Friday, February 24, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Too Tired to Do It Right Edition

The news has worn me out this week. And I also had a lot going work-wise, so I'm tired and writing this post in the minutes before I need to go pick up my kids. It will be short.

Still, I have links.

First some publishing related news: I'm running a Kindle Countdown deal on Caresaway right now. Buy now before the price goes back up to normal!

Also, the paperback edition of Unspotted is out!

Finally, I'm really close to meeting this quarter's goal for Tungsten Hippo mailing list sign ups, so if you think a weekly email with a couple of short ebook recommendations, a quote, and short ebook related news sounds tempting, sign up now so that I can meet my goal and take a celebratory walk on the beach.

That's enough self-promotion. Here's some other people promotion: a friend of a friend is running a GoFundMe to send copies of Becoming Nicole, a book about a transgender youth, to Texas legislators. Chip in if you want to help educate Texas legislators about the people who will be harmed the "bathroom bill" they are contemplating.

The US doesn't actually have an immigration crisis right now.

If you're wanting more facts about the current state of immigration and some ideas for how to fix it, there's a Planet Money podcast on the subject. One thing I am ashamed to admit I did not know that I learned in that podcast: there is basically no legal way for an uneducated worker from Mexico to come here. According to an economist quoted on that podcast says such a person would need to wait 130 years to get a green card. That is essentially no chance.

Here's a story about the Tohono O'odham, whose sacred land is in the path of the planned border wall. We cannot undo our history of disregarding the land rights of the Native peoples of this country, but we could start respecting them now. I don't expect that this administration will, though.

You should also read this essay by a Navajo woman living in LA about answering when asked where she is from.

I can't say I feel much sympathy at all for Milo Y. John Scalzi sums it up rather well, but I confess I don't care why Milo is the way he is or why his follower follow him. I care about the people they are hurting, and I want our society to start holding them accountable for the damage they do.

Roxane Gay's post after Milo lost his book deal is worth your time, though.

I like the idea of a class on calling bullshit.

That's all I have. A lot more happened, but you can read about it somewhere else. Not because I don't care, but because I'm tired and it is time to get my kids.

Here's your bunny to end on, though:

Happy weekend!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Morning Musings

Last night, I said in an off-hand way that I wished I was 10 years younger.

Mr. Snarky replied in an equally off-hand way that if I was 10 years younger, I'd be pregnant.

And he is right. 10 years ago, I was in the final months of my first pregnancy. It is a bit weird to think about that, both because I can't believe that the little baby who arrived in April of 2007 is now almost 10, and because I've changed so much in those 10 years, too.

I am happy with the changes. I am a stronger person now than I was then, more sure of myself, and more able to distinguish the signal of what I want from the noise of what society tells me I should want. I still work to consistently act on what I want, but at least I'm better at knowing what it is.

So, while I would love to have my body of 10 years ago back, I don't actually wish I was 10 years younger. I'm better off now.


Another thing I thought about after this exchange: the way some decisions radically alter the path of your life, to the point that there is no crossing back over to the other path. This is not a novel thought. But I still think sometimes about the path I stepped off of when Pumpkin was born. That other path had a lot more travel in it, I'm sure. I'd probably have seen more of the world, and I love traveling and seeing new things, so that would have been a nice path.

But this path is pretty amazing, too.  I've said before that parenthood is like a different type of journey. Like any journey, it has some really tough parts. It also has unbelievably amazing parts. I love traveling with my kids, for instance. I love watching them see new places. It is a different dimension of travel, and for me, it makes up for the extra hassle of traveling with kids.

Don't get me wrong, I like to travel alone and with just Mr. Snarky, too. But I love our family vacations.


Whenever I write about the journey of parenthood, I wish I was a better writer. I cannot adequately describe what it is to be a mother. I wish I could, but I can't.

Right now, I'm reading Stephen King's On Writing, and am amused by how this is making me think I should write more and try to get better. I even jotted down some notes for a fiction idea. 

Maybe someday I'll try my hand at fiction. It seems unlikely, but you never know. Right now, though, I have other priorities, and I need to stay focused. One of the things I've learned in the last 10 years is that I have a tendency to start lots of projects. I find so many things interesting, and it is so tempting to pursue them all! Learning to embrace that and also manage it has been one of the great gifts I've received from this blog. A reader pointed me to a book about "scanners" and I recognized myself and also picked up some great ideas for how to harness that energy to build a life I love. 

Now, I don't necessarily start in immediately on every idea I have, but I write it down in one of my notebooks (I keep one for writing ideas, and one for other ideas), and I let myself enjoy each idea. Then I turn back to the kanban board I keep on my office door and focus on finishing one of the projects I already have in flight.

Speaking of which, I have a proof to review. The paperback version of Unspotted will be available soon!


Here's an old post about kanban, but if you want to know more about how I use it to organize my work, you'll have to head over to my real name blog. I was about to say that you could email me if you need a link, but I guess it has been awhile since I cross-linked, so here is the post I have in mind

Friday, February 17, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Post Roller Rink Edition

My kids had today off school. Our school district makes Presidents Day into a four day weekend for some reason. So Mr. Snarky will work from home with them on Monday, and I had them today. I worked in the morning, and then took them to the rollerskating rink this afternoon. We had a great time. Petunia likes me to skate with her, so I spent a couple of hours skating slowly next to her. Actually, by the end of our time there, she was moving at a decent rate. Pumpkin ran into some friends from school and basically ignored me and Petunia, except when she wanted money for a snack. But that was OK, too. It is fun to see her having fun with her friends.

And now it is time to get my links posted before I go make dinner. I have a good mix for you this week:

First, the news about our slow-moving national catastrophe:

Josh Marshall on the weird and dangerous ground we're on with all of the leaks from the intelligence community.

And a music student took the words from Clinton's concession speech and made a song, and it is music student earnest but it might make you cry:

I can't decide whether voter ID laws are the biggest threat to our democracy, or if gerrymandering is.  Arnie (who helped change how CA draws our districts) has an ad out against gerrymandering. And a new study shows that voter ID laws do indeed suppress the votes of minorities, even though the type of voter fraud they aim to prevent is essentially non-existent.

We can try to ignore truth, but nature will not, and people will suffer for it as they have in the past.

I didn't know who PewDiePie is, but apparently that is because I am old. Even if you don't know who he is, either, this BuzzFeed piece from Jacob Clifton about his fall from grace is worth your time. It is also about why hate seems to be breeding so vigorously in some corners of the internet.

Here's a nice story about the success of roundabouts in one of San Diego's neighborhoods. I lived in north Pacific Beach, which is the community just south of Bird Rock, at the time of this change, and it was indeed amazing. It made the walk along that stretch of road so much nicer, and although we worried the drive would be slower, it really wasn't. Or if it was, the fact that it was more pleasant made up for it.

The Eagles vs. Chickens episode of the Planet Money podcast is wonderful.

This is ridiculously cute:

But bunnies are cuter:

And now, I am off to make dinner. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Make Lying Wrong Again

I have come to realize I am not just sad about what is happening in my country right now. I am angry. In fact, I am seething.  And it is not even primarily about Trump. He is just the ultimate example of the thing that is making me angry, and as I look back over the last several years, I can recognize that this anger has been growing for a long time.

My anger is at the lies that pervade our public discussions. I am so sick of watching people lie and get away with it. It is poisoning our country. I can get along with people who hold opposite policy views from mine. I can talk to them and try to find common ground, and if there is no common ground to find, I can agree to abide by the decision of the majority of my fellow citizens, even if I disagree with it. I might work to change their opinions, but I can accept that such change may be a long time coming, and in fact might not come in my lifetime.

But I cannot get along with people who tell blatant lies and then use those lies to manipulate the opinion of the voters. I cannot abide with decisions that are founded on things that are just not true. I can't speak for anyone else on the left side of the political divide, but I can tell you that this is radicalizing my own views about how my representatives should behave. What is the point of asking them to cooperate with people on the other side of the aisle if the people on that other side won't be honest about facts and about their policy proposals?

Again, this is not about disagreeing with policy proposals. I can respect a position that government should not require people to buy health insurance, although I disagree with it. But rather than debating that position on its merits, we got the nonsense about "death panels," in which a humane policy of paying for the time doctors spend counseling patients and their families about their end of life options was twisted into a grotesque parody of itself and used to scare people into opposing Obamacare.

I can accept that some people do not think government should provide insurance via programs like Medicaid, and instead want this to happen in the private market. But let's debate the merits of those proposals openly, instead of whipping up hatred against "Obamacare" among people who depend on it for their health insurance but know it as the ACA. I know a lot of people laughed at the stories of people adamantly opposing Obamacare while proudly saying they got their insurance from the ACA, but those stories just made me sad. I don't think those people are stupid. I think they were willfully misled for the political gain of people who may not have had their best interests at heart.

I think it is reasonable to take the position that the economic cost of trying to limit climate change is too high. Again, I disagree, and I disagree vehemently. But I can respect it as an honest position. But instead of defending that position, we have people who refuse to acknowledge climate change is even happening. I can't have a policy debate with people who think this, and that is why they do it. By refusing to acknowledge the problem, they prevent us from having an honest discussion to find solutions that the majority of us could live with.

We can have an honest debate about how many immigrants and refugees we should welcome into our country, but let's do that based on what we know about our capacity to absorb new people into our society rather than groundless claims that Muslim immigrants want to institute sharia law here. (How would that even happen? Muslims currently make up about 1% of our population. How in the world do you envision a scenario in which there are enough Muslims here to force sharia law on us, even if they wanted to? And, to be clear, there is no evidence to indicate that they do. None of my Muslim friends have any interest in such a thing.)

I could go on and on. We are stuck on so many of the problems facing our country. I don't blame the white working class voters who got fed up with the state of things. I disagree with their chosen plan to fix it, because I think Trump is the biggest liar of them all and that he's going to sell them out to the usual moneyed interests in a blink of an eye, but I understand why they were frustrated. We haven't been addressing their problems. We haven't been addressing a lot of problems, because we're stuck having pointless arguments about peripheral things. There are people with very strong interests who know they can't necessarily win an argument on its merits, so instead resort to changing the narrative to make us argue about something else.

I was listening to a podcast today (The "Eight Years in the Situation Room with Ben Rhodes" of Pod Save the World), and they were talking about the Israeli reaction to the decision by the Obama administration to abstain on that last UN vote about settlements, and Ben Rhodes made a point that really clicked with me. He said that instead of coming out and defending why the settlements are a good idea, the Netanyahu camp came out and talked about the US colluding with other nations to get this resolution on the table. Rhodes said that is wasn't true, that there was no collusion. But even if there was, that wasn't the real issue. The real issue is the settlements, but instead of talking about that, he was fielding a bunch of questions about the supposed collusion. That sort of dishonest narrative setting is going all the time these days, and it is working.

To a certain extent, attempting to set a narrative is fine. People like narratives, and narratives will naturally influence how we view problems. But it is not fine when you base your narrative on an outright lie and refuse to listen to any evidence that demonstrates that it is, in fact, a lie.

I am stuck for what to do because I honestly believe the escalating rounds of obstructionism and partisanship are leading us towards a very bad place as a country. Yet I see no way to stop it other than to just give in to the demands of the conservatives. This may make conservatives happy in the short term, but I don't think it leads to a better place in the longer term. Conservatives are at best a slim majority in the country right now (polling on this is mixed, and while it is clear that Democrats have won the popular vote in 4 out of the last 5 elections, presidential elections are not a perfect indicator of this sort of thing). However, it seems to me that the Republicans are currently controlled by their most extreme wing, and that is certainly a minority. The polls I see put Tea Party support at about 30% at its peak.  Allowing a minority like that to make governing decisions that are deeply unpopular and in fact cause harm to sizable groups of people strikes me as a likely to take our country to a very bad place, too.

I keep coming back to an offhand comment I saw from someone on Twitter (I'm not sure who, unfortunately: maybe Summer Brennan) about how long it took the world to adjust to the printing press. While most people now agree that the democratization of information that the printing press brought was a good thing, at the time it caused a lot of disruption. Living through the Reformation was probably not a lot of fun.

We are living through the age of adjusting to the internet and social media, and it is looking like this adjustment will also be a rough ride. Maybe we're going to end up somewhere better for it. The way these technologies allow us to connect people all over the world is a wonderful thing. But it has also allowed people to protect themselves from information that might challenge their views, while still feeling "informed" because they read the news every day. It has allowed purveyors of outright lies to make their product look as professional and real as true news media. We can't go back, though, even if we wanted to. All we can do is try to get through to the better world we hope we can build.

I think it would help a lot if we could make lying wrong again. We will never agree on all things. We will need to have often contentious discussions about the best policies to enact. But we can't do that if we're arguing with lies.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Darcy Edition

You almost got another post this week, but I decided to write my post about the FDA over at my professional site. And I was ready to rant about when I started getting angry about politics last night, but decided to escape into my favorite cheesy Dutch detective show instead. (It is called Lord and Master and is in fact the only Dutch show I have ever watched. I like it because the combination or ridiculous plots, beautiful settings, well-tailored clothes, and almost comprehensible Dutch makes it something that lets me completely escape the real world.)

So, let's just get to the links. I named this post to make sure you don't miss the link about Darcy near the bottom. I could move it up here, but my pattern is self-promo, serious stuff, fun stuff and apparently I feel strongly about keeping that.

First up, the self-promo: a nice new review of The Lilies of Dawn. This one was a surprise to me- I hadn't sent a review copy. It is always nice to get a spontaneous review!  (For new readers who might not know: I run a little publishing company and this is one of the books I published.)

An economist looks at whether the low tax, anti-union policies in states like Kansas and Wisconsin actually help their economies. I would like to read a more thorough analysis of the impact of these policies. People keep saying that states are policy laboratories, so it would be nice to read a thorough analysis of what we've learned in those laboratories. Probably something like this exists and I should go look for it. If you know of such a thing, feel free to spare me the search time by dropping it in my comments!

Jeet Heer on how it is turning out that people should have taken Trump literally as well as seriously.

But I agree with Ezra Klein's argument here: there is an institution that can stop the excesses of our current President, they are just choosing not to. So I'm directing my attention more towards Congress.

Apparently there is now a special line for me to call and ask the Oversight Committee to investigate whatever egregious conflict of interest turns up next week.

These stories about people getting hassled by Border Agents scare me. It feels like we are teetering on the edge of something very bad. Ordinary people amplified the cruelty of the immigration Executive Order, which is unsurprising given what we know about human psychology, but still chilling.

This is a good ad:

This is a thoughtful essay from Pat Blanchard about how political circumstances interact with private suffering.

This Washington Post article about healthcare in Idaho is worth your time, even though it will probably make you really sad.

Let's make to Darcy a verb!

Stern bunny of the week:

Fluffy bunnies!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Completely Apolitical Hodge-Podge

We spent today at Legoland, and had a wonderful time. My legs are a bit sore, but it was worth it. The lines are shorter on Super Bowl Sunday, so we could go on some of the rides that on other days we decide aren't worth the wait. I don't think we waited more than 15 minutes for any ride. Both of my kids are now old enough for the cooler of the two little car attractions, and they went driving a couple of times. We pulled ourselves to the top of a tower using a rope, shot targets in the Lost Kingdom, and ran around on the castle playground, among other things.

Miniland is still my favorite part, though. They have updated their mini-NYC, and looking at it gave me a powerful longing to go to the real NYC for a visit. Petunia was fascinated by the cars and boats that move themselves around in Miniland, and asked a lot of questions about how they built those. At the shop at the end of the day, though, what she wanted was Cinderella's castle. She had saved up her money so she could pay half, and we said we'd pay the other half. Sadly, they didn't have that set. It has recently been discontinued. Luckily, we were able to find it online, and it has been ordered. She was sad she couldn't bring it home with her, but it was still a really good day.


In other news, there is a new giveaway post up at Tungsten Hippo.

And speaking of Tungsten Hippo, I'm spending a little money right now on ads to grow its mailing list. The best return I've gotten to date is from the classifieds in Ann Friedman's newsletter. Also, it makes me happy to spend my ad money with people making things, rather than just on Facebook. So, if you know of any other newsletters, indie podcasts, or the like that I should look at for advertising opportunities, let me know.


I've started reading the manuscripts that came in from my call for submissions to Annorlunda Books. I really enjoy this, up until the point where I have to tell some people "no thanks." There is still time to send me something, if you or anyone you know has a short manuscript looking for a home. Anything that comes in by February 10 will be considered in this batch.


I feel like there was some other little snippet I meant to write about tonight, but whatever it was, it is gone now, and I need to sign out because my husband is doing his ironing. This means (1) he is watching something on TV, and whatever he is watching tonight has a lot of loud cars and shouting, and (2) the light in the office keeps flickering, because for some reason it flickers everytime he puts the iron back on its charging base. So, between those two things and my really quite tired legs, I think it is time for me to go to bed and read.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Short Edition

This week's links post is going to be short, for a couple of reasons. First, I was on a business trip Thursday afternoon through Friday evening. I am writing this in my hotel Thursday night, and will (presumably) post it when I get home Friday. Time alone in a hotel room is not something I get frequently, and having had a nice dinner and stroll through town, I plan to snuggle into bed and read a book.

The second reason is less pleasant: the immigration executive order issued last Friday really upset and rattled me. I thought I might write about that this week,but found that I couldn't. I will reiterate what I shared on Twitter. My husband is a green card holder. He is from New Zealand, and even given Trump's surprisingly rude behavior to the Australian prime minister this week, it seems unlikely that his immigration status will be subject to any executive orders anytime soon. Still, a green card or visa represents a promise made by the US government: follow our rules, and you can live here and build a life. To watch my government break that promise to so many innocent people really shook me. I feel like perhaps we are building our life here on a foundation of sand.

Now, Mr. Snarky could become a US citizen, and was in fact considering whether to do so this year. The executive order made up his mind for him. He will not become a citizen under such circumstances. If he gets detained and deported at the border at some point, so be it. I guess the kids and I would come through and figure out how to wrap up our life here and move to New Zealand. That is an extraordinary thing to think about, but I cannot blame Mr. Snarky for his decision. I might make the same one, in his position.

I've talked to many friends in a similar situation as me: married to a green card holder. There seems to be a fairly even split between people taking Mr. Snarky's line and people deciding to hurry up their citizenship process. All of us are now rushing to get our kids their second passports, though. What a sad state of affairs.

Anyway, my anger over this situation changed my reading habits for the week, and I have fewer links to share. But I do have some:

This is an interesting piece about the distinction between conservatives and authoritarians, and what that might mean for us in America right now. The part I'm stumbling on is the idea that liberals should promise to slow down change to make conservatives willing to join in a coalition against authoritarians. I get why that might be a good strategy, but I can't get past the fact that there are a lot of people out there, waiting for the change to happen. It galls me to think we have to tell trans people to wait for the right to go to the bathroom in public buildings, or Black people to wait for us to work more on addressing the systemic racism that has created a huge wealth gap in this country, or Muslims to wait for us to allow them to build mosques where they need them just like we let Christians build churches. It seems to me that these people have been waiting long enough. So I don't know how we get past this impasse.

Here is another conservative's take on this situation. David Frum and David Brooks also wrote about it. Conservative intellectuals are trying. Will anyone in Congress respond?

I keep promising to write about the FDA, and then bad things happen and I can't do it. But here are two more things to read in the meantime: a short piece from Derek Lowe about "the flightosome" that might not make a lot of sense to people not familiar with cell biology, but give it a try, because it might. And a Vox write up (that quotes Lowe) about the problems with Peter Thiel's understanding of the FDA.

This tweet sums it up rather well:

This Jamelle Bouie piece wondering whether the immigration executive orders will have the same galvanizing effect as the Fugitive Slave Act did is interesting.

The story behind that awesome photo everyone was sharing of the two kids, one Jewish, one Muslim, on their dads' shoulders.

Another nice interfaith gesture, but again in response to something ugly.

And that's what I have.

Except there was also a nice review of Caresaway that came out this week.

And of course, bunnies: