Friday, January 31, 2020

Weekend Reading: A Sad Day Edition

The news was sad today - Brexit happening, key Senators lacking the backbone to insist on witnesses... but we had beautiful weather here, and I got out for a very nice rollerblade. I'll take the good where I find it these days.

I've been thinking a lot about the state of things, how I'm going to handle the November election with my kids, why I'm a bit unhappy about how the Democratic Presidential primary is shaping up, how perhaps my decision to "sit out" involvement in the primary and focus on other things was maybe not the right one, and how the shouty-est people are crowding the rest of us out these days. Not super happy things to be thinking about, but useful.

Anyway, let's get to the links.

First up, I ran a free promo on Actic Adagio this week. If you act right now, you can probably still get yourself a free copy.

Honestly, Alexandra Petri's take on impeachment is not that much more ridiculous than the actual arguments some of the Republicans made for why they didn't want to allow witnesses.

And that's all I'm going to say about impeachment. It was always going to come down to us. This year's election is unbelievably important. Figure out what you're willing/able to do to help win it, and do what you can! I think I'll write a full post about this later.

I don't see any reason for Americans to freak out about the Coronavirus outbreak yet, but Laurie Garrett's recommendations for how to stay healthy are equally valid for other illnesses that might be spreading. I'm not going to start wearing gloves everywhere right now, but the reminder to avoid touching your face is one I am working on because there are a lot of respiratory illnesses going around here right now.

Vox's Dylan Scott went to other countries to report on how they provide health care, and this is a nice summary of what he learned. The Weeds podcast episode on this was also good.

Speaking of podcasts... this episode about how Germany became a leader in solar panels is really good, too.

This list of best hikes in every National Park makes me want to plan a road trip!

This is a delightful series of tweets.

Here's a bunny:

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Weekend Reading: Trying to Hold on to Normal Edition

I has a nice rollerblade outing today. I really do feel better in every way when I get my Friday afternoon rollerblade. It was a bit chilly at the start, though. I have never bought winter workout gear, so I rollerblade in my crop workout leggings, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt. Maybe I should buy some full length workout leggings. But by the time I get around to doing this, it will be warm enough for the crop leggings again.

My cold shins are such a trivial thing. There is so much non-trivial news these days. I find it a bit overwhelming sometimes. Yesterday, as I drove home from work, I was struck with the thought: "How will I stand to watch the election returns on November 3?" I will need to watch them, but just the thought of watching them fills me with anxiety. So that's going to be fun.

I think I'm experiencing a low-level sense of dread most of the time these days. It is quiet, so much so that I can forget about it most of the time. But every once and awhile a stray thought or a news story or something will make it surface. It sucks for me, but I hate it even more when I think about my kids growing up into such an uncertain future. Will we get our act together on climate in time to avert some of the worse scenarios? Will we manage to beat back the anti-democratic (little d) forces in this country? Ugh. I don't know. I try to tamp down the anxiety and questions and hold on to normal, for my own sanity and for my kids. And then I write some more postcards or make some donations to try to fight for our normal.

Anyway, on to the links.

Dana Milbank on John Roberts being forced to face the mess he made is really, really good.

Josh Marshall argues that it is Senate Republicans who are really on trial. I hope voters are paying attention.

If you haven't watched Adam Schiff's closing argument from Thursday night, I recommend taking 8 minutes to do so:

Mary Ruefle's essay on menopause is... I don't know. Delightful seems the wrong word, but I really enjoyed it. I have not (so far) experienced perimenopause with such extreme emotional symptoms, but I have noticed emotional disturbances along with the bursts of migraines and the screwed up sleep.

In recommended listening: Krista Tippet's interview with musician Joe Henry was really good. I almost didn't listen to it, but I'm so glad I did.

This thread is really worth your time:

We tried quinoa tacos this week and really liked them! I boiled the quinoa the night before so the prep and cooking time the day of was only ~30 minutes. I also made some quinoa seasoned with just salt and pepper for the kids to try. Pumpkin said it was "tolerable" and Petunia said it "tastes OK but has a weird texture." SIGH. If you're trying to cut down on your meat consumption, though, check this recipe out. I agree with the author that it could be a filling in a lot of different things.


Happy weekend, everyone. Hold on to normal and fight for it.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Personal Goals 2020

I really struggled with my personal goals list this year. I didn't feel like last year's list really worked for me, so I wanted to try something different, but I wasn't sure what that would be. I decided to let it simmer in the back of my mind for a week or two. I think that worked. At least, I have now written my goals list for 2020.

Before I share that list, here's how I did on the goals for 2019:

1. Improve my exercise routine. My specific plan was to add in regular Monday exercise sessions and also add in yoga. I sort of did this. I now consider exercising after work on Mondays part of my regular routine... but it is a part of the routine that gets broken more than I would like. And I completely failed to establish a regular yoga practice. I did do a lot of yoga when I messed up my right arm in early December and that helped sort the issue out. But I never got a regular practice going, even though I know it would improve how I feel.

2. Write more. My specific goal was to write one Adjusted Latitudes post per month and one other post per month. I failed at this. My posting remains erratic and less frequent than I want.

3. Get a design for the backyard upgrade and get the first step done. This didn't happen. We bought a Tesla instead. (Seriously: The Tesla was quite a bit more expensive than the car we thought we'd buy. We decided to put other large expenditures on hold while our finances recovered.)

4. Stay active in politics. I sort of did this. I kept up my postcard writing for awhile, but then I took a break and never re-established the habit. I've continued to stay informed and donate to causes and candidates I think will make good use of my money, but I feel like I really cut back on my engagement in the second half of 2019.

5. Take the time to notice more. I think I did this. I used Instagram for awhile to force myself to pick one thing a week I noticed. I stopped doing that, but have kept up the habit of noticing things. Sometimes I take a picture and share it on Instagram, sometimes I don't.

This was a pretty mixed bag. Most importantly, I ended the year feeling like I'd not really met my goals for the year. It is hard right now, with the overall political environment being so toxic, to put much energy into my own goals. But I want to do better in 2020 because frankly there is no guarantee that the overall political environment is going to improve much in the foreseeable future, no matter how the next few elections go. I think we're just in an unsettled age and I need to figure out how to make peace with that and live my life anyway.

So, for 2020 I decided to take each big aspect of my life and make a goal for it, then come up with a handful of specific habits or actions that would support that goal. My overall plan is to pick one or two habits or actions each month to try to adopt or do. I may not get to all of the specific actions, but maybe I will!

This new approach makes the list longer, but also breaks the actual things to do down into smaller chunks. The goals are basically evergreen: They are the things I'm always working toward. The specific habits and actions are what are specific to this year, although my hope is that some of them will continue on into future years. My hope is that by giving myself choices of what to work on throughout the year, the list will feel more relevant and I'll be more likely to pick something and keep going.

We'll see if this helps me end 2020 feeling better about what I achieved.

Goal: Improve my physical health
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Do calorie counting until I lose at least 10 lbs and for long enough after that to "reset" my eating and exercise habits so that I'll maintain that weight
  • Establish a sustainable yoga practice
  • Visit the physical therapist all my book club friends recommend and see if she can "fix" my right arm

Goal: Improve my use of time
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Re-establish my Duolingo habit (which was an almost daily habit)
  • Figure out how to make social media work for me again - it has felt less like a useful thing recently, so I either need to change how I use it or decrease the time I spend on it. Or both.
  • Read a poem or two before bed most nights
  • Establish a sustainable meditation practice (which, like the yoga practice, is something I know would make me feel better if I could do it but still struggle to do)

Goal: Maintain good relationships 
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Catch up with friends more often. I think this action isn't specific enough, so when I pick it off the list I'll try to be more specific about what habit I want to establish.
  • (There are a couple of additional items here that I've decided to keep private
I also want to keep up what I'm doing with my kids (this is one area of my life I feel like I am doing pretty well at, but I need to keep in mind that this commitment of time and energy is a good choice I'm making!)

Goal: Be a good global citizen
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Re-establish my postcard writing habit
  • Take steps to decrease carbon usage, e.g.: get a heat pump (our heater needs replacing so we're going electric), get solar panels, eat less meat.

Goal: Improve my career happiness
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Untangle the mess. I don't have a clear idea of what I want to achieve in my work life and that is bothering me. I saw parallels to the mess of tangled yarn I accidentally created and had to untangle - I wrote more about that in my newsletter this month.
  • Write more. This is another action that isn't specific enough and that I plan to make more specific when I pick it off the list.

Goal: Experience more joy
Potential specific actions and habits:

  • Take more walks on the beach. (I have an idea of how to do this! I think I may pick this for next month)
  • Complete at least one embroidery project and see if that might be the creative outlet I've been looking for.
  • Eat more ice cream. (This seems simple, but not when you balance it with the calorie counting goal above... so basically the specific action is to figure out how to fit more ice cream into my calorie "budget"!)
That's a big list! I am curious to see if this new approach works better than a small list of big things. 

I have already started on my list: My two items for January are calorie counting and Duolingo. Both are going well. I've only missed a couple of days of Duolingo, and I've already lost 4 pounds. I think the rapid weight loss is because I was up a couple of extra pounds after the holidays and those dropped pretty quickly. I don't expect to maintain this weight loss velocity - I am now down to what my "standard" weight has been for about 5 years. I'd like to lose more and get down to what my standard weight was before I gained 5 pounds at the start of perimenopause. I'll be interested to see if calorie counting can get me there. It has been the only way I've managed to lose weight, but it is not my favorite thing to do! I'll need to keep the habit going for several months, though, if I want to lose another 5-6 pounds and maintain at that new weight.

Maybe I'll try to keep myself honest by posting what my specific actions are each month. Hmmmm. Check back in February to see if I decide to do that!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Family Fun List 2020

The Family Fun list has been a tradition in our house since 2013. I provided a little context in last year's post... So let's get right to how we did on our 2019 fun list and then I'll post our list for this year!

Here was last year's list:

  • Go to the San Diego kids' art museum. (Petunia) - DONE. We went in early July and had fun, but also realized that this museum is really aimed at younger kids. We've aged out of it!
  • Go to [a local indoor rock climbing place]. (Pumpkin) - DONE. This was the year we finally got to this item. The kids had a lot of fun.
  • Visit the slot canyon in San Diego country. (Mr. Snarky) - DONE, in April. It was a really great outing. The kids complained about the walk to the slot canyon but they had so much fun in the canyon they went around the loop twice.
  • Go to a special event at Balboa Park. (Me) - DONE. We hit the Holiday Food Trucks after Christmas. This was not the event I had in mind when I put this on the list, but it was an event so it counts!
  • Have an outdoor ball sports day. (Petunia) - DONE. We had some 3-on-3 baseball with my parents when they were in town for Christmas.
  • Go mini-golfing (Pumpkin) - DONE. And in a really weird turn of events, I won. I NEVER win at mini-golf!
  • Go to a musical. (Mr. Snarky) - DONE. We saw Matilda at the Moonlight Theater in Vista and had a great time. We also saw Anne, the Musical in Charlottetown on our vacation.
  • Go get ice cream at a non-chain shop. (Me) - DONE. We tried out a local shop called Moosies. It was good.
  • Hold a no-braces party with at least one friend and all the food forbidden when wearing braces. (Petunia) - DONE
  • Walk around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. (Pumpkin) - DONE. This was the first year with minimal complaining about the walk from Petunia, too. This may be becoming a tradition we all like!
  • Go on a boat-based animal viewing excursion. (Mr. Snarky) - Did not do. We thought we'd go see some puffins in Cape Breton or whales here... but we did not.
  • Try a new restaurant in San Diego. (Me.) - DONE. And we liked that restaurant enough to go back again!
  • Bonus: Go to Rita's Italian Ice (Consensus choice from the kids) - Sort of done. I took the kids while Mr. Snarky was out of town for work, but we never made it there as a family... and now the last franchise in our area has closed.

Here are some photos from our fun outings:

One of the cool things at the San Diego kids' art museum - Petunia enjoyed climbing in it, Pumpkin was too big.

The kids rock climbing:

Me, climbing up the slot canyon:

And the view from the top:

And here's our list for this year:

  • Go to a movie in a movie theater (Petunia. This is not a common thing in our house, partly because Pumpkin has traditionally been opposed. But she went to TWO movies with her friends last month - Little Women and Cats, they report Little Women is definitely the better of the two movies - so perhaps we'll have no trouble with this entry. We'll see.)
  • Walk around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights (Pumpkin. She's not quite ready to trust that we'll keep the tradition without it on this list!)
  • Go to a musical (Mr Snarky. He really likes musicals so he's delighted that the kids both seem to enjoy them, too.)
  • Visit Bunnyhenge (Me. Because obviously I need to go.)
  • Go to [an indoor playground in my parents' town] (Petunia)
  • Go to Open Gym at the Y (Pumpkin. She's been wanting to go for awhile and she has correctly determined that if she puts it on this list, she's more likely to get to go!)
  • Hike a peak in Mission Trails park (Mr. Snarky)
  • Walk across the Spruce Street bridge (Me. You need some easy outings on the list!)
  • Go to the Fleet Science Museum (Petunia)
  • Go for a surrey bike ride (Pumpkin. We were reminiscing about past lists and she decided we should try this again - I used to put it on the list every year but stopped after the outing wasn't much fun one year. We'll see if we do better now that the kids are old enough to pedal...)
  • Go to Mexico (Mr. Snarky)
  • Go to the Museum of Making Music (Me)
  • Bonus: Go to a cultural festival (e.g., the Viking festival a friend told us about) (Mr. Snarky - since we didn't go animal watching on a boat last year, he got the bonus pick)
I think we have a good list this year. I'm looking forward to a lot of fun family outings!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Weekend Reading: The End of a Tough Week Edition

I had a tough week this week - I got sick on Wednesday with what I eventually figured out was a vestibular migraine and it took last night's sleep to really get me back to feeling normal. But I had my first rollerblade of 2020 today and it was really nice. It was a sunny day today, a bit on the cool side (I think our high was about 64 degrees) - but there wasn't too much wind and it was a really nice outing.

One thing I'm trying to figure out how to do this year is get more beach walks in. An obvious option would be to replace some of my rollerblade outings with beach walks... but that's not going to happen. I value the rollerblade outings too much! Also, another thing I'm doing this year is that I've started calorie counting again. I like how it resets my eating habits and I am hoping I can lose a few pounds, too. One of the nice things about the rollerblade outings is they burn a lot of calories... which "buys" my Friday night beers. I am having a hard time settling on my personal goals for this year, but I'm getting close and I'll post about them soon.

Anyway, on to the links.

I am not going to post a bunch of links about the mess we've made with Iran, but I will share three things:

First, I agree with Josh Marshall: I want to hear more about the possibility that Trump chose to strike Soleimani because some GOP Senators were pressuring him to do this and perhaps threatening to withhold their support during impeachment if he didn't do it. That is... yuck. It is horrible.

Second, Talia Levin's essay about the holy war aspects of what is going on right now is very chilling.

Finally, read this thread about the impact of the Ukraine Airlines crash in Canada. That this is now looking like it was a missle strike made in error just compounds the tragedy. It is far too easy for people to forget that when hostilities heat up, the chances of accidental civilian deaths goes way up. This is a heartbreaking reminder.

OK, one more thing: Jamelle Bouie on why we need to stop trying to make a rational reason for Trump's actions and just face the truth about who he is and what his presidency is.

There is a lot more to read on this subject, but I'm sure you can find that for yourself. I'd like to move on to some links about climate change.

First, in the category of climate adaptation: We may all need to learn the lessons conveyed in Australia's "it is too late to leave" message.

I found this story about "cultural burns" really interesting.

This essay from someone who was in Mallacoota is worth your time.

In electric car news, here is an article that explains why Teslas have longer range than their competitors. Time will tell if we come to regret prioritizing range in this purchase - but one thing I know for certain, the difference between 240 mile range and 300 mile range wouldn't seem so big if we had a better charging infrastructure.

In other transportation news, JetBlue is promising to make all US flights carbon neutral. They will rely heavily on offsets, though. If a government - like, say, the US government - wanted to have a big climate impact, one thing they could do is invest in research into cleaner airplane technology. Until then, offsets are good, I guess.

I haven't read this speculative piece on how we end the climate crisis yet... but I plan to do so this weekend. I think we need to tell stories about how we could do this.

This Australian piece about how the world is run by a bunch of right wing bullies right now was really good.

As a middle age GenX woman, a lot of the points in this article resonated with me.

Yikes, glowing reindeer:

Beautiful bird:

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Things I Enjoyed in 2019

Yes, I know, it is traditional to write your "best of" lists at the end of the year, and not in January. But that didn't happen, and better late than never, right?

I was originally going to make this post just about my favorite books from 2019, but I decided to make it more general and include some other things I enjoyed. Let's start with the books, though.

Of course, there are the three books I published in 2019: The Dodo Knight, a novella by Michelle Rene about the friendship between Lewis Carroll and his muse, Alice Liddell, told from Alice's viewpoint; Arctic Adagio, a mystery/thriller novelette by DJ Cockburn set in an all-too-believable near future when the climate has changed and governments have crumbled and the super-rich have taken to the high seas to evading the remnants of authority in luxury yachts; and The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, a magic-infused novella about a boy (who happens to have antlers on his head) and a girl (who loves the chase) and what happens when they get tangled in magic they don't understand.

I only publish books I really love,  and so of course those are three books I enjoyed last year.

Looking more widely, here were some of my favorite books that I read last year:

Rowing to Latitude, by Jill Fredston. The book is about the trips Fredston takes with her husband, paddling in arctic waters, and it definitely works as a travel book. But it is about more than that, too. It is about finding your place in life and then living life on your own terms. It is about taking risks and recognizing the risks we take for granted. This is the book that has embedded itself most firmly in my mind in the last year. I find myself thinking about it often. In fact, I wrote about it in two blog posts, one at Beyond Managing and one at Adjusted Latitude. I just loved this book.

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai. This is a book about the AIDS crisis, the lives it took, and the lives it changed. I found this to be a very moving and thought-provoking novel. The book's primary concern is its story, but wrapped in with the story are themes of how we respond to disaster, and how we live with what fate has given us for our lives.

Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente. I bought this book because it was billed as a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Eurovision and that sounded like a bunch of fun. It is, but it is more than that. The premise is that the intergalactic sentient beings have decided that instead of fighting wars they will have a song contest. When a new planet is considered for inclusion among the sentient beings, its worthiness is judged in this contest. As long as the newcomers don't come in dead last, they get to live. Earth has come to the notice of the sentient beings in the galaxy and we have been "invited" to compete... and what happens next is as wacky as anything Adams dreamed up. I didn't think Valente quite nailed the balance of ridiculous and mundane as well as Adams, but that is a high bar. I really enjoyed the book, and in the end, I found it had a lot of serious ideas to convey, too. They sneak up on you while you're distracted by the wackiness and the glitter. If the premise sounds at all interesting to you, give it a try. I suspect you'll end up really liking it - I did!

Circe, by Madeline Miller. This book is a delight. It is a retelling of the myth that both honors its source material and makes it feel fresh and relevant. Also, it is just wonderful storytelling.

There were also two books I read to Petunia that I loved, and that I think anyone would enjoy reading, either with a child or on your own:

Cog, by Greg van Eekhout. We'd read and loved this author's earlier book, The Voyage of the Dogs, and so were really looking forward to this book. It did not disappoint. Cog is an android who was built to learn. When he is separated from Gina, his creator, he sets off on a mission to find her, and the result is a really good story.

Summer of a Thousand Pies, by Margaret Dilloway. We got this book because the author appeared at the event van Eekhout did to support Cog. Both authors were signing their books, and it felt wrong not to have both books, so I bought Summer of a Thousand Pies. I'm so glad I did! It is the story of Cady, a young girl who has been living in a van in San Diego with her father. When her father shows up at her school drunk, she is taken from him and ends up with her aunt in Julian (a small town in the mountains outside of San Diego), who owns a pie shop. The book follows her as she finds her footing in her new home... only to discover it might be taken away. The characters in this book are marvelous, and I really looked forward to reading it to Petunia whenever it was my turn to read to her! I don't think I'd read it to a kid much younger than Petunia - there are some serious themes. But they are all handled deftly, and there was nothing I wasn't willing to discuss with Petunia and I think she is old enough to be having those discussions. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to drop a bunch of spoilers, but if you're curious about the book for your kid and want to know more, just email me.

Non-book things I enjoyed in 2019 included:

Seeing Pride and Prejudice, the play by Kate Hamill. This was a birthday gift to me from my sister, and I don't think I've ever had so much fun at a play. This was just a delight.

Eating carne seca enchiladas at El Charro Cafe in Tucson. I am not a foodie, and so it is a bit surprising to me that I feel like a meal belongs on this list... but El Charro's carne seca is really something special, and if you ever get the chance to try it, you should!

Seeing the Maud Lewis exhibit at the Nova Scotia art gallery in Halifax (see more about this visit in my Adjusted Latitudes write up)

Hearing some great Cape Breton fiddle music from Chrissy Crowley at the Red Shoe pub in Mabou, Cape Breton (you can also read more about this part of our vacation at Adjusted Latitudes!)

Prince Edward Island was pretty cool, too.

I'm sure that as soon as I hit "publish" I will think of five other things that should be on this list... but I'm going to hit publish anyway. If you are so inclined, tell me about things you enjoyed last year in the comments!

Friday, January 03, 2020

Almost a Weekend Reading Post

Happy New Year!

I had a nice holiday break, although I did a lot less reading and writing than I thought I would. I spent more time untangling yarn than I thought I would. I messed up when I went to convert the skein for my next crochet project into a ball, and created an unholy tangled mess. I finally finished untangling it last night. I learned a lot from the process, and not just "be more careful when rolling a ball of yarn" - but I've decided to make that the intro to my next newsletter, which comes out on Monday.

I can't really blame the yarn debacle for my lack of reading and writing, though, because I could have just walked away from the yarn for awhile. I think I was just in a different sort of mood.

I have been back at work for two days. The kids aren't back at school yet, though, so while I worked from home today like I usually do on Fridays, there was no rollerblading for me. I am not quite ready to leave the kids home alone together for an extended period, particularly when I wouldn't be able to quickly come home - once I'm halfway out on my rollerblade, there really is no hurrying the return!

I did get some quality desk-cleaning in, though. I started doing a little while I was waiting for something to load and realized that I was clearly in the mood to throw things out. I have some packrat-ish tendencies, so a good "just throw it out!" mood is not to be wasted. I took a break and worked through several piles of papers. I found Christmas cards from 2016 in one of those stacks...

Despite the long break from writing, I don't really have a lot of links to share with you. I really was just offline and not doing much! Here's what I do have:

I am very proud that two Annorlunda books made the Tangent Online recommended reading list this year - Arctic Adagio, by DJ Cockburn, and The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, by HL Fullerton.

Also, I am running a New Year's sale at my Gumroad store - use the promo code hello2020 to get 50% off anything in the store.

I feel like I should post something about the air strike that killed Qassem Soleimani. I found this Slate article useful. I don't think anyone knows what is going to happen next, and it will take a lot of evidence to make me think this was part of a well-thought out plan. We are in a dangerous place, but really, we've been in a dangerous place since we gave such an unqualified and ill-suited man the presidency.

Matt Yglesias sums up why I don't trust anything this administration is saying about the air strike (or anything else, really). They've proven themselves untrustworthy over and over.

I have been reading the news of the Australian bushfires and trying to get my head around the scale of disaster they are facing. Here is a write-up from the Sydney newspaper that includes coverage of the evacuation by sea of the town of Mallacoota and here is an opinion piece from an Australian climate researcher that gets at the heartache of what is being lost.

Here is a piece about the ancient Gondwana rain forests that are threatened by these fires. It looks like the ancient Wollemi pines in the Blue Mountains have been spared, at least for now.

Fiber arts goals:
(Okay, it is unlikely I'll ever be that good at embroidery, but that is some cool embroidery!)

And here's some bunnies:

I'm hoping to find a way to write more this year. I miss it. I'm still working on my goals for 2020, though - the Family Fun List post and the personal goals post will be along soon with all the details!