My New Range!

The Search

In 2021, when we moved into our current house, I fulfilled my long-time dream of having two ovens in my kitchen. I had always envisioned the ovens being double wall ovens but one range and one wall oven also worked perfectly well. Both the range and the wall oven were top-tier appliances but they were 20 years old. Just a few months after buying the house the wall oven died on Jaeger’s birthday, right after his cake finished baking. Long story short1, more than a year later I was able to fix the wall oven. Everything was fine for about 11 months and I was excited to once again have two working ovens. Then, in September of 2023, I deep cleaned the range and killed the oven. I don’t know exactly what happened but my best guess is some liquid leaked down into the electronics and shorted something out. The oven kind of worked for several weeks after that but it clearly was on its last legs.

I felt both chagrined I had managed to kill the oven and excited that I finally had an excuse to get an induction range, something I had wanted ever since having a Kenmore induction range2 in Colorado. Then, I made an unpleasant discovery. Our range was in an island and it uses a downdraft range hood. This meant that the electrical (and gas) for the range was installed in the middle of the floor underneath the range.

The range has been pulled out from the island and we are looking down at the floor. There metal electrical conduit, a gas line, and electrical and gas hookups awkwardly in the middle of where the range usually is.

My old range was a pro-style dual fuel Dacor that had feet to lift it above the electrical outlet. I talked to an electrician and he said he could move the outlet a bit but I might still need to put a new range on boards to get it to clear. I did not think that would look good so this limited my options to pro-style ranges with feet. Pro-style ranges tend to be more expensive than normal ranges and, unless you spend a lot of money, seem to be inferior to the normal mid-range models3. In January, I gave up and Jaeger and I agreed that we could wait to see if better options came onto the market and this would probably be perfectly fine because most people only ever had one oven and two working ovens is a luxury, not a necessity.

Then March came. An excerpt from my A New Computer and a Cake post:

Saturday morning I woke up early and nervous because it was Julian’s birthday party day. I went downstairs to make muffins for breakfast and then discovered I had too little sugar for the cakes I was planning to make while the muffins were baking. It was still very early, and everyone else was still in bed, so I rushed to the store to pickup sugar. I got back and mixed up the muffin batter. I went to put the muffins in the oven and discovered that my oven was broken.

We ended the day with a very good toaster oven but while I was willing to go from two to one oven, I was not willing to permanently use a toaster oven for all my baking needs. So, my search for a replacement range started in earnest again. When I gave up in January, the Bosch HIS8055U was the only pro-style range with feet that was (barely) a price I was willing to pay and also seemed to work reasonably well. After some additional research, and additional time to think, I finally decided that was my best option and I should just order it. By this point it was mid-April and Home Depot showed the Bosch on sale (only for 10% but better than nothing). However, I was dubious a Home Depot installer would be able to handle our somewhat unique installation. Jaeger and I talked and decided we’d be willing to pay more to buy from a local appliance store if they could also hook us up with a good installer. To my astonishment, they quoted me a price that was cheaper than Home Depot. Install was extra but the installer did a great job and, two months after Julian’s party, we finally had a working oven again. (Before the installer arrived Jaeger also had to trim our Corian countertops a sliver on either side so the opening was a true 30″ wide. Personally, I think it looks better now than it previously did because someone had awkwardly chiseled away part of the counter for the previous range.)

Picture of the Bosch range. It's installed in an island. The range has a smooth black top. It has five knobs in front, 2 on the left and 3 on the right on a simply clock and temperature display panel. The light is on in the oven allowing you to see two oven racks through the large oven window.

The Review

This range isn’t perfect but it does everything I need. I’ve had it for a bit over a month and so far every baking recipe has turned out perfect (cakes, crusty breads, muffins, scones, etc). Everything I’ve made on the stove has also turned out well. Though, I find there’s a steeper learning curve for the stove than the oven, even with previous induction experience.

If you must have a pro-style induction range, I think this Bosch range is the best that is currently available for under $5,000. I’m particularly happy with the oven. The large window is great and it’s very easy to see what’s happening without opening up the oven. I’ve mainly been using the basic bake function, it does what I need, but I have used the convection bake a couple of times. I really like that this range doesn’t turn the broiler on to preheat the oven faster (my Dacor did this and I hated it). It is a little slower to preheat but it’s always done by the time I finish mixing up muffin or cookie dough. The time bake works great and I think it is well designed. The print on the knob is hard to read but I now mostly turn it by feel. I really like that you turn the knob and the oven is on rather than entering a temp and then having to press a start button. I do wish it had one more rack, it comes with two, but I guess that’s something to put on my birthday list.

A lot of the reviews complain about the oven fan. Both my old Dacor range and my Thermador wall oven also had fans that come on when baking. It’s not louder than either of those ovens, and it is much quieter than my range hood. What is different is the fan is a variable speed which I don’t like but find tolerable. Using an Android Sound Meter app I measured the fan at 79 dB right over the rear vent but a much more reasonable 42-45 dB standing in front of the range where one would normally be cooking. Once interesting quirk of our setup is the oven’s exhaust vent outputs directly in front of our downdraft hood. I don’t know for sure but I speculate that this makes it more efficient at exhausting the hot air on a warm day than a typical overhead hood would do.

This oven does not have a self-clean function. However, multiple appliance repair people have told me in the past not to use the self-clean function on ovens because it shortens their lives. As a result, I haven’t used self-clean in years and don’t miss it.

I mostly like the induction stove top but I do have some reservations. I wish this model had a bridge element (ideally on both sides but I think only the exorbitantly expensive models have that). My Dacor gas stove top had two full-length griddles so I could fry 12+ pancakes at a time and I really miss that ability. I have settled and bought an electric griddle, and I’ll probably get a second for when we have guests, but that takes extra storage space. My old induction range didn’t have a bridge element but still did a decent job of spreading out heat when I used a cast iron griddle. On this stove, the heat seems much more concentrated. However, it works great for everything I’ve needed except the griddle.

I really like the stove knobs, rather than having buttons and/or touch, and the small print doesn’t matter as much for the stove since you also see an indicator on the stove top. Like my last induction stove it takes a while to figure out the right settings for everything. Using the boost setting it boiled 5 quarts of water in about 5 minutes (at 200 ft above sea level). It can also do a nice low heat and everything in between. There is a detectable buzz when the stove is on but it is quieter than my last induction range.

The one unexpected thing this stove top does is it doesn’t always turn on correctly the first time. I place my induction compatible pot on the burner, turn the burner on, and sometimes it just immediately turns itself off. It works fine when I turn it on the second time. It’s almost like it has trouble with a cold start which doesn’t make sense. I’m using the same cookware I used on my first induction stove so it’s not my pans. It has trouble with both my cast iron and induction compatible All-Clad pots.

Cleaning the stove top is great and much easier than a gas stove or old-style electric stove. It’s best not to let messes cook onto the top. However, the Weiman Glass Cook Top Heavy Duty Cleaner and Polish works really well if something cooks on.

So far I’m very satisfied with this purchase. It does everything I need and the downsides are more minor irritations rather than deal breakers. If I didn’t need feet to clear the electrical, I think I would have gotten an LG induction range. However, I do need feet and this is working well and looks very posh in our kitchen.

  1. See here for the long version
  2. It’s no longer made but it was a Kenmore Elite 6.1 cu. ft. Freestanding Induction Range w/ True Convection.
  3. BTW, if you’re shopping for an induction range Yale Appliances has some really nice videos comparing some popular options.

A New Computer and a Cake

On March 15 I received an email from Framework telling me that they were preparing my computer batch. I had been waiting a long time for this computer so I was very excited. Though, Julian’s birthday party was scheduled for March 23 and I was worried about having my attention divided if it turned up before the party. I received a shipping notice on March 21 with an estimated arrival of March 25. This seemed like a good time for the laptop to arrive.

Jaeger’s parents were coming to visit us for Julian’s birthday and so we played musical offices. Jaeger’s office is also our guest bedroom so he moved up to my office, because I’m better at blocking out random noises, and I moved to the gateleg table in our living room. Picture of a table with computer equipment. To the left is a mobile monitor which is using three books as a computer stand. In the middle is a laptop, also using three books as a stand, on the right is a closed laptop, and in front is a wireless keyboard and mouse.For a temporary space, it isn’t too bad. I borrow Jaeger’s portable monitor and my Zoom “background” can’t be beat because it shows off our bookshelves and Jaeger’s pygmy date palm. As one of my work colleagues commented, it’s the perfect zoom background1. However, I still miss my two full-size monitors at my regular desk.
A gray sofa with a sofa table behind. In back are two bookcases, filled with books, and a pygmy date palm.

Overall, my current job involves a lot of collaboration and a lot of meetings. I don’t usually have many meetings on Friday but last Friday was an exception. I ended up with five meetings that day. During my first meeting the doorbell rang and Jaeger went to answer it. I figured it was a replacement hammock which I had ordered for Julian. However, Jaeger returned with a suspiciously computer-like box and placed it down next to my desk. It was Bree, my Framework laptop, and it sat there taunting me my entire work day. Fortunately, Friday is one of Jaeger’s nights to cook so once I logged off work I started putting my computer together. Work had been a lot that day and I was still a little flustered so I didn’t get proper unboxing pictures. However, I did get a couple of pictures in the in-between stages. I purchased the DIY Framework option so the computer came without the hard drive, memory, keyboard, touchpad, bezel, and ports installed.
An open laptop showing it's internal components. Framework’s instructions were easy to follow and I put it all together and verified I could bring up the Bios right before Jaeger announced supper was ready.

After supper we played Wingspan together. Julian and Jaeger’s mom were a team and Julian kept trying to give her instructions using pseudocode, which didn’t work particularly well. However, point-wise they still ended up solidly in the middle.

Saturday morning I woke up early and nervous because it was Julian’s birthday party day. I went downstairs to make muffins for breakfast and then discovered I had too little sugar for the cakes I was planning to make while the muffins were baking. It was still very early, and everyone else was still in bed, so I rushed to the store to pickup sugar. I got back and mixed up the muffin batter. I went to put the muffins in the oven and discovered that my oven was broken.

So . . . I have a history with this oven. Back in 2021, a couple of months after we moved in, it was Jaeger’s birthday and I baked a cake for him. That went fine. However, after the cake was finished I went to bake the main entree for the evening and discovered the oven was broken. This wasn’t great but we also had a range oven so it wasn’t terrible to have the wall oven broken. I had a repair person come out and he told me it was likely the control board was broken but the oven was old enough we couldn’t get replacement parts for it anymore. However, he said I could send it into some random place on the internet and they could likely repair the board. I delayed for quite a while but eventually sent them in and discovered to my astonishment that it actually fixed the oven. I had two ovens again! However, this last fall, my range oven died and is still dead. I was thinking about replacing it but for complicated reasons it would be pretty expensive and I decided I could live with only having one oven. After all, most people survive perfectly fine with one oven. All that to say, when my wall oven broke Saturday morning, it was a problem.

I contemplated the situation in a mild panic. Clearly I could go to the store and buy a cake but Julian had already specifically requested a strawberry cake with chocolate frosting. I pulled up Consumer Reports and their top rated toaster oven was a Breville Smart Oven it was expensive for a toaster oven but Consumer Reports rated the baking component as “very good”. Miraculously, the specialty cooking store in Santa Cruz actually had one in stock so Jaeger went to pick it up. While he was gone we continued our various birthday preparations. He got back and I started baking the cake in batches. The toaster oven fit a 9″ round cake pan but it obviously would only fit one at a time. That said, I have now baked three cakes in the toaster oven2 and I can confirm that the baking function is very good. The cakes turned out perfectly. While the cakes were cooling, I started putting together the ingredients for the frosting. Then I realized I was out of powdered sugar. I have never had so much trouble making a cake before. I did a last minute pivot to a whipped chocolate ganache topping and finished it minutes before guests arrived.

The party involved a lot of kids, some adults, and a lot of overall chaos. I think it turned out well, aside from Julian having a breakdown at the end, and we all survived.

Everyone departed around 4:00pm which allowed me to squeeze in a little quality computer time with my new laptop. My next task was to install the OS (Ubuntu 22.04 LTS). That went smoothly and I had a functioning computer before I had to go make supper.

As time permits, I’ve continued tinkering with Bree. Overall, I like it. In my opinion, the big screen makes it worth the extra weight but I could definitely see it being too big and bulky for many people. I briefly tested out Sketchup and, unlike my old laptop, it looks like it shouldn’t have any problems running it. I now have all my essential programs installed but will likely continue customizing it for a while. I have the option of either having a numpad or centering the keyboard without a numpad and I’m still testing things out to see which layout I like best. Likewise, it came with the graphics module installed and I want to try it without to see if I prefer the (slightly) smaller size.

Once finish transferring everything from Myfanwy to Bree, I’m going to repurpose Myfanwy to be Julian’s new computer. Julian inherited a very cheap laptop we had original bought for our au pairs to use as a TV for our streaming services. Once our au pairs left, we gave the computer to Julian but it is a very cheap computer and is painfully slow to use. While Myfanwy is old, she still works significantly better than Julian’s current laptop. I’m also planning to switch him from Windows to Linux which will provide more complications from a parental control perspective but I’m tired of dealing with Windows. I have this Friday off, for Cesar Chavez Day3, so I plan to schedule some dedicated tinkering time.

  1. Normally they see patterned blue curtains. My curly hair makes the virtual zoom backgrounds, or blur backgrounds, look weird.
  2. I made two for Julian’s party and then one for Calvin’s birthday today.
  3. This is a state holiday in California but for some reason the kid’s still have school.

Looking for a New Laptop

In June 2023 I decided it was time to get a new laptop. Myfanwy, my most recent laptop, has been a very solid computer. However, she is eight years old, ancient in computer years. I don’t need my computer to do much, usually, and Myfanwy has met most of my needs. Except, back in June I was trying to use SketchUp to figure out some patio options and it was too much for my poor laptop1. This, combined with Rio slowly destroying my laptop’s bezel by persistent gnawing — she loves the rubber edge — finally pushed me over the edge into looking into a new laptop.

Normally, I buy refurbished units so I probably wandered over to Dell’s Outlet to take a look at what they had on hand. I can’t remember my exact train of thought but at some point I decided I wanted a laptop where I wouldn’t have to guess if all the components were Linux compatible. This led me to the System76 laptops which I was half-way talking myself into until Jaeger asked if I’d seen the Framework laptops. Apparently they’re very popular among his coworkers, at least the ones that don’t have Macbooks. I took a look and was intrigued. I really liked the idea of a laptop that would let me easily upgrade parts. However, I didn’t want a 13″ laptop. I like my laptops big and my phones small. Lucky for me, Framework was in the midst of trying to create a 16″ laptop.

One thing led to another and in July I preordered a Framework 16. I ordered the same day it was announced and ended up getting in the 5th batch. The modular options were my downfall and I went a little crazy when ordering the options. It’s officially the most expensive computer I have ever bought and it costs more even than many Macbooks. What I ordered:

  • The base Ryzen™ 7 7840HS system
  • 180W Power Adapter (theoretically, one could get this somewhere else but it didn’t feel worth it)
  • Both the Graphics Module (AMD Radeon™ RX 7700S) and the Expansion Bay Shell (so I could slim it down when traveling)
  • 1 32 GB of Ram (this leaves another slot free if I want more later)
  • 1 TB SSD (I wavered a bit about whether I should get larger but at the moment it’s more than I need and I can upgrade later if necessary or get a second drive)
  • The basic keyboard
  • A numpad and spacers for when I don’t want the numpad (this is flat out just an indulgence but it might be useful when I balance bills and I am not docked for some reason)
  • Expansion ports: 2 USB-A, 2 USB-C, MicroSD, HDMI, ethernet, and headphone jack (I can only use 6 at one time but I wanted the option to slip in MicroSD, HDMI, and ethernet as needed. I’m still debating though if I should get more USB-C ports.)

Back in July the Framework 16 was estimated to ship in Q4 of 2023. However, it was a brand new product and the timing slipped. This wasn’t particularly surprising but I was disappointed I didn’t get a fancy laptop to play with over winter break. They did start emailing bi-weekly emails explaining exactly where they were in the process and I found them interesting to read.

During the delay, I started creating a migration plan for what I was going to move to the new laptop. In addition to replacing Myfanwy as my primary laptop, I initially thought it should also be able to run Windows. Anna is my 14-year-old all-in-one and currently my Windows computer for the rare occasion when Linux won’t work (i.e. iTunes and the occasional special PDF doc that needs a digital signature). Anna is barely functional at this point and it’s time for her to retire. Doing some sort of dual boot on the new laptop made sense. I had almost decided to go with two hard drives: one for Linux and one for Windows so I wouldn’t have to deal with partition nonsense, when Jaeger proposed an alternate option: a shared Mac Mini. He was already thinking about getting a Mac Mini both so he could have a personal computer that ran iTunes and so he could have a computer that ran his code. If he was getting a Mac Mini as a supplemental computer, it made sense to just buy one big enough to handle any reasonable iTunes needs I might have also2.

In January Framework shipped out review laptops and the reviews started coming in toward the end of the month. There was a fairly wide, range of reviews. Everyone thought the concept was fascinating but not everyone was convinced the novelty was worth the price. Some people questioned whether they wanted to cancel their preorders (which one can do without penalty). However, based on what I could see, it still met what I was looking for in a laptop.

Once the review models hit I started haunting the Framework community forums to keep an eye on when customers from the various batches received their computers. The very first report of a customer getting their Framework 16 computer happened on February 2 with more getting them by the first full week in February. However, there were numerous complications such as the factories shutting down for Lunar New Year and bottlenecks with specific configurations. In particular, “International English – Linux” keyboards were delaying shipments for some Batch 1 customers3. While waiting for the delayed components to arrive, Framework started shipping Batch 2 computers for those who didn’t have delayed components.

One advantage I’m anticipating with the Framework laptop is the ability to add relatively cheap add-ons to my Birthday/Christmas wish lists. For example, it’s designed to easily switch out the bezel. I don’t really love the colors currently available but I suspect that more colors will be added later4

Today Framework sent out an update saying that batch 5 should ship before the end of Q1. I’m tempted to take the day after it arrives off work so I can dedicate time to setting it up5. I have my USB drive ready with Ubuntu, I have a name for the computer, and I have a plan for what software I want to install and the files I want to transfer. I think I’m ready.

  1. I’ve been using SketchUp for years to model our houses and Myfanwy has been getting progressively worse at being able to handle it.
  2. I have not completely given up on the iPhone SE. I have hopes that someday there will be an iOS audiobook app that meets my needs. If that happens, I want iTunes to be able to backup the phone locally.
  3. As an aside, they do not currently offer a Dvorak keyboard. I’m not convinced I’d want one even if they did offer it but I was a little surprised it wasn’t an option given how many other custom keyboard options there are. Possibly they expect people with alternative layouts to get one of the blank keyboards. However, while poking around I learned that there were more people, at least on the forums, who were interested in Colemak keyboards, which I hadn’t heard of before.
  4. The 13″ currently has black, gray, green, lavendar, orange, and red. Red might be interesting but I’d really prefer a blue.
  5. Though, I have concerns it may arrive right before Julian’s birthday party, on the 23rd, which would be very bad timing.

This Day On Twitter Update

In August of 2023 I was trying to decide what to do with my old Twitter posts and decided to start posting them in the format of “this day on twitter”. It’s been interesting to go through and see little snapshots of my life throughout the years. However, the Twitter updates are overwhelming the rest of this blog. As a result, I’ve decided to move all the Twitter posts off my home page. Instead, you can get to them by clicking the This Day on Twitter menu link.

I haven’t tested yet but I believe, based on how I made the code changes, that the RSS feed will still contain the Twitter updates.

Update: I’ve confirmed the RSS feed does still contain the Twitter updates. They’re only hidden from the home page.

Reading Holiday Recap

As I mentioned in the Reading in 2023 post, I decided to take a reading vacation just a few days after getting back from our winter vacation.

What I Read

What Went Well

  • I got really lucky and enjoyed all the books I read. My favorite was probably Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date followed by Loki’s Ring.
  • I really liked having a goal of reading a different genre each day.
  • On the first day I got a massage in the early afternoon. This was a great way to emphasize the vacation was suppose to be relaxing and fun. The early afternoon time was also good because it gave me plenty of time to do some reading in the morning and drop by the library to pick up even more books before going to the appointment.
  • It was really nice to schedule this when the kids didn’t have school so I could just sleep in as long as I wanted.
  • It was fantastic having supper options made ahead of time. I basically didn’t have to spend any time on supper at all, just grabbed things from the freezer and heated them up.
  • During the day I read in the purple chair in the sunroom. Jaeger got this chair off Craigslist when he first moved to San Francisco and it is the perfect reading chair. You can lean back and put your legs up on an ottoman or lounge sideways equally well. In one of our moves it lost a rear leg but we propped it up on a short plastic stool and it works fine.
  • I ordered a winter tea sample pack from Friday Afternoon and started each reading session with a pot of tea. The whole setup was very cozy.

Lessons Learned

  • I think having one of the genres being Science Fiction or Fantasy was a mistake, at least with the goal of only reading new authors. It was a little stressful to try to find a new author that I was fairly certain I would enjoy. Instead, it might have been nice to set aside the last day of the reading vacation for a re-read of something comforting.
  • I tried to do too many things on Saturday. In addition to reading a book, I also tried to play a long board game with the family and then go out to dinner with Jaeger. Next time I should probably try to do no more than one non-reading thing a day.
  • Because I knew Saturday would be full, I stared Saturday’s book on Friday. That was necessary to finish the book by Saturday evening but I didn’t find it as satisfying.
  • I was planning to do a little bit of exercise first thing in the morning, before reading, and then going on a short afternoon walk. I felt it would be good for my body to get at least some movement each day. I did well the first two days but less well once I hit the weekend. Though, I didn’t get any weird aches from sitting too long each day so maybe it turned out ok regardless.
  • I do not know why but I kept wanting to snack. This was not something I had anticipated. Next time, I think I should spend a bit more time thinking about reasonable but fun snack options.
  • I didn’t have a plan for what to do when I was done with my book of the day. I purposely picked relatively short books but that meant I was done reading them in 4-6 hours. Because I allowed myself such leisurely mornings this was a pretty good length to finish before supper. However, I usually read in the evening too and wasn’t sure if I should start a new book or do something else.

Other Ideas

  • One of my initial thoughts was to also watch TV/Movie book adaptations. I was thinking things like Jane Austen movies, Agatha Christie episodes, maybe some Shakespeare adaptations. However, we don’t have a great setup for that right now. We have one TV in the living room, which I didn’t feel like monopolizing, and I find it hard to lounge when watching on an iPad or computer. I still like the idea but don’t really know how to make it work.

Ideas for Next Time
Overall, this was an ideal vacation for me and something I would like to repeat. I really liked the one-genre-a-day format. However, some other things I might consider for the future (or not):

  • Book with movie pairings
  • Books I keep meaning to read but haven’t — slightly worried this might make it less fun but maybe not
  • One long book
  • Reading books around a theme, perhaps in different genres.
  • Potentially schedule around an author event
  • Just read books I’ve read before
  • Just read classics

Reading in 2023

Since 2016 I’ve made three interstate moves, have worked at three different jobs, had some extremely fraught years in my marriage, and lived through a pandemic. Now I’m objectively in a good place but emotionally I’m still pretty fragile and I think that’s reflected in my reading this past year.

In 2023 I read more books than in 2022 but fewer pages. About 15% of my reading this year was rereading old favorites and the new books I read were often relatively short. While I don’t keep track of my Did Not Finish stats, I know there were many books this year that I started but did not finish. In most cases, this was not a reflection of the quality of the book but rather it wasn’t the right book for me when I was trying to read it.

If you’re curious, you can see my StoryGraph stats for 2023 here.

This blog post got a little out of hand so a quick table of contents to the sections below:
My Favorite Books in 2023
Hugo Award Nominees
Reading Holiday
Interior Design Books

My Favorite Books in 2023

Below are not necessarily the “best” books I read in 2023 but they are the ones I enjoyed the most. (I linked to the author’s website if they have a good landing page for the book, otherwise it’s a StoryGraph link.)

  • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (read A Spindle Splintered first) – Another Sleeping Beauty retelling. Both books in the series are novellas and are nice quick reads.
  • The Bald Mermaid: A Memoir by Sheila Bridges – I continue my obsession with reading interior design books. While look for new books, I stumbled across this memoir by interior designer Sheila Bridges.
  • Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (this is the second in the series, Legendborn is the first) – Legendborn is one of those books where I immediately bought it after reading it from the library. It’s a King Arthur reborn story and I loved how it centers the story around a Black woman. Bloodmarked took me a little longer to get into but once I did it was also fantastic.
  • Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher – I think working for a university made me appreciate this book more than I would have otherwise. However, it’s a fun book regardless if you like cranky people trying to do the right thing in spite of themselves.
  • Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl – I’m fairly certain I found this via Modern Mrs. Darcy but I can’t remember what made me pick it up. Regardless, I found this memoir both interesting and delightful. It’s the story of a food critic going undercover in order to provide real reviews.
  • Good Neighbors: The Full Collection by Stephanie Burgis – This is a delightful fantasy romance. The heroine is technically savvy and very suspicious of people. It’s a quick fun read.
  • The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison (it would be best to read The Witness for the Dead first)
  • How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis – I wrote a whole blog post about this book but I think I managed to miss the essence of why I like it. This book gives you permission to not be perfect. It’s ok to try for “good enough” and if that bar is still too high, to just concentrate on staying alive.
  • Love Poems for People with Children by John Kenney (re-read) – This is a short collection of snarky poetry. As I recall, I didn’t mean to re-read it but had wanted to refer to one of the poems in it and the next thing I knew I had read the whole thing. Love Poems for Married People is also fun. The New Yorker has a couple of the poems here.
  • The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism by Jen Gunter – I haven’t reached menopause yet but it’s probably only a couple of years away at this point so I decided to get a head start on reading about it. This was a good book and one I expect I’ll read again in a couple of years.
  • The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray – This was a delightful murder mystery. I’m impressed by how Claudia Gray brought together so many of Jane Austen’s main characters under one roof. However, I particularly liked her descriptions of the two young people who work together to solve the mystery.
  • One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds – Still one of my favorite organizing books. Mind you, I haven’t followed any of her suggestions, I just like imagining a perfectly organized life. That said, I’m thinking about trying a light version of her approach this next year. We’ll see.
  • Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow – Most of Doctorow’s books are not for me. However, Jaeger notified me about a kickstarter he was doing for his newest book at the time, Red Team Blues. I took a look and the premise sounded interesting. In addition, I am very anti-DRM (I want to own my books, not lease them, and be able to use them on all of my devices) so it seemed like a good fit. I got the audio version, which is how I usually listen to mysteries, but Jaeger bought the hardcover. It’s a quick fun story and I’ll probably listen to it again.
  • Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod – This was a recent holiday listen and I really enjoyed the dour and moderately cranky professor. After years of being harassed for not decorating his house for Christmas the professor snaps and commissions an excessively gaudy display to be installed and then leaves for the weekend. When he returns, he finds a dead body in his house. Everyone wants to believe it’s just an accident but the professor thinks something else is going on and starts investigating.
  • Several People are Typing by Calvin Kasulke – Slack is my work’s primary communication method so a story about someone somehow getting uploaded to an internal Slack channel was quite fun.
  • The Splinter in the Sky by Kemi Ashing-Giwa – This is the type of Science Fiction novel I particularly enjoy. One person starts out with a hopeless situation and manages to both survive and win in the end (at least for some definitions of “win”).
  • System Collapse by Martha Wells (if you have never read a Murderbot book, start with All Systems Red) – Murderbot is loved by many and I’m no exception. I love Murderbot’s annoyance with having to deal with people.
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – As I get older I appreciate books with older protagonists. I love the idea of a group of retired people getting together and solving crimes. Plus, they all have their own backstories that we start learning.
  • Translation State by Ann Leckie – Another book in the Ancillary Justice universe. It would be best to read that series first. I’m always impressed by how Leckie can write very different perspectives.
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto – Another older woman who decides to solve a murder. This was such a nice cozy book.
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – This was a really fun story. I love the idea of a real witch pretending to be a fake witch on social media.
  • Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes – This was probably my favorite space opera of the year. It’s an interesting story and the ending gets delightfully operatic.

Hugo Award Nominees

I did not set a reading goal for last year but reading the Hugo Award nominees is often an unofficial goal and I did fairly well this year. I read:

  • Best Novel – all 6 nominees
  • Best Novella – I also read all 6
  • Best Novelette – 5 of the nominees. There’s one author I have given myself permission to not even try because, while objectively a good writer, they never work for me
  • Short Stories – all six short stories though a couple I had to read via computer translation
  • Series – This is always a hard one for me. Usually I try to read at least one book in each series. This year I had read books in 5 of the series but have never read any in this year’s winner, the Children of Time Series
  • Best Graphic Novel or Comic – none
  • Best Related Work – none, though Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road still intrigues me
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – I watched two of these: Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won, and Turning Red which I also liked
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – none
  • Best Editor, Short Form – probably none – short stories are hard for me
  • Best Editor, Long Form – I did reasonably well, for me, in this category and ended up reading works edited by three of the nominees. That’s only 50% of the nominees but it’s 75% of the nominees with English works (as far as I could tell, two nominees only edited works available in Chinese).
  • Best Professional Artist – none
  • Best Semiprozine – none
  • Best Fanzine – only one
  • Best Fancast – I’ve listened to episodes from four of the six nominees
  • Best Fan Writer – I think this is where I may have inadvertently read some of the nominees’ works but I didn’t vote in this category
  • Best Fan Artist – none
  • Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book – I read four of these nominees and started a fifth which I was unable to finish (but may try again later)
  • Astounding Award for Best New Writer – I read works from three of the six

Reading Holiday

I’m once again reluctant to make a reading goal for next year. However, I have decided to start the year with a reading holiday. I’m taking three days of vacation from work, around a weekend for a total of five days. This is before the kids go back to school so I don’t have to worry about waking up early or making school lunches for them (they’re perfectly capable of getting their own breakfasts/lunches at home). In addition, this gives me extra time to relax and recover from the chaos around Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. I’ve been mulling this idea for about a month and it took a while but I have a general idea of what I want the reading vacation to look like.

I’ve decided to try to read one book a day during the reading holiday. I’m not entirely sure if I can realistically do this or not. I’ve definitely read entire books in one day but I don’t know that I’ve ever done it multiple days in a row before. Each day will be a different genre and I’m going to try to stick to authors I haven’t read before. I’ve identified both a first choice and backup book (in case I start the first book and hate it, or I can’t get it in time). Most of these books look like they should be quick reads.

Thursday – Young Adult or Juvenile

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker

Backup: Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

2nd Backup: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Friday – Romance

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake

Backup: Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa

Saturday – Mystery

The House Keepers by Alex Hay

Backup: The Penguin Book of Murder Mysteries edited by Michael Sims

2nd Backup: Death on the Down Beat: An Orchestral Fantasy of Detection by Sebastian Farr

Sunday – Memoir or Non-fiction

Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage by Helen Ellis

Backup: Now What?: How to Move Forward When We’re Divided About Basically Everything by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

Monday – Science Fiction or Fantasy

This one I’m a bit stumped. I was originally planning to read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin but belatedly realized it wasn’t SFF (I’m not sure why I thought it was).

My backup is The Salvation Gambit by Emily Skrutskie. I’ll probably make that one my primary and come up with another backup. On the other hand, I have quite a few SFF books checked out so maybe I’ll just grab one from my existing TBR stack.

Interior Design Books

I’m still reading a lot of interior design books. It’s slightly obsessive and there’s something going on there but I’m not exactly sure what. It’s probably related to moving so much the past couple of years and being determined to take root this time. In any case, this is a bit tricky because while the library generally will buy books I request, they have been reluctant to buy more interior design books. After my most recent request was denied I asked and was told that it was due to shelf space and that they don’t circulate well enough to justify the cost. Clearly, I could straight-up buy more interior design books but we spend a lot of money on books already and I’m reluctant to buy interior design books because I rarely reread them. If I don’t think I’m going to reread a book, I usually weed it which seems overall like a waste. After some thought, I’ve decided to try buying used copies. I don’t love this approach because, unlike the library or buying directly, the author doesn’t get any cut of my purchase. However, if I end up really loving the book I can always repurchase it new.

Thoughts on Cleaning

I find it very soothing to read organizing and housekeeping related books. I’ve read many over the years. One of my favorites is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. I suspect I like it for the same reason Constance Grady relates in Why a manual by a control freak is the best thing to read when the world is out of control. My main regret is there isn’t an audio version available. Though, at 896 pages long, I can’t even guess how many hours that would take. As a result, the book I currently listen to the most is One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds.

I particularly like listening to these type of books while I’m cleaning house. One day while browsing the library audiobooks I stumbled across How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis. This book is radically different from the ones I usually read. The book gives permission to do the bare minimum you need in order to have a house that is safe and comfortable for your needs. While it is very different from how I usually think about cleaning, the concepts discussed really caught my attention. I bought both the audiobook and ebook versions so I could listen and review again as often as I wanted1.

I am definitely happiest when everything in my house is perfectly clean and everything is in its place. This will probably come as a shock to Jaeger as early on in our marriage we had to have a discussion of what “clean” means. To me, clean means there is no dirt but for Jaeger it means there isn’t stuff laying around. So he would be upset about how dirty the house was and I would be very confused because the toilets had been bleached, the mirrors sprayed, and the furniture dusted even while our stuff lay around the house. However, when I pickup things, everything has to be picked up2. I lean towards an all or nothing approach when it comes to clutter.

While few things make me happier than sitting down to read in the evening in a perfectly clean and organized house, it’s not something I realistically have the time for if I want or need to do anything else. In my ideal world, I’d have a three day weekend that consists of:

  1. A rest day
  2. A house project day (paying bills, installing shades, organizing cupboards, etc) and
  3. A cleaning day

Sadly, I do not regularly get three day weekends. I almost never get three day weekends where I don’t have to account for how the rest of the family is occupying themselves.

These days even though it feels like I should have enough time to fully clean our house on Sunday, I don’t. At least, I don’t for the way I’d prefer to clean the house (in strict top to bottom order starting with the master bathroom and ending in the kitchen). This is true even though Calvin is responsible for the kids’ bathroom, our half bathroom, and the family room and Jaeger is responsible for all the floors3.

So, back to How to Keep House While Drowning. Since first listening to it, I’ve started tinkering more with my house cleaning routine. When I have a limited amount of time to clean, I try to focus more on what will have the most impact rather than going sequentially through my checklist. This is a hard shift for me but I’m slowly getting better at it. When I enter the bathroom I now ask myself what will make me happiest to have clean. While theoretically I would like to cobweb dust the ceiling every time, unless I actually see cobwebs, it’s usually not worth my time. On the other hand, the toilet and shower are two areas I want to clean every time4. My priorities in the bathroom are pretty consistent but I tend to have less consistency in the kitchen. One week I might really want to clean all the finger prints off the stainless steel appliances whereas another weekend I might choose to deep clean the sink5. The living room . . . well, it hasn’t been dusted in a while.

I feel this is a more balanced way to approach cleaning and, while it’s not prefect, I think it’s a reasonable approach for now. My Sundays still feel too full but when I sit down in the evening I feel better about the overall results.

  1. In completionist mode, I also want the physical book but I haven’t decided yet if I’m actually going to buy it
  2. This mirrors how I cleaned as a kid also. My room would gradually get extremely messy and every so often I’d stay up all night cleaning and it would be absolutely prefect for a couple of hours.
  3. An alternative option, which I have used sometimes in the past, is to hire house cleaners. However, I find managing everything that goes with hiring house cleaners to be even more stressful than cleaning myself. As Davis notes, another favorite suggestion people have is to clean while you go or to clean a little bit every day. This doesn’t work at all for me so I found the part where she talked about how it also doesn’t work for her to be very validating.
  4. Normally the shower wouldn’t be so high on my list except for some reason this shower starts growing mildew at an astonishing rate. Also, for the record, I really, really hate clear glass shower doors.
  5. Another hate I’ve developed is for built-in Corian sinks. Yes, there’s no annoying caulk lines to clean around and I do like that. However, our current off-white sink stains at an unbelievable rate. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to take baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and leave it to soak for hours and even then it doesn’t always work.


5/30/2023 Update:
Jaeger and Calvin and now both testing positive for COVID. So, we gave isolation a shot but clearly didn’t do it quick enough. I guess that goes under lessons learned.

Of the houses we’ve owned, our current one is one of my favorites (probably a toss-up with our Gunbarrel house). However, there’s one feature that has always baffled us. On the ground floor of our house there is a 4th bedroom with an en suite bathroom1. For some reason, this en suite bathroom has an exterior door that takes you to the side of the house. It’s not near the garage or laundry room and isn’t particularly near to where one would put a hot tub. Till this weekend, we could never figure out what you’d use the door for.

Partital view of the bathroom from the bedroom. There is an exterior glass door in the bothroom with a shade covering the window.

Unfortunately, this weekend Julian and I contracted COVID for the first time since the pandemic started. Jaeger and Calvin were both testing negative so we decided that Julian and I should try to isolate. After some thought, we concluded the ground floor bedroom was our best option. It’s primarily Jaeger’s office but doubles as our exercise and guest bedroom. We have a sleeper sofa and the room is big enough we could bring in Julian’s mattress.

Current bedroom setup. The bed part of the sofa has been setup. To the left, on the floor, is Julian's mattress which he is sitting on with his back to the camera. At the foot of the sofa bed is an office desk with two  monitors.  On the opposite bed from the camera is a white dresser with plants sitting on top.

We moved one of our air purifiers right next to the interior door 2 and are keeping the interior door closed. Julian and I enter and exit the room exclusively via the exterior door. I am still going into the main part of the house, primarily the kitchen, but for limited amounts of time and fully masked. We’re taking all our meals outside. The sky has been pretty gray but surprisingly warm.

Outside patio.  There is a square outdoor dining table with two chairs. Julian is in one with his back to us.  Several feet away is a green card table with another two chairs. Jaeger is sitting at this table with his back to us reading his phone. Julian is eating pizza and on that table is also a mug, a book, and a Kleenex box. Underneath the table is a trashcan. On the green card table is another mug.

One of the things this experience is emphasizing to me is how much we underutilized our outdoor spaces. I like interior design so I’ve thought a lot about how various spaces in the house are used and what we can do to optimize their utility. However, I still haven’t figured out how to encourage use of our outdoor spaces. I think if I came up with a plan I could keep an eye out on Craigslist for good furniture. I just haven’t come up with a plan yet.

Overall, we have a pretty nice setup and Julian is loving getting unlimited screen time. Rio seems to be the most unhappy about the whole situation. We discovered when my parents came over that she doesn’t like strangers at all. She mostly stayed upstairs for the brief time they were here and even when she did venture downstairs, she’d run away the instant she saw either of them. After they left, she had one normal night and then Julian and I moved downstairs. She clearly did not approve and spent a significant amount of the night meowing at our door. While the rest of us eat outside, Rio sits by the sliding glass door and mournfully watches us.

Rio, our black cat, sitting on top of a white bookcase filled with cookbooks and surrounded by plants.

I had a really bad cold about a month ago, probably brought home by Julian, which caused me to miss almost a week of work so I’m tired of being sick. However, so far I’m doing pretty well. I’m on Paxlovid and have the weird metallic taste side effect but none of the others3. Yesterday I wasn’t feeling great but still had enough energy to read a couple of books. Today my physical energy is a bit lower than normal, and I have a fair amount of coughing and runny nose, but I think my brain is back to functioning. At the moment, I think I’ll be working tomorrow.

One of the advantages of remote work is, as long as I’m feeling ok, I can work while sick without infecting anyone else. Today Jaeger and I swapped our office setup, with the exception of the monitors and desks, so we’re ready for tomorrow. I have four meetings tomorrow, which isn’t ideal with a kid in the same room, but I expect Minecraft will keep Julian suitably entertained. I’ll also have a great view.

Small three-tiered water fountain in front of a hedge surronded by outdoor plants including a very young persimmon tree and some California poppies.

A little to my surprise, our precautions appear to have paid off, at least so far4. Neither Jaeger nor Calvin have any COVID symptoms and Jaeger just tested negative again today.

  1. According to the permits, this bed/bath is one year newer than the rest of the house.
  2. We own four Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier purchased back in 2019 for wildfire season and I have never regretted their purchase. Normally, we have them running in auto mode but right now all of them are running at full blast in addition to having windows open during the warmer parts of the day.
  3. It turns out a piece of dark chocolate helps mask it.
  4. As a typical teenager, Calvin mainly lives in his room so probably had the least amount of exposure. However, Jaeger slept right next to me the night before I tested positive.

Hot Chocolate Tasting

My favorite winter activity is to sit in front of the fire with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. Which hot chocolate I choose depends a bit on my mood. However, several weeks ago I decided I should taste all the hot chocolate I had in the house and take notes about which I liked best. Calvin enthusiastically signed up to this idea and Julian seemed uncertain but intrigued. Jaeger clearly couldn’t figure out the big fuss but started the tasting with us.

I printed up little cards where everyone could take notes about how many stars they gave each hot chocolate and any comments. We ended up with eight different kinds of hot chocolate which, in retrospect, was too many. Each tasting was about 1/4 cup. Jaeger gave up after four but the rest of us persevered through the full eight.

Our results (out of 5 stars)1:

Hot Chocolate Kiesa Calvis Julian Average
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix 4.00 4.75 5.00 4.58
Hershey’s Hot Chocolate Recipe 4.50 4.50 2.50 3.83
Nestle Chocolatey Memories Hot Cocoa Mix 4.00 3.25 3.50 3.48
Abuelta Authentic Mexican Chocolate Drink Mix 4.00 3.75 2.00 3.25
Evil Recipe Hot Chocolate 4.50 5.00 0.00 3.17
Starbucks Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate 4.50 4.00 0.00 2.83
LaMonarca Bakery Chocolate Mexicano 3.50 2.50 1.50 2.50
Guittard Grand Cacao Sweet Ground Chocolate 5.00 3.50 -1.00 2.50

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
This is a very safe hot chocolate that everyone enjoyed. Up until our tasting, I thought it was my favorite. However, I usually drink it with a cinnamon stick and for the tasting I had it plain. When it’s completely plain I found it a little boring.

Hershey’s Recipe Hot Chocolate
This is a recipe in the 1984 Hershey’s Chocolate Treasury cookbook. It’s made with 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate, 2 tbs hot water, 1/4 cup sugar, dash of salt, 2 cups warm milk, and 1/4 tsp vanilla.

Nestle Chocolatey Memories Hot Cocoa Mix
These are individual hot chocolate packets that I got for camping several years ago. I was a bit surprised how well it ended up rated. It’s probably the cheapest hot chocolate on the list.

Abuelta Authentic Mexican Chocolate Drink Mix
This is the hot chocolate I usually serve for breakfast. Many years ago my high school Spanish teacher brought in hot chocolate as a special treat. The teacher was bemused by how much our class loved it. This hot chocolate kind of reminds me of that, though it’s not quite as good as my memories. (I’m pretty sure my teacher made hers from scratch.)

Evil Recipe Hot Chocolate
This is Calvin’s favorite hot chocolate. To make it, you take a liquid measuring cup and pour in chocolate chips to the 1/4-1/3 cup marker. Then, add milk to the 1 cup line. Microwave for about 1:30 and then stir till it’s all mixed together. It’s extremely rich.

Starbucks Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate
This one also comes in individual packets. However, it doesn’t work as well for camping as it really requires milk to make it taste good. That said, with milk, it’s a decent, fairly dark, hot chocolate.

La Monarca Bakery Chocolate Mexicano
I bought this hot chocolate when I was looking for an upscale version of the Abuelta brand. We all agreed the flavor was great. However, it was very gritty. My hypothesis is it has a great flavor because of the cinnamon, which perhaps is not as finely ground as we prefer.

Guittard Grand Cacao Sweet Ground Chocolate
When by itself, this was my favorite hot chocolate. However, Julian’s -1 rating pulled this all the way down to the bottom of our list. It looks like I can safely hoard it for myself without anyone else complaining.

Sample comment cards:
Evil Recipe Hot Chocolate. 5 stars filled in. Reviewer: Calvis the Bold Comments: -rich -thick-excellent -evil (amazingly so)

Guirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix. 5 stars filled in. Reviewer: Julian Comments: 5 for taste 5 for coldness. Written on the left side in pencil it says 'best'.

Guittard Grand Cacao Sweet Ground Chocolate. 5 stars filled in. Reviewer: Gem Comments: Dark Good Fairly Rich

  1. Jaeger left comments but no ratings.

Thoughts on Remote Work

I have a long history of working from home in various ways. At my first library I worked from home for seven years. My next two libraries weren’t as work from home friendly but I was usually able to do it once a week1. I’ve been in my current fully remote position for two years.

I have been disgruntled for years over how few employers consider fully remote workers to be a viable option. There are clearly some positions that are more compatible with fully remote work than others. There are also some people who prefer being fully remote more than others. One of the few silver linings of COVID was that many employers had to figure out how to make remote work feasible and their employees managed to do good work even with all the complications that the pandemic brought2. I am very annoyed with companies who are now trying to bring their people back to work in-person when it’s not for actual work purposes. In my view, neither “strengthening our community and sense of connection” nor compensating for managers who can’t manage remotely, are sufficient reasons to require in-person work. These issues can be dealt with in other ways.

Now that I think about it, many of the benefits of remote work compensate for a society setup to make having kids hard for two working parents3. This is a problem that I feel many top executives do not have either because they have a spouse that stays home or they have an army of support workers for their home.

Once we had kids, having both Jaeger and I work was never the easiest option for our family. However, I desperately need to work. If I don’t have interesting problems to solve, my mental health rapidly deteriorates. I assume Jaeger is similar. At the very least, he does not want to stay home full time with the kids either. Remote work helps bridge the capacity gap between working outside the house and being a parent.

In San Francisco I was working 40 hours a week and commuting down to Mountain View Monday-Thursday. On my commuting days I had no free time. I’d wake up and leave the house by 6:30am and would return around 6:00pm. I’d feed the kids, get them ready for bed, and then immediately go to bed completely exhausted. I had a shorter commute in Seattle, and it was better, but I still didn’t have much buffer if something went wrong at work or home.

Many daycare hours are limited and are barely open long enough to both pickup and drop off kids within an eight hour work day. They also require driving, rather than taking mass transit when it’s available, because available daycare slots and job locations never seem to match. Several of our preschools had a large number of holidays when care wasn’t available. In San Francisco, we dealt with this by having an au pair, who is limited to 45 hours of work a week, and supplementing with preschool. Due to cost, and other factors, this is not an option available to many people. Even with the support of an au pair, I had a panic attack in the Millbrae BART station one day when I was reviewing the preschool calendar and realized they were going to be closed the entire month of July4.

Working remotely allows for much more flexibility around childcare options. When working remotely the only commute time I need to factor in is the time to get to the daycare/preschool. Holidays aren’t as big of a deal because even with tiny kids I could usually get in a significant amount of work5. When the kids get sick, I don’t have a mad scramble to find alternative care or take the day off and, it turns out, kids get sick a lot. So far this school year we’ve had one or both of the kids home sick for a total of 11 school days (no COVID, just regular colds). Some of this was probably delayed exposure due to everyone being more careful during the early COVID years. However, I distinctly remember Julian being regularly sick when he started preschool.

Schools are another institution that work best when there is a stay at home parent. One of the reasons Calvin went to private school in Colorado, even when I was only working 20 hours a week, was because our public school’s kindergarten hours were incompatible with complimentary childcare options. Even once you hit first grade, the school day usually ends between 2-3pm. Some schools offer after school programs and some don’t. Those that do rarely guarantee you get a spot when you enroll in the school. It’s very hard to find care for kids to fill the gap between the end of the school day and the end of the work day.

Working remotely allows me to pickup the kids from school and then continue working for the rest of the day. Depending on the age of the kid, you may still need extra care but it opens up a lot more options.

Speaking of more options, having two fully remote parents is amazing. For the first time since we’ve had kids I feel we’re actually close to a 50/50 split in kid/house work. Most days I drop the kids off at school and Jaeger picks them up. I no longer have to make the choice of starting early, skipping lunch, and/or working late to fit both my child and work obligations in the same day6. I just work a normal work day and it’s amazing.

I was so disappointed when Apple and other tech companies started walking back their remote work options. Yes, in many ways tech workers are incredibly privileged. However, I strongly believe that having more permanent remote workers would increase the overall diversity of tech companies. In addition, it might provide more relief for the partners of those tech workers. I really appreciated the Thoughts on Office-Bound Work some Apple employees put together.

So far I’ve focused on the benefits I get from remote work as a mother. I mentioned them first because they are by far the most important for me. However, remote work also offers other perks which include:

  • I like people but I also find them exhausting. After a day of interacting with people I need several hours, or more, to recover.
  • I have more control over the temperature at home. While working at Mountain View the thermastat in my work area was broken for several months. It was regularly in the lower 60s (17C) in summer. I had a space heater, wore a down coat, and had fingerless gloves. During my 15 minute breaks I’d go outside and try to warm up.
  • Open floor plans are the norm these days but I would not work well in them. Due to some incidents in middle school, I do best when I have my back to the wall. (This is not just true at work, in restaurants I also try to pick the chair that doesn’t allow people to sneak up behind me.) The typical advice when needing to concentrate in an open floor plan is to wear noise canceling headphones but that would mean I would have even less ability to hear people coming up behind me.
  • Related to above, my job involves many Zoom meetings (often 4-5 a day) with people all over the state. This would not be fun for a desk/cube neighbor.
  • More flexibility for everything. When I worked at Mountain View I had to leave at a specific time either to catch my train or to avoid traffic (if I drove). I couldn’t keep working even if I was in the middle of an interesting/important problem. This last week I was in the middle of something and kept working on it, off and on between dinner and other stuff, till around 9pm. Mind you, I rarely work that late under normal circumstances, but I appreciate how easy it is when I want/need to.

Since having kids, my quality of life has been drastically better in the jobs where I am a fully remote worker. Remote work isn’t the best option for everyone but I believe it should be an option for those that can do their jobs without going into the office.

  1. My third library did move almost everyone to fully remote work when COVID arrived and stayed that way until I left but it was clear that administration was not comfortable with this.
  2. Working fully remote from home during a pandemic is nothing like it normally is. Until COVID, anytime I worked from home my kid(s) were either in daycare/school or being watched by an au pair. I did not interact with them at all during my normally scheduled paid work time. I’m still astonished that anyone with little kids managed to accomplish anything during the pandemic.
  3. Note, my viewpoint is that of a mother with kids and a very good family income. However, the benefits of remote work are not limited to issues that affect mothers/families. See Remote Work Boosts Employees With Disabilities, Research Shows for another perspective.
  4. It looks like the subject of my email to Jaeger after that was “Morning Unhappiness” where I list possible alternatives including “change jobs”. This, ironically, is what I ended up doing. At the time, I did not consciously factor the July childcare break when accepting the Seattle job but the stress of figuring out childcare in San Francisco was regularly overwhelming.
  5. Yes, this usually involved giving the kids lots of screen time but a few days a month aren’t going to kill them.
  6. True, when we had au pairs they did the pickup/dropoff of the kids but you don’t magically get all that time back. Having an au pair (or nanny) means you have the overhead associated with that to deal with instead.