2018 Automattic Grand Meetup, Orlando, Florida

What a week! From the guest speakers to an advanced development class to meeting new people to Harry Potter world to playing Pokémon to touring Disney Springs, it’s hard to say what was the best part of this year’s Automattic Grand Meetup.

I tried to split my time between my new team and my old team when I wasn’t attending class or various presentations and sessions. These events have gotten so huge that it takes some serious effort to find and hug every person I know over the course of the week, let alone have meaningful conversations.

I made new friends raiding in Pokémon Go, and spent most of my downtime wandering around Disney Springs. I had a great one-on-one with my new squad lead at the Star Wars VR experience, and now I think all one-on-ones should involve shooting Stormtroopers. XD

Automattic arranged a special event dinner at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios mid-week. That in itself was impressive, but the afterparty remained my favorite. Epcot fireworks, the ever-present photo booth, and the Automattician-powered band was a great way to round out the week. Just when you think your colleagues couldn’t get any more brilliant, they get on stage and blow you away with musical talent.

And of course, there are the pictures; my favorite souvenirs:


Patented Gwennie smirk

Seven years ago today, I was feeling pretty miserable. I was a week overdue with a pregnancy that had been a long slog, and I’d developed a cold that kept me up in the wee hours. My midwife prescribed me antibiotics and Tylenol PM, and I went to bed that night hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

Then my water broke.

The next morning, Gwen entered our lives like a superhero, with one little fist raised in protest. She’s been our little fighter ever since.

Dat sass

Gwen is our wild child, our goofball, our daredevil. Her imagination knows no bounds, her stories are endless and filled with dramatic delights. Murderous villains, triumphant superheroes, bullies, and best friends. One day she’s a puppy or a kitten or a bunny rabbit, and we’re hard-pressed to convince her to break character to do mundane things like eat or do chores or homework.

Tending to her kitty.

She builds amazing things out of LEGOs and plays with them for hours. She eats ketchup on everything, and by everything, I mean one of the three foods that’s currently in her Acceptable Foods rotation, which changes on a daily basis. She’s her big sister’s best friend. She loves to be tickled until she can’t breathe, and then she’ll catch her breath and beg for more.

Future engineer

Gwen does everything with gusto. Sometimes her love is so fierce, it physically hurts. She throws herself into my lap like a canon ball, squeezes tight with her arms around my neck like a vise. She’s loud; we have yet to find her volume control switch. She’s told me she’s meant to be a monkey who lives in the trees, that she’s too wild to be contained in our house — then she says, “I’m not a nature girl” when I tell her to go outside and play.

The Incredible Sulk

Gwen is the kid who makes me laugh when I’m not supposed to laugh, who makes me question everything I’m doing as a parent, who brings me to the edge of patience and tips me over just to see how I’ll react. She learns the hard way, over and over and over.

She’s the reigning champion of the time-out corner.

Oh, this face. This sweet little face.

Her hair still smells a little like it did when she was a baby. She still reaches for my hand when we cross a busy parking lot. She crawls into bed with us and tucks herself under Tim’s arm, and her face still shows faint traces of babyhood when she sleeps. She still has my whole dang heart. 

serious cute
Once upon a time, there was a tiny baby who grew up to be mine.

Happy birthday, Guinevere. May we survive your tenacity so it can serve you well, as you do all the big, dramatic things you dream up.

Adventures in Crafting: Hand-lettering edition

My super-talented colleague, Cristel, recently gave a presentation on hand lettering to a group of us at work, and I was inspired to give it a try. I’ve done lettering in Illustrator before, but never with pen to paper.

I happened to have these Sharpie brush pens on hand — Tim loves office supplies so there is no end to the number and type of pens in his desk at any given time — but after trying them out, I realized my kids “borrowed” them and used them to color. They were dry. :-/ So I ordered some new ones from Amazon (along with some practice paper), but they were delayed by weather. Double bummer.

We were shopping for birthday supplies at Walmart this weekend and I found this big ol’ box of 50 Crayola “Super Tips” for $7. Thanks to YouTube (because you can learn how to do just about anything on YouTube), I know that Crayolas are recommended for practicing brush letters since they’re cheap and easy to find. Practice problem: solved.

So now I have a cheap graph paper notebook that’s full of pages like this:

I’ve noticed some improvement in controlling the pen since I’ve started practicing, and it’s easy enough to find time; a five-minute break is enough time to write out a word or two, or practice individual letters or shapes. I don’t really like my k’s, w’s, or B’s yet, and round shapes like o’s and a’s still trip me up.

If I keep this up, I’ll reward myself for daily practice with a set of better quality pens. This will also help make my digital lettering better, since now I have a better sense of which strokes should be thick or thin!

Montréal Comiccon

Last weekend I flew to Montréal for Comiccon. It was huge; definitely bigger than the one we went to in Boston a few years ago. There were costumes galore and lots of places to sit quietly and people-watch. I’d originally planned this trip because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were both slated to make an appearance, but Gillian had to cancel. I decided to go anyway; I still wanted to meet David, and this con would be easier to wrangle than NYC.

Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and William B. Davis (Cigarette-Smoking Man) were also there. I bought a selfie with Mitch; he was incredibly nice about making time for everyone, asking questions, etc. He’s very kind, and doesn’t talk through his teeth at all. Apparently he reserves that stoicism for Mulder and Scully.

The three actors also did a Q&A panel, which was underwhelming — it was advertised as a “Special Event” and tickets cost extra, which probably should have been a red flag. The moderation was sub-par and the fan questions weren’t screened, so there were a lot of repeats. I cringed, a lot. It wasn’t worth the cost of admission, but oh well.

Of course, I got a photo with David:

David freakin' Duchovny (and me)

It’s a picture of a picture so it’s not great quality, but who cares? JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE. I got a side hug. I’m never washing my sweater again.

The X-Files Poster Print Fan Art - The Light in Dark Places by Calobee Doodles

He also signed one of my prints (I don’t have a photo of the print with the signature handy, so you’ll just have to trust me!) Eventually I’d like to get Gillian Anderson’s autograph on the same print. Between that, and a photo with both GA and DD, and I think my fandom life will be complete.

But the best part of this trip arguably had little to do with Comiccon, and everything to do with my friend and colleague, Kathryn, who made for excellent company while I was in her home city. We had a couple A+ meals (sushiiiiii) and she showed me the most amazing dessert place.

In a wonderful bit of serendipity, she also found these two artifacts while cleaning her house this weekend:

The first is an August 1995 sci-fi magazine with the infamous all-white photo shoot. The second is a script for an X-Files episode that doesn’t appear to have aired. Maybe a spec script from Tim Minear, who wrote a couple X-Files episodes in 1998 (and wrote for a bunch of other shows as well). I can’t wait to read it!

I also had a chance to walk around the city a bit. I haven’t done much solo travel for fun, but I could see this becoming a thing in the future.