Adventure! 31 Aug 2017 06:18 pm

Random Update

So it’s been about a thousand years since I last posted.  I am shamelessly planning to use this blog to publish academic work that I think may be of use to future me, or to others doing related academic work.  It seems only right that I also post a general update.  I am doing extremely well all things considered.  My cancer has seen fit to remain in hiding, and my scans are spread out a bit.  My neuro-oncologist is okay with spreading them out a bit further, but I am a bit paranoid.

I rung in the new year with a bang, by spending a few days in the hospital having my knee stitched up, due to a roller skating accident. I was extremely fortunate in that I did not break any bones or tear any ligaments or tendons, though I did a real number on the soft tissue surrounding my kneecap.  I will spare the gore, but it did require surgery to clean out the wound and stitch me up, followed by 2 weeks of bed rest, another 4 weeks before all my stitches were out (they came out in two phases), and a couple months of physical therapy.

Much like my brain issues, I was incredibly fortunate to have a great employer and set of co-workers through all of this.  In addition my husband was incredibly helpful and supportive.  We work at the same place, and were both allowed to work from home while I was on bed rest (so that I would have him available to help me if I needed it).  My boss came to visit me in the hospital, and delivered a care package when I was released and back at home, which was very thoughtful and I appreciated.  The care package from my colleagues was especially kind.

Here are some non-gory photos related to the recovery process.

Academia...sorta 31 Aug 2017 05:57 pm

Employee Engagement

I have recently begun pursuing a graduate degree in business administrations.  One of my first courses had as an assignment a review of literature in a topic of my choosing, provided it was approved by the professor.

In my day job a topic of high importance is employee engagement.  My employer conducts a survey at least annually, and formulates action plans based on the results.  We strongly believe that increased engagement results in increased retention, productivity, safety, and quality of work.

The timing of this review of literature assignment happened to coincide with receiving the results of our annual engagement survey at work.  Naturally, I took the opportunity to double dip on the topic of engagement.  I would need to brush up on it at work, and the assignment gave me a golden chance to review an array of academic literature.  My goals were to determine if I could readily corroborate the benefits cited at my workplace and in popular literature, and also to identify commonly held drivers of engagement so that I could assess how well they align with the drivers that are cited by the vendors providing the survey we use at my workplace.

My findings are herewith attached.  While I failed to properly alphabetize my references page (it was late), I am pleased to report that I receive decent marks for my effort, and believe that I benefited from it.

MBA-525_Review of Literature_EmployeeEngagement

Ranting &Tech &Work 25 Feb 2013 02:10 pm

How to Lose an Internship Before Even Getting in the Door

I suppose I’ll start by explaining why I have anything at all to do with internships.  In my day job, I’m part of a group that regularly hires several interns each semester.  There are some common faux pas that really don’t help a candidate out.  Some of these are probably included in the curriculum covered by career resources at universities and some perhaps are not.  In any event, here are a few things that I have seen over the years, that you should try to avoid when seeking an internship in any aspect of software development.  I will of course attempt to be comical here, and there may be some hyperbole involved.

I should also note for the record that a lot of our interviews (even interns) are panel style, involving 2 or more interviewers.  I generally agree with this approach because I’d rather the team spend time making a good hire, than spend it dealing with a bad hire.

1) Show up.

This should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t.  People do sometimes get another offer for an internship they prefer, and just don’t show up when their interview appointment rolls around – no phone call, no email, nothing.  My personal opinion is that this is the height of rudeness and may ensure that I remember your name for a bad reason.  In the event I forget, the recruiter may remind me.

2) Show up on time (or call).

I get it, things happen and people run late – I’m not one of those people that considers being 15 minutes late once in a while to be a major character flaw that will prevent you from getting hired.

But for goodness’ sake, please don’t show up significantly late with some lame excuse, after having left everyone waiting because you didn’t call to tell us you were running late.  Time is everyone’s most precious commodity, and you’d be pretty upset if you arrived on time and no one came to interview you for 20 minutes.

As an adult who wants an internship and possibly later on a full time gig, you should look up the address beforehand, figure out the bus routes/schedules if you’ll be using the bus, and have the phone number handy. This will help prevent mishaps, and better enable you to handle them if they occur.

As soon as you expect that you will be late, call, explain the situation, and apologize for any inconvenience.  I am much more likely to go out of my way to interview you when you do arrive, or to have you rescheduled, because I appreciate that you respected my time and took responsibility to deal with whatever sabotaged your travel attempts.

3) Present yourself well.

This is another thing that I suspect should go without saying.  Shower and comb your hair.  Make sure you’ve been awake long enough to form coherent thoughts and sentences.  Put on a clean shirt that has seen an iron recently.  (I’m pretty casual, I don’t expect all candidates to be in a suit and tie, nor is that the norm for technology jobs these days, but it shouldn’t look like you just took last weekend’s button down shirt out of the hamper and put it back on again.)

If you are running too late to accomplish these tasks and still arrive on time – see #2.  You don’t have to tell us that you are running late because you overslept, you can just explain that you are very sorry, but that something has some up and you need to reschedule.

4) Show interest in your field.

If you’re seeking a job in a particular area, it helps if you are actually interested in it.  Interviews tend to have a lot of open ended questions because your potential employer wants to get you talking.  They want to see your enthusiasm about what you do.  If you give the most minimal yes/no answer to everything and then close up like a clam shell – your interview will be awkward and it is likely to be cut short.  While this behavior may be a good defense against ‘got ya’ types of questions, it’s also preventing me from getting to know anything about how you operate and whether you even like this type of work or not.  It can give the impression that you aren’t really passionate about your chosen career field, which is ominous in thought work where a bit of spark is needed.

If, by your responses, I realize that I don’t know anything about you, and I get the impression you may not really like this field – I’m most likely going to conclude that you probably won’t do well, and that I’d be better off not investing time to bring you on board.

5) Sell yourself.

Your job interview is one time when it is okay to brag a bit.  Tell me all about how you helped solve (or directly solved) this or that interesting problem at your last internship, in a school project, or in a personal hobby project.  (It’s not a showstopper for me when an intern candidate doesn’t have much in the way of job experience – you’re applying for an internship, which has a different set of expectations.)  I have relatively few expectations in this area, but they are pretty steadfast:  Be clear about your own contributions and capabilities.  Be careful that you don’t intentionally or unintentionally present yourself as having skills that you don’t actually have.

This can happen when you’ve worked on a group project and can speak intelligently about the work, but fail to be clear on the types of work you did vs other group members.  So, what if you’re in an interview and the questions start to angle toward a part of the deliverable that you didn’t build?  Say so.  Don’t feel that you know enough to answer a technical question?  Say so.  Whatever you do, don’t panic and start trying to tell people what you think they want to hear. It’s difficult because you want the internship and you want to please whoever is interviewing you – but trust me on this one – take a deep breath and clarify what your skills and experience are, and how you think they could help the company.

(You don’t know what problems the company has and how your skills could help solve them?  Ask some questions yourself – that’s allowed!  You don’t even have to wait until the end when the interviewer customarily asks if you have any questions for them.)

The reason for this point of advice?  Many people will respect your honesty and straightforwardness more than your skill alone.  Skills can be learned, and most likely they were vetted before you even walked in the door – the interview is mostly about you as a person, not you as a set of features and capabilities.

Some of the best organizations to work for hire people (many of whom start as interns) based on what they can find out about your attitude and character.  Saying that you didn’t write that data access layer on that school project isn’t going to cause them to reject you if the rest of your talents and personality traits align well with the company’s values and goals.


Cancer &Ranting 25 Feb 2013 12:13 pm

One Year

Well, It’s been one year since my brain surgery.  While I certainly won’t say it’s been my best year, it has been a busy one.  I am very proud of all the things I have been able to accomplish, and very grateful for all the wonderful people in my life who have supported and helped me.  But still, I am torn.  It’s very difficult to reflect on the year that has passed, without considering how few I might have left, and whether I’m really satisfied with how I spent that precious time.

Even looking back at good things in the past comes with a bit of a shadow hanging over – and looking forward is terrifying.  I would advise myself to focus on living in the present, except that I know that doing so tends to result in me not thinking about the future and thus losing some measure of impact over it.  I can’t bear the thought of reaching that final day and realizing that I’ve squandered what time I had on things and people that weren’t really important or didn’t really bring joy to myself and my loved ones.

I go back in my mind to 11 years ago when my fiance was killed in a car accident a few months before our wedding date, and how I hoarded his possessions around me for comfort. Wore his jackets and T-shirts, cherished his knick-knacks and kept them on display in the place that was supposed to become our home.  It pains me to think of my husband Ryan doing the same kinds of things about me some day after I’m gone.

I don’t want to leave him like that. Like I was.

So, I try to keep myself distracted, and focused on some task or another.  It mostly works okay, but it’s temporary.  Hopefully it will work long enough to get past the initial shock of acknowledging the inevitable passage of time, which is what I seem to be struggling with.


Adventure! &Cancer &Ranting 01 Aug 2012 05:13 pm


Every once in a while someone will call me a hero, or an inspiration, in regards to my current efforts as a patient (I have Oligodendroglioma) and my efforts to keep trucking with the rest of life.

Sometimes when people say such things, I’m pleased and feel somewhat vindicated because they must realize it isn’t easy, and I also feel hopeful that witnessing my experiences will help someone someday if they have to go through something similar (though I hope they don’t, odds are, they will).

Other times, it just makes me feel more pressure to overachieve, and more frustrated in scenarios where I can’t, like the fact I’ll never be ‘cured’ or ‘in remission’ or ‘cancer free’ – we know enough about the kind of cancer I have to know it doesn’t work that way.  The best I can do is try to maintain the rest of my health throughout treatment, so that I can enjoy life. Life goes on, hoping the cancer (that the docs know is in there somewhere) doesn’t decide to start growing (so far we know it’s not uncommon for it to come back) and treating it when it does.

It’s not all bad though – it’s not just fighting it until I run out of gas and it gets me. While I am currently at the edge of medical knowledge here, medical knowledge advances every day. Beyond that, current technology provides lots of tools to keep the cancer under control as far as advanced imaging and medication.   With some recent changes to healthcare laws (like those around pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps), I will hopefully continue to be able to maintain insurance so that I can get those treatments should I need them.  My health insurance has literally been a lifesaver so far.

At this point I’m through the worst of this round:

I had a resection done that removed all the visibly identifiable tumor tissue plus a margin around it indicated by the scans.
I managed to recover from the surgery successfully with my personality and physical capabilities intact – a pretty big deal.
I went through 6 weeks of targeted chemical therapy, coordinated with 6 weeks of radiation therapy.
I’ve completed 2 of at least 6 planned months of maintenance chemo (5 day runs, once each month, about twice the dose I took when I did the 6 week run).

I still have to have my brain scanned every 2 months for the foreseeable future, and I don’t really know what else will happen.

A lot of people don’t have it so lucky – my tumor was in the right parietal area, and doctors felt it could be operated on. I was also able to go through radiation therapy – when many cases for this type of cancer only get chemo. The chemo now being used for this stuff these days comes in pill form, rather than requiring a port, which makes administering the treatment much more convenient, and may have reduced the side effects. (My worst problem has been fatigue and a decreased tolerance for BS which may or may not be related to being tired and cranky.) Thankfully, people have tolerated me graciously.

Other blessings worth noting are that my employer has been great, my family is awesome, my insurance has done right by me, and my cancer has a genetic defect making it more susceptible to death by chemo.  As long as I’m able to stay strong enough for treatment, I can just do this forever.

Really, the only thing I have to kvetch about is that it’s a bummer to know it’s never ‘over’ – and that it’s tough to try to live up to being an inspiration to others. Hopefully I’m doing an okay job.

Uncategorized 25 Jan 2012 09:28 am

Wordless Wednesday

Sewing 19 Dec 2011 04:50 pm

Candy Cane Dance Top


To go with the skirt I finished last night, I put together a quick backless half top, with the shoulder caps of the sleeves removed. (A style sometimes referred to as a cold shoulder.)   These go together pretty fast (about an hour), but they are kind of boring, so I haven’t made any tutorials yet.

Sewing 18 Dec 2011 08:21 pm

Candy Cane Costume Cross-Post


So, I started work on my costume for the Satchel’s show this month, wherein I will be wearing some awesome candy cane stripes.  I finished the skirt tonight!  To see a few more pictures and read some quick instructions on how to make this type of skirt, go check out the post on the dance site.

Cooking 18 Dec 2011 03:26 pm

Holiday Treats


We were so busy in the kitchen today!

Sewing 01 Jun 2009 02:29 pm

What I Wore Today #2

With a new serger to figure out, what better way to learn than to grab some clearance fabric and start messing around?  There’s no better way, if you ask me. 🙂

This dress came from an old pattern of my mom’s, with several modifications made on account of a) missing instruction papers and b) pattern alteration mistakes on my part and c) stretchier-than-the-pattern-intended fabric.  Even so, I like it quite a bit.  It’s comfy, and not too bad on the eyes either.

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