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.
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:
- The Taliban on Trump: “We hope he will win the election” and withdraw U.S. troops via CBS News. Yes, that’s right, the Taliban endorses Trump. What more can I say?
- Want to fix American politics? Start by copying ‘The Great British Baking Show’ via the L.A. Times. I like this take on politics. We love the Great British Baking Show for its wholesomeness and that fact that the contestants get to be full individuals doing something they love. What if some of that could be applied to American politics? It’s far fetched, but I like that it gets us imagining another future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.