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Reshare from a reddit question:
What are some aggressive things your partner has done that made you leave them?

My answer... from college, a million years ago, but I still remember it:
I had a boyfriend who was fairly disrespectful to me but I didn’t really realize what a jerk he was until I noticed his driving. He’d floor it all the time for no real reason. The last straw was the night I got nervous because he was driving in a movie theater parking lot with lots of pedestrians and I asked him to drive slower, I was like hey there’s little kids everywhere between these cars. His response was something like “well their stupid parents might learn to watch them!”

I said nothing else, then got angry, when he dropped me off back at my house I burst into tears and screamed at him and after that fight we were done.

birthmark hurting

I don't mean to be an old person just blogging about my health problems but this year, man. they're crazy! I'm not even old!

This one ends very stupidly though, I mostly want to write it up to help internet people.

I have a birthmark or strawberry mark or whatever on the back of my head. It's a bald spot. It has not made my life terrible, except it was tricky wearing pigtails, I had to make the part crooked.

Anyway while traveling for work I noticed it hurt if I leaned up against it or pressed it. Weird. I tried not to mess with it.

But as the week went on it got worse. It hurt all the time. It kind of itched. It felt bigger... I couldn't tell, I didn't totally remember the boundaries. So I did some googling about a birthmark hurting, birthmark growing, itching, etc.

The internet said I definitely had skin cancer and melanoma and weeks to live.

This was upsetting. I called my doctor and got an appointment for two days later, when I'd have time to go in... no hurry right? I had my husband look at it, since it's on the back of my head and I'd tried taking photos but it was too hard, he said it looked red and weird and was glad I was going to the doctor.

The morning of my appointment it hurt so bad and I was so convinced I was going to die I also called a dermatologist who told me they couldn't see new patients for MONTHS and I needed to see my primary care physician and I was like okay fine. I'd had trouble sleeping because it throbbed all the time, I wondered why I didn't just take off work as soon as I noticed pain because now I was definitely going to die, right? It wasn't until that morning that I got really worried.

Well I was fine. My doctor said it was just some stupid clogged hair follicle or zit or something. Stabbed it and told me to keep it clean. I did, and it went away. It was a total coincidence that it was on my birthmark, a lot of people get these on their head, I just never had before.

So I'm going to make it, internet.

Never a terrible idea to see your doctor I guess, I had all these apologies about how I felt stupid but it's on the back of my damn head, I can't see it! She said it was seriously no big deal.

I've had actual friends my age have to get skin cancer stuff removed. I've had actual friends my age die quickly of cancer! So I'm writing this up because you never read stories about "and then I was fine" kinda like when you're pregnant and so worried about the future, you never read about "oh my god I had a baby... and it grew up and lived to be 90 years old" None of that is shocking enough to go viral.

every day, millions of people are very boring.

that's my big news.


self checkouts

man, if you want to start a fierce facebook debate, bring up self-checkouts at grocery stores!

I use them. I admit they are not perfect. It is stupid how much they want to yell at you for "stealing" when you're obviously right there trying to check out. As my husband once said looking around, "If I wanted to steal from this place, I'd steal from this place." I am sure they were programmed by someone who hates technology and doesn't trust it and just dreams up worst-case scenarios that some poor IT guy has to jump through just to get his project done.

I like how I can go to a store at oh-dark-thirty in the morning with a pocket full of spare change and shove pennies at it until I've paid for my peanut butter cups. I wouldn't do that to a human cashier, they would roll their eyes at me and not want to count all that change, and they'd be in the right.

Let's get to my real rant though - old people on facebook who say we should not use self-checkout because JOBS. Robots TAKING human JOBS! Don't you care about the poor cashiers getting tossed out on the street because they've been made obsolete by technology?

What a strange argument. I have not heard any news interviews about people who wanted to be cashiers but could not because grocery stores are hiring fewer workers. They still need people to monitor the machines. They've never hired enough cashiers to make my checkout experience queue-free... if they're going to have just 2-3 working at a time, why not have one of them monitor a self-checkout with six stations so I don't have to wait? Same number of employed people, less waiting.

And even if they weren't hiring cashiers... well, jobs go obsolete! When I get into facebook debates with these people I ask them about other obsolete jobs they could feel bad about...

- when you want to find a business' contact information do you call information, or just google it?
- to type this facebook status, did you hire a typing pool?
- did you request an elevator operator, or hit the 9th floor button yourself?

These are all things people used to do, but with a little technology help, the jobs went away and now we are all "burdened" with doing these jobs "ourselves" - but I'm not sure we'd go back. And we don't feel bad. If the self-checkouts keep improving, why should I just stand and stare off into space while a human person does my scanning for me? I'm just standing there bored, it's not like this costs me time.

At the end of the day we have to ask ourselves how to move the world FORWARD, and clinging to the past is never the solution to that. Humans will always be needed. The biggest tech companies in the world employ hundreds of thousands of people - tech companies! If robots could replace us, they'd figure it out, right? So if you're worried about cashiers, look for ways to find people jobs where their human talents are put to worthy use - aka jobs that we can't program a computer to do. Fight for higher wages. Fight for efficiencies to make our lives easier, so we can work fewer hours a week and still have what we need.

Trying to freeze the world because the touchscreen is glitchy is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There's a real enemy here but technology is not it.


drama queen 101

In working with groups who email a lot, I've learned to recognize four types of overdramatic posts that toxic people make to screw everything up. There may be more, but these are my favorite.

First, someone puts out an idea. I think we should have a plant in our office.

In theory people could just agree or disagree. Or not care! "I don't think we need a plant, but I will support whatever the team decides."

But instead we get...

1) The attack.
"Having a plant is the worst idea ever. Truly awful."

2) The personal attack.
"Whoever suggested a plant is a total idiot."

3) The mountain out of the molehill.
"We could have been the greatest team in the universe, conquering the world and becoming billionaires, but if we get a plant this place is going to explode and we will all die or go to jail."

4) The history dredge up.
"I have suggested a cactus 5,000 times a year for the last five years and nobody listened to me, now all the sudden we want a plant?"

Olive's kindergarten download

The older Olive gets the more I think she's an external processor, happy to let everyone know what's in her head. It's great and adorable.

In the weeks leading up to kindergarten she was stoked, telling the world how she graduated pre-k, was going to kindergarten where they let you climb everything on the playground, pre-k they wouldn't let you climb on the big stuff. Then the night before kindergarten she told me she didn't feel ready because there would be monkey bars and they weren't allowed on those last year so she couldn't do them. I reassured her this was not important for going to kindergarten.

When she got home she had all the stories! There was drama - a kid got sent to the principle's office for hurting another little girl on the playground and the little girl had to go to the nurse's office, which is like a hospital inside the school. There are lincoln logs. She got a rainbow lollipop for listening so well. Her best friend has a coat hook next to hers. Chicken nuggets and yogurt for lunch.

The schools staggers kindergarteners the first week - a few kids attend each day, then next week they all start in, so Olive went to school Wednesday and that was it. The other days, she went with Marc to pick up her big sister, and gave her teacher a big hug and said she missed her and couldn't want to be back again.

managing volunteers

Three things I've learned about being very involved in volunteer organizations:

1) Chickens. There's an old joke about a chicken who goes to a pig and says, "Let's start a breakfast restaurant where people can eat ham and eggs!" The pig responds, "Sounds like I'd be committed, you'd only be involved."

Chickens are the ones who constantly come up with things "we" should do, but they're only going to be sidelined involved. The worst is when they throw criticism at the pigs who are TRULY committed and doing the hard work.

Step 1 is turning their great ideas around, when they say "we" should do something, respond with "AWESOME idea, I totally support that, I'd suggest that YOUR first step will be to..." Never respond with "we don't have time" or "don't you see how hard I'm working?" Help them in.

2) On the other hand, you can go past the committed pig and become the all-out martyr. Toxic martyr volunteers sacrifice huge amounts of time themselves, then guilt everyone who isn't doing the same. They'll complain loudly that they're the only one working... even in a room full of people working. That's when you notice a pattern — they never ask for help or try to organize anyone to assist, and they hate when you try and take their (volunteer!) job away from them. There's a great article about how we need to celebrate the lazy leader who gets even help from everyone instead of the guy who lost his job/family/sanity for your organization.

3) Constantly ask for help. I've been shocked at the number of times I've asked for someone to take over an activity 150 times, then suddenly I get the wording or timing right and somebody jumps up and just takes it over, telling me it's such a fun thing they do they wish I'd asked earlier. We have to be creative and look for ways to package volunteer jobs to make sense to people. Be like habitat for humanity, who invites people to show up with no skills, planning or thinking and somehow gets them all to build a house. Most of the volunteers have no idea how much pre-planning and expertise is involved in giving them that mindless day of "giving back" — but that's what it takes, that's what all non-profits take. Nothing is mindless. The mind is somewhere. If the mind is you, seeing what needs done and planning long term, make sure you're not also the one brush-painting the house. As soon as you really know how to do a job, train your replacement and give it away. Move up to the busier intersection. That's how you grow.

ironphoenix told me about Maxwell's level's of leadership last year and I still refer to it a lot. In a volunteer organization I think it looks like this:

1) Step 1: ask people to do things. You'd be surprised how few leaders are even here.

2) Know who to ask. People will help because they're your friend.

3) Design an engaging, interesting system that draws people in

4) People know what to do even without you

5) Your values are part of people's identity, they own the organization and can't help but be extremely involved. You've made something that lasts


what's up with build-a-bear this week?

so here's a relevant, topical post for the week... build a bear! wtf?

They had a "pay your age" day where you could go get a bear for your age, so if your kid is 8, her bear is only $8.

Which sounds awesome except I've been to build a bear, haven't a lot of people? The bears are never that expensive. They're like $12, maybe $20, sure there's some flashy licensed ones but there's almost always some on sale or a buy-one-get-one deal. They have sales all the time.

The sales never extend to accessories, and that's the bread and butter of build a bear. I was telling a friend of mine about how we might have build-a-bear clothes that are more expensive than my clothes.

You get your $12 bear then realize the little shirt for it is $8, but why just get the little shirt when you can get the $15 dress, $10 shoes, $20 rollerskates (yup), hat, bow, headband, purse, and you walk out thinking "I got a $12 bear! It was only $50!"

Maybe I notice these things because when I worked in the shoestore we were always getting pressure to sell extra accessories and items. We were graded on the item count average on all the days receipts. Profit margins on "stuff that's not shoes" was huge. Shoelaces, socks, shoe cleaners and care kit, bags, bows, etc.

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vampire talk with the 5 year old

olive: I do not like vampires.

me: well that's okay, because they're not real.

olive: but they turn into bats. bats are real.

me: well yeah, bats are real, but not vampires.

olive: but there's vampire bats.

me: well, okay. vampire bats are real. but you don't have to worry about them because they don't live in Kansas.

olive: I saw them in our zoo!

me: okay YES they live at the zoo but... not, like, outside? NOTHING IS TRYING TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD.

olive: mosquitoes are sucking my blood.

me: (deep breath) you're very smart olive. this is a very good talk.

olive: I just don't like vampires. 

me: me neither, babe. 

Upcoming Reunion

Can we talk about high school reunions?

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no socks

When I first came to work in an office 15 years ago, our company dress code required that everyone wear socks or hosiery.

My staple was close-toed dress shoes, knee high hose, and slacks.

Now it looks like the fashion for women is to never wear socks at all. So I'm trying to ditch the knee highs and go with those weird invisible socks that nobody can see but I think I hate this trend.  I'm in a nicer building these days with people who dress better and it looks like they really do not wear socks. Maybe that's the fashion. Why wear socks? They help your shoes last longer that's for sure. Why have shoes that last longer? It's women's shoes, you're supposed to throw them all out and replace them every three months. Oh wait, I hate that.

On jeans day I wear normal socks and brown leather lace-up sneakers that I got in the men's department. Leather holds up so much better I really try to get only that, but in the women's side of things it's hard to find and crazy expensive if it's any where. Men get leather shoes for $60. I think the ones I got are clarks or bass or something. I did get recognized one day when a guy saw that we were wearing the exact same shoes and he just said "that's so cool, they make the same ones for women!" and I just said "YUP!" At least, they made some for this woman.


code switching robots

I think I realized why it's so infuriating to talk to robots on the phone. You know what I mean — you call a helpline or something and they've got the voice saying extra happy things like "Sure SPACEFEM, I'll help you with that right away. But first I need some information. What are you calling about? You can say CHANGE SERVICE, FILE A CLAIM, or CUSS US ALL OUT."

Then they kinda do or don't understand you and that's frustrating in itself but you know what's worse? They will never code switch like humans do. You know what I mean. When I'm talking to someone who talks fast, I talk fast. When they talk slow I talk slow. When they have a southern accent, I instinctively work in the word "ain't" every once in a while. It's what we all do.

I think I'm good at it actually.

Robots aren't that smart. There are too many tiny details. They can type, I've heard, and fake us out and make us think we're talking to a person, but it will be a VERY long time before verbal communication can pass a turing test.

My 7 year old definitely changes how she talks when she's around her friends, I notice. The 4 year old kinda doesn't. She talks slower to little babies but at some toddler age, they're all the same.

Spring break trip to Oklahoma City

Last weekend with the kids on spring break I took thursday and friday off so we could be tourists like a normal American family. That's what you do! Part of what inspired this trip is we've talked about going to Disney World but I keep wondering if it's worth it. Can Olive, age almost five, endure a whole day of fun? Especially when she thinks it's really special to just go to the playground two miles from our house? Then I realized there might be fun stuff within driving distance that we haven't gone to, maybe try that first and spend a few hundred dollars on a trip before we spend thousands. Good call.

Day 1: Went to Enid since it's sort of on the way to Oklahoma City to see the Leonardo's Children's Museum. Admission: $9 per person. Time spent: Easily four hours. It was a nice day so we spent a lot of time at this crazy outdoor castle they have. It's not all science museum per se, they have arts and crafts and a "town" setting, Olive loved the tiny grocery store. I liked the giant lite-brite. In the middle there's a big indoor playground/climbing structure with little ball pit balls you can send flying around through hamster maze kinds of setups, I was impressed. Definitely worth it. Olive wanted to go back. We could have spent more time there. 

We drove to Oklahoma City and I figured the kids would pass out but NOPE, Olive was back there talking and singing with extra energy. How? I have no idea. I think Josie might have drifted off.

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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?


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.


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.


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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