Friday, November 30, 2018

Weekend Reading: The A Little Bit Grumpy Edition

It rained here yesterday, which we needed. It was still cool and windy today (I won't insult my readers in places where it actually gets cold by calling my 65 degree F high "cold"). I decided that between the wind and the fact that the sidewalks by the bay are probably still wet from yesterday's rain, a rollerblade was probably not a great idea.

So I skipped that and spent 45 minutes on the phone with Dell tech support trying to diagnose an issue with my laptop screen. They had me run through the exact same steps I'd run through on my own following their online instructions, and then at the end told me that if I wanted to send the laptop in to be fixed under my hardware warranty, he'd have to send me an email and I'd have to respond to it right away - I couldn't wait until after the holidays.

I'd tried to get him to tell me what the "end game" was at the start of the call, but either I didn't express my question in a way that made sense to him or he wasn't allowed to go off his script. Either way, we wasted 45 minutes of both of our time, because if I'd known we were just going to run through the same diagnostic steps I'd already done and that any further steps would require mailing my laptop away for 2 weeks right before Christmas... I would have politely hung up at the start.

This all made me a little bit grumpy, so I went out for a run/walk in the neighborhood, and while that isn't as good as a rollerblade by the bay, it helped a bit.

Now, on to my links for this week.

If you read only one thing this week, read Dara Lind's explainer about the current refugee situation at the Tijuana border crossing and why it is a crisis we could have easily avoided. The number of people involved is actually pretty small and there have been multiple choice points where we could have chosen to de-escalate the situation and instead chose to make it worse. This is true of so many things in our current immigration mess. It is very frustrating.

Sometimes, it is worth saying what is obvious, and Josh Marshall does that: They All Lied. They're All Guilty.

Ken White's summary of what Michael Cohen's guilty plea means in the larger story is very helpful.

Republicans aren't taking their election losses all that well in some cases... this story out of Maricopa County, Arizona (my home county!) is an example. For what it is worth, having grown up there and still spending a fair amount of time there, I think the change from being the "Trumpiest" county to the 2018 midterms is in partly due to a fair number of white people my age and older who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary who now voted for Sinema with enthusiasm (I know of 3! Just in my own little social circle - two of my high school friends and one friend of my mom) and partly due a changing electorate as more younger people and Latinos came out vote. Paul Ryan has apparently also said mildly conspiracy-mongering sort of things about the California results, and that is just laughable.

Updated: Here is a tweet with Paul Ryan's laughable comments:

Meanwhile, something untoward does seem to have happened in one corner of North Carolina.

I don't know how much of the news about the Chinese babies born after having CRISPR done to gene-edit the embryos has made it into the general news cycle... but Derek Lowe has a pretty succinct summary of the reaction I'm seeing in scientific circles. This is not something any scientists I follow are celebrating.

This Twitter thread goes into some more details:

In happier science news: My 11 year old came home talking about watch InSight land on Mars, so I showed her this tweet so she could see some of the scientists celebrating, too:

I'm finally listening to Ezra Klein's interview with Anand Ghiridharadas about his new book, Winners Take All. It is a book about the problems with our culture of fixing problems via elites taking on "do good" projects. I've heard several other interviews with Ghiridharadas, but I think this is the best one. I'll probably load the book onto my Kindle to read over the Christmas break.

That's all for this week. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Oh... almost forgot to end with a bunny:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Not a Weekend Reading Post

I hope everyone is having a good weekend, and that all my American readers are having a great Thanksgiving weekend. I am. My parents are in town visiting. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day (despite some panic about a turkey that cooked faster than expected) and are having a good time just hanging out and taking it easy. Yesterday, we went for a walk around Vacation Island in Mission Bay, and then had drinks and snacks at the Barefoot Bar (part of the Paradise Point resort). It was lovely. And I entirely forgot it was Friday and I should post some weekend reading! Oops. Weekend reading links will be back next week. I have some links saved, but I don't want to interrupt my holiday weekend good mood by posting them.

Instead, I think I'll ramble on a bit about my various projects.

I am hoping to write an Adjusted Latitudes post at some point this weekend - yesterday, I cleaned my desk so that I could find the notebook that has ideas for that site. I have set up an Instagram account that I'll use in conjunction with that site, too. I'll also post about books there, and we'll see what else. I have heard that the first social media account my now 11 year old is going to want is likely to be Instagram, so I decided I should figure it out. I am restlessrabbit42 over there. (I will come back and redact that user name in about a week....) I have posted exactly one thing and doubt I'll ever be a prolific poster, but if you have an Instagram account and want to follow me, I'll follow you back! I need to find more people to follow so I can figure out how Instagram gets used.

In other news: It was apparently Small Press Week this week, and today is Small Business Saturday. So I have a sale on at my Gumroad store: Use the promo code spweek18 and get 50% off everything you buy. You can browse the Gumroad store directly or find books on the Annorlunda site and click the Gumroad link to buy them.

I'll be working on one of my 2019 books today: I am almost done with the Kindle formatting for The Dodo Knight, a novella by Michelle Rene about Alice Liddell, the muse for Alice in Wonderland. (Check out the cover! I am so happy with how it turned out.) I also have on my list that I need to contact an artist about cover art for one of the 2019 books and an editor for another one. (You can see the post about the 2019 books here.)

I have struggled a bit with the adjustment to running Annorlunda as a side gig while having a regular 9-to-5 job, but I really, really enjoy putting books together, so I am still committed to keeping Annorlunda going. I need to figure out how to grow my "natural" audience, though. Social media only gets me so far, especially since my reach on my Annorlunda accounts is small. I still think growing my newsletter audience is my best bet. I've been reading classic short stories this weekend, looking for the perfect story to pick for January's edition of Inbox Stories. And I will be picking my November free ebook winner tomorrow morning: Subscribers to Inbox Stories and the regular Annorlunda mailing list are automatically in that drawing.

My other "big" project for the year was supposed to be to get the backyard revamping underway. I have not made much progress on that at all. I had one designer come out and give us a rough quote. We wanted to get rough quotes from two designers before picking one and getting started, but the other company I contacted has not answered my email. I need a company that can communicate via email, because my job involves a lot of time in meetings. I have to be able to at least schedule a phone call via email - I can't just have the landscaping company call me whenever they have time, because I usually won't be able to pick up that call. So I need to find another company to contact. At this point, I have accepted that this is not going to happen this year, and will try again in January.

I think that's everything - and anyway, I've finished my tea. I should get showered and then start in on my to do list for the day. Tell me about your projects or your holiday weekend or whatever you want in the comments!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Weekend Reading: The Still Busy, So Still Short Edition

We're heading into Thanksgiving week. I am taking one extra day off and hoping Monday and Tuesday will be relatively quiet at the office. I'm coming off of a super busy period and could use a chance to catch up.

I like Thanksgiving. I know the historical origins of the holiday are problematic, but I like the chance to pause and be grateful for my life. I have so much to be grateful for.

This year, the people affected by the fires will be on my mind. I don't really have anything profound to say about this. My heart breaks for those who have lost so much, and I fear we'll have more stories like this as we head into the period of changing climate that our inaction has made inevitable. It is easy to get fatalistic about climate change, so I want to emphasize that we can still change our trajectory, and that doing so can still do good. I can't remember if I've already shared the episode of The Weeds podcast that discusses this, but here it is. It is a bit rambly but I think it makes a good point about the importance of not giving up just because we can't prevent climate change from happening at this point.

Along those lines, if you'd like to help continue the fight to get people in power who will work to address climate change and a host of other pressing problems... Postcards to Voters is still going. We're writing for Mike Espy's runoff right now.

So anyway, here are the links I have for you. I don't have many (see above about it being a busy period), but I have a couple good ones:

If you read only one thing from my list this week, make it Alexandra Petri on women in power. Women will probably LOLSOB a bit at this one, but it is really, really on point.

Josh Marshall had a good post about what he's hoping to see in the next Congress now that Democrats have some oversight power. (This might be for Prime subscribers only - I'm not sure.)

I really enjoyed reading this article about Kathy Hoffman, Arizona's new Superintendent of Public Education. I hope she can make a difference.

In recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with Leon Neyfakh, who is the host of Slate's Slow Burn podcast, is really interesting, for a lot of reasons. It is interesting for me, as someone who was a young, voting adult during the Clinton scandals, to hear people who were about 10 years younger than me work through what they mean. It was also interesting to hear their discussion about political scandals, what we can and cannot know in the midst of them, and how easily we rewrite the narrative of them when looking back.

This tweet almost made me cry. It is far too easy to forget how fragile and beautiful peace is.

This is a beautiful thread about family and love and finding a way to get what you need as a couple. Mr. Snarky and I can afford nights out, but sometimes (often) the effort of organizing a night out is too much. But our Friday night beers tradition makes Friday nights special even if we don't have the time or energy to do anything to make it special.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Oh Hey Look What Happened While I Was Super Busy... Two New Books!

I've had a very, very busy couple of weeks. I won't go into all the details - they are mostly just things like "I had an important all-day meeting at work" - but I do want to share something cool that happened in the midst of the whirlwind.

I had two more children's books come out!

The Bedtime Battle started out as a sequel to Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess. The plan was for Petunia and Penelope to have a sleepover and deal with monsters under the bed. But the Petunia illustrator wasn't interested in doing a sequel, so my publisher and I decided to rework the story as a stand alone book. Now Alice and Adele have a sleepover and deal with monsters under the bed! All of the monster-taming techniques in the book are real things we tried when our kids were littler... including the monster repellent spray. 

There's actually a funny story about monster spray in our house. I must have been pretty desperate on the night I tried this trick, because I didn't stop and think and just grabbed something relatively innocuous I could spray in Pumpkin's room. I grabbed the Febreeze air freshener spray, which promptly became known as "monster spray." And that is why when Mr. Snarky farts my kids run to the hall closet yelling "get the monster spray!"

The Magic Trapdoor grew out of my frustration with easy readers. So many of them are deadly dull! I wondered if I could do better. You'll have to be the judge of whether I did, but I am pleased with how the story turned out. It is about a little boy who loses his "best red car" under his bed, and finds a magic trapdoor when he crawls under to get his car. The trapdoor takes him to see dinosaurs (of course). I tried hard to make this scientifically accurate, so all of the dinosaurs in the book are ones that existed at about the same time and in the same place as the T. rex. The main text is pitched at about a kindergarten/first grade level reader, and there is extra explanatory text that the adult reading with the kid could read to add more details about the dinosaurs.

The original intent is for there to be at least a couple more Magic Trapdoor books... we'll see if this illustrator cooperates!

Since so many of my readers have kids about the same age as mine, I know that these books won't be appropriate for many of you. But if you do have a kid in your life who is the right age, please check these books out. The links above are to Amazon, but you can get the books at all the usual places, and they are also available on the Epic app, which is an app full of books for kids that we really liked when my kids were a little bit younger.

Friday, November 09, 2018

In Lieu of Weekend Reading - Short Midterm Thoughts

This week has been a bit of a perfect storm of super busy at work and super busy in my home/personal life... so I don't have a real weekend reading post for you. Sorry. I have one thing to recommend you read: Rebecca Traister on the midterms.

I will say one something about the midterms, though. I know people are disappointed Democrats lost a couple of key Senate seats, and that Beto didn't win. On election night, people were disappointed with the outcomes in Florida and Georgia, too... but now it is looking like those outcomes aren't really settled yet, so I don't think people should decide whether or not to be disappointed by those yet.

I was pleased with the outcome of the midterms. Would I have liked more wins? Sure. But we flipped the house, which was my main goal. It is looking like we flipped it by a truly big margin, too. We also won some key governor's races - Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas will all have Democrats as governors, which is great. There were other down-ballot successes that are important. There were huge voting rights wins in several states - Michigan and Florida stand out to me. The North Carolina GOP's attempt to pack their Supreme Court backfired on them and now that court is 5-2 Democrats. Texas saw some really big down-ballot changes. Maybe in a future weekend reading post I'll find something to summarize all of these gains.

For the people disappointed that Beto lost, I say take you cue from Texas Democrats, who all seem really energized and happy. Of course, it would have been better if he won, but he built something truly remarkable, and I think Texas politics will never be the same. I've seen reports that many people involved in Beto's campaign are now turning their attention to making it easier to register and vote in Texas. Change is coming there, I think.

One of the House races that I think is most important to note is that Lucy McBath won in Georgia. This was the seat Jon Ossoff tried and failed to take in a special election. I think McBath is the better candidate - she has a very compelling story - but I also think that the huge amount of money and effort that poured into that district when Ossoff was running laid the groundwork for McBath's win. It was also what launched Postcards to Voters, which I think (hope?) helped make a difference in a lot of close races in this election.

So in short, I say: be happy with the gains we made. Winning the House was crucial, and we did it. Also be happy with the building that is underway. This was never going to be an easy fight, and it was never going to be over in one election. In this election, we won the right to keep fighting. So let's keep fighting.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Weekend Reading: A Mixed Bag Edition

Today is Dia de los Muertos. Since my kids go to a Spanish language immersion school at which most of the teachers are from Mexico and many of the kids have Mexican heritage, the school does a Dia de los Muertos festival and other related activities. The festival won't be until next Wednesday, but both of my kids had the opportunity to take in a picture for a Dia de los Muertos altar today. This is the first year that they've taken a picture of someone they knew - they both took pictures of their great-grandparents, who both died this year. Previous years, they've taken pictures of other relatives who they had never met. I told them about the people in the pictures: my grandparents on my mother's side and my great-grandmother, but that was just me telling stories. This year, my kids have their own stories to tell about the pictures they took to school.

I always find the act of finding a picture for the altar and putting it into a picture frame a comforting ritual. This year, there was a little extra poignancy to it.

Anyhow, if you don't know much about Dia de los Muertos, go read about it. It is really a beautiful holiday.

On to the links.

First, in hobby-ing links: I posted another Where in the World quiz on Adjusted Latitudes. I am enjoying the process of finding a good photo to use and then coming up with wrong answers for the quiz!

Also, I ran a short sale on Here's the Deal, Micah Edwards' humorous retelling of the Book of Exodus. Through tomorrow, you can get the ebook for just $0.99.

In other links:

This article by Tim Murphy about Democrats' outreach to the increasingly diverse group of voters in Fort Bend County, Texas, is really, really interesting.

Anne Helen Peterson and Graham Lee Brewer have an article up about the difficulties Navajo voters are facing in Southern Utah, and it is worth your time.

I had never read this column by Eugene Patterson, written after the Birmingham bombing. It was circulating after the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh and if you've never read it, you should.

This story starts by talking about a ghost tour... but really it is just an interesting story about a Black woman named Mary Ellen Pleasant, who lived in San Francisco around the turn of the last century.

In recommended listening: Anytime I see that someone has interviewed Zeynep Tufekci, I listen. Isaac Chotiner's interview of Tufekci on I Have to Ask is a particularly good one - I highly recommend it. (Another person who I'll always listen to get interviewed: Rebecca Traister. I always learn something!)

Kids are awesome:

So are cats, I guess:

This is pretty amazing in a weird way:


Have a good weekend!