The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor review

The Complete StoriesThe Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I only stumbled upon Flannery O’Connor through the TV show “Lost” – at one point, Locke is seen reading “Everything That Rises Must Converge”. That title sounded kinda neat, so I eventually decided to check it out – first I read the collection of short stories “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, and then her complete short stories when they became available on the Kindle.

Anyway, I find her writing almost entrancing. Apparently some people read her stories in high school, so I’m sure I’m not appreciating them on as many levels as I could be, but on their face they are still very, very good. Her characters really come to life. I think my favorite stories are “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “The Displaced Person”, but I enjoyed all of them.

(as a warning, the n-word is used a lot, presumably an accurate depiction of the South in the 1950s…)

View all my reviews

switching from Windows Phone to Android: first impressions

Since my Lumia 950 is starting to act up, and Windows Phone basically has no future, I broke down and ordered a Pixel 2. Here are my first impressions after using it for an evening. Any suggestions are welcome!

– I’m using the Microsoft Launcher which is pretty nice I guess? I didn’t spend any time with the stock launcher so I don’t really have a good basis for comparison.
– No wireless charging šŸ˜¦ Of course, this is paired with…
– Amazing battery life! The main reason I switched was because my Lumia 950 got comically bad battery life (like down to 80% by the time I got to work), and so I had to keep it on the wireless charging stand all day. (and this Lumia 950 was a replacement for the last Lumia 950 I had where this started happening and then eventually the phone would sporadically refuse to turn on because it didn’t detect a battery) We’ll see how the Pixel 2 holds up after more than a day, but I’m hopeful!
– No dedicated camera button, although you can double-tap the power button to launch the camera which is nice.
– I miss live tiles! Widgets are OK (although it’s very not-discoverable how to add them to the launcher), but they’re so big and non-standard.
– Having LastPass be able to sit in the notifications bar and fill in username/passwords in websites and apps is really handy, even though it is a bit buggy.
– The calendar situation is not good. I have two calendars that I care about – my personal Google one and my work Outlook one. On Windows Phone the Calendar app just merged them together, which was great! On Android the Google Calendar app doesn’t show my Outlook calendar and vice versa. The Outlook widget _does_ show Google Calendar entries, but that only shows the next 7 days.
– I don’t know how secure the fingerprint unlock is, but it’s very convenient and fast. (although maybe half the time it takes two tries, but it’s still darn quick!)
– The whole permissions situation is pretty good now that you can easily revoke permissions from apps. (why does the Washington Post app want access to my contacts? Denied!)
– I’m kind of particular on what I want for my work email. I definitely don’t want it to show up in notifications because I don’t want to be “forced” to see it outside of work, but I like being able to glance at it if I’m bored. On Windows Phone I could do this by having a live tile for it – the number of new emails would show up on the tile, and I could turn off notifications. As far as I can tell, if I want a number of emails on the app icon on Android it has to show up in notifications as well. Maybe I’ll like having no work email notification better…
– The Outlook app supports swiping emails one way to delete and the other to archive – why doesn’t the Gmail app??
– The Gmail app shows me the number of unread emails on it, which is very annoying as I often will leave emails unread until I get home and deal with them. (the correct behavior is to show you the number new emails since you last opened the app, in case anyone’s wondering šŸ™‚ )
– It sure is nice having official apps for everything in the world that get regularly updated!
– But no builtin Podcast app? Did I miss it somewhere?

linked list saturday: how to stop the trickle-down tax cut, parental leave, Facebook being creepy

– Sadly, the Republican trickle-down tax cut passed the Senate last night. The House and Senate versions are different, but this is a huge step towards a bill passing.

So what can you do? You should call your Congressperson and Senators every day and ask them to oppose the bill. If you can, donate to Swing Left to support Democrats running against Republicans in swing districts in 2018.

Which countries are most generous to new parents? – a surprisingly wide range here, and of course the US is at the bottom šŸ˜¦

How out of date are Android devices? – the answer is: pretty out of date. (neat visualization though!)

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met – do NOT share your contacts with Facebook or any other app! This is creepy stuff.

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race – speaking of Facebook being creepy…

How to Get Rich Playing Video Games Online – interesting look at what it’s like to make a living on Twitch.

America Is Now an Outlier on Driving Deaths – our fatality rate has gone down since 1990, but not nearly as much as the rate in comparable countries.

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer – the answer appears to be: the number of guns we have. (The US makes up about 4.4% of the world’s population, but we have 42% of the world’s guns!)

ThumbnailCopy for Firefox (and how Firefox is awesome now!)

Many moons ago, I wrote a Firefox extension to make it easy to copy an image inside a link, which is handy when posting images from a Gallery or whatnot. Since then, the Firefox extension API has changed significantly, so it stopped working a while ago.

I was inspired to revive it because Firefox Quantum just came out, and it’s much faster than it used to be! If you switched to Chrome for performance reasons, I’d invite you to check out Firefox again – it’s good to have an ecosystem of web browsers, especially one that isn’t controlled by a big company like Google or Microsoft.

Another cool thing is that Mozilla developed a language called Rust that some of the new parts of Firefox use. It’s a pretty interesting language – almost as fast as C, but more modern and supposedly it’s possible to write provably concurrency-safe code. I’m reading through the Rust book slowly…

Anyway, ThumbnailCopy is back!

Disney World with Vanessa! A Q&A session

Thanks for conjuring me out of thin air for this weak premise of a trip recap!
Hey, no problem!

So…y’all went to Disney World?
Yup! After the trip to Virginia Beach with my family, we took a vacation with David’s parents and almost all of David’s siblings.

How were the plane flights? Last time they seemed to go pretty well!
They went…pretty OK! These flights were objectively better because they were nonstop to Orlando and back. She was still somewhat fussy on the way there and fairly fussy on the way back, for reasons that will become clear later.

Did Vanessa have a good time?
Seems like it! She’s pretty young for a lot of the activities at Disney World, but she likes looking around at people and things, and she had fun with her cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

What were her favorite rides?
Her favorite was It’s a Small World – the whole ride she just looked around wide-eyed. Hopefully the pictures of her on the ride turned out! Her second favorite seemed to be, oddly enough, the Jungle Cruise, but I think that’s because she got to stand on David’s lap and hold/pat the guardrails on the boat. (she’s very into patting things like that šŸ™‚ )

Was she easier to take care of now that she’s over a year old? (as opposed to the last trip)
Sort of! Food was definitely easier – we brought some stuff for snacks, but for lunch and dinner we just went to restaurants and found something for her there. The biggest problem was that now that she can walk she tolerated sitting in the stroller much less well. But she’s not very good at walking (and she would get run over by people), so the only alternative was carrying her. Which is getting harder!

How’d she deal with schedule changes?
Surprisingly well! We tried to keep her on roughly the same schedule as usual (while staying on Central time), but of course we were often off by an hour either direction, and it didn’t seem to bother her too much.

How was the hotel?
We stayed at the Contemporary, which was very nice. The main reason we picked it was because it’s on the monorail (the monorail actually goes through the hotel!), so that made it a lot easier to get to the Magic Kingdom. (where we spent two of our three park-going days) Since we went back to the hotel every day after lunch for Vanessa’s nap, minimizing transit time for four trips each day seemed like a big deal.

Ooh, monorail!
Yes, many references to the Simpsons’ song were made.

Anyway, how’d that work out?
Pretty well. Honestly, between going through security and walking from the monorail exit to inside the park and then meeting people, transit time was kind of annoying anyway. But then we went to the Animal Kingdom, which we took a bus to, and it was a lot worse! So…yeah.

This was Vanessa’s first time in a hotel room, right? How’d she like it?
Wow, I’m impressed you remembered! She had a grand old time. Of course it wasn’t babyproofed, so we had to watch her like a hawk, which made getting ready in the mornings take a long time. Another downside was that it was just a standard room, so during naps/bedtime we would turn out almost all the lights and then try to make as little noise as possible.

Funny story: at 6 AM one morning David got up to pee, and I was only half-awake. The next thing I remember is David diving back into bed! He later explained that Vanessa was awake and just staring at him. (she did go back to sleep, thank goodness!)

Did Vanessa get any toys she liked?
We brought along some new toys and books, which she liked well enough. At dinner at Restaurantosaurus (located in DinoLand U.S.A. which is a section of the park just like, say, Asia or Africa…) her meal came in a plastic bucket with a shovel. (I guess because the restaurant is paleontology themed) Anyway, we were done and cleaning up and trying to decide whether to keep the bucket and shovel. I was leaning towards no because it was clearly very cheap and didn’t even say Disney World on it or anything, but settled on “whatever”, so David kept it. And now she loves that bucket and shovel!

I know you haven’t been to Disney World in a while – how were the Magic Bands?
Cool! They’re a band you wear on your arm that act as your hotel room key, park admission ticket, FastPass+es, and it makes it really easy to buy things!

Except I lost Vanessa’s on the first day and had to get a replacement. And I wasn’t the only person to lose a band.

So, overall, was it worth it?
Yeah! I mean, traveling is really stressful with Vanessa right now. But she had a good time and we survived.

Would you recommend Disney World with a 14 month old?
Not unless you’re going for some other reason. We spent *checks credit card receipts* *faints* *is revived with smelling salts* a lot of money and went to a lot of trouble for something Vanessa’s not going to remember, although she did enjoy it. I can see her having a great time in a few years, though, just like her cousins seemed to!

Anything interesting happen at the end of the trip?
Funny you should ask! We got back to our house, started feeding her some dinner, and she threw up.

Oh.
Yup.

friday linked list: Carrie Fisher, Texas inmates, Russian spies

Carrie Fisher apparently sent a cow tongue to a producer who assaulted her friend – she was so great. In a similar vein, here’s a list of nice allegations against celebrities, like the time when David Tennant read a random fan’s academic paper!

Texas Inmates Donated Nearly $54,000 for Hurricane Relief – wow, that is something!

Americans Are Sending Too Much Stuff to Houston – …and not enough cash.

The Russian Spies Who Fooled Seattle – I think I remember vaguely hearing about this, but man does this sound more sinister knowing what we know now…

The Origins of All 30 NBA Team Names – I love things like this! (thanks Utah Jazz!) See also the All 30 MLB team names, logos, mascots ranked! thing I did a while ago.

Cancer survival rates have increased dramatically over the past 35 years – that is impressive progress!

The Battle Between Baseball and Cricket for American Sporting Supremacy – interesting, I didn’t realize cricket used to be popular here! (thanks Mom!)

The Unsung Role That Ordinary Citizens Played in the Great Crime Decline – this is impressive:

Comparing the growth of other kinds of nonprofits, the researchers believe they were able to identify the causal effect of these community groups: Every 10 additional organizations in a city with 100,000 residents, they estimate, led to a 9 percent drop in the murder rate and a 6 percent drop in violent crime.

Holes In The Plot: Suspect Loses Bet With Cops, Turns Himself In ā€” With Doughnuts – hah! (thanks David!)

Call your senators: oppose the tax cut for millionaires!

Yup, it’s that time again! There are many valid reasons to oppose the bill; since my Senators are conservative Republicans, here’s what I went with:

Hi, my name is , and Iā€™m a constituent of Senator . Iā€™m urging to oppose the tax bill in front of the House, as it would balloon the deficit by over a trillion dollars to provide tax cuts for millionaires.

Call today! It just takes a minute!

The tax bill is not particularly popular, so this is something we can beat, or at least convince them to make less terrible!

Here’s a helpful chart about the plan, and who wins and loses under it.

Senator Cornyn’s numbers are: (512)469-6034 (Austin office) and (202)224-2934 (DC office)
Senator Cruz’s numbers are: (512)916-5834 (Austin office) and (202)224-5922 (DC office)