Infrastructure

February 16, 2018 @ 5:28 pm | Filed under: Current Affairs

I wrote this on Facebook today and wanted to share it here too.

I know there’s way too much to focus on right now. Today alone there’s about a year’s worth of news to process. But I want to focus some attention on Trump’s infrastructure plan that was released earlier this week (i.e. a lifetime ago). There’s a lot to be troubled by in this plan, but what made me choke was the part about match funding for infrastructure projects.

Okay, this can be a dry topic. Five years ago, I would have skimmed right past. But then I spent a few years writing grant applications for infrastructure projects in small California and Texas towns. Oof, talk about a learning curve. Really worthy projects, though: funding for sidewalks in a residential neighborhood so kids wouldn’t have to walk to school in the street. Funding for a farmer’s market in an area with a serious food desert. Funding for wetland restoration projects in an urban area to help filter urban runoff (teeming with bacteria) from contaminating beaches and residential neighborhoods. A “universal playground” accessible to kids and adults who use wheelchairs. The kind of stuff that makes daily life for ordinary people better in a tangible, practical way.

Those grant applications were doozies. The entire reason I was asked on board to write them is because a big part of grantwriting is narrative: how to tell the story of why this community should get federal or state funding for this project. Every grant I wrote was competing against hundreds of other applications.

These projects were scored on their merits: what benefits they would bring to the community. Improved health, carbon emissions reductions, removal of access barriers, and so forth.

Most scoring rubrics included a small number of points awarded to projects that had additional funding sources–the “match.” This might mean, say, that the town seeking funding for sidewalks would say: the town can pay X amount and we need Y amount in federal (or state, depending on the program) funding to complete the project.

Usually, the points awarded for a match were a small percentage of the total points. A match might give your project an extra 5 points out of a hundred, say. And the reason for this is that typically, the communities most in need of infrastructure projects are those least able to afford them. A match helped your application, but wasn’t nearly as important as the practical benefits and efficiency of the project itself.

Okay, that’s a lot of backstory. Here’s what made me choke: In the Trump Administration’s proposed infrastructure plan, “The amount of non-federal funding supplied for a given project will count for 70% of its score, while “evidence supporting how the project will spur economic and social returns on investment” will be weighted at just 5%.”

WHAT. WHAT. WHAT.

SEVENTY PERCENT OF ITS SCORE?

I’m speechless. Or, well, maybe not since this post is so long no one’s going to make it to the bottom.

I just…that’s a disastrous tidbit of information.

I’m not the only one who sputtered over this revelation. From yesterday’s Guardian:

“In other words, projects will live or die based on the resources they can attract, rather than the number of people they would serve or how urgently they are needed.

“This system not only incentivizes projects that profit at the public’s expense, such as toll roads, but also increases the likelihood that federal dollars will flow to wealthy jurisdictions that need them the least. When priorities are determined by wealth and profitability, the disadvantaged are left behind. Under Trump’s plan, communities that most need critical infrastructure investments – low-income communities, often communities of color – will be left out.”

Infrastructure isn’t sexy, and right now news of this plan is understandably drowned out by bigger, more urgent happenings. But we need to keep an eye on this. I’ll be watching.

Photo upload worked!

February 9, 2018 @ 9:58 am | Filed under: Nature Study

So here’s a little peek at what my Northeast Portland neighborhood is looking like this first week of February. 🙂

I have forgotten how to title posts

February 8, 2018 @ 8:20 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

I opened my drafts file here yesterday and saw that the last post I started was a one-line fragment written on January 16:

We’ve been sick, most of us. Just a cruel bug: aches, sore throat, cough.

—Which I suppose answers the question of why I fell off the internet for a month. 🙂 My cough hung around for a good while and still hasn’t vanished entirely. But I’m more or less back to myself, and everyone else is fine. But yikes, that virus really squelched my plan to get back in the blogging groove!

And now I can’t get any photos to upload here. Hmm. I was going to pepper you with photos of the incredible bloom happening in my neighborhood right now—crocuses and camellias and hundreds of little daffodil spikes—but no luck. Well, some of it’s at my Instagram if you’d like a peek. (You can view IG pics on a laptop without needing to log in or download the app, FYI.)

What else are we up to? Journey North Mystery Class, flying solo for the first time in many many many years. (Sniffle.) It’s Huck’s first time participating. He and Rilla each picked a mystery city, and I took the one that looks to be somewhere in Antarctica. Plus we’re charting photoperiods for both Portland and San Diego, to compare. Huck is much more into the charting than I expected. Then again, he loves math. Rilla tolerates the math because she likes the discovery part of the project so much.

Things we’re reading together: Paddle-to-the-Sea (the last first time!); The Children’s Homer (“you purchased this item on Feb. 5, 2005,” Amazon tells me); Our Island Story; and Moominsummer Madness. And the usual assortment of poetry books!

Oh, and Huck had a birthday. This baby? Is nine years old.

(Huh. So photos from my archives still work. Just can’t get new ones to upload. Okay. I can work with this.)

(I remember the first time I put that shirt on him, and Rilla, who would have been around 3 1/2 or 4 at the time, exclaimed: “He’s wearing a MAN SHIRT!”)

2018 week one

January 7, 2018 @ 12:27 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Books

The first week of the year has slipped away. Slipped? Flown? Hmm, neither is accurate. It was a full week, an intense week of long phone calls dealing with IEP issues and other challenges we’re facing with S’s school. (Further affirming my belief that being an engaged school parent is every bit as time-consuming as homeschooling, if not more so. I remember when people used to be shocked when I made that argument. Homeschooling my other kids may be the least stressful thing I do, and the least demanding in terms of time and mental energy. The ratio is tipped so much farther in favor of joy and delight than pretty much anything else I do. But that’s a topic for another post.)

I’ve made some concrete changes in the past several weeks, in an attempt to reclaim lost bits of time and rebuild good habits that have crumbled rather a lot during this past tumultuous year. Had to start with myself, of course. In early December I began writing three pages first thing every morning, before I pick up my phone or even get out of bed. Three pages, longhand in an 8 1/2 x 11″ spiral notebook. I’ve been afraid to talk about it lest that somehow kill the habit before it gelled. But it’s been over a month now and I think I can make myself keep going. I’ve only missed one day so far—Christmas morning has its own particular demands. 🙂 Scott’s a big help, cheering me on, not minding the light popping on at 6:30 a.m. when it’s still deep dark here.

My daily nature walks with Huck and Rilla disappeared during the holidays—in large part because the cold air is making me cough. An allergy/asthma thing, quite annoying. I miss walking, both with the kids and with Scott—a habit we practiced for many years in San Diego but haven’t found space for here yet. I mean, I know we haven’t been here all that long and I wasn’t exactly up to walking for a while there. But the thing with habits is that we form them one way if we aren’t forming them another. And right now Scott and I have the habit of not walking. I loved our old sunset walks, and the early-morning walks before those. I’m looking for the right corner of the day to tuck them back into.

I’ve been examining my social media habits too. I enjoyed Chris O’Donnell’s post about reasons to blog more in 2018. He raises some excellent points. This time last year I was determined to return to daily blogging a la 2005, and I kept it up pretty well for a while. And then…life intervened. So much life! But…here I go again, the earnest attempt.

(Other blogging friends did a better job of keeping up the old posting rhythms. They’re in the sidebar under “Blogging Like It’s 2005.”)

***

Movies watched this week: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
TV: Parks & Rec rewatch

I read quite a lot this past week. I think I always do, during the first week of the year, because the blank space in my sidebar booklog bugs me. Didn’t sketch much. Hoping to kick that habit back into place this week.

I asked the following question on Facebook and wound up with a nice fat list of suggestions for my TBR pile:

What are your reading plans for this year?

(If you’re a reading planner. If not, what’s in your pile right now?)

Hogmanay checklist

December 31, 2017 @ 8:04 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

Instagram 2017 #bestnine

House: reasonably clean

Sidebar: stripped down and ready for a new year’s booklist

Last Patreon post of the year: published

Rose Cottage: on the nightstand

TBR list: massive

Cybils finalists: to be announced first thing on New Year’s Day

Finn Family Moomintroll issue of the Arrow: wending its way to subscribers tomorrow

Inbox: empty!!

Bird feeders: filled

Children: noisy

Heart: full

Happy New Year, friends.

Fresh Starts

December 28, 2017 @ 5:08 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

Inbox Zero

Yesterday was all about tying up the loose ends of my reading life in order to start the year with a clean slate. I looked over everything I’m in the middle of—so many books!—and decided, after some reflection, to take Penny’s advice from the comments and dive into the old favorites calling my name in that stack, or some very like them. Ever since I read Thornyhold, I’ve been hankering after The Scent of Water and Wise Child. And Lesley mentioned Miss Read…and I happened upon a description of Mary Stewart’s Rose Cottage that sounds even more enchanting than her Thornyhold. Impatiently waiting for the library copy to arrive…

(It occurs to me Thornyhold also has something of the flavor of Linnets and Valerians, which I’ve not reread in a few years…)

Anyway! That was yesterday’s Old Year Week work. Today I turned my sights to correspondence and (gulp) answered emails dating as far back as 2016. Mortifying but true. Snail mail correspondence is next, and feels like a luxury, not a chore. I’m still working this week, but at greatly reduced hours, and, well, after the year I’ve had, that feels like heaven.

It’s funny—I woke up this morning thinking: Right. I’m going to grant myself amnesty at the end of the year. Anything (non work-related, and work includes my Patreon) hanging unfinished—email, DMs, comment replies, reading plans, household chores, book reviews—all of it gets swept away at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and I will start afresh. And then immediately upon having cut myself this break, I began answering messages I should have replied to (wanted to reply to!) more than a year ago. By noon, I was all caught up. Why did I let it pile up in the first place? Answering was a pleasure—as soon as I gave myself permission not to.

Tomorrow I want to spend some time making High Tide plans for January. I’ll try to share those here. I say try to because I’ve learned not to make promises unless absolutely necessary. Curve balls happen and then I feel guilty. 🙂 But I miss, miss, miss this poor old blog and I’m trying (trying!) to restore some lost habits.

Related to that, I’ve been (again! perpetually!) pondering what, if any, changes I want to make in my social media habits this year. I visit Twitter maybe once a day now, almost out of a sense of obligation: I follow smart thinkers and feel a duty to check in on the day’s social and political commentary. But I can only manage it in small doses. I went almost totally silent on Facebook this fall…popping in occasionally when that same sense of duty propelled me to activism. Which I know is the opposite approach of many (most) of my friends, who have resolved not to bring activism or politics to Facebook. Sometimes my conscience says: you have to talk about this, so I try (try!) to listen. But I logged out of FB on my phone and tucked the app into a folder where it isn’t staring me in the face. I deleted all the games off my phone and unsubscribed from all but a handful of merchant newsletters. The few I kept are for small shops whose owners write thoughtful articles instead of spamming you with sale ads. ::shudder:: Ads bring out the Grinch in me: Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Instagram remains a pleasant haven, a place to smile over friends’ family photos and adventures, and to enjoy glimpses of charming artwork or people’s book piles. Wisteria and Sunshine is a nourishing virtual retreat, like visiting Thornyhold or Juniper’s cottage; and there’s a small creative community I’m part of that is a daily delight. Mostly, though, I’ve wandered away from community discourse…which isn’t very like me, but I’ve had so much work on my plate, and I think I needed some breathing-in time. I’m feeling the wind change, though. I love turning the page to a new year. Always have.

Old Year Books

December 27, 2017 @ 4:43 pm | Filed under: Books

Year after year, this may be my favorite week for blogging. “Old Year Week,” as Mole calls it. I love tidying things up and making a fresh start. It’s a time, too, for reflection: what worked this year; what didn’t. I wasn’t able to be as consistent with daily posting as I’d hoped at the start of the year, but who could have predicted what this year would hold for me, for all of us. Methinks I can cut myself a little bit of slack. 😉

I worked on my sidebar booklog for a while yesterday—it was woefully behind—and discovered to my horror that I had written “Douglas Adams” as the author of Watership Down, which would have been a verrrry different kind of book. I’m going to hope it’s a case of nobody noticing, rather than that you were all too polite to point it out. 😉

Most years, this is the week that my fall Cybils reading frenzy is suddenly, breathlessly, over—finalists selected, blurbs written, book towers carted off to other parts of the house. That’s the case today for my Round 1 panelists, but this year I’m YA category chair only, not one of the YA readers. (I’m a Round 2 judge in Early Readers and Chapter Books, but that work doesn’t start until the New Year, and instead of reading 70-some YA novels in two months as in years past, I’ll only be reading the short lists of finalists. Big difference.)

Anyway, most years right around this date, I find myself suddenly at liberty to read (gasp) anything I want. It’s a tremendous feeling. This year I have a list of books begun earlier in the year, which I’d like to finish up but probably won’t. 2017 was for me a year of leaning on old friends—Hanff, Nesbit, Byatt, Montgomery, Tey, and (ahem) RICHARD Adams—and cozy mysteries during and after the months of my cancer treatment. And a steady course of Moomintrolls in our readaloud life. 🙂 No regrets whatsoever. But I do feel like stretching a bit and picking up something challenging or long-awaited. I also have a few last Arrow books to finish up: a delicious sort of work, that.

I’m not making new reading goals yet. I did make a little shelf for myself, in much the same way that I like to assemble enticing collections of readalouds and read-alones for my kids. It’s partly a real shelf (I’ve been in a hard-copy mood more and more often, lately) and partly virtual—a pile of tomes I’ve been carting around on my Kindle for ages.

A different stack entirely: old favorites I pulled out one day to discuss on a video for my Patreon, but never did. Hmm…now I want to reread The Firelings. And The Sherwood Ring. And The Gammage Cup, which isn’t even in the pile. Oh dear, is there no end to my book gluttony?

This post ran off in a different direction than I intended when I began. I’ll save the other train of thought for later. Until then, I hope Old Year Week brings you some peaceful down time in which to indulge your own bookish whims.

The Soul of Democracy

December 22, 2017 @ 10:18 am | Filed under: Quotes from this week's reading

“Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched—criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led—this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.”
 
― W.E.B. Du Bois

Heads up — Emily Starr deal on Kindle

December 6, 2017 @ 8:10 am | Filed under: Books

L.M. Montgomery’s three Emily books are on sale, 99 cents for the trilogy. I will never, never forget the day I wandered into the children’s section at a different branch of the Aurora Public Library than the one my family usually visited, and I discovered there were more books by the author of my beloved Anne. I was astonished that the world had not yet revealed to me this crucial piece of information. What do they teach them in these schools, indeed.

P.S. The Blue Castle is also a dollar at the moment. You know how I feel about that particular gem.

(Affiliate links.)