Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Hooray for Antibiotics Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's something happy: Latino film critics on Coco

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


Another bunny!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Incrementally Better Edition

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

Anyway, how about some links?

Here are the promo ones:

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

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

Now, on to the other links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some happier things:

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

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

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

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

This is a cool:

So is this:


Happy weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Primal Whimper

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekend Reading: An Announcement before the Links Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, on to those links, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindy West on women's anger is really good.

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

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

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

Podcasts I found really interesting this week:

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

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

Something fun: Google sheep view!

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




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

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Release Day for The Burning

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 03, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Never-Ending Cold Edition

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

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

Anyhow, let's have some links.

In self-promotion links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Halloween bunny!

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