Geekamama


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Time flies.

The last time I wrote here (about my own life, I mean), I had a two-going-on-three-year old who was, in theory, learning to help me with household chores. I’d been experimenting with making different kinds of candy, to varying degrees of success, and thinking about how to recruit more women into engineering fields. That was more than two years ago. Things have changed a little bit.

That two year old just turned five last week. He just graduated from Kindergarten Prep in June, and will be starting kindergarten this fall. His school is less than a mile from the new house that we just bought, and are in the process of moving into. Oh, and he’s got a one-year-old little brother now, who’s all but walking, and who looks just like a junior version of Kiddo the Elder.

My work life has changed too. I’m in charge of two projects (well, let’s say one and a half) and I have a handful of people reporting to me – the first time in my 15-year software engineering career where I’ve had minions reports. And naturally, these changes have had an impact on our family life. So has the fact that my husband now works at the same smallish company that I do.

When I first started writing here, I was dealing with the challenges of learning how to be a parent to a young child. These days, it’s things like finding the right school districts; keeping work conversation at work rather than the dinner table; and just figuring out how to be a family of four, when the number of kids has doubled but my capacity for attention (and patience!) has not.

Oh, and figuring out how to get Kiddo the Elder to help with household chores. Still.

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Love is for everyone

Last Thursday, Dec. 6 2012, was the first day in Washington state where same-sex couples could legally get a marriage license. And since Washington has a three-day waiting period once a license is obtained, yesterday, Dec. 9, was the first day on which same-sex couples could legally be married.

I’ve been celebrating in my head all weekend. I never realized how much this issue meant to me until Washington first passed approval for civil unions. While I was glad to see it happen, I wasn’t entirely convinced that a civil union was equivalent under the law to a marriage – I couldn’t quite believe that there weren’t some omissions or loopholes somewhere that would screw someone over at some point down the road. Now, I can feel that those loopholes and omissions have been addressed.

The rallying cry of the opponents of same-sex marriage was, “Don’t redefine marriage!” Well, I’ll tell you something: no one is redefining anything. Marriage is a partnership between two consenting, legally unencumbered adults. It’s a public commitment that those two people make, in front of friends, family, and if applicable, the Deity of their choice. It’s a contract honored by the State, granting that pair certain rights and bestowing upon them certain responsibilities. It is a confirmation that you, my espoused, are the person with whom I want to build my future, to support, to celebrate. And not one single part of that is dependent on either person’s gender.

Seattle City Hall scheduled almost 140 weddings on Sunday, with sixteen volunteer judges performing the ceremonies. Supporters crowded the steps outside cheering the newlyweds, throwing rice and confetti, waving signs of support. The Paramount theater hosted a large group reception. I wish I’d thought to go downtown myself; in lieu of that, I’ve been drinking in the articles and photo galleries.

Seattle City Hall becomes state’s same-sex marriage capital
Ceremonies in Seattle, Olympia kick off day of same-sex weddings
Seattle City Hall: One day, 138 same-sex weddings
60 Moments That Gave Me The Chills During Seattle’s First Day Of Marriage Equality
18 Joyful Declarations Of Love From Newlyweds In Seattle
LOVE WINS! Gay Marriage at Seattle City Hall, Sunday Morning, In Photos

I hope and believe that by the time my son is ready to get married, no one will give it a second thought whether the person he marries is male or female, no matter where they choose to tie the knot. By then–and, I hope, much sooner–we won’t be calling it “same-sex marriage” anymore.

By then, we’ll just be calling it “marriage.”


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On marriage

Four years ago (this evening) my about-to-be husband and I stood up in front of our friends and family (and assorted venue staff), while a good friend of ours read this Ogden Nash poem:

I Do, I Will, I Have

How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman
to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my
carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered into by a
man who can’t sleep with the window shut and a woman who can’t
sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna
and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one of whom
never remembers birthdays and the other never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe
and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill,
it’s raining in, and he replies Oh they’re all right, it’s only raining
straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it’s the only known example of the happy meeting of the
immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over
everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particulary if
he has income and she is pattable.

The bolded line is one of my favorites. We even hid it in our crossword-themed wedding invitations. Because, as anyone who knows us well has discovered, this is a pretty good description of the pair of us.

One of us is stubborn, and digs in their heels when their position is threatened. This. Is the way. It is going to be. Period. Convincing this one to change their mind can be an undertaking; even more so when they’re convinced that they are right. Conceding that there may be another, better, way is done grudgingly, with some muttering afterward.

The other is determined and lets nothing stand in their way when there’s something they want–even if it means an uphill battle against opposing viewpoints. For heaven’s sake, why can’t the rest of the world just see that they’re right? And while negotiation is nice, there are times when steamrollering is much simpler and faster.

It’s not entirely clear which of us is which, although it’s certain that the roles switch off depending on the situation. Most of the time, the force and immovability are directed outward, but there’s been an occasion or two when we’ve butted heads at home. Two strong personalities sharing one marriage. It could well be a simmering trainwreck. But it isn’t.

You see, immovable objects can also stand firm and give their partner someone to lean on without fear that they’ll give way. We are strong for them even in the most difficult times. We support them through sickness and stress. We are family, and we can stand up together against anything.

Irresistable forces can also face challenges head-on and propel our partner if their confidence flags. We carry the family over even the worst bumps in the road. We push aside the naysayers, the worries from the past, the discouraging statistics. We are family, and we will get ourselves through anything.

We’ve had our conflicts. We’ve had our trials. And we’re committed not just to getting through them, but to getting through them together.

Happy anniversary, immovable and irresistible husband.

Walking together at wedding rehearsal


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Is privacy just an act?

I keep trying to write something up about the recent New York Times article on how Target gleans information from shoppers to better, well, target them as customers. I’ve swung from “that’s a little eerie” over to “yeah, but data mining can be fun! and beneficial!” to “the practice shouldn’t be banned, but customers need to be aware that it’s happening.” In the end, the one thing that I keep coming back to is this: it’s a little silly to complain about our personal data being used, when we put so much of it out there voluntarily.

Update: Here’s a better summary of the issue: How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did

 

Any time you use a credit card, sign up for a discount shopping card, or create an online account with your personal email address, you’re giving the recipient a way to keep track of the actions associated with that ID. Ever give a doctor’s office or other service your social security number? I’d put money down that they aren’t planning to use it for tax purposes.

People share personal stories on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, choosing to pull back the curtain to the world. Once it’s out there on the ‘net, it’s out there forever. People have lost their jobs because of their Facebook updates, and have been detained by TSA for what they posted on Twitter.

Personally, I’ve been an un-fan of Facebook since the update last October. For the past five months, the songs you’ve listened to and the news stories you’ve read on many websites have gotten shared automatically, rather than letting you choose for yourself. Oh, and that can happen even when you’re not signed in. Sometimes it surprises me how many people are okay with that.

Those of us who are parents have another privacy issue to consider: the privacy of our children, many of whom may not be old enough or savvy enough to realize the implications of the way their parents share (or overshare) information. I wrestled with this issue myself not long after starting this blog, when considering whether I should post pictures of my cute little Kiddo here.

I’m not deluding myself; even though I use a nickname for him here and on Twitter, it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to find out his real name. Birth certificates are public records; depending on the state, all you might need is the child’s date of birth and the full name of one or both parents. How to find those out? Marriage, divorce, and name change records are public data too. And if those don’t pan out, there’s always Spokeo, where fifteen bucks will buy you all kinds of personal information.

Oh, but there’s a much easier route. One common practice on Facebook is to tag pictures of children with the names of their parents. Look for pictures of me, and you’ll find pictures of Kiddo captioned with his real name. Many of those are in albums restricted to “Friends of friends” — which really isn’t a restriction at all, considering how most of people’s hundreds of friends also have hundreds of friends themselves.

So, given all that, isn’t it a little hypocritical to complain about the way Target collects and uses personal data about individual shoppers’ purchases? In my view, the only line that they might have overstepped is not giving customers more disclosure that by shopping at Target, the company reserves the right to track the data that they volunteer. Discount cards and internet hotspots have this buried in the fine print that people generally skip over when they sign up, but there’s no notice on the door when you walk into Target. I’m sure that Target isn’t the only retailer that does this, either. They’re just the only one that got caught at it.


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On pins and egos

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally gotten myself sucked into Pinterest.

I’ve known about it for a couple of years now because one of my online friends was one of the very early beta users for it. She told some of us about it, I took a look, but wasn’t convinced. It seemed like it could be great for designers, or event planners, or anyone whose job and/or interests spent a lot of time focusing on visuals. Browse around the web and save images of stuff you like? I didn’t see the appeal.

Pinterest aims to connect people through the things and images they find interesting — that’s their mission statement, loosely paraphrased. When an image on the web catches your interest, you can “pin” it to a board – think of the virtual version of tearing out pictures from magazines and pinning them to a corkboard. You can have multiple boards, grouping your pins into different areas. As you pin images, they’re immediately visible to other users, who can then repin them to their own boards. Each pin includes a link back to the site of the original image, so if you pin an image from someone’s blog, you’ll have an easy way to get back to that blog post later.

Now, since the site is driven by the idea of using images found anywhere, without necessarily obtaining permission from the owner, there are some copyright tangles the company is currently working on untangling. Someone who makes a living creating unique images likely wouldn’t appreciate a casual visitor distributing them without permission. Pinterest does provide a browser add-in that automatically links a pin’s image back to the source site, but the site doesn’t provide any way to set security on your pins. Anything you pin is immediately available to the rest of the world, regardless of whether the original image wasn’t publicly available.

I can understand and sympathize with the people and companies claiming it’s copyright infringement. On the other hand, my own stance on publishing content to the Internet is that once you let it out there, it’s out of your hands and into the wild. If I write something on this blog or post it to Twitter, I must assume that anyone in the world can–and could well be–reading it. That includes family, friends, employers, and whoever it is that you’re writing snarky notes about. Even if a web site is configured to prevent people from right-click-copying an image, or a Facebook status is privatized to a select group of people, a really determined person can simply take a screen shot.

But I digress. Pinterest. I resisted, until last week. A different online friend posted a picture of a cake resembling a basket of M&Ms, and mentioned that it was from one of her husband’s Pinterest boards. That was the tipping point; while it’s no secret that the site’s primary user base is women, there had to be something to it if both my friend and her husband were on it.

I’ll just take a look, I thought. And then, I’ll set up an account, but just to follow other people I know. I’m not going to actually use it.

(People who’ve known me for a couple years may recognize this particular thought process.)

Username? That’s an easy decision, and besides, I wouldn’t want anyone else taking this one. And what the heck, I might as well throw some content up there, just for the heck of it…

And HERE is where Pinterest really sucked me in. Because as soon as I’d pinned a handful of images, mostly books and kid-related items, people started repinning them. Within that first hour, I got 24 repins. Do you know how long it took me to get 24 comments on this blog? Or 24 retweets on Twitter? Weeks and weeks. But on Pinterest, I got immediate validation that people liked me! They really liked me! (My pins, anyway.) I was hooked.

Prospective social media sites, take note, because I doubt I’m the only person who reacted like that. Everyone wants to be liked by others. Make your site members feel like they’re immediately popular, and they’ll come back again and again to get that ego boost.

And speaking of ego boosts, my own boards are here. Just in case you’re curious… or want to help feed my ego. 😉


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Newsflash!

Just in case you haven’t been closely watching your browser’s address bar, the primary URL of this blog is now geekamama.net. Now you don’t have to remember my first name, middle initial, and last name anymore when you’re trying to construct the URL to get here. Shielding that information from the general public is probably a good idea for me as well. If you’ve got the old URL bookmarked, it will still bounce you over to the official address; they’re both managed by WordPress.

Why .net instead of .com? Oh, it probably has something to do with when I took my first Networking class, back in the fall of 1995. A year and a half before then, in March 1994, Jon Postel had published an RFC* describing the set of top-level domains**, and what each one signified. They were:

  • COM – intended for commercial entities, i.e. companies
  • EDU – intended for educational institutions
  • GOV – intended for government agencies
  • MIL – intended for use by the U.S. military
  • INT – intended for organizations established by international treaties
  • NET – intended for the administrative computers of network service providers
  • ORG – the miscellaneous TLD for organizations that don’t fall into any of the other buckets

Over the past 18 years, ORG has come to be associated with nonprofit organizations, rather than being a catch-all for all the leftovers. NET has taken over some of that, but more often seems to be picked up by organizations as a secondary address that redirects to their main site, preventing potential confusion. (It doesn’t always work; compare www.toyota.com and www.toyota.net for an example.)

And COM? Poor COM. It’s evolved into the generic top-level domain for any and almost every web site out there. Businesses, blogs, news agencies, social networking sites, you name it. Even my smartphone browser provides a shortcut key for adding “.com” to the end of whatever you’re typing. I suspect most people sending email and surfing the web don’t ever think about what that trio of letters at the end of the address even means. It’s just a piece of punctuation at the end of a domain name.

So to answer the question of why I went with geekamama.net instead of geekamama.com: I confess it was sheer pedantry. This blog represents neither a commercial entity, nor an educational institution, nor a government department, nor a military agency, nor a non-profit organization, and it certainly didn’t come about through any treaty, let alone an international one. I picked .net because I’d been under the impression that .net was meant to be the TLD for recreational-use domains, until my husband (who has even more familiarity with this networking stuff than I do) asked if I’d become an internet provider.

I’m not sure why Postel and his contemporaries didn’t include a domain specifically intended for personal or private use. But perhaps it was because back then, no one realized what the simple concept of an interconnected network of networks would become. Maybe they didn’t realize that one day, people would rely on it not only to exchange scientific theories, but also to entertain themselves by sharing LOLcats and spamming friends with email forwards.

But fear not. If your fingers have been accustomed to automatically appending “.com” at the end of an address, you won’t go astray. I now own geekamama.com as well, and it will redirect you right back here. Anything for the hit count. 😉

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* Request for Comments. It’s generally considered a specification for how pieces of the Internet or Internet-related technology. Officially, it’s a proposal for discussion, but in many cases it’s considered canon*** even if it hasn’t been formally accepted as an official internet standard.

** This is the last piece of a website’s main URL or of an address email address. Generally abbreviated as TLD.****

*** I am aware that “canon” traditionally refers to ecclesiastical matters; however, in the geek world, it’s also used informally to mean the official backstory of a particular piece of fiction, and has been expanded in casual conversation to mean “the unofficial Official Way It Is.”

**** Not to be confused with the initialism TLDR, which stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read, and is used (usually in a deprecatory manner) to indicate that a piece of writing is not concise enough and/or interesting enough that the reader reads all the way to the end. Which is what this blog post has become.


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There is no hill

This birthday thing that happened last weekend got me thinking a bit.

I have to confess that I mentally eyeroll (just a little bit, I promise) at people when they go one about turning 30 oh noes. A big part of that is that my 30s have been hands down the best decade of my life so far. So very many good things have happened to me over the last 10 years that if I had to pick a decade to relive, it would be this one. Because as I look back, I realize that my 30s have been hands down the best decade of my life so far. So very many good things have happened to me over the last 10 years that if I had to pick a decade to relive, it would be this one.

For most of my 20s, I was still in college, with all these unrealistic dreams about where my life and career was going to go. I let the guys I was dating have too much influence over my life decisions. I won’t say that I made bad choices, because I didn’t really, but I made a lot of choices that embarrass me a little when I look back at them now. I didn’t realize how much growing up I still had to do. On my 30th birthday I had a party with a couple dozen friends, and I thought my life was stable and that it would be this way for the next forty years.

But then things began to change. I’d made more friends at work, people with no connection to my husband. I was the sole income-earner and I think it did a lot for my self-confidence. I started making some real significant contributions at work, started spending time with a different group of people who introduced me to a lot of things I hadn’t tried before and never thought I would. I started looking at my life with a more critical eye, noticing that there were a lot of things that weren’t going the way I wanted them to, and finally realized that I really did have the power to change things… if I could just find the courage to risk it.

In my thirties, I realized that my marriage wasn’t beneficial to me, and found the strength to ask for a divorce.

In my thirties, I dove into the world of puzzles that I enjoy so much, and from which I’ve made so many friends.

In my thirties, I re-evaluated the conviction I’d had that I would never had kids, and realized it hadn’t been my own but my ex-husband’s conviction. And that maybe, just maybe, I felt different now that I was off on my own.

In my thirties, I lived on my own for the first time since the college dorms. I became a solo homeowner. I weathered some ups and downs at my job, and when that job became toxic, I somehow found it in me to walk away from that as well.

In my thirties, I found that I really could stand up for what I believed even when it wasn’t popular; that I could say what I was really feeling without worrying that my friends would laugh at me for it; that saying “Why not?” instead of “Why?” could lead to some fantastic experiences.

So when I see people talking with some trepidation about turning 30, or sounding like it’s the beginning of the end, I just… I don’t quite get it anymore. I expect I was probably the same way when I was 29, and now I laugh at myself a little bit for it. I had no idea of anything that was about to happen, or about how my 30s would be more about opening windows than closing doors. Lots and lots of windows.

And you know what? I’m sure my friends who’ve already passed that 40th birthday milestone see me eyeing it warily, and they probably do a little mental eyeroll as well. Because I have no idea what the next ten years are going to hold, and for all I know they’re going to leave my 30s in the dust.

You’re not over the hill until you’ve been buried on one. And it’s all uphill from here.