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Spacefem's guild to Pokemon Go - updated!

You ever watch The Guild, the Felicia Day youtube classic about a group of gamers who decided to meet IRL and realize they are VERY different? I can't believe that everyone playing Pokemon Go hasn't seen it, I was amazed, like you guys, I finally understand that whole show. But I was the only one who'd see it because of course, we have nothing in common except this game!

In Pokemon Go, you can take down an enemy team's level 10 gym in four minutes with the right number of people, so it makes meetups very fun. And you constantly need to know who else has trained up your team's gyms for open spots. You can't easily see where the action is around the city. So we started up chat groups using facebook messenger, and it goes like that, constantly, updates when someone finds a high up gym worth training in to. I had to turn vibrations off on my phone, the chat groups got so active, so now the notifications just show up on my screen, all day and night people taking down gyms, training up gyms, complaining about losing gyms and asking who wants to meet up to make the gym takeovers faster.

I actually started playing pokemon go because I heard it brought people together and I am interested in anything that increases social capital and gets different people talking together, so I was very enthusiastic about diving into the social aspect. I picked the yellow team, Instinct, on accident, but it turns out that's a great team for social gaming because we're the minority/losing team and really need each other to make the game work. We're an odd lot, team instinct. A lady I met who I refer to as our pokemon encyclopedia said that the true fans of the game will choose instinct because we like a challenge. I didn't tell her that I picked it because the interns at work played a joke on me and said it was the cool team, and now I can't switch.

Characters, if I was to make my team into a sitcom...

Me: The totally normal one, except for my constant threats to quit the game because it's a waste of time.

The pokemon encyclopedia: She's played every version of every pokemon game and has the type matchups memorized for quick access. Quote: "Finally all those hours I spent when I was ten are going for something useful!" My reply: "Useful might be stretching it... but sure. Thanks. What should I use against this pinsir again?"

The older guy: Has such a high-profile job we are shocked that he plays but he goes HARD and buys the first round of drinks and most lures at the bar. Somehow has a giant fleet of dragons and will take down a level 10 enemy gym by himself, especially if he's been off on an exotic vacation and arrives home to find one we let one of his favorite gyms go.

The older lady: Fitness enthusiast, nurturing, mentors the teens who want to join in. really obsessed with dragonball z. shocked that we're not. (again, differences).

The transitioner: Definitely moving out of this city soon so isn't taking his job too seriously and plays until 2AM. Shares tips on avoiding nighttime security.

The persistent neighborhood defender: Will take and retake the same region of gyms every night for three months. Knows which enemy team is trying to re-take because he's memorized the cars they all drive.

The morning commuter: Can never go out because he's got to get his kids in bed, but he's here first with the report of what happened overnight. Retakes 3-7 low-level gyms every day on the way to work.

The college student: Will go to any meetup, but will ask for a ride at the last minute.

The quiet guy: Will meet you to help train up and make a spot. Has a bike in his car at all times in case the location calls for it. Forgets to mention that a gym is located in a mosquito-infested swamp because it didn't really bother him.

The quiet girl: Calmly shows up in the background of meetups, doesn't say too much in chat about what's going on, but holy crap she's in EVERY gym in every corner of the damn city with a 2800 vaporeon. Enemy team posted in the city facebook group that she's got to be a guy, and we just say sure.

This concludes the ten people you will need to hold a gym for a while. Assemble your team and have fun.


laser cutter classes

Last year I started teaching laser cutter classes at the local makerspace. Our laser cutter requires authorization to use, even if you're a member, and we were way behind on getting classes set up and new members were frustrated, so I suggested that we set up a simple cadence. The class is held every three weeks and alternates between Tuesday, Saturday, Thursday, Sundays. It fills up fast.

The basic presentation portion is easy - how the laser cutter works, safety tips, unsubtle encouragement to use the nearby fire extinguisher if your project takes a turn for the worst.

Then comes the project portion of the class. We want everyone to create a vector art file - we start with sample shapes on a wiki page, they download the sample shape of their choice and open it in inkscape, add their name, save as an autocad file and import into the software that talks to the laser cutter.

This is unbelievably difficult. It was important to me that people do a project, but taking a slice of the general population through a basic file setup in inkscape is very rough. In every class I'm bound to have some bored looking college students who do not find this hard at all, so they wander off and play with the software and miss steps. Then I've got some people who seem to have barely used a mouse, I get them to a web page and tell them to right-click on an image to save it and they are lost. What's worst, I learned that I have to walk around the classroom and check on everybody, because nobody ever tells me they're lost until they're 12 steps behind and I spend 20 minutes with them personally trying to get them to catch up.

I've improved the class this year to make it only last two hours...

1) Made a printed handout of all the steps and icons we'd use so I could yell "I am on step 3! Is everyone on step 3?"

2) Encouraged people to spy on their neighbors to make sure we're all on the same step, since we've all got to get there together. This didn't work like I hoped. It basically didn't work at all.

3) Limited class size to only 6 people. A sadly low number, given how fast the class fills up.

4) I always have someone in the class run the up front projector computer so I can walk around. This can be intimidating to people. I joke that I make the latest person to the class do it, as punishment. But as I explain, if I'm doing the computer stuff I get way too excited and move too fast and people get lost.

5) We tried offering a "daily computer user" class and separate "computer novice" class... no one signed up for the novice class.

Smaller class size had the biggest effect, because the more people are in the class, the higher the odds of having a computer novice in there who required personal attention.

Teaching the class has also made me a crazy person now because when I teach classes at work, I am very slow. I tell people to find File > Open and then say "DID EVERYONE FIND THAT? STOP AND CHECK YOUR NEIGHBOR!" and all these engineers are looking at me like I'm trying to teach them the ABCs.

I still enjoy teaching it. It's relaxing. And it's made me known in the makerspace, since I've taught lots of people the laser cutter.

Just have to keep improving.

pants pockets

Since I do whatever I want, I'm going to just answer one of the thefridayfive
questions from this week:

2. Do you like pants pockets and what do you tend to put in them?

Oh my gosh yes. I love pants pockets. I love all pockets.

I hate how many women's slacks do not have pockets. It's almost a killer for me, but since I'm a weird size and it's hard to find pants, sometimes I can't be that picky. If I was a normal woman of average height who could buy pants anywhere, I would only buy pants with pockets. If I do somehow find two pairs of pants that both mostly fit, and one pair has pockets, that will be the deciding factor.

Some geeky sites are coming out with skirts and dresses that have pockets. I support this 100%.

For best results, the pockets are big enough to fit my iphone5.

I have not upgraded to an iphone6, mostly because it's bigger, so it doesn't fit as nicely into my pockets.

I heard they came out with a 6SE that's closer to the iphone5 in size. I'm considering it.

I must have chap stick in my pockets all the time. I also frequently have spare change, scraps of paper with notes, and tissues.

I guess I'd like to carry a pocket knife but I'd need like a dozen of them like I have chapsticks so I don't. I have a swiss card in my bag all the time - It's like a swiss army knife, but credit card size. It's really nice. I also do have some pocket knives in various purses. When it comes to pocket knives, they have to have the tiny scissors.

This concludes this very important entry. Thanks!



you know what really encourages minimalism? when your sweet neighbor lady dies of cancer, and you see the family spend days going through her stuff and taking out a few carloads of things. then they sigh, realize it's too much, and hire a company to just clean it out, and everything starts going out in dumpsters. they're on the third load of semi-truck sized dumpsters just all going away. this has been our break, negotiating with the truck drivers to back out of our shared driveway when they're idling there waiting for the dumpster to get straightened out enough to put a tarp over it.

some of it is still good stuff. we claimed a jar of marbles, a chiefs license plate, a pair of binoculars and two sets of shelves for our garage.

some of it is still good stuff but we don't need it so like everyone on the street, we've gone numb to the sheer amount going into a landfill this week. wobbly side tables, vases, rugs, throw pillows, framed pictures.

In the midst of this we went to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) thrift store down the street because we were out of wine glasses again, we broke some. Wine glasses that end up at DAV are old, sturdy, and narrow... think slightly shorter champagne glasses with fat stems. They're from the days when wine drinkers drank sparingly because there weren't as many $10 sales on 1.5L yellow tail. We were standing in line and a lady behind us was lamenting that she likes the big fishbowl shaped ones, can't find those for 45 cents at a thrift store, I don't blame her but also just don't feel like buying new.

I see thrift store trips as the best we can do to make up for America. It's a drop in the bucket, it doesn't make up for dumpsters of stuff, but it's something.

I freecycled a toddler bed and today we're going to clear off a whole table to freecycle it too, with the four chairs it comes with. Sometimes I thought I might like it but I just realized that someday, I will be like my neighbor, we all will, we're all mortal, and our stuff can't be organized, someone just wants it out of the house. Everything I like will be in a dumpster. That's the end destination. If I can take the time now to find it a home where it'll be used, I am doing my family a favor. And I'm preventing someone else from buying a new thing from a factory that it cranking out more stuff, all bound for dumpsters. I'll turn into a minimalist in a heartbeat, easy, and never look back.

2017 Resolutions

You guys, my resolutions this year... the WORST. This is an annual entry and usually I'll mark down a few good ideas for resolutions but I am in a strange time right now, a very strange time.

First let's review the 2016 new years resolutions...

1) Reduce my mail. This is impossible! You can mark your junk mail "return to sender" but unless it's sent first class mail, and it never is, they don't get return service, so it doesn't matter. They don't care. I also noticed that a lot of my mail is charity receipts - you donate electronically, they have to mail you a paper receipt. What the crap! Junk mail is a constant whack-a-mole game, you get off one catalog mailing list, turn around and you're on another one. I don't get it.

2) Go for walks, at least three times a day. Actually I did a good job of this, partially out of determination, partially for pokemon. In fact seeing that this was a resolution is nice because now I don't feel guilty for trying to hatch pokemon eggs.

3) Food journal. Still a good idea, but when I failed to be home on time for family dinner for three months straight due to work, all food intentions went to hell. I was constantly a day behind on meals, always eating last night's leftovers, and had no part to play in the decision process about what we'd eat.

4) Visit every Little Free Library in Wichita. I was a Little Free Library warrior this year. I kicked ass. There are 40-some in Wichita, and I've been to them all. At times this required a lot of organization, so go me for hitting it. I even made a printable crawl map for our facebook page so the whole community could keep books rotating through our LFL system. I am so awesome.

5) Mail cards. Oops. Forgot.

6) Book list: banned books. I actually got on these and read most of my list.

I loved these, please everyone read them:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

These were young adult fiction and okay, read if you want:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

I did not get around to reading The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. I think I'm afraid of reading Toni Morrison.

7) Snack on carrots instead of chocolate. I was bad at this, especially when work got crazy. I lived on coffee and hot pockets.


And now for my confession: I have no idea how to do good in 2017. How to make myself better, how to make the world better. I'm in a dark place. I'm in survival mode.

We're about to have an awful, awful president with a congress to match. They're going to repeal obamacare. Your insurance company can end your coverage at any time for anything they deem is a "pre-existing condition". There will be lifetime maximum coverage, god help you if you have a premature baby who eats up your lifetime max, I guess you're just done. When you graduate college, you're off your parents insurance. This guy is in it for the money.

The economy is not going to improve. We have experimented with this in Kansas - eliminate small business taxes so business owners can grow wealth, and hope for the best. It didn't work. It never does. This is why I am scrambling. This is why I work 18 hour days. We have to hustle and be aggressive just to get by. Make a rich guy ten times as wealthy, he doesn't buy ten times as many pants, or shoes, or airplanes. There's no trickling down.

There's no money for schools. In Wichita, they extended the school day so they could have fewer days in the year. It's almost 5:00 when Josie gets out of school. Combined with my new work schedule of barely seeing the kids before bedtime, it's like we're all just extended. That's Kansas. That's going to be the world.

How are we supposed to make new years resolutions?

Hold up inside and don't go out. Keep your head down at work. Say yes to the people in power, get in on their side and secretly do what you can. Protect your people. Tell the young guys that it's all okay, nothing to see here, find the fun, isn't this fun? There's no screaming at the top, no. You're safe. Fight from the inside. Be in the inside. Don't look back.

There will be no march on washington from me, friends. I am playing the game on all fronts.

2016 Year in Review

I always do this entry on the last day of the year in case anyone missed anything going on in my life, and re-cap my popular entries (according to google). Usually it's month-by-month. I'll try.

January - Social Capital is an important word to me this year, it's about how connected you are with your community. Entry of the month is The World Needs Joiners Too about how you should join an organization before trying to start up your own. This was really inspired by a book I read in 2015, Bowling Alone. This year I found more and more ways to apply things I learned by the ideas I got in that book.

February - As my career has gotten more complicated I'm growing more and more reflective about what leaders need to do. One of those things is my go-to methods for handling beat up meetings when I'm being challenged to do more with limited resources. I tried passing this on at work, some people really appreciated it, others just want to keep fighting and being defensive. I have thoughts on this too. Tune in next year.

March - Marc did a good thing and made a locator site for Little Free Libraries. We planted a lot of LFLs this year! It was a fun spring/summer project. We run a city-wide facebook page for Wichita too, and enjoyed lots of exposure and people sharing the love from that... posts that reached well into the 5000 range, good publicity for new libraries.

April - Tried and failed to each my 6 year old about toy fads. She is not a minimalist yet.

May - Josie learned to ride her bike without training wheels. She picked it up like she was born to do it, and we spent the rest of the summer on bike rides. Sometimes on quiet bike paths, sometimes off to shops for ice cream, she's a pro.

June - Tried talking to 5th grade girls at a STEM event that went hilariously.

July - Repeated the class I teach to our summer interns, once a week trying to help them transition to be real engineers. It's become my favorite thing to do and a luxury, something that's so fun I can't believe I get paid for it, so I hope I can still find the time for it in future years.

August - I got way into Pokemon Go. It's a great game, I'm one of the few and proud still playing and it's only gotten better as I've met more people because you have to get in with your team to be successful at the higher levels. I'll have to write about it sometime.

September - Fall career fair recruiting at colleges. Interviews, resume reviews, looking out for next year's engineer rock stars.

October - After YEARS of putting it off I finally got my wisdom teeth out. It took five minutes. I was awake, just numbed up. Recovery involved a weekend of not talking, which was really hard for me, and then a month of eating lots of soup. I lost some weight.

November - Airplane I was working on got full-on crazy, with high tensions, 24x7 support, I worked every single day except Thanksgiving day when they made us take just the one Thursday off. Gave me a lot to think about. Also there was a presidential election.

December - Airplane flew by Christmas, barely. We got a week off. I was determined to stay productive and did. The night before first flight was one last classic work until 11PM, because of course. There are some cool things about a project like this. There are some not cool things. We'll see how it goes next year, if we're all just right back into it.

this week's fixes

I had this ambitious list of things to do when I finally got a day off from work. Yesterday I was down with a cold and Marc was running around so I took it easy, did some organizing and cleaning up but that was it. Today I got to it. Here are the things I made or fixed at the makerspace:

1) fisher price drillin action replacement screwdriver bit

Disposable culture is driving me batty, people. Olive got this drill set for last Christmas and LOVED it. A month later, we lost the removable drill bit that works for the screws. Fisher price doesn't sell replacement parts. I guess they just expect you to pitch it and buy a new one since your kid wants the next thing every month. Thrift store toy bins are full of the big component pieces of these workbench sets, in the case of this one, the blue holder thing. But the little parts are gone into space.

Anyway I was going to 3-D print one but realized it'd take a split second to laser cut two pieces to make a screwdriver once I took a few measurements so that's what I have, this one is hardboard, when it breaks I can make a wood one, I could paint it, I don't know. The point is Olive's screwdriver set works again and she had a blast with it yesterday.

I wonder if any other parent is as bothered about this as me. Maybe I could make a business around 3D printed replacement parts. Well if anyone googles this and is desperate I'll at least send you one of my cheapo hardboard ones since they cost nothing to make (spacefem at spacefem dot com).

2) Diagonal knife drawer organizer

As seen on pinterest. I have the matching white paint so it'll blend in with the drawer, but we'll use it for a few days and make sure we like the size first.

3) Soap dish that says Soap on it

This was purely me being arty, I think it turned out cute though.

4) Replaced bed slats on toddler bed

We were freecycling this anyway but first, I had to replace the slats that my darn kids broke because they were too rough on this bed. It is fully slatted now. The people who claim stuff on freecycle don't always have access to the tools needed to fix stuff so I'd worry that they'd make do with something quasi-safe, which we did, and it's not like I just made it 100% safe, but it's a step up.

So those are my "around the house" projects so far.

Still on the to-do list:
1) Visit the library
2) Get a haircut
3) Take down Christmas tree
4) Organize scary room in basement
5) World peace



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.

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