Guía para votantes: Elección presidencial y general de California de 2020

Finalmente, después del año/la pandemia/la campaña de elecciones más largo/a de nuestras vidas, ya es la hora de votar. En mis fuentes web he visto mucha discusión sobre la eficacia de votar. Soy pragmática: no podemos derrocar un sistema malo a través nuestros votos. No obstante, votar es una de nuestras herramientas y debemos usar todo la que tenemos. Votar es el método más fácil para hacer oír tu voz.

Esta guía es para votantes en California. Explico mis elecciones y mis porqués. Aquí están unos recordatorios y recursos para votantes en California:

Descargo de responsabilidad: No soy experta en la política ni el gobierno. Soy solo una persona quien tiene habilidades de leer y buscar información. Puedes usar esta guía como un punto de partida para decidir como quieres votar. Si ya estás agotado/a y confías en mi, puedes votar como yo voto. Si crees que soy idiota, puedes hacer lo opuesto como voto. Vota como quieras, pero por favor, vota.

Consulta rápida

Para el votante quien tiene prisa y cree que soy una jueza adecuada, aquí está un resumen de mis votos.

Oficina o propuestaMi voto
Presidente y vicepresidenteBiden y Harris
14 (investigación con las células madre)Yes
15 (impuesto a propriedades comerciales)Yes
16 (acción afirmativa)Yes
17 (restaurar el derecho de votar)Yes
18 (los de 17 años pueden votar en las elecciones primarias)Yes
19 (reglas de evaluar los impuestos a la propiedad)Yes
20 (clasificar más crímenes de felonia)No
21 (control de alquileres)Yes
22 (derechos de los empleados de empresas de transporte y entrega)No
23 (requisitos para las clínicas de diálisis renal)Yes
24 (la privacidad de los consumidores)No
25 (referéndum del sistema de fianza)Yes

Presidente y Vicepresidente

Mi voto: Joe Biden y Kamala Harris

Nadie quien me conoce debe estar sorprendido que yo voto por Biden y Harris. Mucha de la discusión inicial alrededor de Biden se enfocó en conformarse con votar por Biden. Él no es el candidato socialista de nuestros sueños, pero está bien. Sus políticas (¡en español!) son buenas. Biden respalda una opción pública del seguro de salud. No cabe dudas que sería peor con cuatro años más de Trump que cuatro años de Biden. Un voto por Trump es un buen método de comunicar a todas las personas en tu vida quienes no son heterosexuales ni blancas que no te preocupas de sus derechos.

Una anotación sobre votar por un “tercer” partido: Estoy de acuerdo que este país necesita más opciones políticas. Desgraciadamente, esta elección no es la mejor oportunidad para tomar este riesgo. Tenemos que detener el sangrado. Me gustaría ver (y votar por), sin embargo, candidatos del tercer partido en elecciones locales y estatales. Dado a como el colegio electoral funciona, no vamos a tener un candidato viable de tercer partido por la oficina del presidente. Necesitamos empezar localmente.

Propuestas Estatales de California

California tiene 12 propuestas en la boleta en esta elección, empezando con Propuesta 14.

Propuesta 14

Autoriza bonos para continuar la investigación con células madre.

Un voto significa que el estado podría vender $5.5 mil millones en bonos de obligación general principalmente para la investigación con células madre y el desarrollo de nuevos tratamientos médicos en California.

Mi voto: Sí

El trasfondo de Propuesta 14 es que California autorizó $3 mil millones en bonos para financiar la investigación con células madre en 2004 a través Propuesta 71 (en ese entonces las células madre era un asunto controvertido), que también creó el California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (el instituto californiano de medicamento regenerativo). Un voto de sí por Propuesta 14 permitiría que el estado vende otro $5.5 mil millones de bonos para continuar financiar la investigación con las células madre. Tuve que pensar en esto porque $5.5 mil millones es mucho dinero pero la investigación con las células madre puede conducir a muchos avances científicos. La ciencia avanza poco a poco, y lo que se aprende aquí tal vez no tenga un uso inmediatamente hasta que alguien descubra algo nuevo y conecta las ideas. Se vale la inversión. Al fin, decidí que el dinero de todas formas es imaginario y además el solo donante en oposición a esta propuesta es el California “Pro-Life” Council (el consejo provida de California).

Propuesta 15

Aumenta las fuentes de financiamiento para las escuelas públicas, las universidades comunitarias y los servicios gubernamentales locales al cambiar la valuación fiscal de las propriedades comerciales e industriales.

Un voto significa que aumentarían los impuestos a la propiedad sobre la mayoría de los inmuebles comerciales con un valor de más de $3 millones con la finalidad de proporcionar nuevos fondos para los gobiernos locales y las escuelas.

Mi voto: Sí

Los impuestos a la propiedad en California son actualmente calculados, basados en se lo que pagó para la propiedad. Si pagaste un níquel en 1910, sus impuestos a la propiedad hoy son basados en ese pago original de cinco centavos. Propuesta 15 cambiaría esa tasa por propiedades comerciales e industriales, pero no las residenciales. Significa que personas quien son dueñas de tierra comercial pagarían impuestos basados en el valor actual de la tierra. Por la mayor parte, solo dueños de más de $3 millones de propriedades comerciales e industriales serían afectados. En breve, Propuesta 15 gravaría a los ricos y yo lo apoyo completamente.

Propuesta 16

Permite la diversidad como factor en el empleo público, la educación y las decisiones de contratación.

Un voto de significa que las entidades estatales y locales podrían considerar la raza, el sexo, el color, el origen étnico y la nacionalidad en la educación pública, el empleo público y la contratación pública en la medida permitida conforme a las leyes federales y estatales.

Mi voto: Sí

Propuesta 16 se trata de lo que normalmente es llamado como la acción afirmativa (esta propuesta usa el término “discriminación positiva”). La legislatura puso esta propuesta en la boleta para revocar la Propuesta 209, celebrada en 1996, que prohibió la acción afirmativa en el empleo público, diciendo “El estado no discriminará, o dará tratamiento preferente, a algún individuo o grupo de acuerdo con su raza, sexo, color, identidad étnica, o país de origen en la operación de empleo público, educación pública, ni contratación pública.”

Me parece genial no discriminar, pero la condición base ahora es discriminar (positivamente) a favor de los hombres blancos. Por ejemplo, aunque las mujeres son bien representadas en el empleo público, son infrarrepresentadas en los niveles más altos. Hasta que vivamos en una sociedad que verdaderamente promueve personas según sus méritos y no su raza ni sexo, creo que necesitamos la acción afirmativa. Reflexiona qué tan frecuente ves una junta de administración con mujeres o negro/as en su totalidad. Ahora: ves más frecuentemente una junta compuesta completamente de hombres blancos?

Propuesta 17

Restablece el derecho de votar después de cumplir la pena de prisión.

Un voto de significa que las personas en libertad condicional estatal que sean ciudadanos estadounidenses, residentes de California, y tengan por lo menos 18 años de edad podrían votar, si se inscriben para votar.

Mi voto: Sí

Sabías que las personas encarceladas o en libertad condicional no son permitidas a votar? California tiene más que 100,000 personas encarceladas y alrededor de 50,000 en libertad condicional actualmente. Propuesta 17 concedería el derecho de votar a las personas en libertad condicional (las personas encarceladas aún no serían permitidas de votar).

Creo que es importante que la máxima cantidad de gente tener derecho a votar si queremos tener un gobierno que de veras nos represente. Cometer un crimen no debe significar que tu voz no cuente. Además, si personas encarceladas no pueden votar, el gobierno tiene un incentivo para encarcelar a su oposición política o encerrar a la gente que no quiera votar. Toma en cuenta que “En 2017 28.5% de los prisioneros del estado fueron afroamericanos—comparado con solo el 5.6% de los residentes varones adultos.” Cuando nuestro sistema guarda de manera desproporcionada ciertos grupos en prisión pero no otros, y niega a los prisioneros el derecho de votar, comunica claramente cuales voces tienen valor. Votemos para cambiarlo. Jo, sabes quien está luchando contra esta proposición? El Partido Republicano.

Propuesta 18

Enmienda la constitución de California para permitir que las personas de 17 años de edad voten en las elecciones primarias y especiales si cumplen 18 antes de la próxima elección general y son eligibles para votar.

Un voto de significa que las personas eligibles de 17 años de edad que cumplirán 18 antes de la próxima elección general puedan votar en las elecciones primarias y especiales previas a la elección general.

Mi voto: Sí

Semejante a la Propuesta 17, tomo la postura que la ampliación del derecho de votar es bueno. En mi opinión, tiene sentido que los de 17 años quienes van a cumplir 18 antes de la elección en noviembre deben tener derecho a votar en las elecciones primarias. Esto permitirían que den su opinión en toda la elección, no solo el fin.

Recomiendo mucho que leas este argumento desquiciado contra Propuesta 18 por su valor cómico. Entiendo el argumento de que el cerebro no se ha desarrollado completamente a los 17, pero tampoco es desarrollado a 18. Si es el argumento que quieres hacer, cambia la edad de votar a 25.

Propuesta 19

Cambia ciertas reglas del impuesto sobre la propriedad de bienes inmuebles.

Un voto de significa que todos los propietarios de viviendas mayores de 55 años de edad (o quienes cumplan otros requisitos) podrían ser elegibles para ahorros en el impuesto a la propiedad. Solo las propiedades heredadas usadas como hogares principales o granjas serían eligibles para ahorros en el impuesto a la propiedad.

Mi voto: Sí

Un saludo a Ballotpedia por ayudarme entender esta propuesta. Es otra propuesta de “grava a los ricos,” y sabes que me encanta gravar a los ricos. Propuesta 19 permitiría que personas de más de 55 años de edad, personas con discapacidades, o víctimas de desastres pudieran trasladar su fractura del impuesto a cualquier parte del estado hasta tres veces (el límite actual es una vez). Significa que, si compras una casa nueva del mismo valor (o menos) de su casa actual, puedes mantener la tasa actual de impuestos sobre la propiedad. Ahora, de gravar a los ricos: cuando alguien herede una propiedad que no va a usar como su residencia principal (es decir, una renta o una casa secundaria), se revaluaría la propiedad y el dueño nuevo gravará impuestos basado en el valor actual. Por ejemplo, si tus padres te dieran su casa de vacaciones en Lake Tahoe que compraron en 1975 para $40, no pagarías impuestos basado en el precio de $40, pero el precio de mercado actual de la casa—asumiendo que no intentarías vivir allí a tiempo completo.

Propuesta 20

Restringe la libertad condicional para ciertos delitos que actualmente son considerados no violentos. Autoriza sentencias de delitos graves para ciertos delitos que actualmente solo se tratan como delitos menores.

Un voto de No significa que no aumentarían las penas para las personas que cometen ciertos crímenes relacionados con el robo. No habría cambio al proceso estatal de liberación anticipada de la prisión para ciertos reclusos. La aplicación de la ley continuaría exigiendo la recolección de muestras de ADN de adultos solo sí fueron arrestados por un delito mayor o es necesario para registrarlos como agresores sexuales o incendiarios.

Mi voto: No

Debemos pisar con mucho cuido cuando se trata de permitir al estado clasificar más personas como felones. Ser condenado con una felonía significa que ya no votas, recibes beneficios sociales, ni haces empleos ciertos. Propuesta 20 es una reacción a unas iniciativas recientes que ha reducido la cantidad de personas encarceladas. Creo que esto lo resume:

“Cuando consideramos … una propuesta que aumentaría los castigos de infracciones de bajo nivel, en un sistema que ya es profundamente prejuiciado en contra de los Californianos Negros, Indígenas, y Latinos, creo que es claro que solo extendería el daño de nuestro sistema de justicia criminal,” dijo Washburn, atrapando “más y más Californianos en este ciclo, que es muy difícil de escapar, de entrar y salir las cárceles y los cortes y en la libertad condicional.”

Propuesta 21

Amplía la autoridad de los gobiernos locales para promulgar el control de alquileres en propiedades residenciales.

Mi voto: Sí

Aprobando Propuesta 21 modificaría las limitaciones de una ley existente, la Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (La Ley de Vivienda en Alquiler de Costa-Hawkins) que dice que control de alquileres no pueden aplicar a un hogar unifamiliar o viviendas nuevas construidas después de 1995. Propuesta 21 permitiría que las ciudades y los condados establecieran medidos de control de alquileres para casas de más de 15 años de edad (excluyendo los hogares unifamiliares cuyos dueños de solo una o dos propiedades). Lo importante es que esta propuesta no establece el control de alquileres, pero lo hace posible porque permitirían que las ciudades limiten cuánto un dueño puede aumentar la renta a la vez. Porque he vivido en departamentos donde la renta aumenta por 10% cada año, puedo imaginar fácilmente que la mayoría de gente daría la bienvenida al control de alquileres.

Propuesta 22

Exime a las empresas de transporte y entrega basadas en aplicaciones de proporcionar beneficios para empleados a determinados conductores.

Un voto de No significa que las empresas de viajes compartidos y entregas basadas en aplicaciones tendrían que contratar a los conductores como empleados si los tribunales dictan que una reciente ley estatal hace que a los conductores se les considere como empleados. Los conductores tendrían menos elección sobre cuándo, dónde y cuánto trabajar, pero obtendrían los beneficios y protecciones estándar que las empresas deben brindar a los empleados.

Mi voto: No

El Estado de California recientemente dio dictamen que las empresas Uber y Lyft han mis-clasificados sus trabajadores como contratistas, en lugar de empleados propios. La decisión de la corte dice que las empresas vulneraron Assembly Bill 5, que establece tres criterios para determinar si un trabajador es, de hecho, un contratista independiente. Por qué importa? Las empresas tienen que pagar impuestos sobre el salario y proporcionar beneficios por sus empleados, pero no por los contratistas. Esas empresas son invierten mucho en la campaña para no pagar a sus empleados. Ve esta lista de los donantes más grandes a la campaña de “sí”

los donantes más grandes a la campaña de “sí”

Me parece muy claro que Uber, Lyft, y los demás están desesperados para que sus trabajadores no sean clasificados como empleados. Pone un estrés a los trabajadores mientras las corporaciones se benefician.

Propuesta 23

Establece requisitos del estado para las clínicas de diálisis renal. Requiere personal médico profesional presente en el sitio.

Un voto de significa que se requeriría que las clínicas de diálisis crónica tengan un médico en el sitio durante todas las horas de tratamiento de pacientes.

Mi voto: Sí

Aquí está una lista de que va a pasar si Propuesta 23 se aprueba, de Ballotpedia:

  • Requiere que al menos un médico licenciado esté en el sitio durante el tratamiento en clínicas de diálisis crónico; autoriza que el California Department of Public Health (el Departamento de Salud Pública de California) exime a clínicas de este requerimiento si hay una falta de médicos licenciados y la clínica tiene al menos un enfermero facultativo o médico asociado en el sitio.
  • Requiere que las clínicas reporten los datos de infecciones relacionadas a diálisis al gobierno estatal y al gobierno federal.
  • Prohíbe a las clínicas cerrar o reducir servicios sin la aprobación del estado.
  • Prohíbe a las clínicas rehusar tratar a pacientes debido al fondo de sus pagos para servicios médicos.

Me parece sensible, entonces me pregunté quién está en contra de esta ley. El oponente principal es Davita, Inc, que provee servicios de diálisis y ha contribuido casi $60 millones para oponer las regulaciones nuevas. Creo que una industria luchando contra sus propias regulaciones es una señal que la gente normal se beneficiaría de esto.

Propuesta 24

Enmienda las leyes de privacidad del consumidor.

Un voto de No significa que se continuaría requiriendo a las empresas seguir las leyes existentes de privacidad de los datos del consumidor. Los consumidores continuarían teniendo los derechos existentes de privacidad de datos. El Departamento de Justicia del estado continuaría supervisando y aplicando estas leyes.

Mi voto: No

Esta propuesta es tramposa. Los derechos de privacidad del consumidor que la Propuesta 24 establecería me parecen buenos. Aunque, cuando vi que el ACLU opone esta propuesta, busqué un poco más. El Electronic Frontier Foundation (La Fundación de la Frontera Electrónica) tiene una explicación rigurosa de las cosas erróneas de Propuesta 24. El EFF está de acuerdo con el ACLU en oponerla. Aquí está uno de los problemas el más grande:

Propuesta 24 ampliaría planes de “pagar para la privacidad.” Específicamente, esta iniciativa eximiría “clubes de lealtad” del límite actual del CCPA a empresas cargando precios diferentes a consumidores quienes usan sus derechos de privacidad … Este cambio permitiría una empresa retener un descuento de un consumidor sino el consumidor permite que la empresa coseche data sobre sus hábitos de compra, y obtener ganancias de divulgar este data a otras empresas. Esta iniciativa también expandiría un tecnicismo actual (que permite “incentivas financieras” por algunas clases de procesamiento de datos) de la “venta” de estos datos y además de “compartirlo.”

Desafortunadamente, los planes de “pagar para la privacidad” presionan a todos los Californianos para rendir sus derechos de privacidad. Lo peor es que, debido a la disparidad flagrante de nuestra sociedad, estos planes van a acarrear, injustamente, a una sociedad de “poseedores” y “desposeídos.”

Propuesta 25

Referéndum sobre la ley que reemplaza la fianza de dinero con un sistema basado en la seguridad pública y el riesgo de fuga.

Un voto de significa que ninguna persona pagaría fianza para salir de cárcel antes del juicio. En cambio, las personas serían liberadas automáticamente o en función de riesgo evaluado de cometer otro delito o de no comparecer ante la corte en caso de ser liberadas. A ninguna persona se le cobrarían tarifas como condición para la liberación.

Mi voto: Sí

Esta propuesta es un referéndum a nivel estatal de SB 10, que es una ley que los legisladores californianos aprobaron y el gobernador firmó en 2018. SB 10 reemplazó el sistema de pagar la fianza, en que personas pagar para librarse de cárcel mientras esperan su juicio, con un sistema que pone en libertad a las personas basado en su nivel de riesgo, no de cuanto dinero tiene. Por supuesto es un mejor sistema que antes, pero el ACLU dice que no está perfecto. Como siempre, lo más revelador en mi opinión es quien respalda esta legislación. Las personas quienes se van a beneficiar al máximo, empresas de fianza, son los que empezaron este referéndum y apoyan la campaña de “no.” El sistema necesita mejorar, pero reinstalar los pagos de fianza no es la respuesta.

Conclusión

Espero que esta guía te ayudara a decidir como quieres votar a las propuestas en la boleta de California. Si tienes preguntas o crees que estoy equivocada, escríbeme un comentario y voy a hacer mi mejor esfuerzo para responder.

Voter Guide 2020: Elk Grove Local Election

I live in Elk Grove, California, which is part of Sacramento County. This is part two of my November 2020 voting guide, which deals with my local races. You can read my thoughts on the presidential race and the California ballot measures here.

Congressional District 7

My vote: Ami Bera

The choices for District 7’s representative are Ami Bera (our incumbent) and Buzz Patterson. Although Bera is relatively conservative compared to other House democrats, I certainly like him better than the Republican option. I also think he votes for the right things when it counts, like impeaching Trump. On the matter of healthcare, his website says he supports a “pathway to universal coverage,” and while it doesn’t really explain what that means, I agree with the the broad concept. Meanwhile, Republican challenger Patterson says he “support[s] a border wall on the US-Mexico border.” Part of his platform also says there should be a “ten-page limit on bills” because bills are too long and filled with unrelated stuff. This is incredibly stupid to me. Legislation is complicated. This guy is not fit for Congress.

State Assembly District 9

My vote: Jim Cooper

Fun fact, there is a Republican challenger, Eric Rigard, on the ballot, but there is no statement from him in the voter guide. This suggests he wasn’t bothered to submit anything about himself. Regardless of what his actual positions are, I don’t want to vote for him if he won’t even take the time to submit a few paragraphs for the voter guide. Run for office like you care, Eric.

Jim Cooper is our incumbent. He’s currently sponsoring a bill to study and develop reparations for African Americans and he sponsored the bill to have all Californians be able to vote by mail this election. He’s endorsed by the local Planned Parenthood, which I take as a good sign.

Los Rios Community College District, Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 4

My vote: Kelly Wilkerson

The Los Rios Community College District is governed by a board of seven trustees, so this is kind of like voting for members of the school board, except for higher education. I’m not sure any of these would be bad choices (although I deduct points from Katie Villegas for only having a campaign page on Facebook instead of a real website like Kelly Wilkerson and David Sandino). I like Wilkerson’s platform best. She has a lot of concrete ideas about helping high school students plan for college and creating more dual-enrollment options for high school students. She also wants to use her platform as a way to help keep more young people out of prison and to reform police training.

Elk Grove Unified School District

Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 1

My vote: Regina Q. Banks

Thank you to the local paper, the Elk Grove Tribune for this interview with Regina Q. Banks. I learned a lot more about her than I would have from her facebook campaign page (which also includes an endorsement from the Sunrise Movement!). Banks seems like she gets it and she feels strongly that she could do the most good, which is a feeling I relate to (if I have yet to act on it in the same way). The interview also included a picture of her chihuahua, which is very cute.

Anthony Perez is the incumbent for this school district seat. I tried and failed to find information beyond what was in the voter information guide and his profile on the Elk Grove Unified School District site. I think he is probably a perfectly good school board choice, but I like Banks more.

Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 3

My vote: Bobby Roy

There are three people on the ballot for this race: Sean Yang, Bobby Roy, and Victor Wilson. However, Wilson actually dropped out of the race in September, leaving us with Yang and Roy. Yang has an inspiring story, but I’m not clear what he wants to accomplish as a board member. Roy, in an interview with the Elk Grove Tribune says that “the biggest challenge for Elk Grove and my district is equity. Making sure that our resources are spread out to make everything equal.” That’s a view I can support.

Elk Grove Mayor

My vote: Bobbie Singh-Allen

The Elk Grove mayoral race is actually pretty wild. There are allegations against current mayor, Steve Ly, for harassing women, apologizing, then going back on his apology to say that the women accusing him of harassment are liars. That rules him out for me. We don’t need more ornery men in politics. To amp up the drama, the entire city council has endorsed Singh-Allen instead of Mayor Ly. Excitement in local politics!

Candidate Brian Pastor explains a few of his stances on his website, but I’m not sure I agree with him. Bobbie Singh-Allen seems to have similar stances to Pastor on things I disagree with, but she also has some detailed plans for improving the city through reducing traffic and recovering economically from the pandemic.

Elk Grove Council Member, District 1

My vote: Darren Suen

Our current city council member is Darren Suen. I admit I don’t follow local politics closely enough to have much of an opinion (perhaps it’s time to start!) I do like that he articulates some political stances on his website, like wanting to use his experience as a civil engineer to make Elk Grove into a sustainable city. Challenger Ali Moua, in what seems a trend for local candidates, provides a biography but does not really explain his view on any issues.

Two Weeks in the Life: October 11, 2020

The last two weeks were a bit of a blur. I mentioned in my last post that my mother in law (and her dogs) would be staying with us. That turned out to be very challenging. She is starting to lose her mental faculties, which was hard to witness and deal with compassionately. I didn’t realize this was an issue when we agreed to letting her stay, so it was a lot more than I was prepared to deal with. We also divided the house in half for the duration to keep her dogs on one side and my cats on the other, which was stressful for entirely different reasons. In any case, this is now behind us and I’m happy to get back to my usual routines.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I read what is sure to become the definitive work on my generation, called Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. I was a nodding along and highlighting so many things as I read this because it resonated with me so much. Anne Helen Petersen (a name you may recognize since I link to her writing often) describes how many middle-class Millennials grew up conceptualizing themselves as a “walking college resume” and that hustling and striving has become a constant drive. If you don’t succeed, you didn’t care enough or try hard enough. While we were busy optimizing ourselves, the generations ahead of us destroyed the social safety net. All our striving hasn’t gotten us anywhere and now we’re exhausted. As Petersen notes, “It’s the millennial way: if the system is rigged against you, just try harder.”

I have so, so many thoughts about this book. I remember feeling disappointed with myself in college because I realized I hadn’t been working hard enough at being a walking resume. I should have done more clubs, networked harder, volunteered. My parents set me up for many opportunities, but didn’t really understand the rules of optimizing their children. In my 20s, I started correcting this, assuming I could just hustle hard enough, learn enough, do enough to get a job and live the dream. But now, like the Millennials Petersen interviews in Can’t Even, I’m disillusioned with it. No one should work so hard at the expense of being a human. I consider myself very lucky to have found a good job that doesn’t demand my entire soul (Petersen: “a good job is one that doesn’t exploit you and you don’t hate”), but the urge to try harder to make sure the system doesn’t fuck me is still there.

AS for fiction, I read A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers. I was excited for this book because witches and time travel sounds like a winning combination, plus I’d heard good things. I did get invested in the story and I liked in on some levels, but on others I wasn’t totally feeling it. The main character, rather than traveling through time, is trapped in a curse and forced to be relive her life while bound to a man she thought she loved (but who is of course a huge asshole). I thought the present-day version of the protagonist was insufferably bourgeois, but her past lives were fairly interesting. The biggest turn offs for me in this book were that all her actions revolved around men. Come on, you are a witch and all your want to do is be sad about men? What’s the point? Go blow shit up instead.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

Yesterday I watched Us and it creeped me out. I don’t usually watch scary or suspenseful movies because I have a very active imagination and my brain will keep running with whatever I see. At first, it didn’t seem too creepy, even when the dopplegangers showed up I was like, well okay, there’s some comedy here. However, the end, showing how the other half lives and that possessed ballet performance stuck with me, which is, I suppose, the point.

Rampant Consumerism

I signed up for this delightful Socks of Iceland club by Hélène Magnúsun, who is an Icelandic knitter/designer/yarn maker. I love knitting socks and I am low-key obsessed with Iceland so I treated myself. I now have 13 skeins of Icelandic yarn and I’m getting a sock pattern every week until the end of the year. I can’t go anywhere interesting (thanks, pandemic), so I’m going to keep knitting my heart out. The package I received also included an Icelandic candy bar of milk chocolate studded with chunks of black licorice. It was an interesting taste sensation. I didn’t hate it, but it was different.

A pile of yarn skeins in various colors. The tags say "Katla, Icelandic lambswool"
Icelandic sock yarn!

Making Things and Doing stuff

I put together my California voting guide yesterday. I started writing voting guides a few years ago and friends tell me they look forward to it, so I’m still doing it. I feel like it’s one thing I can offer people and I’m glad to do my part. It takes so much effort to untangle some of these propositions, I don’t know how we can expect everyone to figure it out.

Languages

book: Feminismos, Miradas desde la diversidad
Feminismos

I’ve been going along with my Spanish as usual. I recently finished reading Feminismos: Miradas desde la diversidad, which is basically a primer on intersectional feminism. I still find it much easier to read non-fiction in Spanish than fiction, plus non-fiction helps build up vocabulary in different areas.

In translation news, I got rejected by one of the organizations I did a sample translation for, which was a disappointment. They said they had too many applicants. I am going to keep looking for opportunities and maybe translate some of my own things. My Spanish teacher suggested I translate my voting guide, so I’m going to work on that this week.

I have also started (re-)learning French, as I previously said I might. Although by the time I get to “I might do this,” I’m almost certainly going to do it. I’ve started working with this Assimil textbook and the French 1 course on Memrise. I took three years of French in college (which mostly got jumbled up with Spanish and had no real continuity since I transferred several times), but haven’t retained much. It’s been interesting to me to see how much I remember, now that I’ve been reminded. But there’s also a ton of new stuff, even in this beginner material.

Kitchen Witchery

It’s fall! I’ve been attempting some autumnal recipes now that the weather is cooler. I made this baked potato soup, which was okay but needed more flavor, and paired it with these delicious pumpkin knots. I tried making a pumpkin seed brittle, but I took it off the heat slightly too early and my caramel didn’t quite caramelize. I took out my rage by purchasing a candy thermometer, since I’d been winging it with a meat thermometer that never seems to take an accurate measurement. I forgot to take a picture of the pumpkin goat cheese macaroni I made, but I am compelled to share the recipe all the same because it was extremely good. Kirk was wary of savory pumpkin but he loved it. So, if you’re not usually into savory pumpkin but you like macaroni, I recommend this. Speaking of cheesy dishes, we tried to get my mother in law to tell us what foods she likes. The only answer we got was “potatoes with cheese sauce,” so I made potato gratin. Finally, I made a battenberg cake (you may recall the marzipan I mentioned last time). Since this season of the Great British Baking Show is coming out at the stingy rate of one episode per week, I am trying to bake along with it, which led to this battenberg recipe. It was tasty. I wasn’t sure I would like the apricot jam in the middle, but it’s a mild flavor so it was okay. My mother in law really liked the cake, so I have done my job.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. We also have a bonus dog photo. These are my mother in law’s schipperkes, Jack and Jessi.

Voter Guide: 2020 California and Presidential Election Edition

Finally, after the longest year/pandemic/election campaign of our lives, it’s time to vote. I have seen, in my feeds, a lot of discourse about how effective voting is. I’m realistic: we can’t overturn a bad system by voting. However, voting is one tool we have and we should use everything available. Voting is the easiest way to make your voice heard.

This guide is for California voters. I explain how I plan to vote and why. Here are some reminders and resources for California voters:

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on politics or government. I’m just a person who’s good at reading and looking things up. You can use this as a starting point for your own decision-making. If you’re already exhausted and you trust me, you can vote how I vote. If you think I’m a dumb idiot, you can vote the opposite of how I vote. Vote how you want, but please vote.

Quick Reference

For the voter in a hurry who thinks I’m a good judge of these things, here is a summary of my votes.

Office or PropositionVote
President and Vice PresidentBiden and Harris
14 (stem cell research)Yes
15 (commercial property tax)Yes
16 (affirmative action)Yes
17 (restoring voting rights)Yes
18 (17 year olds can vote in primary elections)Yes
19 (property tax assessment rules)Yes
20 (designates more crimes as felonies)No
21 (rent control)Yes
22 (ride share employee rights)No
23 (dialysis clinic requirements)Yes
24 (consumer privacy laws)No
25 (bail system referendum)Yes

President and Vice President

My vote: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

No one who knows me should be surprised by the fact that I’m voting Biden/Harris. A lot of the initial conversation around Biden was like “okay, fine, I’ll settle for Biden.” He’s not the socialist candidate of our dreams, but that’s okay. The policies he’s putting out there are good. Biden supports a public health insurance option. There’s absolutely no question that things would be worse with four more years of Trump than four years of Biden. A vote for Trump is a great way to let everyone in your life who isn’t a straight white man know that you’re not concerned about their rights.

A tweet that reads: I'm voting for Biden because I'd rather fight to dismantle the two party system under a capitalist oligarchy than under a militarized fascist regime.
Same, Blake. Same.

A note on third-party voting: I agree that this country absolutely needs more political options. Unfortunately, this is not the election to take that chance. We have to stop the bleeding. I would, however, love to see (and vote for) third-party candidates in local and state offices. Given the way the electoral college works, we’re not going to have a viable third-party candidate for president. We have to start locally.

California State Propositions

California has 12 propositions on the ballot this election, starting with Proposition 14.

Proposition 14

Authorizes bonds continuing stem cell research initiative.

A Yes vote on Proposition 14 means the state could sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research and the development of new medical treatments in California

My vote: Yes.

The backstory on Proposition 14 is that California authorized $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research in 2004 through Proposition 71 (back when stem cells were a contentious issue), which also established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Voting yes on proposition 14 would allow the state to sell another $5.5 billion in bonds to continue stem cell funding. I had to think this one over because $5.5 billion is a lot, but stem cell research can lead to lots of advancements. Science moves incrementally and what we learn here might not have an immediate application until someone discovers something else and connects the ideas. It is worth the investment. Ultimately, I am voting for this because money is imaginary anyway, and the only donor opposing this is the California “Pro Life” Council.

Proposition 15

Increases funding sources for public schools, community colleges, and local government services by changing tax assessment of commercial and industrial property.

A Yes vote on this measure means: Property taxes on most commercial properties worth more than $3 million would go up in order to provide new funding to local governments and schools.

My vote: Yes

Property taxes in California are currently calculated based on what you paid for the property. If you bought the land for a nickel in 1910, your property taxes today in 2020 are based on that original five-cent payment. Proposition 15 would change this for commercial and industrial property, but not residential. This means that people who own land for business purposes would pay taxes based on the current value of that land. This would mostly only affect property owners who have $3 million or more of commercial land or buildings. In short, this is literally taxing the rich and I am all for it.

Proposition 16

Allows diversity as a factor in public employment, education, and contracting decisions.

A Yes vote on this measure means: State and local entities could consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin in public education, public employment, and public contracting to the extent allowed under federal and state law.

My vote: yes

Proposition 16 is about what we typically call “affirmative action.” The legislature put this proposition on the ballot to repeal Proposition 209, passed in 1996, which banned affirmative action in public employment, stating “The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Not discriminating sounds great, but our default right now is to discriminate in favor of white men. For example, although women are well represented in public employment, they are under-represented at the top levels. Until we live in a society that truly promotes people on merit and not race or sex, I think we need affirmative action. Think about how often you see an all-female or all-black board of directors. Now: how often do you see a board composed of all white men?

Proposition 17

Restores right to vote after completion of prison term.

A Yes vote on this measure means: People on state parole who are U.S. citizens, residents of California, and at least 18 years of age would be able to vote, if they register to vote.

My vote: Yes

Did you know that people in prison or on parole are not allowed to vote? California has over 100,000 people in prison and about 50,000 people currently paroled. Proposition 17 would grant parolees the right to vote (people in prison would still not be permitted to vote).

I think it’s important that as many people be allowed to vote as possible if we want to have a truly representative government. Committing a crime doesn’t mean your voice shouldn’t count. Plus, if prisoners can’t vote, it can incentivize jailing one’s political opposition or locking up people you don’t want to vote. Consider the fact that “28.5% of the state’s male prisoners were African American—compared to just 5.6% of the state’s adult male residents.” When our system is disproportionately keeping certain groups in prison and not others, then denies prisoners the right to vote, it sends a clear message about whose voice has value. Let’s vote to change that. Oh, and you know who is against this proposition? The Republican Party.

Proposition 18

Amends California constitution to permit 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they will turn 18 by the next general election and will be otherwise eligible to vote.

A Yes vote on this measure means: Eligible 17-year-olds who will be 18 years old by the time of the next general election may vote in the primary election and any special elections preceding the general election.

My vote: Yes

As with proposition 17, I’m taking the stance that expanding voting rights is a good thing. It makes sense to me that 17 year olds who will be 18 by the November election should be allowed to vote in primary elections. This will let them have a say in the whole election, not just at the end.

I highly recommend reading the unhinged argument against proposition 18 for its comedic value. I get the argument that the brain isn’t fully developed at 17, but neither is the brain fully developed at 18. If that’s the argument you want to make, set the voting age to 25.

Proposition 19

Changes certain property tax rules.

A Yes vote on this measure means: All homeowners who are over 55 (or who meet other qualifications) would be eligible for property tax savings when they move. Only inherited properties used as primary homes or farms would be eligible for property tax savings.

My vote: Yes

Shout out to Ballotpedia for helping me understand this proposition. This is another “tax the rich” proposition, and you know how I love taxing the rich. Proposition 19 will allow people over 55, disabled people, or victims of disasters to transfer their property tax assessments anywhere in the state up to three times (currently limited to one). This means that, if you buy a new house that has the same (or less) value as your current house, you can keep your current property tax rate. Now for the tax-the-rich part: when someone inherits a property and isn’t going to use it as their principal residence (that is, a rental or second home), the property would be reassessed and the new owner would pay taxes based on the current value. This means if your parents give you their Lake Tahoe vacation home that they bought in 1975 for $40, you wouldn’t pay taxes based on that $40 purchase price, but the current market value of the home—assuming you weren’t planning to live there full time.

Proposition 20

Restricts parole for certain offenses currently considered to be non-violent. Authorizes felony sentences for certain offenses currently treated only as misdemeanors.

A No vote on this measure means: Penalties for people who commit certain theft-related crimes would not be increased. There would be no change to the state’s process for releasing certain inmates from prison early. Law enforcement would continue to be required to collect DNA samples from adults only if they are arrested for a felony or required to register as sex offenders or arsonists.

My vote: No

We should tread very carefully when it comes to giving the state the ability to classify more people as felons. A felony conviction means you can no longer vote, receive welfare, or do certain jobs. Proposition 20 is a reaction to some recent initiatives that have reduced the number of people in California prisons. I think this sums it up:

“When we’re considering … a proposal that would increase penalties for low-level offenses, in a system that’s already profoundly biased against Black, indigenous and Latino Californians, I think it’s clear that it would only extend the harm of our criminal justice system,” Washburn said, trapping “more and more Californians in that really difficult-to-escape cycle of entering and exiting jails and courts and probation.”

Proposition 21

Expands local governments’ authority to enact rent control on residential property.

A Yes vote on this measure means: State law would allow cities and counties to apply more kinds of rent control to more properties than under current law.

My vote: Yes.

Passing Proposition 21 would modify the limitations of an existing law, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that says rent control can’t apply to single-family homes or new housing built after 1995. Proposition 21 would permit cities and counties to establish rent control measures for housing more than 15 years old (excluding single-family homes owned by people with just one or two properties). Importantly, this proposition doesn’t establish rent control, but it does make rent control possible, which would allow cities to limit how much landlords can raise rents at a time. Having lived in apartments where the rent goes up 10 percent every year, I can easily imagine that rent control would be welcome for most people.

Proposition 22

Exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers.

A No vote on this measure means: App-based rideshare and delivery companies would have to hire drivers as employees if the courts say that a recent state law makes drivers employees. Drivers would have less choice about when, where, and how much to work but would get standard benefits and protections that businesses must provide employees.

My vote: No.

The State of California recently ruled that rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have mis-classified their workers as independent contractors instead of actual employees. The ruling states that the companies violated Assembly Bill 5, which establishes three criteria to determine if a worker is, in fact, an independent contractor. Why does this matter? Companies have to pay payroll taxes and provide benefits for employees. but not independent contractors. These companies are highly invested in not paying for employees. Take a look at the top donors to the “yes” campaign:

Top donors in support of Proposition 22

It seems clear to me that Uber, Lyft, and the rest are desperate to not have their workers classified as employees. This puts an unfair strain on workers while corporations profit.

Proposition 23

Establishes state requirements for kidney dialysis clinics. Requires on-site medical professional.

A Yes vote on this measure means: Chronic dialysis clinics would be required to have a doctor on-site during all patient treatment hours.

My vote: Yes.

Here’s a list of what will happen if Proposition 23 passes, from Ballotpedia:

  • Requires at least one licensed physician on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics; authorizes California Department of Public Health to exempt clinics from this requirement if there is a shortage of qualified licensed physicians and the clinic has at least one nurse practitioner or physician assistant on site.
  • Requires clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to state and federal governments.
  • Prohibits clinics from closing or reducing services without state approval.
  • Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for care.

This all seems sensible to me, so I wondered who was against it. The main opponent is Davita, Inc, which provides outpatient dialysis services and has contributed almost $60 million to oppose the new regulations. I think an industry fighting against regulation is usually a sign that it would benefit regular people.

Proposition 24

Amends consumer privacy laws.

A No vote on this measure means: Businesses would continue to be required to follow existing consumer data privacy laws. Consumers would continue to have existing data privacy rights. The state’s Department of Justice would continue to oversee and enforce these laws.

My vote: No.

This is a tricky one. The consumer privacy rights Proposition 24 would enact do genuinely seem good. When I saw that the ACLU opposes this proposition, I did a little more research. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a thorough explanation of what’s right and wrong with Proposition 24. The EFF also sides with the ACLU in opposing it. Here is one of the most glaring problems:

Prop 24 would expand “pay for privacy” schemes. Specifically, the initiative would exempt “loyalty clubs” from the CCPA’s existing limit on businesses charging different prices to consumers who exercise their privacy rights. See Sec. 125(a)(3). This change would allow a business to withhold a discount from a consumer, unless the consumer lets the business harvest granular data about their shopping habits, and then profit on disclosure of that data to other businesses. The initiative also would expand an existing CCPA loophole (allowing “financial incentives” for certain data processing) from just “sale” of such data, to also “sharing” of it.

Unfortunately, pay-for-privacy schemes pressure all Californians to surrender their privacy rights. Worse, because of our society’s glaring economic inequalities, these schemes will unjustly lead to a society of privacy “haves” and “have-nots.”

Proposition 25

Referendum on law that replaced money bail with system based on public safety and flight risk.

A Yes vote on this measure means: No one would pay bail to be released from jail before trial. Instead, people would either be released automatically or based on their assessed risk of committing another crime or not appearing in court if released. No one would be charged fees as a condition of release.

My vote: Yes.

This proposition is a statewide referendum on SB 10, which is a regulation that California legislators approved and the government signed in 2018. SB 10 replaced the system of cash bail, in which people pay to get out of jail while awaiting trial, with one that releases people based on risk, instead of how much money they have. This is certainly a better system than the previous, although the ACLU says it’s far from perfect. As usual, what I find most telling is who is supporting this legislation. The people who stand to profit the most, bail companies, are the ones who started this referendum and are supporting the “no” campaign. This system needs to be improved, but going back to cash bail is not the answer.

Conclusion

I hope this helped you figure out how you want to vote on the California ballot propositions. If you have questions or think I got it wrong, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.

A Week in the Life: September 27, 2020

I’m sure you are all waiting for a follow up on the ants in the pantry situation. The ants have been beaten back. We had pest control come on Tuesday to spray and we spent the whole week murdering ants. On Friday, I finally put the food back in the pantry, but we are still finding ants straggling in from a crack under the floorboard. Buy a home they said. It will be fun they said (I will note that this is sarcastic and I generally feel that the benefits of having a house outweigh the annoyances, but the annoyances are … very annoying).

I spent a lot of this week cleaning. In addition to cleaning the kitchen (again: ants), I’ve been trying to clear out all the dust that accumulated during the last (current?) round of fires. Spring cleaning is for people who live somewhere without an autumnal fire season. Fall cleaning always seems to be how it happens in this house. We are also preparing for my mother in law to spend the next week and a half with us, which obviously demanded house cleaning. She and her dogs will be here while her house is getting a new air conditioning installed. The hope is to keep her away from additional coronavirus risk. My father in law will be overseeing the air conditioning situation at their house. Just another week in the pandemic.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

Book cover of Sisters in Hate seen on Kobo ereader
Sisters in Hate

This week I read Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism by Seyward Darby. It’s a case study of three women involved in white nationalism plus an examination of some of the history and sociology surrounding the movement. The white nationalist movement likes having women front and center because, thanks to our patriarchal lens, women can say more inflammatory things and get away with it. This was a compelling, informative read that gets to the root of why some people feel the need to involve themselves in hate groups. The short answer seems to be that people are searching for community and a sense of belonging. For unmoored white people, white supremacy can fill that void. I recommend reading this and They Were Her Property if you have any doubts about white women being instrumental in perpetuating this country’s racism.

Meanwhile on the internet:

  • I lived through collapse. America is already there. via Medium. I’ve seen a variety of commentary recently on this theme. People from other countries are trying to explain to Americans that there’s no flashing neon sign saying “Your country has collapsed,” but that people do normal stuff: go to work, live their lives. I’m still waiting for an article to explain what to do with my emotions and how to respond, but naming the problem is step one.
  • Fact checking is the core of nonfiction writing. Why do so many publishers refuse to do it? via Esquire. This is an interesting entry in understanding our fragmented discourse. Did you know that you can just publish a non-fiction book? It doesn’t even have to be right. Many publishers are not paying to fact check books, that’s now something that has to come from the writer herself. I can’t help but interpret this as part of a larger cultural problem of how we know what to trust.
  • Eat, Pray, Conspiracy: How the Wellness World Embraced QAnon via Jezebel. I don’t think I know any QAnon adherents, but I keep seeing articles trying to understand it in my feeds. This one examines the strange case of “wellness” fans being swept up in QAnon conspiracy theories. The article explains, “It’s no surprise that wellness adherents—people who earnestly believe that there is a deeper truth out there, accessible to those who seek it out—would find an easy overlap with the ideas that animate QAnon. After all, the wellness industry has been built on questioning, often understandably, established science and the medical industry, successfully mainstreaming fringe ideas and providing easy solutions to complex problems.”
  • If Amy Coney Barrett was a Muslim via the Feminist Giant Newsletter by Mona Eltahawy. I have no comments because it’s a perfect essay. Just read it!

TV and Music

It may come as a shock to you to learn that I haven’t watched The Golden Girls, but it is the truth. I am confessing this because I am now overcoming this glaring omission in my pop culture education. I started watching The Golden Girls this week. I’m only four episodes in so far (out of 177!), but I’m already enjoying it and I can see why people like it so much. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it, but for now I would like it to be known that I’m watching it.

Rampant Consumerism

I spend a fair amount of time at my personal computer so I do take my desk choices seriously. I recently bought a new desk because my old one was irritating me—it had a drawer for the keyboard, which was nice but that drawer had a lip that was forever irritating my wrists. I finally upgraded to a new desk. I like shelves above the computer, although it is still a little weird to hear the computer’s sounds coming from above me. This was also a good opportunity to clean up all the computer dust and re-manage my cables.

a picture of my new desk: black wood with a hutch above
new desk!

Making Things and Doing stuff

I did something terrifying this week: washed a beloved stuffed animal. This tiger, better known as Cuddles, has been with me since I had my tonsils out when I was four. I’m pretty sure he’s never been washed. I decided to hand wash him because he was pretty grimy and honestly a bit dusty. I used more or less the same technique I would for washing knits. I read up beforehand to make sure I wasn’t going to ruin anything (apparently lots of metaphorical ink has been spilled on the topic of cleaning stuffed animals). The good news is that Cuddles survived the ordeal and is nice and clean. It took two afternoons in the sun to get him fully dry.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been in a mood for bread and baking. I tried out the potato bread recipe from The Baking Bible earlier this week, but it cam out a little under-proofed (still delicious, however). I made another attempt, and doubled the recipe. I realized I misread the recipe the first time by adding four tablespoons of butter instead of four teaspoons. The second round rose much more readily and came out quite nice. I brushed them with butter after baking for that extra gloss.

Because I’m basic and watched the new episode of the Great British Baking Show last night, I’m now plotting to make a battenberg cake. I probably won’t make it until later in the week, but today I made the marzipan, which you can make ahead and keep in the fridge. I had never used or attempted to make marzipan before. I found it surprisingly easy. I happened to have some extra egg whites to use up and almond flour in my pantry (I used that instead of blanched almonds), so I went for it. I also made some candied pecans today. I typically buy something similar from Trader Joe’s to put in my oatmeal, but it occurred to me it would be stupid easy to make (it was). Since I have nothing better to do in this pandemic except make everything from scratch, here I am.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

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.