Monday, August 31, 2015

A Post in Parts

I have several unrelated things I want to share, and rather than try to force a connection, this is going to be a post in parts.

Part 1. There is a new Tungsten Hippo taster flight post.

Over the weekend, I posted a taster flight of short ebooks that are mashups of science fiction or fantasy and detective stories. I really like this subgenre, and should look for more stories in it.

Part 2. I have questions.

I have some questions for you guys.

(1) Do I know anyone who studies frogs? Or just knows a lot about them? Bonus points if you have kids (or otherwise read a lot of picture books). I have a children's book story about a girl who loves frogs that is almost ready for beta readers, and I'd like to have at least one of them be someone who knows a lot about frogs.

Other beta readers are welcome to volunteer, too. I'm not sure when I'll get the story to you- maybe within the next month. It is really close to ready, but I am really busy right now...

(2) Do I know anyone who is an illustrator or knows an illustrator? I have a business idea (no, not publishing children's books) and I don't want to pursue it unless I can convince myself it is economically feasible, and that involves talking to an illustrator about rates, compensation options, and the like. Any help finding someone to talk to would be much appreciated!

Part 3. Mailing list promo is over

I've picked the winners for my mailing list promo, so if you haven't gotten an email from me by now, you didn't win. I'm still waiting for one of the winners to reply with an address, though, so I guess there is a still a slim chance...

Thank you to all who helped spread the word. I've decided that reaching certain mailing list milestones will trigger a celebratory walk on the beach. I didn't hit any with this promo, but I got a heck of a lot closer, so I'm happy.

Part 4. Parenting is hard, but the beach is awesome

Now that my kids are older, I'm on a quest to recapture a little bit more of our old spontaneity. After the success of the late afternoon walk on the beach a few weeks ago, I got in my head that we should be able to do an actual late afternoon trip to the beach, with swimming and everything.

It was super hot (for San Diego, so high 80s) on Saturday, so we decided to give it a try. It went pretty well, but there are still a lot of kinks to work out. We stayed in the water a little too long, and Pumpkin and I got hangry. I'd forseen this, and had brought a bag of chips. That sorted me out quickly, but Pumpkin was a little bit past rationality and was freaking out about sand getting in her mouth. Eventually, we found a way to get a few sand-free chips in her, and she calmed down and started eating them on her own.

My original plan had been another low key Rubios dinner, but Pumpkin has decided she doesn't like Rubios anymore, and we've decided to humor her on that for awhile. (I suspect that eventually her love of their churros will override her distaste for their quesadillas, and we'll be back.) But we struggled to come up with something else. We ended up at a restaurant in our neighborhood, which would have been really good except it took way longer than anticipated to get there because there was traffic out of the beach area, and when we got there they had the Chargers game on ridiculously loud. I am getting crotchety about needlessly noisy restaurants in my middle age.

We had a hard time figuring out where to go because Pumpkin is a really nervous eater. I understand- I have a lot of the same tendencies to be really afraid to try new food- but I think we need to work on expanding her horizons a bit. She and I have talked about this from time to time, and tried to come up with ideas for how to get her to try new things, but none of them have stuck. I'm frankly stumped on how to handle this one. (Note: I've read Ellyn Sater. I know her advice. It works on Petunia, who is a fairly normal picky eater who is slowly outgrowing it. It has only ever partially worked on Pumpkin, who is perfectly happy to eat nothing but bread or go hungry, but will get upset because she knows that she's upsetting other people... and then spiral into a hangry, miserable mess.)

So anyway, I was thinking about this new phase of parenthood, when the challenges are much more intellectually difficult than they were in the baby/toddler stage. Parenting remains hard, but at least I get to sleep through the night now.

I may eventually write a bigger post about how overwhelming parenting can seem sometimes... but for tonight, I'll just note that hangriness and restaurant difficulty aside, the beach was pretty awesome.

Pumpkin learned how to boogie board and had a blast doing it. Petunia frolicked in the waves. Really frolicked. She was so happy. The grown ups all cooled off and chilled out a bit.

Sure, we have some kinks to work out, but we'll do this again.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Weekend Reading: The It is Too Hot to Come up with a Theme Edition

Welcome to one of the hottest days of the year here in coastal San Diego! It is 84 degrees in my house right now. Wheeee!

Even better, Petunia got sent home from camp sick on Wednesday, and stayed home yesterday and today. Poor kid has had a fever during some really hot weather. So, let's just say that I've been struggling to get through my to do lists. On the plus side, I've gotten a lot of quality snuggles. On the downside, snuggles in this weather are sweaty.

However, I won't let that keep me from providing weekend reading for you!

First, a couple of blatant self-promotion items:

If you haven't read Unspotted yet, it is not too late! Early reviews are linked in the release day post. I've been busy lining up more reviews for it, but would also appreciate any help you're inclined to give. Buy it, suggest your library buy it (it is now available in Overdrive!), tell your friends about it....

Next week, I'll switch to telling you about Annorlunda Books' next release, but I'll still be working at promoting Unspotted, too.

Also: you have a couple of days left to sign up for one of my mailing lists for a chance to win either 168 Hours or What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast print edition (which also includes the other two books in that series). Both books are by Laura Vanderkam, and details of the giveaway are in last week's links post. Sign up for either my Founding Chaos or Management Monthly mailing list to enter. I'll pick the winner Sunday night.

OK, enough of that. Here are the links you came for:

This story about what happened to one woman who went on leave from Amazon to have a baby, and then to deal with cancer is terrible, although it seems to have a happy ending for her. Amazon is a really big company, and I'm sure there are pockets there in which it is great to work. But this sort of thing should not happen. It happens at places other than Amazon, too, and if we're ever going to have real, meaningful family leave, we need to work to make it not be a matter of luck whether you get the experience I had (came back from leave and integrated right back in, no problem) or the experience Julia Cheiffetz had.

On a more hopeful note, the Hugo Awards did not go to the dogs (or puppies), as it were... and I really like Arthur Chu's essay about that.

And in something straight out of a dystopian sci-fi plot, it looks like the men on Ashley Madison were mostly interacting with bots.

In other dystopian news, the Republicans are now talking about doing away with birthright citizenship. That is appalling. Here is a great essay about what birthright citizenship meant to a couple of immigrants from Canada.

The GQ profile of Stephen Colbert is really, really good.

Techies need to learn about politics if they really want to change the world. I thought this was a good article, but I think it missed one reason why techies don't get politics- they're mostly trained as engineers, and if there is one generalization I will make about engineers after a career of working with them and over a decade of being married to one: they tend to expect things to be logical, and more so, to follow rules of logic they have learned from mostly working with deterministic systems: i.e., if you put in the same input, you'll get the same output. Politics do not follow the rules of this sort of logic. It involves people, and people are not deterministic systems.

Coincidentally, the most recent xkcd comic sums up the problem nicely. I'm linking, not embedding, because you should read the mouseover.

This NY Times article about creative careers continue to be viable is worth your time. Read it in conjunction with this open letter from Amanda Palmer to one of her worried fans. And maybe also consider the string of tweets from a comic book creator that starts here:

She didn't thread her tweets, so you'll have to go to her timeline to read all of them, but as of right now, they are near the top.

Often when I post about racism here, we talk about what white people can do. This interesting article about what social science can tell us about overcoming racism is a good place to start thinking about that. More and more, I think one of the most important things I can do as a white person is try to get other white people to a place where they are open to learning about structural racism. As the article notes, it is not an easy lesson for us to learn.

Here is the first really good thing I've read about the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. I urge you to read it, too.

If you've heard about Margaret Sanger supporting eugenics and wonder what the full story is, this is a good summary of it.

This looks like an interesting idea- helping keep the landlords of NYC honest on heat.

Forget the kids- I may buy some of these bookends for my new office once it is ready. Or maybe I should build something bigger out of these blocks?

Seeing that Cool Mom Tech post reminded me that they had a good post about email for kids a couple of weeks ago, and I forgot to put it in my weekly roundup then. It adds some things I didn't cover in my own Ask Cloud post on the topic awhile back. One interesting thing that I noticed looking up that old post: I first tweeted about email when Pumpkin was seven, but she didn't get it until she was eight... and then it took me a couple more months to write about it. Things don't always move fast here.

Ending on an awww, since I don't have anything funny:

These little butterflies are so adorable I almost want to learn how to knit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Refuse to Get Used to This

I woke up this morning and read news of the on air shooting of two journalists. I quickly stopped reading and redirected my attention to getting my kids ready for their day, because although Pumpkin is old enough that we now tell her about tragic events nearby or that she's likely to hear about from her friends, I don't see the need to make her know about every single shooting event that makes news.

Frankly, knowing about ever single shooting event that makes the news is overwhelming for me. I don't know what it would be like for an eight year old, and I don't really want to find out.

By some definitions, we're now averaging more than one mass shooting per day. No matter how you define "mass shooting" or count the shooting events, there are too many.

Today's shooting occurred on the same day as the man who shot people in a Colorado movie theater three years ago was sentenced. He will serve 12 consecutive life sentences. But there is no accountability for the people who ensured he was able to buy his weapons and ammunition.

We will always have unstable, unhappy, and angry people. We don't always have to make it so easy for them to get weapons and ammunition. We just don't. Anyone who tries to tell you that there is no way to prevent these events is lying or deluded. Of course there is. Every other country in the world has figured it out. We could, too, if we had the will.

After I dropped the kids off at the camp for the day, I came back home and tried to settle in to work. Wednesdays are work at home days, and I primarily focus on my own projects. I looked at my to do list. Post a Tungsten Hippo recommendation. Tweet about the mailing list sign up promo I started last Friday. Write some posts for other places. Make a couple of phone calls. Work on formatting on the next Annorlunda Books release. And so on.

I managed to make my Tungsten Hippo post. It took me almost an hour to do something I usually do in less than 20 minutes. So I decided to close all my social media windows and focus on something offline. I worked on the book formatting and had my phone calls and went about my day.

By lunchtime, social media was mostly back to normal. I tried to get back to normal, too, writing one of the posts I had on my list.

But then I realized, I don't want to get back to normal so easily. I don't want to be able to shrug off the senseless murder of two young people. I don't want to be able to just go about my day when it starts with news of gun violence.

I'm not at all judging people for getting back to normal on social media. With so many shooting events, if no one posted about anything else on the day when one happened, we'd almost never get to talk about anything else.

And that is the problem.

We have too many guns, they are too easy for people to buy, and too many people are getting shot.

Yes, yes, I know. There are other problems at work, too. But as I said on Twitter before I signed off for awhile this morning: Yes, we should try to fix our other problems. But the guns make our other problems so much more deadly. We should try to fix that, too.

So, while I did go about my day, it wasn't really a normal day, and I'm OK with that. I refuse to force myself to act like nothing has happened and nothing is wrong, because something is very, very wrong.

Being able to have a normal day would mean that I'm used to this, and I refuse to get used to this.

I don't know how we change things. I think it starts by all of us refusing to accept this as our "new normal"  and by all of us believing that we can change things. It might take longer than it should, but I really do think it can change. If you're looking for some place to send your energies and/or money to support changing our national attitude towards guns, Moms Demand ActionAmericans for Responsible Solutions, and The Brady Campaign are all working on this problem from different angles. Pick the one that suits you best.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Trip Story: The Rest of the French Trip

I think I should try to finish off my blog posts about my summer vacations before summer ends. My kids don't go back to school until the day after Labor Day, so by my reckoning I have two weeks left to get this wrapped up. I'd better get going!

Today, let's finish off the French Trip. Last time I posted on this, we were in St. Jean de Luz, enjoying the laid back pace and excellent food. We had two more stops before we flew home: Dax, to attend the wedding that prompted this trip, and Lagrasse, to see my sister-in-law and her family, who happened to be vacationing in France, too. Now, if you look at a map and find Dax and then find the Lagrasse we visited, which is the one near Carcassonne, you will notice that this was a mighty big detour. However, it wasn't as big of a detour as from San Diego to New Zealand, which is where my sister-in-law lives. And she has a toddler son we had yet to meet.... enough said, right?

Anyway, let's go back to the start of this leg, when we left St. Jean de Luz. We decided to see a little bit more of Basque country, and drove first to Espelette. This is a ridiculously charming village famous for its red peppers, which are hung to dry on the buildings in town.

See? Ridiculously charming.

From Espelette, we wanted to go to Les Grottes d'Isturitz and Oxocelhaya, which were our most convenient option for seeing some ancient cave art. The Isturitz cave was occupied between 80,000 and 15,000 BCE, and you can view carvings on one pillar in the cave. It is amazing to stand and see something carved by prehistoric people. However, we understandably could not take pictures of it, so if you want to see it you will have to visit for yourself.

We were not yet in high tourist season, so the caves weren't open until mid-afternoon. To occupy our time between Espelette and then, we drove to La Bastide -Clairence, which our guidebook noted had been voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. It was quite pretty, but we had been spoiled by Espelette and the other Basque towns, and everything was closed for the long lunch break... so it wasn't a very exciting stop. Still, it did the job of occupying us until we could go to the caves.

After the caves, we drove on to Dax, got settled into our hotel, and then went for a stroll around town. We had dinner at a pizza place- which some might consider tragic, since Dax is best known for its food. But I just couldn't keep up a steady stream of rich meals, and I knew that the wedding dinner the next day was likely to be impressive, so pizza it was. The highlight of that meal was me trying to order the apple tart dessert for Mr. Snarky and accidentally asking for a potato tart. (Apple = pomme, potato = pomme de terre, and I was tired.)

The following morning, we walked along the river and found ourselves at a park in which a petanque league was playing- it looked a bit like an American recreational bowling league. Teams wore matching shirts, but were clearly there primarily to have a good time. The park was in front of the bull stadium. This part of France has a tradition of bull running and bullfighting. This is controversial, and not something we delved into during our stay. On the day we wandered past the stadium, it looked like an event was about to take place, and we suspect we saw one of the athletes talking to fans while we ate our lunch- but we are not sure.

A statue in the park

Anyway, we continued on past the stadium for a bit, and then walked back for lunch. Here I made another error trying to order my food, and ended up with a plate of cèpes, not the crepes I thought I had read on the specials menu. Cèpes are a type of mushroom. Our waiter enthused about how wonderful they were, and how lucky I was that they had just come into season. Sadly, I am not really a fan of mushrooms, so my opinion of my lunch was somewhat muted, particularly since I had been aiming for a light lunch, and instead had a plate of mushrooms cooked in butter. Mr. Snarky tried them and agreed with the waiter, so at least someone appreciated them.

The wedding that afternoon was beautiful, and the party that evening was phenomenal. They are not my stories to share, so I will not go into details (other than to say that the food was indeed delicious and the wine free-flowing), but I was so glad I was able to be there.

French wedding receptions go until the wee hours of the morning, and this one was no exception. We got back to our hotel at about 2 a.m., and between the late night, the rich food, and copious wine, I wasn't all that happy at breakfast the next morning. But I made it through, and we drove east, towards Provence and my sister-in-law.

We stopped to visit Carcassonne, because it would have been strange not to. Carcassonne is a walled medieval village that is amazingly intact. It is a beautiful place, full of history. It is also jammed full of people, and full of tourist shops. Still, if you ever get the chance to visit it, take it.

Fairy tale time!

We went from Carcassonne to Lagrasse, a tiny little village that was every bit as beautiful and charming as the Basque villages we'd visited, just with different aesthetics.

Also ridiculously charming

We had a wonderful evening visiting my sister-in-law and her family and doting on our nephew... and then, the next morning, we got up early and drove to the airport in Toulouse. Three flights and roughly 24 hours later, I was home. Mr. Snarky went on to the UK for work. We'd had a great trip, and enjoyed the chance to travel on our own again, but I missed my kids and was so happy to see them. Traveling for long periods seems like something I should mostly do with them right now. We'll probably try for some shorter kid-free get aways in 2016 if my parents are up for it, but I think the big vacation will be a family one. That's just me, though- I know a lot of people swear by having regular "parents only" vacations. I'm not sure why it isn't something I want to do a lot of, but it isn't. As hard as it would have been to feed my "highly selective eaters" in France and as nice as the leisurely evenings out were, I kept seeing things I wished I could show them. I guess this phase of my life just feels like a "kids included" phase.

Still, the French Trip was a great one!

Completely unrelated to this post: I'm running a subscription drive for my newsletters. Sign up by Sunday to be entered into a drawing to win a free book by Laura Vanderkam! Details are in the last post. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Holy Smokes Things Got Busy Edition

I've started the formatting work on Annorlunda Books' next release. I should have a cover to show soon, and when I do, I'll put up a webpage with a blurb and all of that. So... stay tuned! And in the meantime, don't forget to check out the most recent release, Unspotted.

I've also got a talk coming up, and am planning some celebratory things around Tungsten Hippo's upcoming second birthday, and am also planning to offer my "intro to project management for non-project managers" class again. I originally called the class Get More Done, but then realized that there is a far more famous book by the same name, and so I need to rebrand my class. Suggestions for a new name will be gratefully accepted. I hate naming things.

And, as a I discussed a bit on Twitter last night, Petunia's 6th birthday is coming up, and we've decided to do the same thing we did for Pumpkin's 6th birthday: go to Disneyland. I need to get some aspects of that trip planned out and booked ASAP, because eating with the princesses books out early. And of course we want to eat with the princesses.

So, what I'm saying is, holy smokes! Things got busy! For the first time since leaving my full time job, I've felt the need to print out some monthly calendars and schedule out my work. I kept calendars with release dates, vacation times, etc., when I was a group leader, because I was trying to run multiple projects at once, and had five employees and a gaggle of contractors whose schedules I needed to respect. Now it is just me (and my family) whose schedules need considering, but I'm back to having multiple projects. I like it that way, so it is all good.

Before I get to the links, a little blatant self-promotion. One of the things on the calendar for next week is to run a promotion to sign up more mailing list subscribers, both for my Management Monthly list and for my Founding Chaos list. The inducement I have is two books by Laura Vanderkam to give away- I'll give a copy of the print version of her What the Most Successful People Do... series to a subscriber of the Management Monthly list, and a copy of 168 hours to a subscriber of the Founding Chaos list.

The prizes

I was the random winner of them in a Twitter chat I participated in around the release of her latest book, I Know How She Does It (which I reviewed), and since I already have copies of both of these books, I'm going to pass the marketing love on and give the new ones away to randomly selected subscribers of my most relevant newsletters.

Both newsletters come out monthly. Management Monthly includes links to the management/productivity things I've written that month under my real name, links to other management and productivity things I've found on the web, and other relevant notes I feel like making. It also includes announcements of classes and seminars I'm giving. You can see its archive and sign up here.

Founding Chaos is a slightly more personal newsletter that includes a story about life as someone trying to start a company, promos of things I've released, and links that I've liked. You can see its archive and sign up here.

I'll be picking the winners next Sunday (8/30) at 9 p.m. pacific time. I'll make a few more announcements on Twitter next week, but you don't have to wait for those. Sign up now! And yes, you can sign up to both lists. The content overlaps, but not by much. It also only overlaps a little with these links posts.

Alright, enough of that. On to the links:

A new report from Bain and Company found that companies "drain" women's ambition in two years. Reading this was a bit like reading the intro to What Works for Women and Work- affirming, but a little too close to home for comfort. I guess I should be glad I lasted as long as I did? On the other hand, I don't think all companies are equal in this regard, and if I start the clock at the time I started at my last company... I lasted not much longer than two years. Interesting.

The timing found in the study made me think of this post on Corprette, which is my favorite site for ideas about how to dress like a professional, but also occasionally has posts about other career-related topics. Note the quoted comment about how anyone can do any job for two years. When I contemplate the fact that how the way biotech works made it likely that I wouldn't be in any job for more than two years...  yeah, a little close to home. (Although I had some GREAT years at some of my jobs, so it isn't all gloomy.)

Some of you may be wondering why I spend time on a site with ideas for how to dress like a professional. Surely, I can just go to a store and buy things? Well, I have big boobs. And the fashion industry doesn't make things for women like me. Anytime I have to do a targeted shopping excursion looking for something I need for an interview or a talk, I come home angry and depressed. Far better to keep an eye on a few sites and buy things that are likely to work for me when they come along. Also, Corprette is the site that led me to my Lo and Sons computer bag, which I outright love.

All of that is to say: dudes, you have no idea how easy you have it when it comes to dressing professionally.

Speaking of things that are different for women than for men... I really liked this post from Lara Hogan about celebrating achievements as a woman. I remember seeing one of her tweets of a celebratory doughnut and that is probably what planted the seed for my idea that I should celebrate my milestones. Maybe I should tweet out a picture of the shells I find each time? It is an interesting idea.

I had a couple of Twitter rants about that NYT piece on Amazon, over at my real name account. I was starting to think I would need to write a post summarizing the research we have on long hours. It is not as strong as I'd like, but it does at least suggest that working long hours is as counterproductive as I argue it is. Luckily for me, Sarah Green Carmichael summarized the research for me.

Speaking of work/life stuff: this Fast Company piece about the start up founder who had to bring a toddler with her to Y Combinator didn't get as much attention as I thought it would when I saw it. The founder in question has made it clear she bears no ill will towards Y Combinator... but I still think the rest of us can say "hey, this isn't alright." Y Combinator absolutely could afford to make things a little less terrible for parents who want to participate in its program. It just chooses not to, for whatever reason.

Reading that post and the little bit of response I saw, reminded me of an old post I wrote about trying to imagine a world in which the necessary work of raising the next generation could be better integrated into the other work in society. I still feel like my imagination needs to stretch more in this area. But I don't think the Y Combinator way is a good way, I really don't.

Gene Demby wrote an amazing, heartbreaking piece about the Black reporters who are covering the Black Lives Matter movement and related topics. Apparently the comments are a nightmare. I haven't dared to look.

This article on racism in the classroom makes me want to cry. I tweeted something about how everyone in a public job should get training on implicit bias. I don't think it would solve the problem, but it might make it better. I think people have to be in the right frame of mind to accept the message of the training, though, and I don't know how you achieve that in a society where someone like Donald Trump can poll as well as he does, and even the "moderate" Republican candidate for president is saying racist things about immigration, and where Shaun King has to write a post like this.

Some of the other prominent activists in the Black Lives Matter movement have started a project called Campaign Zero to end police violence.

This cartoon about converting ethics into economics questions is funny/sad.

This is a long essay about being a journalist right now... but I swear it is worth your time.

Albert Burneko's post on raising kids is awesome.

I really like today's Tungsten Hippo quote:

"It’s an odd sort of future, but sometimes the only thing to do is thank God there’s no zombies, and just make the best of it all."

It is from a novella by Maia Sepp called An Etiquette Guide to the End Times which I also loved.

This is a cool story about a bridge.

My husband sent me this video in an email titled "we should totally have another one:"

We aren't going to, but it does capture the awesomeness of having a toddler.

I love this:

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