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Photo my own.

First time I learned about the Valley was from an old skinny-dipper named Chip soaking in a cliff-side hot pool somewhere in Idaho. He told me about springs named “Wizard” and “Volcano”, about bats that skimmed the water at dusk, about humans that ate mushrooms and orchestrated softball games on the desert floor.

I left in the dark, 700 miles and a raspy-voiced girl called Honey between me and the Valley. I picked her up in western Nevada and lost her somewhere before Bishop. She described our destination like a buzzing child, holding the pieces like a carrot above me.

And it was dark again, twenty-some hours later, as I limped my rig along the mountain pass road, dodging boulders, skirting pits. Ass cheeks clenched and bouncing off the seat at every rut. The wind kicked up coming off the mountain. Cloud cover and maybe-trails and scrub brush. Then I saw it. The Bat Pole. I laughed out loud, a heavy and desperate laugh launched from my throat, startled at the sound. …

And dissolving a marriage is not always as failure.

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Five years ago I married for the second time, to my second husband. This was the marriage that was going to be right. We were equipped with the correct pieces which we arranged at the correct time. He was a vast improvement from my ex-husband: caring and thoughtful and responsible. He wanted to get married, and in an expected series of events, that’s exactly what we did.

And now we are separating.

The logical question that follows is why did it end? What happened?

I’ve been unsure of how to write about the dissolution of my marriage for some time now, which is both surprising and frustrating in light of the time and research I’ve put into the decision. I spent years in couples counseling, individual therapy, self-reflection paired with the inability to think about anything else (for those who have ever considered a separation, you know about this weight and how insidious it is). With all that work behind me, it seems like I should have a neatly packaged answer. …

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Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

I was homeschooled.

I also have two degrees, a career, and friends. I haven’t killed anybody. I’m an intersectional feminist and an atheist. I only have mild phone anxiety.

By the way, did I mention that I’ve never killed anybody?

Homeschooling has a bad rap. It’s not completely unfounded, but it is a generalization.

Tara Westover, who recently published a memoir about her survivalist childhood, grew up in a rural area and was homeschooled — the Westovers’ version of this was “if you wanted to read a book you could, but you certainly weren’t going to be made to do that.” This isn’t a picture of homeschooling at all, as it describes no actual education. …

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Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Why should a well-rounded UX designer keep writing in their toolbox? How can designers write for their designs effectively? Where does Plain Language fit in?

Why writing?

Writing is the future.

Writing is equally important to graphics.

Writing has been called the unicorn skill of the tech industry.

Writing improves accessibility in design.

Writing is critical to an effective, successful, and holistic user experience.

The way that writing exists in user interfaces today looks very different than a couple decades ago. Advances in web and app development have provided for increasingly refined, robust user experiences. …

Before we become women in tech, we’re girls who are interested in tech

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Photo: Steven Errico/Getty Images

I’ve been fascinated by computers since I was at least 12 years old.

I was a homeschooled kid. I had a lot of opportunity to study topics that engaged me. With encouragement and support from my parents, I grew into an autodidact before I even knew the meaning of the word. I disassembled discarded PCs my dad would bring home from work, taking components out of one machine and installing them into another to see if they would function as intended. I was always working toward creating the perfect Frankensteined computer.

I checked out a book from the library about how to build your own PC, and I read every word. I also read dozens of books on HTML and XHTML. I spent hours hand-coding simple websites in Notepad and comparing the rendered results between Internet Explorer and Firefox. I sent away for 10 copies of Ubuntu, but never successfully got the CD boot function to work on my late ’90s model hand-me-down PC. …

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Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

Finally, the consensus is that user experience (UX) is not a fad. All sizes and types of companies are catching on. Terminology, concepts, and thoughtful discussions are trickling down and no longer exclusive to experts, but now also employed by professionals in all roles and industries. Practitioners have to fight less frequently to prove the value of usability research and UX design.

Similarly, the conversation we’re having online is shifting. New content focuses less on “what” and “why”. We’re identifying less obvious gaps and brainstorming innovative ways of accomplishing usability goals. To that end, I’m not going to deliver a primer on what usability/UX is and why it’s important. …

“I had an inheritance from my father, it was the moon and the sun. And though I roam all over the world, the spending of it’s never done.” — Ernest Hemingway

My home is quick and silent foothills.

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Boise foothills. Photo by Ben Hoskyn on Unsplash

27 years and it still hits like an abrupt force when I catch them between trees and street lights, above the rise of the bench. Like the moment you jump into a cold body of water. To tell the truth, I am defenseless: compelled to stop and touch my eyes to as much of that land, strange and captivating as it is.

I drive east. Downtown rises up and the foothills behind. Or from the Chinden ridge, like a fence line distant and to the north. …


Rachael Renk

BA, MATC. Technical and business writer, adjunct instructor, usability nerd, extroverted-introvert, occasional poet, autodidact, Idaho native. @rachaelrenk.

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