Author Archives: kiesa

Taking a Break

The beginning of last week was a bit much for me. I woke up exhausted Monday and the day didn’t get better. I stayed awake just long enough to shepherd Calvin to bed and then went to bed myself. Tuesday morning didn’t start much better. I emailed Jaeger and told him I wanted to go off by myself that weekend. Then, I realized I had scheduled Willow’s vet appointment for the weekend which initially derailed my plans until Jaeger offered to take both the kids and Willow to the vets office. I was ecstatic.

I didn’t have a plan when I emailed Jaeger, I just needed to be by myself. I would have preferred to stay home and have everyone else leave. My favorite vacation in recent memory was when Jaeger took Calvin to New York City. However, I didn’t feel like I could kick everyone else out on a whim.

After considering several scenarios, I settled on renting an Airbnb in Edmonds, which is about 30 minutes north of Seattle. The Thursday before I left I got groceries delivered. It topped up the basics for Jaeger and the kids. However, I also ordered prepackaged meals to take on my vacation so I wouldn’t have to leave the Airbnb if I didn’t want to. Friday, I came home, made supper, ate, and then put Julian to bed. Then, I was off on my adventure.

The adventure did not start auspiciously as I had to jump start the van in the dark. Jump starting the van is actually not very hard, we have a portable battery to do that. However, getting the van’s hood open is an art form. It involves jamming the handle of a screwdriver in at just the right angle to force the catch to release. Eventually, the hood did concede and I was able to start the van. I piled my stuff in, started my new audiobook, and drove off. About one block away I remembered I had forgotten to put the screwdriver back in the van. Not wishing to be stranded in Edmonds with a car I couldn’t start, I circled around and picked up the screwdriver. Then, I was really off on my vacation.

It was a lovely drive. I left late enough there wasn’t a significant amount of traffic to worry about. It was raining as I pulled into the driveway. The place I had rented was a loft attached to a main house. My Airbnb host met me and made sure I was able to get in ok and then left. It was so quiet. The loft was really cute. I puttered around and arranged my stuff. Then, I watched an episode of The Doctor Blake Mysteries before going to sleep.

I woke up around 7:30 on Saturday, reveled in not having to do anything, and went back to sleep for an hour. I eventually got up, made breakfast, and showered while contemplating my day. The Airbnb I picked was not close to downtown Edmonds. I was loathe to exert myself enough to drive anywhere so eventually decided I would take the bus into town. To be clear, the bus was not a remotely efficient way to get to downtown but since I was on vacation I decided I didn’t have to be efficient. I put on my raincoat, started up my audiobook, and took a 20 minute walk to the bus. The bus runs only once an hour so I got there about 20 minutes early. I spread my rain skirt on the grass, sat down, and continued enjoying my audiobook. It was very relaxing.

Eventually the bus showed up and, after a transfer, I successfully made it to the touristy downtown. I was amused to see that the downtown association had green communal umbrellas for shoppers. I wandered around and naturally ended up in a used bookstore. Among other things, I ended up with a physical copy of Home Comforts. It is one of my aspirational books I read when I want to pretend I have the time to perfectly organize my life.

The books were heavy and it was nearly lunchtime. I decided I had enough of people for the day so I took the bus back to the loft. The rest of the day I alternated between eating, reading, and watching movies. It was a glorious day.

Roxhill Park, Seattle

Ok . . . it’s been a while. So much stuff has happened and I didn’t have the time or energy to record most of it. However, I took my kids to Roxhill Park today1 and I got inspired to do another playground post. The last one was when Julian was a baby and we still lived in Boulder, CO.

We went to Roxhill Park on the recommendation of the Seattle Family Adventures book. It’s down in West Seattle so driving was the only practical way to get there for us. Google Maps took us to the southern side of the park. However, we did find both the playground and parking lot located near the northwest corner.

South side of playground with playground structures and swings.

Roxhill Park has two castle structures. One for ages 5-12 and one for 2-5. The smaller castle was cute and had a small double slide.

Small structure with double slide.

The structure for older kids was much bigger. Though, it also only had one slide.

5-12 Castle Playground Structure

While this playground does have things for smaller kids to do, it excels at climbing options for older kids. On the north side of the playground there is a large dome-like structure that has various types of climbing nets for kids to climb.

North side of playground. Shows the climbing options.

Then, there’s another structure that has plastic climbing holds to scramble up.
Structure with plastic climbing holds.

It also has more traditional playground equipment such as monkey bars and hanging rings. Julian particularly liked the balance poles.
Julian crossing the balance poles.

As I mentioned, the playground does have some things for smaller kids. In addition to the small play structure, there are also swings for all ages as well as a nice sand play area.

Summary:

Features 5-12 playground equipment, curved tunnel slide, corkscrew climber, money bars, bucket swings, regular swings, molded plastic seat swing (without straps), 2-5 year old play structure, small double slide, sand, small climbing wall with rope, rope climbing structures, other climbing structures, new-style merry-go-round (seats 4), balance poles, small bridges, fireman pole (attached to rope structure), rope ladder, skate park, ball fields
Surface Material Wood chips
Restrooms Yes
Water fountain Yes
Shade Leafy trees. Depending on the time of day, significant parts of the playground are in shade.
Picnic area Yes, multiple picnic tables.
Parking Parking lot.
Coffee2 Starbucks in nearby Target.
Pros
  • Really nice climbing options
  • Target (with embedded Starbucks) one street over. Convenient for emergency diaper pickups and coffee.
  • Sand play area.
Cons
  • Not as much stuff for little kids to do compared to other playgrounds.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. Yes, we now live in a Seattle. Everyone is still a little surprised.
  2. This is a new category for Jaeger.

Reading in 2017

I have read more books this year than any past year in recent memory1. My long commute is a mixed blessing and the upside is definitely my evening reading time.

At my library we have two staff members who are known for reading voraciously. One of the adult librarians thought it would be fun to have a competition with the entire adult departmentment pitted against these two individuals2. To assure victory3, the librarian conscripted every librarian scheduled to sit on the reference desk for the adult team. I do one Sunday shift every 8 weeks and thus was considered eligible to join the adult librarian group. The competition started in April and goes till the end of the year. To count, a “book” must be at least 100 pages long.

I finished one last book today so it looks like I’m going to be at 66 books since April. It’ll be interesting to see what the final numbers for the two teams will be 4. Regardless, I’m happy with the number of books I managed.

I read a lot more novellas than usually which is one reason my numbers are so high. For some reason I’ve always had trouble getting into shorter fiction. The Hugo Awards contain many contegories and I always felt bad that I wasn’t well read enough to contribute to the shorter categories. I’m still lacking in the Best Novelette and Best Short Story categories. However, I’ve read 13 novella length stories5, published in 2017, which is significantly better than normal.

Here’s my favorite 2017 stories so far (in random order):

Novels

Novellas

For 2018 . . .
I stumbled across the website for the Sirens conference. It sounds really fun. I need to figure out logistics but am hoping I can make it there by myself, no kids attached. We’ll see. However, even if that doesn’t work out, I think I’m going to try their 2018 Reading Challege. In addition, I’ll be reading all the Hugo nominees for this coming year as well as trying to keep tabs on the 2018 interesting science fiction and fantasy. Hopefully 2018 will be another year full of good books6.

  1. Probably more than any year since I started working and certainly than any year since I had children.
  2. Contrary to certain stereotypes, not all librarians love to read. Librarianship is really more about information finding than reading skills.
  3. Because yes, there was definite doubt whether the entire department could read more than 2 people.
  4. For comparison, one of the librarians in the other team was at 264 books so victory is definitely not assured for the adult team.
  5. I think they’re novella length based on pages but I don’t know what the word count for each one is.
  6. And while we’re handing out wishes, let’s hope 2018 is a happier year for our country . . .

Routine

The new school year has started and I’m finally back on a consistent routine.

Mountain View is still a long commute but, other than that, I do enjoy my job. Back in February I started taking BART/Caltrain to work instead of driving. Mass transit does take a little bit longer than driving1 but it’s fantastic to be able to work on other stuff while I commute. On the way down I usually work on paying bills, balancing bank accounts, and other misc household stuff I can do online. On my trip home I usually read a book which is the only consistent reading time I’ve had since Julian was born2.

When I get home I make supper, we eat, and then I start Julian’s nighttime routine. Currently, this involves him taking a bath while I clean the bathroom3. After bath I read him several stories and then pop him into bed. Then, it’s time to start Calvin’s bedtime routine.

For years I read to Calvin ever night. However, Jaeger was gone for a couple of weeks in the summer and I decided I needed to find a way to relax and have bonding time with Calvin at the same time. I strongly believe in reading to kids, even after they can read to themselves. However, while Jaeger was gone, I decided to try watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with Calvin instead. This ended up working really well. Even if I was running behind in my schedule I could start the episode for him and then join him as soon as I could. This also resulted in him going to bed at a more consistent time every night. After Jaeger got back I considered going back to reading. However, Jaeger started joining us so we end up with more “family” time watching TV than we did when Jaeger or I read to Calvin. For now, we’re sticking with the nightly TV time. It seems to work for our family.

After months of waiting, I got approved to telecommute on most Fridays. Getting approved for telecommuting was a fascinating, and terrifying, peak into city bureaucracy. I had to take workplace safety and ergonomics training so I could make sure that my home house was up to spec. Then I had pages of checkboxes. I had to check to certify that I had a first aid box in the house, I had fire extinguishers, I didn’t have tripping hazards, etc. Then there were all the agreements I had to sign stating I understood that telecommuting was not a right and MV could revoke the option any time they wanted4, along with other stuff. After I filled out my paperwork, my manager, and her manager needed to approve it. Then it wended it way through IT, the assistant manager, and finally landed at HR. I applied in May and in August learned I had official approval to telecommute.

It’s amazing how much difference just having one telecommute day makes in my weekly schedule. A couple of weeks ago our au pair needed Friday off in order to attend a class. Being able to work from home that day meant I only need to find an afternoon babysitter instead of also figuring out dropoff/pickup logistics for daycare and school. It still requires thought and planning but isn’t as overwhelming as if I were gone 6:30am-6:00pm like I am on a normal day.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to get out of the weekend. Julian has almost dropped his afternoon nap which makes it harder for me to take an afternoon nap but also opens up more afternoon activities.

  1. Though not as much as one would think because of the abysmal traffic coming back at nights.
  2. I did listen to audiobooks when driving but I don’t like listening to the same stuff that I read. Plus, it was really hard for me to switch books mid-commute on the occasions when I discovered mid-way the book was terrible.
  3. This house has a lot of bathrooms, which is one of the most expensive parts when paying for house cleaning. To cut costs, I rotate which bathroom Julian takes his bath in and use the time to clean it. Much cheaper than paying a house cleaner and it’s also very efficient ๐Ÿ™‚
  4. And of course, my silent whispering back, “and I can quit anytime I want.”

Eleven Months Later

It’s been eleven months since we moved our entire family to San Francisco. The year has been incredibly hectic but I think things are starting to settle down, just in time for an insane summer.

May, 2016
The kids and I finally joined Ted in San Francisco. Moving wasn’t too bad since the movers packed us. However, it was challenging to fit all our stuff in our rental house.

June, 2016
Our first au pair hated San Francisco and transitioned to another family. Fortunately, I didn’t have a job yet so I had a little bit of time to find a new au pair. However, it was stressful to find my original childcare plans disrupted. Eventually, we found a wonderful au pair who worked really well with both of our kids. In addition to looking for a new au pair, I spent the month unpacking and trying to organize everything. I also started learning my way around our neighborhood. However, the lack of an intellectually stimulating job started to make me depressed.

July, 2016
Mountain View offered me a job as soon as my background check cleared. I accepted, which took care of the depression problem. However, my next challenge was finding enough childcare. Au Pairs are only allowed to work 45 hours a week. In principle, I agree with this rule. I personally think the au pair program doesn’t have enough safeguards for young people who may not speak enough English to get around in our country by themselves. However, having a job down in Mountain View meant I was gone from the house 10-11 hours every day, depending on traffic. So I needed to find additional childcare. In Colorado I had a lot of success finding good caregivers from care.com. However, I discovered it doesn’t work as well in California. I don’t know why but a huge percentage of the applicants in the price range I could afford ($20-25/hr) were very flaky. I spent the next several months trying to nail down enough reliable childcare and I think it caused everyone in the family a lot of stress.

We did manage to go camping in Yosemite and introduced our au pair to the US tradition of hot dogs and smores. I think she was amused by the experience though she did have a bit of trouble with there being no showers in the camp (we did have flush toilets though!).

August, 2016
In August Calvin started school which finally gave him a chance to meet other kids his age. We had sent him to a summer camp but the same kids didn’t always show up each day. In the future, if possible, it might be good to try to move right before school starts rather than right after school ends for the year. We also managed to go camping one more time near Lassen.

By this time Jaeger and I realized that we hated being renters. The rental we had was pretty good, for San Francisco. However, it drove us nuts that we couldn’t fix the small but glaring problems we had with the house, such as no light in a deep dark closet — we used flashlights. Also, while the property management company was very, very nice and came right away whenever we had problems, they rarely fixed the problem the way we would have. For instance, by the time we left we had four separate keys for the house. One was for the front door, one was for the back door, one was for the door at the bottom of the stairs and one was for the door at the top of the stairs (we think it use to be rented as two separate units). Anytime there was a problem with a lock they’d just go by another door knob from Home Depot.

We were very fortunate to have sold our Colorado house for a nice profit which gave us enough of a down payment for a house that would be considered obscenely expensive anywhere in the US but San Francisco or New York. In San Francisco, it was enough to comfortably get us 2 beds and 1 bath with “potential” in a moderately popular, but not trendy, neighborhood. Unfortunately, because we had an au pair, we needed a minimum of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (at least if we wanted to maintain our sanity). Our rental lease wasn’t up until February but we started looking in August because we knew it was going to be hard to find something that met our bare minimum specifications.

September, 2016
We continued going to open houses looking for a house that would work for us. In the months we were house hunting we saw some pretty insane houses. Most of the houses in our part of San Francisco are on 25′ wide lots with varying depths. The houses almost always touch each other. The second floor of the house usually contains 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and 1 bathroom. The first floor of the house will either have a huge garage area that covers the entire 2nd floor footprint or a 1 car garage with additional living space that 90% of the time was finished without permits. One house we saw had obviously been finished without permits and then, when they needed to sell, they just ripped out all the unpermitted walls leaving really weird spaces. While I wasn’t planning to insist on a permitted first floor, I did want assurances that it wouldn’t kill us, which was sometimes hard to obtain.

We found a house that looked promising but only had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the top floor. The first floor was unfinished. We considered the feasibility of finishing the first floor and had tentatively decided that we could probably afford it when the pest inspection came back. The estimate was enough more that I didn’t feel we could risk it.

October, 2016
One of my grandfathers died in October. I wasn’t expecting it but it sounds like others had been for a while. He died in his sleep at home. We loaded ourselves and our kids on a plane to Portland for the funeral. The night before we all met at my grandmother’s house for haystacks. It had the weird family funeral feel of being both sad but also a chance to see people you haven’t seen for years.

Also in October we found another house that looked promising. It was a 4 “bedroom”, 2 bath house with real permits for the bottom level. You had to go outside to get to the “bedrooms” on the first floor but it fit our basic needs (though we’re really not sure how they got permitted for those bedrooms). We submitted an offer but were outbid by a couple of thousand dollars. Our realtor seemed slightly miffed they didn’t even try to counter as this is rounding error with the prices of San Francisco homes.

November, 2016
It seems like in hot real estate markets open houses become a much bigger thing. A day or two before the weekend our realtor’s assistant would email us potential open houses with comments. Usually Jaeger and I would go together, though I went by myself for some of the less promising sounding houses. Then, if the house looked like it had actual potential we’d talk to our realtor about it. I walked to almost all of them from our rental. I’m firm believer in understanding the neighborhood by walking it. I walked a lot of miles and saw many houses. However, by November fewer houses were coming on the market and I was starting to worry that we’d have to extend our lease.

The first weekend in November there were only 2 houses that matched our bare minimal requirements. Most of the houses we’d been looking at were between 1200-1400 sq feet. However, one of the houses on this list was 3000+ sq feet. It was so much bigger than most of the houses in our price range that Jaeger and I weren’t convinced the square footage was correct. However, we went and saw it and it really was huge and had tons of bathrooms and bedrooms. Way more than the 3 bedrooms and 2 bath we were hoping for. On the upside, it was almost a brand new house. On the downside, it lacked any historical character. We contemplated.

Then the election happened. We saw the house for the second time the day after the election. Do you remember that big stock market crash when they realized Trump won? To afford San Francisco we have to supplement our normal income with stock. So far this strategy has worked out. However, I was worried about buying a house if suddenly we had a serious economic downturn. In Colorado we could live on my salary for brief amounts of time if we cut out the extras. This is not feasible in San Francisco. We waffled for a bit but finally decided the house was too good to pass up so we made another offer.

Given our experience with the last house, we went on the higher end of the range our realtor suggested. It turns out there was another potential buyer who was looking at the same comps and made almost the exact same offer. This time the realtor did come back to us and asked us to give us our last “best” offer. We were already on the edge of what I was comfortable with but we didn’t want to lose again with just a couple of thousand. So, we went up another 20k and called that good. I was not convinced that was enough to get us the house but I really, really didn’t want to go higher. As it was we would need to supplement our Colorado profits with Jaeger’s stock for the downpayment. Both our realtor and I were quite surprised to learn that the sellers accepted our offer. I tend to be a pessimist and don’t believe a house is mine until I move in. However, things were looking positive.

Thanksgiving this year was on the Logan side and corresponded with the biennial Logan family reunion which includes Jaeger’s grandfather and all his grandfather’s siblings. It’s at Leoni Meadows, near Grizzly Flats, CA as many of the Logans live in California. This was the very first time we were able to attend without flying and it was so much easier. We invited our au pair to go with us to experience the grand US Thanksgiving tradition. She later said that all we did was eat, cleanup, prepare food, and eat again which probably does cover Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Calvin and Julian had fun running around but there aren’t that many kids their age around. Most of Jaeger’s cousins have not managed to produce children of their own (though Jaeger is one of the oldest).

December, 2016
Our 2nd au pair’s term was up in January. We had hoped she would extend but she’s a software engineer and wanted to get back to a “real” job which made sense. So, we started interviewing au pairs again. However, unlike last time, we had enough time to consider au pairs that were still in their home country. I think interviewing au pairs is more an art than a science. We eventually narrowed down our choices to two au pairs who both sounded good. We decided to go with the au pair who really enjoyed reading as we felt it would probably help her mesh with our family better.

In addition to finding a new au pair, we had to find additional supplemental care for Julian. Because of the high babysitting turnover I decided to focus on daycares this time. Unfortunately, there were almost no daycares with openings. However, I did find one daycare that had a morning-only program that looked like it might have openings in January. I contacted the provider and arranged to go on a tour. It was a home daycare that aimed to have the children playing outside at least 90% of the time. Given how active Julian is I thought this would be a really good match for him. We applied and to my great relief we got the one “full-time” spot that was available (full-time in this case means 8:15-12:15).

Also in December we managed to close on our new house. Like all real estate transactions I have been involved in, there were tense moments. However, it all worked out in the end. In Colorado, at closing, the buyers and sellers actually sit down at the table together and sign the papers. However, in San Francisco these transactions are asynchronous, which I found pretty strange. We signed our papers and then needed to wait for the sellers to sign theirs later in the day. Eventually, we heard the house was officially ours. Though, the sellers were going to be “renting” from us for a month while waiting to move into their new house.

At the end of December we went out to visit my parents. While we were moving out to San Francisco, my parents were also busy moving. They lived in Longview for all but the first two years of my life so it was very weird to see them in an entirely different city. They’re now about a couple of hours north of Seattle, depending on traffic. One of the main reasons my parents moved up there was to be close to my brother, who also moved around the same time we did from Tennessee. My brother and sister-in-law have a kid who is about 6 months younger than Julian. They’re still a little young to play together but it was still cute to see them together. In addition to my immediate family, all remaining grandparents visited as well as Aunt Carolyn. Jaeger and I also managed to sneak away for a couple of days to have alone time in Seattle without the kids. It was amazing to be able to sleep through the entire night without having to go in and calm Julian down. We also filled our movie quota for the year by watching two movies in two nights ๐Ÿ™‚

January, 2017
In January Julian started his part-time daycare. Our second au pair was still with us for the first week so she helped him transition before she left. We had found another good au pair but she wasn’t scheduled to arrive till the end of January. We were also scheduled to move into our new house and I didn’t want our au pair to try to settle in to our rental only to be moved a week later into our new house. In the meantime, we used grandmothers to help fill in the childcare gap. My mom came out for two weeks, during which we moved into our new house. The she left and Jaeger’s mom came for another two weeks and hepled us settle in and helped our new au pair learn her duties.

February, 2017
Most of February was filled with getting settled in our new house. This house is way better than I was expecting but there still were, and still are, lots of minor projects to work on. We have spent much money at Home Depot and Amazon.

March, 2017
March continued the trend of being busy. We took a long weekend and went to Tahoe. We enrolled Calvin and our au pair in ski lessons, while Ted indulged in skiing more interesting routes. I stayed with Julian. I had intended to find a babysitter for him so I could relax but delayed too long so no one I had been recommended was available. However, it was still interesting to see a new town. It reminded me a fair amount of Colorado ski resorts, right down to the lack of vegetarian food options.

A few weeks after that Yanthor and Anya came to visit us and we had a lot of fun playing games together. It was so good to see them again. That’s one of the biggest problems with living way out in San Francisco. At the very end of the month Jaeger’s mother flew out to help take care of the kids while I went to a conference in Maryland.

The conference was like being back in college. I had signed up for a pre-conference “hackathon” on Sunday. I had been meaning to learn how to use the ILS’s APIs for a while but never had time so I figured signing up for the hackathon would force me to learn them. It turns out that most of the others who signed up hadn’t really played with the APIs either and had varying levels of coding experience. The leader asked how many developers there were and only 3 people raised there hands, I was not one of them because I consider myself a librarian, not a developer. However, it turns out what he really was asking was who knew how to code which was a larger number of people (though still less than half the people there). We formed into three (too large) teams and then spent most of the rest of the conference working on our projects to have something to present at the end. I got to bed before midnight every day but it was really close some nights. My team won 2nd prize, my share was $21, which would have been more impressive if there had been more than three teams ๐Ÿ™‚ However, I did learn a ton, including finally getting a github account. In addition, to the hackathon I did a presentation on using Python to automate reports in the library. I was targeting this toward people with no programming experience but with an interest in learning. I was surprised at the wide variety of people who turned up. In spite of the wide range, it seemed to go really well.

April, 2017
Fortunately, April has been a little less frantic. Though, I don’t know how it is already almost over. We did have some excitement last week. While I was gone to my conference Calvin had chipped one of his front teeth. Last Thursday I took him in to get it filled and then dropped him off to school. Less than an hour later, and as I was almost walking out the door to go back to work, I got a call from the school saying he had a cut on his knee and needed to see the doctor. I reserved judgement till I got there but it was indeed a pretty decent gash that obviously required stitches. I wasn’t sure where the nearest urgent care was with parking (I don’t go anywhere in San Francisco without parking if I can possibly avoid it) and so I instead went to the nearest hospital. 3 hours and 7 stitches later we were back on our way home.

One reason Jaeger and I decided to move to San Francisco, apart from it being more convenient to fly to Asia, was for the culture opportunities. I don’t think we’re really taking advantage of that yet. However, Jaeger and I did manage to see Hamilton this week which was pretty amazing. This was also a very pretty good month for authors. We went to Borderlands and got Yoon Ha Lee to sign Ninefox Gambit and then just yesterday we saw John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow at a Google Talk in Mountain View.

Now that we’re in our own house I feel like we’re finally starting to settle down and start enjoying San Francisco. Though, summer is looking very busy so maybe I just need to give up on boring and enjoy the couple of weeks of calm I have left.

Working

While I was pregnant with Calvin I considered becoming a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember what my reasoning was, but it was probably something along the lines of “we can afford it, it’s good for the kids, so why not.” At the time, Jaeger was very supportive of this, his own mom stayed home with the kids and it seemed normal to him. However, my mom thought it was a bad idea for my personality and she talked me out of it. She told me that she felt like her brain was rotting the two years she spent home after my younger brother was born. After thinking about it more, I realized I didn’t have to make this decision before Calvin was born. If working and having a kid was too much, I could always quit later. Instead, I negotiated going down to 20 hours a week and working from home1. Continuing to work was definitely the right decision. I’m sure my postpartum depression would have been even worse if I hadn’t been able to mentally escape at work.

A little over a year before Julian was born I went up to 32 hours a week. Our library system was preparing for a major ILS migration and I, and my manager, felt like it would be best if I had more time to devote to the migration. I thought it would be hard going from 20 to 32 hours a week. It wasn’t, it was easier. I felt less rushed during my work day and felt I could take longer to make better decisions.

Jaeger and I decided to have another child. I looked at our personal schedule, we were planning to move overseas in the next couple of years, and the implementation timeline at work and came up with a target date range for conception. If I still wasn’t pregnant at the end of our target window we would reconsider whether it made sense to keep trying to get pregnant. I was lucky and Julian decided to be conceived right on schedule.

Meanwhile, our work implementation kept plodding mostly forward. Because Calvin threatened to be born preterm I wanted the ILS implementation over before Julian hit viability so I could drop everything if he ended up in the NICU for months. This provided very strong motivation for me to keep the project on track. I’m quite sure our vendor got tired of me telling them that I managed to conceive on schedule so they should be able to deliver the product on schedule. Julian was born at 41 weeks. In retrospect, I didn’t realize how much post-migration clean-up there would be so I was very fortunate that Julian agreed to wait till he was full-term.

I had told my manager I intended to take 3 months of maternity leave. At about 4 weeks postpartum things were going so well (i.e. nicely boring) that I was tempted to come back early. However, I didn’t have childcare lined up for going back early and then Julian went through a hard period so I did end up staying mostly offline from work the whole 3 months2.

In July, about a month after I came back from maternity leave, Qualcomm announced they would be doing layoffs. They told their investors before they told their employees. Very tacky. No doubt there were some regulatory issues around the announcement but surely there could have been a way to coordinate that better. In any case, Qualcomm announced layoffs but said they wouldn’t publish the layoff list till late September. Our plan had been to move to Taiwan after Julian turned 1 and Calvin finished school for the year. If Jaeger got laid off it would potentially either force us to go through the savings we had for the international move or move early. Neither situation was ideal but we were fortunate that all we had to worry about was opportunity, not where the money for food and mortgage was going to come from.

Possibly coincidentally, a Google recruiter choose the day Qualcomm announced layoffs to send their semi-annual email asking Jaeger if he would be interested in interviewing with Google. Jaeger didn’t want to work for Google, he wanted to move internationally. However, he decided that interviewing at Google would be an interesting interlude while waiting to see who Qualcomm laid off.

Long story a little shorter, Qualcomm did lay him off and Google offered Jaeger a job in their San Francisco office. We had visited San Francisco several times and had been impressed with how diverse the city is. I talked to my manager, who talked to HR, and they thought if we moved I could still telecommute and work for the district. After a lot more waffling, Jaeger decided to take the job with Google and push back our international plans for another couple of years.

Life got complicated. In February Jaeger left for San Francisco while I stayed behind with the kids and our au pair so Calvin could finish school. Right about this time I learned that I may not be able to keep my job after all. After looking into it more, HR decided there would be complications with me working from home in San Francisco because I would be classed as a California employee. I’m a little vague what all the implications would have been but among other things they would have had to withhold California taxes for me. This was not something they were willing to do. At one point, I was told that this would probably have been easier if I had moved overseas instead of to another state. My manager was quite upset and spent months trying to find a way around it. However, she was not able to find a cost-effective option that HR felt would legally cover them. It was too late to back out from Google so I was going to be out of a job once I moved to San Francisco.

As soon as I realized there was uncertainty about my job I started looking for interesting jobs I could do from San Francisco. I knew I was too specialized but I hadn’t done anything about it because I was secretly hoping to be able to keep my job forever while wandering the world. Unfortunately, my specialization was now coming back to haunt me.

I applied for several jobs but most of them didn’t feel like a good fit and I was fortunate to be able to be picky. Then I saw that Mountain View Public Library had a job opening that sounded very similar to what I currently did. The timing was a little awkward. The huge ILS user conference, handily in San Francisco, was in just a week or two and the job already had dates set for when they would interview candidates which was 2 weeks after the user conference. Obviously they only expected local candidates to apply. A week before the interview date I was called and invited to come for an interview. Fortunately, Jaeger was able to rearrange things to stay in Colorado while I went to California for a couple of days.

The first interview involved three people who had a preset list of questions they had to ask. It was a pretty easy interview. However, I thought it was odd that none of the people who interviewed me worked for Mountain View Public Library, or even the City of Mountain View. Instead, they were librarians from surrounding libraries. I assume this was to try to prevent any appearance of bias. However, from my perspective this was not helpful as they did not know the answers to any of my questions. So, the process allowed them to shortlist me but did not give me enough info to shortlist them. I was invited back for a second interview, this with the actual librarians at Mountain View. Everyone I talked to was very nice and seemed like fun people to work with.

A couple of weeks after the second interview I received an email from HR saying Mountain View was still interested in me but they needed to verify my degrees and pass a background check before the process could continue. This sounded pretty straight forward, though I did think the background check a little weird. As requested, I filled out my school information and then dutifully took the background check form down to the Boulder police station to get fingerprinted. Then I mailed the form back. This was the beginning of The Long Wait.

The first problem was they couldn’t get confirmation of my MLS. I never learned what the problem was but I blame someone either misspelling my name or not knowing what to do with hyphenation. In the end, Mountain View accepted a scan of my transcript. The next hurdle was my background check. I had sent back the fingerprint form via 1st class mail. I have never had any problems with the USPS. In fact, sometimes they managed to deliver mail to me when almost everything on the address was wrong. However, two weeks had passed since I had sent off the fingerprints and Mountain View still hadn’t received it. Mountain View sent me another copy of the form and requested I send it back with a tracking number this time. So I went for a second time for fingerprinting and emailed Mountain View that it should arrive on Saturday. As luck would have it, my original fingerprint form arrived with an apology note from the USPS attached the next day. Mountain View submitted the fingerprint form and we started waiting and waiting and waiting some more.

My last day working for High Plains Library District was May 20. Leaving HPLD was harder than leaving anything else in Colorado. I had been working there for almost twelve years and worked with a bunch of fantastic people.

My last week in Colorado was spent running around doing useful stuff. On May 30 I flew out to San Francisco with the kids and our au pair. Jaeger stayed behind to oversee the rest of the moving process. Our furniture showed up a week later. Jaeger’s mom was helping out with childcare and also helped tremendously with the unpacking. I spent the next several weeks unpacking and trying to fit everything into our smaller rental house.

Every so often I would get an update from Mountain View saying they were still waiting for the background check to come back.

Before I left my High Plains manager had expressed interest in hiring me for specific jobs on a contract basis. Since nothing was happening on the Mountain View front, I decided to explore setting myself up as an independent contractor. San Francisco requires small businesses, including independent contractors, to get a business license. The problem with the business license was that the “business address” was publicly searchable. My address is probably pretty easy to find but I didn’t think I should just give it to the public. So I spent some time getting an alternate address for business purposes. Eventually I got everything lined up and High Plains had me work on a couple of small projects.

Since I still hadn’t heard back from Mountain View I started exploring other job options. There weren’t any interesting librarian jobs in my area. I started considering what types of jobs I could do outside of librarianship and applied to a couple of options. By this point the unpacking was mostly done and even with job searching and contract work I wasn’t as busy as normal. This turned out to be unhealthy for me and eventually I realized I was getting depressed.

Once I realized I had a problem I decided I should prioritize exercise more and also find some personal development projects. I had been contemplating learning Ruby, Perl, PHP, or Python for many years. All of these are used within the library world but there isn’t one used significantly more than the others. Basically, everyone uses their favorite language which means we don’t work well with each other. As a result, I had never figured out which language would be most useful. However, when I was job searching one of the interesting sounding areas was data analytics. Many of these job postings had Python as either a required or desired qualification. I had just come up with a plan for learning Python when I got a call back from Mountain View.

Whoever Mountain View submitted my background check to did not like how Boulder had filled out the fingerprint form so they were rejecting it, 59 days after it was first submitted. Since I was now in California Mountain View asked if I could come down and get fingerprinted by their police department. I agreed and went down the next Monday. They thanked me for my patience and said results should be back within 10 days but they would request it be fast-tracked. I nodded politely but was dubious. Much to my surprise I got a call the next day with a verbal offer. After a week or so of negotiations I accepted the job. Somewhat ironically, the day after I accepted the job I was contacted for a interview with one of the other companies I had applied for.

I’ve been working at the Mountain View Public Library for two weeks and am pretty happy. So far all my coworkers have been really nice and my manager is wonderfully organized. I am really impressed with the amount of effort and thought she put into getting me up to speed. The biggest downside at the moment is my commute. It takes a little less than 1 hour to drive down and a little more than 1 hour to drive back. I don’t mind the driving, it’s actually really nice to spend 2 hours every day by myself3. However, it does make child care much more complicated4 and all things being equal there’s other stuff I would prefer to be able to do during that time period. I have contemplated taking BART and then Caltrain so I could work on other stuff while commuting. However, I just can’t fit that extra 40 minutes it would take everyday into my schedule.

Overall, I have been very lucky with how everything turned out. I felt a little adrift not getting an offer before the background check was complete but it was nice to have time to unpack the house. I have also learned that I really like the structure and mental stimulation of a full time job. In addition, I need to work more on procuring skills outside my current specialty. I either need to get experience supervising others and go up the managerial path or focus on improving and expanding my tech skills. For now, I’m not sure what path my career will take but I am happy to once again be working in an environment I love.

  1. This is why it’s nice to work for a while before getting pregnant. If you’re valuable, and your work realizes that, people are willing to do a lot to keep you.
  2. Excepting the occasional email, of course ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. Another interesting perk of driving is being able to oogle Google’s self-driving cars. I usually see at least one on the way to work and one on the way home. One day I had a Tesla in front of me and a self-driving car beside me and I felt like I was living in the future.
  4. I am away from home 10 1/2 hours a day so we have to hire extra help so our au pair doesn’t go over her 45 hours/week maximum.

Hugo Nominations 2016

The 2016 Hugo nominations are in. I don’t have the time or eloquence to say all the things that could be said about them. I am glad that my first year to vote in the Hugos was back in 2014, prior to the successful rabid puppy hijackings. I think fondly of the quality of most of those nominations. The one exception for me is the current novel nominations which I’m pretty happy with this year.

Novel Nominations
I nominated two of the novels that ended up in the best novel category: Ancillary Mercy and The Fifth Season.

Ancillary Mercy was a really fun read. In addition to being fun, it holds up well to being reread and has made it into my night-time reading rotation. 1.

The Fifth Season was a more complicated book for me. At the time I read The Fifth Season I had both a new baby and a 6-year-old child. This made many of the scenes within the book hit especially hard. However, as always, Jemisin’s writing is brilliant and the book is very good.

I have also already listened to/read Uprooted. I’ve enjoyed Naomi Novik’s books in the past but Uprooted didn’t work for me. I suspect I would have had a better experience if I had not started out by listening to it.

I have not read The Aeronauts Windlass but I have enjoyed all of Butcher’s books I’ve read in the past so I suspect I’ll at least be able to get through this new book. I downloaded it yesterday and started listening to it. I loved the prologue but am not as excited by the first chapter. Steampunk isn’t my favorite genre and I’m not particularly into the equivalent of naval warfare. We’ll see how it goes.

This leaves Seveneves which is going to be a problem. Cryptonomicon was the last Stephenson book I managed to finish. I was very, very close to finishing Anathem when I was in the hospital on bedrest for two weeks but didn’t quite make it. However, I really like the premise of Seveneves and I suspected it was going to get nominated this year, by Jaeger if no one else, so I started listening to it back in August. As of today, I’m 49% of the way through. Seveneves getting nominated is putting more pressure on me to actually finish it. Yesterday I stopped listening to it and instead picked up the hardcover that Jaeger left. I put in a solid 30 min of reading last night and made significant progress2.

Novella Nominations
The two novellas I nominated also made it to the ballot: Penric’s Demon and Perfect State. Bujold is one of my favorite authors. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to Barrayar, A Civil Campaign, and The Curse of Chalion 3. I was not surprised that I enjoyed Penric’s Demon.

Perfect State was a more recent read for me. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, I thought it was via the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List but apparently I misremembered. In any case, I’ve enjoyed the Sanderson books I’ve read in the past. Though, I suspect Elantris will always be my favorite.

I’m definitely going to read Binti and Slow Bullets. I am not certain about The Builders. Among other things, Publishers Weekly review says, “it’s as though Brian Jacques and Quentin Tarantino went drinking one night”. I don’t like Redwall and adding more violence to Redwall wouldn’t make it more interesting for me. If I have time, I’ll probably give it a shot but given its competition I sincerely doubt it has a chance.

Everything Else
Yes, there are probably a couple of good nominations in the remaining categories. Sifting out the dross is going to be annoying. However, like last year, I’m not going to “No Award” solely on principle. Potentially Hugo-worthy nominations will be rated as such and all else will go below No Award.

  1. I listen to audiobooks while falling asleep, and waking up in the middle of the night, to prevent my brain from keeping me awake. This means I can miss significant parts of books when I fall asleep without stopping the audio book first. Because of this, my night time audiobooks are only books I’ve read or listened to in their entirety before. My nighttime reading rotation mostly consists of Pratchett, Bujold, Shinn, and now Leckie.
  2. I know, 30 min of reading doesn’t sound like much but it’s a miracle with my current life of wrangling two kids while prepping to move to San Francisco. This is why I originally tried the audiobook route even though I knew that was a bad idea with Stephenson.
  3. iTunes claims I’ve listened to each 8 times but since these are some of my night books I don’t actually hear the whole thing each time.

Le Tote

I have discovered that while Julian is fascinated by computers and phones, he leaves me in relative peace when I write via paper and pen. Unfortunately, this means I must be able to read my writing when transcribing. Handwriting was one of the few subjects I never got good grades for. However, potentially this will allow me to update my blog more often.

Around the time Julian was born I joined the Boulder Rock’n Moms group. It’s a great resource for mom’s in the Boulder area and I wish I had found it sooner. As soon as I knew we were moving, I went looking for the San Francisco equivalent which turns out to be GGMG. Their criteria for joining is more stringent, you have to have a San Francisco address, but as soon as Jaeger got his temporary apartment I signed up.

One of the threads recently in the GGMG forum was a mom who hated shopping but needed new clothes. She was looking for suggestions of what to do. Several suggestions were provided by others including Stich Fix and Le Tote. I had heard of Stitch Fix in the past and had been fascinated by the concept. However, I tend to be very cheap and mainly buy my clothes at the thrift store: the prices are good and often I prefer the colors versus whatever is popular in a particular season. The idea of spending $40+ for one shirt seems exorbitant. I had never heard of Le Tote before, not being particularly fashion conscious, but the idea of “renting” clothes sounded fascinating. You pay a certain amount each month and they ship via priority mail three articles of clothing and two accessories in each tote. They provide a priority envelope to ship back the clothes and send out another tote as soon as the first one is returned.

I signed up and filled out all the sizing info. They asked for general clothing sizes and then got more specific regarding shape and specific body measurements. To help figure out your style you can preview clothes they have and add the ones you like to your “closet”. In addition, you can choose the type of things you don’t want. For instance, I vetoed all earrings and gray and pink clothes.

The first tote I received had:

From the other reviews I read, I think I was pretty lucky for a first tote. Most other people seemed to have more misses. I ended up wearing the green shirt and cardigan and then returned the items. I rated what I received on style and fit. I wish the style rating was a bit more granular. For instance, I might like the color but hate the cut of a shirt or vice versa.

I dropped my first tote in the mail Wednesday and received an email that my next tote had been prepared. This time I was given the option to substitute out things I didn’t want. This was good because they had selected two off-white shirts, a terrible color for someone with a baby. I did like the cut of one of them so I decided to be brave and only substitute out one of the off-white shirts. I think I also made some jewelry substitutions. After I confirmed my tote they mailed it out and I received it on Monday.

I think the addictive part of Le Tote is it’s a bit like Christmas every week. It’s fun opening up a new package of clothes every week. My second tote included:

  • A thin long-sleeve off-white shirt which required an under-shirt but luckily I had one that worked. It fit well and I like it more than I expected
  • A green sweater – I liked the color though would have preferred it to be a bit tighter
  • A blue long-sleeve shirt which I haven’t worn yet. However, it’s a bit tighter than I prefer. I’m going to try it tomorrow but I’m a little dubious
  • A necklace which is a good length but it has several chains that have a tendency to get tangled. Plus, it’s sparkly so Julian wants to grab it
  • A gold bangle which I like a lot more than I expected. It turns out to complement my wedding ring very well. Also, it keeps Julian occupied while I’m changing his diaper so he doesn’t end up squirming everywhere

The only problem I’ve encountered so far with the Le Tote scheme is I usually don’t wear accessories. I do so even less often with Julian’s tendency to grab anything sparkly. I’d be very happy if Le Tote provided the option to substitute out two accessories for one more piece of clothing.

Overall, I’ve found the totes to be fun and I’ll probably continue, at least for a bit.

UPDATE:
Because I am not shy about sharing my opinion, when I have an opinion, I wrote Le Tote and told them I liked the idea but accessories didn’t work for my lifestyle. Apparently they do have a “clothing only” box. I do not remember seeing this as an option at sign-up so you might need to specifically ask for it (or who knows, I could have just missed it). It contains 4 pieces of clothing and no accessories. My current tote has already shipped but I’ll be switched to the clothing only box for the next tote.

Kindle Fire Kids Edition – 2 Stars

Kindle Fire Pros:
Parental controls (flawed but the best I’ve found)

Kindle Fire Cons:
Everything else


Back in February Calvin dropped our iPad2 one time too many times and it finally died. I am impressed by how long it lasted and, in general, have been fairly satisfied the iPad2. The one glaring exception to this is Apple’s parental controls. Because of this, I decided it was time to try out another tablet and see if it worked any better. I briefly considered a Windows tablet and discarded it fairly quickly. Their parental controls are significantly better than Apples but the apps just aren’t there. Android was the next obvious choice which I seriously considered for a while but eventually decided to try out the Amazon Fire Kids Edition1.

Parental controls were the main reason I decided to give the Amazon Fire a try. That, in combination with the very low price and generous replacement policy (for the kids edition), made it worth gambling on a new software ecosystem2. I debated going with the basic tablet instead of getting the kids edition specifically. The advantage of the Kids edition is it comes with a protective cover, a 2-year no questions asked replacement, and a year subscription to Amazon Freetime.

The Fire arrived a little over a week ago. I plugged it in and waited about an hour for all the downloading, updating, and configuring to finish. Once it was read, I added a 64 GB MicroSD card and then jumped right to setting up a profile for Calvin.

Parental Control:
In general, the parental controls do what I want. There’s a Bedtime start and stop feature as well as time limits for three categories: books, videos, apps. There are two major downsides with Amazon’s implementation: it’s definition of “books” and lack of Audible support.

The biggest downside to Amazon’s time limit categories is they’re tightly tied to the Amazon ecosystem. So, when it says “books” it means Kindle books. There isn’t a way to designate the Overdrive or OneClickDigital apps as “book” apps. The same is true with videos. In retrospect I was disappointed but not surprised. The tablet is obviously meant as an entry-level drug to further enmesh people into Amazon’s store. However, Calvin spends at least 75% of his time listening to audiobooks so it was very important I find a way to provide unlimited audiobook listening without allowing unlimited app usage. My first solution was to disable Freetime and remove all apps except Overdrive. However, later I realized a better work around existed: I created a second profile for Calvin. The first profile only has Overdrive and OneClickDigital and allows unlimited use outside of bedtime hours. The second profile has Freetime enabled and only allows 1 hour of usage. Neither profile is locked so Calvin is free to switch back and forth as long as he hasn’t run out of time in the Freetime profile. So far this kludgy workaround does what I need.

I was very disappointed to learn that Audible books cannot be added to a Kid profile. I am strongly in the camp that audiobooks count as reading. In addition, the Kindle app I have on my phone has an absolutely fantastic feature where it highlights the individual words as the audiobook is read. I was flabbergasted that this isn’t an option in the Kids profile.

The other fascinating bug I’ve found is Overdrive audiobooks do not turn off at bedtime. Calvin is locked out of the profile and can’t stop the audiobook or switch to another one but the existing audiobook keeps playing. The easiest way to stop this is to choose to login as another user. While this isn’t ideal, I think it’s something I can live with.

Freetime
Meh. The apps don’t meet the standard I would normally use but realistically they’re fine, particularly if used for only an hour a day. However, I won’t renew the subscription after the first year.

My Content
No videos on the SD Card can be added to the child accounts. In order to let Calvin watch non-Amazon movies we own I have to switch him to my profile. Also, as mentioned above, he has to be switched to my profile to listen to any Audible books or use the read-along feature.

Storage Space and WiFi requirement
There are so many problems with storage that I don’t know where to start. I knew 8 GB was not enough space to do anything with. I naively assumed I could deal with this by having most things on the MicroSD card. I do have “Install Supported Apps on Your SD Card” as well as “Store Photos and Personal Videos on Your SD Card” but it’s not enough.
When you run out of storage Wifi is disabled. However, deleting any apps in the parentally controlled accounts, including apps downloaded by the child using Freetime, requires Wifi. In addition, in order to modify “add content” to a child’s profile it can’t be in airplane mode.

There’s also a huge number of required apps that I can’t delete and 1) take up storage space and 2) clutter up my display.

In Summary
I prefer iPads. The Kindle is meeting basic requirements and we can usually force it to work but it’s a huge pain to deal with. Not finding Calvin playing apps in the middle of the night is a big plus but the Kindle is enough of a pain that in the future I’ll probably just go back to using the iPad.

  1. Yes, it’s Android but crippled.
  2. Though I do have a fair number of Kindle and Audible books so we’re not starting completely from scratch.

Crazy Winter

Jaeger has now been in San Francisco since the beginning of February. For the most part, I have been in Colorado. My prior schedule ended up being a bit optimistic. With job hunting, house selling, and figuring out San Francisco, my evenings have been overflowing. Most nights I pretend listening to an audio book as I drift off to sleep counts as “me time.” However, this is ok. It’s only temporary.

At the end of February Calvin and I took a “preview” trip to San Francisco. Jaeger’s mom watched Julian while we were gone. The original plan was to use one day for rental hunting and the other day to convince Calvin that San Francisco would be a fun place to live. However, Ted was able to find a rental ahead of time. Instead, I spent most of one day measuring the rental for my SketchUp model while Jaeger entertained Calvin. Then, on Sunday, we visited Alcatraz and the Exploratorium.

Coincidentally, the major user conference for our ILS was in San Francisco this year. I abandoned the kids back in Colorado to Jaeger’s mom and stayed with Jaeger during the conference. Back in the fall I had volunteered to present two presentations. At the time, it had seemed like a good idea. However, with everything else going on in our lives it was a challenge to find time to properly prepare. I finished the prep for my last presentation on the flight to SF. The conference turned out really good. In addition, I enjoyed spending time alone with Jaeger, the first since Julian was born.

After the conference Jaeger flew home with me and we immediately left for a spring break ski vacation near Breckenridge.

Originally, my work thought they could continue to employee me once I moved to San Francisco. However, after more research, they realized I would be considered a California employee which would have awkward tax complications. So, I’ve been job hunting. Wednesday, during the ski vacation, I was invited to interview the following Monday. Jaeger and I made some quick flight adjustments so he could stay with the kids while I went back to California.

The interview went very well. It was very strange having our rental house to myself. The last time I was by myself was at the Computers in Libraries conference back in 2012. (Which, now that I think about it, was the last time we were selling our house.) It was really lovely being by myself and it sounds like Jaeger survived and did a fantastic job with the kids.

As soon as I got back home it was time to get the house ready to sell. This last weekend our house went on the market. At our realtor’s suggestion I rented an Airbnb place for the weekend so we wouldn’t have to constantly be leaving the house for showings. This turned out to be excellent advice because we had 25 showings Friday-Saturday with an additional 3 showings first thing Monday morning. Offers were due to our realtor by noon on Monday and we received good ones. We picked our two favorites and now are under contract with a backup if the first one falls through.

As our realtor was leaving, after discussing the offers, she told me, “now the hard part is over and you can sit back and relax.” Unfortunately, getting ready for the house showing meant I neglected many other things so now I’m desperately trying to catch-up before something else shows up that needs attention.

Jaeger is coming for a visit this weekend. I’m hoping to get some quality relaxing time tomorrow, in between taking care of Julian, before starting to mark off items from my to-do list. It’ll be interesting to see what next week brings.