Friday, August 31, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Short and Somewhat Sweet Edition

I got out for a rollerblade today for the first time in a long while, and that felt good. The kids are settling back into their school routine, and so are we. But somehow, I don't have very many links for you this week. Here's what I do have:

If you were interested by the reading project I mentioned in my post on uncertainty and grace, I've got the post about Lost Connections up over on the other blog now.

Josh Marshall has been writing some very good posts about the gathering storm and what he thinks Democrats should do if they win the House this year.

I basically want to ignore Louis CK,  but I guess he's back. Rebecca Traister's article about that is very, very good.

My state may be about to do something very cool for the environment. (I guess I need to call Jerry Brown's office and tell him to sign this bill...)

This is an interesting article about Instagram influencers and updating the "leave no trace" ethos for the digital age.

In recommended listening:

I really enjoyed the World in Words podcast about Basque and Krista Tippet's interview with Cory Booker.

I love the colors in this painting:

Pretty bunny!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Back to School and the Tail End of Summer

My kids went back to school today. Pumpkin is a middle schooler now (!!!!) and rolled her eyes at us for taking a couple of pictures before she ran off with her friends. Petunia (a 3rd grader this year) still wanted us to wait at her line with her, though. She is always a little shy at the start of a new year, even though by now she is guaranteed to have several friends in her class.  So we waited until she met her teacher, and then we gave her a good-bye hug and walked home.

Both kids are very excited to be back at school, and came home eager to tell us all about their day, their new teachers, and their classroom rules.

They also brought home the usual stack of papers to fill out. When I went to my "kid notebook" to look up some info for one of the forms, I happened to open to the first few pages. My kid notebook was a pregnancy notebook first, and the first few pages are a weight log from my first pregnancy. I noticed that I currently weigh about what I weighed when I was 23 weeks pregnant with Pumpkin. Ugh. I guess I should get back to calorie counting and see if I can drop a few more pounds!

In other back to school news... I decided on a bit of a whim to run a back to school sale on ebooks. If you've been interested in one of the Annorlunda releases and haven't picked up a copy yet, now is an excellent time!

In still other back to school news, I have committed to coaching Petunia's Lego team again this year. I am hoping that coaching is easier the second time! Petunia really, really loved doing Lego team, though, so I feel like it is worth some hassle for me. I've ordered our mission kit and am looking forward to seeing the details when it arrives.

The title of this post also promises an update on the last bits of summer. Of course, summer isn't really over. It is still warm, and we have at least another month of prime beach weather ahead. I am hoping to get a Sunday afternoon beach trip in sometime in September. The crowds thin out in September, so we can drive down one a Sunday afternoon and find parking, spend a couple of hours at the beach, and then stop in for Rubios for dinner. It is a great way to end the weekend when it works out. Of course, Lego team meetings are usually Sunday afternoons... but I'm starting earlier so I think we can take one week off in September. We'll see.

But even though summer technically continues, the start of school always marks the end of "summer," and we managed to squeeze a couple more fun outings in before school started.  We met up with one of Petunia's best friends from preschool (and still a best friend!) for a visit to the Zoo at Night. We had a blast but got really lousy pictures. I am really amused by the demon koala picture Mr. Snarky took, though:

Sure, I could fix the red eye, but where's the fun in that?

We also made it to the Balboa Park Summer Nights. That started with dinner from food trucks - every Friday through September, there are Food Trucks parked along the Prado in Balboa Park. The kids had waffles and Mr. Snarky, my sister, and I all had "burgers" from The Thai Burger Company. This was sauteed meat with sauce between two sticky rice "buns," served wrapped in foil so you could eat it like a burger. There was a long wait at this truck, and I can see why. It was really great!

I won't be quitting my job and taking up food photography as a career anytime soon...
but trust me, this was delicious!
I'm not usually big on crowds and waiting in lines to get food... but I have to say, the Balboa Park Food Truck Fridays scene is pretty cool.

After our food truck meal, we went to the Natural History Museum.

Several museums had evening hours and reduced price admission after 5 p.m. We chose the Nat because it also had a roof top bar which was supposedly kid-friendly. The museum itself did not disappoint, but we couldn't get into the bar until after their trivia session finished and by that time the food service had ended. The kid-friendly drink menu turned out to be standard mixers (sodas, OJ, cranberry juice, and grapefruit juice). Luckily, I had some snacks in my bag.

Still, the view from the bar was nice enough.

And earlier, Petunia had found a quiet little reading nook that she really loved.

Not shown: the old books, including one from the 1500s, that I spent my time looking at while Petunia read in the nook.

All in all, we had a good "end of summer" and a great first day of school, and are looking ahead to more summery fun in September and maybe even October. We sometimes forget to take advantage of the fun things to do in San Diego (hence the Family Fun List... the Summer Nights outing satisfies the "special event at Balboa Park" item on the list), but I'm always glad when we get out and enjoy our city.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Half of the Bathroom Sinks Now Work Edition

The good news is that the bathroom sinks are no longer draining into a bucket in my master bathroom! The bad news is that the master bathroom does not currently have a sink. (We are taking this opportunity to replace our old wall mounted sink with a vanity, and the wall needs a little patching/painting before we do that. We're getting the new sink next week.)

In other good news, school starts on Monday, and I am looking forward to the simplified logistics! To be fair, though, in these last few weeks the kids have both been at the same camp not far from my office, which was already much simpler than the situation at the beginning of summer.

 Anyway, on to the links:

I agree with this Slate piece about the Kavanaugh nomination being tainted beyond repair by Cohen's guilty plea.

Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery's piece on the refugees her family welcomed into their home when she was a child is wonderful.

I really liked this David Roberts piece on acknowledging the role of luck in our lives.

This piece from Kimberly Harrington on how teaching the next generation about gender inequalities and nudging them towards something better is more work falling unequally to mothers is really great, and it is about more than my summary can capture.

Somewhat related: I think many of my readers will LOLSOB in recognition at the dialog in this Captain Awkward question about getting time to work on your own things. Mr. Snarky is actually pretty good at taking the kids out of the house when I need some work time, but I also endorse the suggestion to leave and work elsewhere as a way to reset expectations.

Yes, pot can be addictive.

I really enjoyed Legal Nomads' 10 year anniversary reflection, and I found her post about the spinal tap that changed her life thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Here's a really sweet story about a Dad, his kid, and soccer.

Always read what Zeynep Tufekci has to say about the social media information age:

This thread is so infuriating and heart-breaking. Men, if you don't realize how women constrain their lives to stay safe, start learning:

Bunny is NOT impressed:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A State of Distraction

Are we at the end of the beginning? The beginning of the end? Still slogging through the middle?

I have no idea.

None of today's news was really unexpected (no, not even Duncan Hunter's indictment). But it was still somehow shocking. What a mess we're in.

I don't really have anything insightful or interesting to say about the news, but I wanted to write a blog post tonight, so here I am writing it. I had originally thought I might write one of the "life logistics" posts I used to write, talking about how we make our lives all fit together. I think I will do that soon - a lot has changed since the last one, and writing the logistics out always helps me see things we could do better.

But I don't have it in me tonight. So far this evening, I have driven past the turn to get on the freeway to go to Petunia's art class, forgotten we were supposed to feed our friends' rabbits, and gone over to feed said rabbits after the kids were in bed and set off the alarm at our friends' house. I don't think my mental abilities are top notch right now! I think I'll blame it on the distraction of all the news....

Or maybe I should blame the disrupted sleep I've gotten the last few nights. Our bathroom sink drain started backing up - our two bathrooms share a pipe between the sinks, so really both sink drains were backing up - and when Mr. Snarky went to open up the pipe and see if he could clear the clog, the pipe broke. We're going to take this chance to do some other long-delayed plumbing maintenance, so the plumber isn't coming until Thursday, when he has a big chunk of time for us. This means that right now, our bathroom sinks drain into a bucket in our master bath. This is fine... except when someone washes his hands in the main bathroom after I am asleep. Then I am jolted awake by the sound of water hitting a bucket. SIGH. It is deeply unfair that I, who needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night to feel my best, am a super light sleeper, while my husband, who can skate by on 5 hours sleep no problem, can sleep through anything short of a blaring fire alarm.

It has also been a pretty hectic week. Yes, I know it is only Tuesday. But several work projects are heating up at once, and it is the last week of summer camp (the kids start school on Monday!) and to add to the fun, yesterday while I was cooking dinner, one of the wires on Petunia's braces came loose. She screamed and screamed - initially I think it was genuine pain, and then I think it was a combination of residual pain and fear about what would happen next, and then I think she just had herself so worked up she couldn't stop. Luckily, Mr. Snarky got home a few minutes after the drama started and while he called the orthodontist for emergency instructions (there was no blood, so the instructions were that it could wait until morning), I tried to calm Petunia down. In the end, it was Doc McStuffins on the TV that did the trick. By dinner time, she was able to eat and the rest of the night passed without anymore screaming.

So basically, there are a lot of things I could blame for my current distracted state.

I had a list of things I thought I might do tonight, but I think given my track record tonight, it would be wiser to just go to bed and try again tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Sick Kid Edition

Here it is, Friday already. I have spent the last two days working at home with a sick eight year old. It has gone better than I expected and reminds me once again of how some aspects of parenting do indeed get easier as the kids get older. Petunia has been prone to fevers since she was a baby. As a baby, toddler, preschooler, and even kindergartner, one of her fevers usually meant that an adult needed to spend three days on the sofa with her, comforting her. Now, she may spend three days on the sofa (we are on day two, and she is up and about working on a cardboard space console inspired by a Doc McStuffins episode), but I have only been required to come cuddle intermittently.

Of course, we had plans to go do fun things last night and tonight, and both of those had to be canceled. But at least I didn't have to take a sick day.

Despite the higher than usual amount of time I spent sitting on the sofa, I don't have a lot of links for you. Here's what I have:

I think Josh Marshall has this right: It is obvious Trump is guilty. I think that a lot of people are trying not to acknowledge that right now because to acknowledge it would require also acknowledging how poorly Congressional Republicans are behaving.

This is cool: PBS has a map of gender diverse cultures.

Ezra Klein's interview with Zeynep Tufekci about how online algorithms push us to the extremes is really, really good. I really like her point about setting up the default to push us towards healthier behaviors, and am thinking about ways to implement that idea in my own life while we work towards healthier defaults on a larger scale.


This is awesome:


Have a good weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Uncertainty and Grace

I've developed a possibly unhealthy habit of reading advice columns. It start with Dear Prudie at Slate and has kind of grown from there. I suppose as habits go, there are worse ones.

Anyway, I was reading an advice column the other day, as I do, and there was a letter from a woman whose husband was considering petitioning for custody of his sister's kids, since said sister is in the habit of abandoning the kids with them, anyway. (OK, fine: I went and found the actual column so you can read it, too, if you want. Beware: these columns are addictive.)

There are some lines in that column that has stayed with me since I read it:

I’ve come to see “how I saw us ______,” whether it’s “building our family” or “starting our careers” — or any future we envision — as a false promise at best. We can want and dream and plan, but life always gets its say. Always.
And so I see the path to happiness not as the milestones we strive for, but as a mind open to the opportunities, even beauty, in what we receive.

I love that concept, the idea that the way to happiness in life is to learn to accept the randomness of it, the uncertainty about what might come — and to commit to the idea that you will look for the beauty in what you receive.

Obviously, some things that we receive in life are harder to accept than others. There are things that could happen that I do not think I could see any beauty in. I am not especially prone to anxiety, but if I am going to spiral into an anxious fugue, it will usually be because my mind has started spooling out increasingly horrific "what if" scenarios.

So what I've been thinking about since I read that column is the idea that although I cannot know what life will hold for me, I can commit to try to accept what comes and build the best life I can from the circumstances I am given, and if possible, find the beauty in whatever comes.

So far, I have been given pretty good circumstances. I have no guarantee that will continue, and I can never have that guarantee. All I can do is try to plan in ways that favor a continuation of good circumstances, and that I hope would provide some buffer against bad circumstances.

I've been thinking about what it would take to really embrace that, and what, if anything, that would change about how I'm living my life. I don't have answers to those questions yet, but I'm finding them useful questions to think about.

I have also been thinking about how "happiness" seems like an inadequate word to describe a state in which you can accept what life brings and look for the beauty in it. The word that keeps coming to mind instead is "grace." I know that is not the Christian meaning of grace, but I don't think it is necessarily incompatible with that meaning. 

I've started a project of reading books that explore different aspects about what "a good life" looks like and how to have it. That project is quite stochastic. I add books to my reading list as I come across them, and my scope for what fits is quite broad. Maybe the common thread among them is a search for a secular form of a grace, a way to find and embrace the beauty in our imperfect world and to build the most we can out of our imperfect, uncertain lives.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Weekend Reading: Still Too Hot Edition

Since I spent the week galavanting without my children (so much yummy food!) and complaining about how hot it is (coastal San Diego should NOT top 90 degrees for multiple days in a row), I don't have a whole lot of links for you.

But I do have a few.

First, I'm running a short sale on the Okay, So Look ebook. It is just $0.99 through Sunday, so if you've never read it... now's your chance! And if you like it, check out Here's the Deal - not on sale, but worth the $3.99, I think.

The "you may also like" links on the last post led me down a rabbit hole of old posts about my kids when they were little. Reading the posts I wrote for Petunia's first and second birthdays really made me smile. I went looking for posts about Pumpkin's early birthdays, and apparently I didn't start those until her third birthday. It is nice to read about my kids when they were tiny. They are huge now: 11 and 8. But still delightful, just in different ways. I should write more about these years, so that I can look back wistfully when they are 18 and 15....

In actual links:

My "if you read only one" pick this week is Adam Serwer on the ascendency of white nationalists in US politics.

But if you can find time for a second thing... Richard Flanagan's speech about the Uluru Statement is wonderful, and speaks to a broader context beyond Australia, too.

New Congressional Budget Office numbers show it is cheaper for the government to pay for Medicaid for someone than to subsidize that person's private health insurance. As the article points out, this is partially due to the fact that recent changes to Obamacare (e.g., doing away with the individual mandate) have caused the premiums for Obamacare to go up. 

For all the talk about the risks of Democrats swinging too far to the left, I suspect that future historians will spend more time analyzing the impact of the Republicans swinging so far right. That and the impact of Fox News. I suspect there will be many history theses and books written about the rise of Fox News and how it changed America.

In lighter news: I need to go to Berlin.

Recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with Adam Davidson about taking the non-Russia story aspects of Trump's corruption seriously. I particularly like the point about the need to make there be consequences for this corruption or face a slide towards a rent-seeking economy.

Good advice:

Best lolsob of the week:

Although this xkcd cartoon is a close second  and another instant classic xkcd.


Another bunny!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A Nothing Update

It is still hot.

My kids are with my parents this week, so Mr. Snarky and I have had a week of grown up time. There was some kayaking, and some long walks, and a lot of food the kids would never dream of eating. I thought I'd get in some time working on my projects, too... but it is still hot, and even though the whole house fan is doing a decent job of cooling things down in the evening, I find myself heading to bed early most nights, tired and feeling lazy.

I am still waking up at or before 6 a.m. most days, so the sensible thing would have been to putter on my projects in the morning, but instead I went to work early, thinking I'd be able to head home early in return. But my meeting schedule did not cooperate.

Oh well. It has been a fun week, and I've enjoyed eating out so much. My projects will wait.

And now it is 10:30, and apparently that's past my bedtime these days. The thermostat says it is still 81 degrees in the house, but the bedrooms are cooler (and the office is hotter). Besides, I can sleep with the temperature at 81. I'm off to bed.

(Edited to add: The "you may also like" feature served up this post from when Petunia was nine months old. It was so long ago! We can have whole weeks away now! And even when the kids are with us, there is more space for our own things. The baby years are wonderful and special... but I'm really loving the big kid years, too.)

Friday, August 03, 2018

Weekend Reading: Easing Back In Edition

As I mentioned in my post on Wednesday, I have plans this afternoon and evening, so I don't have a lot of time for a links post. But I have a few things to share.

First, in self-promotional links: I finally wrote about the ideas in Laura Vanderkam's latest book, Off the Clock, that resonated with me the most.

Michelle Rene's Tattoo is on sale for just $0.99 at Kobo right now. The sale ends Monday, so grab a copy now!

Now in other links:

This Dara Lind article about the Americans that are stepping in to help reunited immigrant families gives me hope.

Franklin Foer's article about America's kleptocracy problem is... less hope-inspiring.

Dr. Jen Gunter's post about menopause is really helpful.

I've got a couple of podcast recommendations, too:

I learned a lot from Josh Marshall's discussion with historian Gregory Downs about voter suppression in the post-Civil War era. I'd like to read the article that Downs wrote for TPM, too, but haven't have time yet.

And I'm still thinking about Ezra Klein's discussion with psychologist Jennifer Richeson about demographic change and "demographic threat." I'm thinking a lot about why we phrase this demographic change as a "threat" to white people, and how we could change that framing. I certainly don't feel under threat by the demographics in my city!

This made me laugh:

So did this:

I like this feminist agenda:

Fluffy bunny!

And here's an extra bunny as thanks for your patience during my little hiatus:

Happy weekend, everyone !

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


It is after 9 p.m., and it is still over 80 degrees in my house, even with our new whole house fan running on high. The fan is working, but it isn't that cool outside tonight, so it can't drop the temperature in the house very quickly. I think our low is going to be over 70 degrees. Also, it was 88 degrees for the high today, so we started from a toasty 85 degrees inside when I got home today.

These temperatures well above average. I couldn't find the average temperatures for my neighborhood, but we can use La Jolla as a similar coastal climate in San Diego, and the average high on August 1 is 75. The average low is 66.

It has been this way for a month. I would guess we've been at least 5 degrees above average for most of July, and occasionally hotter.

Now, this is not really that uncomfortable for me (I still think 82 is a perfectly acceptable indoor temperature), or even objectively all that hot, particularly in comparison to the heat wave that has scorched parts of Europe. But it is really, really unusual for San Diego. We don't have air conditioning in our house in the coastal climate zone because we don't usually need air conditioning.

It is also an ever present reminder of just how much we humans have screwed things up. It is getting hotter, and it is going to continue to get hotter, because we are not doing enough to stop causing climate change.

Which brings me to the subject of my recent blog hiatus. I took a break because I'd sit down to write and nothing really coherent would come out. The break has served its purpose: thanks to a little time away, I think I've figured out the problem. I couldn't write because I was so angry, and I was trying to ignore that and write about something else.

Whether it is because of the heat wave and its daily reminder about climate change and the way it is going to disrupt so many things, or just the constant accumulation of bad news about my country's political situation, I was very, very angry. (And this was before that big NY Times article about how we blew our chance to address climate change in the 80s came out. I haven't read that article yet, because I suspect it would push me back to being unproductively angry.)

I'm less angry now. Not because the problems have lessened - if anything, they've gotten worse. There are now fires burning all over my state, and yes, part of the reason they are so bad and deadly right now is climate change.

But I've remembered that getting so angry that I don't take sensible action is not a useful response. Once I acknowledged the anger, I was able to turn away from it and focus back on taking action. I wrote some more postcards. I realized that I'd forgotten to make political contributions after my last two paychecks. (Give me ideas of good candidates to support in the comments! I hope to catch up on my contributions this weekend.)

I also got to take a nice little getaway to Redondo Beach with Mr. Snarky. I'll probably write about that at some point. However, one of the nice things about that getaway was that during a long walk on the beach, I finally saw how to make the travel-related website I've wanted to make for at least eight years. I'll probably use the Redondo Beach getaway to try out some of my ideas for that site. What I'm saying is, don't hold your breath for a write up about Redondo Beach!

Anyway, I'm back. I'm still angry, but it isn't getting in my way anymore. I don't know if there will be a links post this week, though, because I have plans for Friday afternoon and evening, and I'm not sure I'll get one written. We'll see. Either way, though, I plan to start writing here again, because I have missed blogging. As usual, I've got a bunch of other things going on (a children's book to revise, a novelette to publish, and that travel-related site to set up, and various other smaller things.) I like to have a lot of things going on, but I've learned that the only way that is sustainable while also making a living is to expect slow progress on my projects. That's OK, as long as I plan accordingly. So the blog posts will start coming again, but it will be a trickle, not a flood.