Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Basilisk and Bats

12 December 2013

We went to the Palo Verde National Park yesterday and saw a lot of wildlife.

The basilisk, aka the Jesus Christ lizard, runs quickly enough that it can run on the surface of water.

Basilisk]

Long-nosed brown bats nesting on a tree trunk. It’s a slight overhang, which isn’t obvious in the photo.

Bats on Tree]

Read More

Corobici River Wildlife Day

10 December 2013

Today we went rafting down part of the river here in Costa Rica (part of it was the Corobici river, and part was a feeder river, both in the Guanacaste region). We saw monkeys–and even monkey families–in quite a few trees.

We saw three crocodiles. The first two were close up and about the length of my forearm, but the third was much larger. We only saw his nose, though, so difficult for me to estimate size.

We saw two emerald basilisks, one of which we scared off into the bushes.

Also spotted: Four male green iguanas, complete with orange spikes (one of which we scared off by accident), and one female, as well as one black iguana.

In the bird department, we saw: a magnificent frigatebird (where magnificent is part of the name, not my adjective), several boat-billed herons, a squirrel cuckoo in flight, several osprey, a beautiful green kingfisher, and a grey hawk nest (complete with birds).

The best find was a small long-nosed bat colony consisting of about twenty bats hanging (and asleep) on an angled ledge. One of the mothers had a little baby bat with her.

Sadly, no camera with me today as there were dire warnings of wetness. Turns out it would have been okay, but better not to risk expensive equipment.

Aside from that, my Keens are soaking wet and still have rocks in them. Just so you know.

Read More

Costa Rica Vacations: Visiting Mount Arenal

06 December 2013

Mount Arenal, a common destination for Costa Rica Vacations] We were very lucky to visit Mount Arenal on our recent Costa Rica vacations. I didn’t get to see Mount Arenal on my first trip in 2012. On that trip, I only visited the Papagayo region in the northwestern Guanacaste Province.
Mount Arenal isn’t the most active of Costa Rica’s six active volcanoes, but it is one of the most accessible from Costa Rica’s capital of San José. For that reason, almost 70% of Costa Rica’s tourists visit here.
Our vantage point where I took this photo came after a drive through the Arenal Volcano National Park, where we saw white-faced capuchin monkeys and quite a few birds. We didn’t see coati in the park, but we did see some outside.
After our trip to see the volcano, we relaxed in the hot springs nearby, fed by the heat from Mount Arenal. There are many, many hot springs in Costa Rica. We happened to visit the Tabacón hot springs, which was an amazing experience with so many high-quality pools to visit!
We booked our Arenal Volcano day trip through Swiss Travel, Costa Rica’s oldest and most respected tour agency. (Currently, they’re updating their website, so I can’t link to a specific tour.)

My Forthcoming Book: Coffee & Canopy

I’m writing a book about our Costa Rica and Nicaragua vacations. My new book should be out in late spring 2015.

Want Some Ideas for Your Costa Rica Vacations?

I have blogged about some trip ideas for Costa Rica Vacations.

Read More

How Airline Status Protects You

05 December 2013

We’re on a trip. Well, we should be. Aren’t yet. Last night, due to hard frost and no de-icing equipment in San Francisco, our flight was canceled.

When we first booked, I held the reservation for Rick and myself. Later, my mother decided to go on the trip, too, so we booked her a separate airline ticket.

Because we were paid first-class customers, we were re-booked in status order.

  1. I’m a Premier Platinum, the third of United’s status tiers. (Earnable tiers, lowest-to-highest: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K, and then there’s Global Services, which is an entirely different category.)
  2. Rick’s a Premier Silver.
  3. My mother, however, has no status.

Thus, when there were no more seats, guess who got rebooked into economy?

Yeah, so that happened.

Read More

First Mondays Are Indie Book Mondays

04 December 2013

We all hate Mondays a little bit, right? It’s always like spring back Daylight Savings Time. Week after week after week.

Until now.

Once a month, on the first Monday of the month, I’ll post some of my comments on your indie published book. Well, someone’s book. Maybe yours. But only if I like it. Which means I have to know about it.

Here’s the rules:

  1. You must have a web site. I don’t care if it’s for you as an author or the book (or the series of books).
  2. There must be an excerpt of your book on your web site. ~2 pages (500 words) is a good start.
  3. There must be a link that offers a downloadable sample (e.g., through iBooks). I’m sample girl. The book must be available somewhere in EPUB format. I don’t read on a Kindle or with the Kindle app, and I don’t read paper books any more.
  4. If it’s part of a series, I’m only interested in the first book.
  5. Your book must have been published for the first time within a year (to the nearest month), but must be available on the posting date. So for the Jan 6, 2014 edition, anything published between Jan 1, 2013 and Jan 6, 2014 is fine.
  6. It must be in a genre I read. (See below.)
  7. How to be considered:

    a. Email me: indiemonday@deirdre.net (spell carefully). Deadline is two weeks before the post date, so Dec 23.

    b. Make sure you list your web site, book, and its publication date.

    c. Note that I will actually look at your excerpt and, if I like that, your sample. And, if I like that, I’ll have a go at the rest of the book.

    d. Your book doesn’t get picked unless I like it.

    e. If you leave any of the necessary bits out, I will probably not approve your comment. (At this time, all comments are moderated unless you have a previously-approved comment.)

  8. Even if I don’t pick your book, if I find you have an interesting-sounding excerpt that isn’t quite my thing, I may give you a shout-out in the Indie Monday post.
  9. Women writers, writers of color, LGBT* writers are all encouraged to participate.
  10. If I don’t feel that I’ve found an indie published book via your submissions of your own work that I’d love to give a shout-out to that month, I’ll still post about an indie book, just not one that was submitted. This is a last resort, though.

Anything I didn’t cover? Feel free to ask questions below.

What I Like to Read

Science fiction, fantasy (except of the good vs. evil sort), paranormal romance, romance (any heat level), mystery, travel essay.

I like funny books and upbeat endings and complicated plots, but none of those elements are required.

What I Won’t Read

Horror of most kinds, lifestyle BDSM, Christian-themed books, tragedies, strenuously dramatic works, overly derivative works, and erotica that’s too out there for publishers like Samhain.

Read More

It Wasn't Always This Red

03 December 2013

Because reasons, I started turning grey at age 16. Yes, in high school.

Early on in my software engineering career, this helped me because it made me look more experienced than I actually was.

A few years into my career, I was seriously dating a younger man, and it made him insecure because of my older appearance. He asked if I would consider coloring my hair. Note that it wasn’t a demand, just a request.

My natural hair color was a dark taupe, and I was never really happy with it. My skin color has a lot of red in it, and the lack of red in my natural hair color made it look odd. For a while, I tried to change my face color with makeup, but that looked even stranger to me. So I picked a random temporary dye color that I happened to like most. I didn’t think a lot about it, just grabbed a box.

He hated the color. Worse than the grey in his book. However, I happened to like it more because it went better with my coloring, and I’ve pretty much stuck with a similar hue ever since, though I do mix it up from time to time. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last, though it wasn’t because of the hair color.

A few years ago, I decided to grow it out, then did a purple temporary color for a while. Here’s a picture of me after that had mostly washed out.

deirdre

But here’s the look I prefer: deirdre-feb-2010

(I don’t always get to go to my favorite salon, Shear Perfection in Hollywood, but I did that time.)

Note: This is my reaction to one of Jenny Trout’s tweets.

Read More

Geographical Trivia

03 December 2013

  1. All of Asia, except for Indonesia, is above the equator. (Some perspectives don’t count Indonesia as a part of Asia, though.)
  2. Wellington, New Zealand (41° 17′ 20″ S) is the world’s southernmost capital city. It’s at about the same latitude (different hemisphere, obviously) as Rome, Italy (41° 54′ 0″ N).
  3. The equator passes through the land or territorial waters of 14 countries. I have been to two of them: Colombia and Maldives.
  4. Venice, Italy, (45° 26′ 15″ N) is approximately as far north as the Vermont/New Hampshire border with Canada (45° N). Obviously, the vast majority of Europe is farther north than that.
  5. Melbourne, Australia (37° 48′ 49″ S) is about as far south as San Francisco (37° 47′ 0″ N) is north.
  6. Tokyo (35° 41′ 22.22″ N) is about halfway between, latitude-wise, as San Francisco and Los Angeles (34° 3′ 0″ N). This one invariably breaks my brain.
  7. Cape Town, South Africa (33° 55′ 31″ S) is approximately the same latitude as Los Angeles, albeit in the opposite hemisphere.
  8. Ushuaia, Argentina (54° 48′ 0″ S) is generally considered to be the southernmost city in the world. It’s closer to the equator than Copenhagen, Denmark (55° 40′ 34″ N) is.

Read More

Feeling Excluded: Box.com Edition

02 December 2013

Update, April 2014: Box has revised the page.
I’ve had a chance to look at a lot of company “About Us” pages of late, and many of these for smaller companies show team photos or action shots.

Box.com has a page with a URL of “why-box” and a page title of “Working at Box.”
Here’s all the photos of women on that page:
box-com-photo] Does that photo make me feel like I’ll be respected there? No. It does not.
Not only is the woman sitting passively while the men are in more standing and active positions, she’s sitting next to a stuffie. I have no idea how Box thought this was at all welcoming to female engineers. I mean, yeah, it’s possibly actually her stuffie, but this is the sole representation of women on a page that’s talking about why you should work for the company.
As such, it’s a fail if you’re a woman who doesn’t want to sit on the floor while the men stand. Or if you want to be more active. Or if you want to be taken seriously.
box-com-photo-set] Sure, there are better pictures of women elsewhere on the site, though not all of those are unsucky. But if you’re gonna have a page about why someone should work for your company, maybe showing that you respect 51% of the population should be part of your design goals.
<
p>Though, in the props department, so many tech companies have zero representation of black people, and they at least do better here, though it might be nice if he were the more active person in the scene.

Read More

Pronoun Power

30 November 2013

Context, for those who missed it:

  1. Node.js maintainer (note: I’m unclear on who did the original deed and not gonna go look through all the commits) commits with “he” instead of a gender-neutral pronoun.
  2. Alex Gaynor adds a pull request to fix that.
  3. Maintainer Ben Noordhuis closes pull request with comment, “Sorry, not interested in trivial changes like that.” (same URL, further down page)
  4. Project Lead Isaac Schlueter accepted the pronoun fix.
  5. Ben tried to revert Isaac’s commit, which would re-add the sexist pronoun.
  6. Joyent employee Bryan Cantrill writes blog post about how this is unacceptable and also added a contributor guideline.

    But just so you heard it from us: if this were the act of a Joyent employee, we would—to deliberately use a gender-neutral pronoun—fire them.

  7. Ben wrote a clarifying comment. I want to say this: props to Ben for volunteering in a mentorship program to help get women into the field. That’s important stuff, and shouldn’t be lost in context. Hat tip to @goodwillbits for alerting me.

I have a few short comments.

  1. I worked sixteen years in the field before I worked on a team with another female software engineer. Please try to imagine that everyone of your sex that’s your peer vanishes for sixteen years and what your professional life would look like. ‘Cause that’s what mine did.
  2. The highest percentage of female software engineers I’ve ever worked with is a large team that had, at its peak, about 1/3 females, but, over time, it bounced back down to 25%.
  3. The largest team on which I was the sole female software engineer consisted of 38 people, of which 33 were software engineers. There were two other women on the team: a tech writer and a technical support staffer.
  4. More typically, I’ve worked on engineering teams where there were about 10% female software engineers.

It’s an incredibly tough business to be in and stay in as a woman. Thank you to all the people who spoke up about this issue pointing out how important it is.

Words matter.

Especially pronouns.

Epilogue

Kent Brewster points out that a better way to have solved the problem would be restructuring the sentences entirely. It’s not always possible to avoid pronouns, though Kent’s right about this case.

I kept the scope of my own post deliberately narrow. While I have always enjoyed working with men, sometimes it’s not obvious to them how they push women out of the field. Many women really do need to feel welcome in order to participate, and what may seem like a little thing to you may not seem like a little thing to them.

Read More

Work Arcade

28 November 2013

So Kenneth Kuan, the outgoing guy at Penny Arcade, has spoken up about the position he’s leaving And toomanyjens has ripped into that. Before Kenneth posted, I’d previously commented on PA’s job listing.

For a bit about my background: I’ve been in the computer industry longer than Kenneth Kuan’s been alive. I’ve seen and heard a lot in the industry that is disgusting and vile on levels that Penny Arcade hasn’t touched. Pink slip fire drills. The “nobody pisses on me” episode that involved actual urination. And firing (of the people whizzed on, just for clarification). And the mortuary vulture capitalists that were using life insurance payouts for AIDS sufferers to fund tech startups.

The Penny Arcade stuff is far more ordinary evil, the kind that some people, like Kenneth Kuan, have bought into.

For the record, I’ve done web development (for companies like Nissan and PGP), software development (for companies like TiVo and Nortel), sysadmin and DBA (for companies like Honda), and general IT work though the last is the weakest of those four. In other words, I am also a unicorn, so I know whereof I speak.

Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just About Time Off

I’ve only had one job ever where I felt that everything I was interested in, no matter how peculiar, was relevant: when I was a bookseller at Kepler’s during the dot bomb era when most of the people we knew who’d been in tech were unemployed. I felt weirdly guilty that a non-tech job gave me this particular satisfaction that no job in tech ever has.

The point of work-life balance is to be able to have time to invest in those parts of who you are that aren’t describable by your job alone. I offer the following phrase out of Kenneth’s own post:

but I have goals that won’t be fulfilled by working there

Yes. But see? That’s true of pretty much everyone, pretty much all of the time. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your job is, how cool the technologies are you work with, how amazing the people are.

Even if you own your own company, part of your goals will involve things for which people won’t pay you money. Or enough money. Kids are a classic example of that.

The point is: you’re a complex individual who has a lot of goals and interests. It’s great to have a job that fits those as much as possible, but it’s actually impossible to have a job that fully fits who you are. Work-life balance is about having the opportunity to be all of yourself.

In other words: Kenneth, despite his protests to the contrary, is in fact leaving because of work-life balance issues. He just can’t see it from where he is. He says he’s not burned out, but he’s been there, what, two years? That’s barely enough time for a good singe.

I think the line that got me the most was this one:

Want to go on a hike somewhere there’s no reception? Sorry, you can’t.

I’d have missed the best opportunities I had in 2013 if this were true, and not just because of the number of hours I spent on a plane. I had no cell reception in Federated States of Micronesia, Maldives, or Myanmar, all of which were amazing to visit.

If you can’t fully detach, then you can’t really be who you are. This is why on-call rotation is so much more helpful in dealing with stress and preventing burnout.

Happy Thanksgiving, Kenneth. May your new career be far more rewarding for you.

Read More