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I've been teaching Josie card games. I have this philosophy, not scientifically tested at all, that games teach kids persistence that they will need for success later in life. Does that make sense? I mean we all get to this point in life where we realize we are not going to be the CEO celebrity president who wins everything, somebody is better than us, we are going to win and lose, but the game is still worth playing for the sake of it. I think a lot of kids deal with this in high school or college.

I attribute a lot of my success to the fact that I'm competitive, I grew up playing games with my family all the time, I thought maybe the two were linked.

I digress... Josie made up a card game, it's totally fun and I was so proud of her! We have two variations of it but our favorite is Jo Go Fish.

It's like go fish, you get five cards, when it's your turn you ask people for cards and if they don't have it you draw two.

Instead of pairs though, you have to put down a one big card, and other cards that add up to it.

Aces can be 1 or 14, Jokers are zero. Jack Queen King are 11, 12, 13.

So you could put down 2, 3, and 5 as a set. Or 8, 3, Ace and Queen.

If you totally run out of cards you get to draw three more fresh ones. We keep playing until there are no more cards in the take pile. At the end whoever has the most sets down wins.

I love that she made up a game and it's helping her with her addition, all the way up to 14 requires getting the fingers out sometimes for a first grader, but it's a blast and she wins a lot.



To all of us who work on weekends I offer this memorable quote from Dr. Kwon, professor of information theory, recalled from the last year of my masters courses in electrical engineering:

No I will not answer your questions on Sunday.

On Sunday I have to hear God's voice.

I cannot hear God's voice if I have to hear your voice.


Whenever a press photo comes out of an experimental airplane doing tests for a major program, the most common question I get is "why is there a pointy thing at the front?" Some jokes about combat, shish-kabobs, or magical unicorn powers can ensue.

I'm not an expert on these but it's fun to have an avionics engineer explain non-electrical topics and shows that I see the airplane as more than just a flying case for blinky lights so here goes, I'm striving to do more.

The pointy thing at the front of a test plane is an air data boom. I don't like Wikipedia's entry on it, too sparse with not enough pictures, so allow me to expand. The boom's job is to hold airspeed measuring instruments way out in front of the airplane, where none of its wind-moving parts will mess with the measurements. It's sometimes a bright color or striped because we want everyone to notice it and not walk into it when they're working on the airplane.

It's quite common. In fact googling around different manufacturers first flight events of new models, they ALL had an airspeed boom.

Pilatus PC-12, from AOPA:

Lear 85, from Business Journals:

Gulfstream G500, from AIN:

Sometimes when there's a pesky propellor needing that space, they'll put the boom out on the wing, like this GippsAero GA-10 (photo: motoroids)

For nice pretty airplanes we sell to people, we tuck two airspeed instruments away in unnoticable places: the pitot tube (pronounced pee-toe... it's french) and the static port. The pitot tube faces front and air blows into it so we can tell how fast we're going. The static port faces the side so we can tell what altitude we're at. The airspeed indicator on the airplane compares these two instruments - for instance at a high altitude, not as many air molecules are hitting the pitot tube. That's not because we're going slower, it's just that there are fewer air molecules up there. So the static port measurement gets considered in that calculation.

Using the test boom, we verify that the nice pretty hidden locations of the pitot and static ports are accurate enough at different airspeeds and altitudes, even with the wind currents of the airplane doing strange things around them. We also put numbers in a book that tell the pilot how far off those measurements will be... on a little airplane, the pilot gets to see Indicated Airspeed, but she's got the book to look up Calibrated Airspeed... which is the actual airspeed corrected for those placement errors. We use Calibrated Airspeed when we did the math to design the airplane and decide how fast it can safely fly, so it's important for us to tell the pilot the equivalent numbers in Indicated Airspeed, that way she knows what number will be showing on the airspeed indicator when she's nearing that speed limit.

That's why we only need that boom on experimental airplanes - we get the numbers we need, then you don't have to deal with it. You can get rid of it and use the nosecone for better things, like holding a weather radar inside of it. A weather radar is awfully handy, can stay nice and hidden, and definitely needs to be in the front of the airplane, unlike the pitot/static ports which we have clearly learned to correct for because science knows how air moves.


helping people with mega career goals

I gave a speech about career advice and one of my points was to have realistic short term goals. Think 1-3 years out. Make sure you are doing something new this year that you were not doing last year. Keep your eye out for categories you haven't hit yet, and take those to your supervisor when you have discussions and reviews. If you tell him you've never done a test report but would like to, he might very well assign you the next test report. Leaders are need to be versatile - understand lots of things. So if you want to be a future leader, do everything. Keep your eye out for challenges and say yes when they come up.

On the other hand, I said, big huge goals are not as helpful. When an intern tells me he wants to be the CEO someday, I'm not entirely sure how to help him with that. Especially if he's not exactly hitting it out the park as an intern! As a manager I don't want to deflate or demoralize anyone, so when somebody has huge goals it makes me more hesitant to be brutally honest with something they need to improve today... unless they tell me directly they want me to be brutally honest, and assure me that they're ready. This doesn't happen as often as it should.

My advice got mixed reviews in the crowd though. One manager said he had exactly that, an intern who wanted to shoot straight to the top, and you know what? This young person did do very well, moved up faster than others, he's a director or something now and his vision really helped.

I realized that a high percentage of CEOs probably did have ambition that other people thought was too strong. Maybe that'll be my question for senior leaders... who were you at age 23?

But does it work the other way? A high percentage of CEOs have ambition, but do a high percentage of 23 year-olds with ambition become great leaders?

I was ambitious but not in a "I want to climb to the top" way. I wanted to earn respect, I wanted to be the go-to, I wanted my coworkers to think I was smart. At some point along the way, about 5-10 years in, I started asking about leading people.

Where's the balance? Do I sound like a "dang kids get off my lawn" kind of fogey if I tell new hires to calm it down and do next week's job first? When is ambition healthy, and when does it annoyingly get in the way?


got my wisdom teeth out

Thursday I finally got my wisdom teeth out.

On previous episode's of spacefem's livejournal: I only have top wisdom teeth, they came in just fine, but every dentist I've ever had has told me to have them removed. I fought it as along as I could and I guess I finally gave up. February they found a cavity in one and referred me to an oral surgeon. I ignored it. Six months later they showed me the x-rays again how the cavity was clearly getting bigger. With no bottom teeth the top ones were kinda falling out of my face anyway, creating gaps that they said would be an even bigger problem.

So Thursday morning I woke up early to give Josie a few dollars for losing second front tooth. That kid's been losing teeth like crazy lately.

I am literally the tooth fairy.

I would get no dollars. I should have asked for my teeth, put them under my pillow, given myself the money. Or asked Josie to do it. That'd be weird.

Related favorite link... watch this animation of how people grow teeth. It's creepy. It shows wisdom teeth growing in perfectly, and being perfectly normal. http://imgur.com/0RuE23o

Anyway back to August. The dentist was like "seriously get these out" so I made an appointment, rescheduled it, rescheduled it, rescheduled it... apparently this surgery place isn't busy because they only pushed me out a few weeks every time I couldn't make it. I didn't want to be in pain the first time I met my stepdaughter, I won a Toastmasters speech contest and wanted to be in good shape for the next one, big deadline at work... reasons kept popping up.

Finally October 6th I could think of no good reason to not do it so I went in.

The dentist said the procedure would take about 20 minutes and he was right. 19 minutes of getting me numb and gassed up. The gas made me relaxed but also philosophical and chatty. I thought about telling them I was the tooth fairy. I talked about car insurance. We talked about cancer because it had been a bad day in the office, and cancer is on my mind, they had to diagnose two cancer cases and it made me feel bad that I was so worked up and stressful over my silly two teeth. They were happy to have me. I was simple.

19 minutes of getting numb, 30 seconds maybe for each tooth extraction. It was nothing.

I sat in the waiting room and read and bit on gauze then drove the the pharmacy for my prescriptions... why can't they ever give you those ahead of time to get them filled in advance when you're healthy? I wasn't great. Friday I was off work and sore and weak from not eating. I took one hydrocodone but didn't want to do too much of that so I switched to the 800mg ibuprofen and those worked but I could tell the instant it was time to take a new one.

I must drink coffee but it was mostly ice cream, I had some yogurt and protein shakes and soup that I blended up.

I am not terribly motivated to eat.

But today I'm also not in much pain, haven't needed to take anything, just a little sore. I can't talk normally and it's bothering me. I can't talk as loudly or quickly as I normally do. I'm thinking a lot about my voice - it'll be back, I know, I'm just thinking about how big a part of me my voice is. Especially now with my job. I spend so much time talking to people, running meetings, needing a voice.

With so many airplanes one of my teams said they miss me, they never see me anymore I'm not in the building full time. I told my boss this and his advice was to make sure when I am in the building, I'm with THEM. No sitting in the office with the door open getting work done assuming they'll come in if they need anything - go talk to them, spend all the time in conversations. It was good advice and I noticed the difference. It's also exhausting, because I am a fake extrovert.

How many days can I just sit and observe and not say much? I'm samson with the hair cut. Our voice is where our power comes from. I'd go crazy without it. It hurts my mouth to talk much now but I can do it. I hope it's better soon.


My neighbor passed away. We went to her funeral last week. There were bikers, rock-n-roll music, they laughed about her awesome clothes and quippy comebacks. We miss her. The girls will miss her, she was always sweet to them, she'd watch Olive on her days off just because she loved little kids and her and Olive had quite a bond.

She was a good neighbor.

It was cancer.

Then with her death from cancer I realized I forgot to check up on penguin_emerald...


She did get her last Christmas, but not much more, she died January 9th. She was diagnosed in February 2015, so not even a year...

It's not fair.

the leader who is everyone

in science fiction, the master is always capable of doing everything the apprentices can do, and more. captain picard can hand-fly the enterprise. master yoda can flip around with a light saber. I have found this to not be true. I'm a little sad about it. there was a time when my favorite thing to do at work was to put in my headphones and draw up system schematics all day. I last did that sometime in 2011.

you delegate those tasks when you become a leader, and then you drift away from them. we have whole airplanes drawn up in software that I've never used. I couldn't draw today without training.

why? I run around to meetings all day. I visit buildings in every part of town so I can be the eyes for 14 different models. My job is to think about where we will be six months or 12 months from now. you can't do all that without losing something.

I'm sorry, but captain picard would not be able to fly the enterprise.

entitlement and overflowing trash cans

I walked into a bathroom my first year of college and had to step around a very overflowing trash can. Families moving college students in had grabbed fast food, and if their kid didn't have a personal trash can yet, they found the bathroom trash can, found it to be full, and set their fast food trash and cups around the trash. I was furious. There were dumpsters out back. Most students eventually would get a little trash can for their room, which they'd empty into the dumpster. But these parents and students alike had decided that they deserved to be able to use the first trash can they saw, which happened to be the one in the bathroom. The cleaning staff member who comes in once a day would have to not only take the trash out but pick up all the trash on the floor, too. It would take a while.

Entitlement: "Not should someone pick up my shit, but in special circumstances, on a busy day when the established system doesn't work, someone else should still pick up my shit."

How often do we stop and think about how pampered our lives are, that our trash is magically whisked away to a landfill we never have to think about. That's nice, just by itself. Go camping in the wilderness where you're expected to haul your own trash back home with you in your car... really makes you think about it.

Overflowing trash cans became my pet peeve, forever. Is the trash full? Then take it out. If you can't, then go find another one! Setting your trash next to the trash can is the worst thing you can do. You're a real asshole if you think that's okay. It sends a message that you think someone failed you, they weren't there to take the trash out fast enough so they deserve to be punished. Their punishment is more important than you taking a few more steps to find another place.

The next year at college I was the RA so I was in charge of the floor. I removed all trash cans from the bathroom and hid them for the first three days. It forced people to ask where trash belonged. I told them about the dumpsters outside.

They survived.


spacefem's guide to pokemon go

Figure since I hit level 23 this week and have a 1900 CP Vaporeon, I should write about pokemon go. I'll write it in FAQ format, because I like to be helpful, so if you're not playing this will help you get started.

1) I have a smartphone! Should I play pokemon go?
Nope. It's totally dead now, everybody's over it. You might as well go back to facebook and play farmville.

2) Well I want to try it. What do you do?
Playing is really easy, you just walk around and try to catch virtual rats and pigeons in your neighborhood. Not real rats and pigeons... avoid those. These are in the game, they pop up in phone world, and you throw pokeballs at them to capture them.

3) Then what?
That's it.

3) It takes me 10 pokeballs to catch one effing pigeon, I hate this game.
You go to blue pokestops and spin their circles, then go to the next one, then the next one, and you get free pokeballs so you can keep wasting 10 or 20 on every damn pigeon. Pokestops are next to historical sites and local art installations.

4) That sounds nice. So I get to look at local art?
No, I wouldn't recommend that. You need to look at your phone. If you're looking at the art everyone will know you're there to play pokemon go, because nobody looks at this stuff normally, but they'll think you suck at it and aren't really into the game, or you have attention span issues.

5) Okay, I will stare at my phone. I will be into the game!

6) What happens when I get an egg from a pokestop?
You incubate it by walking around and it hatches a free rat or pigeon. Or you can ride your bike.

7) I heard I can't ride my bike, bikes are too fast so it doesn't think you're walking so it doesn't count towards your eggs hatching.
Oh sorry I forgot, yes... you need to ride your bike with a distracted six-year-old who doesn't like riding in a straight line. You'll make so little progress it thinks you're walking, and you will hatch all kinds of eggs.

8) What's better, the rats or pigeons?
Pigeons since they're easier to evolve... but really it doesn't matter you will hate them both.

9) Everyone is playing this game! When will it be over?
Educational moment, based on conversations overheard in public and in my office today.

In a hurdle race, the point is to get to the end of the finish line first. Hitting a hurdle could slow you down or make you fall, so hurdlers try not to hit the hurdles, unless they're big beefy guys who can run through them without being phased. And you do see that. But generally speaking every hurdle you hit takes away a little bit of momentum so you try to skim the top, don't go high over them and waste energy, don't hit them and waste energy. They are heavy.

There is no "score" penalty for hitting the hurdle or knocking it over. Unless you intentionally do something unsportsmanlike, and that's a separate call. But if you accidently knock into it, even if it goes into the next lane and takes somebody out, you don't get a time deduction. There's no "points", this is not gymnastics, nobody cares about your style, this is track.


advice to interns on their last week

At the beginning of the summer I told you guys to take pictures, and you did right? Even though engineers hate having pictures taken? I know it's awkward. And I know I said we like having photos of interns having a good summer and you probably thought oh, she's trying to look good for HR. Maybe! Maybe.

But there's this picture of me at a test bench in 2005 and I'm really glad it exists. I regret that my group lead was the one taking the picture so he's not in it. He was wonderful. He was my second boss but probably my best and he's retired now. He told me months later that he hand-picked me for the program, he liked to give young people a chance, keep the team small and lean and mean and "give a young lady like yourself a big bite to prove herself". And I did. I specked out a whole crew alerting system in six months and wrote a database to do it and it drove me crazy, then I was the one who had it all in my head so I'd be crouched in the middle of a light jet fuselage plugging a laptop into the 232 data ports under the floorboards surrounded by mechanics, like clowns in a car. I was getting a masters degree. I'd come to work at 6 or 7am, write my reports and do drawings because I couldn't get on the airplane, it was too busy. I'd go to my night class. After class I'd come back to work because the second shift guys were cooler and would let me on the plane easier. I was exhausted! it was terrible.

it was wonderful.

We take pictures of vacations because we're supposed to enjoy them. Work, you get paid for, so you don't have to enjoy it. Why take a photo of a test bench, or a cubicle, or a primer-colored plane with half its panels missing? But I'm saying to do it because when you think back on the times that were wonderful you'll be happy. Even if you're not sure it'll be wonderful, take it just in case.

Okay some of you are rolling your eyes thinking oh sure, she loves this place, but can't it be just a job for us, do I really have to be IN LOVE with a company where all I've had is an internship? It's okay! Not everybody loves it, I'm not saying you will. Hell, some people outright DON'T like it, maybe you'll leave, I don't know. We had a guy spend five years getting an engineering degree, come work here, put in three years and then turn in his notice, he wanted to be a Christian camp councilor. Quite a direction switch, right? I was stumped but I had to hand it to him, he made a call. He didn't stick in this job and make everybody work with a guy who didn't like his job. We are passionate about the things we're good at, get better at the things we're passionate about, that's the cycle you're trying to find your way onto.

We have these annual performance reviews. Engineers groan at them. Just wait. But I think they're important because they're a timestamp, our vain attempt at emulating the semesters that added a page to your transcript. Otherwise there are no transcripts here. What were you doing in 2016? I promise you'll forget. It will all run together.

Back to the photos... here's what really got me. Our project engineer was trying to put together a booklet for a guy who's retiring. 35 years with the company, and he said it's so hard to find any pictures. The guy just quietly loved airplanes for decades and now we want to send him off and we can, that's great, but I wish we had some more evidence.

I love my photos of my childhood, my friends in college, my wedding, my babies, my dog as a puppy, all of that is important. But everybody knows to take those photos. Work is a part of your life that naturally gets segmented off as the thing to not love and not make memories of, you just do it with your head down. It's fine to treat it like that 90% of the time. But once a year or so, take a picture? Especially if it's a boss you like. Or someone who mentored you. Okay yes that's what I'm getting at... the technology in the photo backgrounds is fun to laugh at, the computers behind you, the phone clipped to your side, but the people are what you'll really want to remember.

They say family is important because they're your people. Here you will meet all kinds of people. You won't love them all, that's okay. But I have met some amazing people here. Who'd have thought it? I didn't know I'd make airplanes, in life. I didn't learn about airplanes in college. I learned to love them because I was good at them, I got good at them because I wanted to love what I was doing for a living, otherwise I couldn't do it.

But the people, I loved accidentally. And I didn't realize it when they were here, some of them, they moved on and there are just thumbprints.

my first supervisor told me that cream rises to the top. it didn't matter what decisions I made, he said, I would succeed here, he said "your career will accelerate one day at a pace that makes even you uncomfortable". it echoed in my head when I became a manager.

I think about him all the time because he was right. It does go too fast. but now I'm realizing, not just the career. it was everything.


average day in the life of an engineer

I got a message lately from someone who was thinking of going into engineering but not sure what we do, exactly, what an average day is like for an engineer. I couldn't find where I'd written about this and was kicking myself because oh man, outreach 101 if you want to get kids to go into engineering you're supposed to help them visualize what the hell it IS. People don't know, we're trying to lift the curtain. Haven't I written about this before? What I do? Well not for a while I guess. So, heck! Okay, here goes...

First challenge is that there is no average day for my job. There is no average month or average year. That's part of what I like about it - I've moved around in the company a LOT. Technically I'm doing a time warp for this entry anyway, I'm a manager, I spend a much higher percentage of my time in meetings and I do not do any design work, but I thought it'd be more helpful to pretend I'm still a 3-5 year experience engineer, for this entry.

Here are some things I've done.

The "day" depends on program phase. If we're making a huge big new airplane we'll spend weeks at a time doing design, weeks doing testing, weeks writing reports. Once it's being cranked out on a production line we have all these random little improvements we're doing so in one day you'll do a little of everything and juggle as best you can... every hour something different. I've spent more time in "every hour is different" mode than "every month is different" mode, that's for sure. Here are the tasks:

Design: Using computer programs that I'd never heard of before I came to work here, I lay out system wiring diagrams for airplanes. We identify a component we need, then read installation manuals and sensor specs. If one box says it needs to know airspeed on a data bus, we find the other box that puts OUT airspeed on the data bus, and produce a diagram that shows them wired together, with all the disconnects needed to make airplane building easier... for example you would not want to run a wire all the way from the wingtip light straight back to the tail. We build the wing, run all the wires to one connector, so when they mate the wing to the fuselage there's just one plug to plug in. My drawing shows that.

Sitting with headphones on, drawing the diagrams, getting everything to make sense and be pretty and readable, I spent several years where that was a good chunk of my job.

Of course, that's systems integration... a lot of electrical engineers do component level, lay out PC board stuff, don't ask how I went into systems, I think it was an accident. That's the story with a good 80% of my career circumstances, it all just happened.

Testing: You know how the system works. Write a test for it. Get with the "official" people and run the test in front of them and get all the paperwork done that says you ran it for that fancy report you're writing. Sometimes you're in a lab, sometimes you're on an airplane. It's never happened at my desk. Actually I will say there's so much involved in getting the paperwork in order for an official test, that when you're testing you're testing, that is your day, no matter what phase of a program you're on.

Certification: We write reports. We have a list of federal regulations, we copy every one, we write down why we're good on it. For instance, here's a rule that says you have to make warning lights red. Our job is to prove we met it... was there a test, or can you just see from the engineering drawing, or both? On new experimental programs I spent weeks at a time when I spent 70% or so of my day working on these reports. I know you're thinking that this must be a special activity for engineers who work on airplanes, but it's also for engineers who make big structures and meet construction requirements, engineers who make medical devices and have to prove they're healthy, in fact I don't personally know any engineers who don't have to prove themselves to the government in some way or another, or at least to some industry group like UL. We type, draw pictures, dig for information, state cases, review each other's reports for checking.

Troubleshooting: The technicians plugged everything in just like you said and the fuel level doesn't show anything, what's wrong! You're getting a call, go down to the line. There are whole days you spend on the airplane.

Meetings: As a new engineer I had meetings 2-3 times a week. Now it's 3-5 times a day... but ugh, whatever, lots of meetings. Get everybody's opinions on your design, talk about the status of things, learn what's next for the group, hear what everybody has learned, there are meetings.

Phone calls and emails: The more you do the more you're the one who understands it the more calls you get. From the sales people, the marketing department, the program managers, everybody. I have no quiet days. If I ever have a quiet day I know better than to brag about it because it will bring on the curse of tomorrow being "LET'S ALL CALL SPACEFEM" day. The random questions come every day, from everywhere. I will sometimes go a day without getting a call to troubleshoot an airplane. I will NEVER have a day where I'm not digging up some answer.

Process improvements: My big company means there lots of options for streamlining things, introducing new software, writing down best practices, holding training classes. I spent a whole year where I left my avionics engineering department to work as an IT liason for engineering.

Organizing nacho day: sometimes we need a spreadsheet for a potluck, just sayin'. Or we have to decide where to go out for lunch of Friday. Office stuff. We have departments of 5-15 people and we get very close and like each other and try to have fun.

So that's it. It would be very normal for an engineer to spend 4-6 hours drawing diagrams and writing reports, 1-2 hours in meetings, 2-3 hours troubleshooting, researching, and seeing how things are going on the airplane. That would be a typical day.

Final interesting note: I didn't learn how to do any of this in college, so if this isn't what you're taking in classes, fear not. There'd be no reason to learn how we write certification reports... just learn to write. No reason to learn to test every specific kind of potentiometer setup in existence, just learn how to run a voltmeter. My dad used to say that a college degree proves you are educatable. True. It also shows you can commit to something - you won't leave a job in six months if you spent four years getting the degree for it, so you're someone we're okay training for all the big crazy stuff going on with our industry. Don't sweat it. Good engineers don't know everything. We're just gritty, scrappy, ready to learn, unlikely to break down if something goes a little weird, interested in blinky lights, and for best results... not assholes. There, you have my recipe for success at this. Go study.

Cleaning out the office fridge

Back in good economic times, my company used to have lots of administrative assistants and the nice ones would clean out refrigerators when things got bad. They didn't love this, it wasn't their job, but the mess bothered them and they didn't feel like it was totally beneath them to do it. Sometimes there were passive-aggressive signs involved about how "your mother doesn't work here, claim your food!" Then there'd be a sign that said, "Everything in this fridge will be thrown out Friday afternoon!" Then the admin would go to work Friday, spending a day throwing out old food, washing out people's tupperware and glassware and setting it on a table to be claimed, scrubbing the shelves down. The fridge would be sparkling.

Well we don't have those people anymore so the fridges filled up with crap and I recently moved to a new building and had no place to put my lunch. It was shoved full like a slidelock puzzle. And to be honest, it smelled so terrible I didn't think I'd want my food in there anyway.

I also didn't have a Friday afternoon to sacrifice and I am even FURTHER from being everyone's mother.

But I could spend five minutes a day improving things. So that's why I've started my gradual fridge cleanout program. Nobody knows it's me. Here's how I do it.

1) Find out when the trash gets taken out. Let's pretend it's Wednesday AM. So you're going to plan your cleanup for a Tuesday afternoon - you want to throw stuff out after lunch, obviously, to avoid accidentally tossing out somebody's lunch.

2) Make a bunch of labels with Monday's date and "this will be thrown out August 11 if it's not claimed". Mailing labels work best for this, not post-its. Tape also works but it's a pain to write on. Give people a nice solid week to claim their stuff. Don't worry, they won't. Don't sticker a million things at once. Go for, like, six big things. Volume is the goal, clear out whatever is taking up the most room.

3) On Tuesday, make your move. Throw the stuff out. While you're in there you'll probably find some other gems - expired yogurt, shriveled old oranges, those will make you feel good to throw away also. Yes, you are probably tossing perfectly good tupperware. Who gives a shit.

Nice lunch bags, I spare. I still sticker them but rather than toss out the whole insulated bag, I just unzip them, empty the contents, and set them on the table next to the fridge.

4) Go wash your hands.

5) Wait a week. Lurk. Repeat the process.

Slowly over time, the fridge will have room in it. Maybe the shelves don't get scrubbed, maybe there's still a scary yogurt from 2014 lurking back in there, but life is about baby steps. There is now a 6x6" square for me to put my lunch now. I feel pretty good about that. And no giant passive-aggressive signs for everyone to ignore and scoff at! Win.

Ordering pizza for engineers

I need to stop re-asking people about their favorite pizza every time when I order for large groups, the ratios don't change that much. So for the record, here are the answers to the vague "What's your favorite pizza?" question, when asked to a department of mostly electrical engineers (with some mechanical - it's hard to say if this messes up the sample).

Combo meat29%
Hawaiian 8%

Other answers include: Taco, hamburger, spinach, green olive, mushroom, veggie.

I'm the one who said veggie.

friday 5

this week's questions...

1. Would you ever go "under the knife" (or laser, or dental pick) for cosmetic purposes? What and why, and would it really be worth it?

I kinda did when I got my front teeth fixed. The only issue with that bonding was a stain nobody but me noticed and this tiny chip, and the threat that bonding isn't meant to be permanent anyway. I got porcelain veneers. Kinda vain maybe.

I've said I will never get a facelift or any anti-aging cosmetic surgery. A lot of people aren't lucky enough to grow old. Others aren't lucky enough to see their loved ones grow old. I want people to see me grow old and I want to be proud.

2. Describe your dream home, including location, design, and who/what’s in there with you.

I'm getting closer and closer to wanting to pitch all this junk and live in a tiny house. It'd need two bathrooms, is all.

I could easily go back to apartment life, if I had cool neighbors. You need someplace with character to have cool neighbors. Living in old town was pretty darn close to perfect, just not for the kids.

3. You have one month to travel the world, all expenses paid. Where do you go and what do you do once you arrive?

That's two questions. And wait, the last question was five questions! This set is shenanigans. I'm not answering this.

4. What scares the bloody heck out of you? Would you face it down if someone paid you? What’s your price?

Angry person with a loaded gun. Fuck no at any price.

5. You’re stranded on an island. What five simple items do you have with you? How do you survive? Anyone in particular you’d like to be stranded with? What would they bring to the table?

THAT'S EIGHT QUESTIONS in one question! Friday 5 do not test my patience! I would obviously bring my husband, the skill he'd provide would be optimism. For my items I would bring:

1) A warm blanket
2) Magnifying glass to start fires
3) Laptop and satellite internet terminal
4) Hatchet
5) Tent, air mattress, air pump, generator, library, wine distillery, airplane for escaping

SEE friday five, two can play this game!
I read that IKEA is recalling dressers because people don't anchor them to walls and the dressers fall over and crush little kids, and wanted to write this post about my feelings, and I hope it gets shared a bit.

The IKEA recall is a step, but recalls aren't 100% complied with and IKEA is only one company. The page Meghan's Hope reported this year that 70 kids a DAY are injured or even killed by falling furniture. The founders of Safe and Sound with Amaya said in an interview that a fatal accident occurs every 9-11 days. Similar statistics get posted in places like Kate's Foundation for Child Safety, Brace It For Brayden, Curren Collas Our Blue Eyed Hero... on and on and on.

It's not just IKEA furniture - it's everybody's furniture, dressers, shelves, TVs. How many of you know a family that experienced one of these accidents? And from what I've read, the injuries could have been prevented by just securing furniture to a wall so it wouldn't tip over.

A few years ago I read another sad toddler death story on Facebook, looked around, and realized that I had furniture anchor kits just laying around in the dresser drawers they came with, doing no good. I also looked at my nutball acrobat of a 2yo and realized she was definitely a candidate to be the next Facebook memorial page. So I stood up. I got my drill and a stud finder, went around and secured everything I could find in the house.

Are my kiddos 100% safe in the world now? Oh gosh no! The world is scary and dang it these kids have no sense of self-preservation, I am still worried sick! But at least I did one little easy thing to make them less likely to be killed by falling furniture.

What was stopping me?

I thought I might want to rearrange the furniture someday.

Didn't feel like looking for the drill.

I was on Facebook.

I wondered if my husband could get around to it.

Those excuses might sound funny and relatable but if an accident happened, and I was in the ER with my baby, THEN which of those excuses would make sense?


So here's my campaign: I don't want anything to stop any of my friends from having furniture secured to the wall. Need a drill? Borrow mine! Not handy? I can help you! Can't make the time? Let's set an appointment together to hold each other accountable! I'll bring the hardware, you bring the chardonnay, it's a date! I am not a professional childproofer. But DIY wall anchors have been shown to prevent accidents so let's take this step together as a start, shall we?

As moms we talk about all kinds of things. We know which of our friends breastfed for two years, who feeds their kid all organic foods, who will lend us a Baby Bjorn to compare to our Ergo. But when do we sit around the table and ask who's got their cordless screwdriver charged up to anchor some furniture while we're thinking about it? If we're going to give each other advice, how about we start with the important stuff?

TELL YOUR FRIENDS if you are also willing to help them anchor furniture. You don't have to be an expert. You don't even have to do it for them, if you're not liability-proof-confident in your skills, maybe just put the offer out there that they can borrow your tools or you'll professionally BUG them to do it, that's something! I just want to talk about it and knock down everybody's excuses. No more hurt babies, okay? Help each other! Concerned citizens with drills and screwdrivers, visit your neighbors, share the tools, open the dialog and help each other out.

garage doors - call a person!

Edit: Entry was titled "Call a guy" - I want to emphasize that a male or female could be qualified to fix a garage door and I would not worry about the gender of the professional sent to repair my house in any case.

Marc and I have been trying to fix stuff ourselves lately, inspired by the makerspace culture of DIY, attempt the unknown! this includes stuff around the house.

Cue the soundtrack for this entry: Weird Al's I'm so handy

Our garage door has always sounded a little weird and then Marc bumped it with the car, sending it off track and part of it just hanging down precariously, definitely not moving up and down when we hit the button. So we spent two mornings working in the heat trying to get the damn thing snapped back in. The pins that hold it to the track were impossible. We almost died, separately, but frequently. The door was heavy and one person would hold it while the other tried to re-coil these tense wires around broken drums.

Finally on day 3 Marc said fuck it and called a guy.

So the guy came out, replaced the broken spindle thing that we were trying to make work, re-set everything in its tracks, lubricated appropriately, and now the garage door is FANTASTIC! For, like, $160 or something stupid like that? Now when we hit the button the door not only moves up and down, but it doesn't sound like someone throwing a garage door down the stairs, it was weird to us since it's always sounded questionable but suddenly... professional!

I was so happy I started telling people that we should have called a professional out sooner and a few coworkers were like yeah, actually, these things are freaking dangerous to work on. I googled and yes, there are many many injuries every year from garage doors. Who knew!

So that's the PSA of the week - even if you're an ambitious DIY-er, maybe a garage door is too much for you. Don't lose an arm or a head or whatever you can lose. It's okay, you're still tough.


gun people

I unfriended a guy on facebook last week after he posted about wanting to make sure he could get an AR-15 before they were banned. His friends were commenting in support. Hell of a priority to have the day after 50 people are killed in an Orlando nightclub, right?

I am no longer a good freedom-loving libertarian on the issue of gun rights. I don't trust gun people anymore. Sorry. I am convinced that their priorities are totally out of whack, that they care passionately about their guns and their "rights" but do not give two shits about safety. If gun people cared about safety, why would there be 12,000 non-suicide gun deaths in the US every year?

Where I work in the factory, we have this philosophy about safety: that for every actual injury, there were near-miss incidents that should have clued us in and made us change something. So we obsess about every near-miss or close injury or minor injury. Even if you get a bad paper cut and go to health services for a band-aid it's a "recordable injury" and taken very seriously. If an actual death were to occur? We would not shrug it off as an accident, we'd start going back through the records of all those minor things that could have POSSIBLY told us we were going down the wrong path. It's the famous OSHA safety pyramid.

So pretend for a moment that a toddler finds a gun and shoots herself. The gun was kept loaded, and not locked up. This fatality is the top of the pyramid. Then we'd ask ourselves if there were other gun injuries in the news lately... yup. Then we'd look at property damage and accidental shootings that don't injure a person.

According to the pyramid, you multiply your near-misses by some factor, 20 or 50 or 100 depending on the data, and you get the number for "at risk unsafe behavior". In other words for every one toddler who accidentally shoots herself there are hundreds of loaded guns in this country now that were, luckily, left alone today. But maybe not tomorrow.

Where is the evidence that gun owners are being safe?

Why should I trust them?

Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon that can kill 50 people at one event?

Sometime if you want to feel terrible, click around the Everytown map of gun deaths in the US. They happen almost every day. I almost reposted one but didn't want to ruin anyone's morning because they are horrible.

Instead I just unfriended the guy. I don't want my kids playing at his house ever again, even though all our daughters are friends. I told my husband we needed to "distance ourselves" and he agreed. It is obvious to me, from the statistics, we have too many guns in the population of America. So even if these accidental deaths are not all mass shootings, I think we should TRY reducing the number of guns as an ATTEMPT to limit the mass shootings, right?

Guns are doing more harm than good and I don't trust anyone who fools themselves into thinking otherwise.
I was invited to come visit a summer camp sort of program for 5th-7th grade girls. There were eight of us women who were in engineering or science, and eight tables of girls, and every 10 minutes we switched and talked to a different group. They were pre-assigned to ask us questions about engineering.

Here's a composite of some of my table conversations.

Spacefem: Hey girls how are you doing? Having fun?

Girls: Yeah!

Spacefem: So I'm an avionics and electrical engineer. All the displays you see in the front of an airplane? I figure out how to make that work!

Girl 1: Oooh do you know my uncle? Dave Smith! He works at the same place you work.

Spacefem: Is he an engineer?

Girl 1: He makes the PARTS for the airplane.

Spacefem: That's, uh, not very specific... I don't know him, sorry, but there are 8,000 people who work at my company so it's hard to know everybody.

Girl 2: What about Bob... uh... I forget his last name! But he's my neighbor!

Spacefem: Sorry, no... do any of you have questions for me?

Girl 3: I do! How can I be a veterinarian?

Spacefem: That's not really... well, you'll have to learn a lot about science and biology and how bodies work. Do you like science?

Girl 3: I like science experiments. But I don't really care why they work.

Spacefem: Well veterinarians have to know why things happen so you'll know how to treat animals. And really, it's not that great a job if you LOVE animals, you know that right? It's not just playing with puppies all day? People only bring you their animals if they're sick. You don't see cute animals, you see animals throwing up on you or pooping everywhere.

Girl 4: I want to be a veterinarian too! But I heard you have to neuter dogs! And I've never even seen a naked boy before!

Girl 5: I've seen a naked boy!

(all girls ask me if I've seen a naked boy)

Spacefem: Um... did anyone have any more questions about electrical engineering?

Girl 6: Is there anything else you wanted to be when you were a kid?

Spacefem: Oh sure, lots of things, actually I had no idea what I wanted to be. I thought maybe an architect because I liked to draw pictures of buildings and things. But it turns out that's a really competitive field.

Girl 7: If you could change jobs what would you change to?

Spacefem: I don't know, I really like my job. Maybe I wouldn't make airplanes. Electrical engineers make lots of stuff, like medical devices, that's really popular, we make pacemakers for people to keep their hearts working. Or robot arms for people whose arms get cut off.

Girl 8: Do you cut people's arms off?

Spacefem: Um, no. I mean in accidents, people get hurt, we help them!

Girl 1: What part of the airplane do you make?

Spacefem: Well I don't make any part really, I draw pictures that tell technicians what to hook up. All those antennas you see, they have to go to the right radio.

Girl 2: I went on an airplane once! There was a storm and we got stuck in Orlando.

Facilitator lady: And... time to switch tables! Great job, hope everyone learned a lot from talking to the engineers!

Girl 8: Wait I didn't get to ask my question! Can I be a fashion designer engineer?

Spacefem: Sure.


I forgot what summer was like. It only took a day to remind me though. I wish our brains were better at recalling memories, I'm all the time wishing I could close my eyes in the winter and bring up a feeling like it's summer, just for a break. I could even swap days around, in August when it gets exhausting I could just say let's store this one for later and not experience it too much right now, swap it with a cozy february on the sofa.

The kids alternate between wearing swimsuits and wearing nothing. Olive especially. Age 3 - she just wants to constantly put on a swimsuit in case swimming could spontaneously break out. We have the plastic kiddie pool out back, and Marc takes them to the YMCA pool a couple times a week.

Olive even got up one night after she was changed for bed, took off her jammies, put on a swimsuit, and that's how we found her the next morning.

The kids are protected by a layer of dirt, sunscreen and bug spray, and more dirt, at all times. We have a bath every other day or so to re-start the layers. If we didn't do that they'd get rings like a tree.

There's no school so we stopped caring about bedtime. If they want to have a sister sleepover in the basement in their playhouse with blankets, whatever. We can't hear them down there.

I get home from work and change into a skirt and tank top, sit out back with a glass of chardonnay and watch the kids or work in the garage. We get invited to friends houses for dinners and I'm still outside in a skirt and tank top with someone else's chardonay and the only thing that's changed is the yard, and only barely. The TV isn't on as much unless we really need to come in from the heat and relax.

More outside time, less caring about plans, more late meals, more going to visit friends, there's so much it can feel exhausting and we have to remind ourselves we've got three whole months.

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November 2016


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