A Week in the Life: September 20, 2020

Yesterday evening I discovered that our pantry was overrun by ants. I pulled out a fairly sticky bottle of honey only to discover that it was covered in them—just what we need on a Saturday night in 2020. Fortunately, the ants seemed singularly focused on the honey and had ignored the temptations of bags of chocolate chips and of powdered sugar secured only with a twist tie. Currently, the contents of my pantry have been relocated to the kitchen table. We’ve murdered all the pantry ants and Kirk went outside to spray down their trail with Windex (I read that this masks their chemicals so they can’t find their way). I’m not sure how the ants were getting in, but what we’ve done has motivated them to stay away; I haven’t seen any this morning.

a dead ant apparently set standing up, frozen in death
LET THIS BE A WARNING

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Books and Other Words

book: Miracle Country
Miracle Country

Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework is a memoir about life in the difficult parts of California. Atleework grew up on a little town on the east side of the Sierras and she gives us a look like what it’s like growing up there. The book takes on family, illness, climate change, and California water politics (you know, just a few subjects). Ateework’s childhood has an air of the fantastical to it, which comes from living in a difficult place and being a child of people drawn to difficult places. I liked the writing style and the way Atleework told her story. The book is well researched too, discussing the area’s native people and some of the history behind L.A. siphoning off most of the area’s water. It’s interesting to me, as a child of southern California, how little I knew about where our water came from. In contrast, kids in the Sierras never stop thinking about where their water is going. I appreciated this book as a window into how other Californians live.

Meanwhile on the internet:

  • Halloween and Christmas items sell out as we go all in on decorating via the Los Angeles Times. I was going to share more fires/climate change doom but then I thought, jeez, we get it. I found this article kind of fun. I’m happy that people are making the best of being at home by decorating. I’m feeling inclined to go harder on the holiday festivities myself.
  • Why everything is sold out via The Atlantic. Long story short: our supply chain is fucked. It’s weird/interesting/scary how much of a consumerist illusion we’ve been living in where anything is available immediately. I know we all need things and it’s annoying to not get what you want, but part of me can’t help but wonder if this is good in some ways.

TV and Music

I was reading the latest Culture Study on how taste gets made and how we listen to music. It made me realize something: I rarely listen to music now. Most of my listening happens in the car, but now I don’t drive much. I don’t like to listen to things when I work and I spend a lot of time reading. I’ve gotten used to silence. I used to listen to music all the time. I turned it on when I woke up in the morning and got ready for school or work. When I was in middle school, class didn’t start until 8:45. I would wait for everyone else to leave the house then get out of bed and blast the stereo until it was time to go.

This week I’ve started listening to music again while I’m idly browsing the internet, doing dishes, or whatever. I’ve also been reorganizing my Spotify a little bit. I took some inspiration from this article, which waxes nostalgic for the “deleted years” of music—the period between CD collections and reliable, centralized streaming. I read this and realized I have no idea what I listened to in the early 2000s. I have tons of music on my computer and a growing collection on Spotify, but these two don’t talk. I went through my local collection and saved albums to some new playlists for things I like. Spurred by curiosity about my deleted years, I set up playlists by music decade. It’s a work in progress, of course, but I’m glad to be getting re-acquainted with something I enjoy.

Rampant Consumerism

I know Kirk doesn’t read my blog (he’s living it all with me instead), so I feel safe sharing this. I bought this knitting pattern and some yarn to make him a pair of socks. He commented recently that I’m getting quite good at making socks, so I asked if he wanted a pair. His response, “only if they’re Christmas socks.” He really likes gnomes so I am happy I stumbled onto this pattern. I know there’s not really any way to secretly knit a pair of socks for someone when we share a home and are here practically 24/7, but I am going to make an attempt.

Making Things and Doing stuff

I feel like I have to note the fact that I got tested for coronavirus for the first time this week. It was really as unpleasant as everyone says. I felt my nose tingling for hours after getting swabbed. I am hoping to avoid this experience in the future! The good news is I do not have coronavirus. I was a little worried I’d been exposed (a story I am not going to tell here today), but I’m happy to report that it turned out to be a non-problem.

Languages

book: sistema nervioso
Sistema nervioso

I have been plugging away at Spanish this week. I translated a couple of articles from Spanish to English as homework for class and I finished reading a novel, It’s Sistema nervioso by Lina Meruane. I felt I understood most of what I read but I am still struggling with retaining what I read in Spanish. I could tell you about parts of the book, but I would have a hard time describing the overall plot. I think I just need more practice but there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m doing something wrong. Can you even read wrong? I don’t know.

Spanish aside, taking ballet classes has me starting to feel like I should dust off my French. I took three years in college on the logic that I would need a research language for grad school, but then I didn’t end up going to grad school for what I thought I would and I never really revisited it. It doesn’t take much to make me interested in things and I have a tendency to go maybe too all-in on whatever I’m doing. Is ballet class enough impetus to take French up again? Almost certainly: yes.

Moving It

Speaking of ballet, I had attended my first class in the studio yesterday. We’ve been exclusively online since I started this summer, but now the studio is taking precautions to have class in person. Everyone wears a mask, each dancer has their own square on the floor blocked out and their own bar, and everyone gets their temperature checked on the way in the door. Despite the coronavirus rigamarole, it was a pleasure to be in the studio. I got a lot of corrections since I had developed some not-great habits during video class, but I also got some encouragement. The instructor, Tori, told me I have good body awareness, which made me chuckle since developing body awareness was one of the reasons I wanted to take ballet. I think the last few years of derby and weight lifting have made me more body-aware than I realized. That said, the real highlight of class was that Tori brought her dog, Galaxy. Galaxy spent probably half of class camped under my bar until Tori made her get out of my way. I love seeing the world and petting the animals in it!

Kitchen Witchery

Earlier this week I was completely ready to start cooking some broccoli beef, only that the broccoli I had was no longer good. I still had flank steak to use and I wanted Chinese food. I found this recipe for Mongolian beef instead. It was really good! Less vegetables, sure, but delicious and a good meal when served with some rice. I expect to make this again.

Yesterday I made vanilla cream buns based on a recipe in the Nordic Baking Book. I purposely chose something a little complicated both to learn something new (pastry cream!) and to keep myself occupied for a while. I’ve been getting kind of restless on weekends in particular, so I thought a complicated baking project—now that it’s not so hot—could help. These turned out better than I thought they might. I was a little skeptical of my custard. I think I needed it to thicken a little more but it held together. The buns are good and not especially sweet. The dough is flavored with cardamom and the cream with vanilla (obviously, given the name). This morning I had some leftover buns for breakfast along with hot chocolate because I am ready for hot chocolate season.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: September 13, 2020

Greetings from the apocalypse. The whole western United States is on fire or shrouded in smoke, so this blog is live from the end times. I’m kicking myself for not buying an air purifier after the last big fire season. It seems like an extravagance right up until it isn’t. It’s hard to accept that these kind of extreme fire or weather events are the new normal thanks to global warming. It’s also hard to contemplate the fact that I’m able to improve my home environment because I can afford it, but many other people cannot. I’m glad I can buy things to make my indoor time better and healthier, but I don’t think breathable air should be limited to those who can afford it. Call me a radical socialist, I suppose.

The air has been a yellow-grey all week and I’ve spent the whole of it inside. My house is getting dusty but I’m not inclined to clean it before the smoke settles down. It’s hard to keep my spirits up amid a combined fire and plague season although I am trying. Ever returning to something resembling “normal” life feels further away all the time. I’m trying to embrace the chaos.

view of my backyard with gross, yellow air
How about that air quality

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.

Reading

book: The First Sister
The First Sister

I thought I was really going to love The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. It’s a perfectly good and entertaining book, but I felt like it was trying to be too many things. It’s a space opera in which one set of characters is living with kind of a Handmaid’s Tale vibe and the other set of characters is fighting against its own shitty culture with stark wealth inequality. The two cultures are at war because … they’re mad (real wars have started for less, I suppose). Eventually everyone gets together to fight the power. This is an arguably relevant and hopeful story, but it wasn’t my jam.

However, I was suitably impressed by the bookmark my sister cross stitched for me, seen here peeking out of the book.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • “We should have the right not to like men”: the French writer at centre of literary storm via The Guardian. French writer Pauline Harmange published an essay about hating men and now the French government is saying this is basically a hate crime. Seems like they might have their priorities out of alignment, but what do I know?
  • Habituation to horror via Culture Study. A fine description of the feeling of this moment plus a call to action to take advantage of this “plastic” time.
  • Italy’s Bergamo is calling back coronavirus survivors. About half say they haven’t fully recovered via The Washington Post. Honestly, this scares the fuck out of me. The more we learn about the long-term effects of coronavirus, the more I want to avoid getting it.
  • How conspiracy theories are shaping the 2020 election—and shaking the foundation of American democracy via Time. This is also very scary but for different reasons. The part that has stayed with me is this: “Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. ‘They’re not on the same epistemological grounding, they’re not living in the same worlds,’ says Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse who studies online disinformation. ‘You cannot have a functioning democracy when people are not at the very least occupying the same solar system.'”
  • Why Goodreads is bad for books via the New Statesman. I don’t use Goodreads, as I’ve talked about before (I’m on LibraryThing), so, in a way, I enjoyed hearing that Goodreads is not good at what people want from it. It sounds like people are stuck there for lack of an alternative, similar to how many of us are trapped on Facebook. Even though I am happy with LibraryThing, the article made me curious about some of the alternative book sites out there. I’m thinking I’ll investigate this week.

Watching

I finally started (and have nearly finished) watching Pose. Why did I wait this long to watch it when it’s exactly the kind of show I would like? For that, I have no good answer. I love how earnest it is and I always enjoy media about finding one’s chosen family. I was reflecting on this theme and I realized a number of things I’ve enjoyed recently deal with that like Becky Chamber’s book A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. There’s something powerful about finding your people and deciding who you want to share your life with. I like that Pose celebrates that concept.

It’s interesting to watch a story about people living through the AIDS crisis when we’re living through our own plague. I’m not the first to draw the comparison but it is difficult to deal with a disease that is taking so many people down and that we don’t fully understand. In a way, it’s encouraging to see other people living and thriving despite a terrifying disease that no one in power (in this country, anyway) seems to care about. It’s a reminder that you have to do what you can to take care of yourself and take responsibility for living your best life while helping your community.

Outside of these heavier concepts, I’ve enjoyed seeing Damon’s character develop as a ballet dancer. After my two months of ballet lessons I’m more interested in seeing how the professionals dance. I also live for style icon Pray Tell, who was obviously going to be my favorite.

Rampant Consumerism

On Friday I had an appointment with my optometrist downtown, so I decided to make the most of it and pick up some things from local shops. I ordered a few new books from Capital Books and was able to drop in to pick them up. I also picked up a box of macrons from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates because food is one of the few reliable coping mechanisms we have these days. The macrons are already gone.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

I’ve spent the week doing nothing especially noteworthy. I’ve been knitting a sock and watching Pose (there’s not enough sock to bother sharing a photo yet). I’ve been exercising on my new bike/rower, which is great, and I had fun at ballet class this week. Beyond the norm, there’s not a lot to comment on but I am making a valiant effort.

Spanish

I had my first Spanish class after my August break and it was good. I told my teacher that I want to work more on translating and developing vocabulary in more areas. She was totally on board with that and sent me some articles to translate from Spanish to English for my homework. We also went over one of the translations I was doing for a volunteer gig. One of the organizations I’ve started working for is Reiman Gardens in Iowa. I translated their volunteer mission statement into Spanish, which was tricky—I was glad to get the extra help with it. Translating into Spanish is not ideal since I’m a native English speaker, but it is what’s in demand. Reiman Gardens said they would send me more things to translate, so that’s exciting!

Kitchen Witchery

I didn’t feel particularly moved to make food last week, although I feel that’s about to change since it’s not so damn hot. However, I will share what little I did make. First: nachos. I like to cook some chicken and beans in the crockpot then use it for burritos and nachos. I’ve started prepping the nachos on parchment paper. I put it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese and slide the whole thing onto a plate. I also tried out a chickpea burger recipe that tasted okay but was incredibly crumbly. I’m assuming that’s at least partially my fault since I haphazardly combined these two recipes. If anyone has a chickpea burger recipe that they love, please send it to me.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: September 6, 2020

In a surprising twist, I am writing this just about a week after my last post. Will this mark the return of weekly blogging? I’m not counting on it, but it is nice to feel motivated to do things. I’m crediting this surge in part to my new exercise machine. I already knew that exercise lifts my mood but it’s not always easy to put that knowledge into practice. I would also like to thank giving myself August off doing things other than work. Now August is over. It may still be extremely hot (current temperature: 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and the air is still smokey, but it’s basically decorative gourd season now and soon it will be cold and festive.

mood

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve read, watched, or bought recently.

Reading

I finished a few books this week, starting with How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States. Author Daniel Immerwahr makes the case that our popular map of the continental U.S. (the “logo map,” as he calls it) obscures a lot of details about the country’s holdings around the world. Immerwahr chronicles The U.S.A.’s efforts at colonization, which of course began with the mainland and then extended to islands throughout the Pacific. I learned that guano played an important role in early colonization and that the U.S., for a time, owned the Philippines. I consider myself fairly informed, but I didn’t even know that the Philippines had been a colony (it was acquired as part of the peace terms of the Spanish-American War). How to Hide an Empire questions our understanding of the United States and concludes with a discussion of how traditional colonialism became obsolete in the latter half of the 20th century through the promotion international standards. Why take over the country when you can get everyone manufacturing screws to your standards? This was a good read for illuminating some things I had not considered, even if I wasn’t invested in some of the chapters about wars. However, I was very keen on the international standards discussion.

Next I read Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever. This book was published about a year ago. I pre-odered it and then didn’t read it until this week. Why did I sleep on this book? It’s a hard science-fiction, a space opera with far-future technology, a pirate queen, a tyrant empress, and lesbians in space. It also has a “power of friendship” theme running through it, which is a vibe we all need in these turbulent times. Highly recommended if you like sci-fi.

I also read Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble. This book examines how search algorithms quietly support racism. We tend to think of Google search as a kind of public good, but Noble reminds us that it is, in fact, a commercial enterprise that prioritizes profits, not what is necessarily best for people searching. She starts with the example of a Google search for “black girls,” which, at the time she started this research, provided only results to pornography. Google responded by minimizing their responsibility, saying the algorithm shows people what they want and it isn’t the search engine’s fault. However, this ignores that people develop the algorithm. Noble goes on to explore how “algorithmic oppression” impacts us, pointing out that most people think Google is neutral, unbiased, and trustworthy. One of the quotes that stayed with me was this, “I do not think it a coincidence that when women and people of color are finally given the opportunity to participate in limited spheres of decision making in society, computers are simultaneously celebrated as a more optimal choice for making social decisions.” We have to think about what power we’re giving away to the algorithm and what choices it’s making without our knowledge, especially as we head into this year’s election.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Watching

Kirk and I started watching The Dragon Prince on Netflix. It’s really well done. It is fairly reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it is a good show in it’s own right. The more it goes on the funnier I’m finding it, too. It’s ostensibly for children, but it is written with adults in mind. It’s interesting to me that kids’ shows now are full of such emotional wisdom. I think I’ve said this before when talking about Steven Universe, but kids are getting a lot more to work with in terms of emotional intelligence than the previous generations. I’m pretty sure that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only existed to sell toys (but, hey, I loved that pizza-shooting tank).

Rampant Consumerism

I’ve slowed my consumer roll after the last few weeks of working on our emergency kits, but I did subscribe to the Culture Study newsletter by Anne Helen Petersen. I was subscribed to her free newsletter for the last year or so, but she is switching to a paid model and, honestly, it’s worth it. I’ve been keeping an eye on more newsletters—a modern solution to facebook and perhaps something to fill blogging’s former niche—and I really enjoy this one. She takes on interesting issues and curates a lot of good articles. In fact, I often share things here on the blog that I found through her newsletter (I regret to report that I am not that original).

Making Things and Doing Stuff

This week I took on Spanish, dance class, and snacks.

Spanish Time

photo of a notebook with just one item in my list of August Spanish activities
August Spanish

I took most of August off from Spanish because, as previously stated, I wasn’t feeling it. However, by the tail end of the month I did feel motivated to start a new book, which I dutifully recorded in my Spanish notebook.

Taking the month off from studying turned out to be a great choice because I took some time to consider what I want to do next. I’ve been “learning” Spanish on and off for 20 years now and I really feel ready to put it to use in some way. I spent the first part of this year prepping for an exam that, now, I don’t know when I’ll be able to take. I have always wanted to get into translation so I decided this is the time to start. I spent the week searching for some volunteer gigs because I’m realistic enough to know I shouldn’t be charging for my services yet. I applied to a couple of gigs through Volunteer Match and, fortunately, got some responses. This is something I’m really excited about and I’ll tell you more once there is more to tell.

Moving It

Ballet class resumed this week after taking a break for most of August. I was happy to get back to it because I have enjoyed learning so far. Next week we are going to start practicing in the studio. I almost wrote that we would be “back” in the studio, but frankly I have never been. My instructor said I should look into getting some ballet shoes (recommended by not required—an attitude I appreciate) because it will be easier. So this week I’ll be investigating that. Ballet is the pandemic hobby I didn’t know I was going to take on, but here I am, buying ballet shoes.

Kitchen Witchery

Last weekend I took a request from Mandy for a “fancy white lady cheese plate” and went wild on it. We had many snacks and a chickpea dip. I also made this delicious coconut cream pie, which I will definitely make again. I also made, but didn’t photograph, another round of red lentil soup and incorporated the little bit of coconut milk I had leftover. I added that and curry spice, which made the soup even tastier. Recommended eating!

I am currently waiting for this heat to leave us be so I can get back to making breads. I’m not turning on the oven in this weather.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: August 28, 2020

I have spent the last few weeks with an eye on the weather and the fire map. First we had extreme heat, then dry lightning storms. Now, as Californians already know, we have fires. Fortunately, we are not impacted, except by the smoke in the air, but I have felt a certain amount of anxiety over it. It’s hard not to when it starts raining ash. I’m feeling a little better now, both because it’s not as bad as it was and because I funneled some anxiety into working on our emergency kits. If you have to find a coping strategy, might as well make it a practical one.

Outside of temporal conditions, I have been keeping on on the latest news about shitty things facebook is doing because I love to keep an eye on all the reasons that facebook is complete garbage while remaining an active user. this article about Facebook’s algorithm “actively promoting” holocaust-denying content caught my eye. I’m always looking for ways to get back out of facebook and take people with me (previous efforts include starting this blog). I realized a reason for me to stay is the messenger app because I can message everyone. In the last couple weeks, I’ve switched (and gotten some friends to start using, plus found some friends who were already there) to Signal. This has turned out to be a great app. It has all the messaging features you’d expect, plus messages are encrypted and it doesn’t track everything you say or advertise to you! I am still available on facebook messenger, but I hope I can get more people to try to disentangle themselves from facebook with me.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve read, watched, or bought recently.

Reading

book cover for A Burning shown on kobo ereader
A Burning

I read A Burning by Megha Majumdar. It seemed like it had been really hyped up and, while I liked it, I didn’t love it. That’s okay though because not every book has to be my favorite. It was interesting and showed me lives I don’t know much about. The story follows three characters in India who are navigating poverty and politics, which I did find interesting, but I think this story was a little hard for me to relate to on some level.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Watching

We’re almost through season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery. We’ve been watching it the slow way because I’m renting it via DVD Netflix, which, yes, I have a subscription to because streaming is too limiting sometimes. I’m enjoying it a lot. I like seeing a Star Trek with modern story telling. I like the characters a lot and the conflicts they’re having and I’m looking forward to watching season 2.

Rampant Consumerism

In recognition of the fact that the pandemic has, perhaps permanently, altered our lives, we bought this combination stationary bike and rowing machine. Kirk and I have both struggled to be active during the pandemic without access to the gym or any normal activities. The last month has been particularly difficult because the heat and the smoke have kept us indoors. Before we were at least walking and I was riding my bike a bit. I’ve felt majorly restless and I’m hoping having some accessible exercise is going to help. We just got the machine yesterday and I set it up and did a little workout. So far, I like it and my mood already feels a little lifted.

rowing machine/stationary bike newly assembled
the new baby

Making Things and Doing Stuff

Work has been really busy all year, which I think I have mentioned before. It’s not letting up. It’s cutting into my things and stuff time for sure. I am hoping things will slow down a little in the fall and I can have more mental space and energy to do other stuff.

Knitting

I finished knitting the Quaking Aspen shawl and got it washed and blocked. My grandma sent me this mystery yarn a while back and I finally turned it into something interesting. I also used some of the yarn I bought in Peru for the outside edge (the white part), which felt really nice! This was the first time I’d used it. I’m still hoarding most of it for yet undetermined projects.

For my next knit, I’ve started a another pair of socks, but I am not feeling fully committed to it yet. I will have to see where my mood takes me.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been working on some of my basic food skills to expand my repertoire with some new-to-me, easy stuff and to get good at some things I have overlooked. I really enjoyed these cuban-style black beans with yellow rice and plantains (plantains not pictured here). I cook beans often but was lacking a solid beans and rice dish. This was delicious and the plantains were really good with it. I had never eaten a plantain before but I liked it. I also made this most basic fried rice because somehow I had not made fried rice before (a ridiculous omission). I used the recipe in How to Cook Everything and served it with some broccoli beef.

You may recall the under-cooked zucchini bread I shared in my last post. Kirk suggested we pair it with some vanilla ice cream and I couldn’t argue with that logic. I sliced it and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to create something like a zucchini bread biscotti. It’s still a little rubbery but, hey, nothing that ice cream can’t overcome. For additional snackitude, I made some spicy maple-glazed nuts using a recipe from Adventures in Slow Cooking (yes, this is a crock pot recipe). I’ve been snacking on them and included them in my “ode to ranch dip” snack plate that we had for dinner last Saturday: veggies, chips, and fries served with ranch dip. Basically all my favorite foods. The world could end any day, why not eat more chips and dip? We followed up the ranch bonanza with root beer floats because we’re true Americans.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: August 16, 2020

This year’s onslaught of things that can kill us rages on. It’s 92 degrees at the time of this writing: 9:30 a.m (note: now that I’ve finished it’s 100 degrees at 11 a.m.). There’s a part of me that can’t stand the banality of commenting on the weather, but another part of me that’s like “this is how I die and everyone needs to know.” Anyway, if you see me being melodramatic this week, you know why.

As for everything else, I am feeling overwhelmed lately. Pandemic life continues, now Trump is trying to tear down our most trusted institution, the Post Office, in an attempt to cheat the election. Biden picked Kamala Harris for his Vice President, which is great in many ways. Obviously I wish for a more progressive ticket, but the fact that recent political actions have moved them leftward is encouraging. I wish I could take a month of work to let my mind rest from the onslaught that is modern life but it’s not really a viable option.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, and bought.

Reading

Like many people, I’ve been reading up on prisons and police lately. I finished American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment. Journalist Shane Bauer took a job as a guard at a private prison and wrote about the experience, interwoven with a historical discussion of how modern prisons came to be in the U.S. One reason this book is so compelling is because Bauer had previously been incarcerated in Iran. He knows what it feels like to be a prisoner and he has to grapple with the moral implications of being on the other side. I also really appreciated the historical part of this book. A lot of people have commented recently on how modern police and prisons are totally rooted in slavery and this lays out the evidence. The 13th amendment to the constitution, although it largely abolished slavery, permitted the practice to continue as part of punishment for a crime. In the wake of abolition, many farms in the south lacked the labor to effectively work the land (in part because they were unwilling to pay for the service). States started buying the land and putting prisoners to work. This is a heavy read but thought-provoking and worth it if you want to understand more about modern prisons.

In internet reading:

  • Therapy llama ‘Caesar the No Drama Llama’ calms tensions at protests via the Washington Post. Some feel good news about a chill llama that its owner takes to protests to help calm people down.
  • It’s time to abolish nursing homes via The Nation. This brought up the interesting point that nursing homes are really only for old people for disabilities. Rethinking how we treat disabled people in society would also help us treat the elderly better.
  • Baby boomers show concerning decline in cognitive functioning for Ohio State News. I’m not posting this to pick on baby boomers, but because it’s an interesting and concerning trend. What if this is a cultural problem that will also manifest in younger generations? From the article, “While many of the problems linked to lower cognitive functioning are symptoms of modern life, like less connection with friends and family and growing economic inequality, other problems found in this study are unique to the United States, Zheng said. One example would be the lack of universal access and high cost of health care.”
  • Hygiene theater is a huge waste of time via The Atlantic. Corporations are pouring resources into disinfecting surfaces, but now we know coronavirus is mostly transmitted through the air, so why are we doing this?

Watching

This is more “playing” than “watching,” but I can’t stop playing Fall Guys lately. Kirk introduced me to it last week and I have played quite a lot since. It’s a goofball game where you play as a little jelly bean of a person and run through obstacle courses. It’s colorful and silly and a perfect distraction from these bullshit times. Highly recommended.

Rampant Consumerism

Huey the cat standing in a box. There is a first aid kit leaning against the box
Huey modeling the new first aid kit

I’ve been revisiting the matter of our emergency kits because there’s nothing like an ongoing emergency to remind you to prepare for emergencies. I’ve been slowly putting together some kits based off this guide from Wirecutter, plus some information about how to account for your pets in emergency planning. So I bought the first aid kit that the Wirecutter guide recommends and a leatherman multi-tool to add to our bags. It’s hard to buy things you hope you won’t need to use, but 2020 is revealing how little it takes to rip civilized society apart so here I am.

a large box of charcuterie topped with lots of fruit, plus a smaller box of bread and crackers
takeout but make it fashion

I also spent money on this delightful cheese board/charcuterie spread from Grazing Craving. We don’t get to do anything fun anymore so the least I can do for myself is eat fun foods. It was beautiful and overall really tasty, although something in there didn’t quite sit right with my stomach. I am pretty sensitive so I am assuming it’s a me problem and not the fault of the seller. Even so, it was a welcome meal given that it’s much too hot to actually cook food.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

Most of my free time lately has been devoted to reading or making food. Seems like I’m not doing much but I am surviving so what more can I say.

Languages

Small progress, but I am impressed with myself for doing anything at all lately. July was a bit of a slump as far as Spanish is concerned. So far August has been too, for that matter. I didn’t study at all this week. I may continue this break for another week then try to get back into it. Like everything lately, it’s hard to do things that don’t have immediate gratification. Yeah, I may be investing in future skills, but like … why? I’ve never felt so disconnected from the future before.

Kitchen Witchery

I am starting with a couple of recipes that did not work out. I made zucchini bread. something I’ve made many times, but totally undercooked it somehow. My skewer came out clean but it was all a lie. The bread sunk as soon as I took it out of the oven. what a drag. I also tried this turkey zucchini burger recipe (I had a surplus of zucchini thanks to the gift of a giant zucchini from a friend), but I really hated it. The recipe worked out, I guess, I just didn’t like it.

We’ve been experimenting with snacks for dinner a little more often. It’s fun and it breaks up the monotony. It’s also nice to watch a movie and nibble throughout. I’ve found a spinach dip recipe that I really like. It’s basically ranch dip with cream cheese and spinach added to the mix. I also revisited those Levain-style cookies, but remade them with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts since Kirk recently informed me that those are his favorite (why did it take eight years to get this information?). The results were delicious. Highly recommended.

To celebrate my friend’s daughter’s first birthday, I put forth a dulce de leche feast. I made these sandwich cookies, basically a snickerdoodle filled with dulce de leche, that put me in mind of a churro. They came out curiously flat but they were good anyway. I also made dulce de leche cupcakes. I think I liked the frosting better than the cake itself, but I guess that’s normal for me. The paper umbrellas are a technique to keep the frosting from sticking to the foil (or whatever you cover things with) that I picked up from my mom.

Cat Appreciation Hour

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I recently set up their carriers in a closet they like to hang out in and made them comfy. I am trying to make them not so scary in anticipation of a vet appointment this week. Huey is loving it. Viola, however, remains skeptical.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: July 29, 2020

One of the shitty things about pandemic life is that every malady seems to augur impending doom. Kirk has had a bit of a cough, which we are both highly suspicious of. Yesterday, I woke up so dizzy that I couldn’t get out of bed at all. The worst of it passed after sleeping more but, despite having vertigo, it was the most profound dizziness I’ve experienced. Of course, my first act was to search “coronavirus vertigo” online because I guess I hate myself. I don’t have a fever or any other symptoms but … is it coronavirus? Who the fuck knows. Fortunately, I’m feeling better today but we’re being very cautious and not going out at all right now, lest we accidentally spread plague.

Consuming

These are some things I read, watched, or bought recently.

Reading

I’ve noticed I’m reading quite a lot of science fiction set in the future where humans are a space-faring people. It’s not all I’m reading, but there is definitely a trend here. I would rather think about a time when the human race isn’t trying to murder itself through stupidity and when we’ve become a better species. We sure as hell aren’t there today.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is the second book the series that starts with A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. At first I was disappointed because I wanted to follow the characters from the first book, but this book follows two characters who you meet briefly in the first book. However, my disappointment soon vanished because this is a great book in its own right. It deals with what it means to be human in a really thoughtful way through the lens of artificially intelligent beings and genetically engineered people. I loved it so much that I read it in a day.

Goldilocks by Laura Lam deals with a nearish-future in which humans have made the planet pretty much uninhabitable, patriarchy is taking hold, and everyone but the rich are god damn miserable. The book focuses on the all-woman crew that steals a spaceship and heads for an extra-solar planet where they can start a new civilization. The story tracks the space journey alternating with chapters about the protagonist’s backstory. I don’t really know how to describe the story without giving too much away, so I will simply say that I thought it was a good read.

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss is the third and last installment in The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy. This book wraps up this fun, metafictional series with an adventure for kitchen girl/mesmerist Alice, who isn’t quite sure how she feels about all this adventure stuff yet. Hooray for escapism.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Watching

Kirk and I watched the first (and currently only) season of Upload on Amazon Prime. I didn’t like the first episode much but the show gathered speed pretty quickly after that and I found it pretty funny. This is a crazy version of America where people upload their consciousness to the internet when they die. But because America is a capitalist hellscape, the rich get super lush digital environments with unlimited data and the poor are limited to pay-as-you-go versions. I guess I’m saying it’s a humorous exploration into wealth inequality. Neat!

I also watched Netflix’s new movie Eurovision: Fire Saga. I’m only passingly familiar with Eurovision’s cheesy earnestness, but I really loved this movie. Is that just because the main characters are from Iceland? Maybe. It was light-hearted and campy, the songs have been stuck in my head all week, and I even understood some of the little Icelandic they spoke in the film. What more could I want?

Rampant Consumerism

a delivery of beans from Rancho Gordo
bean bounty

After being irritated about not finding the beans I want at the grocery store, I decided to go all in and order a bunch of beans from Rancho Gordo, which sells beans that are honestly really good. So now I am well stocked on beans and ready for the next round of the apocalypse.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

I am excited that the library is open again! My Friday library rides are something I really look forward to. Sacramento is doing a contactless book pickup services, where you schedule a window to pick up your materials and they leave them in a bag in front of the library. I like the secret agent vibe of picking up my library book in a manila envelope and I’ve enjoyed being on my bike again.

Languages

I can feel my summer doldrums ™ coming on and I’m planning accordingly this year. I am going to take a bit of a break from Spanish for August because it’s hot and I won’t want to do anything anyway. I’m hoping to take a little rest and be reinvigorated to prepare for the DELE exam, which I can hopefully take in November (‘Rona willing).

Knitting and Crafts

I finished some projects, which is always a pleasure! The socks I’d been working on are now done and being set aside for Christmas gifts (spoilers!). I like how the cable pattern and color look together. The pattern is Helix on ravelry.

My good friend Mandy requested a blanket upgrade. I made a baby blanket for her last year and I was informed we would need one in a larger size. Who am I to deny my honorary niece a new blanket? I asked Kirk to model it for me and I got this gem of a photo.

Moving It

I’m still enjoying my dance class and today my ballet teacher told me that I have nice calves. I felt quite pleased about it. Between dance and jumping rope as my main exercise, I tweaked my calf muscle a couple of weeks ago, which was unpleasant. A stern reminder that I need to be better about regular stretching (a long-term dream of mine). I have yet to resume jumping rope, but I’ve been able to dance okay after a round of treatments with the heating pad.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve kept my kitchen experimentation a little more limited lately because I can only eat so much and I don’t want to be hot. I made stuffed shells for dinner recently to celebrate finally finding pasta shells at the grocery store. I also tried my hand at succotash, which consists of beans, corn, an bacon. Kirk was sure he was going to hate it because it contains lima beans, but he actually liked it and said I should make it again. Another victory for me.

In pursuit of developing some baker’s patience and making beautiful as well as tasty food, I made flower poğaça rolls, which are soft rolls artfully wrapped around a little pile of feta and herbs. They were delicious and quite attractive if I do say so.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: July 10, 2020

It’s been a little difficult to convince myself to write lately because it doesn’t feel like I’ve done anything noteworthy. Days are running together. My only outing in the last week was a trip to the grocery store. I’ve been reading a lot, trying to stay cool indoors, and baking when it’s not too hot to turn on the oven.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought recently.

Reading

I’ve spent a lot of time reading in part because I love to read and part because I put a ton of library books on hold and, predictably, they all rolled in at once.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a fascinating sci-fi novel. It’s a post-apocalyptic space opera with humans orphaned on a generation ship and a planet of sentient spiders. The spider civilization really put me in mind of A Fire Upon the Deep (spoilers?) even though they were totally different spider societies. I liked Children of Time because it showed a civilization built on totally different principles, arachnocentric rather than androcentric. It was very interesting and well done. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Yes, I already have it in my hold list.

The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett was a different kind of story altogether. Set in the recent past, Bennett tells the story of twins who grow up in a southern town full of nearly white Black people. Their story diverges when one of the twins discovers she can pass as white and disappears into the world of whiteness. This is an emotional novel exploring the fact that race is a complete fiction. What separates white and Black people other than made-up rules?

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers chronicles white women’s slave ownership in the South before the Civil War. This book was a lot to take in and it really made me think. The narrative we hear about antebellum southern women is that they were delicate and not involved in anything so terrible as slavery, but Jones-Rogers demonstrates that this is totally false. Women exist in the historical record buying and selling slaves, going to court over issues of slave ownership, and even “disciplining” their own slaves. One of the parts that really stuck out to me was the discussion of the end of slavery. Enslaved people were liberated but that’s it. The government didn’t have any job programs, no grants to help the formerly enslaved establish their lives, no program to help families reunite. They had literally nothing. Although that wasn’t what this book was about, it made me think a lot about the case for reparations. Black people were forced to come here, live and work as slaves, and when they were finally free, it was like, well, fuck you, bye. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Black people deserve some compensation after all they’ve survived.

Watching

The absolute best thing we’ve watched recently is What We Do in the Shadows. This show gets funnier with every episode. Everything Lazlo says slays me because his voice is so dramatic. The energy vampire, Colin Robinson, gives us a framework to understanding the bullshit people we have to interact with. Everything about it is hilarious. If you haven’t watched this yet, you simply must.

My RuPaul’s Drag Race re-watch (ru-watch?) rages on. I’m nearly done with season 9. Sasha Velour remains one of my all-time favorite queens. I love how smart she is and how that translates into her art. I can only hope to be as cool and sophisticated one day.

Rampant Consumerism

a large styrafoam cooler with foods from Omaha Steaks
meat christmas

For my birthday, I got a gift card for Omaha Steaks and I finally used it a few weeks ago. I am a savvy shopper so I ended up with a lot of foods. They deliver it in a big, styrofoam cooler. All the meats are vacuum sealed, but also packaged in cardboard boxes. Kirk and I had to tear it all apart to fit it into the freezer (he said it was like Meat Christmas). So far we’ve tried the hamburgers, beef tips, and chicken, plus some potatoes au gratin. Everything is pretty good. The meat is obviously good quality stuff even if it’s not blowing my mind. I’m not sure I would spend the money on this for myself, but it is always nice to get food gifts.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

I’ve been trying to keep my things and stuff to a minimum in an effort to stay cool. I know I’m posting about several topics here, but consider that I haven’t blogged in three weeks. I’ve spent most of my time lying around in front of the fan.

Spanish and Icelandic

I keep notes on what studying I do throughout the month. It doesn’t look like a whole lot, but I did read almost a whole book in Spanish, which I’m satisfied about. I’ve been very gradually trying to get back into Icelandic. My teacher is still on maternity leave, but I would like to be somewhat prepared when we start back up. I have been hacking away at my flashcard backlog. I did listen to a bit of the first Harry Potter book in Icelandic, but the library decided that wasn’t available anymore. So much for all that. I’m planning to watch a few things online like a cooking show I’d been watching of maybe some kids TV.

Moving It

Something I have learned during this pandemic is that I don’t want to do things if it’s only an approximation of the way I would normally do it. I have not enjoyed, nor had success with, trying to do normal exercise routines because it annoys me to have to adjust to not having the right equipment or space. However, I’ve been enjoying doing completely different stuff. I bought a jump rope a few weeks ago and I’ve been doing that a few minutes at a time as cardio. It’s finally getting a little easier (though it’s still hard). Dance classes are going well too. I’ve been attending ballet every week and a jazz dance class sporadically. Ballet is interesting because the hip positioning and upper/lower body separation is similar to what we do in roller derby. I haven’t skated since spraining my ankle in February, but maybe my dance skills will help me once we’re back on the track.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been trying to keep things fairly simple lately and plan for leftovers so we don’t have to cook all the time. For Cook Meat Outside Day (aka the 4th of July), I made hamburgers and cooked some baked beans in the crockpot. I’ve also been grilling chicken and vegetables because I have the technology. Most people think the slow cooker is for winter foods, but I like to use it in the summer because it doesn’t get too hot. I made a batch of black beans a few weeks ago and have used it for a few meals of burritos.

The only 4th of July tradition I really observe is making ice cream. Not that I don’t make ice cream at other times, but I always make it for the 4th. This year I tried out a pistachio toffee ice cream. I picked up a recipe card at Nugget at least a year ago and it’s been on my fridge since, so it was exciting to finally make it! The toffee was delicious on its own and the ice cream was even tastier with it. Definitely one of my better recipes.

Because I had a bunch of egg whites leftover from the ice cream, I made coconut macaroons (not pictured) and some macarons (yes, these words are confusing. English is a stupid language). I’d never made macarons before but it went okay. I think one of the baking sheets needed longer to cook—the macarons came out kind of sticky and didn’t hold their shape when I took them off the sheet. So I made a big macaron blob with the rest of the icing. I’m not sad about it.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: June 21, 2020

I have this feeling lately like I’m the one being crazy for worrying about coronavirus. Despite the State of California now requiring people to wear a mask in public (link is a PDF), new research suggesting that people with type A blood are at greater risk for problems related to coronavirus, and the nearly 120,000 deaths (that we know of) from the virus, a lot of people are acting like things are totally fine. Kirk and I went to pick up some ice cream last night and saw plenty of people out and about, maskless, eating at restaurants and generally going on with normal life. I know I write often about feeling a dissonance between my life and what’s happening in the wider world and here we are again. It almost makes me feel like I’m wrong, like I’m making it a big deal when it isn’t, but I know that’s not true. If anything, I have become more wary of coronavirus now that I’ve learned more about it. So many people seem ready to believe that it’s over, but I question whether we will ever return to “normal.”

Zoolander screenshot "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"
I, too, feel like I’m taking crazy pills

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought recently.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot, especially because I put a ton of holds on library ebooks and now they’re all coming in around the same time.

On the recommendation of my friend Abby, I read The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, which is a take on the story of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde except he’s dead and now we’re following his daughter’s adventures. The book focuses on the daughters of men in science fiction classics and how their fathers’ actions have affected their lives. That explanation makes it sound heavy, but it’s there is adventure and sisterhood and a good bit of fun. I’m already halfway through the next book in the series.

In non-fiction, I read Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. This sounds like a self-help book, and in a way it is, but I have never before read a self-help book that acknowledges that patriarchy is part of our problems and we can’t just go on a juice cleanse to get rid of it. The book was insightful and practical, and also made me very emotional at times. It starts with the idea that, when we feel stress, we need to do something physical to signal to our bodies that the stress has come to an end so we can “complete the stress cycle.” But most of our daily stress involves abstract bullshit instead of fighting predators, so instead you get stuck with a bunch of stupid emotions. This book explains how you can deal with that stress, and lots of other great stuff too. I highly recommend that every woman read this book. You will laugh, cry, and learn things.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Watching

I’ve been watching a lot of TV and knitting lately. After the latest season of Drag Race ended, I decided I would watch all the seasons in reverse order. I’m currently about halfway through season 10. Thank god for this show.

We watched a couple of movies recently too. In my ongoing effort to watch all the Star Trek, we watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was ridiculous and entertaining. In this film, Kirk et. al. have to go back in time to pick up a now-extinct whale to get some alien force to stop turning Earth into pure ocean. We also watched the movie Passengers, which was entertaining if very cliched. A bunch of people are in some kind of hibernation while their space ship makes a 120-year journey to a new planet. In a freak accident, Chris Pratt wakes up 90 years too early, then makes the morally shitty decision to wake up a hot female passenger. I would not have enjoyed this in a movie theater, but I did enjoy it at home, where I could shout at the movie in peace.

Rampant Consumerism

Did you catch the campaign to get people buying books by black authors? It officially ended yesterday, but I’m sure no one would be upset if you bought some afterwards. I ordered a handful of ebooks because I need to slow my paper-book roll or I’m going to run out of shelf space.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

finished sock on my foot. The sock is made of a varigated blue yarn and has a cable pattern
Sock one of two

I finished a sock! Of course, now I have to do it all over again, but at least the second sock always goes a little quicker because now I know what I’m doing. I’m quite happy with how it turned out. I like the pattern, and I like the yellow accent with this variegated blue yarn.

Backyard Garden

I figured I’d share a garden update since we now have some visible green beans! They are small, but they do exist, so we’re doing better than last year in that regard. I also wanted to show what it looks like when a leek starts to flower. I never picked them because I thought they would get bigger (I was wrong). They formed little bulbs at the top of the leaves and those explode into something that looks like a thistle or a dandelion. Either way, the process looks like a weird alien creature and it kind of freaks me out, so you must all share my discomfort.

Moving It

I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking about dance and I did follow up on that idea! This week I did my first lesson with Galaxy Dance Arts, which is here in Elk Grove. They have an adult beginner ballet class that I signed up for and I took my first class (online) on Wednesday. It was fun but a little tricky to keep up with all the feet positions because it’s a little hard to see on the computer screen. The instructor said I looked pretty good and it didn’t look like I’d never done it before. I guess all that roller derby prepared me for ballet. Who knew?

Icelandic

audio book of Harry Potter og viskusteinninn shown on a tablet with Viola the cat sitting nearby
going for it

I am still plugging away at my Spanish but I have finally gotten to a point where I feel I can focus enough to add Icelandic back into my rotation. To get back in the game, I’ve been doing my flashcards and I downloaded the audio book of Harry Potter og Viskusteinninn (Harry Potter and the Philosoper’s Stone) from the library just to get used to the sound of it again. I’m really only getting like one word in eight, but it’s helping me remember some of the structures of the language so that’s a good thing. I’m not really listening to it with the expectation that I’ll understand it.

Kitchen Witchery

It’s been hot and I’ve been lethargic so I’ve keep my kitchen adventures to a minimum lately. I did make a pretty tasty chocolate chip muffin recently, which was nice. I tried making another batch of crackers, but the dough was too sticky to roll out, so I cut it into chunks an baked it. The result was something a bit like a breadstick—the texture reminded me a lot of crazy bread. Perhaps an avenue for future experiements. Yesterday I made a simple loaf of bread. I’ve done this recipe before, but I usually let it be a free-form ball instead of a loaf. I have to say that I kind of like the loaf.

In other bread news, I decided to break up with my sourdough starter. It’s too hot to think about making bread all the time, and Kirk can’t have sourdough without getting severe heart burn. Plus, I gave in and bought a one-pound bag of yeast from Amazon. I may return to sourdough baking one day, but right now it feels like too much to think about.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Huey has been all up in my desk lately. Viola has decided that she owns my chair. They’ve effectively exiled me from my spot.

A Week in the Life: June 7, 2020

Whew, it’s been a week. I am proud of everyone for being out there protesting and demanding a better world. I’ve been really torn about wanting to protest because it’s important to be out there but also important not to get coronavirus and die. Kirk was worried that having sleep apnea puts me at higher risk of serious symptoms of coronavirus. I did a little searching and it seems like there is a higher mortality rate. I’m doing my best to support people who are out there and educate people from inside my house.

What’s interesting about the world right now is, even though things are stressful (hello, ongoing headache) and scary, it really feels like we’re in a moment where we can force positive social change. Two weeks ago, defunding the police seemed like a total fringe idea, but now that seems like it might really be happening or at least ideas from it are happening. I’ve been thinking a lot about areas where I can actually have an impact. More to come.

black and white drawing of a hawk and text "sorry that being a decent fucking human being is so inconvenient for you." attirbution: @effinbirds
thanks @effinbirds for summing this up

Consuming

These are some things I read, watched, or bought this week.

Reading

book cover for The Night Watchman on Kobo ereader
The Night Watchman

This week I finished The Night Watchman by Louise Erdich. I saw a lot of bookish parts of the internet talking about it, so I got it from the library (I’m so thankful for ebooks right now). The story is set in 1950s North Datoka and focuses on a group of Native Americans who are trying to live their lives and keep the government from disbanding their tribe. Although this is a work of fiction, it’s based in real events and one of the main characters is inspired by the author’s grandfather. I love books like this because we get all the lyricism and empathy that comes from fiction but still learn something important and have a window into Native struggles.

Watching

It seems like all I’ve been watching lately are drag shows, but it’s what’s getting me through, so there you have it. The new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars started and I’m living. The “lip sync assassin” twist is such a fun take and is a really cool way to showcase some talented drag queens. I loved this week’s lip sync so much and I can’t wait for next week’s episode.

Rampant Consumerism

I bought this great pillow and it’s already found a permanent home in the corner of my couch. I love it because I can prop my elbows up while reading or knitting. Otherwise I haven’t bought much, but I have been looking through the lists of black-owned businesses that people have been sharing around. I’m linking a few here because wealth isn’t going to redistribute itself.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

cabled sock progress: the heel is turned and the gusset is finished
sock progress

I’ve been knitting while re-watching Drag Race and the result is I’m getting a lot of knitting done. I’m more than halfway through the first sock in this pair and I’m on to knitting the foot now. I’m more familiar with the cable pattern now so it doesn’t seem quite so difficult and annoying, which is nice, since I still have a lot more to knit.

Moving It

I’m very pleased that my ankle is finally almost better. It’s still slightly swollen, but I can now sit into a deep squat and move all around without pain. I’m starting to reintroduce activities that require a little more ankle fortitude and I even did some alternating jump lunges this week—truly thrilling!

I have been considering learning a bit of dance. I am pretty sure this idea is stemming from a combination of quarantine madness and watching too much Drag Race, but I was looking up local dance classes. I’m hoping to learn a different kind of body awareness that might help with my roller derby, once we return to play. Unfortunately, there are not tons of options for adults learning to dance. Apparently hobbies are for children. However, I did find a local studio with a class I want to try. We’ll see if I actually like it!

Derby Life

The big news in the derbyverse this week is that skate manufacturer Mota has essentially said they side with the police over people protesting in support of Black lives. This is shitty on many levels, but I’m mostly posting about this because I have Mota skates and now I am not at all willing to skate with their branding on my feet. After polling the good people of #derbytwitter for advice, today I ordered some supplies for painting over my skates. I’m looking forward to making something cool and political. It won’t erase the damage they’ve done, but it’s something.

Spanish

May Spanish learning activities
Spanish in May

In May, I did a lot of reading! This was partly motivated by the discovery that I can read ebooks in Spanish and use the Spanish-English dictionary. The future is, in many ways, delightful. The downside of this is I borrowed a book from the library, did not finish it in time, and now I have to get back in the hold queue. I also met with my Spanish teacher a lot last month and did a lot of test prep. I’m trying to decide what to focus on for now since the DELE is out of reach for a few more months.

Kitchen Witchery

I didn’t get too wild in the kitchen this week with the exception of sourdough cinnamon rolls. Yes, they were delicious. I also made a batch of brownies because stress baking. In more reasonable eating, I tried out this red lentil soup recipe, which is as easy and tasty as they say it is.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Pillows are popular in our house right now.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: May 30, 2020

The world’s on fire, sheltering in place continues, and I’m fine I guess. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I struggle with the dissonance between being personally okay and seeing what’s happening in the world. It feels like survivor’s guilt, although that’s not strictly accurate either. I don’t feel guilty. I feel lucky. Lucky to be employed and in my cozy house with plenty of books to read and food to cook. There’s a sense of “why should I feel upset or stressed,” but I’ve seen a few takes that essentially say we’re all witnessing and experiencing some level of trauma right now. Having society completely change and all your expectations get smashed is traumatic. I’m planning to read up on this idea some more and then perhaps I will have something more enlightening to say. For now, I’ll just say that if you feel weird or stressed or guilty or freaked out even if you’re “fine,” I hear you. I get it.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve been reading, watching, and buying.

Reading

book cover of "Ancestral Night" by Elizabeth Bear as seen on Kobo ereader
Ancestral Night

I’ve been reading a lot and rotating through several books every day because it makes me feel like I’m doing different things, even though I haven’t left the couch or hammock. I’ve also been putting lots of library ebooks on hold because I want something to look forward to but everything is cancelled. Luckily, I’m easily entertained.

One of the fun novels I read this week is Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear. This is an interesting sci-fi story about a small crew of space scavengers who get caught up in some bad shit (as one does) and have to deal with their sense of self and ethics and ancient tech. There’s AI, lesbians in space, and space pirates.

In internet reading:

  • I don’t feel like buying stuff anymore via Buzzfeed. The U.S. economy is built on everyone buying stuff—pure, unadulterated consumerism. But the pandemic is making us a lot of us rethink the consumer life. The article talks about how we got here and where we might go. Essential reading.
  • Anti-racism resources. This is a resource list for white people looking to learn about racism and how to be anti-racist. Educate yourself.
  • Nearly half of the Twitter accounts discussing ‘reopening America’ may be bots via Carnegie Mellon University. This almost feels like old news given that everything in my feed right now is about protesting, but I still think it’s important to share. Most of the “support” for going back to “normal” life, despite coronavirus, is not organic from the people here. So, who benefits from Americans going out and catching coronavirus?
  • Fuck the bread. The bread is over. via The Paris Review. I don’t know how to describe this essay, so I will say simply that it spoke to me.

Watching

I watched HBO’s show We’re Here, which follows drag queens Shangela, Eureka O’hara, and Bob as they visit small towns across the country and perform a drag show alongside locals who they transform into drag queens. This show is everything I didn’t know I needed. It’s wonderful and exciting to see drag used as an art and a way of building community, instead of the way we usually see it on TV, as a reality competition. We’re Here honestly made me cry with its sincerity and compassion. I can’t recommend it enough.

Rampant Consumerism

Like many people, I haven’t felt moved to spend a lot of money lately. However, I have bought a few things to help keep me occupied at home. Months ago, I bought some thread and needles with intentions of learning embroidery, although so far all I’ve stitched is some patches onto my statement vest. I realized this would be easier if I had the right tools, so I ordered a little needle box and some cards to wind my thread on.

About a month ago I ordered a curated book bundle from The Last Bookstore as a birthday gift to myself and the books finally arrived this week! I paid $100 and got a huge stack of used and new books. It’s exciting to get surprise books picked out for me!

Making things and Doing Stuff

As usual, most of my things and stuff have been at home.

Knitting and Crafts

I think I’ve said it in a previous post, but I’ve finally settled into my quarantine groove and have been able to get back to doing things like knitting. I finished the Noordzee shawl! Finishing a knitting project is always exciting because they take so long. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it as I was knitting, but now that it’s done, I think it looks pretty cool. I love the cable texture (it’s the reason I decided to knit this pattern). I’ve gotten started on my next knit already. I cast on this sock a few months ago then decided it was too tiny and difficult for the moment. However, a tiny, difficult knitting project is exactly what this moment needs. Plus, a it’s not big enough to pile in my lap and make me hot. It’s a win-win.

Gardening

We decided it was time to pull up the winter plants and get on with the summer growing, so we made one last spinach and broccoli harvest—both were covered in aphids and I made Kirk wash them off. We also let Huey take a tour of the garden because she was staring at us from the doorway. Our new crops are a jalapeño, beans, zucchini, herbs, and tomatoes. We left the leeks to keep growing (although I think they’re about as big as they’re going to be) and our garlic is still in there too.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been keeping the food situation fairly simple lately and last week I was focused on making things that wouldn’t heat up the house any more than strictly necessary. I made some pork tenderloin in the slow cooker and a tortellini primavera based on the pasta primavera recipe in How to Cook Everything. I also gave non-alcoholic piña coladas another try with a better recipe, and they were really good! Although most things are good with whipped cream and a cherry on top. I might look for some more fun, alcohol-free drink recipes to try (Kirk doesn’t drink and I don’t particularly enjoy drinking so here we are).

When I was growing up, my step-mom (now ex-step-mom) made a recipe called chicken roll-ups, which I absolutely loved but that she was rarely willing to make. We got to request anything we wanted for dinner on our birthdays and that was always my choice, but she would grumble about having to make it because it was “hard.” Reader, it is not fucking hard. It’s shredded chicken, mixed with cream cheese, rolled into a crescent roll and baked, then topped with a “gravy” of cream of chicken soup. I elevated it a little bit by making my own rolls, using a little less cream cheese, and adding some actual seasoning (lol, white American cooking). It’s always a pleasure to reclaim something like this.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Apparently this is a Huey appreciation post.