Kate Chapman

How I Spent $80 on SMS Last Month

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First I must preface, no I am not a teenager. Yes, I did spent $80 on SMS last month.

I’ve become quite used to using SMS for Twitter.  This habit came out of traveling places where the data connection wasn’t good or on occasion non-existant.  One time last year it even saved a friend from a travel issue. Rob Baker was joining our team in Indonesia and we were already out in Bau-Bau. I told Rob if he ran into any issues that there was free Wifi at the Makassar Airport and he could always direct message me on Twitter. I told him this ahead of time because I was unsure if I would have a data connection in Bau-Bau. It was fortunate I did because there was no connection and the Wifi at the hotel of our training was broken.

As Indonesian airlines are prone to do his flight to Makassar arrived late and he missed the flight to Bau-Bau, the tickets on the two flights were different airlines so the second airline would not honor the ticket at a later time.  Most of the Indonesian airlines don’t take U.S. credit cards so Rob was not able to purchase another ticket.  Freaking out a little bit he sent me a message (perhaps I should dedicate another post to the confusion caused by coming to a country where the exchange rate is 9000 rupiah to 1 U.S. Dollar). Fortunately by messaging me on Twitter one of my colleagues was able to book Rob a new ticket and send him on his merry way.

Now Twitter wasn’t 100% necessary in this case, I would have eventually gotten an email. Rob could have probably found a way to call me on my Indonesian mobile. What was great though is those things weren’t necessary.  I was able to quickly get a message and help Rob, with minimal pain on either of our sides (minus the missed flight airline fiasco of course).

Whoa, SMS is Expensive

Previously I have written about switching to a prepaid mobile phone plan for when I am in the United States. I decided to attempt not using mobile data while in the U.S. with this plan and see what happened.  The one communications I was not going to give up though was Twitter, so I set my account to use SMS a couple days upon my return to the U.S. This happened to be in the evening so I set it up and then went to bed. The next morning I woke up and my phone was out of credit.  I quickly realized the issue, I had not just set SMS for @ replies and DMs (in other words messages directly to me). There were some friends where I had subscribed to their status updates. This burned through about $20 in one night. I readjusted my settings and purchased credit again see below my spending with T-Mobile over the past 3 months (this incident was 2/6/2012). You’ll see however less than two weeks later even with adjusted settings I had burned through what I had bought.

  • 11/15/2012 $50.00
  • 2/06/2012 $30.00
  • 2/14/2012 $50.00

Paying to Receive

Text messages to me have always either been unlimited or extremely cheap. When I had a monthly plan previously I had unlimited, in Indonesia they are very cheap and there is no cost of receiving. The no cost to receive is the big thing that changes how one consumes. It is easy to sign-up for alerts or receive unnecessary messages when their is no cost.

In the United States however you pay both to send and receive texts. This can lead to very different mobile usage, such as friends who refuse to use text or status messages such as “On my new phone plan texts cost me money, please IM me.”

No perhaps I just have the wrong plan for my consumption. I almost never talk on the phone and when I do it is to call into a meeting, so I end up using Google Voice or Skype for that. If I receive a phone call to my mobile I usually let it go to voicemail unless I’m expecting it. It certainly is weird though to switch from the U.S. where my consumption patterns are apparently not the norm to Indonesia where if you send someone an important email you also text them asking them to read it.

Will I Live without Twitter?

Considering I spent $80 in February on Mobile to Tweet and SMS my friends it seems a bit excessive to use Twitter over SMS. I could probably get a data plan for less than that. Or I could stop using Twitter to my phone. I’m still saving money over having a mobile plan that I didn’t use for months at a time, but the cost if I stayed in the U.S. for any prolonged period of time would be far too much.

A quick search after the initial publishing of this post showed me that I just need to switch from “Pay As You Go” to ”Pay By The Day” with T-Mobile. My maximum expenditure per month would be $31 plus probably a few minutes at 10 cents a minute if something was urgent.  Far better than the $80 I spent in February.

Edition 2 of This Week in Kate’s Brain - Living Well/Living Meaningfully

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This week my life and the articles I was really thinking about coincided very closely. The item of note for me is I moved all of my belongings into storage for an indeterminate amount of time. I’m spending this next month in Jakarta and I’m unsure exactly that I’ll be doing after that. Since my current living situation was coming to a close I figured it made sense not to do anything until April when I return. If nothing else I would save a months rent, more likely I will be happy for the flexibility when I return.

Another reason this was “in Kate’s Brain” this week was after a discussion with Christiann. We were discussing retirement and she made the statement that she “didn’t think about retirement.” This wasn’t in the careless way someone might say. To me it was the 30s idea of “do we have to live the traditional life of our parents?”

How do Happy People Spend Their Money?

As the economy continues to evolve and change and as people’s lifestyles continue to develop traditional values about money and life are changing. This is the premise of How the Happiest People in the World Spend Their Money. A review of Laura Vanderkam’s book All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending, which I have not read yet (but added to my reading list).

  • Is everyone going to follow the “American dream” or will people make different choices and be happier making them?
  • Are there non-traditional ways to increase your earnings?
  • Is traditional retirement going to go away and are there other ways?

All topics discussed in the article and from Vanderkam’s book. I’m certainly already rethinking these things, as are my friends.

What is this Life all Worth?

As the pursuit of things has out weighed the pursuit of satisfaction in life Is a Well Lived Life Worth Anything? The premise by Umair Haque is today was are in a “Great Stagnation” not just an economic down-turn.  To recover fully there is more at stake that simply fixing the GDP, people will still be not living a life worth living. Many people work on things that they don’t find to be meaningful. What if they worked on something meaningful? If you “tapped into their inspiration and imagination and set them to work on stuff that actually mattered?”

The term eudaimonia comes from the Greeks and means to live a “meaningfully well-lived life”. By all of us striving to do that it would allow switch from “opulence to eudaimonia.” Switching will not be instant, but what can an individual do now to live this way? Reading this caused me to put a book on my reading list entitled Betterness: Economics for Humans. Which is summarized as a guide from big to small scale to make things better and “redefine prosperity.”

These brief paragraphs hardly scratch the surface of the blog post and I suggest you read it yourself if these ideas seem of interest to you.

What am I Thinking?

As I sit on a 14 hour flight to Hong Kong to return to Jakarta I think about where I am in relation to these premises.  Do I spend my money as a happy person does? Is my life meaningful and am I living it well?

I think the answer is “sometimes” or “maybe.” Meaning I believe in the work I’m doing now and I have amazing friends. Does that stop me from sometimes spending on things I don’t need or that don’t contribute to the premise of happiness or meaning? No I doesn’t. Does my work take me frequently from friends and family? This does not always lead to happiness, but I would say I’m generally happy. The distance is fortunately in the goal of doing work that is important to me. Sometimes though am I away for a conference or other reason that lacks that meaning? Yes, sometimes when you start traveling most of the time it is hard to slow down, it can be difficult to be home. Once I am home I have a sense of belonging but it is possible sometimes to lose that while I’m away. Hopefully though from this being in my brain this week it can continue to be there are through mindfulness I can continue down the path to further happiness and meaningfulness.



The #pwyw Experiment

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So previously I’ve read about restaurants switching to models of “pay what you want.” For example Panera Bread tried that model in 2010 in Missouri. Checking back in 2011 it appears to still be going strong. Though the model hasn’t worked when applied to a Panera Bread in Portland, Oregon.  There people ended up not paying, but also staying in the restaurant for many hours. Tyler Cowen an economics professor suggests that this method is unlikely to work for very many restaurant, especially if the method ceases to be a novelty.

Can This Model Work for Peer to Peer Consulting?

I would like to experiment with this model for peer to peer consulting. I’ve considered this for sometime, but in the past I have no had enough control over my time to really try it. Technologists often help each other out, be it through online forums, twitter, direct communication or through publishing knowledge to blogs or source-code repositories. There are sometimes those problems though that are too complex or too specific perhaps to depend on these methods.

There have been times where I have been stuck on a problem and would have been overjoyed to have someone with expertise in that subject be able to sit down for a hour and help.  In these cases sometimes I felt it was asking too much for someone to assist with what I was stuck. Also there have been cases in the past where people maybe wanted me to teach them something and either time didn’t allow or they were afraid to ask. This experiment is an attempt to eliminate this embarrassment.

The Experiment

  1. I will publish office hours a week in advance

  2. You can go sign-up for slots, including a description and how I will contact you. I’m open to any means of communication as long as they are free.

  3. At the slotted time we will begin working on your problem. If it is a problem where it is be worked on asynchronously then I will work on it during the time-slot. If it is something that more requires discussion it will occur during the reserved time.

  4. If you are satisfied with the help and would like to pay for it then you can pay me through Paypal, send me a gift, trade anything that seems appropriate to you.

Are You Not Going to Help Informally Anymore?

No don’t worry about that. Nothing is going to change in my interactions within the OpenStreetMap Community, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap TeamCrisisMappers or any other place that I am active. This is simply a new method to get my assistance.

What Might Topics Can You Help?

I am the type of person that has varied interests, so I have held many types of jobs in the arena of mapping for the past ten years. Below are some items I am qualified for assisting.

  • Geographic Data Analysis
  • Introduction to Programming in Ruby or JavaScript
  • Learning How to Get Started with OpenStreetMap
  • Basics of using a Linux/Unix based operating system
  • Using OpenStreetMap for humanitarian purposes
  • Setting Up a Non-profit Organization (basic process in DC)
  • Creating Presentations
  • Social Media Usage (I only put this for the people that really, really don’t get Twitter. But you probably aren’t reading my blog if that is the case)
  • Creating Data Collection Strategies
  • Writing Software Requirements
  • Creating a Technical Resume
  • Online Technical Community Management

Maybe you know me well and there is a topic I don’t even know someone would want my expertise.

How to Try It

Check out the appointment slots available in my calendar (you may have to sign in with Google, if there is a better solution please let me know in the comments). Please don’t forget to include a description of why you are making the appointment and how you would like me to contact you.

So it begins, I’ll be Tweeting about my experiences with this under #pwyw,if you use this service or start your own you should too!

This Week in Kate’s Brain

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Thinking about data is a pretty common topic in my brain, but two particular articles got me thinking this week. Both happened to be from the New York Times.

This first was ”How Companies Learn Your Secrets.” The introduction to the article was how Target uses statistical analysis to determine which of the company’s customers is pregnant so they can target them with coupons. There is even a substory about a father whose daughter received the mailer and came to the store to complain.  It turned out he found out the following week his daughter was indeed pregnant. When a statistician has a training set of data it is amazing what can happen, in this particular case it was women who registered for Target baby registry.  From a privacy perspective it is interested to think about this case, technically Target isn’t doing anything wrong but the whole thing seems a bit creepy.

The second article I’ve really been pondering over this week has been more about how analysis can be used for extreme good. Entitled ”60 Lives, 30 Kidneys, All Linked.” Recently a transplant chain was completed that resulted in 30 people receiving new kidneys. The idea behind the chain is that often there are relatives or friends willing to give a kidney, but are not a match.  The transplant chain allows someone to say “I’ll give a kidney as long as the person I want to help is able to receive one.”  Organizing such a thing is quite a feat though, for example what if someone backs out after the person they love already receives a kidney? One thing that makes the chain easier is if it is started by someone who is not giving a kidney to a specific person.  The National Kidney Registry was founded to help create these donation chains. A big step fo them has been convincing the kidney transplant centers to register with the service.

The thinking these articles inspired for me is really about the possibly of data for good and technology for business.  Some perhaps would argue that increasing business with technology is good because it can create jobs, but I think this is very dependent on the circumstances.  Then there are all of the uses for evil, but for me this week there wasn’t a particularly poignant article that I read. If you have such an article leave it in my comments.

A Morning of Funding on Kickstarter

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So this morning I ended up pointed to the Kickstarter project This is Not a Conspiracy Theory. I have a plan to do a project soon, so on my list was to look at a range of projects to see how to make ours more likely to be funded.  Just to look at the community in general, the types of projects, how people pitch them and if I saw anything else that might be helpful. So I decided this morning was as good a time as any to do this and I began looking and also decide to back projects that I thought were interesting. I’ve backed a Kickstarter project in the past, but it didn’t end up getting the necessary pledges to be funded.

So the first project I funded was the one that brought me to Kickstarter on this particular day. I’m not sure if I would have had I just come upon the project on its own, but I had just watched Everything is a Remix Part 4 and wanted to see another project from Kirby Ferguson.

Then I proceeded to go through other projects helping or not just based on my personal impression. Below are the projects I contributed to in order.

I know this seems like an odd assortment, but it does fit in with my interests.  The intersections of sex, culture and religion has aways interested me.  For example the last book I read was Love, InshAllah which is about the lives and relationships of U.S. American Muslim women. I view Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex as a different religion and background, but still roughly similar topic.  FOURPLAY is another look into human sexuality, not exactly the same topic but I thought it would be interesting. Also I liked that it was very near getting funded, so I felt like I was really contributing to the project making it.

I backed CHRISTIANIA - 40 Years of Occupation mostly because their video was compelling and made me want to watch more of this.  The project was a documentary about Christiania which is an area in Copenhagen that started as a squatted military area in 1971. Previously the Danish government mostly let it exist autonomously, but there have been clashes between government and residents in recent years.

More Chilean Than Beans is a project to create a documentary about Zandy Mangold, who plans to run a ultramarathon in the Atacama Desert.  Ultra-type events are something I don’t see myself every attempting, but I’m interested in the mind-set of people that do complete them.  I did support in 2005 for the Furnace Creek 508 because I was interested to see the individuals that would do it.

As for Contact lens case for the 21st Century or Health Fast-Food Revolution: The Beet Box?  Those were kind of larks at the end of my looking through projects.  The contact lens case I funded enough to get two of them, I thought they were something my sister and mother would like.  The Beet Box?  Well, I think beets are the greatest vegetable ever and I enjoyed how in the team’s video they bit into a bunch of beets throughout it.

There were many projects I decided not to back, proof by the fact that I’m not broke now. This was for a variety of reasons. Of course the top reason was the project didn’t interest me. One of the other main ones was the project didn’t have a video.  I realize making a video is probably easier for the projets that are documentaries, but even a not particularly well produced video shows commitment and more about the project.  There were of course the projects where they just didn’t win over my heart, maybe the idea was sound but I just didn’t feel I should put my dollars behind it. That is the beauty of Kickstarter though, people can fund any of the projects that they are interested in for one reason or another.

Or as in Portlandia spoof, just to help your daughter with her project.

Words, Words, Words, Everywhere

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In my travels in Indonesia I’ll hear a word and then notice it is being used all the time in conversation.  Sometimes this is in a particular type of conversations other times it is not. I usually look them up right then or ask someone later when it is an appropriate time. Sometimes however they can’t understand what I’m asking them. In this case it takes much longer to find out what they mean.

One of those words was “merica.” Initially I asked Emir Hartato what it meant, but I must not have said it correctly. He didn’t understand what I mean.  So next I tried looking it up but I thought it was spelled “merica.” Looking this up though the word meant “pepper,” I knew this wasn’t right.  So either there was an additional meaning Google Translate wasn’t giving me or I had spelled the word wrong.  This word was being used a lot in meetings so I was sure they weren’t talking about pepper!

So after wondering about this for a long time the word appeared again in yesterday’s training class.  The discussion was about what we were going to do tomorrow, but I still wasn’t sure what the word meant.  Then I stumbled across it on a sign in the restaurant in our hotel!  Mystery solved I was spelling it wrong!  The actual word was “mereka” which can mean “to plan” or as a pronoun “they.” This word completely makes sense in the context of what people were talking about.

The sign that said it all

Maybe someday I’ll understand enough surrounding words that I’ll be able to figure out more vocabulary without these crazy adventures! I think I pick up 2 or 3 words a day naturally, maybe more.  It is hard to count though, since sometimes I learn words without realizing it.

Learning Indonesian

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As many of you know I’ve spent the past year traveling in and out of Indonesia.  I’ve never previously spent as much time in one country other than the United States. It has been a new experience for me learning a language mostly through immersion.  I say “mostly” because I do have a book I study sometimes and I also quiz people when I have questions.  Though maybe quizzing people is part of immersion, I’m not sure if there are rules…

About a month ago something clicked in my learning.  I started to understand a lot more.  This happened immediately after returning from a trip to Switzerland, not randomly one day while I was in Indonesia.  While in Switzerland I was in Geneva and in Bern.  I began taking German when I was in 8th grade and also studied it in College.  So while in Bern I was able to understand much of what people were saying.  I haven’t used my German in years so speaking it did not work very well, but I could understand.  Coming back though I was extremely surprised to be understanding a lot more Indonesian the first day I was back.

I’m unsure if using my second language unlocked something in using another one.  For me it seems to have. I’ve begun picking up words at a much faster rate for example and entire sentences will make sense to me instead of previously when I would think “oh wait, I understand that word and that one, but…hmmmm I have no idea what is going on.” One thing I haven’t begun picking up too much of though yet is grammer.  I think that is something I’m just going to have to be better about studying.

Though this new found understanding has lead to one new goal for me personally though.  Not to zone out when people are speaking in Indonesian.  It is easy to do, because listening where you don’t understand everything can be exhausting.  However I’m making a real effort to pay attention the whole time.  Something I don’t know if I would have had the brain capacity to do before when I had no idea what was going on.

We’ll see what happens the next time I return, I’m heading back to the US for the holidays and will try to keep up on my studying when I am there.  If you are curious as to the book I’ve been learning from it is called ”Instant Indonesian” and it focuses on specific words and phrases you would use in everyday conversation.  I suspect I will need a new book in a couple months, but it has been really helpful to me so far.

Little Secret….We Talk About You

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_For some of you that have recently moved to DC you will roll your eyes. Mostly because this joke of mine is a bit old. _

So I have lived in the Washington, D.C. area for the past 20 years. For those of you doing the math (well who also know my age) that means since I was 12 years old or since the beginning of 7th grade. I grew up in Herndon, Virginia, went to Oakton High School in Vienna and studied Geography at George Mason University. Frequently when people are moving to DC they ask me about it, how I like the city, what sort of communities there are, downsides, etc. My response more often than not is “I’ll let you in on a little secret, we talk about you.” The response is usually “huh?” or “what?” I then go on to explain, “well those of us that have been here for a while are in it for the long haul.”

What does this mean? In DC there are many people who have moved for their careers. DC is a short stop for them, to work on the Hill, to work for a big organization like the World Bank or to make money in contracting for the U.S. government. Many of these people aren’t invested in making DC a home. I love the different communities in DC, especially the different art and tech ones. Sometimes it is difficult to decide what to do on any day of the week. To me DC is a great place to be a geek.

My advice to people moving it look for those specific niche groups that share the same interests as you. If one doesn’t exist start one. Need help finding one here are a couple of my favorites. Since I travel so much now you won’t often see me at one of them myself, but if any of them sound interesting go check them out.

  • MoWiTy or Monkeys with Typewriters is one of my favorite events I almost never get to attend. It began during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year, after November people didn’t want the weekly write-ins to end. That was how MoWiTy came to be. An informal writing group people get together once a week to work on projects. Writing has a very loose definition, meaning you don’t have to be working on a novel to join. Some write code, some draw cartoons, I usually blog and of course there are those working on novels. Sound interesting? Join the mailing list to keep up on where/when the next MoWity is.

  • For those friends of the geonerd persuasion there is Geonerds DC. This year after WhereCampDC there was a desire to continue to get together more regularly. Previous there had been a similar group GeoDC, but the organizers (myself and Robert Soden) got busy and stopped scheduling it. So if you are interesting in web maps, GIS or any other kind of geospatial this is the place to be.

  • If you are specifically interested in OpenStreetMap there is a seperate group for that as well called MappingDC. Events are organized as people have the desire and the best way to find out the next one is join the mailing list. Or if there is somewhere that you want to map and have people come and help out, then host a Mapping Party yourself.

  • Super Art Fight isn’t a DC specific phenomena. Though there are events in DC that I suggest you check out. Artists are given large canvases and sharpies, then a wheel is spun to determine topics. At the end of a round the audience votes on who the winner is. In additional to the actual drawing their is live commentary and unexpected changes in topics. A mix between graffiti and stand-up comedy it is worth trying out.

  • I’ve participating in a lot of Ignites around the world, both as a presenter and audience member. Ignite-DC is the Washington, DC version of this. DC has so many different types of interesting people and speakers so the quality at Ignite-DC is always great. This is also a great way to find out about things going on in DC and what people are doing that you might not hear about otherwise.

  • One meet-up that has a special place for me is Accessibility DC. A monthly meet-up it is focused on making technology accessible for all. Ever wondered how it is for someone to use a screenreader to view your website? Why is captioning so important? For me AccessDC has taught me to think differently about how technology can be used and applied to people’s daily lives. Everyone has the same wants and desires for information, how can we make that a reality?

Find a Man Someday

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So I was reminded the other day of a story from back when I worked at ChoicePoint. Like most places ChoicePoint had its problems, but was an okay place to work most of the time.  Then it was a company of 5,000 people and everyone really ended up in there own little work cliques based on interests or job function.  My clique at work as mostly comprised of the technical people that worked on iMapData and/or those that played sports.  The gender was pretty well mixed there.  I usually judge that at a company by how often when I’m in a meeting of 5-10 people that I’m the only woman in the room.  It was very rare there.

There were different groups you could participate in that were part of the vision of becoming rated one of the best places to work.  One of these was a women’s professional group (the actual name is escaping me at the moment).  Honestly I only began going to the group because they provided lunch and I wanted to see who else went.  Most of the women there were from different functions within the company, most where not technical.  I kept attending, because I thought it was good to meet people who worked in other areas and the speakers were interesting sometimes.  There was one incident where I decided not to anymore though.

Carol DiBattiste who was the Chief Privacy Officer at the time was speaking, I was interesting in seeing what she had to say. Carol had an interesting career before ChoicePoint, including serving United States Under Secretary of the Air Force and Deputy Administrator of the TSA.  This talk occurred at least five years ago and I’m fuzzy on most of the details, but I was intrigued to listen to her talk about the decisions she had made and the people she had as bosses.  What I remember most about the talk though is one of the women asked Carol DiBattiste if she was married, she replied something along the lines of “no, that hasn’t happened in my life yet.”  I didn’t think too much of this at that moment, but what happened at the end of the talk made me think about it.

After the session had broken up and people began to leave I was walking behind two women that worked as administrative assistants.  They were talking about what they had heard, but mostly it was about Carol not being married.  The conversation went like this, “It must be hard for her to find a man who is more successful than her” and then the other woman replied, “Well, she shouldn’t worry. She’ll find a man someday.”  It seemed to me that all that these ladies had gotten out of the talk was that being successful would make it hard to get married.  Nothing about the interesting experiences and opportunities it allows.

After that I never returned to the women’s group.  As someone who normally spent time with the technologists and geeks both at work and socially I didn’t have that much in common with them. Still to this day I am reminded of that women’s group when the topic of sexism in the workplace comes up.  I can’t say that this was the most sexist thing I heard or experienced during my employment at ChoicePoint.  There were more of the typical incidents as well, such as when I found an interesting exploit in our web application.  The response from one of the men I showed it to was, “did you husband do that?”  Though I don’t think about that as much, I think more about I wonder what became of those two women.

Joined GeekEasy

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Hi should have probably posted this before I left DC, since the next-time I’ll be able to use it is early 2012.  I joined as a drop GeekEasy, GeekEasy is a new coworking space in NW DC near the corner of 14th and Florida.

For those that aren’t familiar with the idea, coworking is getting together somewhere with likeminded people.  This is to simulate an office working environment.  Or at least the parts of it you miss when you work remotely all the time.  There are different types of facilities, some are generic, some focused around start-ups, some focused at technical people, others aimed at social enterprise.  GeekEasy is specifically aimed at geeks, my life-long friend Christiann was the first to join and that is what got me over there.  She and I work together in other locations, but sometimes a change of scenery can be really helpful.

Anyway, if you are in DC and need somewhere to go and work you should check it out.  Maybe I’ll see you there sometime in 2012!