Friday, May 17, 2019

Weekend Reading: The I Didn't Read Many Articles Edition

Our weird weather continues - we've had more rain this week! This is unusual for May in San Diego. But this afternoon, it was beautiful out and I had a lovely rollerblade outing.

This week, I was busy getting the next Annorlunda Books release posted for pre-orders. The ebook edition of Arctic Adagio, a near future mystery novelette by DJ Cockburn, is now available for pre-orders at all the usual places. The paperback edition will be available on release day, which is May 29.

In other publishing news, we found out that The Dodo Knight, the novella by Michelle Rene about the friendship between Louis Carroll and Alice Liddell, his muse for Alice in Wonderland, was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I love all the books I publish, so it is always great when one of them gets some recognition!

I don't have many non-Annorlunda links, because I was also busy at work and was finishing a book instead of reading articles in a lot of my free time. (Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright. I recommend it. It will show up in a book post over on my real name blog eventually.)

Here's what I have:

Josh Marshall sounds a compelling warning about the upcoming 2020 election.

I haven't had a chance to read this CityLab article about the link between urban beauty and economic growth, but it sounds really interesting. Maybe I'll get to read it this weekend!

In recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with historian Joanne Freeman about political violence in the period leading up to the Civil War was very interesting and thought-provoking. (Yes, I'm listening to a lot of Ezra Klein interviews right now - his show is one of the ones I can get directly in the Tesla. I need to spend some time searching what's available there to diversify my listening again!)

The case that turned the tide on abortion rights in Ireland has been on my mind a lot this week. I have thought since the day after the 2016 election that Roe v Wade will be overturned, and that in some states abortion will become essentially unavailable. We know what that will mean. Eventually, I think we will have a case that makes the news and mobilizes the moderate middle on abortion (polls show that the majority of Americans in every state are opposed to laws as extreme as Alabama's new one, for instance). What haunts me is the question of how many women will die before there is a story that is sympathetic enough to enough people to turn that tide. One is too many.

This is a really good answer:


Friday, May 10, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Wait, Did I Just Agree with David Brooks Edition

I don't get to gloat about what a beautiful day it was for a rollerblade today... we've been having cool, cloudy - and even rainy! - weather this week. So today's rollerblade was in long sleeves. But the less than postcard-perfect weather did mean that it was really quiet down by the bay, and I enjoyed that. Also, it didn't rain today, which is why the rollerblade was possible, so I can't complain.

In Annorlunda news: I'm still looking for advance readers for Arctic Adagio.

Also, Both Sides of My Skin is on sale for just $0.99 at Kobo right now, as part of their Mother's Day sale. Sometimes Amazon and the other sites notice that and price match, sometimes they don't.

In other links:

This story about QAnon fools ruining a small town's Earth day celebration makes me so sad and mad.

And speaking of scams.... it sure sounds like a lot of prominent conservatives have a lot of contempt for their own supporters.

If you read only one thing this week, I would make it this short summary from Josh Marshall about why that Giuliani goes to the Ukraine story is a very bad thing. I hate that people are just making jokes about it and shrugging.

This story about a family deciding whether or not to take their kid to the ER after she got into a bottle of dramamine really illustrates the fact that we already ration healthcare in this country.

This is a good article about the benefits of e-bikes for seniors.

In other biking news, could we have a cross-America bike trail soon?

I enjoyed Scalzi's post on turning 50.

In recommended listening: I drove more than usual this week (for work related reasons), and am using the built in podcast app in the Tesla. I haven't favorited that many podcasts yet, and so I found myself listening to a lot of Ezra Klein. There were two shows I'll share:

First, his interview with David Brooks was really good and I never thought I'd say that! I suspect I still disagree with Brooks on most policy issues, but his discussion of his realizations about what matters in life was interesting.

Second, the interview with political scientist Sheri Berman about social democrats was very useful for me, and an interesting conversation.

This is delightful:
And so is this thread:
I got neither a sword nor a cool top hat when I got my PhD and that is just not fair.


Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Environmentalism When You Can't Be Perfect

If I had to pick one quote to capture my philosophy on life, it would be Voltaire's "le mieux est l'ennemi du bien," which translates literally to "the best is the enemy of the good" but often gets rendered as "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

I don't think perfect is possible, and so I apply this quote in all aspects of my life. Tonight I want to talk about applying this to my attempts to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

My feelings on individual action and climate change are complicated. On the one hand, I do not think that individual action is the solution to climate change. I think we need policy changes to reduce emissions on the scale we need to reduce them. On the other hand, many of those policy changes would be targeted at producing changes in individual choices (e.g., biking/taking transit instead of driving) and also individual choices can help build a culture in which policy changes are more possible...

So I have been trying to make better individual choices. Doing the research to decide what changes to make is disheartening, to say the least, because so much of what you find is often absolutist and full of judgement for people who cannot remake their lives to be perfectly pure in the environmental sense.

The purists annoy me, both because sanctimony is inherently annoying and because I think they scare people off from making any changes or even engaging with the issue at all. The whole reason we need policy change is that our society is set up in a way that makes it hard for people to make environmentally sustainable choices. Infrastructure in many cities is built around the car, companies have a vested interest in making it hard for us to evaluate their claims about sustainability, etc., etc.

Luckily, I have my whole "the perfect is the enemy of the good" philosophy to fall back on. I don't have to be perfect, I just have to do better. In my experience, that approach is far more conducive to actually changing things than the "be perfect or you're a hypocrite" approach. Start where you are and iterate to where you want to be by making the changes you can make now. You can always make more changes later.

So, leaving aside the whole "buying an electric car" thing (and yes, I still owe you a post with my thoughts on the Tesla), here are some small changes we've made recently:
  • I bought more reusable bags for produce and bulk goods (e.g., the pistachios and cashews I buy)
  • I try to choose walking for short trips like picking the kids up at school. Except for the first day we had the Tesla. That day, we picked the kids up from school in the car.
  • I am being more mindful about how I use plastic food storage bags. My first attempt to replace these with reusable bags failed. The bags I bought are useful, but do not replace Ziploc bags in my most common uses, which are to store the baked goods I make every week for my kids. However, since I make the same baked goods every week (scones for Pumpkin's lunches and bread for Petunia's breakfasts), I can reuse the Ziploc bags without washing them. I used to do that sometimes. Now I do it all the time.
  • Mr. Snarky bought a pump to power a sprinkler so that he can use the water from our rain barrels to water our backyard. We run our built in sprinklers less often now.
  • Mr. Snarky has started trying various meat substitutes for things like hamburgers. We've also tried meat substitute "meatballs" and found them pretty good.
Things I've considered and decided I won't do:
  • Bike or take transit to work one day a week. There is no safe bike route and a transit-based commute would be well over an hour.
  • Give up meat. We don't eat meat every day or even most days, but we aren't likely to give it up completely.
And here are some small things I'm planning to do next:
  • Start walking to get our groceries some times. This requires me to obtain a "granny cart" - and I think Petunia may be planning to get me one for my birthday, which is coming up soon, so I am waiting on this.
  • Solve the scone and bread storage issue in a way that doesn't involve Ziploc bags at all.  
  • Sign up for the free tree the city will plant to replace the one that blew over in a storm earlier this year.
Our next big thing will probably be solar panels, but it could also be the backyard revamp I've been wanting to do, which will reduce the amount of grass and also add at least one tree. 

And of course, I'll continue to work to elect politicians who will take climate change seriously. I'm also trying to be more vocal on local issues that are related to climate issues, like supporting better bike lanes and public transit, and increasing housing density near existing transit lines.

I'm always open to ideas for other small changes to add to my next iteration of improvements, so drop any ideas you have in the comments!

Friday, May 03, 2019

Weekend Reading: Another Week, No Post Edition

I had plans to write a post here this week! But I wrote a post over at Adjusted Latitudes about some restaurants we visited over spring break instead. Some weeks I can manage two posts, but I've been busy booking lodging for our summer vacation and between that, some research I'm doing on book promo options, and prepping for our next Annorlunda release, I ran out of time.

Speaking of the next Annorlunda release: It is another near future noveletter from DJ Cockburn (author of Caresaway). This one is a mystery set on a luxury ship the super rich have taken to to avoid being subject to any nation's laws. It is called Arctic Adagio and I posted the cover reveal this week. You can also sign up to be an advance reader now.

Moving on to other links:

Apparently we've been making our allergy seasons worse by planting only male trees.

And here's a really interesting long read about shade in LA.

This post from Josh Marshall about Attorney General Barr and the state of the Republican party is worth your time.

So is Marshall's take on the Guiliani/Ukraine/Biden story.

This is a good article at the Washington Post about Evangelical pastors self-reflection in the wake of the shooting at a Poway synagogue committed by a member of their flock. I wish it didn't include a picture of the shooter, though.

Always read Rebecca Solnit (this essay is on unconscious bias who is deemed "electable").


Friday, April 26, 2019

Weekend Reading: Another Grim Set of Links on Another Beautiful Day

It is another beautiful, sunny day here. Wonderful rollerblading weather! It was the sort of rollerblade outing that makes me feel really lucky to live here - a sunny day, a cool ocean breeze, the spring break crowds have gone home, the summer crowds aren't here yet... Just wonderful.

In other good news: Our Tesla arrived yesterday, so I got to drive to the rollerblade in style. It is too early to write up my impressions of it, other than to say it is a really pretty color of blue. I promise to write more once I've driven it a bit more.

Unfortunately, the links I have to share with you aren't so sunny. We're in a really difficult period. It is not at all clear how best to fight back against the anti-democratic (small d) forces at work. I still think there is time to fix this mess through at least somewhat normal means, but I don't think we can be complacent at all. 

My book club read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me this month. One part that has really stuck with me and made me think was what he wrote about struggle. Early on, he writes:

"And still you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life."

Then, at the end, writing about the struggle his son will need to make, and about how that relates to those of us who get to live in the American dream ("the Dreamers"), he writes:

"Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle for themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all."

Coates has a specific meaning of struggle, and of "the Dream" - but I will not try to summarize that here. I'll just say "struggle" doesn't mean to struggle economically. He's talking about a deeper struggle than that. I think of it as in part the struggle to free yourself from the constraints of an unfair society, and the struggle to make a better society. But I think it is more than that and encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is not a long book.

Early on after Trump was elected, I was in a conversation about what would protect us from the threat he poses, and I said something to the effect of "Congress will not save us. We have to do it ourselves, and I'm not sure we're up to it."

I still think that. Mueller couldn't save us. The Democrats in Congress can't save us. Mueller had his part, and the Democrats have their part. Either could certainly have sunk us. But we, the people, will need to save us.

In short, those of us for whom this country has largely worked well need to learn how to struggle. It was our failure to struggle that left us open to the catastrophe of the 2016 election. Russia meddled, sure, but their meddling just exploited the existing fault lines in our society. We were complacent and did not work hard enough to heal them. It is our failure to struggle that is putting our world at grave risk from climate change. We need to take up the struggle if we are to get back on a sustainable course, let alone one that leads to a better society. And I am no more convinced that we are up to it than I was in 2016.

With that preamble, here are my links for the week:

Josh Marshall on the misleading spin that's been put on the Mueller report, and the fact that it does, in fact, show that the Trump campaign conspired and coordinated with Russia.

I don't think we'll learn the full truth of what happened without a real Congressional investigation. It looks to me that Trump agrees, because he's fighting hard to keep a real investigation from happening. Here's Marshall again, this time on the need for Congress to stop treating Trump's obstruction of their valid oversight requests as politics as usual.

Of course, the rot isn't just in the White House. Here is a depressing look at how Republicans are responding to losses at the ballot box by fighting against democracy.

David Roberts at Vox has a rather depressing summary of a new report about the viability of the Climate Right.

That's all the reading links I have this week. I know they are a bit grim, so I will also reiterate that I have found taking action helps me feel less helpless and overwhelmed by it all. I'm going to start posting my weekly actions again. I suspect I'll mostly post on Fridays at lunch time.

My actions aren't big, and I don't know if they are "right"  or the "best" thing to be doing - they are just what I'm doing right now. I posted my actions for this week already, but in case those tweets have scrolled off the sidebar, here are the two things I did: I donated to Swing Left, because I think their state-based strategy for preparing for the 2020 election is a good one; and I requested some more addresses for Marc Friedenberg in a special election in PA. This is a bit of a long shot of a race, but I think it is worth fighting as hard as we can everywhere. Also, voting is a habit, and it seems like encouraging Democratic voters in PA to strengthen that habit is a good use of my time.

I do have some recommended listening this week: I really like the Flash Forward podcast, and the Desert Creep episode is a reminder that climate change is just about rising sea levels.

In happier things, I have some tweets:

I love this:
And also this - bunny art!

Cute sleeping bunny!

Have a good weekend!


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