Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trip Story: Denver to Glenwood Springs

On our third full day in Colorado, we checked out of our hotel room in Denver, got in our lovely rental car, started it... and stared in disbelief at the "Check Engine" light.

So our drive from Denver to Glenwood Springs started roughly one hour later than expected. This sadly doomed my original plan of detouring to Breckenridge for lunch and a mine tour, but luckily I had a back up plan in my trip planning document, so we recovered well.

Our first stop on our way out of Denver was the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. If you have any train fanciers in your family, I recommend it highly- there were quite a few actual rail cars to explore, and Petunia (our little train fancier) thought it was awesome. So awesome that she decided to spend some of the money my parents had sent her for her trip at their gift shop. I said we'd pay half (but only half) of whatever she wanted to buy, which nixed the giant train sets she had her eye on. She eventually settled on a stuffed dog in a hat with the museum logo on it. She named him Dog Dog.

Pumpkin liked the train cars, too, but she really loved the model railroad. She and I spent ages watching them model trains while Mr. Snarky and Petunia explored the rail cars.

Pumpkin watching the model trains
We didn't leave the train museum until after 11, so there was no way we were going to make it to Breckenridge for lunch. We decided to stop at Idaho Springs, instead. It was a nice little town, and we had a pleasant lunch at the Tommyknocker Brew Pub. After lunch, we headed to the Argo Mine and Mill. It is a site with an interesting history. The mill was built to process ore coming from mines that were drained by the Argo Tunnel. Whatever I knew about the history of mining in the US from my classes in school has long since melted into the mists of time... so it was interesting to learn about how mining was done, and about the construction of the tunnel.

The kids tolerated all of that, and the walk through the mill, but for them the highlight was panning for gold.

Mr. Snarky helps the kids pan for gold. 

Note the glasses hooked on Mr. Snarky's t-shirt. This is the last sighting of them. The dropped off during the panning, and he didn't realize they were gone until we stopped at a viewpoint on our drive West. He called back to the mine, but although the glasses had been found, they'd been stepped on and rendered useless. So for the rest of the trip, I had to do any driving after dark. During the day, he could wear his prescription sunglasses. (His vision isn't all that bad, so the only downsides of losing his glasses were the driving issue and the fact that I had to read out the beer lists posted in brew pubs.)

I would also like to note that I spent the entire trip lugging around a truly ginormous purse (bought to provide room for carrying snacks and coloring supplies), and could easily have fit his tiny little glasses into my purse, if asked to do so.

Anyhow, here is the view from the viewpoint where we discovered the glasses were gone:

I can't remember exactly where this was. It was before we got to Vail, where we took our afternoon break. The kids played on the wonderful Pirate Ship Playground that I mentioned in the awards show post, and then we had a drink and a snack at Mexican restaurant at the base of the chair lift.

After our stop in Vail, we drove straight through to Glenwood Springs. The drive through Glenwood Canyon was beautiful, but I did not get any good pictures of it. I am not a particularly good "out the car window" photographer. I'd say no one is, but Mr. Snarky actually manages to get some nice pictures that way. I have no idea how.

We were delighted by our hotel when we arrived in Glenwood Springs... but that is for the next trip story, all about Glenwood Springs itself.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Long and Rambling Edition

I feel like I'm getting lazier and lazier about writing my weeekend reading  posts. I guess I'm going with the assumption that you primarily read them for the links, not what I have to say about the links. If I'm wrong in that assumption, well, life is full of little disappointments, isn't it?

Anyway, I thought I'd try to be less lazy this week, but I suspect that really it will come across as me being more rambly. Another one of life's little disappointments, I suppose. Regardless... let's get to the links.

I really liked this post from Marie Connelly about how sexism is the climate, not the weather. Obviously, sometimes it is the weather- sometimes, you're caught in a local downpour and boy, does that suck. But I don't think it is those weather events that push women out of tech and other male-dominated fields. I think it is the climate. It is the realization that the latest downpour is just part of the standard pattern, and you can expect it to be rainy for your entire career. I'll probably return to this topic in a longer post, soon, because, as I tweeted last night, I've been thinking about how sometimes the people you're working with when your patience with the climate runs out aren't the ones who necessarily create the worst weather.

Sort of like how the day that finally pushes you to go buy the air conditioning unit isn't necessarily the hottest day.

But I need some thoughts to finish gelling before I can tackle that post. So: later.

In the meantime, here is an example of how the climate is different for women than it is for men.

In broader news about things that happen to women and not to men... navigating protests while going to see your health care provider! One couple came up with an unusual response to this.

In other "novel ways to tackle depressing problems" news: Detroit's debt crisis has turned into a water crisis, particularly for low income people who cannot afford to settle their accounts. If you'd like to help, you can now be matched to someone who needs help and pay their bill- in part or in full- directly. This is the idea of two coders who started talking on Twitter and decided to do something about it. The two coders, by the way, are Black women, which goes back to the point I've made before about how one reason we need diversity in tech is because we'll solve more problems if we have a wider group of people thinking about what problems tech can solve.

Which is not to discount the importance of community... if you look at the list of other people who helped on that site, there are several whose bios mention Code for America, which is a non-profit working to get techies to think about how their skills can make government and civic life better.

Speaking of the importance of diversity, I really liked this article by Tina Vasquez about literary diversity and why it matters. A couple of particularly good quotes:

"Yes, progress is slow, but it’s always the most needed voices that are forced to wait."


"When you give people at the margins the opportunity and platform to tell their own stories, what is reflected will look like intentional pushback against mainstream narratives. Our stories only seem revolutionary because they so often go untold."

I also have a couple of things about privacy, or the lack thereof.

First, Anil Dash argues that big media companies need to stop considering everything on social media fair game and tech companies need to stop pushing us to expose more and more.

On a more Gibsonian front... Robinson Meyer writes in the Atlantic about using a face painting technique called CV dazzle to hide from facial recognition algorithms.

The weird dissonance of being hugely conspicuous and yet being invisible to computer search algorithms called to mind this article from Will Oremus in Slate about being public but not Google-able.

Of course, that last article isn't so unfamiliar for me: I use a pseudonym here not because I think it truly makes me anonymous but because I think it makes it harder to link this blog to my actual name on Google. I suspect that all of this will be second nature to my kids and the rest of their generation, but navigating it will always be a struggle for me. I've been thinking about that lately, too, as I decide how I'll handle the fact that I have things I want to write and associate with my real name now, as part of the career change I'm making. I'll no doubt write more about that soon, too.

Speaking of the career change thing, this post from Joel Spolsky does a great job of articulating one of my motivations for starting a company. I'd love to make it succeed, hire people, and then prove that a company can succeed and grow without expecting insane hours from anyone. Or, as he says:

"Even though Fog Creek, Trello, and Stack Exchange are now three separate companies, they are all running basically the same operating system, based on the original microprocessor architecture known as “making a company where the best developers want to work,” or, in simpler terms, treating people well.
That architecture is all the stuff I spent ten years ranting on this blog about, but y’all don’t listen, so I’m just going to have to build company after company that runs my own wacky operating system, and eventually you’ll catch on. It’s OK to put people first. You don’t have to be a psychopath or work people to death or create heaps of messy code or work in noisy open offices."

I've got quite a way to go before my company demonstrates anything to anyone, of course, but it is good to have big dreams.

I've also been thinking a lot about travel and its benefits, since I'm just back from a vacation and I've noticed that (1) I'm even more fired up to get my projects going, and (2) that knot in my back I'd assumed was just the latest manifestation of my repetitive strain injury actually went away. And has stayed away, at least for now!

So, I picked a travel related quote to post on Tungsten Hippo today:

"With the disappearance of the familiar and its many calls upon our thoughts, we finally begin to think differently, or even just begin to think at all."
-Evan Rail, in Why We Fly
(If you want a permanent link to that quote, here's a link to the quote on my Tungsten Hippo tumblr).

And finally, I absolutely love the WTF, Evolution tumblr, so I'm happy to see there will now be a book:
I  may just buy a copy for Mr. Snarky for Christmas....

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Body and Me

Nicoleandmaggie's recent post about learning to trust her body (and earlier post about radical self-love) has been on my mind recently, because, as I said in my comment there, my own trajectory has been almost the reverse of hers. I used to trust my body. I used to know what to expect from it, and could predict how it would respond.

But lately... I have felt a certain estrangement from my body. I have gained weight, and don't really know why. I have increased my exercise level, and still the weight stays stuck. I look in the mirror and what I see seems like it isn't really me. I always thought I would age gracefully, but it seems my body has other ideas.

I have been on the fence about whether what I need is a new diet and exercise plan, an attitude adjustment, or a stylist. Probably, I need all three.

The buzz around the essay that jackass wrote in praise of 42 year old women has certainly not helped this 42 year old woman be at peace with her body, but since I have refused to read the essay, perhaps I am being unfair to the author. I have no intention of finding out.

I had the idea that maybe it would help to write a list of the things I like about my body, to counteract the litany of flaws I usually hear in my head. So I started thinking things like: "I have nice ankles."

But then I realized that is the wrong approach. I will never make peace with my body by focusing on what it looks like. I need to focus on what it can do.

I am strong. Several times on our recent vacation, I walked the last 10 minutes or so of a hike holding Petunia, who weighs a little more than 40 lbs.

Exhibit A: hiking with a 4 year old
My body can do things. I can kayak and climb (small) mountains. I have a strong right cross, and can deliver a proficient Muay Thai style roundhouse kick. Actually, I can deliver five or ten strong punches and kicks in a row, as long as I'm aiming at a bag, and not a person. I've never had to find out how my punching and kicking holds up in a real fight, and I never want to.

My body can do other things, too. I grew two babies inside it, and fed them from it for two years each, give or take a month or so. It can still snuggle my kids and make them feel better when something has gone wrong.

My body is resilient. My feet started hurting recently, but some time in orthotics helped them bounce back. I need to wear the orthotics or shoes with good arch support more often than not, but I can still wear my favorite red mary janes, too. 

I started running again, and just this week I ran the furthest I have in years- despite my asthma and the extra pounds. It felt great.

So I guess I can learn to forgive my body the poochy tummy and the extra pounds it seems to want to retain. I can learn to overlook the spider veins on my thighs and the growing number of wrinkles on my face. I can learn to laugh at the fact that my blonde hair is turning dingy instead of grey, just like my maternal grandmother's did. In fact, I can cherish that link with the great-grandmother my kids never got the chance to meet, and use it as an excuse to tell them stories about her. Every time I look at my hair and think it is getting dingy, I hear her voice complaining about the same thing, and that is truly a gift. Her voice has otherwise receded from my memory.

I doubt I'll ever learn to truly embrace the changes age is bringing. I have spent 42 years living in a beauty and youth obsessed culture, after all. But I can try to retrain myself to focus on more important things in addition to how I look. I should probably learn how to dress to minimize the flaws I cannot exercise away, if only to make myself happier when I see pictures of myself. But I should also celebrate what I can do, flaws and all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Trip Story: Denver

If you've never been to Colorado, you may not be aware of the fact that flying into Denver International Airport does not necessarily mean that it makes the most sense to start your trip in Denver. The airport is quite a way out of town and positioned such that it is fairly convenient to several other prominent Colorado cities- when I was working on the itinerary for our trip, it became clear that we could reasonably start or end our trip in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, or Fort Collins.

I decided to start in Denver, though. I figured we needed a few days to adjust to altitude before attempting anything too strenuous, and Denver offered the perfect spot for a slow introduction to our mile-high (and higher!) vacation.

I have family in Denver, and we spent our first couple of nights with my cousins. This made our gentle introduction to Colorado even more gentle- they made us feel very welcome, and took great care of us. They also gave us some ideas of things to do that were a little bit off the beaten path, and gave us a chance to check out neighborhoods that most tourists probably miss. In short: it was awesome.

One of the things we did with our first day in Denver was go paddleboating at Washington Park. Sadly, Pumpkin wasn't much into this experience, but the rest of us enjoyed it.

Not shown: Pumpkin explaining why this sucked
My cousins had a camping trip planned, so after a couple of nights with them, we said goodbye and moved to a hotel for one night. We spent our final day in Denver doing more usually touristy things. Given Mr. Snarky's obsession with state capitols, it almost goes without saying that we checked out Colorado's capitol building. It was nice, but since I do not share Mr. Snarky's love of capitol buildings, my favorite part was the spot on the outside stairs with a marker noting you are exactly one mile high. We took a family picture there- or tried to. Petunia wasn't interested in joining us, so we have a nice picture of me and Mr. Snarky with Pumpkin.

We strolled around the capitol area a bit, but the heat and humidity was getting to our fragile San Diego climate sensibilities, so we decided we needed to head inside for a short break before walking on to lunch. We ducked into the Denver Public Library, and spent some time in the excellent children's room. 

After a nice lunch at a local Mexican restaurant (Zocalo, if you're curious- I had delicious Mexico City style street tacos), we headed to the History Colorado Center. I'd read that they had an interactive exhibit about homesteading that the kids might enjoy. "Enjoy" would be an understatement, actually. The kids loved it. The grown ups grew a bit tired of the interactive portions after the first 50 or so go-rounds, but found the short movie and exhibit about Kiowa, a now abandoned homesteading town, to be fascinating.

You can hardly blame my city kids for being delighted with the chance to gather "eggs" and "milk" a "cow," though.


There were other exhibits, but we hardly got to see them. Mr. Snarky was very impressed by the "time machine" in the lobby. You move the big machine to one of the special spots on the giant map of Colorado on the floor, press a button, and then get to watch a short movie about a historical event that took place on that spot.


After we left the History Colorado Center, we headed to the Denver Children's Museum, which also delighted our kids.

A firetruck was just the start of the delights
One of our guiding philosophies about traveling with our kids is that we have to plan in activities that they will enjoy, so we didn't mind spending so much time at museums aimed at them. However, we did insist on seeing some sights the adults wanted to see. After some rest time in the hotel, we headed out again again to stroll around Larimer Square and to go see the big blue bear at the convention center:

That is me and Pumpkin at the bear's feet
The kids didn't much see the point of Larimer Square, but they thought bear was pretty cool. Pumpkin was a bit disappointed it didn't have laser red eyes like the big blue horse at the airport, though.

We had a great time in Denver. There were a lot of cool things to see that we didn't get to this trip- I want to go back and see the mint when the kids are old enough to appreciate the tour, for instance. But that's OK, we'd love to go back.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekend Links: The Easing Back In Edition

I worked a full work week this week.... sort of.  And I have some links for you, but no theme or attempt to tie them together. Maybe I'll have my act together next week.

Anyway, to the links.

You may have noticed from my Twitter rants on the topic, that I'm beyond disgusted by the stories that keep turning up about Black single mothers having their children taken away from them because they cannot find child care while they work or apply for jobs. I'm not saying that I think the solutions the mothers found were optimal, but I do think the solutions were probably the best of the bad lot they had to choose from, and if that bothers us as a society the appropriate thing to do would be to make child care affordable, not to throw mothers who fail to perform some sort of magic and create an acceptable solution where non exists into jail.

After the most recent case, a lot of people- myself included- were on Twitter noting we were latchkey kids. Stacia L. Brown wrote a powerful reminder that not all latchkey kids are viewed through the same lens in this country.

And speaking of the same behaviors not being viewed the same in all people... a study found that engaging in diversity promoting behavior is bad for your career if you are female or Black.

I have so far managed to avoid reading that Esquire article about how some women my age are still desirable (or something like that), but I keep coming across good responses. This response from Rebecca Traister is particularly good.

Here is a really good article about Sally Ride.

Janet Stemwedel (a.k.a. @docfreeride) wrote a nice piece about science being for all girls, including the princesses. My annoyance with how even some feminists pigeon-hole girls who like princesses was the inspiration for my most recent kids' book (title: Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess). It was nice to read someone else defending the "pretty pink princesses." They are more than that one aspect. Girls, like boys, can have multiple interests at once.

If you have a kid who likes both Barbies and battle armor, you can now get a suit of armor for Barbie.

And someone has taken on the problem of getting water to boil faster... but only for gas stoves, so it won't help me. I'll stick with my "boil in the electric kettle, transfer to the pan" method, I guess.

This story about how a French supermarket cut down on the waste of fruits and vegetables is fun.

And finally, I give you Story Pirates, a Twitter feed to add smiles to your day.
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