Friday, May 27, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Still Too Busy Edition

As I mentioned in my last post, the kids were home with me today. I decided to try to work this morning and then go play in the afternoon. That worked, mostly. The kids interrupted a few times, but mostly let me work, and I got enough done to be able to take the afternoon off without feeling too bad about it. I even managed to squeeze in another hour of work after our afternoon's fun, thereby producing a solid draft of my next Chronicle Vitae article,

For fun we did three things: (1) had lunch and McDonalds (Petunia's request), (2) went to a park (Pumpkin's request), and (3) when to Birch Aquarium (Petunia's request, but Pumpkin got to decide whether we'd stay there for our afternoon treat or go somewhere else).

We had a lot of fun. And I bought a purse:

Sadly, I will still need to do some work this weekend. Through some overly optimistic planning on my part and some bad luck, I've ended up with a lot of deadlines right now, so my to do list each day is pretty daunting. I need to keep plowing through the backlog of work.  I'm making progress, though, and while I'm definitely Too Busy, I'm not Oh My God How Am I Ever Going to Get This Done Busy.

Anyway, let's have some links. I don't have many (see above about being Too Busy), but what I have is good. Of course.

Congress just failed again to pass funding to deal with Zika. This makes me so angry. There will be children born with severe disabilities because of their inaction.

Here is yet another reminder that algorithms are only as impartial as the people who build them and the data that trains them... and so if your input data represents the results of bias, your output will be biased. We need to never forget this.

Here, this will make you feel better about humanity: a Dad's love letter to his child.

Do you remember the story in Into the Wild? Well, Jon Krakauer never stopped researching how Chris McCandless died.

My favorite share on my Annorlunda Books page this week: the history of Pho.

Here's your fun ending: a tumblr of pictures of David Bowie paired with pictures of sea slugs. It is strangely hypnotic, and rather beautiful.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Postcards from the Land of Porous Boundaries

Mr. Snarky got up early this morning to go for a run, and I woke up, too. I thought I'd get up and write a blog post, or work on the recommendations I'm writing up for my current coaching client. I like the quiet time early in the morning, if I am actually awake for it without setting an alarm. If I have to set an alarm, I will just turn it off and sleep as long as I can. Except on Mondays. On Mondays I generally have enough willpower to get up with the early alarm and go for a run.

But this morning  I came out to the living room to find both of my kids already awake and ready for breakfast. So I had a normal morning routine instead, just shifted early. I thought maybe I'd get to come into my office a little early and write this post, but that didn't really happen, either. Somehow, the kids filled the time.

That's just how it goes these days. I try to set boundaries around the time I need or want, and they leak. I suspect this is the sort of thing I'll miss when my kids are grown, but right now, I find the porous boundaries hard to handle. I try to carve out time for things I want or need to do, but it only works if the kids are asleep or out of the house. I keep forgetting that this is the case. My kids seem old enough to entertain themselves! And sometimes, they are. I can't depend on it, though. Pumpkin is old enough to know she shouldn't interrupt me when I've tried to go do my own things, but she is not old enough to always act on that knowledge. Petunia isn't old enough to even recognize the boundary yet.

For instance, yesterday was open house at the kids' school, which meant I had to stop working about an hour early. The open house was fun. We have great food vendors: delicious tacos from a local taco shop and wonderful ice cream from a local ice cream shop. Petunia was beyond excited to show us her classroom and her work. Pumpkin was excited to check out the fourth grade classroom and see what projects she'll be doing next year.

(As an aside: our kids do a lot of projects, and make a lot of dioramas. Michaels does well from us buying clay and other supplies... but the kids have fun doing it, and I guess it helps consolidate the things they learn. This year's big project with a diorama was about a Native American tribe. Pumpkin picked the Maya, and ended up building a replica temple as part of her diorama. Her classmates did wonderful jobs with various types of dwellings. The girl who did her project on the Hopi made very realistic houses out of sandpaper. I recognized her tribe from the diorama before I even saw her poster with the name.  Next year, it looks like Pumpkin will be building a "site in California." The fourth grade class we visited had a Legoland (made out of Lego!), the Hollywood sign, and Randy's Donuts, among other things.)

We got home an hour before our usual "get ready for bed" time. I thought that maybe I could make up some of that hour I lost while the kids played, and told the kids I was going into the office to work. No such luck. They kept interrupting me. I managed to get a little bit done, but not enough to replace the lost hour, and I still had to work after the kids were in bed. I think the lesson there is that I should have just gone and played soccer with the kids and not even tried to work until after bedtime. But that cuts into my time to do things like yoga, or read a book, so I'm always tempted to try to avoid the after bedtime work if I can.

We're working on helping the kids recognize the boundaries, but I think I need to be realistic about what I expect. The boundaries are at least there now, but they are still porous and I think they will be for another couple of years at least.

It doesn't help matters that our school district decided to make the friday before Memorial Day a day off this year. It is the first year they've done it, and the YMCA, which usually organizes a day camp for school district holidays that aren't actually holidays, has no camp. So the kids will be home with me. I am debating how much to try to work and how much to just take off and go do something fun with the kids. The problem is, I have some work that I really need to get done. I suspect I could get the kids to leave me mostly alone in the morning if I promise some fun in the afternoon,  so I could take half of Friday off and trade it for half of one of the other weekend days, when Mr. Snarky will be home and able to take the kids to the park or out for a bike ride. But... Saturday is my birthday, so I don't really want to work then. And I was looking forward to a proper three day weekend.

However, I think that the half day Friday and some dedicated work time on one of the other days is going to be the least annoying option, so that's probably what I'll do.

I guess the general lesson of this time of porous boundaries is that it doesn't really matter what I wish could happen. I need to look at what is actually going to happen, and assess what the realistic alternatives actually are, and choose from those. Wishing for an unattainable ideal just leads to unhappiness.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Almost Caught Up Edition

I'm soooo close to being caught up. But I'm not there yet. That's why this post is later than usual today- I was pushing to try to finish something before I went to pick up the kids, and then the kids and I went out for a little "girls' night out." Mr. Snarky has a friend in town for a conference, and he went downtown for dinner with his friend. So the girls and I went to dinner, too, and then for a walk on the beach (short, because it was windy and the tide was high), and then to Rita's for a treat.

Anyway, once I get them in bed, I need to get back to work. I under a deadline to finish something by tomorrow night. I'll make it, but not without some work tonight.

So, withour further delay, here are the links I've gathered this week:

First off, three things from Vox that I liked:

The story about how the rich families in Florence have remained rich for 700 years sort of blew my mind. When I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised. But it still blew my mind.

I liked this post about the benefits of urban farming. I enjoy having my little pots of veggies in the backyard, and dream of someday having an actual vegetable garden. First, I need to get blinds in the office, though. Twice a day, the sun comes in and blinds me for about 10 minutes. I should really fix that. Also, the sun is probably bleaching the upholstery on my chair. So, no vegetable garden for me until I finish fixing up the inside of the house. (In addition to the blinds, I have a window to get fixed, curtains to buy, and some baseboards that still haven't been painted since the remodel.)

Finally, a few weeks ago there was a spate of posts about how you can't lose weight with exercise, and then there was a spate of posts about how you can't rely on diet alone to keep you thin, and then there was that depressing story about the people who had gone on The Biggest Loser... and perhaps in response to that, a doctor who specializes in obesity wrote a post about how yes, it is possible to lose weight and keep it off, we just need to ditch our "all or nothing" mindset. Here's the part I really like:

"The term I coined to describe it is "best weight," where your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you're living the healthiest life that you actually enjoy."

Mother Jones published an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein's latest book, and it has me a bit scared for my future of helping my daughters navigate their way to a healthy attitude towards their bodies and towards sex. Thankfully, I have a little time before I have to really deal with this, but it is coming up fast.

I've mostly stopped reading the political posts because my mind is made up on how I'm voting and what I'm doing and all of the analysis is just stressing me out. But Rolling Stone's Matt Taibi went in on the GOP and Donald Trump, and all I can say is: DAMN.

Paying skilled workers more would help solve the "skills gap."

I like this post from Kameron Hurley, about meeting up with feminists younger and older than herself.

I don't seem to have anything funny saved to share, but if you're looking for something lighthearted and fun to read, this week's Tungsten Hippo recommendation is a good option. 

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Breathing Room

I am determined not to let another week go by without a post, so I'm going to try to finish this draft that has been sitting in my drafts folder for several days, even though the reason it is sitting in the drafts folder is that I'm having a hard time solidifying my thoughts. You've been warned....

A couple of weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a long post (on Facebook, of course) about how she hadn't realized how much harder it is to "lean in" as a single mother.

There are, of course, a bazillion pieces of writing about this, some rolling their figurative eyes at her, some more sympathetic.

I fall on the more sympathetic side, probably because I have recently been confronted with my own example of the limits of empathy. It is hard to understand what we don't experience, and I've yet to come across someone who doesn't have some blind spots. Yes, Sandberg could have done more to include the extra challenges faced by single mothers in her original book, but I give her credit for admitting her error so publically.

Probably my favorite reaction to her announcement was a piece I only got around to reading today, from Andie Fox (some of you might know of her from her Blue Milk blog). Fox writes about her own early years of single motherhood, and how precarious it all sometimes was.

I have no experience with single motherhood - my husband is very much still here and present and doing things like being in charge of dentist appointments - but something resonated with me in her piece, and I think it is helping me draw together some disparate threads I've been thinking about for a long time.

Sandberg's post and Fox's piece about it both highlight how much of how we experience life depends on how much margin we have to absorb the unexpected. Call it buffer (as we do when we talk about finance), call it slack (as I do when I talk about kanban and time use and project management), call it breathing room. I've come to think we don't have enough of it, in any aspect of most of our lives.

Through most of human history, this was almost inevitable. We were struggling to find food to survive, and shelter to keep us safe from the elements. We do not need to operate in that paradigm anymore. We have learned so much about how to master our world that we could all live without fear of starvation, and with a roof over our heads.

We haven't figured out how to do that, yet, but that is largely a problem of figuring outh ow to share resources effectively and negotiating the politics. It is no longer a technical one. Of course, as is so often the case, the technical challenge turned out to be the easy part. The remaining challenges are hard, and I don't underestimate that.

I don't know how solve the political problem of poverty, and that's not really what this post is about.

It is more about how a lot of people don't have enough breathing room, really, even if they have enough money for food and shelter, and how unevenly this breathing room can be distributed, even within a single family. (Some families do a better job of distributing the breathing room than others, of course.)

I've long thought that this lack of breathing room in our way of life is not healthy, even for those of us who aren't dealing with extreme situations like poverty. I think that for some people, it may contribute to both physical and mental illness. I think it takes something from all of us, even if it doesn't make us clinically ill. I wonder what our world would look like if we could figure out how to give everyone a little more slack in their lives.

When I'm operating without enough slack, I'm less kind. I don't parent as well as I can. I don't take care of myself. I don't make the best decisions. I'm more likely to let my asthma spiral out of control. I am less likely to notice the beauty of a sunset or a crisp, clear night.

I think there are aspects of our culture that steal breathing room away from people unnecessarily. Our focus on material wealth as a sign of success. Our "always on" work culture, that I firmly believe is counterproductive even for its stated goal of achieving more productivity with less money. Our tendency to judge other people's choices (and feel defensive about our own), which I think leads to "competitive parenting" that creates pressure to be seen doing things that don't actually add that much value to our children's lives.

I could probably go on, if I thought about it some more. I think there is a lot of good in our modern culture, too- see the above point about making enough food to feed people. Also, there are little things like how I had two wonderful conversations yesterday with people who support me and believe in me - and who I would never have met without this online space we've created.

So I'm not arguing for returning to a "simpler life." I don't think earlier ages were any kinder to people. In fact, in many ways, they were probably less kind. Instead, I'm arguing for us to stop and think a bit more carefully about how we want to use the resources we have. Can we add more breathing room in for people, and if we do, can we distribute it a bit more fairly?

I don't know how to do this. I think being more deliberate about our own work is a start. I think that if we find ourselves in a position in which we manage other people and their work, we have a responsibility to learn how to do it well, so that those people can have more breathing room, too. I may even think this is a moral responsibility, although I'm hesitant to label it as such.

I don't delude myself into thinking that helping more people do these things will solve all the worlds problems, but I very much believe that it will make the world a little better. This is why I'm so passionate about work hours and better management.  I really do think it makes a difference, at least in the local environment around the people who are making more breathing room for themselves and others.

And maybe, if we get enough little pockets of breathing room, they'll start to merge together, and we really will change things for the better.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Well, It Wasn't a BAD Stomach Bug Edition

Another week with no blog post. Bah.  I blame the stomach bug my six year came down with on Tuesday and gave to me. It wasn't a bad stomach bug, or at least it wasn't bad for us. All bodily fluids stayed where they belonged, but she was miserable with a stomach ache for a day and a half. My stomach was just a little dodgy for a bit, and I was wiped out.

I will say, though, that the one thing worse than wanting to throwing up and not being able to is watching your kid want to throw up and be unable to. Probably the "kiss and hug the poor thing" instinct this triggered in me is why I got sick and my husband (who sensibly kept his distance) did not.

Oh well.

Anyway, how about some links?

First of all... IT IS PRE-ORDER TIME!!! Yes, Don't Call it Bollywood is now available for pre-order. While you're checking out those links, admire the website redesign I completed last weekend.

Also, we're probably going to do the Twitter watch-along on June 2. Details still being worked out. If you're interested in joining us for that, you can still sign up to get the details by email.

And if you're sort of curious, but on the fence... the author has a blog that you can check out.

Another aspect of modern India: they are trying to clean up the Ganges. I find the format of that story incredibly annoying, but the content is worth the effort.

If you've seen the glowing posts about those signing gloves, read this alternative view.

On how to evaluate the validity of political labels:

Ta-Nehisi Coates' post about what happened when he and his wife tried to buy a new house felt like a punch to the gut. Maybe it his excellent writing. Maybe it is the knowledge that the thing that propelled him to fame was an article that was ultimately about unfair housing practices. I don't know. But damn. Those journalists should be ashamed of themselves.

Sarah Marshall wrote a thoughtful article about looking back, and rethinking, the "scandals" of the 90s. I always believed Anita Hill, and thought O.J. Simpson almost certainly killed Nicole. But Tonya Harding. Oh wow. We did not do right by her at all.

Speaking of women we aren't doing right by: Ann Friedman considers a tough week for sexual assault survivors.

That's a heavy way to end, so let's lighten it up with this cartoon:

and this nerdy Hamilton fun:

And for any other SoCal folks who might be visiting LA (or who live there): I want to check out all of these bars. And write a similar list for San Diego. Exhaustively researched, of course.

But... neither of those wishes is likely to come true. I can, perhaps, nibble around the edges, though, and plan my next trip to LA around one of those bars. I can also get some Saturday afternoon babysitting set up some week and pick one of the many outdoor San Diego bars to visit.

This weekend, though, I'll probably just go easy on my stomach.

Happy weekend, everyone!
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