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!


  1. Congratulations on the new job! I was rooting for the independent route to work out for you, it seemed like the flexibility was really great, but I also know how hard life on the entrepreneurial path is. I hope that the new job provides both stability and flexibility.

  2. P.S. Sending GET WELL vibes to you.

  3. Congratulations! (Also get well soon!)

  4. Julia6:22 PM

    Congratulations on the new job!! You have been such an inspiration to me in the last 5 years that I have read your blog, and you continue to be that. Selfishly, I’m also glad that you will keep your publishing company running. Best of luck with everything!!

  5. I congratulated you on Twitter, but there's no such thing as too many congrats! So congrats on the job and it's great that you are excited about the work and that you get to keep running the publishing company! I think Annorlunda Books is the bomb, seriously, and I would have to see it go away---you've done such great work with it so far and I will do whatever I can to help it grow!

    1. I would *hate* to see it go away

  6. Congratulations, and I think your reasons make total sense. There is such an emphasis on following passion, but . . . money and benefits matter too. (In my opinion anyway!). If you can get some of both, that is perfect! I look forward to hearing more (obviously not specifics) but how it feels to make this shift back.

  7. O/t. Postcards for Doug.

    1. Oooh. Thank you! I missed that.

  8. Congratulations on the new opportunity! Feel better soon!

  9. Thank you for the good wishes, everyone! When I am no longer spending large parts of my day coughing, I will probably write some more about this transition. Fingers crossed that's soon! I am coughing a lot less today than I was on Friday....

  10. Anonymous6:52 AM

    Congrats! Passion/money/benefits all matter and kudos to you that you're figuring out ways to keep them all in play. Sneakers.

  11. Socal dendrite8:14 PM

    Congratulations - the new job sounds very exciting!

    I hope you don't mind me saying that I see it as a very positive thing that you were able to get a new position at 45. I'm just a few years behind and in a similar position of trying to make self-employment work. The flexibility has been invaluable but I don't really bring in as much money as I would like, and I think I am likely to try and find an employed position again in a couple of years (when both my children are at school). But I have been worried about re-entering the "regular" job market as a 40+ woman.

    One question: what do you feel about the amount of vacation that comes with a "regular" job? I grew up in the UK, so the standard 10 days here seems very minimal, especially if you sometimes want to visit family a long way away (UK, New Zealand, etc). My vacation now is unpaid, but at least I get to take several weeks away at once if I want to. How will this fit into your love of travel with your new job? Is it something that you negotiated?

    1. I will have 16 days vacation, 2 floating holidays (i.e, vacation days that don't roll over), and 5 sick days... so I'm in pretty good shape. I haven't worked at a job that only gave the minimum 10 days in ages! I agree, that sucks. Sometimes, you can negotiate a bump up in seniority at start, so that you start with a higher number. I did that at one job. Sometimes they can do it, sometimes they can't. My husband tried it at one job, and they couldn't do it so they gave him an extra signing bonus instead, which isn't the same but was still nice! So it is worth asking about.

      This particular company wouldn't negotiate on time off, but their standard is adequate for me, so I didn't care. I did negotiate some time off without pay around the holidays this year, though, so that I wouldn't be going negative on time off hours right at the start!

    2. Socal dendrite1:38 PM

      Thanks! That is reassuring. The minimum in the UK is 20 days, but there are only 8 national holiday days (I think there are a few more here, depending on which ones your employer gives). Many of my friends back in the UK now get ~25 vacation days. I once asked about negotiating vacation days at a career seminar day and was warned against it for fear of giving the wrong impression. I found that a bit disheartening because vacations/trips are important to me (and even more so now that my family is on the other side of the world), but that doesn't mean I am not committed or hard-working.


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