Friday, July 12, 2019

Weekend Reading: Back on Wheels Edition

I finally got to go out for a rollerblade again! My toe twinged a bit when I shoved my foot into the boot of my skate, but it didn't bother me when I was skating and it feels fine now. Hooray!

And it was a beautiful day for a rollerblade, so I am pretty happy.

Anyway, on to the links.

First up, I posted the cover reveal for the next Annorlunda book, a fantasy novella called The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, by HL Fullerton. I am looking for advance readers - sign up if you'd like to be one. I'll send out the eARCs either this weekend or next week.

In other links:

The LA Times story about California's disappearing coast is as good as you've heard.

This article about all of the ways in which our laws prioritize driving is definitely worth your time. It is not long.

If you get confused by the jargon when we're talking about housing for the homeless, this short Voice of San Diego piece will help.

German Lopez at Vox has a nice article summarizing a new book with an evidence-backed proposal for how to reduce urban gun violence even in the absence of changing our gun laws.

Fellow Californians (and folks in other shakey zones): Are you prepared for a quake? Everytime I read one of these articles, I find something new to do to prepare. This time it was that I should buy an extra pair of heavy work gloves and put them in our go bag.

I think my fellow Gen-Xers will enjoy this McSweeney's post about what your favorite 80s band says about you.


Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, July 08, 2019

Updates on My Imperfect Environmentalism

Back in May, I wrote about my attempts to be a better, although not perfect, environmentalist. I thought it would be nice to give you an update on my efforts.

At the time, there were three things I thought we'd do next. I'll update on each.

Item 1: Start walking to get our groceries some times.

Petunia did indeed give me a granny cart for my birthday. And then I really badly stubbed my toe and wasn't up for walking much for a while. But yesterday, I finally took the granny cart for a spin. Petunia and Mr. Snarky, not being experienced granny cart users like myself, did not realize that the cart needs a hook to hang it on your grocery cart while shopping. They picked out a lovely cart that lacked a hook. So I bought some carabiners and used those to attach the granny cart to my shopping cart:

After acquiring our groceries, I was ready to head home:

The cart rolls beautifully. It has four wheels, so I could push it as well as pull it, which was nice. All in all, it was a great success. I got our groceries without using a car, and I got two lovely 15 minute strolls in almost perfect weather.

Item 2: Solve the scone and bread storage issue in a way that doesn't involve Ziploc bags at all.

My sister solved this one for me with one of her birthday gifts: The gallon size Envirogen reusable food storage bags. These work perfectly.

Incidentally, one of my other birthday gifts (this one from my parents) provides a nice replacement for plastic wrap and foil in some uses: the Charles Viancin Poppy Lid. These silicone lids form a seal on any smooth rim container, and come in several different fun styles.

Item 3: Sign up for the free tree the city will plant for us

No progress yet, unfortunately. First, we need to hire someone to dig out the stump left by the tree that blew over, and we haven't done that.

You may be wondering how the Tesla is doing. The answer is we still love it. We've gotten a couple of electricity bills now and while the increase is tolerable (about $50 more than pre-Tesla), we'll probably go ahead and get solar panels. Given the fact that this is the last year to get the full tax rebate on them, we expect that a lot of people will be trying to get solar installed before the end of the year. We hear that installers are already booking a couple of months ahead, so we should probably get moving on solar panels as our next thing. Sigh. My backyard upgrade will have to wait again.

As for political activism... I do think that until "Republican politician who supports serious policies to address climate change" doesn't sound like an oxymoron, working to elect more Democrats at all levels of government is vital environmentalist action. So that's another reason for me to keep writing postcards and taking other actions.

As always, add your suggestions in the comments!

Friday, July 05, 2019

Not Really a Weekend Reading Post

This isn't really a weekend reading post. I haven't gathered many links to share this week, and I spent the day out with my family - both Mr. Snarky and I had the day off work, and the kids' camp was closed. So we picked an item off our Family Fun List (visit the San Diego Kids' art museum), and made a day of it.

We parked our car at the Old Town Transit center and took the trolley downtown. Our first stop was The New Children's Museum. It is really aimed at kids a bit younger than ours, but Petunia still really enjoyed it, and Pumpkin tolerated it well. Then we went over to have lunch in Seaport Village, at Buster's Beach House. After lunch (and a post-lunch treat from a nearby Ben and Jerry's), we strolled along the waterfront to the Convention Center, walked up the stairs and across to the other side, and then headed to the Central Library. The kids found some books, and we hung out in the library for awhile before heading back to the trolley for a ride back to our car.

It was a fun day! And once we got home, I got to spend an hour on a blanket under our avocado tree, reading my book. Quite nice.

Anyway, I don't really have links to share. I can say that I listened to two Ezra Klein Show podcasts in my car this week, and found them both interesting and enlightening about our current political state. If you only listen to one, I think I'd pick Klein's interview with Robert Jones about demographic change and cultural change and how it is being experienced by white Christian conservatives. However, his interview with Adam Gopnik about Gopnik's new book about liberalism helped me understand more about my own beliefs and why this era in politics is so unsettling for me.

I hope all of my fellow Americans had a nice July 4th! We did. And I hope you all have a nice weekend. Here's a bunny to end the post:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Weekend Reading: The I Should Be More Careful Edition

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here, and I didn't get to go for a rollerblade. It is my own fault - a couple of weeks ago, I stubbed my toe badly. It seemed mostly better... until I put a lot of extra weight on it building and moving furniture  the kids' rooms last weekend. And then Monday night, I stubbed the same toe on a box in Petunia's room.

The good news is that I think it is almost better again. But I decided to skip rollerblading just to give it a chance to completely heal.

Don't feel too bad for me. I went for a walk on the beach instead, and this time I got to go barefoot. Summer has arrived - the beach was crowded. But still, nothing unknots my shoulders like the sound of waves and the sea breeze.

So, on to the links.

First the self-promo links:

I have been running a sale on The Dodo Knight to celebrate the fact that it was a finalist in the NextGen Indie Book Awards. The ebook is $0.99 right now. The sale ends tomorrow (Saturday, although it will take an unknown amount of time for the price to revert on Amazon), so act now if you want to get a cheap copy of this wonderful novella.

I also posted the cover reveal for the next Annorlunda book - The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, which is fun novella steeped in magic. I love how the cover turned out! I'll be posting a call for advance readers soon.

And now the other links:

Like many (I hope most) people, I have been reading the news coming from the border camps with horror. If I'd posted my links last week, I would have linked to this essay about why it is right - and even necessary - to call them concentration camps.

This week, I'll share Greg Sargent's write up of a Democratic proposal on immigration. It is not that we cannot do anything to come up with a humane immigration policy, and despite what some of the TV talking heads like to say, it is not that Democrats want "open borders." I think all but the most committed activists would probably be willing to compromise on specifics to get a deal that left us with an immigration system that wasn't something we are ashamed of. But we haven't had a good faith partner for negotiations for many, many years, and this has just gotten worse since Trump came to office.

The news most recently has been full of acrimony about the funding bill that just passed. People are mad at Pelosi, and I can understand why. But I think we need to remember that McConnell is very good at ruthlessly wielding power, and be clear-eyed about what is and is not possible. Jennifer Rubin wrote about that. Perhaps Pelosi should have fought harder, like I say - I don't claim to know, and I certainly would have liked a better bill. But it is a fight with a bunch of very vulnerable children caught in the middle, and to be honest I'm not at all convinced McConnell cares one whit what happens to them. So I am not sure a fight would have had an outcome we all felt good about, either.

As upsetting as the border situation is right now, my "if you read only one thing" pick this week isn't about that. It is this piece from Ezra Klein about the way aspects of our democracy are being undermined in a way that predates Trump. I think we still have time to fight back against this trend via democratic means, but the longer we wait, the harder the fight gets.

Here's another link I meant to share last week - an essay from a counselor who works with kids and young adults who screw up big time to help them get their life back on track, writing about why Harvard was right to rescind Kyle Kashuv's acceptance (remember that controversy?)

The Washington Post has a nice guide about video manipulation.

This is a very sobering thread, but worth your time:


More Bunnies!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Best Laid Plans

Last Saturday, we drove our kids over to Yuma, to hand them over to my parents for a week. We made it to Yuma easily on a fully charged battery - the gauge read 99 miles when we pulled into the superchargers in Yuma to refill. There were four other Teslas there - three California plates and one Arizona plate. We spent 45 minutes in the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn while the Tesla recharged - not the most atmospheric bar, but comfortable and they even gave us free chips and salsa. If it had been a little less hot or if we'd been looking for something more than just a place to sit and chat, we might have walked the short distance to a more interesting bar in downtown Yuma or over to a coffee shop we've liked on previous visits. But the Hilton Garden Inn did just fine.

Once the Tesla was recharged, we headed home. I can report that the Tesla is pretty amazing in the mountains. We zoomed up the mountains without noticing any difference in how the car drives. Mr. Snarky was driving - his choice, he'd been looking forward to seeing how the Tesla handled the hills and the curves - and he said it was a lot of fun. We burned through more charge than usual going up the mountains, but then made some of that back coming down. Anyway, we made it home with plenty of charge to spare.

So that was nice.

The rest of the week didn't go quite to plan.

Petunia has been asking for a loft bed, and it is true that having one would make her room less crowded feeling. However, before we put a new bed in her room, we wanted to change the carpet in the kids' rooms. It was 12 years old and showing its age. So, we picked out some new carpet, ordered it to have it arrive on the Monday after the kids left for Arizona, spent the week ahead packing their rooms up, spent a good part of Sunday moving furniture out of their rooms.... and then the carpet wasn't here in time.

First, the carpet place told us they could install on Wednesday. Mr. Snarky arranged to work from home (and we arranged for the new loft bed to be delivered on the same day, so we'd only have to work from home once). Then the carpet wasn't here on Wednesday, either, but they could tear up the old carpet. By this time, Mr. Snarky had gone in to work, so I came home early... only to get a text at 4 p.m. telling me that no, they'd tear out Thursday morning and install the new carpet Thursday afternoon. So I arranged to work from home on Thursday, and took a break outside to avoid the dust and fumes when the old carpet was removed. But then at about 3 p.m., I got a text saying the new carpet still wasn't here, so maybe they'd install on Friday, if the carpet arrived in time.  I already work from home on Fridays, so FINE, we'd make that work.

But then Friday morning I had some sort of... I don't know what to call it. I had sharp pains in my lower abdomen that eased a bit if I rested, but got basically unbearable if I sat up (to send emails, for instance), and didn't go away even after a couple of hours. So at about 8 a.m., we decided to go to urgent care.

It turns out that if you show up at urgent care in obvious pain talking about sharp pains in your lower abdomen, you get wooshed to the front of the line and seen right away. Once I saw the doctor, I realized that this was because they needed to find out if I had appendicitis and should be put in an ambulance.

The good news is that I did NOT have appendicitis. The bad news is that we didn't figure out what was causing the pain. But the other good news is that it just went away on its own about an hour after we got to urgent care.

So, I was home by lunch time with a bottle of prescription-strength ibuprofen and a bit of a pain hangover. I decided to take the rest of the day off, too, and spent the day on the sofa reading. My book club read Over Sea, Under Stone, the YA fantasy by Susan Cooper, awhile back. I'd never read it before, so my sister lent me the rest of the series. The books have been sitting on my shelves waiting for me to read them. In my time on Thursday outside avoiding dust and fumes, I finished The Dark is Rising. I read the remaining three books in the series on Friday. They were perfect for distracting me from the pain in the morning, and for keeping me happily resting in the afternoon.

I'd told Mr. Snarky that if the carpet people texted to say they were ready to install, he was to abandon me at urgent care. I could get a Lyft home. However, they didn't not text until after lunch... but this time, the news was good, and the carpet was installed by about 4 p.m.

We like our new carpet! But the delay in installation meant that we spent Saturday assembling loft beds. (Pumpkin has had one for many years, and now Petunia has a matching one - Stuva, from Ikea. They're great.) The kids arrived back with my parents in the late afternoon. Petunia was delighted by her new bed. But that was all we'd gotten done - both beds and desks were built, but no other furniture had been returned to their rooms. We did that today, and also got all the furniture back in our guest room/music room, which is the only other room in the house with carpet.

We had hoped to build and move furniture slowly over the course of the week, while also enjoying interesting dinners out. We had a couple of good dinners at new restaurants, but by Wednesday we were so demoralized by the carpet situation that we stayed near home and ate at restaurants in our neighborhood, all of which we've visited before. Still, the dinners were good and we had a nice time.

All's well that ends well, I guess - the kids are both asleep in their loft beds, their furniture is back in their rooms, and they are in the process of unpacking all of their boxes. I haven't had the abdominal pains again, which is good because the urgent care doctor told me that if they came back I should go straight to the ER, since the next test to do would be a CAT scan. I have a follow up visit with my primary care doctor a week from tomorrow. She may decide to order the scan even with no recurrence of the pain. Or she may say I should wait and see if they come back.

My plans for the week without kids went seriously awry. I started but did not finish a blog post over at Adjusted Latitudes, and the post I planned to write for my real name blog didn't even get started. I obviously failed to write a weekend reading post - which is a shame, because in addition to some interesting links, I wanted to tell everyone that I'm running a sale on The Dodo Knight right now - get the ebook for just $0.99! The price goes back up later this week.

But, I did enjoy the time reading the Susan Cooper books, so I guess I'll just regroup and see what I can get done this week.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Weekend Reading: The I Want to Be Outside Edition

It is a beautiful day and I have been stuck inside working past when I normally work on a Friday afternoon (I start early on Fridays so I can quit early and go outside and glory in living in San Diego...)

So let's get straight to the links so I can go outside and glory in living in San Diego!

Here's what I have this week:

If you read only one of my links this week, make it this one about cleaning up lead pollution. We should do it. It will be really expensive but we should do it anyway because not doing it is expensive, too.

Jennifer Rubin's piece about the difference between Ellen Weintraub and Marsha Blackburn is really good. We focus on what Democrats should do in this crisis, but we should never forget Republicans have a choice in how they respond, too.

Read Amanda Knox's thoughtful piece about why she's going back to Italy, and what happens when we consume other people's lives as entertainment.

This is an interesting analysis of Amelia Bedelia.

This is a good, short article about perimenopause and how not fun it is.

This does look like a helpful graphic. I wonder if it is part of the standard CA curriculum?


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Not Quite Summer Yet Reading

I've read several really good books lately, so I decided it was time for a books post.

Two of my books are book club books, and they show why I love my book club. I would never have picked up either of them on my own, and I absolutely loved both of them.

First was Rowing to Latitude, by Jill Fredston. I've mentioned this one here before, but it is worth mentioning again because I loved it so much. This is a memoir by a woman who is an avalanche expert - but although she writes a bit about that, mostly the book is about the long summer rowing trips she and her husband take in arctic waters. It is beautifully written and she is an interesting woman living life exactly how she wants to live it. The book gave me so much to think about. We read the book for May's book club, but insights from reading this book are still unspooling in my brain.

I just finished our June book club book, which was Circe, by Madeline Miller, and WOW is this a good book. It is another book with beautiful writing, but what I loved most was how relatable Miller made Circe. The writing about Circe's relationship with her son is some of the best writing about motherhood I've ever read, and that's just one small part of what makes this book so great.

In between these two book club books, I read The Peripheral, by William Gibson. I love how Gibson can dunk you into a strange but believable future, and how if you squint a bit you can trace the thread of how we get to this future. There are two futures in this book, both utterly plausible and somewhat horrifying. But I don't find his books bleak, because even though his characters are living in a future you hope we avoid, they are real and human and at least some of them are salvaging something good from their lives, and that somehow makes me feel hopeful that humanity will muddle through whatever catastrophe we bring down on ourselves. But there's also an edge to this book, a warning about the potential catastrophes we face hidden in among the puzzling out the rules of the world into which you find yourself immersed.

I am also reading a book of poetry right now. I've been reading more poetry, and I decided I should buy some. I picked Good Bones, by Maggie Smith, because I love the title poem so much. I am glad I did, because the other poems in the collection are also speaking to me.

I've been thinking a little bit about the through-thread of some of these books - particularly Rowing to Latitude and Circe, which both spoke to me more than I expected when I started them. I put the pieces together tonight, as I read the closing chapters of Anne of Green Gables aloud to Pumpkin (for the second time - we decided to reread it in advance of a trip to Prince Edward Island later this summer). I'll be a bit vague, in case you've never read Anne of Green Gables.. but the final chapter, titled "The Bend in the Road" is what made me connect the dots. Both Rowing to Latitude and Circe are about women plotting their own paths in life, paths that are maybe not what everyone else expects of them. There's a passage in Circe in which she is facing a more powerful god, in which she thinks "I cannot bear this world a moment longer." And the god answers, "Then, child, make another."

I don't really have my thoughts from all these books pulled together into a cohesive story yet, but I think the through-thread I'm finding from Fredston's unusual path in life to Circe's determination to shape her own life to Anne's resolution to follow the bend in the road is telling me something interesting. I'm just not sure what, yet. At least I'm enjoying some good books while I figure it out!

What good books have you read lately? Drop them in the comments.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Tesla Report

We've had our Tesla Model 3 for several weeks now and it is time for the post I promised with our impressions.

The short version is: This is a really, really nice car. I have two quibbles (and I'll list them!) but overall, the car is great.

First, the quibbles:

The biggest annoyance is the fact that is uses your cell phone as a key. The phone communicates with the car via bluetooth, and in theory you're supposed to just be able to walk up to your car, open the door, get in and drive. This is in fact what happens for my husband. It does not happen for me - 9 times out of 10, I'd have to toggle in and out of airplane mode to get the car and phone to "talk."

I spent far too much time reading about bluetooth and fiddling with the settings on my phone. Nothing I tried worked reliably, and so I gave up and started using the key card that came with the car. This is a card like a hotel key that I present to a sensor by the driver's side door to open the car. To drive with the key card, you present the card to a specific spot on the central console. However, I've discovered that while my phone won't connect to the car to open the car, once the car "wakes up" due to the use of the key card, my phone will connect and let me drive the car. My theory is that both the car and the phone are a bit too aggressive in saving battery and aren't "pinging" on bluetooth - they are waiting to be pinged, and so neither wakes up when I walk up to the car. I have nothing to support this theory, but it fits the available evidence!

Anyway, I can apparently buy an old-fashioned "clicker" that has buttons to open the car and the trunk, and I think I'll probably get one, because there is no key card sensor on the trunk, so I either have to present my key card at the driver's door and then walk and open the trunk or use my phone app to open the trunk.

I can live with this, but I think they should have just used an RFID key like our twelve-year old Prius had. I think this is tech guys getting to clever for their own good.

My second annoyance is much smaller: I don't like how the air vents are controlled. There is no manual toggle,  you control them via a little diagram on the screen. The diagram lets you direct where the air flows, but I don't see a way to just turn the air OFF. This is no big deal when I'm alone in the car (or just driving the kids), as I just set the air at a comfortable temperature/speed. But when Mr. Snarky is in the car, he turns the air up much higher and I get cold.

And that's really all I can complain about. I think it is stupid that the button to open the trunk in the app isn't on the main screen (although the button to open the "frunk" - the front trunk - is), but since I rarely use the app to open anything, I don't really care.

Mr. Snarky dislikes the fact that you can only open the glovebox from the screen (there's no mechanical button), but since I almost never get into the glovebox, this doesn't bother me at all.

I guess I have one more complaint: There is a certain type of young man, usually one driving a souped up Honda Civic or a Mazda 3 (but occasionally driving a big truck or SUV), who wants to drag me off at stoplights. Mostly this is just funny, though, because there is no way they'd beat the Tesla if I actually tried to beat them, but I'm not going to go drag racing on city streets, particularly not when I've got a kid or two in the back seat. Dudes, your car is NOT faster than a Tesla. Get over yourselves.

And now what I like about the car:

First and foremost, it is a real pleasure to drive. It is responsive and the steering is tight. We got the dual motor version, which gives us all-wheel drive that my husband credits for making the car feel like it is on rails in turns. And that "rocket car" reputation - yeah, that's real. I don't think I've ever put my foot all the way down on the accelerator and I can still vouch for the fact that the car goes ZOOOM. Petunia loves this, and if I accelerate quickly to get on the freeway she yells "wheeeee!" Pumpkin hates it, and if I accelerate quickly she yells "Mommy! Stop it!"

We have a very steep hill in our neighborhood and we took the Tesla on it for the first time last weekend and all I can say is DAMN. I thought the Prius was good on that hill (the Mazda 5 chugs up the hill reluctantly), but the Tesla accelerates as if there were no hill. Soon, we'll be taking it on its first long road trip to deliver our kids to my parents and I think it is going to be an absolute blast in the mountains between San Diego and El Centro. We'll see what that does to the battery range - luckily there is a supercharger in El Centro if we need it. On mileage alone, we should be able to make it to Yuma easily, so we're curious to see how it goes.

Other things I like:

  • It has very comfortable seats.
  • Most of the automated things (e.g., wipers, lights) work like you want them to - although the automatic switch to brights is a little more sensitive than I'd have thought it should be, it always switches back to regular lights before blinding anyone, so perhaps I'm just used to driving through our urban canyons with weaker lighting than is desirable.
  • The frunk is mostly just an extra storage space, but there is one awesome use I've found: If you have leftovers from a dinner out and want to put them in your car without stinking up your car, the frunk is somehow more isolated from the cabin than the trunk. 
  • Never stopping at a gas station. Seriously, I love this. We charge a couple of times a week at home, so that we can get all the charge time in our super off-peak electricity usage hours (12:30 - 6 a.m.). We had a 240 volt outlet installed in our garage and charge using the portable charger that came with the Tesla.
Mr. Snarky loves one additional thing: You can use the app to turn the AC on in the car remotely so that it cools down before you get in it. 

Mr. Snarky also says he loves how he can just walk up to the car and get in and go, but I think he's just saying that to piss me off since I can't do that. Anyway, we could do that with the Prius.

So that's our basic summary - I'll post an update after the road trip and let you know how that goes! If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Too Klutzy Edition

Yesterday morning, I stubbed my toe badly. By last night, my pinky toe was swollen up and my toe and surrounding foot were a lovely mix of colors.

So, no rollerblading for me today. However, the good news is that it seems like the toe is not broken, because as long as my shoes aren't too tight, I can walk fine today (yesterday, not so much...) so I went for a walk on the beach instead of my rollerblade. It was less exercise and I got some funny looks for wearing leather shoes on the beach, but being on the beach always relaxes me, so it was a decent trade.

Anyway, on to the links.

First, in self-promotional news: there is a new Annorlunda Books release! Arctic Adagio, by DJ Cockburn, is a mystery set in a disturbing but all-too-believable near future. Our protagonist has to try to solve a murder when all of his suspects essentially own the law. Even though it is short - just a novelette - it immerses you in its world, and my time in that world really left me thinking. I think anyone who enjoys William Gibson would enjoy this book. PLUS - if you get it now and send me a picture I can share on social media, I'll send you a promo code for Caresaway, Cockburn's earlier novelette. 

In other links:

Josh Marshall says right in this post that he doesn't think anyone should take it for granted that Trump will lose re-election... but he spells out the case for the possibility that Trump not just loses, but loses big. I share it because it clarified my thinking about how I can be most usefully involved at this early stage. The short answer is evident in the actions I posted on Twitter today: I gave money to the Wisconsin Democrats and to Mi Familia Vota. I think if you read Marshall's post, you'll see why!

But if you read only one of my links this week, read Dahlia Lithwick's article about Elizabeth Warren and her supporters. 

The Hofeller files should be a bigger story than they are... they show some egregious bad faith and wrong-doing by lots of state Republican parties.

In local politics: My city is struggling to build enough housing. I drive past the church in this story often. I hope they get to build the housing they want to build.

In non-political reading: that Washington Post article about Pfizer and Enbrel and Alzheimer's was all over my Twitter feed. I didn't have the energy to write up why that article was basically useless, but Derek Lowe did. There are lots of things Pharma companies do that are questionable and some that are downright infuriating. This one was perhaps questionable, but I don't think the author of the Post article understood drug discovery (or scientific publishing!) well enough to provide us with the information we'd need to decide if it was questionable. From the info in the article, it seems like nothing more than one of many signals that a drug company decided not to follow up on.

This Virginia Hughes article about how DNA testing connected a man and the descendents of his grandmother's rapist is really well done.

I'm sharing this article because I love jacaranda trees and they are all in bloom here right now.

In recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with Presidential candidate Michael Bennet is really worth your time, even if you aren't considering voting for him.

I have no idea if this translation is accurate but this made me laugh out loud:

This is also hilarious.

Honestly, the face-planted owl is so great I don't even want to end with a bunny.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Weekend Reading: Another Busy Week, Another Short Reading List Edition

Petunia woke up feeling fine today, so the Chuck E. Cheese outing was on and the hedgehog was procured:

And all is well.

I also spent over an hour lying on a blanket in my backyard looking up at the avocado tree leaves and blue sky. At one point a large bird flew into the tree. I think it was some sort of hawk, but I couldn't see its head so I'm not sure. When I moved to try to see it better, it flew away.

All in all, it was a good day off.

It was a nice end to a busy week. I don't have many links for you this week because it was so busy. I don't have any links about the mess in Washington this week. But I will share what actions I plan to take this weekend:

I found another voting rights organization to donate to: Spread the Vote. I like what they're doing, so I'm going to give them some money. Yes, Vote Riders is doing something similar. I think both organizations are worth supporting.

I will also be writing postcards for a state house campaign in Florida.

Here's what I got for your reading pleasure this weekend:

I almost always read what David Roberts writes about climate... and his summary of Jay Inslee's climate plan is worth your time.

This comic about the author's favorite Filipino food is really good.

I need to go to see this new art installation in Paso Robles.

I love Rhiannon Giddens' music, and this profile is as good as her music.

This thread is heartbreaking:
I think this picture is stunning:
This is not a bunny, but it is almost as good:

Here's a bunny:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

This Wasn't the Post I Meant to Write Tonight

I planned to write a post tonight, but not this one.

I was going to write a post over on my real name blog about how I recognize good project management, and why I think good project management matters.

Or maybe I was going to write a post over on Adjusted Latitudes about the lure of the long trip, inspired by some thoughts after reading Rowing for Latitude, by Jill Fredston. (It is an excellent book. You should read it. Let me just say that my ideal long trip looks nothing like her long trips, but I wish I could write as well as she does and that book made my feet itch.)

But life, and specifically parenthood, got in the way. My kids have tomorrow off school, and I decided to take the day off and have a "play day" with them. We have big plans, including a return trip to Chuck E. Cheese to procure enough tickets to get a stuffed hedgehog Petunia has her eye on. Petunia has been talking about this trip all week. She has been negotiating with Pumpkin to convince Pumpkin to donate her tickets to the cause. I don't love Chuck E. Cheese, but I confess I was looking forward to seeing Petunia procure her hedgehog.

But then tonight, right before snack time, Petunia announced she was tired. She didn't really eat her snack. She willingly went to bed early.

Uh oh, I thought. Is she coming down with the cold I fought off at the start of the week? (Or, God forbid, something else that I'm going to catch next week?)

We read stories and turned the lights out. She went to sleep. I left her room and went to do the dishes... and then she came out of her room all sweaty, saying she got hot.

Damn. The poor kid is probably going to be sick tomorrow. No Chuck E. Cheese. No hedgehog. 

I went back in and helped her settle back in bed and go back to sleep.

And then I did the dishes. It is now 45 minutes after when I thought I'd start writing a post. Most importantly, I'm feeling deflated and not like the badass whose opinions on project management the world needs to read.

So y'all get to read my whinging about life instead, I guess.

One of the things that Rowing for Latitude (which again, is an excellent book and you should read it) made me think about is what I'm doing with my life.

Don't get me wrong. Unlike Fredston, I have zero desire to spend four months at a time rowing in frigid water for hours every day. But I have to confess that spending 11 months every year spending hours a day sitting at a computer writing emails and statements of work was maybe not how I'd imagined my life would go, either.

I think Rowing for Latitude triggered these thoughts because they were already nascent in my head. I've been thinking about what I want from life a bit lately.

I just took the better part of a paycheck and transferred it into my Annorlunda bank account. It is the first time I've done that since I put a few thousand dollars in to start the company. Annorlunda wasn't broke, but my balance had dipped below the point at which the bank starts charging fees, and I decided it was silly to pay $8 per month out of pride at not having to invest "extra" cash in my company.

Still, that transfer of money, along with some struggles with book marketing that I may write about at some point (basically, what I was doing with Facebook ads stopped working and I stopped wanting to send money to Facebook, so I need a new marketing plan) have really made me stop and think about what I need from Annorlunda to keep it going. The answer right now is that I don't know, so I'm full speed ahead publishing some great books this year and hoping I figure it out!

Whatever I want to do with Annorlunda, it is clear it is not a path to financial independence anytime soon (or really, ever), so either I need a different plan to go back to being independent or I need to fully embrace the career I've gone back to.

But the career I've gone back to has its own set of quandaries. Twice since starting my current job, I have been approached by people at other, competing companies and asked if I'd be interested in applying for a job that would be an objectively better career move than the job I have now. I like the job I have now! I like my colleagues! But it was a "step back" career-wise and there is no path for advancement. And yet, both times I told the people "not right now, but thanks for thinking of me."

My reason for saying no is that I don't want to move, and both of those jobs would have required relocating. Younger me would not have made this decision. Both jobs were in good locations, that I would probably enjoy living in. But I am settled here, and I'm not sure if that even just refers to the fact that the idea of uprooting my kids is incredibly daunting.

Also, my current job comes with incredible flexibility, which is very helpful in my life (and my kids' lives) right now. It is hard to imagine another job with a good paycheck and benefits that would be this flexible.

So, I am apparently not prioritizing career advancement. What am I prioritizing? Hell if I know. What do I want to have done in my life when I look back from the ripe old age of 99? Hell if I know.

I'm doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and I wish I could synthesize all my thoughts, but I've tried a couple of times and have the blog post drafts to prove it... and I'm not there yet. Here are some random things that have stuck with me as I think about it:
  • When I was in high school, I read Dr. Zhivago. I remember not a single thing about the plot, but there is a quote from the book that I wrote down in the book of quotes I kept and still have: "What are you conscious of in yourself? Your kidneys? Your liver? Your blood vessels? No. However far you go in your memory, it is always in some external, active manifestation that you come across your identity.... You in others - this is your soul." I had to look up the full quote, but that bit after the ellipsis has stayed with me all these years. I think it is deeply true.

    (Incidentally, I have a ridiculous number of quotations from Les Liasons Dangereuses in my quote book. I am not sure if this reflects the brilliance of the prose or some weird fascination I had with that book as a high schooler.)

  • A couple of years ago, I read Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. (This is also a great book that you should read.) The part of the book that has stuck with me the most is the part where he talks about the value of asking someone who is nearing the end of their life what is “enough” for them - what they need from life to think it is worth continuing to undergo treatments to prolong it. The idea is that this helps guide decisions about when to pursue life-prolonging treatments and when to instead focus on maximizing the enjoyment of the days that are left.

    One of the people he writes about would be happy as long as he could eat a bowl of ice cream and watch football. Gawande’s own father, when faced with a tumor in his spinal cord, says he needs more. He does not want to become a quadriplegic. He does not want to be unable to care for himself.  The point isn’t that one answer is better than the other. It is that each person has their own answer, and that if you know what the answer is, it will be easier to make good decisions about treatment.

    I think there is a larger message in this idea, a message about how to decide what matters in life, but I haven't really been able to put my finger on it. I mean, I love a good bowl of ice cream as much as anyone, and who knows, when I'm nearing the end of my life the ability to enjoy a bowl of ice cream may in fact be my criteria for whether it is worth continuing to fight for more days... but it is not enough for me right now. I can't decide if that is a failing of perspective on my part or if I just need to think harder about what is enough for me right now.
I think there will be something from Rowing to Latitude that sticks with me like the above items, too. I just don't know what it is yet.

And now I have finished the beer I poured myself after the dishes were washed, and so I think it is time to go to bed. Here's hoping I wake up to two healthy kids and a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's! 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Weekend Reading: The I Didn't Read Many Articles Edition

Our weird weather continues - we've had more rain this week! This is unusual for May in San Diego. But this afternoon, it was beautiful out and I had a lovely rollerblade outing.

This week, I was busy getting the next Annorlunda Books release posted for pre-orders. The ebook edition of Arctic Adagio, a near future mystery novelette by DJ Cockburn, is now available for pre-orders at all the usual places. The paperback edition will be available on release day, which is May 29.

In other publishing news, we found out that The Dodo Knight, the novella by Michelle Rene about the friendship between Louis Carroll and Alice Liddell, his muse for Alice in Wonderland, was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I love all the books I publish, so it is always great when one of them gets some recognition!

I don't have many non-Annorlunda links, because I was also busy at work and was finishing a book instead of reading articles in a lot of my free time. (Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright. I recommend it. It will show up in a book post over on my real name blog eventually.)

Here's what I have:

Josh Marshall sounds a compelling warning about the upcoming 2020 election.

I haven't had a chance to read this CityLab article about the link between urban beauty and economic growth, but it sounds really interesting. Maybe I'll get to read it this weekend!

In recommended listening: Ezra Klein's interview with historian Joanne Freeman about political violence in the period leading up to the Civil War was very interesting and thought-provoking. (Yes, I'm listening to a lot of Ezra Klein interviews right now - his show is one of the ones I can get directly in the Tesla. I need to spend some time searching what's available there to diversify my listening again!)

The case that turned the tide on abortion rights in Ireland has been on my mind a lot this week. I have thought since the day after the 2016 election that Roe v Wade will be overturned, and that in some states abortion will become essentially unavailable. We know what that will mean. Eventually, I think we will have a case that makes the news and mobilizes the moderate middle on abortion (polls show that the majority of Americans in every state are opposed to laws as extreme as Alabama's new one, for instance). What haunts me is the question of how many women will die before there is a story that is sympathetic enough to enough people to turn that tide. One is too many.

This is a really good answer:


Friday, May 10, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Wait, Did I Just Agree with David Brooks Edition

I don't get to gloat about what a beautiful day it was for a rollerblade today... we've been having cool, cloudy - and even rainy! - weather this week. So today's rollerblade was in long sleeves. But the less than postcard-perfect weather did mean that it was really quiet down by the bay, and I enjoyed that. Also, it didn't rain today, which is why the rollerblade was possible, so I can't complain.

In Annorlunda news: I'm still looking for advance readers for Arctic Adagio.

Also, Both Sides of My Skin is on sale for just $0.99 at Kobo right now, as part of their Mother's Day sale. Sometimes Amazon and the other sites notice that and price match, sometimes they don't.

In other links:

This story about QAnon fools ruining a small town's Earth day celebration makes me so sad and mad.

And speaking of scams.... it sure sounds like a lot of prominent conservatives have a lot of contempt for their own supporters.

If you read only one thing this week, I would make it this short summary from Josh Marshall about why that Giuliani goes to the Ukraine story is a very bad thing. I hate that people are just making jokes about it and shrugging.

This story about a family deciding whether or not to take their kid to the ER after she got into a bottle of dramamine really illustrates the fact that we already ration healthcare in this country.

This is a good article about the benefits of e-bikes for seniors.

In other biking news, could we have a cross-America bike trail soon?

I enjoyed Scalzi's post on turning 50.

In recommended listening: I drove more than usual this week (for work related reasons), and am using the built in podcast app in the Tesla. I haven't favorited that many podcasts yet, and so I found myself listening to a lot of Ezra Klein. There were two shows I'll share:

First, his interview with David Brooks was really good and I never thought I'd say that! I suspect I still disagree with Brooks on most policy issues, but his discussion of his realizations about what matters in life was interesting.

Second, the interview with political scientist Sheri Berman about social democrats was very useful for me, and an interesting conversation.

This is delightful:
And so is this thread:
I got neither a sword nor a cool top hat when I got my PhD and that is just not fair.


Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Environmentalism When You Can't Be Perfect

If I had to pick one quote to capture my philosophy on life, it would be Voltaire's "le mieux est l'ennemi du bien," which translates literally to "the best is the enemy of the good" but often gets rendered as "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

I don't think perfect is possible, and so I apply this quote in all aspects of my life. Tonight I want to talk about applying this to my attempts to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

My feelings on individual action and climate change are complicated. On the one hand, I do not think that individual action is the solution to climate change. I think we need policy changes to reduce emissions on the scale we need to reduce them. On the other hand, many of those policy changes would be targeted at producing changes in individual choices (e.g., biking/taking transit instead of driving) and also individual choices can help build a culture in which policy changes are more possible...

So I have been trying to make better individual choices. Doing the research to decide what changes to make is disheartening, to say the least, because so much of what you find is often absolutist and full of judgement for people who cannot remake their lives to be perfectly pure in the environmental sense.

The purists annoy me, both because sanctimony is inherently annoying and because I think they scare people off from making any changes or even engaging with the issue at all. The whole reason we need policy change is that our society is set up in a way that makes it hard for people to make environmentally sustainable choices. Infrastructure in many cities is built around the car, companies have a vested interest in making it hard for us to evaluate their claims about sustainability, etc., etc.

Luckily, I have my whole "the perfect is the enemy of the good" philosophy to fall back on. I don't have to be perfect, I just have to do better. In my experience, that approach is far more conducive to actually changing things than the "be perfect or you're a hypocrite" approach. Start where you are and iterate to where you want to be by making the changes you can make now. You can always make more changes later.

So, leaving aside the whole "buying an electric car" thing (and yes, I still owe you a post with my thoughts on the Tesla), here are some small changes we've made recently:
  • I bought more reusable bags for produce and bulk goods (e.g., the pistachios and cashews I buy)
  • I try to choose walking for short trips like picking the kids up at school. Except for the first day we had the Tesla. That day, we picked the kids up from school in the car.
  • I am being more mindful about how I use plastic food storage bags. My first attempt to replace these with reusable bags failed. The bags I bought are useful, but do not replace Ziploc bags in my most common uses, which are to store the baked goods I make every week for my kids. However, since I make the same baked goods every week (scones for Pumpkin's lunches and bread for Petunia's breakfasts), I can reuse the Ziploc bags without washing them. I used to do that sometimes. Now I do it all the time.
  • Mr. Snarky bought a pump to power a sprinkler so that he can use the water from our rain barrels to water our backyard. We run our built in sprinklers less often now.
  • Mr. Snarky has started trying various meat substitutes for things like hamburgers. We've also tried meat substitute "meatballs" and found them pretty good.
Things I've considered and decided I won't do:
  • Bike or take transit to work one day a week. There is no safe bike route and a transit-based commute would be well over an hour.
  • Give up meat. We don't eat meat every day or even most days, but we aren't likely to give it up completely.
And here are some small things I'm planning to do next:
  • Start walking to get our groceries some times. This requires me to obtain a "granny cart" - and I think Petunia may be planning to get me one for my birthday, which is coming up soon, so I am waiting on this.
  • Solve the scone and bread storage issue in a way that doesn't involve Ziploc bags at all.  
  • Sign up for the free tree the city will plant to replace the one that blew over in a storm earlier this year.
Our next big thing will probably be solar panels, but it could also be the backyard revamp I've been wanting to do, which will reduce the amount of grass and also add at least one tree. 

And of course, I'll continue to work to elect politicians who will take climate change seriously. I'm also trying to be more vocal on local issues that are related to climate issues, like supporting better bike lanes and public transit, and increasing housing density near existing transit lines.

I'm always open to ideas for other small changes to add to my next iteration of improvements, so drop any ideas you have in the comments!

Friday, May 03, 2019

Weekend Reading: Another Week, No Post Edition

I had plans to write a post here this week! But I wrote a post over at Adjusted Latitudes about some restaurants we visited over spring break instead. Some weeks I can manage two posts, but I've been busy booking lodging for our summer vacation and between that, some research I'm doing on book promo options, and prepping for our next Annorlunda release, I ran out of time.

Speaking of the next Annorlunda release: It is another near future noveletter from DJ Cockburn (author of Caresaway). This one is a mystery set on a luxury ship the super rich have taken to to avoid being subject to any nation's laws. It is called Arctic Adagio and I posted the cover reveal this week. You can also sign up to be an advance reader now.

Moving on to other links:

Apparently we've been making our allergy seasons worse by planting only male trees.

And here's a really interesting long read about shade in LA.

This post from Josh Marshall about Attorney General Barr and the state of the Republican party is worth your time.

So is Marshall's take on the Guiliani/Ukraine/Biden story.

This is a good article at the Washington Post about Evangelical pastors self-reflection in the wake of the shooting at a Poway synagogue committed by a member of their flock. I wish it didn't include a picture of the shooter, though.

Always read Rebecca Solnit (this essay is on unconscious bias who is deemed "electable").


Friday, April 26, 2019

Weekend Reading: Another Grim Set of Links on Another Beautiful Day

It is another beautiful, sunny day here. Wonderful rollerblading weather! It was the sort of rollerblade outing that makes me feel really lucky to live here - a sunny day, a cool ocean breeze, the spring break crowds have gone home, the summer crowds aren't here yet... Just wonderful.

In other good news: Our Tesla arrived yesterday, so I got to drive to the rollerblade in style. It is too early to write up my impressions of it, other than to say it is a really pretty color of blue. I promise to write more once I've driven it a bit more.

Unfortunately, the links I have to share with you aren't so sunny. We're in a really difficult period. It is not at all clear how best to fight back against the anti-democratic (small d) forces at work. I still think there is time to fix this mess through at least somewhat normal means, but I don't think we can be complacent at all. 

My book club read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me this month. One part that has really stuck with me and made me think was what he wrote about struggle. Early on, he writes:

"And still you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life."

Then, at the end, writing about the struggle his son will need to make, and about how that relates to those of us who get to live in the American dream ("the Dreamers"), he writes:

"Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle for themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all."

Coates has a specific meaning of struggle, and of "the Dream" - but I will not try to summarize that here. I'll just say "struggle" doesn't mean to struggle economically. He's talking about a deeper struggle than that. I think of it as in part the struggle to free yourself from the constraints of an unfair society, and the struggle to make a better society. But I think it is more than that and encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is not a long book.

Early on after Trump was elected, I was in a conversation about what would protect us from the threat he poses, and I said something to the effect of "Congress will not save us. We have to do it ourselves, and I'm not sure we're up to it."

I still think that. Mueller couldn't save us. The Democrats in Congress can't save us. Mueller had his part, and the Democrats have their part. Either could certainly have sunk us. But we, the people, will need to save us.

In short, those of us for whom this country has largely worked well need to learn how to struggle. It was our failure to struggle that left us open to the catastrophe of the 2016 election. Russia meddled, sure, but their meddling just exploited the existing fault lines in our society. We were complacent and did not work hard enough to heal them. It is our failure to struggle that is putting our world at grave risk from climate change. We need to take up the struggle if we are to get back on a sustainable course, let alone one that leads to a better society. And I am no more convinced that we are up to it than I was in 2016.

With that preamble, here are my links for the week:

Josh Marshall on the misleading spin that's been put on the Mueller report, and the fact that it does, in fact, show that the Trump campaign conspired and coordinated with Russia.

I don't think we'll learn the full truth of what happened without a real Congressional investigation. It looks to me that Trump agrees, because he's fighting hard to keep a real investigation from happening. Here's Marshall again, this time on the need for Congress to stop treating Trump's obstruction of their valid oversight requests as politics as usual.

Of course, the rot isn't just in the White House. Here is a depressing look at how Republicans are responding to losses at the ballot box by fighting against democracy.

David Roberts at Vox has a rather depressing summary of a new report about the viability of the Climate Right.

That's all the reading links I have this week. I know they are a bit grim, so I will also reiterate that I have found taking action helps me feel less helpless and overwhelmed by it all. I'm going to start posting my weekly actions again. I suspect I'll mostly post on Fridays at lunch time.

My actions aren't big, and I don't know if they are "right"  or the "best" thing to be doing - they are just what I'm doing right now. I posted my actions for this week already, but in case those tweets have scrolled off the sidebar, here are the two things I did: I donated to Swing Left, because I think their state-based strategy for preparing for the 2020 election is a good one; and I requested some more addresses for Marc Friedenberg in a special election in PA. This is a bit of a long shot of a race, but I think it is worth fighting as hard as we can everywhere. Also, voting is a habit, and it seems like encouraging Democratic voters in PA to strengthen that habit is a good use of my time.

I do have some recommended listening this week: I really like the Flash Forward podcast, and the Desert Creep episode is a reminder that climate change is just about rising sea levels.

In happier things, I have some tweets:

I love this:
And also this - bunny art!

Cute sleeping bunny!

Have a good weekend!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Staying Sane Edition

So, the Mueller report is out. I assume you can find anything you want to read about it. If you're looking for a measured summary from people who know the law, I like Lawfare blog for that. From a more partisan, but still pretty measured viewpoint: I like this TPM article about what comes next.

And that's all I'm going to share on that topic. I have the same opinion I've had since Trump was elected: We're in a slow-moving Constitutional crisis and at an inflection point in our history. I think we face a real risk of, if not losing our democracy, backsliding to become a less-democratic society. I don't think all is lost, but neither do I think we're home free. I don't know what the best course of action for Democratic leaders is right now, but having watched the behavior of the current group of Republican leaders over the last 2.5 years, I am more convinced than ever that they need to lose power. The only way I know to make that happen is to support voting rights in general and Democrats in particular, so that is what I am doing.

But in the meantime, I have to stay sane. So I went on my rollerblade today and appreciated the beautiful day.

And here are some other stories you can read to take a break from this mess:

Here's a write up of some interesting research about the sleep (and health) impact of where you live in a time zone.

The latest I've heard on the cause of the fire at Notre-Dame is that it may have been an electrical fault, but I still think this essay from a former roofer about the risks of repairs is worth your time.

Roxane Gay wrote about an Italian restaurant in LA and now I want to go.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what our cities would look like if they weren't so car-centric. Vox's David Roberts went to Barcelona to explore the idea of "superblocks." The whole series is interesting, but the installment about superblocks as a model for "post-car" urban living is the my pick for which to read if you only have time/interest for one.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

In Which We (Finally) Buy a Car

I've mentioned a couple of times that we were shopping for a replacement for our 2007 Prius, and promised to write up some thoughts on our car hunt.

Our Car and Commute Strategy

First, some background on our cars and what I call our car strategy. We have two cars: One "small" car that we use primarily for around town and short out of town trips (1 week or less), and one "large" car that we use for longer car trips (if we're not flying to the starting point and renting a car). We prioritize fuel efficiency in both, but particularly in the small car. For the large car, we also think about luggage space and the ability to hold my husband's bike in the back without taking off a wheel. When weather and schedules allow it, he takes his bike in to work one day each week, leaves the car and bikes home, then bikes back to work the next morning. He has a safe bike route if he goes through one of our urban canyons. The distance is a bit too far for him to want to ride to work and back in one day, but he enjoys the split day biking schedule. It works best if he can leave his bike locked in the car on the day he drives it in... hence the requirement to be able to fit the bike in.

I do not have a safe bike route to work. Neither of us has a reasonable public transit option to work right now, although that might change if Mr. Snarky is still at the same work place when our new trolley extension opens. My work location is unlikely to ever have good public transit options, but I do get to work from home once a week.

Right now, our two cars are a 2007 Prius and a 2010 Mazda 5. Both are showing signs of nearing the end of their lifespan. The Prius' main battery is likely to fail in the next couple of years, and enough other little things are going wrong that we decided to it is time to replace the car. The Mazda 5, meanwhile, has never been quite right since it was T-boned in an accident when it was only a year or two old. It was repaired, but we think the frame is not quite aligned, because we've had to replace things like the engine mounts more often than we should. We've just done one more "big" repair that our mechanic thinks should last at least three years. We don't plan to do another. (The engine runs great, and we otherwise really like the car - it was just bad luck about the accident, and the fact that the repair wasn't quite right wasn't apparent until more than 5 years later, so we're just going to let it go and replace it a little earlier than we might otherwise.)

Given that we know we'll be replacing both cars within the next five years, we decided that we'd look at cars that could potentially replace either of our two cars in the long run - with the caveat that whatever we bought now had to be able to make the trip to Arizona and get gas mileage as good as or better than our current Prius while doing it. We usually get about 40 - 45 miles per gallon on the drive to Arizona. (I get about 38 miles per gallon in my usual around town driving. The Mazda 5 gets 20-25 miles per gallon.)

Our Car Search Parameters

We want to replace the Prius with something that gets better gas mileage. In fact, we want the best fuel efficiency/least environmental impact possible given our other parameters. We live in a state with a relatively clean energy mix, so we decided to look at plug in hybrids and electric cars. Here are our other parameters:
  • At least one of our two cars must be able to fit Mr. Snarky's bike in the back, without taking the wheel off
  • At least one, and ideally both, of our two cars must be able to make it to Phoenix and have the cargo space for our luggage for a week
  • At least one, and ideally both, of our two cars should be able to make our daily commute on battery
    • Treat my commute as ~30 miles round trip
    • Treat Mr. Snarky's commute as ~20 miles round trip
    • Only Mr. Snarky has electric car charging stations at work, but I drive farther so I'll get the most fuel efficient car.
  • Both cars must be able to handle a commute plus a trip to Petunia's art class round trip without refueling. Treat this as adding 15 miles to the commute.
  • Both cars should be able to drive to LA without refueling (~150 miles)
  • It would be nice if at least one of our two cars could transport at least 5 people
We have a preference for ending up with one plug in hybrid and one all electric car once we replace both cars, but the timing of our replacement (needing to replace the Prius first) means that we also considered the option of ending up with two plug in hybrids.

Our Long List

I found a useful comparison of available plug in hybrids and another one of electric cars. Using these lists and our parameters, I created a long list of possibilities. I decided I would only consider plug in hybrids that could go at least 20 miles in electric mode when fully charged, and we only considered electric cars that had a range of over 200 miles. Then Mr. Snarky and I each did some research and compared notes, which led to some cars being ruled out very early. In those cases, I've noted why.
  • Plug in hybrids:
    • Prius Prime
    • Honda Clarity
    • Chevy Volt - ruled out because 2019 is the last year these are being made and that bothers Mr. Snarky for reasons I don't agree with but decided weren't worth arguing about.
    • Chrysler Pacifica - ruled out because Mr. Snarky refuses to drive a minivan, despite my argument that the Mazda 5 is a minivan. SIGH.
    • Ford Fusion
    • Hyundai Ioniq
    • Hyundai Sonata - ruled out on trunk space and because if we're getting a Hyundai, I prefer a hatchback (my first three cars have all been hatchbacks and I am sentimental)
    • Kia Niro
    • Kia Optima - ruled out on trunk space and because if we're getting a Kia, the Niro is a better fit for us
    • Subaru Crosstrek - added to list despite a lackluster 17 mile all electric range because Mr. Snarky likes Subarus (his first car was an Outback and he is sentimental) but then quickly ruled out because it is not actually available yet
    • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Electric cars:
    • Nissan Leaf S Plus
    • Chevy Bolt
    • Hyundai Kona - ruled out because Mr. Snarky thinks they are too ugly
    • Tesla Model 3
We test drove every plug in hybrid on our list, and none of the electric cars. That is because once we did some research on the availability of fast charging stations, we decided that only the Tesla could meet our preference for a small call that could make the trip to Arizona and you can't test drive Teslas. The halfway point between San Diego and Phoenix is Yuma, Arizona. We stop there on most trips between home and my parents' house, and there are in fact some general level 2 charging stations there (shout out to the Chargehub site for making it easy to look these things up!) but to make long road trips possible, what you really need are the level 3 stations (also called "fast charge"), and there just aren't enough of those around yet on the routes we care about to make any electric car except the Tesla feasible.

The Tesla supercharger network, though, is quite good and after spending some time on their map (and having personally seen their stations in Yuma and Gila Bend), we were convinced that we could in fact drive the Tesla to Arizona, no problem. There are superchargers in El Centro, Yuma, and Gila Bend. The only problem is that the location of the supercharger in the Phoenix area is not at all close to my parents' house. However, we found DC2 chargers within walking distance to my parents' house and decided we could leave the Tesla in contention.

The Test Drives

We took advantage of the fact that both of our kids were away for spring break and test drove a bunch of cars. We also ate at a lot of restaurants they would never tolerate, but that's a different post.

Here are our short impressions of all the cars we drove:
  • Prius Prime - Nice. Drives like our current Prius, really. We test drove it twice and really liked it. The only downside is that the back seat only seats two. There is a console between the two back seats which our kids would love but would preclude every carrying five people.
  • Honda Clarity - Also really nice, but Mr. Snarky has an irrational hatred of the rear wheels "covers" that nod at the original Insight design. Lots of cool features, though, and it has a great electric range.
  • Ford Fusion - Really nice to drive, heaps of cabin room, but almost no trunk space. If you want a plug in hybrid and need to transport multiple basketball players with no luggage, this is the car for you.
  • Hyundai Ioniq - I expected to love it (hatchback! A normal back seat!) but we didn't like how it behaved when you accelerated hard in all-electric mode. It had a slight but noticeable lag between tromping on the accelerator and actually accelerating. We have a lot of short freeway on ramps in the older parts of town both here and in LA, and I thought I would not like this behavior in that situation.
  • Kia Niro - We really liked this car! Roomy, with excellent cargo space. The only downside was the rear visibility was not great. However, I remember the adjustment when I went from an Integra (great rear visibility) to a Prius (not so great rear visibility) and it was not really a problem, so that didn't rule the car out.
  • Mitsubishi Outlander - Mr. Snarky loved this car and it is his current front runner for an eventual Mazda 5 replacement. I didn't like its fuel efficiency outside of its the electric range, though - it is a heavy SUV, and it only gets 25 mpg in hybrid mode. That is fine for a Mazda 5 replacement but if we buy it now, we'd be without a fuel efficient car for the drive to Arizona.
The Decision

After the Ioniq test drive disappointed me, the Prius Prime became our front runner. I thought we'd eventually end up buying the Prius - we both liked it and I was the only one bothered by the rear seat situation. But then, we went and drove the Clarity and the Outlander to finish out our research, and we discovered how much Mr. Snarky liked the Outlander. As we discussed the Outlander, I uttered these fateful words: "If the Outlander really is your top choice for an eventual Mazda 5 replacement, we might as well buy a Tesla now and just drive the Mazda 5 for any trip the Tesla can't handle."

A little light went on in Mr. Snarky's eyes when I said that, and before I knew it, we were deep in Tesla research and watching videos about how much stuff you can cram into the Model 3 storage spaces.

The more he researched the Tesla, the more he loved it. I am less excited by all the technology, but will admit that it looks like a really nice car, and I am impressed by its safety test results. My last concern was about charging it when we were actually at my parents' house (and not just driving there), and the discovery of the DC2 charging stations within walking distance convinced me we could make this work. 

And so, yesterday we pushed the final button on the Tesla website and confirmed our order. We'll have our Model 3 in a couple of weeks.

I would not have predicted this outcome at the start of our research. If I could have predicted it, I could have saved us a lot of test driving time! But I also have come to know how Mr. Snarky makes this sort of decision, and I know that the research and the test drives were essential. I would have been happy with either the Prius Prime or the Kia Niro, too. In fact, if Mr. Snarky would have considered the Kia Niro a Mazda 5 replacement, we'd have bought that now and waited to buy an electric car in a few years. But once he drove the Outlander, he decided the Kia Niro could replace the Prius, but not the Mazda 5. I wanted to end up with one electric car enough to push a bit past my preferred car price... and the deal was done.

I'll report back in later about how we like the Model 3!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Beautiful Day, Somewhat Depressing Links Edition

It is a beautiful day here today, and I'm feeling good after a lovely rollerblade outing. I think we're entering the time of year when I could just copy and paste that first line into every Friday's post....

Anyway, you don't come here to read me gloat about my city's weather. You come for links, and I have links!

In self-promo links: as I mentioned in yesterday's post, The Dodo Knight is out now. Get your copy today - and if you share a picture of your copy or receipt I'll send you a discount code for Tattoo.

In other links:

This post from Josh Marshall about the dark times we're in is depressing, but worth reading. It is my "if you only read one thing" pick for this week. The 2018 election provided an important brake on our slide, but we're still sliding. I don't think it is wise to assume we'll be able to stop the slide just by focusing on the 2020 Presidential election, and I don't even want to think about what is going to happen if Trump is re-elected.

But, as distressing as this all is, there are still good people working to get our democracy back on firm ground. I feel better when I'm taking action, and I think the research shows I'm not alone in that. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the suckiness of this all, I really recommend finding a way to join in the work to fix things.

Personally, I just gave my first political donation for the 2020 cycle to Mark Kelly's campaign for Senate. And I bought more cardstock so that I can write more postcards.

But there are other ways to get involved: donate to fight for voting rights or to help people get the IDs they need to vote. Swing Left has a new strategy for 2020 that makes a lot of sense to me. Indivisible is still active and highlighting ways you can get involved. If you're looking for an organization with a more conservative lean, Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn are still active with Stand Up Republic. There may be other organizations active from the conservative side of politics, too, but I don't know as much about them because I'm clearly coming from a more liberal political bent. If you know of some, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Moving on....

If you're confronted with the "we're not a democracy, we're a republic" talking point... here's the answer.

The health insurance situation Jim Hines describes in this post is one of the worst case scenarios that factored into my decision to go back to regular employment. With the constant attacks on the ACA, I decided it was safer for our family to have both adults on group health plans.

This is a really interesting story about the need to keep the location of some plants and animals secret.

Here is a good review of a book that sounds really interesting: Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. I'm not sure it is what I need to read right now, but I'm going to file it away for a time when I think I could take it. I've been thinking a lot lately about how my city could become less car-centric, and maybe a book like this would tie into those thoughts and give me some new ideas. Or maybe it would just depress me!

Since we're debating whether to get a plug-in hybrid or an electric car, I've been doing some reading on their relative merits. This Wired article summarizes a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists about the full environmental impact of electric cars. We're likely to get solar panels, particularly if we get an all-electric car, but I don't want to make the car decision based on an assumption that we will get them. The car we get has to be a good choice even without solar panels. Luckily, California has a quite clean electricity mix, and so do our neighboring states (the most likely places we'd drive in our small car).

In alternative modes of transport news: My city is taking a sensible step to make the dockless scooters and bikes less of a nuisance. I think solutions like this are essential if these dockless vehicles are going to stay on the scene. Otherwise, there will be too much backlash against them, because it is really annoying to find the sidewalk blocked by one of them.

This article about the various historical ages of online parenting may only be interesting to people
who have been online parents through all of the ages... but that includes me, and so I found it interesting!

Here's my source for reusable plastic bag recommendations. This showed up in my Twitter feed and that was the kick in the pants I needed to finally buy some.

In recommended listening, Ezra Klein interviewed Will Wilkinson, who was once a libertarian and is now involved in starting up a new "center right" think tank. It was an interesting interview for a lot of reasons, including Wilkinson's thoughts on how people change their mind on political topics.

I always enjoy Maggie Smith's morning posts. I particularly liked this one:

In case you missed Needhi Bhalla's important curry thread: