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").