Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Primal Whimper

I have had a cold since the Wednesday before Halloween. At first it was so mild I wasn't even sure I had a cold, and then it got bad, and now it is getting just enough better each day for me to know that there is no point in going to the doctor, but my sinuses are still way too full and I still cough way too much for my tastes.

Since I've been sick for so long, I am waaaay behind on the things I need to do before I start back up at a "regular" job. I don't even have my list of everything I need to do and that is stressing me out. I used to ask my coaching clients to tell me which thing would make them want to hide under their desk: (1) Having a huge to do list, or (2) Thinking the to do list was incomplete. For me it is definitely option 2.

Perhaps, instead of working on one of the items I didn't finish yesterday (which was a "work on my own stuff" day) I should sit down and write that giant to do list. Bonus: I could do that on the sofa, which is so much comfier than my desk chair.

Meanwhile, all the sexual harassment and assault news is getting a tad overwhelming. I said on Twitter a few days ago that I am actually glad by own "lockbox full of crappy things that have happened and I've stuffed away and ignored" blew open a few years ago, because that forced me to reckon with it all and how it changed my life and I'm in a pretty good place right now. I really feel for the women whose lockboxes are blowing open now. It is a rough ride in the best of times, and these are far from the best of times.

That's what is up with me right now. What's up with you?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekend Reading: An Announcement before the Links Edition

So, I still have a cold. This is the weirdest cold I've had in awhile: the symptoms keep changing, and I never feel really sick, so I keep muddling along, thinking that I'm almost better, and then not really getting better. Maybe this weekend will finish it.

I'll have some links for you in a bit, but first I want to share a link with some big personal news: in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, I write about my decision to go back to being a full time employee of a company I do not own. (In other words, I got a "regular" job.)

I won't rehash everything I wrote there, but I'll expand on some of the more personal/parenting related bits.

My decision to do this was driven by feeling squashed between two different forces: on one side, an honest assessment of how hard it would be for me to do what I needed to do to make the kind of money I wanted to make in the business it looked like I could build, and on the other side, the uncertainty about healthcare, taxes, and pretty much everything else caused by our dysfunctional political climate right now. I can't say for sure, but I think that if either of those forces had not been there, I probably could have found a way to make it all work out without going back to the corporate world.

But I don't live in the world of "what if." I live in this world, and in this world, I cannot pretend that I, at the age of 45, could easily overcome the issues keeping me being comfortable with the self-promotion I would have needed to do to build a business whose main income came from coaching and seminars. I knew the path I'd have to take to do that, and I knew I would have struggled with it. And I wasn't convinced I would be happy with the career I'd have at the end of all that struggle. Like I said in the newsletter, there was some serious soul-searching involved in this, and honestly, I am glad I'd done the work I talked about in my mid-life crisis post. I at least knew what mattered to me, and could discard the idea that I should just scale back my lifestyle and live on a lot less money. I could do that, but I don't want to if I can avoid it.

I also cannot pretend that our politics are going to get less screwed up anytime soon. In retrospect, I was probably overoptimistic about relying on the ACA as a back up plan even before the 2016 election. Now I think that no matter what happens in the next few elections, I can't count on any government program in my personal planning. Things are just too volatile. I had hoped that the ACA would be the beginning of the end of our ridiculous tethering of health insurance to our jobs. Maybe it still will be, but I don't think the tether will be broken in my working lifetime. I now just hope my kids will be able to make career decisions without factoring in how they'll get their health insurance.

I guess there is a third force that was squashing me, too: my responsibility to my family. I was meeting my income goals, but Mr. Snarky and I had come to realize those goals were too low. So, I was going to raise my goals, and I thought I had a plan for how to do that, but it wasn't a certain thing. We started discussing which of the kids' activities we would drop, and how to scale back our travel spending, and things like that. And I hated it. Rationally, I know my kids would be just fine with fewer activities, but I hated the thought of telling them they couldn't take a class they loved so that I could keep chasing a career goal I wasn't certain I really wanted. And as for the travel... well, remember that one of the things I learned in the mid-life crisis was that travel really matters to me. So I wasn't really thrilled about scaling that back, either, particularly when you consider that Mr. Snarky's half of the family lives in New Zealand, and travel to visit them will never be cheap.

And then this job opportunity came up... and honestly, I am pretty excited about what I'll be doing. So it just seemed like the right answer, particularly when I pulled up my time tracking data and calculated how much time I really spent on publishing, which is the part of my business I was adamant about keeping. So, to any of my authors (or potential authors) reading this: don't worry! I don't think much will change in how I run Annorlunda Books. If anything, I'll feel more free to take some risks and invest money in things that might not pay off, because that money will no longer be coming from the same pot of money as I use to pay my bills.

I have the rest of this month to tie up loose ends in the business, and I'll probably continue to be scarce here while I do that, because this %$#@! cold has put me behind schedule on that. But I intend to keep writing here, and although weekend reading posts may go up later, I think they'll continue.

So, on to those links, eh?

Self-promo links: don't forget that The Burning is now out!

Here's a review from Fill Your Bookshelf and another one from Buried Under Books.

Let's start with something disturbing that isn't politics. If you haven't read James Bridle's post about the weird long tail of kids videos on YouTube, you really should read it. It is long, but worth the time.

And then read Will Oremus' discussion of the topic.  This bit in particular:

"Whenever you find an algorithm making high-stakes decisions with minimal human supervision—that is, decisions that determine whose content is widely viewed, and therefore who makes money—you will find cottage industries of entrepreneurs devising ever subtler ways to game it."

I see this clearly on Amazon, when I'm looking for short ebooks to read. I want to support indie authors and small publishers (obviously!) but it is increasingly hard to find their good stuff among all the algorithm-gaming dreck out there. I think a lot about this problem with respect to finding readers for the books I publish (again, obviously). My decision to start Inbox Stories is one of the things I'm trying to get around the algorithm gaming issue. If I have an audience outside of Amazon, then the Amazon algorithm gamers are less of a problem for me.

The problems with tech platforms are bad here, but I think they may be worse in Southeast Asia.

I have been thinking about the problems created by the tech platforms as akin to the pollution created by the industrial age. In the initial rush to reap the benefits of new technology, we didn't immediately notice the harm being caused. Once we did, we started to figure out how to balance the benefits and the harm as a society (although this administration is trying to undo some of that progress by undermining the EPA). I think we'll eventually get there with the tech platforms, too, but that in the meantime we're going to have toxic pollution in our information spaces.

Lindy West on women's anger is really good.

Alabama political report Josh Moon on the lack of a bottom in GOP politics is also really good.

Rachel Lauden on why cooking isn't easy captures some of my thoughts on the subject, although I at least am operating from a place of knowing the basics. (Thank you, Mom!)

Elizabeth Catte on Appalachia and the problem with J.D. Vance is worth your time. This is a book excerpt, and I think I'd like to read that book.

Podcasts I found really interesting this week:

More Perfect on Citizens United made me understand why the case was decided the way it was. I still find the outcomes of that case really unfortunate, but I now understand the decision better. In general, More Perfect has been good for helping me understand the viewpoint of the Conservatives on the court.

Pod Save the World's episode on Middle East peace was a surprisingly hopeful interview with George Mitchell and Alon Sachar, and included a good discussion of what America can and cannot do to further the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Something fun: Google sheep view!

I think this is the anthem of 2017 (it started as an a capella song captured at the Women's March)




And now I need to go make pizza. Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Release Day for The Burning

I am sorry to have been so absent here lately. I caught a cold and it won't go away. Or maybe I caught a cold and before I really got better I caught another cold? Either way, I am so tired of it. I've been going to bed early and trying to take it easy and I feel I should be rewarded for this by having the damn cold go away already, but lo, I still have it.

Anyway, today is the release day for another book from my publishing company, Annorlunda Books! The Burning, by J.P. Seewald, is a novella about family and resilience set in the coal country of Pennsylvania. It was inspired by the events in Centralia, PA, and dramatizes how one man reacts to a slow-moving catastrophe like this threatening everything he's worked for.

You can get the ebook for $2.99 from the usual places:

And the paperback for $8.99:
It is also on Overdrive if your library uses that.

That's about all I can muster for this release day post, because I desperately want to take a nap and try to shake this cold. But go grab a copy of The Burning! It is a fast read, and it left me thinking about how I'd respond to a situation in which my livelihood and my home were both threatened. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Never-Ending Cold Edition

Last week, I was congratulating myself for taking it easy so that I only had a mild version of the cold my husband gave me. Turns out, I just had the preview... the cold hit me harder this week. I still don't feel terrible, but the cold got in my lungs, which has meant a lot of coughing, particularly between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. for some reason. So much fun.

So, no rollerblading for me today. Today was the first day all week I didn't have to get up and get ready to be somewhere before 9, so I gave myself a lazy start to the day, and took a 45 minute nap after I got the kids off to school and another 30 minute rest period in the early afternoon. I don't regret the rest time at all, but my to do list is looking pretty sad right now. Oh well, maybe I can make it up in our "extra" hour this weekend.

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promotion links:

Both Sides of My Skin, a collection of short stories about pregnancy and motherhood, by Elizabeth Trach, is now available for pre-order. These are some of the most real feeling stories about the early days of motherhood that I have ever read, and I am thrilled with how the book has turned out. I can't wait to get it out in the world! Release day is December 6. Pre-order links are all available on the book's webpage.

The Burning, J.P. Seewald's novella about family and resilience in the Pennsylvania coal country, is also still available for pre-order. It comes out next Wednesday!

In other Annorlunda Books news, I have just finished setting up a new newsletter that I'm also really excited about. Inbox Stories will bring a short story to your inbox every month. The newsletter will also have a recommendation of another short story from me, and a recommendation from someone else in the "Inbox Stories community"- I'll start that out with recommendations from authors I've published, but I've also set up a form so readers can recommend stories, too. 

There will be two editions of the newsletter: the free edition will have the recommendations and any other related content (knowing me, I'll probably include a quote most months... I do love quotes from stories). It will also include the first part of the story. The paid edition will have everything that is in the free edition plus links to the full story as a webpage and an ebook (mobi and epub). The paid edition is just $5/year, so I think that is a pretty good deal. The stories will be a mix of public domain stories and short writing Annorlunda Books has published. If the newsletter does well, I may start acquiring short stories specifically for it, too.

The newsletter will go out on or near the 3rd Monday of the month, and I plan to start this month, with a newsletter on Nov. 20. I hope some of you will sign up, either for the paid newsletter or the free edition. If you do sign up, let me know if you run into any issues in the sign up process. Setting up a newsletter with a paid edition required me to add a bunch of new things to my site and I could only test so much. If you find a problem, email me at wandsci at gmail dot com or the info at annorlundaenterprises dot com email address associated with the newsletter.

You might be wondering how this connects with Tungsten Hippo. Well... I'll be stopping regular posts there over the next month or so. The short writing world has changed since I started it, and I'm finding that the constraints I set on what I'd post there are limiting what I read. I haven't decided when, exactly, to stop posting there. I'll post about it over there when I do. The site will stay up, though, and I may post to it from time to time.

OK, that's a lot of self-promotion! And now let's get on to the links you are probably here to read:

First something fun: I have really been enjoying the Make America Read newsletter. (Full disclosure: Annorlunda Books partnered with it last month to give away copies of one of my taster flights.)

Rebecca Traister took the twitter thread I mentioned last week about how so much of our national narrative is shaped by predatory men, and wrote a very good article. You should read it.

David Roberts wrote a very good piece about the problem with how right-wing media has divorced some people from facts. He frames it as "What if Mueller proves his case and it doesn't matter?" but I think the same problem shows up in a lot of areas, like climate change.

Do you remember the Iowa teenager who supposedly wrecked his state's insurance market? Jonathan Cohn tracked him and his family down and the story is more complex than the soundbite. (Also, how awful is it that the insurance rep gave enough information about the case that the family was able to recognize themselves?)

Speaking of healthcare... this Dylan Scott projection of what the ACA will be in 2020 seems pretty realistic to me. We are stuck in a horrible place where the Republicans do not want to make the changes necessary to make the ACA a stable and good system, but neither do they have a new system of their own to put in place. I feel like we're going backwards on this issue, and that makes me sad. 

Now we're on to taxes, and if I find a good explainer of the Republican plan, I'll include it next week. So far, the best thing I've found is in an email from an accounting firm that somehow got me on their mailing list, and it doesn't have a web version I can link to. Here's the Vox explainer, but it is still a lot to read through and understand. I am pretty sure my taxes will be going up, since I'm in a high tax state and the state income tax deduction will go away. I also think we may get bumped to a higher bracket in the new system with fewer brackets. However, I could be wrong, since we have occasionally needed to file with the alternative minimum tax in past years, and that is going away. I wouldn't actually mind paying more taxes to help out people who are doing less well than we are, but it is a little annoying to pay more taxes so that people can inherit multi-million dollar estates tax free. This one feels like a less serious threat to my family's well-being than the healthcare changes, though, so I don't find myself obsessing about figuring out the details.   

Here's more about the cub scout kicked out of his troop after asking a state representative some pointed questions about gun control. As someone who was really interested in and informed on political issues at his age, I am sad to see people implying these weren't his own questions. (Spoiler: he has landed in a new troop and is happy there and they are happy to have him.)

This story about coal miners deciding not to retrain to other fields because they think Trump is going to bring more coal jobs back makes me sad. I can understand the decision- if you really believe Trump is going to do what he says, then it makes sense to hold out for a local coal job than to retrain for a job that might require you to move or would pay less. But, I don't think Trump can do what he says, and even if he could, I don't think he would because he doesn't really know how to get anything done. So I think these people are going to get screwed.

In podcasts... I found this week's Ezra Klein Show really interesting. Ezra Klein talks to political scientist James Wallner about his argument that politics needs more conflict, not less. Wallner has also worked as a congressional aid to some very conservative senators (e.g., Jeff Sessions), so his observations about what is broken in the Republican caucus in the Senate right now are really interesting. Here's a direct link to the podcast episode on a different site.  (Podcasters! Make it easier to link to your current episode on your main site, please- the two latest episodes aren't even up on the Vox site!)

I haven't had a chance to read the article embedded in this tweet yet, but remember how I mentioned that someone had compared our era to the era right after the printing press was invented?


Halloween bunny!

And now, I'm off to try to cross one more thing off my to do list before it is time to go get my kids. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Weird, Weird Week Edition

This week has had entirely too much plot. I can't tell you about all of it yet, but if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw the costume in the mail saga (read the full thread for the entire sage, but the costume is here and looks adorable on Pumpkin!)

Then there was the "oh crap, the school scheduled the information session for middle school (which Pumpkin starts next year!) on the same night as my book club... which I was hosting. (Mr. Snarky went and asked almost none of the questions I wish he had asked. But I think I've found the information I want by asking other parents and reading school websites.)

Next came the Hamilton tickets drama. Both my sister and I won the lottery for "verified fan" codes, but then neither of my sister or Mr. Snarky (using my code: I had a meeting at that time) managed to get tickets. Then Mr. Snarky talked me into trying during the general sale and we struck out again... until I randomly tried again 45 minutes after the on sale time and saw tickets! But with potential obstruction. I called Mr. Snarky who somehow managed to snag three tickets that were better than what I had found. And then I spent a lot of time checking back periodically and managed to get 1 more ticket for the same night, not with us, but not terribly far away. That is probably 3 or 4 less than I could easily find homes for just withing my book club, but I decided that I'd had enough and stopped trying. However, I'm going to see Hamilton, so I won't complain!

I also had to take Popsicles in to Petunia's class today, because they do their birthday celebrations on the last Friday of the month. After that, I walked my kids and one friend each home, because the mom coaching Pumpkin's lego league team asked if her daughter and Pumpkin could do some work on their project after school. The little sister of Pumpkin's friend is good friends with Petunia, so she came home, too.

(Did I ever tell you guys that I'm coaching Petunia's junior lego league team? I am. That is an adventure, too. I'll write more about it some other time.)

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promo links: my income from my main contract is going to be a little lower than usual this month, so I decided to try to make up the difference by running a sale on my recorded seminars. Use the promo code octsale to get 20% off any of my seminars, including the 3 hour project management course, which I have finally decided to make available for purchase.

Brit Marling on the economics of consent is really, really good.

Ezra Klein on why it matters that two prominent journalists have now also been accused of harassment is good. Rebecca Traister made a similar argument on Twitter. I encourage us all to stop and think about what it means that so much of the media that shapes how we view the world is made by men who view women as playthings and by white people who harbor biases about people of color. The lack of diversity in our media environment translates into an incomplete and flawed understanding of the world.

This Avivah Wittenberg-Cox article about ambitious women and their partners is worth your time. This is such a fraught thing to negotiate as a couple. I am pretty happy with how Mr. Snarky and I are handling it, but we are neither of us flying as high as the people in the article. I should write more about my evolving thoughts on the trade offs and challenges and opportunities, and also about how I think the real problem is that so many jobs are structured such that people can only achieve their highest potential if they have support taking care of the rest of their life... but today is not the day for that. I'll add it to my "blog posts I should write now that I've finally finished writing about my summer vacation" list!

I am watching in fascination as the Republicans try and apparently succeed in making a scandal of the fact that someone close to the Clinton campaign took over paying for the Steele dossier after Republicans - who initiated this work!- decided to stop paying for it once Trump clinched the nomination. I think Josh Marshall's take on this is correct.

This interview with Charlie Sykes is really interesting. He is clearly grappling with the extent to which "mainstream" Republicanism has enabled the ugly nativism we're seeing now. I think most liberals would say he has not quite gone far enough, but I am genuinely glad to see him and Senators like Flake and Sasse starting to grapple with it.

Speaking of Senator Flake... I wish he'd stayed and fought as a Senator, but I will judge him by what he does next. If he says he needs to not be running for re-election to handle the Trump era with integrity, then I will believe him... if he actually does something to protect our country and democratic ideals from the dangers Trump poses. Corker, Flake, Sasse... they all need to stop just talking and start doing. I don't expect them to vote in ways I agree with on policy decisions, but if they say they see the danger of Trump, they are in a position to do something about it. So they should do something.

And speaking of conservatives who I think get part of the way to reckoning with an error: Meg McArdle on what libertarians got wrong about school vouchers. The bit I wish she'd addressed but does not is what the discovery that parents are choosing schools based on the other kids in the school more than "neutral" measures of quality means for our attempts to build a more fair and less racially stratified society. Also, any halfway honest white upper middle class parent who pays attention when talking to peers about school choice could probably have predicted the result of that study. But that is also something I don't have time to really get into right now.

In CA political news, Gavin Newsom seems to be running for Governor on a "build more housing" platform, which I find encouraging. We need more housing.

This is really powerful art:

If you are at all into early English history, click through and read this thread it is hilarious.

(Full disclosure: My history knowledge is not that strong. I could only follow this because I've been listening to the History of the English Language podcast.) 

Bunnies dressed in cute little outfits!

Bunny eating a long leafy veggie!

I think I am missing some things I meant to share... but I have to go get the kids ready for a Halloween party, so I'll have to leave them for another time. Happy weekend, everyone!


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