Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year in Review: 2016

It is time for my annual year in review post. I'll pick two or three posts from each month that I like best and link to them here. Last year's post has more details, and links to earlier round-ups if you're curious.

This has been a tough year on a lot of fronts, but I think I'll find some happiness to revisit, too. It also saw my posting frequency fall at times, so I am a bit worried I may struggle to find two posts to revisit from some months. But I'll deal with that when I get there, I guess. Let's get to it.

I started January with a little show and tell: delivering on my promise to Petunia to get her a fishy pet, and my promise to myself to learn crochet. (I am happy to report that both the fish and the crocheting are still going strong.) I was worried about my main contract ending mid-year (it didn't, and in fact is extended for next year and probably the year after that), and feeling a little jealous of my husband's new job energy (that passed). And I wrote about the hidden costs of the way things are. I still really like that post, and think about what costs I'm not seeing.

I mused some more about the costs I paid over the course of my career early in February, prompted by a sexual harassment case at my undergraduate alma mater. I started to work through my feelings about Hillary Clinton, not aware of how many more feelings about her the year would create. Maybe I'll work through the new ones in 2017, but I'll be surprised if I can. I suspect we'll need to be past the danger posed by Donald Trump before I feel like I have the space to work through all my feelings about the election. But back in February, I was realizing how much I admired about Hillary Clinton, and being a bit surprised by that. I also had a lesson about not second-guessing myself so much, courtesy of my lungs.

In March, I started writing hodge-podge posts... and my first may be my favorite of the entire year. It was the first post in which I started to wrestle with the unusual stakes in this year's election. And I continued to wrestle with those stakes in a post that was mostly about a couple of books I really liked, but also about how our life is made of our choices, and how sometimes circumstances make our choices more momentous than we'd like. And I went to BinderCon in LA and had a great time.

April saw me pondering my mortality and the limits of what I can hope to accomplish, first after attending the funeral of a dear family friend and then in response to the news of Prince's death. I also realized that my brain was lying to me, and that showed me the limits of empathy. (Perimenopause has been hard on me this year... that will come up again in later months.)

In May, I had some epiphanies about my career. The extension of my main contract has bought me extra time to keep trying to build a sustainable business, which is great, because that is what I really want to do. I wrote about the lack of breathing room in our lives, and the porous nature of the boundaries in my life. I also turned 44, but I didn't write about it.

In June, I didn't write much, but I really like the post about wanting to stop worrying and start living.

We took our family vacation to New Zealand and Rarotonga at the end of June and the beginning of July. While we were in NZ, the Brits voted for Brexit, and I started to take the possibility of a Trump win seriously. When I came home, I wrote about holding the center. I also saw the pictures from the beach portion of the trip and resolved to try harder to live the healthiest life I will enjoy.

In August, I was surprised to discover I still have some hard-feelings about all the blonde jokes I used to hear. My kids went back to school, and I found that I was struggling with motivation. I didn't realize it at the time, but I think the toxicity of the election was starting to get to me. I never did get to take a lot of long walks on the beach. I may need to make time for it in the new year.

September found me struggling with hormonal headaches. I have finally found a birth control option that seems to have sorted those out, but it has its own side effect issues. Perimenopause sucks. I was also struggling with clothes, which I fixed with a visit to a personal shopper at Nordstrom. And I expressed a wish for people on the more conservative end of the political spectrum to recognize the damage they have done by accepting racism and sexism from their fellow conservatives. That wish didn't come true, to say the least. I've also seen more racism and sexism from the more liberal end of the political spectrum, both during the election and in the aftermath. So I get to practice what I preach in this regard, too.

Politics occupied a lot of my attention in October. I wrote about stepping away from the abyss. But of course, we didn't. We've plunged into it, and it is as terrifying as I thought it would be. Reading my post about almost deciding to go see President Obama speak was hard, since all of the optimism in that post has been squashed and all the worries are amplified. I still have no idea how I am going to explain Trump's misogyny to Pumpkin and Petunia when I can no longer hide it from them. I need to start preparing them for the world we have instead of the world I thought we would have, though, so I guess that will be a project for 2017. Petunia still has her "Go Hillary Clinton" sign in her bedroom window. "She is still a great person," Petunia says. And so the sign stays.

And then came November. After I voted my ballot, I wrote about how disgusted I am with the Republican leadership. Their behavior since the election has only deepened that disgust, although there have been some bright spots among the old guard (e.g., McCain and Graham's push for a proper investigation into the Russian interference in our election) and I see some hope for a better Republican party (or perhaps a better conservative party under another name) in the future if some of the younger Republicans like Evan McMullin manage to take the lead. But there would need to be a lot of changes for me to consider voting for a Republican in the future. The day after the election, I wrote about how much it sucked. I am sad to say that even my modest hopes for the transition have been dashed. Two days after the election, I wrote about consulting my moral compass. I've been spending a lot of time with it since the election. Unfortunately, it is no help for the scariest of my worries. I did rally for Thanksgiving, though, possibly helped by my decision to write about what I'm thankful for.

Now, in December, my sadness has ebbed a bit, but I am more frightened. I find myself in a weird state of fear, anger, and hope. And I found my mantra for 2017: Hope is something you create.

This is likely to be my last post for 2016. I may get a links post up tomorrow, but it seems unlikely, given the other things on my schedule tomorrow. So I'll sign off wishing for all of us to create as much hope as we can in 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hope Is Something You Create

I've spent the last few days with my family, mostly ignoring the wider world. It was just what I needed. I am lucky in the family department: we all like each other as well as loving each other, and I genuinely look forward to spending time with them. Christmas was tiring (a lot of cooking!) but wonderful, and I went to bed last night a very happy person.

As part of "mostly ignoring the wider world," I have not been reading as much online as I usually do. I can't say why I decided to click on a link to read an article about Children of Men and how it is resonating for people in 2016. I have not seen the movie. (I see very few movies: I can appreciate that they are an art form, but I find modern movies too immersive. They often give me nightmares, so I just don't go to the movies much.) I was actively avoiding potentially depressing things about the state of the world right now. And yet, I clicked, and I read the entire thing.

Towards the end, there is a passage about hope that rewarded my random decision to read this article:

Sure, he says, climate change could decimate humanity, but that’s no excuse to give in to fatalism. “There would be, still, pockets of populations that will scatter around the world,” he says. “What’s at stake is the culture as we know it.” Humans will continue to exist — and we have a responsibility to build a culture of respect and mutual assistance. It seems so dreadfully unlikely, but we are obligated to hope.

Cuarón is very specific about what he means by that word. For him, it is not a passive thing. It is not a messianic thing, either — he speaks derisively of the idea that you could vote for Barack Obama, then sit back passively and feel disappointed. “The hope is something that you create,” he says. “You live by hoping and then you create that change. Hope is trying to change your present for a better world. It’s pretty much up to you.”

As I've been thinking about what I want to do in 2017, I keep coming back to the idea that I want to be more involved in my community. There are many different ways to try to change our present for a better world. I am already doing some: giving money to causes I believe in, working to raise my children well, and trying to always be kind in my personal interactions (not always succeeding, but always trying). That increasingly feels like the minimum standard, and I want to do more. So I am thinking more broadly about how to change my present for a better world. There is work to do at every scale: from the neighborhood to the nation to the world. The scale that feels right to me is the city. I've identified a couple of volunteering options, and choosing one and getting involved is definitely going on my 2017 goals list, and it is a goal I plan to act on in January.

More generally, I think I will make my mantra for 2017 "hope is something you create," and let that guide my actions next year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are also enjoying some time to rejuvenate as we look ahead to 2017. I'll start working on my annual year in review post soon, but this year more than most, I want to look forward, not back.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Not as Happy as I'd Like Edition

I'm off work this week, so this post is getting thrown together in between family time and baking. I wish I had happier links this week, but the news isn't all that happy these days.

I do have one happy link: Xykademiqz is running a game to help promote Academaze. Join in the fun!

Also, I'm looking for submissions for Annorlunda Books' 2017 schedule.

And this link is helpful: some ideas for how to live more sustainably.

One of my Dad's friends sent me this link from the Phoenix area indie newspaper with more information about the human tragedy on the border. If you'd like to know more about why people like me are pessimistic about increased enforcement, this is a good article to read. Like I said last week, all I've seen increased enforcement do is drive people to take bigger risks and then more people die.

Here's a story from the LA Times about a new aspect of the migration problem: people are coming from farther away to try to enter via Mexico. There have been quite a few local radio news stories about the people in Tijuana trying to help people stranded there. I'll try to remember to share it the next time I come across one.

A warning from Turkey to guard the truth.

I agree with Josh Marshall: you don't have to be a Russia hawk to care about the hacking.

And Yochi Dreazen's article about the hack and its aftermath is really good.

I've been watching what is happening in North Carolina with worry. I have two links that talk about it: Jason Sattler on the War on Democracy and Andrew Reynolds on how poorly North Carolina scores on measures of democracy.

If you share my fear that what we are seeing in North Carolina is a preview of what is coming to the country as a whole, you might like to read about the lessons from ACT UP.

Here is an article about whether Wisconsin's voter ID laws had an effect on the election. I've started to put together a list of groups working to protect (and expand!) voting rights. I'll share the list when it is in a more complete state.

Looking to the women of the Supreme Court for guidance.

An interview with economist Branko Milanovic about inequality.

People have started writing articles trying to explain why so many of us are so freaked out right now:

Dara Lind's article at Vox is one I particularly like.

David Horsey's article in the LA Times is also very close to what I'm feeling.

Noah Berlatsky on how the rise in anti-Semitism is making him feel more conspicuously Jewish.

Sara Benincasa's post In Praise of Hopeful Rage was exactly what I needed to read earlier this week.

I've got a lot of other thinks bookmarked but not read, and it is time for family time... so they'll have to wait. Let's end with some fun.

This thread is awesome:

Time for some bunnies!

And I'll end with something appropriate for the approaching holiday:

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! And happy weekend to everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fear, Hope, Anger, and that Weird Place Where They Meet

I'm supposed to be working. The kids are home with me, and we went out and played a bit this morning. My plan was to work this afternoon. I've done some work: I finally made the printable gift card for Small and Spooky, for instance. Next on my list was "post a call for submissions." That has been on my to do list for weeks, and I'm just not getting it done. I don't know what is wrong with me. I want to write it, because I want to read the cool stories people will submit for publication. But every time I sit down to write it, I fail. Perhaps my problem is that looking ahead into 2017 makes me unhappy and nervous.

I'm working on changing that. I want to feel steely resolve, but whenever I try to summon that emotion my brain suggests we just sell our house and move to New Zealand. I am not a partisan activist by nature. I am an incrementalist, a "work within the system to make the system better" type of person. I am happy to discuss policy with people, but I am rarely so sure of my opinion that I want to be out there agitating for my way or the highway. I like to look for compromises and common ground. When I volunteer, I like to focus on helping specific people in my community, not on fighting an election or resisting an over-reaching state.

But the world doesn't really care what I'd rather do, and the times are what they are. So I've roused myself to call my representatives and push on lobbying groups (I'm happy to report that the AARP plans to fight to save Medicare and Social Security). I may even find myself at a protest before all of this is through. In fact, I may find myself at one soon. Some members of my book club are talking about going to the local Women's March, if it happens.

I am finding that taking action makes me feel more hopeful, and I need to hold on to hope or the part of my brain that is advocating that we sell our house and move to New Zealand will surely win.

We may yet sell our house and move to New Zealand, but that would be a big move that would leave us poorer than we are now, and it is one that we would be unlikely to be in a position to reverse at a later date. If we do it, I want it to be for well thought out reasons, not due some inchoate fear I have of the future, my hatred of having to make so many damn phone calls to my congresspeople, and my desire to not feel called to go out on the street and protest.


I have to confess, I'm getting tired of reading about "what Democrats should do to confront Trump." Oh, I'll keep reading these pieces, because I am still scared of what Trump might do to our democracy, and so I guess I'd better be ready to confront him.

But damn, I'd love to read a piece about what Republicans should do right now. I've seen some introspection from some conservative writers about how things went so wrong in the conservative movement that their base ended up electing Trump, who is not a conservative and who presents a danger to the liberty I've always assumed conservatives genuinely loved (I'll share some links on Friday).

But I haven't seen anything with a call to action for Republicans who are worried about what Trump might do to our democracy. I know some Republicans are indeed worried. I'm friends with some of them, and they are trying to figure out what to do now. It would be nice if someone wrote them a piece about their options.

(Personally, I'm hoping at least a couple of sitting House members get primaried over their refusal to investigate Trump, but that is probably unrealistically optimistic of me.)

I get that the Democrats are the most likely opposition, and we need to figure out how to fight effectively. But dammit, we're not the ones who nominated and elected Trump. The Republicans did that. I am tired of all the guilt being directed at me. I don't want to read anything more about Hillary Clinton's weaknesses or be made to feel bad for daring to hope we could elect her. I am tired of being told to have empathy for the people who just voted to gut their own health insurance. I am always sorry to see people suffer, but those voters are adults and I assume they decided something else mattered more. If they now wish to also hold on to their health insurance, perhaps they should call their representatives and express that wish. I fail to see what some extra empathy from me here in California will do for them.


Speaking of being here in California: my anger at being told I am "not a real American" and am "living in a bubble" is reaching a boiling point. California is a big state, diverse in politics as well as just about every other measure. I know and talk to Republicans. I know and talk to religious people. I know and talk to working class people. Some of them are even white.

I also know and talk to Muslims. I know and talk to Latinos whose families have been here for generations, and Latinos whose parents immigrated here. I know and talk to immigrants from a great many places. I know and talk to Black people. I know and talk to people in the LGBTQ community. I care about all of these people. When I read about a policy that targets one of these groups, I can see faces of people who will be hurt. 

I know fewer rural residents, that is true. But my America is just a real as rural America. My vote counts, too. I pay my taxes and up until the point I realized that some of them will be going to pay for Trump's refusal to follow norms like moving into the effing White House, I never complained about that fact that I live in a net-outflow state. 

I don't want us city people to run rough-shod over rural concerns, but neither do I want their opinions of immigrants and people not like them to run rough-shod over the lives and rights of my friends. We need to find a way to work together. Instead, we got the Tea Party and the politics of "no." It makes me angry to hear voters in Iowa interviewed about how they never protested the election of Obama, so we shouldn't protest Trump. They damn well DID protest Obama, that is where the Tea Party came from. They made our first Black president produce his birth certificate for crying out loud. Why can't we see Trump's tax returns?


Speaking of Trump's tax returns, another thing I'm angry about is the speed with which ethics and principles are being jettisoned by our incoming administration. Just today, there is news that the Trump Organization pressured foreign governments to move their events to the Trump Hotel and that Trump plans to keep his private security force after the election. Both of these developments are just wrong. I can find no middle ground with people who are OK with them. These are just the latest stories. Yesterday, there were different ones. Tomorrow, there will be new stories. We've fallen into a bottomless well of conflicts of interest and norm-breaking behavior. And far from attempting to convince our President-Elect to address these problems, Newt Gingrich is out here arguing that Congress should just change the laws to make the problems go away. (Hint: the behavior would be worrying and wrong even if it weren't illegal!)

I have seen little appetite from Republican leaders to take any of this on. I know that at least some Republican voters want them to do it. I hope they are letting their congresspeople know. But they could use some leadership. I suspect the Republicans in Congress would be willing to act if they thought it was politically safe to do so: if Trump is impeached, the next two people in the line of succession are staunch conservatives (Pence and Ryan). If I were a Republican, I'd rather action was taken before the 2018 election, but if I've learned anything in this election it is that I don't understand how Republicans think.


Amidst my fear and anger, I am trying to find hope. I am inspired by the sometimes unexpected people who are standing up and saying no. A big hooray to all the entertainers who are saying no to playing at the inauguration, for instance. I am inspired by the long time activists who are offering advice and encouragement, and by all the newly fired up activists I see in my Twitter feed. I am encouraged by the members of Congress I do see speaking up and introducing useful legislation.

I never thought the Electoral College would do anything but what they did today. I fully expect Trump to be inaugurated. But that is not the end. That is really just the beginning, because at that point we'll be in a place where we as a country have been before; with a corrupt President who has violated laws and can be held accountable by Congress, and by the ballot box if Congress refuses to act.

I expect more challenges to voting rights, and am working on a list of organizations who will be fighting that and working to mitigate it. I am trying not to let my brain go down to many "what if" rabbit holes about ways in which our freedom might be curtailed before the next election. For all of Trump's false talk about a "mandate," he has none. The people who voted against him are the majority, and a decent portion of the people who voted for him don't actually like him or what he stands for. If we stand strong and resist, we'll have another day at the ballot box.  


And now it is time for me to go finish the potato soup I have cooking in the crock pot for dinner, and make some popovers to go with it. This will be a long fight, and perhaps the most important thing will be to figure out how to keep the intensity to resist as much as we need to without burning out and ending up in despair. For me, that means taking time to focus on the things I love in my life, and trying to hold to my usual routines. It is working... so far. Share any "stay intense but not overwhelmed" tips in the comments!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Post-News Conference Edition

So, that news conference was not such a big deal after all. I know a lot of people wanted President Obama to come out breathing fire and announce something that would change the fact that come January, he'll be transferring power to Trump... but the rumors that he was going to do that were what had me extra scared yesterday. Obama is a Constitutional scholar and a believer in laws and institutions. He would only act within the Constitution, and any act he could take within the Constitution at this point would be pretty scary, particularly since I suspect that the overlap between Trump's base and the people who never really accepted Obama as a legitimate president is quite high. If people are willing to occupy a wildlife office over grazing rights, what might they do if they think they are being denied the presidency?

Anyway, we got no new information from that press conference other than that President Obama supports the idea of a true bipartisan commission to investigate the Russian interference in our election. That is different from what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell say they support, which is an investigation by the usual committees. (Nevermind that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has already signaled he's NOT starting an investigation....) The difference is that the usual committees can choose to hold closed door sessions, don't necessarily provide the minority party with subpoena power, and have other competing priorities that could delay the completion of the investigation. So, if you want to call your representatives and press for an investigation, I recommend mentioning that you are supporting the bill Reps Swalwell and Cummings introduced, or you can say that you are urging a true bipartisan commission like the one we had after the September 11 attacks.

My worries are ratcheted back down to where they were at the beginning of the week, and I'm back to thinking that we need to prepare for a lengthy push to get investigations of Trump's many conflicts of interest and the Russian hacking. I was curious about precedent here, so I went and looked up the timeline for the Watergate scandal. It wasn't as fast as people seem to think. Nixon was re-elected in the middle of it. And that was with Democrats in control of Congress. I look forward to talking with my parents about what they remember from that time over the holidays, to see what lessons we might take for now. Forcing legislators to investigate a President from their own party is not going to be easy, but I think we have to try. And if they won't do it, we have to try to elect people in 2018 who will.

Why do we need an investigation if all our intelligence agencies agree the Russians were behind the hacks? David Frum poses five questions. I would also like to hear FBI Director Comey explain why he treated the hacking news so differently from the discovery of emails from Hillary Clinton on Anthony Weiner's laptop. Why did he keep the former quiet and announce the latter?

I expect to see more attempts at voter suppression bills between now and 2018. As I've said before, the voter suppression nonsense really bothers me. I consider it un-American, or given that it has clearly happened here before, I guess I should say I consider it unworthy of us and counter to our ideals. So here's a manifesto for how to fight it legislatively. I'm still working on a strategy for how I can get involved in that fight in the most meaningful way. There is room for improvement here in California and I will probably contact my state reps to push for it, but I also want to support the effort in places where it is more under threat. I'll let you know when I come up with something beyond donating to the North Carolina NAACP and Mi Familia Vota.

If you're not aware of what is happening in North Carolina right now, here is a short description that puts it into the broader context. I am genuinely curious to hear from any readers who see a defense for what the Republicans are doing right now. It seems so blatantly anti-democratic to me, and I have yet to find any conservative writer defending it. But bubbles, blah blah blah... so maybe I'm missing something. Let me know. I promise to listen!

If you're fired up and ready to fight, here are two things to read: The leader of the NC NAACP about creating a moral movement for change will help you think about why you fight and a document from a group of former Congressional staffers who watched the Tea Party stifle Obama's agenda will give you ideas about how to fight.

I know that I have at times felt like there is little I can do from my safely blue state, but Heather Gerken makes a case about how states like California can use state's rights arguments to fight back. My governor has already had this idea. He gave a rousing speech to the American Geophysical Union, which included a quote that is making the rounds of the internet:

“And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite”

(If you want to read a summary of the speech, the Sacramento Bee has one.)

Ta-Nehisi Coates' longread on President Obama, My President Was Black, is excellent. But don't miss Tressie McMillan Cottom's response, The Problem with Obama's Faith in White America. That one was a humbling read as I realize even more of how little I understand about how race really works in this country.

Zadie Smith's On Optimism and Despair is excellent, too.

Gianpiero Petriglieri's defense of cosmopolitanism was my favorite thing I read all week.

I meant to share this essay from someone who worked as a voter protection volunteer in Philadelphia earlier, but I forgot. It is an eye opening read. My voting experiences have been uniformly good. I am sad that this is not universally true.

This is a sad story of one type of heartbreak associated with illegal border crossings. So many deaths, so many families who don't know what has happened to their love ones. I wish I thought that the policy changes promised by our new administration would stop this sort of heartbreak, but I don't. I've lived in a border state for all except 6 years of my life. I have never seen an enforcement policy stop people from coming. Changes to enforcement policies just lead to changes in how people come. It is a very big border that covers a lot of wilderness. The amount of money it would take to physically block it boggles my mind. I suspect what we'll do is make it still possible to cross, but even more dangerous. So more people will die. Will fewer people decide to try? I don't know.

(I was going to put in a link to a story I saw earlier today about immigration from Mexico already being much lower than it was earlier, but I can't find that. I don't suppose it would change any minds, anyway. Immigration has become an issue like abortion: land of true beliefs and no room for finding common ground to work towards shared goals. It is too bad, because I think this leads to more death and suffering. In both cases.)

Enough politics... this is a surprisingly interesting deep dive about the F word and its surrogates.

And here's my favorite bunny picture of the week!

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring

My plans to write about something other than politics are not going well. I swear that one of these days, I'm going to write up my latest quick and easy weekday dinner recipe.

But not today.

I guess it was ridiculous to think I could write about something other than the thing that I'm worrying most about. President Obama has announced a news conference for tomorrow, and there are media reports that he has decided that an orderly transition is not the top priority anymore... and yikes. I still don't know what is going on, but to say I am unsettled is an understatement. Frankly, I'm scared, and I have been for awhile.

I have figured that Obama and other leaders with security clearance and the need to know do indeed know a lot more than they are letting on. I have assumed that there is a strategy being played out, and that I would not know the details of that strategy. I guessed that maybe it would help if I kept putting pressure on elected officials to investigate the Russian interference and the massive conflicts of interest, so I did that. But otherwise, I've been waiting. Maybe tomorrow, I will know more. Maybe not. Maybe we'll be in a better place tomorrow. Maybe not. 

I'm scared, because I think instability is coming and that is not likely to be safe. I suspect that how unsafe things get depends largely on how Republican leaders react when they are forced to acknowledge that there was foreign interference in our election and that some of them knew about it and did nothing to mitigate it. Their past behavior does not fill me with confidence, but I am heartened by the Republican leaders who are speaking out. So I have not lost hope. And I have not lost hope and faith in my Republican friends, who I know don't want chaos anymore than I do.

But our safety also depends in part on how the segment of our population that thinks it is OK to take up arms because they don't like how the federal government handles government land grazing rights reacts to whatever happens next. Their past behavior does not fill me with confidence, either, and there, I can find no sliver of hope to hold on to. The best I can do is hope that there won't be many of them, no matter what they do.

I always looked at Trump and saw someone dangerous. I feared he would lead us into fascism or racial violence or both. But I didn't have the imagination to fear whatever this is. I am as guilty as anyone of not taking the "Russia hacked the DNC" story seriously enough. It was just one of many outrageous things going on during the election, and I confess that I found the words and behavior of Donald Trump more concerning. 

I am still unable to really understand how so many people looked at a man who mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans rapists, picked a fight with Gold Star parents, made up blatant, racist lies about the crime rate and the state of our inner cities, hired prominent white supremacists to help run his campaign, refused to repudiate the endorsement of the KKK, called for violence against protesters, and was caught on tape advocating sexual assault, and decided they'd vote for him. I also don't see how anyone looked at his past behavior and statements and thought his administration would be anything but the mess of conflicts of interest we're seeing now.

I have had email conversations with a few Trump voters now, and what has come through is that they didn't think all of that stuff was serious. They thought it was an act, and so they ignored it and voted for him because they support some specific policy they think will get enacted. Or they thought "political correctness" was getting out of hand, and wanted to make a statement against that, assumed he'd deal with his conflicts of interest, and didn't think other people would take their anti-PC stances to the point of violence. They had never heard of the "alt-right" and didn't realize what sort of people Bannon hangs out with. They were as shocked by the swastika outbreak after the election as I was, but unlike me, they didn't see it coming.

Whatever the reason, enough people voted for him that Russia's hacks achieved more than I suspect Putin thought possible, and now we're in this mess. 

Russia interfered with our election, but it was our own weaknesses that made that interference meaningful. It was our own news media that focused so much attention on the emails. It was our own racism and sexism and run away partisanship that made such fertile ground for a man like Trump to run for the presidency in the first place. It is our own growing income inequality that stokes that feeling of an unfair system that makes it easier for people to fall for false nostalgia and long for a time that seemed simpler and "better," while overlooking that the earlier time was not "better" for anyone who does not look like them.

I wish we had confronted the sins of our past and present before they exposed us to this danger, but we did not. I can only hope that once we come through whatever comes next, we will find the courage to look at ourselves more honestly and tackle our worst impulses. I meant to write a more hopeful post about learning from our history, accepting the dark parts, and embracing our own imperfection while striving to always get better. But I'm not feeling the hope tonight. Tonight, I'm mostly feeling sadness and fear, which I'll tamp down now, so that I don't scare the crap out of my kids. After they're in bed, I can have a good cry. Or maybe just watch some escapist TV.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I hope for the best, but am trying to prepare myself for things to get scarier still. 

Sorry for the downer of a post. Here's a bunny as an apology:

Honestly, that bunny island twitter bot may be what is keeping me holding on right now. Perhaps I should go find more accounts that post cute bunnies and follow those, too. I can retreat into a happy, bunny-filled place....

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I Have No Idea What Is Going On

OK, I know I said I wasn't going to write about politics for awhile... but, wow, things got weird this weekend. The CIA doesn't just leak. Senator's aides don't just start calling out the New York Times for leaving things their boss said in on the record interviews out of stories, not even when their boss is retiring. I have no idea what is actually going on, and I have no hope of knowing what is actually going on until more information is released, so I've decided that I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best and stop trying to figure it out.

I am, however, going to be contacting my representatives this week to voice my support for the idea of a bipartisan commission to investigate Russian influence in our election.

Before all hell broke loose on Friday night, I had decided that I was going to focus on voting rights. I was going to research ways to help protect voting rights and to help mitigate the bad voter ID laws that are getting passed. I'll still use money to mitigate other bad effects of this election, but I think that where I want to put time as well as money is in voting rights. I believe in this issue as a little-d democrat and I believe this is a crucial issue for big-D Democrats. It will be harder to win elections if portions of our voters are disenfranchised.

I suspect this will still be my plan once whatever is happening now plays out, but since I have no idea what is happening now, I can't be sure. I'll just wait and see. And call my representatives. And maybe also send some thank you notes to the Republicans also calling for an investigation. May that list grow.


Other than not knowing what is happening to my country and still having the lingering after-effects of a cold, I had a pretty nice weekend. Two events in particular stood out.

First: We went to a birthday party for Petunia's best friend from her day care days, who Petunia still considers her best friend, even though she lives in LA now (but visits often, because some of her family still lives here). This little girl is one of the people I worry about after this election. I'm good friends with her mom, too, and this party was our first chance to catch up since the election. Her mom is worried, too. She is probably at the same state of "should we leave?" thinking as I am, but with a bit more urgency and a less obvious place to go to. We talked a bit about some of the things that have already come up for them, both good and bad. That conversation both broke my heart and healed me a bit.

And seeing Petunia hanging out with her BFF again definitely healed me a bit. Also, the party was at Chuck E. Cheese and the range of parties in that party room was like a postcard of diverse America, and that made me smile. Chuck E. Cheese, bringing all sorts of Americans together to eat so-so pizza and try to win crappy prizes. (Seriously, the prize Petunia "bought" with her hard won tickets broke before the end of the day.)

Second: Pumpkin, my sister, and I went to the symphony today. We'd booked our tickets ages ago, before the election. It was my sister's idea, because Beethoven's 9th was on the program and she loves Ode to Joy. I'm always up to see Beethoven played. He is my favorite composer. I've played a lot of his works, but I've never played the 9th. My favorite of his symphonies is the 5th: I've played it half a dozen times now, and the transition between the third and the fourth movements still gives me goosebumps to play or even listen to.

But anyway, today it was the 9th. I associate that symphony strongly with the fall of the Berlin Wall, because my favorite of the recordings I have of it is the one in which Leonard Bernstein conducted a multi-national orchestra right after the wall feel, in a concert in which "Ode to Joy" was changed to "Ode to Freedom." I thought it was an outdoor concert, but I dug up the reports of the concert from the time, and I was wrong.

The concert was around Christmas time, 1989. I was a senior in high school. The wall had fallen on November 9, 1989. Watching the wall fall on the nightly news (because we all still watched the nightly news) was amazing. We were so hopeful.

I grew up under the cloud of the Cold War, but after it had settled into something sort of predictable. We worried about nuclear war, but not in an urgent way, like I imagine people might have done around the time of the Bay of Pigs. By the time I was old enough to follow events, the worry was a background hum. We never really forgot about it. There were pop songs about it, after all. It colored every foreign policy action. And every once and awhile, something would flare up, and the background hum would get louder and you'd worry a little more.

And then the wall came down, and the world changed, and after awhile, the background hum went away, or at least got so quiet that you had to purposely tune in to hear it.

Now, that hum is back, but it is louder and more unstable, presumably because this new Cold War, or whatever it is we're in, hasn't settled into anything predictable yet.

So anyway, all of that was in the back of my mind as I listened to Beethoven's glorious music. I wanted something different for my kids, and maybe we'll still manage to salvage that. I don't know. In the meantime, I guess I could do worse than listening to Beethoven and holding on to the spark of the glory that humankind is capable of.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Barely Hanging On Edition

I've been sick most of the week, which sucks. I stayed home Monday feeling sorta sick myself, and to take care of a sick Petunia. When I woke up feeling pretty good on Tuesday, I thought that taking the day to rest had allowed me to dodge the worst of her cold. But then Wednesday I was sluggish and I woke up Thursday feeling terrible. So I stayed home Thursday, too, although I did a little work. I had a rough night last night, but today I've been so-so. I'm still making my way through my to do list, but my energy is fading... so I'm going to post my links post early, under the assumption that I'll be crashed out on the sofa before long.

I had plans to write a post or two this week, but you can see what happened to those plans. Maybe I'll do better next week.

Anyway, to the links.

First some self-promotion:

There is still time to sign up to be an advance reader of Caresaway, the near future sci fi novelette by DJ Cockburn. You can learn more about the book on the Annorlunda page but here is the synopsis:

"If there was a pill that made you successful, would you take it? What if it also made you a psychopath?

Edward Crofte was a dedicated scientist who wanted to cure depression. After years of work and sacrifice, the Caresaway drug he developed seemed to work wonders… but at what cost?

Years later, Edward’s wonder drug has helped people with depression. But has it also helped destroy the world economy? And what has it done to him?"

As you can see, there's a drug discovery angle to this novelette, but I wouldn't have accepted it for publication if it was the standard "all pharma is evil" sort of narrative. It is much more nuanced than that. If you're tempted to read it but not into being an advance reader, I'll have the pre-order page posted soon. That was actually on the to do list for this week but I didn't get to it due to the illness I whinged about at the top of the post.

In other Annorlunda Books news, here is a really nice review of Vanessa Fogg's The Lilies of Dawn and three other short books by Asian women.

In other self-promo news, I can't remember if I linked to the Crappy Things I Made entry for my latest t-shirt design, which is a Christmas T. Rex. Petunia and I both have this shirt, and it is fun to wear. It makes people smile.

OK, on to the regular links.

The Indiana union leader Trump attacked on Twitter isn't backing down, although of course he is getting threats because that's just how a rabid subsection of Trump supporters roll. Such nice people.

Speaking of people getting threats from Trump supporters: this young woman is getting threats a full year after just asking a couple of pointed questions at a Trump rally.

At this point, anyone who speaks up against our President Elect has to assume there is a chance they will be targeted on Twitter, which will launch a bunch of rabid supporters into making threats against them. This is terribly corrosive to our democracy. I hope we can all stay brave, and find ways to support the people who end up targeted. I wish more Congressional Republicans would speak out against this, but apparently they are also afraid of Trump:

"Many are afraid to publicly oppose Trump because of his fondness for retribution and use of Twitter to publicly shame his critics. So now, they’re left crossing their fingers that his rhetoric doesn’t translate into actual policy proposals next year."

Such principled and brave leaders they are.

Here is someone who actually is principled and brave: Asma Khalid wrote about what it was like to be a Muslim reporter covering Trump.

Federal bureaucrats are nervous about serving in the Trump administration. The reports that the Department of Energy has been asked to identify staffers who worked on the Obama administration's climate policies are probably not helping them feel less nervous. I hope the career government employees hold on as long as they can, and only quit when it will help expose a problem. We should all be prepared to have their backs if needed.

I like Matt Yglesias' proposal to move some government agencies out of DC. There is precedent: the CDC is in Atlanta, after all. It would be disruptive, but it is definitely worth thinking about.

Ryan Cooper's piece on the corrosive effect of the failure of accountability is worth your time.

Richard Wolfgramm's post about Moana was going to be the starting point for one of the posts I wanted to write this week. I might still write more about it next week, but for now,  I'll just point you to it as a good thing to read if you want to think about the complexities of representation in art.

I thought this was a good insight:

The now customary closing bunnies:


Happy weekend, everyone. I'm going to go collapse on the sofa now.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Weekend Reading: A Really Long Edition

So, here we are at Friday again. I finally got a decent rollerblade in. It was my first one since the election, and it did indeed help. The kids were off school the first week, my usual spot was closed for a special event the second week, and it was the day after Thanksgiving the third week. Today, I had to go out for my rollerblade early, because Pumpkin's best friend invited her to come over after school, and I needed to be home to welcome her when the friend's mom dropped her off. So my routine was a bit off, but the rollerblade itself was great. It was a beautiful day here: sunny and crisp. The bay was a beautiful blue and peaceful.

Unfortunately, I can't stay in my happy place, rollerblading by the bay forever. So, here are some links to read.

Ann Friedman answers one of my less urgent questions about the Trump presidency: what is it like to be an American abroad right now? I traveled quite a bit with George W. Bush was president, and spent a lot of time explaining that I didn't vote for him before I learned that just saying I was from California instead of saying I was from America accomplished the same thing. It sounds like the dynamic is different now, but that saying you're from California is still a shorthand way of indicating you didn't vote for the guy.

Some advice on how to navigate this time:

From Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, "America loves winners, but victory does not absolve. ... Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it." If you read only one thing this week, make it this one.

From historian Timothy Snyder, steps to take to defend democracy.

Masha Gessen writes about slippery slopes and the impossibility of knowing what is the "right" thing to do.

Stephen Walt gives us 10 ways to tell if your president is a dictator.

Matt Yglesias argues (persuasively, I found) that we should fight Trump by fighting his policies.

Maybe American women can take some lessons from the role Italian women played in bringing down Berlusconi.

Jeet Heer argues we need something more than just fact-checking to deal with Trump's lies.

The coalition that won the North Carolina governor's race gives us some ideas about how to build better coalitions going forward.

I confess that sometimes I get really, really angry that we're in this situation. There are many people to be angry at, and I suspect we all apportion our anger (if we feel it) in different ways. It is surreal to watch the anguish as one group or another realizes they are being betrayed. From where I sat, it was always obvious that Trump only cared about Trump. I suspect everyone who supported him is going to be betrayed in some way, some more thoroughly than others. But I am trying not to make myself feel better by wallowing in to schadenfreude. I don't always succeed, and here is a tumblr for those times.

Here's a better way of coping: Cathrynne M. Valente wrote is a Fairyland story for these times.

Tressie McMillan Cottom writes beautifully about finding hope and why she always knew a President Trump was possible. If you only read two things, read this one after you read the one from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

A critical look at the "hillbilly ethnography" that is getting so much attention right now.

We should have learned from GamerGate.

David Roberts' "WTF just happened" article is a really good summary of the election. The whole thing is good, but this quote is a succinct way of expressing one of my most painful realizations about my country:

"There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts."

How do we fix that? Can we fix that? I don't know.

I had intended to try to write about how this election felt as a woman who spends her professional life mostly surrounded by men, but maybe I'll just point people to what Eirene Donohue wrote instead. In among all my worries about my country's future, there is a crushing reminder that a lot of people just don't want women like me to exist, or if we exist, we need to stay within limits, and not aim too high. There is probably more for me to write about this, but for now, just read the link and you'll get a good idea of how I feel on the topic. Especially this quote:

"And here was the root of my pain. This wasn’t just about the disappointment that my candidate lost. Or the fear of what Trump will do to this country. It felt like my very soul hurt and I realized that it was because of what this election said to me as a woman. It said no.

No, woman, stay in your place. No, woman, you are not good enough. No, woman, no matter what you do, you will not win, you will not be the boss of me."

And this "no" doesn't just hurt because it is mean. It hurts because it limits my life. It limits how I provide for my family. It limits the options I have in how to live my life.

Ta-Nehisi Coates had a good tweet thread on this. Read in both directions. I picked this quote to embed because it is the core of the argument.

So, we need something happy to end on. How about an interview about the social media genius at Merriam-Webster.

Here is some self-promo, which maybe I should have put at the top: I posted the cover reveal for the next Annorlunda Books release... and I'm looking for advance readers! The book is called Caresaway, and it is a near future sci fi novelette about a scientist who develops a drug that cures depression, but that comes with a terrible cost.

And of course, there are bunnies!!!!


Have a good weekend, everyone.