Monday, August 28, 2017

Trip Story: Moab to Salt Lake City

The drive from Moab to Salt Lake City is a long one. Google Maps told me it would take almost four hours. Therefore, we tried to break it up. Unfortunately, the first part of the drive is through incredibly empty country. It is also very sparse scenery. I have a higher appreciation than most for desert landscapes, and even I tired of the Book Cliffs before we left them. I found parts of the drive between Moab and our first stop in Price pretty, but there was just too much of it!

But we made it through, and pulled in to the Subway we'd picked out for lunch right at lunch time... and right behind an entire Little League team. Luckily, we weren't in a hurry.

After lunch, we drove to the nearby Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum. This is a small but extremely well done museum. I had picked it as a stop location because of its dinosaur bones: the large Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is nearby. In addition to dinosaur bones, the museum had a good exhibit about the early human inhabitants of the area.

I thought this exhibit was really good.

The grown ups really liked the exhibits, but for the kids the draw was the children's area near the dino bones. There was a pretend dig site and Petunia in particular didn't want to do much else at the museum but play in that.

Dino bones that were essentially ignored by my supposedly dino loving daughter.

At first I was a little annoyed that Petunia refused to spend much time looking at the bones—or talking to the real dinosaur scientists who were setting up a new exhibit and happy to talk to passing children!—but I eventually gave up caring. Petunia had been really excited about this stop. She wore her dino t-shirt and the crop pants I'd patched with a piece of fabric with a dino print. And what she found most compelling when she got to the museum was the fake dig. Who was I to argue?

Since Petunia insisted on playing in the kids area for so long, I ended up chatting with another mother there with her kid. They were locals, and before long, her husband dropped by, too. He told us about how the miners in the area would find fossilized dinosaur footprints in the coal seams. He said there is a house in a nearby town (I think he said it was in Helper) that has a large T. rex footprint fossil in its wall! I was tempted to take a little detour to go try to see that, but we decided to just stick with our original plan instead.

After we left Price, the scenery got greener and more variable. Sadly, since it was after lunch, Mr. Snarky slept through much of it. But it made for a nice drive for me!

Our next stop was in Provo, the home of Brigham Young University. I had found several shops that were potential places for us to get a mid-afternoon treat. We settled on a Bahama Buck's snowcone shop, which was near a park. The kids loved their snowcones, although we didn't go in for any of the fancy options available. And then we all enjoyed stretching our legs at the park.

From Provo, we drove on to Salt Lake City and checked into our hotel, which was a Doubletree on the outskirts of downtown. We walked to the Squatters Brew Pub for dinner that night and turned in early.

The next day, we got up and headed towards Temple Square. We stopped at a coffee shop for breakfast, but that didn't work so well. Neither kid was all that happy with the pastry options and it was a good thing I had snacks in my bag give them instead. (We learned our lesson: all other breakfasts in SLC were at Starbucks, known to have food options my children will eat.)

Another problem with the breakfast stop was it lacked a bathroom... and Petunia decided she needed one. So we headed to the Salt Palace, SLC's convention center. It had a gift shop and bathrooms. And an art installation outside that Pumpkin enjoyed:

She played the NZ national anthem. 

After our pit stop, we headed over to Temple Square. Mr. Snarky was determined that we would do a guided tour of Temple Square, despite my warning that it would just be used as a chance to proselytize to us. However, he didn't think the kids could stand the length of time of the regular tour (I think it was an hour long), so he asked for and got us a special tour. So we had two very enthusiastic missionaries all to ourselves!

The Temple

They were very nice and we were very polite and everyone got through the tour without embarrassment, although the kids did seem puzzled as to why we were insisting they sit through this. I figure it was a good actual example of my frequent admonition to them that we respect everyone's religion, even if we don't believe what they believe.

Still, we were all glad to head across the street to the City Creek Mall to get lunch. We had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant, and then headed out again, this time to see the State Capitol.

Nice building.

It is a fine capitol, as capitols go, but I don't share Mr. Snarky's enthusiasm for them.

We had a nice walk back towards town, along the creek that shows up in the City Creek Mall. I posted a bit about the signs we saw on our walk earlier. The walk was a little hot and long for the kids, though, so we stopped and got ice cream when I saw a fancy ice cream truck. That was definitely just for the kids. Yep.

After a short rest at our hotel, we headed out again. Mr. Snarky saw a park on the map that we could stop at on our way to the Planetarium, which we planned to see before dinner. But the park was really full of homeless people, to the point that they were sleeping on the play structures, so we skipped that and substituted the Children's Museum for the Planetarium to make up for the lost play time and stop Petunia from whining about it.

The Children's Museum is in the Gateway Mall, which had these swing tables that our kids thought were awesome. We thought they looked impractical.

The kids had fun at the museum, and we had dinner at the CPK in the Gateway mall before catching the TRAX train back to our hotel.

The next day, we started with my pick for "most important thing to do in SLC": The Tracy Aviary. It was smaller than I expected but still quite good. We started by watching the show, which was fun and well done. Then we wandered around and saw a bunch of birds. We were surprised to find some keas, which looked unimpressed by the heat, but came out when prompted to show off their ability to turn knobs to get you to drop quarters in their donation bin.

Clever Kea

After the aviary, we meant to play at the playground in Liberty Park, but the playground wasn't shady enough and the equipment was too hot. So we headed on to the Sugar House district for lunch at the Wasquatch brew pub.

Then we drove on to This Is the Place, a heritage park that the kids quite enjoyed, but from which I don't really have any good pictures. Mr. Snarky quite liked it, too. I perhaps burned out on settler historical sites as a child, because my favorite part of the place was the little doughnuts we bought. (OK, all joking aside, I found it a little too "rah rah hardy settlers" without really confronting what happened to the Native Americans who were living on the land before the settlers arrived. But... I will also admit that I didn't give it a fair chance. They had a Native American section set up with members of a local tribe there to demonstrate weaving and other Native crafts and talk about how the tribes lived at the time the settlers arrived. Perhaps in that section there was an honest reckoning. I did not go check it out because the kids rightly pointed out that what we'd visited in Monument Valley was better. But even so, that was one small part of the park, and the rest of the park was devoted to demonstrating just how awesome and hardy those Mormon settlers were. And fair enough, they were hardy. So were the Native Americans who'd been living in that area for centuries.)

Moving on... after we left the heritage park, we drove back to the hotel and decided to try again to see the Planetarium. The kids lobbied for and got Subway for dinner (our kids think the weirdest things are treats). First, we accidentally visited the SLC Library, which I'd read was impressive. We took the wrong train and got off at the library stop to go back to catch the correct train. We decided to make the most of our mistake and wandered over to see the library. We arrived too late to go inside, but I agree, the building is impressive.

Nice library.

So was the Planetarium. Honestly, it might have been my favorite stop in SLC (although the aviary was pretty good, too). The kids had a lot of fun with the exhibits, which I thought were really well done. I was particularly impressed with the Mars Rover exhibit. They had four rovers that you could move around... but only by sending programmed instructions. The programming was simple (you click on arrows), but it did a really good job of demonstrating what "driving a rover" on a distant planet is like: asynchronous.

Petunia drives a rover.

There was also a planetary weather station exhibit where the kids got to read weather reports from various planets. The kids loved that.

After we finished up at the Planetarium, we took the TRAX back to our hotel. We'd had a great visit to Salt Lake City. Next time, we leave town and see a lot of salt. At the rate I'm going, I'll probably post on that in October. (Just kidding. I'll try to pick up the pace!)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Weekend Reading: That Week Went Fast Edition

My kids start school on Monday, and this last week of their summer break went by really fast. I honestly thought I'd post another trip story sometime this week... but it didn't happen. There is always next week.

In book promo news:
In other self-promo news:

I finally decided to offer an online version of my non-academic job search seminar. I've given various versions of this seminar at several places, and had been debating whether or not to do an online version. I finally got off the fence about that. The live session will  be Sept. 20. Enrollment is open until Sept. 18, but the price goes up five dollars on Sept. 6. I've intentionally priced this seminar below my usual price to hopefully keep it accessible to anyone who is interested: it is $25 until Sept 6, and $30 after that. If you can't afford the price, though, email me and we'll work something out.

OK, enough promotional links. On to the other stuff! I don't have much this week, because other things have kept me busy. But here's what I have:

California has done a great job showing that we can transition to green energy without hurting on our economy, but the next climate challenge we face is even bigger: how to decrease emissions from cars. If you are interested in how we can fight climate change, take a look at this article. What we need to do next is daunting, but if we can do it, I think we'll end up with cities that are more enjoyable to live in (even ignoring the climate impact).

David Perry puts the exclusion of women from coding jobs into historical context, using medieval beer brewing as an example.

This is from a couple weeks ago, but I forgot to post it, and it is still worth reading: Jamelle Bouie is right that white Americans need to make a choice

This is a masterful use of Twitter by Rep. Don Beyer (click through for the full thread):

The lecture anthropologist Katie Hinde gave on the first day of class this year is a wonderfully told story about what her field can offer.

Look at this beautiful bird:

And this cute bunny!

Right now, I'm watching Hurricane Harvey bear down on Texas, and hoping everyone in its path stays safe and that FEMA has its act together even if I have little confidence in the White House to provide any meaningful leadership right now. I'm thinking about you folks in Texas and neighboring states. Get to higher ground if you need to.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Bad Week Edition

Wow, am I glad it is Friday. This post is late because of all the reasons that make me glad it is Friday, but primarily because I had to pick one kid up from camp, get her to a friend's house for a sleepover, and then be available to receive the other kid coming home from a day spent with a friend.

We pick Mr. Snarky up at the airport on Sunday, and I am looking forward to only driving to half of the things next week.  (Fun twist: we pick him up at LAX, not the San Diego airport, so I get one last burst of driving to round out the week! My conclusions from the week of being one with my car are that I need a larger playlist on my ipod and that I should buy a steering wheel cover because the steering wheel on the 10 year old Prius sort of flakes off on your hands after you've been driving for an hour.)

Anyhow, let's get to the links.

First some sort of self promotion: Water into Wine, a sci-fi novella by Joyce Chng and the next Annorlunda Books release will be out next month, and available for pre-order in a couple of weeks. I'm looking for advance readers. If you are interested, sign up on this form.

Also, next week I'm running a sale on The Lilies of Dawn, a fantasy novelette by Vanessa Fogg. The ebook will be just $0.99. The price is dropping on the ebook retailer sites this weekend. Click through to the book's home page to read more about the book and find direct links to your favorite ebook stores.

And now some friend promotion: A friend of ours has an awesome weather app for Android called Flowx. It lets you swipe through the day and see the cloud cover (or other weather stat) change on the map. Check it out!

On to the less awesome stuff. Warning, a lot of the link this week are really tough to read. It was a bad week.

Roxane Gay on the hate that doesn't hide, and regrets for not doing more to prevent this election outcome.

Charles M. Blow on the Republican complicity in the current situation, and how far back that complicity stretches. If you don't know what the Southern Strategy was, and have never read Nixon's own aides admissions about it, please read this piece.

Alexandra Petri on Trump's despicable words.

A Mother Jones reporter visits her small Southern home town and interviews the people of color who live there.

The president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, on what that Saturday was like for him and his congregation.

Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother, gave a hell of a eulogy for a her daughter:

I marvel at her strength and am heartbroken that it is necessary.

Lest we think that this is only a Southern problem... San Diego removed a marker for the Jefferson Davis Highway from our downtown this week. And there's a debate underway in Denver about a neighborhood named for a former mayor who was also a member of the KKK. (h/t Bad Mom Good Mom for that last link.)

Dave Pell on how the character being tested now is not Trump's, it is ours.

David Frum on how we've let the 2nd amendment cancel the 1st amendment.

Read Noah Smith's list of things he'd do to improve our economy and think about an alternate outcome in which we are discussing ideas like these instead of how to defeat the emboldened Nazis marching in our streets.

Here's a nice politics story: the friendship between Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson.

This made me laugh. Click through to read the entire thread:

Mat Pearce asked people to share their favorite public statues and there are some great answers:

Here's an old post with one of my favorites.

Bunny in a hat!

That's all I have this week. I'm sure I missed some things I meant to share, but it is still a lot of grim reading. Sorry about that. I hope for a better week next week, but given who is in the White House and the number of White Supremacist rallies I've seen planned around the country... I think that may be an impossible hope.

But I want to end on something happy, so here is the song that has been stuck in my head all week because my kids like it and ask for it when we're driving around:

The fact that last week Mr. Snarky and I finally got around to watching the (excellent) documentary about the song probably has something to do with it being embedded in my brain, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Long Week

I am solo parenting this week. My husband is visiting his family in New Zealand for his father's birthday. Since our schedule is built assuming two adults shuttling children around, I knew this was going to be a tough week, and told my main client I'd be working fewer hours. Even so, this week has kicked my butt.

I can't deconvolute how much of the exhaustion I feel is from the increased parenting load and how much is from the general dumpster fire of American life right now. Honestly, I'm hoping it is mostly the former, since that at least has a defined end date.

I haven't been writing about the dumpster fire lately because I don't find that I have anything new or insightful to say. I agree with Josh Marshall on this: I watched Republicans build a bomb and present it to the American electorate, who lit the fuse. And now it has exploded, and well, what can I saw except "I told you so?" On my better days, I can say "I really wish you hadn't done that, but since you did, how about you help clean up the mess?" But not all days are my better days.

Here are some things I'm thinking that maybe I haven't said before:

(1) I think it is highly likely that Trump will destroy the Republican party as it currently exists. In fact, he may already have done so and we're just watching it stagger through a zombie phase. I don't know. The questions that remain open are whether he will destroy the credibility of the conservative movement in America, and whether he will indeed destroy America as we know it. I confess that I don't really care about the former, except in as much as I have friends who would not feel they had a political voice without a viable conservative party and as a general principle, I think it is better for people to feel that they have a political voice. I care a lot about that latter, though, and am completely serious that I think it is very much an open question right now. I see reasons for hope, and maybe sometime I should do a post with links to the things that give me hope. But then I see the polls and think it is a toss up.

(2)  Speaking of the polls, I saw one this week (and sorry, I'm too tired to go find it and link to it) that indicated that there is a core of Trump supporters who will be with him no matter what he does, and estimated that was about 25% of the country. That's more than I'd like, but easily defeatable... if the other 75% gets its act together and tries. I think the 2018 elections will be our first real read out on whether the 75% can get its act together. Will the Republicans horrified by Trump find it in themselves to vote for a Democrat for Congress so that we can impeach the man? Will the Democrats stop arguing over whether we should have "single payer" or "a public option" and all turn out to vote no matter what? I don't know. I've said before that the 2018 elections are the most important in my life. And I don't really know how to best help the 75% get its act together. I've been thinking about that a lot.

(3) Nazis and the KKK are bad. To be fair, I hadn't said that before because it seemed obvious, but the events of this week have demonstrated that maybe we all need to say it out loud every now and then.

There's much, much more to talk about with regards to the types of white supremacy that are less obvious than highly armed Nazis marching in the streets, but that will have to wait for another night. It is late, and I have to get up early tomorrow and shuttle the kids to where they need to be so that I can try to get some work done. For tonight, I'll just say that there is a slim chance that the end result of this dumpster fire is actually something better: An America that has faced up to the sins of its founding and its past, and started to talk about how to make amends and how to build a truly inclusive multi-racial society. I hold onto that slim chance as a reason not to just look away from the dumpster fire. The optimist in me says that maybe if enough of us refuse to look away, we can make some progress, and the best part of me says that whether it will work or not, we at least need to try. So I will try.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Staying Calm Edition

I don't even know what to say to preface my links anymore. I am struggling to find the right amount of engagement with the news so that I can know enough about what's going on to make decisions if I need to, but not so much that I just want to scream in rage every day.

I know that people are expending a lot of energy explaining Trump voters to people like me. I wonder if anyone is expending any energy explaining people like me to Trump voters. Has anyone tried to write something to explain why we are so angry with this situation? I haven't seen it, but I confess I haven't gone looking for it, for the reason stated above: I can't spend too much time engaged with the news or I waste too much energy on rage.

So anyhow, listening to the "Emergency North Korea update" portion of the latest episode of Pod Save the World made me feel less at risk here in San Diego. I am so angry for the people of Guam, but I guess they are unfortunately used to hostile message from North Korea. What is new is the feeling that our President is making things worse.

The fact that the South Koreans and Japanese aren't freaking out makes me think that someone in our government (not our President) is successfully communicating in a way that is helpful. The lack of clarity about what our policy actually is can't be helpful, though. I assume that at some point the rest of the world will adjust to the fact that the United States essentially has no fixed foreign policy and start stepping up and trying to solve problems without us. Long term, maybe that gets us to a more stable world than the pre-Trump situation. I don't know. But the transition to a new world order is sure scary.

Anyway, I feel better when I feel like I've done what I can to mitigate risks, so I've read the advice to get as many walls between you and the outside as possible in the event of an attack, and I've read about how if you're caught outside you should shower right away but not use conditioner.  And I read the CDC's info about potassium iodide and decide that it is cheap and Amazon has one of the FDA approved sources, so why not add it to our emergency kit? I'm old enough that I probably don't need it, but my kids aren't.

Yes, this mess has officially turned me into a prepper. Another thing I can't think about too long lest I descend into a blind rage.

So anyway. On to other things.

This Vox article about how the really rich are hoarding economic growth is upsetting. But I guess it explains why super rich people like the Mercers and the Kochs and Steve Wynn are willing to spend so much money to make sure things to change.

I could link to all sorts of things about that Google jerk, but I assume you've probably read all about it.  Here's some related things you might not have seen:

I like Joan Williams and Marina Multhaup's analysis of why engineering has such a problem with diversity.

Here is Sara Wattcher-Boettcher with some good thoughts on why this matters even if you don't work in tech.

And Zeynep Tfecki has a good thread on the topic that starts here:

This is a nice post about representation from the mother of a child who uses assistance communicating.

OMG, this sculpture. I want to see it next time I go to New Zealand.

Here's some cute bunnies.

And a rabbit joke!

I can't think of a better way to end. Happy weekend, everyone.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Trip Story: Arches and Moab

In the last installment of my posts about our 2017 road trip, we were in Monument Valley. We drove from Monument Valley to Moab, and stayed a couple nights there. The main attraction of Moab was Arches National Park. I had been to this park before, but Mr. Snarky hadn't, and neither had the kids. Now, late June is not the best time to see Arches. It is hot there in June, usually in the high 90s. And there really is very little shade in Arches. So I didn't plan for any big hikes.

As it happened, it was even hotter than average during our visit, with a high temperature just over 100. We did attempt one short hike, out to see Landscape Arch. The kids got to a patch of shade along the trail, not far from where Landscape Arch comes into view and basically refused to go any further. Since I'd seen Landscape Arch before, I stayed with them while Mr. Snarky went ahead to see the view.

Suffice to say, the kids were not all that impressed with Arches. But Pumpkin was glad to find a lot of license plates for her license plate games- including Alabama, which had so far stymied her attempts to play an alternate version of the game where you have to find the plates in alphabetical order (she is currently looking for Florida). Petunia thought that Balancing Rock was pretty cool:

Both kids enjoyed scrambling around at The Organ, in the shade provide by Courthouse Towers:

Mr. Snarky was so impressed with the scenery that he didn't complain about the heat. Perhaps I should print out photos so he won't whine when the temperature in our house gets to 80?

Perhaps because I'd seen Arches before, my favorite part of the time in Moab was the other stuff.

We stayed in a hotel called River Canyon Lodge. It had a nice pool, which we all enjoyed. We had dinner the second night at a place called Zax, which had a great upstairs patio. We enjoyed watching the colors change on the nearby rocks as the sunset while we ate.

And the final thing we did before leaving town was drive out along Kane Creek Blvd in search of some rock art.

Our inspiration for this was a blog post that I found while sitting on that upstairs deck at Zax. I should have read that post more carefully, because it clearly states that the first rock art panels are on the RIGHT side of the parking area at the Moonflower Canyon campground. We looked on the LEFT side and then set off on a pointless hike up past the campground, on which I gathered approximately eight mosquito bites. OOPS.

Not visible: Lots and lots of mosquitos.

But we found the Moonflower panels, and then continued on to the main draw: the rock with the rare "birthing panel." The drive was nice, although part of it was on a dirt road. The river and canyon are quite beautiful.

And we made it to the rock with the birthing panel, and yeah, it is awesome.

After seeing this, we drove out of town and headed towards Salt Lake City. I'll pick the story up another day.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Weekend Reading: The I Assume You Can Find the Political News on Your Own Edition

Hey, it is Friday again! This week went by fast. This entire summer is going by fast. I've only been to the beach once! Luckily, September is also really nice weather for the beach.

Anyhow, let's have some links. Mostly not about the big political news of the week, because you can probably find that stuff on your own, right?

Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece about the planned HBO show Confederate raises a lot of good points. I personally found the part comparing the aftermath of the Civil War and the aftermath of WWII in Germany very compelling.

Vox continues to have really stellar healthcare coverage. This article about the ACA in California made me feel a little bit better about my chances should I need to buy insurance on the market, even if Trump succeeds in undermining the law.

I think most Americans are too focused on our internal political nightmare to have noticed this, but it strikes me as potentially quite significant: The Vatican has allowed an article quite critical of conservative US Catholics to be published in one of its approved journals.

Blue Milk posted an excerpt of an interview with Zadie Smith that I quite liked. In a better world, I'd go read the whole interview... but have not made the time to do so yet.

This is a really thought-provoking essay about what being rich does to people.

I laughed because this is probably true:

I'd sign up for a Bun Alert service!

Bun alert!

Happy weekend, everyone!