Bay to Breakers 2015

Last week, the Hus-friend and I ran Bay to Breakers, where you run from the bay across the city to the “breakers” (the ocean). Since it’s such a goofy event, I didn’t feel any pressure to run quickly, which was good because we had gotten in late the night before from the beach.

We didn’t run in costumes, sorry to disappoint.

tortillas, bay to breakers

At the starting line, people throw tortillas in the air. I got hit with a few, but it was worth it to see tortillas flying through the air.

While I was waiting, the couple next to me started taking selfies, so I photobombed them by smiling broadly at the camera. When they inspected their photo, they must have noticed me. They looked over at me, frowned, and then turned away from me to take another selfie. Whatever. I would have enjoyed being photobombed by a random stranger at a race full of naked people. (There was definitely also a guy videotaping his junk at the start. At least I wasn’t that guy.)

starting line, bay to breakers

It’s pretty hard to run Bay to Breakers for time because it’s such a party. I had to dodge and weave around drunken revelers, slowly walking five abreast. And I definitely got a splash of pee on my legs as I ran by some guy just urinating in the middle of Howard street. That was great. Not.

The biggest challenge for me was the Hayes Street Hill. I made a point not to walk, so I ended up running v-e-r-y slowly. It was a struggle, and I was definitely out of breath by the end! However, I do think I’m getting better at running hills. Thanks, SF. (Apparently, I ranked 536th out of 1426 participants in the “Hayes Street Hill Challenge.” Okay.)

Still, it’s more of a family-friendly event than you would expect given the amount of nudity (Dick count: 15+) and recreational drug use. It’s hard to imagine an event with both old naked guys and families pushing kids in strollers all just running together anywhere but San Francisco, and that makes it really special. For example, I saw some pre-teen boys passing out water in Golden Gate park as two naked guys ran by. The boys glanced over and then just kept passing out water cups; they didn’t even point or say anything. I was impressed. I bet their parents made a point to teach them acceptance and open-mindedness.

Despite the nudity and drunkenness (or perhaps, because of that has made the race a big deal now) Bay to Breakers is a very corporate event. I got no fewer than five pre-race emails from Zappos telling me to download the app or buy branded swag. The post-race party was full of swag and samples and…people. I did appreciate the free potato chips I got though.

post Bay to Breakers

Just look at that sunny California beach!

After meeting back up, the Hus-friend and I walked back through Golden Gate park, which was a fun way to see different costumes. I really enjoyed the “jellyfish,” though decorated umbrellas seem like such a pain to carry for 7.5 miles.jellyfish, Bay to Breakers

I’m glad that not all races are that crowded or crazy or full of drunk people, but I’m also glad that Bay to Breakers exists. (Full disclosure: I used my wellness stipend from work to cover most of my entry fee, so that made it a lot more “worth” it to me.) I’ll probably run it again next year!

I really didn’t care at all about my time, but here’s the breakdown of my race. Man, I love downhill miles.

Bay to Breakers data

Party plane with Roommate Tina!

To get back to the East Coast for our beach trip, a red-eye was the easiest and most cost-effective option. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a direct flight, so the Hus-friend scheduled the longest leg first so that we could get some sleep. This meant a long flight to Philly, a layover, and then a short flight to Richmond.

While at dimsum, I mentioned to Tina that we were flying to Philly en route to Richmond. As it turns out, she and Ben were going back to Virginia for his brother’s graduation that weekend, and we were on the same flight to Philly!

This meant that we got to hang out at the gate beforehand, which made me really happy for some reason. Maybe because I’m normally just traveling with my boring, old husband (Haha, no, just kidding.).

“Let’s take a picture together, Tina,” I said.

“Okaaaaaay,” said Tina.

MICA & TINA

“Wow, we look really Asian,” said Tina.

So we took some more!

IMG_4640

MICA & TINA

IMG_4643

IMG_4641

(Notice Ben in the background, actively ignoring us.)
(Notice Ben in the background, actively ignoring us.)

Party plane forever!

party plane

Tina and Ben’s flight from Philly to Richmond was supposed to leave before ours, but it got delayed. So we ended up in Richmond before them and actually saw them as they were arriving!

It’s really cool that Tina and I have been friends since high school. And she, Ben, and the Hus-friend have known each other since middle school. Isn’t that crazy?

I was actually going through my old external hard drive last night and found a video of us (inexplicably dressed the same?), singing a song from the movie Slackers.

Tina & Mica, HS talent show

And also, this really cool photo of us from college:

studyingishard

Ashley are coming to visit tomorrow, so it’ll be a mini-reunion (+Kyle) in SF for the long holiday weekend! YAYAYAY!

Are you still in touch with any childhood friends?

Dunemaker 2015

The Internet was spotty down in Carova Beach, NC, but it was better that way: I got to spend my “beach week” doing off-the-grid things. I caught up on sleep, knit two hats and most of a pair of socks, read some books, and went for long walks and found, like, a bajillion whelks.

whelks, moon snails, keyole limpet

I’m a really picky shell collector and only pick up ones that are “perfect.” It makes it more of a challenge that way! (Or maybe I’m just neurotic.) The limpet I found in the photo above is called a “keyhole limpet” because of the shape of its top opening. Also, did you know whelks are “right-” and “left-handed?” I didn’t!

While looking for information about dextral vs. sinistral whelks, I stumbled on some lady’s shell collecting blog. For a hot second, I considered becoming a shell collector hobbyist, but in the end, collecting is so anti-minimalist. I did giggle a lot about the get-togethers I found called “Shell-and-Tells” and referring to one’s finds as “beach bling.” Would you still be my friend if I were an obsessive shell collector?

The Outer Banks (OBX) are so neat, and the area where we were staying is accessible only by 4×4 driving on the beach. This remoteness means that there isn’t much light pollution at night. And best of all, you’re staying where the wild horses (descended from shipwrecked Spanish mustangs) live and roam. I mean, right when we got there, we were greeted by these two horses, silhouetted by a DOUBLE-FREAKING-RAINBOW on the beach.

wild horses & double rainbow

You don’t even have to go looking for the horses. They’re just there, walking around in your driveway:

horses by cars

Or, perhaps, finding some grass to eat in your backyard:

wild horses, OBXIt’s funny how quickly you become accustomed to their presence, but it’s evident that they are still wild animals. Visitors are required to maintain a 50′ distance from the horses, so often, I would have to run in large arcs around them on the beach. This year, they were pretty crazy, apparently due to mating season and biting flies. A few times, we were run off by a stallion that deemed us too close to his “harem!”

The Hus-friend’s favorite part about this beach vacation is the fact that there are so many people in the house at once, so you’re basically never lacking for interaction. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage of staying in a remote beach house. For this week, we tend to switch roles: he is more social, while I’m content to sit by myself, reading or knitting. As the house’s only Modern Face of Temperance, it gets to be overwhelming for me when everyone is jolly and imbibing. I jokingly said that next year, if we get a bigger house, there should be an add-on “Temperance Cottage” where people can come visit for quiet reflection and old-lady crafts.

Because it’s a 20+ minute drive into town, we bring in most of the food for the week, and each night, one couple/family is responsible for dinner. On our night, Mom and I made macaroni and cheese, pork tenderloin, and a big green salad.

Mica & Mom with salad(I also baked  oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, cheese biscuits, and keylime pie.)

On our last night, we had a “juggle off,” after discovering that Teddy is an officially trained (and card holding) clown named Wrinkles.

Teddy balancing broom

The Hus-friend was the dark horse of the competition, much to everyone’s delight. I didn’t capture this in the photo, but Mitch (my step-sister’s father-in-law) was in the background, arms raised in the air, yelling, “WHAT? CAN EVERYONE IN THIS HOUSE JUGGLE?!?!?”

jugglingWe did escape the Dunemaker madness for an afternoon, going in to the town of Duck, NC (also on the OBX) with Dad and Pat. They come down to visit with us but stay in Corolla, NC (also on the OBX). This, of course, meant that we needed a coastal Carolina selfie.

selfie with Dad

Question: Does it count as a “selfie” if you take it with a digital camera and not with your phone? The Hus-friend says that a true selfie is taken in the spirit of sharing it from your phone on social media. Dad insists that a selfie is any photo taken of yourself.

Now that we live on the West Coast, the trip to Carova Beach is not insignificant in terms of time, energy, and money. Still, my love for the Outer Banks is boundless, and it’s a good way to see family outside of the holidays.

family shot, OBX

I love-love-love the beach, I’m so special! Except really, I love the Outer Banks. Hopefully, you’ll come visit me in my Temperance Cottage next year. ;-)

Some random stuff

I keep meaning to blog, but when I sit down to write a post, I’m drawing a blank on post topics. So here you go, you get a themeless assortment of things in my life.

Last weekend, we had friends over for dinner. For dessert, I made this apple galette with whiskey-caramel sauce again. This time, I used the food processor to cut the butter into the flour, and I think I slightly over-mixed. It wasn’t as flaky [I always want to spell this word with an -e-.] as it could have been, but it was still miles better than store-bought crust. I also managed to make the whiskey caramel sauce the right consistency this time!
apple galette with whiskey caramel sauce and homemade ice cream

Oh, and I also made homemade vanilla ice cream. It was pretty flippin’ delicious, if I do say so myself.

Speaking of making things, I also made another berry baby hat for a friend’s tiny offspring. I guess it’s more like an eggplant hat because I can’t think of any non-sinister, non-poisonous berries that are purple. This hat is for a five-month-old, so I made the “infant” (vs. “newborn”) size. Truth be told, I have no idea how big babies heads are. The hat seems big, but babies have big heads, right? That’s a thing? I guess she can always grow into it.knit baby hat

(Here’s the pattern, though I did some modifications to make the leaves stand out a bit.)

Last Sunday, we went out for dim sum with Tina, Ben, and another high school friend Erich and his boyfriend. A-of-all, dim sum is super delicious, and I always have fun making Tina order for us. B-of-all, dimsum is super fast on a Sunday at midday–we didn’t even have a reservation when we rolled in with a group of six. That is a freakin’ miracle in this city of people who have an infinite tolerance for queuing for food.

Ben & Tina at dim sum

After stuffing ourselves, we went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was a solidly “meh” experience for me. I’m not into comic books though…then again, my friends who are agreed that it wasn’t very good.

Every year in the spring, I get roped into soliciting donations for our high school. This means writing a lot of emails and calling people after work, begging them to donate. If you are a GSGIS alum and are reading this, donate please! Even $5 is enough.

Speaking of Tina and Ben, we’re about to go meet them at the airport because without even trying, we ended up on the same red-eye back to the East Coast. They have to attend a family member’s college graduation, and we’re off for the annual OBX beach week. See you on the right coast!

A delicate lady sweater – the Featherweight cardigan

After my disasterbox sweater proportioned for a gorilla, I was not eager to commit to another sweater project. It’s a lot of time, effort, and often, money. However, Siena has dubbed 2015 the Year of the Sweater and ambitiously started on her project: an adorable green cropped cardigan. Her enthusiasm encouraged me to get back on the sweater horse, this time with a better plan and pattern.

I picked the Featherweight cardigan by Hannah Fettig because it had so many positive reviews on Ravelry. (Inexplicably, most of the handful of people who had knit the failed Wool And the Gang sweater seemed to like it, too! Maybe I just messed it up.) I used the suggested Malabrigo lace yarn because it was fairly cheap and because I thought it might help me achieve the gauge a little better.

(Also, I stupidly opted not to use the ball-winder at Imagiknit, naively thinking that I could wind this delicate yarn into balls by hand. The first hank took me over an hour to wind into a ball, and it was super frustrating because the yarn is so thin and sticks to itself. After the second ball, I just gave up and took the third hank back to the store to wind into a ball using their winder. Good choice self.)

gauge swatchThen, of course, I neurotically knit three gauge swatches, none of which was quite right. Gah! I ended up just going with the suggested size 6 needles with the assumption that I could stretch it a bit with blocking. Everyone complains about gauge swatching, and it does really suck when you want to get started on your next project! However, if I was going to commit to a sweater, I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure it would be something I’d actually want to wear.

starting Featherweight Cardigan

I started this cardigan in mid-March and finished it a month later. (Kim got a lot of progress photos throughout the month.) This knitting even went to Montréal with me!

It’s knitted seamlessly, which was another win. It was nice to pick up stitches and never have to worry about seaming anything together (which I totally hate). It was really amazing to go from a ball of yarn to a flat piece of fabric to a three-dimensional garment! Seriously, knitting it magic.

progress on Featherweight cardiganSince this was only my second attempt at a wearable garment, I wanted to instill good knitting habits. Not only did I make multiple gauge swatches, I also wet-blocked the garment and waited patiently for it to dry. (This basically involved soaking it in the sink, rolling and pressing it in a towel, and arranging it to dry on a plastic trash bag over night.) I maybe got a little more length/size out of the blocking process, but it did help the stitches even out a bit and lay flatter.

So without further ado: the Featherweight cardigan!

Finished featherweight cardigan

It accidentally made it a little short, so it’s cropped length, finishing right at my waist. I’m okay with this because from Year of Style, I’ve determined that I am very short-waisted and don’t need to cover up my waist with a bulky sweater anyway. I also wasn’t sure how long to make the border, so it’s not a cardigan that you would wear closed for warmth. It’s more of a delicate lady sweater; I’ll probably wear it over a sleeveless dress when I drink tea and eat finger sandwiches.

You can see the length a bit better here (and also the weird neon orange stairwell I was “posing” in with a mug full of tea):

Finished featherweight cardigan

Modeling fail….

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What a surprise–I made something blue-green, right?!? I really did plan on knitting this sweater in a color other than teal blue. My original plan was for more of a neutral, like a charcoal or light gray. However, I couldn’t find the stated three skeins, so I just went with this blue. Annoyingly though, I used less than two skeins (even with all my painstaking gauge swatching!), so not only do I have a weird amount of extra yarn lying around, I also spent more than I needed to. Blah! I’m not sure why I used so much less yarn–probably something to do with me being a fairly tight knitter.

This all being said, I’m pretty happy with the results. I didn’t have any egregious mistakes, and I really do think I’ll wear this little sweater-thing over a dress. And while it doesn’t really look like anything I’d buy in the store (my main complaint with homemade clothing), I like its slightly homemade look, and I’m really proud that it came from yarn I picked out and knitted myself.

So now I’m 1/2 on sweater knitting. I’ll probably give it another go soon, but for now, I need a shorter project. Back to socks!

Gifts for babies

Over the weekend, we celebrated Maria and Jordan’s soonish-to-arrive twins with a baby shower! And really, it was more like a fun party with a literary theme, which was just as requested by the expectant parents. The idea was more celebration, rather than shower.

Book bunting

Having recovered from Freak the F*ck Out Catering for Narae’s shower (three years ago!!!), I decided to once again attempt that monstrous strawberry cake. It’s quite a confection (and maybe I totally stressed out the husband because I was hangry-baking), but it turned out even better this time! It looked a little wonky, but it tasted good!

Mica with stawberry cake

Here’s the inside. Cutting a 9×13″ cake into three layers is no joke. I had to stick toothpicks into the sides to act as cutting guides and be very assertive (yet gentle!) with a long serrated knife.

Triple-layer fresh strawberry cake

 

For gifts, I wanted to give Maria and Jordan something special and homemade but also practical! I’d seen these knit berry hats for a couple years, but I’d never actually felt skilled enough to make them. As it turns out, they’re quick and easy to knit with soft cotton yarn. I finished each one in an evening and change.

Knit berry hats

 

As for the practical gift, I sewed these swaddlers/snugglers using soft balloon print flannel and adorable quilting cottons. It’s important to Jordan and Maria not to dress their children identically, so I didn’t want to give them two of the same swaddler. For one, I found this whale print: whale print

And I’d been looking for a project to buy this crazy smiling-but-decapitated shrimp print for awhile. A swaddler was the perfect excuse! This was also fitting because we bought a huge platter of cocktail shrimp for the shower. Because everyone loves shrimp. Well, not people who are allergic to shellfish.

shrimp print
The swaddlers are basically a pouch with two velcro arms.

Handmade swaddler

So you can wrap your baby up like a little burrito!

Baby swaddler

 

(We had to resist the urge to test it out on Bodger.)

Handmade baby swaddlers

Phew, I survived my first “lady obligation” of 2015 and didn’t burn the house down or drop a platter of cocktail shrimp! It was a great party, and I hope a wonderful celebration for Jordan and Maria as they get closer and closer to their arrival of their twin girls. I’m excited to see them as parents and honored that I could be such an integral part of their “kick-off.”

(After the last guests had left, we totally ordered Chinese, sat around in pajamas, and watched the first episode of this season of Orphan Black.)

 

 

 

 

Stuffed at birthday tea

For my birthday, Jordan and Maria took me and the Hus-friend to Sunday afternoon tea at Charles Chocolates! I’m so glad they organized this because I hadn’t gotten around to it, despite saying “Oooh, we should do that!” every time I walked by it.

We even dressed up! It felt like a fun-yet-grown-up thing to do. Though, admittedly, with twins on the way, I imagine Maria and Jordan feel like they’re doing a lot of grown-up things these days!

Tea @ Charles Chocolates

Tea @ Charles Chocolate

 

It was so nice to sit out in the sun (and cool SF breeze, ha), catching up and eating our delicate tea sandwiches.

Except let’s be honest, one tea sandwich is delicate. Three tea sandwiches plus dessert is SUPER INTENSE. Not to mention the super rich hot chocolate, which was actually more like the consistency of pudding.

Tea spread @ Charles Chocolates

It didn’t look like that much food, but we were very full at the end. The Hus-friend was particularly full because he decided (for some unknown reason) to eat everything on his plate.Full Hus-friend

After our tea, we took a refreshing walk (roll? waddle?) through a quiet street in the Mission. It was a lovely afternoon with friends! I feel so lucky to have these people in my life and to live in such a fantastic city.

Thanks, J&M, for such a treat! I may never be hungry again, but I’m happy to become aggressively full with you two anytime.

 

 

Exploring Montréal

Last Montréal/Pycon-related post, I promise!

Because I was traveling for a work-related conference, I didn’t get to explore Montréal as much as I would have liked. It’s disappointing because I feel like people told me how amazing it is…and I was quite honestly underwhelmed. I really wanted to like it, but I guess I just saw the wrong things/parts of the city. (To be fair, I was downtown, and that’s basically never the nicest part to visit.)

I had the impression that it would be a historic city that just oozed charm, with quaint streets and a burgeoning artistic community. Everything I saw was basically…fine. There were some old buildings that were interesting, but not markedly cooler than anything else I’ve seen.  Most of the interesting buildings I saw seemed to be student apartments, so they weren’t being displayed at their full potential.

Montréal building

I’m pretty sure I just saw the wrong parts. What I did see was a lot of compacted piles of dirty snow, pushed up against buildings or melting into a mud puddle in the corner of a parking lot. Maybe I was there at the wrong time of year!

Montréal snow

But enough about architecture (which I definitely cannot speak about intelligently)! Let’s talk about FOOD!

I came to Montréal on mission to try poutine (cheese curds and gravy over fries), and that was not my jam. The fries get all soggy from the gravy, which goes against my religious beliefs that fries should be crispy. To be fair, the first time I had poutine was at a tourist trap, and it was gross. The second time was better.

Montréal Poutine

 

I also tried a Montréal-style bagel, which I totally did not realize was a thing. It’s smaller, crispier, and sweeter than a New York bagel. I was pretty into those, but I love almost all bagels uniformly.

Montréal bagel

 

I also was told to try Montréal smoked meat, but the timing never worked out right. Also, I don’t really like pastrami anyway, so I had a feeling it wouldn’t be life-changing for me.

Our hotel (Le Westin, ha) was a stone’s throw away from Montréal’s small Chinatown, so obviously we had to take advantage of that. Jay and I, on a particularly off-schedule day, went out for a lupper (lunch-supper?) of pork buns and bubble tea. Because that’s what one should do when going to French-speaking Canada: patronize a Chinese bakery.

Jay & Mica, Chinatown MTL

Oh, and also we fond a bust of Sun Yat-sen. K, cool.

Sun Yat-sen bust, MTL Chinatown

 

Of course, no trip is complete if I don’t meet up with a blogger in real life, right?!? I have a super-big lady crush on the incredibly talented Anaïg of  . Before I left, I contacted her to see if she had any time to meet up. Fortunately, we were able to get lunch together one day, which involved my taking Montréal subway system. (I will say that this was very easy and did not smell bad. And the station I needed was conveniently connected to the conference center!)

Place-d'Armes Metro, Montreal

Meeting Anaïg was really delightful–she’s French but has lived in Montréal for a few years with her English boyfriend. We talked about her experiences living abroad, how we got into our respective jobs (She’s a speech pathologist.), and sewing! She’s a much more experienced and proficient sewist*, so it was fun to pick her brain and hear about how she got into sewing. Also, she wore a handmade dress that was so beautiful; you can’t really see it in this photo, sadly.

[*I’ve read sewist on some blogs, and I really hate the way that sounds. And that’s difficult because, in general, I’m trying to move away from gendered language when I can. Seamstress sounds better to me, but maybe just because it’s actually an English word.]

Anaïg & Mica @ La Petite Marché, Montréal

Lunch with Anaïg was actually the only time I got to speak French for a prolonged time in Montréal. Even though I heard French everywhere, almost everyone I encountered was bilingual and defaulted to English. (Again, I was mostly at the hotel and conference center, so this is to be expected.) Hearing so much of the Québecois accent was funny and startling after mostly interacting with French Francophones.

So yeah, I enjoyed my time in Montréal but left it feeling kind of…ambivalent? I’ll try to withhold judgment (Sigh, you know that is hard for me) because everyone told me how great it was. Fortunately, if I go back, I have a new friend who can show me the cool things that I must have missed.

Okay, opinion time — what cities totally underwhelmed you, and which ones were a pleasant surprise?

 

Hackbright Reunion in Montréal

In addition to speaking for the first time at a conference, one of the BEST parts of my PyCon experience was reconnecting with some of my Hackbright classmates. There were alumnae from several “seasons” of HB there, but I obviously gravitated towards the ones from my class, having gone through so much together. To me, our class was GOLDEN.

One awesome surprise was that Meghan, who moved to Seattle with her husband, and JiaYi, who moved back to Singapore, were both coming to be at the conference. And even better, they’re both working remotely at the same company, so they work “together” (but apart, I guess). It was so good to see them after a year+, and I’m so happy that they seem happy with their jobs.

Meghan had made a dinner reservation for us one night, so several of us got together for fancy sushi. Then we took a chilly walk through Vieux Montréal. At one point, Meghan had recalled that last year at PyCon (It’s held in the same place for two consecutive years.), she had been walking across a square when a huge stuffed polar bear was being wheeled out of a store right in front of her.

So, of course, we serendipitously CAME ACROSS the polar bear and had to take a picture with it.

Note: The Polar Bear is even more horrifying than our goofy faces.

HB with Polar Bear

 

Meghan is a fantastic knitter, so I made sure to show her the cowl and hat I’d made. “This hat is so soft,” she said, “Do you know what kind of sheep it is?” “Uh, soft sheep?” I responded. She laughed and told me, basically, that that was bullshit. I hope I can visit her up in Seattle–she said I can stay at her house if I run the marathon!

Siena, who was actually in town being her usual badass self and presenting at DroidCon, and I had fun on our Montréal lady dates. I surely impressed her on our romantic evenings with my French (Ha!), and we also consumed a lot of insanely bad-for-you Canadian cuisine.

“I heard someone say that the reason healthcare is free in Canada is because you need it. You would die if you ate this all the time,” she said, as we tucked into a shared dinner of macaroni and cheese with pulled pork poutine. Siena gives zero fucks, and I want to be more like her.

Siena at Mâche, Montréal

Even though Rebecca and Ava live in the Bay Area, I’m embarrassed to say that I have barely seen them since I graduated. The last night, when we all should have packed and gone to bed for our early flights, we stayed up in Rebecca’s room, chatting, laughing, sorting through her 400 pounds of tech swag, eating room service cheesecake, and shooting promotional foam darts at each other.

Well, Siena colored, or, as Rebecca said, “Did God’s work.”

Siena, coloring

 

Oh, and we got tattoos to commemorate our first times speaking at tech conferences. Just kidding. These were swag, too. I actually really liked my lightening bolt, but it disintegrated in the shower this morning.

fake tech tattoos

Rebecca, who now sports a neon-green mohawk showed us her very efficient way of traveling with two backpacks that keeps both arms free. I love her combination of enthusiasm and unbridled cynicism and admire her ability to bounce back from something very dark and continue to love people. She’s really an amazing person (and also supports me in the creation of a blog where we air our grievances called “I don’t like things”).

Rebecca, packing

 

I felt weird saying this, but then Ava said it this morning, so I don’t feel bad anymore. I basically had forgotten how cool these ladies were, or perhaps they were cooler than I remember. Ava, one of the first people I met before Hackbright started, and I have a lot of similarities, like our lifetime membership in the Modern Face of Temperance club and old-lady tendencies. For some reason, though, I always remember more of how we different: her willingness to confront people whose opinions she finds offensive and/or problematic but also,her belief in the inherent goodness of everyone, at least at first. I’m always pleasantly surprised at how well we get along (and feel guilty that I don’t see her more often).  She’s just so cool. I also learned that she coined the term “hackbrighting,” which means crying on the bathroom floor.

Ava & Mica

 

These days, I’m not so involved with Hackbright, and I can’t really speak to how it is because I’m not there, and the curriculum and instructors have changed. What I know for certain, though, is that one of the integral parts of my experience was the group of women. As a naturally very vocal and judgmental person, I am eternally  grateful that I got to interact at a totally deep level (not just small talk) with women who are so different. It humbles me to see their strengths, many of which are my own weaknesses, and it reminds me that I can get along so well with people who come from different backgrounds and walks of life…basically, as long as they have a good sense of humor.

Hackbright Season 5 FOR LIFE.
Hackbright Season 5 @ Pycon

 

 

PyCon 2015

So, my first PyCon has come and gone. What’s more, my first tech/professional conference-speaking gig is over! I’m not sure why I used to be so intimidated by speaking at academic conferences. PyCon was super fun and, while certainly not perfect, it was a fairly friendly, inclusive, and supportive group of people!

Since my first (and only) tech conference prior to PyCon wandering around, slack-jawed, at FutureStack through Hackbright, the experience was somewhat different this time. I now have a job programming in Python, and all of the talks are about Python or related technologies. There’s a mix of subjects: cool things people have built, security and architecture, diversity and self-care, common “gotchas”…not to mention tutorials, “open spaces” to hack things together, and lots of opportunities to network and get together with other Python-writers.

Oh, and another reason why this was different? I was speaking!

Jay and I submitted our talk proposal back in September, were accepted to speak in December, and then started actually writing our talk, like, uhhhhh last month. It was a good review of what we had actually written (a “smart” rate tracker to help catch spammers and fraudsters on the site), and it was an exercise in combining our approaches to presenting into one, unified and coherent format.

PyCon Badge

We got into Montréal late Wednesday night, bummed around the city on Thursday, and started attending talks on Friday. I saw some really interesting and informative ones, like one on how Disney used Python to make Big Hero 6 and one on building secure systems. Most of my interests skewed backend since that’s closer to what I work on, but fortunately, if I missed a talk, the turn-around to get them up in high-quality video on YouTube is amazing. Now, I can just watch the ones I missed online.

Some of the ones that were recommended to me, and which, I will recommend to you are:

PyCon was also a huge networking/recruiting/advertising event for companies. Many companies sponsored with booths giving away tons of swag–some cool and practical and some utterly useless. My inner-minimalist cringed every time I saw someone carrying around a bobbing foam dragon on a metal stick, and I mean, does anyone need another of those cheaply made re-usable grocery bags at this point? Because I had packed so efficiently, my approach to the Expo was “curated swag”–taking only what I really liked or felt was useful. I left with an umbrella, a few WOMEN’S FIT tee-shirts, and a bottle opener, and a nice water bottle.

[A sidenote on shirts, please. Don’t call them “Unisex” and expect that makes everything OK. “Unisex” clearly means FOR MEN: crew necks, longer sleeves, no shaping to a woman’s body. If you want women to wear your shirts and give you free advertising, please consider making them actually for women.]

On Saturday, I crawled/fell out of my heavenly hotel bed and regretted my decision to run the PyCon 5K Fun Run. And yeah, this was not a race of champions: the course measured 2.83 miles (by my Garmin), and the bibs were recycled from the organizer’s friend’s leftover race. (They said “Prairie Dog Half Marathon, 10K, & 5K – Castle Rock, Colorado” on them.) It was also chilly with a stiff headwind. Still, I was happy that I did it, plus Jacky ran it too! Those fiery lungfuls of cold air were a throwback to my grad school running days….

I know it looks like Jacky and I took this picture in front of an abandoned murder warehouse, but it’s actually on the historic Vieux Montréal port at the 5K finish.

Jacky, Mica PyCon2015 5k

Plus, I got a sweet V-neck ladies tech tee-shirt with the conference logo on it! I didn’t purchase an official PyCon shirt, so it was a useful and nice surprise!

PyCon 2015 5K shirt & bib

And, of course, on Sunday afternoon (the last day of the official conference weekend), Jay and I got up to talk. I was honestly not that nervous because of years of performance and teaching experience. I had faith in my ability to break down a technical subject in a clear and understandable way, and Jay and I had practiced…a lot. Still, this was my first official conference presentation on a technical subject, and looking out into the audience, there were a lot of “stereotypical” programmers: white men in tech tee-shirts. Not, of course, that these men are not advocates for diversity in tech or were particularly discouraging; it’s just an abrupt confrontation of the fact that I was the minority: a short, blazer-clad woman, talking animatedly about backend datastores.

Fun story, while were on the way to the “Green room” for speakers, I ran into another presenter wearing the same thing: jeans, white shirt, and blazer. Obviously, this necessitated a photo. Power outfit! Her name is Ying Li, and here is her talk, “Where in your RAM is ‘python san_diego.py’?”

Mica & Ying Li

So yeah, the talk! That happened! I think our slides were pretty awesome.

pycon_preso_screenshot

Here’s a pre-talk selfie I insisted we take because Jay puts up with so much of my crap. It doesn’t look like the talk was well-attended, but it got pretty full in there. Lots of folks interesting in rate-tracking, apparently!

pre-talk selfie
I love presenting with a headset mic. I was born to do this.

Even better, after we ended our talk, we had so many people ask questions! They were legitimately interested in our implementation of a rate tracker and had follow-up questions for us both during the scheduled Q&A time and after we left the room. That’s one thing I really like about PyCon–for the most part, people ask questions because they truly want to learn more. There aren’t a ton of questions that I saw to the effect of “YES, I HAVE A QUESTION. MY QUESTION IS AN OPINION ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID.”

Here’s a link to the video of our talk. It’s written for “Novice” Python programmers. If you have questions about it, please feel free to contact me!

Phew, it was big conference and probably an introvert’s nightmare (Meghan told me that she had to go back for knitting breaks in her quiet hotel room.), but I had a lot of fun! I’m not sure I want to go super regularly because the travel component is tough, but I like meeting people, and I definitely enjoyed speaking. I’m already thinking about talk proposals for next year!

Also, a big THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and Jay during our talk, particularly the Hackbright ladies and EB folks in attendance and everyone who tweeted out about our talk before/during/and after. It was like having a fan club, and I super-appreciate it!