Thursday, June 30, 2016

6/30/16- Brave or Stupid?

I was brazen this week.  I wrote a letter (well email) to my company's president and VP of HR.  In the letter (posted below), I suggested that if our company wants to be seen as a leader of equality in the Tech Industry, then we should have an all inclusive parental leave policy, not just a maternity leave policy.  The parental leave policy should include the same paid time off for new moms, new dads, parents who just adopted, and so on.

I sited a great article on why paternity leave is good for families and businesses from the Daily WorthWhy Fathers Should Take Paternity Leave.  I believe an inclusive parental/paternity leave policy will mean equality for women in the workplace and equality for men in the home. To me, being a feminist doesn't just mean equality for women in the workplace, it means women and men are equal in abilities and capabilities, which include being a working professional and caregiver.  You might be annoyed with me that that is how I view feminism, but I'll ask you this: what gender do you immediately picture when I say nurse? Or flight attendant (I totally said stewardess the other day, so ding on me)? Or teacher?  Or stay at home parent?

So yeah, I think about all the dads who want to spend more than just week (or even just a day or two sometimes) with their new born child.  Or I think about the non-traditional parents (adoption, grandparents or other relatives who've become the primary caregiver, etc), and I think shark it, we need not just a country wide (that country being the US) paid maternity leave policy, but an inclusive paid parental leave policy.

I dedicate this post and the letter I sent to Jack's dad, who wishes he had been able to take more time off with our newborn. Maybe it's foolish of me to think one letter can change the world, change our culture, change our view of genders (and associated stereotypes).  I like to think it was brazen. (And that I won't get fired for suggesting an improvement in our workplace/work culture! ;o))

Here's the letter (obviously I had to change names for propriety reasons, but you will be able to eliminate 3 companies that I don't work for, haha):

Hello Mr. X and Ms. Y,

As ACME furthers their goals of people/employee oriented first culture and inclusion and diversity, I encourage the senior leadership of ACME to strongly consider one cohesive and global paid parental leave policy that includes all parents (new fathers and mothers, adoptive parents, etc.).

I searched the internal ACME website and asked my local HR representative, and I found that ACME has no specific Paternity Leave policy.  My HR representative told me that there was an informal policy for fathers: they can take unpaid FMLA or PTO to be with their new child.  I believe for mothers/maternity leave there is a formal policy; the old ACME maternity policy was 6 weeks of paid (disability) and 6 weeks of unpaid FMLA.

I've included a link to an article that sites many studies and cases about how "Paternity Leave Is Good for Families and Business," and I think that by creating a paid parental leave policy, ACME would have the opportunity to be a leader in diversity and inclusion within the Tech Industry.  Companies like Facebook, Intel, and Netflix have already done so; I'd love to see my company, whose products and customers I passionately believe in, be someplace that I can also boast as being inclusive and diverse.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Suzie Olsen
Staff Systems Engineer

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

6/22/16- Watermelon

Summer time and the living is easy...nothing like the 110 plus degree weather here in Phoenix to recall memories of my pregnancy.  As excited as I (and Bobby too) was to be pregnant and looking forward to many things (day dreaming and brainstorming names with hubby, nesting, foot rubs, buying baby items and new maternity clothes, etc), experiencing pregnancy during the Phoenician summer was not one of the things I looked forward to.

Luckily humans invited air conditioning and even more fortunate, my house, place of work, my car, my doctor's office, and many other places I visited the summer of 2014 had air conditioning.  I was also lucky that our house had a pool.  Sitting on the steps of the pool while growing baby was definitely refreshing and cooling.  Admittedly, it was a little weird to swim/kick and then baby kick. But overall, a great way too cool off when pregnant.

I also discovered during summer 2014 (my 2nd and 3rd trimester) that I couldn't get enough watermelon. Watermelon was my pregnancy CRAVING.  I ate at least one a week all summer long, leading up to Jack's birth in early September.  There were weeks where I'd eat the one we bought on Sunday by Monday/Tuesday, and Bobby would have to go buy another one after work on Wednesday.  I was obsessed.

It was the perfect juicy treat for the hot summer days.  It also satisfied my huge sweet tooth in a healthy way. The first trimester I was all about salt, but by the second, the sweet tooth I had before pregnancy definitely intensified by 10x. I also found out watermelon contains magnesium, and just like iron and folic acid, magnesium is beneficial for pregnancy too (it helps with nausea is what I remember reading).  Funny how our bodies tell us through cravings what we might be needing nutritionally. :)

Pregnant me!

So here I am, June 2014 through September 2014, growing my own watermelon (haha) while eating tons and tons and tons of the fruit.  You'd think that after eating so much of it, I'd be sick of it.  And that does happen for some pregnant people. They have this craving while pregnant and eat so much of that one thing, that post postpartum, they never want to eat, touch or see that food ever again.

But not me.  I still love watermelon.  I don't eat it with as much fervor as I did when pregnant, but I can still polish off a half of one in a week.  Jack on the other hand, well, he can take it or leave it.  Blueberries, bananas, or grapes, not watermelon, are his favorite.

So what did you, or someone you know, crave when pregnant?  Was it a weird combo (my watermelon craving, other than the large amount, doesn't fit the pickles and ice cream weird combo mold)? Do you (or your pregnant acquaintance) still love the food or grossly distaste it now?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

6/15/16- Non-Newtonian Fluid

So, I had been "shopping" around an article about how to do a Non-Newtonian Fluid experiment to different kid lit magazines.  Unfortunately, I had no bites.  I believe so much in the value of STEM outreach and doing STEM experiments/activities with students, that I've decided to go ahead and share the article here on my blog.  It's also a good activity for a hot summer day, so I hope you enjoy it at home!

Water is a liquid.  Corn starch is a solid.  What happens when you mix the two?  You get a mixture that is between a solid and liquid. It becomes a Non-Newtonian Fluid.   Let’s get ready for a fun, messy experiment!
Supplies you will need:
  1. Box of Corn Starch
  2. Water
  3. Measuring cups
  4. A container to mix in—we used a disposable pie tin, but a mixing bowl, measuring cup, or cake pan work too
  5. Spoon
  6. Food coloring (optional)
  7. Paper towels, paper ads, paper table cloth, or newspaper to cover your working surface to make clean up easier!

Okay, here you go!  First place the mixing container on your work surface or countertop.  Then pour a ¼ cup of corn starch into the container.  Next prepare a ¼ cup of water.  You’re going to slowly add the water to the corn starch in mixing container, alternating between adding the water and stirring the mixture in the mixing container with a spoon.  You’re trying to find a mixture that is similar to honey or syrup as we stir.

The ideal mixture will be liquid when you’re stirring it, and then feel hard when you give it a quick tap with the spoon or your finger.  Go ahead, give it a quick tap!  Is it hard?  If not, then add a little pinch of corn starch. 

You’ve got the right feel?  Great!  Now pick some of it up and roll it around in your hands as if forming a ball.  Does it harden into a ball or fall apart? What happens when you put the ball back into the mixing container and stir?  Does it go back to a liquid?

A Non-Newtonian Fluid is a liquid as pressure is applied to it. But apply a different pressure, and it may become solid.  Which one is it? Solid or liquid? It can be treated as both a liquid and a solid!  The reason is because of Non-Newtonian Fluid’s changing behavior under stress (or pressure).  Other examples of Non-Newtonian Fluids are ketchup, Silly Putty, and quicksand.

Having fun with Non-Newtonian Fluid!

Here are some other ideas to try:
  1. Dragging the spoon through it—solid or liquid feeling?
  2. Get a straw and blow on top of it—what do you observe?
  3. Try breaking it up in the container with the spoon—are you able to?
  4.  Push your whole hand into the mixture (within the container) and then remove your hand from the mixture—did your hand stick or easily come out?
  5. Add food coloring—do you what colors to add together to make green? Purple? Orange? Brown?
  6. With permission from your parents or guardians, look up videos online of “Non-Newtonian Fluid dancing.”
  7. Come up with your own ideas to test.  Playing around and getting messy with the Non-Newtonian Fluid is part of the fun!

When done experimenting, don’t forget to clean up!  Hope you enjoyed not quite a liquid, but not quite a solid, Non-Newtonian Fluid!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

6/9/16- Fun in the AZ Sun

We've officially hit the hundreds here in Phoenix!  Which if you stand directly in the sun for an hour is unpleasant. However, I still really enjoy summer despite the heat, and Bobby and I have lots activities planned for Jack that will still allow of us to have fun in the Arizona Sun!  I thought I'd share some of these activities.  I've split them into 3 categories: activities we've enjoyed, activities we were not impressed with, and finally activities we still have planned.

Some cost money, some cost little money, and some only cost the price of driving there.  I hope you like our list.  If you see something off the list or want to share your favorite summer activities in different cities, please make sure to do so in the comments!  I hope everyone is enjoying their fun in the sun summer!

Activities We've Enjoyed
  • Swimming in our pool-  Jack loves playing in the water and swimming in our pool is no exception.  If you don't have a pool, I've heard that the city pools (in the Phoenix area) offer reasonably priced summer season passes.
  • Splash pads-  Sure we have to hold Jack, he won't go near it the splash pad otherwise, but it cools us off too.  We've been to the downtown Gilbert one and the one at Chandler Mall.  There are some many though all over Phoenix, and I have yet to see a kid who hated the splash pad.  We've also "made" our own splash area in our back yard thanks to a $12 Target Sprinkler toy.  
  • Mesa's i.d.e.a Museum-  the admission was one of the cheaper museum admissions we've seen, and Jack liked their play area so much, that we got the 6 month pass ($50 for 4 people during that 6 month).
  • Phoenix Children's Museum- We just visited the museum last weekend, and Jack definitely enjoys their "master chef" kitchen on the second floor.  I'm not super in love with the price, and it's not that close, so we may only visit one more time this summer.
  • Barnes and Nobles and Changing Hands Bookstore- Both bookstores have great children's areas with play activities (BN has a Duplo table and CHB has a train table).  It should be free, but I always end up buying a book.  :)
  • Sea Life Aquarium- It felt a little pricey to me, but it's a place that is good for ages 0 to 100+.  We took Jack there as a 10 month old, and he was fascinated by the sting rays. I feel it's a place that has something for everyone, and we'll be going again this summer. 
  • Arizona Science Center- This one surprised me with how much Jack loved it.  I thought the displays and hands-on activities would be "over his head," but he loved playing with all of the interactive displays and the outdoor water display.  We'll be going back, but not too often, as it's more on the pricey side.  However, I know the museum runs a Groupon every now and again for discounted membership, so we're keeping our eyes out for that Groupon.
  • McDonald's or Chick Fil A- Reasonably priced meals that now include fruit or yogurt in the kids' meal with an area for kids to play afterwards?  Yes, please.  And the McDonald's and Chick Fil A we visit, the other kids are either well behaved or it's not that crowded, so we don't stress to much about our little guy getting pushed around by others (see below; unfortunately it's tough out there on the playground for the little guys). 

Activities We Were Not Impressed With
  • Mall Kid Play Areas-  So the kid play areas in the malls are actually great ways to let your kids run, play, and exercise indoors when it's 115 degrees out.  It's also free (well cost of gas to get there and any goodies you might end up purchasing there).  However, Jack is usually the smallest kid there and not very aggressive, so he usually gets pushed around.  That is hard to watch as a parent, and Bobby and I usually end up hovering over Jack as he plays in these areas.  On the flip side, I don't think Jack cares and seems to have fun.  Some malls even have little trains that Jack insists on riding (Chandler Mall and AZ Mall). 
  • Lego Discovery Center (at AZ Mills)-  So it's actually a really cool place.  The two rides are fun, and there's so much fun building.  However, if you're under 3 (I'd say even under 4), there's not much you can do.  And there's so many older kids (average age looked to be 8), that when we ventured outside of the Duplo area, Jack got pushed a lot by the older children (they were in such a hurry to get past him, they'd just push him aside). Plus, admission is not cheap (unless you lucked out on a membership discount specialty they ran in April).  Jack was free (under 2 is free), but once he's over 2, he'll be the $13 that Bobby and I were.  So with price and not much for little ones, we've decided to put a pin in this one, and revisit it when Jack is 4 or 5. 

Activities We Plan To Do
  • City of Tempe's Kiwanis Wave Park- It's $5 a person, and I remember loving it as a kid.  Jack loves water, and I'm sure we can carve out a spot to make sure he's not getting accidentally surfed on by other kids.
  • Butterfly World- This one is probably more for me as I love butterflies.
  • City of Tempe's Library- we've heard the Saturday children's story and singing time is great.
  • Halle Heart Museum
  • Hall of Flames Museum 
And probably when Jack is older, we'll buy him the Harkin's Summer Movie Pass.  It's a weekly kid's movie (usually in the mornings) for the entire summer.  What else do you recommend we try?  Let me know via comment or send me message on social media!  Happy summer to you and yours!  Let the lemonade drinking and watermelon seed spitting contests commence! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

6/1/16- Personal Branding for STEM workers

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a presentation hosted by the Society of Women Engineers Phoenix Section, titled "Personal Branding for Women Engineers." The presentation was given by Dr. Robyn McKay of She(ology).  It was an insightful presentation, and I'd like to share my take away from the presentation.  And what I learned can apply to most women and men who are in STEM careers (at least I think so :-)).

The beginning of the presentation started out with defining what Personal Branding is.  Here's my summary of what Personal Branding is (from my presentation notes):
  • Know who you are
  • Know your values
  • Know your mission, vision, and purpose
Know all of the things listed above so that you can have confidence to: stand up for something you're passion about (fall in love with an idea) and standout as a leader (be a person of influence).  

Next, Dr. Robyn talked about taking your temperature, and had us do an exercise where we assessed how well (we thought) we were doing in the following 4 pillars:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Love
  4. Perfect Self-Expression
She had us assess on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being super awesome and 1 being really poor), how well we thought/felt that we were doing in each pillar.  Then, she had us break into groups based on our individual rating (for each pillar) and discuss with each other why we felt that we were that rating (e.g. 8-10 grouped together, 7-4, and 3-1).  

It was a great discuss with my fellow engineers-- it was that feeling of knowing you weren't alone on how you felt about career and all the 4 pillars.  I recommend doing your own self assessment, and if you can do it with a partner, family member, friend or colleague, even better.

Next, she talked about what are you tolerating in your life?  If you ranked low in one of the pillars (rating of 3-1), that could be an area where you are tolerating.  For example, if you ranked a 3 in wealth, ask yourself why?  Maybe it's because you haven't got that promotion yet, or you feel you aren't saving enough.  

Finally, she wrapped up with one last exercise, and it was to tell a story to someone else when you were at your best.  First that felt good to say out loud (what my accomplishment was).  Second, my take way on that was to keep in mind when you are at your best, and that should be integrated into your personal brand, along with the bullets mentioned above.

The presentation was insightful and inspiring.  It got my intuition flowing, and I realized what I was tolerating in life (which no offense to you, I don't want to share here; just how I prefer it).  It also made realize that I can fix what I was tolerating.  In the long run, I will be better. I will succeed in my career, but more importantly, succeed in my personal passions (like family, friends, STEM outreach, writing).  Overall, I feel like I can succeed in my life.  I hope you have found this post beneficial. Go forth and brand yourself!  Ha, ha! :-)