Berry Smoothie

I really dislike bananas.

I’m not bragging or anything; just stating a fact. I truly dislike bananas. I always have. I know they’re very good for me and I wish I could eat one. I honestly don’t think I have ever managed to eat an entire banana by itself (that is, not in some other food).

The 2006 Richmond Marathon was the third (and last) marathon I ran. It was exceptionally hot that day, with temps around 80° in November. The last 10k was really rough on me and I knew I was in desperate need of some nutrition after the race. I sat down on a curb in Shockoe Bottom with a banana and a bagel, thinking that the banana was exactly what I needed. I managed to get about half way through it, forcing every bite.

Then it occurred to me: I’d rather risk serious injury or death rather than eat an entire banana.

Like I said, I really dislike bananas. Always have.

Berry Smoothie

None of this changes the fact that bananas are excellent to eat after strenuous workouts or runs. I still know this and I’m quite pleased that I finally found an easy recipe that I enjoy to have after working out. It does have quite a lot of sugar, but you can substitute water/ice for the juice to reduce that by about half.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Apple Juice (substitute with same of ice water or ice or other juice to taste)
  • Medium Banana, frozen
  • 1 cup Mixed Berries, frozen
  • 1/2 cup Vanilla Yogurt

Steps

  1. Pour the juice, berries, and yogurt in your blender cup.
  2. Use a butter knife to slice the skin off a couple of sides of the frozen banana. It comes off very easily, even when frozen & you can just cut off slices into the blender while holding the two remaining sides.
  3. Pulse the blender 5-6 times to chop up the frozen bits.
  4. Blend on high for 40 seconds.

Serves 2 (who am I kidding, I drink the whole thing. So should you).

The best part: The frozen banana is almost undetectable in terms of flavor, smell, and texture. I mean if you get nose right down into the cup, you’ll detect banana; but that’s what straws are for. For people who really hate bananas.

Remembering Maggie

I was talking to my dad last week and I hadn’t realized until he asked about Maggie that I hadn’t written about her here. I guess I don’t write here very often anymore, and it wasn’t the sort of thing I was really looking forward to. As Harry had lived longer and also had a longer, slower decline, I had sort of mentally prepared for some time for his death. Maggie, on the other hand, had been the picture of health up until June, when she started showing signs of what we thought was arthritis. A visit to the vet and some x-rays revealed that it was actually osteosarcoma (bone cancer) on her right, front wrist joint. There’s no treatment for that in dogs, short of amputation. However, for a thirteen year old dog that had already lived past her life expectancy by nearly two years, that seemed like a cruel way to make her live out her days.

So, we gave her medication and tried to spoil her. She continued to manage ok but the last couple of weeks of her life she had extreme difficulty moving about. Her tumor had then grown to softball size and she could bear no weight at all on her left front leg. She did get to enjoy several pounds of deli turkey in order to get her to take her medicine along with canned chicken in her dog food. That dog was always crazy for poultry.

Once we had admitted to ourselves that Harry couldn’t go on and put him to rest, we of course had to then acknowledge the level of pain Maggie had to be in. Could she last a couple of more weeks? We went back-and-forth but after just a couple of days after Harry was gone, she seemed to grow very depressed. Though Maggie and Harry were never quite what you’d call close buddies (they never laid next to one another or showed much dog-sibling affection), I truly thing it upset her when he didn’t come back after a couple of days. They’d never been separated in over 13 years for more than a day (when Harry had a surgery and stayed at the vet overnight). She had just become used to him in the pack, I guess.

She wouldn’t eat much, if anything (not even chicken). She moved about very little. The skin over her tumor began to rupture, either like a bed sore or from the ever-growing tissue destroying her bone. The question very quickly became, can she stay another day?

We decided that though she would hang on as long as we insisted, it would only be making her miserable to do so. So, only four days after Harry died, we took Maggie to the vet to have her put to rest as well. I wish I could tell you it was easier the second time, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult that was. I’d been mentally readying myself for a couple of years to accept Harry’s death but had never really given myself the time to consider losing Maggie so soon, too. You can know something as a fact (such as, “my dog won’t live forever”) but having to face that fact in reality is something entirely different. She passed with us petting her and telling her that she’d been a good dog.

Of course, Maggie maybe wasn’t the best dog when she first came to live with us. She was big and crazy. Imagine a hyper little terrier dog that runs around barking. Now imagine that becoming over 50 lbs. She’d attach the mail and the only reason she passed obedience training is because Pet Smart really won’t fail a dog. She outweighed Harry by two times, so playing tug of war was really more dragging him around until his neck got too tired to play.

But Maggie grew into being a great dog. She got a lot calmer, which comes later to terriers but it does eventually happen. She enjoyed going for walks and became my evening walking buddy. She’d let Angela pet her and would paw at Angela should the petting cease for even a few seconds. And on her last day, despite all the pain of her cancer and bones, she hobbled out our front door and followed the kids to the bus stop to give them a goodbye. She’d never done that before, but was determined to get into one last piece of mischief, I guess. They gave her a big hug each before they got on the bus.

So, now, a few weeks later, we’re still learning how to deal with a house that is a bit quieter than we’ve really ever known it. The boxes containing their ashes sit beside one another, by their collars, on a low shelf. Not really touching one another, but close enough they’d know they weren’t alone. Just like our two dogs spent most every day.

How Maggie Plays Fetch

In Memory of Harry

It is with sadness that I write that today our good friend & dog, Harry, died. He had begun to decline more rapidly over the past couple of weeks. Angela and I were on either side of Harry when our vet put him to sleep, just as he had slept in the middle of our bed for so many years. There comes a point when our love of keeping our pet near us is overcome by the desire to let him have the rest he deserved.

Our children had been able to say goodbye this morning before getting on the school bus. Harry spent part of his last night back in our bed sleeping, albeit restlessly, between us. I finally gave in to spoiling him with treats of human food. Even I couldn’t resist that begging face forever, I suppose.

So, to my friend who has slept at my feet everyday at work for nearly a decade now:

Harry, you were as loyal and wonderful of a friend as we could have ever hoped for. You were a giant personality in a small size; without fear but friendly to everyone you met. Especially when they happened to be a lady. You really liked the ladies, you old dog. You were a good dog, though, and I honestly cannot think of a better thing to say about anyone.

Where ever you are now, there aren’t any vacuum cleaners, thunderstorms, or smoke detectors with dead batteries to bother you. And there are many wonderful things to sniff and pee on. Sometimes those are the same things. And, if it is true that all dogs go to heaven, then surely you can see Angela at every moment of the day which will make your short nub of a tail wiggle with joy. She always was your favorite human or anything, right pal? Being able to watch her all day would truly be your greatest wish, I’m sure.

I want to say thank you again for all the years of companionship and love you showed Angela, me, and our family. It is a mystery to me how such a large heart fit into your little body. But thank you for being our dog and our friend through everything. It’s just hard to grasp that your life spanned most of the time Angela and I have been together. You’ve been there since near the beginning and were such a huge part of our building a life together. We’re better off for having had your in our lives. I think you would feel the same way.

Harry Scouts Out The Backyard Scene

Harry is survived by his adoring human family, Angela, Jason, Ainsley, & Wyatt along with this big/little sister, Maggie, the Airedale. If I’m being honest, though, part of what makes this post even more difficult is knowing that Maggie isn’t really in good health, either. Knowing that today was just the first part of losing our pets is particularly heartbreaking. But I’ll write about Maggie another day.

Shiny Bowie

My kids love the Moana soundtrack and who can blame them? Lin-Manuel Miranda is amazing. So back in February I introduced them to the Hamilton soundtrack. Turns out, there are a lot of kids who love Hamilton (despite the not-at-all-age-appropriate material in many of the songs).

So, given that music linking success (I’m getting burned out listening to Hamilton every day), I decided to try my luck with some other music. My son loves the Moana song Shiny which is sung by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame.

The song has a definite David Bowie feel, somewhat influenced I think by Flight of the Conchords Bowies in Space.

So, anyway, I figured he might be interested in some classic David Bowie. So, I let him listen to both Changes and Fame on the way back home this evening. He seemed to enjoy them (well, at least he didn’t ask to listen to anything else), so who knows maybe I can get them interested into a lot of different kinds of music. That will definitely save me from getting burned out on just a small handful of songs.

What I Told Our Kids

I’ve been interested in politics for most of my life and Angela is much the same. So we of course discuss politics quite a bit around the house. I do my best to follow my parents’ lead and 1) not get overly emotionally or upset about politics and 2) not present my opinion as the only one that matters. This is important so the kids can grow up forming their own opinions and also so they will be less likely to get in an unnecessary argument with other kids. Kids at school should focus on learning and being kids, not arguing with someone else over who’s parents voted for who. Though I’m adamant our children understand how our country is governed, it’s not really important for them to have strong opinions in grade school on matters of national policy.

But kids do talk about current events and even politics, to a lesser extent, at school. So I wasn’t too shocked when my son told me last Tuesday night after I turned out his lights “I sure hope Trump doesn’t win or I’ll have to move to Canada! He wants to build a wall around the entire country.”

I assured him that we wouldn’t have to move no matter who won and that there wasn’t going to be any wall1. The next morning Angela and I discussed the outcome of the election before the kids got up. But once they did wake up, it was a typical weekday rush to get ready for school and work, so there wasn’t any time to talk about the results of the election. After school, though, while I was making dinner, my daughter called out “So did Trump really win last night?”

“What!?” my son shouted with a look of genuine horror on his face.

So I told them that, yes, Trump did win and that one of the greatest parts of being an American is that we have free elections for our leaders. And even though mommy and I may have both voted for Sec. Clinton, we don’t have to leave or lose anything just because she lost. I explained that this is just how we pick a leader but it has nothing to do with who gets to be American.

Now, to a certain point, that is true. However, there are plenty of people who Trump has promised shouldn’t get to enter or even stay in America. And even if Trump hasn’t directly expressed it, plenty of his supporters have some very strong and disgusting opinions about just who should or should not get to be an American at all. But I really didn’t want to have to burden a nine- and seven-year-old with that, so I figured that would be the end of my two-minute reassurance talk with them.

Then my daughter asked what the KKK was and why were some kids saying the KKK were happy Trump won? That’s right: my innocent little kid was asking about the goddamn Klu Klux Klan2. I explained that they were a very racist group who felt that white people like me were somehow better than other people but that I am most definitely not better than anyone else, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or for any other reason. That God loves everyone just the same and that, without question, anyone who contradicts that is wrong.

As horrified as I was that I was having to hold this conversation with my children as a direct result of a U.S. presidential election, I decided now was the time to start righting the ship. I explained that even though we weren’t better than anyone, there are racist and prejudiced people in this country who wrongly believe that. Further, that our family probably already has it better than most people and are likely to experience far less difficulties and prejudices than other people in our country already do and will under President Trump and many of his supporters. And that as a result of that, it was our duty to help speak up on the behalf of others. That if we ran away or even just looked the other way, it would make the bullies stronger and their victims’ pain even worse. I asked them both to promise me that if they ever heard or saw anyone else being mistreated because of how they look, the color of their skin, or what they believe, that they would tell the person doing so to stop. Tell them that they were wrong. And to tell a responsible adult immediately.

They both gladly promised that they would. So if two kids are brave enough to make that promise, I know I will be, too. There was never a time in this country’s history that we didn’t need to look out for one another, but maybe it took something like this election to remind us of that.

Please note that any hurtful or derogatory comments will be deleted with extreme prejudice.

  1. I’m equally confident about both. President-elect Trump has already stated that the wall may just be a fence in some places. I doubt even that will get built, but feel free to re-check me on that statement over the next four years.
  2. Let’s be very clear bout something right here: If you feel the need to say something in defense of the Klan, you need to leave this site and never come back. If you are somehow offended or upset that I despise the KKK, just as much as I do any white nationalist, white supremacy, or other racist group, you and I can call it quits right here. I may not think I’m superior to you, but I know you are wrong and I have zero need to tolerate you. Full stop.

Software Engineering

This past week of February was National Engineers Week, and it’s always an excellent time to learn about different engineers today as well as those whose shoulders we stand on. I haven’t practiced engineering as a professional in over eight years, but I still work with engineers and structural engineering every day at Bentley Systems.

I wanted to post a bit on some of the history of software engineering and, in particular, just how much women have contributed and really created that discipline.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace pictured with her table of algorithms created as an example code

Lovelace is widely recognized as having created the very first computer code language, when transcribing in her shorthand some mathematics to use on Charles Babbage’s difference engine. Stephen Wolfram did some research on Lovelace’s life and wrote a fascinating article on her life and work.

 

WWII Computers

Prior to the general adoption of digital computers, a “computer” was actually a human person who sat and did calculations all day. These were almost without exception women, many of whom had degrees in mathematics but were not able to continue on in the field due to their gender. During World War II, when the US Army was researching the first digital computer — the ENIAC, a group of these women who had been calculating munition trajectories were hired on to encode the same calculations into that computer. They wrote the computer code and the debugging for the first computer.

The excellent documentary “Top Secret Rosies1 contains many first-person interviews with these women and the men who fought in WWII, using their work everyday in the war.

Katherine Johnson

She was a computer when computers wore skirts.

And Katherine Johnson was just about the best. So good, in fact, that when digital computers were being used to calculate the mission trajectories for the first moon landing, John Glen insisted that they be checked by Johnson first2.

Makers.com has a wonderful set of video interviews about her career.

Last year, Johnson was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom —one of the two highest civilian honor this country bestows— in honor of her accomplishments as well as her being a role model for women and people of color.

Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was an early computer scientist who is probably best known for having discovered an actual bug (a moth) in a piece of computer equipment (a printer). However, it was her contribution of creating the first digital compiler for taking human-readable code and converting it to machine language that was truly a remarkable achievement.

As a I told my after school coding club kids last Fall, anytime you are debugging code so a computer can understand it, think about Admiral Hopper!

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton standing next to listings of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) source code (Courtesy Wikipedia)

While Katherine Johnson and others had calculated the trajectory for the Apollo mission, the spacecraft itself now had digital computers on board. Margaret Hamilton was the lead software engineer —a phrase coined by Anthony Oettinger and then put into wide use by Hamilton— for the Apollo craft’s operating system. Her foresight into operation priorities saved the day when a radar system malfunctioned but the guidance system architecture still landed the lunar module. She founded Hamilton Technologies in 1986.

Today

I can’t help but wonder that men haven’t simply co-opted the role of software engineer from women once it became clear that software was a worthwhile endeavor. However, there are many great women engineers practicing today, in both software and other engineering disciplines. I have the privilege of working with many at Bentley Systems. However, we’ve done a great disservice to young women in creating a culture that fails to encourage women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. STEM programs go a long way to help right this, but I think we also need to recognize that women have managed to create much of the modern world we know today, particularly in the field of software. And this in spite of the uphill climb many of these women faced in just finding work at all!

So in honor of engineers week, let’s be sure to let young women know that not only is their a future in STEM for them, but there is also an amazing past to be proud of!

Coding is for girls” by Anne McGraw

Further Reading

  1. At the time of this writing, it was on DVD only and not especially easy to find. I was able to rent it from Netflix and it may be for sale on Amazon. I highly encourage anyone interested in tech, history, or warfare to watch it.
  2. Always check the computer kids! It’s only as good as the programmer.

Octavia Butler’s Oankali

Amy Deng’s Oankali for an art exercise “Imagining the Oankali.” A Google image search for Oankali and Ooloi does’t turn up much other than a lot of rough fan art, but I liked this drawing a lot; as much because of its analytical approach as the representation itself.

For the second year now, I’ve read an Octavia Butler novel during the month of February. February, being black history month, seemed like a good time to read her work and pay respect to one of the greatest science fiction authors. However, it’s also a bit ridiculous to only relegate her work to one month a year and I plan to finish the Xenogenesis trilogy (aka, Lilith’s Brood) this year. I especially love science fiction with truly “alien” creatures and Butler’s Oankali are unique in every aspect.

But if you’re not familiar with Octavia Butler and her work —and I wasn’t for most of my life— take some time to learn more about her. She was by all indications a genuinely wonderful person who proved having diverse points of view are important to science fiction or any genre. I particularly enjoyed reading this interview from In Motion Magazine, which was likely one of her last as well as watching this interview with Charlie Rose for PBS. Science fiction and fantasy genres have always had an issue with a lack of diversity and it is extraordinary what she accomplished for women and people of color.

This final quote from an interview she did in Locus Magazine in 2000 makes me especially sad that she abandoned her final parable novel:

Parable of the Trickster – if that’s what the next one ends up being called – will be the Seattle novel, because I have removed myself to a place that is different from where I’ve spent most of my life. I remember saying to Vonda McIntyre, ‘Part of this move is research,’ and it is – it’s just that Seattle is where I’ve wanted to move since I visited there the first time in 1976. I really like the city, but it is not yet home. As they tell writers to do, I’ll take any small example of something and build it into a larger example. I’ve moved to Seattle; my characters have moved to Alpha Centauri, or whatever. (That was not literal.) But they suffer and learn about the situation there a little bit because of what I learn about from my move to Seattle. Writers use everything. If it doesn’t kill you, you probably wind up using it in your writing.

So if you’re inspired to learn more about African-American contributions during Black History month, then by all means start with Octavia Butler. Just be sure to not leave her there but continue enjoying her amazing writing anytime.

The Real Glass Menagerie

Angela and I were able to go see a local production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” Saturday night. The cast and production were excellent and the audience, ourselves included, were moved by Laura’s panic attack as Jim arrives and with Tom’s final address of the audience.:

Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of coloured glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colours, like bits of a shattered rainbow.

Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes…

Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!

I had recalled from high school that this play was largely autobiographical, but reading more about Williams’ life makes that scene all the more heartbreaking. One of Williams’ two sisters, Rose, was Tennessee’s (real name: Thomas) closest friend when growing up was the basis for the character of Laura, or “Blue Roses” as she is nicknamed in the play. Rose Williams was given a lobotomy —one with some apparently very bad effect on her personality— after he left home to pursue his career in writing. He later would move her to a closer facility and, upon his death, leave much of his wealth to provide for her.

“The Glass Menagerie” was a ground-breaking play in how it dealt with personality disorders, inter-family dynamics, and the cost of leaving home for one’s own sake. It’s no wonder it still has so much power knowing what Williams went through for the source.

Schneider on the FBI Demand on Apple

When Bruce Schneier weighs in on the security implications of government actions, we should all pay attention:

We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.

This is the person that coined the phrase “security theater” and he isn’t in the habit of making up unlikely stories to scare us. He is, however, very good at understanding real risks to security for people, businesses, and countries.