Monday, June 30, 2014

A Grand Time in Torrance

After the success of our visit to San Pedro, I decided not to argue with Mr. Snarky when he suggests unlikely sounding destinations for a weekend getaway. And so, over Memorial Day weekend, he and I headed up to Torrance for a couple of days away from the kids.

Torrance had first caught his eye because it is home to the Miyako Hybrid Hotel, the only American location for the Japanese hotel chain. When he looked at the area around the hotel, he saw some Japanese shops and restaurants, and decided we should visit.

The hotel was almost worth the trip on its own. It had a Japanese style soak tub, and yes, I filled it to the top and enjoyed a nice long soak with water up to my neck. Hmm. So really, what I am saying is that the tub in the hotel room was almost worth the trip on its own.

It was an easy walk from our hotel to the "downtown" portion of Torrance. This isn't a large area, but it is pleasant. We had a snack at a beer at the Red Car Brewery and Restaurant before strolling out in search of dinner. We were attracted to a small shopping center by the sound of live music, and ended up having a very non-Japanese dinner at a place called The Buffalo Fire Department. The burgers were good, and the country music band that was playing was pretty good, too. (I think they were South Bay Country, if you live in the area and are curious.)

Our dinner time entertainment

We started the next day with a stop at 85oC, a Taiwanese bakery chain that is spreading through Southern California. It features a mix of pastries that will seem "normal" to Americans and some more unusual things, like squid ink rolls. The pastries we tried were all wonderful, and the cakes (which we did not try) looked divine. I'll admit that Mr. Snarky was more adventurous than I was- but maybe next time I visit one of their branches I'll get up the nerve to try those squid ink rolls. It would also help if we went sometime other than breakfast, since a garlicky roll does not sound like a good breakfast food to me.
Maybe next time
After breakfast, returned to downtown to stroll briefly through an open air antique market, and then headed to the Mitsuwa Marketplace that was right next door to our hotel. I spent way too much time and maybe a little too much money at the Lupicia tea shop, but in my defense, their tea is wonderful.

There was a sale on their Hawaiian collection....
We wandered through the supermarket portion and bought some candies for the kids to try, some green tea Oreos (because how could we not? They aren't bad, it turns out), and a few other things to try. Then we went over to the main attraction, which was the Japanese food court. Mr. Snarky got some fishy bento box. I tried Japanese curry and all I can say about that is yummmmmm. Why did I not know about this during our short visit to Tokyo? It would have made eating so much less stressful!

This was delicious.
 After lunch, we drove over to Redondo Beach and strolled the pier and surrounding area. There is a fenced off water park right by the beach that looks like it would be an awesome place to visit with small kids.
My kids would love this.
You can also take a gondola ride. Maybe next time.


Next, we took a small beer tour, visiting Strand Brewing Company, Smog City Brewing Company, and Monkish Brewing Company. All were good. So good that Mr. Snarky had to take a nap when we got back to the hotel (I was driving.)

He unfortunately slept so long that we missed the chance for more Japanese food, and instead had a so-so Mexican dinner at the only open place we could find.

We got a late start the next morning, and by the time we got to the breakfast place I'd found online the line looked prohibitive. So we drove back to the King's Hawaiian Bakery we'd seen on our way... and just missed their breakfast, too. We consoled ourselves with some surprisingly delicious pastries, and then just headed south to Irvine Spectrum for lunch and some shopping for a birthday gift we needed to buy.

We arrived home to an awesome Hitchhiker's Guide themed birthday party in honor of my 42nd birthday and the best, most excited greeting from my children I've ever received.



So, even though the last bit of our stay in Torrance didn't go quite as we'd planned, on the whole the trip was a complete success. I wonder what unlikely spot Mr. Snarky will find for us to visit next?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Catching Up Edition

Here are the links I would have shared with you last week, if I hadn't decided to write the Asking Saves Lives post instead.

There is no theme other than catching up on things I meant to share....

If you haven't read the Mother Jones article about coding and computational thinking and diversity yet... go do so. It is long, but worth the time.

Mom-101 makes a very good point about the way we praise fathers and husbands.

Roxane Gay's cooking essays are some of my favorite things on the internet. Her writing is amazing, and I love how she interweaves the recipe with musings on serious and difficult issues. Here is a recent one, but she's posted several recently, so you could also just head over to her Tumblr and read them all.

Speaking of Roxane Gay, her debut novel An Untamed Stateis getting rave reviews. I know myself well enough to know I cannot read it right now, though. So I am very excited that she also has a collection of essays called Bad Feminist coming out soon. I've preordered that.

This post by a woman with a gender neutral name about her reception online is interesting, but sadly not surprising.

Speaking of how women are received online, Jessica Valenti wrote about free speech and cyberbullying. I would like to write a post about how we as a society tend to overlook the freedoms that have already been taken from some of our members when we're arguing for the protection of things like freedom of speech. Do I really have the same freedom of speech as a male counterpart if speaking my mind can garner me rape threats and threats against my family? Why do the people advocating for our freedoms not care about this? Why are we all so willing to shrug and say "that's just how it is" when online trolls organize with an explicit goal of silencing certain groups of people?

I guess it is good news that the Supreme Court is going to take up a case somewhat related to all of this (although the online threats in that case were made by someone known to the target and not by a bunch of anonymous jerks). Apparently I need to hope that the male justices have daughters.

And speaking of things that depress me: Ann Friedman wrote an interesting article about men, women and guns.

But I can't end on such a down note, so here is a somewhat amusing Newcastle Ad imaging what the US would be like if the Brits had won the War of Independence.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Publishing Updates and Sundry Other Things

Last week, I finally sent the review draft of the job search ebook to my beta readers. I'm looking forward to reading their feedback, and then revising like crazy. I've decided to find a professional editor/proofreader to help me clean it up before I publish it, too. If you are an editor or you know someone who is... let me know, either in the comments or via email (wandsci at gmail dot com). It might take me a few weeks to get back to you, but I'd like to talk rates and the like.

Then I'll figure out the formatting and publish it. First on Amazon, and then perhaps to Kobo and BN.com. I'd also like to figure out how to make a PDF available. We'll see how it goes.

Once I get the final version, I'll send it to the people who volunteered to review it.

One of my offline friends asked if the fact that I was self-publishing this book meant that I was going to give up on publishing with a publisher. Not by a long shot! I love my publisher in particular and think publishers in general bring a lot to the table. I'm just curious about how the self-publishing thing will feel, and I'm also gathering information to help me weigh some of my ideas for what I'd like to do now that I've carved out space to pursue some projects.

And speaking of publishing with a publisher... my next kids' book is coming out soon! It is called Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess. My publisher has some really cool ideas for promoting it, I've got an idea or two, as well, and I'm just super excited about the whole thing. I really like how this story turned out (BIG thank you to the folks who beta tested it for me- I got some ideas from your comments that I think made the story better). I really, really, really love how the illustrations look, and I can't wait to show you guys. There will be some sort of blog tour/party/whatever we're calling those things these days, so if you're interested in that sort of thing, stay tuned. Details will be coming along once I get them figured out.

I'll have to make sure the job search ebook and the Petunia book releases are sufficiently staggered, so that you don't all get tired of reading posts where I gush about being excited about a book release. Because I suspect a book release will always be exciting to me.

Heck, just reading a particularly nice review can get me all excited. I hadn't checked the Amazon page for The Zebra Said Shhh in awhile, and for some reason, I decided to take a look. First, I was shocked at the sheer number of reviews- it clearly had been quite awhile since I looked! Then, I noticed the review titled Works like sleep medicine for 3 to 5 year olds and I had to laugh, and also feel a little warm and gushy inside. You may not remember, but the story came from my desperate attempts to get Pumpkin to go to sleep. Sadly, the story didn't seem to work on her, but it makes me really happy to read that it works on someone's kids! (Pumpkin has actually started requesting this story again at bedtime, and now falls asleep while I tell it, but I think that is because she now generally goes to sleep easily.)

In other review news, Nicoleandmaggie have posted a review of Taming the Work Week, which I very much appreciate. A couple of the commenters said that the review made them think of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, a book I confess I have not read (or even heard of before now). I may need to check that out and see what I think. I have some deep thoughts rumbling around about how the issues with how we've arranged our work world may be contributing to some of society's problems and perhaps also screwing with people's health (mental and physical), but I haven't been able to get them to coalesce. It sounds like maybe this book summarizes some relevant research, so maybe it would help get my thoughts on the topic to become coherent. But I have a lot of other books queued up first, so who knows when I'll get to it.

Finally in news that is only related because I figure in it, I posted over on Tungsten Hippo this week. I wrote about how it annoys me when authors who don't usually write sci-fi write a sci-fi book and totally flub the world-building.  Does that annoy you, too? I can't be the only one who finds that a deal-killer in a book, but everyone I talk to about it just looks at me like I've suddenly shown myself to be far geekier than they expected and sort of backs away slowly.

That's all the news, I think. Contracting is going well, but I need to get motivated to go find another client or two. I'll do that soon. I'm also still thinking about whether there is a useful or interesting post in the story of setting up the business. Mostly, it was filling out a lot of forms, and that sounds like a boring post to me. But several people have asked for details, so maybe there is something interesting in the process that I'm missing? Perhaps it is just in figuring out how to trust yourself enough to take the leap. I'm not sure I can help on that, since I took the initial leap at least partly in anger and frustration! I'll keep thinking about this and see if a post becomes clear.

Ask about anything I missed in the comments, or talk about any of the above news, or tell me how much you hate authors flubbing world-building... or anything, really.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Asking Saves Kids

In lieu of my usual Weekend Reading post, I want to write a special post in honor of National ASK Day, which is tomorrow (June 21).

ASK stands for Asking Saves Kids, and the purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the importance of asking whether there are any unsecured guns in a friend's house before you send your child over to play.

People who follow me on Twitter may remember that I recently had to ask this very question. Pumpkin was invited for her first sleepover, with a friend from school. I have chatted with the friend's mother (and think she's great), but we certainly don't know the family well enough to know whether or not they have any guns in their house.

Several people responded to my tweet about having to ask about guns, wondering if I would write a post sharing how I asked. National ASK Day seemed like the perfect time to do just that!

First of all, let me make something clear: I am not a huge fan of guns, but I do not have a problem with people who are responsible gun owners. Actually, John Scalzi's recent post fairly accurately captures my feelings about guns and gun owners: I have no problem with people who enjoy using guns responsibly, but I am seriously creeped out by people for whom guns seem to have a fetish status.

I am not asking about guns to make sure that there are no guns in the houses where my daughters play. I am asking to make sure that any guns that are present are properly secured.

Still, given the contentiousness around guns in America, it is definitely an awkward question to ask. Even if there were no debates about gun regulations, the conversation would be awkward, because it feels a bit like you're asking the other parent whether or not they are a good parent.

But, as the ASK campaign says: awkward conversations are part of parenting.

Here is how I asked:

We were arranging the sleepover via email, so I simply added the following text to the email in which I confirmed the date the other family had suggested would work for us:

"Final thing- we have a few safety things we always check before we let [Pumpkin] go to someone's house without us. I already saw that you don't have a pool and that your dog is not at all dangerous, so the only other thing to ask is whether you have any guns in the home, and if so, if they're locked up. "

I find the question less awkward if I group it with other safety concerns. I won't pretend this was an easy email to write. I think I stared at the text for 15 minutes before I sent it. I feel better having asked, though, and Pumpkin's friend's mom was not at all offended by the question. They do not have guns - so I have yet to see how this question is received by a gun owner.


Do any gun owners in my readership want to weigh in with whether or not they'd find that question offensive or off-putting? Have any of you had to ask this question yet? If so, how did you do it?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ask Cloud: Getting Your Foot in the Door

I have been meaning to write this Ask Cloud post for at least a month. I send my sincere apologies to Adam, who has waited patiently for me to write an answer to his question. I'm afraid your timing wasn't the best- I've been mightily distracted with my own issues lately!

But, better late than never, right? Here is Adam's question:

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I have been searching for a job in biotechnology for years. Every person's specific job search situation is unique, but mine truly does not align with any standard career advice.

Virtually every job that I have had since earning a Bachelor of Science in biology (1995) has required no education beyond high school.

After college, I enlisted in the Army (the reasons are complicated). When that stint ended in 2000, I found a job at a San Francisco Bay Area biotech startup. That job lasted less than a year.

I returned to school to take more classes. I eventually earned a Master of Science in biochemistry, which was obtained by classwork and literature review. However, I have no patents, publications, posters, presentations, or thesis.

I applied to four Ph.D. programs in 2009. All were rejections. I attempted to gain a commission as an Army biochemist, but they had too large a number of applicants. Subsequently, while remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area, I tried to support myself with both part-time and temp work (which included janitorial work, freight handling, meat packing, and retail) while looking for a full time biotech job.

I tried to stay connected to science while doing these jobs. I did an unpaid internship in a now defunct stem cell startup. I did unpaid consulting for another startup (that never went beyond the “concept-on-paper” stage). I volunteered at a biotechnology “do it yourself” laboratory. I searched for scientific literature on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I attended professional networking events.

I did this for three and a half years without luck finding a true biotech job. Living in Silicon Valley on an income of less than $18,000 makes it nearly impossible to achieve this goal. Unexpected events finally required me to move from San Francisco to Las Vegas (where my family is) at the end of 2013. Las Vegas is not a biotech hotbed, but I have found some contacts.

Although I no longer believe that it will get me a dream job, I still very much want to get a Ph.D., for no greater purpose than a sense of accomplishment. It has always been my goal.

How does one “get a foot in the door” in science? How does one get into science without almost no experience or connections at all?

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This is a tough question to answer. You definitely have an unusual background for a PhD applicant, and I am sure that has worked against you to at least some extent. I think some PhD programs have had to shrink in recent years, too, due to funding constraints, so getting in is more competitive than it used to be.

You don't say where your M.S. is from, but it strikes me as odd that you were able to get a M.S. without any lab work or thesis.  You may not find that you get any credit for that while applying to jobs or PhD programs, unfortunately.

I don't know your story well enough to know if this advice is on track, but here are my thoughts:

1. From other comments you've left, my impression is that you focused exclusively on doing a PhD about ALS. I think this is a mistake, because it restricts your options for where to go. I think your best bet for getting "your foot in the door" in science is to apply to less-prestigious but still solid research universities, and try to then get in a well-respected lab at that institution. This may also mean you have to move somewhere you don't really want to live.

If your long term interests are ALS, you could try to get in a lab for your graduate work that studies basic science relevant to that disease, rather than trying to get into an ALS lab directly. You might find that you could even develop a thesis project that involved ALS. However, the most important thing would be to find an advisor who can really help you grow as a scientist, and can help place you in a postdoctoral lab- because if you want to do research in biochemistry, I'm afraid you'll probably need a postdoctoral position after your PhD.  If you are still interested in ALS after you do your PhD, you might be able to get into a lab that studies it at the postdoctoral point.

2. Try to find someone who can review your written statements and with whom you can practice interview questions.  Work to make sure you present a strong and positive narrative about why there is such a long gap between undergraduate and graduate school. If you don't explain it, people will fill in a story based on their own preconceptions, and it is unlikely to be a favorable story for you. Look at what happened and think about why, and then tell your story in a positive way, indicating what you learned along the way and explaining why you want to go to graduate school at this point.

Given your background and the difficulty you've had getting into the field, it is only natural if you're a bit bitter about some things that have happened. You need to practice a version of your story that expunges any trace of bitterness. Even the most justified bitterness tends to rebound on the speaker. It will do you no good and can do you a lot of harm.

I think you also want to make sure that you come across as open to broadening your horizons in graduate school. Even people who come in incredibly focused on one topic can find that they end up studying something different. If your application materials or an in person interviews make it seem like you have only one interest and will not be swayed from that interest, the selection committee may down-prioritize your application in favor of someone with a more open mind. However- this observation is based on my own experiences in graduate school, which were 15 years ago now! I'd love to hear what my academic readers think on this point.

3. The other thing to consider is that perhaps your networking approach isn't working. You said you were laid off in 2000. There were still a couple of boom years left at that point, so I am a bit surprised if you were networking then and not able to land another technician level position. I obviously cannot tell you what, if anything, isn't working for you when you network. I think your best bet here would be to recruit a friend who will be brutally honest with you to go along to a networking event, and see if he or she can give you and idea about whether you are doing something that is unintentionally putting people off. Sometimes, people who are intensely passionate about a particular subject can come across as a bit scary, particularly to women who sadly often have experience with people not respecting boundaries.

That is a complete wild guess, though, so please don't worry about this too much if you think back on your networking and honestly don't think people were put off.

4. My final piece of advice isn't at all what you asked for. You can obviously choose to ignore it completely. However, I want to tell you what I'd do in your shoes. You have a dream that you've been pursuing for over a decade, and it isn't going well. There are any number of reasons this could be the case, and most of them are not in anyway your fault. However, you only get this one life to live. It is great to pursue a dream, but not at the expense of the rest of your life.

I would sit down and really think about what you want in life and why you want that PhD. Then I'd think about the reason that is driving you and ask: is there some other way to fulfill that desire? If you really want to help people with ALS, is there something else you could do that would achieve that goal? If you really want the achievement of getting a PhD, is there some other achievement that could substitute? If you really want to be involved in drug discovery, is there a role that is not a direct research role that you could consider?

Perhaps set up some informational interviews with people in fields in biotech that aren't directly research: regulatory affairs, facilities and/or lab management, etc. Maybe you will find another direction to take that will fulfill the underlying desire that is pushing you towards grad school.

As you think about your underlying goals, don't fall for the idea that a PhD is an irreplaceable experience. I have never regretted getting my PhD, and I think I learned a lot and grew a lot while doing it, but I do not think that getting the PhD was the only way to learn those things or undergo that growth. 

I'm not telling you to give up on your dream- that would be presumptuous of me. I am just suggesting you keep it in perspective, and don't let it consume your life.

Good luck, Adam- I hope things work out for you.

Readers, do you have other advice for Adam? I think it would be particularly useful if anyone on a grad school admission committee could weigh in and give him some ideas about what why his applications might not be succeeding.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tweaked

I have been having problems with my neck, where it periodically gets tweaked, for the lack of a better word. One side sort of seizes up. making it very painful to look up, down, or in any direction except straight-ahead, really. It is odd, because the side that is having this trouble is the opposite side from the arm that has the long-standing repetitive strain injury. I'm not sure what to make of this new issue. I should probably see a doctor. I should certainly find a way to fully revive my struggling yoga practice.

I noticed many years ago that the thing that most helped my injured arm was not physical therapy, the direct stretches the therapists gave me, or the various anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing medicines we tried. It was yoga. My theory is that it was the one treatment I tried that viewed my body as a whole as the system, and didn't just focus on my hurt arm. When my arm was at its worst, certain lower body stretches were harder. When I was able to most fluidly do a wide variety of poses, my arm felt best.

Yoga helps me keep my asthma under control, too (my theory on that one is related to its overall relaxing properties and focus on breathing deeply).

I just feel best when I have a regular practice.

And yet, I struggle to do a lame 20 minute yoga DVD one or two times per week. What I really want is a weekly class and a 15 minute nightly practice.

Surely, now that I've cut the hours I "owe" to any company down to roughly 20 per week, I should be able to make room for the practice I want. But it is not so simple. A nightly practice is probably unreasonable given my low sleep needs children and our small house. I may not owe any company more than 20 hours per week, but I owe myself some hours, too, or else my grand experiment will come to nothing. I happened to have quit my full time job at a time of year when there is a lot going on in the kids' schedules and other home-related demands on my time, and Mr. Snarky and I are having to work hard to keep the kids from siphoning away the majority of the time I freed up. At the same time, one of the things I wanted to do with the de-stressed schedule was to spend more time really present with my kids. I am still working to figure out how to be, really. I know that everything I want is achievable in the time I have now. My schedule needs some adjustments. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out what those are just yet.

I am tweaking things around the edges- I spent 20 minutes doing yoga tonight before I sat down to write this post. However, I feel far from the optimum, and a bit unmoored in terms of what configuration I'm even aiming to achieve.

Luckily, we have a vacation coming up soon. Getting away from our routine always helps me think about these issues in a different way. I will no doubt spend some time meditating on what I want really my life to be like- not what various groups of people think my life should be like, but what I actually want right now. Maybe, with a little luck, I'll even get to meditate in the literal sense rather than just the figurative.

I think I need to make some time for this blog, too. It has always been my space for working through these sorts of issues. I probably need to write some more navel-gazing posts soon. First, though, I'm going to get that job search ebook off to my beta readers- my goal is to send it out Wednesday. (Thanks for all the title suggestions! They were really helpful.) And I have a much delayed Ask Cloud post to write, a trip to Torrance to tell you about and a few other drafts to turn into posts. I've learned over the years of blogging that sometimes the posts that shake a mental block loose are the ones that seem to be about something completely unrelated- so I'm just going to write what I want and see what happens.

But right now, I'm heading to bed, so that I might get up in the morning and do some yoga.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Weekend Reading: Another Bunch of Unrelated Links Edition

I am *this* close to being able to send a draft of my job search ebook to my beta readers. I spent more time on that today than I expected I would, and so I don't have a coherent set of links... but I do have some good links!

Also, if you missed it on Twitter, I am crowdsourcing a title for the job search ebook. My working title of "Escaping the Ivory Tower" seems a bit to pejorative about academia. So- submit ideas here or on Twitter. If I pick your idea, I'll give you a copy of the new book and a copy of Taming the Work Week. Help me out, please, because all of the ideas I've come up with so far frankly suck.

Anyway, on to the links. Let's start with the serious/depressing ones:

This post from Shakesville about rape threats is hard to read, but important. I don't think ignoring the online misogynists is really working, so let's try talking about them and getting angry.

In my perfect world, there would be laws against what they do and we would enforce them.

But then I think about how Congress couldn't even pass a law to strengthen background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting, and I get depressed about the chances we'd ever get a law against internet harassment, or get anyone to take the fact that these guys are making actual threats of harm seriously.

Speaking of guns, here is a really good meditation on the sobering reality of what can happen when "a good guy with a gun" tries to intervene in a shooting event.

Speaking of problems Congress is ignoring, xkcd does an excellent job of illustrating what is at stake with global warming.

So all of that was rather depressing. On a slightly more upbeat note, I really liked this post from Julie Pagano about how to fight to make things better for marginalized people in tech, and think there are ideas in there that translate out to a lot of other problems, too.

Miles O'Brien wrote a moving and fascinating piece about life after losing an arm.

Did you know the Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Waterson made a brief reappearance in comics? Stephan Pastis tells the story, which is awesome.

Speaking of comments, Xykacademiqz wrote about a new comic she found and it looks really good.

I like my Tungsten Hippo quote so much this week I'm going to share it here, too:




And finally, if you haven't seen the Tumblr that turns academic papers into clickbait, you must check it out right now.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Three Unrelated Vexing Things

My kids have grown, as kids do, so a couple of weekends ago I took them to the mall to buy new swimsuits. My previous attempt to just buy them swimsuits without trying them on had resulted in ridiculously low cut suits that fit neither of them. (Aside: who designs a plunging neckline for a child's swimsuit? This is stupid.)

While we were there, I also thought we'd get new nightclothes, since they'd also outgrown those. We found a nightgown Pumpkin liked, but nothing for Petunia, so after much searching on Amazon, and my flat out refusal to pay $50 for a Frozen-themed nightgown, I ordered Petunia a Minnie Mouse nightgown.

It came last Monday, and Petunia was so excited to wear it! She wore it every night last week, and every night, she wet her bed. Prior to last week, it had been ages since she'd last wet her bed. She generally only wets her bed if she's getting sick or if she's so tired that she sleeps too soundly.

I can think of no reason why the new nightgown should be at all linked to bed wetting, but on a whim (or out of desperation), last night we put her back in her old night gown. She did not wet the bed.

Now I am completely flummoxed. The new night gown is longer than the old one, but they are similar material and design. If I were superstitious, I'd probably throw her new nightgown out. Instead, we'll try the old one for a few nights, and try the new one again later.

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Speaking of perplexing and vexing issues for which there is no obvious answer: I wrote about the Amazon-Hachette fight over on Tungsten Hippo. My opinion is mainly based on my interests as a reader, and (spoiler alert!) I don't see either side as being particularly aligned to my interests.

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And speaking of perplexing and vexing issues related to reading: Pumpkin is refusing to try new series of books and we're running out of Encyclopedia Brown books to get her from the library. When asked why she doesn't want to try any of the lovely series I've suggested, she says she is afraid they will be scary.

I have no idea what to do about this, either. She has shown an interest in reading on my Kindle, so I might try borrowing her an Ivy and Bean or Cam Jansen book there. Otherwise, I guess we just assume it is a phase, wait it out, and reread a lot of old books.

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Anyone else have perplexing and vexing issues they want to discuss? Or want to weigh in on possible solutions to any of the ones I have? Have at it in the comments.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Weekend Links: The Hopeful and Happy Edition

I continue to work my way down my business set up to do list. Today I filled out a form for the state department of employment, leaving me with (I think) only one more form to fill out, and it isn't urgent. I also registered domains and set up web hosting- I'm one step closer to having a website for writing about management and related topics, associated with my actual name. (Yes, I will tell you about it when it is ready. No, I'm not abandoning Wandering Scientist- I need my space to write about parenting, travel, things that make me rant-y, and the other random things I put here.) And- this is the best part- I submitted my first invoice!

The invoice was more of an achievement than you'd think, because to do that I got my time-tracking tool of choice (Toggl) to talk to the accounting software I'm trying out (FreshBooks, chosen even though my friend Jennywennycakes told me not to... but they are the tool that integrates with Toggl and I love Toggl. So far, I've been able to make FreshBooks do what I need it to do. My needs aren't that demanding.) I also had to create a basic logo for the consulting arm of the business, which may be what took the most time, not because I did anything fancy, but because I discovered I am irrationally attached to the font I chose back when I made business cards (Futura Book, if you're curious), and that required that I purchase the font and install it... and on and on.

But all in all, it was a good week business-wise.

I also took Otter Pops to Pumpkin's class at the end of the day today, because Mr. Snarky and I had a communication failure and didn't do anything for her birthday in her class, even though she really wanted us to. She's a forgiving kid, though, and today's visit has made all OK.

Petunia, meanwhile, got to be the "greeter" at preschool graduation (she wasn't graduating- that's next year). Their graduation theme this year was dinosaurs, and the teacher made her a dinosaur tail with Mickey Mouse heads forming the spine. The center's assistant director sent me a picture of her at her station and I just about died of the cute.

Oh, and this week I got to see the illustrations for my next kid's book, which were downright wonderful. Seriously, I could not be more happy with them. I emailed a bit with my publisher, who has all sorts of exciting things planned for this book. I should be able to tell you more details about that soon.

So I'm in a pretty good mood. Luckily, the links I have today are mostly happy and hopeful things, so nothing to kill my mood. No doubt, I'll be back to my usual anger-inducing links next week.

First up, I loved this remembrance of Maya Angelou from Patricia Matthew.

Kiese Laymon has a beautiful interview with filmmaker Stanley Nelson, which somehow manages to be hopeful despite the fact the film they primarily talk about is about the fight for black voting rights in Mississippi.

I really liked this essay about the overview effect and how we need to find a way to get more of it here on earth.

Hmmm. Those were some heavy topics. But the posts I linked to left me hopeful. Now for the purely happy things:

I came across this delight art and now I want to buy some prints. The bougainvillea is my favorite,  I think, possibly because I love those flowers so much. The artist also has a blog.

Here are some cool cups.

My publisher emailed me this nice review of my Taming the Work Week book. I've stopped searching for new reviews, so I hadn't seen it. She noticed it because it bumped my sales numbers.

Mr. Snarky sent me  a link to two geek guys deconstructing the fake geek girl argument. It has some moments that made me laugh out loud:



Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Things I Would Like to Remember

I have quite a backlog of "real" posts waiting to be written- an Ask Cloud post about getting into grad school, a write up of our recent weekend getaway, some thoughts about all the questions Pumpkin is asking these days... But it turns out, setting up a company is consumes a lot of time and mental energy. I knew that. But now I really know that. Still, I miss writing... so here is the post that I can manage tonight, about something I want to remember in 10 years.

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The first thing is the feeling of setting up the company. I can't remember if I've said it here before, but this particular career move was a leap of equal parts faith and frustration. I'm choosing to focus on the faith part: the way in which this move is me having faith in myself. The most probable positive outcome of this experiment is that I end up with a solid contracting business. (I won't dwell on what the most probable overall outcome is.) However, I'm not setting the business up as if that were the outcome for which I'm aiming. I have created a corporation with one name and filed a different fictitious business name for the consulting practice. I have chosen to do my accounting in a way that allows for other sources of revenue. I am registering separate domain names for the "main" business and the consulting one.

I am doing all of this even though I still have no firm idea of what the non-consulting part of my business will be. I am just trusting myself to figure it out, once I finish the paperwork and other set up overhead and can use the time I've freed up to try things out.

No matter what happens, I want to remember this time, when I believed enough in myself and my ideas to give this a go.

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Petunia is moving up to the final class at her preschool next Monday. She's very excited. I look at her and wonder when she got so big.

She says "oops-a-daze" when she does something she didn't mean to do. I have no idea where she got this, and whether she's the one who shortened "oopsie-daisy" or if one of her classmates did it. But it is adorable.

She loves the movie Frozen with all her heart. Pumpkin still won't watch it, so Petunia only gets to watch it when she's home without Pumpkin. She's only seen it three times, but she basically knows it by heart. She likes to play Frozen, which mostly involves sitting in our bedroom with the lights out. I haven't gotten to watch it with her yet, so I have no idea what she's doing, but it keeps her entertained for ages, so I am not complaining.

Petunia is much better at playing on her own than Pumpkin was at her age. She also likes to play with Pumpkin, and they act out long, detailed scenarios with their little dolls. My favorite is the Frozen-Doc McStuffins mashup that seems to involve a bunch of princesses getting check ups from the Doc.

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Pumpkin continues to grow up faster than I can keep up with her. I will write that post about the questions she's been asking, because this is a phase I'd like to remember- at least for when Petunia hits it!

She still loves to invent elaborate games, and it still disappoints her when her schemes do not go off as planned because other people don't follow their parts. Luckily, Petunia will often be a willing actor in her set pieces. A couple of months ago, one such piece (the details of which I've long since forgotten) involved her creating signs for our bathrooms. There is a hand-lettered sign in our hallway pointing to the bathrooms, a "girl's bathroom" sign on the main bathroom, and a "boy's bathroom" sign on the bathroom in the master bedroom. I can't bring myself to take them down.

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I'll be back with more posts soon. The urgent set up tasks for my business are almost complete, and then I should be able to slow down the pace. Of course, by then it will probably be time for our vacation. But at some point, surely, I'll make the time to write some more posts. For now, I'm off to work on vacation planning. Mr. Snarky has once again underestimated the distances involved in American travel, and I need to figure out which of his proposed stops I should argue we cut from the itinerary, so that we can have an actually relaxing vacation.

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