Friday, April 21, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Trying to Rally Edition

I'm planning to go to my local science march tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be glad once I get there, but right now, my main emotion about this is resentment. I don't want to have to march to defend science. It is my wedding anniversary, and instead of doing something nice with my husband, I am sticking him with the Saturday gymnastics classes so that I can go march. It seems ridiculous to have to march to say "we should let facts inform our opinions, not the other way around," but here we are.

I also don't want to have to make phone calls and send faxes to insist that the people in power take the conflicts of interest in this administration and the Russian interference in our election seriously. Some seriously sketchy and not at all normal stuff is going on, and I don't know if its goal is to make the Trump family money or to advance Putin's interests or both. It seems I shouldn't have to exert so much pressure to get this investigated.

I don't want to have to make another round of phone calls against the latest disaster of a health care "plan" from the Republicans. I don't want to have to make phone calls against the stupid wall. I hate that I worry about sending a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security protesting the deportation of a young man with DACA protection. I'll probably do it, but my husband's renewed green card hasn't come in the mail yet, so maybe I should just avoid drawing attention to us, instead. I hate that this thought even crosses my mind.

And I am well and truly tired of being sanctimoniously exhorted to feel empathy for the voters who put us in this mess. My empathy store is a little depleted right now.

I know I need to get over myself and keep working for what is right. And I will. I will rally and go to the march tomorrow. I will rally and make my phone calls/send my faxes next Wednesday. I will keep going. But every now and then, I will feel some resentment that I have to spend my time on this.

All of which has nothing to do with today's links.

I think Jamelle Bouie's take on the recent special elections is good.

David Fahrenthold talks about three ways in which what he learned from reporting on Donald Trump's charity giving foreshadowed Trump's behavior as president.

Here's an alternative vision for the border region just east of Otay Mesa. I know there must be some people in San Diego who support the wall, but I haven't run into them. Even the people who want stronger border enforcement think the wall won't work, and want the money spent in other ways.

Caroline Criado-Perez has a good post about Fearless Girl and the reaction of the guy who created the charging bull statue. No, really, read it even if you're sick of that whole discussion.

The Handmaid's Tale is a warning for conservative women. This article got shared out by Margaret Atwood herself, which was pretty cool. It touches on one of the issues I've long had with women who lead campaigns in defense of "traditional values" like women being housewives. They have a career: they speak and write and have a space outside their home. But they would deny it to me. Sarah Jones, the author of the article, comes from a conservative Christian background, and she understands and explains it better than I do. If for no other reason, this article is worth your time.

(I have one point of disagreement: I do think it is possible to be anti-abortion and a feminist, but I think the people who claim to be rarely follow through on what would be required to truly be a feminist. To me, a feminist has to want women to have the same chance at self-fulfillment as men. That is only possible if a reproductive accident will not derail our lives. Access to abortion is one way to make that possible. But there are other ways. Better maternity leave, more cultural support for and less discrimination against mothers in the workplace, better child care subsidies for people who need them.... If you are opposed abortion but still consider yourself a feminist, I think you need to spend some time thinking about how to make a world in which abortion would not feel so necessary to so many women. I don't see a lot of that work being done, to be honest, but then again, I haven't gone in search of it. I suspect there are pockets of people thinking like this in the anti-abortion movement, but right now, they are utterly drowned out by the "a woman's place is in the home" crowd.)

Moving on from the contentious issues....

This is an interesting history of the pursuit of happiness.

Speaking of happiness... We have a lot of stuff, and it seems to be stressing us out, not making us happy, particularly if we are women. This is probably why that Kondo method was popular: it promised a way to get rid of stuff.

And here's something that did make me happy: A nice post from Margaret Redlich, the author of Don't Call It Bollywood, about the history of dancing in films (US and Indian).

Kelly J. Baker wrote a really nice essay about quitting.

Warning: this language guessing game is a huge time sink.


That's it for this week. If you're marching tomorrow, I hope you have a good time!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Working around the Barriers

I had lunch with an old grad school friend today. It was great to see her, and as always, lunch with a friend did me good.

But there was an undertone of... I don't know what. Sadness? Anger? Frustration?... too. Every time I meet up with a woman friend who is in my generation, I hear about how sexism and gender bias are blocking her progress. This is not because my friends are whiners, or prone to looking for something external to blame for their problems. In fact, the stories usually come out as an aside, to explain a change in course. She was working her way around a barrier, and that barrier was usually a man. If it wasn't a man, it was multiple men.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I've heard a variation of this story at least 10 times in the last year. It is demoralizing to think about this in the aggregate. So much talent being thwarted.

But I'll say this for us: we're all finding a way around. A lot of us won't get what we originally set our sights on, but we're all getting pretty good lives. So that's something.

The other heartening thing is that we're helping each other find our new paths. On my more optimistic days, I think that in another 10 years, I'll look at what my group of friends has accomplished and be amazed. We will have built an alternate universe of success.

On my less optimistic days, I think we are doomed to achieve less than our potential. We will salvage good lives from the wreckage of our ambitions, but we will always know we could have done more.

Probably, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I see signs of hope. Not in millennial men. Sorry, some of them are awesome. So are some GenX men. So are some Boomer men. But my own experience has shown me that younger men can be just as sexist as their elders. In fact, sometimes they are more sexist because they haven't met the woman who will teach them to be better yet. Seriously, just look at Silicon Valley.

No, I see signs of hope in women. Just as we are individually finding our ways around the barriers in our careers, we are collectively looking for ways around the barriers. I hope that we remember to go back and dismantle those barriers where we can. Because my daughters and their friends are coming behind us. When I sit and watch my daughters' gymnastics class, I am in awe of the joy and strength of the girls out on that floor. I want a world where that joy and strength—and joy in strength—can continue into adulthood. When I went to watch my daughter's spelling bee, I was thrilled to see the kids supporting each other, cheering for each other. Boys and girls cheered for and high-fived their classmates, even when they were clearly disappointed not to be the one still in the running. I see my friends working to raise their sons to be just as feminist as their daughters, and I think, maybe we can fix this. Not for our generation, but for the next one.

I think my generation will be a generation of women who mostly had to find their way around the barriers. What keeps me going is the thought that maybe I can help bring some of those barriers down for my daughters.

So, here's to lunch with friends. And here's to finding our way around the barriers. But also: here's to finding a way to break those damn barriers down.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trip Story: Santa Monica

We took a little trip up the coast for spring break this year, stopping for a couple of nights in Santa Monica and then three nights in Santa Barbara. Neither location was new to us, but our kids had never been to Santa Monica, and neither really remembers our last visit to Santa Barbara. I thought I'd write about the entire trip in one post, but I ran out of steam, so this is just about Santa Monica.

We set out mid-morning on Tuesday, and stopped for lunch at Irvine Spectrum and some play time at Heritage Park in Irvine. Then we got back in the car and drove to the first real stop of our trip: Randy's Donuts!

The doughnut promised land.
For those who aren't familiar with this SoCal landmark, I'll just say that it is so famous that one of the kids at our school built a model of it for his "California Landmarks" project.

The doughnuts were pretty good. They have all three types of doughnuts: cake, glazed, and (my favorite) old-fashioned. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to visit again, but I'm more of an ice cream person than a doughnut person.

After our pit stop, we drove on to our hotel in Santa Monica, which was a surprisingly quirky Days Inn. It had a bit of an art deco vibe and a rooftop sun deck with plaques naming US presidents. It also had a comfortable room and an OK free breakfast, so I have no complaints.

For the first evening, we headed down to Venice. We wanted to show our kids the canals. It happened that my parents (who were meeting up with us in Santa Barbara) were in Santa Monica that night, too, in a hotel just a few blocks from ours. So we all headed to Venice. We parked near Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey, and let the kids have a short play on the playground. Then we walked into Venice and strolled the canals.

Unfortunately, we happened to be there during one of the times in which they drain the canals (to keep the water from getting stagnant), so the canals weren't quite as impressive as we remembered from earlier visits. But they were still a nice place to stroll, and the kids liked looking at the different houses along the paths.

Usually, there is more water.
We had dinner at C&O Trattoria, which is a very family friendly place noted for an unlimited supply of garlic knots (which, to our surprise, both of our kids liked) and for the sing along to That's Amore. We managed to hang on just long enough to see the sing along (some of us even participated), and then we walked back to our car.

The next day, my parents headed to The Getty. We had considered going there, too, but decided our kids would enjoy it more in a few years. Instead, we headed to the Santa Monica pier to be stereotypical tourists.

We got to the pier waaaay too early. Our kids start their days at 7 a.m., if we're lucky enough to get a little bit of a sleep in. So we were down to the pier not long after 9. Nothing much was open there until 10, and the amusement park wasn't open until 11.... so we walked a short way to the original muscle beach location. Petunia liked the tall swings, and Pumpkin had fun climbing the ropes and trying her hand at the rings. 

Harder than it looks
Between muscle beach, the arcade, and just strolling the pier, we killed enough time to be able to go on a couple of rides at the amusement park. The kids chose the Ferris wheel and the bungee/trampoline thing. 

The view from the Ferris wheel. We had lunch at the place with the yellow roof.
They'd have done more, but we didn't want to spend that much, and anyways, it was time for lunch. The Mexican place at the end of the pier was not bad at all, which is surprising for a restaurant that can rely on its location for a constant stream of customers. After lunch, we walked out to the waves and the kids had fun getting their feet wet. We only pulled them away from the beach with a promise of more beach time once we got to Santa Barbara. 

Happy children. And a bear. Petunia wore her bear a lot this trip.
We also strolled Colorado Street. Petunia was impressed with the dinosaur fountains. Pumpkin wanted to get a treat, but I held her off with a promise of ice cream at a really good place I remembered in Santa Monica Place mall. But that ice cream shop was gone, so we had frozen yogurt at a pretty average place instead. Then we walked over to Tongva Park because we wanted to see it and because we thought the kids could use some playground time.  It is a nice park, but I didn't take any nice pictures there, so you'll just have to take my word for it..

After some park time, we went back to our hotel for a bit, then headed out again in the car. We were meeting friends in Encino for dinner. Although Encino is quite close to Santa Monica, there is no good route there at rush hour. (Really: go to Google Maps and check how long it takes to drive between Santa Monica and Encino at 5 p.m. on a weekday, and then check it again at 10 p.m.. If you've never understood why people complain about LA traffic, this will probably make it clear.)

Our plan was to leave early and drive over to Westwood and then up to Mulholland Drive. We'd then drive along Mulholland and down into Encino. This worked... sort of. There was a lot of traffic along Wiltshire until we got past the 405 and the kids got impatient in the back seat. Then Google Traffic showed an accident on our route up to Mulholland, so I rerouted us on the fly... right into Bel Air. I half expected to be blocked by a gate, but we were not. And to my surprise, the kids LOVED this detour. They were really impressed with the big fancy houses, and happily pointed out which ones they'd like to own as we worked our way through Bel Air and Beverly Glen up to Mulholland. Then we managed to miss every single scenic pullout on Mulholland, and just drove along it and then down into Encino, again through a neighborhood of very nice houses. 

Dinner in Encino was delightful. It was great to catch up with our friends. And by the time we were done with dinner, traffic had cleared, and we could take the direct route back to the hotel. 

All in all, it was a nice short visit to one of the most tourist-friendly parts of LA. The next day, we got up and headed north to Malibu... but I'll pick that up some other time. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Catching Up Edition

I've had a pretty good week, work-wise, and am almost caught up again. If I get a good Sunday morning work session, I should be set. (For those who don't know: I "trade" some work time on Sunday mornings for a Friday afternoon rollerblade, which I am just back from. The bay path is less crowded on Friday afternoons, and if I schedule writing work for Sunday mornings I rather enjoy settling in with my tea to do some work while the kids have a lazy morning, so this is a win-win arrangement for me.)

I am over the cold I caught on spring break, but still sniffly because there are wildflowers everywhere. I cannot remember another year like this for wildflowers. All open space is awash in color, mostly yellow, but with some splashes of pink/purple and orange. It is really pretty, but my allergies are going berserk. Then yesterday, I made them worse by pulling out a bunch of wild grass that was growing in our native landscaped front yard. There is more to pull, but I think I'll leave that for Mr. Snarky. He doesn't have a grass allergy!

Anyhow, let's get to the links.

I didn't save many links about politics. I'm still following what is going on, but maybe I have a bit of fatigue on the topic. I will re-up my recommendation of Talking Points Memo for a good round up of the most important stories of the day, along with some smart analysis (with a left of center tilt). I've found Josh Marshall's analysis of the Russia story particularly helpful. He's not prone to exaggeration, and is good and pulling together the strands from the reporting at the "big" places. Here is his latest on that topic, so you can see what I mean.

This story about the closing of hospitals in rural Tennessee highlights one of my problems with running health care as a for profit enterprise: just because there isn't a profit to be made in some location, that doesn't mean there isn't a need there.

The different standard women who run for office must meet.

Sesame Street has introduced a muppet with autism, Julia. Vox reporter Dylan Matthews, who has autism, wrote a really good piece about why this matters and why the particular way in which they introduced Julia is so important.

GoGoGrandparent sounds like a promising idea, really poorly implemented.

Sady Doyle considers that maybe women don't need to apologize less. Maybe men need to apologize more. Really, this one is worth reading just for the phrase "critical apology failure."

Read about Pauli Murray, the Civil Rights and women's rights activist who gets left out of a lot of our stories about those movements.

Kameron Hurley's post about trying to be a pro writer while also having a full time day job really resonated with me, even though I'm not trying to be a pro writer. One of the things that my current work arrangement makes possible is for me to focus on multiple career interests without courting burnout. I'm very grateful for that.

Jenna Price's 60th birthday note to her 30 year old self is wonderful.

Women surgeons are replicating a New Yorker cover and it is awesome.

This bunny reminds me of the pet bunny I had for the longest period of time.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sunday Night Existential Whimper

I swear I'll write up our spring break trip, because it was a fun trip and I like to write trip story posts, dammit.

But it isn't going to happen tonight. Nor am I going to write a glowing ode to my oldest child, who somehow is now 10 years old, although she deserves one.

Instead, I'm going to whine about how this week just kicked my butt. Re-entry from a vacation is always hard. Re-entry from a vacation when you've caught a cold at the tail end of that vacation is especially hard. Add in a kid's birthday, a spelling bee, and a birthday party you've foolishly agreed to host at your house instead of one of the many locations that will run the damn party for you, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

Plus, I had a fun little tax-related panic that ate up a significant amount of work time on Friday.

So, what I'm saying is: I am behind on EVERYTHING. I am considering, for the first time in my life, sending out a blanket "yes, I owe you a response on something but it won't come for another week" sort of email.

We'll see how long it takes me to finish unwinding the tax panic tomorrow. (The panic, for anyone who is curious, stemmed from me putting my SEP-IRA contributions in the wrong place on the questionnaire I filled out for my accountant, who thought I'd paid them as a person and not as a business, which was therefore going to require classifying some of my income as "self employment income," thereby necessitating payment of the self-employment tax on said income, rather than having all my income be either salary I paid myself (and therefore paid social security taxes on) or profit. This may seem like a small thing to you, but this was going to add a lot of money to our tax bill and for the period of time in which I thought the problem was the SEP-IRA that I'd opened and not my putting it on the wrong questionnaire I felt like an absolute idiot and thought that maybe I shouldn't be trying to run a company at all if I couldn't even get a retirement account opened without screwing things up.)

Anyhow, that's all sorted now, but we still owe an alarming sum in taxes. We sat down tonight to figure out why, and it is because my husband got a raise and my business made more money in 2016 vs. 2015 and we withheld/paid estimated taxes assuming the 2015 amount. OOPS. But not really something to complain about. We're going to adjust our withholding this year, and hopefully not face another big bill next year.

I will say, though, that for the first time ever, I sort of resent paying my taxes. I don't want to pay for a stupid border wall or security for Melania Trump so she can live in NYC and avoid her husband or, for that matter, for that husband to keep jetting off to the private club he owns in Florida. I will happily pay my taxes to fund Meals on Wheels and the EPA and the NIH and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Happily. But the graft and waste going on in this administration is making the tax bill hurt more.

Speak of stupid border walls... Mr. Snarky took Pumpkin to pick out a piñata for her birthday party. He went to a local store that specializes in piñatas instead of just going to Party City or the like. She picked out a nice big music note, but she came home and told me about another piñata she saw: it was made to look like a big, brick wall and it had Trump's face on it. Clever.

And speaking of Pumpkin: it is a delight to watch her grow up. She stepped in to help smooth things over during Saturday's party when there was a kerfuffle between the big kids (her friends) and the little kids (Petunia and her friends) about time in the jumpy. In the end, I think all of the kids had a great time at the party, and this is the first year where Pumpkin really helped make that happen. She came in third at the 4th grade spelling bee. She went out because she didn't understand the word as the pronouncer said it (and I won't go into details, but he did mispronounce it), but she took this without drama. She loves to read, so much so that most of her friends gave her either books or Barnes and Noble gift cards for her birthday and she was thrilled by that. I could go on and on, but I said I wasn't going to write a glowing ode to her. I will just say that getting to watch you children turn into people you don't just love but are proud of is one of the great joys of parenthood.

Petunia is pretty great, too. She and her little friends decided to do a science experiment during the party. She got out her beakers and set up to do an experiment to find out which things float and which things sink in water. She wrote up the design and was ready to record the data, but they got distracted by the discovery that some types of beads float and others sink, and ended up just filling lots of bowls with water to play with beads. I couldn't even be mad about the mess, really, because it was ridiculously cute to watch them.

So, in summary: vacations are great, but re-entry is hard. Taxes are a pain, but all things considered, I'd rather make the money and owe the taxes than not make the money. And kids are delightful, but birthday parties are exhausting.

I'll write more once I'm caught up on things!


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