Friday, August 29, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Ongoing Randomness Edition

If you missed it on Twitter, this week I got an eye infection and by Wednesday afternoon I couldn't open my left eye, so my whole family got to take a trip to urgent care. Fun! As we were driving to urgent care, I was thinking that this was my first eye infections since I weaned Petunia, and how much easier it was to deal with these things when I had a supply of breastmilk (really). But luckily for me, the infection was bacterial and responded quickly to the stinging eye drops and I can see again.

I also rather comprehensively broke my glasses, which was poor timing, to say the least. Today the nice technicians at my eye doctor managed to jerryrig a new arm on my glasses, so I can wear them until my new ones come in, which is great because I can't wear contacts until I've finished the eye drops.

So, I can see and don't have to choose between my prescription sunglasses (awesome Maui Jims, but even they struggle at night time...) and a scuffed up back up pair of glasses that are so awful I went ahead and bought two new pairs today. One pair is purple, because why not?

I also procured a P.O. box number that I can use, so I set up a newsletter after all. It is the hip thing to do, after all, and I am definitely hip. Evidence: soon, I'll have purple glasses! It will be monthly-ish, and will focus on setting up a company and the projects associated with said company. I will probably also write some about that here, but at much more random intervals.

Anyway, the newsletter is called Founding Chaos, and you can subscribe here:

As a special incentive for people to subscribe so that my first newsletter goes to someone, the day I send my first newsletter, I will randomly pick one subscriber and give that person a copy of one of my ebooks- winner's choice which one.

I don't know when I'll send my first newsletter- one thing at a time!- so sign up now. (I'll probably remind you one more time, but sign up now, anyway.)

And now- the links for your weekend reading:

This old article from Alexis Madrigal is interesting, and offers a potential explanation for the rising popularity of newsletters. It will not surprise you to learn that I found it while asking Google "should I start a newsletter?"

Xconomy has some more info about the San Diego scientists who are working on Ebola. Science also published a paper on Ebola genetics, which I have not had time to read yet. However, I did read the very sad note that five of the co-authors on that paper have died from the virus. I am humbled by their courage, and the courage of all of the people working to contain the outbreak and treat the sick, often without adequate supplies.

Back here in the US, the map in this article showing the distribution of hate tweets sort of blew my mind. At first I thought there was some sort of population density effect, but then I noticed how grey California was, and clicked through to the project website and read that they normalized by the number of tweets. Also, the text in the article indicates that the hate tweets are more prevalent in rural areas. Yikes. You can zoom in on the map on the project's website and see how your area does. San Diego is more racist than homophobic by this measure. This does not surprise me.

Speaking of depressing maps, here is one that shows how segregated America's schools are. California comes off a little less well in that one.

This wonderful essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates touches on the effects of segregation, and so much more. Definitely read this one. It is long, but will reward your time, as Coates' writing tends to do.

Hillary Clinton finally spoke about Michael Brown's killing and events in Ferguson. At least she said reasonable things. Jamelle Bouie had some interesting observations on this.

This article in Cosmo about the time one of the female Occupy protesters recently served in jail raises a lot of interesting issues. I'm still thinking about them, so I can't really say more than "go read it."

My neighborhood is embroiled in a bit of controversy about the city's proposal to change some zoning to allow denser (and taller) housing near trolley stops that will be going in soon. I am actually considering going to the next planning meeting to see what the planners have to say- I've looked at their plans and they seem reasonable, although they will block at least part of some people's current bay view. I wonder if there has been any offer to compensate for lost home value due to that? And whether they have plans to deal with the increased traffic at the freeway on ramp? Could they perhaps compromise and rezone for higher density but keep the current height limits? I'm inclined to be in favor of some sort of in fill plan. I live in a central neighborhood with reasonable commute times to both downtown and the high tech/biotech cluster, plus good access to nice things like Mission Bay. We should try to do some in-fill in areas like mine, or else we'll see skyrocketing housing costs like San Francisco has or ever increasing sprawl and the smog that brings. Neither of those are desirable outcomes. It is going to be hard, but we will be better off if we can find a way to allow development in established neighborhoods.

Which is sort of what this blog post says, but with a lot more research and knowledge to back it up. If you live in an urban area, it is well worth your time to think about these issues, and that post is a good start.

A couple of things I shared on my other accounts this week:

From Tungsten Hippo: this Flavorwire article about expanding the boundaries of the literary world.

On the account I'll tell you about if you email me (or DM me on my Wandering Scientist Twitter): a Fast Company article about the power of taking a walk break. I consider my daily walk almost sacrosanct. I usually take it right after lunch on days in the office. I've replaced it with an early afternoon run on days I'm at home. Both work well for letting my brain find the solution to whatever problem I've loaded into it before I go.

And finally, my happy ending:

Scientists have finally figured out exactly how the rocks at Death Valley's Racetrack Playa move. I really want to go see this sometime.

Why they didn't just fly eagles into Mordor:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coming Soon: Navigating the Path to Industry

Do you remember that short ebook about job searching that I decided to write? Well, it is almost ready to be released.

It is called "Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager's Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry," and here is the cover:

The cover was created by Susan Lavoie, and I am thrilled with how it came out. She sent me four initial ideas to choose from, and all of them were about 1000 times better than any cover ideas I had. 

The book will be out on Amazon on Wednesday, September 10. I will get it out on, Kobo, and iBooks as soon as I can after that. I've also gone ahead and purchased ISBNs, and plan to figure out how to make the book available in Overdrive, too, so that any interested libraries can add it to their collections. It may actually appear on Amazon a day or two early- I am not a big enough publisher yet to be able to have a pre-orders page and control the release date. So, I'll upload the book, push publish, and wait and see when it becomes available. I'm going to do my best to make sure that it is available for purchase at Amazon on the 10th, though- so mark your calendars!

If you were a beta tester or volunteered to be a reviewer, your advance review copy should be in your inbox before the end of the day on Friday.

If you're new here, or somehow missed me talking about this before and are wondering what this book is all about, it is exactly what the subtitle says it is: a compilation of my advice for people looking for their first job outside of academia, based on my 10+ years as a hiring manager. It had its genesis in a series of blog posts I wrote with job searching advice, but I've added a lot of additional information beyond what I covered in those posts. The topics covered in the ebook are:
  • Laying the foundation for your job search (getting organized, getting mentally prepared, plus some etiquette tips)
  • Figuring out what you want to do after academia
  • Building a network (including informational interviews and the use of LinkedIn)
  • Networking as part of a job application
  • Writing a resume
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Interviewing
The PDF version of the book is about 40 pages.

The feedback from the beta testers was quite positive- plus they gave me some great ideas to make the book even better, which I have incorporated into the final product. I've figured out how to format it properly and have tested it on as many devices as I can get my hands on... and I am beyond excited to get it out for other people to read.

I thought I might set up an email newsletter for people to subscribe to for notification of when this book is released, but thanks to the anti-spam laws, that would require disclosing my business address in the emails. My business address is also my home address- so I think I'll postpone the newsletter idea until I can justify the expense of a P.O. Box for my business. If you really wish I would publish an email newsletter, tell me why in the comments, and I may reconsider and get a P.O. Box sooner rather than later. Until then, I'll just tell you all about book releases and the like here and on Twitter. I of course appreciate any signal boosting anyone wants to do, as well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trip Story: Alamosa

We spent most of our Colorado vacation in the mountains, or at least near them, with one significant detour: after we left Aspen, we drove south and east to Alamosa. Mr. Snarky had read about the relatively new Great Sand Dunes National Park, and really wanted to see it.

The drive from Aspen to Alamosa was one of the longer ones of our vacation, but we still managed to get checked into the hotel and even get some laundry done before it was time for dinner. We headed to Calvillo's, a Mexican restaurant that was highly rated by the online reviews. The food was pretty good, but the entertainment was even better. There was a duo performing Mexican folk songs. The man had a beautiful voice and played better than decent rhythm guitar. The woman played intricate finger-picked melodies on lead guitar and sang a solid harmony. Together, they were absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, they left before I found out who they were or put a tip in their jar. I was planning to do so on our way out, and they finished performing before we finished eating.

The next morning we headed out to the dunes as soon as we could- we wanted to get some time on the dunes before it got too hot.

The kids and I walk across the dry riverbed to the dunes
The dunes were beautiful. The clouds passing overhead made shadows on the sand, which pretty much blew Pumpkin's mind. She was amazed that clouds could make such pretty patterns, and that the arrival of a shadow could have such a profound effect on the temperature.

The mountains in the distance were pretty cool, too
Both kids enjoyed climbing up the dunes, but Petunia was a bit freaked out by the way the sand gave out under her feet when we tried to go down a dune. Between that, the fact that climbing up the dune had tired her out, and her realization that we would not get to the "top," she was just done. She sat down on the sand and refused to move. She screamed that she wanted to go up to the top, not down, but then wouldn't walk in any direction. In the end, I had to pick her up and carry her down the dune while she screamed and kicked. It was a good workout.

Post-tantrum: once we were back on solid ground, Petunia agreed to walk again

The visit to the national park was rescued in Petunia's eyes by Mr. Snarky's decision to buy the kids Junior Ranger vests at the shop, and a cool sand dune making exhibit they had in the visitor's center. I am glad we visited the park, because the dunes and the surrounding grasslands are starkly beautiful. I love the feeling of being in such an open, expansive landscape.

More cloud shadows
However, if you're reading this and trying to decide whether or not to visit the park, I'd say it is great with a seven year old, but maybe a bit to much for a four and a half year old.

We had lunch at the only restaurant near the park, the cafe at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis. They had fry bread! I was so happy.

After lunch, we took a short and hot hike up to see Zapata Falls. Actually, Petunia and I picked pretty rocks out of the stream while Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin went to look at the falls. Pumpkin didn't care for that part of the hike- it involved picking your way across wet rocks. She didn't have her water shoes on so her running shoes got wet, and she slipped a bit and was freaked out by that. So now it was Pumpkin's turn to be unimpressed with a hike.

We made it up to both kids by spending the rest of the afternoon in the water park that was attached to our hotel. It had a small kids' slide shaped like a frog that Petunia went down roughly 1000 times. That number may not even be an exaggeration. I sat in the shallow water and watched her slide for at least an hour. She gave a little delighted scream each time she slid down into the water. Pumpkin liked the slide, too, and also liked swimming in the deep end. We were forgiven for the hiking in the morning, and everyone headed out to dinner in a pretty good mood.

Dinner was at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company. Mr. Snarky loved the light in the room.

And we tried a Kiwi Blonde beer that was surprisingly great. Fruity beers are not usually something either of us really likes, but this one was so good that Mr. Snarky asked about how it was brewed, and the brewmaster came out and gave him the recipe.

After dinner, we wandered around the downtown area a bit, had desert at a Nestle Toll House franchise (something I did not even know existed), and then took a slightly scenic tour through town on our way back to our hotel. We left Alamosa the next morning happy that we had come.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Guidebooks Wanted

Over at Tungsten Hippo, I wrote about some books that have helped me better understand racism. It is a very incomplete reading list, and I welcome suggestions for other books to read.

As I thought about that post, I realized that books have helped me understand a lot of things better. (Duh.) I think I need to search for some books to read about getting older- not so much from the accepting mortality point of view, but from the standpoint of acclimating to the physical and mental changes that happen as you enter middle age. I am certain there are some good books out there on this topic, and I think I should seek them out.

Because honestly, I am struggling a bit with this whole aging thing. I don't mind getting older in theory, but in practice, the symptoms suck. I'm trying to figure out which symptoms to fight (weight gain), which to accept (wrinkles), which to embrace (fewer cat calls!), and which might actually need some medical intervention (fun fact: the birth control that's best for you can change as you age). Those are the easy ones. What about the heartburn I've been getting? Where did that come from all of the sudden? Don't get me started on the sleep disturbances. Just when Petunia is starting to sleep through the night more often, I find that I can't count on staying asleep all night anymore. That is so unfair.

And that's just the physical changes- I'll spare you the whining about mood swings and that weird antsy feeling I get where I want to crawl out of my own skin.

I want a guidebook, or at least a funny travelogue from someone who's been here before me.

Anyone have any suggestions? Or do I need to throw myself on the mercy of Amazon's algorithms?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekend Reading: The OMG It Is Already Friday Edition

This week went by rather quickly, and here it is Friday afternoon. I made some decent progress this week. The mobi formatted version of my job search ebook is with my editor for proofreading. I should be able to get the review copies out to the people who volunteered to be reviewers next week. I'll also put up a post with the cover and the release date next week. I think I'm close enough to done that I can pick a release date and stick to it. It will be in early September.

In other news, I heard that Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess (my second kids' book) will be out in late October. I'm really excited about that, too, and have some fun things planned to go with that release. Details to come along a little closer to the date.

I also plugged through a lot of admin things, setting up my backups, registering fictitious business names for my first projects, and sorting out a mistake I made when I set up my web hosting. All of these things were easier than expected (except the fictitious business names, which were as easy as I expected, since I'd done one before for my contracting work). So that was good.

I was talking to a friend about all of these things, and she wondered how she could keep up with all the various things I'm doing. I realized that I had no easy way for her to hear about what I'm doing, and that strikes me as a problem. I am still a Facebook hold out, and don't really want to get active there. So I am now thinking about setting up an email newsletter. All the cool kids seem to be doing that these days. I'll probably post about that next week, too.

But this is supposed to be a links post! So here are some links:

This post from Wray Herbert about the importance of having a conscientious spouse isn't really surprising, but it is nice to see data to support our intuition. It also reminds me of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote that has been floating around lately, about how having a spouse who took her work as seriously as his made all the difference. Of course, I cannot find that quote right now. If you can, put it in the comments!

Speaking of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is one of the few prominent white leaders I've seen speak about Ferguson. Talking Points Memo has an excerpt of her comments.

I'm not sure what to say about the fact that some undergrads at North Carolina State University have invented nail polish that changes color when exposed to Rohypnol. Good invention, I guess. Sucks that we need it.

Speaking of which, this quote from a college guy (in this Salon article) made my head explode:

"Some men feel that too much responsibility for preventing sexual assault has been put on their shoulders."


Matthew Yglesias' article about white-on-white crime is so good.

This is a really, really good story from Matt Zoller Seitz about what white privilege really means.

This essay by Amy Salloway may make you think twice before mocking a picture of someone on the internet.

Brooke Davis' piece about meeting people whose homes are being lost to climate change is very good.

I also really like Ed Yong's story about an athlete who tracked down the mutation underlying her rare genetic disorders.

That's all I have this week. I hope you all have a good weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Hard Part

A couple of months ago, my book club decided to remember and honor Maya Angelou by reading her classic book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

I have read the book before, but it was a long time ago, so I decided to re-read it and see what new things I notice this time around. And I have noticed a lot of new things. I think there is some wisdom in that book that I needed to get a little older to take on board.

Re-reading this book at this particular time has been very interesting. Angelou's beautiful writing pulls me fully into the story in the book, and often when I'm reading it, I am in that "lost in a book" state that is one of the best things about reading.

It is all too easy for a white reader to come out of that "lost in a book" state and think that the racism and discrimination described in the book is a thing of the past. I like to think I would not do that at any time, but it would have been impossible for me to do it this week, with the ongoing outrage in Ferguson.

My Twitter feed has been full of justified anger and pain. I have never been more grateful that I took the time to diversify my feed (something I continue to work to do), because I am learning a lot about what is and is not better these days. And like many people, I have logged in each evening and watched with worry and horror as another night goes wrong.

I think too often well-intentioned people who are not affected by a particular form of discrimination can see that this discrimination is wrong, and perhaps even support laws and policies against the discrimination, but then want to skip to the end state we all hope for, when all that really matters is the content of our character. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. While we acknowledge the progress that has been made since the time described in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, we cannot forget to also acknowledge how much more progress needs to be made. We can't wish that progress into happening. We have to make it happen. We can't skip the hard part.

Unfortunately, we in the white community seem to be short on leaders who are willing to tell us this truth. The Pew Research Center did a survey and found that only 37% of white people think that the shooting of Michael Brown raises racial issues. Where are the white politicians with the courage to stand up to that other 63% and tell them the truth? Who will lead them through the thought experiment of imagining what would happen if it had been two white teenagers walking down the middle of the street? Who will ask them to examine their own past and think about all of the times they have jaywalked and not been stopped, let alone shot? Apparently, we don't have any white leaders willing to step up and do that.

We cannot rely on Black leaders to do this work, not because they are not eloquent, but because the people who most need to hear this message just won't listen to them no matter how eloquently they speak.

I understand that it will require courage for a white politician to stand up and tell the truth to that 63%. I understand that politicians tend to look at polls for guidance on how to vote in order to keep their jobs. But they all talk about going into politics out of a desire to help their country. Well, their country needs help on this. I am extremely disappointed that none of my supposed leaders are willing to actually step up and lead. Aren't the Democratic politicians embarrassed that the only white politician to make a statement that really acknowledges that there is a race issue here is Rand Paul? Maybe I have just missed hearing about a white politician telling it like it is, but I suspect that the reason I haven't heard it is that none of them have the courage to say what needs to be said, and that is shameful.

Because you know what else takes courage? Protesting peacefully for your rights while a line of police point guns at you and fire tear gas at you. I am amazed that the protests have remained largely peaceful in the face of provocations that started with police arriving at a peaceful vigil with police dogs. I cannot believe those police did not know the symbolism of what they were doing.

I cannot stop thinking about how hard it must be to be a parent in Ferguson right now, with the nightly disruptions and school canceled. I am moved by the efforts of the Ferguson public library to provide a place of respite, and by the school teachers who are showing up there to teach kids who don't have anywhere else to go this week.

All sorts of ordinary people in St. Louis are stepping up and showing courage and leadership right now. It is a damn shame that white politicians won't do the same.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Trip Story: Aspen

When we settled on Colorado as our vacation destination this year, Mr. Snarky was adamant that Aspen had to be included in the itinerary. I'd been to Aspen before (I attended a conference in Snowmass one year), so I wasn't sure why he was so sure he had to go there, but it fit easily enough into our plans, so I didn't argue.

We stopped in at Snowmass on our way into Aspen, because I'd read there was an "Ice Age Discovery Center" there since mammoth fossils had been discovered when Snowmass was being built. That was a bit of a disappointment for me and Mr. Snarky- it was just a store front with a few small exhibits for kids and a TV playing a PBS special about the discovery- but the kids liked it, and Pumpkin even got a shirt to commemorate her visit.

Once we got to Aspen and got checked into our hotel, we headed downtown to explore. Mr. Snarky took the fact that there were rugby posts on the field at the park near downtown.

There was also a small playground, with "rocks" to climb, a rope bridge, and a hammock swing. Petunia really wanted to play on the rocks and the rope bridge, but kept getting stuck and crying. The park was crowded (it was July 3rd, and lots of people apparently come to Aspen for the 4th of July celebrations), and when she got stuck, a line built up, which freaked her out more... so there were some tears. Luckily, there was a man making balloon creations for kids. We overheard him telling the local kids before us that he was going to be gone the following week because he had a conference to go to, and then it sounded like he said he was going to go argue a case in front of the US Supreme Court. I really wanted to ask him about that, but was reticent to do so. It seemed he wanted to be "just" the balloon guy right then. So we got our balloons and went on to dinner.

The next day was July 4th, and we'd heard there was an "old-fashioned All-American 4th of July parade." Mr. Snarky was excited to see one, so we staked out a spot on the route. It was a fun parade, although it was "All-American" only for some values of American. A lot of the groups threw candy for the kids, which Pumpkin and Petunia happily collected. We finally finished the last of that candy just last week.

There was an interesting mix of earnest and ironic in the parade. The biggest cheers were for the kids' bike brigade (any kid with a bike or scooter could decorate it at a nearby park, and then join the parade) and the veterans. But there were also a lot of floats like this one, which was a ski bus decorated to be the home of the mermen:

Here was the trailer at the back. They'd turned a raft into a water slide and the "mermen" took turns sliding down it into another raft filled with water. They looked like they were having a great time:

After the parade we found somewhere to have lunch, and then headed back to the hotel. While the kids and I had some rest time, Mr. Snarky headed out for a short hike. Once he got back, we all had a swim in the hotel's small pool, and then walked back downtown for dinner and the fireworks.

The next day we headed out of town, on our way south to Alamosa. Before we left the area, though, we took some advice from the relatives we stayed with in Denver and stopped for a hike at The Grottos. The kids absolutely loved this hike. It was a nice mix of easy walking, pretty forest, and fun rocks to climb.


Here is one of the ice caves for which the trail is named:

After leaving the Grottos, we drove over Independence Pass, which finally provided the sort of tall mountain scenery Mr. Snarky had apparently been expecting. He took about 500 pictures. Here is one:

We stopped in Buena Vista for a late but excellent lunch at the Eddyline Brewpub. I had an interesting pizza with lavender on it, which tastes just about how you might expect. It wasn't my favorite meal, but it was one of the more interesting things I tried in Colorado, and the beer was good, so I couldn't complain.

From Buena Vista, we drove straight to Alamosa, and I'll pick up the story there some other time.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Heartbreaking Edition

What a heartbreaking week.

Roxane Gay is her usual insightful self writing about Ferguson for the Guardian. The entire thing is very good, but the ending is just so spot on:

"We need to do the hard work of overcoming our lesser selves. Silence is not an option but words are not enough."

The If They Gunned Me Down tumblr is something you should look at, if you haven't already.

This cartoon from Erika Moen on deciding she wants to live is wonderful, but it made me cry.

Libby Nelson's report on the Yazidi community in Lincoln, Nebraska also made me cry.

This story about the chaos scheduling software is creating in employee's lives just makes me angry. Some a**hole optimized on the wrong thing. Meanwhile, my mayor just vetoed an ordinance that would have raised the minimum wage and required a small amount of paid time off for hourly employees. The city council is trying to decide if they'll override.

Here are some campaigns to consider supporting:

Fund to send Michael Brown's siblings to college

Fund to feed kids in Ferguson

An organization that provides tutoring and other support to kids in north St. Louis, founded by Antonio French, the St. Louis alderman whose tweets kept so many of us informed about what was happening in Ferguson.

And, because I can't leave without some happy things: 3-D printing for picture books and a 13 year old girl kicking ass in the Little League World Series.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Almost exactly two years ago, I had one of my biggest personal maintenance failures as an adult- I landed myself in urgent care with an acute asthma attack.

I haven't forgotten about that event, but I don't actively think about it much. Whenever I realize I have let my maintenance inhaler run down to zero doses without getting a refill (again), the memory of that visit to urgent care and the unpleasant side effects of prednisone motivate me to get myself to the pharmacy before I miss more than one dose. OK, sometimes maybe two doses.

As it happens, last week was one of those times when I let my inhaler's dose counter go to zero before I called for a refill. Personal maintenance is surprisingly hard, even for something as straightforward as mild asthma that is well-controlled by standard medicines.

I've been thinking about this over the last day or so, as my Twitter feed has been full of people moved by Robin Williams' death to make brave and powerful statements about their own history with depression or other mental illnesses. I am moved by their words, and inspired by their example of strength. I am also heartened that we may finally be removing some of the stigma associated with discussing mental illness in this country.

There is no stigma surrounding my discussion of my asthma, and there should be none around discussion of any disease. Our bodies and our minds are fallible, that is part of what it means to be human. The management of any chronic disease is hard, because there is never really a break from it. Managing it becomes routine. This is good, because routines are how we do something day after day. But it is also bad, because a routine can lull you into not paying enough attention to what your body is telling you about how it is doing on this particular day.

I have nothing wise to say about depression, but to anyone out there who is doing the hard work of maintaining their health in the face of a culture that so often misunderstands what that means and underestimates what that requires: you have my respect and admiration. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Words Fail Me

There's a scene from Petunia's showers that makes me wish I could draw or paint. Pumpkin has decided she wants to give herself showers now, and so Petunia has also switched to showers. Petunia, though, can't quite do it on her own. So, when it is time to rinse the shampoo out of her hair, I often step one foot into the shower to help her. She closes her eyes and smiles and leans her head back (sort of- she's not so good at that part). It is such a tender, intimate moment, and I'm sure I'll forget it once she is old enough not to need my help anymore.

I won't pretend parenting hasn't been hard for me lately. I think it is largely due to the fact that Pumpkin has hit a difficult phase (seven is kicking our asses) right at the same time as I seem to be entering perimenopause. At a time when I most need patience and understanding, my anger is unpredictable, to say the least. I wonder why I never see this included in those silly pro-and-cons lists for having kids early vs. later in life. I think there must be definite advantages to having your kids be old enough to understand WTF is going on when Mommy's moods start swinging out of control. Although having this phase in my life overlap the time when my daughters hit puberty would be truly frightening. We would probably need to buy new doors, since all the females in this house favor stomping off to our room and slamming the door when angry.

Regardless, I'm going to have to figure out how to muddle through. Scenes like the one during Petunia's shower help a lot. Also, the kids played nicely together for a solid hour in the backyard this evening, while I sat and sipped some wine and read my book. It was a minor parenting miracle, and I am grateful for it.

In fact, I am grateful tonight for much, much more. I parent from an extraordinarily privileged position that I am painfully aware should be granted to all parents in this country, but is not. If my kids act up in public and I don't manage to handle it perfectly, I am given the benefit of the doubt. If I worry about someone calling Child Protective Services on us when one or the other of the kids is screaming about whatever horrible thing we've asked them to do (like put away their toys), it comes from the aforementioned hormonal fluctuations, and not a place of true worry. When my husband goes to the store, there is next to no chance that he will be shot by the police, no matter what merchandise he is carrying. And when my kids are old enough to be out on their own, I won't worry at all about them being shot by police.

I saw the news of the latest shooting on Twitter, of course. It is where I see most things first. I was saddened and angered. And then I saw this tweet, and I was ashamed:

Mike Brown's mother did not fail her son. We failed her. We have watched so many Black teenagers be killed, and we have done nothing. We have not fixed our problems. I am not sure we have even tried.

How, for instance, is it possible that no one in the Ferguson police department could recognize the truth of this:

How is it possible that white people are all over Twitter asking what Mike Brown did to deserve being shot, when we all just shrugged and accepted the nonsense that went on at Cliven Bundy's compound? Whatever Mike Brown did or did not do, he did not deserve to be gunned down in the street. He posed no clear and immediate threat to anyone. How is it possible that white people are all over Twitter arguing that John Crawford should not have been carrying an air rifle that is sold in the store he was in when the Open Carry people in Texas managed to go safely in and out of store after store with actual assault rifles?

I am at a loss for words, or for suggestions for action. But I once again find I need to at least acknowledge the privilege I have, and to wish someone could show me the way to help make this better. This is not how I want my country to be. This is not something I can accept as "just how it is." Actually, this self-evidently is just how it is, but I refuse to accept that it should stay that way.

I have no answers. You should read the much more eloquent words of Stacia L. Brown and Roxane Gay and think of the fundamental things in your life you take for granted that so many people in our country cannot. I do not know how we fix this, but perhaps the first step is for more of us to see it.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Rather Short Edition

I don't have that many links this week- I have been busy with the job search ebook, which now has a title: Navigating the Path to Industry. I incorporated my editor's suggestions and sent her a final draft for proofreading on Wednesday. She sent back the final version last night, so today I fixed the mistakes she found and started formatting. It turns out formatting ebooks is mostly a matter of marking them up in HTML and creating an appropriate stylesheet... so I had a lot of fun. I'm starting to believe I might actually get this thing published this month. I should have a cover to show you soon.

Anyway, here are the few links I gathered this week:

I really liked this profile of Rainbow Rowell, and I haven't even read any of her books.

Bad news for people trapped in windowless offices: they seem to mess with your sleep.

A tweet that demonstrates why representation matters:

The common concern that white children won't identify with and love characters of different races mystifies me. My children have, at various times, identified with and loved two pigs (Peppa and Olivia), a bunch of puppies (Paw Patrol), and whatever the hell the characters on Yo Gabba Gabba are. They currently identify with and love Doc McStuffins and the fact that she is black has not phased them in the slightest. Pumpkin even chose to buy a big Doc McStuffins play set when she had money from her birthday earlier this year. I suspect any problems these characters have in catching on with white families comes from the grown ups, not the kids.

Max Schireson's blog post about why he quit his job as the CEO of MongoDB has made quite a stir, so I suspect most of you have already seen it. If you somehow missed it, go read it now.

And here's some things from my other feed:

Google finds that predictability is one of the most important traits in a leader/manager.

Esther Derby argues against performance appraisals

If you missed the fact that I have another Twitter feed and blog, the details are here. I tweet out links and other things about management, productivity, and the like over there, and I'll write about those topics, too. In fact, doing some research for my next post over there was another thing I worked on today- I needed access to some journal articles, so I had to drive up to UCSD and spend some time in the library there. It was quite a trip down memory lane! Mr. Snarky used to work on campus, and I spent some time teaching an extension course there.

And for our ending giggle... You've probably seen this one, too: Dilbert did  a great job skewering the "make it so simple your mother could understand it" saying.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Power of Constraints

My kids spent last week at my parent's house. It was hard to tell ahead of time who was the most excited about the upcoming visit: my kids, my parents, or Mr. Snarky and me. All three parties had a wonderful time.

Mr. Snarky and I had a lot of fun revisiting our pre-parenthood days. We went out to eat. We slept in. And we exercised. I know that last one is a bit "one of these things is not like the others," but San Diego has a beautiful climate and some wonderful opportunities to enjoy that climate while getting some exercise. Before we had kids, we did something active every weekend. We are starting to return to that pattern now, as our kids get old enough to make it feasible. But we have a way to go before we're back to our old habits, and the activities that work with our kids right now are not particularly strenuous.

So we were excited to get the chance to kayak and rollerblade. We had planned to also take a really long (i.e., several mile) walk on the beach, too, but that didn't pan out. Even with "just" kayaking and rollerblading, it felt a little odd to be packing so much into such a short period of time, since we both kept our regular exercise schedule, too. But we had one week, and so we used what we had.

Thinking about that made me realize why I've been having such good luck sticking to my twice-per-week running schedule. I greatly prefer to exercise in the afternoon or evening, so I go for a run on the days I am working from home and can easily accommodate a run in my work day schedule. I have agreed to be onsite at a client's office three days per week. Therefore, if I want to run, I must do it on the other two days. There is no wiggle room. I can't say "I'll do it tomorrow."

Apparently, for me, exercise is more likely to happen if I am constrained in the times at which it can happen. Interesting.

I'm thinking about how to take this insight into my psyche and use it to get myself to exercise more (I need to add a strength routine- I'm experimenting with kettle bells- and I want to add kickboxing back in, too) and do other virtuous things.

Also, since I know I have some other well-endowed women among my readership, I'll briefly mention another type of constraint: the sports bras that make it possible for me to run and do other high impact activities. This is the style I wear now.

Sadly, I went to buy more and discovered they no longer make them in my size (38F, but I can get by with a DD). So, I visited the excellent Title Nine bra section and have picked out some other styles to try, at great expense. Most bras that will provide the support someone my size needs cost at least $80.  This is why I loved my current style- it was "only" $45. I mostly don't mind this- it is just how my body is, after all. But just last week some dude was waxing poetic to me about how great it is that running is a free form of exercise, and that rang out in my mind while I was sending a couple hundred dollars off to Title Nine. Which led to this:

Have you figured out anything about what keeps you on track for virtuous things such as exercise? Share in the comments!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Trip Story: Glenwood Springs

First of all: I wrote a Tungsten Hippo post! I know, you'd probably assumed I'd never do that again. I had some technical issues with the comments, and I wanted those fixed before I wrote my next post. I fixed them last week, and then I wrote about the book Boom and how it disappeared and then reappeared on Amazon, and what that might tell us about the market for writing and ideas right now. So, if that sounds at all interesting, go read it. And comment! Now you can comment and it will work and it should appear instantly, instead of getting stuck in some weird curation queue I didn't even know I had. I apologize to those people who commented on earlier posts only to have their comments disappear into that black hole. They're out now, and I even answered all of them. I'll do better on this in the future.


Now, back to my stories about our recent Colorado vacation. Glenwood Springs was our second real stop, and we loved it.

That's the tl;dr version of our stay in Glenwood Springs. But you know I can never stick to a tl;dr version of anything. Here's the full story:

We arrived at our hotel in Glenwood Springs in not quite the best mood. I was sad that the trouble with the rental car had nixed my original plan to see Breckenridge. Mr. Snarky was sad that he'd lost his glasses. The kids were sad that we'd made them leave the pirate ship playground in Vail.

Luckily, our hotel was awesome. We stayed at the Hotel Colorado. We were reasonably impressed when we first drove up. We were thrilled when we went into our room.

The balcony with the bunting turned out to be ours. ALL of it.
There were two full bedrooms connected by a little kitchen area with a table. The kids were delighted to find a little table in their room, too. Then we opened the door to the balcony and saw this:

A nice view
We decided to have dinner at the pretty little courtyard in our hotel. That turned out to be more expensive and time-consuming than we initially expected, but it was worth it. The food was good, and the setting was delightful. There were little lights in the trees, and a cool breeze made dining outside more than pleasant. And it was nice not to have to go anywhere.

The main attraction in Glenwood Springs- at least for us, on this trip- was the hot springs. We visited the springs the day after we arrived.

The hot pools in the evening
We spent a couple of hours at the pools in the morning. There is a warm pool, a hot pool, a kiddie pool, and a couple of big water slides. I would have loved more time to soak in the hot pool, but instead I spent most of my time hanging with one of the kids in the warm pool, while Mr. Snarky hung with the other one. Pumpkin is a strong swimmer now, and just needs oversight, but likes company. Petunia is still learning, and needed a parent to be right next to her or holding her at all times. Mr. Snarky and Petunia almost went on the water slide, but were spooked by the fact that it used city water, and the heater on that was broken.

After our swim, we got cleaned up and headed over to the downtown portion of Glenwood Springs, which is across the river (and the freeway) from the pools and our hotel. There is a nice pedestrian overpass, though, so it was no problem to stroll over. We had lunch at The Pullman, which was wonderful. Seriously, if you ever visit Glenwood Springs, make sure you have a meal there. The food and drinks for the grown ups are great, and although you can't find it on their website, there is a kids' menu, and they were extremely welcoming of our kids. (Granted, our kids are now past the age where they make scenes in restaurants, and know how to behave in a restaurant... but I'm sure yours do, too, and it wouldn't be a bad place to take a younger kid, since it would be easy to escape outside if the kid started to act up.)

There was a mini golf course between our hotel and the hot springs, and the kids really wanted to play. So we did. Our family rules are that we have to take turns on the initial hit, but once everyone's ball is down near the hole, we can all hit at once. This makes the game a length that the adults can stand, even when played with two kids who don't have particularly strong golf skills. Actually, I don't have particularly strong golf skills, either.

Petunia kept getting her club backwards, but she had lots of fun
As you can see, the golf course had a lot of nice shade, but it was still pretty warm out, and we  needed a bit of a rest in our room before dinner. Then, we walked back over to the downtown side of the river and strolled around downtown a bit. They have the brilliant idea of putting Adirondack chairs in various places around town. These chairs are far more comfortable than a bench, and we saw them getting quite a bit of use. We tried them out, too.

All towns should have these

We had dinner at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. The beer was pretty good, and I had a delicious cheese soup. After dinner, we went back to the pools and had a wonderful swim as the sun set. Pumpkin even worked up the nerve to do some dives from the diving board, and loved that.

The next morning, we had to leave Glenwood Springs. I wish I had given us one more day there. We probably could have convinced the kids to take a short hike in Glenwood Canyon if we promised a swim after the hike, and I would have enjoyed having another day to appreciate the laid back vibe of the town. We'll have to go back sometime.

Before we left town, we decided to visit the Glenwood Caverns. The caves are part of an "adventure park" with several rides and other attractions, like this is giant swing that I would never, ever go on:

It swings out over the side of the mountain, and it makes me queasy to even think about it.
The cave tour was nice. Our kids didn't get freaked out- Pumpkin even got to be a special helper and hold a flashlight at one point (this really annoyed Petunia, who wanted a turn being a special helper, but was too small). There were the usual cave sights. This "bearded" rock was one of my favorites. The "beard" is made up of tree roots poking through the rock.

Old man rock
After the tour, we had a quick lunch at the adventure park, and then hit the road, headed for Aspen. I'll pick up the story there in a later post.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Mishmash Edition

I have even less time to write the text around my links than usual, because in just a couple hours, I'll be heading off to Yuma to meet my parents and collect my kids, who have been enjoying a week of being spoiled by their grandparents while Mr. Snarky and I have been enjoying a week of doing things in the evenings. Kayaking! Rollerblading! Beer-tasting! It has been fun, but weird. I'll probably write a full post on it at some point. The original plan was for my parents to bring them all the way back to San Diego, but that plan had to be changed for very good reasons... so Mr. Snarky and I are leaving soon to make the three hour drive to Yuma.

But I couldn't deprive you of your weekend reading! So here are a bunch of links, with no real attempt to tie them together.

If you some how managed to miss Michel Martin's wonderful piece about balancing work and motherhood while black, go fix that now.

Do you remember reading Susan Faludi's Backlash when it came out? I do. I somehow missed that Matter is doing a book club on it, but found out when Roxane Gay was one of the people discussing chapter 2. She is such a smart commentator on life, the universe, and everything... and particularly on gender politics. So I read it, and now I'm halfway thinking I'll reread the book. Or maybe I'll just read more of the book club entries. I don't know. I've got a lot of gender related angst right now, and I haven't decided if I should engage it and try to slay that dragon and come out a wise old woman or if I should ignore it for another 10 years or so. (But: I am anxiously awaiting the day that my pre-ordered copy of Gay's upcoming book, Bad Feminist, hits my Kindle. Maybe that will be the book that makes me wise? Or at least sets me on the right path? Regardless, it is certain to be a great read, because she writes so incredibly well.)

But I have at least stopped avoiding all the stories about sexism in tech. Wired had a good one this week about raising venture capital while female. I'm more comfortable than ever with my bootstrapping strategy.

And then, of course, there is the Twitter harassment problem. Or really, the online harassment problem. Have you ever seen the People of Color in European Art History tumblr? It is awesome. But some people on Reddit don't think so, and they're being assholes about it. One one hand, I am blown away that a tumblr merely showing the historical record about the existence of people of color in Europe in historical times would get people so upset. On the other hand, of course it does.

Reddit is an internet subculture that really, really prioritizes "free speech." And hey, I'm all for free speech. But threats and harassment aren't "free speech." And people who defend them as such are telling women and people of color and LGBTQ people that they prioritize some asshole's right to say whatever he wants, however he wants over our right to express ideas and opinions, because if I have a reasonable fear that saying something is likely to bring down a torrent of rape threats or threats against my kids, none of which will be taken seriously unless god forbid someone actually acts on one of them... I am not really free to express my ideas and opinions. I know this is a complicated subject and it is hard to figure out where to draw the line, and I don't have time for a full-fledged rant and/or discussion of it right now. But here are a couple of points I made on Twitter:

I mean, if we don't expect someone with literal 24/7 armed protection to just shrug off threats on the internet, why are the rest of us expected to do that?

People who have served on hiring committees probably know deep down that the hiring bias part of this article about the impact of names is true, even if they would rather believe it isn't.

Arthur Chu wrote a great piece about being asked to speak in a Chinese accent.

This beautiful piece about losing two partners to cancer made me cry. But it is worth it, so read it anyway.

I found a great new podcast! If you are a podcast aficionado, check out Snap Judgment. It has the most amazing stories.

Also Lego's women scientist set is out.

Finally- I know this house!

Oh, and a postscript: if you missed my previous post about my second online home, check it out now. The clock is ticking on when I'll remove the link.