Sunday, September 28, 2014

More High than Low

Ginger over at Ramble, Ramble occasionally posts "Bring Back the Words" writing prompts, to help people (including her!) blog more. Even more occasionally, I join in.

One of this week's prompts felt like a good topic for me, so this is one of the weeks I'm joining. The topic is "Highs and lows." That fits perfectly with some things I've been thinking about.

My younger daughter is about to turn five. I look at her and wonder where my baby went. I have no desire to go back to the baby and toddler days, with their sleep deprivation and overall neediness. But sometimes I see an old picture of one of my kids as a baby and miss having a little baby to hold. Petunia is still a very snuggly little kid, but snuggling a five year old is not the same as snuggling a baby.

I've said before that while parenting is physically easier now (OMG, soo much easier- I get to sleep! Sometimes I go for hours at a time without a child attaching herself to me!) it is intellectually harder. Pumpkin's problems, in particular, are starting to be of the sort where I actually have no idea what to tell her. I suspect there is another round of parenting book reading in my future, as we start to figure out how to help her through the age of friendship drama and the like. My parenting lows feel less desperate (again- I get to sleep!) but also a bit deeper. My kids still think I should have all the answers, and it sucks to disappoint them.

But, oh the high points at this age are wonderful, too. I came out to the living room recently and saw Pumpkin and Petunia snuggled together on the sofa, with Pumpkin reading a story to Petunia. They will invent games to play together with their little princess dolls. And each of them can do some pretty amazing things. Pumpkin is almost fluent in Spanish at this point . Her Spanish vocabulary isn't as large as her English vocabulary, but then, her English vocabulary is pretty impressively large. Petunia is learning how to read, and is in that fun (if a bit frustrating) phase where she basically knows how to do it but doesn't trust herself yet, so tries to guess from context clues. She can write words better than read them right now- if I tell her to write the word "hog" she does it without trouble. If I write it and ask her to read it, she's likely to stumble. But still! It is amazing. I love watching kids figure out reading. I love it so much that I'm considering looking for volunteer opportunities to provide me with my fix once Petunia is reading well on her own.

I have another birthday to celebrate this week, too. I launched my Tungsten Hippo short ebook review site a year ago. I wrote a bit about that over on the Tungsten Hippo website. That is another story of highs and lows. I am proud of myself for getting that site up and running, particularly since I was working full time while I created it. I am also very happy that I've been able to keep this project going for a year, and am happy that I've helped some authors sell a few more books than they might have otherwise. I'm a bit bummed by how hard it has been to build an audience for Tungsten Hippo, though. I may change my "content is the hard part" mantra to be "finding your audience is the hard part." Or something like that. Still, the major emotion related to this project is happy, so I'm definitely celebrating the one year birthday. I even made a t-shirt. (I absolutely love the print quality from Galloree and I love that their prices are way more reasonable than Zazzle's... but their website is a bit basic, so if you want to see a good picture of the t-shirt, go to the post on Tungsten Hippo. Once I figure out how to take really good pictures of t-shirts, I'll replace the picture on the Annorlunda Enterprises site, too.)

I've got plenty of highs in the writing department- Navigating the Path to Industry is out and doing reasonably well. The illustrations for Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess are awesome, and I'm excited for the book's release on October 20. But... I think Navigating the Path to Industry could be doing a lot better than it is. Once again, the hard part turns out to be finding its audience, or more accurately, getting its audience to notice the book. I have never been the type to laugh at marketing people, but I am now seriously in awe of the good ones. Marketing is hard, y'all. That's OK, though. One of the things I want to do with Navigating the Path to Industry is find out if I can make a short ebook with concise advice aimed at a well-defined market profitable. I'm not there yet, but much like the Tungsten Hippo project, this is a learning project for me. Therefore, I'm trying various things. I had a Facebook ad up, but it ended up rejected due to the fact that the image I used (the book cover!) had too much text on it. I'm thinking about how to change that, and then I'll try again. I'm also looking at other marketing ideas.

Of course, there's also the broader project of starting my own company. It is very early days on that. Even in my initial planning, the rest of 2014 was mainly for learning some skills I'll need if I'm really going to make a go at this, and trying things out to see what I like to do most. I'm having a lot of fun with this experiment, but I'm not yet convinced it will be sustainable.

I really hope I can make it sustainable, because I am loving the lifestyle of getting to prioritize my time globally, instead of in local "work" and "home" containers. I get more exercise now. It is interesting that this is the main thing that has changed, both for me and my husband. The time I've freed up by not having to drive into an office every day has essentially gone to give us time to exercise again. Mr. Snarky is taking advantage of our more relaxed mornings by going for a run almost every day. I am taking advantage of my increased schedule flexibility and daytime proximity to nice scenery by running twice a week by the bay. I've also started rollerblading again. Sadly, the increased activity has yet to translate to me losing those stupid five pounds I put on earlier this summer, but I am fitter than I was, so I'll have to settle for that.

Looking back over this post, I'd say there are more highs than lows in my life right now. I certainly can't complain overall, although I reserve the right to complain about the sucky parts of getting older. What about you?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Weekend Links: The Let's Do What the Baboons Did Edition

I have not had the most productive day. My main accomplishment was creating the Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining tumblr, because Zenmoo told me to. I am delighted that I now have an internet home for pictures of the crappy things I make for my kids to play with. It has open submissions, so feel free to add your own crappy things, too. If you don't have a tumblr account and don't want one, you can always email me the submissions or tweet them at me.

I also sent emails to the kind people who have offered to review Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess, with links so that they can access a review copy. I still have room for a couple more reviewers if you're interested.

In other book news, Badmomgoodmom posted a really nice review of Navigating the Path to Industry, complete with a video on underwater basketweaving. Check it out!

And now, on to my links:

C.V. Harquail has a nice post about the problem w/CEO Daddy Feminism.

Although, maybe if this guy had a daughter he wouldn't have put his foot so firmly in his mouth about how women are great to hire because they're cheaper.

He was so close, and yet so far.  Maybe he should review what the commander of his country's army has to say about accepting sexism. (Yeah, I know I've linked to that one before. But I love it sooo much.)

These two articles appeared literally right after each other in both my Wandering Scientist twitter feed and my real name feed:

There is a shortage of talent for biotech boards.

Companies whose boards have women on them outperform those who don't.

Hmmm. Whatever can we do about the shortage of talent? I shouldn't make light of this. You can't just pluck random women off the street and put them on the boards of biotech companies. You want to find women with leadership experience in biotech or pharma, and there aren't that many women in that pool. But still, the juxtaposition of the two articles made me chortle.

Speaking of industries without that many women... the games industry continues to be caught up with this ridiculous GamerGate thing. The women in games have my heartfelt sympathy and support... but I've mostly stopped following this story, since I neither play nor develop games. However, this article on Cracked names the ex-boyfriend who started the whole GamerGate mess, and since Zoe Quinn's name has been dragged through the mud, it seems only fair that we know his name, too. It is Eron Gjoni, and seriously, if you're still single, don't date him.

Speaking of men you don't want to date... HA HA HA HA HA. Scalzi nails it.

This study about the prevalence and cost of domestic violence blew my mind and makes me so sad.

But hey, if baboons can change their culture, so can we, right?
(This would be a great premise for a sci-fi story- some sort of disease preferentially spreads among the most aggressive jerks, leaving a new human population that is just... nicer.)

The graphic in this tweet may make you want to scream.

But let's end with a fun tweet:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dinner During Dora: Miraculous Chicken

A few weeks ago, a miracle occurred at my house.

I made a chicken dish and everyone in the house ate it.

I know, I know, this is hard to believe, particularly since some time last year Pumpkin stopped eating store bought chicken nuggets because "they are too spicy."

To be honest, I'd sort of given up on finding a meat product Pumpkin would eat at home. (She will eat chicken stars from Carl's Jr., but those are reserved for special occasions. Really. My kids are convinced that a meal from Carl's Jr. is a big deal.)

But then I heard about pretzel-breaded chicken, and I asked Pumpkin if she'd like to try that. To my surprise, she said yes, so I hit the internet and found this recipe.

I've modified it a little- increasing the pretzel-to-chicken ratio and leaving out the pepper, because those "black specks" are "spicy," you know.

I decided to share my recipe with you in case you need a miracle in your house, too. This is a bit long for a dinner during Dora, but as my kids get older, they can tolerate a slightly later dinner time, and I will accept the extra effort and time due to the miraculous result. I think this takes about 15 minutes to prepare, and then 20 minutes to cook, during which time you can make some veggies to serve with it if you want to push your luck.

Here is my recipe for Miraculous Chicken:


2 cups salted pretzels (we generally have the twists on hand, so I use those. I fill my measuring cup, squash them down with the heel of my hand, add more, squash again, and repeat until the cup is full, without big gaps between pretzel bits)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
1 tsp. water or milk
1/2 to 3/4 lb chicken breast, cut into nuggets (basically, I buy one package with two boneless skinless chicken breasts and use one)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the pretzels and cheese in a food processor and process until coarsely ground and well blended. (I suspect you could do this in a blender or just in a bowl if you took a rolling pin to the pretzel bits first.)

Here's what the result looks like:

Future yummy coating
Put the flour in a separate bowl, and beat the eggs with 1 tsp of water or milk in a 3rd bowl.

Spray a rack with cooking spray and put it on top of a cookie sheet. Then arrange an assembly line, like this:

Do you like my messy counter tops?
Roll the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the eggs, then roll them in the pretzel mix. I do this two at a time, using one hand to roll in the chicken bits in the flour and drop them in the eggs and the other hand to take them out of the eggs and roll them in the pretzel mix. I still make a big mess.

Here's what they look like when they're ready to go in the oven.

Bake until lightly browned, which takes 20-25 minutes.

After baking, they look like this:

Chicken bits encased in yummy pretzel coating
Perhaps because there is such a high ratio of yummy pretzel coating to chicken, we find that one chicken breast feeds all four of us. Each kid eats a couple nuggets, and my husband and I eat 4-5 each.

Source: A recipe from, found by Googling "pretzel chicken" and discarding recipes that had any spices in them.

Who eats it: Everyone!!!!

If you're relatively new here and are wondering why we needed a miracle to get chicken into Pumpkin, this old post is a place to start. If you're about to leave me a comment telling me how I SHOULD "fix" Pumpkin, please read that post and the other ones linked to it first. Pumpkin is not your garden variety kid with respect to food. Petunia is more like most kids in this respect, and we follow the "standard advice" with her and she already eats more adventurously than her sister (except the only plant matter she reliably consumes is in the form of Apple Berry go-go squeezes). Pumpkin has more going on, we're not 100% sure what. But the "standard advice" produces terrible results with her. Also, I was a picky eater as a kid and am still on the picky side now, and am just not interested in lectures on the topic. Not that any of you would deliver such a thing, because you are all wonderful people. Hmm, that sounds a bit off-putting. What I'm saying is: this is a touchy topic for me and one that I have researched A LOT and worried about a lot. Please tread lightly if you want to discuss the broader issue of picky eating.

However, I'm always up for new recipe ideas, so feel free to leave those in the comments! Thanks for understanding.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Introducing Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess

You have less than one day left to enter the raffle to win my review of your cover letter and/or resume, so if you were thinking of doing that: get on it. Time is running out.

But this post isn't about that book, it is about my new children's book! (If you're new here, you may not remember that my first short ebook and children's book release dates stacked up like this, too. It is apparently my thing. This concerns me, because while I already have a pretty solid draft of what I hope will be my third children's book, I have no current plans to write another short ebook. Clearly, I'll need to change that.)

Anyway, back on topic.

I am beyond excited to show you the cover of my new children's book, Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess, which is coming out October 20 (mark your calendars!):

Interestingly, Petunia looks a little bit like me. But I don't have bangs. Anymore.
But wait! There's more. Here is a sneak peek at one of the inside pages, too:

That tree does NOT look like the tree in our backyard, though. Our tree is an avocado tree.
You can pre-order it now via the publisher, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble (hard cover only- there will be a Nook book, but it isn't available for pre-order yet). There will be an iBooks version, too.

The book is about Petunia, a little girl who is not at all princessy, but is surrounded by princesses. She is lonely and wants a friend who will climb trees, build towers, and play ball with her. A new family moves in next door, and Petunia is disappointed to find that the new little girl is another %$#@*! princess,  but- wait for it- Penelope turns out to like to climb trees, and build towers, and ball, too.

Because, you know, being princessy is just one aspect of a girl's personality. One might even say it is completely orthogonal to interest in building towers or playing ball.

The book came out of my frustration with the way our culture seems to write off little girls who love princesses, as if they can't also love all sorts of other things. Pumpkin loved princesses and LEGO. I even wrote about how stupid she thought it was to get a LEGO castle that didn't have a princess in it. (I note with some satisfaction that LEGO seems to have fixed this in its newer castle sets. Hell, you can get Disney Princess LEGOnow. Yes, we have some.)  Petunia loves princesses and trains and cars. And soccer. (Here's a fact that might surprise people who know me as a kickboxing-loving, mostly pants wearing woman- the closest I have ever come to dropping out of STEM was in grad school, when I struggled to integrate my feminine side with my science side.)

You may note that my daughter Petunia has a namesake in the story. The funny thing is, she doesn't know her blog name is Petunia (she doesn't know what a blog is). This story is part of Petunia's bedtime routine, just like the zebra story was (and sometimes still is) part of Pumpkin's bedtime routine. In my mind, Penelope is the clear hero of my story because she is the one who realizes that loving sparkles and bows only means that you love sparkles and bows. Petunia, though, calls it the "tuna story" and identifies with Petunia.

But then, she also favors Elsa over Anna, and as we all know, Anna is the hero of that story.

To be fair, I did put Petunia in the title. But Penelope, the Princess Who Knows What's What didn't seem like a very good title.

Anyway- in a little less than a month you can have this book. It will be available as an ebook and a hardcover. I love the illustrations, and think my message would do a lot of people (kids and grown ups!) some good to read. Also, I like money. So I'm hoping it does really well! If you'd like to help me with that, I'm looking for volunteers to review it. You'll get an electronic advance copy and my undying gratitude, and all you have to do in return is write an honest review of the book. You do not need a blog to volunteer- Amazon reviews are awesome, too. And if you end up hating the book, you're welcome to say that in your review. If you're interested in volunteering, email me at wandsci at gmail dot com, or tweet at me.

Also- my publisher and I are planning our promotions for this book. One thing we'll be doing is a giveaway (or two?) associated with people talking about the book on social media. Details will be forthcoming closer to the release date, but in the meantime, start thinking about how you'd tell the world that your sparkle-hating child is #notaprincess or how your little sparkle-fiend is #notjustaprincess, because kids are unique individuals, not stereotypes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekend Reading: The I Should Stop Pretending These Posts Have a Theme Edition

Are you well and truly tired of me talking about that job search ebook? Let's talk about the upcoming release of my next kids' book instead! I don't know why I tend to have these releases stack up like this- nothing much happening for most of the year and then BOOM! Two book releases in two months. But that's just how it turned out. I had lunch with my publisher today so that we could discuss our plans around the release of Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess, and we've got some fun things planned. I'll tell you more in the next week or so.

The main impact right now, though, is that I didn't spend very much time at my computer today, so my links list might be a little lighter than usual.

However- quality over quantity, right? I've got some great links to share.

First up is a teacher's story about why we need diverse books. The bit that really struck me is the one that is used in the headline:

"A few years ago, I taught a Year 2 class in East London. I had built up a good bank of multicultural picture-books and resources and shared these with the class whenever seemed appropriate. When it came time for the class to write their own stories, I suggested that they used the name of someone in their family for their protagonist. I wanted them to draw on their own backgrounds, but was worried about ‘making an issue of race’. When it came to sharing their stories, I noticed only one boy had acted upon my suggestion, naming his main character after his uncle. He had recently arrived from Nigeria and was eager to read his story to the class. However when he read out the protagonists name he was interrupted by another boy, who was born in Britain and identified as Congolese.

“You can’t do that! Stories have to be about White people.”

I’m confident the boy who announced this was being sincere and indeed, in the ensuing class discussion there was a fair bit of uncertainty about who could and couldn’t be in stories. I was surprised and confused by this. Why did they always write stories about children from very different backgrounds to themselves? And why were these characters always White? After all, I had shared a number of stories about children of colour with the class.

I just hadn’t realised what I was up against."

Speaking of racism... the research of Jennifer Eberhardt, one of this year's MacArthur fellows, is depressing and fascinating. You can watch her describe her research, or read Jamelle Bouie's article about some aspects of it.

Here is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking post about the recent XOXO conference.

I really liked this article about how we need Sci-Fi that helps us imagine a better future in addition to warning us about possible horrific outcomes.

If you've somehow avoided hearing about GamerGate and are wondering what it is, Cracked has Zoe Quinn's story. If you know all about GamerGate, it is worth clicking through just to read and lolsob at the intro, which just nails the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Roxane Gay's post about shopping while fat is beautiful. If I ever get rich enough that I can just start a capital-intense company because I want to see such a company exist, I want to start a woman's clothing company that makes nice clothes for women of all sizes. Also, it will have a stable core line of pants that will be reliably the same, so that you don't have to go find a new model of black pants every damn time you need a new pair.

Remember when we all wanted to do something concrete to help the people in the St. Louis are? There are school teachers there asking for help.

OK, we need something happy to end on. I'm not even a librarian and this tumblr made me laugh.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Into the Wayback Machine: The Mistakes I Made in Job Hunting

One of my friends asked me what part of the advice I give in Navigating the Path to Industry I failed to follow when I was making my own move from academia to industry- you know, back in the last geological age. (OK, it was actually about 15 years ago.)

I, of course, made all sorts of mistakes. There was no handy short ebook for me to read to give me tips on running my job search! (There were no ebooks at all.) I was lucky to be graduating into a biotech boom, so I found a job fairly easily, anyway. (It didn't seem easy at the time, but in retrospect... OMG I WAS SO LUCKY!)

My biggest mistake was probably my cover letter. I found one of my old cover letters during our last office reorganizing kick, and it basically sucked. I just restated what was on my resume, and didn't even use the keywords from the job description. I may have customized it for each job for which I applied, but if I did, I didn't customize it much.

I haven't found an old resume, but I suspect it would make me shudder at its CV-ishness, too.

I managed to get hired despite my mistakes because of the aforementioned incredible timing and good luck, and because of one of the things I did right: I networked. I landed my first job, and my second job, and my third job... and all of my jobs via networking. I only heard about that first job because I was serving on an AWIS committee with a recruiter who was trying to fill that job. I suspect she felt confident enough in me to send in a resume for someone just finishing graduate school because she had worked on a committee with me, not just met me. Also, I had done another thing right and started networking more than a year before I needed to get a job, so by the time I met that one critical person, I had gotten comfortable with delivering a pithy statement about my background and interests.

Does anyone else want to take a ride in the wayback machine? What mistakes did you make in your first job search? What did you do right?

In very much related news, you have a little less than one week left to enter the raffle to win my review of your resume and/or cover letter. You can use the prize anytime in the next two years, and you can transfer it to a friend if you don't need the advice yourself. Details about how to enter are on the book release page.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Values vs. Imposter Syndrome

Thanks to @RowGirl2012's twitter feed, I came across this old article from Ed Yong about how having students spend 15 minutes writing about two or three values that are important to them essentially closed the gender gap in performance in a college physics class.

I had heard of the earlier work with high school students cited in this article, but had forgotten about it. I am grateful for the reminder. I am already thinking about how I might use this exercise with my kids. More immediately, I think I need to do the exercise myself.

I am in a weird place right now. I am very excited about my new career direction, and having a great time with the projects I'm working on. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to try to build something new without forgoing the income to which my family has become accustomed. I am, quite simply, having a blast.

At the same time, I am fighting a massive case of imposter syndrome. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I have no proof that I can succeed in this new venture, and no real feedback yet to give me confidence that I will succeed. As much as I tell myself that it doesn't actually matter if I succeed- the important thing is to try and learn, and trust myself that if this doesn't work out I'll take what I've learned and find something else great to do- there is apparently a large part of me that does not believe it.

The worst thing about imposter syndrome is the way that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So far, I think I'm doing a fairly good job of ignoring the doubting voice inside my head and just following through on my plans. However, I also don't take it for granted that this will last.

So I'm going to do the exercise suggested in that article. I'm going to write about my values. And there is no time like the present!

I picked values that seem relevant to what I'm doing. They are in no particular order, and in fact there might be other values that matter to me more but that I'm not writing about. I didn't do a careful analysis of what matters most to me- I just wrote about the first three things that came to mind.

Value #1:  People and work both matter
Doing great work and being great to people should not be in conflict. Too many people think they are, and too many workplaces are set up to make employees choose. I didn't go with "people first," because too often I see that used to explain decisions to decrease work-related ambitions. If that's really what someone wants, that is fine, but I suspect that in many cases people really want to keep pursuing their ambitions but are forced to choose between ambition and family* because something is putting them in conflict. My firm belief is that they are only in conflict because we have set them up that way. The problem is, the systems that put work and family in conflict have been in place for so long that we've started to see this conflict as just the natural order of things. I don't think it has to be that way. I think we just haven't had the imagination and/or the will to design better systems yet. Changing this will probably take a lot of time and iterations. I'm aiming to contribute in some small way.

*I'm using "family" as a stand in for "the people who matter to you."

Value #2: Everyone should get a chance to reach for their full potential
I didn't have a term for my belief that our skills and abilities aren't fixed until I read Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Now I know that the term for this is "growth mindset." Regardless of the term, I really believe that everyone's capabilities can improve, and that we waste a lot of our human potential by depriving people of the chance to improve and grow. I think this starts in school, and continues into the work place. The fixed mindset that holds that people are just either "smart or not" is particularly pernicious when combined with stereotypes and biases, but it is harmful to everyone. I want to stamp out the fixed mindset. I want everyone to understand that our mental capabilities grow and improve with practice, just like our physical ones do. We should all marvel at the miracle of brain plasticity!

(I'd obviously love to stamp out stereotypes and biases, too - and actually, I think getting people to really understand brain plasticity and the way our environment effects our development might help with that... but that is waaaay too big a topic to tackle in this post.)

Value #3: Life should be enjoyed
This may be the most controversial of the values on my list, but it is my list, so it belongs here. I don't believe in reincarnation or an afterlife. I think this life is all we get, and so I want to find the joy, beauty, and meaning in it whenever I can, because these are the things that make me enjoy living. And I want everyone else to get to enjoy life, too. In fact, this is the value that is probably most responsible for my hatred our current situation of widening inequality. Too many people lack the bare minimum resources they need to have a chance at enjoying life. This is another thing that I think people assume is just the natural order of things but that is actually a result of how we've set up our systems. We could change it if we wanted. For instance, I'm seeing a lot of press about a universal minimum income. That is one idea for improving things. Who knows what other ideas we'd come up with if we decided this was a bona fide problem that needed a solution? I don't think we all should have the same level of resources, but I do think we should aim for a society in which everyone has enough resources that they can survive.

Incidentally, I also don't think that valuing enjoying life is necessarily in conflict with ambition to do great work. To the extent that it is, I think that is also an artifact of how we've chosen to arrange our work world. I still struggle to fully articulate my thoughts on what is wrong with our current work environment, but it boils down to something like this: we've largely set up work to be an all or nothing, no holds barred competition. I think we'd all be happier, healthier, and more productive if we found a way to make work more collaborative. Maybe eventually I'll get my thoughts to crystallize enough on this that I can write a manifesto of sorts. For now, I just want to note that things don't have to be the way they are.

So those are three values that are really important to me. Do you agree or disagree? What values would be on your list if you did this exercise? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Dawning of the Age of Questioning

Pumpkin is seven and a half now, and for the last six months or so, we have been answering a lot of questions. Very little gets past her these days. Things that used to float over her head she now reaches up, catches, brings down and insists we explain.

For the most part this is easy enough to do, if a bit tiring. For all the hand-wringing in some quarters about how same-sex marriage would be hard to explain to children, it was one of the easiest things we've explained this year. We have not had the occasion to explain the fact that there are transgender people yet, but I don't anticipate that will be all that hard to explain when the time comes. Explaining why other people have such a problem with LGBTQ people will be a lot harder.

One result of the increase in questions is that our discussions of racism have gone a little deeper recently. I expect my annual attempt to make MLK day mean more than they teach Pumpkin in school will be more challenging next year. I guess one advantage of stumbling through a discussion for the last two years is that at least I won't be going into this next discussion without some practice.

We have the privilege of metaphorical and physical distance from the recent events in Ferguson, MO, and I chose not to bring them up with her. I am not at all sure this was the right approach. I think it is time for Pumpkin to start knowing more about how the world really is, ugly injustices and all. But... she is a very sensitive kid- she can't even watch most movies, because they scare her. So I am struggling a bit with how to start teaching her about just how ugly the real world can be. Mostly I have been letting her questions guide us. If she notices something and asks about it, I explain honestly. If she doesn't notice, I mostly let it pass, except I have started pointing out and discussing how not everyone gets treated the same by other people, and helping her see that this is not fair or right.  I am painfully aware of how so many parents don't get the luxury of going slow with their sensitive kids. I am also painfully aware of the limits of my own knowledge in this area. I have been trying to work on this, but I know I will fall short of ideal. I will just have to explain that, too.

To be honest, I am also struggling with explaining how the world can be unsafe for her. Here again, we've settled on letting her tell us that she is ready to know something by asking us about it. Therefore, while she knows our rule is that she can talk to people she does not know, she is not to go anywhere with a stranger, she doesn't really know the reasons behind that rule. I assume she'll ask before too long, so I'm thinking about how I'll explain it without scaring her unduly.

I've also started laying the groundwork for our eventual talk about how what she does with her body is up to her, and how if anyone makes her do something she doesn't want to do, that is never, ever her fault, no matter what. Obviously, when she's a little older, we'll have to add in the talk about the things she might want to do... but I've got a few years left before I have to face that one. Presumably, I'll grow into it. Right now, I'm just working to not let my anger about needing to explain bodily autonomy to a seven year old interfere with me actually doing that job well.

We've had a lot of more prosaic questions, too. Mr. Snarky and I trade off explaining various science-related questions, based primarily on which of us has a better memory of the subject. This means that I have to explain just about everything biological, and he is in charge of explaining optics and electricity. She hasn't asked too many questions about history yet, but the American history questions are mine to field. I'm not sure I can count on Mr. Snarky for English history, either- he completely flubbed a question about Guy Fawkes day, and in the end I and another Kiwi who was there at the time had to piece together an answer for what it was from our vague recollection of high school history and checking the Wikipedia article on our phones.

By far the hardest question to date has been one that came up quite early in this phase. We were at a beach in Coronado with some friends from day care. One of the fathers had built a small boat, and he was taking two kids at a time (plus one other grown up) out on the bay to fish. The other kids and parents were playing on the beach. One of the other fathers chastised his daughter for not finishing her applesauce, and made an offhand remark about how there are starving children in China who would love to have her applesauce. It was a time worn cliche (although I have no idea why he picked China), and I didn't really notice it at first. But then Pumpkin looked at me, with deep worry in her eyes and asked, "Really?"

"Yes, sweetie, there are really children in China who don't have enough to eat."

"But just there?"

"No, sweetie, there are children who don't have enough to eat in a lot of places."

"But not here, right?"

"No, sweetie, there are children here in America who are hungry. That's why we donate to the food drive every year." (We do always explain that when we're taking the bag in to donate, but I guess that explanation was one of the things that floated over her head.)

She dropped the subject at that point, but the look on her face clearly said "WTF is wrong with you grown ups that you haven't fixed this?"

I had no answer to that question, and still don't.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Release Week Edition

Obviously, I've been a bit distracted this week by the release of my latest book. (There is a raffle in that post, by the way....) There are a couple of reviews up on the Amazon page, and Actuarial Eye published a really nice review on her blog.

Over at It's a Jumble, Vanessa Fogg has some new releases to announce, too.

And of course, Apple announced some new releases this week. Zeynep Tufekci has a great write up about how bigger isn't always better in a phone, and how the fact that everyone in the tech world seems to think that it is provides yet another indication of what a male-dominated world that is.

John Dick from Civic Science analyzes some of his firm's poll results about parents vs. non-parents, and finds that parents report having every reason to be less happy than non-parents, but actually are more likely than non-parents to report themselves as being happy. When looking at these numbers, particularly the time use ones, keep in mind that these appear to be from self-reporting, a notoriously error-prone way of finding out anything, including how people use their time (i.e., results tend to be skewed by our own expectations).

But let's assume the self-reporting in that previous link is all qualitatively true. I think this next link might hint at what makes parents happier. Can you imagine how happy and proud you'd feel to read an article like this awesome article about the importance of Hermione written by your 14 year old daughter?

On a less happy parenting front (but still in the slightly suspect realm of self-reporting), Brigid Schulte writes at the Washington Post about a new study that finds that male scientists want to be involved fathers, but mostly aren't. I can't access the study to read it for myself. Maybe next time I'm on campus, I'll get it. (Too bad I didn't see the article earlier today- I was on campus doing some old school marketing for my book.)

I continue to hope that maybe someday all of those "too busy to have any life outside of work" people who make it hard for the dads in the previous link and for moms and for anyone else who wants to have more in their life than their work will someday read the research that indicates that their "all in" mode of working tends to produce worse overall results. Here's the latest- long hours make you less likely to follow the rules.

Here's a thoroughly depressing round up of the many reasons women struggle to advance in tech (and I suspect, in other fields). Spoiler: there's still a lot of implicit bias against us.

Speaking of implicit bias and its pernicious effects... Vanity Fair released another list of media disruptors. Annie Lowrey asks why the disruptors are always white guys- pointing, among other things, to the fact that was founded by her husband Ezra Klein (white dude), Matt Yglesias (hispanic dude), and Melissa Bell (white, not a dude). Ezra Klein makes a point of emphasizing that they are equal co-founders. And yet Ezra Klein is always the one listed as the disruptor. I wonder why?

Speaking of white guys who are disruptors, Clay Shirky's take on the Amazon vs. publisher fight is really worth a read. Here's one quote from it, but I encourage you to go read the whole thing.

"It used to be that if you were OK with the residents of Podunk having inferior access to books than people in Brooklyn, you were just a realist about the difficulties of making and shipping physical stuff. Now if you’re OK with that, you’re kind of an asshole. In the twenty-first century, not being able to correctly stock or distribute a product whose main ingredient is information suggests a degree of technical and managerial incompetence indistinguishable from active malice."

Speaking of access (in a sense)... Tressie McMillan Cottom's post about John Oliver's epic takedown of the for-profit college sector is simply great. As she points out, people choosing for profit colleges aren't idiots. They're people trying to solve problems and who don't have a lot of options. Taking away the crappy, sort of exploitative solution that is what the for-profit college sector seems to have become doesn't take away those people's problems.

I am dismayed by what has been happening in for-profit colleges. It seems to me that they used to serve a reasonable role: they provided trade school like education and a path to a basic college degree for working adults whose advancement was being blocked by the lack of that credential. I have worked with (and even hired) systems administrators with degrees from for-profit colleges, who got into the field via the hands on and specific training their programs provided. I have worked with administrative assistants who needed to get that degree so that they could continue to advance in our company. These people got value from those degrees.

But then the sector exploded out of control, and began to offer and aggressively market degrees that are in some cases worse than useless. I don't argue with the assessment that the industry is now dominated by companies that can be fairly described as predatory. I'd be happy to see those institutions go away. But what will take their place? Are we going to finally fund our community college system well enough to do this job? I wish we would, but I am not sanguine about our chances of doing so.

Ah, but it is the weekend. Enough ranting. Let's end with some lighter things.

OK, this is a sort of freaky thing: an artist makes animated gifs out of historical photos.

But this is just sweet:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Trip Story: Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

I'm nearing the end of the trip stories from our Colorado vacation. Today's story is from Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, which was our second to last stop of on the trip.

We drove from Colorado Springs to Estes Park by way of Loveland, where we had a very nice lunch and a nice, if a bit muggy, time at a playground. We arrived in Estes Park with time to get settled into our cabin, stroll into town for ice cream, and have a quick soak in our motel's mountain view hot tub before heading to the Estes Park Brewery for dinner. It was a nice enough dinner, although both kids insisted they wanted strawberry smoothies and then neither one of them would drink them because they weren't like the smoothies I make at home... but I digress.

We saw two interesting things on the way back from dinner. One was the "family fun park," which both kids insisted we HAD to visit the next day. The other was these cool little birds that were buzzing the river as we walked by, looking for all the world like they were just on the bird equivalent of a joy ride.

I couldn't capture the birds on film, but here is the river:

There were houses with decks that essentially hang over this river.

The next day, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. After securing junior ranger activity booklets for the kids, we drove to Sprague Lake for our first hike. It is a very pretty lake, with an easy hike that the kids enjoyed- in no small part due to the fact that they were busy looking for the plants in their ranger activity books, so that they could check off that they had seen them.

Sprague Lake

After our little hike, we drove to Hidden Valley for our picnic lunch. Then we set out on the requisite drive along the Trail Ridge Road. Our plan was to get to the Alpine Visitor Center early in the afternoon, before any thunderstorms moved in. We stopped at several viewpoints and trailheads along the way. My favorite was the Tundra Communities stop, where I got to see the tundra covered with wildflowers. It was sprinkling when we arrived, so the kids and Mr. Snarky stayed in the car (although they walked about a bit when the sprinkles passed). It was not thundering or lightening or looking like it might do either of those things, so I took a short walk to enjoy the flowers and the view.

Not long after we left the Tundra Communities parking lot, we saw some elk. The kids (and Mr. Snarky) were delighted. OK, so was I.

We got to the Alpine Visitor's Center in time for afternoon snack. We picked out some souvenirs (it is by far the biggest gift shop in the park), and then drove on for a bit. We stopped for pictures at the Continental Divide (you sort of have to, right?) and then made one final stop at Lake Irene. We had another nice, short hike there.

Lake Irene
The rain started almost as soon as we got in the car to drive back to Estes Park- so we didn't stop anywhere on our way out, except at the Fall River Visitor Center. We squeaked in right before they closed and collected the Junior Ranger badges that the kids "earned" by working on their booklets.

We had a short rest at the motel, and then headed to the Family Fun Center, for, well, family fun.

The race cars were a huge hit.

Petunia waits her turn in the car with Daddy.

We also played a round of mini golf, before having dinner at a nearby Italian place and then going back to our motel for another short soak in the hot tub. It stays light late in Colorado in July!

The next morning, Mr. Snarky got up early and went to check out Bear Lake, which we'd heard was beautiful. The kids and I slept in a bit longer, and then packed up our things. He liked the lake, but I think I preferred the sleep.

We did attempt to have one last family hike at Wild Basin- but couldn't get parking close enough to the trailhead to make that practicable with two kids. So instead we had morning snack with a view:

And then drove on to Boulder.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Navigating the Path to Industry: Available Now!

Today is the big day! My short ebook about conducting a non-academic job search is now available at these fine locations:
It sometimes takes a little while for the title and other metadata to get added to the search indexes at the big sites, so don't be surprised if you have a hard time searching for the book- that should fix itself over the next few days. In the meantime, the links above work

I am working on making it available at Overdrive, too, which would allow your favorite library to buy it for its collection.

You can always find the latest information about where the book is available on the publisher's website (full disclosure: I own the publishing company):

There is also a GoodReads page for the book. You'll notice that I finally got off the fence and made an author profile, too. 

If you are searching for a non-academic job or thinking about doing so, I hope you'll read the book. And I hope you like it and find it useful.

People occasionally ask me how they can support my writing. Well, buying this book is obviously a great way to do that. You can also share information about the book on social media or in real life. Finally, if you do read the book, reviews are very helpful. 

As a way to say THANK YOU for doing any of those things, I've set up a little raffle. Two winners will get a review of their resume and/or cover letter, and it is transferable. The winners can use this anytime over the next two years. You get one entry for each of the following things:
  • Buying the book
  • Posting about the book on social media
  • Writing a blog post about the book
  • Writing a review of the book on a vendor website or
  • Telling two or more people about
Here's the raffle, which is open from now until September 24. You MUST use this form to enter. Luckily, it is easy ((just requires a Facebook login or email address):

I'll largely take your word that you've done the things requested, but I do ask for a little bit of information, so that if you're going to lie about it you have to put some effort in. But you wouldn't lie! 

Finally, a word about the price: I ended up pricing this book a little bit higher than I initially intended, due to the terms of the retailer's royalties agreements. Basically, if I priced it any lower, I would get much less favorable terms. However, I wrote this book to help people. I am very sensitive to the fact that some people in my target audience are necessarily quite sensitive to price. Therefore, if you want to read this book but are unable to do so because of the price, email me. My email address is wandsci at gmail dot com. We will work something out, I promise. I am 100% serious about that offer, so please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you all for reading!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Too Much Going On for a Theme Edition

It has been a busy week for me- the pre-order pages for Navigating the Path to Industry are up at Amazon and Kobo. There's also a page for the book at the publisher's website- which of course means that I had to set that website up, too. It is pretty basic right now, but there isn't much to put on it right now, so that's OK. I'll spruce it up when it actually makes business sense to invest more time into it.

I also battled with Barnes and Noble's NookPress site, and I think I finally won. They don't allow pre-order pages, though, so I guess I have to wait until September 10 to find out for sure. And I started the processes for getting the book into iBooks and Overdrive. Those are going to take a bit longer.

But enough about me! You came for links, and I have some good ones.

First up, Amanda Marcotte at Slate touches on a topic I've ranted about before: the over-idealization of the home-cooked meal. (Here's one of my rants on the subject.)

Jamelle Bouie, also in Slate, has a good post about the need to teach the bad with the good in American history.

This Pastry Box post from Raquel VĂ©lez perfectly describes my fears about the potential downside of success. No, I'm not afraid of succeeding. I'm afraid of the increased risk for online harassment and abuse if I succeed.

Arthur Chu wrote a good wrap up and smackdown of the latest instances of online harassment and abuse of women in tech, this time in the games industry.

Interestingly, though, it seems the FBI may be taking an interest. I am skeptical until we see some real results, but it would be a huge thing if law enforcement figured out how to respond to these issues.

This post from Zoe Zolbrod about "the times I wasn't raped" is really good.

Andie Fox (of Blue Milk fame) takes a look at some survey results about working mums and working dads in Australia.

One of the upsides of still needing to commute three days per week is that I'm still listening to podcasts. This week I listened to an HBR Ideacast interview with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic about the dangers of confidence. It was really interesting for a lot of reasons, but I want to pull out a couple of quotes in particular:

"...until we stop making decisions on the basis of confidence rather than competence, we will keep having arrogant, impulsive, narcissistic people in charge."

"First is that much of the literature and the popular writings in this area seem to focus on trying to enhance confidence in women. So in other words, they try to make women more like men. The world will be a much better place if we manage make men more than women, because the problem is not the women lack confidence– but that men have too much of it."

I think we in general are too likely to assume that the current prevailing culture in our institutions is "right" and expect traditionally excluded groups to change to fit in. We'd probably end up with a much happier, healthier society if we instead looked at what the evidence shows about traits that make for good results and tried to get everyone to aim for those.

On a more personal note, the podcast gave me a lot to think about with regards to the "fake it until you make it" advice for confidence. I think perhaps I still need to "fake" the confidence to go ahead and pursue my goals, but not worry about projecting confidence and instead try to project competence. However you do that.

Finally, the palate cleansing happy ending:



Thursday, September 04, 2014

Trip Story: Colorado Springs

Time for the next installment of my trip stories about our recent Colorado vacation!

After our brief detour to the southern part of Colorado, we headed back toward the mountains, by way of Colorado Springs. The drive from Alamosa to Colorado Springs was just long enough that we needed a stop to break it up, so we stopped in Pueblo for lunch. I am of the age where I associate Pueblo, CO, with public service advertisements that played during my Saturday morning cartoon viewing, telling me to write to some government office in Pueblo to request some pamphlets- I think maybe about small business ownership? I can't remember that detail. But I can still hear the voice announcing the address in my head. It was a folksy male voice. Of course, the only part of the address I remember is "Pueblo, CO."

So, I was sort of excited to see this town. It turns out to be a mid-sized town, probably struggling in the way that many mid-sized towns are these days. But it has a nice riverwalk, and we had lunch along that. Then we strolled the riverwalk for a bit, although Mr. Snarky complained that it was too hot for much of that stroll. He does not like temperatures that get above about 80 degrees F. It is a good thing I moved to San Diego when he said he'd come to America to live with me. He claims he liked New Jersey (where I was living at the time), but he was never there for the summer.

Anyway, we got to Colorado Springs early, got checked in to our hotel, had a nice dinner at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company downtown , and still had time to go check out The Garden of the Gods, which was #1 on my list of things to see in Colorado Springs.

It starts off slow
The Garden of the Gods was indeed spectacular, and if you get the chance, you should go see it.

That's Petunia in the picture, for scale
Near a popular spot with a large, balanced rock you can pretend to support (and oh, yes, we did pretend that, and took pictures, too), there were some rocks that were perfect for little kids to clamber over. So we did that.

In my defense, the kids are the ones who like to match their clothes.

The next morning, we headed to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, to pass the time before our scheduled train ride to the top of Pike's Peak (#1 on Mr. Snarky's list of things to do in Colorado Springs).

Historic homes
The cliff dwellings were home to the Anasazi people, who also left cliff dwellings in Arizona, near where I grew up. Therefore, these were not the first such cliff dwellings that I had visited, but they were the first my kids had ever seen, and they were impressed.

They particularly enjoyed grinding corn:

You'll note from that picture that the kids are wearing rain jackets. This was the first day of our trip on which it rained. I was bummed, because I was worried that the rain would ruin our train ride up Pike's Peak.

It turns out, we went above the clouds.

That is one of the other trains ahead of us. There were three trains that went up together.
If you look closely in that last picture, you'll see a marmot on the track, which is why we're stopped. Here's a closer view of one:

I had no idea marmots were so cute
The extra rail down the middle is for the cog- this is a cog railway, since the ascent is too steep for a regular train.

The clouds below us did impede our view, so we didn't get the grand panoramic view for which Pikes Peak is known. (It is not the only "fourteener," or mountain of 14,000 feet or more, in Colorado, but it is the only one that is not surrounded by other tall mountains, so it provides a particularly panoramic viewpoint.) Still, the view was nice.

Pumpkin and Petunia admire the view
The kids were cold, though, and not as impressed with the view as their father. Meanwhile, I was experiencing some negative effects from the altitude- I was starting to get tunnel vision. So I was happy that we only had about 15 minutes at the peak before we boarded our train for the ride back down. We could have driven to the top, but I was worried the windy road would make me and the kids carsick, so I bought us train tickets. I'm glad I did, because the train whistle was the only thing that made Mr. Snarky stop taking pictures and leave. If we were in charge of our own schedule, I might have had a hard time convincing him that, no, really, there were weird shimmery things where my peripheral vision should be and we needed to leave.

On the way down the mountain we saw some big horn sheep, which was pretty cool.


I had hoped to explore Old Colorado City after the train ride, and maybe get dinner there. The kids co-operated with that plan long enough to get some ice cream, but then got too whiny to tolerate, so we headed back to the hotel instead. We had dinner at a chain restaurant near our hotel and called the visit done. The kids were bitterly disappointed that we hadn't gone swimming in the hotel pool, so everyone was a little grumpy as we got ready for bed.

We had a suite, though, so Mr. Snarky and I got a chance to unwind with a beer or two before we called it a night. As I leafed through the hotel room travel brochure and sipped my beer, I noticed that there was one local attraction we had missed:

A Creation Tour through a local canyon, to see evidence of the Biblical Flood
It is probably for the best. I doubt Mr. Snarky could have behaved himself.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Here, There, and Everywhere

It turns out that I can indeed have a pre-order page on Amazon, as long as I have my book finalized. I made the last edits to the job search ebook this morning (someone caught a place where I wrote "Iooking" instead of "looking" and I realized I should probably mention my other short ebook in the "About the Author" section) and then I set to work uploading the files to the various websites.

Long story short- here's the Amazon pre-order page for Navigating the Path to Industry. Woo hoo!

The Kobo pre-order page is coming soon. The Nook edition... may take a bit longer. I'm having some formatting issues with their publication site. I've sent a help request in. They say they'll get back to me in a couple of days. Next, I'll start working on the iBooks edition and look into whether I can get the book into Overdrive for libraries to order.

I decided to publish this book through my company, and am therefore also setting up a website and social media presence for my company, to use in conjunction with this and other projects.

As I busily created accounts and configured sites, it occurred to me that my social media presence has gotten a bit scattered. For someone who at one point steadfastly refused to separate her work and personal social media presence, I now seem to have a lot of accounts. Ah well. My opinions evolved.

Still, I feel the need to tell you all where you can find me talking about various topics. So, here is a list of places to find me:

I have an Amazon author page. I still find that a bit weird, but I have three books on it (and will soon be adding a fourth- my second kids' book), so I suppose I should just get over that.

The Amazon author page is linked to the Twitter account that I use for my management and productivity tweeting, and other things I want associated with my real name. If you can't be bothered to pull the twitter address from that page and want me to send it to you along with the link to the blog that I use to write about those same topics, send me an email (wandsci at gmail dot com). I'm aiming to publish a new post on that blog roughly once a month. There are two posts so far, and the next one (about taking over a project in flight) will go up after I get past the book release craziness.

I also write about short ebooks and related topics at I post a new recommendation for a short ebook every Wednesday, a new recommendation for a collection of short writing on the first Thursday of every month, and a new quote from one of the books I've recommended every Friday. I also write blog posts about short ebooks as the mood strikes me. Those tend to go up on Sundays. I have lots of social media presence for this endeavor, all under the Tungsten Hippo moniker. I'm most active on Twitter (@tungstenhippo), but you can also find me on Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest. I've brought Tungsten Hippo into my corporate fold, but so far I've only made $21 (from affiliate links), and doubt it will ever actually cover its own expenses. It is more a labor of love than a business endeavor. It is also the place where I experiment with marketing ideas.

Speaking of marketing, I have set up a couple of things for the new business. The business name is Annorlunda Enterprises, Inc. The Twitter account is @AnnorlundaInc, and there is also a Pinterest account of the same name. I haven't done much with either account yet, but that is where I'll announce new projects and the like. I'm sure I'll also mention them here, just perhaps less frequently. Once the new company website is ready for prime time, I'll tweet it out from @AnnorlundaInc, too.

I have one final place where you can find me. I decide to start a newsletter for Annorlunda Enterprises- sort of. It is really more of a personal newsletter. It is called Founding Chaos, and you can subscribe at I plan to send it out once a month. It will focus on the founding of Annorlunda Enterprises- why I'm doing it, how I'm doing it, and what my plans for it are. I will also share links from my other accounts (but not this one) and of course, include announcements of new projects and releases. I am also running a mini-contest of sorts- right before I send the first newsletter, I'll pick on subscriber at random and offer him or her one of my ebooks for free. It is winner's choice which one. Sign up soon if you're interested in the contest. I'm planning to post my first newsletter next Friday.

I think that is it. It seems like enough! Despite all of these new outlets, I intend to keep writing here, about the usual mix of topics. The only exception is that I'll probably write less about management and productivity. If you are interesting in those topics, you should follow me on the other blog.

None of this would have happened without the readership I've built here. I appreciate you all more than I can properly express. Thanks for reading, and for following along on my various adventures. There are more adventures to come- but maybe not more accounts.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A Seriously Good Weekend

I was going to write up the next installment of my trip stories from our recent Colorado vacation, but I decided I wanted to tell you about my weekend, instead, because it was a really good one. I'll post about our visit to Colorado Springs later this week.

Our weekend started with a Friday evening visit to our local park after dinner. Mr. Snarky got off work early, so we had a slightly early dinner, which gave us time to walk down to our park and play a bit before bathtime. The kids were delighted by the change in routine, and didn't even complain about the fact that we were walking to the park instead of driving.

Saturday morning, we took a trip to the new downtown San Diego Library, which was one of the things I'd put on our 2014 Family Fun List. It was indeed a very fun trip. My biggest complaint is that when I searched Google Maps for "parking near (the address of the library)" it didn't show me that there was parking actually AT the library. So we ended up walking a lot farther than we had to. That was not a huge deal, although the kids sort of ran out of steam on the way back to the car and I ended up carrying Petunia quite a bit. So, note to other San Diegans: there is parking at the library, and the first two hours are free with validation. We'll use that next time.

The library itself was nice. There is a good-sized children's room, with lots and lots of computers (which the kids loved) and a kids' non-fiction section. We often struggle to find non-fiction books for Pumpkin at out branch, because there the kids' non-fiction is mixed in with the grown up non-fiction, so you can't really browse.

After we checked out our books at the fancy self-checkout counter (which the kids also loved), we headed to the downtown location of the Broken Yolk for breakfast for lunch. We had a rare meal in which everyone liked what they ordered at ate without whining.

Saturday afternoon, I delivered on a promise to Pumpkin and took the kids to get a Hawaiian Shaved Ice. There is a place called Ice Blast that isn't too far from us. It was the first shaved ice any of us had tried, but we all liked it and agreed it was much nicer than a regular snowcone.

The shaved ice place is in one of the parts of town where Asian business cluster, so I was intrigued by the bakery in the same mall. I wondered if it might be a place with interesting Asian pastries, similar to 85°C. So after we finished our shaved ices, we went to check it out. The Big Joy Bakery turned out to be more about cakes and cookies (they also have sandwiches and coffee) than pastries, but it was still quite good! I let the kids each pick out a cookie, and I bought a slice of a passionfruit mousse cake to take home to Mr. Snarky. They also had some other interesting looking cakes, like a green tea cake with custard filling, so perhaps we'll go back as a family some time and sample more of their offerings.

Sunday, Mr. Snarky went for a long run, and the kids played nicely together for an entire hour while I wrote a post for my Tungsten Hippo site. It is a "read together" post, in which I recommend two short ebooks that I liked on their own but think complement each other to make an even better pairing, sort of like a wine and cheese pairing.

A little later, we went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. The kids had a blast, and I managed to stay pretty zen about the noise and chaos until the very end, when I had to restrain myself from yelling at the people who were creating extra chaos at the counter where you exchange your tickets for crappy plastic things and candy. This may be a new record for me, though, so perhaps I am finally learning how to get into the Chuck E. Cheese spirit.

We ended the day with a visit to some friends for a swim and BBQ. The swim was almost ruined by the fact that we forgot to bring the kids' googles, but luckily two of the adults who came had goggles and didn't mind sharing them. Thanks to the rescue goggles, the kids had a great time swimming. I am blown away watching Pumpkin swim. She is a strong swimmer now, and has a particularly beautiful butterfly stroke. I look at her swimming and flash back to her early days in swim lessons, when she essentially just sank if the teacher let go of her. Petunia is not quite as strong a swimmer as Pumpkin (yet!) but she has more body fat, so she floats a bit better. Also, she is fearless and loves to swim. After the swim, the kids, Mr. Snarky, and one of our friends went to the park in our friends' complex and had races with the crappy rocket launchers we had bought with our Chuck E. Cheese tickets earlier. Then we had a delicious BBQ followed by an even more delicious pavlova (our friends are Kiwis).

Since this is a three-day weekend, we got an extra day for fun. Pumpkin really wanted to go to Pelly's Mini Golf to show it to us- she'd gone there on a camp field trip. Our kids do best if they have something organized to do for at least part of the day, so we headed up to Del Mar this morning and played a round of golf. I have to hand it to Pumpkin. It is a really nice course and we all had fun.

Not shown: the cool ocean breezes
Petunia has a very unusual golf style, but she loves to play.
Her stance is uncharacteristically normal in this shot. She often holds the club backwards.

And she scored two holes in one, so perhaps I should ask her for advice instead of trying to fix her stance!
I demonstrate my so-so golf skills
 All in all, it has been a great weekend. Pumpkin starts second grade tomorrow, so this is officially our last summer weekend. Unofficially though, summer goes on at least through September, and we have more fun planned. The San Diego Pacific Islander Festival is coming up, and we want to go this year. Mr. Snarky and I went one year, and we've been meaning to take the kids pretty much since Pumpkin was two. This year, I wrote the date on our calendar, so I suspect we'll actually make it. We'll probably sneak another beach day in, too.

So, I'm not sad to see summer end. If anything, I'm excited to be able to walk Pumpkin to school in the mornings again, instead of driving her down to the YMCA for her summer camp. Still, I'm glad we've seen the official summer off in such style. And really, we've still got more seeing off to do- Mr. Snarky and the kids are in the back yard having a water gun fight. I think I'll join them!