Friday, March 29, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Really Tired of Thinking about Cars Edition

We're almost at the end of a kid-free week. Both of our kids were out of town for spring break. I thought this would mean that I'd have a lot of time to write blog posts and the like, but what I actually spent a lot of time on was car shopping.

As I mentioned earlier, we're looking to replace our almost 12 year old Prius with a new plug-in hybrid.  We've done a lot of test driving, review reading/watching, and debating about the relative merits of the various options. We're not done yet, but we're getting close. I'll try to write something about the process once we're done. I don't know whether our selection process will be useful for anyone else, but the process has made me think about incentives for getting more fuel efficient cars, what matters to different people in cars, and how change happens.

(We did a lot of fun things, too - mostly eating at restaurants our kids might not like. I may write some of that up for Adjusted Latitudes.)

I did write one other post this week: I finally wrote up our February weekend in LA.

In other links:

This Greg Sargent post about how Trump decided to embrace a lawsuit against the ACA is really depressing, but worth reading to remind yourself of why we have to keep working for change.

I always enjoy Josh Marshall's dives into history, especially when he links it back up with our present situation. Today, he took a look at the profound changes that happened between about 1440 and 1520, including the introduction of the printing press.

This article about a family's recovery after a brutal attack on the father is really gripping.

This Ask a Teacher about a high-performing girl who keeps getting paired with less motivated boys hit a bit close to home - we're seeing something similar happen with Pumpkin. So far, I don't think there is anything we need to intervene in, but I do wonder if it might be better for the boys who can't get their act together to get their work done on time without the prodding of the much more organized girls they get paired with on projects if just once or twice the teachers put them in a group without a girl like that. Pair up the goof off boys and let them suffer the consequences of not learning how to organize their own damn work in middle school, instead of letting them have to learn that later, when the stakes are higher.

But then I think about the number of men I know who still somehow have much more organized women making sure their work gets done and I think maybe the boys will never suffer any consequences. SIGH.

Abigail Disney's discussion of what it is like to inherit sa huge amount of money is probably the only time I've ever read a piece like this and felt it was worth my time. The closing quote is perfect:

"So that’s what you need to know about money, right? If that is your primary measure of success or value in life, then good luck with that, because it will never feel good."

I love the story about the Garfield phones. If you haven't seen it yet, read it!

Recommended listening this week: Chris Hayes' interview with Jonathan Metzl, author of the new book Dying of Whiteness. I linked to Sean Illing's (written) interview with him last week, but this interview covers slightly different ground.


Monday, March 25, 2019

In the Maelstrom

I don't really want to write about the state of politics in my country. Really, to call the events in the news here "politics" feels like I'm trivializing them.

I don't have any special insights or opinions to share. I would rather write a post about our car shopping travails (we want a plug in hybrid to replace our almost 12-year-old Prius and are finding it difficult to find some of our top contenders to even test drive let alone buy right now). But it seems like I should acknowledge the current situation.

Like a lot of people, I'm exhausted by it all. I don't know what to make of what little we've heard of the Mueller report. I don't know whether there is much hope of us ever seeing the full report. I don't if releasing the full report will really matter in any substantive way - is there anyone out there who is still on the fence in their opinions of this President and this presidency? Is there any meaningful chance that the central figures in all of this will actually face any consequences for their actions? I don't know.

I feel like we've spent two and a half years in a maelstrom, and I don't know see how we get out of it. I hate how it is curdling so many aspects of life. We all seem so much more suspicious of each other, and I'm struggling to keep to my personal goal of viewing people's intentions in the best light. The exchange I had with the anonymous commenter on my recent weekend reading post about climate change is a case in point - that commenter was not commenting in bad faith, but I assumed otherwise at first. That is not how I want to be (sorry, anonymous!) and I am going to try to do better. But it is hard, when our entire public discourse seems to be permeated with bad faith.

So what to do? I've started writing postcards again. I need to go buy some more card stock so that I can keep that up. Like before, I find it calming to do something tangible.

I've also been learning about the Democratic candidates for the 2020 Presidential election. I don't have a clue who I'll vote for yet. I can definitively say that I'll vote for any of the Democrats over Trump, but that isn't saying much, really.

I have decided how I will decide, though - I have decided that I will vote for the candidate I think will make the best President, without regard for electability concerns. The reason I've decided that is simple: I don't think I can judge who is most electable. I hear all the Never Trump Republicans arguing that Democrats need to nominate a candidate with X or Y attributes so that moderate Republicans will vote for them... and I don't believe them. I don't believe that who we nominate will make a meaningful difference in what moderate Republicans do. And even if it would, I don't think I can assess which candidate will be the one moderate Republicans would vote for. I just don't believe what any of the people writing these columns say in terms of who they'd vote for, and I certainly don't believe they know who other Republicans would vote for. I think their time and energy would be better spent on a primary challenge of their own and I am suspicious of their reasons for not mobilizing behind one.

That probably comes back to the cynicism created by the feeling that we're swimming in bad faith. I hate that I feel that way, but it is the truth.

Even if I could figure out which candidate moderate Republicans would vote for, I don't think I can assess how that would play out versus higher or lower motivation among the Democratic base.

And that's not even thinking about how various actors will use social media, etc., to influence who votes.

I've just decided that I can't answer the question of which Democratic candidate has the best chance of winning in the general election, and am going to vote for the one I like the best and let the chips fall where they may.

Also, I will keep writing postcards and working to elect Democrats down ticket, because we have to reverse the rot in our democracy from the bottom up, I think. I may find some other ways to be active, and if I do, I may post about them. Mostly, though, I want to post about other things, and I am going to try to get some of those other posts written (for here, Adjusted Latitudes, and my real name blog). I'm going to make sure I spend enough time on the things that make me happy so that I can make it through this period in American life with my sanity intact.

So that's how I'm dealing with life in the maelstrom. How about you?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Waiting to Hear What Mueller Said Edition

So, Mueller's handed in his report. And now we all wait.

In the meantime, how about some other things to read?

This tweet captures everything I want to say about the Mueller report right now:

On to other things...

Because I was so sad at the end of last week, I didn't post about some great news I got at the start of last week: Tattoo, by Michelle Rene, is an Foreword INDIES finalist!

I confess I click on this story about a young man caught tagging once and charged for many other incidents because of the San Diego connection... but read it. I found it really thought-provoking.

I love this post about a tiny museum in Switzerland and I kind of want to make one of my own!

This thread is a lot of fun:


Have a good weekend, everyone.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Weekend Reading: Heartbroken Edition

I decided my rollerblade today was non-negotiable. I'd had a difficult week at work, and was feeling a bit frayed. And then a terrorist attacked a city in the country that feels like my second home.  I had to start my day today by telling my 11 year old about the attack, because I suspected someone at school would ask her about it and want to know if her New Zealand family are from Christchurch (they are not - our family and close friends are primarily in Wellington and Auckland). And as shattered as I was by this attack, I know that I am feeling a fraction of what Muslim people are feeling today.

So I needed to ground myself and get out of my head and remind myself why this world is worth fighting to improve. Luckily for me, the weather has turned warmer here and it was a beautiful day and my rollerblade helped a lot.

Some things I want to share about the terrorist attack and related topics:

More people were murdered in the terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday than in all of New Zealand in an entire average year.

Right-wing terrorism has gone global. We need to address this problem as a global terrorism problem, not a local hate problem. We heard in the early hours after the attack that the suspected gunman was not on any terrorism watchlists. But he also was apparently active on social media posting hate-filled things and frequenting the places that other mass shooters inspired by hate have frequented. So why wasn't he on a watchlist? We need to start taking this threat more seriously.

I think this post about the Republican party's problem with white identity politics is good. I don't know what the solution is, either.

Here's an article I'm hoping to find time to read this weekend: Adam Serwer on white nationalism's American roots.

In somewhat related topics: Elizabeth F. Cohen on the unintended consequences of our past immigration policies is really worth your time.

I did not read David Frum's immigration article. I share Noah Smith's opinion on that:

In somewhat more hopeful topics: The photos from the Climate Stikes around the world are inspiring.

I found this article about the app-rentable scooters and helmets really good. The real solution may be taking space back from cars to make riding bikes and scooters safe... but in the meantime, we need to find ways to make things safer.

This article about Inuit parenting was fascinating.

In recommended listening:

I happened to have listened to Sean Illing's interview with Deeyah Khan, who made recent documentaries on Jihadism and White Nationalism, this week. It is a really good interview and definitely worth your time.

I also really enjoyed the interview on The Weeds podcast with Pete Buttigieg. I still think he is a long, longshot for President, but he has some interesting ideas and argues for them well. I might donate some money to him to get him on the debate stage!

I've shared this poem before, but in case you need it today: Good Bones, by Maggie Smith, gives me a lot of comfort on days like today.

And here's a yawning bunny to start off your weekend:

Friday, March 08, 2019

Weekend Reading: The Mostly about Climate Change Edition

Well, today we answered the question of "will Cloud go for a rollerblade if it is sunny but not quite 60 degrees?" and the answer is YES. It was chilly at the start but a very nice rollerblade in the end.

In self-promo links: If you're on NetGalley, you can download The Dodo Knight for review now!

In other links:

David Roberts (whose podcast I recommended in my last post) argues that Democrats should call Republican's bluff on the Green New Deal vote in the Senate. I tend to agree with him.

Speaking of my last post, Nicoleandmaggie and I are chatting in the comments, and I think we're in agreement that the most useful individual action on climate right now is to push for policy changes. So here's an interesting old thread from another respected journalist on the climate change beat that has really influenced how I'm thinking about how to get meaningful action on climate:

In particular:

From a different thread of his: We're not going to get real Federal action on the climate until 2021, at the earliest. But there is action in the states, and if you're in a state that isn't taking much action, spending some of your political advocating energy on this could really help:

UPDATE: Grace at Bad Mom, Good Mom also wrote about climate change and energy this week. She has lots of good links, too, as well as her own well-informed opinions in the post. Go check that out!

In hyper-local (to me) local progress news: my mayor apparently meant what he said in his recent State of the City address, and now San Diego has removed parking requirements for multi-family buildings in transit zones. (I have been very moderately active on advocating for higher density near transit and may get a bit more active - advocating for your community to get more transit, bike, and walking friendly is another good local advocacy option that can help address climate change.)

In other topics: Here's an explainer on the new study that shows states with stronger gun laws have fewer mass shootings.

Lux Alptraum argues we can learn to see through "deepfake" videos.

We deserve this burn:

I love this poem:


Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The Damage We Do, The Choices We Make

I think I've mentioned before that my husband bought a kayak. Most weekends, he gets out on Mission Bay for a paddle. I am jealous that he gets so much time on the water. He offered to trade off weekends, but I prefer not to paddle alone and so given how our weekends are arranged these days, he's going to get more paddle time than me.

Anyway, he came back from his paddle last weekend and told me that he'd actually seen dolphins in Mission Bay! It is not all that unusual to see dolphins in the ocean, but I'd never heard of them coming into the bay. He thought maybe the fact that there were almost no motor boats out had something to do with it. It had looked like it might rain that morning. Mr. Snarky decided to try for his paddle, but perhaps the folks who like to take their motor boats or jet skis out for fun decided to skip it.

At the time, I just agreed that this might be the reason, felt intense jealousy that Mr. Snarky got to kayak near dolphins, and then went back to whatever chore I was working on. But the more I think about it, the more profoundly sad the story makes me. Think of all the wildlife we routinely chase out of places with our noise. What would our world look like if we got rid of as many noisy motors as we possibly could? How many more animals would we see? And how much more peaceful would our world seem?

I'm not necessarily advocating for going back to wind and people power (although maybe we should try to do that more). Electric motors can be quiet. I wonder how much noise reduction it would take to make dolphin sightings in Mission Bay less rare?


By coincidence, I'm also re-reading Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See. In fact, I'm reading it aloud to Pumpkin, because there is a section on kākāpōs and she loves kākāpōs. The chapter on the kākāpōs was a relatively happy one to read, because we know that their situation has improved since the book was written. They are currently in the middle of a really good breeding season, in fact. (Here's a recent article about them.)

The chapter on the Northern White Rhino was less cheerful: I had to report that those animals are now functionally extinct, because the last male (who lived at our local Safari Park) has died. There are last ditch efforts to save the species with preserved sperm and eggs from the remaining females, but the chances seem slim.

And now we've gotten to the chapter on the baiji dolphins of the Yangtze river. They are presumed to be functionally extinct, as well - although there may have been a recent sighting. Noise on the river is one of the reasons given for their demise.


And then, against my better judgment, I listened to David Roberts (the Vox reporter on the environment/climate change beat, whose stories I always find informative and useful) interview David Wallace-Wells, who wrote a book about how our climate situation is worse than we think.

The interview is not hopeful, but it is not hopeless, either. It is a clear-eyed look at where we are actually heading on climate (spoiler: we're going to warm by two degrees, and we'll probably warm by more, and that is going to have far-reaching effects), but it also makes a really persuasive argument that we hold the power to limit the damage, both by acting decisively now on carbon usage and by making choices about how to respond to the wider changes the changing climate will bring.

It is probably the thing I've listened to or read recently that has most changed how I think about an issue. I can't sell it as an uplifting listen, but I urge you to listen to it anyway, and think about what world we want for our kids (and their kids), and what we're going to do to respond to the world our past choices have made for us.

One of the points Wallace-Wells makes is that we've focused too much on ocean levels and not enough on the other ways a changing climate is going to disrupt things. We're getting better at recognizing things like last year's catastrophic wildfires as related to climate change. We need to get better still, and we need to find the courage and imagination to fight for some actions that seem impossible to achieve.


The thread that runs through my three stories tonight is this: We have taken actions that have damaged our world. The consequences of that damage stretch beyond us, but they impact us in ways big and small. But we can always make different choices. We can change things. It may seem too hard to contemplate, but making the changes is actually the easier route than living with the damage we're doing with our current choices, if only we could see that.