friday 5

I like last week's questions from thefridayfive so I'll answer those.

Josie, age darn near 10, is hanging out with me so I'll include some of her answers too.

1. What is your favorite thing to drink on a hot day?

Spacefem: Rum & lemonade with a sprig of mint from the yard.

Josie: Raspberry lemonade

2. What superstitions do you have?

I try not to have ANY!

I told Josie that superstitions were "things that bring you bad luck" and she asked about her little sister?

3. What is your favorite pen to write with and why?

Sf: Blue Uniball Signo 207.

Josie: watercolor paintbrush pens, for artistic purposes

4. What books have you read or been reading during the Pandemic?

SF: I'm currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama, I have some books up next too... Gone Girl and Game of Thrones

Josie: The Westing Game

5. MTV has decided to resurrect playing music videos and they've decided to give you a two-hour space to program your favorite music on air. What do you air?

SF: Early 90s grunge jam! Liz Phair, The Smashing Pumpkins, then merging into some of the 2000s... Ben Folds, Sleater-Kinney, Regina Spektor

Josie has no idea what MTV is and is not interested at all in having her own show. She is not interested in being famous or on TV.


For my birthday I asked my lj friends to ask me questions to inspire future entries. There's still room for more if you want to visit that entry.

sherlock999 asked me about where I live in Kansas. Wichita! Here, I'll write about it.

Keeper of the Plains

Population: 400000, with another 100000 in the rest of the county in suburbs like Maize, Andover, Derby, etc. We live in Wichita proper, in an old house a few miles out from the center of the city.

I've told people that Wichita is the smallest city I could comfortably live in. It's big enough that there are things to do and people to form groups with. We are missing some things. There is no waffle house, in and out burger, urban outfitters, or IKEA. We JUST got a Costco like three years ago or something.

Wichita has an east and west side, with a lot of talk among people about who's who and why you'd go to the "other side" of town for anything. The stores are kind of mirrored - each side of town has a sam's club, gap, michael's, bed bath and beyond... we have two of everything.

We have this weird city Eastborough right in the middle of Wichita. It's basically a subdivision, with really nice big old houses. Why they decided to be their own city I have no idea. They have their own police force that is funded by giving the rest of us speeding tickets.

My Dad lived in Wichita for a few years, but now lives outside KC, and he says his favorite thing about Wichita was the general sense of what's going on, and he's right. Whether it's a flaming lips concert or broadway touring group or a chili festival, everybody knows what's going on. We are small enough to maintain a hive-mind like osmosis of the weekend's activities.

I think this contributes to a healthy level of community pride that I don't see in other cities. We have a Wichita flag that's flown and painted EVERYWHERE. We have replica statues of our Keeper of the Plains Indian monument in different designs all over the city. We've got a fantastic group that's adding murals all over town. Our latest mural is the largest in North America, celebrating Latino and African American communities and painted on a grain elevator.

Wichita is the largest city in Kansas. Other notable cities are:

1) Kansas City, which is actually mostly in Missouri, and so spread out its identities keep to themselves. Olathe, Shawnee, Lenexa are all in our top 10 population cities but to Kansas outsiders they might as well be Kansas City.

2) Lawrence, an artsy college town that's nice to visit but who'd want to live there. I think it's all talk.

3) Topeka, the state capital that shuts down every weekend when everybody drives back to their cooler houses in Lawrence.

4) A wide assortment of 30-50K places like Manhattan, Emporia, Salina that offer a little character but nothing huge.

Wichita was settled shortly after the civil war. Before that, we thought it was naturally uninhabitable and we might as well give it to the Indians, but you know how we changed our minds about things like that. It has no mountains, springs, forests, caves, or anything attractive about the landscape. If you like outdoorsy activities you'll find yourself driving a very long way. It's 100 degrees in the summer and alternates between freezing and slush/mud thawing in the winter. We've made the best of our peice of the Arkansas river to pretty up downtown. It's pronounced Are-Kansas, after the Kansa indians, there's nothing French about it.

We do have very nice sunsets and lots of places to see the stars.

You can fly 60 miles away to Ponca City at night, turn your Cessna around and immediately see the city lights of Wichita.

Airplane companies Stearman, Learjet, Cessna and Beechcraft all started here. We pride ourselves on being the air capital of the world. Wichita is a great place to learn to fly. Large expanses of flat land, clear visibility, and crosswinds that build up your courage.

My favorite attractions are the zoo, botanica, exploration place, riverwalk, Keeper of the Plains statue, art museum, Great Plains Nature Center, and of course the wonderful Aviation Museum.

We have almost no italian restaurants, but a lot of great places to eat mexican and lebanese.

I moved here for aircraft work in 2002 and never left. I've made friends and put down roots. My two babies were born at the hospital within walking distance to our house. I seem to be blooming where I was planted.

Aimee in Silicon Valley

My circle is having a FIELD DAY throwing rocks at this article: ‘I had to choose being a mother’: With no child care or summer camps, women are being edged out of the workforce

Summary: Aimee, who's last name had to be removed for privacy, co-ran a Silicon Valley company with 13 employees. Her husband was "taking time off from his tech career". When their 3yo son's childcare shut down, she hoped her husband would watch the kid. But no. It was just too much darn work to keep his own child alive. So after three days, she dissolved her company and laid off all her employees.

She "chose to be a mother"... I guess having a full time job means you're not a mother, it's like magical egg retraction.

The family is living off savings.

I wonder if the journalist removed her last name because she was being harassed by every divorce attorney west of the Mississippi.

It says she was working 70+ hours a week, which sucks, I've done it. And during those times in my career Marc has admitted to feeling a little worn out, it's hard on all of us. But he never once asked me to cut my hours back. He was with me, he was the support system, picking up the kids, dropping them off, going to school functions, entertaining them on the weekend, going to the zoo and science museums and getting together with other parent friends. I don't know if I should read that article and think "oh thank goodness I married a decent man" or get outright angry about the idea that my husband might be an exception... he SHOULD be the norm!

It reminds me of another book I read though, and that's "The Millionaire Woman Next Door". I wrote this entry about it years ago: women, wealth, and how to not marry the wrong guy.

The gist is that while wealthy men tended to stay married to the same frugal women, wealthy women had much higher divorce rates, and when the authors dug into the stories they learned that the ex-husbands all seemed to fit a similar profile. These guys had to call the shots, spend the money, be in charge, and live life on their own page. The world raised them to be the man of the house, and when their wives made more money they could not figure out how to fit in. They couldn't contribute. They had to go.

Thank goodness not all men are that way, but this seems like a good time to step back and recognize it in time to save the marriages of the next generation. Put a name to the problem before it kills us. We're so worried about saving the economy right now - how about we all be flexible, jump in and help however the world needs us? Even if it means watching YOUR OWN CHILD, guys. I can't believe I just had to say that.

who's engineering?

sherlock999 asked me a question about what I do, but before I can write that entry I feel like I should write a whole entry about what I DON'T do, because it's been on my mind a lot lately. Well, maybe forever. And that's engineering.

This week I had a nice online conversation with a children's museum director who also holds a 4-year degree in industrial engineering. She dances around it a lot though, does not call herself an engineer, talks about having the degree but wanting to talk to "real" engineers about what they do. but the more I thought about it, what she's doing is no less engineering then what I'm doing. I'm managing a product support team, answering questions about what kind of adhesive we already approved to bond a seal to a doorframe. I look things up.

Something that haunts me in the back of my head is my total lack of component-level electrical engineering capability. In school I learned to calculate output impedance and impulse response of different amplifier circuits, I took 13 hours of calculus and differential equations, I learned where to add capacitors and pull-up resistors. That knowledge is gone now. At a SWE conference a college student had a FE exam sample question book (FE = Fundamentals of Engineering) and the questions might as well have been in Japanese - none of it made ANY sense. I absolutely cannot do electrical engineering. What if I needed a job in electrical engineering? Oh my god I'd be screwed.

I went straight from college into systems engineering, which is a fancy way to say "plugging things in". Making drawings of boxes in airplanes and which pins the wires go to. Think of your stereo system - hdmi to the TV, speaker wire to each channel, power cord. There is not math. It was a big day if we used trigonometry. So I never really got into component design in the real world, and immediately forgot it, and now I'm in management which you could argue is even further away from "engineering".

What do you have to do to call yourself a real engineer? What would I consider real? Well, designing new things. Using your calculus. Having a big credential like a PE, and having a stamp with your name to approve designs, some authority vested in you by the state to ensure the safety of the world, maybe?

I wonder what percentage of people with engineering degrees actually do that stuff?

I look around and I see engineering-degreed people all over the place... teaching classes, selling connectors, managing people at all levels. I'd say 95% of the engineers I know are doing this "other" stuff.

If that's where the jobs are, what the world needs, and what everybody's doing, maybe I should not be nervous about my inability to do calculus-based circuit analysis. Maybe we are all engineers, or maybe we have no idea what engineering is or what they do or what they should do. Maybe every career drifts a lot, and we should just let it drift and not worry about it?

There's a common question in forums about "are you doing what your degree was for" and that's where you hear about english majors running banks and theology majors running computer companies, and I usually say oh yeah sure I got an engineering degree and I became an engineer, in title. now its not even in my title anymore, and I still say I'm an engineer, but with an asterisk... maybe those questions should only apply to your first few years out of school. After that it's anybody's guess. Go forth and find a job, and don't overthink it.


For my birthday I asked my lj friends to ask me questions to inspire future entries. There's still room for more if you want to visit that entry.

I reserve the right to change them or answer them totally out of order, not at all, divide them up, combine them, etc etc etc.

lepid0ptera asked me "How do you feel about homeschooling?" and with school ending this week, it's a timely question, so that's what I'll write about today.

I'll say this much for sure: it's not for us.

Schools closed in early March. Spring break happened around the same time as the pandemic, and our governor decided that nobody should come back. I was fine with this because it was safe and necessary. Our school district published PDF packets of worksheets and instructed us have our kids work through those in addition to some web apps. They had weekly classroom zoom meetings for the teachers to stay tied in. They said we should let the kids be kids, it's a stressful time so don't try to duplicate school. Spend 30-45 minutes a day on the packets. And try other classes... go on a bike ride and call it PE, hold art and music classes, have fun!

This all went terribly. We were very bad at it. We'd try to enforce a daily 2pm study time, but half the time it go away from us and these past few weeks we just stopped caring. The kids are definitely spending too much time playing videogames and not enough time reading. Marc and I are both pretty bad teachers. Olive, age 6, shuts down when something is "too hard" and it takes constant sitting there to coax her to just TRY anything. Josie wants to stay up all night and sleep all day.

When we admitted this to their teachers, we were met with "compared to the other parents you're doing pretty good".

This week we were allowed to drive to the school to pick up the school supplies, projects and papers our kids had left behind when they thought we were coming back. Each child got a grocery bag full of papers, and Olive delighted in showing me the worksheets, art class projects, social studies units.

I got really sad. All those papers were physical, tangible evidence of all the group enrichment my kids had been getting, spending six hours a day learning in their classrooms, and realized we hadn't been anywhere close to duplicating it. Part of it is my own badness, just not motivating enough. I'm also not a professional. It's also hard to take my kids out of their house full of everything else to sit them down in a group with rules where the only thing to do is learn.

It's parenting, you might say, you lay down the law, you do it, just like when you had a toddler you made them stay away from the stove, now you take your 10 year old and make her do a worksheet! take away the TV, be hardcore!

We did, we tried, but overall I feel like I failed, and I'm not the only one.

I was always skeptical of homeschooling in general. I think it was good for some kids who have trouble with regular school. I have more faith in parents who are trained educators. I have known homeschooled kids who thrived. So I'm glad it's an option.

But I've also known some non-teacher parents who homeschooled their kids so they wouldn't be held back by the pace of a classroom, and I didn't like that. I think life is about going at the pace of a group. I design airplanes with 1000 people - we have to be organized, communicate, slow down for each other, speed up for somebody else. There are inefficiencies and bureaucratic roadblocks that we have to navigate without getting frustrated. I jokingly said once that the best training for the craziness of corporate America is public schools... and I still say that! They are both a system that is not designed for you, the individual. You learn to be a little bored and misunderstood, but you march on. We are a society. School is your kid's first introduction to it. We have seen kids dangerously isolated when their parents opt out of schools for religious reasons. I have worked with engineers who spent a time being homeschooled and thought every design they cranked out would be immediately classified as brilliant, because they started learning differential equations at age 10. They didn't realize they'd have to show their work, document, and bring a whole team along with them to troubleshoot. They were the worst kind of individuals, with the chronic attitudes of "if anything breaks I'll fix it myself" and "I can't accept help. I need to do this myself and take six months to do it".

I like public schools. I like the idea of them, about working together to make them better. I like my privileged kid who got read to every night sitting by an underprivileged kid who needs help catching up with assignments. I like colorful classrooms, dedicated teachers, choir concerts, recess and playgrounds. I like the friends they talk about and the new books they learn about. I like new ways of teaching math in ten blocks.

You could definitely say that what we're doing now is not homeschooling, and I'd be fine with it. But now I'm finding NEW things I took for granted about public school.

The pandemic has taken so many lives and hurt people, and we've sacrificed other things in life to try and fight it. The sacrifices are peanut-butter spread across everything, I doesn't matter that I'd give up restaurants if I could just have the schools open again. And what else? I've had to burn vacation hours at work and worry about my job security. I miss haircuts, restaurants, my makerspace, parties, families, museums. But none of those sacrifices matter as much as education for my kids. I wish they could go back to school.

friday 5: grace

from today's questions are about people being nice to you, but that's a little tough when you only see the same three people for weeks at a time. I don't even go to stores. egads, how long has it been since I saw The Public? I don't remember.

When most recently did someone show you unexpected courtesy?
it's nice that josie goes on evening walks with me. I really enjoy it, and think it's good for her to get out of the house. she might be doing it for me because she doesn't like to go outside enough these days otherwise.

What were you most recently forgiven for?
probably some social faux pas at the office. I'm always being too blunt.

What did someone most recently buy for you?
this makes me miss the makerspace. people give little presents a lot. things we make each other, or just have around, or see at the counter at harbor freight and think of someone. I have a laser pointer, a radio headset, a coffee dripper, all little things that friends from the space either bought for me or had around and gave me.

What did someone most recently make for you?
one of the ceramics guys gave me several mugs for the random auction baskets we're always putting together, I still have some around.

Who could you probably be a bit nicer to?
I suppose I could join in marc's calls to his parents. just not a lot to talk about with them.


I am 40 years old :) We are throwing a huge party with tons of friends over, it's all set up!

In 2010 I turned 30. I was VERY pregnant. Two weeks later I would be a mother. We didn't do much partying for my 30th and I didn't care. Instead, Marc surprised me with a 30th birthday party exactly one year later. I was technically turning 31, but the cake said HAPPY 30th and everybody happily went along with it. I wasn't pregnant so I could drink margaritas and stay up until, gosh probably 8pm. It was a very happy memory.

So with that precedent, it makes sense that my fabulous 40th birthday party should be postponed as well. Party-wise, we're behind schedule. These details are in the facebook event that I set up for my 40th birthday party, to be held in May 2021.

Here on livejournal, you all can still wish me a happy birthday today.

I would love if you'd give me a gift. The gift I am requesting is a question. Anything that can inspire a future entry. About engineering, airplanes, parenting, the dog, the ferrets, Kansas, or some random thing that has nothing to do with me if you want. I won't judge if you accidentally ask about something I already wrote about, it's not a quiz. If you just ran across this entry a week late, that's okay, post a reply, I'll love it. I've had lots of happy birthdays on livejournal and am just glad to still be here.

fast & the furious

Last week I wrote about my frustration with movies that show non-climbing airplanes, and a friend of mine pointed out an even BETTER example:

I hadn't seen Fast & The Furious 6... I didn't think I could, since I haven't seen 1-5. But now I know you don't have to watch them in order because they're not in any order. Marc has seen them but watching the clip he was like "oh that guy's alive in this one!" because who knows.

But the movie is famous for this airplane scene where the actors drive around, fight, enter and exit an Antonov An-124 during what seems to be a 5 minute takeoff roll. The airplane is screaming down the runway, you hear the crew say "we have reached takeoff speed", the fight scene continues, the cars are shown shooting at it, more fighting, everyone has a tea, the airplane is still on the runway. Everything continues. The airplane lifts off the runway about 10 feet, level with the cars. More fighting, chasing, driving, trash talk, "you joined the wrong team!"... the airplane is now 15 feet in the air.

I found myself immediately wondering how long this damn runway is, and I wasn't the only one... a quick google search shows plenty of calculator nerds all estimating that the runway would have to be 20-30 miles long.

This obviously doesn't exist so I'll add these runway length fun facts: Salina, Kansas actually has a two-mile long runway. Go figure! It's longer than the main ones in Wichita. It is fairly common for big international airports to have two mile long runways, just weird that ours is in the middle of Kansas. Built in WW2, there was an airforce base and B-17 flying fortress training. The longest runway in the world, Qamdo Bamda in China, is 3.4 miles long. The longest runway in America is at Denver International, 3 miles long. You'd think you'd be able to get out of that damn place faster.

friday five: sand


When did you last feel sand between your toes?
Depends on your definition. We went to a beach last summer. It was definitely sandy, and incredible, but very far away. We went camping a few weeks ago and I took my shoes off by the lake but the shore was more dirt/gravel eh, some sand. but not "oh this feeling between my toes!". It's a Kansas lake, it goes from rocks to slimy mud.

When did you last have a sandwich?
Lunch today. Marc breaded some chicken breasts a couple days ago and I've been putting them on sandwiches. I am much better at leftovers than he his, I'll eat on whatever's in the fridge for a long time. He's always making something, I'm always reheating. I guess you could say we get along that way.

What kinds of sandals do you own?
Just bought myself these teva's:

I have some velcro ones too, that strap across your whole foot.

I should never buy $5 plastic flip flops again. They blow out. Must resist.

How trustworthy has the Sandman been these days?
Great. I excel at falling asleep.

What do you know about San Diego?
Never been there. I've been to LA, and San Francisco... just touristy short trips though, no stays IN the city to really figure it out. We Kansans have a lot of stereotypes about californians. Well, and floridians too. Really anyone on the coasts. We all go to a beach and think that's nice to visit, but who'd wouldn't want to live here, look at the prices! and they all snub back "well you get what you PAY for!" I'm not inventing this, a former californian-turned coworker actually said this to me when I asked if he was happy about the reduced cost of living since his move. Oh well. We eye-roll and wander off to watch our lovely sunset over a suitable lake.

80s rooms

somewhere on the internet I saw a question about very early memories. I don't have great ones. my brother-in-law has an odd stockpile of memories from his tiny kid days, but most of my actual memories start kicking in around the middle of elementary school. I feel like I have a snippet of when my sister was born, I would have been three, but nothing real or tangible. what do I feel when I try to remember back that far? brown. orange. wood paneling. yup... oddly enough all the decor is still in my head. when I try to think back, all I know is that I am surrounded by the color brown.

we had wood paneling in our living room, a plaid couch, an orange recliner, brown carpet, a vacuum with a setting for "shag" that I asked about but luckily we did not have shag carpeting.

trying to read up on early 80s design trends, I ran across this article about my grandma's couch. well... it wasn't literally her couch. but it might as well have been.

It was printed with a repeating image that might have been a rustic barn with a wagon wheel perched outside or an old mill with a water wheel, surrounded by reddish orange and gold flowers, and possibly wild fowl like pheasants or turkeys. The fabric also had a fuzzy velour-type texture, but it was scratchy against the skin.

that description... YES the fabric felt terrible! we all agree on something!

the fabric, as it turns out, was space-age plastic that would last FOREVER. I approve of this idea in general because now we upholster couches in terrible things like acrylic that are designed to pill up and tear at the seams after a year. disposable. But back then, people bought products that would last. They were not going to need "updates" to their whole interior every five years! and so we all grew up with those couches for decades! same with the fake carved dark wood furniture, the busy printed wallpaper, the glass grapes decorating the side table.

my bedroom was pale yellow... some specific shade I was big on, buttercream? buttermint? white furniture, lots of rainbow brite and blocks and legos. my sister's room I remember as just being a hot mess all the time, a toy disaster. This is kid memory. now that I'm a parent, I imagine my room was not always the sparkling clean vision I remember it, and my little sister's room probably alternated between clean and cluttered, but after the decades all I remember is how great a kid I was.

if I am ever allowed to visit mom's house again I'll have to pull up some photo albums for the girls, they love it, and pay more attention to the backgrounds, see if they match my memories.