Archive for the ‘Not Writing Related’ Category

Who We Are

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans.” Missouri Governor Nixon.

Except no. That’s the whole problem. What we must accept is that this DOES represent who we are.

Until those of us who look in the mirror and don’t see brown skin admit that, this will never change.

Ferguson happened because of who we are. Let’s change that.


FU GitHub

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition:

I wrote this post a while back. April 2nd, I think. It’s about how, as I see my son heading to what looks like a tech career, I would be tempted to tell my daughter (if I had one) NOT to go into tech.

And then, not long after, I posted this — in the same month.

In light of the Julie Horvath mess, and in light of the juxtaposition of those two things, I stand by my trepidation.

As a woman in tech, and hell, just a woman in the USA, it’s obscene that any company could declare itself free of gender discrimination or harassers or any other of the endemic facts of gender bias.

“Hey, we asked around and all the guys said, Nope, we don’t do that and all the girls nodded. We tots rock.”

Here’s the truth:
1. 97% of the guys thought that was true.
2. 3% of the guys said it was true, knew it wasn’t, and believe woman get what’s coming to them.
3. 50% of the guys suspect it’s not true, but their female colleagues seem fine with the culture, so it must not be a problem!
4. 90% of the woman know there’s a problem and have learned the hard way that HR doesn’t do shit and if they want to keep their job or the hope of a good recommendation if they leave, they need not to say anything.
5. 10% of the women are too new to understand what’s happening and don’t know yet they’re underpaid by 20% because of their gender.

Fuck you, GitHub.


This Thing Continues to Bother Me

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Today, a male book blogger whose blog and opinion I respect retweeted an image of a single panel comic that depicted Kate Perry. She was on the ground, naked, decapitated, and disemboweled. There were puppies in this comic and one of them was in front of the her spread open legs. And yes. The comic was absolutely graphic.

I could not tell from the context what subtext there was for such a thing. Was there ironic comment? For the last few hours, I’ve kept flashing back to that, and how bothered I was that such a person, whose tweets are usually related to the business of books, would retweet something like that.

I Googled a little to see if there was something that would make such a comic relevant social commentary and that would make be believe this man did not intend the apparent meaning of such a comic. I could not find anything that would recover my opinion of this man.

Another prominent male blogger and author commented on that same image with “Hahaha WTF?”

The first blogger’s twitter stream includes links to great commentary about eBooks at his blog. I follow him because I like what he has to say. I have commented at his blog. Why on earth would he retweet an image with no commentary about why he thought such a misogynistic, hateful image was something worth letting his followers see?

Did he really not stop to think about what message is really encoded in that? Maybe it’s partly, “ha ha, look how we can make fun of Katy Perry.” But it’s also the very chilling message “This is what happens to women we don’t like.”

I am devastated. I am appalled. I don’t want anything to do with him any more. Either of them actually.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do.


Manuscript Found!

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Wow. Why didn’t I hear about this sooner? I LOVE the British Library Manuscripts blog.

Unicorn Cookbook


My Dog Is Neurotic

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Some years ago now, at a previous job, a colleague of mine who raised Chihuahuas on the side, brought a litter of puppies to work. (He was a clever, canny man.) They were quite young, far too small to leave their mother. I picked up and held a puppy who snuggled right up in my arms. He was timid and overly sensitive and all he wanted was to be held and protected from a world that was big and noisy and upsetting. I knew immediately that was was exactly the dog NOT to get. He would not socialize well. Six weeks later, he was mine, for $50 bucks a month until he was paid for.

I named him Fudge and he remains exactly like the puppy he was. Timid, overly sensitive, completely and embarrassingly neurotic. But he loves his people fiercely. He loves to snuggle. He also tends to fat. Alas. He is sneaky about stealing food from the other dogs. We have made some progress with his anxiety disorder and utter state of neurosis. He no longer pees in terror when he sees someone new, for example.


Bella is … oh dear. My son and I got her from the pound. She’s about two, and I think I know why she was surrendered. She’s is exuberant, high energy lovable dog who thinks EVERYONE LOVES HER and is easily distracted. Once distracted, she is unable to focus. She cannot be let outside at times of the day when wildlife is out and about because she gets distracted and thinks she’s going to catch a turkey or a rabbit or maybe, FINALLY!!!! the sheep will consent to play with her. Or the deer. RABBIT!!!!!! I can’t hear you calling me. MANURE TO ROLL IN!!!!!!! I can’t hear you….

We have also made some progress with Bella. BUT.

Fudge has a special spot on my bed when I am writing, and he isn’t sleeping on the chair behind my back. That special spot is on a fuzzy blue blanket. It is his nest. He is curled up on it right now. He’s snoring.

Bella has noticed this. And now there is a passive-aggressive battle going on for possession of the blue fuzzy blanket. The first time Fudge saw Bella sleeping on HIS blanket, he went into melt down. In fact, I have a picture of it:

pitiful dog


I thought it was funny the first time. Heh! Bella’s on Fudge’s blanket and he’s about to turn into a puddle of despair. That was in November. Now it’s January and well, it’s psychological warfare, people.

The Battle For the Fuzzy Blue Blanket.

I thought I was clever in digging up a SECOND fuzzy blue blanket. What could be better than both dogs having their very own fuzzy blue blanket? Everyone would be happy!

Apparently, I have completely misjudged what’s going on. I will illustrate this with a story from today.

Bella was asleep on my bed, having made a nest of BOTH fuzzy blue blankets in Fudge’s spot.

Fudge comes into my room expecting to curl up in his fuzzy blue blanket, only OH NOES!!! There is Bella.

So I take one of the blankets and I make a pile of it, thinking, in my naivete, that he will curl up there and start snoring.

No. No, he does not. He sits there staring at me, going into full blown neurotic melt down. My god. Then Bella lifts her head and sees that Fudges is (sort of) snuggled in the OTHER blue blanket. After about 20 minutes of neurotic staring and glaring all around Fudge leaves.

And Bella gets up and goes to sleep on the blue blanket Fudge was, very unhappily, not really sleeping on.

I am not equipped to handle this battle of doggie passive-aggression over a blanket. And really, Bella can’t be allowed to win. Fudge would never recover.

There’s a Cat Problem, too

My son’s cat, Tiger (a girl despite the name) has this bizarre love-affair going with Bella. Nobody quite understands it except theirs appears to be a deep and true love.

Fudge sleeps under the covers with me, in the same particular spot, which he can only get into after going through a certain ritual of getting onto the bed…

Tiger has once again begun her previous habit of stepping on the lump-in-the-bed that is Fudge until he squeaks, and I can’t help thinking Bella has put her put to it.

I’m doomed.


Sears and the $75 Million Refrigerator

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

How Sears Could Save Millions with website Useability

Three months ago, my dad replaced two junky old fridges in the garage and bought a brand spanking new one from Sears. He also bought a warranty. The new fridge cost about $700.

Almost immediately, there were problems. The freezer wouldn’t keep things frozen. After three Sears Warranty home repairs at a cost to Sears of $750, the third repair man told my dad: The freezer works this way by design. There is an ambient temperature monitor in the unit such that when the outside temperature is below 55, the freezer raises its temperature. If your fridge is inside, it’s not a problem. It’s a feature. If you put your fridge in the garage, and many people do put an extra fridge int the garage, it IS a problem. And this is why, in the user manual, there is a page that says what number to call to order the garage kit.

OK. Think about that.

Two Truths

1. Sears knows that this ambient temperature feature requires an add-on kit for units that will be in a garage.


xkcd cartoon for Read The Fucking Manual

RTFM courtesy xkcd

OK, if I had a nuclear power plant, I would RTFM.


Sears has sent 3 repair people out and replaced three parts at a cost to them of $750. More if you factor in phone calls to the warranty department.

Sears repair guy #3 admitted this happens all the time. ALL the time. If this happens just 100,000 times, Sears has lost $75,000,000.

Here’s how you’d do it.

1. Ohh! I want THAT fridge. Click.
2. Website: Will you put this fridge in a garage?
3. Clicks Yes
4. You will need this garage unit for your fridge. Add to your order?

I guarantee that change will not cost millions of dollars.

As someone who has bought from Sears before, this a problem across their website. For ALL their appliances. If I buy a product from you, Sears, and you know some people need the door handle on the right and some on the left, FUCKING say so at the point of purchase. That way the customer doesn’t find out until it’s too late to have the fridge delivered with the door on the correct side. If I buy a gas stove, TELL ME exactly what add ons I might need for that model.

You’re welcome, Sears.


On Winning Stuff

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

I just saw a tweet from someone who said “I never win stuff.” I would have tweeted back, but there’s really no way to make “I win stuff all the time!” to someone you don’t know except slightly through twitter sound like anything but massively bad manners.

But it’s true. I do win stuff all the time. I have a strategy and it works. I SWEAR TO DOG this is not a spammer post. It’s also not a get rich quick post because, right. Still have the day job!

Back when my RWA chapter was having raffles of baskets of stuff, I won quite often. Enough that when I came home with yet another haul, my mother remarked, “You win a lot of stuff,” and I almost said, No, I don’t. Because I was thinking that I have never won anything big like mega millions or what have you. I realized that, in fact, I did win a lot of things. Because, unwittingly, I had a practice that lent itself to good odds.

Last October, I won a Kobo Aura from Kobo. That was a neat win. In November, I won a $50 Amazon gift certificate by attending a SQL Server event sponsored by Dell. That was handy! I don’t think I won anything in December, but I had to cancel a couple of plans due to day job horrors.

Lucky Jewel?

I actually do think I’m luckier than most. One time I won a pen that would take dictation– that was for participating in an email list or something. It stopped working after a few months, but it was fun while it lasted.

Another time, out of the blue, British Airways sent me a voucher for 2 free RT airfares from SFO to London. I went to London that summer. I have no idea why I received the voucher from BA, as I was really quite poor at the time, but I have LOVED BA ever since. And I fly them whenever I can. As far as I know, that was pure luck.

I won a beautiful handmade quilt once. There was a raffle at a Walk for Cancer event I was walking at and I dropped the raffle tickets I bought into the buckets for stuff I thought it would be fun to win. If I didn’t win anything, well, it wouldn’t have been a lot of money, and it went to a good cause.

With the Kobo Aura, I thought I had a good shot at winning when I entered, and I was right. Why? Because the contest was announced in the middle of a podcast. The guys wanted someone who actually listed to them to win, so they didn’t put it in the show notes. They just announced it toward the middle (of the podcast I was enjoying during my afternoon run) and gave the instructions and I thought hey! I’m that listener! So I made a quick note on the iPhone so I wouldn’t forget the instructions, finished up the exercise and went and entered. As a surprise, Kobo decided to award a second Kobo device to an entrant with a Kobo Writing Life account and that was me!

The gift card for the SQL Server webcast was a surprise, too. I didn’t even know it was a thing they did. But at the end, they announced my email! SCORE. Plus I learned a lot about SQL Server indexing–might have been the Hekaton webcast come to think of it. Also a neat technology. In-RAM indexing on SSD drives. Could be scary. But early word is it’s blazing fast.

At my RWA chapter meetings, I always buy the 10-tickets for $5 or whatever the buy more, get a couple extra tickets deal was, because, hey, the chapter needs to raise money so if I don’t win, it was for a good cause. But for the several months they were doing that, I won several times. You have to be at the meeting to win the raffle. My local chapter is a fairly large one, so there can be 30-60 or more people. But the raffle odds are pretty decent with multiple tickets.

My Winning Ways

I do not set out to win stuff the way some coupon clippers set out to walk out of the store with 5 bags of groceries and no out of pocket money. That’s too tiring. I’m just not that organized. But when an opportunity presents itself and the conditions are right? You bet!

If there’s a contest or raffle with a limited entry pool, those are good odds. And if it’s for something where your money does some good, why, that’s even better!

See the pattern? Dumb luck and putting small amounts of money into raffles with limited entrants. Go to meetings! Do stuff! Listen to podcasts. Or whatever. When there are multiple things to win (money going to a good cause) buy multiple tickets at your budget amount for having your money go to a good cause and then decide if your strategy is all your tickets in one basket or spread out over many. But do it.

When you hear about a contest where the entrant pool is likely to be less thousands? Better odds than the lottery.

Pardon me, off to play with my Kobo Aura.


Happy Holidays from Carolyn!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Natural Ornaments

Wishing you the happiest of holidays.


Life Changes

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

My son is now off at college. Yes, this is a life change for him. He’s begun his adult life and is now living away from home for the first time.  My sister came with me to help move him into the dorms (yesterday was the official move-in day). I’m so glad she came, not just for moral support but because pretty much from the day he was born 18 years ago, she has been involved in his life. She deserved to be there. It was right for all of us, and I am so very glad that she got the time off work to come and share those days with him.

It’s no surprise to me at all that when he was given the choice of sharing a hotel room with me or my sister, that he chose to share with my sister. (Let me tell you, hotel rooms in Santa Cruz are difficult to come by and expensive!)

I lived in San Francisco when he was born, and she came down every single Thursday to spend the afternoon and evening with him/us. As a single parent, I can’t tell you what it meant to me to have someone else to give him a bath. One night a week I could sit on the couch for twenty minutes all to myself, knowing he was in safe, loving hands. I was so incredibly grateful. I also had the pleasure and delight of seeing the bond that developed between my sister and my son. They have always been close. Always. For years, he called her “My Marguerite.”

He went from 8 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long to just shy of 6’3″ and about 170. He’s a smart, funny, and conscientious  young man, and I am proud of him.

It’s a life change for me, too. I have spent 18 years defining myself as the parent of a child. My work schedule has been deliberately designed so that I was home either in time to pick him up from school or to be home about the same time he was getting home from school. I kept my writing-business trips to a minimum, not only for reasons of cost, but because there were only so many favors I could beg from family, and only so much I could ask of my sister. Suffice it to say, that I once arrived at a convention after a 6 hour drive to get there only to learn that my brother, who was supposed to have my son for that weekend, had instead taken him to my parents. And that was not right for any number of reasons. So I drove back that same day and never took another trip until he was old enough that I felt it would not be too burdensome to ask my sister for help for the one yearly trip.

Eighteen years of cooking meals for and with him, driving him all over, making sure he was doing well, learning how to behave, getting him through school, discovering things we both enjoyed and watching him become a wonderful young man.

Now that will be from a distance, and while he’s learning the life he’ll lead as an adult, I’ll be learning how to live a life where my son is in charge of himself, and my days take on a different structure.

Now the house is quiet and empty, and he’s not down the hall in his room, or anywhere else in the house. He’s moved on to the next phase of his life in which he will, one day, say to me, “Mom, you were right to make me take a tool kit to college. I DID need those allen wrenches.”

It’s an adventure for us both.



The Vag-Cannon and Why Twitter is Awesome

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Right, so Ann Aguirre tweeted this thing and it was just so infuriatingly absurd!

Here it is in all its Twitter/Storified glory.