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items to always carry with you in your car

Here is my updated list of recommended items to always have in your car.

Two ice scrapers - My dad taught me to always carry not one but two ice scrapers in my car. One for me in case of ice, and one to give away to the poor soul trying to use a credit card two spaces down from me.

Two umbrellas - Same idea. Ever see anyone caught in a car wreck in the rain? Their day is screwed up, their car is dented, they're copying down some insurance information from a stranger AND getting wet. You can prevent them from getting more wet.

Tire gage - Not the crappy stick kind! Get a nice dial, with the extra button to let air out.

Travel car battery charger - I used to say "jumper cables" but then I met the travel car battery charger! You can jump start your own car with nobody's help. Truly a gift that keeps on giving and they charge your phone just in case. For the really ambitious, there are 2-in-1 charter/tire inflators.

Frisbee - Just in case a nice day breaks out and a picnic happens.

Milk crate full of books for little free libraries - just me? okay. Well I have too many dang books and hate finding a LFL that's not stocked up. If you're in a new part of town check http://littlelocator.org and map to the closest one.

Pair of scissors - so the drive through place doesn't mangle your coupons trying to rip them apart. A multi-tool or pocket knife with scissors is also an option.

Wine opener - Ever bring a bottle of wine to somebody's house for a party and they don't have a corkscrew? AHHHH! I have saved entire SWE meetings by having one in my glove box.

Survival blanket - okay this is maybe passable, but when I was flying airplanes it was a real thing in case you land in the tundra.

Gloves - be an organized person who stores gloves in their glove box. Not piles of old papers. I cleaned out my glove box and found insurance cards from six years ago. I decided to make a goal to store gloves in it, and only the necessary papers for registration and insurance. It can be done.

That concludes my list.

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well nobody told ME about it

I decided to set a rule at work for everybody.

You're allowed to be mad about Things, sometimes. We all are. Unrealistic schedules, work being undone, time wasted, money wasted, something breaking, someone being a jerk, life in general.

But of all the things to be mad at, you're not allowed to be mad about just feeling left out.

Communication is on you. If you want to know what's going on, ask. Set expectations. Or even better, be PART of the story. People tell you things when they trust you, understand that you need the information, or most common, they know you can help them. They'll naturally keep you in the loop if those things are true. If you're making enough contributions, they can't forget about you.

If one person routinely leaves you out, talk to that person. Maybe they have room for improvement.

But if you're screaming at a whole room full of people that they should have told you something, the problem isn't them. The problem is you.

Plans change fast. Everyone is doing their best to talk. So if you JUST learned something, that's great. Now you know. Let's move on.

Are we moving forward? Yes? Good.

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Spacekid's 7th Birthday List

I have tried to explain to Josie what a birthday list should be. Lots of items so people have choices. $10-$20 price range. Obtainable. Interesting.

Here's Josie's list:

- Furreal Friends Unicorn - A $80 robotic plush that has terrible reviews on amazon. the "not worth the money my kid played with this for one day" type that make me feel good about refusing the spend that much on a toy.

- Shopkins - Tiny little characters that exist everywhere in our house, we've obtained and lost so many. When humanity fails and a new race of robots takes over the world and tears our houses down, they'll find shopkins.

- Corn cob stuffed animal - yes. kid who has too many stuffed animals wants one shaped like a corn on the cob.

- Glitter crayons - doable, although again, I think we had and lost these already, and grandparents do not like getting a pile of $3 items. then again when it's up against the stuffed corn on the cob...

- 3D printed unicorn - Okay YES I learned to use a 3D printer this year. But unicorns suck! Tiny legs, big body, I did two attempts with thingiverse models that fell over and resulted in spaghetti. 3D printing is not like the star trek replicator yet, sorry friends. And objects with small bases suck. Why couldn't she asked for a pyramid?

- Headbands - how many does a kid need?

- Money - after seeing this list there's no way I'd trust her to go shopping.

- Candy - please.

This concludes the birthday list of my soon-to-be 7-year-old.

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This month a librarian in Toronto published a study that brought up issues with the little free library movement and central organization behind the charter signs and world map.

I heard about the dot org in 2012, loved the idea, paid $25 or something for a cute charter sign, and added myself to the map. Not every builder has registered with the world org, when we stewards see a library with no charter sign we sometimes call it a rogue library. They're not bad, but I did write a blog post about why I think you should register. I choose not to publicize them much on the city-wide facebook page I run because when I see a rogue library I'm not sure if they want to be part of something bigger or open to visitors from other neighborhoods.

I've done a LOT involving libraries, and like every very involved volunteer I've had constructive criticism. I wish the organization would come out with an app or text listing of the libraries to make them easier to find, made my own version and offered them the code, they are not interested. Their app has been talked about but delayed and delayed and delayed for a good two years now. I asked why the charter sign price keeps going up - it's over $40 now. I'll happily pay for a charter sign for anyone in my community who needs one, it's just funny that it's the most expensive component of our scrap-built LFL.

Back to the news of the day. This toronto librarian basically said that little free libraries are more about cutesy "TWEEE!" than promoting literacy, book quality is low, they're going to upper-middle-class neighborhoods and not neighborhoods in need, the organization isn't basing its strategy on research. She claims that the organization is making money but not doing anything all that helpful. She has nothing against individual stewards, if we want to build libraries we should build them, but the umbrella is unnecessary.

I asked the simple questions first: is LFL's mission to promote literacy? No, it's to promote neighborhood book exchanges. So they're doing what they claim to do there.

Then in the comments around the articles, I kept seeing this discussion happen:

1) That organization is stupid, anyone could have done what they did with a free google map.
2) But they didn't.
3) My cousin made a map, it's got 10 libraries on it.
4) What's he doing to get more? Promote it, add to it?
5) Nah he doesn't have time for that.

I had looked at the staff list for LFL, which expands every year, and wondered why they have five paid staff members assigned to "communications and marketing". Suddenly I realized why.

They've succeeded in getting through the noise of the world to me and many others. I wouldn't have built a library if not for them. There are 50,000 registered libraries now and 45 or so in Wichita Kansas. Is it solving all the world's literacy problems? Probably not. But is it a net good? Probably.

And I'm reminded once again that ORGANIZATIONS make things happen. Sometimes for bad, but if you don't want them to be bad, you get involved. Frequently the organizations do good. People use "organized religion" as a derogatory term, when they're not discussing the history of major hospitals in the US. Protesters are usually criticized for organizing when they should just calmly sit at home writing to their senators, but major changes in our democracy have their roots in organizations working for years with lots of people to change policy. We love little simple one person stories, but when we look deeper we see that the one person had a lot of help.

So even though I've had my beefs with the big org, I remain a joiner. I keep buying charter signs. I keep going to meetings - SWE, Toastmasters, church, the makerspace. I help the girl scouts, I donate to amnesty, I join committees, I organize and help people organize. Plant a flag on a hill, everybody go up the hill. That's the only way I've seen anything get done.

my facebook birthday wishes

I'm not a fan of facebook birthday wishes, sorry to say it. Some people make it a ritual, every morning I think they wake up, facebook tells them who's having a birthday, they go write on all the walls. I am lucky to have friends, of course, but having my phone blow up all day and all the clutter on my timeline did not make me feel special. So after I turned 36 last year, I hid my birthday so no one could see it. I SWEAR I made it private.

So imagine my annoyance this year when it somehow snuck back in! Woke up to four timeline posts, I was at work and my phone notifications were all facebook. I could turn notifications off but I use facebook for lots of things like groups I coordinate, pages I manage, I kinda need to see those, and now I'd have to wade through birthday crap. Dang it.

I went back in and hid my birthday AGAIN hoping it would curb off the madness but a few people had already seen it so the messages didn't totally stop.

Then I got an idea. If all these bored people were on facebook feeling obligated to do something for me, why not harness the energy for good?

So I made a post.

"I'm 37 today," I said, "and just got an idea. If you're on facebook and wished me a happy birthday, thank you! But a better facebook gift? Publicize a cause! Share a post from some page that I love - Little Free Libraries, MakeICT, Amnesty International, UMCOR - United Methodist Committee On Relief. Or whatever you think I'd like from organizations that help & connect people. Tag me in it but don't write it directly on my wall because nobody sees those posts. I would feel very special :)"

And people did.

Some of them didn't exactly know what I meant by "share a post from a page and tag me" but a lot tried, and many succeeded! The best ones went... "It's sf's birthday today and she asked us to spread the word about great organizations, I'm picking ___!" Suddenly I was being tagged in all these posts about celebrity softball for the children's hospital, drag queen bingo to benefit victims of sexual assault, our annual Alternative gift market where people buy "gifts" in the form of donations around the world at holiday time.

Everyone's friends saw the posts and we all got smart reminders about things going on in the community that we could help out with. Everyone's costs were the same: a few minutes on facebook. But my heart felt much warmer. My birthday was much happier.

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the power of a suggestion box

Life advice: be open to feedback, in everything you do.

The best way to do this is to have a channel for it that's very easy for people to use. If you all share an office, set up a time. If you all have access to the internet, set up a web form. If you're all in the same physical space for a short amount of time, give out little cards and have people write ideas and put them in a box.

Then if you really hate the possibility of improving you can throw it all out. But really, why pass up the opportunity to improve? Feedback is a gift. People take the time to make it better.

Do not be defensive. We have a human tendency to want everyone to think we're perfect, and if anything is not perfect it's not our fault. If your first answer is "no", take a minute to think about your second answer.

Do not tell them "I worked three months on this banquet if you don't like it then YOU join the board of directors and go to every stinking planning meeting." While dedicated volunteers are nice, do you really want people to feel like they have to attend a weekly meeting for three months just to tell you "there should have been more bathrooms" or "I couldn't get to the hot dog line without getting out of my wheelchair"? Most people won't do that, so if that's the barrier you are setting up, you just don't get to hear their ideas. You miss out.

And the more blocking or defensive you are, the more you send the message that the things you do Are What They Are, no changing or improvement.

Sometimes people will put huge weird things in the suggestion box, like "we should have also had a hot air balloon lift" and that's why you can ask for contact info and if they want to volunteer to help out, tell them you think it's a great idea, they have your full support in organizing the balloons! But at least hear their advice, and try to find a path to Yes.

took kids on a flight

I work at an airplane company and have a pilot's license yet my youngest daughter lived four years without every flying in an airplane. motherhood fail! she was asking for it too, multiple times, "I want to fly on an airplane!"

So OKAY.

I'm not current and getting current requires several flights with an instructor but I know pilots, so I checked the flying club schedule to see who was flying around for fun, and saw my friend amanda's name. She's awesome, so I asked if we could go along with her on a practice flight she had already scheduled.

First thing I'll mention is that I took the girls to a carnival last weekend and Olive had a great time except when we rode the ferris wheel, she cried. We went back to the little train ride and she was elated and forgot her troubles.

Friday Marc told her that she might get to go in an AIRPLANE and she was stoked!

I got home from work early and told Olive we might get to go on an an airplane ride, and she suddenly shifted to being less thrilled. Asked if we could just look at the airplanes but not ride in them. Asked if the airplane would be fast (I said NOPE) asked if it'd be loud (I said yes but we're bringing your panda bear earmuffs - califone hearing protection 27db noise reduction rating!) and I assured her we would not go very high at all.

Picked up Josie from school, went to the flying club, had a great time setting up the seat and sitting in the airplane, takeoff went great, then about 20 minutes in Olive started crying and wanted her earmuffs off but then it was too loud so she was REALLY mad about that and we turned around and went home because she was acting traumatized. We hadn't exactly planned an exotic trip but still, I was thinking we'd at least make it 90 minutes or so, nope.

Josie looked out the window happily and had a great time spotting trains and lakes and the soccer game at the high school stadium. When we landed she observed that many houses have swimming pools and we should obviously have one too.

Olive said it was scary, but fun, which is weird because from the screaming and sobbing in the back seat I didn't detect the fun, but I was really playing it up asking her the questions about what she saw out the windows. She said she saw houses on our planet.

Josie has been on little airplanes as a fetus/baby/toddler/big kid and usually falls asleep, either way she's never been upset by it, so I felt bad that Olive was so freaked out but she's a very different kid so it's okay. Just not as much of a thrill seeker. Prefers the ground, I guess.

I like flying with friends. Amanda is a better pilot than me. Calmer, and better at spotting traffic. When you get a traffic warning on your display you start scanning and get it in sight as soon as you can. She beat me to it every time. Yes I could get current myself with several instructor flights, practice flights, regular outings... it's a pain. With friend flights I can just chip in and split costs on one flight and they get their landings and I get my 1-2 rides a year and that's fun. That might be how my flying goes for a while.

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would a dream job make you a workaholic?

Here's a philosophical question for you all.

Think of your absolute dream job. Petting puppies, testing games, drinking wine, some combination of these, whatever.

You're going to get this job, and be salaried.

How many hours a week would you spend doing it? Would you work late?

Does your dream job include the requirement that it be limited to 20-40 hours a week with no pressure to work any more? What would you spend your extra time doing? What if you could get paid for that?

In other words, would you like a life in which all your creative energy was channeled into a Benefit For Someone Else... be it the company, your customers, some deserving cause? Is that healthy, to pour yourself into something so much? Do you want to love your job? Is loving a job about the task, or the conditions, or the people?
I used to be a libertarian. I looked at the government, saw a lot of screwed up bureaucracy, and thought it might be best if we reduced government as much as possible. I was tired of my tax dollars going towards bloated congressman's salaries so they could stand around arguing about who should be able to get married, tired of tax dollars going to feed and house criminals who were now my responsibility because they were caught with a stupid joint.

I also care about people, so I was concerned that the incoherent woman next door to me would be starving outside on my porch, because after multiple conversations with her I was convinced she could not hold down a job.

My libertarian friends said "Americans are the most generous people in the world! If the government got its grubby hands out of our pockets, we'd give even more. The system would work out just fine!"

I was thinking about that this week when I read this sad tweet:



And the scores of replies from people who said that this system would work out GREAT! Cut out the middle man and bureaucrats, if you're sick just post up and see who thinks you're worth saving.

Friends I can debunk this pretty quickly: before social safety nets, we had that system. Rich people who felt sorry for poor people could help them if they wanted. Yay! Freedom! No income taxes, no forced contributions.

You know what? People fucking starved to death. LITERALLY. Kids starved. People got sick and couldn't pay doctors, so they died. The poor were thrown in debtor's prison because nobody felt sorry for them, so let them and their families rot. There weren't as many people becoming doctors, because only so many people could pay them. Energy was spent by individuals trying to grow their own food. We did our best to survive. Lots of people didn't.

It didn't work. We ran the test, it didn't work.

If you want to re-run the test, you are sentencing people to death.

That's what ended my stint as a libertarian.

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memorizing numbers

When I was a new engineer I was in awe of some experienced guys who could rattle off drawing and document numbers like it was nothing. You'd be out at an airplane, point at a switch and say "That's the schematic I need to see, how that's wired up." and he'd say "Oh it's on the 582-298347 drawing." and everyone would raise eyebrows and say "damn he is so smart we really need to keep him around!"

One issue with that is that in my new hire coaching, I've had to tell the new folks to dig deeper and not be so dependent on that experienced guy next to them who just knows everything. If they ask a question and their coworker just says the number, say "Stop. Where would be the right way for me to find that number? I want to verify that you're right because this is my drawing and it's on me if it's not right. And even if you are correct, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow and then I'd need to do this on my own. Where's the source?"

More and more, I am starting to dislike the personality types that memorize the numbers. They make new hire training harder. I also wonder if they do it because they're trying to impress somebody.

I am no longer impressed by it. Memorizing numbers is usually just a matter of working on the same product for a long time.

You know what is a rare, incredibly helpful skill that I'm impressed by? Writing some shit down. Being organized. Empowering a team around you.

That's what makes you stick out, to me. I will be impressed with anyone who shares information in a way that everyone understands, so lots of people can quickly find what they need to get all their jobs done.

I'm impressed when nobody has to memorize numbers.
The comments section.

A family on facebook made the brave decision to post their late-term abortion story:
This is ending a wanted pregnancy.
This is late-term abortion.

To those of you who are saying that Matt & I should have given Omara the chance to live, and don't feel like reading the blog; she had an inoperable tumor growing into her brain, lungs and heart. She would not have lived to birth. If we had waited past the window of a legal abortion and she died in my womb, I would have had to carry her body (while my body began breaking it down) before being scheduled for a D&C or EXIT procedure (due to the size her tumor would have been). We opted to end the pregnancy early, relieve the suffering that she and our family were experiencing and deliver her through labor fully intact. Because of this decision we were able to hold her and say good-bye.


And as usual, the comments on this story convince me again and again that the anti-abortion side is awful. Comments like:


I don't understand why you just wouldn't let nature take its course instead you kill your child There is no reason for anyone to kill a innocent child your story dose not justify what you did and in the end i think you will always wonder if your child would have survived doctors are wrong all the time you should have given her a fighting chance she was obviously still alive for a reason and you just snatched her life from her i honestly feel you just didn't want a child with a tumor on her face so you killed her


And if for some miracle the baby would have survived you'll never know because she wasn't given the chance. God does great things if you allow him the chance.


Everyone has their own opinion. I don't think it is right if you were excited about the pregnancy why kill the child, medically tumors can be removed, it wasn't hard decision it was a way out just like every other abortion


I am one for no Abortion, but i do understand why you done what u did. I am sorry for what you are going threw. I am sorry. There is a difference in having to do it, to wanting to do it.


The government belongs there when women are having multiple late term abortions, celebrating them, and using them as a former of birth control. Sometimes, like in your case, abortions are medically necessary. And that should be remember in an executive order by a president... but nobody is perfect; and you can't blame a man /woman/ group of people for standing up for a unborn human's right to live.


That's so sad... I don't believe in abortion, but if you have a good reason then that Shouldn't be a problem.


Dear anti-abortion crusaders who somehow think it's your business to comment:

If you want to make all abortion illegal, that means making all abortion illegal. No one is going to come back to YOU to ask if YOU'RE okay with ONE because THIS reason might be good enough for some of you. You are forcing everyone into your agenda, without knowing the circumstances, including this heartbreaking case and all the others like it. How do you think this will work, you'll somehow be appointed head of the tribunal that decides whether a woman and her doctor are doing the right thing? Should we just leave it up to facebook? Clearly there are people on your side who don't believe there should be ANY exception. Will you debate with them, or just stay silent and let them make the choice for all of us?

If you believe that God does amazing things, then let Him do all those things in your life. You don't have to wear a seatbelt, God can prevent car accidents. You don't have to keep your job, God will send you food. You want to go through a full pregnancy, labor and delivery to put a tiny baby through a short painful life because you think that's what God wants? You do it. But I'll tell you - there are very sick babies, everywhere, all the time, and God is not showing up for them.

Doctors are not casually performing late-term abortions on healthy moms with healthy babies. It is not happening. When these cases come up, they are serious and need addressed quickly. There is no time for appeal, in the court of law or the court of facebook. Women are not casually skipping down the sidewalk in month 6-7-8-9 because they changed their mind or are tired of being pregnant. If you think they are, you are wrong. Period.

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I have been in rooms full of women engineers where area business sends one of its leaders to address us as part of the event. They sometimes send a man, which is fine. Sometimes the man proceeds to do very cringeworthy things in his speech. I don't want to incriminate anyone, but I want to get the word out to every man that if you're ever invited to speak to a group of women engineers, I have some tips. These are based on a composite of experiences, no identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

1) Remember that I hear men's voices every day. They're great, I love them, but when I come to a gathering of women engineers I'd prefer to hear from high-achieving women. So if you can, please give the podium to a woman?

2) Do not show photos of yourself with random female friends and colleagues to say, "See, I've worked with lots of very smart women, here we are smiling!" I'm sure you have female friends, this is not an automatic "in" with us. It's great that your company has women but they still put you in charge of all of them and didn't feel like letting them talk at this conference, why is that?

3) Do not ask us if we've seen the movie "Hidden Figures", admit that you have NOT seen it, and then proceed to explain it to us based on what you read about it on the internet. It's not that long a movie, you could at least go see it. Or just avoid it as a topic. Either way, when all of our hands went up as having seen it, you should have taken that as a sign that explaining it yourself would be unnecessary at best and insulting at worst.

4) Do not admit to previously discriminating against a woman and passing her up for a promotion for being pregnant, even if it's to tell us about the important lesson you learned when she marched into your office and called you out on it. That is not a cute story, unless you made a DRASTIC change based on the experience. Seriously. It's not cute. SERIOUSLY. DID YOU SEE OUR EYES.

5) Do talk about a drastic change your company has made to help women. Change is good.

6) Don't talk about how women's achievements are important to you because you have daughters now. Talk about how you're inspiring your daughters, sure, that's great, but we'd like to think that you support women because you support humans and the world being better, not just your own family.

7) Do talk about technical things. When I relayed this story to my male coworkers to ask if I sounded like a crazy militant feminist, one of them said "Why didn't he just talk about what he knew... electronics?" and then another one joked "Maybe he thought you wouldn't get it, you know, women!" When my male coworkers point out how your speech is fucked up in ways that I didn't even articulate, you know it's bad.

So that's it. Thank you for your time. I admire you for standing up on the podium and talking to us. You could have done better.

March for Science!

If there is a March for Science in your city this weekend, GO GO GO. I am actually going to get out there this time.

I have always seen the need for science to look at its relationship to people, and there is destined to be a gap there. How do we get kids into science? How do we convinced politicians that funding science will bring economic, ecological, quality of life benefits that help the entire population?

I am trained to troubleshoot data bus problems, not people problems. I can't hook up on oscilloscope to sociology. I'm like every engineer. So the gap continues.

Get out there and be part of the conversation. Learn about organizations that are bridging the gap. Keep asking questions, just like you do when you're working on a technical project.

And if anybody tries to stop you, be a resistor. Or a capacitor. Or a transistor. Or a power source. You can do pretty much anything with those.

preschool evaluations

I'm gonna say it again: preschool evaluations are the best. At least they are for me, a manager of engineers who need to work together. You don't even need a preschooler to understand what I'm saying, just google preschool assessment forms and see what kinds of things they are evaluated on. Yes there are the "skills" like coloring in the lines, knowing letters, pointing out which shape is the triangle. But if you're going to a good preschool the kids spend a lot of time just playing so their evaluation is based on this life-changing new question: can you handle the WORLD?

For example:
- Plays independently with minimal supervision
- Shares willingly
- Uses words to express needs
- Respects the personal space of others
- Participates in group activities
- Willing to try new things
- Invites others to join in group play

These are things that preschool teachers discuss with you at length, and then you never hear about them again. From what I've read, some parents never hear about them PERIOD, as there is more and more pressure from preschools to drill kids on mundane facts so they can recognize letters before anybody on their block and impress adults by reciting the periods of the paleozoic period.

If I had to do it over again, I might request to see an evaluation form that's used for conferences before I pick the preschool. I lucked out - the school we picked based on simple toys, degreed teachers, and cheapness evaluates mostly on social and behavioral skills with a side note about recognizing triangles. But behavior is the priority.

I read a great book, "Becoming Brilliant", about this topic. I'll blog more about it in the future but it's too big for one entry. The basic point though: we live in a world where facts are readily available, but we still value facts and content in education. Critical thinking and the ability to work in groups is on the downtrend.

I KNOW, because I work with grown ass people who cannot "use words to express needs". I love them, sometimes... anyway...

I sat in Olive's preschool evaluation hearing about how she's a bright little kid who can write her name like a pro but they're still dealing with these "meltdowns" when she doesn't use her words to say what she wants, and the teacher explained that they're working on it, but it's also a common issue with three year olds and she will grow out of it.

Let's just pretend that I'd come from a meeting with adults yelling "No you SAID YOU'D WRITE THAT REPORT IT'S NOT MY JOB" rather than declaring calmly, "here's where we are now, the deliverable isn't done, we all agree it's critical so now we just have to decide who is best equipped in this team to handle it?" All I could think was I'm not so sure everyone grows out of it. We just assume it's handled when you're three feet tall and never speak of it again.

I think we should keep working on those skills, everyone.

regarding your word template...

I'm writing this letter to livejournal not a real person because I can't decide if it's polite.

Dear Sir,

Thank you so much for sending me the word template for your program, it was a big help. I added my updates and attached the latest document for reference. Just a suggestion, you might want to use my document as your template from now on. I made a few improvements. For example:

1) Before the heading that you had on page 2, I inserted a page break, rather than just hitting enter a lot so the heading would go to page 2. One benefit of this is that if you have to add lines to page 1, the page 2 heading will still stay at the top without having to add/delete carriage returns to compensate.

2) I used tabs with leaders to fill in the space between the left and right text, so you don't have to type in a lot of dots (.............) to get the right text all the way over to the edge. This also makes the right edge a little straighter.

3) I added automatic page numbers in the footer instead of individually typed numbers in text boxes.

These changes aren't a big deal but they might help people who use your template in the future. Thanks again for helping me get started! And if you have any questions about microsoft word, I am happy to help out.

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100% voting for James Thompson

We're having a special election this week in Kansas and electing a congressman. James Thompson is the democrat and Ron Estes is the republican.

James Thompson is an army veteran whose daughter attends our public schools. He wants to fund education, diversify our economy, enforce privacy rights and expand technology access in rural communities.

Ron Estes hasn't done anything, refuses to show up for debates or even talk about why he feels he should be our congressman, but this week his campaigned seemed to light up and turn on with the craziest attack ads.

Here's my impression of a Ron Estes ad:

Kansas, don't vote for James Thompson because he is LIBERAL. LIBERAL LIBERAL LIBERAL. He likes OBAMACARE. OBAMACARE OBAMACARE OBAMACARE. And he really likes ABORTION. He wants ABORTION for everybody. He's probably had like seven abortions, yes he even wants abortions for upstanding men like yourselves, somehow. LIBERAL OBAMACARE ABORTIONS. And TAXES. LIBERAL OBAMACARE ABORTION TAXES.

Tell me I'm wrong:



The taxes thing always gets me because when I first started paying a little attention to politics in the mid-90s I learned about the "tax and spend democrats". That was the accusation from the right... democrats want big government, they just want to take all your money and spend it on their own stupid agenda. Republicans won't waste your money on things like public education, healthcare, or saving the environment.

But we will totally spend your tax dollars on wars! Including my favorite... the $50 BILLION "war on drugs", yes please keep this random guy who smoked a joint in jail. Or we could spend tax dollars on building a wall around mexico, drug-testing welfare recipients, investigating miscarriages to make sure women aren't getting illegal abortions, and defending new laws about who can use which bathroom and whether same-sex couples can adopt kids. Way to cut spending.

I haven't voted republican in at least the last ten years, and this week just cements my trend.

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Here's a fun challenge. Read the comments on an article about a successful woman in history. See how long it takes to get to a sentiment along the lines of "See now, she just did what she wanted and broke through without having to march down the street wearing a vagina hat, just worked hard and pulled herself up by the bootstraps and proved herself, what's wrong with women these days just wanting it handed to them. If a woman wants to be a doctor/pilot/scientist she can DO IT this is proof."

That is one way to look at it. I see it differently... the one successful woman is proof that women have something to give to the field. Then I look at the field and see that the numbers are still very skewed, and think this field is lacking. It's picking its talent from half the brains available to the world. Isn't that a problem FOR engineering/science/medicine?

In the stories about these women, there are little anecdotes of "there was sexist bullshit, but she persevered!" Again, some people think perseverance is proof that the sexism doesn't matter. I'd rather ask why there is sexism.

For every woman who makes it through in a sexist field, I know that...

1) Another woman could have been a great contributor to the field but never realized it was a remote possibility because it was just never in her head, so she didn't try.

2) Another woman saw what was going on, said "No I'm not dealing with the pressure of being only girl in the room" and left.

3) Another woman tried and had to deal with even WORSE experiences than the successful woman, and left.

4) Another woman was lacking some other small advantage that the successful woman had... maybe the successful woman was able to persevere because of some financial backing, race privilege, smart parents, good looks, in other words something that men could lack and still make it. But for a woman to make it she needed every puzzle piece available before she could start.

5) Even the successful woman had days when she could have achieved more, but she was snubbed/not listened to/just tired. We didn't even get the best of her.

Bottom line: as humans, we all work better when we're part of the family, not an oddity that people treat with skepticism. If you want science to benefit from all that humans have to offer, we need to keep asking questions about what can be fixed, not look backwards and pretend it's all okay.
My Dad listens to the It's Only A Game podcast and recommended really interesting episode about the history of the sports bra. The sports bra? But it was tied in with so many other themes about sports, and women's participation in sports, it made for a fascinating story. Sometimes the little things lead to such big stories.

It was an interview with Lisa Lindahl. In the early 70s she loved running but it was uncomfortable, so she and her theater costume-designing friend started brainstorming. They needed a bra that was comfortable, supportive, and she had a third poignant goal: she wanted it to be modest enough that she could take her shirt off when she was running, like she'd seen her male runner friends do on warm sunny days, enjoying the breeze. Once the design was in place her challenge was convincing sporting goods store owners to sell them, these guys looked at her like she was crazy, "You want me to have BRAS out on display? We're a sports store!" She told them they had jock straps, so what about jock bras?

It was controversial because everything about women's sports was controversial. Why should women have a place in sports? If God wanted you to run why did He give you breasts? Besides, for decades before that, there was all this concern about women "over-exerting" themselves. I had to do more reading about this. She'd made a comment in the interview about girls playing basketball without crossing the center line... WHAT? It was a tiny quip but I had to read more.

So here you go friends, meet Six on Six Basketball. Played mostly by girls and only through about the 1950s and 60s, each team had six players: three forwards and three guards. If you were a forward you stayed on the half of the court with the opposing team's basket, if you were a guard you stayed on the half of the court with your team's basket. Dribbling any distance wasn't allowed. You could bounce the ball once then had to pass it. Nobody thought girls should be running up and down a basketball court, or maybe they just thought any boys sport needed a watered-down, less intense version for girls to enjoy it.

I shot Dad a text to ask if he remembered this and he just said there weren't girls sports at all when he was in school, so I suppose we should be grateful that something existed.

The history of women's sports is full of these stories. At the turn of the century scientists worried that women would over-exert their reproductive organs if they participated in too much activity during their periods. There's only so much a body can do. Our future baby-having was in peril. How did this apply to laborers, I wonder? Did we just not care about them? Women were working in farms and factories, but we thought physical activity was dangerous? It's ironic now that we've found out how important it is to be in shape when you're pregnant. I go on walks now, but when I was pregnant I HAD to walk, stretch, be in some kind of better shape, otherwise I could immediately tell. Physical activity was hard, but missing physical activity made me feel even worse.

Back to basketball... here we are this month all watching men play the NCAA tournament. There is a women's tournament too but the bracket contest is never as interesting, why? Because the teams are too easy to pick. Try it sometime. There aren't 64 schools that really invest in their women's basketball teams so there isn't the depth, there isn't the "who knows!" factor of the men's bracket. It's 2017 and Connecticut has won the past four years. As the rest of our week here unfolds there will be Baylor, Maryland, and Stanford up there as contenders, as always, occasional upset but not that hard to call most of the final four.

Incidentally, I think there is one sport where women's rules are still a bit off. That sport is women's hurdles. In track and field, men's hurdles heights increase from 33" to 39" to 42" in junior high, high school, and college, respectively. Women's hurdles go from 30" in junior high to 33" in high school and stay there.

Given the fact that the average man in the US is not even 6" taller than the average woman, it doesn't make much sense that mens' hurdles are 11" higher than women's. Men's hurdling is a genuine challenge. Women's hurdle races are a sprint. We especially noticed in the 90s when Gail Devers just took everything, she was so fast at 100 meters it didn't matter to her whether the hurdles were there or not, she still won.

There are three people in the world who have noticed the discrepancy and care about it: me, my high school track coach, and my dad. Dad has powerful memories from his transition from high school to college when the 39" hurdles he was used to suddenly went up to 42" - hurdlers train to waste no energy with extra height, he claimed he could knock a dime off a 39" hurdle, he was shocked to hear women's hurdles just stayed at the same height forever.

That's a detail for another day though. For now I'm just happy women are allowed to run. The world has realized we deserve fitness too, and are strong enough to do great things.

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lab partners

Last week at Toastmasters a table topics question was: Tell a story about a time you felt out of place.

I couldn't even hear what the speaker was saying, my mind zoomed immediately back in time almost 20 years. whoosh. good thing I was not given that question.

It was the first day of school my freshman year of college. I was walking into Electronics 101. Wearing flip flops, shorts, and a blue tie-dyed tank top with spaghetti straps, long hair in a ponytail. I was cute. I loved that tank top, it was soft and the tie-dye was faded to a perfect 90s grunge.

I was in that class to get a scholarship. I'd told the college that I loved physics and computers and wanted to go into some kind of technology. At my college visit I'd talked to professors in a few departments, electronics was one of them. I told the professor I'd eventually choose some kind of technology field. A month later he called me on the phone and said, "Well if you pick electronics, we have an extra $1200 for you. It's a NASA grant. You can spend it on anything, books, room and board, doesn't matter, just have to declare your major as electronics engineering tech which is no big deal. You can switch later. You just have to take this one class first semester."

At the visit I vaguely remembered my dad asking about women in the program and the professor said, "She'll be a minority." I remember those exact words. Then he shrugged and changed the subject.

Day 1.

I walk in and the classroom has seats for about 30 people, not huge, this is a small state college. I am the only girl. The classroom has tables, each table has two chairs, I sit near the front at an empty table. More people file in. No wait, more men file in. Soon the room is filled, but nobody sits by me. They start talking. They start justifying their existence, meeting each other, talking about how they got into electronics, how they install car stereos.

I am not a minority, I am the only girl, in a class of 24. Nobody is sitting by me or talking to me. I feel stupid wearing my tank top. Why didn't I wear sweats or something utterly non-skanky, or non-girly, now it'll look like I want attention, I'm not here for attention, I promise. I start slouching in my chair. I did not know anything about car stereos. They're all going to find out.

Whenever anyone mentions feeling out of place, I remember that class.

The next day we had lab. We had to pair up, of course nobody wanted to be my partner, then a guy comes in late and I'm the only one left and he sits down. He's a business major, he tells me, just taking this class for some tech elective. There are breadboards and we're supposed to build a circuit. "Have you ever used one of these things before?" he asks me. I said no. Okay, he says, we can do this, he grabs it and starts putting in components. That's how the first few labs go, I'm just watching.

The homework and tests weren't bad. It was a lot of stuff I'd covered in math or physics from high school. The circuits drawn out were like puzzles. The professor was a terribly hard grader so my grades were not excellent but I kept remembering that this could be my last electronics class, I'd figure out some other major, just go down to general ed, they all say you can do that for a couple years.

We have the same lab partners every week but mine didn't last long, he dropped the class. The homework was too hard, he said. We had our first test. I overheard the guys comparing scores. They weren't that fantastic. I wasn't feeling brilliant but my score was one of the higher ones. Maybe I would be okay.

My scores on the lab assignments were just fine too, despite being afraid to touch anything. Then one day I realized, half the stuff these guys did in the labs was wrong. They'd fumble around with the voltmeter and put leads in the wrong places to measure drop over resistors... and I started thinking hell, how much of this have they really done?

That's when I realized two things. First, when my lab partner asked me "have you done this before?" I could have asked him the same thing, but I didn't. Another thing I've learned now, after many internet articles and SWE conferences, is that my answer could have been "No so I'd better be at the controls so I learn." or "No but I don't think that will make a difference." Engineering isn't competing with each other, it's competing with the science.

Second thing I realized: these guys were screwing up circuits on breadboards all over the place but nothing was blowing up, melting, or causing the end of the world. They were just going for it. What was stopping me from going for it? What was the worst thing that could happen if I did this wrong, I'd look stupid? A quick cost-benefit analysis made me realize it was worth the risk.

I knew I didn't have confidence, I felt that intensely. But confidence is how you learn. Maybe "technical people" aren't born with a magical inside knowledge, they're just willing to dive in and find some starting point.

I had no lab partner. I grabbed a breadboard and stuck leads and resistors in the little holes to match the circuit I'd pre-designed. I was determined to look extra confident to make up for my feelings of inadequacy, because there was something about confidence that seemed to play into this. If I was smart, and confidence was the only difference between me and all those guys, I could make up for that.

Another student came up to me, and said his partner had dropped the class too, can we team up? I said sure.

He looked at my lab notes and nodded and said "Finally... it'll be nice to have somebody who knows what they're doing."

The class dwindled to 16 by the end of the semester. In four years, I would graduate with 12 people in that small electronics program. Somewhere along the way we got another girl who transferred in. We ended up being friends and partnered together for senior design.

It was a groundbreaking year that had never happened before: two of us.

Good thing I stayed.

stopping cold

My six-year old loves little Shopkins toys, and on the package it says to go to the shopkinsworld website for more fun and excitement. She really wanted to go. The site pointed to apps and games so we downloaded Shopkins Chef club. It was a fun game where shopkins fall into a bowl and you try to connect identical ones with lines and they blow up and more fall and you see how many you can get in a minute. She'd play, then I'd take a turn, then we'd run out of lives for the hour and go do something else.

I started figuring things out about the game, so before she woke up I'd play a few rounds on the ipad and win her some coins to get better helper virtual shopkins. Then I realized if I had it on my phone it was the same account and I could play over lunch too... one thing lead to another, after a couple weeks of this we had something like four million coins, I'd paid something like $18 for game upgrades, I like buying game upgrades because I think developers deserve something back when they provide some fun for us, and then I figure I HAVE to keep playing because hey we paid for it.

One morning, I'd earned enough gems to get a super ultra rare crazy grand power shopkin or whatever, an occurrence that happens about once a week. I traded my gems for the shopkin and shut my phone off. Checked in later, the gems were gone but the shopkin wasn't there. Game bug.

I was mad so I uninstalled it from my phone. Just quit playing cold like that.

It was awesome.

I didn't miss it at all.

It's made me think about what else I could just quit.

Do you ever look around your house and see too much stuff in it and fantasize about torching it all and walking away?

I wonder if I'd miss pokemon if I quit playing. I met some nice friends through that game. It gives me something to do in checkout lines. But it is something I log into every day. I think I am concerned about the things I log into every single day, maybe that's the line when something is unhealthy.

Maybe I should be one of those religions that gives things up for lent, like chocolate or coffee or phone games. When I am into religion I'm really into religion. It's the nerd brain mentality, we are light switches, no in between. What else should I be quitting, that's my question of the week now.

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