Thoughts on 37

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According to the calendar and math, I just turned 37 years old. This meets most definitions of adulthood. I’m a parent, and a wife. I have a professional portfolio with 15 years worth of stuff in it. I’m employable and pretty much have my shit together. Of course, none of this means a thing. I’m the same dumbass I was in college.

As I’m constantly reminding my daughter (who is 2 and concerned with such things) we get a little bigger every day until we grow up. For her, that’s enough. For me, growing up is an ongoing campaign.

After childhood, an extensive support network surrounding the products we buy encourages us to spend our energy trying to look and act like the people we briefly were in our early 20s. The desire to grow up is subsumed by a need to stop growing or changing.

I started dying my hair to cover up grey when I was 24. My fair skin and fear of the sun got me a brief reprieve from wrinkles. General immaturity and bad impulse control made me seem younger than my age. Postponing motherhood helped as well. I put myself on pause.

When I became pregnant, I stopped dying my hair. Weight gain and bloat changed my face, and I was too damned tired to indulge in any silly nonsense. Everything hurt and I aged ten years in a few months. I was still the same dumbass, but without the honors and privileges awarded to youth. There was some mitigating churn around “oh look a pregnant lady how sweet” but it didn’t kick in for six months and was offset by vomiting and crippling depression.

Some time has passed, and I’m suddenly 37. Parenthood has reshaped my priorities. I have become Erica’s Earning Potential, Erica’s Ability to Absorb Interruption, Erica’s Immune System, and Erica’s Ability to Feed Her Family.

Endless undignified tasks arise when you’ve chosen to subsume personal ambition to create an environment where a potentially decent interesting child can grow and exist. There are no awards, there is no press coverage, and everyone involved forgets the details.

This isn’t the narcissism of Midwestern modesty (“Oh it’s nothing, here let me get that. Well maybe someday when I’m rich.”) or a perversion of patriarchal beauty standards. My sudden need for mid-afternoon naps and my enduring relationship with Ibuprofen and the heating pad argue against anything so energetic. Being punk rock is a lot of work. This is different. This is mom jeans and uncombed hair.

This is some organic freerange not-giving-a-shit.

I don’t try to look younger unless it assists the new priorities which are focused around people other than myself. I clean up ok, and I’ll do the thing where I get into lady drag when I go to job interviews or meetings with people who aren’t my work bros. I brush my teeth so my husband will kiss me, and I continue to fool him into thinking I’m pinup-hot.

But seriously? That food stain on my shirt is going to stay there. And I’m going to look right at you and talk anyway. I’m going to have opinions and expect a response even though I’m not wearing a particularly coordinated outfit because that’s what I’ve gained by becoming my own age. I’m not on pause anymore, and I didn’t lose anything of value.

I’m still the same dumbass I was in college, so why shouldn’t I claim the column of space around my body and fill it with something useful? I’m not here to be decorative. I don’t have to be, and neither do you.

So here’s to 37 and the freedom it brings. Here’s to being alive for no particular reason and not mattering much. Here’s to reeling around doing your best. And here’s to writing about it, because questioning that urge doesn’t help much either.

Good to be here, everyone. Hope you are well.

Hey, Library of Congress. Cut that shit out.

Oh hello Library of Congress. I didn’t see you there. Nice running into you like this!

glassesbuttonYou know, I’ve always admired your electronic resources and open-minded collections policies. My undergraduate university and career have both profited from your generous grantmaking, and your reading room sure is fun to visit when I’m in town!

Being a big organization sucks, doesn’t it? You do your best but, well, you can’t keep track of everything. Sometimes you just end up with people in charge of the Congressional Research Service, who for whatever reason, act like complete dumbfucks.

Revolutionary LibrarianYou must be very embarrassed. I mean, rescinding a job offer because you thought the candidate’s upcoming gender reassignment was…what? Icky?

You had better be fucking embarrassed. The federal court recently fined you $500,000 for your treatment of former Army Special Forces Commander Diane Schroer, who, I suspect, has better things to do than get jerked around by library staff.

I mean, career damage and humiliation aside, it seems like an anti-terrorism analyst’s time might be better spent out of court FIGHTING TERRORISM. A subject you DC dwellers seem to get pretty excited about under normal circumstances.
What’s going on here Library of Congress? Couldn’t think of anything better to do with 500 grand? I wonder how many smaller libraries out there could say the same.

So tell me, is it really easier to house decision makers capable of grossly immoral and illegal actions than it is to cull employees who show these traits? Are Library jobs really so stable that a hiring manager feels comfortable acting on overt prejudice?

And who is this legacy codger you’ve been harboring anyway? A political appointee from the 1880s?  Are there really adults in this world who have never met a transwoman and are ALL AFLUTTER by the idea?

If so, perhaps it might help to read a book or two on the subject. You might enjoy this one from your own extensive archives:

An examination of discrimination against transgender Americans in the workplace: hearing before the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives.

Anyway Library of Congress, It’s a brand new administration and I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson. I expect your excellent reference staff will happily direct anyone who has experienced this kind of hiring discrimination to the ACLU.

A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

Domestic Violence: Legal Resources

A friend is going through this. She needs legal advice and low-income resources.

Here’s the best of what I’ve found:

  • WomensLaw.org – Incredibly clear and useful site with an excellent FAQ, state-by-state help, info on shelters, courthouse locations, legal forms, advice.
  • Battered Women’s Justice Project – Contact list for state Domestic Violence coalitions – These groups can provide individual *advocates* who are familiar with state laws and resources.
  • American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence pdf guide to attaining a lawyer

I’ve been finding a lot of links-to-lists-of-links. If you know of any *easy to use* resources that would help a mother with no money avoid a murderous creep, please comment, and thank you.

I DOOOOO! RAWR!

bridezilla rawrCurrent TV has a segment called “Target Women” that I absolutely love.

In this episode, Sarah Haskins, who is frikking hilarious, introduces us to the helpful and empowering phenomenon known as Wedding Television.

She gently mocks shows like Bridezilla, Rich bride Poor bride, Platinum brides, and other affronts to sanity.

As you know, marriage is only for skinny rich people. At one point, Sarah appears in bike shorts and a sports bra, comparing her normal body to the “horrible fat future” picture used to scare a woman into bridal fitness on a show called “Bulging Brides”.

This video made me feel so much better about my lazais faire approach to wedding planning. See ya in Detroit in December, friends.

I’ll be the one wearing some sort of dress.

Research obsession: Medical Students for Choice

I’m going to show my political underpants briefly (har har. briefly.) and write about Medical Students for Choice.

Lately I’ve tried to keep my politics off of this website out of respect for the wonderful diversity of people who have taken librarianship as an identity.*

msfctshirt1.jpgHowever, I promised to keep you updated on the research topics I pursue in my off hours.

One of the topics I follow obsessively is the state of reproductive law in the US. I attended the March for Women’s Lives in 2004, and I came away with a new awareness of the scope and diversity of topics affecting women’s health, including poverty, contraceptive access, sex education, sexual violence, racism, and medical research, to name a few. The topic of women’s health goes well beyond the ethics and philosophy of the abortion debate.

One of the groups I most enjoyed seeing were the Medical Students for Choice, young mostly female medical students dedicated to raising awareness of the need to train abortion providers among the medical community.

msfc.jpgImagine a sea of women.

Imagine the mall in Washington DC on a warm sunny day. Imagine the grass and the voices. Everywhere you look there are signs, women, booths, friends, groups, people walking, people sitting, young women, old women, men of all ages and stripes, people of every color, signs from every US state and territory.

Imagine a group of women wearing white lab coats with stethoscopes around their necks, walking in small groups, smiling, talking, and holding signs saying “Medical Students for Choice.”

Some wore badges saying “Future abortion provider.” Some carried signs showing the number of women and young girls who die or are injured from unsafe abortions.

It was like watching a herd of beautiful gazelles as they walked through the chaos of the largest protest in US history. These women snapped with intelligence, kindness, and competence.

Seeing them made me stronger.

I don’t write this to inspire the same old arguments among friends. We can all agree that women’s physical safety is important, regardless of our deeper beliefs.

I love you guys. I’ll get back to writing trivia soon, I promise!

______________

*Yes, I think librarianship is an identity as well as a profession. More on this later.

Three things I learned from migrating a WordPress site over to GoDaddy

Erica! Where ya been?
Glad you asked.

credit.jpgI’ve been off avenging. Specifically, I’ve been avenging the less-than-impressive webhosting capacity of my former ISP-who-shall-remain-nameless. I switched to GoDaddy recently, and spent a good amount of time cleaning everything up, updating, and migrating my databases. I also spent a good amount of time berating the salesman about GoDaddy’s stupid ads which seem to assume no women could possibly be potential customers. Can you say heteronormativity? GoDaddy sure as hell can.

Three things I learned from migrating a self-hosted WordPress site over to GoDaddy:

  1. You’re going to need a static IP address if you want to get everything set up and see how the site looks before switching over your domain name. Otherwise you can’t test your WP install and that my friends is playing with fire.
  2. You’re going to want to do it quickly, otherwise you will lose people’s comments and you’ll have to keep going back and re-uploading the database. So no slackin’.
  3. If you are using OS X (why would you use anything else? silly monkey.), Apple’s native ftp application Fetch is actually really good at grabbing entire directories and recursing them without a lot of permissions/ok buttons to deal with.

So here’s the new site, just like the old site but with better traffic-handling ability and more prominent text-link ads. Yay!
*Thanks sponsors! My car payment thanks you! My cat thanks you! My landlord thanks you!

Upstate fucking glory, books

Spring birds are yelling from snowy trees this morning. It’s spring, despite wind, snow, roaring wood stove, and other evidence to the contrary. I’m taking today off of work. I’ve got nine stitches. I can do whatever I want.

I finished re-reading Microserfs by Douglas Copeland yesterday. This book was important to me at a formulative time. It helped convince me it was cool to be a nerd. It introduced other tech-inclined women to my humanities-girdled world. It drew a model of unashamed geekery, separate and outside of a traditionally-female need for perfection and image. It was pretty liberating.

An excerpt:

Susan is 26 and works in Mac Applications. If Susan were a Jeopardy! contestant, her dream board would be:

* 680X0 assembly language
* Cats
* Early ’80s haircut bands
* “My secret affair with Rob in the Excel Group”
* License plate slogans of America
* Plot lines from The Monkees
* The death of IBM

Susan’s an IBM brat and hates that company with a passion. She credits it with ruining her youth by transferring her family eight times before she graduated from high school – and the punch line is that the company gave her father the boot last year during a wave of restructuring. So nothing too evil can happen to IBM in her eyes.

Susan’s a real coding machine. But her abilities are totally wasted reworking old code for something like the Norwegian Macintosh version of Word 5.8.

Thanks for your kind comments last night during my Dark Night of the Beer. Friendly words were unexpected and wonderful. I often forget that there are people out there. Hello imaginary people. It’s as though my fictional heroes (Elizabeth Bennet! Harriet The Spy! Meg from Wrinkle in Time!) suddenly started interacting.

Off to haul wood one-armed and scour Craigslist for cars. What would your Dream Jeopardy! categories be?

Virgin/Whore = Librarian/Librarian

Ah the joy of working in a traditionally female profession around Halloween!

Take your pick, ladies and gentlemen, do you prefer your objectification in the form of Sexy Librarian, or Old Lady Librarian?

Here are the search results from yet another hunt for Librarian costumes. The first two you may familiar with, the last provides a charming alternative.

It has been pointed out in some circles (hi coworkers!) that I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to the care and feeding of library professionals. Please allow the above image, as well as the profession’s appalling wages speak on my behalf.