Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Project Unveiled

As I've mentioned before, I have been working on a side project.  Last year, I realized that my kids have gotten old enough to free up a little space in my weeks. I decided that I needed to invest some time in building up my "career capital." It took a little bit of soul searching to figure out what, exactly, I should do- there were so many options! In the end, though, I decided that I wanted to refresh some of my technical skills. I will eventually refresh my programming skills, but I wanted something a little smaller for this project, since it is the first one I've tackled in quite awhile.

So I decided to refresh my web skills. The last time I created a web site from scratch was in the late 90s. CSS didn't exist. Content management systems didn't exist. I'd flirted with learning Drupal the last time I was laid off, but I got a job, and I didn't really have a compelling use case to explore with it... so that effort fizzled out. I decided that I should try again.

Around the same time, I started to get frustrated with how hard it was to find short eBooks to read,  particularly if I wanted to go outside of what Amazon's algorithms picked. I think short eBooks have the potential to provide a way for a wider range of people to share their ideas and get paid for it... but only if there is a better way for people like me to find their work.

From these two things, Tungsten Hippo was born. You can read more about my motivations for creating a site dedicated to short eBooks in my first post there. I have no idea whether Tungsten Hippo will gain any attention or actually help make it easier for authors of short eBooks to get the word out about what they have written. However, it will have been worth the time I put into it even if it falls flat on its face,since I have now set up a Drupal-backed website and learned enough CSS to change details of the layout.

There is a blog component to Tungsten Hippo, but Wandering Scientist isn't going anywhere. My plan is to write a post related to short eBooks once per week, and post it on Tungsten Hippo. I will reference that post here, too. I'll also post a new entry about a short eBook most Wednesdays and a new quote from a short eBook most Fridays. You'll have to follow Tungsten Hippo to get notified of those, though. I'll still write about other topics here, at Wandering Scientist.

The links to eBooks over at Tungsten Hippo are affiliate links. I'll keep any money they generate, with the hope of making the site pay for itself (I've had to pay to set up hosting and the like). I've set up a separate account for those, so the affiliate links here at Wandering Scientist will still fund diapers (I just bought another box today).

I've set up Twitter and Pinterest accounts for Tungsten Hippo: you can follow me at @TungstenHippo on Twitter and Tungsten Hippo on Pinterest. I may set up a Facebook page, too- I'm on the fence about that.

So go on over and take a look at Tungsten Hippo. Come back here and tell me what you think, if you'd like, and definitely share the link with anyone you think might find it useful.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Cool Things in My Feeds Edition

I had a wonderful day off. I didn't take a nap, and I decided to delay the beer until 3 p.m. instead of lunchtime so I could go for a run by the bay- it was a beautiful day!- but I wouldn't change a thing.

I got so much done on my project that I am confident in saying that I will show it to all of you on Monday. I don't want to overhype it. It is, after all, the side project of someone whose job and family consumes most of her time. But I'm happy with how it has turned out, so I am excited to show it to the world.

In honor of that, I thought I'd share some of the other cool things people in my feeds have been doing.

First up, the bean-mom is shutting down her blog... but the bean-writer is starting hers up! The new blog is called It's a Jumble, and I look forward to hearing more about her writing.

AskMoxie's blog was the first thing I found that made me feel like maybe I wasn't a terrible failure as a mother for having a baby who just didn't sleep the way everyone said she should. I've gotten far more confident as a mother since those early days, but I keep reading her blog. She's started doing something she calls MoxieTopics, which are PDFs about the topics she's gotten the most questions on over the years.

I was thrilled when Kathy Sierra came back to the online world as @SeriousPony, and it was via her tweets that I discovered the series of tech books she helped to create, the Head First series from O'Reilly. I bought the Head First HTML and CSS to help me learn CSS, since I'd let my website authoring skills get more than a bit out of date.  I've learned a lot of technical topics over the years, using a variety of different types of books. The Head First method seems a bit hokey at first, but it is by far the fastest and most painless way to learn something new. I'll definitely check for a Head First book on the topic the next time I want to learn a new tech skill.

Finally, Calee Lee of Xist Publishing (the company that published my books) is one of the two finalists for the "mompreneur" award from Parenting OC magazine. I don't love the "mompreneur" portmanteau, but I am still thrilled for Calee and Xist!

Have I missed anyone who has cool things to share? I'm expecting a baby announcement from Alyssa at Apple Pie and the Universe any day now.... what else is going on out there? Don't be shy- share your news (or other people's news! I'm not picky) in the comments.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Think I'll Name My Pet Peeve Pete

I had typed out most of a post about a dilemma I face at work right now, and I deleted it. Even though my boss would not have been surprised by any of the information in it if he were to stumble across the post, I realized I wouldn't have wanted him to read it. I have a rule that I should not post anything I would not want my boss and my mother to read, so I deleted it. It is too bad, because I could have used your advice!

Oh well. I'll have to settle for your sympathy instead. I have a dilemma that is making me very unhappy, and I unfortunately could not hide that it is making me unhappy even though I do not have a solution to suggest- and that breaks the cardinal rule of never bringing a problem to your boss without a suggested solution. Oops. At least my boss agreed that there doesn't seem to be a good solution, other than me just sucking it up and dealing. He would definitely prefer I just suck it up and deal. I am not sure I have it in me to do that, though, because this particular dilemma rubs on one of my work place pet peeves.*

I am increasingly convinced I will just slowly kill off my current career by making mistakes and not handling dilemmas just right, and will have no choice but to pursue an alternative in which I can start fresh. And maybe that won't be a bad thing, but I am not quite ready to do that yet, so hopefully I can figure out a decent approach by Monday. It won't be the right approach, because I never seem to land on that, but maybe I can find the least wrong one. Or something like that.

I have until Monday because I had previously scheduled to take tomorrow off- so hooray for that! I plan to work on my project, which is sooo close to being ready to share, so hooray for that, too! I'll probably also lounge in the backyard and enjoy the sunshine and read a book. I may even take a nap. I will almost certainly have a beer with lunch. So, you know, my life does not completely suck. Not at all.**


*And now I have to share this tweet of a pet peeve, from Sandra Boynton. Maybe if I print it out and post it by my desk, I can find the capability to just suck it up and deal.

**It would suck a lot less, though if my very soon to be 4 year old hadn't wet her bed at 3:30 in the morning. Getting that cleaned up woke me up so completely that I couldn't go straight back to sleep, and then I started thinking about the dilemma, and then it was almost 5 a.m. before I finally got back to sleep. She almost never wets her bed unless she's sick, and she is not sick right now. So this was just a random tweak on the nose from the universe, and the sleep deprivation probably didn't improve my handling of the discussion with my boss at all. Sigh.

However, I had the sense to recognize that my heightened sense of drama about the dilemma might not be completely grounded in reality, so as soon as my meetings were done for the day, I left and went and sat at the beach rather than marching in to anyone's office to confront the dilemma and/or quit my job. Back when sleep deprivation was a constant companion to me, I made a rule to never make any life changing decisions while sleep deprived, and that rule has served me well.

(For the record, I did make life changing decisions during the first year of Pumpkin's life, when my sleep deprivation was most profound- for instance, I changed jobs. But I always arranged to get more than the usual amount of sleep before doing so, usually by sending Mr. Snarky out for a long walk with Pumpkin while I took a long nap.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fashion Show

The news is depressing right now, and I've got some unbloggable work-related things weighing on my mind. So I'm going to leave the serious topics behind for now, and post about something completely frivolous- my wardrobe. Yes, it is time for another one of my weird headless fashion shows.

Long time readers might remember that I am not an enthusiastic shopper these days, and that I tend towards a uniform of dark bottoms with a solid color top. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but I tend to wear t-shirts past when the point when I should retire them to finish out their days as weekend grubbies, and I also find it hard to put together appropriate outfits on the rare occasions when I need to look a little sharper. So one of my goals this year was to spruce up my wardrobe. I tried out Stitch Fix, and got some good things from them (and will probably order another fix soon- I enjoy the surprise aspect of their service).

I also took advantage of the trip to New Zealand to add some new items to my wardrobe.

Here's the dress I mentioned earlier:

I also found this shirt, which I almost didn't try on because of the horizontal stripes, but which I love:

I wandered into a Veronika Maine store, and was helped by a sales associate who definitely earned her pay that day. I came out with a new blouse (that is probably as close to a peplum as I'll ever get) and skirt:

And also this shirt, which I love even though (or perhaps because?) it reminds me of a Star Trek top:

But my favorite clothing purchase in New Zealand may actually be this t-shirt with a pohutukawa on it, purchased at the last minute in the Auckland airport, to round out a "buy two, get one free" deal (we were buying the kids souvenir t-shirts), shown here in action on our recent weekend away in Orange County:

I also did a little shopping when I visited my friend in San Francisco. We were mostly just wandering around exploring, but we wandered into a couple of shops, and I ended up with this top:

That picture neatly shows the main problem with this top- I have a hard time keeping my bra strap from peeking out. Still, I like the top.

You might notice in the above that I mostly bought tops. I decided I needed to do some directed purchasing of some bottoms. I tried out eShakti and bought a skirt, which I love all the more because it actually has pockets:

It makes a good twirling skirt, too:

On my first half day decompressing at the mall, I bought these pants at The Gap:

 I ended up liking them so much that I went back and bought two more colors:

Actually, I bought the blue ones, and then on the very first day I wore them, I got what looked like several ink stains on them at the hip. I didn't think I'd get that out, so I went online to replace them, and couldn't... and ended up with the burgundy ones. But then the ink stains faded well enough that I can continue to wear them. So now I'm pretty well set for ankle length pants. 

That picture also shows two pairs of shoes I bought recently- some red mary janes (also seen in several pictures above) and some multicolor flats that I love. They seem funky in an age-appropriate way.

On my second decompression afternoon, I picked up a new pair of black trousers (boring, but essential), another blouse and an awesome casual blazer, which is something I've been wanting for a long time:

That's the new blouse peaking out, and there are those red mary janes again. They may be my favorite shoe right now.

Here's a better view of the new blouse:

Believe it or not, I don't think I am quite done. I had let my wardrobe deteriorate quite a bit, and I had to give away a lot of my favorite tops after facing the sad fact that my chest is NOT going to go back to its pre-kids size, so those tops will never fit again. I still often find myself standing in front of my closet trying to find a top that both matches a clean pair of pants and fits. I think I have enough bottoms now, and just need to decide what sort of tops I need, and whether I should let Stitch Fix surprise me with some or try to pick out some for myself on eShakti or a similar site. Anyone know of a good place to buy shirts online? No way I'm going back to the mall.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Zenbit: The Beauty of a Flower

Once again, I find myself in need of posting something beautiful.

I tried several times to find the right words to write about the Navy Yard, Cornell Square Park, Nairobi,  and Peshawar, but I could not find them.

Location: Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, Canada
Date: October 3, 2004

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Things I Might Have Missed Edition

One of the things I've been doing as part of my attempt to move further along my personal path towards understanding my racial privilege is consciously diversifying the things I read. One of the easiest ways I've found to do that has been to diversify my Twitter feed. Tonight, I want to share with you some of the things that I would have missed if I hadn't done that.

The first few links are a bit of a cheat, because I first followed @tressiemcphd because someone else in my Twitter stream kept retweeting really smart things she said about education and training and jobs. It turns out, she also writes really smart, interesting things about race. Here are two recent posts:

Her essay about Miley Cyrus and the way whites view the sexuality of black women was eye-opening. I have been subject to my share of harassment, but I have never been expected to be complicit in it in the way that she describes.

Her essay about the recent killing of Jonathan Ferrell and the requirement in our society for black men to "whistle Vivaldi" was devastating.

Just today, she retweeted a link to this piece from Brian Foster that I cannot do justice in describing, so will just send you over to read.

Moving to much lighter topics, I found this article about an awesome project to dub Star Wars in Diné (the language of the Navajo Nation) via @aurabogado.

Roxane Gay (@rgay) wrote several posts about literature from writers of color at The Nation. Two of my favorites are her interview with Kiese Laymon and her coverage of the #DiversityinSFF hashtag.  Roxane Gay also writes a Tumblr blog where, among other things, she writes amazing posts combining cooking and whatever issue is on her mind that day. She wrote a particularly moving post after Betsy Karasik's rape apology article in the Washington Post. She is a very talented writer, the type that makes you think you'd happily read a furniture assembly manual if she wrote it.

I've been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates for ages and have his Atlantic blog in my RSS feed not my Twitter stream, but I'll add this to the post anyway: this post about the state of the Black family  is great.

I'll continue to add more diverse voices to my Twitter stream. Suggestions of people to follow or blogs to read are welcome in the comments.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Paths and Imperfection

I don't think I will write a big post about the latest spasm of sexism in the tech industry. I don't think I have anything new to say on that topic, really, although I may come back someday and write about how I ended up in tech and why I stay.

Tonight, I want to write about what I got wrong in my reaction to the Pax Dickinson nonsense, and what that means to me.

Last week, I, like many people reacting to those vile tweets, focused almost exclusively on how sexist they were, largely ignoring the fact that there were some profoundly racist tweets in there, too. Now, there are a lot of reasons for this, some good, some bad. The good reasons have to do with the fact that we all noticed Mr. Dickinson due to his defense of the juvenile TechCrunch presentations that were insulting to women, and with the fact that the tweet that was most shocking in the "OMG, that's a lawsuit waiting to happen" sort of way was the one in which Dickinson, a person directly or indirectly responsible for hiring the entire technical team at a company, compared good female developers to unicorns.  The bad reasons have to do with the fact that I am just not as attuned to racism or comfortable speaking up about it as I am to sexism.

I thought a lot about this over the weekend. Friday night, I went to a play with my sister. She has season tickets to the Shakespeare festival at the Old Globe, and none of her usual theater buddies claimed the second ticket for The Merchant of Venice, so I got to go. For those who aren't familiar with the play, it is the cause of much discussion about whether or not Shakespeare intended it to be anti-Semitic. I do not know the answer, and in fact do not even have an opinion on the question. But I was struck by how odd it seemed to be watching that play last Friday, which was Yom Kippur. I could not decide if staging the Merchant of Venice on Yom Kippur was deeply offensive or if instead it was the perfect play for the night, with its emphasis on mercy and powerful reminder of some of the things for which Christians need to atone. In this production, Shylock was a strongly sympathetic character, and the intent was clearly not to stage an anti-Semitic production.

But still, I did not know what to think.

I often find myself in a similar position when it comes to issues of race. I'll see or hear something and recognize it as potentially problematic, but not know if it really is problematic, whereas with most things related to sexism, it is usually- but not always- 100% clear to me whether or not I think something is problematic. So I feel much more confident speaking up about sexism than racism, even when the racism is fairly obvious.

In short, I still have a lot to learn, and that tends to leave me reticent to speak up. The usual metaphor for this is to say that I am still walking on my path. The metaphor is trite, but apt. I am far from perfect, but I recognize the issues, and am working to move further along towards understanding. My personal goals are (1) to work towards always responding to people as individuals, and not as members of any group (and note, that does NOT mean that I think we should all be "blind" to the groups to which people belong or ignore the impact of belong to those groups, just that my response should be to them as an individual not as a "Black man" or "gay woman" or "person in a wheelchair" or whatnot); (2) to work to disassemble the structural discrimination that exists in our culture, and at the very least not to perpetuate it myself; and (3) to raise my kids to start as far along the path to points 1 and 2 as possible.

And that is really all I personally expect of people: that they recognize there are issues related to how things like race, gender, sexual orientation, and physical abilities are handled in our culture, and are willing to learn and improve in their understanding and handling of those issues.  I am much more forgiving of a man who doesn't always get the gender issues right but at least acknowledges that sexism is a problem than I am of a man who insists that it is all OK now, even if the first man is also spouting off a thoroughly discredited theory about why there aren't many women in computer science (for instance) as if he were the first person to think of that possible explanation. We all have to start from somewhere, and to me, being willing to at least start is the most important thing. That has been the most frustrating thing for me with the entire Pax Dickinson incident: the way that he and his supporters refuse to acknowledge that there might be any problem at all. They way they are so sure that Dickinson is being punished for his beliefs but cannot even entertain the idea that I am frequently punished for my chromosomes and others are punished for the amount of melanin in their skin. The way they refuse to even consider the possibility that maybe there is something they could learn from this. (Really-  I just took a peak at Dickinson's twitter stream and yeah, nothing learned.) 

But that is just me, and I do not think at all that everyone should be patient with people who are just starting out on their path towards understanding issues relating to historically marginalized groups. I get why for some people, the only response to any of this is anger. I get why some people won't spend any more of their time going over the basics with the people just starting along the path. I am far from saintly in this regard, too. I loose patience. I get angry. There is no way I would have been able to meet Pax Dickinson for coffee and not throw said coffee in his face.

And I really struggle to find patience for the people who are offended that people are angry about these issues.  After all, if white people want to stop being on the receiving end of anger about racism, we can work to end structural racism. If men want to stop being on the receiving end of anger about sexism, they can work to end structural sexism. It is a lot easier to be magnanimous on these issues when they are not directly interfering with your ability to pursue your career goals, or to feed your family, or indeed, to even stay alive.

I also used to react to the garden-variety sexism with a lot more anger than I do now. I think most of us are also on a path in determining how we react to the clueless bigots among us, but that in this case, the optimal destination is different for different people. Basically, I think people who belong to one or more of the marginalized groups have to figure out what response is healthiest for them- as in, least likely to interfere with them having a happy life- and aim for that. It may surprise some people who don't generally experience discrimination to learn that (1) it is not always obvious what that healthiest reaction would be and (2) even if we know what the healthiest reaction would be, it isn't always easy (or even possible) to have that reaction and not some other, completely destructive reaction.

For me personally, the healthiest reaction would probably be something closer to Anil Dash's resolution to live a life of ridiculous kindness than whatever I'm doing now, so that is the path I'm trying to get on. If you are the sort of person who can sustain righteous anger without getting drained, more power to you! But that is not me. I think the least draining thing for me is to acknowledge the event, try to forget about it, and just get on with doing whatever awesome thing I was doing before the outbreak of stupidity came to my attention. As my reactions last week showed me, I am still struggling to get to that point and struggling to meet my goals with respect to confronting racism. But in both cases, at least I am on the path.

What about you? What are you goals for being better at recognizing and responding to the -isms that don't directly affect you? What is your goal for dealing with the -isms that do directly affect you?

Also, as usual with a post like this, I am nervous that I have gotten something wrong and have written something that will offend someone. If that is the case, I am truly sorry, and if you have the time and patience and want to tell me about it in the comments, please do so. Regardless, note that I cannot generally respond to or moderate comments during the work day, but will do so in the evening.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Viewing: The Irish Dance Edition

It has been a sort of tough week, what with the TechCrunch stuff, and then Pax Dickinson and the fall out, and Hanna Rosin declaring the patriarchy dead (sorry, I can't bring myself to link to that one) and all. I may come back and write about it all, but right now I'm still stuck in the spluttering indignantly phase, probably because there seems to be a never-ending parade of white men wringing their digital hands about how Pax Dickinson has been "ruined" (an outcome that is not at all certain, by the way- I suspect he'll eventually find someone to fund his start up) without even giving a nod of recognition to the scores of women and people of color Dickinson and others like him prevent from even getting a toehold on the ladder of success in the tech world. I guess since they never got any success, they can't be ruined, so it is all OK.

And then there were the Colorado recalls and all the pundits declaring the effort to reform our gun laws dead, even while George Zimmerman is in the news again for an incident that allegedly involved a gun, thereby continuing his accidental one man campaign to highlight the weaknesses with our current laws. After all, even his defenders have said the man has shown poor judgement. But by all means, lets keep him armed.

So, let's turn to something that's just fun, shall we? For reasons involving a Sesame Street segment about Irish Dance school and a school multicultural dance in which the Kindergartners performed an Irish dance, Pumpkin is weirdly into Irish dancing. There is a high probability that we will eventually need to find her Irish dance lessons, although the last time she could have chosen to take said lessons she chose gymnastics instead.

Regardless, she and Petunia have been asking to watch Irish dancing on the Roku lately. That is 100% my fault, because back during the last Irish dance obsession, I decided to show Pumpkin Riverdance on the Roku (via YouTube). The Riverdance videos are too low quality to be really good on our TV, so I've been looking for other Irish dance videos to show them. We've found plenty of videos of competitions, and a couple of fun flash mobs (Sydney and Essex), but my favorites have been the videos that fuse Irish dance with other things, such as:

Hip Hop:

Dub Step:

Gagnam style:

And humor (this is my favorite, and if you will only watch one is probably the one you should watch):

Happy weekend, everyone.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ask Cloud: Travel Ideas

I have a different sort of Ask Cloud question, from longtime reader Zenmoo:

My brother is getting married in Ottawa in very early June next year so we're just starting to plan our trip over to North America. I think we'll probably come over to Canada &/or the US for a 7 to 10 day holiday before heading to Ottawa so we're recovered from the travel before the wedding.

I've visited the US twice before - once when I was eight and we visited Disneyland, San Francisco and the area around Grand Junction, Colorado. The second time I was 16 and went on a school trip to New York - so not exactly recently! My husband has only transited through LAX and isn't terribly excited about repeating the experience.

I have a few ideas at the moment - but I thought I'd ask if you would do an 'Ask Cloud' for a few more!

My starting criteria are:
1. We'd prefer outdoorsy, scenic areas to large cities - our main interests are hiking & good food.
2. We'll have a four year old with us.
3. We don't want to pack & re-pack every day so we're thinking of either being based in one place with a reasonable amount of stuff to do within a 2hr drive for day trips OR hiring a motorhome and hitting the road.

My ideas so far ...
1. road trip in California (eg to Napa Valley, Yosemite),
2. flying to Salt Lake City and a road trip up to Yellowstone and back to Denver
3. A cabin in Vermont

I'm totally open to other ideas though - especially places that are less well known and might be a bit more relaxing!

Anyway, no hurry on it and only if it suits your posting schedule but it'd be great to get some advice from you & your readers!

I love thinking about travel ideas, so even though it has taken me a while to answer this question, I have been thinking about it off and on since I got the email.

One possibility is to make it an entirely Canadian vacation, and spend some time in Vancouver. I'd include a trip to Vancouver Island, both for Victoria and to visit the Buchart Gardens, which are beautiful. On the mainland, Stanley Park in Vancouver is very nice and there is some easy but nice hiking within a short drive. Mr. Snarky and I visited back before we got married, and we had a great time. I think it would work reasonably well with a kid in tow, too. We spent a couple of nights over on Vancouver Island, rented bikes and rode around Stanley Park, did a couple of hikes, and also had a good time exploring the city.

Another possibility would be to fly up to Portland, and explore Oregon. Portland is a fun city to visit with a kid, and Oregon is beautiful. You would have no trouble finding some nice hikes there. We had a great time on our visit there back when Pumpkin was about two. It rains a lot there, though, so you'd want to plan for rain and just be pleasantly surprised if you got sun.

Flying into San Francisco and exploring Northern California is a great idea. The redwoods are easily accessibly from San Francisco and they truly are awe-inspiring. I have never done the Napa road trip myself (it is on the list...) but I have several friends who have, and they all say it is a lot of fun. I know you are after outdoorsy more than city, but if you do fly into San Francisco, I think you'd be happy if you gave yourself a couple of days to explore it. It is a great city, with a very different feel from any other American city. You can plan in a trip to Golden Gate Park to get some outdoor time in the city- it is large and wonderful.

I also have several ideas around flying into LAX. Your husband is right, transiting through LAX is horrible. However, actually arriving in LAX is not so bad.

LAX itinerary 1: Rent a car and drive to Newport Beach. Stay at the Hyatt Back Bay, from which you can walk over to a kayak rental place and kayak the estuary. If you are inclined to see Disneyland, you could easily drive over to it for a day. After a few days in Orange County, drive to Las Vegas. This is a long drive, but doable in a day. Spend one night in Vegas, see the fountains at Bellagio and be thankful your child can't read the fliers advertising all sorts of things you don't really want to explain to a small child. You can definitely find some great food in Vegas, too. Then drive to Zion National Park, in Utah. Parts of this drive are beautiful, and the park itself is absolutely gorgeous with wonderful hiking opportunities. I do not think there is scenery like it anywhere in New Zealand or Australia, but I have not explored western Australia, so maybe there is something close there. It will be a little warm in June, though, so only take this option if you don't mind hiking in heat. We stayed at the Cable Mountain Lodge, which gave us lots of space and enabled us to walk directly into the park or into the village for meals. Stay a couple of nights at Zion, and then drive back to Las Vegas to fly on to your wedding.

LAX itinerary 2: Arrive in LAX, rent a car, and stay one night to get acclimated. Marina del Rey is a nice area not far from the airport, from which you can walk to Venice Beach if you'd like. Strolling the back canals of Venice Beach is pretty cool, actually. Then drive to Santa Barbara or to some place on the central coast. We really liked Morro Bay. There is a lot of beautiful scenery in that area, and you are sure to find some good hiking. You can stop in Solvang on your way up if you want to see a classic American kitsch town- it styles itself as a Danish town. Depending on how much time you Drive on to Monterey, where there are more nice hikes and a great aquarium. If you get lucky with the weather, the drive is also gorgeous. Even though you're doing it in the wrong direction (most people try to drive south, so that they are on the side of the road by the ocean), it will still be pretty. You could also choose to stay in Big Sur or somewhere near there, where there is supposed to be wonderful hiking. I've never done that, though, so can't give advice. Drive on to San Jose or San Francisco to fly out.

LAX itinerary 3: Arrive in LAX, and drive or take the train down to the San Diego area. Since you're after outdoorsy activities, I'd stay in north county, maybe in Leucadia for a beach town feel. Visit Legoland, which your daughter would be the perfect age to enjoy. Hike at Torrey Pines State Beach. If you want more hiking, you can drive inland to Julian, which is a cute little mountain tourist trap, with great apple pies and some nice hikes nearby.  If you decide on this option, write for more detailed ideas- I have a lot of recommendations for things to do in San Diego beyond the Zoo and Sea World. I should write some more San Diego posts- the Birch Aquarium, dinner in Old Town, various fun things to do in Balboa Park beyond the Zoo...

Those are my ideas. What other ideas do the rest of you have for Zenmoo?

Friday, September 06, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Data and The Stories Edition

I've been accumulating some really good links on our progress (or lack thereof) towards a more fair society, and I think it is time to share them. I am sure that next week, I'll come across even more great links on these topics... but I guess I can start accumulating them for another post.

First up, the data. Terri Oda has some really great slides about how biology doesn't explain the low number of women in computer science. If you make the mistake of reading the comments, though, you will despair for us ever making progress on this topic. Consider yourself warned.

Wired magazine had a short article about maps put together by Dustin Cable showing the state of racial integration (or more accurately, the lack of it) in the US. Definitely go find your city or town on the full map- it is fascinating to see the data.

Now the stories, which I just noticed are all about women/sexism. I have come across some great posts and articles about race/racism lately, too. Rather than scramble around and try to gather those links tonight, I will devote a future links post to those.

Biochem Belle points out a problem with how we frame the discussion about women in academic science: the focus on the "leaky pipeline" is a bit insulting to women who leave to pursue other awesome careers.

GMP at Academic Jungle has a great description of how imposter syndrome feels. I definitely struggle with imposter syndrome from time to time. It is why I sometimes have to drop out of reading stories about women in science and/or computers and just focus on doing my own work and projects, because constantly feeling like I have to prove I belong makes me feel like I don't belong, but if I am able to complete something I think is cool, I can use that to shut up the doubting little voice in my head that tries to tell me I am working past my skill level or what not.

Bad Mom Good Mom emailed me this Atlantic article about women leaving finance, with the comment that similar things could be said about most technical fields. She's right. In general, in the current discussion around women in technology, I think there is too much focus on how women can fit into and succeed in a deeply dysfunctional culture and too little focus on how we can fix the culture.

To end on a bright note, though... here is a short story about how Carnegie Mellon University is working to change the culture.

And maybe the fact that some men in technology are fighting so hard to find a biological or other "benign" reason for the declining numbers of women in their field is that the efforts to change the culture are starting to gain traction. These men have found some success in the current culture and are afraid of what will happen to them if that culture changes. Maybe when they see that they can still be successful in a more inclusive, less "dude-bro" culture, they'll stop fighting so hard.

Or maybe they are just misogynistic jerks. It is hard to say.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Last Weekend of Summer. Or Not.

Today was the first day of school. It was also the day after Labor Day, so that's two indicators that summer is over.

Except, of course, that here in San Diego, September is one of the nicest months. We will almost certainly continue to do summery things, like going to the beach and eating our dinners outside, for at least another month, possibly two. Dinners outside are actually more likely this month, because with Pumpkin at school instead of her summer day camp, my pick up routine is shorter and I'll have more time to set up the outside table.

Still, the long Labor Day weekend felt like a dividing line between "real" summer and San Diego's bonus summer. We didn't really plan it ahead of time, but when Mr. Snarky and I sat down with our beers on Friday night, we realized we had a pretty great plan for a last weekend of summer. We had two parties to go to- a "back to school" pool party hosted by one of Pumpkin's friends and a birthday party for one of Petunia's friends. They fell on Sunday and Monday, so we had Saturday free.

I'd taken Pumpkin back to school shopping the previous weekend. I am not sure whether Petunia was more jealous of the new clothes or the solo time with Mommy, but she was definitely jealous, so I promised I'd take her out shopping this weekend. Luckily, she isn't quite old enough to realize the difference between a trip to Target and the trip to the mall Pumpkin got, and she was thrilled to head to Target with me Saturday morning. We had a special snack of pretzel and Cheetos, and then grabbed a cart and had a surprisingly pleasant time tooling around the store, picking up the items on our list.

Petunia needed new shoes- she has a lot of hand me down clothes in great shape, but the shoes didn't fare so well- so we headed to the shoe aisle and picked out some practical tennis shoes and black mary janes. And then I caved to big, pleading eyes and added these to the cart, too.

She also convinced me to buy her a new pair of boots. I'd bought her a pair of pseudo-cowboy boots (also at Target) last winter, and she loved them. She wore them a lot, including with her sundresses as the weather got warm. But they are too small, and the sole is coming off one of them, so she can't wear them now. As we stood in the shoe aisle, looking for the black mary janes, she spotted some new pseudo-cowboy boots and I decided that if she is going to mostly wear hand me down clothes, she should get to pick her own shoes.

I did, however, prevent her from wearing her new boots this weekend, claiming that I need to waterproof them before she wears them. This is not strictly true, but we're in the midst of what passes for a heat wave here- coastal highs are in the low 80s, and there is noticeable humidity- and thinking of her wearing boots around made me feel hot and cranky, so I just couldn't let her do it.

Mr. Snarky wilts a bit in the heat, so we decided to spend Saturday afternoon somewhere with air conditioning and headed down to Balboa Park to go to The Natural History Museum. As a bonus, this was on our 2013 Family Fun list- Pumpkin loves the NAT, which she calls "the dinosaur museum." They currently have an animatronic dinosaur exhibit that both kids thought was great.

After the museum closed, we took a quick spin on the nearby carousel, and then headed over to my sister's (air conditioned) condo for dinner.

Waving to Mommy

It sounds like we had a packed weekend, but it didn't feel that way. I slept in two of the three days. Mr. Snarky and I sat in our backyard and chatted over drinks two of the three nights. The kids and I spent Sunday morning doing art projects in the backyard while Mr. Snarky laid new sod in a spot in our backyard that used to hold a shed (we bought a new, smaller shed, that fits in a less obtrusive spot). If you think that sounds like a wildly unfair distribution of labor, you have clearly never done art projects with two headstrong children. Or perhaps you are just good at art projects. I am not, and Mr. Snarky took one look at me when he finished with the grass and offered to make lunch.

I also had time to work on my project, albeit it time in a fairly noisy environment, working at the dining room table while the kids played in the living room. Still, I made some great progress- I think I am to the point where I should pick a target "release date" (really, just a date on which to plan to tell you all about it and provide a link to it), but I can't quite bring myself to do that yet. Still, I am gathering momentum, and finding myself choosing the project over other leisure time activities more and more these days. Posting may be light here because of this.

Or maybe it won't. Maybe this weekend was the harbinger of a new phase, in which the kids are old enough that I can work on things while they play and things feel just a little bit easier, until I get used to the small increment in my dose of freedom, and start feeling restless for even more.