Vanquishing boredom

June 27th, 2017

When I was a teenager, there was a slip of newspaper taped to the fridge at my parent’s house. It was a quote: “Being bored is an insult to oneself.”

I took it to heart, probably because I didn’t want to be seen as unintelligent, and it uses the word ‘oneself’ which sounds fancy and snobby and it worked! In college I took photography classes, and realized that even in the most boring situations I could examine the the world and find something to frame up through my imaginary camera lens.

being bored is an insult to oneself

Yesterday, my kiddo stayed home with me all day, while I worked. At one point early in the afternoon she said she was bored. I’d just read a fantastic novel, one that made me feel adventurous, and curious, and like I can be a great parent and an interesting and interested adult. I remembered the main character saying something better suited to a smaller kiddo. I found the quote and shared with 80:

“That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

~ Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette

I think this may become an even more important habit/pattern/skill, to be able to find contentment and interest in the world, without using a screen.

On being a not-boss

November 24th, 2013

This whole tech world thing is totally crazy. I look forward to telling grandchildren about how I was part of the second dotcom wave. My job has been morphing into management (except NOT, except kind of). I do hiring stuff (we’re trying to find technical people right now, so having the qualities of a librarian, plus the computer knowledge of a developer, plus the writing skills of a … writer), I videochat with my teammates to see how they’re doing and encourage them to take on more of the things they’re interested in (the hope is that if each person does some management stuff they’re good at, we’ll cover it all and won’t need one person doing shit management work), and I take care of some of the shit management work. Except it’s not shit. Actually, someone once said “a good manager is the person who holds the shit umbrella, so that their team can get work done”. It’s not quite like that, since we don’t have a bureaucracy for me to be slashing red tape. It’s more like being a single point of contact with other teams, if someone doesn’t know who to go to. I have historical knowledge (not specifics, but in general of how to do things better next time. So, like a historian.) I’m also getting better at pointing out when people are fucking up. It’s really hard for me, because I am conflict-adverse, and I’m totally chicken about giving negative feedback. I’m learning that with good, smart people giving negative feedback means they think “Thanks! I wouldn’t have figured that out so fast. I’m going to work on that.”

I wrote this today, verbatim, in a catch-up email to a group of friends from library grad school. I realized it’s worth sharing, as it sums up a lot of hard-to-express thoughts I’ve had as the GitHub ship heads farther into space.

One post a year: got my eyes lasered

November 13th, 2013

Last year I told you about my experience moving to San Francisco. In a similar vein, I figured I could update my blog to describe the experience of having elective corrective eye surgery. It’s not that my life isn’t interesting, but I do so much writing at GitHub that I don’t have the same itch to blog about knitting or babies. Granted, I don’t think I’d be as good a writer if I hadn’t spent all that time navel-gazing here, but let’s get onto the EYE LAZERS.

I did a BUNCH of research before doing it, and found that not many people get the surgery I had (PRK, as opposed to LASIK), so it’s also a public service announcement.

Hilarious, right? This is me, right after the surgery. I have on clear eye protectors so nothing bumps my eyes, and then dark sports shades for light sensitivity. I get to sleep with the clear eye protectors for the next few nights. This also fixes the problem of my reoccurring sleep-racketball problem.

So, the burning question is: what was it like to have lasers resurface my corneas? The answer is: not much. I was super nervous coming in, even though I had learned all about what was going to be happening. Awesomely, the first thing that happens is they gave me Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug. They prepped my face (hairnet, iodine around my eyes, numbing drops in my eyes), then set me down in a chair and put headphones on me. I thought “this is crap pop music, how dare they assume I’m going to enjoy this?” but a minute or two later, it was sounding allllll riiiiiiight. I really knew the Ativan kicked in when some noodly jazz came on and I didn’t even care.

A doctor examined my eyes, and used what I’m sure wasn’t a Sharpie (but like a medical-grade cousin) to mark dots on each of my eyes. This had the excellent benefit of proving the numbing drops (and Ativan) had worked, and I was neither bothered by nor could feel my eyes being Sharpied.

When it was my turn to get lasereyed, I laid down on a padded bench, and the doctor added more numbing drops. She went through the steps of the procedure, taping up and down my eyelashes, putting the Clockwork Orange eye opener on. This was actually a relief to have. The doctor was instructing me to keep looking at the light, but it’s hard to look at a blinding white light, and my eyes were definitely squinty. Now I didn’t have to fight to keep them open. I’d worried this would be something that would feel uncomfortable, or make me feel tiny claustrophobia, but it turned out to be a highlight.

The next step was for the doctor to put a chemical on my eye that would loosen the top layer of corneal cells, then brush them away. This sounds gross. I’m pretty sure it is. But there was this satisfying feeling when, after my vision got super blurry from the cells coming up, when the doctor was brushing them aside. It was like when you brush a couple of inches of powdery snow off your car windshield with your wiper blades. This is probably the Ativan kicking in my brain’s natural reaction to anything, which is to find the silver lining.

Next up was the actual lasering. There were red lights to the sides, and a green light in the middle. The green light shone directly onto my, which made my whole vision fill with pixelated red-and-green DJ visuals. The pixels moved around a little. I could smell something (they’d warned me that there might be a “vapor”) but it wasn’t a bad smell. The actual lasering took about 10 seconds, didn’t hurt or feel weird at all. I wished I had some dubstep to go with the view, though.

The last step was to put a clear, thin contact over my now-resurfaced eye. My lids were released, untaped, and it was over.

That was it. The second eye was exactly the same process.

I got up, and although things were blurry, they were less blurry than when I came in (with glasses off). They checked my eyes, gave me the above-pictured cool shades, and sent me home in an Uber.

I was to spend the next two hours with my eyes shut. No problem. The rest of the day I spend dutifully putting in three kinds of eye drops. I felt good enough to go to 80’s parent-teacher conference this evening at preschool, and to go get groceries (on foot).

From here, we’ll see how the next three days are. Apparently, Thursday is going to suck a little, Friday might suck a lot, and Saturday will be kind of like Thursday. (Where “suck” means “the feeling of chopping onions”.

Here’s my eye, about 5 hours after the surgery.

How to move to San Francisco

June 12th, 2012

I had heard trying to find an apartment in San Francisco was comically difficult. I can confirm this.

I read this blog post and was prepared for elbowing my way to the front of open houses, throwing a credit report and deposit down at the feet of the property manager. (This basically turned out to be true.) If you’re actually planning on moving to SF, read it first, then come back for an outsidecat supplement.

What I didn’t realize was that first, I’d need to figure out where to throw my money. You should know that housing prices in San Francisco are, as the classy say, ridonkulous. As I am an open person, I’m going to throw some numbers at you. When we moved to Boston (a big city with fairly expensive costs of living), we paid $1,400/month for our one bedroom apartment. We bought a two-bed condo in a fancypants area of Cambridge and our mortgage was in the $1,800 neighborhood. The lease we just signed fora two bedroom place was for $3,750. Per month. It is not downtown. Or filled with gold coins.

I would highly recommend figuring out a budget for what you can reasonably spend on housing. For us, we were willing to pay more for the convenience of being a short commute to home, and more importantly to the daycare where we could pick up our daughter and spend quality time* with her before going to bed.

Our holy trifecta of desired filters were: near a park, near a grocery store, near public transportation that would shuttle us to work in less than a million years. Oh, both Jason and I will be working in SoMa, so we were keeping an eye on how one would get there via public transportation/bike/scooter.

I highly recommend, as they use a number of sources (including the almighty, and puts the homes on a map so you can see what neighborhoods the apartments are in. They also have slick features like a crime overlay (so you can see how shady things get). A few protips for searching:
* use the padmapper email hourly updates. You can set limits and let padmapper email you when a new listing pops up in your range. This means you can jump on making an appointment to see the place.
* also check directly, on the weekends. New listings take a while to make it over to padmapper, so on weekends when there are many open houses, you might find one that went up that morning that other chumps haven’t seen.
* it was Jason and I searching, so we logged into the same padmapper account. You can use a collaboration feature, we didn’t try it.
* padmapper has mobile apps. This is good for checking for new places while away from your computer, and for using the map to finding places you’re interested in.

As for neighborhoods, there are four axes (like Cartesian coordinate system, not chopping tools) to consider: hill, sunshine/fog, bums, cost. Neighborhoods are plotted this way. A great, funny breakdown of this can be found here.

On to actual San Francisco homes. Tho, first a caveat: we went to Berkeley, and decided to limit our search to SF proper. Though the train makes it a reasonable commute, the psychological barrier of going across the bay means fewer people will come hang out with us. As we’re new to the city and building a community is important, we’ll stick to the expensive hilly bits.

Trends in apartments I saw:
* if the layout isn’t guessable from photos (assuming there are photos), they’re probably hiding the fact that it’s weirdly laid out.
* learn to identify wide-angle lens photos. This will help with your expectations of the size of the place.
* the bedroom:bathroom ration is 1:1. Deal with it. We’re going to use the second bathroom for storage.

Finally, our story:

We started by driving around neighborhoods. We discovered that the main streets were gritty, asphalty, loud, busy, and had a goodly number of homeless folks. Just a block or two back, and you’re in nice tree-lined residential areas. We (to be fair, mostly I) decided that sunny was better than fog, close to work was better than a 45 minute bus ride, hills are OK, we like family-friendly neighborhoods, and we’re willing to pay a bit more to have these things.

We looked at:
Noe Valley — the parks are far from the public transportation, so despite the fact that it’s THE family-friendly neighborhood, it wasn’t our first choice.
Bernal Heights — this is where we housesat. The north side of the neighborhood is great. The south side requires a trek OVER A MOUNTAIN I SWEAR to get to public transportation, and it takes 45 minutes to get to SoMa. It is sunny, though. Oh, and lots of lesbians, so it would be like Western Cambridge.
NoPa — (north of panhandle park) totally cute! Clean, residential, more space for your dollar; farther from SoMa, gets kinda foggy
Alamo Square — like NoPa but closer. Great park, Victorian architecture; gets a bit more expensive because it’s closer to downtown
Cole Valley — south of Haight Ashbury (which was a little grungy for my crunchy-yuppie-mama eye), totally cute but would require a long bus ride.
Potrero — sunny! parks! grocery store! close to work! There were very few listings for this area, so we had to pounce like a caffeinated kitten.

We’d kept our eye on listings in other neighborhoods, but when we saw that we could go to a Sunday showing for a 2bed apartment in north Potrero (north really meaning “close to work and not up a giant hill”), we packed a kit of snacks and toys and hit it up. Jason discovered we could print the application online. This wasn’t mentioned in the craigslist post, he just is that awesome. So, like the blog post I referenced in the second paragraph, we had an application all filled out, our credit reports, bank statements, letters of intent for Jason’s job (because he hasn’t started it yet) and a checkbook. We got there 15 minutes early. Others who showed up (maybe 5 more couples) deferred to my 1st place lead, which was great because I was starting to feel uncomfortable being aggressive.

We went upstairs to the apartment, I took a quick look around, and park myself next to the realtor and asked if we could submit an application right then. I believe legally they have to give the apartment to the first person who applies, so this is an important moment.

The realtor said “you can just email us the app”. Fuuuuuuu. We were all unhappy. Who would be the first to email the application? Who knows? Trying REALLY hard not to badger, I asked if a paper copy would work. It would not. Could I hand over credit reports? No, they do their own. There’s a fee.

Folks started trickling out, to see if they could use their iPhones to take pictures of their applications.

No one else was around when I asked if I could pay the fee right then, and then email the application later. The realtor was like “suuuure!”

I WON. I’ve never written a check so fast in my life. The fact that no one else did made me happy in a kind of scary way. Jason’s reading over the lease as we speak, and we’ll email it tomorrow. That closes the chapter of my life where I move to San Francisco and learn the Law of the Land in a week.

Last thing to note: we moved from across the country, and our previous bank is not here. We needed cashier’s checks for ridiculous sums of money (first month, plus last month and security which was 1.5 monthly rent), and it was complicated getting it transferred. If you’re moving away from your bank, go into a branch and make sure you can wire money to yourself in large sums.

So, that’s it! Bonus links:

Great overview guide to neighborhoods

A good map for learning the neighborhood names

* “quality time”means not time eating or slowly washing hands or fighting about toothbrushes or pajamas.

I’m a momtocat

May 11th, 2012

Believe it or not, completely unrelated to the domain outsidecat, I got this awesome mother’s day card from GitHub.

Our logo is an octocat, and there are many variations of it.

Why get married

March 20th, 2012

When Jason and I decided to get married, it wasn’t because we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We knew that without needing paperwork. Besides making some family members happier about our sin-livin’, I wanted to get married for one reason: a KitchenAid mixer.

Once we sent out the announcements, we went to Target to make a gift registry*. After choosing some modest additions to our existing belongings, we went to see the mixer.

Here’s the plot twist: I got cold feet — about the mixer. It’s so expensive, and we didn’t *need* it. So I chickened out.

Four years of lamenting later, this came in the mail:


And here it sits, happily ever after:


* people will buy you gifts if you want them to or not, so a registry means no guessing on their part, or returning on yours.

How we say “I love you”

February 22nd, 2012

With a 75% clearance box of sparkly Darth Vadar chocolate-covered caramels.

darth vadar chocolate box

Gourmet chef

February 1st, 2012

Venn diagram of our day
It was easier to draw than explain.


Making dinner last night. “Crab-stuffed grouper with polenta and spinach in a spicy cream sauce” sounds way better than “two frozen things from Trader Joes”, yet they are the same.

In an otherwise empty apartment …

January 6th, 2012

80’s just hitting the phase where she says new words every day. It’s exhilarating. It seems to surprise all of us. “Tail! Tail!”, she says, as she excitedly hurts the cat.

“Stop meowing at my scarf!”,
I shouted to the deaf cat.

Level up: talking

January 5th, 2012

80’s just hitting the phase where she says new words every day. It’s exhilarating. It seems to surprise all of us. “Tail! Tail!”, she says, as she excitedly hurts the cat.