Monday, September 01, 2014

A Seriously Good Weekend

I was going to write up the next installment of my trip stories from our recent Colorado vacation, but I decided I wanted to tell you about my weekend, instead, because it was a really good one. I'll post about our visit to Colorado Springs later this week.

Our weekend started with a Friday evening visit to our local park after dinner. Mr. Snarky got off work early, so we had a slightly early dinner, which gave us time to walk down to our park and play a bit before bathtime. The kids were delighted by the change in routine, and didn't even complain about the fact that we were walking to the park instead of driving.

Saturday morning, we took a trip to the new downtown San Diego Library, which was one of the things I'd put on our 2014 Family Fun List. It was indeed a very fun trip. My biggest complaint is that when I searched Google Maps for "parking near (the address of the library)" it didn't show me that there was parking actually AT the library. So we ended up walking a lot farther than we had to. That was not a huge deal, although the kids sort of ran out of steam on the way back to the car and I ended up carrying Petunia quite a bit. So, note to other San Diegans: there is parking at the library, and the first two hours are free with validation. We'll use that next time.

The library itself was nice. There is a good-sized children's room, with lots and lots of computers (which the kids loved) and a kids' non-fiction section. We often struggle to find non-fiction books for Pumpkin at out branch, because there the kids' non-fiction is mixed in with the grown up non-fiction, so you can't really browse.

After we checked out our books at the fancy self-checkout counter (which the kids also loved), we headed to the downtown location of the Broken Yolk for breakfast for lunch. We had a rare meal in which everyone liked what they ordered at ate without whining.

Saturday afternoon, I delivered on a promise to Pumpkin and took the kids to get a Hawaiian Shaved Ice. There is a place called Ice Blast that isn't too far from us. It was the first shaved ice any of us had tried, but we all liked it and agreed it was much nicer than a regular snowcone.

The shaved ice place is in one of the parts of town where Asian business cluster, so I was intrigued by the bakery in the same mall. I wondered if it might be a place with interesting Asian pastries, similar to 85°C. So after we finished our shaved ices, we went to check it out. The Big Joy Bakery turned out to be more about cakes and cookies (they also have sandwiches and coffee) than pastries, but it was still quite good! I let the kids each pick out a cookie, and I bought a slice of a passionfruit mousse cake to take home to Mr. Snarky. They also had some other interesting looking cakes, like a green tea cake with custard filling, so perhaps we'll go back as a family some time and sample more of their offerings.

Sunday, Mr. Snarky went for a long run, and the kids played nicely together for an entire hour while I wrote a post for my Tungsten Hippo site. It is a "read together" post, in which I recommend two short ebooks that I liked on their own but think complement each other to make an even better pairing, sort of like a wine and cheese pairing.

A little later, we went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. The kids had a blast, and I managed to stay pretty zen about the noise and chaos until the very end, when I had to restrain myself from yelling at the people who were creating extra chaos at the counter where you exchange your tickets for crappy plastic things and candy. This may be a new record for me, though, so perhaps I am finally learning how to get into the Chuck E. Cheese spirit.

We ended the day with a visit to some friends for a swim and BBQ. The swim was almost ruined by the fact that we forgot to bring the kids' googles, but luckily two of the adults who came had goggles and didn't mind sharing them. Thanks to the rescue goggles, the kids had a great time swimming. I am blown away watching Pumpkin swim. She is a strong swimmer now, and has a particularly beautiful butterfly stroke. I look at her swimming and flash back to her early days in swim lessons, when she essentially just sank if the teacher let go of her. Petunia is not quite as strong a swimmer as Pumpkin (yet!) but she has more body fat, so she floats a bit better. Also, she is fearless and loves to swim. After the swim, the kids, Mr. Snarky, and one of our friends went to the park in our friends' complex and had races with the crappy rocket launchers we had bought with our Chuck E. Cheese tickets earlier. Then we had a delicious BBQ followed by an even more delicious pavlova (our friends are Kiwis).

Since this is a three-day weekend, we got an extra day for fun. Pumpkin really wanted to go to Pelly's Mini Golf to show it to us- she'd gone there on a camp field trip. Our kids do best if they have something organized to do for at least part of the day, so we headed up to Del Mar this morning and played a round of golf. I have to hand it to Pumpkin. It is a really nice course and we all had fun.

Not shown: the cool ocean breezes
Petunia has a very unusual golf style, but she loves to play.
Her stance is uncharacteristically normal in this shot. She often holds the club backwards.

And she scored two holes in one, so perhaps I should ask her for advice instead of trying to fix her stance!
I demonstrate my so-so golf skills
 All in all, it has been a great weekend. Pumpkin starts second grade tomorrow, so this is officially our last summer weekend. Unofficially though, summer goes on at least through September, and we have more fun planned. The San Diego Pacific Islander Festival is coming up, and we want to go this year. Mr. Snarky and I went one year, and we've been meaning to take the kids pretty much since Pumpkin was two. This year, I wrote the date on our calendar, so I suspect we'll actually make it. We'll probably sneak another beach day in, too.

So, I'm not sad to see summer end. If anything, I'm excited to be able to walk Pumpkin to school in the mornings again, instead of driving her down to the YMCA for her summer camp. Still, I'm glad we've seen the official summer off in such style. And really, we've still got more seeing off to do- Mr. Snarky and the kids are in the back yard having a water gun fight. I think I'll join them!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Ongoing Randomness Edition

If you missed it on Twitter, this week I got an eye infection and by Wednesday afternoon I couldn't open my left eye, so my whole family got to take a trip to urgent care. Fun! As we were driving to urgent care, I was thinking that this was my first eye infections since I weaned Petunia, and how much easier it was to deal with these things when I had a supply of breastmilk (really). But luckily for me, the infection was bacterial and responded quickly to the stinging eye drops and I can see again.

I also rather comprehensively broke my glasses, which was poor timing, to say the least. Today the nice technicians at my eye doctor managed to jerryrig a new arm on my glasses, so I can wear them until my new ones come in, which is great because I can't wear contacts until I've finished the eye drops.

So, I can see and don't have to choose between my prescription sunglasses (awesome Maui Jims, but even they struggle at night time...) and a scuffed up back up pair of glasses that are so awful I went ahead and bought two new pairs today. One pair is purple, because why not?

I also procured a P.O. box number that I can use, so I set up a newsletter after all. It is the hip thing to do, after all, and I am definitely hip. Evidence: soon, I'll have purple glasses! It will be monthly-ish, and will focus on setting up a company and the projects associated with said company. I will probably also write some about that here, but at much more random intervals.

Anyway, the newsletter is called Founding Chaos, and you can subscribe here:

As a special incentive for people to subscribe so that my first newsletter goes to someone, the day I send my first newsletter, I will randomly pick one subscriber and give that person a copy of one of my ebooks- winner's choice which one.

I don't know when I'll send my first newsletter- one thing at a time!- so sign up now. (I'll probably remind you one more time, but sign up now, anyway.)

And now- the links for your weekend reading:

This old article from Alexis Madrigal is interesting, and offers a potential explanation for the rising popularity of newsletters. It will not surprise you to learn that I found it while asking Google "should I start a newsletter?"

Xconomy has some more info about the San Diego scientists who are working on Ebola. Science also published a paper on Ebola genetics, which I have not had time to read yet. However, I did read the very sad note that five of the co-authors on that paper have died from the virus. I am humbled by their courage, and the courage of all of the people working to contain the outbreak and treat the sick, often without adequate supplies.

Back here in the US, the map in this article showing the distribution of hate tweets sort of blew my mind. At first I thought there was some sort of population density effect, but then I noticed how grey California was, and clicked through to the project website and read that they normalized by the number of tweets. Also, the text in the article indicates that the hate tweets are more prevalent in rural areas. Yikes. You can zoom in on the map on the project's website and see how your area does. San Diego is more racist than homophobic by this measure. This does not surprise me.

Speaking of depressing maps, here is one that shows how segregated America's schools are. California comes off a little less well in that one.

This wonderful essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates touches on the effects of segregation, and so much more. Definitely read this one. It is long, but will reward your time, as Coates' writing tends to do.

Hillary Clinton finally spoke about Michael Brown's killing and events in Ferguson. At least she said reasonable things. Jamelle Bouie had some interesting observations on this.

This article in Cosmo about the time one of the female Occupy protesters recently served in jail raises a lot of interesting issues. I'm still thinking about them, so I can't really say more than "go read it."

My neighborhood is embroiled in a bit of controversy about the city's proposal to change some zoning to allow denser (and taller) housing near trolley stops that will be going in soon. I am actually considering going to the next planning meeting to see what the planners have to say- I've looked at their plans and they seem reasonable, although they will block at least part of some people's current bay view. I wonder if there has been any offer to compensate for lost home value due to that? And whether they have plans to deal with the increased traffic at the freeway on ramp? Could they perhaps compromise and rezone for higher density but keep the current height limits? I'm inclined to be in favor of some sort of in fill plan. I live in a central neighborhood with reasonable commute times to both downtown and the high tech/biotech cluster, plus good access to nice things like Mission Bay. We should try to do some in-fill in areas like mine, or else we'll see skyrocketing housing costs like San Francisco has or ever increasing sprawl and the smog that brings. Neither of those are desirable outcomes. It is going to be hard, but we will be better off if we can find a way to allow development in established neighborhoods.

Which is sort of what this blog post says, but with a lot more research and knowledge to back it up. If you live in an urban area, it is well worth your time to think about these issues, and that post is a good start.

A couple of things I shared on my other accounts this week:

From Tungsten Hippo: this Flavorwire article about expanding the boundaries of the literary world.

On the account I'll tell you about if you email me (or DM me on my Wandering Scientist Twitter): a Fast Company article about the power of taking a walk break. I consider my daily walk almost sacrosanct. I usually take it right after lunch on days in the office. I've replaced it with an early afternoon run on days I'm at home. Both work well for letting my brain find the solution to whatever problem I've loaded into it before I go.

And finally, my happy ending:

Scientists have finally figured out exactly how the rocks at Death Valley's Racetrack Playa move. I really want to go see this sometime.

Why they didn't just fly eagles into Mordor:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coming Soon: Navigating the Path to Industry

Do you remember that short ebook about job searching that I decided to write? Well, it is almost ready to be released.

It is called "Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager's Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry," and here is the cover:

The cover was created by Susan Lavoie, and I am thrilled with how it came out. She sent me four initial ideas to choose from, and all of them were about 1000 times better than any cover ideas I had. 

The book will be out on Amazon on Wednesday, September 10. I will get it out on, Kobo, and iBooks as soon as I can after that. I've also gone ahead and purchased ISBNs, and plan to figure out how to make the book available in Overdrive, too, so that any interested libraries can add it to their collections. It may actually appear on Amazon a day or two early- I am not a big enough publisher yet to be able to have a pre-orders page and control the release date. So, I'll upload the book, push publish, and wait and see when it becomes available. I'm going to do my best to make sure that it is available for purchase at Amazon on the 10th, though- so mark your calendars!

If you were a beta tester or volunteered to be a reviewer, your advance review copy should be in your inbox before the end of the day on Friday.

If you're new here, or somehow missed me talking about this before and are wondering what this book is all about, it is exactly what the subtitle says it is: a compilation of my advice for people looking for their first job outside of academia, based on my 10+ years as a hiring manager. It had its genesis in a series of blog posts I wrote with job searching advice, but I've added a lot of additional information beyond what I covered in those posts. The topics covered in the ebook are:
  • Laying the foundation for your job search (getting organized, getting mentally prepared, plus some etiquette tips)
  • Figuring out what you want to do after academia
  • Building a network (including informational interviews and the use of LinkedIn)
  • Networking as part of a job application
  • Writing a resume
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Interviewing
The PDF version of the book is about 40 pages.

The feedback from the beta testers was quite positive- plus they gave me some great ideas to make the book even better, which I have incorporated into the final product. I've figured out how to format it properly and have tested it on as many devices as I can get my hands on... and I am beyond excited to get it out for other people to read.

I thought I might set up an email newsletter for people to subscribe to for notification of when this book is released, but thanks to the anti-spam laws, that would require disclosing my business address in the emails. My business address is also my home address- so I think I'll postpone the newsletter idea until I can justify the expense of a P.O. Box for my business. If you really wish I would publish an email newsletter, tell me why in the comments, and I may reconsider and get a P.O. Box sooner rather than later. Until then, I'll just tell you all about book releases and the like here and on Twitter. I of course appreciate any signal boosting anyone wants to do, as well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trip Story: Alamosa

We spent most of our Colorado vacation in the mountains, or at least near them, with one significant detour: after we left Aspen, we drove south and east to Alamosa. Mr. Snarky had read about the relatively new Great Sand Dunes National Park, and really wanted to see it.

The drive from Aspen to Alamosa was one of the longer ones of our vacation, but we still managed to get checked into the hotel and even get some laundry done before it was time for dinner. We headed to Calvillo's, a Mexican restaurant that was highly rated by the online reviews. The food was pretty good, but the entertainment was even better. There was a duo performing Mexican folk songs. The man had a beautiful voice and played better than decent rhythm guitar. The woman played intricate finger-picked melodies on lead guitar and sang a solid harmony. Together, they were absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, they left before I found out who they were or put a tip in their jar. I was planning to do so on our way out, and they finished performing before we finished eating.

The next morning we headed out to the dunes as soon as we could- we wanted to get some time on the dunes before it got too hot.

The kids and I walk across the dry riverbed to the dunes
The dunes were beautiful. The clouds passing overhead made shadows on the sand, which pretty much blew Pumpkin's mind. She was amazed that clouds could make such pretty patterns, and that the arrival of a shadow could have such a profound effect on the temperature.

The mountains in the distance were pretty cool, too
Both kids enjoyed climbing up the dunes, but Petunia was a bit freaked out by the way the sand gave out under her feet when we tried to go down a dune. Between that, the fact that climbing up the dune had tired her out, and her realization that we would not get to the "top," she was just done. She sat down on the sand and refused to move. She screamed that she wanted to go up to the top, not down, but then wouldn't walk in any direction. In the end, I had to pick her up and carry her down the dune while she screamed and kicked. It was a good workout.

Post-tantrum: once we were back on solid ground, Petunia agreed to walk again

The visit to the national park was rescued in Petunia's eyes by Mr. Snarky's decision to buy the kids Junior Ranger vests at the shop, and a cool sand dune making exhibit they had in the visitor's center. I am glad we visited the park, because the dunes and the surrounding grasslands are starkly beautiful. I love the feeling of being in such an open, expansive landscape.

More cloud shadows
However, if you're reading this and trying to decide whether or not to visit the park, I'd say it is great with a seven year old, but maybe a bit to much for a four and a half year old.

We had lunch at the only restaurant near the park, the cafe at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis. They had fry bread! I was so happy.

After lunch, we took a short and hot hike up to see Zapata Falls. Actually, Petunia and I picked pretty rocks out of the stream while Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin went to look at the falls. Pumpkin didn't care for that part of the hike- it involved picking your way across wet rocks. She didn't have her water shoes on so her running shoes got wet, and she slipped a bit and was freaked out by that. So now it was Pumpkin's turn to be unimpressed with a hike.

We made it up to both kids by spending the rest of the afternoon in the water park that was attached to our hotel. It had a small kids' slide shaped like a frog that Petunia went down roughly 1000 times. That number may not even be an exaggeration. I sat in the shallow water and watched her slide for at least an hour. She gave a little delighted scream each time she slid down into the water. Pumpkin liked the slide, too, and also liked swimming in the deep end. We were forgiven for the hiking in the morning, and everyone headed out to dinner in a pretty good mood.

Dinner was at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company. Mr. Snarky loved the light in the room.

And we tried a Kiwi Blonde beer that was surprisingly great. Fruity beers are not usually something either of us really likes, but this one was so good that Mr. Snarky asked about how it was brewed, and the brewmaster came out and gave him the recipe.

After dinner, we wandered around the downtown area a bit, had desert at a Nestle Toll House franchise (something I did not even know existed), and then took a slightly scenic tour through town on our way back to our hotel. We left Alamosa the next morning happy that we had come.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Guidebooks Wanted

Over at Tungsten Hippo, I wrote about some books that have helped me better understand racism. It is a very incomplete reading list, and I welcome suggestions for other books to read.

As I thought about that post, I realized that books have helped me understand a lot of things better. (Duh.) I think I need to search for some books to read about getting older- not so much from the accepting mortality point of view, but from the standpoint of acclimating to the physical and mental changes that happen as you enter middle age. I am certain there are some good books out there on this topic, and I think I should seek them out.

Because honestly, I am struggling a bit with this whole aging thing. I don't mind getting older in theory, but in practice, the symptoms suck. I'm trying to figure out which symptoms to fight (weight gain), which to accept (wrinkles), which to embrace (fewer cat calls!), and which might actually need some medical intervention (fun fact: the birth control that's best for you can change as you age). Those are the easy ones. What about the heartburn I've been getting? Where did that come from all of the sudden? Don't get me started on the sleep disturbances. Just when Petunia is starting to sleep through the night more often, I find that I can't count on staying asleep all night anymore. That is so unfair.

And that's just the physical changes- I'll spare you the whining about mood swings and that weird antsy feeling I get where I want to crawl out of my own skin.

I want a guidebook, or at least a funny travelogue from someone who's been here before me.

Anyone have any suggestions? Or do I need to throw myself on the mercy of Amazon's algorithms?
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