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Kimberly Blessing Hi, my name is Kimberly Blessing. I'm a computer scientist, Web developer, standards evangelist, feminist, and geek. This is where I write about life, the Web, technology, women's issues, and whatever else comes to mind.

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Just Sayin Blog Archive

Life Lessons from the Labyrinth

I came upon a labyrinth in the woods.

I considered the labyrinth, and its goal at the center.

There are two ways to the goal:
- follow the path, trust it will get you there, or
- skip the intended process and jump to the center

Wondering what I would get out of trusting the process, I followed the path.

I worried that I was traveling in circles, when I observed an obstacle in my path. I had to duck to avoid hitting tree branches. I kept moving.

I saw myself moving towards the goal, and I was pleased. At one point, I was close enough to touch it, but I did not. I was traveling in a circle but felt momentum pulling me in. I knew I would get there.

Then I took a drastic turn and moved to the outside of the labyrinth. I was far from my goal, and I questioned why the path had diverted me. I was so focused on my anger over being as far from the goal as I was at the start that I neglected to see the tree branches ahead. But I had encountered this obstacle before, and I remembered to duck. But this time I had to be more flexible — there were more branches than before, so I had to bend further and for longer. I could have stopped, abandoned the path. But I kept moving.

Upon exiting the tree branch obstacle, I found myself moving closer to the goal again. I felt a sense of calm — not excitement. I was glad I had been challenged by another obstacle on my path. My commitment to the goal had been tested, my faith in the path had been tested. I knew I would succeed.

I came closer to the goal. I did not think about jumping the path to the goal. I did not even fixate on the goal getting closer. Instead I found myself thinking back on the path that I had traveled, and what I had learned along the way.

And, before I realized it, I had reached the goal. I looked around at the path that had gotten me here, and thanked it. I thanked myself for not abandoning the path.

And then I exited the labyrinth, ready to face the day.

Written June 26, 2011 at Bryn Mawr College

Moving to a new blog

After blogging here on a mish-mash of topics for a number of years, I’m shuttering this blog and moving on to a new domain, focused on web development and technical management. I hope you’ll join me at Obi-Wan Kimberly!

Craftmanship can change the world

Most mornings, I hit the Starbucks near work for a double tall non-fat no-whip cinnamon dolce latte. Yes, it’s a mouthful to say. And apparently it’s a really tough drink to get right… at least for the morning crew at this particular Starbucks. Despite seeing the same crew regularly, I almost always have to correct them on some aspect of my drink that they’ve screwed up (espresso shots sat too long, wrong milk, wrong size drink, scorched milk, etc.). When I do point something out, rather than get an apology, I’m usually given some excuse as to why it’s not right. I’m starting to suspect that either they’re making my drink wrong on purpose or they just don’t care about their craft — but in either case, they send a clear signal: a job’s a job, and they don’t care about theirs all that much.

Web developers can’t have this attitude. We absolutely must care about our craft and continually ensure that our work is demonstrative of best practices (both industry and our own signature practices). Sloppy execution of our work leads to cross-browser problems, inaccessible features, confusing user interactions, and time lost refactoring code in the future. We don’t get to give excuses to our customers — if it doesn’t work, end users don’t use the site, and clients don’t pay. Messy code shows that we don’t care about leaving something our fellow developers can learn from, and it demonstrates that we don’t care to take the time get our code right.

I shudder to think about the kind of code the baristas at the local Starbucks would write, were they developers. If only they could be more like so many of the awesome developers/craftspeople I know… then I’d be happily caffeinated each morning. And if fewer developers wrote code the way those baristas make drinks? Well, the Web might just explode from all that awesomeness.

The B-Word

Ah, the b-word: bitch.

It’s a word I don’t use much, if at all. I gave up the noun form completely a few years ago, and the verb form only comes out every once in a while, mostly in reference to myself.

I refuse to use the b-word to describe another person, especially another woman and especially in a leadership context. And I object to hearing others — male or female — use the word, since it’s so often dispensed with the very same properties that the speaker is attributing to the person being described: malice and spite. The b-word is a hateful, hurtful word, and I wish it could be cleansed from our vocabularies.

But since it’s clearly going to stick around, it might as well be redefined. I recently read Andi Zeisler’s definition of the b-word, and if everyone understood it to mean thus, I might just use it:

Bitch is a word we use culturally to describe any woman who is strong, angry, uncompromising and, often, uninterested in pleasing men. We use the term for a woman on the street who doesn’t respond to men’s catcalls or smile when they say, “Cheer up, baby, it can’t be that bad.” We use it for the woman who has a better job than a man and doesn’t apologize for it. We use it for the woman who doesn’t back down from a confrontation.

I know a number of women that fit the above far better than they could ever fit the dictionary definition of the b-word. Still, I’ll refrain from using it since I’m bound to be misunderstood. However, if I catch someone else using it, I’ve now got some great material to quote to help them understand what I hear them saying.

Some girls play with dolls. Real women…

I tore this ad out of one of my skateboarding magazines in the mid-80s, and as you can see, it’s beat to hell, having been pinned and taped to various surfaces over the years.

Powell Peralta Skateboards advertisement from the 80's: Some girls play with dolls. Real women skate.

Growing up, messages like this one really spoke to me. Even as a kid, I didn’t want to be seen as a girl. I was a woman, strong and self-confident, capable of doing anything that any guy could do. (Though, to be honest, I wasn’t a very good skateboarder. But the important thing is that I tried!)

So what I want to know is… where are the messages like this one for kids today? Everything seems so dumbed-down, or watered-down, with a “let’s be subtle, the kids will get it” type of approach, so as not to offend or oppress stupid boys. I want aggro, in your face, straight-up shit that burgeoning young feminists can get behind, dammit!

Hmm, that gives me an idea. Check back for more on this later.

Oh, and did you notice that the ad is pink, but that it still kicks ass? I had a pink Rodney Mullen freestyle deck, too… though I really wanted it in white, but the skate shop was out of them. Anyway, pink isn’t just for girls… it’s for real women, too!