Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Year in Review: 2017

It is time for my annual year in review post. (Here's last year's post if you want details... you can click through and read earlier years from there.)

I don't think I wrote enough this year to pick my usual two to three posts per month. So instead, I'll just summarize the year and share a few posts.

Obviously, the political situation in the US was a big part of my year. The post I wrote the day before Trump's inauguration summarized how I felt at the start of the year, and it is still accurate. January also featured the release day for Caresaway.

In February, I ranted a bit about how angry all the lies in our political discussions make me.

In March, I wrote about why I don't think we should worry about immigrants "assimilating." And I found a great recipe for pizza dough. It is easy enough to mix together in the morning that I think we can continue our Friday night pizza dinners even when I am no longer working from home on Fridays!

I found 2016 and the ugliness around the election to be much harder on me as a woman than 2017 was, but I know that for many women, 2017 was the year when the anger about all the extra crap we've had to deal with broke out. I do have at least one post relevant to that: some thoughts I had after having lunch with an old friend in April. I also wrote about our spring break trip up the coast to Santa Barbara.

The headwinds I was feeling in May eventually combined with some other factors to make me decide to go back to "regular employee" status... which led to all the drama I've been posting about recently (and will summarize below).  I also wondered how much further down we'd go in terms of bad behavior by political leaders. I'm sad to say, I don't think we have found the bottom yet. But I had a good birthday!

June brought the release day for Hemmed In, which is my best performing Taster Flight to date. I also wrote about trying to figure out how to keep Pumpkin challenged and happy at school, and got some good suggestions in the comments.

We took our vacation at the end of June and beginning of July. It was a road trip around some Western states, and it was wonderful. We saw many wonderful things, and you can go click around to find all the posts about them. I also wrote about some political observations from our time in Utah.

I didn't post much in August, partly because I had a week solo with the kids as Mr. Snarky flew to New Zealand to surprise his father for his birthday.

In September, I wrote about what I learned from my mid-life crisis. A lot of those lessons figured into my eventual decision to go back to being a full time employee. I also released Water into Wine.

I finally finished up my posts about our summer vacation in October: here's the last post. And I wrote about my theory for why we have mid-life crises.

November brought the release day for The Burning, and since I was struggling with a cold and then follow on illnesses that in the end wiped out my entire month, my announcement about my decision to go back to being a regular employee came as part of a Weekend Reading post.

And that brings us to December. There was a release day for Both Sides of My Skin, and then I lost the old new job and got the new new job.

All in all, 2017 was a tough year, but one that my country came through better than I feared we would at the start. There were some great times for me and my family, and some tough personal decisions. I felt like I reaped the benefits of the some hard personal work I'd done in the previous few years, so I guess that's a plug for not putting off that personal work. I had no way of knowing that in sorting through some of my old buried issues in 2015 and 2016 I was making it easier for me to get through 2017... but this year, I was really, really glad I'd dealt with those old issues when I  did!

So in that spirit, I plan to spend some time over the next few days thinking about how to be ready for the challenges I think 2018 will bring, both in terms of the wider political situation and in terms of my own personal situation. I may write about that, but that will need to wait until another night. For now, I'll just thank you all for reading in 2017!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The New New Job

I said I'd write more about my new job after Christmas. Now that I've sat down to do it, though, I am not sure what more to say.

I guess I can explain how I was able to land a second new job so quickly when the one I'd just started suddenly went away. A friend had contacted me about a potential job right after I accepted the first new job, and I'd had to tell him I wasn't interested. So, when I found out that I was without a job, I emailed him to say that now I was available. To be honest, I was mostly joking, a sort of "ha ha, joke's on me" sort of thing. I didn't expect the job he'd contacted me about to still be available. And it wasn't. But another job, reporting to the person who'd taken the job he'd originally contacted me about, was still open. He told me to send my resume, so the day after I lost my job, I spent a few hours reworking my resume for the new job and sent it in. I had a phone interview soon after, and then went in for an in person interview... and then I got a job offer and accepted it.

Since I'd recently surveyed the job landscape in San Diego, I knew that I was likely to have to take a job less senior than the one I'd just lost, which made it easy to make the decision to go ahead with this new job. It is definitely less senior, but I'll be learning some new things and there is room for growth. So I think it is not a bad career move, and the pay is enough that I can afford to take the less senior position.

The new new job is also a lot more flexible than the old new job would have been: I'll be able to work from home a bit, and they are happy to have me accept the occasional offer to give a seminar. Also, it will be a shorter commute, and the new location is quite close to one of the YMCA locations that I can use my membership at (we have a family membership because that makes the kids' programs cheaper). So I think this job will fit my life really well, and is a good fit for my skills and interests. I start the job in about a month.

All in all, things have turned out remarkably well, and I'm feeling very fortunate.

And so is Petunia. Hr first question after I got off the phone negotiating the job offer: Does this mean we still get to go to Disneyland? Yes, it does!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Coming Out of the Whirlwind Edition

So... I have verbally accepted a job offer. The paperwork should arrive soon, but given the fact that most people are taking time off right about now, I might not get it signed and formalized until after Christmas. Still, it is a done deal, so I can tell people about it.

I will try to write a little more after Christmas about the job (a good fit work-wise, paying a little less than the last new job but with more flexibility and in a better location for me) and the weird experience of the last few weeks. For now, I'll just say, wow, that was a whirlwind experience. My December involved: starting a new job, losing that job along with all my colleagues, interviewing for a new new job, and getting that job. My head is spinning a bit.

But, let's get to the links!

In self-promo: if you're looking for a last minute gift, may I suggest an ebook gift card? I sell a printable gift card for all the Annorlunda Books via GumRoad. You select "Gift Card" as the purchase option, and download the gift card file instead of the ebook files. You print and fold the gift card into a cute little card with the book cover image on the front and instructions for how to get the ebook inside. You wrap up the card in a nice box and there's your gift!

Here's the blog version of a thread I did on who'd like each of the Annorlunda Books as a gift.

And now for the other links:

Josh Marshall's take on the new tax bill rings true to me. I honestly don't know what will happen to my taxes beyond knowing that this is certainly not a simplifying "reform" for me. I have tried a bit to figure it out, but I think I'll just have to wait and see. I think that because we are itemizers that live in a high tax state and have a pretty big mortgage, we'll end up paying more overall. But we'll never know unless we take the trouble to figure out our 2018 taxes under the old and the new rules, because of the change in my job situation.

We'll be OK, though, so my concerns are less for my own personal finances and more for the fact that we're already hearing talk of cutting Medicare and Social Security to "fix" the deficit that just got ballooned in the tax bill. I'm also worried for what the loss of the individual mandate will do to health insurance markets. I am feeling like I made the right decision when I decided to go back to having a "regular" job and the benefits from it.

A Mother Jones story about the hacking of climate scientists that looks a lot like the hacking around our election.

Rebecca Hamilton on the limits of "naming and shaming" and why some survivors of sexual assault and harassment choose not to publicly name the guilty.

This is a good post about the difficulties around discussing what actually happens to women.

Dean Winslow on how speaking his mind about our gun situation cost him a government position. For what its worth, I share his opinion that we should allow people to own and shoot weapons like the AR-15, but only at a gun range. I wish we could take up discussion of a sensible idea like this in our Congress. Instead, voicing an opinion that our current situation is ridiculous got Winslow's nomination put on indefinite hold.

Here's something I want to read but haven't had time to read yet.

Well, those are all downers. Sorry. Go read some nice fiction to feel better! Here's one of the stories recommended in the Inbox Stories that came out on Monday. It is sweet and happy and will make you smile.

Funny... AND a bunny!

And here's another bunny:

That's all for this week. Have a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate! Enjoy the end of "Christmas songs in every store" season if you don't!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Walk on the Beach

I've been feeling a bit out of sorts. I know why: even though the new job only lasted for four days, I had a whole bunch of plans and hopes for what it would mean, both professionally and personally. It is only normal to mourn the loss of those. It is just inconvenient to be doing that right now, in the middle of the holiday season, which is so busy. Also, I am quite fortunate to have a good lead for another job already, but that has also made me busy, so that I haven't really had time to process my feelings about the lay off.

So last Thursday, I decided to take a walk on the beach. I didn't go in thinking I'd pick up shells: I was mourning, not celebrating. But there were so many sand dollars on the beach, I couldn't resist picking some up!

And then I realized, I did have things to celebrate. I'd released Both Sides of My Skin, and I'd gotten Inbox Stories up and running. Just because my plan for keeping my little publishing company running without ruining my family's finances didn't work out, that doesn't mean I shouldn't celebrate the successes of the company! So I picked up shells with abandon.

I wish I had more time to sort through my feelings, but right now, I don't. The kids are out of school, and we canceled their registration in the camp we'd planned to have them attend this week. They'll be home with me, except on Tuesday, when I have an interview (!) so Mr. Snarky will work from home to keep an eye on them.

I may not get the time to wallow in feeling sad about the lay off, and maybe that's for the best. Shit just happens sometimes, and there's nothing much to do but try to shrug it off and find a good plan B.

But then again, any excuse for more walks on the beach....

Friday, December 15, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Somehow Very Busy Even Without a Job Edition

I spent my week getting organized for my job search, and following up on a really strong lead. Oh, and trying to get ready for Christmas!

So this is going to be a short set of links, because despite being without a job, I was surprisingly busy this week.

In self-promotional links: I wrote a thread about giving the books I've published as gifts. Here it is in a news post form.

Monday, the second Inbox Stories newsletter comes out. This week's story is a great old story about a woman sea captain and a feud she ends up in. I also have two recommendations for great new stories, both of which feature strong women and magic. The recommendations link to the stories online, so even if you subscribe to the free edition, you'll find two great stories to read!

In other links:

New rule: read anything Rebecca Traister writes, particularly about gender. Her piece about how the "Weinstein moment" is more about work than sex is really good.

Jamelle Bouie talked to some Black voters in Birmingham, and it is worth your time.

Giant penguins!

My favorite podcast of the week: Majority 54 on public education.

Gen-X giggle:

This is really cool:

Stern bunny:

And that's all I have this week. I'll try to do better next week!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Still Processing Edition

I'm still processing my sudden transition back to being an independent contractor... now with no contracts! I have managed to be somewhat productive today, but slept poorly and will be glad when this day is over, to be honest.

The worst part of yesterday for me was telling my kids, and having Petunia ask if this means we won't go to Disneyland. I had to tell her I didn't know. A Disneyland trip is really expensive, so it can only still go forward if I have a solid source of income by February.

I do have some leads already, and have started working on those. But I don't really have a direction for my search yet, because I need to do some thinking to come up with that. So I'm very much in a reactive mode, not a pro-active one.

Anyhow, enough about that. Let's have some links.

In self-promo news of the week: Both Sides of My Skin, by Elizabeth Trach, came out.

In other links:

Before I was laid off, I was planning to buy some gifts from the lists people submit to The Bloggess. Maybe we still will. We're still very fortunate and maybe it will help with my flagging Christmas spirit.

Jeet Heer on the weaponization of outrage is quite good.

Michael Tomasky on how out of touch Republicans are with "Blue America" rang true to me. I am tired of being made to feel like I'm not a "real American" whatever that is.

I have a lot more interesting looking articles "liked" on Twitter, but I never got a chance to catch up on reading them and I think I'm just going to let that go.

In podcasts:

I'm still listening to The History of English podcast, nerding out about history and linguistics. This episode on the origin of glossaries is particularly fascinating.

I've also started listening to Jason Kander's Majority 54 podcast, and his episode on Islamophobia, in which he interviews the man who was his translator in Afghanistan, is particularly good.

I'll probably have fewer podcast recommendations for a little while, since I won't be driving anywhere now. Maybe I'll start listening while folding laundry or something.

In Twitter:

Click through and read this whole thread. It is amazing, in a not good way.

I do find the phenomenon of extremely partisan Republicans arguing against Franken's resignation... interesting.

This is so pretty:

Bunny! BIG bunny! (And a dog)

And that's it for me this week. Here's hoping next week is better.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

An Unexpected Turn

So, that new job I started on Monday? It went away today. I don't think the details are public yet, so I'll keep it vague and just say it wasn't anything that was my fault or the fault of the people who hired me, and it wasn't just me who lost a job. And I have a decent severance despite only working there for four days... so all things considered, it could be worse.

Still, it was completely unexpected and I'm reeling a little bit. Thanks to the severance and some seminars I thought I'd have to turn down but can now accept (silver lining!) I'm in good shape financially into February. That gives me some time to figure out what's next.

The reasons I decided to go back to full time employment still remain, but the really good fitting job is gone. Should I take it as a sign to try harder on the independent route? Or should I settle for a less good fit in a job? I have some thinking to do.

But the deep thinking is for another night. Tonight, I'm going to pour a beer and just... chill.

Also, it seems like a good night to remind people of the various things I still have available for purchase!

Of course, there are the books published by Annorlunda Books. Also, books make great gifts!

T-shirts also make great gifts, and my Etsy store is still up.

I'm not sure a recorded seminar would make that great of a gift... but maybe it would for the right person? Or you could get a head start on any New Year's resolutions to get better at time management or start planning your transition out of academia.

You could also just treat yourself to a subscription to Inbox Stories, my latest project! I've got a fun story about a woman who is a sea captain scheduled for December, and it is a story first published in 1919. I picked it because it is a nice reminder that there have always been strong, interesting women, we just haven't always listened to their stories.

Tungsten Hippo is no longer updated, but all the Amazon links are still affiliate links.

And now, it is time for me to unplug and have a beer and be thankful for all the many good things  in my life, and also for the fact that there aren't currently any fires burning near my home. (I'm thinking of you North County, LA, and Ventura friends! Here's hoping the winds stop blowing so hard soon.)

Updated to add: Sheesh! I forgot to mention my children's books. The Zebra Said Shhh and Petunia, the Girl Who Was Not a Princess! And my first short ebook Taming the Work Week. I knew I'd forget something in my distracted state.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Release Day for Both Sides of My Skin

I feel like I should be writing a post about what my first couple of days back as a full time employee have been like, but there isn't much to tell. Monday night, Pumpkin asked me how my first day was, and I told her it was good. Then she asked what I did all day, and I said I sat in meetings... and then she stopped asking questions, because clearly I wasn't going to say anything interesting!

I will tell you the same: my first couple of days have been good, and I've mostly sat in meetings. This is as expected and not a bad thing, really. If you're going to be in charge of the management of a bunch of projects, the easiest, least annoying way to get up to speed on them is to just go to all of the meetings for awhile. After a month or two, I'll know which ones I actually need to be at, and some space will free up in my schedule.

Anyhow, that's all I want to say about going back to work. Maybe at some point I'll write about the "sit in all the meetings until you know which ones you belong in" method of taking over management of an existing team over at my real name blog. Or maybe that sentence is really all there would be to the post. I'll have to think about that.

What I really want to tell you about is the latest Annorlunda Books release day! It is release day for Both Sides of My Skin, by Elizabeth Trach. This is the last release I scheduled before I knew I'd be going back to being full time employee, and so it is a different sort of release day for me. I can't obsessively refresh the sales numbers, which is probably a good thing. But I also will have to wait until lunch or break time to share out any reviews that come in... 

But you can buy the book now! I loved these stories when I first read them. They felt so refreshingly real in how they portrayed the early days of motherhood. I am delighted with how the book has turned out, and am excited that now everyone can read it.

The ebook is $3.99, from all the usual places:
The paperback is $8.99:
If you're near Newburyport, MA, if is also available at The Book Rack.

And it is available at Overdrive if your library uses that. I think it is also available at Baker and Taylor, but I've never been able to figure out how to search and link there, so I have to just take that on faith. Also, I sell all my books DRM-free, so any library that manages its own ebooks could buy from any vendor.

I think any book makes a great gift... but this one would make a particularly good gift for a mother, particularly one still in the baby/toddler years. But don't take my word for it! Get a copy and see for yourself.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Uh-Oh, I'm Out of Time Edition

Well, this week sped by disturbingly fast. Today was my last day as a contractor. On Monday, I'm a full time employee again. I think I got through the things I absolutely, positively had to get done before Monday, but oh boy, do I have a long list of things I wanted to get done and didn't. Thanks, cold/bronchitis/sinus infection. Also thanks, computer that decided now was a good time to stop working well and backup company whose "more reliable" download and unzip tool fails to unzip things.

My shiny new computer is super fast, though, and as soon as I find the correct monitor cable, I'll be fully set up on it. I think I can work a bunch this weekend to try to finish off my "really should do before December 4" list, and everything else I'll just have to squeeze in when I can. It is not like December is a busy month or anything. (sob)

Anyhow, how about some links? I don't have that many today, because I haven't had a lot of time to read this week.

Self-promo links first: I posted the cover reveal for the first Annorlunda release of 2018, Tattoo, by Michelle Rene. You can also sign up to be an advance reader!

And Both Sides of My Skin, by Elizabeth Trach comes out next Wednesday! Sometime this weekend, the GoodReads page for that will appear. (Yes, that was on the portion of the "do before Dec. 4" to do list that I haven't gotten to yet....)

In other news:

Today, in things I can't believe my tax money gets spent on: Settling a wrongful termination suit against Trey Gowdy and settling a sexual harassment suit against Blake Farenthold.  And of course, golf cart rentals, with the money for those going to Trump, Inc.

Here's an update on what San Diego is doing to try to end the Hepatitis A outbreak we're having, which is centered on the homeless population. I am hoping we'll also take this moment when people are actually paying attention to our homeless population to try to educate more folks about why we need to get past our NIMBY instincts and build more housing in the central part of our city, which means increasing density.

Ezra Klein's podcast had an interview with Rebecca Traister, and it is wonderful and you should listen to it. I'd just listened to her interview with Ana-Marie Cox on With Friends Like These, but there is surprisingly little overlap in content between the two interviews. Also, I learned Rebecca Traister is working on a book about female rage and I cannot wait to read it.

This so perfectly captures how the 2017 Congress feels to me:


I cannot explain why this delights me so much, but it does:

Bunny! With the most adorable nose!

That's all I have this week. Maybe next week I'll have more. Maybe next week, I'll actually write one of the posts I've been thinking about... hope springs eternal.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Hooray for Antibiotics Edition

The sinus infection proved to be the last straw... on Tuesday, I acknowledged I wasn't getting better, and went to the doctor. The antibiotics he gave me have helped clear up the infection, but I'm still a bit run down.

But I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving, and yesterday, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and went down to the beach to take pictures for our Christmas cards.  The kids couldn't resist playing in the water, and got wet and sandy... but had heaps of fun. 

There was so much family fun yesterday that I didn't have a chance to sit down and write up this week's links. I suspect that once I'm back to being a regular employee, this might happen somewhat frequently. We'll see! Anyway, better late than never... here they are now:

In self-promo: I announced Annorlunda Books' 2018 acquisitions. And the first Inbox Stories newsletter went out. Here is the free edition.

Adam Serwer's article about Trump supporters and their brand of nationalism is really, really good. The section on David Duke's almost successful campaign in Louisiana was particularly powerful. I remember his campaign, but didn't remember how close he came to winning. Will this time be the time we look the racism in American culture in its face and finally try to deal with it? I wish I felt confident that we would.

You should read Savannah Maher on what fall is like for Native Americans. I want us to do better. Getting rid of offensive sports team names and mascots and honoring our treaty agreements would be a good start....

Tim Miller on donating to Doug Jones as a Republican, and how weird it is that this is such a big deal. (I wrote and mailed my postcards for Jones this week... there is still time for you to join in that campaign if you'd like. Go to for details.)

This is an old article about abortion rates around the world, but I think about it often and I shared it on Twitter this week so I'll share it here, too. I've been thinking about it a lot lately, since I am sure there are some anti-abortion voters who will hold their noses and vote for Roy Moore because Jones supports abortion rights. 

I saw a tweet from Ross Douthat arguing that the way around the way abortion twists our politics is for Democrats to start nominating anti-abortion candidates in places like Alabama. I would argue that another, better way would be for conservative thinkers like Douthat to acknowledge and address the data that shows that across cultures and belief systems, abortion bans don't work. If you really thought that reducing abortion rates was more important than anything else, you'd work to make quality birth control available to everyone. That's what the data tells us will work. I understand that there are cultural and religious reasons people do not do that... but what does it say when so many people can set aside their religious beliefs to vote for a child molester, but not to support something that will actually reduce abortion?

Last I heard, the number of new cases in our Hep A outbreak is now declining, but it was a big outbreak, and as this article in Wired points out, it exposed the cracks in our society.

Brigid Schulte on the Thanksgiving that almost led to divorce. Her description of how she and her husband found their way back from the brink sounds a lot like what Mr. Snarky and I have done from the start: talk about the chores and our expectations and try to find our way to an arrangement that works for both of us. It got harder (much harder) when we had kids. The work multiplied, but also once the kids hit school age we had to reckon with all the work that flows to me first because the mom is the default contact for schools and classmates. I won't claim we have that problem solved, but we're getting better at handling it.

Here's something happy: Latino film critics on Coco

I've got no beef with companies doing things manually while they figure out how to automate (or if it is worth automating), but this seems like a case where they needed to be upfront about the fact that this work is being done by people, not machines:


Another bunny!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Incrementally Better Edition

My runny nose and cough are a notch or two better today... but still not good enough for me to actually go get any real exercise. So no rollerblading today. I'm running out of Fridays before I head back to a regular job and lose the option of the Friday afternoon rollerblade for good. I am hoping I'll be able to get out for a rollerblade on December 1, which will be my last chance. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, how about some links?

Here are the promo ones:

I'm running a GoodReads giveaway for The Burning! Head over there and enter.

The first installment of Inbox Stories will come out on Monday. Sign up for the paid edition (just $5/year!) or the free edition now to get the inaugural newsletter. I've already put it together, and am rather pleased with how it came out.

Now, on to the other links:

Alexandra Petri is her usual scathingly funny self on the hypocrisy of the people calling for Al Franken's ouster but shrugging off any consequences for Roy Moore or Donald Trump.

For what it's worth, I'd like to see the results of an ethics investigation into Franken, and find out if this is a pattern of behavior that continued into his days as a politician. Beyond that, I don't know what should happen. I guess it depends on what we find out. If he is forced to resign, I am OK with that. I just don't know yet if I think that is the only acceptable outcome. And yes, if he were accused of something like Roy Moore is, I'd be damn sure he needed to resign.

I am absolutely NOT on board with the idea that the only politician who should suffer any consequences for this is Franken, who has admitted his bad behavior and apologized, while the likes of Roy Moore and Donald Trump—who have clearly done things worse than what Franken did—brazen it out. That would set up a horrifying situation where the way to ride out past misbehavior coming to light is to lie and torment the people you hurt all over again. We have to find a better answer.

And I am NOT on board with one standard for Democrats, because their voters care, and another standard for Republicans, because apparently a sizable number of their voters think a child molester is preferable to a Democrat. We have to find a way to apply consequences without regard to political party, and I'll be damned if I know how we do that given the "I'd rather vote for a child molester than a Democrat" dynamic.

Lili Loufbourow on the Myth of the Male Bumbler, and how all of these men facing consequences for their past sexual harassment and assaults knew that what they were doing was wrong. You can tell because they tried to hide it.

Jessica Valenti on the fact that 30 year old men don't "date" teenage girls. They abuse them.

Since I shared that Politico article about Trump voters in Johnstown, I want to share this article about progressives in Johnstown, and the fact that there were plenty of Trump voters in nearby wealthy areas.

A big, sincere thank you to whoever did this service:

Podcast recommendation of the week: Ana-Marie Cox at With Friends Like These talks to Rebecca Traister about the misconduct of Bill Clinton and how Hillary responded... and it is really, really great. I was "there" for all of this, but hearing Traister (who is younger than me!) contextualize it really helped me understand it better.

Also, a big, belated EFF YOU to all of my male classmates who responded to the Anita Hill hearings by making crass jokes and making me and the handful of other women in your chemistry classes choose between calling you on that and being labeled a humorless bitch and sort of cringe laughing along. I cringe laughed with you but those stupid crass jokes did damage and I only truly sorted through that a couple of years ago.

And a thank you to the male classmates who didn't make those jokes and helped change the topic. I appreciated it then and I remember who you were even now.

Here are some happier things:

Applying the "I cut, you choose" method produces an algorithm that can fairly divide up a state even with partisan actors doing the dividing.

This article about the "Shalane Flanagan effect" offers a model for women supporting each other to reach great heights.

Moana is going to get a Hawaiian language version! (There is already a Maori version.)

Ed Yong's article on New Zealand and its war on rats  is very good. (If you are ever in Wellington, make sure you go to Zealandia. It is really cool.)

This is a cool:

So is this:


Happy weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Primal Whimper

I have had a cold since the Wednesday before Halloween. At first it was so mild I wasn't even sure I had a cold, and then it got bad, and now it is getting just enough better each day for me to know that there is no point in going to the doctor, but my sinuses are still way too full and I still cough way too much for my tastes.

Since I've been sick for so long, I am waaaay behind on the things I need to do before I start back up at a "regular" job. I don't even have my list of everything I need to do and that is stressing me out. I used to ask my coaching clients to tell me which thing would make them want to hide under their desk: (1) Having a huge to do list, or (2) Thinking the to do list was incomplete. For me it is definitely option 2.

Perhaps, instead of working on one of the items I didn't finish yesterday (which was a "work on my own stuff" day) I should sit down and write that giant to do list. Bonus: I could do that on the sofa, which is so much comfier than my desk chair.

Meanwhile, all the sexual harassment and assault news is getting a tad overwhelming. I said on Twitter a few days ago that I am actually glad by own "lockbox full of crappy things that have happened and I've stuffed away and ignored" blew open a few years ago, because that forced me to reckon with it all and how it changed my life and I'm in a pretty good place right now. I really feel for the women whose lockboxes are blowing open now. It is a rough ride in the best of times, and these are far from the best of times.

That's what is up with me right now. What's up with you?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekend Reading: An Announcement before the Links Edition

So, I still have a cold. This is the weirdest cold I've had in awhile: the symptoms keep changing, and I never feel really sick, so I keep muddling along, thinking that I'm almost better, and then not really getting better. Maybe this weekend will finish it.

I'll have some links for you in a bit, but first I want to share a link with some big personal news: in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, I write about my decision to go back to being a full time employee of a company I do not own. (In other words, I got a "regular" job.)

I won't rehash everything I wrote there, but I'll expand on some of the more personal/parenting related bits.

My decision to do this was driven by feeling squashed between two different forces: on one side, an honest assessment of how hard it would be for me to do what I needed to do to make the kind of money I wanted to make in the business it looked like I could build, and on the other side, the uncertainty about healthcare, taxes, and pretty much everything else caused by our dysfunctional political climate right now. I can't say for sure, but I think that if either of those forces had not been there, I probably could have found a way to make it all work out without going back to the corporate world.

But I don't live in the world of "what if." I live in this world, and in this world, I cannot pretend that I, at the age of 45, could easily overcome the issues keeping me being comfortable with the self-promotion I would have needed to do to build a business whose main income came from coaching and seminars. I knew the path I'd have to take to do that, and I knew I would have struggled with it. And I wasn't convinced I would be happy with the career I'd have at the end of all that struggle. Like I said in the newsletter, there was some serious soul-searching involved in this, and honestly, I am glad I'd done the work I talked about in my mid-life crisis post. I at least knew what mattered to me, and could discard the idea that I should just scale back my lifestyle and live on a lot less money. I could do that, but I don't want to if I can avoid it.

I also cannot pretend that our politics are going to get less screwed up anytime soon. In retrospect, I was probably overoptimistic about relying on the ACA as a back up plan even before the 2016 election. Now I think that no matter what happens in the next few elections, I can't count on any government program in my personal planning. Things are just too volatile. I had hoped that the ACA would be the beginning of the end of our ridiculous tethering of health insurance to our jobs. Maybe it still will be, but I don't think the tether will be broken in my working lifetime. I now just hope my kids will be able to make career decisions without factoring in how they'll get their health insurance.

I guess there is a third force that was squashing me, too: my responsibility to my family. I was meeting my income goals, but Mr. Snarky and I had come to realize those goals were too low. So, I was going to raise my goals, and I thought I had a plan for how to do that, but it wasn't a certain thing. We started discussing which of the kids' activities we would drop, and how to scale back our travel spending, and things like that. And I hated it. Rationally, I know my kids would be just fine with fewer activities, but I hated the thought of telling them they couldn't take a class they loved so that I could keep chasing a career goal I wasn't certain I really wanted. And as for the travel... well, remember that one of the things I learned in the mid-life crisis was that travel really matters to me. So I wasn't really thrilled about scaling that back, either, particularly when you consider that Mr. Snarky's half of the family lives in New Zealand, and travel to visit them will never be cheap.

And then this job opportunity came up... and honestly, I am pretty excited about what I'll be doing. So it just seemed like the right answer, particularly when I pulled up my time tracking data and calculated how much time I really spent on publishing, which is the part of my business I was adamant about keeping. So, to any of my authors (or potential authors) reading this: don't worry! I don't think much will change in how I run Annorlunda Books. If anything, I'll feel more free to take some risks and invest money in things that might not pay off, because that money will no longer be coming from the same pot of money as I use to pay my bills.

I have the rest of this month to tie up loose ends in the business, and I'll probably continue to be scarce here while I do that, because this %$#@! cold has put me behind schedule on that. But I intend to keep writing here, and although weekend reading posts may go up later, I think they'll continue.

So, on to those links, eh?

Self-promo links: don't forget that The Burning is now out!

Here's a review from Fill Your Bookshelf and another one from Buried Under Books.

Let's start with something disturbing that isn't politics. If you haven't read James Bridle's post about the weird long tail of kids videos on YouTube, you really should read it. It is long, but worth the time.

And then read Will Oremus' discussion of the topic.  This bit in particular:

"Whenever you find an algorithm making high-stakes decisions with minimal human supervision—that is, decisions that determine whose content is widely viewed, and therefore who makes money—you will find cottage industries of entrepreneurs devising ever subtler ways to game it."

I see this clearly on Amazon, when I'm looking for short ebooks to read. I want to support indie authors and small publishers (obviously!) but it is increasingly hard to find their good stuff among all the algorithm-gaming dreck out there. I think a lot about this problem with respect to finding readers for the books I publish (again, obviously). My decision to start Inbox Stories is one of the things I'm trying to get around the algorithm gaming issue. If I have an audience outside of Amazon, then the Amazon algorithm gamers are less of a problem for me.

The problems with tech platforms are bad here, but I think they may be worse in Southeast Asia.

I have been thinking about the problems created by the tech platforms as akin to the pollution created by the industrial age. In the initial rush to reap the benefits of new technology, we didn't immediately notice the harm being caused. Once we did, we started to figure out how to balance the benefits and the harm as a society (although this administration is trying to undo some of that progress by undermining the EPA). I think we'll eventually get there with the tech platforms, too, but that in the meantime we're going to have toxic pollution in our information spaces.

Lindy West on women's anger is really good.

Alabama political report Josh Moon on the lack of a bottom in GOP politics is also really good.

Rachel Lauden on why cooking isn't easy captures some of my thoughts on the subject, although I at least am operating from a place of knowing the basics. (Thank you, Mom!)

Elizabeth Catte on Appalachia and the problem with J.D. Vance is worth your time. This is a book excerpt, and I think I'd like to read that book.

Podcasts I found really interesting this week:

More Perfect on Citizens United made me understand why the case was decided the way it was. I still find the outcomes of that case really unfortunate, but I now understand the decision better. In general, More Perfect has been good for helping me understand the viewpoint of the Conservatives on the court.

Pod Save the World's episode on Middle East peace was a surprisingly hopeful interview with George Mitchell and Alon Sachar, and included a good discussion of what America can and cannot do to further the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Something fun: Google sheep view!

I think this is the anthem of 2017 (it started as an a capella song captured at the Women's March)




And now I need to go make pizza. Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Release Day for The Burning

I am sorry to have been so absent here lately. I caught a cold and it won't go away. Or maybe I caught a cold and before I really got better I caught another cold? Either way, I am so tired of it. I've been going to bed early and trying to take it easy and I feel I should be rewarded for this by having the damn cold go away already, but lo, I still have it.

Anyway, today is the release day for another book from my publishing company, Annorlunda Books! The Burning, by J.P. Seewald, is a novella about family and resilience set in the coal country of Pennsylvania. It was inspired by the events in Centralia, PA, and dramatizes how one man reacts to a slow-moving catastrophe like this threatening everything he's worked for.

You can get the ebook for $2.99 from the usual places:

And the paperback for $8.99:
It is also on Overdrive if your library uses that.

That's about all I can muster for this release day post, because I desperately want to take a nap and try to shake this cold. But go grab a copy of The Burning! It is a fast read, and it left me thinking about how I'd respond to a situation in which my livelihood and my home were both threatened. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Never-Ending Cold Edition

Last week, I was congratulating myself for taking it easy so that I only had a mild version of the cold my husband gave me. Turns out, I just had the preview... the cold hit me harder this week. I still don't feel terrible, but the cold got in my lungs, which has meant a lot of coughing, particularly between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. for some reason. So much fun.

So, no rollerblading for me today. Today was the first day all week I didn't have to get up and get ready to be somewhere before 9, so I gave myself a lazy start to the day, and took a 45 minute nap after I got the kids off to school and another 30 minute rest period in the early afternoon. I don't regret the rest time at all, but my to do list is looking pretty sad right now. Oh well, maybe I can make it up in our "extra" hour this weekend.

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promotion links:

Both Sides of My Skin, a collection of short stories about pregnancy and motherhood, by Elizabeth Trach, is now available for pre-order. These are some of the most real feeling stories about the early days of motherhood that I have ever read, and I am thrilled with how the book has turned out. I can't wait to get it out in the world! Release day is December 6. Pre-order links are all available on the book's webpage.

The Burning, J.P. Seewald's novella about family and resilience in the Pennsylvania coal country, is also still available for pre-order. It comes out next Wednesday!

In other Annorlunda Books news, I have just finished setting up a new newsletter that I'm also really excited about. Inbox Stories will bring a short story to your inbox every month. The newsletter will also have a recommendation of another short story from me, and a recommendation from someone else in the "Inbox Stories community"- I'll start that out with recommendations from authors I've published, but I've also set up a form so readers can recommend stories, too. 

There will be two editions of the newsletter: the free edition will have the recommendations and any other related content (knowing me, I'll probably include a quote most months... I do love quotes from stories). It will also include the first part of the story. The paid edition will have everything that is in the free edition plus links to the full story as a webpage and an ebook (mobi and epub). The paid edition is just $5/year, so I think that is a pretty good deal. The stories will be a mix of public domain stories and short writing Annorlunda Books has published. If the newsletter does well, I may start acquiring short stories specifically for it, too.

The newsletter will go out on or near the 3rd Monday of the month, and I plan to start this month, with a newsletter on Nov. 20. I hope some of you will sign up, either for the paid newsletter or the free edition. If you do sign up, let me know if you run into any issues in the sign up process. Setting up a newsletter with a paid edition required me to add a bunch of new things to my site and I could only test so much. If you find a problem, email me at wandsci at gmail dot com or the info at annorlundaenterprises dot com email address associated with the newsletter.

You might be wondering how this connects with Tungsten Hippo. Well... I'll be stopping regular posts there over the next month or so. The short writing world has changed since I started it, and I'm finding that the constraints I set on what I'd post there are limiting what I read. I haven't decided when, exactly, to stop posting there. I'll post about it over there when I do. The site will stay up, though, and I may post to it from time to time.

OK, that's a lot of self-promotion! And now let's get on to the links you are probably here to read:

First something fun: I have really been enjoying the Make America Read newsletter. (Full disclosure: Annorlunda Books partnered with it last month to give away copies of one of my taster flights.)

Rebecca Traister took the twitter thread I mentioned last week about how so much of our national narrative is shaped by predatory men, and wrote a very good article. You should read it.

David Roberts wrote a very good piece about the problem with how right-wing media has divorced some people from facts. He frames it as "What if Mueller proves his case and it doesn't matter?" but I think the same problem shows up in a lot of areas, like climate change.

Do you remember the Iowa teenager who supposedly wrecked his state's insurance market? Jonathan Cohn tracked him and his family down and the story is more complex than the soundbite. (Also, how awful is it that the insurance rep gave enough information about the case that the family was able to recognize themselves?)

Speaking of healthcare... this Dylan Scott projection of what the ACA will be in 2020 seems pretty realistic to me. We are stuck in a horrible place where the Republicans do not want to make the changes necessary to make the ACA a stable and good system, but neither do they have a new system of their own to put in place. I feel like we're going backwards on this issue, and that makes me sad. 

Now we're on to taxes, and if I find a good explainer of the Republican plan, I'll include it next week. So far, the best thing I've found is in an email from an accounting firm that somehow got me on their mailing list, and it doesn't have a web version I can link to. Here's the Vox explainer, but it is still a lot to read through and understand. I am pretty sure my taxes will be going up, since I'm in a high tax state and the state income tax deduction will go away. I also think we may get bumped to a higher bracket in the new system with fewer brackets. However, I could be wrong, since we have occasionally needed to file with the alternative minimum tax in past years, and that is going away. I wouldn't actually mind paying more taxes to help out people who are doing less well than we are, but it is a little annoying to pay more taxes so that people can inherit multi-million dollar estates tax free. This one feels like a less serious threat to my family's well-being than the healthcare changes, though, so I don't find myself obsessing about figuring out the details.   

Here's more about the cub scout kicked out of his troop after asking a state representative some pointed questions about gun control. As someone who was really interested in and informed on political issues at his age, I am sad to see people implying these weren't his own questions. (Spoiler: he has landed in a new troop and is happy there and they are happy to have him.)

This story about coal miners deciding not to retrain to other fields because they think Trump is going to bring more coal jobs back makes me sad. I can understand the decision- if you really believe Trump is going to do what he says, then it makes sense to hold out for a local coal job than to retrain for a job that might require you to move or would pay less. But, I don't think Trump can do what he says, and even if he could, I don't think he would because he doesn't really know how to get anything done. So I think these people are going to get screwed.

In podcasts... I found this week's Ezra Klein Show really interesting. Ezra Klein talks to political scientist James Wallner about his argument that politics needs more conflict, not less. Wallner has also worked as a congressional aid to some very conservative senators (e.g., Jeff Sessions), so his observations about what is broken in the Republican caucus in the Senate right now are really interesting. Here's a direct link to the podcast episode on a different site.  (Podcasters! Make it easier to link to your current episode on your main site, please- the two latest episodes aren't even up on the Vox site!)

I haven't had a chance to read the article embedded in this tweet yet, but remember how I mentioned that someone had compared our era to the era right after the printing press was invented?


Halloween bunny!

And now, I'm off to try to cross one more thing off my to do list before it is time to go get my kids. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Weird, Weird Week Edition

This week has had entirely too much plot. I can't tell you about all of it yet, but if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw the costume in the mail saga (read the full thread for the entire sage, but the costume is here and looks adorable on Pumpkin!)

Then there was the "oh crap, the school scheduled the information session for middle school (which Pumpkin starts next year!) on the same night as my book club... which I was hosting. (Mr. Snarky went and asked almost none of the questions I wish he had asked. But I think I've found the information I want by asking other parents and reading school websites.)

Next came the Hamilton tickets drama. Both my sister and I won the lottery for "verified fan" codes, but then neither of my sister or Mr. Snarky (using my code: I had a meeting at that time) managed to get tickets. Then Mr. Snarky talked me into trying during the general sale and we struck out again... until I randomly tried again 45 minutes after the on sale time and saw tickets! But with potential obstruction. I called Mr. Snarky who somehow managed to snag three tickets that were better than what I had found. And then I spent a lot of time checking back periodically and managed to get 1 more ticket for the same night, not with us, but not terribly far away. That is probably 3 or 4 less than I could easily find homes for just withing my book club, but I decided that I'd had enough and stopped trying. However, I'm going to see Hamilton, so I won't complain!

I also had to take Popsicles in to Petunia's class today, because they do their birthday celebrations on the last Friday of the month. After that, I walked my kids and one friend each home, because the mom coaching Pumpkin's lego league team asked if her daughter and Pumpkin could do some work on their project after school. The little sister of Pumpkin's friend is good friends with Petunia, so she came home, too.

(Did I ever tell you guys that I'm coaching Petunia's junior lego league team? I am. That is an adventure, too. I'll write more about it some other time.)

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promo links: my income from my main contract is going to be a little lower than usual this month, so I decided to try to make up the difference by running a sale on my recorded seminars. Use the promo code octsale to get 20% off any of my seminars, including the 3 hour project management course, which I have finally decided to make available for purchase.

Brit Marling on the economics of consent is really, really good.

Ezra Klein on why it matters that two prominent journalists have now also been accused of harassment is good. Rebecca Traister made a similar argument on Twitter. I encourage us all to stop and think about what it means that so much of the media that shapes how we view the world is made by men who view women as playthings and by white people who harbor biases about people of color. The lack of diversity in our media environment translates into an incomplete and flawed understanding of the world.

This Avivah Wittenberg-Cox article about ambitious women and their partners is worth your time. This is such a fraught thing to negotiate as a couple. I am pretty happy with how Mr. Snarky and I are handling it, but we are neither of us flying as high as the people in the article. I should write more about my evolving thoughts on the trade offs and challenges and opportunities, and also about how I think the real problem is that so many jobs are structured such that people can only achieve their highest potential if they have support taking care of the rest of their life... but today is not the day for that. I'll add it to my "blog posts I should write now that I've finally finished writing about my summer vacation" list!

I am watching in fascination as the Republicans try and apparently succeed in making a scandal of the fact that someone close to the Clinton campaign took over paying for the Steele dossier after Republicans - who initiated this work!- decided to stop paying for it once Trump clinched the nomination. I think Josh Marshall's take on this is correct.

This interview with Charlie Sykes is really interesting. He is clearly grappling with the extent to which "mainstream" Republicanism has enabled the ugly nativism we're seeing now. I think most liberals would say he has not quite gone far enough, but I am genuinely glad to see him and Senators like Flake and Sasse starting to grapple with it.

Speaking of Senator Flake... I wish he'd stayed and fought as a Senator, but I will judge him by what he does next. If he says he needs to not be running for re-election to handle the Trump era with integrity, then I will believe him... if he actually does something to protect our country and democratic ideals from the dangers Trump poses. Corker, Flake, Sasse... they all need to stop just talking and start doing. I don't expect them to vote in ways I agree with on policy decisions, but if they say they see the danger of Trump, they are in a position to do something about it. So they should do something.

And speaking of conservatives who I think get part of the way to reckoning with an error: Meg McArdle on what libertarians got wrong about school vouchers. The bit I wish she'd addressed but does not is what the discovery that parents are choosing schools based on the other kids in the school more than "neutral" measures of quality means for our attempts to build a more fair and less racially stratified society. Also, any halfway honest white upper middle class parent who pays attention when talking to peers about school choice could probably have predicted the result of that study. But that is also something I don't have time to really get into right now.

In CA political news, Gavin Newsom seems to be running for Governor on a "build more housing" platform, which I find encouraging. We need more housing.

This is really powerful art:

If you are at all into early English history, click through and read this thread it is hilarious.

(Full disclosure: My history knowledge is not that strong. I could only follow this because I've been listening to the History of the English Language podcast.) 

Bunnies dressed in cute little outfits!

Bunny eating a long leafy veggie!

I think I am missing some things I meant to share... but I have to go get the kids ready for a Halloween party, so I'll have to leave them for another time. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Trip Story: Mammoth, Manzanar... and Home

I am determined to finish writing up our summer road trip before Halloween... and Halloween is right around the corner. So, tonight I have managed to finish the most pressing items on my to do list and will finish off the story.

At the end of my last installment, we were enjoying a final relaxing dinner on the lawn at the Epic Cafe in Lee Vining, having enjoyed Yosemite. We got up the next morning with plans to visit the Devil's Postpile National Monument (another Junior Ranger badge was in the offing!) but we were thwarted by the unusually heavy snowfall of the prior winter. The road to the National Monument was still impassable for the bus that usually takes visitors to there, and the only other way to reach it would be a hike that sound far too long and too strenuous for us.

We were in Mammoth, because that was where the bus would have picked us up. So we decided to go on up the mountain. The remarkable thing about this was the fact that people were skiing and snowboarding in bikinis and board shorts. It was a beautiful, warm day... but the snow was still on the mountain, so people were still skiing and boarding down it.

The view from the top was pretty, but it was really windy, so we didn't linger long.

After coming down, we gave in to the pleas of our children and let them go on the bungee trampoline thing. Then we had lunch, and headed south.

Our next stop was Manzanar National Historic Site. This was one of the internment centers set up by the US government for Japanese-Americans during World War II. It is not a proud moment in our history, and it felt even more disturbing to be visiting it at a time when some foolish people were referencing that time as a justification for banning Muslim immigrants. However, the site itself is very well done. There is a museum in the visitor's center that does an excellent job explaining what happened (but not justifying it) for both adults and children. They have activities aimed at children Petunia's age, such as asking them to think about what they would pack if they could only bring 10 things with them. However, I don't think the meaning of the site really sunk in for Petunia. Pumpkin, though, read and understood a lot. I think the visit made a strong impression on her.

As for me, I cried during the film and I cried looking at this wall:

The writing is the names of all the people interned at the various camps.

I cried reading a lot of the exhibits, actually. It was a horrible thing we did, and the exhibits show that and the effect of it on people's lives starkly.

We were visiting at the end of their day, so we didn't get to spend much time in the barracks that are still standing. However, we did drive the perimeter, stopping to see the remains of the Japanese garden the camp residents had created.

They named it Pleasure Park.

And to see the cemetery and memorial.

Most families chose to move the people who were buried here once the war was over, but there are still a few graves.

After leaving Manzanar, we drove on to Ridgecrest, where we spent the night. Ridgecrest is not really a tourist destination, but it was a convenient stopping point. And we saw a gorgeous sunset.

Taken from our motel parking lot.

The next day, we drove home. We stopped for lunch in Riverside. First we walked around downtown a bit (and admired the famous Mission Inn), and then we drove to a brewpub called Wick's for lunch. Lunch was very good... which was a good way to end the trip.

As always after a vacation, we were glad to be back in our own beds (particularly since the beds in our last motel were pretty uncomfortable), but a little sad to have our adventures over. But we're already talking about future explorations!