Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year in Review: 2015

It is time for my 2015 year end wrap. I don't go looking for my most popular posts of the year. Instead, I pick my favorite two or three posts for each month to revisit. You can read the 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 editions if you really want to walk down my memory lane. I probably will, because I find it fascinating to see how my ideas, opinions, and worries have changed over the years. It took a huge amount of self-control not to go read them all myself right now, in fact. I took a peak, and I have to say, my 2011 post about weeding in my garden is still one of my favorites. It also made me miss some of my old commenters. I love my new ones, don't get me wrong! But as my blog evolved away from writing primarily about parenting, and as various people stopped blogging... a lot of people I thought of as online friends disappeared. It isn't that different from real life, I suppose. People change and move on.

Anyway, I suspect most of you don't want quite that much Wandering Scientist nostalgia, so let's just get to this year's posts, shall we?

January opened with me doing some navel-gazing about how getting a PhD helped me evolve into who I am now. This was related to a larger discussion underway about the purpose of the PhD and who should get one, so it is probably not surprising that some people took my post as advice. It was not. I wrote a follow up post about that discussion, and the difficulties of giving actual advice. It wasn't all serious topics here in January, though. I also wrote about my Twitter rules.

In February, I wrote a second part to the "becoming me" post from January. There has, as of yet, been no third part. I wrote about learning to embrace marketing (an ongoing process....) The post has some bonus recommendations for things I've really loved, so go check it out for those, if nothing else. And I wrote about the somewhat depressing realization that my original career path had been derailed by the same things that derail a lot of women's career paths. My sorrow about that is at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that I love what I'm doing now, though.

March saw me meltdown about a dress... but not really. I'm happy to say that all of that uncertainty resolved in the most satisfactory way possible, but boy, that was a stressful time! I was also working on rebuilding my professional confidence (another ongoing process....) And I really like this somewhat fluffy post about bookish things, so I'll include it, too.

In April, I contemplated some mysteries of the universe and also a book about what women can do to keep their career on track despite the drag of bias. And I negotiated a difficult wardrobe problem- a post that also includes a favorite story about Mr. Snarky and Tiffany's.

I didn't post all that much in May, because I spent a week and a half in France, which I think is an excellent excuse. I talked about how I've borrowed the concept of "offering it up" from my more religious relatives. I still find this a useful concept. I also wrote about "worry work" and the possibility of rebalancing how work gets done in your household.

June was a busy month, blog-wise. I wrote what is surely the most trafficked post of the year: about playing a game that is rigged against you. I reviewed Laura Vanderkam's latest book, I Know How She Does It. And I wrote a post that I can summarize any better than I did in the original title: On Saying Stupid Things and Internet Outrage. I have to squeeze in a fourth post, too: the "awards show" version of my trip to France.

In July, I wrote about a parable from the summer camp parking lot. Pumpkin got email, and I got a lot of awesome emoji-filled emails for awhile. I also thought about how maybe I need to stop looking for wisdom from others, and start practicing the wisdom I already have.

August opened with some thoughts about the risks of trying to cram messy life events into a neat narrative. It was release day for Annorlunda Books' first release. (Incidentally, that book and all the other Annorlunda Books titles are on sale right now for just $0.99....) And I talked about the start of a new way to celebrate success.

In September, I wrote about muddling through as a parent and about companies behaving badly and how the big scandals may just be extreme examples of some unhealthy aspects of our culture. And I wrote an extremely lightweight post about the two sides of living in the moment, that I still really like.

I continued the lightweight vein in October, with a cautionary tale about living with someone who does not have allergies. I celebrated another Annorlunda Books release day. And I talked about the "just keep making progress" approach to projects that are so big they feel overwhelming. (Update on the home renovations: we're still making progress.)

November saw me continue to think about the role of marketing in growing my business, and also the final Annorlunda Books release day of the year. I had a beautiful walk on the beach to celebrate it, and came home to find that horror had been unfolding in France. I didn't know what to say about that, but I tried anyway.

In December, I talked about tea storage and problem avoidance and about focusing on the good things, and I wrote about how they have always misunderstood our heroines.

And now... onward to 2016! May it be good to all of us. Thank you for reading, and for commenting when the mood strikes you. I can't believe I'm heading into my ninth year of writing here. It has been great, and has brought so many good things to me. I am not sure if I'd have kept this up so long if I hadn't found a community here. Thank you for being part of that.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Post-Holiday Hodge Podge

I sat down thinking I might start on my annual end of year wrap up post, but then I saw how long it had been since I'd posted anything and thought that I should write something I could finish and post tonight. And so you get a hodge podge post.

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Today is the first day of the Fill Your eReader sale that I'm running. If you've been tempted by any of the books I've published at Annorlunda Books, you have two weeks in which you can buy them for just $0.99.  Tell all your friends!

In other company news, a website overhaul is coming soon. The current Annorlunda website was a bit of a placeholder that I put in place before I had much content. It is time to make something better. I like making websites, so I'm looking forward to this. I'm less enthused about the need to make a new header for the Annorlunda Books Facebook page, but that really needs to get done, too. I am developing a social media content strategy for both Annorlunda and Tungsten Hippo, too. That is more interesting than I expected it to be, so I suspect I'll end up liking that, too.

As I've said for quite awhile now, the success of this company is going to come down to how well I figure out a marketing strategy, and it is time to focus some attention on that. I am glad to discover that there are parts of it I will enjoy.

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We had a very good Christmas. Petunia loves the Frozen skateboard that Santa brought her, and is already making progress on learning how to skateboard. Today, I took her to a nearby park to practice. She pushed 1-2-3 times and then coasted. After a few repetitions of this, she said she was ready to try riding down some steps. Luckily for me, there were no steps at that park, so it was easy to convince her to keep practicing the basics instead. I think my future holds some interesting discussions, though.

My Mom saw that I wanted to learn how to crochet, so put a "learn to crochet" kit in Pumpkin's gift. She also brought some crochet hooks that belonged to either my great-grandmother or my grandmother, and so Pumpkin and I have been learning our chain stitch together. Petunia saw my Mom, me, and Pumpkin all sitting on the sofa trying to crochet, and announced she wanted to learn, too. We gave her one of the hooks, and my Mom showed her how to do the stitch. Petunia then announced she was going to crochet a rugby jersey to go with the rugby bear she got from Mr. Snarky's parents. I love her ambition. I try to find the right balance between injecting some realism and supporting her aspirations, because sometimes she surprises us with what she can do.

If she does crochet a rugby jersey for her bear, I'll be sure to post a photo. Don't hold your breath, though.

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On Christmas night, I was snuggling Petunia to sleep, and she said "Mommy, you forgot to tell me whether Santa is real." I asked her what she thought, and she thought he wasn't real. I asked her if she was sure she wanted me to tell her, and she was. So I told her. She didn't mind the truth. She agreed that it was a nice story and fun to pretend, and that we could keep doing stockings and Santa gifts. Then I told her that she shouldn't tell any of her friends and school, because some of them might still want to believe. She said she wouldn't, but that a boy in her class had already told them, anyway.

So now we know where the doubt about Santa came from. I can't complain, though, because I suspect Pumpkin played that role for some other kids, despite our injunction against telling other people what she'd figured out,

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The kids are done with their bath. They convinced my Mom to give them a bath instead of their usual shower. There was much silliness. I don't think she'll fall for that request again anytime soon. I should go and get them their snack, and pack my lunch for tomorrow. Everyone else gets to stay home, but I have to go work at a client's site tomorrow. Bah.

I hope all of you who were celebrating it had a nice Christmas, and that the rest of you had a nice weekend. I'll post my year end wrap up later this week, and I may also get some weekend links out this week.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

They Have Always Misunderstood Our Heroines

Mr. Snarky and I went and saw The Force Awakens last night, and I really enjoyed it.

I can't write about some of the things I'd like to write about after seeing the movie, though, because that would require spoilers, and I don't want to do that yet. I am, to be honest, a little annoyed at the timing of the release of this movie. I get that Christmas time has become a big release time for movies, but the timing made seeing the movie feel like just another thing on my to do list, between "finish Christmas cards" and "plan holiday menu." Scheduling in an evening to see the movie really just added to the stress of this week.

I won't be the one to spoil the movie for those of you who are sensibly waiting until after the holiday rush is over.

But I had to see it sooner. It is Star Wars. I loved Star Wars as a kid. I had the action figures, and Luke's land cruiser, and a whole bunch of the trading cards, which I kept in an empty Velveeta box. I loved Luke the best. Not in the "I want to be with him" sort of way- in the "I want to be him" sort of way. I pretended I had Jedi powers (didn't we all?) and always tried to trade for the Luke cards. I was five when the first Star Wars movie came out. I don't remember whether I was bothered by the fact that the character I wanted to be was a boy. As I got older and realized that I was supposed to have picked either Luke or Han to "like" I was embarrassed by my choice of Luke as a favorite, because everyone thought Han was better. But in truth, I never "liked" either of them in that way. I wanted to be the hero, not date the hero.

So, yes, I'm glad to see Rey in the new movie. I won't say more (no spoilers and all) but yes, I do think it is utter BS that there is a shortage of Rey toys.

A colleague and I were discussing the difficulty of scheduling in time to see a movie at this time of year, and cynical 40-something women that we are, we decided that the timing of this release and the shortage of Rey toys are just two aspects of the same problem: the people in charge didn't think this movie was for us. (Because, yes, of course I want a Rey action figure for my desk. Duh.)

Maybe, just maybe, they thought this movie was for my daughters, although the way they've done their toy tie ins makes me skeptical. (Here is a really good- and also very spoiler-filled rant on this topic.)

I think, though, that people didn't expect us 40-something women to be all that into this movie. We like Jane Austen movies, not space operas, right? We don't want kickass heroines, we want love stories, right?

They misunderstand our heroines. They have always been kickass. We love Elizabeth Bennett not because she marries Mr. Darcy in the end, but because she had the courage to turn him down in the middle. We love Jane Eyre not because she marries Mr. Rochester at the end, but because she had the strength to leave him and stay true to her principles in the middle. We love Anne of Green Gables not because she finds true love at the end, but because she learns to love herself along the way.

We may not have been able to articulate this when we were 12- but to be fair to us, by that point, society had pretty well convinced us that girls are supposed to want love stories. I can't speak for anyone else, but it never occurred to me to wonder why I gravitated to some love stories and hated others.

In retrospect, the stories I loved, and read over and over and over, were the ones whose main characters I most admired. Our heroines have always been women who fight for what is right. They have always been strong women from whom we take inspiration in our own battles to stay true to our inner compass and make a little more room for ourselves in the world.

So yes, I enjoyed The Force Awakens, and I cheer the arrival of Rey into our popular culture. But I've had strong female role models all along.

Since I apparently can't have a Rey action figure, maybe I'll buy myself a Lizzy Bennett action figure instead.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Nothing's Going to Slow Me Down Edition

I am in a straight up great mood.

I went to my kids' holiday show this afternoon, and it was great. Petunia (and the other kindergartners) danced to the Spanish version of Jingle Bell Rock and their dance involved a twist move that was ridiculously cute. Pumpkin (and the other third graders) danced to this song:



And it was equally awesome, although less heart-explodingly cute.

On top of that, I've had a really good work week. I'm actually going to get everything on my to do list done, which includes some solid planning that makes me feel less overwhelmed. I don't mind having a huge to do list, I just need it organized and prioritized so that I know what I need to be working on RIGHT NOW, and by Monday, I'll have that. I might even have it before the end of today. We'll see.

Also, I finally found the last two stories I need for my next Annorlunda Books Taster Flight, I signed a contract with the author of another book that I'll be releasing next year, and I got a query from another author. So I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll be able to make my goal of releasing six new books next year. I might even exceed it, which would be wonderful.

I picked the first conference I want to attend next year- I'm going to Bindercon in LA in March! Details to be worked out, but early bird tickets have been purchased. I'd also love to find a conference to which I might submit a talk proposal. I'd like to talk about project management and why it rules. Or something like that. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Finally, I just booked a workshop that I'll deliver in January. Since I really enjoy giving classes and workshops, that makes me happy. The fact that I'll be paid to do this makes me even happier.

So, all in all, a great week. Ain't nothing going to break my stride, nothing's going to slow me down...

Oh yeah, I've got another video for you. Check out the backup dancers on this one...



Anyway. On to the links.

It seems that people are getting evicted from their rent controlled apartments so that the landlords can rent them out on AirBnB instead. Yikes. We need to figure out some rules for this "sharing economy" or they are going to be written by well off young men whose main qualification is the ability to write code.

Do you remember the Rebecca Solnit essay I shared awhile back about Esquire's list of books every man should read? Well, you probably won't be surprised that some men didn't like her essay, so she's back with a follow up... Men Explain Lolita to Me.

After you read that, go read Rebecca Traister's excellent piece about the death throes of white male power.

Like her, I don't take it for granted that we're going to get the "right" result. I worry about the backlash from the guys who have been told all their life that they were supposed to be at the top of the heap.

I also think this is the flipside of the Josh Marshall piece I shared awhile back about the rising death rates among white people.

I think we need to pay attention to this, and think strategically about it- but also engage our empathy. I am still struggling to get my head around what I think about our changing times, but I know that times when the rules are changing are inherently a bit dangerous, and I know that I believe that we do better as people when we can be empathetic to what other people are experiencing- even people who we think have nothing much to complain about.

I guess I think we need to charge ahead towards the better world we want to build, but that we'll get there faster and with less suffering if we can find a way to help the people who were on the top of the heap in the old world find their footing in the new world.

Anyhow, that wasn't very many links and a couple of them are ones I have shared before, but that's what has been on my mind this week.

Some other things I found:

I'm really enjoying the World in Words podcast, and this episode about Lebanon was particularly good. Make sure you listen to the part about "kiss me again!"

I was pleasantly surprised to find that reading Mark Bittman's views on food didn't make me want to scream. I really like his points about genetic engineering and sugar. I need to think more about what he says. I'm not sure I agree with everything, but the fact that he seems to understand the science on these two points makes me more willing to consider the rest of what he says. Also, I really like his recipes, so I'm glad I can keep making them without thinking "too bad he's a wacko."

This research on the link between variations in the bitter receptor and the ability to recognize sweet taste is interesting.

Here's your hilarious animal gif of the week:




I doubt I'll have links for you next Friday, what with it being Christmas and all. But since I kicked butt on the work front this week, maybe I'll allow myself some time to write some other posts here. We'll see. One of the hardest parts about being my own boss is reminding myself to be a good boss.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Focusing on the Good Things

We are in full Christmas season swing here, trying to power through the things that must get done and still make sure we take the time to enjoy the things we want to have happen.

This weekend was full of a lot of "must do" things, but also some great "want to do" things. On Saturday, we went over to my sister's house to help her decorate her tree. Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay much past dinner time because Petunia wasn't feeling well. She had a fever by the time we got home, went straight to bed, and had a restless night.

I thought that spelled doom for our plans for Sunday, but she woke up feeling just fine on Sunday morning, so we launched into our plans for the day: a trip to a bookstore to buy a gift, then a visit with Santa at the mall. I thought that might take an hour. It took two. Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin had to leave us halfway through our wait, because Pumpkin had a birthday party to go to. So Petunia and I waited the second hour alone. She was very patient. At one point, she wondered if Santa was real, but then she dropped that line of thought and went back to debating whether to ask him for a Frozen skateboard or a remote control garbage truck.

Petunia and I did a little more Christmas shopping after we finally got to see Santa. (She asked for the Frozen skateboard.) Later, after we'd all met back up at home, we crossed something off our 2015 family fun list: we walked around the neighborhood and looked at Christmas lights. It was delightful, mostly. Petunia got hungry and grumpy at the end. But I'm going to overlook that and focus on how excited she was to see some of the displays our neighbors have put up.

Focus on the good things, right?

Once we got home, I decided to finish putting up our Christmas decorations while Mr. Snarky made dinner. This mostly involved figuring out how to hang the decorations Petunia decided to make for us. You can see the end result in my post at Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining. The decorating process wass not straightforward- the painted box was particularly challenging to install. Full credit to Mr. Snarky for the idea of lacing some twine through it so we could hang it.

But I really like how festive the room looks now, so there's another good thing to focus on.

Later, Petunia cornered me and asked me if Santa was real, or if it was just Mommy and Daddy buying you gifts. She was not put off with  my usual dodge of "what do you think?" I hemmed and hawed  some more and called for back up, and together we managed to convince her to just think about it until Christmas. I had to pinky promise to answer her questions on Christmas day, though. So Santa's days are numbered here.

I think that if she'd asked on a different day, I would have just told the truth. But I couldn't face the end of the belief in Santa on the same day I waited two long hours to see Santa. I just couldn't.

On the other hand, she's now looking forward to going up on the roof with Mr. Snarky on Christmas to look for reindeer poop. Another good thing.

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I squeezed a couple of things on my own to do list into the weekend. I posted the very first guest post at Tungsten Hippo. It is the first in what I hope will become a series of guest posts in which authors introduce their short ebooks to my audience.

That didn't take long, though. My other project took much longer. I painted the last piece of our office shelves: the cabinet doors.

Freshly painted and installed doors
I still hate painting, but at least they came out reasonably nice. I put them on the shelves tonight, moving me ever so slightly closer to my goal of being able to unpack my books. I really like how the shelves are looking. Another good thing.

I will confess that I'm getting a bit cranky about how slowly we're moving towards this goal. Mr. Snarky's CDs are unpacked. Petunia's toys are unpacked. But I'm still attempting to work with my office basically in boxes. At least once a week, I need something that I have to go digging for. I'm tired of it.

And more than that, I just want my books back. They've been packed up since June and I miss them. I still need to get the shelves anchored to the wall and then finish putting the actual shelves in. These are noisy operations, though, so they have to be done on the weekends or early in the evening. I can't do them once the kids are in bed. Once I get this done, I can unpack boxes while the kids sleep.

Maybe we'll make a little more progress tomorrow night. I doubt it, though, because picking where to put the shelves requires input from Mr. Snarky and I am utterly failing to convey to him how much I want this done. He has other priorities. If it doesn't happen tomorrow night, it won't happen until the weekend, because Wednesday and Thursday evening will be given over to making sugar cookie dough (Wednesday) and rolling it out and making cookies (Thursday). I signed up to send undecorated cookies to the decorate-a-cookie party in Petunia's class. Petunia likes baking with me, so this should be fun mommy-daughter time if I don't let my annoyance about the shelves get in the way.

Focus on the good things. It is almost always the best strategy.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Where Did the Time Go Edition

I can't believe it is already time to write my links post today. My day went by fast. This is probably because I had a long, wonderful, and very productive lunch with Ginger of 5to9 Marketing, who is helping me out with my marketing strategy. This lunch also led to me having one of Panera Bread's yummy sugar cookies, so it was a good thing all around.

But here it is, almost the end of the day already. I just pushed send on the latest installment of Founding Chaos. I don't mention that newsletter too much here, but I want to mention it today because today's installment was all about the "nuts and bolts" of starting a business, which is something I've been asked about a lot. So, if you want to know about things like why I incorporated and what tools I use for things like accounting and payroll, today's newsletter is for you. Each edition of the Founding Chaos newsletter has three parts: a story, some promos, and some links. I keep the promos light and never make a hard sell, so if you're curious about the process of starting a business (or just want more links from me), consider subscribing.

Now, on to the links I have for you today:

The first link is for my Mom, who asked me if I knew what made chocolate chip cookies spread out too much. I didn't, but here is a summary of some science on cookie baking.

Justice Scalia said some really awful things in the arguments about that really ridiculous affirmative action case at UT-Austin. Tressie McMillan Cottom has a characteristically thoughtful response. And here is a response from an alumna from my own undergraduate institution. I have written before about how I struggled in my first quarter at the U of C. I was probably "mismatched" in that I didn't have anywhere near the preparation that my peers from elite prep schools did. But no one ever argues that people like me shouldn't go to elite schools. To the extent that qualified students of color struggle at elite schools, it is on the elite schools to fix the problem, particularly if they are public institutions taking taxpayer money. Telling the students to go elsewhere is a ridiculous answer. That a justice in our Supreme Court made that statement is depressing, to say the least.

Speaking of awful people: Trump isn't going away, so maybe it is time we all start thinking about why his appeal is persisting. Matt Yglesias has a really interesting analysis of how the GOP got themselves in this mess.

Speaking of avoidable messes: we continue to use too many antibiotics in agriculture, despite what the big companies are telling us.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on why he can't commit to writing with hope.

But I think humans need hope, so here's a happier article. It is about parenting two transgender kids. To me, this is a story about the power of unconditional love as a parent.

Still talking about parenting: this open letter from the mother of Scott Weiland's kids is heartbreaking. Parents cannot be perfect people. We will necessarily bring our faults and foibles into the parenting gig. But I like her point that we need to always be trying to do better: "progress, not perfection."

Speaking of heartbreaking, don't miss this story about the missing generation of autistic adults. It is heartbreaking, but also hopeful.

What dolphins "see" by echolocation. The images in this piece are amazing.

How Makerbase is trying design to minimize abuse. More tech companies need to think like this.

I'm sad to see the pharma industry's merger madness spreading: Dow and DuPont are planning to merge. It seems that a lot of our investment dollars are too busy chasing unicorns to invest in real research. This is short-sighted and sad.

That last link was sent to me by Bad Mom, Good Mom, who also has an interesting post of her own about the inefficiency of philanthropy.

And, because I have to end with something happy... I'm really looking forward to reading these stories. (I'm planning to make the time to do so this weekend.)

Also, I love this gif:




Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tea and Storage and Problem Avoidance

I am drinking a delicious chocolate honeybush tea while I type this. If you have never tried a chocolate tea, you probably doubt me, but trust me, it is true. Chocolate tea is surprisingly good. I first had it as a sample from Lupicia Teas, but it looks like that particular tea is no longer available. My current drink is from a sampler sent by The Whistling Kettle. My sister gave me a subscription to their tea tasting club for my birthday, and I have really enjoyed it. Their packaging is not as beautiful as Lupicia's, but the tea is quite good.

A mess of tea
My subscription is coming to an end, and that is probably a good thing, because it has led to a serious tea storage problem. In addition to the samples, I have some nice Darjeeling that Mr. Snarky brought back from London for me, a couple of other larger packets that were also gifts, and then my usual tea (Taylor's of Harrogate English Breakfast- I just store it in an old Harrod's tea tin from an earlier trip Mr. Snarky made to London). I also have my favorite herbal tea, a Stash Lemon Ginger, and some other odds and ends.

As you can see, the storage situation is quite grim.

However, the tea sampler club has shown me that I enjoy having some different teas on hand, and that it is even fun to try a different black tea in the morning. I don't think I'll ever be won over to a chai or a flavored tea for my morning tea, but tomorrow's morning tea is likely to be a Scottish Breakfast from the sample club. The differences between it and my usual English Breakfast are subtle, but definitely there.

(Aside: my actual all time favorite tea is a Welsh brand a former colleague used to bring me. He was Welsh and loved rugby, but his wife wouldn't let him splurge on the expensive cable package required at the time to get rugby in the US. Mr. Snarky and I had splurged on this channel, and he was quite envious. This was back in the day of the VCR, so I'd record games and bring them to him. He repaid me with tea. I think the brand was Glengettie, but they seem to have changed their package design so I can't be sure. I may have to buy some and find out- my Googling in an attempt to figure it out shows me that I can now buy Glengettie tea from Amazon.)

So, I have a bit of a problem. I'd like to have a wide selection of teas, but my current storage system is not really up to the task.

My response to this problem to date has been to ignore it. Every so often, all the little tea packets come raining down out of the cupboard and I have to organize things a bit so that I can get them back in there. Otherwise, I just move my tea everytime I want to get one of the kids' plastic plates out, and I dig around for ages looking for the tea sample I want. It is a mess.

I know the solution to my mess. I need to get everything out of that cupboard, and possibly also one or two other cupboards where extra stuff has been allowed to accumulate. I need to sort through all of this stuff and make some hard decisions and throw some things out. (There would also be some easy "throw this out" decisions in there, too.) Then I need to devise an organizational scheme where everything has a home and do the regular maintenance to keep that system in place.

That sounds like a lot of effort and it involves doing some things I don't really enjoy, so I'm ignoring the problem instead.

Apologies for taking a turn towards navel-gazing on such a fluffy post, but I think this is what I've been doing with respect to growing my business, too. I know that the contract that is providing the majority of my income will end eventually, and I know what I need to do to solve that problem, at least in broad terms. Now I need to do the work of figuring out and then executing a specific plan. That sounds like a lot of effort and it involves doing some things I don't really enjoy, so I've been ignoring the problem instead.

But no more. I made figuring out the plan my top goal for December, and I have been working on it. A plan for the consulting/training side of my business is starting to coalesce. A plan for the books side of the business won't be far behind. I'm going to make this goal.

Next year, comes the harder part, though. That's when I have to execute my plans! Good thing I have a lot of tea to help get me through.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Mood Swings

I've had "write a Wandering Scientist post" on my to do list for three days. It necessarily had to cede precedence to paid work (I had a Chronicle Vitae submission to finish up over the weekend) and finishing the shopping for our Christmas Adopt-a-Family (gifts had to be dropped off today). Family time gets high priority on the weekends, too, and this weekend we decorated our tree and I took Petunia to a birthday party.

So it is not surprising that it has taken me a few days to get to my post. What is surprising to me is how much the tenor of what I want to write has changed over these three days. If I'd sat down on Saturday to write, it would have been a fairly grumpy post. I was feeling put out by some people who'd implied I only "got" to quit my job when I did  because I'm married and my husband has a steady income. While I won't deny that his reasonably secure income makes the process of starting my own business less daunting, it is inaccurate to imply that his income is what makes it possible. The fact is, once we decided to buy the house we bought 8 years ago, we decided that we were going to be a two-income family. His income cannot cover our bills. My income is absolutely essential unless we want to move.

What actually allowed me to quit my job when and how I did was our financial buffer- i.e., the pot of money we'd been saving up over the past decade or so. Again, I won't deny that being a two income family made that saving easier, but judging from the behavior of some of our peers, it is not a given.

And what actually allows me to make a go at starting the company I want to build is that I managed to secure a contract with a client that brings in enough money to allow me to meet the financial needs of my family. If I lose this contract before I can make the other aspects of my business sufficiently lucrative to meet those needs, I will have to find another or find a full time job.

That is the essence of what I would have written on Saturday, but I would probably have written it in a much rantier tone.

If I'd sat down to write this post on Sunday, I probably would have written an upbeat post about taking Petunia shopping for the Adopt-a-Family gifts- she tried to help me decide what t-shirts 5 and 7 year old boys would like best, and she mostly adhered to my admonition to not beg for things for herself, since we were shopping for others. When she first said she wanted to come with me, I was worried about how it would go, but she did great.

Or I might have written about how much fun we had at the birthday party. It was at the Mission Trails park, and involved a bunch of kids scrambling over boulders, some cake, and then all of us following a trail down to the San Diego river (it is more of a stream at this point). Petunia had such a great time and told me she wanted to come back with Daddy and Pumpkin and "hike ALL of the trails."

Today, though, my good mood is a bit tempered. My Twitter feed was full of the "hack a hair dryer" stuff. I didn't go look to see what I thought of the original campaign. Mostly, I'm just tired of the idea that the reason that women and people of color of all genders are underrepresented in STEM fields is a lack of interest. I'm tired of the well-meaning campaigns that imply there is something wrong with girls, that we need to change who they are to make them more like boys.

There is nothing wrong with our little girls. All of the little girls I have ever met (and I have two daughters, so I've met a bunch) have been curious about the natural world and how things work. They are already interested in science. A lot of them take genuine delight in numbers and math. A lot enjoy building things. I see no evidence that we need to change anything about how we present science or anything about little girls in order to "get more girls interested in STEM." What we need to do is to change our world to stop pushing them away from these interests- a not so gentle push that starts before school and that I still feel today, as a 43 year old adult with a PhD.

Here is the short version of all of that:



But my mood improved again when I took off from my client site a bit early so that I could take our Adopt-a-Family gifts to the office of the non-profit that organized the drive. It always makes me happy to see their offices filled with bags of gifts. This is one of the most important parts of Christmas to me, so much so that even when I was laid off back in 2011, we still donated some money for their drive. (The other important part of Christmas to me: baking. I'm looking forward to starting that next weekend.)

I came home and opened my computer to get some more work done before dinner and saw the horrifying suggestion from Donald Trump that we shouldn't let any Muslim in the US. Not even US citizens returning from abroad. So now my mood has swung back to the negative side. This is going to be a very important election for us. It feels like the most important election I've ever witnessed. I hope Trump is stopped in the primaries. If he is not, I know that I will need to find a way do more to fight this threat than just vote in my safely Democratic state. I am shocked and depressed that we have gotten to this point, but then I think about Fox News and the "infotainment" trends of the past 20 years or so, and I guess we're reaping what we sowed. Yikes.

So my mood is swinging pretty wildly these days. It is almost time for me to go make dinner, so I'll end this post with another thing that makes me happy: in my last post, I asked if some of you would be willing to like the Facebook page for Annorlunda Books so that I could get a decent URL. You did, and I now have https://www.facebook.com/annorlundabooks/. Thank you! I still don't understand why I needed a set number of likes to get this URL and not to get the other two associated with my business (Annorlunda Designs and Tungsten Hippo), but now thanks to you, I don't have to figure it out. I really appreciate all of the help and support my blog readers have given me over the years. Choosing to reactivate this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Refusing to Give Up Edition

I swear I do not intend to turn this blog into a long string of links posts with occasional rambling hodge podge posts in between. Some day soon, I hope to write some posts to prove that.

In the meantime, at least I have some links to share this week!

I don't really want to talk about the shooting in San Bernardino, except to say that I don't think we are a lost cause. I think we can reform our gun laws and our gun culture. My opinion that we need to address how easy it is to get guns in this country is not changed one iota by the fact that the perpetrators in this case seem to have been at least partially motivated by jihadism. As others have pointed out, jihadi leaders have previously urged potential followers to take advantage of our lax gun laws. Now, it seems someone has done exactly that.

I'll take that strain of thought a step further and point you to this interview with Deeyah Khan, which makes me think that the things that draw young muslim men to jihad often aren't that different from the things that lead young white men to commit mass shootings.

I'll also share this tweet:




So I remain convinced that we need to try to fix our gun culture, and I'll keep trying to do that. I refuse to give up.

Moving on....

As we teeter on the brink of full scale Islamophobia here in the US, maybe we can reflect on a hero of the past who had the courage to stand against ethnic hatred.

Josh Marshall says some things about the state of white America that seem really smart to me. Actually, I think this ties in to the gun culture problem and the "angry white guy" shooting people problem we have, too, but I cannot really formulate a coherent point about that yet.

David Roberts on the media and Trump is insightful, but also a bit depressing.

People are stealing and copying the content of online courses. One downside of removing the gatekeepers is that at least the gatekeepers helped stop this sort of theft. Or maybe they just made the barrier sufficiently high that there was no profit in this kind of theft?

This teacher is really inspiring.

The story of the dress that women meteorologists around the country are wearing is funny, but also a little sad. My wardrobe certainly wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny their wardrobes get.

Jennifer Weiner coins the term "Goldfinching:" when a previously critically acclaimed book becomes popular with women and is now trashed.

Ginger shared this gift guide from Caitlin Hannah a few weeks ago, and holy cow, she's right. It is great.

This looks like an interesting tumblr.

AWWWWW:




Petunia was a huge fan of the garbage truck when she was a little bit younger, and I have to say, garbage men and women are the BEST about waving at little kids who are clearly fascinated by their work.

Speaking of trucks, this looks like fun:



And finally, a favor to ask of anyone who is on Facebook and willing to occasionally see my company posts: could you like the Annorlunda Books page? I have to get 25 likes before I can get a decent URL from Facebook. Thank you!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Late Monday Hodge Podge, Waiting for the Laundry

We're just back from a week in Arizona with my family. This time I swear I'm going to at least write up a post with some of the best bits of touristy things we do, like the cool little empanada restaurant in downtown Mesa and the park my kids love in Gilbert... so I won't try to write much about it tonight. Tonight's post is a short hodge podge. I'm fighting off the cold Mr. Snarky picked up in Arizona (he always picks up a cold in Arizona, it is sad/funny). The only reason I'm not going to bed is that I need to wait for a load of laundry to finish.

The story behind that load of laundry is sad/funny, too. We took advantage of the babysitting in Arizona, and spent an afternoon shopping. Mr. Snarky's shirts had been getting threadbare, and the last time I bought pants was roughly a year ago, and I promptly gained 5 lbs two weeks after that shopping trip.

I almost didn't find anything, but at the very end of the trip, I found some pants I thought were OK in Macy's. I bought two pairs of one style, and one pair of a different style. When we got home, I cut off the tags and tossed them in the laundry, planning to deal with them later this week.

Mr. Snarky decided to do the laundry last night, though. I didn't think about it when he did, until I went to put my nice clean clothes away, and realized he'd put my new pants in the dryer. One pair made it through OK, but the two of the other style are part rayon and shrank quite a bit. I couldn't even zip them up when I tried them on, and the hem was a good two inches too short. They are probably ruined, but I am trying some advice I found online to rescue them.

Mr. Snarky is quite contrite, and I have sworn that I'll pull anything that needs any special attention whatsoever out into my hand wash/dry clean bag from now on. The pants weren't that expensive, so really the most annoying thing is that I still don't have pants that fit. I may try to get to the mall here on Friday and see if I can buy them again.

The pants incident put me in such a funk last night that I didn't finish the work I needed to do, so this morning found me putting the finishing touches on my latest Annorlunda Books innovation- ebook gift cards.  (Bonus in that last link: you can see the color of the accent wall in our new office.)

(Complete aside: Mr. Snarky is listening to some weird music mix a Kiwi friend of his sent him, in which there was just a mash up of Ghostbusters and Gagnam Style.)

So that's what has been going on here. Before the break, I had lunch with the awesome Ginger of Ramble Ramble who is going to be giving me some marketing advice. She is such the perfect person to do this, and her preliminary ideas were so good that I can't believe I didn't think of asking her if she was interested in a small contract earlier. Oh well, better to have the great idea late than not at all, right?

Anyway, one thing she has already convinced me to do is make a Facebook page for Annorlunda Books. I will work on that soon (maybe even tomorrow), but first I wanted some more Facebook practice, so I made a page for Annorlunda Designs. I'm still tweaking and experimenting, but I'm at least really happy with what I picked for an avatar. It is a close up of one of the dragonflies from my most popular shirt design. I have no idea what I'm going to use for the an avatar on the Annorlunda Books page. I'm hoping inspiration strikes soon.

(And now the weird dance song mash up is play Staying Alive. When I first walked in it was Living on a Prayer. This is a seriously weird mix that is somehow completely appropriate for the guy who sent it to Mr. Snarky.)

I think my laundry is probably done, so I'll close this hodge podge with a highlight from our drive home yesterday, spotted on our way out of the Phoenix area:


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....

Friday, November 06, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Sort of Almost There Edition

I am so very close to breathing a huge sigh of relief and having a less hectic schedule... sort of. The publication of Missed Chances finishes off the intense period in which I scheduled myself two book releases and an online class.

However, we still have a lot to do to finish off the renovations. To be honest, I'm not even looking at "finishing," I am just looking at "getting everything in the right room, getting my new desk functional, and getting my books out of boxes." Last weekend, we moved Petunia into her new room. We still need to take a trip to Ikea to get the rest of the things we need to "finish" her room, and we need to unpack some more of the boxes with her stuff. I think we're about halfway to done there.

This weekend's goal is painting the room that used to be Petunia's room and steam cleaning its carpet.  This will be our music/guest room. I'd also like to get to Ikea to get the stuff for Petunia and the shelves for our office.

After that, we need to paint the shelves, install the shelves, move the piano and other things into the music/guest room, and then start putting things away so that I can move my new desk into its final position and actually start using it.

Oh, and we need to buy and install window treatments. The new office has nice big windows on three sides, and that means I get blinded by the sun twice a day.

I also picked up a new project with my main client, which is good (because it means more money), but does cut into the "rest and recover" time I thought I might have coming up.

I'm not complaining, though! It has all been a good kind of hectic, and while I need to squeeze some real down time in soon, I'd rather be busy like this than have no work to do.

So anyway, on with the links:

The paperback version of Missed Chances is now on Amazon! The blurb got messed up in the transition, though, so I'll have to figure out how to fix that.

If you've scratched your head over your kid's math homework or laughed at the seemingly absurd examples on social media... you should read this explanation of why 5x3 does not necessarily equal 5+5+5 in math homework land. It is an excellent explanation of that one example, but also a good general reminder that education is about laying the foundation for true understanding, not just "getting the right answer."

An object lesson in why women often don't talk about the harassment we get- talking about it just brings more harassment, and it is often worse. Thanks, internet trolls.

Speaking of internet trolls: GamerGate is not gone.

Speaking of subtle sexism... read Michelle Goldberg and Rebecca Traister on sexism and the Democratic primary. For the record, Bernie Sanders fans: I won't think you're sexist if you vote for Bernie. I will think you're sexist is you continue to talk about Hilary in such a condescending manner. And I damn sure will think you're sexist if you say women who point out the sexism in how people talk about Hilary are "flipping out."

(Also for the record: I haven't decide for certain how I'm voting yet, but I can say that my number 1 concern will be that the Democratic candidate be able to win in the general election, because the majority of the Republican candidates just downright scare me. And if you think that there is no way that one of the scarier Republicans will win... you need to talk to more people who aren't liberals.)

In happier political news, this clip of the new Canadian prime minister answering why he wanted gender parity in his cabinet will make you smile. And while we're talking about the Canadian cabinet: it is pretty impressive.

Japanese klezmer pop... just go check it out.

XKCD was on fire this week. Water distribution and Git are my favorites. And I somehow missed Overthinking a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, here is a beautiful picture of a place I'd like to visit.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Almost Like a Release Day

Today was the day I'd picked out as the release day for Missed Chances, my "taster flight" of classic love stories that all feature "the one that got away."

Another cool cover from my designer!
The various retailers had other ideas for me.

Since this collection consists of stories in the public domain, Amazon policy requires some sort of "differentiation" in order to publish. This is fair enough, so I happily set about obtaining some illustrations for the stories. I wasn't 100% sure if this would be enough, or if Amazon would require the title to include "[ILLUSTRATED]" (which would be confusing, since this is not an exact copy of a single public domain book, but a collection of stories culled from multiple public domain sources). So I wanted to get Amazon to approve the book.

It turns out that the only way to get them to review the book is to submit it for publication, and since they don't allow pre-orders on public domain works, that meant submitting it for immediate publication. So, last week, that's what I did, expecting some back and forth before Amazon approved the book. Instead, Amazon approved and listed the book in less than 12 hours, so the ebook version has been listed on Amazon for over a week.

Meanwhile, I was busy assembling the print version and the ePUB version for BN.com, Kobo, and iBooks (the iBooks ePUB version is slightly different from the one for BN.com and Kobo, too).

I finalized the print version and ordered the proof last week. I had to place a rush on the order so that it could arrive before my release day. I had proofread the text pretty carefully before submitting it, so I thought that maybe I'd get away without any changes. I was wrong. I found two typos in the final proof, and had to make the changes and resubmit the files for review. I stayed up late Monday night getting all of this done.

I arranged my schedule so that I could go in a little late to my usual client on Tuesday, hoping that my files would be through the review and ready for me to re-proof. They were not ready by the cutoff time I'd set, so I went ahead and went to my client site. And of course, by the time I got there, there was an email in my inbox saying that my files were now ready to proof. I left as early as I could and re-proofed and submitted for publication yesterday afternoon... but the book is still not showing on Amazon. It is available directly from Createspace, but the really opportunity for sales comes from having it on Amazon. It should be there soon. In the past, the paperback version of my books have appeared on Amazon in a day or less. No such luck this time, I guess.

Yesterday, I also created the iBooks version and submitted that. It is available for sale... but they turned "M.R. Nelson" into "Mr. Nelson." A rather common mistake, actually, but since they've managed to get it right in the past, I was surpised. (The mistake was fixed a few hours after I notified them of it.)

So, all in all, not the smooth release day I'd have liked. I jokingly blamed the retailers at the top of this post, but it is really my fault. The release of this book was a bit more rushed than it should have been. It isn't a big deal in this case, since the authors of the stories in this collection are long dead. I have not ruined a release day for anyone but myself, and I am more inclined to laugh at all of this than be bothered by it. I'll chalk this up to a learning experience and be sure to leave myself more time for reviewing proofs, etc., next time.

I had a good reason for rushing things, of course. I wanted to use this book as a "thank you" to my Tungsten Hippo mailing list subscribers, and as a lure to get some more subscribers. I am pleased with how it worked in that regard. I also wanted it to be ready for my usual "first Wednesday of the month collection recommendation" on Tungsten Hippo. And it was!

Therefore, I'm calling this book's release a success, even if the release day was a bit wobbly.

So! Now for the usual release day post. All of the links for where you can get Missed Chances will always be on the Annorlunda Books page for the book, but I'll also list them here:



Sadly, I can't have this book on Oyster (while it is still around!), Scribd, or Overdrive, because I use Smashwords to get into those channels, and Smashwords does not accept public domain works.

But, that's still a lot of options to get the book. I don't have reviews to post yet (see above about how tight the schedule was) so you'll just have to take my word for it: the stories in this book are all great. I still enjoyed reading them during my last proof of the book, which was after reading them roughly 10 times. (That surprised me, frankly.)

The stories are:

  • Aunt Philippa and the Men, by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Kiss, by Kate Chopin
  • The Victory, by Rabindranath Tagore
  • The Mystery of Wilhelm Rütter, by Helen Hunt Jackson
  • A Florentine Experiment, by Constance Fenimore Woolson

I obviously like them all, but I particularly love A Florentine Experiment.

This release concludes my ridiculously busy six weeks of work. I still have a lot of cool things coming up (my paperbacks on BN.com! Navigating the Path to Industry on Smashwords! Integrating the GumRoad sales directly on the Annorlunda web pages!) but the pace should be less hectic, and I should have time to write some of those blog posts I've been wanting to write. Phew. I also owe myself a walk on the beach. I'm hoping that the weather might be nice enough next week that I can get one last barefoot walk in before it gets too cold to let my feet get wet. I'm going to take the walk, regardless, though!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Hooray for Growth

I don't want to let another week go by without  blog post, so I decided I'd write one this morning while I drink my tea. Writing while having my morning tea is one of my favorite things, and I don't do it enough anymore. There's so much to do, that I tend to put my tea in my travel mug even when I'm at home, and then I dive into the chores.

But not today. Last week, I realized on Monday that I should have taken a little bit of time for myself over the weekend. I did nothing but chores and watching kids all weekend, and come Monday, I was tired and stressed out, although I was happy to have Petunia's new room painted.

So this weekend, I'm taking some time on Sunday morning for me. Mr. Snarky is doing chores, but I'm not feeling guilty about that because yesterday morning he went and watched the rugby world cup final live while I took the kids to gymnastics and then started prepping the baseboards in Petunia's room for paint.

(The All Blacks won, so he came home happy, with doughnuts, and all was well with the world.)

I have some really big topics bouncing around in my head, wanting a blog post, but I am too tired to tackle them. It has been a full month- lots of work, lots of chores, but also lots of fun, since it was Petunia's birthday and we went to Disneyland AND had a small party with her closest friends. Her birthday is finally officially over: on Thursday, I quit work early and took Cheez-Its into her class for the "October biirthdays" celebration. It was annoying to quit work early, but worth it to see her in her classroom. She is happy and comfortable there, and that makes me happy.

Like I said in Friday's links post, my super busy time at work is almost done. I need to finish getting Missed Chances published (it is now live on Kobo and GumRoad!) and get it launched with some reviews. I'm still querying reviewers for Unspotted and Okay, So Look, too, but I can ease off the hectic pace a bit.

Soon to be a kanban board
I have some good things penciled in for the rest of the year, but I also plan to take some time to think a bit more about my medium term strategy. I finished painting the barn door in the new office, so soon I can make my kanban board on the white board on it. I think that will help me make sure I don't overlook the tasks I should be doing to build something sustainable. We'll see.

One thing I know I need in my medium term strategy is growing my Tungsten Hippo audience. Many of the book marketing/advertising lists out there won't take short ebooks, so I am trying to build my own short ebook marketing list. I want to do it in a way that feels authentic, though, both because I think that will be more successful in the long term and because I will feel happier about it. Therefore, I was pretty happy to come across the #NonfictionNovember hashtag. I love non-fiction in general, and think that it is a genre in which short ebooks really shine. So I'm participating. My first post is up: it is about my year in non-fiction, and features a look back at some of my favorite non-fiction short ebooks for the year.

I'm also thinking hard about my strategy for the consulting part of my business. I was struck by how much I enjoyed giving the latest session of my "intro to PM" class. However, I also hate marketing when my product is ME, so my ideal strategy allows me to give classes/seminars but does not require a lot of really active marketing. Once again, growing an audience is likely to be part of the answer- and my Management Monthly email newsletter's audience is slowly growing. I've also noticed that GumRoad has added more "discoverability" features, and I'm curious if those could help me, particularly if I did more of the short seminars that I leave available for purchase even after the live session is done.

In short, I spend a lot of time thinking about marketing, and how to do it well but authentically and in a way that doesn't feel sleazy to me. This has reminded me of a conversation I had with my first career coach, over a decade ago now. I was struggling with the transition into management, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I still thought there was going to be a single, simple answer to that. (HA!) One of the problems I had with the job I had landed in was that it required me to do some marketing. I hated it. I was no good at it. The coach listened to me rant about why I hated it and was no good at it, and then told me a story about another client, who learned to like marketing by viewing it as a puzzle that allowed him to get to the things he really wanted to do. I laughed that off, sure that I'd never think that way. I was wrong!

And now my tea is empty, and Petunia is ready for me to help her pack up the toys in her room so that we can move her to her new room... so I'll end this post and, with my last sip of tea, make a silent cheer to growth, in all its forms.


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