Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Good Things

I don't know about you, but I could use a reminder of some of the things that make me happy. So that's what this post is.

My birthday was last weekend. We had a nice, low key celebration for it. Both kids got me very thoughtful gifts, but I want to show you the art project that was part of Petunia's gift. It is a tree:

My current favorite tree.
She wrote reasons she loves me on the leaves. And because this was once a parenting blog and I still use it as a way to remember details about our lives, I feel justified in sharing the list of reasons my 7 year old loves me. There is one piece of paper in the middle that says "I love you because you are my mom," and then the leaves elaborate. Each leaf starts with "I love you because...." Here are the things that finished that sentence:


  1. You help me with my projects
  2. You make the best pizza
  3. You help me with my reading and writing
  4. You make me feel better when I am sad
  5. You play badminton with me
  6. You taught me how to be polite in public
  7. You made me alive
  8. You give me the best cuddles
Needless to say, I love this gift. 

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When I first moved to San Diego, I was struck by how many flowers there were. I'd grown up in Arizona. I think the desert of my home state is beautiful. But there weren't as many flower gardens. 

Over the years, I've gotten so used to the flowers that I don't really notice them. This year, though, I'm noticing them. I don't know if that is because the heavier than usual rains mean there are more flowers than usual, or if I'm just more inclined to notice for some reason. I will try to notice again next year, though, because it is making me smile a lot. 

In particular, the jacaranda trees are spectacular this year. Here is a not very good picture of one large and glorious example.

I took this on our walk home from school today.
It was a typical May Gray day, but I still can't complain.
One street I drive on when I drive Petunia to her art class is lined with jacarandas. A couple of weeks ago, they were all in their peak bloom and it was gorgeous. The trees are mostly past peak bloom now, but they are still quite nice.

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I discovered I had a bunch of credits at Stitch Fix, so I ordered a box. It wasn't a resounding success, which is perhaps not surprising given how long it has been since I last had a box. It was like they were starting from scratch in terms of sizing and style.

But, there was a pair of blue shorts in that box that are simply wonderful. They also sent some gold earrings, which I need. So I'm calling it a success. 

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Hmmm, I thought I'd have more good things to share. I have a lot of good things in progress, work-wise. I saw early drafts of pictures for my next children's book, and I liked them. I finished formatting Hemmed In. The three books I bought at the beginning of the year are all progressing towards publication. So I should have more things to share soon. For now, though, I guess I'll just be happy with my "I love you" tree, the jacarandas, and a really great pair of shorts.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Not Really a Work Day Edition

I had the kids home with me today, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day. I worked this morning, or tried to. The kids were in the mood to fight with each other, and when they weren't fighting, they were interrupting me. So it wasn't my most productive morning ever. I quit even trying to work at lunch, and took them to the library and then to the skate rink. I rather enjoy the skate rink. It isn't as much fun as a rollerblade by the bay, but that wasn't an option today, and the rink is the next best thing. I skated with Petunia, while Pumpkin and a friend of hers skated and talked. I like watching the tween girls at the rink. They're all having a lot of fun, and are carefree and happy. It is nice to see.

Anyway, my work day was short and not very productive, and I only have a few minutes to get this post out before I need to start dinner. I'll have to find a time this weekend to try to get some work done. I'm struggling with the paperback cover of Hemmed In, my next Taster Flight collection. I keep failing to get the spine text in the right place, and I'm running out of time to get it right. I need to get a proof ordered! But I'll get it done, and I think the June 7 release date will stick. If you're interested in being an advance reader for this book, sign up here. I should have the ebook files ready to send out sometime next week.

On to the links:

Rebecca Traister's new interview with Hillary Clinton is worth your time.

So is Brian Beutler's take on what the Gianforte mess means.

But if you only read one of my links this week, make it Mitch Landrieu's speech on taking down Confederate memorials in New Orleans. It is brilliant and inspiring and I want more like this, please.

This look at when different cities will reach climate departure is really sobering. Climate departure is the point at which the coldest year in the new normal is warmer than the warmest year in the old normal. It isn't all that far away.

"My friend died $50 short"- why a GoFundMe campaign is no substitute for health insurance.

The Montana special election is over, but there will be more elections, and as this thread explains, the Native population has obstacles to voting:




You can donate to Western Native Voice to try to alleviate those obstacles.

Catherine Newman's post about being angry and being polite and being confused by it all rings really, really true to me.

Something happy to end on: some slides I'll have to seek out next time I visit San Francisco.

And of course, a bunny!




Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down, Down, Down We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows

By the time you read this, we'll probably know the results of the Montana special election. As I'm writing it, though, we do not. We do know that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter on the final afternoon of campaigning. The reporter had previously published an unflattering story about that candidate's investments in Russian companies under sanction by the US. The reporter was attempting to ask the candidate about the CBO report on the health care bill that was passed by the House Republican majority that the candidate is running to join. And we know that the candidate lied about the assault in a statement, and that a lot of Conservative commentators defended both the assault and the lie.

We know that most Republican elected officials have avoided comment on this topic, because let's be honest, we also know that if he wins the election, they will of course support him. All that matters is that R after his name. We know that spme Republican voters in Montana have told reporters that they don't care about the assault and think the reporters perhaps also deserve to be assaulted. And we know that the campaign says they raised more than $100,000 in the final day of the campaign, much of that after the news of the assault broke.

My reaction to all of this is just profound sadness. I am sad for my country. I am sad for the people who have so lost their sense of morals that they think a candidate's unprovoked assault on a journalist doing his job is not just not a problem, but an actual good thing. I am sad for a batch of Republican leaders who seem to have no principles beyond party power and cutting taxes for wealthy people.

Of course, none of this can be truly considered surprising anymore, given all the other horrible behavior that we're just shrugging off these days.

I want to ask the people defending Gianforte where the line is. They were OK with Trump calling the press the enemy of the people. They are OK with Gianforte actually assaulting a reporter. Where is the line, past which they will say that behavior is not OK?

How much will they tolerate in their pursuit of lower taxes and what they call "Christian values"? (Scare quotes because I don't think assaulting reporters should be considered "Christian values.")

And, then there is that CBO report. It was as bad as expected, and as Kevin Drum has pointed out, actually highlights that despite the supposed protections for people with pre-existing conditions who keep continuous coverage, if you live in a state that requests a waiver on the community rating provision and you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably end up priced out of the non-group health insurance market even if you keep continuous coverage.

I have to admit, that last bit is weighing particularly heavily on me, for reasons I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I live in California, which is extremely unlikely to request a waiver. But what it would mean in practice is that if Mr. Snarky got a job offer in, say, Wisconsin (a state whose governor has said he'd probably seek a waiver), we'd have to consider my health insurance options before he took it. And I keep thinking about all of the people who live in states likely to request a waiver, and how they may find themselves facing a decision about whether to start looking to move. And all the people who will lose coverage outright because of the changes to Medicaid. I hate that we're doing this.

And I keep thinking of the fact the people pushing these unpopular, extreme ideas are not done. Trump's budget, although essentially dead on arrival at Congress, shows us that. They want to cut disability insurance, and food stamps, and on and on and on. And they will keep trying not to investigate the disturbing Russian interference in our election or the many problems happening with the intermingling of Trump's company and our national government to protect their chance to push through these unpopular ideas.

Again, I wonder, how far down do we go? How much evidence of collusion will we ignore? How many unethical business deals will we accept? How much corruption will we pretend we don't see? How much tax money will we let flow to Trump's businesses?

I keep thinking of this tweet I saw during the election:




I am fighting against feeling fatalistic about all of this. According to Nate Silver and his colleagues at 538, polling data indicates that Trump's base is eroding. I also listened to one of Ana Marie Cox's With Friends Like These podcasts that gave me some hope. It was the discussion with Ben Howe, and I can't really summarize it, except to say that I wish the people like him, and Evan McMullin, and David Frum, and so on would either start a movement to take back the Republican party or start a new party. Analysis and discussion is great, but I won't really believe it matters until I see some of the current group of Republicans getting primaried. I sincerely hope this happens. I cannot make it happen, because I do not support even the "normal" Republican positions. But the situation now seems to be that the Republican party is an unholy alliance between people who want extreme cuts to government programs and taxes, the theocratic right, and white supremacists, with each group willing to overlook the excesses of the others as long as they have some hope of achieving their own policy goals.

I have to say, from where I sit, it is a horrifying monster. I am not in the position to fight it from the inside, so I am expending my energy on trying to beat it at the ballot box. But as long as it exists, it will be a threat to our country. None of those groups has anywhere near a majority on its own, but if they keep their mutual assistance pact, they can get in power, especially if the more moderate people who sort of agree with their positions but wouldn't take them quite that far continue to hold their noses and support them. And that's sort of normal for our political system! It is a system that forces coalitions. But the members of this particular coalition are so extreme. It would be like me deciding to vote for someone who wants to nationalize our oil companies because I agree with them on raising the minimum wage, and doing so even though I knew another group in the coalition wanted to outlaw Christmas, and a third group was going to try to send all people of German descent "home" to Germany. It boggles my mind.

And so we continue to hurtle downwards. I hope we reach the limit of the moderates' ability to ignore the stench soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Stupid Head Cold Edition

It is a beautiful, sunny afternoon here. It would have been a great day for a rollerblade, but I did not go out, because I have a cold. And I will not get to go out for a rollerblade next Friday, either, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day, so the kids will be home with me. I suppose at some point I should make plans for what we'll do on that day. Presumably, I can come up with something that will compensate for the lost rollerblade.

Today, my compensation was a nap.

I note with sadness that this was another week in which I didn't manage to write a post. I blame the cold, which has had me feeling not quite well since Tuesday. I am a believer in the power of zinc and so I credit my early use of zinc lozenges with the fact that the cold has stayed mild and while it has slowed me down, it hasn't knocked me out. (There is some evidence to support my zinc belief, and really, even if it is just a placebo effect, I'll take it, so don't bother arguing with me on this point.) But slowed down means that I'm now behind on several things, and it also means that the posts I've had swirling around in my head have stayed there, and not made their way into Blogger. Maybe I'll have better luck next week.

Anyhow, on to the links.

First, a little self promotion: I'm in the final stages of putting together my next Taster Flight. This one is called Hemmed In, and is a collection of classic short stories about women's lives. As usual, I'm looking for advance readers.

I'll assume you can keep up on the ever-accelerated cycle of big news stories about the Trump administration on your own. But here are a couple things that made less of a splash but are still worth some attention:

Internet security at the Trump properties is pretty crappy. This is not surprising, but is a problem given that he likes to spend his weekends at these properties and has already shown that he is happy to conduct sensitive business there.

I have grown increasingly irritated with the comparisons of Trump to a child, and Alexandra Petri perfectly captures why.

Allegra Kirkland has a nice summary of how a single question from Al Franken set up the chain of events that led to a special counsel.

Tom Nichols is hopeful that the special counsel is the end of Putin's winning streak. I suspect we have quite a bit more chaos ahead of us, unfortunately.

Ann Friedman on the five stages of the Trump news cycle.

In other topics:

A legislature that is polarized, but still productive.

I hate that the first word that came to mind to describe this essay by Janice Turner about caring for her elderly mother is "brave," but I am certain she will get a lot of nasty letters for it. It gives me the same feeling I get when I think about how we handle child care: like I can almost see a better way to arrange things, but can't quite get it to come into focus. I would love to read some sci fi or fantasy that imagines a world in which the care of the young and the elderly was less fraught.

It would be natural for me to link here to that Atlantic article by Alex Tizon, but I confess that I have not yet read it, so I will not.

Roger Ailes died. I think this thread captures what a lot of people feel (click through to read the whole thing):




None of my close family members fell into the Fox News information warp, but I know several people who feel like they lost a loved one to Fox News. That is an extraordinary thing to think: that a news channel took a loved one from you, but I have heard it and read it so many places, that I can't really dispute that something was happening there.

Jay Rosen considered the topic from a less personal angle and comes to a similar conclusion:




I don't have the right background to really evaluate all of this critically, but I have long thought that when future historians write about when things started going wrong for our society, they are likely to point to the time when we decided to make news into entertainment. I think the Trump era is a test for Democrats as much as Republicans. Can we resist the lure of conspiracy theories and news media designed more to make us feel good and keep us "hooked" than to inform us about the actual truth of what is happening?

One of the blog posts swirling around in my head touches on this topic, so I'll leave it there for now.

In lighter news:

Here is a project that is attempting to provide a list of companies that make women's clothes with pockets.

And here's a cute bunny!
Happy weekend, everyone.









Friday, May 12, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Holy Cow What a Week Edition

I'm just back from a rollerblade, and my mood is roughly 97% better. I need to remember to consider the mood improvement factor when I'm deciding whether or not I have time for my Friday afternoon rollerblade. I think I should have taken the rollerblade last week, to do list be damned.

Anyway, I needed the mood improvement because yikes, the news is horrifying right now. But I'm going to share some links about it, anyway. Sorry.

James Fallows, who started his career during Watergate, wrote about why the current situation is worse.

Matt Yglesias wrote about why a "good" replacement for Comey won't fix the mess.

Dave Weigel wrote about the cynical "Merrick Garland for FBI director" idea.

David Roberts turned his tweetstorm about how we overanalyze Trump into an article and it is terrifying and also rings terrifyingly true.

In other topics...

There are 27 National Monuments at risk in the review Trump ordered. This article lists which ones and tells how to comment on whether they should be saved.

And here's how to comment on the proposed gutting of Net Neutrality.

This story about how a couple deals with a serious mental illness is really good.

The psychologist who taught us about implicit bias is now working on how to fix it.

Mika McKinnon wrote about the physics of gala gowns.

I haven't had a chance to read this piece with eight writers talking about how Anne of Green Gables influenced them yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Pumpkin and I are working our way through the series. We've just started Anne's House of Dreams.

For my fellow Hamilton fans:




And for my fellow rabbit fans:




Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother's Day to those celebrating it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Headwinds

I am sitting at my car repair place, waiting for them to finish the standard service on our car. Their wi-fi isn't the best, and to be honest, neither is my ability to concentrate right now. So I've given up on the work I was trying to do, and am going to try to write out my feelings, with a vague and probably foolish hope that doing so will make it easier for me to concentrate once I get back to my office.

Yesterday, I heard an offhand mention that Trump had fired Comey as I was closing up after my last meeting and dashing for my car. I was late leaving, and needed to get to school as quickly as I could, so that I could pick up Petunia and take her to her art class. Once I'd settled her there, I went over to the nearby coffee shop, planning to write a post about healthcare. But then I really read the news about Comey, and that plan fell to pieces.

It feels like I'm constantly reassembling the shards of my plans these days. I wanted to write about healthcare to share what I'd figured out about pre-existing conditions. This was a very personal investigation. I already know that I oppose the AHCA because of what it does to Medicaid, but I needed to really understand what it would do to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, because I have one. I am lucky: my pre-existing condition is not life threatening, although it could become so if I lose the ability to treat my mild asthma and it worsens. However, I'm also lucky that my maintenance medication is something I could afford to pay for out of pocket, if it came to that: my maintenance inhaler would cost me ~$250/month, and I can pay that. To be clear, that would be more than I spend on groceries to feed my family for a week, but I could do it. I don't know the cost of the urgent care breathing treatments that I sometimes need to help me get over an upper respiratory infection, but since I need those infrequently, I could probably absorb that, too, if forced, particularly since all of the drugs needed for those more acute treatment sessions are old, and therefore available as generics.

But I know myself and I know what the research has shown about people choosing between a medical treatment that feels optional and keeping those thousands of dollars in their pocket, and I wonder if I'd get the breathing treatment less often that I really should. I want to stay insured.

I am old enough to remember not just the days before the ACA, but the days before there were any protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Then we got a law that said that as long as you kept continuous coverage, you could not be denied coverage for your pre-existing condition on an employer-sponsored plan. If you want to read a harrowing account of what that meant in practice for some people, read Kameron Hurley's account of her 2007 experience with diabetes. Unlike my asthma, that is a disease that really will kill you if you don't treat it.

Anyway, I wanted to know if we were back to the pre-ACA days of needing to keep continuous coverage, or if we were going back further still. I wanted to know because if we were going back further still, I'd seriously consider going back to having a "regular" job so that I would have two lines of defense against losing my coverage. And of course, there would be that little voice in the back of my mind suggesting that we could just move to New Zealand and not have to worry about losing access to basic healthcare.

But then I found the Weeds podcast that discussed the latest bill (the episode called AHCApocalypse III) and learned we'd actually be going to something a little better than pre-ACA: insurance companies couldn't underwrite (i.e., deny coverage or jack up rates) for pre-existing conditions as long as you kept continuous coverage, even if you were moving to the individual market. So, someone like me (i.e., relatively wealthy), will be OK.

But a lot of people will NOT be OK. Continuous coverage can be out of financial reach when someone loses a job, and the assistance the AHCA provides to lower income people is less than what the ACA provides. Also, as I heard Ana-Marie Cox explain on a Pod Save America podcast recently, if the pre-existing condition that you're dealing with is a severe mental health issue, there is a very real possibility that you would not have the capacity to fill out all the forms and do the other bureaucratic tasks required to keep your coverage.

One of the other useful things in that Weeds podcast was an aside Matt Yglesias threw in about why libertarian-leaning Republicans like the Freedom Caucus are opposed to the ACA. It is not just the taxes. It is that many of them genuinely believe we should not be using health insurance to cover routine healthcare. They think it distorts the market and is responsible, at least in part, for driving up the cost of healthcare. They think we should have catastrophic health insurance to cover truly unforeseen things and big surprises, but that "routine" things like my asthma treatment, Petunia's best friend's insulin and test strips, having a baby, and the like, we should pay out of pocket. There is a frequent comparison to car insurance, which does not cover oil changes or the sort of regular maintenance I'm waiting to have done right now.

The problem with this comparison to auto insurance is that we can't decide our healthcare maintenance is getting too expensive and that we should upgrade to a new, more reliable body. There is no equivalent of taking the bus for people who can't afford the cost of maintaining their bodies. We have the body we have. We can try to make good decisions and take good care of it, but we can't choose our genetics. We can't control twists of fate that make some children develop type I diabetes. Libertarians are fond of saying that the government shouldn't be choosing winner and losers, and that the market should decide. But leaving it all to the market just doesn't work in the case of healthcare. It is not government choosing winners and losers, it is genetics and luck. Government assistance with healthcare is the community deciding to even out some of the impact of that luck. My asthma doesn't care if I can afford the maintenance inhaler. A diabetic with a low-paying job still needs their insulin, or they die. A woman who gets pregnant is going to be pregnant whether she can afford to pay for prenatal care or not (particularly if some of these same people get their way and an abortion is difficult if not impossible to obtain).

I do not believe that the majority of Republicans, in Congress or at the voting booth, really want the libertarian vision for healthcare. But that is who they are letting drive their policy choices right now, and so that is what we're aiming for.

So anyway, that is what I wanted to say about healthcare. I convinced myself that I can keep trying to build a company, even if the AHCA becomes law. Wealthy people like me will mostly be fine. I'll still fight this law, because a lot of people won't be fine, but I don't have to start a job search.

But after last night, I'm back to thinking that maybe I should start a job search, because trying to focus on the sort of work I need to be doing to actually build a company is nigh on impossible right now. I'm using all my tricks, and I have some good days. But I have days like today, too. I have noticed that I find it easier to put my head down and work when I'm onsite at a client or focused on a client deliverable than when I'm trying to do "my own" things. Can I keep pushing into these headwinds and do what I need to do to make this company viable? If I'm just going to limp along, supporting the company (and myself) with contract work that is not that different from what I would be doing as a full-time employee, should I keep doing that? Or would I be better off cutting my losses and heading back to a company with benefits? I don't know. So far, I've chosen to lower my head and charge into the headwinds. I'm not sure how long I can keep doing that.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Weekend Reading: The I Should Have Procrastinated on the Accounting and Gone for a Rollerblade Edition

I didn't get my rollerblade today, because I was trying to get caught up after spending yesterday at a conference and stuck in traffic (LA->SD) and half of Wednesday stuck in traffic (SD->LA). I have sworn that next time, I'm going to make the train work out even if it means I won't be home in time to kiss my kids goodnight, because between the two drives, I spent the equivalent of an 8 hour work day sitting in my car and that sucked. But the conference was great (and I got paid to be there), and I got to have dinner with one of my best friends, who now lives in LA, and that was great. So I can't really complain. I'll just try to remember this for next time I look at the train schedules and think they don't really work for me.

Anyhow, I didn't go for a rollerblade, but I also didn't get caught up because one of the retail outlets I sell my books through sent me $1.16 this month and I can't figure out why, which means I can't finish my accounting. I did get fed up and go for a run, though, so I wasn't a total slug.

But on to the links. It is all about healthcare right now, right?

Since I spent more than eight hours in my car in the last two days, I haven't had a chance to read up on what the AHCA really does. From what I've heard, neither did a bunch of the congresspeople who voted for it! But oh well.

I have been amused to hear some conservatives who are frustrated that the bill is getting "misportrayed" and people are saying it does things it doesn't do. I will of course try to avoid doing that. I think we should try to tell the truth and be honest about what the impact of the bill would be. But to these conservatives, I just want to say: DEATH PANELS. You guys are the ones who ratcheted this debate up to a fever pitch in the first place. Your reap what you sow, folks.

Bad Mom, Good Mom sent me a link to the the Congressional Research service's summary of the bill and its impacts. But I haven't had time to read that yet.

From what I've heard about it, I tend to agree with Jamelle Bouie's assessment that it is a very cruel bill.

You may have heard Alabama representative Mo Brooks say that the purpose of this bill is to reduce "the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy." And you may have been surprised to see someone so blatantly claim that those of us with some bad medical luck somehow deserve our fate. But that belief isn't so unusual, and Vann R. Newkirk II explores how it is linked to prosperity gospel.

Through this entire debate, I've said that I agree that their are real problems with the ACA. Here is a story about one of them. As far as I can tell so far, the AHCA does nothing to help fix this problem.

Josh Marshall's Iron Law of Republican Politics is why I am not at all sure the AHCA won't pass the Senate. GOP moderates always cave.

So, that's enough about healthcare for right now. Here are some other things.

I meant to include a link to Ashley Ford's beautiful story about meeting her father after his prison term last week, and forgot. So here it is. Go read it if you haven't. She is a wonderful writer.

Escaped pet birds are teaching wild birds English.

Cool playgrounds!

This bunny kind of sums up my mood right now:



But, it is Friday afternoon, so that's something.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Updates as Events Warrant

I'm in a hotel in LA tonight. I am speaking at a conference tomorrow, so I drove up today. Traffic was less fun than usual, thanks to an accident in Orange County. But on the bright side, I'm almost all caught up on my favorite podcasts now!

Giving seminars is a funny thing for me. In the days leading up to the seminar, I experience a bit of impostor syndrome. I am sure that what I have to say is obvious, and that everyone will hate me. And then I give the seminar, and it goes great, and I love the energy and I want to do more. I honestly don't know if that will ever change, but at least I recognize what's going on now and can deal with it.

Anyway, between the pre-seminar jitters and the news about the AHCA, I need some distracting. Also, I met a friend for dinner and had a couple of beers, and I'm not quite ready to go to sleep yet. So, to distract myself, I'm going to give you updates about things you probably aren't wondering about.

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of personal goals. I've got progress to report on three of them!

1. Paint the baseboards in the hall. Mr. Snarky surprised me and did this, but I'm still claiming it as a win, because we're a team, right?

2. Buy a new mattress. We bought one last Saturday, during our romantic date night. (We also had dinner out and visited a couple of beer tasting rooms, so it wasn't all mattress shopping...) It arrives Saturday and I am soooo excited. I hope this means I'll wake up feeling refreshed and will be less tired. OK, more realistically, I think it should at least help with some back aches I've been having.

3. Volunteer. I found a place! I'm going to help mentor foster kids who are aging out of the system. I go to my orientation and training next week. I'm very excited.

I'm also doing a pretty good job of keeping up my exercise routine, and have even added some low key weight training back in. I'm in trouble when I get too strong for the two sets of dumbbells I have now, but I'll deal with that when I get there.

In other news,  I have a great name for a collection of essays. I do not, however, have either a collection of essays or a deal to publish a collection were I to write one. (Yes, I know I run a publishing company, but having read, or at least attempted to read, quite a few self-published memoirs, I am firm in my conviction that a collection of my personal essays is something I'd want another party to agree is worth publishing before I unleashed it on the world.)

Anyway, having a name and no book is a stark reversal of my usual situation. I did, however, finally come up with a name for my next Taster Flight collection. It will be called Hemmed In. It is an anthology of classic short stories about women's lives. I hope to get it out within the next six weeks. I've got the stories selected and assembled. I "just" need to find the illustrations and do the formatting.

And now I'm starting to feel a bit sleepy, so I think I'll try to go to bed. I'm glad I'll be busy tomorrow, so I can't follow the news as the House of Representatives votes to make it very, very expensive, and perhaps impossible, for someone like me to by health insurance. I hope every single congressperson who votes for this travesty loses their seat in 2018. There are real problems with the ACA. They could have tried to fix those problems. I still don't have a clear statement from the people supporting this bill of what problems it will actually fix. I suspect that is because the problem it is fixing is a political one of their own making, and not anything to do with actually improving healthcare in this country.

Oh well. Good night!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Here to Help

I have a trait that people tend to dismiss, until they see it in action: People ask me for help. When I used to visit my sister in NYC years ago, she lived there and I was the tourist. And yet people came up to me and asked me which train to take to their destination and where the nearest subway stop was. When I visited Stockholm in graduate school, a couple came up to me and asked me, in phrasebook Swedish, how to get to Gamla Stan. Since my best phrase in Swedish is "jag förstår inte," I answered them in English. 

Lately, this trait mainly manifests in grocery stores. Specifically, elderly men approach me in grocery stores for help in finding items their wives have asked them to get. I would dearly love to know why they think I, in particular, am the best person to ask about whether they should get quick oats or old-fashioned (if she's planning to bake with them, probably old-fashioned) or where to find cranberry sauce in April (canned vegetables aisle). Yes, I know the answers. But how do they know that I'll know? 

People even stop me when I'm out exercising. The most recent was a man who stopped me while I was rollerblading by the bay to ask if he was allowed launch a boat from this location. I did not know the answer to that one, but again: why me? 

My best theory is that I look unimposing and harmless, and like I'll be nice. To be fair, I always am nice. Even to the guy who interrupted my rollerblade.  

I've been thinking about this lately in the context of my career and the election and all the feelings that's stirred up. Back when I was deciding to quit my full time job and go out on my own, I wrote about the cost of my career, and how the traits I had developed to succeed in my male-dominated field often made it harder for me to relate to women. I still can't fully explain why I quit when I did, but I think part of it was I felt I was on the brink of more personality changes. I was getting harder, and less open. I really didn't like that. 

Maybe quitting helped me find a way to be more of the type of person I want to be while still working on things I enjoy. Maybe it didn't. Maybe the storm would have passed anyway.

But I'm noticing that same hard-edged feeling in myself now. This time, it isn't due to work. It is the election. It is the way Hillary Clinton was treated, and is still treated. It is the way some men in the media are treating Chelsea Clinton. It is the vileness of Trump's behavior towards women, and how little that matters. This has nothing to do with policy. It is about the contempt shown to women. 

I have not figured out how to be OK with this. I don't really want to be OK with this, so maybe what I need to figure out is how to coexist with this without having it give me the hard edge I didn't want. I don't even know how to start working on this. But I think I'll know I've failed if the old guys stop asking me for help in the grocery store.

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