Summer trip to Asia

By kate on June 1st, 2016

This summer, I’ll be traveling in Asia for three months with Grant and Ruby. We leave on Saturday! While we’re gone, we’ll be blogging at Traveling Ruby – go there to follow our adventures.


Click for larger version

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Winning GIS Presentation

By kate on May 7th, 2015

IMG_20150506_164811This week, I attended the GIS in Action conference and competed in the Dick Thomas Memorial Student Presentation Competition. I’m excited to say that my project won first place!

We presented the work we did for the Washington Poison Center: analyzing their call data, then creating static, animated, and interactive maps they can use for outreach and fundraising.

If you’re interested to see more, my slides are here and you can see some of my maps on my LinkedIn profile.

The complete 15-minute presentation is below. I recommend following along with the slides on your own, because the video cuts them off.

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Learning How to Be Better at Sucking

By kate on February 26th, 2015

It’s fun to post about things I’m good at or know a lot about (like trapeze, where I’m working on the double – very exciting). I have a much, much harder time when people see me being bad at something. I get embarrassed, upset, and self conscious and just want to hide.

I’d like to be able to change this, especially now I can see that my daughter takes after me in this regard. I want her to learn as a kid that it’s OK to be bad at something for a while, to stick with it anyway, and enjoy the fun of it. I was inspired by my friends Brian and Molly, who boldly started beginner piano lessons to demonstrate this to their kids.

tap-shoesSo, I signed up for a beginner tap dance class. I’ve always wanted to know how to tap dance, to be one of those people who can just whip out a little shuffle-step when needed. Finding perfect tap shoes at the thrift store followed by finding a class that actually fits my schedule prompted me to finally do it.

In a class of beginners, I’m the newest and the worst. The teacher is always giving me easier variations on the steps so I can keep up. And forget about operating my hands and feet at the same time – so far that’s impossible. By the end of every class I’m thoroughly demoralized and feel like a failure.

… which is what I am trying to practice. So I remind myself that it’s OK, it’s part of the point to feel this stuff. Then I try to talk about it in front of Ruby as much as I can. Last week I practiced in front of her too, working on a step until I got it down. In June, I’m facing the horror of an actual dance recital where my class performs a tap dance number on a theater stage in front of a large number of people who are only there to see their child perform (in a different song in the same show).

This is the hardest role model work I’ve done so far.

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Sexist Ads for the Seattle Times

By kate on November 6th, 2014

I’m a Seattle Times subscriber, because I like to read a local newspaper and it’s the only one left. They have their weaknesses and I don’t always agree with their editorial positions, but they still do strong investigative journalism. Recently, I started to notice a series of ads running in the Times advertising the Sunday edition of the paper. Each ad featured a “person” (I’m guessing they’re fictional) sharing their Sunday experience and how the Seattle Times is a central part of it. That’s a nice concept, but the execution started to annoy me as I realized each character was very stereotypical.

Wishing I would see some against-the-grain characters in this series of ads, I created my own. Below I’ve included five real ads from the Times so you can see for yourself how sexist they are.

Kate's Sunday Morning


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How to give your kid the best lunchbox

By kate on September 3rd, 2014

Photo by Steve LerouxIn honor of the first day of school, I’d like to share an idea that will ensure your kid has the most unique and awesome lunchbox in class.

I’ve long been a fan of metal lunchboxes. The soft, insulated ones are hard to clean when new and impossible to clean once they get some use and develop tears in the lining. I shudder to think what could grow in there. In contrast, metal lunchboxes are easy to clean thoroughly with soap and water. They last most of a school year under hard use, and when they’re retired, you can see just how much damage they’ve protected your kid’s food from.

Shopping for metal lunchboxes is tough, though. Like most children’s stuff, the lunchbox selection is rife with branded characters and exaggerated gender stereotypes, things I try to avoid. Beyond that, there are a lot of retro lunchbox designs, which may appeal to parents but don’t connect with kids. I tried a personalized lunchbox from Frecklebox, but it was expensive and didn’t last long.

Finally, I hit upon the idea we’ve been using for a couple years now. I order a plain metal lunchbox ($18 with shipping) and let Ruby decorate it herself! She uses stickers and labels from her sticker drawer (and mine), sometimes drawing on or cutting up something to make it just right. Usually, the big sides are arranged in some kind of scene related to something she’s been into recently. Here are the three she’s created so far:

Once she finishes designing the lunchbox, I simply cover it with a layer of packing tape. This protects the decorations and is sturdy enough to last as long as the lunchbox does.

If you want to do this, I offer a few tips:

  • Make sure your child’s name is in the design somewhere (so their name is on it).
  • Keep a pair of needle-nose pliers handy. The metal hinges come loose occasionally and need a good tightening.
  • When a lunchbox is retired, keep it around so you can use its parts (handles, fasteners) as spares. This makes them last longer.
  • If you don’t have a lot of stickers, your child could use markers to draw on their designs instead.


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My Recumbent Bike Gear

By kate on June 10th, 2014

recumbent-cropI’ve been a recumbent biker for a year and a half, and I’m hooked. The comfort of sitting on a “bent” bike is immediately obvious, but it took hundreds of miles of riding before the very different center of balance felt like second nature. Last year, I completed the 200-mile STP on my bike, nicknamed The Armchair, and proved to myself that I can ride up any hill that comes, albeit slowly.  At this point I wouldn’t consider going back to upright.

One challenge as a recumbent rider, especially for women, is clothing. The padding on regular bike shorts is uncomfortable and unnecessary. Regular bike jerseys come with big pockets in the back. On a recumbent you don’t even want thick seams on your back, let alone stuff in pockets, since your back presses against the seat back as you pedal. After some trial and error, I found great gear. Here are my recommendations.



V5-1236555-001_BCROPUnder Armour Authentic 7″ Compression Shorts

No uncomfortable seams in the back, and it’s a good length that doesn’t ride up too far. They also have a comfortable, flattering waist that stays in place and doesn’t roll down or dig in.


V5-1228321-787_HTFtankUnder Armour Tech Short Sleeve V-Neck and Under Armour Victory Tank Top

Both of these are comfortable, breathable, and wick moisture well. I chose a very bright color (neon green) to help my visibility. The tank top makes better tan lines, and the t-shirt is good for when you’ve had too much sun.


Champion Zip Tech Sports BraCHP_CH1699_alt03

Most sports bras clasp in the back, just where you don’t want irritation. This one zips in the front and doesn’t have any thick parts to bother you in the back. Note: you will be able to see a little bump in your shirt front where the zipper is (doesn’t bother me).


Helmet Mohawk from PC RacingIMG_20130616_092753

I wanted to add some funky style to my look, so I added this velcro-attached mohawk to my helmet, in the same neon green. It also helps with visibility and gets lots of compliments.




Roswheel Front Tube Cell Phone Bag

handlebars-cropI was able to attach this to my handlebars as pictured, giving me a handy dashboard for my bike and the only storage I can access while riding or during a quick stop. It displays my phone (usually running Ride With GPS), and the space inside is perfect for snacks like granola bars, dried coconut, and Shot Bloks.


Outdoor Products Essential Waist Pack

fannyI strap this large fanny pack around my seat with the pack in the back. The strap is flat around the front so I don’t feel it while riding. Inside, there’s plenty of space for things like tools, keys, spare tire, wallet, tissues, ChapStick, etc. It’s easy to unclip and take with me for security when I leave my bike (of course, I take my phone out of the handlebar cell phone holder and slip it inside here too).


Bike Peddler Take a Look Eyeglass Mirror

511SR6oUfgL._SL1500_There’s no good way to attach a mirror to a recumbent’s handlebars, yet a mirror is especially important because it’s harder to do a quick head-check behind yourself when you’re seated on a recumbent. This perfect little mirror is the answer. It securely attaches to your sunglasses, adjusts easily, and stays where you put it.


Bacchetta Giro 20

Last but most important of all, my beloved bent bike. I chose this model after trying a wide range of recumbent styles at the excellent Angle Lake Cyclery, a local shop with a focus on recumbents. I added disc brakes and fenders for riding in the rain, and chose the Euromesh seat for comfort.




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