Friday, October 20, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Weather Edition

I did not go for my rollerblade today. I was scared off by some intermittent sprinkles around the time I would usually go. I went for a short run in my neighborhood instead. Of course, when I got back from that, the sun came out. I would have been about halfway through my rollerblade if I'd gone, and it would probably have been a beautiful outing. Oh well. (What I should have done: opened up my Flowx app and checked on cloud cover and precipitation. I forget to do that because usually I don't need such info in San Diego....)

In self-promo links today... I'm trying to make my Annorlunda social media presence a little more interactive. So today, I asked a question:

I asked the same question on Facebook. Come answer if you are so inclined (and on either of those platforms).

In friend-promo links: Academaze author Sydney Phlox is writing short fiction now! She's writing under the pseudonym Maura Yzmore and she's on Twitter and has an author page. Check out her stories!

On to the usual doom and gloom links:

There's been a lot written about the Weinstein revelations. All of it is worth your time, but I can't bring myself to link to everything. Instead, I'll link to the response that best captures how I feel: Men of the world: You are not the weather, by the excellent Alexandra Petri.

This article about Kagan and Gorsuch is really extraordinary.

This article about Trump voters who were in Harvey's path being unsure if the people in Puerto Rico should get the same federal help they and their neighbors got made me so mad. And it also made me sad, because it is another example of why there's a good chance Trump will get re-elected.

A friend introduced me to the More Perfect podcast awhile back and it is really great. I may or may not have linked to the episode about the political thicket argument before, which would be the one episode I'd have you listen to if you're only going to pick one. I recently listened to both of the American Pendulum episodes, and those are worth your time, too.

This is amazing:

This rabbit looks like he's telling that dog to shut up already:

That's all I have this week! Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Theory of Midlife Crises

I've been thinking about midlife crises lately, partly because of that article I've linked to three times now, and partly because a lot of my friends seem to be roughly where I was in 2014. I guess I was precocious?

Anyway, I've been thinking about why mid-life crises happen. They don't all turn out the same: I quit my job, I've watched some friends get divorced and others go through a period of misery and then decide to keep everything just as it was.

As different as their outcomes are, I think many, maybe even most, midlife crises start from looking around at your life and really seeing the results of your earlier choices. I thought I was paying attention, but once I hit that crisis point, I realized I hadn't really seen how things turned out in some cases. I was still telling myself I was it was too soon to know the outcome, when in many cases the verdict was in.

Some of the results were great, others less so. And it is the less great results that stand out. Combine that with the realization that some of the decisions you made were really final, and that time is running out on changing the results of some of the others... and of course there's going to be some angst.

For me, it was the first time I felt like I could see the entire arc of my life, not just where I'd been but also where I was likely to go if I kept going on the same path. Always before, I'd had the sense of almost infinite possibility: sure I was unlikely to sell all my possessions, move to a small village in Italy, and learn how to make pasta properly, but when I was younger, that sort of thing felt not just possible, but relatively easy to do, if I'd wanted to. Now, I saw a thicket of obstacles in the way of so many paths. I began to realize more clearly what my life would not be.

The terrible part of this is that at first, I didn't see what my life still could be. The real obstacles were mixed in with mirage obstacles to the point that I felt almost trapped. The work of the mid-life crisis is learning to understand which obstacles are real and which are mirages, and which can be overcome and which must simply be accommodated. You must also work out which paths are worth some extra effort to make your way past the mirages and over the real obstacles and which paths just aren't for you.

I tell my friends who are in the midst of the angst that yeah, it really, really sucks. But if you can work your way through the angst with some purpose without cracking under the pressure of it, then you'll probably come through to having a lot more clarity about yourself and your life and what really matters to you.

I recently wrote about some of what I learned in working through my angst. There is more for me to learn, and probably always will be. Life is journey, blah blah blah. But I have noticed that I approach big life choices with much more clarity now. This is a good thing, because the turmoil of this time period in American history is presenting me with a surprising number of big life choices. The parameters of the happy life I'd built myself since quitting my job have been changed on me, and I have to decide how to respond.

You've probably seen this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring making its rounds since the election:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

As crappy as the mid-life crisis experience was, I am grateful to have been through it before everything went to Hell, because the clarity about what matters to me, what will make me happy, and what can only lead to me being unhappy no matter how much I wish it was otherwise has been very helpful these past few months.

In short, the gift of the mid-life crisis is knowing yourself. The article I linked to above talks about the U-shaped curve for happiness: people are happy when they are young and when they are old, but not so much when they're in the middle. There are a lot of theories about why, with the fact that the middle is when you have a bunch of responsibilities being a big one. I don't dispute that at all. But I also think that part of the reason we get happy again as we get older is that we know ourselves better, and so we make better choices.

Here's to making the best choices we can with the time that is given us. That's really all we can hope to do.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trip Story: Yosemite and Lee Vining

Most people visit Yosemite from the West, but on our summer road trip this year, we decided to come in from the East. 

The advantage of this is that you get to stay in the utterly chilled out little town of Lee Vining, and see Mono Lake and its tufas as well as Yosemite. The disadvantage is that it takes a couple of hours to drive to Yosemite Valley from Lee Vining. The drive is gorgeous, through Tuolomne Meadows and past many lakes, waterfalls, and viewpoints.

One of the prettier lakes.
When we visited, in early July, there was also an extra bonus: snow! The kids had a blast playing in the snow.

However, that two hour drive to the valley meant that we arrived with the crowd instead of ahead of it. And OMG, the valley was crowded. Unlike at the Grand Canyon, which has managed to ban cars from the most popular part of the park during peak season, cars are allowed in at Yosemite. We parked our car and planned to take the bus around to see the sites, just as we had at the Grand Canyon. However, as we learned after lunch, if there is a traffic jam of cars, the bus isn't going any faster. (There was some road construction that closed the bus only lane: perhaps if that had been open, we would have had a better experience.)

But at the start of the day, we didn't know about the traffic jam that would mar our afternoon. We walked along a meadow to get to the visitor's center and get our Jr. Ranger books. It was a nice walk.

After collecting our Jr. Ranger books, we decided to head back to see the Yosemite Falls. We took the bus back to the trailhead for the Lower Yosemite Falls and walked up to see them, along with a bunch of other folks.

My kids admire the falls. You could feel the spray from this spot.

By the time we got back down from the falls viewpoint, it was basically lunch time, so we headed back to the dining options near the visitor's center and had lunch.  On our way, we saw a deer.

We had seen a couple of deer earlier, in more natural settings, too, and we'd see even more the next day. But still, this was quite a sight.

After lunch, things started going poorly. We tried to take the bus over to the trailhead for Mirror Lake, but traffic wasn't moving, and in the end, we had a walk (with none-too-happy children) over to Half Dome Village, where we ate dinner. After dinner, the traffic had cleared, and we were able to catch a bus back to our car and then drive out of the valley. 

We got back to our cabin late, a little disappointed with how the day had gone.

The next morning, we headed out to Bodie State Park. Bodie is a genuine ghost town. I think Mr. Snarky was the most impressed with this stop, but we all enjoyed it. The buildings are in a state of "arrested decay." 

You can only go inside a few, but you can peer into the windows of most.

Petunia was quite taken with the store display. When we got home from vacation, she rounded up some small bottles, filled them with salt and sugar and the like and made her own shop display. She still hasn't let me reclaim the bottles.

We were very glad we'd gone to Bodie in the morning, because by the time we left, it was quite hot. We finished up before lunch, and headed back to Lee Vining.

After lunch, we changed the kids into slightly warmer clothes, and headed back to Yosemite, planning to explore Tuolumne Meadows. I am so glad we did, because this second visit to the park rescued my opinion of the visit. The meadows were far, far less crowded than the valley had been. With the help of a ranger, we chose the Soda Springs hike as out best option. It was a beautiful hike.

We saw several deer.

And saw the soda springs. (That's carbonated water bubbling out of the ground!)

And then we headed back to the car. 

Petunia is carrying her new stuffed bear, bought the day before. Its name is Strawberry.
Pumpkin and Mr. Snarky got ahead of Petunia and me, and missed out on one of the great treats of the trip: a group of 5 bucks running past us, so close that I was actually a little concerned for our safety. They were big animals! Of course, Mr. Snarky had the camera, so I couldn't document the moment.

On our way out of the park, we stopped to play in the snow, of course. 

We had to drag the kids away. 

As we left Yosemite, I wished we could have seen the "big" sites in the valley at a less crowded time. Perhaps we'll come back in spring or fall some year. But I was glad to have gotten to visit Tuolumne Meadows, and that is not as accessible in the shoulder seasons, when there is more snow on the ground and the temperatures are lower. So I scored it a good stop.

We returned to the Epic Cafe for dinner. Mr. Snarky and I split a bottle of wine, and the kids did cartwheels once the crowd cleared out.

Not our feet. This was the view from our dinner table.
We went to bed quite happy with our stay in Lee Vining. We'd leave the next day, heading home. We had a couple more interesting stops (such as Manzanar)... but I'll pick up that story next time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Coming Out of the Whirlwind Edition

Well here we are at Friday again. I almost feel caught up after the whirlwind that was the end of September and beginning of October for me... but everytime I think "that's it, I'm caught up," something else comes along and I'm behind again. Still, I'm feeling a little less flattened than I was last Friday, and I have a more restful weekend ahead, too.

Part of the reason I've been feeling behind is that I've got a lot going on in the publishing side of things right now. Next year, I'll have to be careful to space my releases more evenly! Here's the latest:

The Burning, the novella by J.P. Seewald about family and resilience, set in the coal country of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, is available for pre-order. I'm trying out having a paperback pre-order via my secondary print on demand vendor, so this time you can pre-order ebooks or paperbacks. All the links are on the book's webpage.

I'm now looking for advance readers for Both Sides of My Skin, a collection of four short stories about pregnancy and motherhood, by Elizabeth Trach. These stories rang really true to me: they are about the reality of early motherhood, not the greeting card version of it. If you're interested in being an advance reader, sign up on the form.

I'm also working on the formatting of a novella that will be the first Annorlunda Books release of 2018, put the sequel to Okay, So Look under contract (Here's the Deal, a humorous retelling of Exodus), and read and loved a novelette that I'll get under contract soon. I have several more submissions to read and consider for what will probably be my last fiction slot in 2018. I'm still hoping to find a non-fiction book for next year, too.

Oh, and I've started work on the shiny new idea I think I've mentioned here a couple of times. I talked a little bit more about that in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, which went out today.

Phew! So, in other news....

Here's a good explanation of the effects of Trump's decision to stop paying the ACA CSRs. I have decided that I'm going to need to accept that I can no longer count on the ability to buy decent insurance through the ACA exchange, so I need to make my contingency plans accordingly. We're still all covered by Mr. Snarky's insurance, so this is just contingency planning, but I take contingency planning seriously. It is what allows me to face uncertainty calmly. The Trump presidency has blown a lot of my contingency plans all to hell, and I think some of the exhaustion I've been feeling is due to that. I'm constantly recalculating and readjusting.

Anyhow, in other depressing news: here's a summary of a meeting of political scientists that is a bit gloomy about the prospects of American democracy.

Yoni Applebaum writing about whether or not the American idea is over is equally depressing.

There are more and more op-ed pieces calling for Republicans in Congress to stop voicing concerns about Trump (on and off the record) and start actually taking their Constitutional duty to protect the country from an unfit President more seriously. Here is the latest I've read: Republicans, it's time to panic.

I don't often find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with William Saletan, but I agree with his analysis of the disconnect between the NRA and average gun owners on high capacity magazines and the like.

Dan Pfeiffer argues Democrats need to think bigger on gun laws, and I find him persuasive.

I've been thinking I need to take our disaster preparations up another level, and this piece looks useful for thinking about how to do that.

I liked this post by One Tired Ema, which was inspired by that piece about midlife crises in Gen X women that I linked to earlier this week. I've got another post about my own recent midlife crisis brewing. Maybe I'll get a chance to write it next week.

I loved this line in the linked post, too:

I thought this was a great thread, too:


I've been following Roxane Gay on Twitter for a long time, so this tweet pretty much made my day:

She gets so much grief online, it is great to see her get something awesome (her love for Channing Tatum was a long running twitter thing).

And it also made this earlier tweet  of hers much more poignant:


And now I have to stop sharing all my favorite tweets of the week because it is time for dinner.

I'll close with a bunny in Greenland and you definitely need to click through and see it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trip Story: Lake Tahoe to Mono Lake

I am determined to finished writing up our summer road trip! In the last installment, we were in Carson City, Nevada. The most direct route to our next stop, Lee Vining, California, would have involved heading south from Carson City, but it seemed ridiculous to be so close to Lake Tahoe and not see it, so we drove west, instead.

Lake Tahoe is as beautiful as I'd heard. I think my biggest mistake of the trip was not putting the kids in their swimsuits that morning and letting them have a swim in the lake. I certainly heard about that bad decision for quite awhile! But even without taking a swim, we enjoyed our visit. We first went a little bit north, and visited Sand Harbor, which is in Nevada.

A cove near Sand Harbor
Here, the water was crystal clear and we really got a sense for why Tahoe is so famous. There is a Shakespeare festival here, and it would be a beautiful venue.

After dipping our toes in the water, whining that we weren't swimming and/or stand up paddleboarding, and walking about a bit to enjoy the view, we drove south to South Lake Tahoe, which is just over the border in California, stopping along the way to take a picture of a classic Lake Tahoe vista: pine trees, blue water, and snow on the mountains.

The water was less clear in South Lake Tahoe, and the crowds more obtrusive. We picked up some Subway sandwiches for lunch and ate lunch at a park. There were steps where the kids enjoyed letting the waves come and splash them, and all in all, it was a good stop.

Waiting for a wave
We resolved to come back and see Tahoe properly sometime, and headed south. There was some absolutely beautiful scenery between South Lake Tahoe and Loope, but we failed to capture any of it on the camera. If you ever get the chance to make this drive, though, take it. The mountains are spectacular, and I still think that in retrospect, knowing what I later saw in Yosemite.

As we drove own from Loope, we passed the preparations for the famous Tour of the California Alps, aka the Death Ride. It would be a beautiful ride, but I was tired after driving the road. I can't imagine cycling it!

By the time we got out of the mountains, it was almost time for a snack/rest break. I'd found Walker Burger by searching on Google Maps. The reviews said it was a great roadside stop, so we decided to try it out. It was a wonderful stop. It had a beautiful shady yard and patio, and the same relaxed vibe we later appreciated so much in Lee Vining.


After our rest, we drove on, and began to appreciate why people love the Eastern Sierras so much. It really is beautiful country, with lush green valleys and snowcapped mountains in the distance.

View from the car window

Eventually, Mono Lake came into view. Mono Lake is an alkaline lake, famous for its tufas, which are limestone protrusions. Sunset is late in early July, so we managed to go see some tufas, made even more spectacular by the late afternoon sun.

After our visit to the tufas, we returned to our hotel and had dinner at the onsite restaurant, the Epic Cafe. It really was epic... we all loved our food, and we ate on a grassy lawn, and the grown ups got to linger over our drinks while the kids did cartwheels in the distance.

We turned in early, hoping to get an early start for the next day, which was to take us to Yosemite Valley. I'll pick up the story there next time.


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