Evidence using Creative Commons for our cards was the perfect choice

This is a cross-post from the Notable Women in Computing Kickstarter because I am so excited about this.

I was looking through the Twitter results for Notable Women in Computing project and found this tweet:

Look closely–it’s a modded version of the deck. So cool! I checked my inbox and Rachel Cheng of CppCon emailed me to let me know they had 700 attendees who got a deck each in their swag bags. One of the attendees asked for the files so he can distribute them in schools. My heart overfills with happiness to see these incredible women gaining the credit they deserve in the world.

This is exactly why we used Creative Commons for this project and made all of the source files for our work free. Alone, we’re 3 women with other jobs and work to do. (Did I mention this summer I started working as a scheduler for California Attorney General Kamala Harris? I did. She’s great.)

We’re all busy. But as members of the community of technical women, we are a multiplying force. We can take the history and future of women in computing further and farther together than any of us could alone. I am so grateful to be a part of this project.

Inspirational Quote:

“Have you ever experienced a moment, knowing full well that words cannot do it justice?” – Richard Sirken

On Batholiths and Long-Distance Relationships

As my train wavered up the Peninsula to my temp-apartment in San Francisco, I was thinking about batholiths. I was thinking about Matthew, who is 809 miles away in Seattle: 13 hours and 4 minutes driving, 2 hours and 17 minutes by plane. This distance is in the middle range for us–we’ve been as far away as continents and as Olympia to Seattle in the times we’ve been apart.

But this time is tougher than usual, because it will be the last time we have to be so far away from each other. We are a month from him joining me here in the Bay Area, and it made me think about what is hard about long distance and the more unexpected hardness about getting used to being in the same place. One of the reasons I love geology is it gives me big, satisfying metaphors for these kinds of feelings. Thinking about that distance and time made me think about very old, very large rocks called batholiths; Half-Dome is an example.

Batholiths start out as magma pushing up from the great stream of molten rock running under the surface of our world. That is like choosing to step out of the flow of humanity and into a committed relationship.

They push out and up and then solidify, getting their shape from what they are made of and what is around them. That’s learning to be a couple.

Then they sit there, under incredible pressure. Tons and tons of rock, mountains and oceans and comets and earthquakes, they sit under a layer of rock existing under that pressure.
That’s being in a long distance relationship. Cohesive rock stays the same shape; like Matthew and I have stayed the same shape in the 10 years we have known each other, much of which we’ve lived apart either because we were in high school, college, or first jobs far away.

After all that time, batholiths blossom to the surface. They see the sun for the first time, get rain on their faces, all the dirt that was keeping them under pressure swept away by the fast forces of earthquakes or the steady pressure of time’s weathering. That’s seeing each other again and moving back in.

This is where the unexpected stuff happens. A surfaced batholith begins to react to that lack of pressure. It pushes upward and makes a huge dome. Even though it knew its shape under the pressure of the ground, even though it kept that shape for so long, that wasn’t its only shape. It had potential energy to be so much bigger; and once it is out from under the pressure of the surrounding ground, it gets to.

Its surface pieces often crack, splinter, flake as it rises up. But it keeps growing upwards and upwards, turning into a great arc pointing at the sky. Because relationships under pressure are incredibly strong, but they store energy. They’re meant for sharing energy. That energy is going to do amazing things once we’re not in the pressure of being apart.

Inspirational Quote:

“In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.” ― Barack Obama

Camping as resilience practice

I’m writing this in the middle of a campground 2.5 hours from the nearest major city. My stomach is full of s’mores and my campsite full of the steam of a properly killed fire. I’m camping alone for the second time in two months and loving it.

I grew up camping in large groups. Camping was a metronomic part of my pre-high school education. Each year my class planned and executed a camping trip, starting with an overnight in 1st grade and finishing with an 8 day trip in 8th grade. But those trips—wonderful though they were—were about teams, about building them, maintaining them, surviving them when they fell apart. A few nights of eating off of frisbees taught Devon why he should remember to pack a plate; sleeping in a puddle taught Cole why sleeping in a hollow of land had consequences.

I earned my first and only second degree sunburn in 6th grade. I had just barely made some friends, all of whom were boys, and I was too shy to ask them to help me put sunscreen on. But I desperately wanted to hang out with them in the lake, so I put on my swimsuit with a flower-cut-out in the back, and sat in inter tubes for hours getting to know each other.

The immediate consequence was a back covered in blisters and several nights of sleeping in one of those friends’ mom’s shirts, since all of mine were too hard on my skin. In the medium term, I had a deep brown flower on my back for 6 months. Long term, I decided personal shame was not worth that kind of pain and learned to ask people for help.

(As I write I have a sunburn on my neck, but that one is 100% on me. I forgot to put on sunscreen. Good thing it’s turtleneck weather in San Francisco.)

A lot of my life and my work is in building and maintaining Margaret Mead’s “small group[s] of committed people” working to change the world. Cooperation is a learned skill, just like independence, courage, and resilience. I find a lot of joy in that work, which is why I do it. But sometimes, I want to make choices where I am the sole beneficiary and the only person who is harmed, I want to do exactly what I want to do and have no one to discuss it with.

Right now, that is what camping is to me. I set off on Saturday, taking a Lyft to a train to a Lyft to a friend’s house where my car was staying. Because I wasn’t beholden to anyone but myself, when she offered to have breakfast with me, I went in and we made crepes with syrup and lemon juice on top. They tasted amazing.

I was only on the road for a half hour when I hit traffic and could indulge in a bad mood without worry it would hurt anyone with me. When it got clear, I listened to the books I wanted to, laughed and smiled, got orange juice, bought apples and grapes and bananas, a meaty cheddar cheese and a baguette that have been most of my meals this weekend. I bought two gallons of water, and then picked up a third at the next gas station I hit. Carrying too much water is part of growing up camping and in a series of droughts.

I got to Lassen National Park in the evening, my trip made longer by traffic. I had made the decision not to book a campground ahead of time. I plan thoroughly for most of my life, but know that kind of Type A-ness can make me brittle, unable to handle sudden changes. I value both adaptability in myself and serendipity in my life, so I have let my last few camping trips go mostly unplanned.

The consequences this time were not great, but I managed fine. It turns out all of the campgrounds in the park were full by the time I got in at 6:30. I spent the next few hours driving further and further out, finding every campsite and motel within an hour of the park booked. Finally, I found a rest area and decided to test out the full recline of my car’s front seat (one of her main selling features on the lot).

I tweeted some of it, but I enjoyed the experience. I can now say I’ve slept overnight in DC’s Union Station, the Amman airport, and the rest stop outside of Montgomery Creek, CA. The stars were incredible and seeing the rhythm of the highway over the course of an evening was fascinating.

Even better, I got to do this:

Like getting a bad sunburn, this was a camping experience with a lesson—perhaps look for serendipity in things other than where I am going to sleep at night. But when I woke up in time to see the sun fade the stars, the sky regain its color, and the trees turn from silhouettes to beings flushed with green, my overwhelming emotion was pride. Pride that I had figured out a solution to a problem that was scary and hard and that I was fine.

I have heard that our generation is known to the college admissions officers of the world as crispy critters and tea cups. Crispy critters because we show up to college so burnt out we can’t learn; tea cups because we crack under the slightest pressure. Camping helps me not feel burnt out, helps me bring more water and bigness into my life. And camping reminds me of the resilience that I learned on those middle school camping trips. That life continues after a bad sunburn; that the sun rises even on rest stops outside of Montgomery Creek, CA.

Sunday morning I drove back into the park and got a spot, which is where I am wrote this piece. I took myself on a five hour hike, letting a novel and some short stories read aloud keep me company. I luxuriated in the frothing weirdness of the mudpots, got light-headed trying to make a video in the middle of the cloud of sulfur smoke, and went on a hike down a mountain and—crucially—got myself back up the same mountain afterwards. Then I came to camp, ate food, read my book on Yemeni politics, made s’mores, and wrote my daily 1000 words. It has been a weekend where my choices, good/bad/indifferent, hurt and helped me almost to the exclusion of anyone else. On Tuesday I will go back to the unsingable glory of working in coalitions, of building relationships and trust, of the kind of hard work that makes up a life trying to change the world with small groups of committed people. But for this weekend, I got to test my independence and did not find myself wanting.

Inspirational Quote:

“If people have any kind of orientation toward people-pleasing, you wind up being totally liberated,” she says. “You rigorously protect other people’s privacy, but there’s no other kind of taking care. Anne [Washburn] and I have noticed that on the first day, everyone scatters, everyone goes into the field. But over time, people drift together, because we aren’t a threat to each other. People write next to each other on the couch; they’re there, but they’re not in your mental space. In silence, people are with you in a way that they can’t be in normal life.” — Helen Shaw