Friday, October 21, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Did You Miss Twitter? Edition

So, Twitter was unaccessible from my computer for most of the day. I could get to it on my phone, but only if I used the cell network, not my internet connection. I missed it, but I must confess its absence helped me push through an article revision I've been stuck on. I am trying to write an article about how to set a strategy to accomplish long term goals, and for some reason this has been a hard one for me to write. It took me more than two hours to produce a really crappy first draft on Wednesday. I managed to improve it a lot today, and think I should be able to finish it off in the hour or two of work I do on Sunday morning.

Incidentally, that hour or two of Sunday work is how I "buy" time to go rollerblading on Friday afternoons. I try to schedule writing work for that time, and do it with my morning tea while the rest of the family has a lazy start to the day. I find the Sunday morning writing time enjoyable, and so the whole thing works out great. I keep meaning to write a post about what I'm learning about time use now that I have convinced myself to just go ahead and enjoy my super flexible current work schedule. Maybe next week.

Anyhow, this links post is the last thing between me and a nice rollerblade by the bay, so let's get to it, shall we?

Vox had some excellent election coverage this week. If you only read one of their articles, read this one from Jenée Desmond-Harris about how the Trump campaign is affecting kids. But Ezra Klein's article about how kickass Hillary Clinton's debate performances were is really good, too. And Matt Yglesias on the new "silent majority" is worth your time.

The publisher of the Arizona Republic responds to the threats the newspaper has been getting since they endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Confession time: at the time of the Bush-Gore election and subsequent recount mess, I was in the midst of falling head over heals in love with Mr. Snarky. I definitely voted in that election, but I remember almost nothing about the uproar that followed. If you also have forgotten that time, Jonathan Chait has a refresher on it.

If you missed the Washington Post article about how the young man who was a rising start in the white nationalist community changed his mind, it is worth your time.

If you've been blaming your aging eyes for difficulty reading websites... nah, it is just a bad design trend.

Sara Benincasa's story about a date, a creep, and how the staff of an upscale restaurant stepped in to rescue her is wonderful.

Here's a wonderful story about how Hamilton is helping a non-verbal child communicate. You'll never hear that "Awesome! Wow!" the same way again.

This is a poignant cartoon about bullying.

This article from the wonderful Chavi Eve Karkowsky (who, if she happens to read this, is hopefully still working on a book because I really want to read it) about birth control pills and side effects arrived at a good time for me. I've been struggling with headaches, everything points to there being a hormonal component, and just today I sat down with my doctor and decided to try changing up my birth control to see if that helps.

Let's end with some cute animals!

The quokka:


I love bunnies! These two remind me of one of my childhood pets:

Sadly, due to allergies I can't have an indoor bunny and due to coyotes I can't have an outdoor bunny. But I have the Rabbit Isle Twitter Bot! Discovering that was probably the high point of my week.

Happy weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Near Miss

I don't think it will surprise anyone to know that I have donated to Hillary Clinton's election campaign this year. You also won't be surprised to learn that this means I receive multiple emails each day from Democratic luminaries, mostly asking me to donate again.

Today, a different sort of email landed in my inbox. It seems President Obama is coming to town for a fundraiser at a private home, and I could buy a ticket to attend. I was curious how much such a ticket would cost, so I clicked through. The cheapest $250 tickets were sold out by the time I noticed the email, but I could still buy a $1000 ticket. And for one wild moment, I seriously considered doing it.

I decided not to, because while I could afford that cost, it would be a heck of a splurge. I also realized that if the $250 tickets had still been available, I probably would have done it. I would have bought three tickets, for me and my two daughters.

Honestly, the money would have been wasted on Petunia. She has only a passing interest in this year's election. But if I took Pumpkin, I'd have to take Petunia, and that money most definitely would not have been wasted on Pumpkin. One of the many, many things that makes me sad about this year's election is that it is the first election Pumpkin has really been interested in, and so much of it is inappropriate and possibly damaging for her to follow. I was ready to explain the somewhat sexist coverage—the focus on how much, exactly, Hillary should smile, and why people "just don't like her." But I cannot bring myself to explain the unbridled misogyny that is Donald Trump to my earnest 9 year old who is still so sure she can do whatever she wants in life.

(From the beginning of Trump's campaign, I have discussed his racism and xenophobic fear-mongering, though, and typing this I wonder why I'm more willing to discuss that than his sexism? I do not know.)

Pumpkin and Petunia have always enjoyed coming to vote with me, but up until this year, it has mostly been about getting that "I voted" sticker.

Stickers are powerful motivators.
This year, Pumpkin wants to know more. She is definitely excited that we might elect our first woman president, but she is also genuinely interested in the process. I'm trying to let her see as much of it as I can. We watched most of the speeches at the Democratic convention. Maybe another year, we would have tuned in for the Republican convention, too, but I didn't relish the idea of explaining the "Trump that Bitch" (and worse) signs and shirts. So we skipped the Republicans and watched the Democrats, who obliged us by showcasing the things I'm most proud of about my country. Pumpkin liked watching the big speeches, and even Petunia was transfixed by Michelle Obama's speech.

Pumpkin has followed along with the election since then. Even though I don't show her the worst of it, she has picked up on the tone. She heard some vague things about the Access Hollywood tape at school, which led to me having to try to explain what that was all about. (Thanks, Republicans! I enjoyed explaining that! I know you worry about how we'll explain same sex marriage to our kids, but let me tell you, explaining why a large number of my fellow citizens think a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women should be made President was so much harder. I wonder, what did you say to your kids about that? I could use some tips. In return, I can tell you what I said when I was asked about same sex marriage: "Sometimes two boys or two girls love each other like Mommy and Daddy love each other and then they get married." It really wasn't so hard.)

Anyway, as much as I've tried to protect Pumpkin from the ugliness of this particular election and just focus on the process, the ugliness has seeped through. She can see it in my face sometimes, I think. Last week was a particularly rough week for me, as it was for a lot of women. I didn't always hide that well. Reading about the assault on the airplane felt like a physical punch in the gut. I was assaulted on an airplane, too. It was my first international business trip. That was 16 years ago. I remember almost every detail of that flight. I remember what I wore. What I ate. What I drank. What the man who assaulted me did for a living (he ran a card shop in downtown Philadelphia).  I remember just wanting to get off the plane and go have a really hot shower. I remember no details of the return flight, which was uneventful.

So I waited to watch Michelle Obama's latest speech when I was home alone, so that I could outright sob without trying to explain why. I'm not ready to tell Pumpkin about the things men think they can do yet, although I know I need to do that soon. That may be the most heart-breaking thing about this election: the all too vivid reminder that things are not so much better that I could hope my daughters will be spared.

So when I saw that invitation to the event with President Obama, I was tempted to pull out my credit card for the chance to let Pumpkin experience the greatness of our system, as a shining thing to remember about what has otherwise been an ugly introduction to Presidential politics. President Obama and Michelle Obama embody what I think are some of the best things about our country and our system of government. I think President Obama is a brilliant, honorable man who has done his best to serve his country well. I think he and Michelle have brought grace, style, and a broader sense of including all Americans to the White House. They make me proud of my country.

But then I came down to earth. $1000 is within the realm of possibility. $3000 is not, not really. I forwarded the email to Mr. Snarky with a joke and then went back to debugging the data analysis process I was working on.

Later, I thought back to the first election I remember really following. It was 1984. I was a Democrat, growing up in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ, that was heavily Republican. Despite the fact that I had literally almost all of my classmates as evidence that Ronald Reagan was popular with a lot of people, I believed in my heart that Walter Mondale could win. I was so excited by the fact that he'd picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. I even played her in a mock debate. I happened to have a similar hairstyle, and I remember the boys commenting on that. I also remember the boy I debated. He was judged to have won, but he came up later and told me he thought I had debated better, but our classmates picked him as the winner because they agreed with him. Earlier this year, I found the note he wrote in my senior yearbook, and realized his character was far better than I gave him credit for back then, when he was just another Mormon boy I assumed believed I should limit my ambitions to the home. I'd bet serious money he is not supporting Donald Trump this year.

I remember going with my parents to our friends' house to watch the election returns, and all the adults trying to comfort me as it became increasingly clear that Mondale was going to lose by a landslide. They knew what was coming before the returns started coming in. I still cried.

And then of course, there was 1988. I remember the downfall of Gary Hart, and the reasons for it. I remember wondering why a man who wanted to be President would risk behaving like he did. I was naive then, but honestly, I still don't really get it, and I don't want to.  So we ended up with the Bush-Dukakis race. And the Willie Horton ad, the significance of which I doubt I grasped at the time.

The first election I could vote in was in 1992, and the stupid cookie incident is etched into my memory. I was in college, starting to sort out what my ambitions would be, and the reaction to Hillary Clinton was a not very subtle reminder that I'd be navigating a very different work environment than what my male classmates would face. Still, as I've written before, I was not a huge fan of hers back then.

And then, of course, came the sex scandals and the impeachment and all that.

Next up: the 2000 election, with the hanging chads and the faux folksiness of George W. Bush, a man who had been born to unbelievable privilege and pretended to be an average Joe. A man who made it to the top even though even his supporters seemed to think he wasn't that bright. And of course, we all know where that got us.

OK, so maybe, the idea of going to see President Obama was a little bit for me, too.

Maybe next time.

Sign courtesy of Petunia, so maybe she's paying more attention than I think. She made it on Saturday, after hearing me and Pumpkin discuss a weird thing we saw. We picked my sister up for a trip to the art museum, and saw a Hillary-Kaine sign in the yard of a house on our route. We later dropped my sister home, and on our way, we saw that same house, now with a Trump-Pence sign. Either there's a battle going on in that house, or someone is being a jerk. No prizes for guessing which I think it is.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Early So I Can Rollerblade in the Sun Edition

Since last week's attempt to take a Friday rollerblading break didn't work so well (the rollerblading was awesome, but the coming back to work not so much), this week I'm going to try just finishing work early so I can go rollerblade. And that means you get your weekend reading early.

So without further ado, this week's links

I found this Matt Yglesias article about the book Democracy for Realists simultaneously fascinating and depressing.

Even more depressing: Mother Jones' investigation into how Trump took hate groups into the mainstream.

Josh Marshall has written quite a bit about this, too. Here is a recent post that is good, but scary.

John Scalzi's endorsement of Hillary Clinton is really thorough and well-thought out.

This Tenure, She Wrote post about the wider problem of harassment and misogyny reminded me of how often the guys in my classes "joked" that I'd slept my way to my good grades. I learned to laugh it off. I kept getting good grades. But these comments and the comments about how I won scholarships because I was a woman are definitely there in the imaginary trunk of horrible sexist crap I've put up with that I keep locked up in my head.

This horrible election has broken my imaginary trunk wide open. I suspect it has done the same for many, many women, which is why my timeline is full of women describing all the various ways men have assaulted them. I guess it is good that this is getting out there, but it really is emotionally exhausting. I am finding it hard to concentrate on my work or enjoy time with my kids. I've tried turning away, but the news leaks in. And it is too late, the trunk is open. And I keep looking at my 9.5 year old and thinking how soon all of this garbage is coming for her. I need to process the contents of that trunk so I can be ready for that. So, like I wrote yesterday, I'm trying to focus on the encouraging things I'm seeing, but it is hard. I have never wanted an election to be over so much.

I wanted to find some happier links to share. I don't have much.

Here's a story about some new cave drawings found in the Basque region of Spain. One of the bits of European language history that most fascinates me is Basque, which has no "relatives" in the language family tree. We can only speculate that at one point, before the Celts took over large swaths of Europe (and before they themselves were largely displaced by the Romans and the Germanic tribes), there were lots of people speaking a language related to Basque. And maybe they left us cave drawings! I think that is cool.

This is a nifty idea for a game.

I'm running my first ever giveaway on my Tungsten Hippo blog. It is for a novella the author calls "slapstick with B movie monsters." If that sounds fun, enter the giveaway.

This tweet about Bob Dylan's Nobel prize is perfect.

And some grace to end on, courtesy of Bad Mom, Good Mom, who sent me the link: beautiful and fascinating photos of the flight paths of birds.

Also, a giant wombat kept showing up in my Twitter feed, so I'll share it with you:

And now I'm off to rollerblade in the sunshine by the bay.  I wish I had more happy links this week. Feel free to add some in the comments if you have them!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Stepping Away from the Abyss

I am supposed to write a post about the latest book release for my publishing company. Small and Spooky is a collection of six classic short ghost stories. I was going to talk about why I put this particular collection together, even though I'm not really a ghost story sort of person, and then give you all the purchase links like I usually do.

But my heart isn't into it today, and so I'll just say the book is out and go check out the webpage for it for the purchase links and more info.

I'm finding it hard to write about my usual mix of topics. I knew this election would be ugly, both because having a woman running would bring out a lot of misogyny and because the Republicans nominated a very unpleasant man. But it has gotten so much uglier than I expected, with the racist rhetoric just continuing to ramp up, and vile hate groups moving from the fringes into the spotlight. In today's speech, Trump basically parroted white nationalists and neo-Nazis with a rant that was barely coded anti-Semitism. (Read Josh Marshall's post on it for details.) I find this terrifying.

And then the misogyny. This election is dredging up every bad thing that has ever happened to me because I am a woman and throwing it in my face. Michelle Obama's speech today described how this feels better than I ever could, so just go watch it if you haven't already.

I honestly want to crawl into a hole and ignore the news until this election is over. But that isn't a realistic thing for me to try to do. So instead, I'm trying to focus on the way I see people from all over the country and all across the political spectrum standing up to the way the Trump campaign is a corruption of our ideals. I mean, I never expected to agree with Eric Erickson on anything of substance, and yet here we are.  I see people speaking up and pushing back however they can. I see journalists like David Fahrenthold pursuing information to help show voters who Trump really is. I'm inspired by the people who took that awful "there will be a taco truck on every corner" quote and decided to have taco trucks help register people to vote.

I don't underestimate the threat of this moment in our history. I think Trump has unleashed forces he cannot control even if he wanted to, and I am genuinely worried about what is going to happen when he loses, as he almost certainly will at this point. (But don't get complacent! Vote! We need a landslide, both for our national honor and to refute the inevitable claims that this election was rigged.)

But I am heartened by the way people are fighting back.

I've also been thinking about what comes next. How did we get here, and how do we build up better protections against finding ourselves here again? I keep coming back to something John Scalzi wrote in his comment thread warning at the top of the comments on his scathing denouncement of Trump:

"But remember, lefties, there may come a time when you have the choice of voting for a legitimate shitshow of a candidate — someone who is an active danger to the fabric of the Republic — or missing out on 25 years of controlling the Supreme Court, or the Congress. And then you will be confronted with the gulf between what you should do and what you might end up doing, as many GOP/conservative people are this year.

Don’t pretend that all of you will do the right thing — or won’t rationalize the bad thing you will do as being a good thing, or at least, less of a moral capitulation than it is."

I agree with him. And it has me thinking that maybe part of the problem is the way Supreme Court appointments have become such a high stakes thing. Losing Congress is a short term setback, but losing the Court lasts for a generation. These days, that feels so high stakes to people on both sides of the political spectrum. I'm not enough of a historian to have an opinion on when this started, but it seems like our legislative deadlock is part of the problem. We can't resolve important issues by the normal political processes of compromise, and so they end up in the courts, and eventually in front of the Supreme Court, and since Supreme Court appointments are for life... well, I guess I understand why Republicans—particularly the ones whose main issues are on the sorts of things the Supreme Court ends up deciding, like abortion—are having a hard time accepting the idea that their candidate needs to lose. (And I'm sorry if you're still working on that, but at this point I have to say that he needs to lose. The last time the world heard rhetoric like his, the Holocaust happened.)

And that got me thinking about how unfortunate it is that abortion is such a big issue in our politics. I support abortion rights, but I would shed not a single tear if we got to a place where abortions were legal but extremely rare. That would mean that women had access to good birth control, and we had a society where an unexpected pregnancy was not likely to mean a tumble into poverty. That would be a wonderful thing!

So now I'm thinking that perhaps the thing to do to shore up our democracy is work to make the polarizing issues less high stakes. I don't know how to do that on all the issues, but I would be delighted to work to reduce the number of abortions to such a small number that it would seem silly to risk a President as manifestly unfit as Trump in order to get a chance for a Supreme Court that will outlaw it.

For the other issues, perhaps the thing is to contradict people who are disgusted by political dealing and the like. For most of my adult life, I've heard people blame our problems on "Washington insiders" and "people playing politics." Well, the Tea Party came along and refused to play politics. And then the Congressional Republicans refused to work with President Obama on anything. I don't think this is better, not at all. The way politics works is not pretty, but it is oh so much better than any other method we have of resolving differences in opinions about what our national policies should be.

The divisions aren't in Washington. They are in the entire US. We are a big, diverse country. We will never have consensus on most important issues. Instead, we need to accept compromises in order to continue to live together and benefit from the many strengths that our diversity provides us. So bring on the backroom deals. They are better than legislative deadlock and high stakes court battles. In short, hooray for politics! May we have more of it in the halls of Congress soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Collection of Unrelated Things

Mr. Snarky has a cold, and I'm sure I'll get it soon. I can already feel my lungs working harder than usual, so probably I already have it and just haven't started sneezing yet. I don't know. There's a slim chance I'll avoid it, and since colds usually lead to at least a month of bad breathing for me, I'm clinging to that slim chance. I'll be heading to bed early tonight. I've been washing my hands like crazy, drinking lots of fluids, and sucking on zinc lozenges (yeah, I know, the data is so-so, but I think they help fend off and/or shorten colds, and I don't care if that's a placebo effect or something else, I'll take it).

I'd be in bed now, but it is my turn to do the dishes, and I decided to try to get the dishwasher to do most of them. So I loaded it up, started it, and am waiting for it to finish so I can load it up again. How did we get to a place where we often make two dishwasher loads of dishes in a day? (I can answer that, for today at least: Petunia has recently switched her lunch preference to left over Annie's peace pasta, and I made a batch tonight for this week's lunches. That, plus the bowl from the waffles we had for dinner will fill up half the bottom rack. The bowl didn't fit in the first run because of the blender I used to make smoothies to go with the waffles. And then there's all the lunch tupperware that can go on the top.)

So anyhow, I'm waiting for my dishwasher to finish and thought I'd write a post. Not about politics, because although I can't stop reading and retweeting about this election, it would probably be healthier for me to ignore it more than I am. Or at least turn my attention to the gazillion ballot initiatives, local races, and the like. I will apparently have a really long ballot to vote and would be smart to vote by mail. But the kids like coming to the polls with me, and I like letting them feel involved in the electoral process... so I don't know. I need to decide soon if I'm going to request a mail ballot. Maybe I will, and then the kids and I can drop it off at the polls on election day, as a sort of compromise.

Instead of politics, I give you a collection of unrelated things.

1. I got the dress that Leota sent me and it is awesome. One of these days, I'll get someone to take some pictures of me in this dress and in the two dresses I bought at Nordstroms and then I'll share them in one of my weird headless fashion show posts. I took a risk on the perfect wrap, even though wrap styles usually end up requiring a tank top to remain decent on me... and this risk paid off. From their size chart, I reckoned I would be a 1L, so that is what I ordered and it fits perfectly, and the wrap stays in place and doesn't flash obscene amounts of cleavage. Like I said, it is awesome. 

2. I've been making a push on book marketing over the last couple of weeks. I'm frustrated with Facebook, but they remain the ad option that works best for actually moving books. I'm frustrated with Amazon, but they remain the overwhelming lion's share of my sales. So I thought I'd ask you guys for new ideas. If you buy books and sometimes by books from indie publishers/small presses (i.e., presses that can't afford a NYT Book Review ad or the like): where should I be advertising? I'm particularly curious to know how Kobo readers and iBooks fans find their new reads, because while I'm starting to figure out some things about the Amazon algorithm, Kobo and iBooks sales are essentially nice surprises at this point. I have no idea what I do, if anything, that drives more sales on those platforms.

3. One of the nice things about Mr. Snarky is that he is open to essentially any genre of music and is always exploring and looking for interesting new things. Then he shows them to me during Friday Night Beers, and so I get to pretend I know about interesting musical genres, too.

Here is one of his recent favorite things, a genre called electro-tango:

There's electro-swing, too, and I find it mesmerizing to watch the videos that use old movie dance sequences:

But probably my favorite electro-swing video is an ad from Germany:

That seems a happy note to end on. And I suspect my dishwasher is done, anyway. 


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