Friday, September 22, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Joshua Tree Edition

So, I'm going to see the U2 concert tonight. Mr. Snarky and I decided to skip it in a fit of fiscal responsibility, and then my sister talked me into going with her... so now I'm going and Mr. Snarky is staying home with the kids. I feel a little bad about that, especially since our kids will be joined by one of Petunia's best friends, whose parents are also going to the concert.

But I don't feel too bad because back in 2012, we flew home from our vacation on Mother's Day, and that night, Mr. Snarky and his friend went to see Roger Waters. I didn't want to see that concert, but leaving me home with jet-lagged kids on Mother's Day is worse than leaving him home with the kids on some random Friday, so I think this makes us even.

Anyhow, I should probably go, I don't know, put gel in my hair or something to prepare for my nostalgia trip to the 80s, so let's get the links done.

First, the book promo links:

I am now ready to sign up advance readers for The Burning. If you're interested in being an advance reader, sign up here.

Water into Wine comes out Wednesday! (You can pre-order the ebook now via the links on that page.)

Here's an interview with Water into Wine's author, Joyce Chng, over at Fran Wilde's blog.

On to the other links. I don't have that many this week, because I gave the online version of my Navigate the Path to Industry seminar on Wednesday, and doing that and all my other work kept me a bit busier than usual.

I've thought for some time that America needs to a truth and reconciliation commission or some other means for publicly coming together and discussing our past. So I like Tom Perriello's call for one in Virginia.

The Pod Save America crew's interview with HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen was really interesting.

Jamelle Bouie on political correctness is definitely worth your time.

Ed Yong's getting to see some cool stuff in New Zealand: first kakapos and now baby kiwis.

Sometimes the internet is still fun:

And if you somehow missed the Mary-Clare King story that was circulating this week, here is a tweet with both the video and the written version:


And that's all I have. Time to go gel my hair!

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trip Story: Carson City and Virginia City

I feel like escaping from all the bad news right now and so I will revisit my summer vacation. In my last trip story post, I wrote about our drive across northern Nevada. The target of that drive was Carson City, where we stayed for a couple of nights. We arrived late in the afternoon on July 3 and left first thing in the morning July 5... and we spent a big chunk of July 4 in nearby Virginia City. But I still felt like we'd seen something of Carson City, and we enjoyed our time there.

Our first order of business upon pulling into town was to go see the state capitol. It would be closed the next day (July 4), and Mr. Snarky was adamant he wanted to go inside. So we went to the capitol before we went to our hotel.

For once, I'm actually glad we did go into the capitol. They had a little scavenger hunt for the kids to do, and one of the items had us go into the Secretary of State's office and see the vault that Mark Twain's brother had installed there when he was the Secretary of State. That was pretty cool.

The kids were more impressed with the fact that you could go into one of the meeting rooms. They could even sit up on the podium and pretend to be in charge.

Pumpkin contemplates a career in politics.

After checking in to our hotel (a casino...), the kids and Mr. Snarky went for a swim while I rested for a bit, trying to stave off a headache. It worked, and a little later we headed back into the downtown area and had a very nice dinner at a place called The Union.

The next day, we headed out to Virginia City to experience a fourth of July parade with an Old West theme. I think Mr. Snarky was the one who enjoyed it the most. I'm not much of a parade person, and the kids thought there were too many loud cars and too many loud fake guns (or real guns shooting blanks, more accurately).

Owners of some of the loud guns

Virginia City is where Samuel Clemens started writing under the name of Mark Twain, and before the parade started, we went into the basement of a shop to see the desk he worked at and some other related memorabilia. There are other historic sites there, and I think if we'd visited on any other day, I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, it was just too packed full of people.

After the parade, we took a ride on a steam train traveling a portion of the old Virginia and Truckee line. That was a really nice ride, but we all agreed that when it was done, we were done with Virginia City, and headed back to Carson City.

View from the train

Petunia had seen a fun fair set up not far from our hotel, and begged to get to go to it. And so we did. Petunia had an absolute blast, and Pumpkin had fun, too. Mr. Snarky and I were less excited by the fun fair, but it is always fun to see your kids have so much fun.

We left the fair and had dinner at the Fox Brewpub, which has a nice patio looking out at a fountain/splash pad that the kids really enjoyed. I have to say, downtown Carson City has real potential. It is not large, but it is nice and there are several interesting looking restaurants, including one across from the Fox called "Scoups" that specializes in soup and ice cream. Those are two of my favorite types of food, so if I ever go back to Carson City, I'll make a point to visit that establishment!

Looking at the Fox from the other side of the fountain.
The blurs in yellow and blue are my children.
And then it was time for fireworks. We drove to a parking lot that someone had recommended and watched the show... only to get back to our hotel and discover we could have watched it from our hotel parking lot. Oh well. They were nice fireworks. We only cared about the lost time because it was quite late for our kids to be up, and we wanted to get up early the next morning for a big driving day: we were heading back into California, to Lee Vining. I'll pick up the story there next time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Rushing to Get to a School Event Edition

We have a back to school social event at the kids' school tonight, so this post might be a little terser than usual as I cram to get everything done and wrap up work an hour early despite the fact that I went out to lunch (but to meet with someone about a work thing!) and decided that even if I didn't have time for a rollerblade, I could probably squeeze in a run.

So anyhow, let's get to the links.

Self-promo links this week:

  • I posted the cover reveal for The Burning, a novella by JP Seewald that will be out in early November. I'll have the call for advance readers ready by next week, I hope.
  • Don't forget that Water into Wine, by Joyce Chng, is available for pre-order now. Release day is Sept. 27!
  • Registration for Navigate the Path to Industry, my non-academic job search seminar closes MONDAY. If you or anyone you know has been procrastinating on signing up, now's the time to act.
  • A couple weekends ago, I tweeted about spending a huge amount of time creating a "party robot" t-shirt design for Petunia's upcoming birthday. Her shirt arrived in the mail this week, and we love it. So, the design is now posted on Etsy. I've got the children's and infant/toddlers sizes posted. I'm hoping to get the adult sizes up this weekend. And yeah, that's Petunia modeling the shirt in the children's posting.

And some friend promo:

Xykademiqz is having a flash fiction contest! Go enter. If I can come up with an idea, I'll enter. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's entries.

If you're not familiar with flash fiction, here's an example. Or check out the @MicroSFF twitter feed.

Now, the other links:

I listened to the interview with Hillary Clinton on Pod Save America, and it is really good. In particular, the section where she talks about the threat to our democracy she shes in Trump and in big money donors like the Mercers is worth your time. And luckily, Tommy Vietor pulled that bit of the transcript out into a tweet:

Tressie MacMillan Cottom on the Trump presidency is excellent. It is a hard call between this and the Hillary Clinton interview for my "if you only have time for one thing" pick this week. The best I can do is say to read this and then read the short section of the Clinton interview above.

But really, you should also read Cathy O'Neil on Facebook, Google, and why we need them to be more transparent in order to protect our democracy.

And Zeynep Tufecki's NYT op-ed about the Equifax mess is spot on and also worth your time.

Joseph Williams was fired from his job at Politico after saying some negative things about Mitt Romney... and what happened next is sobering.

Now that Pumpkin has a phone (used to text me when she arrives at school, since the kids are now walking to school on their own), she is begging for Snapchat. The answer is NO right now, but I can tell that we're going to need to come up with a coherent plan for internet and social media sooner than I'd like. This post from Cool Mom Tech has some things for me to think about once I'm ready to tackle this topic.

Pumpkin loves kakapos, so this story about the kakapo sequencing project was a big hit in our house.

A disturbing example of how false things get made to sound true:


Also probably true:


That's all for this week

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Musings from the Tail End of a Mid-Life Crisis

In April of 2014, I abruptly quit my job. There were many aspects of that action that were completely out of character for me. I did not really understand why I quit when I did it. Furthermore, I was actively repelled by the idea of looking for another salaried job in my field or even the fields adjacent to my field. I did not understand why, but the thought of applying for any of those jobs made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. If I'd needed to get back to "regular" employment right away I don't really know where I'd have ended up.

Luckily, I landed in a part time contract position at a rate that allowed us to maintain our standard of living while I did the work I needed to do to figure out what the hell had just happened. It also gave me the time and space to try to build a company, which has been a really interesting journey.

I am really, really aware of how lucky I have been. I know that many other people don't have the luxury of taking the time to figure this stuff out. I know that other people land in a position similar to mine and experience a sharp drop in their standard of living. Take it as a given in the rest of this post that I really know that. My recognition of my extreme luck has made me reticent to write too much about the process of figuring out what the hell had happened. However, I made an off hand comment over at Nicoleandmaggie's about how the sense of clarity I'd gained from my midlife crisis was nice, and a long time reader emailed me to say she'd like to read more about that.

I so rarely get reader requests that I am excited to try to meet it! Hence this post, which has been much delayed due to headaches and life in general interfering with my blogging time..

I didn't call what I was experiencing a mid-life crisis at first, because there were some external things that clearly precipitated the problems. But then I realized that is probably always true about mid-life crises. I'll embrace the cliche I embodied and proudly proclaim that yes, I had a mid-life crisis.

It took me close to two years to really understand why I quit that day in April. The reasons veer into other people's stories too much for me to feel comfortable discussing them here. Luckily, they also aren't anywhere near the most interesting thing I've learned in the last 3.5 years.

What is far more interesting is what I've learned about myself as I have tried to build a company from nothing. I've written more about the company building over at my Tiny Letter, but I haven't really written about what the process has taught me about myself.

Here, in random order are the things I've learned:

1. I had too much of my sense of self-worth invested in my work.

I am more than my work. I thought I knew this, but I clearly didn't. Perhaps the pressures of parenting had taken too many of my hobbies away from me, but I think that is a cop out. I had (and have!) a lot of interests outside of work and separate from my role as a mother. I had just lost touch with how much those interests could contribute to my sense of who I am.

2. I wanted external validation too much and spent too much effort chasing it.

This one goes way back for me, and probably speaks to some deep-seated insecurity. I won't pretend I've conquered it, but I've looked it in the eye and acknowledged that I will never get the amount of external validation I crave, and I need to be OK with that. I'm working on being OK with that.

3. All my work really needs to do is pay my bills.

This has become a bit of a mantra for me. I use it to talk myself down when I start judging myself by other people's metrics of success. Once I've paid my bills, the only metric of success that matters is the one I define. The hard part in this, of course, is defining my own metric of success. This is also a work in progress.

4. I like money, and that's OK.

Early on in my entrepreneurship adventure I stumbled into some parts of the internet where entrepreneurs were extolling the virtues of cutting your expenses to the bone so that you would have a longer runway for trying to get your company off the ground... and I realized that no, that was not for me. We did trim our expenses a bit, and I pay more attention to what I buy at the grocery store, but I won't go to extremes. For instance: our local store helpfully stopped carrying the fancy orange-tangerine juice blend I like, so I now buy whichever orange juice is cheapest... but if my orange-tangerine blend ever shows back up I'm buying it in a heartbeat.

I also realized I wasn't willing to make my kids drop any of their activities, even though I know that this would cause them no harm.

Basically, I like our comfortable lifestyle and I'll go back to full time work to keep it if I have to. When I realized that, I knew I'd resolved the worst of the crisis that led me to quit my job, because as I said, at the beginning of the crisis, the thought of going back to full time work was horrifying to me.

5. I love to travel

OK, I already knew this one, but the introspection of the last few years has taught me that if I have to pick one thing to care about in addition to my family, it is getting to travel. Any work arrangement that doesn't acknowledge this is going to make me unhappy. Luckily, I don't need luxury travel, so while this priority isn't cheap, it is also quite achievable in a variety of different work arrangements I've considered.

The more general principle here is that it is good to know what makes you happy and recharges your soul, and it is OK to prioritize that even if it seems like something sort of shallow or unimportant. I'm not a spa person, but I suspect there are people who feel about spa days like I feel about seeing new places, and I say... go for it.

6. I like to make things

My explorations in entrepreneurship have covered a lot of ground. There are things I like about all of the aspects of my current business, but as I've reflected on what I most want to do, I've realized it is: make things. I love producing books. I have fun making t-shirts, too, and although I've decided the t-shirts shouldn't be a business priority, I'll probably keep making new designs now and then. (Party robot shirts are coming soon!) Once I decided to let the creative side of my brain have a little fun, I've come up with a lot of things I'd love to make: different types of books, different ideas for websites, ideas for apps... I write all my ideas in a special journal I keep for that purpose. I've produced more of my ideas than I would have predicted back when I started the company, and my favorite thing about my current work arrangement might be the freedom to pursue so many ideas.

Is there a general principle in this lesson? Maybe it is to pay attention to the work activities that make you happiest. Try to find ways to do those things more often, and avoid work situations where you're cut off from that joy, no matter how many other enticements they offer.

I'm sure I've learned more things, but that list is what I wrote in my little writing notebook as I was thinking about this post, and I think it hits the most important things. I can't say that the mid-life crisis has been fun, but at least it has been worthwhile. I feel better able to evaluate options about what to do next now that I better understand what matters to me, and what my "gotcha" points are. I don't know when I get to declare the mid-life crisis over. I think I still have things to figure out, but I am not responding to events in ways I don't really understand... and I'll call that a win.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Stay Safe Everyone Edition

I had plans to write a post last night about what I've figured out from my midlife crisis (reader request!) but then I got one of the headaches I get sometimes that isn't quite a migraine but makes me feel queasy. So I spent my evening on the sofa with an ice pack on my head instead.

I am happy to report that I feel better today. I went out for my first rollerblade in ages, and it was delightful. This really is the best time of year here. The tourists are home, the kids are in school, but the weather is delightful.

Of course, I feel a bit bad reveling in my wonderful weather with three hurricanes bearing down on various places... but it was a nice rollerblade all the same.

So, on to some links.

If you haven't grabbed your discounted copy of Academaze yet, you might still be able to get one if you hurry. Prices will start going up later tonight.

I don't have any other promotional links to share this week. I spent a good part of today working on slides for a new seminar on strategic planning. I'm putting this together for a client, though. I might decide to offer an online version at some point, but not yet.

If you read only one of my links this week, make it Noah Smith's post about how Americans are in an an indefinitely repeating prisoner's dilemma... and so we should learn how to cooperate with people on the other side of the political spectrum.

And then, if you're up for a longer and more depressing read about a similar topic, you can read Lee Drutman's article about American hyperpartisanship and the doom loop.

In "trying to win elections by keeping people who disagree with you from voting" news, here's a short post about the latest bogus accusation of fraud.

I don't know what to make of the study about Fox news influencing voting decisions.

If you aren't up on the history of US immigration policy and how we ended up with so many young people who are undocumented but have never known another country... Dara Lind's article on why ending DACA is so unprecedented is a good place to fill in the gaps.

Were the 1990s the peak for working women in America? I hope not!

The edition of The Ezra Klein Show podcast with Angela Nagle is really good. They talk about 4chan and the alt-right, but also about the need to present a positive vision for our future. I particularly liked Angela Nagle's points towards the end about imaging a different relationship with work.


Just LOL:

Judging by his profile location, this awesome skateboarder lives somewhere near me:


And that's all I have... or at least all the time I have today. If you're in the path of one of the hurricanes, stay safe!


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