Friday, January 31, 2014

Weekend Reading: This History Lesson Edition

This week, there is a lot of discussion in the feminist twittersphere (or that should probably be twitterspheres- I think there are several overlapping spheres). I am going to ignore it. I just don't have the energy to do it justice and would probably make a hash of any discussion I tried to write. Also, I'm not sure yet what I think of it all. If you have missed it and want to find out about it, google "feminist twitter toxicity" but don't say I didn't warn you about the giant rabbit hole you are about to fall down.

Instead, I want to post a few links about a sad and shameful event in American history that many of you probably don't know about- it took place in my home state, and I only barely heard about it in my history classes.

This month is the 150th anniversary of the Navajo Long Walk.

This NPR story reminded me of the anniversary.

I Googled a bit for more stories... and found almost nothing.

Here is a story from the founder of a Navajo Word of the Day website describing why he wants to retrace the route of the Long Walk. Sadly, it looks like the website is in search of new contributors, because its founder was diagnosed with cancer last fall. He is still active on his Facebook site, and a recent post indicates that his chemo course has completed and seems to have gone well.

And that is all I found, other than some pages about the Bosque Redondo monument at Fort Sumner.

On an only somewhat related note: @Tressiemc shared a link to a story about an early semiconductor chip factory built near Shiprock, New Mexico, which employed Navajo women.

Also, now would be a good time to change the names of our sports teams so that they do not insult Native Americans.

Honestly, go read about the Long Walk, or the Trail of Tears, or any number of other shameful things, and ask yourself: is the history of your sports team really that important? And is it really that tied to the name? They are asking us to change these names. Honoring this request seems like the very least we can do.


Apropos of none of this, but because I like to end my links posts with a smile, here is my favorite tweet of the week:

(xkcd had a pretty good poke at computer scientists, too.)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ask Cloud: Basics of LinkedIn

Back in December, I wrote a post about exploring alternatives to an academic careers. Kristen C left a comment asking for some more concrete advice on the basics of an industry job search. I promised an Ask Cloud post on the topic... and here it finally is. Or rather, here is the first in an eventual series. I have not been feeling very well, and am only up for writing a short blog post tonight, so I will focus on only one of the basic topics, namely, using LinkedIn. Future posts in the series will cover the basics of an industry resume and an industry cover letter. Feel free to suggest other topics in the comments.

I've noticed that if academics talk about LinkedIn at all, it is to laugh at it. I think this is because academic networking is done in such a different way than industry networking, and from the academic perspective LinkedIn is this weird unfun social network that claims to be able to get you a job, which is obviously ludicrous. On the surface, I agree with them: LinkedIn is not a network I use for fun, and it will never land you a job. But I disagree that this makes it useless or scorn-worthy. It can be very useful, because it can help you land yourself a job.

In academia, there is a lot of emphasis on your formal pedigree, and you publish papers that serve as detailed calling cards for your work. People can judge the quality of your work by reading your papers. In industry, we don't publish as much (or, in some fields, hardly at all- my publication record is sparse, to say the least.) Most of the juicy details of our work are covered by non-disclosure agreements, so even in an interview we can't talk in detail about them. Therefore, if we want to evaluate someone's work before hiring them, we try to find someone whose opinion we trust who can vouch for the person. This is where LinkedIn comes in.

I use LinkedIn in two ways: (1) if I am seriously evaluating a resume, I do a LinkedIn search to see if I know anyone who knows the applicant and might be able to give me an indication of whether or not I should interview the person, and (2) if I am looking at a job opportunity, I do a LinkedIn search to see if I know anyone at the company of interest who can perhaps help my resume get a little extra attention. I see another very valuable use of LinkedIn that I have not used myself: (3) if you are someone considering different fields (or making a career change) and trying to identify people for informational interviews, searching your LinkedIn network can identify second level connections to whom you want to ask to be introduced by your first level connections.

Note that in none of these cases, does a LinkedIn connection get anyone a job. It gets someone a little extra consideration for a job.

Nor does the LinkedIn connection alone tell anyone anything- it just identifies people to contact for some in person networking and/or discussion.

Once you have had an industry job, you will populate your LinkedIn network with the people you worked with at that job. I do not worry about growing my LinkedIn network now, because it grows organically as I work with more and more people. However, if I were fresh out of academia, it would be a very different story, so I can see why LinkedIn is a bit intimidating.

Here are my ideas for how to use LinkedIn to help transition from academia to industry:

1. Build a starting network. Search LinkedIn for your email contacts and make as many connections as you can. Search for former labmates and connect with them.

2. Grow your network. Some people will accept LinkedIn connection requests from people they don't know, but those are basically useless to you. You only want to connect with people who will feel comfortable introducing you to someone else in their network. If they don't know you at all, chances are they won't make the introduction. You can still grow your network by connecting with new people you meet. For instance, after you go to a conference or networking event, send connection requests to people you met (but only if you had a conversation with them and exchanged cards- don't spam everyone on the conference list).

3. Keep it professional. Since I blog and tweet under a pseudonym, I obviously don't link my blog or twitter account to LinkedIn- but I wouldn't do that even if I were using my real name here, because I frequently write about things that are not relevant to work, or at least not relevant to a job search. I do know some people who connect their twitter accounts to LinkedIn, but those people tend to only tweet about things relevant to their field. Basically, don't connect things to your LinkedIn account that aren't about work.

4. Search your network for help, as I outlined at the start. When you're just starting out, look for people with whom you can have informational interviews. (Remember to connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards- I have recommended someone I met through an informational interview for an open position at a friend's company. It is rare, but it happens. I would not have been able to find that person if I didn't have a LinkedIn connection.) Once you're actively searching for jobs, don't apply for a job before you search your LinkedIn network to see if you know someone at that organization who might be able to put in a good word and/or hand your resume to the hiring manager.

I can't emphasize that second part enough- it is much better to send your resume in via someone who will put in a personal recommendation than to just submit via the online form. You will usually be asked to submit via the online form, too, but send via your connection first, for two reasons (1) this may make your resume seem like a "find" and therefore garner it more attention (sad- but I think this is part of human nature), and (2) your connection might get a referral bonus, which is always nice.

And that's it. LinkedIn is not magic and it will not make this brutal job market any less brutal. But it is a helpful tool for an industry job search.

Feel free to ask follow up questions or add your own advice in the comments.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fun Updates

I feel like focusing on some positive things today, so let's check in on the progress on our family fun list, my personal fun list, and my goals for 2014.

First up, let's check in on the family fun list. We have already crossed two items off- we went and ate doughnuts at the doughnut shop after one of our trips to the park, and last weekend, we rode a ridiculous bike around Coronado. And we already have the next Family Fun Day planned- since neither of us are football fans, we're thinking of hitting Legoland on Super Bowl Sunday.

I'm doing less well on my personal fun list. I've started work on learning how to make a great margarita. I've decided to break that down into sets of experiments. The first round of experiments was to determine whether triple sec or Cointreau was the better source of the orange flavor. To my surprise, I and all of my tasters came down firmly on the side of triple sec. Next up, I'll try out some different tequilas- I need to do some research before I embark on those experiments, though. Finally, I'll try some of the adjuvants that have been suggested to me. So, clearly, this particular item is going to take some time.

I bought some new socks, but haven't sorted out the mess in my sock drawer, which therefore continues to annoy me every morning. I continue to gather songs for my playlist of new (to me) music, but I'm still less than 2/3 of the way to the final list.

I have taken a bubble bath, though, so I'm not behind on my list yet- that can be my January item.

My biggest accomplishment, though, has been on my 2014 goals list: I wanted to expand Tungsten Hippo to include collections, and I finished that this week. I'm quite excited. Even though it looks like a small addition, it took a fair amount of work.

That is all of the technical work I'm likely to do on Tungsten Hippo this year, I think. I'll move on to my other goals. However, I will continue posting there and trying to grow its audience. The audience growth part is challenging, and I have yet to hit on a truly successful strategy. This doesn't surprise me, or even frustrate me (yet), because I expected it to be hard. I've tried a couple of Facebook campaigns and am running an AdWords campaign right now. I haven't been all that impressed with how either has done in terms of actually growing my audience, but then, I'm not spending much money (about $30 per campaign, and the first Facebook campaign was free) and I don't have any prior experience writing ads. So far, my most successful "marketing" activity was to post a comment on Scalzi's pre-Christmas fan recommendations post. I'm looking for more blogs where it would make sense to comment as Tungsten Hippo, to see if I can get some more organic audience growth going. (If anyone has suggestions, please leave them in the comments!)

All and all, I think I'm off to a good start on my lists. I know that last year, I slumped mid-year. That is perhaps inevitable. So this year, I decided to try to go strong on my goals early. So far, so good!

How are you doing on your 2014 goals/resolutions/fun lists/whatever else?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Weekend Reading: The I Wish People Were Better Than This Edition

I swear that next week I'm going to stop ranting and get back to happy posts- and I have a couple of Ask Cloud posts to do, which is always fun.

But first, here are some links that are really good, but that I wish didn't need to be written.

First, as I was doing some research to figure out how I would talk to Pumpkin about Martin Luther King day this year, I found two great articles for grown ups:

This short article in Colorlines talks about what a drive down various Martin Luther King Blvds says about our progress towards achieving his dream.

This article by Hamden Rice is a powerful reminder of what Martin Luther King actually did- which was far more than popular culture usually remembers.

I did have a conversation with Pumpkin about Martin Luther King. I have no idea how I did, but I was reasonably happy with how it went. One thing I learned was that while she had learned in school that Martin Luther King had been assassinated, she didn't know why. So I told her why. She asked a few questions about that, and then changed the topic. I think that is for the best- I'll let her think about it and we'll have different questions to discuss next time we talk about race.

In the wake of several prominent media missteps about transgender people, Rafe Posey wrote a wonderful piece on how to write about transgender people without being an ass.

Here is an article about Dr. V's business partner and former girlfriend. The last paragraph of that story is particularly heartbreaking. How much lower would the suicide rate for transgender people be if the rest of us stopped making such a big deal about it and just accepted them as they are?

The map in this Atlantic article about socioeconomic mobility alarmed me. WTF, East coast? I don't consider the mobility out here in California to be that great, so I find it very disturbing that there are so many areas where it is much worse.

This is probably the last post about the Henry Gee/Dr. Isis debacle that I will link to, not because other good posts aren't being written, but because I, like Nicoleandmaggie, am suffering a bit from patriarchy fatigue and need to not read about it for awhile. However, it is a very good post, so go read it. (h/t @Geknitics). Sadly, the author of that gawd-awful Womanspace story appears in the comments. I wish that dude would just go away. He has clearly learned nothing and has no desire to learn anything.

This article from Hope Wabuke about how black women and girls have long had to choose between education and safety is very good. I have been thinking a lot about how when white parents like me talk about diversity in our kids' schools we are usually talking about situations in which our children remain in the majority race, and expect that the Black and Hispanic kids be bused to us, rather than the other way around. It is not an entirely comfortable line of thinking for me, but I think I need to continue down it. Perhaps, eventually, I will blog about it, but I don't feel like I'm ready for that yet.

Forbes reprinted some Quora answers about why more women don't go to hackathons. Notice how they all start by establishing their credibility as engineers. They do that because that is what women in tech have to do all the effing time. We are rarely assumed to know our stuff technically. We have to prove it. Really. I have to prove it to each new male team member. Almost always. Even though I am a senior member of the team. Even though I lead a group. I am assumed not to know the technology. I see the surprise on their faces the first few times I say something that indicates that I really do have some technical knowledge. I am not imagining it, although if I were to call them on this, they would say I am (I know this from actual experience, back when I naively thought I could help the guys change their default opinions of women). As the women in the Forbes piece say, it is exhausting. It undermines your confidence. It saps your motivation.

Moving on.

I found this article about how the current relationship between the tech community and the broader community in San Francisco does not have to be so contentious via @AnilDash, who had his own post of suggestions as well.

xkcd absolutely nailed the "its so cold out, so there is no climate change" crowd today. Absolutely nailed them.

And because I always like to end with something fun... here is an open letter that I can definitely co-sign.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Rant in Two Parts, with Epilogue

Back when Mr. Snarky and I were planning the trip that became our "big trip," we spent a lot of time discussing possible destinations and itineraries. One of the stops that he was adamant from the very beginning that we include was a stop in Hong Kong, timed to see their famous (in the rugby-watching world) rugby sevens tournament. We did indeed go to Hong Kong for the sevens. We had to buy the tickets and accommodation through a New Zealand travel agency, which had two consequences: (1) we were there as part of a larger group of Kiwis, with seats all in a block, and (2) this was by far the most expensive stop on our trip, because we were staying in a business hotel instead of our usual budget to mid-range accommodations.

Our trip was in 2005-2006, which was smack in the middle of the period of anti-Iraq war anger and general disgust with American aggressiveness in much of the rest of the Western world, and a couple of the Kiwis were not at all pleased to see an American in their group, and made sure I knew that, in their understated way. We'd been traveling for several months at that point, so I was neither surprised nor particularly bothered by this, and since this stop was a big (and expensive!) highlight of the trip for Mr. Snarky, I just wanted to blend in with this group and not make waves. So I did what you do when watching rugby with a group of New Zealanders: I wore black. We each got a black jersey as part of our tour package, so one day, I wore that. But it got beer spilled on it (the Hong Kong sevens are a beer-soaked event, to say the least). This meant that I had to find a different shirt to wear the next day. I chose a shirt I'd gotten at a blues bar we liked in Bangkok, called Tokyo Joe's (which is apparently no longer operating in the incarnation that we visited). The front of the shirt has a saying: "Life, like live music, is best when improvised."

But the important thing was it was black.

I do not know if I drank too much the night before, ate something that didn't agree with me, or if my lower digestive tract was just fed up with the abuse it had been subjected to during our travels, but towards the end of one of the matches, I knew that I should move quickly to the bathroom. So I got up to go, even though the match wasn't over. Before I could make it to the top of the stairs in my section (we had, I must admit, rather nice seats near the field), a man caught sight of my shirt and wanted to read it. I was in a hurry and not really in the mood to chat about blues bars in Bangkok, so I told him that I really needed to get to the bathroom, and asked him to move. He, however, stood his ground, and insisted that he be allowed to read my shirt. Why would I wear a shirt with words on it if I did not want people to read it? - he practically yelled this at me, angered that I would attempt to deprive him of his chance to read a cheesy slogan off of my chest.

So I stopped, held the shirt out to flatten the message and make it easier to read, and answered his questions as quickly as I could so that I could get to the bathroom.

All these years later, this memory is still very sharp in my mind. I can hear his indignant, insistent voice and even thinking about the story, I lean back to get away from him. I clearly remember my distress and my eventual acquiescence to his demands as the option most likely to get me to the bathroom as quickly as possible.

When the uproar about the Grantland story outing Dr. V as transgender and the uproar about Henry Gee revealing Dr. Isis' real name burst out in my Twitter feed, this is the story that came to my mind- not because it is in any way equivalent to what was done to those women- it is not, not at all, not even close- but because it shares a common theme: men think they are owed women's full stories. If there is anything we want to keep to ourselves- for whatever reason- and they want to know it, they are angered. They feel cheated. They have the right to know! Their right to know trumps our right to pursue our lives and livelihoods. It trumps our right to safety. It certainly trumps our right to comfort.

I see this in so many ways, big and small, in my life and in the lives of other women. It is exhausting, sometimes, because it means that if I have a story I do not want to share with all and sundry, I must bury it deep, and make sure no vestige of it appears on my face, lest someone notice and demand that I tell. Not ask if I am OK or if I want to talk, but demand that I explain why I am not smiling.

Many people have said much more important things about both of these events, and have written excellent posts. I encourage you to follow the links up above, but also to seek out other writing on the topics. I have nothing much to add to those discussions, which are both important. I am reading what is being written about the outing of Dr. V particularly closely, because I think that most of us cis people are fairly ignorant of the issues that impact trans* people, and I would like to learn and do better myself. Far too many transgender people are dying.

But I just felt like noting that everyone's story is their own, and we should all be allowed to choose what we share and when. And also, if I say I need to go to the bathroom right now, that trumps your interest in the cheesy slogan on my shirt. It really does.


One of the things that a story like what happened to Dr. Isis inevitably brings out is earnest discussions about the use of pseudonyms. I am, frankly, tired of this discussion. So tired, that I'm not going to round up links for it.

This lead me to make this tweet:

I suspect that actually, the answer to my question in that tweet is often a quite innocent "no." People who are not mothers are often completely unaware of the harsh judgement society focuses on mothers. Strangers have opinions on what I feed my kids, how I do their hair, how I dress them, whether or not I let them go places without a grown up, etc., etc. So of course strangers have opinions about moms who blog. For the most part, their opinion is that we should shut up because we are hurting our kids.

I am actually very selective in what I post about my kids. I refrain from telling some great stories or writing about strategies that might be useful for other parents because I do not want to create future embarrassment for my children. And yes, this is indeed one of the reasons I remain officially pseudonymous, even though I make no real attempt to hide my real world identity. I figure that the pseudonym is one more level of abstraction that a curious classmate is unlikely to navigate.

But that isn't what I want to talk about tonight. I want to talk about the absolute minefield of "do this, no do that" helpful "advice" that is directed at me- and, since I am white and cis and straight, I know damn well it is far worse for people who are not all of those things.

This led to another tweet:

Here is the thing: I know that the thing to do is to ignore the people telling me what to do and just do my own thing. I really do know that. And I try to do that. But the message that I am doing it wrong, that I am irretrievably screwing up some aspect of my life- it is constant. Believe me on this. It is not just online. It is everywhere. I cannot avoid it. To avoid it, I would have to become a hermit. And if I did that, probably some guy hermit would come by and tell me that I was doing the whole hermit thing wrong.

So I must constantly block that noise out. I must constantly tell myself that no, it is OK, I'm doing the right thing. And God help me when I do mess up, because I will beat myself up over that just to hear it from myself rather than the chorus of other people telling me it is my own damn fault.

For the most part, I do OK at ignoring this noise. If I'm feeling beat down, I tell myself to fake the confidence I wish I had and just get on with it. That has served me well. But at what cost?

When I look around at the women who have made it, and particularly at the women of color who have made it, I am a bit awestruck by their strength. Lately, I have been wondering if that is because the gauntlet we make people in the non-dominant groups run to achieve any sort of success if so grueling that the people who make it out the other end must necessarily be unusually strong and resilient.

And if that is the case, what is happening to the people who are not strong enough, or resilient enough? I think the best case scenario is that they just go do something else. I think Dr. V's story shows us the worst case scenario. What an unbelievable tragedy and waste.

I do think that straight white men run a gauntlet, too. I do not think success of any sort comes easily to almost anyone. Sadly, I think the gauntlet that straight white men must run can sometimes cloud their view of the extra challenges in the gauntlets the rest of us face. It takes a very self-aware and confident man to look back at the struggles he faced and acknowledge that it could have been worse. I have a great deal of respect for the people who manage this, and I aim to emulate it. But it is rare.

So instead, we get back to the "well, you should have done X" noise. It is so easy to look at the problems someone else faces and see the places where he or she made them worse or perhaps could have done differently, without really considering how the never-ceasing drumbeat of crap drives people to decisions that someone who never hears that crap might never make. It is hard to look and see where the game was rigged against them, particularly if you're doing OK in that game.

Which brings us back to letting people own their own stories. If someone says that, for instance, men don't take them seriously at hacker events, just believe them. Don't try to find some complicated combination of extenuating circumstances that makes it one big misunderstanding. Just believe the stories that people tell you about their experiences. When women or people of color say that insisting on real names as the ultimate mark of credibility silences them, believe them. Don't try to convince them that they are imagining the threats- instead, look at the examples they choose to share of what it is like to speak up and try to project that nastiness into your own life. Really ponder how you would respond and if you would speak if the possible consequence of your speech was such ugliness.


I think there is a common thread between my two rants, but I do not have the clarity to find it. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, I suppose.

Instead, I'd like to end with a little bit about the strategies I employ to keep plodding along, trying to reach the career and life goals I have for myself. This grew out of another Twitter exchange, between me, @seriouspony (who knows far more than I do about the risks of speaking online as a woman), and @creakyvoice.

@Seriouspony tweeted this:
And I replied about how I am struggling with this both for myself (random crap at work that drains my motivation for the job) and for my child (specifically, too many book reports draining Pumpkin's motivation to read). I mentioned that I am working to teach Pumpkin strategies to protect her motivation from the things that would kill it, but that I am finding myself a poor model of such things these days and @creakyvoice wanted to know more.

This exchange eventually led to these tweets from me:

So what is my buffer made out of? A little bit of this blog- which is why I am staying up too late tonight writing this post. But yes, also chocolate, beer, and meditation.

Back at about the same time as the big trip that landed me in Hong Kong for the sevens, I had a fairly robust mindfulness practice. For me, this works best as a combination of yoga and meditation, and a few tricks to center me in the now. (If you want to snicker about mindfulness, go right ahead, but I will say this: the times in my life when I have felt the best are the times when my practice was most robust. Really having a practice is hard. Dabbling and writing it off as bunk is easy. Snicker all you want. I know what I aim for, and I want to build my practice back up.)

@Creakyvoice wanted a blog post about the mindfulness techniques I use. This is not really that blog post, but it is probably the best I can manage right now.

First, it helps to learn about meditation, and what it is and what it isn't. My introduction was in Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living. I am sure there are others.

Here are the techniques I use, sometimes more successfully than others:

  1. A regular yoga and/or meditation practice builds my reserves and gives me more patience. I am struggling to establish this again. I know I would be better off if I could get it established, but as I said- really doing this is hard.
  2. If I have a really tough morning at home or a rough commute, I try to start my day with a short (1-2 minutes) meditation. This was easier when I had an office instead of a cubicle, but I have managed it in the cube. It helps that I am in earlier than most. There are many meditation timers online.
  3. Even on regular days, I have a tea drinking routine I do not like disrupted. It helps me transition to my work day and focus me on what I want to do during that particular day at work. I do not think the details of the routine are important. I think the fact that it is a routine is.
  4. If someone or something is making me angry, I try to call up my meditation practice and focus on my breathing until I get my anger under control. I do not always succeed. For me personally, when I know I will not succeed, the best thing to do is to just leave the room (I find this to be less damaging to my standing than crying or yelling. YMMV.)
  5. I do use chocolate and beer, but not in an "eat my sorrows" or "drown my sorrows" way. I at one point switched to eating only really good chocolate, and trying to savor it. Savoring chocolate is something that puts me in the moment and lets me slough off the random crap that accumulates in my mind. I think this is a bit of a Pavlovian response now. I'm fine with that. The great thing about really good chocolate is that it doesn't take much to satisfy. Beer is a signal that I am "off duty" and can commence relaxation. For that reason, I rarely have a beer before the kids are in bed. It is not because I do not want my kids to see me drink (the do see me drink), but because the signal is useful to me. I do not have a beer every night, but it is helpful to make the transition on particularly tough days.
I suspect this is not what @creakyvoice was looking for, but it is what I have tonight. Questions, suggestions, and ideas for improvement are welcome in the comments, as are comments on the rants. Snark about mindfulness is not.

So let's end with the song that I turn to when I need to be reminded to ignore the noise:

Remember, just because you can't beat them, that doesn't mean you should join them. Don't join them.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Of Itchy Fingers and Ridiculous Bikes

This week's Tungsten Hippo post is about how sometimes my fingers itch to play some music- and how one of the ebooks I read triggered that feeling.

It is true that I sometimes feel a longing to play music that feels like the finger version of the restlessness that we call itchy feet, which is why I call the feeling "itchy fingers." If I am near my violin or viola when the feeling strikes, I sometimes get them out to play. Sometimes I just let the feeling pass. I can't always do everything I like to do, and this particular period of my life is a bit light on musical expression. I am thinking about whether it is time to change that, but the thing about music is that for me to really enjoy playing it, I have to have enough time to practice. Music is only fun if I play at a minimally acceptable level, and that is not something I can just dip into every now and then.

This means that I've had to find other outlets for my creativity during this phase of life, when my kids need so much from me. They are getting older, and soon they will need different things- more challenging perhaps, but less sensitive to Mommy heading out every Tuesday night to play fiddle at a bar. So perhaps soon, I'll pick up my fiddle again.

In the meantime, there are many other great things in my life, some of which would not be there if I had not had children. On the whole, I feel like I've made a good trade.

Today, we decided to take advantage of the unusually warm weather we've been having and cross "ride a surrey bike again" off our 2014 Family Fun List. Riding a surrey bike is one of those really fun things that I don't think I would ever have tried without children to blame for the ridiculousness of the activity.

We like to ride our ridiculous bikes in Coronado. As we walked along the beach to the bike rental place, we saw someone building an impressive sand castle. We headed over to check it out.

Those are little princess figurines on the castle. He has one of every Disney princess. The man is a shrewd businessman- the princesses so delighted my kids that we would have felt surly not dropping a few bucks in his tip bucket. 

Once we got to the bike rental place, Mr. Snarky fast talked the kids into a deuce coupe instead of the surrey. I prefer the surreys for pure "this is ridiculous" factor, but I have to agree with Mr. Snarky that the deuce coupes have better maneuverability. 

We set out in our deuce coupe with the kids strapped in the back. Petunia had insisted on bringing a stuffed puppy in a zebra print purse (a birthday gift that has proven surprisingly popular- her friend chose well). Pumpkin almost brought a cat in a carrier, but decided on a Dora doll at the last minute. Perhaps because of the Dora doll, the kids spent the entire return ride pretending to be on an adventure, looking for the landmarks on the map that they had inspected when we stopped for a rest at a park.

After we returned the bike, we walked back to our car and drove to the other side of Coronado for lunch at the Coronado Brewing Company, home of my go-to local beer (Mermaid Red) and a brewmaster's pretzel that the kids love. I tried the Bock Ness Monster today (quite nice). Mr. Snarky called in a favor to get me to drive home and got a tasting flight. We both rather liked the Bobblehead Red IPA he had in his flight.

All in all, it was a fun day out, made even more fun by the fact that I am taking tomorrow off. Petunia is going to day care and Pumpkin is going to a gymnastics camp that runs from 9-3, so I'll get quite a bit of time to myself, which I really need. Maybe I'll finally get collections added to Tungsten Hippo. We'll see. I might also decide to just spend the entire day reading.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekend Reading: The I Love Science... and Some Other Things Edition

Real life continues to drain my attention away from blogging. Which is as it should be... except I think that there are some posts that it would do me good to write. So I may try to carve out some time for some more posts soon.

But not tonight. Tonight I have weekend links for you. I originally thought I'd do a science-themed links round up, but then I found a few non-science things that I really wanted to share. So I decided to go ahead and include them.

And yes, I DO still love science, even though I am constantly told I am inferior by virtue of being a woman. (I'm looking at you, Nature.) And I also DO still love technology, even though there, too, I am constantly told I am inferior by virtue of being a woman, or maybe just by virtue of not having been "hacking" since I was 13. (I'm looking at you, Paul Graham.) Seriously, this just goes on and on and on... and then people wonder why so many women in science and technology suffer from Impostor Syndrome.

But back to the links. First, the science:

There are way too many big dots on this graph showing vaccine-preventable outbreaks. Remember, too, that some of the blank areas are blank because they don't report the data. This graph should be taken as a lower estimate of the number of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

I can't remember where I came across this awesome explanation of a classic quantum mechanics experiment that still bends my mind, but you should go read it and get your mind bent, too.

Sleep! It is super important. This one is bouncing around in my head with some other ways in which I think our society can be detrimental to people's mental health, trying to form into a coherent blog post.

How is ergot poisoning not a more widely known theory of what happened in Salem? Or maybe it is widely known and I have just been living under a rock or something?

Bad Mom, Good Mom has a pointed post about Gov. Christie's bridge shenanigans, air pollution, and health.

What-If by xkcd covered the topic of making a lake of tea. It is (as usual) a fun post, but sadly, he missed mentioning the fact that there is an actual Tea Lake in Australia. I have been there.

And now, for the not science:

I found this interesting article about the harm done by "Do What You Love" career advice via @SaraHCarl's twitter feed. I have since seen it on Slate.

I loved this article about the origin of the artisan toast fad in San Francisco, which turned out to be about so much more. I don't want to give away the way the story evolves, but I can say that I may never sneer at a hipster food craze again.

This heat map showing where the most photos are taken (and tagged) could waste a lot of time. Thank/curse my husband for sharing it.

This picture of a Japanese pilot and her manga portrait decal is awesome. I want to know the back story.

Finally, this list of words of the year from other countries delighted me.

Let's end with another Lorde parody. The fact that someone who graduated from high school 10 years ago made this parody about how old she feels makes me feel older than the fact that Lorde is only 17. But it is still a good one!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Some Things I Know That I Wish I Could Really Believe

Apropos of nothing (or at least nothing I want to blog about right now), here is a list of some work/career related things I believe in theory but struggle to implement in practice:

  1. It doesn't really matter if you make the "wrong" decision at any particular career decision point. You probably won't destroy your career. You almost certainly won't starve to death. Get over yourself and just get on with it.
  2. It doesn't matter if you have former classmates or colleagues the world views as more successful than you. You've done other cool things with your life, and you wouldn't trade. 
  3. Very few people ever really know what their long term impact on the world is, so stop worrying about it.
  4. It might not be fair that you are almost always the one to smooth the rough edges of interpersonal interactions on teams, and it might not always be rewarded or even noticed, but it is important and good work and it makes people's lives better, so do it anyway.
  5. The respect of people who don't respect skills they don't possess isn't worth chasing.
  6. Even people you respect get it wrong sometimes. Do what is right for you, not what they think is right for you.
  7. There's nothing wrong with playing a long game.
  8. But there is also nothing wrong with just trying for what you want, even if you don't think you have all the experience needed. No one is going to give you permission no matter how long you wait or how many boxes you check. Just try.
  9. Figuring out the right balance between those previous two points is justifiably hard to do, so stop beating yourself up for not knowing the "right" thing to do.
  10. And go back and re-read point #1.

Do you have any you want to add? Do so in the comments.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Writing Life

This week's Tungsten Hippo post is about my recent experiment with audiobooks, and the surprising (to me) reason that I'm not a big fan of them.

I originally did not think I'd write a Tungsten Hippo post this weekend. I was mentally exhausted from a rough week at work, and didn't have an idea for a topic in mind. But then our emerging Sunday morning routine kicked in. Mr. Snarky went out for a run, and I made myself a pot of tea, brought my laptop to the dining room table, and sat down to write. The kids are most likely to play well together in the mornings, and generally prefer the adults to let them be, so Sunday morning is a great time for me to do something that requires a little bit of concentration, but not too much- I'm still required to come help the kids with things from time to time.

All of this makes Sunday morning an ideal time for me to write. I didn't think of it as a routine until this week, though. As I cracked open my laptop, I heard Pumpkin and Petunia getting set up to write in Pumpkin's room. Pumpkin soon called me in to remind her how to save her file, and Petunia was sitting at an improvised desk, typing on her toy computer. I showed Pumpkin what she needed to know, and went back to the dining room. After a short time poking around on my various social media accounts, the idea for the Tungsten Hippo post came to me, and I wrote the post, with just a few more interruptions from the other room.

I had fun writing that post. The mental fog from my week at work lifted a bit while I wrote, and I felt much happier when it was done that I had felt when I sat down at my laptop. I need to remember that next time I think I'm too worn down from the work week to write a post.


Last night, Petunia was not in any hurry whatsoever to get into the bath, so Pumpkin and I had a bit of time to chat while I waited for Petunia. I'm not sure why, but we ended up talking about how some people do more than one job. I used the example of how I have a "main" job, but also write books and people buy them, so you could consider writing to be a second job, and how I have a website and how running a website is a job for some people. (In typing this, I realize that I completely missed a good chance to talk about how some people work more than one job to make enough money, and how different that is from what I do... Doh. I will try to do better next time.)

Pumpkin was a bit surprised to find out that people actually pay for my books. I'm choosing to put that down to her imperfect understanding of how the adult world functions and not a statement about her opinion of the quality of my work. To be honest, I don't think it had occurred to her before that people get paid to write things. I explained why my latest book isn't out yet (it is with the illustrator). And then I told her about the new story I am working on. I told her that I had finally figured out the full details for the premise, and I explained the point at which I am currently stuck and how I am working on getting unstuck.

She thought about all of this for awhile, and asked me if anyone could publish a book. I told her that anyone could write a book, but that then publishers get to decide which ones they think are good enough to publish. I told her that nowadays, though, anyone could publish a book on their own, too, so that if you really believed in your book, you could publish it on your own, without a publisher.

She thought about that for awhile, and then told me that since you could be a writer and something else, she thought she'd change her career plans, and she'd be a writer as well as a teacher (her stated career goal for the last year).

I told her I thought she'd be good at that.

I think she thought some more about the subject overnight, because at morning snack this morning, she told me she was going to illustrate her books, too. She'd be a teacher, and a writer, and an illustrator.

I think she'd be good at that, too. I love watching her horizons about what she might do in life expand. I wonder how long it will be before she realizes she could create websites and write code, too? It isn't that I want her to go on to create websites or write code, or anything specific, really. I just love watching someone in that time in life where pretty much anything is possible, and most things are equally possible.

So many of my own career-related thoughts these days are bounded by the constraints of my life, as I've built it up over the years. Those constraints are often of my own making, but they are still there, and real. For Pumpkin, though, there are no constraints yet. It is wonderful to watch her realize this.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Twitter Favorites Edition

I almost skipped the weekend links post this week- I have a lot going on that I'm not quite ready to blog about but that is consuming my attention and energy.

But there were so many good things in my Twitter favorites list, that it feels wrong not to share. I favorite interesting looking things that go by during the day, when I don't have time to read them, and then read them every other night, while waiting for Petunia to fall asleep. So if you're ever stuck for something to read online, you could always go look at my favorites and find a bunch of things that at least sounded interesting to me.

Anyway, I still lack energy and mental focus, so I'm just going to paste in a bunch of links with very little context. I'll try to say how I found each one, at least.

This post on microagressions experienced as a woman programmer is a nice example of what I referenced in yesterday's mini-rant. (Found via @fianros.) Someday, I'll try to write about how much I think microagressions have cost me. They suck my energy and confidence away. I wish I were better at not letting them do that, but they do.

I liked this article about the foolishness of trying to "hack" popularity for your website. I think the need to be careful in the metrics you choose is one of those truisms that should be applied in all aspects of life. (Found via @Seriouspony.)

If you somehow missed Ta-Nehisi Coates' reply to the kerfuffle over his calling Melissa Harris-Perry our "foremost public intellectual", it is well worth the short time it will take you to read. (Found via just about everyone in my Twitter feed, I think.)

Old dudes are probably not the best people to write about what teenage girls like. The author's nicer to the old dudes making fun of her tastes than I would be. (Found via... I don't know. I guess I didn't favorite this one.)

And, as always, I like to end on something fun: parents who can remember (or are still experiencing) the sleep-deprivation of the baby years will probably get a chuckle out of this parody of Lorde's Royals. (found via @Sharon_Silver)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Mini-Rant on Making STEM Attractive to More Women

I have a growing dislike for the focus on "making STEM more attractive to women," and I feel the need to have a mini-rant about it. This is not a fully formed argument. It is just some thoughts that want out of my mind and into a rant.

If what is meant by "making STEM more attractive to women" is to somehow change the fundamentals of the STEM field, I find the suggestion insulting, as if you have to add some strange extra window-dressing to the field to appeal to us silly females. This is not to say that I have a problem with identifying the ways in which engineering, for instance, helps people, but that I have a problem with the assumption that (1) this is a requirement to attract women  and (2) that men will be uninterested in this information. You know what? STEM fields are pretty darn interesting on their fundamental merits, and most kids of any gender recognize this. We don't need to gussy up the fields to get the girls interested.

If what is meant by "making STEM more attractive to women" is to reform working conditions to make them more hospitable to people who have non-work commitments (like children) or just an interest in having a life apart from work, then it is incredibly sexist and insulting to all concerned to assume that this is only of interest to women. I am all for these reforms, but let's stop acting like they are just going to benefit women, because men have kids and aging parents and hobbies, too.

You know what I think? I think that plenty of girls and young women have an interest in STEM fields, but that as soon as a girl expresses that interest or is seen to be good in a STEM field, she starts hearing that "girls don't do that" or "no boy will want to date you if you're into that" or other such nonsense.

And as soon as a young woman takes any steps to act upon her interest in STEM, she quickly runs into some jerk of a man who wants to tell her that women are innately inferior in this field or who tells her that any award she wins was given to her because she is female. Or who decides to spread rumors that she is sleeping with the TA, and that's why she's getting an A. Or who creeps on her or outright harasses her. And if she expects anyone to reprimand this jerk, she is usually disappointed. She quickly learns that dealing with this sort of behavior is just what she'll have to put up with to pursue this interest.

Then the "concerned" people start in and wring their hands and tell her that the career she's considering will keep her from being a good mother, or finding a romantic partner, or being a generally happy human being with friends, or some other thing that the concerned people imagine is incompatible with being a woman in STEM. And even if she is lucky enough to have a counter-example or two to point to, those helpful, concerned people will tear her counter-example apart. "Well, yes, but she is such a bitch." "Well, yes, but I wouldn't want to put my baby in day care so early." "Oh, but her marriage ended in divorce." Or other such nonsense, all said with a knowing arch of the eyebrows, meant to imply that the STEM field is the root cause of whatever supposedly undesirable thing is being discussed.

And maybe she looks at all that crap and decides to follow one of her other interests, because they are really interesting, too, and why should she put up with this crap? Maybe that is a conscious decision, or maybe it isn't. It doesn't matter.

So you know what I think people should do to make STEM attractive to more women? Stop being so shitty to the women who are already interested in STEM. Basically, stop requiring that a woman be so hugely and unwaveringly interested in STEM that she will put up with being told she isn't a real woman (whatever the hell that is) and treated like crap just to get to work in the field, and I think that you will find that more women are interested in STEM.

Now, this was all just me ranting. I do not have data on these observations, beyond the fact that every single one of the obnoxious things I mention has happened to me personally over the course of my career. Maybe I am wrong, and we could stop telling girls and young women that following their interest in STEM means doing something "unfeminine" and we could stop making women who are interested in STEM put up with sexist comments and insulting and factually incorrect assessments of women's innate abilities in these fields and we could stop tolerating dickish behavior from the men in the field because "they're just having fun" and there still wouldn't be as many women in STEM. But it wouldn't hurt to try, would it?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Random Collection of Good Things

This week's Tungsten Hippo post has a few recommendations for short eBooks that might help you with your New Year's Resolutions.

We've already started in on our 2014 family fun list, visiting a doughnut shop for treats after our park outing yesterday. Maybe the key to keeping your resolutions is making the fun and easy to do!


I've come across some great things for the kids lately, and I feel like sharing them:

My Mom brought over her Quiddler game and played a modified version with Pumpkin, who loved it. I think this is a great way to practice spelling and vocabulary for kids who aren't quite ready for full on Scrabble yet. I'm tempted to buy the game for our house, but we already have a bunch of games, so I may not. If you're feeling a bit light in the game department, check this one out.

My parents got Pumpkin the basic Roominate set, and so far I am quite impressed. Pumpkin was able to build it and wire up the motor by herself, and she is having a lot of fun with it. My only complaint is that it is sized for small dolls (the ones that are about 3-4 inches high) and not Barbies. However, this is not because the Pumpkin isn't enjoying playing with her smaller dolls and this toy. It is because my kids really want a Barbie house and I really do not want to store a big plastic one.

My in-laws send Pumpkin this really cool Magic Cherry Blossom Tree. It is a crystal growing experiment made super cool. Both kids love it. And I love that it will go away after about a month, so I don't have to store anything. (I spent several hours today finding homes for all the new Christmas toys, so lack of storage requirement seems like a big plus to me right now!) My only criticism is that there was that the solution came pre-mixed. This is probably necessary to get the exact right mixture, but it meant that there wasn't much for Pumpkin to do in the set up. But she and Petunia both really loved watching the growing process, though, which gave me a chance to try to explain crystallization at the appropriate level (I'd give myself a B- on that).

About an hour or two in

Roughly 6 hours in

Finished product

Moving on... I love Giants Beware! for older kids. A friend's husband did the color on this graphic novel, which is how I heard about it. I read it and loved it, and think Pumpkin will love it in a few years, too.

We've also been exploring apps for the kids to play on my Kindle Fire. It is usually restricted to times when we need them to be someplace boring and put up with it- e.g., car rides, restaurant waits, and the like. Of course, as I type this, Pumpkin is playing with it now just because I said she could. Maybe at some point, I'll write up an entire post about apps aimed at kids, but for now I'll just note that both kids really like the apps put out by Kevin Bradford. Petunia is particularly fond of the subtraction game in the Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games app, because she likes tapping the items with "X" on them and making them disappear. It will be pretty funny if this means she learns to subtract before she learns to add.

One day a few weeks ago, Mr. Snarky was home with a sick Petunia, and he sent me an email telling me she loved the Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse show. My initial reaction was "WTF are you doing showing her that?" but he made me watch it when I got home, and it is surprisingly good. Or at least not terrible. Here are episodes we've watched. Look for the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark references.

And finally, Petunia wanted to watch Gangnam style on "the big TV" (instead of Pumpkin's computer, where we have installed a version from Dance Dance Revolution), and we stumbled on this, which caused both kids to laugh uproariously:


Finally, both kids have some original humor I'd like to share.

Let's start with Petunia (4 years old):

Who's there?
A chicken.
A chicken who?
A chicken got on the hood of a car and a man came and cleaned it off but it kept getting back on the car and the man kept having to clean it off.

Here is Pumpkin's original joke:

What is the difference between a teacher and a tutor?
The tutor farts a lot.

And I think I'll leave it there. I can't top that joke.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Management Writing Edition

I've been in a kick of reading books about management. I recently finished David Anderson's Kanban (which was very useful), and am now reading Scott Berkun's The Year Without Pants, about his time working at Automattic, the company that makes WordPress. I am finding many good and interesting thoughts in it, but it is also annoying me for the things it doesn't examine. However, I'm only halfway through, so perhaps my concerns will eventually be addressed. Either way, I suspect I'll have a full blog post about what is missing from most tech management books (spoiler alert: one thing that tends to be missing is any recognition of how some of the techniques described can be exclusionary, either accidentally or not).

So, I've clearly been in the mood to read about management. I've found some good links on management, too:

I read Geek Manager's post about how there is no such thing as the Soft Skills Fairy quite awhile back, and tweeted it out at the time. If you missed it, go and read it. It is great and oh so very true. You can learn the "soft skills" and you don't really have any excuse for not working to learn them. It is infuriating to your colleagues to shrug and say "I'm just not good at the soft skills" and it is insulting and belittling to the people who have taken the time to work on those skills.

I found John Cook's post about when to delegate via Rands. It is very good. As a manager, I also try to think about the energy impact for the person to whom I am delegating, and whether what I am delegating is something that will help that person grow in the directions that he or she wants to grow.

This post from Eric Brechner about how individual flow is not the be all, end all goal in tech management is thought-provoking. I don't agree 100%, but I don't disagree. Basically, I need to think more about what he says.

@SarahHCarl's twitter feed led me to this post about remote work by David Heinemeir Hansson, the coauthor of the management book I'm likely to read next- Remote: Office Not Required.

I'd like to end with two posts that aren't strictly about management, but cover topics I think managers should think about, to make their decisions more sensitive and inclusive:

First of all, Chris Bourg has a post of stories about when people have mistaken her gender, which links to some very simple advice about what to do if you make this mistake.

Next, Molly Crabapple has a great piece about the importance of money and how the lack of it constrains opportunity.

Happy 2014, and happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Listings of Fun, Part II

Part way through January last year, I decided that I needed a personal fun list as well the family fun list- I'd been feeling a bit out of sorts, like I'd lost touch with the things I liked. So I wrote a list of 12 things to do that I thought would make me feel happy and back in touch with myself, with the intention of doing one per month.

I liked that tradition, too, so I've decided to keep it as well as the family fun list.

Here's an accounting of how I did on last year's list:
  1. Buy some new underwear, already (Done! In January, and boy, did it make me happy.)
  2. Have a weekend away without the kids or my husband (I spent two days and one night in San Francisco visiting one of my best friends, and it was wonderful.)
  3. Catch up on William Gibson's books (Done! And I really enjoyed them. Pay no attention to the sidebar that says I'm reading Zero History. I finished that ages ago. I should just delete those sidebars at this point, I so rarely update them.)
  4. Clean up the top of my dresser and jewelry box, and fix the jewelry that needs fixing, so that maybe I'll start wearing my jewelry more often. (Done! And I have been wearing my jewelry again, which makes me happy. I even bought some new earrings in New Zealand.)
  5. Get a personal shopper and sort out the foundations of my wardrobe, so that I can be happy when I get dressed again (Not done, and by the way I kept putting this off, maybe not something I really want to do? I don't know.)
  6. Take a bubble bath (Done! Several times. But I honestly think I wouldn't have taken a single bubble bath in 2013 without this item on a list to remind me to do it.)
  7. Take a San Diego beer tour with Mr. Snarky (Not done- we could never get the timing to work out.)
  8. Make a mix CD or playlist with new music that I like (Not done- I got about half way through selecting songs.)
  9. Go kayaking with Mr. Snarky (Done! Mr. Snarky and I kayaked around Huntington Harbor on a Orange County getaway)
  10. Go rollerblading (Not done. Boo.)
  11. Go to a classical concert (Not done)
  12. Go out to brunch (Done, also on an Orange County getaway, and then again in Scottsdale over our Thanksgiving break)
So that's 7 out of 10 for my personal fun list. Maybe I can do better this year! Here is my list for 2014:

  1. Make a mix CD/playlist of new music (I'm going to try again! I'm sure I can finish this time.)
  2. Clean out and organize my sock drawer (I felt so great about getting my underwear sorted out last year, this year I'm moving on to socks!)
  3. Take a San Diego beer tour with Mr. Snarky (Maybe I'll organize this for his birthday this year.... I can say that because he never reads my blog.)
  4. Go rollerblading (I WILL remember this year.... I will!)
  5. Go kayaking with Mr. Snarky (because we both love to kayak, and it is one of the few active things we can do together without stress. We get separate kayaks- the tandems are arguments waiting to happen- but I can keep up reasonably well, and he doesn't mind stopping now and then to wait since the scenery is so nice.)
  6. Learn how to make a second type of New Zealand savory pie. (I've got steak and cheese down. One of these days, I'll post the recipe. I am not sure what type of filling to tackle next, but I think it is time to branch out!)
  7. Learn how to make a great margarita (because the ones in the restaurants we can go with the kids are usually pretty disappointing. I will also continue my search for the best margarita in a family friendly setting in San Diego, though....)
  8. Take a bubble bath (so that I remember this year, too)
  9. Go indoor rock climbing (this was the most popular suggestion when I asked my Twitter friends what other sporty thing I should try)
  10. Try a new restaurant (we go out so rarely that we tend to stick with our "old favorites." I think it is time to try some new places)
  11. Try stand up paddleboarding (I see this all the time on Mission Bay, and also in Orange County... I want to try!)
  12. Catch up on Scalzi's Old Man's War universe. (I think I just need Zoe's Tale and Human Division to be up to date...)
I think it is a pretty good list this year. Maybe I can get through all of them!

I've also decided to publicly commit to three professional growth type goals for 2014. It is not that these aren't fun- I think all of them will be. But they will take a lot of effort, probably over multiple months, so they didn't seem like "fun list" entries.  It happens that none of these are relevant to my current job, but I've decided that doesn't matter. They are me stretching skills for which people might pay me. Here they are:
  1. Expand Tungsten Hippo to include collections
  2. Finish my third children's story (the second one is due out later in 2014!)
  3. Publish an app (probably Android, since I have Android devices, but if I decide to do an iOS app instead, that would be fine as far as the goal is concerned)
And I have one thing that I will call an "intention"- it isn't quite a resolution, because I don't think it is something I can ever really say is accomplished. But it is something I want to work on this year: I want to rebuild my yoga and meditation practice. I still occasionally meditate and occasionally do yoga, but I've lost any continuity so cannot call either a true practice. I miss the good feelings that came from having continuity, and want to try to build back to that.

Do you have resolutions, intentions, goals, or fun list items that you want to share? Leave them (or a link to your post about them) in the comments!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Listings of Fun, Part I

Last year, I decided to start a new family tradition: on New Year's Eve, the family would sit down together and write a "family fun list" for the next year. We'd have one fun item for each month, and since there are four of us, that meant that each person got to pick three things to put on the list. The kids weren't really sure what the list was all about, but we managed to write a list.

I thought it would be fun to give a final reckoning on how we did on our list, and to publish this year's list. Because yes, we kept the tradition this year, and this year the kids were 100% into it, and got genuinely excited about some of the items we put on the list.

So, here's how we did on 2013's list:

  1. Ride a surrey bike again (me). We did this one in Coronado in March, and a good time was had by all.
  2. Go to the aquarium (Pumpkin). We went to the Birch Aquarium a couple of times. The kids' favorite part is their outdoor patio that explores renewable energy.
  3. Go to the dinosaur museum (Pumpkin- she is referring to the NAT, or the San Diego Natural History Museum, in Balboa Park). We not only visited this museum, we became members!
  4. Hike to the top of a hill or mountain (Mr. Snarky) We did not get this one done.
  5. Go visit Mimi and Boppa again (Petunia). We spent Thanksgiving at their house!
  6. Go to New Zealand to see Nonna, Poppa, and Aunt S. (Mr. Snarky and I had to suggest it, but once the kids realized it was a possibility, they were excited.) We took our family vacation in New Zealand this year, and had a great time.
  7. Take a family trip to Orange County (me) I think our trip to Disneyland qualifies!
  8. Pick a day and watch TV all day long (Pumpkin) We did not do this. I'll confess that I didn't go out of my way to remind Pumpkin about this....
  9. Go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (me) This was our first family fun trip of the year.
  10. Go to Legoland (Mr. Snarky) We decided to swap in a trip to Sea World, instead, because they ran a good deal that got the kids in free. We've decided not to do that again- although Sea World is much closer to us than Legoland, we like Legoland better.
  11. Go camping (Mr. Snarky) We didn't get to do this- we had plans to, but didn't get organized in time.
  12. Explore a new neighborhood in San Diego (me) We snuck this in at the very last minute- we took a family outing to Ocean Beach last weekend. We hadn't been there since before Pumpkin was born, so I think this counts.

So- we hit 8 out of 12 in the first year, 9 if you count the swap in of SeaWorld for Legoland. I thought that was a pretty good effort. The grown ups were a bit more strategic in their picks for 2014. Given that and the fact that the kids now get the concept, I think we'll do even better in 2014.

Here is our 2014 list:
  1. Go to Legoland (Petunia)
  2. Go ice skating (Pumpkin)
  3. Go fishing (Mr. Snarky)
  4. Ride a surrey bike again (me- I am going to pick this every year until the kids are too old to agree to do it! It is just downright fun.)
  5. Buy ice cream from an ice cream truck (Petunia)
  6. Go camping (Pumpkin)
  7. Buy donuts at a donut shop (Mr. Snarky)
  8. Visit the new downtown library (me)
  9. Walk on the beach and collect shells (Petunia)
  10. Hike to the top of a hill or mountain (Pumpkin)
  11. Go on a boat ride (Mr. Snarky)
  12. Go to the dinosaur museum (me- we have a membership, after all!)

Part II of this post will be a report on my 2013 personal fun list and the unveiling of 2014's list. I'm still working on that one- I only have 10 out of 12 items picked out.