Power and Prince

Power and Prince


MyLife, MyRamblings

by Maria on 11 Mar 2017 - 23:51  

I was in the US Army in Korea working as a truck mechanic when I was just 18 years old. It was one of the most difficult years of my life. My roommate used to say, I must have looked like an ex-girlfriend of my commander (that he hated). I spent one-third of my tour in Korea on restriction. I was not an angel, by any means, but I was also just a kid, and clearly being made an example of. But, I was also lucky. My roommate befriended me, took me under her wing, and when she had to leave Korea before me, made sure there would be someone else looking out for me after she left. I honestly don't know how I would have survived that year without her. She was my best friend for that year, and I learned so much from her. But, the three most important things that I learned were:

  1. Prince is awesome.
  2. Women have to look out for each other.
  3. There is always someone whose life sucks more than mine.

Aletha never complained about her situation. But I could easily see, that as much as my life sucked while I was in Korea, and it did, Aletha was in a worse position. She had young children that she couldn't see while in she was in Korea, which was a year assignment. I can't even imagine how hard this was for her. This was in the days of no internet, just very expensive long distance phone calls, across many time zones. While in Korea, she realized that she didn't love her husband, that he didn't respect her, and that she was in love with a man she met in Korea, whom she would have to say goodbye forever to, when she left at the end of her tour. Lame.

It is so hard for me to listen to Prince now. It makes me happy, because Prince. And it makes me sad, because he is no longer with us, and it takes me back in time to visit a person I have lost track of, but after decades, still has a big place in my heart. Wherever you are Aletha, I hope you are having a great life, and that you know how much I appreciate you looking out for me all of those years ago. I do my best to pay it forward. :)

I still work in a male-dominated industry (software), and I still try to reach out and help other women. And I still listen to Prince.

Prince On Arsenio Hall

Power and Prince ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment



MyLife, MyRamblings, Tech

by Maria on 28 Feb 2015 - 23:37  

The other day I was at a meetup, and the subject of allies came up. Specifically, how white males can be allies for women and minorities in tech. I was reminded of an incident that happened to me while I was in the Army, and I thought it might be a useful story to a larger audience.

Many years ago, I was a truck mechanic in the Army National Guard. By coincidence, my motor pool was losing its Motor Sergeant at the same time that our unit was being consolidated with another unit. I was next in line to be Motor Sergeant. So, I was taking over at the same time that our motor pool was more than doubling in size, and, of course, the new mechanics were all male, and did not know me. The first weekend was rough. The new guys were clearly reluctant to take orders from me, and things weren't going so well. Weirdly, the next weekend was completely different, and I couldn't figure out what had happened that I had suddenly gained their respect. I was talking to a guy in the motor pool that I had known for years, and mentioned how much better things were going, and I didn't understand what had happened. He was a big, charismatic guy. The kind of guy that people intuitively look up to and respect. He told me he had seen what was going on, and the next time the new guys were hanging out and talking, he had joined their conversation. When my name had come up, he had told them, "Nah, man, she's alright. She knows her shit, and she's cool." And that was literally all it took. One person, alert enough to see that someone was being undermined, simply because of their sex, and stepping up to defend. It would have taken me months to get to that place of respect without him, assuming I ever could have.

That respect, is given by default to members of the majority, but must be earned by someone not seen as already 'in'. There are, of course, exceptions in both directions to this, but I think it is an excellent rule of thumb. It is so much easier and effective for someone of the majority to point out this imbalance, then it is for the person being disrespected, or anyone else in the minority, to do it. This is truly one of the best examples of how allies can help.

If you see someone that you think is not being taken seriously simply because of their race, sex, orientation, or whatever, step up, and say something. A simple, "hey, let's hear her out", can do wonders in making people realize their unconscious biases are showing through. Just asking a question that shows that you are taking her seriously, can make others realize that they may have been overlooking something. 'What did you say? That sounded like a pretty good idea, can you explain it again, I'm not sure everyone heard it."

Pay attention when a woman/minority says something. How are people reacting? Listen, observe, speak up. This is stuff that allies have to look for, because it is very easy to not see it, if you are not in the minority, and especially if you also feel like you are fighting to have your voice heard. (Cause, yeah, life is hard for those in the majority too. Word.) Members of the majority can shout down others, and generally lose no respect from the majority because of it. Women and minorities can lose respect, simply by fighting to have their voice heard. Allies amplifying their voices is absolutely critical to getting more women and minorities to stay in tech.

Some humor, which somehow feels appropriate. XKCD awesomeness.

Allies ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

Busy, Shmizzy


MyLife, MyRamblings, Tech, Code

by Maria on 21 Oct 2014 - 06:43  

So, last post, I had been told by someone at a user group that I could not become a great programmer working by myself. I really love my job, so I set out to find a way to do exactly that.

As I thought about my predicament, I thought, sheesh there must be hundreds of people just like me at the university in exactly the same pickle, all of us working mostly by ourselves in research labs all over campus, and probably a good percentage of us self-taught. I started poking around the UW website, and was surprised to find no sort of network of developers. So, I started one. In May of this year, I began tying to figure out how to track down fellow developers at the UW, and it turns out this is no easy task. But, as of October there are 87 subscribers, so I'm making progress. If you know any software developers at the UW, please send them to this site:


to subscribe to my mailing list.

We have started having regular meetings as well. It has been a lot of fun. We have been looking at code, and talking about research and software development. I started my list at an opportune time, because others were also feeling there was a void. There is now an organization at the UW called eScience, and they are very interested in improving coding practices in science at the UW. When they found out about our group, they volunteered to help out. Currently they help with organization and bring snacks to our meetings, total win! Additionally, as a community we are receiving many awesome opportunities. For example, in November, I and many others on the list will be attending a Software Carpentry Instructors training.


Which I am really looking forward to. Science and coding, why not do both well? Plus, we get to do this:

09:15: Teaching as a performance art (2)

So we can share the love.

I have been looking for ways for our group to meet on a regular basis to do some live coding, and I am contemplating starting a coding series of sorts. My current idea is that I'd like to take this book:

Head First Design Patterns

By Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Robson, Bert Bates, Kathy Sierra

and go through it as a group. Each time we meet we would talk about one or more patterns, and talk about how it translates into the various languages that people in the group know, and hopefully do some group or pair coding and share it.

So, if you have tried something similar, I'd love to hear how it went! Or if you have ideas of other things that have worked with your group, I'd like to hear that too. Finally, we are always looking for speakers that have experience in the juncture of code and science, especially with incorporating best practices, so feel free to drop me a line if you want to help or come talk!

In addition to this group I have formed, I have just started TAing for an Introductory Python Course, because there is no better way to really learn material, then to teach it!

I don't know if I am becoming a great programmer, but I am learning a lot. Maybe not as quickly as if I were working daily with other developers, but I get to keep my cool job, and still learn more about best practices and about coding from other developers, so I'm pretty sure this is the appropriate response:

Busy, Shmizzy ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

So sue me, I've been busy


MyLife, MyRamblings, Tech, JobHunting

by Maria on 20 Oct 2014 - 06:56  

This is a longish rambling essay, I mean a super interesting essay, explaining why I haven't posted in so long (I've been very busy!), what I've been up to (talking to people, ye gads!), and some advice for job hunting, especially if you aren't currently worried about employment (cause job hunting sucks and you should worry, er I mean, prepare before you're out there!).

I want to tell you a story. A few years ago, I found myself pregnant fairly soon after receiving word that I would be losing my job. The only reason I mention that I was pregnant is because that meant I really couldn't spend much time job hunting before I lost my job, even though I had quite a few months warning. I would be getting decent severance, so I wasn't too panicked. Yes, the economy still sucked, but it was starting to recover, and tech jobs were the first returning. Other people staying in Seattle from my lab had managed to find new employment before my boss moved, which I also took as a good sign. The last time I had been out looking for work was during the dot com bust, and while it had taken a few months, I had more experience this time. So, a few months after my boy was born, my job went away and I received a rude awakening. The job market had changed.

I've already done a rant about tech interviews, so I won't rant about that again. And of course, the job market had changed in quite a few ways in 12 years, but one of the biggest lessons I learned was the importance of networking in today's market, and how when you find yourself unemployed, that is not the ideal time to start networking. We have all heard about how important networking is, but what does that mean? Well, I think the bottom line is, it means getting to know lots of people that are willing to recommend you for a job. Yes, someone you meet once or twice at a networking event may tell you that their company is looking for someone that has your skills, and they may even get your resume in front of the hiring manager, which is definitely a step up from applying through a website, don't get me wrong, but it is not your most likely route to a job. What you really want is for someone who knows you, your work ethic, your personality, and your skills and also know the hiring manager pretty well, to recommend you. Someone you met at a networking event a few times, just can't do that. So, the way to effectively network is to get to know as many people as well as possible. Not just any people, but people that understand the skills needed to do your job, iow people doing your job or a pretty similar one. You need to get to know them as well as possible by talking shop, and a lot of it, and not just about your favorite movie or whatever. You know you have probably reached that with someone when you would be completely comfortable recommending them for a job, so yeah, this takes a while, and if you can do joint projects, all the better. And then, when you are looking for a job, you should personally hit up every one of those connections, and ask them if they have heard of any job openings you may be interested in. And remind them you are looking on a regular basis, but somehow strike that balance of not being a pest, but keeping your name in their thoughts. I'm afraid I don't have much advice on that last one, and I suspect it depends on the person and the method as much as anything.

So now I can finish my story. The reason I had lost my job was because my boss had moved to NYC, and I was unable to move to NYC. After months of hitting total dead-ends looking for work, my old work called me back in to take down some servers that my former boss had left running. Someone new was taking over his old space, so all of his old stuff needed to be taken care of. I went in and dealt with everything, and started to walk out the door. And then I stopped and went back, because I thought, well I should probably introduce myself to the new person and let her know who I was so she could contact me if she found more stuff or had questions about anything. When I went in and introduced myself, she started asking me about what I had done for Mike, my old boss, and it turned out she was in the same boat Mike was, she had moved across the country and left her programmer behind. Neuroscience research with primates is a small field, so of course, she knew Mike, and so Mike's recommendation was valuable, and skills needed for both jobs greatly overlapped. So, when I finally found employment, it was a combination of serendipity and because of someone I knew well. Yeah, n of 1, I know, but, heh, the internet.

So, when I looked back on my 12 years of being a sysadmin and a software dev, I realized that I could pretty much count on one hand the number of other software developers I knew in the Seattle area. So, if I didn't know very many people who could recommend me, and I suck at interviews, it is no wonder I had such a hard time finding a job in the tech market! Why did I know so few other developers? This was for many reasons, but the main one was that I was in academia in a fairly secure job the whole time, and wasn't really thinking enough about life after my current gig. My ways of improving myself had always been books, mailing lists, and classes, which doesn't get you out in the community much. Plus, I had been working as both a sysadmin and a developer, but quite frankly the sysadmin required much more constant learning and tended to hog my learning time, because it involved so many different technologies and programs. I decided during my period of unemployment I wanted to focus on software development, and clearly, if I was going to continue to be a coder and be able to deal with any future unemployment or career moves, I was going to have to change how and what I was learning drastically. And so, the introvert starts the slow task of reaching out.

I started going to various meetups, and other local meetings of coders and learning more about how to become a better developer, figuring it would be good to kill two birds with one stone. And, while it has never been clear to me why I would want to kill two birds with stones, it was abundantly clear why I needed to both network and become a better developer. Since I was a self-taught developer, who had spent all my time in academia, I knew there were some holes in my skills and knowledge. In the meantime, I was really loving my new work at the University, but I was a little worried, because I was once again working by myself in a science lab with a bunch of primarily science researchers who knew a little about coding. One day at an event I was talking to people about becoming a better programmer. They were emphasizing pair coding, code reviews, working in a team, etc. and so I asked how I could improve when I worked by myself. One of the developers I was talking to told me that he didn't think anyone could become a great programmer working by themselves. Not the answer I was looking for.

Next post: How I responded

So sue me, I've been busy ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

The Elephant in the Room


MyRamblings, MyLife, Tech, JobHunting

by Maria on 21 Sep 2013 - 06:27  

Elephant, not in a room

For about 13 years, I have worked in a neuroscience lab as a programmer and a sysadmin. The last time I was interviewing for a job, I had to convince my potential employers that I was smart, dedicated, easy to work with, and would get the job done. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at that. I knew very little about how to program, but I convinced my future boss that I had a plan, the dedication, and the smarts, to teach myself how to program, so I was hired as a programmer.

And now I have 13 years experience as a programmer and a system administrator, so theoretically, it should be easier to get a job. Unfortunately, the interview has changed. It is no longer enough to tell the interviewer what I have done, what I can do, and how I work. The amount of information about me that is available to a potential employer is way more than it was 13 years ago. But, this time around, what potential employers really want to know, is can I solve a toy programming problem, while they watch me and evaluate me (or worse, evaluate me over the phone using a shared doc), under more or less a timed condition. These are the worst possible conditions for me to perform under, and this test has nothing to do with how I will perform as an employee. Seriously. It doesn't reflect how well I program or how much I know about programming or what kind of an employee I am.

I understand that everyone gets nervous about interviews. But, clearly, some people do not become as brain dead as I do. I have been working hard to overcome this. I practice as much as I can, but the situation is frustrating. I know that if I continue to practice, I will get better at it, and eventually I will be able to finish an interview without feeling like I can no longer even recite the alphabet. (I find practice interviews help only a little bit, since most of the pressure is missing.) Eventually, with enough time and practice, I'll get lucky, and the interview will consist of questions that don't put me in panic mode. But, why should I have to do this? Why have we settled on this as the process, when it has so little to do with what candidates need to succeed at work? Interestingly, the process favors people who job hop a lot, and therefore get more practice with real interviewing. That, and showoffs.

And why are interviews a particular problem for me?

It isn't the male environment. I've been living in a mostly male world since I started playing tackle football with the neighborhood boys at age 8.

When I was in the Army, I attended a school to learn large diesel truck mechanics. At one point in the school, one of the instructors had me take over the class, because he felt I knew the material better and was a better instructor. As an undergrad, I was fine with teaching the first year physics lab series, even enjoyed it. For years, I taught weight training. Clearly, the problem isn't speaking in front of people.

It is not the white board. As someone who has been in academia for a very long time, I am very intimate with the white board, and even its predecessor, the black board. It is a very useful tool for sharing ideas with others, and I am more than happy to write code on it, if I feel like we are collaborating and/or learning, and not like I am being judged and timed.

It is not the pressure, per se. Pressure I can deal with, and can thrive in. I ran a mail server for years, and there is nothing quite like the pressure of the mail server going down while your colleagues are at an important conference and very dependent on email. This sort of pressure can energize me.

It isn't even that I don't like these sorts of coding problems, I actually do, as long as I'm doing them in my living room in my pajamas for fun.

So, what is it then? I first noticed this problem of my brain shutting down when I was an undergrad in the physics department. I knew the material. I did well on the assignments. And then, I looked at the test and my brain stopped functioning. What was different about physics and auto mechanics? Well, physics is definitely more difficult (unless you're engineering the auto, or troubleshooting the electrical system, and not just replacing the cv boot). But, that certainly can't explain all of it, because I was doing fine on assignments, and even quite a few of the tests, even though I sometimes felt like I was working at half brain capacity. So, it wasn't simply the difficulty of the material.

Instead, I think it was the structure of the testing. In the physics department, the tests were usually designed so that most people wouldn't finish the tests, and so that no one would get a perfect score. They didn't always succeed in their design plan, going in both directions. I remember tests where the mean was 25 out of 100, and I remember tests where a couple of people managed to get perfect scores. But, usually the mean was right around 50%. This was much different from the auto mechanic courses, and quite frankly, different from most of my other college subjects. And it was demoralizing and scary. And it didn't help that instructors often said things like, 'It should be obvious that...', for things I didn't find obvious at all. Fortunately, none of them were patronizing. Oh, wait. And the more I became insecure about my abilities, the more difficult the tests became. I saw this happening, but could not find a way to stop it. I nearly switched majors because of it. I feel the same kind of pressure now in interviews, but there are different factors.

1. As many geeks are, I am an introvert. I have a hard time talking to strangers, especially small talk. I've mostly gotten over this, but when combined with the other three factors, I think it still plays a role.

2. I think before I speak. So, sometimes there are those long pauses that interviewers hate, because they want to know what is going on in your brain. I try to go back, and say this is what I thought of, and why I rejected it, but it is very difficult for me to speak while I am thinking. Weird, I know. Apparently, this is a thing. And, when I realize I have been silent for a while, I get nervous about that, and we start another cycle of brain freeze.

3. I sometimes experience Impostor Syndrome. I am hyper-aware of how much I do not know. I love learning, and am constantly learning and growing, but sometimes the awareness of how much I don't know makes me feel inadequate, hence, an impostor. And admitting that I sometimes experience Impostor Syndrome makes me feel inadequate. Totally kidding, the recursion is not infinite.

4. I do not have formal CS training.

All of this means is that I become particularly terrified during interviews, but NONE of these things has ever had any bearing on my actual work. Impostor Syndrome seems to particularly affect women, and so I have to wonder if it is the confluence of some of these factors: introversion, impostor syndrome and awful tech interviews that discourage geeky women in particular from staying in the tech industry. Of course, it is more complicated than this, but I do believe the interview structure sure can't be helping the numbers of women. If I, and I am stubborn, and I love making my life as difficult as all hell, sometimes wonder if I should bail because of interviews alone, then it must also be a factor for others.

So, what can be done? What is it that employers really need to know about an applicant before they hire them?

1. Will they get the job done? If they don't know something they need to solve the problem, do they know how to figure it out in a reasonable time? Do they know how to google (seriously, this is an art), and regularly use IRC and/or mailing lists? Are they organized, and do they approach problems reasonably systematically? Do they know how to troubleshoot? Are they tenacious? Do they know when to ask a mentor/colleague for help? Are they willing to try new things?

2. Are they reasonably easy to work with?

3. Do they fit in with company culture and the particular team?

Is there anything about the current popular tech interview format that answers these questions?

My best experience with an interview was one in which the interviewer described what the group was working on, and specifically what I would be working on. We discussed ways to move forward on the current project. We discussed existing problems, my ideas on what to do, and their ideas on what to do. We discussed which technologies I had worked with before, how deep my understanding of them was, which ones were new, and how I would get up to speed on the new ones. At the end, I think we both felt pretty comfortable about what we were getting. I understand that sometimes companies don't want to divulge this much information about what they are working on. But, they can certainly say something like, on day 1 when/if you start here, you will be using technologies, A, B, and C. Which of these are you comfortable with, and which do need to get up to speed on? How would you go about getting up to speed? Which combinations of technologies have you used before, and what were the challenges in how they worked together?

Ideas on other ways to understand applicants:

In that interview, we did not sit down and look at any code, but I could imagine sitting down and looking at a bug in some code and discussing how to solve the bug. Since most of a programmers time is spent debugging, refactoring, optimizing, and testing, and often you are dealing with an existing code base, it seems that talking about refactoring and troubleshooting are way better ways to learn how a person thinks, in a way that is relevant to how they will perform on the job. And I do mean talking, not testing their coding ability. In all of the interviews I have had so far, absolutely no one has asked about troubleshooting and refactoring code. Try some pair programming. Have a candidate look at some code and describe to you what they think the code is doing. If the company is sensitive about its code base, maybe they can fork some open source code that is close to a realistic problem they might face, and the interviewer and interviewee could discuss the merits of the code, maybe even hack on it a little, on an actual computer. Yes, if you feel a deep need for the candidate to write some code, at least have them work on a computer, preferably their own, without someone looking over their shoulder. How about some pair programming or or pair troubleshooting so it feels collaborative, and more like what actually working with this person will feel like? Who says you can only discover how someone thinks by talking to them while they are thinking? Why not wait until they are done, and then you can talk about why they made the choices they did, and what other things they thought of and rejected? I have had companies ask me to write sample code, and then bring me in for an interview, and never bring up the sample code at all. That makes no sense to me. Ask them why they made the choices they made, if they have thought of any ways to improve it, etc. Try to help the candidate feel more comfortable, because that is more realistic for how they will work. For coding, stick with computers. Whiteboards are really awesome for discussing concepts, illustrating (literally) what code is doing, and designing, and can be used for these things during interviews, but despite what I said above, they kind of suck for actually writing code.

Recently I was talking to a recruiter at a large company, and he mentioned how this company was going to start offering tech interview classes. Really?!?!?! This is ridiculous. If your interview process is not screening for what you need it to screen for, and if you know there are qualified people out there, that you want to hire, and you find yourself starting to offer them training on how to get through your interview process, then it seems that it is the process that is screwed up, and not all of the qualified applicants who can't seem to jump through your hoops. Think out of the box, employers!

The bottom line is this, if I am treated as if I am an expert, and you are inviting me in to see if I can help you to solve a problem, you are going to get a much better idea of how I work and how I am to work with, than if you give me a random problem to solve and ask me to solve it on the whiteboard while you watch me and your watch.


Other people complaining about tech interviews in interesting ways:

The Elephant in the Room ~ Comments: 2

Add Comment

Thanks Mike!


Tech, MyRamblings, MyLife, Kids

by Maria on 28 Feb 2013 - 01:38  

I thought about waiting another couple of weeks before posting, so it wouldn't be so obvious that I have been seriously delinquent with posting, but heh, life happens. And lots of life has happened. For starters, my son was born last April. Insert requisite photo here:

Attach:bash.jpg Δ

So, for a while I chose sleep over blogging. So goes it.

Another life that happened is that my boss moved to Columbia University in NY. We decided not to follow him, so I have been slowly beginning the job hunt process. I'm nervous and excited. Looking forward to the new challenge. I've learned so much working for Mike. It has given me a sampling of all kinds of stuff, and allowed me to recognize what I am truly interested in, programming, while giving me a broad base of skills that complement coding.

Mike, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to work in your lab. It has been a great adventure. I was given freedom to build what I thought was needed. A diverse and awesome team to work with. Guidance when it was needed. Fun and interesting projects to work on. I loved making movies for your talks. Creating movies that were a truly accurate representation of the lab experiments was challenging and intriguing. Working in neuroscience, I practiced the scientific method. As a system administrator, I gained awesome problem solving and troubleshooting skills. Working on projects while being responsible for the day to day running of the servers and being a consultant to others in the lab (and in the neuroscience community in general) taught me organizational skills and improved my communication. Not to mention the value of good documentation and testing, testing, testing. And, of course, a greater appreciation of soccer and jazz.

As this job ends, I have also decided to combine my tech writing and my blog writing more, instead of having a separate part of my website for "work", which often just ended up being "anything tech I ran into and found interesting or hard to figure out and wanted to document". I was reluctant to write tech stuff in my blog, because that is often a work in progress, and I was trying not to edit my blog entries (much), once they were written. But, heh, this is my blog, so I can make the rules, and I'd rather start using the blog for tech stuff as well as life ramblings so that I can take advantage of keywords and stuff. So, there you go, some blog entries are going to evolve over time as I learn.

And, for some inspiration:

To me, coding is writing stuff that makes computers come to life. In the Wizard of Oz the wizard is seen as a fraud, creating smoke and mirrors to hide that he is an ordinary man, but I like to think of it as being the ordinary person that is proud to be the wizard that by just writing "stuff" makes wondrous things happen.

Thanks Mike! ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment



Health, Kids, myLife

by maria on 24.01.2010 - 14:21  

The bad news is that my daughter has another migraine. The good news is that I think we have discovered a major trigger. It appears she most often gets migraines when she doesn't get enough sleep. I've thought for years that it is very important for children to get plenty of sleep, and certainly this is the case for Tanika.

Here is a great link about children and sleep:


We have found that we need to put Tanika to bed at 9pm on school nights. She gets up around 6:30, so assuming it takes her 15 min. or so to go to sleep, she sleeps around 9 hours. This seems to be about right for her, as she usually gets up pretty easily on this schedule. I use to think that when she had a big assignment at school that she wasn't going to get finished in time, I should let her stay up to finish it. I'm rethinking this now. Since she is still in Middle school, I think it is probably better that she takes the hit on not having her assignment done, and gets her full sleep instead. And we teach her how to plan out her homework and not wait to the last minute, because school work is important, but school work is going to suffer without sleep, and sleep needs to take top priority, or else she literally suffers. While it is true that the migraines seem to occur when her sleep is seriously deprived (they seem to follow sleepovers most often), I think that even small losses in sleep are bad for her.

Migraines ~ Comments: 1

Add Comment

Such a Ho


Politics, myLife

by maria on 10.08.2009 - 00:35  

I was hanging out with some friends recently, when they began talking about someone they knew in high school. They called her a ho. I did not call them on it. Maybe because I did not know said girl. But it should not have mattered. It really doesn't matter whether she fulfilled some criteria for being a ho. The term ho is offensive. Very. Should not be used to refer to anyone. The old double standard. It would never have even crossed their mind to care about a label for a guy from high school who slept around. I wish I would have said something. I don't understand why it took so long for the offense to even register. Why it wasn't until much later that night that I said to myself, 'wait a minute, they called some girl a ho; I should have said something'. Next time I hope my brain isn't in such slow motion.

Such a Ho ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

Road Trip



by me on 25.05.2009 - 23:20  

We are done with our roadtrip! Well, I'm still in California for a couple more days, but Tanika is now back in Washington. Below was our final itinerary. We had a really great time, and pictures are on the web.


The times are approximate driving times, but we found them to be pretty close.

Current tentative itinerary:

  • June 27th, AM: Fly to Salt Lake City, drive to Vernal (~3 hour drive)
  • June 28th - July 2nd Yampa River Trip
  • July 2nd - July 4th Timpanagos Cave National Monument,
  • July 4th Dinosaur museum
  • July 5th - return to Salt Lake City, Mormon Temple, David flies back to Seattle 3:10pm
  • July 5th from Salt Lake City to Bryce, 4 hrs, 2 nights
  • July 7th 2 hrs to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 3 nights
  • July 9th Capitol Reef 2 hrs, afternoon, drove on to Moab
  • July 10th Moab 2:30 hrs, 2-3 nights Arches and Canyonlands
  • July 14th Canyonlands
  • July 17th Mesa Verde 2 hrs, 1 night
  • July 18th Four Corners 1 hr
  • July 18th Monument Valley 2 hrs, 1 night
  • July 19th Page 2 hrs, 2 nights (Antelope Canyon)
  • July 21st Vermillion Cliffs 1 hr, 1 night (Buckskin Gulch)
  • July 22nd Grand Canyon 2 hrs, 1 night
  • July 23nd Zion 3 hrs, 2 nights
  • July 25th - 8 hrs to Bakersfield 2 nights (visit Pat & clan)
  • July 27th - 4:30 hrs to Bay area, hang out here and Davis rest of trip
  • July 30th - Tanika returns to Seattle from SF (6:05PM), I hang out in bay area and Davis, visit friends
  • August 5th - I return to Salt Lake City and fly home (flight is Aug. 6th 11:14AM)

Road Trip ~ Comments: 2

Add Comment




by maria on 30.04.2009 - 01:43  

Before I got married I had no intention of getting married. I got married because otherwise I had to separate from my boyfriend for a year and a half. My suspicions about marriage were confirmed, and I myself fell into a couple of marriage traps. The biggest one is complacency. We will be together no matter what, so I can let loose. Nothing like taking a relationship for granted to cause it to fall apart. It has since come to my attention that there are other reasons for complacency in relationships, but I still maintain that marriage is the biggest and baddest. The second marriage trap is the expectation. At the same time that you are starting to take the relationship for granted, your expectations of the relationship suddenly increase. Weirdly enough, not just your expectations for the other person. Suddenly you think you need to give up this or the other thing, or make some sacrifice that has never been requested, because wives do x or husbands do y. Or maybe you think you are suppose be spending time or money on something, but turns out the other person has entirely different expectations, and may not even notice you bending over backwards for something they couldn't care less about. We find ourselves acting as if there is some model that we must all follow. Some model based on fairytales and tv shows and our own baggage... Of course I thought I could get around all of this by just not marrying again. Silly me, don't know what I was thinking. Becoming a nun might have saved me from it, but that would have landed me in a padded room instead, I expect, or I would be like one of the priests photographed with a woman. Celibacy, shmelibacy.

marriage ~ Comments: 2

Add Comment

Bobbie Hort



by Maria on 22.10.2008 - 01:26  

Bobbie and Harold Hort
Bobbie and Harold Hort

My aunt died a few days ago. It was not unexpected, as her health was poor, but it was still too soon. I had hoped to visit her again before she passed, but it seems I waited too long. I hope she knew how much I loved and appreciated her. We never lived very near each other, but I always enjoyed visiting her. I always thought it was quite special that my daughter was born on the same day as Bobbie, November 14.

I left for the army when I was just 17 years old, and after training I was stationed in Korea for a year. I then moved to Fort Hood, Texas. I lived there for two and a half years, and the only person from my family that ever visited me there was Bobbie, who came down from Nebraska and stayed with us for a few days. I was so grateful to have that contact, as my time in the army was far from easy.

Thank you Bobbie.

Bobbie's old farm holds so many wonderful memories for me. When I was young, playing on the farm, surrounded by family and animals, was like a little piece of heaven. Until my brother and I discovered that red ants bite. Being city folks, the farm was an infinite source of new intrigues. Bobbie is always central to that memory. She always had a fun story and words of wisdom. Not to mention a bit of candy.

Thank you Bobbie.

She was an inspiration. First woman firefighter in the state of Nebraska. I remember learning that and thinking how cool, that's my aunt. She weathered some mighty storms, and helped others to weather theirs.

Thank you Bobbie.

It is very unfortunate that I don't believe I ever told her these things. I hope she knew that she was an inspiration to me, that I very much appreciated having her as an aunt, and that I love her and will miss her.

I have posted some pictures.

Bobbie Hort ~ Comments: 1

Add Comment

West Coast Trail


myLife, Travel

by maria on 01.09.2008 - 18:40  

West Coast Trail

Lessons learned while on the West Coast Trail, in no particular order:

1. Do not wear new boots for the first time on this trail. When we were getting ready to head out at the trailhead, we ran into some people who were just finishing their trip on the trail. One of the guys literally had his boots completely wrapped in duct tape. The boots were defective, and within the first few miles, the soles had begun to fall off. He had managed to hike the entire trail on his duct taped boots, but I imagine most people would have chosen to bail.

Note: Duct taped boots should not be considered waterproof.

2. If you find yourself saying, 'I don't have time to read the map', it is probably a good time to find somewhere safe, and find time to read the map.

3. Spaghetti straps are not a good idea under a heavy backpack.

4. Two pairs of socks, even if clean and dry, but especially if not, is not really enough for a five to eight day hike that takes you continuously either through either a rain forest or along a beach.

5. Mole skin doesn't work particularly well while hiking over difficult terrain, especially when feet are wet. Bandaids with duct tape is probably a better option.

6. Always bring duct tape. See #1 and #5.

7. If you are going to be backpacking on a beach and through a rain forest, make sure you check that your stuff that is suppose to be waterproof, say boots or a tent, really is waterproof before said trip. Along the same lines, don't expect stuff to dry out when hiking in a rain forest.

8. Time is somewhat less reliable on Vancouver Island. Locals definitely operate on their own time, and it may or may not coincide with yours.

9. Olive oil, shallots and garlic are worth their weight in a backpack. They make everything taste better.

10. Double bag everything that is in the slightest bit liquidy. Use stuff sacks and dry bags to compartmentalize your pack and keep everything dry. Have extra bags.

Probably best not to ask how I learned most of these, but I will say I did learn from other's mistakes as well as my own. ;-)

A word of advice about reservations for the WCT: Don't bother spending the non-refundable deposit to try to get a reservation. Chances are you won't get one anyway. Instead, go directly to the trailhead and put yourself on the waitlist. Go ahead and sit through the orientation, and you should be able to get on the trail within a day or two. The waitlist rolls over, so if you don't get on the trail that day, you move up to the top of the list for the next day.

This is without a doubt the best book about the trail:


To see the pictures, and read about our adventure, go to my WCT photo page Also, I've posted some videos.

West Coast Trail ~ Comments: 1

Add Comment



myLife, Kids

by me again on 16.07.2008 - 01:43  

The year I was eleven was a big year for me and my brother. That was the year my grandmother died. The year we missed a couple of months of school. That was also the year my brother and I lived with friends in Rochester, NY for a month or two while our parents got settled in our new home in Steilacoom, WA. That was the year Mt. St. Helens blew. That was the year we moved across the country. Things were never the same after that year, not even remotely. The next ten years were the most difficult of my life. I had a lot of fun, but it was also the school of very hard knocks. So, now my daughter is eleven. And now I wonder, what should I do? She can't really learn from my mistakes, but maybe she can, a little. What do I tell her, what do I not tell her? Should I try to protect her as much as possible while I can? She has already had more knocks than I, at eleven. When is the best time to first encounter the real hard school of knocks? And how can we be best prepared (or prepare our kids)? a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,q, Ahrrr!

eleven ~ Comments: 1

Add Comment

living where I walk



by me on 09.07.2008 - 15:19  

I love where I live. Yes, it would be nice to be a block or two closer to the water, away from the rentals and abandoned houses, but overall, I love where I live. Today, I was frustrated with work, and didn't know how to proceed. I walked three blocks from my house to the University's horticulture center. I didn't solve my work problems, but, man, their gardens are really beautiful right now. Flowers blooming, everything very lush and green, sumptuous smells, birds singing. More gorgeous gardens are on the other side of the horitulture center. Beyond the gardens is the Union Bay Natural Area, which ages ago use to be a dump, but is being restored to wetlands. These days it is a lovely place to take a walk, right next to the water, and with its fair share of wildlife. This and a gym separate me from my place of work. Not bad. Additionally, there are tons of restaurants, cafes, and various stores in easy walk of my house. And, one of the largest bike trails in the city, the Burke-Gilman bike trail is a block away. The biggest drawback to where I live? My boyfriend's commute, which he has put up with for about 7 years now. I wish I could make his commute go away, but the city isn't helping me with that one. Too bad we can't exchange work places, and I could just take the commute for a while; it would only be fair.

living where I walk ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

Tanika's poem for Ella


myLife, Kids

by maria on 07.04.2008 - 16:16  


I am the hot sun reflecting on a sparkling lake
I am a light bulb in a lone child's mind
I am close, yet so far away
I am the song you're sung to sleep with
I am the child of your dreams and worst nightmares
I am the black cat that loves to play
I am the loneliness of an only child
I am a rainbow, yet I am the moon
I am the money that will come soon
I am the teddy bear you hug so close
I am the traveler, yet I try not to boast
I am the cousin that I loved so dear
I wish
I wish that you were still here
I wish
I wish that you were still near
I hope
I hope you will come back somehow
Goodbye, just for now

by Tanika Mckinley, 11 years old, dedicated to her cousin, Ella Hinds

Tanika's poem for Ella ~ Comments: 4

Add Comment

Phone Scam



by Maria on 20.03.2008 - 17:36  

I got a phone call the other day that was a recording explaining how I was about to miss out on an opportunity to get a lower interest rate on one of my credit cards. The recording did not say which credit card or company, but wanted me to press a button to talk someone about my account. I hung up the phone and started laughing. The day one of my credit card companies decides to call me and offer me a lower rate is the day I eat my shorts. They will, however, send me a long letter with lots of fine print and legaleeze and bury in it that they are about to raise my interest rate, and to protest I have to write a letter to protest the action within about a week. The scammers seem to have better customer service.

Phone Scam ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment

christian god


Religion, myLife

by maria on 12.03.2008 - 23:29  

So, when I was in Uganda, these very nice girls were braiding my hair for the wedding, and one of them asked me if I was born again. I told her no, well, actually I had been born again when I was in sixth grade, but I no longer believed. She asked me why, and I explained how I got very turned off of Christianity, because I had met so many that were horrible hypocrites, and some that were just plain mean. We kind of left it at that. I thought about bringing up the inherent unfairness of Christianity, but decided that her religion seemed to be doing her good, and if she wanted to drop pressing her religion on me, then I wasn't going to try to dissuade her from her religion. But, I do have to wonder what born again Christians think about the inherent unfairness of being born again. I remember being bothered by it as a child, and I would think it would bother adults enough to dissuade them, but clearly I'm wrong. There I go again, assuming people make choices like this rationally.

So, I was taught that even if someone had never met a Christian or heard anything about Christianity, if they failed to somehow decide to take Christ into their hearts, even having never heard of him, then they would go to hell. This was why it was so important to proselytize to anyone and everyone you possibly could. Which I also found unbearable, as I am not a saleswoman, but that is a side point. My point is that it just seems so random. So, if I grow up in a muslim family, surrounded by other muslims, never hear of Jesus (Ok, this was a bit more realistic a few years ago, but still, it could happen!), and then die, then that's it, I go to hell? Doesn't matter that I was an outstanding muslim, and that I lived a godly life? Maybe I was a better Christian (ie, lived according to the teachings of Christ, just by coincidence), then Jimmy Swaggart (I mean, how hard is that?), but I still go to hell, and Jimmy goes to heaven? What kind of grace is that? Oh, wait, even better. I am a completely despicable person. Someone teaches me about the invisible pink unicorn, and I see the error of my ways, beg forgiveness, and become a loving, wonderful person. Ok, maybe not the unicorn, but this does happen to people with religions other than Christianity, but they are apparently also screwed, because they called the god that they prayed to for forgiveness the wrong name. So much for grace.

I don't get the whole faith bit either. I am suppose to believe in Christianity, even though I have no proof, because of faith? But if I choose to believe in the flying spaghetti monster based on faith, and also no proof, then I am screwed. Humph. But, since I was taught that once you are born again, you are always born again, I'm ok, because I really was sincere in sixth grade. :-p


christian god ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment



Travel, myLife, Charities

by maria on 12.02.2008 - 20:41  

My very dear friend Dorothy married a wonderful man from Uganda last year in New York city. They had a fantastic wedding, and I have some pictures from that wedding on my old web site. Unfortunately my camera was not behaving well for that particular trip, so the pictures are limited, and not the greatest. This year they had another wedding, this time in Uganda, following Ugandan traditions as much as possible. Calvin runs a charity called Pilgrim, which assists Ugandans who are in need. It does this using a multi-armed approach. They help in several of the IDP camps, giving assistance directly to families. This assistance comes in many different flavours. They help the people in the camps to begin to pick up their lives, often by helping them to farm by providing seed and other necessities for farming. As well as the direct assistance of food, shelter, clothing and medical attention for people in the camps, they have created groups to help people with trauma, as many of these people have seen family members killed or abducted by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) or the Karamojong or have themselves been abducted. They work to help to get the children back into school. When there was extreme flooding at the end of last year, they were one of the first aide groups to respond, ferrying people out of the flood zones, and working with other organizations to bring food, clothing, and medical aid to the people displaced by the flooding. They also run a secondary school, which is targeted towards children from the camps, and most of which are sponsored by Pilgrim or their sister organization Three Loaves, which Dorothy directs. Currently they are involved in a radical program to eliminate malaria in the Teso region. Most of their work is done in an area of the country called Teso, which includes the village where Calvin's family is from, and is now one of the poorest regions of Uganda. Click on Dorothy's picture for more pictures and commentary from our trip to Uganda to attend her wedding, and to see the work that Pilgrim is doing in Uganda.

Uganda ~ Comments: 0

Add Comment