Friday, January 27, 2017

Weekend Reading: The One Week Down Edition

Well, we made it through the first week. I haven't had time yet to read and fully process all of the executive orders that have come out this week. My first impression is that there is nothing surprising in them. This is what he said he would do. The ACLU and other groups will sue where they can. A plethora of groups will try to mitigate the damage. Many of us will hang our heads in shame that our country is doing these things. Others will celebrate. Still more will just not notice because it doesn't directly effect them.

So anyway, some links.

This essay from Adam Gopnik about Trump and Orwell's "1984" is searing to read. Whatever it is that the various people who voted for Trump and who are now enabling him want from him, they risk giving up something far more precious. The rest of us will try to defend our democracy. The terrible irony is that if we succeed (and I hope we do!) the people who have enabled this crisis will just shrug and tell us that there was no risk in the first place, and will feel justified in the bargain they made. But I guess I'll just have to learn to accept that.

Of course there is the chance that I am wrong, and that there is less risk than I think in the current situation. However, some of the issues that worry me most, such as increasing voter suppression, are not new and have been building for awhile. What is new is the lack of someone with power in the Federal government to try to keep them in check.

Speaking of voter suppression laws, Jason Kander had a good op-ed on the issue in the Washington Post.

Here is a nice summary of some remarks from Rachel Maddow about the state of politics and American government right now.

Adam Jentelson, a former aide to Harry Reid, also had an op-ed in the Washington Post. His was about the power the Democrats in the Senate have. I'm not sure what I want the Democrats in the Senate and House to do. I don't think the country is served by ever-escalated rounds of obstruction and partisanship. If this goes on, I think our system of government will eventually fall, and I suspect that will involve violence. I would very much rather we not go down that road. But I also don't think the country is served by Democrats allowing Republicans to obstruct with no consequences. That is also anti-democratic, and I think also sets us on a path to a confrontation.

So what should happen? I guess I think Democrats should obstruct on some key issues and just make angry speeches about others. Which issues are which? I don't know. We all have different priorities. I suspect it will come down to which ones voters yell at their representatives the most about. I don't know if Republicans really appreciate just how angry a lot of Democrats are right now. The anger is widespread, across many different demographics of Democratic voters. I hear it from fellow well-off middle-aged white ladies and from the college kids who staff my kids' after care. I hear it from people who are clearly not avid followers of politics (as evidenced by the number of things I've had to explain to them about how the system works). There is a lot of anger out there.

The anger also cuts across a lot of issues. People are mad about how Barack Obama was treated as president, and we're furious about the racist slurs on Michelle Obama we heard when it became clear that Melania Trump would be the next first lady. This is not just from people who are typically tuned in to racism. A lot of my fellow white working mothers really respect and look up to Michelle Obama. I am still angry about how they treated Merrick Garland, and I am far from alone in that. If Trump picks an extremely partisan judge to fill the open seat that should have been Garland's, there will be an uproar. Here's an article from a left-leaning court-watcher about three judges whose names have been floated as potential nominees, and which one he think should (and likely would) spark a big fight. Will Trump (or his advisers) have the sense to avoid that fight? Who knows.

One of the things Trump decided to do was issue an executive order halting the arrival of refugees. He did this on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was particularly galling. So while my Twitter feed was full of tweets for Remembrance Day, it was also full of reactions to his order. Here is a tweet from an account that is tweeting out the name of every passenger on the St. Louis, a ship of Jewish refugees we turned back in 1939, dooming them to death.

I am ashamed that we have once again let our fear of people who are different from us get the worst of us.

If you need some hope, this might do the trick (h/t @revanche):

Or, go find photos of the Women's Marches to remind yourself of how many people are opposed to Trump. I retweeted a bunch the day of the march, but here is one that I find particularly inspiring:

And I complained about getting rained on for a few minutes....

If you're new to paying attention to legislation, you might want to read this post about how to tell whether or not a horrible-sounding bill is something it is worth your time to worry about.

"Scientific curiosity" might be the key to dealing with partisan bubbles.

And there is a new group working to get scientists to run for office, and helping them if they decide to run.

I've been wondering what Evan McMullin would do next, beyond criticize Trump on Twitter. He has now launched a group to fight Trump from a center-right position. If you're opposed to Trump but not comfortable with the left-leaning groups, check it out.

How about some non-political stuff:

Diabetes might be an overlooked reason some Americans are dying younger.

Here's something to tide you over until I get around to writing my post about the FDA: Derek Lowe on why clinical trials fail (it is not regulations).

An 11 year old named Jordan Reeves invented a sparkle-shooting prosthetic arm for herself... and she's moving on to invent more things.

Calee Lee, who runs Xist Publishing (which published my two children's book and my first short ebook) has a new book out about reading the classics. Xist has started putting out nice editions of classic books. Yes, you can usually get the books for free, but as I can tell you from my experiences putting together the Annorlunda Books Taster Flights, the free editions are often poorly formatted and occasionally have scanning errors. I think it is worth paying a little to avoid that. In fact, I recently bought the Xist edition of the Anne of Green Gables series for Pumpkin's Kindle.

Speaking of books: this looks like a nice list of chapter books for kids.

Here is an interesting short documentary about Harris tweed.

And a bunny to end on:

Happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Checking In

How is everyone doing?

I had plans to write a post about the FDA and drug discovery this week, in answer to a question. But I forgot that this week was lying brain and headaches week, so between that and the overabundance of news this week, it just didn't happen. I think I'll be able to do it next week, though.

There's a post by Mirah Curzer, called How To #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind, that has been circulating this week. It is worth a read if you're struggling with not being overwhelmed right now. I'm doing pretty well, but thinking I need to change my habits about Twitter use during the work day. I used to view it as a good short break, but that was when my timeline wasn't full of a mix of legitimately horrible things, people freaking out about said things, people freaking out about terrible things that haven't happened but might happen, people freaking out about things that are fairly normal transition things but that we don't normally notice, people yelling about what Democrats (or Republicans) MUST do now (as if anyone knows), and calls to action about all of the above. There is the occasional cute animal picture (thank God for @rabbit_isle_bot), happy personal news, or lighthearted thing, but mostly it feels like all panic, all the time.

And I don't really fault people for that, but it makes Twitter a bad way to take a break right now. So I'll need to change my habits.

So anyway, despite all of this, life is continuing. I was congratulating myself on making it through two colds in close succession around Christmas time without ending up at urgent care getting a breathing treatment, but my asthma has been really bad the last couple of weeks, so I guess I shouldn't congratulate myself yet.

Despite the asthma, I was able to go out for a run yesterday, on our first really nice sunny day in... I don't know... a week and a half? I know, we're spoiled. But it felt like a really long time. Tomorrow, I should get my regular rollerblade in, and I'm looking forward to it.

I wrote a piece about balancing household chores, inspired by the great missing rice meltdown I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I rather like it, but the editor I work with at Chronicle Vitae doesn't think it is a fit for them (I can see her point), so I'm trying to decide whether to go searching for another place to publish it for money and/or more exposure, or whether just to post it here. Opinions welcome in the comments.

I hosted my book club last night. We read Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, which I didn't love, but ended up liking a lot better than I did early in the book. The characters kept making bad decisions (or at least what seemed like bad decisions to me), but as someone in my book club pointed out, that's a fairly accurate portrayal of life sometimes. Even when I was annoyed with the characters, Chabon's writing pulled me in, propelling me through each chapter. I definitely enjoyed the book, but it is not the first Chabon book I'd think to recommend if someone asked. That would probably be Gentlemen of the Road, although I suspect most people would go with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Next month, we're reading Stephen King's On Writing, which I'm excited about because Xykademiqz raves about it in an essay in Academaze, and I've been wanting to read it ever since I read that essay. And then in March, we're reading March, John Lewis' graphic novel, which I'm also quite excited about.

We all bring a dish to share to book club. I usually wimp out and do something lame like cheese and crackers. That is mostly because cooking isn't that fun for me right now. But this week, I decided that I may not really like to cook, but I like to bake, so I made a simple butter bundt cake. We had some of the leftovers tonight, and now I'm wondering why I don't make it more often. And if I did start making it (or cookies or pies) more often, would we all gain weight, or would we eat less other sweet stuff?

Speaking of baking, a couple of weekends ago, I finally relented to my kids' pleas to be allowed to have a lemonade stand. Except, it wasn't really lemonade weather, so we did a cookies and juice stand instead. The kids and I made chocolate chip cookies and I bought them some juice to sell. The cookies were a surprisingly big hit with our neighbors. We rarely see our neighbors out, but the stand did well, and Mr. Snarky, who was supervising while doing some gardening, met a bunch of new people, whose names he promptly forgot. Luckily, Pumpkin was there, too, and her memory is quite good. The kids want to do a stand again. I am not sure if (1) I want to make that many cookies, and (2) the stand will remain popular if it appears too often. So I've convinced the kids to wait awhile before we do it again.

And that's the news from here. It is time to start our bedtime routine, and then we'll see what tomorrow brings and how successfully I can ignore it so I can get some work done!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Weekend Reading: Thinking about the Future Edition

Well, it is done, and now we have a new President. May he show the good attributes his supporters see in him and the rest of us do not. And may the people around him and the folks in Congress have the courage to stand up to him when necessary, and hold him to his oath to uphold our Constitution.

If you'd like to, you can sign the petition to have him release his tax returns and sufficient information to show he is not in violation of the emoluments clause (spoiler: experts from both sides of the partisan divide agree he is in violation of the emoluments clause). Theoretically, if the petition gets 100,000 signatures, the White House "has" to respond. I expect either no response or an evasive and untruthful one. But I still signed the thing.

In things more likely to work: the ACLU has filed its first Freedom of Information Act petition on the new presidency, seeking information about conflicts of interest.

And President Obama resumed tweeting at his old Twitter handle (@BarackObama) and launched a new website and foundation that is looking for our ideas.

I stayed true to my plans and ignored the inauguration while it was happening. I checked in at lunch and discovered it was as grim and divisive as I expected. I won't waste my time on Trump's speech, because as Matt Yglesias says, he lies so much and so shamelessly that his words are meaningless, and the only way to judge him is by his actions.

But from what I gathered, his speech was very similar to his convention speech and people like me and especially people like my Muslim friends are not included in the America to which he directed his remarks. As people get angry about protesters saying he is "not my President" I hope they can take a moment to reflect that he himself has made it clear that he does not see all of us as legitimate parts of his version of America. (For the record, I will not be protesting with the slogan "not my President." My slogan, if I have one is "Not one step back," which I take from the North Carolina Moral Mondays.)

Along those lines, I've been thinking about Ezra Klein's piece contrasting Obamaism and Trumpism all day.  I find it profoundly depressing.

On a more positive note, here is Matt Yglesias again, this time writing in support of inclusive politics as the only way to actually have a great country.

And here is Yascha Mounk's opinion on what the best case scenario for the next four years is. I agree that if this period somehow leads the Republican party to jettison the Southern strategy for good, stop with the racist dog whistles, and build a truly inclusive conservative party, that would be a very good thing. I wouldn't agree with them, but at least I could respect them. One of the silver linings in this last year or so has been seeing some strongly anti-racist voices rise on the right. So far, none of them have any real power, but I would welcome it if that changed.

That change, though, is going to have to come from within the party (or within a conservative movement that forms a different party). There is too much tendency to blame the racist strategy of the current Republican party on Democrats, as if we are somehow making them do it by holding on to our own inclusive principles. That is infuriating and wrong, and until the Republicans own their own responsibility for the fact that people of color overwhelmingly do not want to vote for them, they will not change and our entire country will suffer for it. I don't know what I can do to fix that from the outside. My current opinion is that I can try to make them loose more elections, until maybe that forces some honest introspection on race among more of their leaders.

I like Josh Marshall's thoughts on entering the Trump era. I hope I have the courage to act in a way that will make my children proud in future years.

There's a lot of Matt Yglesias in this post, but his comments here about how the US is different from Russia before the rise of Putin are good. (Click through to read the entire thread.)

Here's something else that gives me hope: the police chief in Whitefish, Montana standing up for the Jews in his community.

And I've loved seeing all the posts about people heading to DC for the Women's March tomorrow and being on planes and trains full of women.

Moving on...

The names being floated as possible FDA heads aren't giving me a lot of comfort. At the request of a reader, I have a post about the drug discovery industry coming. But if you want to know why I am against bringing libertarianism to the FDA, my little Twitter rant from last night summarizes it (again, click through to read the whole thread):

If you're a Democrat looking ahead to 2018 and wanting to be strategic about where to send your money, this data set from DailyKos will help you find Clinton-voting districts with Republican reps.

One of those districts is just north of me: CA 49. I've already donated to Doug Applegate, who is running again against Darrell Issa.

Looking even further north, here is a story from San Pedro about a lottery for dockworker jobs. I remember reading about this in 2004, too.

I don't have anything fun to end on, but here's Let American Be America Again, a Langston Hughes poem for today, a sort of answer to Trump's inauguration address if you will. I find the ending stanzas particularly relevant today:

"O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!"

This would be funny if it wasn't so sad:

And here is something happy: a nice new review of Academaze.

And of course, here's a bunny:

Happy weekend, everyone, and safe marching to all those who are heading out to march tomorrow!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facing Tomorrow

So, here we are. Tomorrow, we inaugurate a new president and embark on whatever comes next. I am not planning to watch. In fact, I think I'll close out of Twitter and stay away from the news and try to just focus on doing some work. I'd thought I might go for a walk on the beach and ignore the rest of the world for awhile, but it is going to rain. So my plan is to stay in and work and try to get a lot done so that I can take the weekend mostly off, even though I went for a rollerblade yesterday (I usually "buy" my weekday rollerblading time with some Sunday morning work time).

Anyway, I do not want to watch the inauguration. After spending far too much time on the fence about it, I finally decided to go to the San Diego Women's March on Saturday. It may rain, but right now the forecast shows Saturday as a break in the rain. So we'll see if I get soaked or not. Either way, I'm going. I have never protested or marched before. I don't really like crowds, which was the reason I spent so much time on the fence about this. Mr. Snarky asked me why I'm going, and I said I just had to go to show that I am not OK with this.

I am also hoping to gather back up the shreds of my faith in my country.

I have been experiencing an intense desire to just leave. I couldn't really explain it. I love my life here in San Diego, and don't want to move farther away from my extended family. Rationally, I think my family will make it through the next four (or God help us, eight) years OK, barring anything truly catastrophic like a nuclear war. I really, truly believe it is my duty to stay here and try to make this right, because I can do so with relative safety. Besides, this is my country, too, so why should I let a bully like our soon-to-be President force me out?

And yet, I keep thinking about leaving. Would we sell our house or rent it out? (Probably sell.) What would I do in New Zealand? (Probably try for a project management job.) How would I respond to the inevitable grief Americans abroad are going to get for the next four (or God help us, eight) years? (Probably cry a lot.) How would I help my kids adjust? (They'd probably adjust just fine.)

I couldn't really figure out why I was doing that, but today, I think I cracked it. I saw this thread from Toronto Star reporter David Dale, in which he talked to Trump supporters who are at the inauguration. Like many people, I read their words and wondered if we were living in the same reality. And then I remembered the interview one of the incoming administration people gave about why Kanye West wasn't asked to play at the inauguration. Their response was so revealing. They put together an event in which the entertainment was "typically and traditionally American," you see. And apparently, that's not Kanye West.

And then I thought back to that set of interviews with Trump voters, and the one young woman who said she didn't vote for Hillary Clinton because Clinton talked about Black Lives Matter protesters, and DREAMers, but not "regular" people like her. (Nevermind that Clinton did talk about white working class people, too, even had policy proposals to help them, but that didn't get reported on much. It wasn't newsworthy, I guess. Presidential candidates are just assumed to talk about the white working class. It is news when they acknowledge the other people struggling in the country.)

I realized: what is making me want to flee is this careless, thoughtless assumption that only white people are "regular Americans." It is the casual dismissal of so many of my friends, and my kids' friends. It is the treatment of the last eight years—which felt like welcome progress to me—as an aberration.

I didn't feel like I'd lost my country on the day after the election. I figured I'd always known that there was a lot of racism and sexism here, and that we had more work to do to overcome it.

But as I read attempt after attempt to make me understand Trump voters, and saw repeated examples of them just not even acknowledging that there are "regular Americans" who don't look and think like them, my hold on my country seemed to slip. As I read successive think pieces about rural and small town America that failed to recognize that there are people of color who live in rural areas and small towns, my grasp slipped further. And when I saw people tell me I should "give Trump a chance" even after he'd appointed a white supremacist as a key adviser, I think I lost touch altogether. Someone who wants advice on how to govern this country from a white supremacist is not someone who has any chances left with me.

The country I love is diverse and while still working towards really embracing that, at least aware of that diversity and the strength it can bring. It is trying to get to a place that celebrates Americans of all backgrounds and creeds. It fails in that goal often, but at least keeps trying. But I realized reading all this post-election coverage that a lot of people don't even know my country exists. They think America is their country, and theirs alone, and everyone else is an illegitimate interloper. And that broke my heart.

I have read several comments from people of color about how this alienation I am feeling is something they have long felt and already had to work through. I think that is a fair criticism. I have never before had to confront so directly the chasm between the country in my heart and the country out there in the real world. I knew the gap was there, but thought we were making our way across that gap. Now, it feels like we've turned around and are headed the other way.

Now that I am forced to confront the gap, I know I must learn how to make peace with it, so that I can work to bridge that gap and continue to advance towards a more perfect union.

I am determined to do this work, because I really want to stay. I know that the country in my heart is the country in the hearts of lots of other Americans, too. In fact, based on the popular vote numbers, it is probably safe to assume that there are more Americans who want a country like the one in my heart than not.

So I guess I am also going to the march to remind myself that my country is still here, and worth fighting for. We're all "regular Americans" and someday, if we work at it, maybe we'll all recognize that fact.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Family Fun List 2017

One year, on New Year's Eve, I had a random idea. I decided we should have a "family fun list" for the next year, and we should write it as part of our family New Year's Eve celebrations. The kids and Mr. Snarky went along, and it was a big success, so much so that last year, when Pumpkin was asked to write about a family tradition in school, this is the one she picked. It may be my best parenting idea ever.

If you want to follow the entire history of the Family Fun List, you can click back one year at a time, starting with last year's list. The short version is: each family member gets to pick three things to put on the list. That gives us twelve things, and we try to do roughly one per month. Last year, we had a bonus item that we all agreed on, and this year that morphed into an item that we all agree on, but suggested by the person who had the fewest of their items done in the previous year. Because, yeah, we've never made it through the entire list. 

We came close last year, though! We just fell one item short. Here are the details:
  • Make a LEGO city in our living room (Petunia) DONE, in January.
  • Walk around the neighborhood looking at Christmas decorations (Pumpkin) DONE, in December.
  • Visit the Friendship Park at the border (Mr. Snarky) DONE 
  • Ride a surrey bike (me) DONE, but there was so much whining that I no longer consider this fun and did not put it on the list this year, for the first time since the start of the list.
  • Get ice cream from an ice cream truck (Petunia) DONE
  • Go climbing at Solid Rock (Pumpkin) NOT DONE. We kept thinking we'd do it on a rainy weekend, and it didn't rain. Then we thought we'd squeeze it in before heading over to AZ for Christmas, but I got sick.
  • Go on a real train ride (Mr. Snarky) DONE. We took the Amtrak train up to San Juan Capistrano and had a very nice day.
  • Go out to brunch (me) DONE. We had brunch at one of the hotels on the bay, and it was very nice.
  • Go the train restaurant (Petunia- this is The Station, in South Park) DONE.
  • Have a picnic at a park (Pumpkin) DONE. I think we did this for Petunia's birthday, actually.
  • Go get a doughnut at a doughnut shop that isn't Krispy Kreme (Mr. Snarky wants us to try some new doughnuts, apparently) DONE. I am the only one in my family who doesn't love doughnuts and this means that every year someone puts something about doughnuts on this list.
  • Visit a botanical garden (me) DONE.
  • Bonus: Go to Boomers  DONE
I usually link to the posts I wrote about our fun things, but I didn't write any last year. I'll try to do better this year!

Here are some tweets from the fun list outings:

The kids' favorite part of the San Diego Botanic Gardens is never the plants:

The kids ran part of the way home from the doughnut shop outing:

The pit of corn was on the San Juan Capistrano trip. There  is a petting zoo near the train station, and they also had a pit of corn.

I can't believe I didn't write up a post about visiting the Friendship Park, so I'll put some pictures here. 

The beach on the US side is very empty! This is a popular place to go for a horse ride on the beach in San Diego county. There are stables nearby where you can rent time on a horse.

Here is the "friendship" part of the Friendship Park. Families and friends separated by the border can meet here and talk. 

Only a small number of people are allowed in past this first fence on the US side at a time.  The inner fence is where the people get to meet and talk. I hear that it used to just be a chain link fence. Now it is a tall, fairly solid fence. You can see through it, but you can't touch through it. We didn't spend long in the inner area, because there were people waiting to talk to people on the other side, and we didn't want to delay them.

This is the border meeting the sea.

On the Mexican side, there is an art project where part of the fence is painted so that it disappears. Someday, I want to go see that.

This is the border headed east.

For readers who have never been to the US-Mexico border, I'll mention that this is some of the more hospitable terrain. Inland from San Diego, it gets very rugged in places. If Trump really does build a big wall, it won't be cheap. But that is politics and for another post.

Now, on to this year's list:
  • Make a LEGO city (Petunia)
  • Walk around our neighborhood looking at Christmas lights (Pumpkin)
  • Go to Mexico (Mr. Snarky)
  • Try a new restaurant (me)
  • Invite [one of her friends and her family] to our local pizza place for dinner (Petunia)
  • Go to a botanical garden (Pumpkin)
  • Go to Dave and Buster's (Mr. Snarky)
  • Go to Legoland (Me)
  • Have an art competition, with [my sister] to judge (Petunia)
  • Paint our own ceramics at the paint-your-own ceramics place in Liberty Station (Pumpkin)
  • Go on a hike up a mountain (Mr. Snarky)
  • Take a bike ride along the river (Me)
  • Bonus: Art, Cuddles, and Doughnuts Day (It is our own holiday that the kids just invented. They saw a TV show in which the characters tried to invent a holiday... and this was their idea.)
As you can see, there are some favorites that were repeated onto this year's list. I put Legoland on the list because my kids are approaching the age where they won't enjoy it as much and I want to get at least one more visit in. We may be able to time it during a promotion where we can get two visits for the price of one, and then we'll go twice. I can always convince Mr. Snarky to go to Legoland. The only downside is that he usually buys himself a big set when we go.

So, here's to us having fun in 2017. Maybe this is the year we'll get through the list!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Tired of the Rain Edition

It has been a rainy week here in San Diego, which is good from the standpoint of ending our drought and bad from the standpoint of screwing up my exercise routine. The ground was too wet and the sky to foreboding for me to try for a rollerblade today. I went for a short run in my neighborhood instead. That is a poor substitute. Meanwhile, my run on Wednesday was preempted by rain, and I ended up doing one of the 10 minute workouts on an old exercise DVD I have instead. Also a poor substitute.

Like all San Diegans, I am so spoiled by our usually beautiful weather and I am done with this rain.

Anyway, on to the links.

There's a GoodReads giveaway for Caresaway, which you should enter if you want to try to win a paperback version of my latest release.

Margaret Redlich, the author of Don't Call It Bollywood, wants to send you a Valentine's Day card.

Here's a short write up of an idea I've heard about before: students living in nursing homes to provide companionship in exchange for free or reduced rent.

In less civilized news... Our President Elect had a news conference and it was horrible. This was the best reaction: This Is Why You Don't Kiss the Ring.

A former spy weighs in on the infamous dossier and the Trump-Russia mess.

Josh Marshall attempts to parse what is happening. I've mostly given up trying to figure it out, and am just trying to respond to things in face value, and press for what I think is right and fight against what I think is wrong. And I'm hoping that it all works out.

Wesley Lowery found the letter Coretta Scott King wrote opposing Jeff Sessions' appointment to a Federal judgeship back in 1986.

An analysis of the evidence for the opinion that Comey cost Clinton the election. When there is an investigation into this mess, I sure hope we find out why Comey acted the way he did. I cannot understand it. Was it just partisanship? Incompetence? Fear of the hyperpartisan congresspeople calling for Clinton's head? Something more sinister?

David Perry on the end of the Obama era.

The Bush sisters wrote a really nice letter to the Obama sisters.

Ann Friedman on why we should march. I am leaning towards going to my local Women's March. I am not the marching type, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and all that.

A sobering report on the coming post-antibiotic age and how to avoid it.

A sobering report on the opioid crisis and why it is going to get worse.

To put this next link in context, a story:

I had a bit of a meltdown on Wednesday over food. One of the chores that falls to me is planning and cooking our weekday meals. This is a thankless task because my kids are super picky (and my bad karma/genes are to blame) and my husband generally adds hot sauce to anything I cook, which he swears isn't a commentary on my cooking but sure as hell feels like one. But someone has to feed us, and despite frequent attempts to transfer at least some of this task to Mr. Snarky, it still falls to me, for reasons that I rationally know are good and irrationally still hate.

Add to this mess the fact that I'm constantly trying to expand my kids' food horizons by cooking things they might consent to try and might even like. My last notable success on this front was the miraculous pretzel chicken, but that one was so miraculous that I continue to try. One of the food-related sore points in the division of labor at Chez Cloud is that Mr. Snarky does not continue to try and basically just makes plain pasta for the kids whenever it is his turn to cook (i.e., Saturday and Sunday).

This week, I'd picked a nice Parmesan risotto to try on the kids. They like Parmesan. Risotto is creamy and yummy. It seemed like a good thing to try. I found a crock pot recipe and figured I could get it started on Wednesday afternoon, since I work from home on Wednesdays. So, come Wednesday at 2:30, I took a break from work and went into the kitchen. I chopped and sauteed the onions that would probably have made the dish unacceptable to my kids but that I refused to leave out. So I chopped those onions really small.

I got the crock pot ready. And then I reached into the cupboard for the arborio rice I distinctly remember purchasing on Sunday, and it was not there. I tore the kitchen apart. Nope. I called Mr. Snarky, who had helped put the groceries away and he was no help.

And then I lost it. I emailed Mr. Snarky and said I was on strike. I would not be making dinner that night. I did not care what we ate. I would eat cold cereal before I cooked us anything. I was DONE.

My inability to go for a nice, cleansing run made this small meltdown worse. The stupid 10 minute dance workout did not have the same effect. A kickboxing workout would have been awesome, but the garage (where I kickbox) is still a mess with our Christmas decorations and other crap, and so that was out of the question.

So basically, I fumed all afternoon and evening.

And then this article about the division of labor in marriages came across my feed.

Clearly, it is time for Mr. Snarky and me to sit down and work out a new division of labor. I wrote a lot about this back before our kids were in school. One of the most popular posts I ever wrote was on men, women, chores, and relationships. I still think that if things are out of whack, your options are the three I identified in my follow up post, but I think I did not appreciate at the time how much the balance would change as the kids got older and their care became less hands on and more consuming of head space. Oh, I got the concept of mental load and how home stuff can consume that to the detriment of your head space for work, but I didn't foresee how much the mental load would go up as the kids hit school age and how much harder that would make it to balance chores fairly. I suspect some of my commenters with older kids tried to tell me. It didn't get through, or at least not enough to prepare myself for it.

And of course, no matter how much we try to divide the load up (and we do), almost everyone else in the world just assumes I am the main point of contact and so a lot of stuff just ends up in my email inbox by default.

Anyway, this is turning into a full on post about division of labor, and not a links post, so I'll stop and promise that I'll revisit this issue soon, and update my old posts with what I'm learning now. Hopefully, Mr. Snarky and I can rebalance our loads over beers this weekend.

I never did find the missing rice, either. It is a mystery.

In other working parent news, apparently lawsuits for gender discrimination based on differential treatment of parents are on the rise.

Here is some beautiful embroidery art. (Aside: I share a work of art every Saturday on my Annorlunda Books Facebook page and Twitter feed. This is the art for this Saturday.)

And here is a beautiful story about the power of stories. Yes, that's two David Perry pieces in one links post. He had a good week, I guess.

Hooray for triangles guy:

The requisite bunny to end on:

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Interesting Times Suck

Things just keep getting weirder and scarier, don't they? I had planned to write about our Family Fun List today, but I find that I need to write about the political situation instead. I hoping that if I get this out I'll be able to focus a bit more on the tax forms I need to fill out this afternoon. 

So anyway, our current political situation sucks. It really, really sucks.

I don't know if all of the allegations in that document Buzzfeed published are true, but I'm with Matt Yglesias on this one: we don't actually need to know if they are true to know what should happen next.

Donald Trump should release his tax returns. If he won't do that, an investigative committee or special prosecutor with subpoena power needs to be created. Like, for instance, the bipartisan commission proposed in the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which every single Democrat in the House now supports. 

Let's say Trump releases his tax returns and they just show the usual "rich person legally avoiding taxes" stuff and/or the investigation into the Russian hacking happens and Trump and his team come out clean. Great! Next, he needs to really and truly address the fact that he will be in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution from the moment he takes office.

He apparently laid out some useless plan at today's press conference. I'm not wasting my time listening to his lies, so I'll wait and read about what he said later. I did note that all the journalists I follow on Twitter and quite a few other people thought that what he actually did was a lay out a plan by which foreign governments could more easily bribe him. I need to do some paying work today, so I'll have to look into that later.

Meanwhile, he has nominated a man for Attorney General whose past actions and words make it clear he doesn't think Black people should have the same voting rights as white people. I'm with Jamelle Bouie on this one: we don't actually need to know (or care) if Jeff Sessions is personally biased against Black people. We just have to notice that he works to create racist outcomes. The Mother Jones report on how Sessions blocked Black judges is one example of this.

And that doesn't even touch on the other nominees. There is so much awful, it can be overwhelming. 

I've been giving a lot of thought to what to do now, and the short answer is "hell if I know."

But here is what I've decided to do. I don't know if it is the right thing, but it feels right to me. I've been judging my actions by this question: What would I wish I had done if it all goes to hell? That way, if it all goes to hell, I can at least skip the self-recriminations.

1. I am calling Congress a lot. 

I've read the Indivisible Guide, the tweets that led to the Call the Halls guide, and a bunch of other tweets about how to effectively lobby Congress. They all agree that the thing to do is to focus on your own representatives, so that is what I'm doing. I follow them all on Twitter now, and am figuring out what their pet issues are, and will push on them to do the right thing as needed. So far, though, my representatives are mostly ahead of me. So I'm calling to thank them and/or remind them about things.

I am also calling two other sets of numbers: Committees and Leadership. Former congressional staffers mostly say this won't matter. They may be right, but I don't see how it hurts, and I think we are in unusual times and so past experience isn't a perfect predictor of what will work. I suspect that at least some of the Congresspeople and their staff are a little freaked out by the weirdness of this historical moment, too, and are wondering if they are going to end up looking like Neville Chamberlain or worse. Maybe if they get enough phone calls encouraging them to act, they'll come down on the side of action. I don't know.

Also, the Committees do represent me, even if I don't have a direct representative on them, and I think that once someone accepts a leadership office in Congress, he or she can hear from all of us on things that he or she controls, like bringing a bill to the floor. And obviously, if Speaker Ryan or Majority Leader McConnell ask for public feedback about a key piece of legislation like the Affordable Care Act, I think they should hear from all of us.

However, I am swayed by Emily Elsworth's argument against calling the offices of Congresspeople who don't represent me. She worked for Jason Chaffetz (who you may know as the House Oversight Chair who still wants to investigate Hillary Clinton, but not necessarily Donald Trump) and said that when their phones lit up with calls from mostly out of district, they ended up so overwhelmed that they just turned off the phones, and then they couldn't hear from people in their district. I don't want to do that to anyone. There are people all over the country who are worried about what is happening right now, and I don't want to interfere with their ability to call their representative.

(And if you're sitting there thinking that you don't want to listen to someone who once worked for Chaffetz, I recommend listening to her interview with the 451 podcast. It is the "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" episode.)

So, I will call the number for the relevant committee (you can find this on the Committee's website) and I will call the Office of the Speaker of the House, but I won't call the offices of representatives on the committee unless they represent me and I won't call Speaker Ryan's Wisconsin offices. I call when there is something in their purview that I want to ask for: a change in hearing schedule or action to bring a bill to the floor. For support/opposition to specific bills or nominees, I stick to my representatives, because they have a vote in that.

But, this is just my opinion and what I am personally doing. Like I said, I don't actually know what the "right" thing to do is.

One thing I do know, though: I am unfailingly polite and respectful when I call. We can learn from the Tea Party's tactics, but we don't have to emulate their obnoxiousness.

2. I am focusing and relying on filters

I can't be completely up to date and informed on everything that is happening. So I've settled on this approach:

I have some issues I'm actively educating myself about. The big one is voter suppression. 

On most other issues, I rely on the reporting of the sites I find usefully and honestly filter signal from noise. I really like Talking Points Memo for this. It has a Democratic slant, but it is honest and the editor's analysis is smart. For a more right wing slant, I read the Economist. We get that in the mail because my husband likes it and again, I find them honest and their analyses smart, even when I don't agree with them. I also subscribed to The Washington Post, and use that to keep up on the news. I also made a Twitter list of journalists I find trustworthy, and my plan is to use that to help me figure out what I need to pay attention to at any given time.

I look at my filtered info and decide what calls I need to make. I am trying to restrict calls to Wednesdays, but sometimes I need to call on a different day to be part of a coordinated action or because something is happening before Wednesday. But I don't need to be 100% current, so I'm trying to let more things go past in the moment, and come back and catch up at the end of the day.

3. I am looking for the leaders whose voices I want to amplify

I made another Twitter list, of politicians whose voices I want to follow and amplify. I'll be checking that at least daily and sharing things from it. I may add activists to that list, too.

The opposition (cause, yeah that's what we are) isn't super organized yet. We may never be super organized. I can't fix that. But I can find the voices of the people I think are helping and amplify them. 

In addition to my reps, right now that list has Ruben Gallego, Jason Kander, Cory Booker, Katherine Clark, Elizabeth Warren, and Eric Swalwell. I'll be adding to it as I find more people speaking up in a way that goes beyond the standard talking points.

4. I'm trying to stay calm but resolute

We are in a Constitutional crisis. The open question is whether we come out of it with a Constitution that is more than just a piece of paper. 

I can't believe this is true, but I really do think it is. This scares the hell out of me. It makes me angry, because it did not have to be this way. But here we are.

I recently read a book about the student activists that helped end apartheid, When Lions Roared, by Manju Soni. It is novella-length, so I read it for my Tungsten Hippo project. It is in fact the book I posted about there today. I had to read it slowly. Reading about what those activists had to face and what the price they paid for their activism was too painful right now, so I took it in bits.

I think we are at a branch point. We can fight now with phone calls and maybe some protests, or we can find ourselves in a future where any fight will involve risking prison or death. I don't want that future, so I'll make the phone calls. 

I don't have any illusions that things will change quickly, though. I keep thinking back to the Evan Mecham nightmare I lived through in Arizona, and how he kept saying and doing jaw-dropping things and nothing seemed to happen... until all of the sudden, he was being impeached, under indictment, and facing a recall all at once. I also keep referring back to the Watergate timeline

So, I think my job as a citizen right now is to do what I can to keep the pressure up. If you have a Republican representative, your voice is particularly powerful right now. Like I said above, I have to believe that there are Republicans who are afraid this is going to end poorly. They need help finding their backbone to stand up for what is right and vote for an investigation. I honestly believe it is in the Congressional Republicans' best interest to join in this. The more damning information that comes out without them acting, the worse they are going to look. But for whatever reason, they haven't seen it this way yet. Maybe if enough constituents call them to urge them to reconsider, they'll decide to act.

As for the rest of us, we have to accept that it may take a new Congress to get the investigation and oversight of Trump that we deserve. If that is the case, I am ready to fight like hell to get as many Democrats as possible into Congress in 2018, and then hold my representatives accountable to investigate the crap out of this mess.  

5. I'm making my contingency plans

I really don't want a future for my children in which political dissent comes with a high cost. And so, I'm taking the idea that we might yet decide to leave seriously. I know that I am lucky to have that option so easily available to me. I am resolved not to take it lightly. But when I wrote my goals for my company this year, the idea that I might want to be able to move my business to New Zealand was always present. It informed my decisions about what I will focus on. 

But for now, I'm here, and I'm fighting. 

I am angry that I have to fight. I wish we had somehow avoided this mess. But we didn't. As I've said many times: I don't care who anyone voted for in the election. I just care what they will stand up for now. I think there are reasons to push for an investigation into the Russian hacking and oversight of the conflicts of interest that transcend party politics. I also think that we should all be concerned about voter suppression, and interested in expanding participation in our elections rather than shrinking it. Right now, many Republican leaders are on the other side of that issue, but I know from personal conversations that not all Republican voters are. That is because voting rights are also an issue that transcends party politics. I will happily welcome the support of people from every corner of the political spectrum in the fights for these issues.

I will also be fighting for the policies I believe in. If you disagree with me on these policies, we can still agree to fight to preserve our Constitutional democracy. That is how it should be. That is how it used to be. Let's work together to make it that way again. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Personal Goals 2017

I mentioned in Friday's links post that I have all my goals for 2017 written now. I usually post about my personal goals and our Family Fun List (hey, goals can be fun!) here. First up: personal goals.

2016 was a tough year for me. I felt behind and overloaded from the very start. The extra misogyny in the air due to the election was really difficult for me to handle even when we all thought Hillary Clinton would win. And it was in the air all year long, it really was. When she lost, I found I couldn't spare the time to process my unresolved emotions around some of the memories the campaign stirred up because I needed to focus on responding to the threat Trump poses. Baratunde Thurston has described Trump as a denial of service attack on our democracy, and that is the most apt description I've read. Figuring out how to do my part to resist that while also doing the work I need to do to keep our bills paid took some time and effort.

So I spent all of 2016 feeling like I was reacting to circumstances, not following my own priorities. I felt like I didn't accomplish many of my goals. But when I pulled out my list and did a final accounting, I found I'd done better than my gut feeling told me I did. That was actually a bit of a morale boost, and speaks to the power of writing down your goals and holding yourself accountable for them. It helps keep you from blowing them off when things get tough, and perhaps more importantly, it can show you that you made progress even when it feels like you're stalled.

Let's look at how I did:

  • Revive my yoga practice. FAIL. I did some yoga this year, and solved the space problem so that I could do it more regularly (basically, we let the kids trash the open area between our sofa and dining table, which helps them remember to keep the area between the sofa and TV clear.) But I didn't do yoga anywhere consistently enough to call it a practice.
  • Crochet something useful. SUCCEED! I am calling the teddy bear sleeping bag useful. I'm working on a purse for me now, but I chose difficult yarn and it is slow going.
  • Finish the Ancillary series. SUCCEED! And I enjoyed the series to the end.
  • Learn how to make another type of New Zealand meat pie. FAIL. I hardly even made the steak and cheese pies I already have down. They take a lot of energy.
  • Play my violin and viola at least once each. FAIL. Sigh.
  • Develop an exercise routine. SUCCEED! I was trying to get there from the start, but the routine really solidified when I came back from vacation and saw the pictures of me in a swimsuit and swore to live the healthiest life I will enjoy. The Friday afternoon rollerblade is particularly great, but I'm managing a solid three days of exercise per week. I get up early on Mondays and go for a short run. Mondays are the only day of the week I can consistently make myself get up early, but instead of feeling bad that I can't do it other days, I'm just taking advantage of my Monday motivation. I either kickbox or go for a slightly longer run on Wednesday afternoons, and then there is my Friday rollerblade. I also go for a walk after lunch on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but this is a leisurely walk so I consider it a bonus, not part of my "real" exercise routine.
  • Organize my closet. SUCCEED! Of course, it is getting messy again. But for awhile it was beautiful.
  • Finish setting up the office. SUCCEED! The blinds are up, the bookshelves are in. It is awesome.
  • Get new curtains for the living room/dining room. SUCCEED! And they make me very happy.
  • Invent a signature cocktail. FAIL. This is disappointing to me. It would have been a fun goal to work on!
  • Organize the tea cupboard. FAIL. I don't have any ideas for how to fix that other than to reorganize all the kitchen cupboards and that is too much to contemplate.
  • Do one Spanish-learning activity every day. SUCCEED! DuoLingo for the win.

That's a 7/12 success rate, which isn't bad. Also, we went kayaking and I'm wearing dresses more often now, so some of the 2015 goals got done in 2016.

Here are my goals for this year:

  • Keep up my exercise routine. I don't usually do "continue doing X" sort of goals, but this one still feels a little shaky and it really matters, so it is not only on the list but the first thing I committed to myself to do.
  • Read a book on my Kindle instead of random things on my phone for at least one bedtime/week. I enjoy my social media time, but I also enjoy reading books.
  • Get making music back into my life. I keep trying, I keep failing. Maybe this is my year.
  • Volunteer - find a place to volunteer at regularly and do it. I've started working on this one. I'm researching potential volunteer options. I'm currently leaning towards volunteering with the local child abuse prevention charity that organizes the Adopt-a-Family event we participate in at Christmas time. I want to make a decision and get myself volunteering by February.
  • Frame the postcards for our office. We brought some postcards that are reproductions of artwork showing the region around St. Jean de Luz that we visited during our 2015 trip to France. The interior decorator who helped with our remodel used those postcards to recommend colors for our office. So now we need to get them framed and hung.
  • Paint the baseboards in the hall. This is a lingering item from our remodel, which finished in late 2015. I refuse to let them remain unpainted another year.
  • Buy a new mattress. We need one, and perhaps putting this on the list will get it done, like the curtains last year.
  • Invent a signature cocktail. I'm trying again!
  • Establish a yoga/meditation practice. I'm trying this one again, too, because the times in my life during which I've had a regular practice are the times when I have responded to stress the best, and I predict a lot of stress about the political situation in 2017.
I decided to leave it at nine goals this year. I want to focus more on my work goals, and I also expect to spend more time than usual on political things. So a shorter goals list feels right. I'll also be continuing with the crocheting and the efforts to learn some Spanish, so I think I won't be bored. 

I'll be writing about my work goals over at my newsletter this Friday. I've given myself a bit of a head start on one of the goals. I want to increase the reach of my Tungsten Hippo project, and late last year I started a monthly giveaway to help with that. This month's giveaway post went up today. I'm giving away two copies of Vanessa Fogg's wonderful novelette, The Lilies of Dawn. Go enter the giveaway! Tell your friends!

And tell me about your goals for the year in the comments if you want, or give me ideas for how to achieve my goals, or write about something random. Whatever.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Weekend Links: The Back to the Routine Edition

This post is going up late today because I was slower than usual on my Friday rollerblade and didn't have time to write the post before I had to pick up the kids and then make dinner. It was a nice rollerblade, though.

A rolling photo

I predicted I'd be slow on my first outing after the holiday break, and intended to leave early. However, I was determined to finish my end of year accounting and 2017 goals and financial plan before I went. The accounting took longer than I'd have liked. I was off by $20.10. I went through every single transaction for the year looking for my error and could not find it. Finally, I decided that this represented an error of much less than one-tenth of one percent in my overall balance sheet and I'd just make an adjustment and move on. 

I'd already written a solid draft of my 2017 work goals and financial plan, so it didn't take long to finish those up. This means that I have all my goals for 2017 written. I'll write about them next week: the personal and family fun ones here, and the work ones at my Founding Chaos newsletter.

Anyway, on to the links.

First, a reminder of the Annorlunda Books news: Caresaway is now available as a Kindle book or paperback, and I'm looking for submissions for 2017.

If you're still struggling to get back to productivity post-election, John Scalzi has some suggestions. I also wrote about how I'm maintaining productivity over at my real name work blog back in November.

I will say that the thing that helps me the most is setting aside a small amount of time every week for activism. I make phone calls and do other activism type things for 30-60 minutes every Wednesday morning. Knowing I have that time coming helps me focus on my work the rest of the time. This week was unusual, in that I also made a couple quick phone calls on Tuesday morning (the House ethics office) and this morning (the Senate Judiciary committee). For someone who hates making phone calls, I've been talking to a lot of bemused interns these days. They have all been very nice, even if their amusement at getting a bunch of calls from people clearly reading scripts they've found or written for themselves shows from time to time. I can understand: listening to somewhat nervous callers recite a soliloquy about the need in depth hearings about the fitness of the nominee for Attorney General (for instance) would be a weird job.

Speaking of activism: the sister district project is an interesting idea.

A friend of a friend has a Twitter account and Google group dedicated to a weekly action item list. And/or you can check in with the Indivisible Guide team to see if they know of a local group organizing to take action.

"... you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great."

The poem is a little more dismissive of those who are nervous about the changing America than I feel, but I get where it is coming from. I am a sap and still hold out hope for an America with room for all of us. Cole slaw is pretty good with tacos, to be honest.

Jason Kander, Missouri's outgoing Secretary of State, is one of the up and coming Democrats to watch, I think. Here is his piece about what he learned as a Democrat in a red state.

Like a couple other of the new Democrats I'm watching (Tammy Duckworth and Ruben Gallego), he is a veteran. (You might remember him from his Senate campaign ad in which he assembled an automatic rifle blindfolded.)

Has the center really fallen? I think some of us are still trying to hold it. This piece argues that the historical task of the left right now is to help hold the center.

Republicans may be backing away from Repeal and Delay. There are concerns from some of their own Senators. However, if you care about the Affordable Care Act, you should keep calling representatives. Read this Jonathan Chait piece about how Repeal and Delay would be forever if you need more motivation.

I haven't had time to read any of the articles about the newly released intelligence report yet, so I guess you can look forward to those links next week.

I'm mostly done with the "understanding Trump voters" genre, but there were two pieces I read this week that seem worth sharing:

And the NY Times article that a lot of people shared about why some blue collar men are unwilling to take the jobs that are available. I think some of those blue collar men would be surprised to learn that a lot of women who do "caring jobs" would rather do something else, too. However, before you dismiss the men in that article, ask your husband about it. Mine stated flatly that he could never do nursing work. I pointed out that he does great with the caring work for our kids. I pointed out that empathy and performing caring for strangers are skills that you can learn. Nope. It isn't that he thinks the work is beneath him. It is that he thinks he'd hate it and suck at it. His back up plan if automation kills his current career is food prep.

We have a lot of adjusting to do to get ready for the new realities of work, I think.

If you don't know what lutefisk is, look it up and then you'll see why I am laughing at the idea of a lutefisk hotline.

Mostly my family has pickled herring. And lefse! Now THAT is something that needs a hotline. I had some delicious lefse over Christmas, courtesy of my aunt and uncle who flew in from Minnesota.

And of course, we need to end with some bunnies.

Lots of bunnies.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Easing Into 2017... And a Release Day

Today is my second day back working after the holiday break. I'm doing OK, but I wouldn't say I'm setting any productivity records. That will come later, once I've convinced my body that no, we don't need an afternoon nap everyday. One of the items on my list today was to start on my 2017 work goals list. I did that, and then went out for my first run of the year. It had been several weeks since my last run of 2016, due partly to the break and partly to two colds I got in December. I've still got lingering congestion from the second cold. So the first run was underwhelming. Still, it felt good to stretch my legs a bit, and I'm genuinely looking forward to the first roller blade of 2017, which should happen on Friday, weather permitting.

I also think I'll try to schedule a walk on the beach soon, maybe even next Wednesday. I find beach walks to be a good way to do some deep thinking about goals, and I have a new book release to celebrate.

Speaking of that new book release....

Caresaway, by DJ Cockburn came out today. I am trying something new with this release. I've made the ebook Amazon-exclusive for three months, and will experiment to see whether I can make the Kindle Unlimited program worthwhile for me. I prefer to go with a broad release, but the KU program gives me access to some additional advertising tools, and I want to see if they are worth giving up the other markets for a few months.

So anyway, you should all buy a copy of Caresaway! It is a thought-provoking "in your head" thriller set in the near future. Edward Crofte has discovered what seems to be a miraculous cure for depression, but he learns that it comes at a steep cost.

Here are the usual links:

And for your social sharing convenience (please help spread the word!)
Here's a funny-sad true story about the book. At one point, one of the characters says "So we've made a must-have accessory for the next Bernie Madoff." It originally said "the next Donald Trump," but we decided to change it because we didn't want to tie the book into the current politics, fearing it might make the book feel dated later. This was back when Trump was still just a somewhat unlikely candidate for the Republican nomination. Sigh.

Anyway, check out the book, I think you'll like it! If you're in the Kindle Unlimited program, you can read it for free for the next three months. If you use an ereader other than a Kindle, you should be able to buy it from Amazon, download it, convert it to an ePub (e.g., using Calibre) and then load it onto your ereader. I have never done this (I have done the reverse: bought from Kobo, converted to mobi, and loaded onto my Kindle), but it should in theory be possible. Or, I guess you can wait until April, when I'll expand the release to the other ebook retailers. But why wait? Try it, and if you run into trouble email me and I'll set you up with an epub.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Trip Story: Mesa and Surrounds

Happy New Year! I'll write my usual Family Fun List and Personal Goals posts soon. But first, I want to write about where I spent the last week and a half: on vacation in Mesa, Arizona. I visit often, and I always think I'm going to write one of my trip story posts, but I never do. This year, I'm finally doing it!

We were visiting my parents, who still live in the same house I grew up in. My old neighborhood is walking distance to downtown Mesa, and one of the nice things about recent trips home has been visiting downtown Mesa and seeing its revival. When I was in high school, it was dying. I think it passed through its nadir during my college years. Over the years, I've been watching it fight its way back. It makes me happy to see businesses surviving and even thriving there these days.

There are good restaurants and even two brewery tasting rooms on Main Street, but my favorite restaurant is a few blocks away. ‎República Empanada is on 1st Avenue:

I make sure to eat there every time we visit. This is the first time I noticed this sign on their wall:

The empanadas are delicious.

Right next door, is a little public garden:

Which also has a little free library, in an old phone booth:

One of the other spots we almost always visit on a trip to Arizona is the Riparian Preserve in nearby Gilbert. It is part of their water reclamation plant, and is a wonderful showcase of desert plants and a great place to see birds. Here is the view from one of the paths:

Those are the Superstition Mountains in the distance
This visit, we also went over to the Phoenix Zoo. They had a special Lego exhibit, and we love Lego. Petunia was disappointed that the zebras were off exhibit during our visit, but at least she got to see the Lego zebra.

There were also nice views of the surrounding Papago Park.

Since we were there during the Christmas season, we also went over to the Mesa Mormon Temple to appreciate their annual light display.

Here is the temple:

Pictures don't really do justice to the light display. It is huge.

A view to the manger scene.
These guys are still making their way to the manger: they are around the other side of the visitor's center.

This year, they had some beautiful "flowers" made of lights. These were Petunia's favorites:

Another favorite place to visit is the i.d.e.a Museum, a kids' museum in downtown Mesa. My kids love the place, and managed to finagle two visits this trip.

We had thought we'd take a day trip to Wickenburg, so that Mr. Snarky could see some new parts of my home state. But I got another cold, and we didn't find the time. We did stop in Yuma for lunch on both of our travel days, though. On the way home, we visited a new brewpub in downtown Yuma, which is working on its own revival. The real reason we always stop in Yuma, though, is the West Wetlands Park, which has a really cool playground:

It started to rain on us on our stop on the way home, unfortunately. It rained most of the way home after that. The rain made the dunes just outside of Yuma a different sort of beautiful, and that was nice. And we saw a gorgeous rainbow just outside of Ocotillo. Unlike many other cars on the freeway, I didn't pull over to the shoulder for a photo op, so you'l just have to take my word for it. The clouds took visibility at the summits of the two passes between Yuma and San Diego to close to zero, which was much less nice. Still, we made it home safely, and while I've done the drive so many times that it has lost any novelty, I still find parts of it beautiful. I love the saguaros near Gila Bend, and sometimes the mountains just east of Yuma are breathtaking. Mr Snarky's favorite part is the mountains with big boulders just west of Ocotillo, and I agree those are pretty.

These days, the drive also takes us past two solar farms (one in California, one in Arizona), and a big wind farm near Ocotillo. That always makes me smile, too. We're learning how to take advantage of the energy sources that are abundant in this part of the world.

We've been home for a couple of days. Our bags are unpacked, and the new toys are strewn around our house. It is good to be home, but it is good to visit my old home, too.