Friday, November 20, 2015

Weekend Reading: Some Light Reading for a Dark Time Edition

It has been a week since the attacks in France. There was another attack in Mali today. The world is facing something evil, and I don't use that word lightly.

I remain convinced that we must fight this evil by refusing to accept its definition of the world. It is not us versus them. It is all of us versus hatred.

Sadly, that fight is not going well. As I mentioned on Twitter last night, I'm genuinely worried about the fear-mongering and racism being encouraged in my country right now. John Scalzi's post on the topic says most of what I'm thinking better than I could.

Tonight, though, I want to think about other things. I will keep speaking up in the ways I think will help the most. I wrote to my representative to express my disappointment with his vote on the refugee bill. I will write to my senators, who I expect will vote in a more reasonable way. I will share things on Twitter, and speak up in real life.

But I need a break, or I risk going under, and that does no one any good.

So, first up, something happy: Nicoleandmaggie reviewed Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT a Princess. That review made my day! I love hearing about kids who like my books.

Here is a really great Q&A with Micah Edwards, author of Okay, So Look (a book I published).

In other "me publishing" news, Navigating the Path to Industry (a book I both wrote and published) is now available on Smashwords, which means it is available in Scribd and will be available in Oyster and Overdrive soonish.

I'll also remind you that Missed Chances (a book I edited and published) is in the midst of a GoodReads giveaway promo that ends tomorrow.

OK, that's enough self-promotion.

I love the idea of The Alliance for Girls in STEM, a new non-profit: make picture books with science stories and girls as the protagonists, so that more kids can see themselves as potential future scientists. They are running an IndieGoGo campaign for their first book. I'll be donating as soon as I settle on the reward I want!

This is a really cool piece of scientific detective work, and now I want to go to Crowley Lake.

If you have somehow missed the story about why I (and other Southern Californians) say "the 5" and "the 405," here's your chance to go read it.

This tumblr post turned into something like a crowdsourced dystopic YA story, and it is pretty awesome.

Holy cow, this story about women tricked into relationships with undercover police officers is horrifying. Can you imagine giving years of your life to a relationship only to find out it was an opportunistic lie created to infiltrate a cause you cared about?

This is a beautiful post about the power of reading.

This is a really powerful story about a young man trying to make it in an elite college after growing up in a very rough part of Chicago. It isn't enough to admit more Black students. You have to make sure they have the help and support they need to thrive.

That you can say something similar about women in tech is one of the conclusions of this very thorough article.

I think something similar can probably be said about refugees, too. As much as I am in favor of the US and Europe helping refugees, we do everyone a disservice if we bring people in and do not help them build a new life. I don't agree with everything in Reihan Salam's article on an alternative approach to helping refugees, but he raises some good issues that we must think about.

Zeynep Tufekci sums it up well:

Oops, I said I wanted to think about something else tonight.

So I'll end with a couple of comics: this great Oatmeal comic about helping each other and the xkcd comic I wanted to send to a lot of programmers I've worked with over the years.

Also, this great cat picture sent to me by my husband. (I couldn't find the original source, unfortunately, just a Reddit thread and I'm not linking to that.)

I hope you all have a good weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Monday Hodge-Podge

I spent pretty much all day Sunday painting the Ikea shelves that will eventually grace our new office, so I didn't have time to write a post.

I wanted to write a post, because I wanted to share my latest Tungsten Hippo post- a taster flight of stories about people in search of animals. I really like this flight, because I think that maybe this is in fact a sub-genre that flourishes in short ebooks. I am in the middle of another short ebook that would fit the flight, too. (Also, the flight includes Unspotted....)

Speaking of taster flights, Missed Chances, the "one that got away" taster flight that I published, is in the middle of a GoodReads giveaway promo right now. Go enter if you are so inclined. It also got its first review.

I am hitting burn out stage on the remodeling work. It is eating up all of our weekend time. We have a week long school break for Thanksgiving coming up and we'll be taking some proper time off. It is much needed.

But- we have the final walk through with the architect and the interior decorator on Wednesday, and we want the place to look nice for them, so we're making a bit of a push. Also, we want the decorator's opinion on what sort of blinds to put in the new office, and last time we talked she said that she'd have a better sense once she saw the final furniture in the room. Something about balancing the elements or something like that. She's given us really good advice so far, so we're fairly motivated to get this last little bit of help. This means that we'll be building the shelves tomorrow night.

Or maybe we'll get to build the shelves tomorrow afternoon, because we have the kids' parent-teacher conferences tomorrow and we'll be home early. I'm interested to hear how Petunia is doing. She seems happy with school, and the work that comes home all has smiley faces on it. Her handwriting is much sloppier than Pumpkin's was at this age, but Pumpkin's handwriting now is better than mine, so that is probably not a useful comparison. She's getting 5/5 on her sight word quizzes and seems to "get" everything that is being asked of her, but we're eager to hear how the teacher thinks she's adjusting.

She's been full of interesting ideas and stories lately. Yesterday, she figured out that the tooth fairy is "your grown ups." Here is how the conversation went:

Petunia: Mommy, is the tooth fairy real or is she just your grown ups?

Me: What do you think?

Petunia: I think she's just your grown ups.

Me. Why do you think that?

Petunia: Because I've never seen the tooth fairy at school spying on the kids to see who has loose teeth.

I decided not to argue with this solid piece of logic and confirmed that her grown ups were her tooth fairy. She took it well. She had a very wiggly tooth, and it fell out today at school. She was very excited about it and put it in her little tooth container for her grown ups to sneak into her room and replace with a dollar bill.

She got some money for her birthday last month, and used it to buy some pretend tools. She went around the house "fixing" things for awhile after that. My favorite was when I heard a beeping noise and looked over to see that she had repurposed one of her toy thermometers to be a stud finder.

Last weekend, she and I had an evening to ourselves when Mr. Snarky took Pumpkin to a birthday party. We went and played at her favorite park. She mostly wanted to swing and pretend to be a pirate. Then we went to IHOP, which she pronounces as "ihoc," for dinner. She was very happy, and so was I, except about the rather loud Trump supporter at a table near ours. On the bright side, that led me to interrupt Petunia's coloring and teach her how to play the "connect the dots to make boxes" game on the menu, and that was hilarious. Strategy is not yet her strong suite, but it was a fun game.

I also got some 1:1 time with Pumpkin recently. The kids were off school on Veteran's Day. Petunia went to "visit" at her old day care (she had a blast), while Pumpkin and I had a special day. We played Uno (she's vicious), then went to the mall for pretzels. While we were there, we did a little clothes shopping. It has finally gotten a bit chilly here, and she needed some warm pants and a long sleeved shirts. Then we went to one of her favorite parks to play and have a picnic (we'd picked up Subway). Then she said she wanted to read in the sun. Since I didn't have a book for her with me, we came home and spread a blanket out in our backyard and read for an hour or so. It was glorious.

Then we went and got frozen yogurt and played some more at another park. It was a very good day.

Pumpkin is still an anxious kid, but she's also a fun kid. I am trying to figure out how to teach her that the only protection against the bad things that happen is to really embrace the good things in life and to hope that you'll build up enough... good memories? happiness? I don't know what to call it.... to carry you through the harder times. It might help if I really learned that myself, first. I'm working on that.

But for now, it is late. I want to go read my book and then go to sleep. I'm a bit behind on my to do list, but there's always tomorrow. All of the things on the list can wait.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Some Words

I still don't have the heart to post my usual weekend links, but I want to post something.

I checked the weather yesterday morning and noticed that we're about to get a turn towards cooler temperatures. If I wanted my walk on the beach to celebrate the release of Missed Chances to be a barefoot walk, yesterday was my day.

And what a day it was.

The tide was very low, giving me a nice wide expanse of packed sand on which to stroll.  The sun was warm, and the water not too cold on my feet. As so often happens when I walk on the beach, I could feel the tense muscles in my back relaxing.

And the seashell haul was pretty good, too.

I even left one big, beautiful sand dollar where I found it, because I thought it might still have someone in it. A quick search upon getting home told me that sand dollars are sea urchins, not shells, so if it wasn't fuzzy, it wasn't alive. Oh well. Someone else can take that beautiful specimen home with them.

I left the beach in a wonderful mood. All was well with the world.

Except, of course, it wasn't.

I read some of the news from Paris, and also from Beirut and Baghdad. And then I made the decision to close my laptop and put down my phone. I am not eloquent enough to be able to write words that will provide comfort in these sorts of situations. So I didn't try, and I spent the night with my family instead.

I still do not have eloquent words this morning.

I think dealing with the sort of hatred that created the attacks yesterday is one of the biggest challenges of our time. If we think that we are immune to that hatred, we are wrong: the same sort of hatred motivated the church shooting in Charleston. The lure of that hatred is everywhere, and it pulls on everyone.

My grandparents' generation faced the challenge of a state that would kill anyone it did not deem the "right" sort of person, a state we now recognize as evil. We face the same sort of threat, but from "non-state actors."

I understand the impulse to "go to war" after yesterday's attacks. I hope that our leaders are wise enough to temper that impulse with some careful thought about what sort of response will actually be effective. I hope they can lead us to look for solutions, and not revenge.

I do not know if there is a useful role for military action in this response. Probably there is. But I do not think we will win this fight with the military. There is no state to defeat, no single leader to topple to bring this struggle to an end.

I think we have to fight this one with words, and with love.

I think we have to refuse to judge entire groups of people based on the actions of the worst among them. We have to keep working to make the world better for everyone, not just the people we think are like us. We have to make a life lived in harmony with the rest of us more appealing that a life spent fighting us.

Or something like that. I am no expert on this. All I can think, though, is we've tried the military method, and I am not convinced it is working. Maybe we should try something else.

But those are discussions for another day. Today, I mourn for the victims of yesterday's attacks. I wish for comfort and solace for the survivors. I send love to my Muslim friends and neighbors, who I know are as horrified by the attacks as I am. And I hope we find a way to make a world where there is peace for all of us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On Grocery Shopping

I had thought that tonight I might write one of the meaty posts that I've been wanting to write. But then I saw the news of threats being made on the Mizzou campus, and my heart hurts too much for those college kids to engage my brain to write the post I had in mind.

But I still feel like writing, so I'm going to write about grocery shopping instead. This is sort of the opposite of a meaty post. Except I do buy meat at the grocery store (even though I have one of the best specialty butchers in the city in my neighborhood... sorry, I'm just not that into meat to make a special trip).

We currently get our groceries from three sources. We buy my husband's preferred cheese and cereal, Petunia's strawberry bars, the dried bananas and mangos that Pumpkin likes, and a bunch of wine at Trader Joes. Mr. Snarky goes on Friday night about once a month. He goes on Friday night because our closest Trader Joes is in one of the party parts of town where most of the residents are college kids and other young adults who definitely do not spend their Friday nights at the grocery store. We buy the kids' preferred cereal, applesauce, graham crackers, various fruit snack things that are really candy, beer, more wine, kleenex, toilet paper, and random other things that make sense to buy in bulk at Costco. Mr. Snarky also does this shopping about once a month, because I cannot stand shopping in Costco on the weekend. It makes me hate people. I start to fantasize about running people down with my double-wide Costco shopping cart.

We buy everything else at our neighborhood grocery story, which happens to be one of two stores in a small local chain and not one of the big chains. I'll be honest, if the store down the street from me was one of the big chains, I'd shop there. I clearly prioritize closeness over quality, because our store often runs out of things and doesn't restock until some other similar thing also runs low. For instance, Mr. Snarky likes white grapefruit juice. Our store hasn't had that for the last three weeks. They are making us run down their stock of pink grapefruit juice before they stock more white grapefruit juice. We complain and joke about this, but still do our shopping there. I like to think of it as doing our part to fight food waste. I do this shopping, and I go every Sunday.

As I was checking out this Sunday, the cashier noted that I was alone. One or both of the kids often come with me. I prefer to go alone, but as with many things in my life right now, sometimes my preferences aren't the most important consideration when making a decision.

The cashier and I chatted a bit about how getting to do the grocery shopping alone is a bit of a treat. As I loaded the groceries into my car, I thought back to when I was a kid, when going to the grocery store with my mom was a bit of a treat. I wonder why kids like going to grocery stores so much? I don't hate it (except for Costco on the weekends), but I don't love it like my kids do.

Then, for some reason, I thought back to the first period in my life when I did my own grocery shopping. It was in college. My first two years, I lived in one of the dorms that was not on the main campus. There was a communal kitchen. You could pay a small fee and rent a locker so that you could store pots and pans and food that didn't need to be refrigerated. I also had a small fridge in my room. The closest grocery store was a co-op. I became a member, because that got me a discount on my groceries. Very few students had cars, so we all bought the wire carts that we called granny carts. You could get four full paper bags of groceries in one, if you had the space to store all that food (most of us didn't). I think I went to the store once every couple of weeks. Sometimes I went even if I didn't need anything, just to be with a friend or two and take a break from studying. I ate a lot of meals at the dining hall assigned to us on campus, but often made my own dinner because I couldn't be bothered going back to campus once I was home. And yes, I very clearly thought of my residence hall as my home.

That thought has stayed with me this week, as people have been debating the events at Yale and Mizzou. Campus is a school and a place of work for some. It is a space for learning. It is also home to a bunch of young people, most of whom are out on their own for their first time, trying to become adults. I wish we'd remember that more.

And that's as close to a serious topic as I care to go tonight. Tell me about your grocery shopping routine in the comments. Did you think of grocery shopping as a treat when you were a kid? Is this some sort of weird universal kid thing?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Sunday Hodge-Podge

It has been another weekend of painting here... but now the "little room" (which used to be Petunia's bedroom) is painted and its carpet is cleaned. We plan to move furniture in later this week.

We're also planning to brave a weekend trip to Ikea later today, to buy the shelves for our office, the new shelves for Petunia's room, and a bunch of other things.

So progress is being made.

Petunia loves her new room. She's experimenting with where to store all her things, and enjoying the extra space and storage she has now- and we still have more storage to get her. This renovation project really is making us happier, and it isn't even done yet. Still, I am in no hurry to start any more home improvements. I was washing dishes this week, looking at the wall about the sink. I caught myself thinking that it really could use a fresh coat of paint and I had to laugh. There is no way I want to paint anything more right now!

Before I started painting this morning, I wrote my next Tungsten Hippo post for Nonfiction November. The prompt this week was to pair a non-fiction book and a fiction book. I love this sort of thing! I already had a category of blog posts for it: the "Read Together" posts. It only had a couple of entries, though, because it turns out to be hard to find good pairings. Taster flights are easier.

Speaking of Taster Flights, I need to get some review love for Missed Chances. If you're interested in reviewing it on your blog or on Amazon or GoodReads, let me know. There will be a GoodReads giveaway for it starting later this week, too- watch for a tweet and/or a mention in the next links post if you're interested in participating in that. And of course, you can help me out by adding it to your shelves: here's the GoodReads page for it.

My Sunday posts seem to gravitate towards the hodge-podge end of the spectrum. Rather than fighting that, I think I'll run with it. Maybe I should make a new category, like the Weekend Links: the Sunday Hodge-Podge.

The weather has finally turned towards fall here. There's a slight chill in the air (San Diego style- the high today is still going to be in the low 70s) and I am forced to accept that I probably won't be taking anymore barefoot walks on the beach this year. Fair enough, it is November. I'm still planning a walk on the beach to celebrate the release of Missed Chances, though. Rules are rules.

And now it is time to get back to work. I have a grocery list to write and groceries to buy before our Ikea trip....
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