Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Second Home

I've been kicking around the idea of starting a second blog under my real name for awhile. It has felt less and less right to post some of my best ideas about management and the like here, halfway-anonymously. However, I also really value this halfway-anonymous space as a place to talk about my life, my kids, stupid crap that happens in my industry, and other such things. I knew I didn't want to lose this space. So, for a long time, I just sat on the idea. This inaction was further supported by some changes in my company's policies that made me think I'd have to get blog posts published under my full name approved by them.

Now that I have left that job and set out on my own, it seems like a good time to set up an internet presence under my own name. Today, I published my first real post on my new blog. You can find it here:

[redacted - contact me for the link]

You can also follow me under my real name on Twitter. There is a link on the front page of the new blog.

I'll leave that link in this post for a couple of weeks, and then I'll come and redact it. Once I do that, you can contact me via my Wandering Scientist email address (wandsci at gmail dot com) to get the link.

I've been slowly weakening the wall between this site and my real name for awhile now, but I'm not ready to break it down forever. I'll remove the link from this page to better hide the association of this blog and my real name from Google and other search engines. I increasingly don't mind if actual people know about that association, but I'd still like to keep it out of search results for me. I do not publish anything here I feel should need to be secret, but the reality of the world in which I work is such that some of the things I publish have the potential to create issues for me if they are easily linked to my name via a casual web search.

I struggled a bit with this decision. I have read the arguments from people who advocate for women in STEM to be fully present in the community under their real names, and there are some good arguments there. However, there are some real risks there, too. In the end, I wasn't willing to assume those risks- at least not yet.

I am full cognizant of the fact that if I ever gain serious success in my new endeavor, someone is likely to "out" me in a Googleable way as the author of this blog, too. I am assuming that I will have grown enough as a person by then to be OK with that. If I am wrong... well, I guess then I'll deal with that, too.

For now, though, I like the semi-permeable wall between my name and this space, so I'll keep it. I intend to keep posting here, and tweeting at @wandsci. However, I am likely to move a lot of the management, science, and tech-oriented content over to my shiny new second home. If any of those topics are interesting to you, I hope you'll drop by and see if you want to visit me there, too.

Thanks for reading and commenting here. No matter what happens as my online presence morphs, I will always be grateful for the community that has grown here. You guys are the best.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trip Story: Denver to Glenwood Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Snarky helps the kids pan for gold. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Long and Rambling Edition

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Body and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Trip Story: Denver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekend Links: The Easing Back In Edition

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

Anyway, to the links.

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

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

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

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

Here is a really good article about Sally Ride.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Muddled Thoughts

On January 31, 2006, Mr. Snarky and I took a bus from Singapore to Melaka, Malaysia. Eighteen days later, we boarded a boat from Pulau Langkawi to Hat Pakmeng in Thailand. We had arrived in Malaysia knowing little about it beyond what our guidebook told us, and left it grateful for the many wonderful experiences we had and welcoming people we met. Our time in Taman Negara may be some of my favorite days from the entire trip, and we still think back wistfully on the wonderful mall food courts of Kuala Lumpur. And visiting the Boh tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands was an incredible experience for a tea lover like me.

I admit that it is this slight personal connection with Malaysia that made me dig for more information when the first reports of an air disaster involving Malaysian Airlines began to appear in my Twitter feed. As I read the details and it became clear that this disaster was likely no accident, a deeper sense of horror set in.

I will not speculate further on who, exactly, is to blame for the disaster, but I do wonder if it will change anything about the wider tragedy unfolding in the eastern Ukraine. Sadly, I suspect not.

I mourn for all those on board the flight. I mourn also for the people caught in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. and more generally for the people of Malaysia and Ukraine, who are already expressing their grief outside the Dutch embassies in their nations.

For some reason, my brain recalled an offhand tweet I saw a few weeks ago about the book "My Struggle," by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. The novel is about Knausgaard's everyday experiences as a father, and the male pundit whose tweet I saw was making joke about how Knausgaard had to resort to writing about something so mundane because Scandinavian countries have removed all of the "usual" sources of plot.

The tweet bothered me at the time, but I didn't really think about why. I just scrolled on. Today, I know why. I was bothered by implication that human life is an interesting subject for a novel only when it is threatened. I do not think Scandinavia has truly eliminated the more usual sources of plot, but if they had, surely that would be something to learn from and perhaps emulate, not something to mock.

Human life is precious, and it is important whether the person living it is starring in a dramatic story or just going about the daily struggle- and yes, it is often a struggle- to live life and perhaps raise children. Maybe if we all got a little bit better at seeing the beauty and meaning in everyday life, we would have fewer people fomenting the conflicts that create news stories with plots that pundit considers acceptable for novels.

This is probably also why I am a bit bothered by the tweets I'm seeing that seem to imply the fact that the plane was carrying many researchers to an AIDS conference increases the tragedy. Yes, it is tragic to lose those researchers. But it is tragic to lose all of the people on board. I do not think we will end up anywhere good if we start considering some lives more valuable than others.

This post has gotten a bit muddled, and I'm not sure it is coming out right. But I needed to write it. I needed to say that life matters, no matter who is living it and no matter how seemingly mundane it is. I want us all to do better, to stop thinking we're more important than that other person over there, whoever that person may be. I want us to stop killing each other, and hurting each other, and screaming at buses full of scared children. I want us to stop throwing mothers in jail because they can't afford child care, and I want us to stop thinking that any trait we can see really tells us much of anything at all about a person's capabilities. I want us to stop letting our fellow humans go hungry, and to stop caring so damn much about who they sleep with or whether their gender matches what is in their pants. I want us to look past all of the things that make us different and see how much we are the same, and feel each other's pain and try to make it better.

I know I won't get most of the things that I want, but perhaps I can at least have a mundane and ordinary life, in which my biggest struggles are around bedtimes and picky eating. If I get that one wish, I will be a very lucky woman. I wish that sort of luck for us all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Colorado Tour: Awards Show Version

As I mentioned in my last post, we've just returned from a two week vacation in Colorado. We flew into Denver, rented a car, and had a driving tour of the state, starting with a few days in Denver followed by a leisurely drive to Glenwood Springs, and then proceeding to Aspen, Alamosa, Colorado Springs, and Rocky Mountain National Park, before ending with one night in Boulder.

I'll come back and link to the full write up each stop as I write them, but first, I want to continue the tradition of writing an awards show version of the vacation. (Here are the awards show versions of  last year's New Zealand trip, our 2012 Texas vacation, and 2011 California road trip.) These posts have become part of our travel routine now- once we get to our gate at the airport, I get out my purse notebook and we write our list while we wait for our flight. It is a great way to distract the kids (and me) from the wait, and to wring a little extra enjoyment from the vacation.

Best hotel: Without a doubt, the grown ups choose Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. It is not that our other hotels were bad- all of our hotels were good, and a couple were great. But the room I booked at the Hotel Colorado was amazing. I like to book a suite whenever I can, so that Mr. Snarky and I can sit up and talk over beers after the kids are asleep. The Hotel Colorado had a two bedroom suite at a price I liked, so I booked it. It turned out to be the "penthouse suite" and had a huge balcony running the length of the three rooms, looking out over the hot springs and the town.

The view from our balcony
Plus, it was a great old historic hotel. We were delighted.

Pumpkin preferred the Misty Mountain Lodge in Estes Park, for its twin beds and play area, and Petunia preferred the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, for its pure fanciness.

Favorite stop: For me, it was Glenwood Springs, for the great hotel, laid back vibe, and the fun we had in the hot springs. Pumpkin agreed with me, mainly due to the hot springs (which were really a giant warm swimming pool). For Mr. Snarky, it was Estes Park, for the beautiful surroundings and the town that reminded him of some New Zealand tourist towns. Petunia picked Boulder, because she really liked the fancy hotel- complete with an elevator operated by an attendant!- and the Dora game on the computer in the library.

Favorite thing: The kids both chose the frog slide in the water park at our hotel in Alamosa (I told you the hotels were good on this trip), although for Pumpkin, getting to visit family in Denver was just as good. I loved visiting my family, too, but I have to pick the tundra hike I did in Rocky Mountain National Park. We had a great day for our visit, and although it was sprinkling lightly when we got to the tundra, there was never any hint of thunderclouds (which would have sent us scurrying back to our car- rightly so, it tragically turns out).  The two deaths in the park occurred below the elevation at which I walked on the tundra, one and two days after we were in the park. We were lucky to visit on a day when no thunderstorms happened, as we would not have gotten out of the car if there were thunderclouds overhead. (This is not to imply that either of the two hikers were to blame for what happened- thunderstorms can form rapidly at that altitude.)

Anyway, the kids didn't want to walk in the sprinkles, so I had a short walk on the tundra path alone, enjoying the amazing sight of fields of sunflowers with snow covered peaks in the background. It was almost magical.

Tundra! Wildflowers! Mountains!
Mr. Snarky's favorite thing was much more down to earth: it was the 4th of July parade we saw in Aspen. He says he feels like he finally saw a proper 4th of July parade. It was also the first 4th of July parade I can remember seeing, for what its worth.

Best playground: The pirate ship playground in Vail. I'd picked Vail as the stopping point for afternoon snack based on reading about this playground, and we weren't disappointed.

Favorite local beer sampled: My favorite was Dale's Pale Ale at Oskar Blues in Lyons, although we also tasted a surprisingly awesome kiwi blonde beer at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in  Alamosa- it was a part blonde, part pale ale, with kiwifruit added to the brew. The kiwi taste was subtle and such a good addition that Mr. Snarky asked about the recipe. The brewmaster happened to be onsite, so he actually got the recipe, and intends to try to replicate it. The only reason I didn't choose it as my favorite is that I only had a sip and therefore can't say how the taste holds up in drinking an entire pint. I was driving that night, and couldn't have another full pint.

Mr. Snarky's favorite beer was the Great Divide Rumble IPA. We couldn't get visit the brewery (which is in Denver), but he enjoyed this beer on tap and in the bottle on several nights.

Favorite meal: My favorite meal was the beer-cheese soup I had at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub. Mr. Snarky's favorite meal was also in Glenwood Springs, and the truly awesome Pullman restaurant. He raved about his meal for days. In fact, if anyone gives him a reminder, he raves about it now.

When asked, Petunia said her favorite meal was the mac-n-cheese she had just about everywhere, while Pumpkin chose the pretzels she had at several brew pubs.

Best chill out: Dinner and drinks with my cousin and her family, in their backyard.
Best tourist attraction: I picked the Glenwood Springs hot springs, which were well done and a lot of fun for everyone. Mr. Snarky picked the Pikes Peak cog railway. I agree with him that this was a cool ride, and I'm glad we did it- but he was the only one who really enjoyed the time at the summit. I had problems with the altitude, and the kids were too cold.

Best random great thing: Both Mr. Snarky and I chose things from our visit to Alamosa, and perhaps we should just say that Alamosa was the best random great things, because it certainly was a great stop and neither of us really knew what to expect. My specific thing was walking into Calvillo's Mexican Restaurant for dinner to discover that a wonderful duo were performing Mexican folk songs. The man singing lead had an amazingly good voice, and he was expertly accompanied by a woman finger-picking melodies on guitar. Mr. Snarky's specific thing was the light streaming in the windows in the brewpub the next night. The Great Sand Dunes National Park (the reason for our visit) was pretty cool, too.


Biggest bummer: It was cloudy the day we went up Pikes Peak, so while the view was beautiful (it is amazing to be so far above the clouds and not be in an airplane), we missed out on the expansive view for which it is famous. Also, the previously mentioned problem I had with the altitude: I lost my peripheral vision. It was replaced by shimmers. That was very weird.

Best kid moment (both kids): Discovering a love of hiking on the Grottos trail near Aspen, closely followed by discovering a love of climbing on rocks at Garden of the Gods.

They climbed up there. (For the record: the matching dresses thing is THEIR idea.)
Best parenting moment (Daddy): Getting the kids Junior Ranger activity books at the Rocky Mountain National Park- these kept the kids interested in the sights and hikes, and they were both thrilled to get their Junior Ranger badges at the end of the day.

Best parenting moment (Mommy): I can't really come up with one. Maybe it was having a large purse that could carry snacks, wipes, and little notebooks to color in, and being willing to lug it around everywhere we went. Maybe it was creating our trip plan document ahead of time, with ideas for playgrounds, restaurants, and rest stops. Neither of those is really a moment, but it is the best I can do.

As usual, you can expect a bunch of posts with details of the trip. Apologies to those who find them boring, but I love going back to reread them years later. Anyway, you don't have to read them. I've got a bunch of other posts I want to write, too, so the blog won't be mutating into a pure travel blog, even temporarily.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Travel, Books, and Fun Edition

By the time you read this, I'll probably be on my way home from a two week vacation in Colorado. I don't have a bunch of timely links to share, because I prepared this post before I left home. I enjoy blogging, but not as much as I enjoy traveling!

And I do enjoy traveling. I also enjoy daydreaming about traveling to more places. I recently discovered the Atlas Obscura site and holy cow, it is awesome.

I've long been intrigued by the question of why some people (like me) love to travel so much. I still don't know the answer, but I liked travel writer Evan Rail's take on it in the short ebook Why We Fly.

Here's a fun story of virtual travel, in which a writer uses Google streetview to visit her namesake town

I found this great post about being an African-American man working as a nature leader via @DNLee.

While I was writing up our recent trip to Torrance, I came across this fun looking local food blog. The handful of San Diego readers I have (and anyone planning a visit) might want to check it out.

Am I the last person to discover the charming kids' book And Tango Makes Three? We brought it home from the library recently, and Petunia loved it. So did I. It is a great way to introduce the idea that some families have two daddies (or two mommies) to a young kid, if it hasn't already come up in everyday life.

Don't worry, even on a fluffy set of links like this one, I have a YouTube video for you. Mr. Snarky makes sure of that. This week's is here because it is the best use of the bassoon since Peter and the Wolf.



Normal posting will resume soon... once we do the laundry, that is.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Summer Fun

This June was one of my favorite Junes ever. It probably helps that I finished up as a full time employee in May, and am now contracting (20 hours per week) and working on personal projects, like my job search ebook. I gave myself permission to take it easy for a bit, so I'm not pushing myself particularly hard on the personal projects. I'm clocking in with about 30 total hours of work each week. I'll pick that up to 35 to 40 hours soon, but I needed a little bit of time to decompress first.

I've been going for a run by the bay twice a week. I don't particularly love running, but I dislike shopping even more, and my pants were feeling a bit tight. I thought about finding a gym to join, or getting back into the habit of kickboxing in my garage, but then I looked at the beautiful blue sky and felt the wonderful ocean breeze... and I put on my running shoes and headed to the bay. I've been getting steadily better. I run the same route every time, so I can tell that each time, I make it a bit further before I have to stop and walk for a bit.

With the beautiful weather, the nice location, and some good songs on my iPod... I've actually found myself smiling during some of my runs.

We've been eating outside more often, too. A couple of years ago, my summer was going much less well. It felt like it was passing me by, in fact. So I did what I usually do when I have a problem to solve: I wrote a list. It was a list of fun things I wanted to do that summer, and one of the things I put on the list was "eat outside more often." I honestly think that one item alone turned around how I felt about that summer. Ever since then, I've made it a point to start setting up dinner outside a couple of times per week once the sun starts staying out longer. I don't do anything fancy- most of the time, I can't even be bothered dragging our regular outdoor dining table out from the side of the house to the yard. Instead, I carry the kids' blue Little Tikes table out into the yard. The kids sit at that table and Mr. Snarky and I sit in our plastic Adirondack chairs and eat half over the table, half over our laps.

We have more exciting items on our Summer Fun List, too: going to the Zoo at Night, going down to watch the Sea World fireworks from the bay, and having dinner at the outdoor restaurant in Old Town are favorites.

The kids also always want to include a trip to the San Diego County Fair. We missed it last year, so I made a point of getting a visit scheduled in this year. I am glad we did. We had so much fun. We went earlier in the season than we usually do, and we went on a Thursday afternoon/evening, so the crowds weren't huge. The kids rarely had to wait in line for a ride, and we were able to find a place to sit whenever we needed one.

Petunia enjoyed feeding some goats and sheep.


Pumpkin still isn't too keen on feeding animals, but lest you think she is completely timid, I'll show you this:
Sheep are scary, but this is just fine
That's Pumpkin bouncing into the air on a trampoline, while strapped into a bungee-corded harness. And doing back flips.

Petunia went on the trampoline contraption, too, but didn't do any flips. She loved the various kiddie rides- trucks and trains and boats, going around in circles.


She also had a lot of fun "fishing" for a prize.


The woman running the game was nice and made sure she won one of the medium prizes. Pumpkin did, too, and they were both thrilled.

And of course, we ate some fair food. Petunia chose cotton candy, and Pumpkin went for a snow cone. Mr. Snarky, on the other hand got over his disdain for the name "Australian Battered Potatoes" and had some potato fritters, and I pretty much bounced with joy when I saw a stand selling Navajo fry bread, which was the fried batter of choice at festivals of my youth.

Edible nostalgia

All in all, it was a great outing. Here's hoping the Zoo at Night goes as well....

Friday, July 04, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Catching Up Edition, Continued

Happy 4th of July to all of my American readers, and happy Friday to everyone else. We're back from watching the fireworks, and it is Mr. Snarky's turn to get the kids to bed, so I can post some links for those of you who want something to read this weekend.

This week's links are all items I came across, marked as great... and then forgot to include in my weekend reading posts. Since I am in a "catching up" sort of mode, I thought this week would be a good week to share them.

Since its the 4th of July, let's start with some American history... although it isn't the sort that will make you want to wave your flag. Josh Marshall at the Talking Points Memo posted about yet another piece of American history I didn't learn in school.

Alexis Madrigal had a nice piece at The Atlantic reminding us all that tech isn't all brogrammers. I'd add: it isn't just Silicon Valley, and there is a lot of interesting tech work happening in companies that aren't "tech companies." So, if you like computers but hate the youth and start up obsessed culture you read about whenever anyone writes about tech... there is more to it than that.

Do you remember the Florida teenager who was charged with a felony for a science experiment that went a bit wrong? Here is a follow up with how she and her twin sister are doing now.

There was a post on Tenure, She Wrote from someone with quite a dilemma: accept a great fieldwork opportunity with a man who was acting a bit creepy? Or pass on it, and the career advantages it would bring? I think this highlights an issue a lot of guys don't realize exists- even in less extreme situations than described in the post, women often have to make calculations of career benefits vs. potential risks to our safety. Not all creeps turn out to be dangerous, and sometimes all roads to career success seem to involve some level of dealing with creeps. It is not always clear what to do.

Speaking of things that aren't always clear: if you somehow missed the New Yorker piece on the dangers of negotiating, it is definitely worth a read. I can't help but point out: I've ranted on this exact topic before.

And, for the upbeat ending, here is an amusing Russian ad:



Also, if you ever played Dungeons and Dragons, you're likely to find the Cubicles and Careers series pretty funny. Each episode is short, so you can watch them all. Here's the first episode. I trust you can find the rest on your own.


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