Friday, June 29, 2012

Home from Santa Clara and Lucky Seven

Monday was our seventh wedding anniversary. I had a conference this week, so we celebrated on Saturday, spending the whole day doing chores and small things together, then taking the motorcycle up to Healdsburg for dinner at the aptly name Baci restaurant. Sometimes seven years seems like a long time, but given that I've already had more than seven sets of seven in my life, I know that time flashes by in the blink of an eye. It's funny, recalling the moment when M and I looked at each other and realized that we'd been going steady for six months and we both remarked that six months was a long time...


On Sunday I left for Santa Clara, and our the last show of the year in that strange urban wasteland. Good: I had some South Indian food. I went to the gym a couple of times.

Not as good: I also spent more time "on the show floor" as we call it, i.e., holding down a Ladies Lounge in the exhibit hall, than I ever have before. Frankly, it was exhausting. Partly because I just had to talk with so many people all day for two days straight and partly because I finally got to hear firsthand a little more about how women are perceived in some corners of the tech industry. I had a conversation with a guy who said that he just didn't think women were interested in tech stuff. I had a conversation with a woman who felt that companies should recognize that women had more of a burden of work-life balance and so women (and only women) should be treated differently. I heard about a woman who makes purchasing decisions being ignored by some of our sponsors and who turned instead to the man she was with. I had to remain silent while provocatively dressed women who were hired by our sponsors to entice attendees to buy stuff were both ogled and excoriated by our attendees; these attendees also claimed that they could no longer believe that a pretty woman could be technically competent because of this practice. I heard a lot of snickering as people (men) walked by my booth area and read the "Ladies Lounge" signage. I had to answer the question posed by several women: "What's the purpose of this lounge?" (To create a welcoming space at an event where women might not feel so welcome.) It was also a place that some people (men) pretended to be shy about coming into, not realizing it was a metaphor for how difficult it can be for some women to enter a male-dominated workplace and others (men) who were completely clueless and just barged in as if they owned the place. It was a worthwhile experience, but I confess I shed tears of frustration alone in my hotel room one night. I'm all for recognizing gender differences, but the dismissiveness and assumptions based on nothing more than appearance were disheartening.

But I also had some really productive conversations with men who wanted to know what they could do to help make their environments more diverse and met some really lovely people (women and men) so it was worth the discouragement. There was also some railing against this environment via social media and that gives me a bit of hope that we'll see a change for the better in the not too distant future.

A fun activity at one of the evening parties was time spent with a graphologist. Three sentences, a signature, and a date revealed to him that I'm creative, artistic, balanced, plan and follow through with projects, work well with direction, can be trusted with money and secrets (probably because I just forget stuff!), and help people feel comfortable and included. He explained that he looks at the the paragraph as though it's a painting: margins, the way I formed letters, spacing. it made me want to study graphology. But I wonder how the preponderance of keyboards and eschewance (I think I just made that word up, but I like it) of pens might be changing that science.


Yesterday was another round of speaker training. I think I made some progress and may actually come to enjoy it! The trainer really focused on help us project authority, which I think can come in handy in a variety of situations. She also spent some time illustrating the difference between aggression and authority. I think that will come in handy too.


It's my dad's birthday today and we had a nice long chat as I walked to get my lunch this afternoon, despite our differences in the perception of the Obamacare decision. Happy birthday!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Denver and Back Again

Is it the wastrel life to want to go to bed before eight o'clock 48 hours before the delicious summer solstice? Maybe. But I haven't slept enough lately.

Partly because much of last week was passed in Denver, a new burg in my travels, most of it in an over-airconditioned Marriott for a conference that (thank goodness!) my company didn't put on. But, I did get out for a walk to a supermarket, a (gasp! literally, thanks to the altitude) morning jog, not too bad Indian dinner, and a light rail ride to the somewhat disappointing downtown area.

Other amusing highlights: practically tame bunnies running rampant, preachers conducting spiritual business on their cell phones while on the gym treadmill, and remarkably good beer, even in the hotel.

That was last Sunday through Thursday. I took Friday off which afforded me the opportunity to meet niece Felicia for bowls of cafe au laid in Petaluma after a job interview and head down to Berkeley with M to celebrate a friend's daughter's high school graduation.

The weekend was a little relaxation punctuated by chores and oppressive heat on Saturday.

A week of work and I'm back on the road, spending most of next week, including my seventh wedding anniversary, boo, in the Denver-like outskirts of Santa Clara. I'm sure the view from my hotel room will seem like deja vu all over again.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Whole Month

Well, let's just get right to it, shall we? It's been an interesting month, in the Chinese proverb sense of the word.

While niece Felicia was in Germany, we IM'd a bit about making "adult" decisions. I've been thinking about my various adult decisions throughout my life and the consequences that have been better or worse. Since I'm still an adult, I've made another adult decision: we're not going to buy another house. At least not any time soon. It's been a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. While our house looks a little better now with a fresh coat of paint and the interior re-do holding up well, it's still the size that it is, which is, frankly so small that I'm embarrassed by it. But I'd rather be embarrassed and disappointed than be underwater or overextended. It was also hard "breaking up" with our real estate agent (she said she'd like to think that we were just "taking a break"), but it was good lesson in trying to do the right thing face to face. It's also true that life keeps changing. Maybe I'll be in this house for the rest of my life, but hey, you never know.

On the bright side, it's a relief not to think about having to pay a substantial mortgage when I'm in my 80s. Or to move the detritus of our dozen years here. I'm grateful for what I have. These are first world problems, that's for sure. I'm spinning it as simplicity and which is also mostly true. The view from my back yard could be a lot worse and suddenly the neighbors are keeping their music and cursing to fewer decibels. I'm going to do a few more upgrades, the big one being a new roof, but other little things too that I learned from doing the interior: coordinating materials and colors, and making landscaping choices that are lower maintenance. I think we'll mostly mulch over the front lawn and half of the back, put in some raised beds. I can spend my time growing flowers and tomatoes and peas and getting back into crafting rather than looking at houses on the internets.

 In other interesting news, I've had an adult decision made for me this past month: I have a new role at my company. I didn't apply for it and in fact I didn't even know this line of work existed, but I think it will be good. I'm still doing marketing, but not so much public facing. I have more internal duties now--helping to track and map out marketing campaigns for our various products with the goal of herding things along in a timely and coordinated manner. It's a job that plays to my strengths, I don't have to manage people anymore, and I report directly to the president of the company so I'm calling it a promotion. I think it will be tricky to disentangle myself from what I've been doing and navigating the new relationships, but like so much in my life lately, it could be a whole lot worse. I could be unemployed, for instance.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to continue my diversity activities at my job, and that's been wonderful lately.

  View from the Hilton Union Square, SF, May 2012

At our most recent event, held in San Francisco, we had our very first lesbian/gay meetup event, and I think it went pretty well. I don't think they happen at professional technical conferences very often and it's a good feeling to be progressive and providing leadership in such an important area. I also organized an event for technical women at the conference that came off very well despite my deep seated hostess anxiety syndrome. I had to speak a little and be the MC and didn't do it perfectly, but participants sent me kind notes afterwards, so I feel pretty good about it all. I've also been continuing my resolution to exercise while at events. I think I can safely say now that hotel gyms are odd places to be.

Other Activities: Arienne came for a very short visit. It was nice to see her.

With Murray and Arienne

M and I rode the motorcycle to San Mateo to Maker Faire, which was quite frankly overwhelming. So much to see and think about! Steampunk was a theme, we saw a couple of guys do a stage show using Mentos to spray Diet Coke in coordinated beige fountains, people pedaled about dressed as cupcakes, there were robots and fiery art and a landscape made of masking tape, 3D printers, and soooo much more.


It was so crowded I couldn't take it for more than a few hours.It was also a very long ride. A woman's got to know her limitations, and I found mine.

M and I went on our first philanthropic motorcycle run over the Memorial Day weekend, raising money with several hundred other bikers for our local vets.

  Good Ol' Boys run

 There were a few fun things about it. My fake tattoo (a skull with top hat, gin bottle, and knife) couldn't compare with the real-deal ink and I don't have enough bling on my jeans or desire to ride in a tank top to fit in authentically either, but overall the people watching was fun. So was feeling like I was part of a parade. People came out of their homes and businesses to gape as us as we roared along the highways and through towns. Watching fellow riders drink beer before noon and before mounting expensive powerful bikes and run through red lights or pass at dangerous turns, however, was not so fun. After the second stop we hung back and completed the run on our own.

We've been doing some fun culinary projects, making pita bread on the grill and hummus one weekend, baking brownies in the waffle iron, dining alfresco at our local summer markets, trying new places for lunch as part of our motorcycle adventures. We love food and are lucky to live in a place that produces so many delectable comestibles and has so beautiful places to explore.

In canine news: Rex had a number of lumps removed all at once, so spent over a week wearing a cone of shame which drove us all crazy. He jabbed the edge of the cone into our legs and faces at every opportunity. Roxy has been perfecting her gopher-getting technique and snapped up several in the past few weeks. We've been very impressed when not grossed out.

I leave for a conference in Denver tomorrow. Not one of ours, so it will be less stressful than conferences usually are for me.