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!