Friday, May 30, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Seemingly Intractable Problems Edition

Who wants to read about all the problems we can't seem to get our acts together to fix? You do! Or at least, I did- and I gathered a bunch of links for you.

First up, Jelani Cobb continues the discussion about America's poor record of racism in a post at the New Yorker. He makes a good point about how we fight every advance towards justice until at some point we pivot to claim the advance as proof that the problems are in the past. He said it better than that, though, so just go read what he wrote.

N. K. Jemisin gave a powerful speech calling on us to fight bigotry. She is talking about the sci-fi and fantasy community, but her words resonate beyond that.

Arthur Chu wrote a devastating critique of the misogynistic aspects of geek culture. If you have somehow missed reading this, go and read it now. It is really well done, and my only complaint about it is that I had forgotten that creepy scene in Revenge of the Nerds but now I remember it again. Ick.

Kate Harding has a well-written and somewhat terrifying look at the men's right activists and pick up artists and the guys who have just absorbed some of their screwed up ideas as they have leaked out into the broader culture. As she says: "It's not all men. But golly, it's a depressing number of men."

It’s not all men, but golly, it’s a depressing number of men. - See more at:
It’s not all men, but golly, it’s a depressing number of men. - See more at:
It’s not all men, but golly, it’s a depressing number of men. - See more at:
It’s not all men, but golly, it’s a depressing number of men. - See more at:
It’s not all men, but golly, it’s a depressing number of men. - See more at:
Let's not forget the guns! And the disgusting, intimidating tactics of some open carry advocates. And the way the extremists are working to keep smart guns off the market.

Here's a sliver of good news about one problem- some people are starting to take online harassment seriously, and are figuring out ways to curtail it in their online communities.

I'm not sure what to make of this one: an essay by a very thin woman about what it takes to be that thin. I really appreciate Alana Massey's honesty in this, but admit I am a bit horrified by what she is describing, and a lot horrified by the behavior of the men she describes. So I guess there's a good reason not to want to be super thin- I'd apparently become attractive to a disturbing group of men. Although, are they really any worse than the men I've run into who are just into me for my bra size? It is hard to say. Ugh.

I'm sure I have more good things in my Twitter favorites- which, incidentally, is where a lot of my weekend links come from, so if you ever want to read more things, you can always go browse there directly. Keep in mind, though, that I favorite things that I want to come back to read as well as things I have read and liked. So it will be a bit uneven.

I'm going to stop here for the night, though, and go hang out with Mr. Snarky. And since I gave you a bunch of depressing links this week, have a delightful Doctor Who-Rocky Horror Picture Show mashup, too:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Woman in the Mirror

Mr. Snarky and I had a planned two night getaway last weekend, without the kids. I saw the initial news about the murders near Santa Barbara before we left, but I made a conscious decision not read more. I mostly avoided the news and tried to enjoy our weekend together. I still haven't read everything about the murders, but I have read enough to understand that they represent so much of what is wrong in our society: misogyny, racism and racial hatred, classism, problems with mental health care, and guns- always, in this country, guns.

I am so angry about all of it. I am so angry that people keep dying because we cannot bring ourselves to face these problems. I do not think I have anything profound and new to say. I fervently wish our country could have reasonable conversations about these problems, but I expect to once again be disappointed on that front. We have had so many opportunities in the past, and always, we find a way not to face the problems, to forget and "move on."

I started this blog post thinking I would write about the killer's fetishization of blondeness, and how it reminded me of how I've been reduced to my hair color and bra size more times than I can count. I thought I'd write about how it feels to realize the man you are dating thinks of you more as an ambulatory status symbol than an actual person. I was surprised how much this aspect of the larger story hit home. I thought that writing about it would make me feel less unsettled by it.

But I find that my writing skills are not up to the task of this topic. I did not like what I wrote, and I do not want to imply that way our culture views blondes is more of a problem than sexism and racism- it is more a symptom of those things than anything else, I think.

Therefore, I am going to abandon my initial intent and talk a bit about something a little more hopeful. I often see people wondering what they can do about the problems of racism and sexism. I don't really know how to solve those problems, but I think part of the solution has to be that we all learn to recognize our internal biases, so that we can actively work to overcome them- and maybe even help our children avoid learning them.

I also think that part of the solution is for our pop culture to stop reinforcing those biases by wallowing in stereotypes and other toxic messages. But that is beyond my direct power to change. 

Whether I act on my subconscious biases or actively work to change them is something that is in my power to change, so I've decided to start there. One thing that I have found very helpful is to pause anytime I find myself forming a judgment about someone, and to ask myself if I would form that same judgment if the person were a different person. If I think something about a woman, I ask myself: would I think that about a man? (And vice versa- it is quite a shock to realize that you've thought a positive thing about a man doing something that you would have judged negatively when done by a woman.) If I think something about a black person, I ask myself if I'd have thought that about a white person. If I think something about a gay person, I ask myself if I'd have thought that about a straight person. And so on.

This took a lot of conscious thought at first, but I've been doing it for awhile, and it is becoming almost reflexive. It has been a very illuminating exercise. I do not think it is the ultimate answer to the problem, but I think that it can help me form less biased opinions of people, and that has to be a good thing. I recommend this little exercise as a concrete thing you can do if you want to work against bias and discrimination, particularly if you are in a position to hire people or make other decisions that impact people's careers.

Another thing I have decided to do is to always try to say yes when asked for mentoring help, and if I do need to say no, to keep track of who I say no to, so that I can watch for bias. I was really struck by the recent study that showed that emails requesting help that come from women and people of color are less likely to get a positive reply than similar emails from white men- even when those emails are directed at women and people of color.

I am in no way implying that these small things will, by themselves, solve the large, complex problems of bias and injustice in our culture. But sometimes those problems seem so large and complex as to be overwhelming. I cannot fix our society, but I can try to improve myself, and maybe if enough of us do that, our society will get a little better, too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Reckoning with Racism Edition

I've had a pretty good week. I did not write as many blog posts as I thought I would, but I got a lot of other writing done- my goal for the week was to complete a draft of my short ebook about running a non-academic job search, and I did that. It clocks in at over 12,000 words, but at least 2/3 of those were already written in blog posts. I was stitching them together, amplifying some sections, and adding a section about figuring out what jobs to go after. I was so successful in my writing that I added a stretch goal of going through one round of revisions on the manuscript, and promptly failed to meet that.

Mr. Snarky was on a business trip all week, so I've also been doing more than my usual share of parenting, although that has been counterbalanced by the fact that my parents arrived Tuesday night. Still, I've taken the kids to swim lessons and out to dinner after said lessons, gone (with my parents and Petunia) to Pumpkin's open house, and gone (with my parents and Pumpkin) to Petunia's day care ice cream social and her soccer lessons. And I bought some new bras, which might be the most difficult thing I did all week. (Menfolk: I am not joking. You have no idea.)

I had hoped to get my business bank account set up, but my tax ID number had not arrived by this morning, so I went ahead and did the personal banking I needed to do after lunch. Of course, when I arrived home, my tax ID had arrived. I made an appointment to set up my business bank account next Wednesday.

I also read all sorts of different things online, but since Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece The Case for Reparations went online this week, there was a lot of really good discussion about racism in America, and I think I'll focus this post on that.

First of all, if you are a white American and haven't read Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece in the Atlantic yet, I encourage you to go do so. Warning: it will take at least an hour, but it is well worth the time investment. It is called The Case for Reparations, but to me, it was more the case for an honest reckoning and discussion, which might very well lead to some form of reparations. If you think you do not support reparations because slavery was a long time ago and your ancestors came after it ended... go read the piece, anyway.  As Gene Demby points out, the piece doesn't focus much on slavery. The majority of the history lesson is from the 20th century, and has to do with how our government's policies created the gap in wealth between black and white families. Really, go read the piece. Coates is an extraordinarily talented writer, and he makes the subject matter easy to read without softening the blow that the historical facts necessarily deliver.

After you have read Coates' piece, read Alexis Madrigal's short piece about how redlining impacted California cities, and definitely click through to look at the maps Josh Begley put together showing the redlining data for California cities based on the data from the T-RACES project, and then click on some squares on the maps to read the summaries written by the federal government of some of the parts of town. Remember, this was policy that was implemented in the 1930s, and officially continued until 1968. I would argue, based on the experiences I and some of my friends have had working with realtors during a cross-country relocation, that racism in housing continues informally today. When I moved from San Diego to New Jersey, the realtor I worked with made sure I knew which areas were primarily white and which were not, all without saying anything about race. A friend had the exact same experience when being relocated from the East coast to San Diego. Racism in the housing market is not limited to the purchase of homes- as Donald Sterling has recently demonstrated, there is racism in the rental market, too. Basically, if you are a white person living in any sort of housing, you have benefited from racism. That is an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge, but I think we must acknowledge it.

Coates' piece does an excellent job of summarizing a complex topic for a general audience, but as he acknowledges, his piece would not have been possible without the work of scholars who have long studied the subject of reparations. William Darity is one of them, and Demos has a nice interview with him.

Coates also published a short blog post describing his path to writing The Case for Reparations, and one of the things that drove him to reconsider his views on the subject (he was initially opposed to the idea of reparations) was the impact of the racist housing policies on educational opportunities.

However, the evidence shows that educational equality will not solve all of our problems with racism. Go read Tressie McMillan Cottom's piece about how equal educational attainment does not in fact translate to equal opportunities for black people.

I think we white Americans need to find a way to really engage with the subjects these links cover. Our schools almost certainly didn't teach us the history Coates summarizes, and far too many of us remain ignorant of our implicit biases, which only serves to perpetuate them and the unequal opportunities McMillan Cottom discusses. Until we face that history and really reckon with it, we can have no hope of finding our way to the more just future I think that most of us would like to see. I think there is a lot of fear of what will happen if we really truly reckon with the great injustices that we have committed in the past, and that is understandable. No one can know what will happen if we open the conversation Coates' advocates. But we don't really know what will happen if we don't reckon with our past, either. Inaction is a choice, too, and not necessarily a safe one. I personally hope that Coates' powerful article helps to catalyze a reckoning that has been far too long in coming, and that we can find our way to really fulfilling the promise of the ideals of our nation's founding.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Today's Awesome Twitter Juxtaposition

These two tweets appeared within inches of each other on my screen:

This amused me greatly.

In obviously related news: congratulations, Pennsylvania!

In less-obviously related news: I should really install Greenshot on my home computer so that I could have grabbed screenshots, made a little image and then posted this observation directly on Twitter. Oh well.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Decompression Underway

I'm taking this week "off"- as in, I don't have an office I need to go to or anyone else expecting work from me.

I do intend to relax a bit this week. I had visions of sitting in my backyard enjoying our more seasonable weather this week (68 and part sun/part clouds is in the forecast for the entire week), but my Kindle went on the fritz. I wrote more about that over at Tungsten Hippo today. I'll probably still get some backyard time, but not as much as I would have with my Kindle.

And yes, the fact that I finally wrote another Tungsten Hippo post is an indicator of the fact that I'm coming out of the crunch of setting up the new business. (Aside: I didn't want to go through the disclosure song and dance in that post, but you all know that Xist is my publisher and so I'll say here: the best, most reliable source of well-formatted kids' ebooks for my Kindle Fire is Xist. The big publishers are starting to get the format now, but a lot of their backlist books are poorly formatted and don't read well on the Fire.)

My new business is not completely set up. I'm still waiting on my tax ID. Once I get that, I can set up a bank account, fund it, and then use it to register domain names, convert my Toggl account to Pro (so I can use it to create invoices), and set up payroll. I also need to figure out what I'll use for accounting software (a surprising number of the people I've asked say they just use a spreadsheet), finish the paperwork for the business set up (I need to issue shares, adopt my by-laws, and things like that), and a few other odds and ends. With some luck (i.e., if my tax ID arrives early in the week), I'll be mostly set up by the end of the week.

I'm planning to take it a bit easy for the first month, so I don't feel like I have to pack all my downtime into this one week. I want to pause, let the burned out feeling fade, and adopt a deliberate plan for what to do next. I have a lot of different ideas, but so far all I know for certain is that the first not-immediately paid thing I'll focus on doing is finishing up the ebook about job-hunting.

I also plan to write some more. I think that will help me vanquish the burned out feeling, because writing is something I like to do that was getting short shrift as I tried to make my schedule work out. I have a few post ideas on my list, but if you have suggestions- leave them in the comments!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Stepping Off a Cliff Edition

Today was my last day at work. In fact, depending on how things go, it might have been my last day as a salaried employee, period. However, I consider myself to have twenty-five years or so of career still in front of me. I am not so naive (or arrogant!) to think that I know what the rest of my career will be.

Still, today feels like the start of a very interesting new experiment, if nothing else.

@SarcasticCarrie may have put it best on Twitter:

My articles of incorporation also became valid this week, and my new corporation now legally exists. I still have some set up to do, but I am sitting next to a big stack of documents about my new corporation, which arrived in the mail today.

Exciting times!

My celebratory mood is dampened by the fires raging in the north of my county, though. I live far from the fires, so the personal impact has been limited to trouble with my asthma and burning eyes from the degraded air quality, and an unexpected day off yesterday, when all San Diego schools were closed. I have many friends and colleagues who live in the areas affected by the fires. Colleagues and friends have had children evacuated from schools. One colleague had the fire burn to within meters of her house. She and her family were evacuated and tracking the course of the fire as it advanced towards their home. Their house was saved because firefighters made a stand to save the subdivision.

People at work who are new to the area are a bit shocked by the images on their TV news, and are asking lots of questions trying to understand the risks associated with their new homes. I remember that feeling. The first wildfire I remember is the 1996 Harmony Grove fire, and I was struck by the speed and unpredictability of the fire. I wrote my first emergency plan that year. People who have lived here longer are a bit surprised by how few houses have been lost, to say nothing of the fact that so far there seems to be only one fatality from the nine (nine!) fires that have been burning in our area in the last few days. We have strong memories of prior firestorms that took much larger tolls, in both lives and property, and are on edge, worried that we may yet see a repeat of those earlier events. I think we as a region are better prepared (reverse 911 systems, better regional coordination, better laws about brush clearance, and better awareness about the importance of creating defensible space around your house if you live near open space are all things that come to mind).  I'm sure we've also gotten lucky.

So I'm not feeling like celebrating. Still, I've taken a big leap into the unknown this week, and I do feel like acknowledging that. I've told a few people that it was a leap of equal parts faith and frustration, and it really does feel in some ways like I've stepped off a cliff. The image in my mind is from the third Indiana Jones movie, when Indiana has to step off a cliff into what seems to be thin air.

So far, my bridge has materialized as I need it.

Here are some recent links that I've found inspiring and/or instructive in my big leap:

Amy Hoy has a site with lots of information about bootstrapping a new business. I really liked this week's post about what she calls oxygen mask entrepreneurship, and keeping a firm focus on what really matters in life.

Cal Newport wrote about the importance of intensity in work, which is something I think about a lot. Would I rather work intensely for four hours and then do whatever I want for four hours, or work at a less intense level for eight hours? I suspect the answer for me is different on different days, and different for different types of work- and I think that is OK. I also think that different people will have different preferences in this regard, and I think that is OK, too. I do not think there is one "right" way to work.

Laura Vanderkam had an interesting post about her work hours, and how they are longer than those of many of the women whose time logs she's analyzing for her mosaic project. One of the aspects of the experiment I'm starting that I'm most curious about is how this change in my work structure will play out in my time usage. I'll be tracking time to bill customers, and I've decided to go ahead and track all work hours, partly to help me see what things I do have the best return on time invested, but also because I am just so curious about how my time usage will change.  The hardest part of this may turn out to be deciding what is work in my new arrangement. Is Tungsten Hippo work? What about this blog? I have several projects in mind that may or may not pan out as something that I can sell. Are those work? I think I will probably just track both work and work-like projects, and sort it all out later.

I may or may not blog about what my time logs show me. I am very interested in the subject of time usage, but I find it increasingly frustrating to discuss. One of the things I've noticed when I (or anyone) write about time usage and/or work hours is that some people seem genuinely convinced that the details of their work and/or home life are so different from the details of the work or home life being discussed that any insights or ideas discussed will be impossible to apply to their situation. Sure, I can keep my career on track in a 40 hour work week, but they never could I used to argue with those people, but I've decided it is a fool's errand. Nothing but an exact match to their circumstances will convince them, and who knows? Maybe they are right. But because they won't engage in the possibility that they could change their lives, they don't make good people with whom to explore the limits of my ideas. The discussion becomes a waste of everyone's time. We seem, as a culture, to have a strong need to believe in the 80 hour work week, and my little blog isn't going to change that. I'd rather focus on my own life, and figuring out how I can make sure I use my time on all of the things that matter to me. I find that reading about other peoples approach to work and time usage often gives me new ideas I can adapt to my own situation, though, so I'll certainly keep reading on the subject, whether or not I write about it.

I don't have any funny things to end with, but I have two quotes I came across this week and really liked:

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck (found in cute form on Pinterest, of course)

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life." - John Lennon (found on Tumblr, you can track the history for yourself)

Happy weekend, everyone!

Late breaking addition- I do have something funny for you after all. I give you Cats Considering Capital.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ask Cloud: Choosing to Parent Solo

I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired of posts about my career situation. So, let's talk about something else for a change, and have an Ask Cloud post that is completely unrelated to my career.

Here's the question:


I'm just about to turn 34, single, and have always felt very sure that having children would be one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. My questions are fundamentally 1) How long do I wait hoping to meet a partner before I decide to proceed with having a child on my own?, and 2) Would I actually be able to make things work?
Here's a bit more relevant information:

I've been single now for about 2 years.  My former fiance, whom I loved dearly and really wanted to build a life with, broke things off once he decided (after a long tortuous period of introspection) that he didn't want to have kids... He ended things saying he didn't want to be responsible for denying me parenthood, because "you're someone who is made to be a mother".  Since then I've dated a good amount, and am fortunate in that I seem to be approachable and get asked out fairly often, but haven't met anyone quite right... the personalities and logistics haven't matched up in one person, yet.  I've tried to be extra social this last year in order to increase my changes of meeting someone, but am getting a bit exhausted by that, and a little disheartened.  I'm a generally happy person, and am happy on a day to day basis in my single life.  However, having had the experience of having a great partner in life, I want that again and know what I'm missing without it.  And, of course, I'd also like a partner to raise a family together with.

I've got a great job as an electrical engineer at a large company, and my job would almost certainly let me work 60% time for several years.  Yes, I'm very very lucky there.  I live very far from my family, which is a bummer since my mom is a huge kid person. But I have very good friends where I live, most of whom have young children. And I've always lived frugally (on about 50% of my after tax income) and been an aggressive saver, so, I've got a good chunk of change in the bank...enough that I could pay for an excellent daycare and occasional night nanny help.  (Moving back to my parents would mean giving up my great job and moving to an extremely high cost of living area, so, probably not the best option).

I've always loved children, and spend a lot of time around them thanks to my friends.  I've been lucky that they've included me in their families and let me be a true Auntie to their kids.  Seeing parenting up close, though, makes me aware of how exhausting and terrifying it can be.... The thought of doing it on my own makes me feel so vulnerable.  I've had several harsh reminders in the last few years about hard life can be, and I don't want to be naive.  My best friend came very close to dying 3 months after her daughter was born from a very rare postpartum complication; since then I've had nightmares of me or my child having an accident or medical issue and there being no one there to help.  I worry about how to handle the sleep deprivation (I don't handle it well), how to handle the kid being sick and unable to go to day care when I need to go to work, the work travel that I'd still need to do occasionally, the days when I'm just exhausted but I still need to get dinner on the table...   And that's all assuming the child is generally healthy!  Doing it alone, without a partner, seems really hard.  I worry that it wouldn't be fair to the kid to have a mom that chose single parenthood.  I worry that I'd become a mom, and then it would just be so hard that I'd think "this sucks!  I miss my old awesome life!  I miss my hobbies and cool travel and time for friends!".  And I worry that I wouldn't be able to do a good job at work...even as part of me thinks I'd do a better job once I knew it was my ability to take care of my family.   My gut says I'd regret not having a child more than having a child and having it be really hard sometimes. to tackle the logistics?!

I don't have any suspected fertility issues, thankfully.

I've broached the subject of having a kid on my own with 4 friends; three responded immediately with variations of "YES!  You totally should, you'd love it, and a child would be so lucky to have you as their mom.  And I'll help you".  One responded with a thoughtful "It's really hard sometimes...even with two of us to give each other a bit of a break...".

So - thoughts? Thoughts on timing and when to move from putting energy toward dating to becoming a parent? Is it crazy to think about doing it myself?  And if not crazy, just difficult, how to do it?


I obviously have no direct experience with being a single parent at all. My first thought was that she needs to read Gwinne's blog, Something Remarkable, since Gwinne does have direct experience with being a single parent by choice and she writes a great blog about her life.

But that would be a spectacularly short answer, so I will make a few comments.

1. I have a couple of friends who have met partners via a hiking club. I don't know if any club in which a bunch of people come together to do some sort of activity would have the same effect, or if there is something special about hiking (long periods of time together?) but that is something to consider when think about finding a partner: maybe look outside the usual dating scene. As one of my friends put it, she stopped trying to find people to date and started trying to find people she liked, and then one of them turned into someone she dated.

2. If your gut tells you that you'll regret not having kids more than having them, then you should at least try to have them, in my opinion, particularly since you have the resources to help make things easier.

3. I have nothing smart to say on the timing issue, except that no obvious fertility problems doesn't mean no fertility problems, so factor that into your decision making. I will say that we had four other families over for a mini-reunion from Pumpkin's day care, and at least two of the other mothers are older than me- and one is ten years older than me (I had Pumpkin six weeks shy of my 35th birthday). So while I don't want to give the impression that you should take your fertility for granted, I also don't want to give the impression that 35 is some impossible fertility cliff.

Regardless, I have no direct experience with fertility problems, either, so I am not a great source of advice there, either.

Based on recent events, my guess is that if it were me, I'd agonize over the decision and then one day just march into a clinic and get the process started. Perhaps a better approach would be to pick some date and some criteria and say that if the criteria aren't met by that date, you're off to the clinic. For instance: "if I'm not dating someone by next December, I'm going to set up an appointment at the fertility clinic." But I don't know. This may be an aspect of the decision that is too personal for anyone else to be able to advise you.

The other thing I'll observe on this topic is that just because you haven't met a partner with whom to raise a child at the time the child is born, it doesn't mean you won't eventually meet that partner.

4. On how to make it work if you do end up going the single parent by choice route... well, that's logistics, and I love talking about logistics!

OK, it isn't all logistics. I think there is probably a big mindset piece, too. Remember, this is all from someone who is NOT a single parent, so take my observations with a ginormous grain of salt, but.... It seems to be that to be successful as a single parent, you need to really take the advice to "put your own oxygen mask on first" to heart. This has definitely become a cliche now, but it is excellent advice for all of us. I struggle to really implement it in my life, though, and what happens when I fail isn't pretty. It is a meltdown. Of course, my husband is there to take care of the kids, keep things running, and help me put myself back together when I meltdown. If I were parenting without him, I think I'd really need to work on not letting myself get to the meltdown phase, even if it meant doing something that seemed selfish to take care of myself and relieve the pressure before I reached meltdown levels.

One practical way I think you'd want to implement this mindset is in your child care and school decisions. Even as a two parent family, we factored our convenience into our day care and school decisions. I have watched friends founder on the school thing- i.e., choose a school based solely on its awesomeness and disregard the fact that it is 30 minutes out of the way. I can think of only one case where that arrangement still stands, and in that case there is an awesome car pool that has formed. In all other cases, something gave- either the kid moved schools, the family moved house, or someone quit a job. It is hard to explain the morning and evening time crunch to someone who doesn't have kids. I certainly didn't understand it before I had kids. But then my first kid needed us to really stick to a nighttime routine or bedtime took even longer,  and suddenly, having dinner at 6 p.m. became a non-negotiable thing in our house. And then we had another kid and the realities of getting two kids ready in the morning meant that the I stopped scheduling meetings before 9 a.m., even though I usually made it to the office before 8:30 (this was before the company relocated).

So anyway, your convenience matters as much as or more than the specifics of the school's curriculum. I think that is true of all decisions in parenting, really- time is finite, and the one of surest ways to create stress is to set up a situation where you are always short for time during a routine that has some sort of time boundary.

One other logistical thought: I think you'd need to be very direct in setting up your support network, and ask for specific help if someone even hints that they'd like to help. I think the key there is to think realistically about what is an imposition and what isn't. If someone at our day care or school needed our help covering child care so they could go on a business trip or what not, we would do it and it would be hardly any trouble- adding one more kid to the routine isn't a huge deal at this point. If someone whose kid went to a completely different school needed that help- well, that is a bigger ask. That is not to say we wouldn't help out, just that it would feel like a much larger favor.

In general, I want to help people out, but also don't want to imply I think they need help, so I probably don't end up offering as much help as I could. I think that you'll have to find a way to deal with that weirdness in order to set up a network of people who can help you out.

You mentioned that you're worried about sleep deprivation, so you could start as you mean to continue, and line up specific help on the sleep front. Find people who will come take your baby on a long walk so you can nap (in my experience, the baby needs to be out of the house for at least an hour for this to be useful). Some friends probably really would be willing to come over and help out with the night shift from time to time if it turns out that your baby is a night owl. Accept the help and schedule it before you feel your sanity slip away. There are night nurses and also people who will babysit overnight so that you can escape to a hotel and get a decent night's sleep. You can also decide to get a co-sleeper and then graduate to partial or full night bedsharing- you may get more sleep that way, and without a partner around to complain about being kicked out of bed, why not? You may have a baby for whom sleep training is a good fit (it wouldn't have worked on Pumpkin, but I think it would have worked on Petunia, we just preferred a different approach.) My point is, there are a lot of ways to tackle the sleep deprivation problem. Once you know what sort of sleeper your baby is, you can pick a method that works best for you.

And really, that holds for all of the issues you'll face as a parent. You're a smart person who is good at problem solving, so trust yourself to find solutions to the problems parenthood presents. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is tuning out what "they" say you should do about a situation and then identifying the right problem to solve. Once you do that, you'll probably see a lot of possible solutions.

Readers- who has more/better advice? Please leave it in the comments.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Weekend Reading: The All Fun Edition

I am in the mood for fun links, so this week's link list is nothing but fun.

First up, one incredibly classy VW bug.

An island full of bunnies! I want to go there.

Find the census blocks where no one lives.

Cool 3D sand drawings. Yes, there really are beaches that big, flat, and empty in New Zealand. The header photo for this blog was taken on one!

This story about a misread word made me laugh out loud.

So did this tweet:

I am a sucker for a good flash mob, and this is one of my favorites I've found in awhile:

But it led me to an even better one:

New life goal: participate in a musical flash mob.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Following My Arrow

I thought I might get my much delayed Ask Cloud post up tonight, but it is going to take more time to finish than I can devote to writing tonight. I figure that it is better to wait until I have enough time to do a decent job than to rush it just because I feel bad that it has taken me so long to post it. Still, I feel like this blog is getting neglected lately, so here is a somewhat random post instead.

What have I been doing instead of blogging?

Well, I figured out how I want to structure my business and what to call it (actually, I came up with two names- one for the consulting part and one for the more exploratory part), and I filed the initial paperwork. I have an appointment with a lawyer next Tuesday to confirm, but I think I am now OK to start signing documents as the president of my new company. This is an important thing, because it means that I can sign the agreements necessary to begin contracting work in a few weeks, as planned.

I've written a list of all the various things I need to do in getting this business set up. A lot of these items have to wait until I get the tax ID for the new company. I expect to get that within about a month. (And I had to pay an extra fee to expedite processing just to get it that fast! Hooray, budget cuts.)

I've been pondering what, exactly, happened in the last few years, and especially in the last year or so, to make me change career course. I think there are some positive reasons and some negative reasons, and in some ways it doesn't matter... but I'd like to know what I think happened, so that I can learn from the mistakes I made and also learn more about what matters to me.

I've been pondering what made me snap and just quit, and that matters very much to me, because I want to learn how to handle difficult situations with more equanimity and how to do a better job of defusing stress and avoiding situations that make me miserable.

I've also been preparing for my last day at work, and am noticing the change in how I feel about certain situations. I am finding this quite instructive, in ways I do not want to describe here. I will say that I find I have time to get to the company gym now, and my Thursday runs are happier.

I am thinking about how to use my week off, and how to use the roughly 20 hours per week I won't be contracted to work, and generally how to arrange my new life. I think I'm going to have to be pretty flexible on this one, but it would be good to have some basic principles in mind. For one thing: I do not want to fill the time completely with home things. I want to use the time to figure out what's truly next career-wise. Should I keep contracting and focus on growing that business? Grow some other business? Find a different full-time "regular" job? Keep a mix of money-making activities going? I honestly have no idea what is right for me.

I also want to take advantage of the flexibility of the arrangement I've set up for the immediate future, and enjoy some more time with my kids. I'm thinking that time-tracking will be the answer to this potential conundrum: if I set a goal for number of hours spent on things I deem "work," then I can grant myself the flexibility to do those hours whenever I want, and thereby have the flex time without the worry that I'm selling my career short. I'll need to track hours for the contracting business, anyway, so I'll just track all of my work-related hours.

I am thinking about an initial business plan for the exploratory side of my business. I have a lot of ideas there, and need to decide what comes first.

That's a lot of career-related stuff. But I also checked out a new cookbook from the library, and am browsing it for new recipes to try.

And Mr. Snarky and I are planning a mini-getaway, and a family summer vacation. I enjoy travel and travel planning, so this is fun. 

In short, I'm following my arrow and having a surprisingly good time doing so.

Yes, I've posted that song before.

Here's a new one that I'm also really enjoying right now.

More substantive posts coming soon. Probably.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Five Great Podcasts

I have a little time to write while I drink my morning tea- not, unfortunately, enough to make progress on the ebook, but enough that I don't want to waste it. So- time for a blog post!

I am going to finally make good on my promise to post about some of my favorite podcasts. Here are my top 5 favorites right now, in no particular order:

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects, from BBC 4
Each episode picks a different object from the British Museum and tells the story of what it is, how it was found, and what it means in the context of world history. I'm up to episode 40 or so, and I've learned a lot. This is clearly not a complete history of the world- each episode is only about 10 minutes, and some periods of history in some places didn't leave much archeological record. But if you think of it just as a series of interesting stories about the history of the world, it is a wonderful series.

2. The Broad Experience, from Ashley Milne-Tyte
This podcast focuses on various issues relevant to professional women. I've enjoyed all of the episodes I've listened to.  Ashley Milne-Tyte (who you might recognize from various NPR shows) finds interesting women to interview. The episodes are always enjoyable to listen to, and often I come away with a new perspective on something.

3. Launch Yourself, from Melissa Anzman
Each episode is an interview with someone who has launched something- usually a website, a book, or an app, but sometimes something more abstract, like the episode with Tamara Murray, who "launched" a leap year. I've picked up some good tips for launching things, but more than that, I find it inspiring to listen to interviews with people who are doing cool things.

4. Planet Money, from NPR
I've tried several of the NPR podcasts, and they are all good. However, Planet Money is the one I keep coming back to. They find interesting stories and tell them in just the right amount of time.

5. Shop Talk, from Chris Coyier and Dave Rupert
I had to try a bunch of different tech-focused podcasts before I finally found one I liked. Most tech podcasts seem to be pitched squarely at 20 year old dudes. They might have some interesting content for a 40-something female techie like me, but I was put off by the style of delivery and didn't enjoy listening to them. Shop Talk is different- it has interesting tech info, with humor that appeals beyond the 20 year old male demographic. Also, they interview a lot of women in tech, generally about tech topics. It is refreshing. I will call out one episode in which the interview isn't primarily about tech topics, though, as something that might be of interest to even the non-techies in my audience: they had scheduled Julie Ann Horvath on their show... and then the mess with GitHub erupted. So they talked about that, and it was a very interesting show.

Those are the podcasts I have in my regular rotation right now. If you have others to recommend, leave them in the comments.

And if you're in the mood for more of my recommendations... I didn't write a Tungsten Hippo post this week, but I did post my weekly short ebook recommendation. This week's recommendation was Day Breaks, a fun mix of police procedural and goblins. And of course, this Thursday is the first Thursday of the month, so I'll be posting another anthology recommendation this week in addition to my usual short ebook recommendation.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Infuriating Edition

I had an email from someone wondering if I'm still planning to write the short ebook about job searching. The answer is yes, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep my originally planned schedule. Once I get the company set up to the point that I can get paid for contracting, I should have the time to get back to the book- but I'm not sure when that will be. I'm a bit fried from all the pressure that eventually made me quit my job, so I'm trying to be gentle on myself and only push as hard as I absolutely have to, at least for a month or two.

I'm also still unnerved by some realizations about how my career has gone to date- see my comment on Nicoleandmaggie's excellent post today about how to address gender issues in the classroom for a glimpse at the issues I'll need to sort through at some point. The extent to which I feel fragile on gender bias issues right now makes me wonder if there are therapists out there that specialize in putting ambitious women back together after a run in with harsh patriarchal reality shatters them. If there aren't, there probably should be. I don't feel shattered, and I'm not sure what I think actually happened at this particular job. Perhaps it was just time for me to do something different. I don't want to read more into the situation than was really there. But perhaps because I can't really explain what has happened to the career path I thought I was on, I feel like I could shatter if I'm not careful, hence the whole "be gentle to myself" thing. I want to get through the immediate transition and then spend some time figuring out how this whole experience can make me stronger. Or something like that. Whatever the reasons that have led me to this point, I'm pretty excited about the potential of what comes next, and I want to be able to make the most of this opportunity.

So anyway, I'm still going easy on the gender bias stories. But I have a few to share this week, mostly gathered a few weeks ago, before my valve blew. I also have a bunch of links about other infuriating things. Doesn't that sound delightful?

First, the gender-related ones:

Emberdione has a really great post about being a mom in the game industry, and how things could be so much better if more people understood that planning and management can avoid crunch time (sound familiar?) Here is a great quote from the end of the post:

"All too often work gets re-done or wasted. Leads and Publishers want more than they are willing to give time for. May the producers who build the gantt charts and FORCE the studio to get it to fit within the time frame find eternal joy. (My favorite producer was the one who drew one out, it showed we had 6 months more work than time, and said, “Okay, no one is leaving until it works.” 3 hours later, a very weary set of leads left the room with a workable schedule that did NOT include crunch.)"

Like most work-life balance things, this shouldn't really be a gender issue, but is.

Ellen Chisa posted some excellent observations about the sexism in how we talk about product management.

There have been a lot of discussions about sexism in publishing, particularly around the success of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked this post from Jennifer Lynn Barnes about how the gender of the author can matter in a book's chances of success even when there are clearly other things that mattered a lot, too.

At the intersection of gender, race, and class, Tressie McMillan Cottom posted a powerful essay about an assault by a cab driver and the complex calculations that went into her decision of how to respond.

Syreeta McFadden wrote about teaching the camera to see her skin. I confess to having never thought about how photography is calibrated for white skin. This is a powerful example of how technology is not always as neutral as we like to think it is.

This post by Bree Blakeman on a near-drowning will break your heart. And don't for a minute think something similar couldn't happen pretty much anywhere in America.

Speaking of racism in America... Ta-Nehisi Coates had a typically brilliant essay on how it is far too easy for us to condemn egregious bigots like Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy while blithely accepting what he terms elegant racism, which persists and continues to harm Black people. Here is a quote, but go read the whole thing:

"'The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,' John Roberts elegantly wrote. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)"

And to see what is perhaps an example of the elegant racism Coates describes, read Stephanie Mencimer's article about Kathryn Edin's research and how it upends conventional wisdom about poverty and "dead beat Dads."

That's your dose of infuriating reading for the weekend, and I don't even have a funny thing to end on. Oh well, have a happy weekend, anyway!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Contents Under Pressure

I suspect that one of the reasons I quit my job so suddenly is that the constant pressure of trying to fit a full work day in with the commute and the kid drop off/pick up schedule was slowly building, and when someone added just a little more pressure, the valve blew, so to speak.

Despite the suddenness of my decision to act, the ideas of what to do had been formed over quite some time. I really do think this new work arrangement is going to be better. My only regret is not making this change sooner, before the valve blew. I was trying to make the change in the usual way, and have new work lined up before leaving the old work. It turns out, I shouldn't have worried. I already have ~20 hours/week of contracting lined up at a rate that means I don't really have to hurry to find more hours, and a couple of solid leads on more hours if I want them. Plus, I've got ideas of other work-like but less immediately lucrative things I want to try, and I'm excited to finally have the time to do them.

However, to take the contracting work, I need to be set up as a business. So I've had the extra work of figuring out what business structure to use, finding a name (actually two, but that is a story for another day), figuring out what I need to do to set up the business, and then actually getting the filing done.

The kids are wondering why I'm at the computer even more in the evenings when I've told them that one of the reasons I'm making this change is so that I can be at the computer less in the evening. I'm even more stressed and short-tempered than usual, too, which I hate.

It is a classic case of things having to get worse before they can get better.

Today I managed to leave work on time and go for my supposedly regular Thursday run by the bay. It has been downright hot here, but there was a nice breeze, and the air by the bay was certainly cooler than it had been inland at my office. I had a good run, and felt great.

I got home and Mr. Snarky said he'd sort out diner so that I could get my incorporation documents filed... he did, and I did. Woo hoo! Doing good.

Not long after dinner, he got the kids in the bath and I started sorting through my bags and such from the day. I went to put my driver's license back in my wallet... and couldn't find it. I spent the entire bath time trying to find it, to no avail. I drove back to the bay and looked, but of course did not find it. I am reasonably sure I brought it home, though- it was deep in the pocket that had the iPod clipped in it. It seems quite unlikely it would have fallen out, and I can almost remember taking it out of my pocket when I got home. But I can't find it. So I've made an appointment to go get a new one. Woo hoo.

My desk is piled with things that need processing. I'm struggling to keep up with all the home administrative things I usually do. Mr. Snarky is picking some extra things up, but he has a work trip coming up and he needs to prepare, so he's feeling maxed, too. We're in one of those time periods where we feel like we're running as fast as we can to not face plant on our treadmill. I know these periods don't usually last long- I can see the end of this one just a few weeks away, if not sooner. But boy, do they suck while you're in them. I think losing my driver's license is an indication that I'm starting to stumble.

I am hoping to post something more than an extended whine about losing my driver's license soon. I promised a list of some of the great podcasts I've found to help me cope with my long commute. I have an Ask Cloud post I promised to write a few weeks ago, before I exploded my work life, and I really want to finally get it written and posted. And of course, I'd love to write a little more about my new career plans.

But it will all have to wait. I still have to figure out how I'm going to file the rest of the paperwork associated with setting up my business and get this done, so that I can release the pressure and hopefully settle into a new operating level that is a little healthier for me.