2016 roundup

2016 has been a mostly good year in my life, but it’s been a difficult one in our nation and our world. Memes abound anthropomorphizing 2016, and it seems like most people will be glad to see the year end. Whether 2017 will be any better, whether the world will even make it to 2018 is uncertain, but people hold out hope that next year has to be better than this one.

In my personal life, I got my first non-law-related, work-for-someone-else job doing software testing. I think I’ve learned a lot, and I’m enjoying the work and the collegiality. I started doing volunteer work with a high school robotics team and a refugee resettlement organization. I became more involved at church, to the point of taking a leadership role in our early Sunday service. I got a diagnosis for my mental health issues that finally fits. I’m finding time to do things that I enjoy. It’s been a little rough trying to find “our people” here, and the search for friends makes me feel like I’m 5… or 11… ugh. So the year was mostly good. We saw friends and family, explored Utah, and spent lots of time just being us. But personal life aside…

2016 has been rough for our global society. Aside from all the cultural icons, musicians, and celebrities who have died, the year brought division and destruction, emboldening xenophobia and diminishing hope. I look at the trail we left behind in 2016, splattered with Syrian blood, refugee tears, and political mudslinging, and I fear for the future. I fear that the hatred we spewed in 2016 is only the beginning, that the trail we carve through 2017 will be just as bloody, wet, and muddy as the one we left behind us. I wish I had a way to make this better, that I had words of hope to speak, that I knew how things would turn out, but I’m still feeling hopeless and gutted.

I do admire the people who have stepped up to create plans of action for resisting Trump. One example is the Indivisible Guide. It takes the aspects of the Tea Party that were very effective, action at the local level, and discusses how to execute them in opposition to Trump’s agenda. I have to believe that we can halt or at least stall the worst of his plans.

The problems we’re facing as a world – the refugee crisis and the rise of xenophobia – seem too big and complicated to manage. I have a heart for refugees but understand the need to keep communities safe. The Australian attitude towards refugees is cruel, even malicious, but I fear Europe is headed in that direction. As for the situation in the States, we need to stop shouting into echo chambers and make sure our voices are heard by our members of Congress. We need to volunteer with and donate to organizations that resettle refugees and that advocate for their inclusion and their rights. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Catholic Charities are great organizations that I’ve worked with before.

Some good came out of the year, but it seems to be mostly overshadowed by the bad. Here’s hoping 2017 brings mostly good things.

weekly roundup – February 19th

Maybe not strictly weekly, but here’s this week’s edition of what I’ve been reading, playing, and thinking!

The New Yorker had an interesting piece last spring on police shootings in Albuquerque. The violence directed at civilians by cops is far beyond what other areas experience, and the city turned a blind eye to it over and over again. The DOJ launched an investigation and found a pattern of unnecessarily aggressive responses to crises. The most egregious violence has been directed at people who are homeless or have a mental illness. It is a depressing read, and the protection by the city and within the department makes it even worse. I could feel the hopelessness of the parents in the story.

This short opinion piece (caution: language) on the Huffington Post’s refusal to pay its writers got me thinking about how I choose to spend my time and energy. It’s also an analog to paying artists, like I believe so firmly in with ArtsFuse. I’m not sure I can completely stop reading HuffPo, but is it worth it to make an effort?

Games:

  • Star Fluxx: This is considerably more chance than skill, though there is a certain strategy. It’s fun when it’s the right length, but not when it is over quickly or takes forever. Players try to place Keepers in front of them and alter the Goal so they win.
  • Ticket to Ride Europe: We introduced some friends to this game, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Players buy train routes connecting cities in Europe and get points for city-to-city connections, longer routes, and having the longest continuous train. It’s a fun game, and I hope I didn’t ruin it for the others by winning. 🙂
  • Nations: We watched a video on how to play it just so we made sure we were doing it right. Players set up their civilizations for military conquest and stability, and they buy cards to help with that and gain benefits from event cards. It’s played over the course of eight rounds. Carl and I took different strategies, and mine nearly caused me to lose the game (hint: don’t spend all your gold or resources). It’s fun, and now that we know how to play better, future games will go much faster. If you’re really into strategy games, this one is a great one.
  • Carl and I have played more rounds of Roll for the Galaxy and Tiny Epic Galaxies. Such good games.

No deep thoughts for this week.

weekly roundup – first ever!

Welcome to my first weekly roundup, where I write about things I’ve read, games I’ve played, and things I’ve been thinking about that don’t merit their own blog posts.

I’ve read a few interesting articles this week. I discovered the Wait But Why site, and the archives are full of interesting things. I read a two-part post on AI and the timeline for the future of it, which was both really interesting and fairly terrifying. The idea that we could be so close to immortality or extinction left me reeling. It’s a very long read, but I highly recommend reading all of it. Another interesting post I read was about procrastination. I spend a lot of my time on unimportant things, and though I’m starting to get better about doing things that will move me forward, some days are better than others. The post really resonated with me, and it reframed things in a way that may put me in more control in the future.

I’ve read a couple of art-related articles this week as well, both ending rather negatively about their subjects. One was about Peter Lik, the photographer, the other about an art collector who patronizes young artists. The article about Peter Lik talks about his business plan (prices increase based on how many prints sell, and stores in high-traffic tourist areas), and about the criticism he has received from the art world (lack of shadows and darkness in his art, little resale value). We nearly bought a Peter Lik a few years ago, and I still like what he does. I’m not sure what that says about my taste in art (it probably means I’m not very sophisticated). I didn’t like the sales tactics they used, somewhat akin to car sales, but it nearly worked. The other article dealt with a man who patronizes artists as an investment strategy. It made me think more about what I’m doing with my business and how easily artists are taken advantage of.

This post about Hillary Clinton was eye-opening. I had to reconsider why I feel the way I do about her. It’s a defense of her in a way, pointing out that she’s in an impossible situation. I dislike her corporate connections, but at the same time, she’s doing what she needs to to survive, and she’s immensely strong. I cannot imagine anyone I know putting up with what she’s had to endure for the last twenty years.

Another site I’ve discovered is Inverse, which is full of articles that make my geeky heart sing. If you get excited about science or nerdy shows or movies, this is the place to poke around. I don’t want to point to any specific articles, because they’re all good.

On to games! Recently, I’ve played Morels, Smash Up, Stone Age, Eldritch Horror, Red Dragon Inn, and Exploding Kittens. It’s been a nice vacation. 🙂

  • Morels: I love this game, which is a sweet two-player game collecting mushrooms. I think every game collection needs good two-player games, and this is a staple of ours.
  • Smash Up: The fun part of it is that you combine two character types (I played wizards and cybernetic apes), hence the “smash up.” It’s a fun game, easy to learn, not very complicated.
  • Stone Age: It’s a worker placement game. Meeples farm, build tools, have babies, hunt, build huts, and collect resources. It’s a great game with a lot of different ways to win.
  • Eldritch Horror: We lost spectacularly when we played, but it’s a fun cooperative game with battling monsters and solving mysteries. It’s supposed to be less complex and more fun than Arkham Horror, but I haven’t played Arkham.
  • Red Dragon Inn: You’re heroes in a pub after a successful quest, and you try to weaken the other characters and get them drunk and take their gold. It has pretty simple mechanics, but it’s a fun game, and all the expansions mean you can play with many people (though the games get kind of long).
  • Exploding Kittens: It’s not a complicated game, and the most exciting part of it is the text on the cards. We played the NSFW version, so the cards were quite rude and amusing.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about my own attitude towards politics. The things politicians say and do make me so angry (so. angry.), and the apathy and voting against self-interest infuriates me. And I don’t know what to do about it. I campaigned for a race in Kansas in 2014, and though we worked really hard, my candidate lost and the party as a whole lost badly across the entire state. I’ve moved down the crazy scale by moving to Utah (not terribly far, but a little), but with the national races heating up, there’s stuff in the news all the time. As a Democrat in a red state, I’m frustrated. Instead of trying to make a national or even local difference, I’m going to try to make an individual difference. In a couple weeks, I have orientation for volunteering with refugees. I’m excited about the prospect of helping people who are new to the country.

That’s it for this week! Let me know your thoughts, and if you have recommendations of things to read, I’d love to hear them.

a look back, a look forward

This has been a year of change and redefinition for me, and next year is full of promise. Starting next Friday, I’m hoping to write a weekly round-up of things I’ve been reading, games I’ve been playing, things I’ve learned, rediscovered, or found interesting, and thoughts on events. I’m sure you’re all terribly interested in my thoughts on these things, so I hope you’ll continue to read. But today, I want to wrap up the year with an overview and talk about future plans.

The year began with anticipation of moving. We decided in October 2014 that we were going to move in 2015, and we were looking at jobs in Colorado and overseas. We love Kansas City, but it was time for a change. I grew up moving every five years, and I was getting the itch after being in our house for just about that long. We told Carl’s company in March that we were leaving, that it would be great if it could be with them, but regardless, we were leaving by end of summer. They brought up Salt Lake City in April, and the more we learned about it, the more excited we became. We thought the move would happen in June or July, then in August, but it finally happened in October. Our house sold quickly, and we sold off most of our stuff, as we were moving from a 4-bedroom house with basement and garage to a 2-bedroom apartment with neither. It’s been good to do with less, but I think both of us would welcome a garage or basement to store our camping stuff and bikes. We love SLC so far. We’ve had some snow, we’re excited about skiing, and we’re starting to make friends. It’s a good place for us.

Another big change happened in July when we both changed our last names! I had my hyphenated name from birth, and Carl and I both liked the idea of having the same last name. Of the three last names between the two of us, we chose my mom’s. I have to admit, when we got married (almost 6 years ago!), I didn’t ever really think about changing my name. It didn’t make a lot of sense, as I had started to establish myself in law under that name, and Carl’s last name wasn’t really any less complicated than my own. Since I left law, I had been wanting to simplify it, and Carl finally asked me why I didn’t, and he offered to change his name too. It was very sweet, and it has meant more than I expected to have the same last name as my husband. We were able to change our names with very little fuss, Carl’s work colleagues thought it was great, and apart from a few notable exceptions, everyone has either thought it was neat or kept their opinions to themselves.

The third big change has been my delving into software development. I started learning Python in March (a college class in it 12 years ago barely counts as having learned it before), after doing some HTML/CSS/JavaScript stuff, and I’ve been doing small projects and solving math problems (gotta love Project Euler!). I’m doing a class on how to properly test software too, and my hope is to start as QA and move into test automation and then a full-on development job. It’s a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying it, and Carl says I already think like a software engineer (not that his opinion is the be-all and end-all, but it’s nice that he has that faith in me). I have a list of projects to conquer in 2016, and I’m looking forward to doing them. Keep an eye on my site for them!

In other news, I welcomed a niece in August (she’s beautiful), and I celebrated with friends and family for their own milestones. I gave two recitals, sang with multiple choirs, and went to both Universal Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in California. I made plans for Harry Potter things, learned new board games, learned to crochet, finished some knitting projects, and read a lot. It was a wonderful year, and next year looks like it will be just as good.

first impressions

I have been in Salt Lake City exactly one month. Our apartment is great (albeit with a tiny kitchen), we have our Utah driver licenses and our plates (Harry Potter themed, of course), and I’ve found a Lutheran church. The dogs are used to not having a dog door, we’ve gone on a few hiking adventures, and we have unpacked most of our boxes. I’ve met Carl’s colleagues, church people, knitters, and gamers.

SLC is pretty great. The mountains are right there, and even cold days aren’t bitingly cold like in Kansas (or Iowa, goodness). People are friendly, and communities come together really easily. We’ve moved down the crazy scale from Kansas politics (though not by tons), so that’s a plus. SLC elected its first openly gay mayor two weeks ago, and the governor isn’t actively trying to destroy the state.

There seems to be an “us versus them” mentality here though, between Mormons and non-Mormons. The LDS people I’ve met here have been friendly and open, and I’ve had some frank discussions about beliefs and lifestyles. From the non-LDS people, however, I’ve heard things along the lines of, “I tried to keep an open mind at first, but I just don’t understand,” and “I have some Mormon friends, but I hang out much more with my ‘normal’ friends.” The line often seems to be demarcated by what a person drinks. There seems to be a higher prevalence of drinking among non-Mormons, almost a shibboleth. I like drinking, but having it as a marker of my culture and/or religion makes me uncomfortable.

Overall, I’m really enjoying being here. One thing I heard from multiple friends in KC was that they had a hard time telling if I liked them at first (two people were convinced I actively disliked them). I’m working on that, trying to make my face less… what? grumpy? shy? I noticed it at church yesterday morning. I went to choir, and as I was introduced to people, I would give a small smile and say hi, but not brightly, and so after worship, I made a point to talk to the people that I hadn’t really engaged earlier. First impressions matter.