the midwest

mairi_dubh asked For you, what states comprise the "Midwestern U.S.A.?"

It seemed for a while that "Midwest" values, mores and even "personalities" were so much the thing that the "Midwest" had expanded to take over what used to be the West, and the South, other than anything which touched a body of salt water.

Kansas is for me, personally, in the Midwest.
What states are included in the Midwest, for you?

I thought it'd be easier to draw a map and highlight all the places that are not the midwest:

When I googled the midwest, it actually included more states than I thought. I think Michigan is very different from Kansas. I think Ohio might as well be the east coast. It's right by Pennsylvania, for heaven's sake! And a lot of maps don't consider colorado to be the midwest, but if you've driven through colorado you know that eastern colorado is basically Kansas. And with more and more Kansans moving there, it might just become Kansas... but not yet. So far everybody I know who's moved to Colorado spends all their time on facebook begging their Kansas friends to come visit them in cliquey Colorado.

Google also says Arkansas is not the midwest? What is it? Arkansas and Missouri have a lot in common - lovely streams and caves and hills, strange people.

People from Kansas are polite, they hold doors open. But not as loud as southerners. They are quietly judgmental, southerners are loudly judgmental. Kansas farmers are hard working. Southern farmers are from some kind of exploitive aristocracy. We were once an extremely progressive place. We started as a free state just as the civil war was breaking out, achieved statehood almost in the name of adding our count to the north. Women had the right to vote in 1912. We're proud of Brown v. Board desegregating schools. We've elected several democratic governors, but almost no democratic presidents. Plenty of Kansans think we can reclaim our forward-looking moderate politics, it's only a matter of time. Lots of time, I guess.

I see Kansas as the dead center of the midwest but I suppose that's not how the rest of the world defines it. I also see Kansas as distinctly difference from the north/south but maybe it's hard for outsiders to see the difference. I see it as, well, the middle. Smack dab in the center of the US. The support structure for everything else to circle around.

happy 20th livejournal anniversary to me :)

This is it... exactly 20 years ago today I started a Livejournal. I was a college senior. I had just turned 21.

Wow, hi, I'm here. Alright, I might as well announce that the only reason I opened a LiveJournal account was that everybody else around seems to have one and I'm starting to feel left out. I have a "deadjournal" now I guess - it's in a composition book I got at Wal-Mart for $.60 and I use a ballpoint pen to write in it. Or I could use my $1000 computer for the same thing. Horray for technology! - my first entry

The voice is strikingly familiar. The spell check was not as integrated. Today's browsers would remind me to change it to "hooray". The enthusiasm is shinier. I had absolutely no idea what the future held. Everything formed slowly, and was written down here for posterity's sake. It's been a record, it's been a tool to sort out my thoughts.

I am grown up now, aren't I? I wonder what entry has that?

Here's to many more, livejournal. To the whole community of friends, to whoever helps on this site now and then... thank you thank you thank you!

scary books?

It's halloween right? Okay not october yet but... we're getting ready! The temperature dropped a tiny smidge and I'm ready to get out all the bat decorations. I also wanted to ask my fellow ljers here what's your favorite scary book?

I love reading horror in the fall. last year my favorite was "the girl with all the gifts" by mike carey.

I've read enough stephen king. I read Doctor Sleep, it was just okay. I think The Shining is an absolute masterpiece, I love dolores claiborne and carrie. but I was about 3/4 of the way through Salem's Lot when I realized that not every stephen king book is The Shining and maybe I've heard enough from this one author.

I just started "we have always lived in the castle" by shirley jackson, it's beautiful so far. I read "the haunting of hill house" last year.

I'm not usually a fan of series but I could try something. I'm not into crime or could-be-true thriller stories, I prefer to have ghosts or zombies or witches in the mix.

suggestions, friends?

Middle school math

Josie got this "find the area" problem that plagued our house. I'll let you all stare at it for a minute. You'll either get it right away, or you won't. She made the mistake of coming to me for help. She said that she didn't know how to figure up the area of the triangle up top because they didn't label the horizontal line. Marc had drawn that dashed pencil line to try and decompose it into more triangles — but that didn't help. 

Make this harder than it has to be.
Make this harder than it has to be.

My problem was that as soon as I looked at it, I saw 3-4-5 triangles. So I told Josie the horizontal line must be six, because I see an isosceles triangle on top and if they labeled one line 5, the triangle sides must be 5, and the most wonderful right triangle is the classic 3-4-5. My dad taught me about them building a fenced in compost pile in the back yard. We would have RIGHT ANGLES, dammit.

But Josie is only in the 6th grade and doesn't know about a squared plus b squared equals c squared yet... no trig. "The teacher will ask where I got the 3!" she said. 


It was bothering me thought so I asked my mom, the teacher. She took one look at the problem and said "it's a rhombus. all the sides are 5."

Huh? That's impossible, there's no classic 2.5-4-5 triangle! She said I was making it too hard. I think the problem was making it too hard.

First, who the hell ever uses a rhombus, after the 6th grade?

Second, that dashed line straight up from the bottom of the rhombus would DEFINITELY hit the horizontal line at 3 in — not split the middle! Because even if we don't know about trig get we can't pretend it doesn't exist!

After not helping Josie at all and screwing up her homework, I later re-drew it and realized it could work if you just use the numbers as they're presented. 

There I fixed it
There I fixed it

And then everything was okay. It just can't look like an isosceles triangle. You can't have straight lines up the side. 

Tell me it's not just me, right? Didn't everybody look at that and yearn for trigonometry? God's own math? 

I usually don't screw with my kid so much, I support teachers and curriculum. But that problem drove me crazy. 

Oh and Mom also asked me...

Why was the math teacher late for school?

Because she got on the Rhom-bus. 


a full night's sleep

I can't remember when I started waking up early. I never slept in. Even as a kid, I was that annoying one at the slumber parties who wakes up first and has no idea what to do. staring at my sleeping friends, eating breakfast with the parents. I think I slept in high school and college and in my 20s. I definitely know I didn't sleep when I was pregnant. I'd wake up at 4am or 2am... for my first baby we were saving up for a house and work was so busy they'd pay me for overtime, so that's what I did. just went to work. for my second baby I had been promoted enough that I didn't get paid for overtime, just worked it for fun, but I was running that etsy shop and sewing and 3am was a quiet time to get projects done.

nowdays I run, sometimes, unless I don't feel like running. lately I've been a huge slacker in the running department. it's so dang hot and humid it doesn't even feel good so I've been laying back a lot. sometimes I read. or go downstairs and watch tv. or just lay there listening to podcasts. or worst of all, play cell phone games.

it's okay 1-2 times a week when it lines up with my workout schedule and I'm motivated enough to go outside, but when it's more than that... I just wish I could sleep all night. I'd feel so much better. on those rare days when I sleep until 5am I feel so good.

I tried going to bed later, it doesn't make a difference. I tried running for miles, it doesn't make me tired enough to sleep.

I think I'm just made for a 21 or 22 hour planet, not a 24 hour one.

this morning I woke up and didn't feel like running. but just to test it, I walked outside and took a deep breath and looked up at the stars, and it changed my mind. I changed clothes and went out to run in the dark.

women's groups

seattlejo asked me this question for my birthday: What are your thoughts about gendered professional development associations like Women in Aviation. Helpful? Segregating?

I love gendered professional development associations. I'm a lifetime member of Society of Women Engineers (SWE), I've been to the Women in Aviation conference at least once, I was once president of the women's networking group at my company.

I wouldn't call them gendered or segregating, because they're open to everybody. You have to support the mission of these groups to join, of course... they're usually along the lines of supporting and promoting women's achievements, recognizing the power of diversity, etc. Men can do that!

My SWE section even had a "Best Male Member" award that we gave out at conference banquets until we realized we, uh, needed to rename it.

Here's my way of thinking, and why I like women's groups:

1) Engineering takes a lot of smart people. a lot of different people, different ways of thinking, different intelligences. Engineering needs to listen to everyone and be open to change.

2) We won't have the most talented engineers if we chop half the population off the candidate pool right off the bat. We will be missing brains. The same thing happens if you only hire from one small town, or only hire the boss's nephews. Limited selection forces you to lower the bar.

3) It's hard to do your best when you're the only girl in your group. Not only do you miss a lot of lunch invites, but somebody is always going to look at you wondering if you're just there to represent females. If there are more women in your group, you become normal. It's not "the woman said something". If there's a 50/50 split and you get promoted, nobody can say "oh sure they picked the ONE WOMAN". But as long as you're the only woman, you will be the Token Woman.

4) Engineers do not take classes in school about how to encourage women or boost diversity numbers. We are taking 13 hours of calculus. We do not know how to ask questions about microaggressions or put into words why we feel uncomfortable. We can't solve the gender imbalance problem with thermodynamics.

5) Lastly, I think women deserve engineering jobs. They're great jobs. I love what I do. I find it very disturbing that society just "happens" to pay much lower salaries to jobs that are traditionally held by women. One way women can counter that is to pick non-stereotypical jobs. But I think reason #2 (engineering deserves women) is a much bigger and more noble cause than #5 here, so let's move on.

Once you admit that the gender imbalance is an issue, women's groups are a great way to counteract it. Get all us women together to talk about our experiences, conduct research, help each other, provide friendship and mentoring. Make the next woman who just joined the company feel like part of the family.

I never want to be one of those women who looks around and shrugs and says "well I made it so there must not be a problem. must be something weird about those females." I think if I have found success, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to work by previous generations, and I should pay it forward. Ask questions, admit we have room for improvement, join a group and go out to lunch every once in a while.

I told the men I work with that if they want to start a men in engineering group, I'll join it! but the cubicles that day already looked like a men in engineering group, so nobody found the need.

That's my logic.

Oh and last last bit - I'm also in these groups because I love these women. I have met some of my greatest friends through SWE. We are the same. We get along amazingly, we talk on the same level, we want the same things. When I first started working I'd get invited to these engineer wife gatherings and as much as I needed to make friends, they weren't fun. The engineer wives would joke about their dorky husbands, and I related to the wrong side of the joke. I was plucky comic relief. The outcast. Not so with SWE. We get shit done. I'm in an engineering moms facebook group that is the hands down best moms group too. Why can't I be BFFs with the men in engineering? I don't know. There are some great men, and I have managed to get those lunch invites. But it's not the same as having female friends, and if I'm not careful I can go days, maybe weeks, without talking to another woman.

my basic advice to women in engineering...

1. find your male allies. keep an eye out for the progressive ones, who'll meet your glance if you look around for help after being snubbed, who let you talk in meetings, who train you. you need them. they're everywhere.

2. join swe.

vaccines and baby having

cw: infertility

this headline is making the rounds in my feed: COVID Vaccines Show No Signs of Harming Fertility or Sexual Function [Scientific American]

I know infertility is a serious issue for many so I don't want to make light of it. I'm glad there is more data and scientist publishing more studies to reassure people that you can have the vaccine and babies and all is well.

BUT I also had to laugh at the headline because earlier this year, when vaccines were merely a dream, a young person I work with told me that he'd read the vaccines cause infertility.

immediately half the guys in the office looked up and said "BONUS POINTS!" and we had to explain to this poor kid that a one shot birth control would be the ONLY thing we could possibly imagine being more popular than a COVID-19 vaccine! he clearly had no idea what people go through, as the years of life go on, to NOT have babies!

I have had children. I love them. I do not want more. I'm not too bothered by having to get a mirena IUD re-inserted every five years, it's worth it. but it's not a fun doctor visit. it's quite a bit more involved than a shot in the arm.

I realize I don't represent the entire population but I think there's a pretty strong majority with this affliction! People who have heterosexual sex, but we don't want ALL THE BABIES? It's so common that contraceptives have been a revolution and people are willing to do all kinds of things to not have babies! Pills, routine shots, implants, surgeries... science. All with side effects, all complicated.

So for some conspiracy theorist to think "oh big pharma has been holding out on the quick easy solution until 2021!" was very puzzling to me.

I've only met like 2-3 heterosexual couples who were fine having all the babies. They seem very happy with their 6 or 8 or 12 kids but they are VERY rare. I know a lot more people who do not want ANY babies. The popularity of that option is telling!

When I was a similarly young person in my early 20s with sporadic boyfriends, I also didn't really get it. Of course I always supported contraceptive access for everyone. But I remember being in my church full of hippies one day and the topic came up. "There are some denominations who think birth control is wrong, because sex is only for making babies," said a member of my sunday school class. From the back row, the oldest lady in the room looked up from behind her walker and yelled "well that's a load of crap!"

I just hadn't experienced the decades of adult relationship-ness ahead of me, hadn't thought about it, didn't appreciate the post-contraceptive world we live in now. I'd also never had babies so I didn't fully understand the earthquake that occurs in your life when a baby is born. now I know. so the second I heard "this shot means no babies" I was like OMG THEY DID IT but then realized it was a conspiracy made up hoax, went right back to checking my HSA to see if we've saved up enough for that vasectomy we keep talking about.

Kamala Harris book

I was so impressed with Kamala Harris during the debates, and so excited when she was sworn in as vice president! I recently finished her book "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey". It was okay. It really read like a civics lesson, or book of political speeches, not quite what I expected. I learned some things, sure... administrative details about how the supreme court allowed same sex marriage, abuses against immigrants in detention centers, but I didn't learn much about Kamala Harris.

Every chapter follows the same formula. quick personal story, ties to a big issue, case study, inspiring conclusion. Speech. Like...

1) When I was a kid I remember when my mom finally saved up enough money for us to BUY our own house and stop renting! We loved that house, we were so proud!
2) And that's why the housing crisis was so devastating to me, when # million Americans lost their homes.
3) Like Joe and Marge Smith from Bakersfield California. Joe is a hard working teacher and Marge raises guinea pigs and they lost their house.
4) That's why houses, dammit!

It's not a chronological memoir, it is literally organized by issue.

So if you like politics you will like this book. But I pretty much know where I stand on all the issues and felt exhausted by all the examples. I'm proud that Kamala Harris sounds like a very smart very hard worker.

produce etiquette

asking for a friend... let's say you regularly walk past this house about 2-3 blocks from yours, and they have a pear tree in their front yard that is just busting out pears all over the place. there are some nasty ones on the ground but more great ones on the tree. you never see them outside, but you start venturing a few feet into their yard to pick off some pears. like, every night. with your kid.

and your whole family starts eating pears like they're in their own food group. sitting around watching tv, your daughter regularly makes eye contact with you and just says, "pear time?". with a knowing nod, you're both out the door. you haven't brought a bag yet, just depend on hoodie pockets and whatever you can carry. I mean why take a bunch, you'll be back tomorrow.

that kind of thing is okay you think?

casual fruit theft?

I'd do it
I would not do it

August spending report

You know I felt bad about our spending this month until I saw that it was the lowest since February. Maybe this is just how we are. Of course, the other months we had big house stuff we were buying... so it's hard to tell what the number should be. I decided to do something different for this spending report. Rather than just stare at the numbers, I pulled our report from January.

January was a fantastic month for us, we had an official DON'T BUY ANYTHING, nothing went wrong in the house, we didn't even leave the house. It was the peak of a global pandemic. I was working from home, and hating that, there were no parties and no place to take the kids. But we did awesome on the budget! So I figure that should be our baseline, "needs only" line in the sand, right? How did we do?

Groceries: $1122 in August compared to $950 in January. Not too far off really, we were going to the store LESS in January and attempted to avoid all junk food... marc and I had "dry january" with no alcohol, so the kids had "no cookies", they told me this was bullshit but somehow survivied.

Restaurants: $423 in August compared to $121 in January. Yeah, I know. Well I will say that $116 of that was one nice dinner Marc and I treated ourselves with to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary! We can do that once a year. January had 7 little one-meal drive through trips and one $60 takeout order. August had 19 restaurant visits. Besides lunches out, there was a trip to the zoo with the kids concession stand lunch, a girls night out I went to, I brought donuts in to work, we had a fun day it hutchison when the cosmosphere was free and had to eat at the famous anchor inn mexican buffet.

Automotive: $118, nothing in January. We did not go to car washes, didn't buy washer fluid.

Pets: $190, nothing in January. We had a pet food order come in ($80) and paid to board the dog while we went camping with my sister.

Shopping: $341 in August, $256 in January. You know, I had it in my head that we were PERFECT during "no buy January" but there was an amazon order on the statement! I never do those anymore. The biggest shopping trip we had in August was a $150 trip to Target for school supplies. Okay, there were a couple shirts in there. But this was after we scoured the house to use last year's school supplies... the schools always re-ask for classroom stuff, paper, dry erase markers, that doesn't just live around the house. Both months were lighter on shopping, to be honest.

Oh, about $60 of January's shopping was to Nintendo for switch subscriptions. We apparently had to do something during pandemic, no-shopping month.

Gas: $327 in August, $118 in January. I guess even my short little work commute is a thing.

Alcohol: $174 in August, $67 in January. No comment.

School registration: $170 in August. Public schools, two children, registration fees for who knows what but this is a thing every year.

Donations: Donations were the same except $150 to Heartspring, an organization that helps kids with special needs, for their annual Pedalfest bike ride. Despite our efforts though Pedalfest has gone virtual. So I'm putting that in the donation bucket.

This all feels like a bunch of little stuff but when I add it all up it's $1500 difference! Which is... about what the totals are. egads! I don't know what to hold my family to, that's the hard part. once you spend less than you make, your motivation is just to not be an overconsuming asshole. where's that line, I always wonder? my family would set it in a very different place than me.