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arm warmers

You know what I always thought was weird? Gloves with no fingers.

Then I got some through my etsy trade team because there were all these knitters making arm warmers and I thought what the heck. And you know what I realized? These are AWESOME!

You can wear them all day and do everything — type, use a computer mouse, text, write, do crafts, sew, dress your kids, all the stuff you do with your hands. Except now your hands aren't cold.

I work in an office with all men. I've been cold for 15 years. I always complained that I could bundle up all I wanted and wear a coat indoors but my hands would freeze.  But not anymore! I even wear them to drive sometimes. Bulky gloves are bulky. Sleek flexible gloves offer little to no warmth. Arm warmers, you can pull them up over your hands like mittens, or just have them warm up your hands and then it's not so noticeable. 

Took me long enough huh?

Waller

The word "waller" is a technical term recognized immediately in Kansas, not as much across the English speaking world. I think it's useful enough that we should spread it.

Definition: to enlarge a hole, typically though imprecise means.

Origin: Pigs waller around in the mud by moving around vigorously in it until they can get all down in there.

Example: The hole wasn't big enough, so I had to waller it out to make the bolt fit.

Related terms: "there I fixed it", "trust me I'm an engineer", "that'll buff right out"

2017 Resolutions

It's time to get back to new years resolutions. In 2017 I took a year off, so to speak, January came around and I wasn't feeling it, I was in a haze of gross corporate overwork and post-election depression. I resolved to do nothing, keep my head down and focus on work, draw no political attention to myself, spend all available time at home on my couch.

I did not do that. April came around and I addressed a crowd of nearly 1000 people at the March for Science... not exactly keeping my head down, but I was glad I did it. Then in June I was elected president of the board of a large non-profit organization that takes about 10-20 hours a week besides my 60 hour a week job. It is what it is. As we used to say in the '05 campaign days, "Sleep when you are dead."

I also really like having new years resolutions so it's time to get back into that. My philosophies for them: No repeats. Be creative. Forgive yourself if you don't meet a few. You need 6-10. Have some small fun ones in addition to big crazy ones. Give yourself until mid-January to set them - since you'll be at these all year, no pressure to have them all written down January 1, brainstorm while you slowly and fully immerse yourself in the new year glow.

Here are my 2018 resolutions:

  • Keep the glovebox in my car clean enough to actually store gloves
  • Make hummus regularly enough to have a freezer stash
  • Save Tuesday as a family day where we eat a calm dinner together and pick up the house
  • Get updated family portraits
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idiot proofing

I really hate the term "idiot proofing".

It's on you to make your designs user friendly.

If use of your design is ambiguous and fails to predict human behavior, you don't get to escape by calling everyone ELSE an idiot. If you failed to adhere to conventions and designed a car with the brake pedal on the right, drivers are not idiots for crashing. If you're teaching a class and everyone fails your test, the problem is not that the whole class is lazy. If you make a website for your restaurant and people constantly call you asking what the hours are, you might want to move the hours to a more noticable place.

I find fault with anyone who thinks "I'm smart, the rest of the world is full of idiots."

the best gift ever

I got your child a really special present this year because I love your family so much! It was expensive so I expect to see lots of facebook updates all year about it, I'll ping you on Thursdays :)

The box looks REALLY cool from the outside so your kids will be STOKED when they see this and will beg you to start setting it up right away!

It requires some assembly. You will need a 13.4mm tri-groove screw head bit that can be ordered from Shloshy's Bit World in southern Taiwan, haven't found it anyplace else.

When it's set up it takes up 30 square feet on your floor and stands six feet tall. It doesn't collapse back down.

There's a 60 page instruction booklet for you to read and you'll notice that every activity you can do with this toy is one that you and your five year old do TOGETHER! Each project looks really neat so she will constantly ask you to do it, some only take two hours but most of them take four or five, plus troubleshooting when it doesn't go well because you don't want to disappoint your child. Finally, something to occupy all your ample spare time!

It comes with one refill kit but will quickly need more. They are $37.50 each. It cranks out a finished product that lasts for 36 hours then it goes to a landfill so you can refill it and make another thing. See, it's a STEM toy! I knew you'd love it!

It emits a 90 decibel midi version of La Cucaracha at random intervals or when it senses vibrations or light changes in the room. Your kids will love setting it off!

It needs to plug in. The cord is only 18" long for safety so be sure to position it near an outlet or you'll need an extension cord. It ALSO needs 12 C-size batteries for the auxiliary control panel. The batteries last about 45 minutes.

Have fun! Merry Christmas!

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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bad leaders

I found this in my notes and can't find where I posted it to lj - it's possible I never did. I have a giant notepad file on my desktop where I jot down ideas. Sometimes I just need time to pass for everything to gel. Sometimes I'm writing about a very specific event, and I want it to pass so nobody can pin down exactly which event/place/person I'm writing about.

But this is one I don't want to lose. They say you learn about leadership from examples - both good and bad. Great leaders are exceptional at absorbing lessons. They learn from everyone. They learn just as much from bad bosses.

Well in my career I've had both good and bad bosses. And even when I had a great direct boss, I could see others around him - above him, or dotted line, or dotted line to me - who were not great so he was held back and therefore I was held back too. So I started this list. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Ten things that bad leaders do:

1) Pick tiny pet projects to fixate on and send everyone scrambling for that one little piece, rather than seeing the big picture.

2) If their boss yells at them they yell at you. They do no buffering, filtering, channeling or absorption.

3) If people are enthusiastic about the project, they find a way to squelch it.

4) If conflicting goals come up between groups, they casually tell you to work it out. They don't stick up for anyone. They tell each group to do whatever it takes to get their little part done, creating a constant multi-way battle for their love.

5) The goals and priorities change hourly.

6) They refuse to make any individual contributions on principle. They don't produce anything.

7) They want to know every detail and get very angry if they aren't kept in the loop. Even if you complete a task on time, they might still get mad because it happened without them knowing every step along the way.

8) They never praise anyone. If the team accomplishes a big milestone, the closure passes by quietly, there's never a confirmation that all our hard work paid off.

9) They ask you what you're working on in order to get an idea for what to harass you about later. You feel like you're working in an echo chamber.

10) They don't advertise their plan. They make people sit and wait on ideas that could improve the product because they have a secret priority they don't want to let anyone in on.

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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.

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