on the high beam again. In fact, maybe I'll be able to walk on a higher beam than I've ever managed before. In the meantime, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and at least I'll make some progress.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Why Do I Keep Pretending There Is a Theme Edition

When I signed Pumpkin up for a make-up gymnastics class this afternoon, I thought this would be a good day to do it, because I wouldn't be too busy. I was wrong! I spent roughly 2 hours on Wednesday shuttling paperwork for our house remodel and getting the kids signed up for summer camp... so I'm a bit behind on my to do list for the week.

So once again, my links list is going to be a bit terse. Sorry about that! However, the links themselves are all great, which is hopefully some consolation.

This article by Jen Dziura has some really great ideas for how to make sure you split the parenting work fairly. (It also has a really annoying format, but the content is worth the annoyance.)

This article about the pioneering programmer Stephanie "Steve" Shirley provided me with a new favorite quote:

"You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads. They’re flat on top from being patted patronizingly."

Here's a piece from another pioneering woman in tech, successful entrepreneur Heather Hiles, about the diversity problem in Silicon Valley's venture capital firms.

Kate Heddleston is writing a great series of posts about the aspects of tech culture that work against diversity. Go read her posts about the problem with argument cultures and why criticism is ineffective feedback. Anyone who gives anyone else feedback should really read that piece about criticism: it is an excellent introduction to how to give effective feedback. The fact that it also explains why negative criticism is more harmful to underrepresented groups is a bonus.

Her most recent post in the series is about onboarding.

Turning to problems in popular culture. Anne Thériault got a lot of online abuse when she wrote about GamerGate. Here, she writes about how the misogynistic trolls used her love for her child against her.

This is a really interesting piece about the color of people in comics.

Here is a post from the mother of the young man at the center of the uproar about the school that said the pledge of allegiance in Arabic. I'll just note that since my daughter goes to a Spanish immersion school, she says the pledge in Spanish every day. My husband thinks the entire pledge this is a bit weird. Since I grew up saying it, too, I never thought much about it, but now I'm inclined to agree with him. Having our school kids say the pledge of allegiance every morning is a weird thing we do.

In other news, California is in the midst of a very bad drought. Bad Mom, Good Mom discusses the problem, and provides a lot of links for people who want to know more. And you should want to know more if you live in the US: chances are, a lot of your food comes from California. Here's an LA Times story with more information about our drought.

The San Diego Police Department has been trying out body cameras. Here's how it is going.

Every once and awhile I run across something online that just bends my brain a bit. This post about how "pop up" cities in the Canadian Arctic might be models for future installations on other planets is one of those things.

This is a really interesting piece about Medium and blogging. I'm not sure yet what I think of its arguments, but there is certainly a lot to think about in it.

And, of course, some happy things at the end:

Here is a nice article about women surfing in Iran.

Here's a tumblr of snarky opt out messages.

Awwww... what are the chances?

I love this picture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Uncertainty Resolving

The uncertainty that sent me over the edge last week is resolving. We got our taxes back. We owe, but not too much, so we can go ahead with the room addition. That is going to relieve a lot of pressure on our family long term- we have a couple of serious space use issues that were going to be hard to solve without more space. I'm sure we would have found a way, but I like this way. Before the room addition, our house is only ~1300 square feet. After the addition, our house will still be smaller than most newer single family homes. I've ranted before about how everything that goes into our house- from furniture to toys- has been upsized over the years (really, go look at the Fisher Price Little People sets from now and from 10 years ago if you don't believe me). We try to use space consciously and well, but there are limits to what I can do with creative storage solutions!

So anyway, the room addition is going forward and we are all very excited about that, albeit a little nervous about what the construction period will be like.

It also looks like Mr. Snarky will get to come to my friend's wedding in France with me, because it looks like he will be able to combine it with a work trip. We're still awaiting final approval on that, but for now, our assumption is that we are both going. The kids will stay home with my parents. (Construction will start after that trip, because it seems a bit much to ask my parents to take care of my kids and deal with construction, and due to permitting, etc., this only introduces a two week delay.)

Since our home will be under construction this summer and Mr. Snarky and I will be having a little vacation in France, we won't be trying to do an extensive family vacation this year. We'll still take a week off, but we'll probably just stay here in San Diego and enjoy our beaches and other tourist attractions. Maybe if the construction is frustrating us, we'll even treat ourselves to a night or two in a local hotel. We'll see.

With that settled, and with info from day care about when their special summer activities will be, we were able to decide on summer camp plans. I have them all mapped out and just need to go book them. I may even do that tomorrow.

So... phew. It is good to have all that settled. I still have a lot of work-related uncertainty- I want to find more hours of contracting work, and it is not yet clear where those will come from. I'm more used to dealing with that sort of uncertainty, though, and am already working to resolve it. Still, if you or anyone you knows could use some project management or informatics advice or hands on help... hit me up!
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