Two Weeks in the Life: March 2, 2024

Hello, friends and enemies. First things first, California’s election is this week. Don’t forget to vote. I’ve got voter guides for you if you don’t know where to start. Please share them with your friends and family if you find them useful!

I have again been busy the last couple of weeks! I went to visit Lito in New Jersey! I read a bunch of books! I went to the Sacramento Ballet’s performance of Cinderella with Abby (it was fun and pretty and I forgot to write about below and frankly I do not have the will to add more)! I have been cruelly forced to re-do all my flashcards! Read on!

a ticket for Cinderella held up in front of the closed stage curtain
Cinderella at the Sac Ballet

Books and Other Words

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan chronicles five generations of witches coming into their power and figuring out how best to survive in a patriarchal society. The book opens with a clan of Romani in Brittany, France, fleeing mob violence, unable to conceal themselves after their matriarch, a powerful witch named Ursule, dies. The family settles in Cornwall to become farmers and the women of the family have to start practicing their rites in secret. The book spans some two hundred years, starting with the perspective of Nanette, who was just four years old when the family had to leave France, to Veronica, who lends her witchy power to the British crown during World War II. The story is really focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters and how mothers instruct their girl children in surviving in the world. Morgan is explicit on the point that women, at least in these eras, could claim power only so long as they let the men in their lives believe themselves in charge. In that way, it’s a witch story like all witch stories, using witchcraft as the medium for exploring women’s power. All that said, I thought this book was just okay. I liked the last book I read by Morgan, The Age of Witches (I wrote some brief thoughts about it in this post), better, but this was still a respectable and interesting entry into her universe.

Rachel Swirsky’s January Fifteenth is a near-future story in which the United States disburses a universal basic income (UBI) annually on—you guessed it—January fifteenth. Swirsky depicts four women from different walks of life (a reporter, a rich college student, a pregnant FLDS teen, and a mother trying to stay a step ahead of her abusive ex-wife) on UBI disbursement day. The novel is a thought experiment into how UBI could make our lives better, but also shows that UBI would not solve all our problems. You can afford to leave your abusive ex, for example, but they might still come after you. I think this is a good entry into something science fiction is uniquely able to do for us, which is visualize ways society could improve. Swirsky is clear that UBI wouldn’t be a panacea. Political forces would still be trying to deprive vulnerable people of monetary support, wealth would still be distributed unevenly and leave the poorest behind. However, she offers a vision of a future where we at least do something, rather than being an incredibly rich country that lets children go hungry and leaves people unable to afford healthcare.

In works that will depress and radicalize you, I read The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein. The thesis of the book is that Israel benefits financially from oppressing Palestinians. The state itself and its many defense and cyber security companies deploy their products on captive Palestinians to “battle test” them before selling them to other countries. Arms and surveillance are major industries for Israel, which made $11.3 billion in U.S. dollars in 2021 and some ten percent of Israelis are working in the field. Making so much money from these defense exports shields Israel, to an extent, from criticism. Many regimes buy from Israel both for the products themselves and because they “believe that a partnership with Israel will bring closer ties with Washington and the influential American Jewish community.” The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is symbiotic—Israel is the biggest recipient of aid from the U.S., the idiotic project to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico takes some inspiration from the wall that Israel built on its border with Egypt in 2013, and Israel adopts terms and ideas from white supremacists in the U.S. Loewenstein also goes into a lot of detail about some of Israel’s key cyber security companies benefiting from the occupation of Palestine and discusses some of Israel’s notorious best friends (like apartheid South Africa, which Israel supported until the bitter end). Reading this has me, once again, sickened by the amount of support my own country is putting in to prop up Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people. As usual, the most vile acts on this earth are being carried out in search of greater profits. Israel is making money from Palestinian oppression and the U.S. continues sending extreme amounts of cash to maintain a testing ground for terror.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • ‘Massacre’: Dozens killed by Israeli fire in Gaza while collecting food aid via AlJazeera. This is so, so bleak but it feels important to bear witness even in my own small way. People in Gaza are starving. Israeli soldiers shot at Palestinians while they were gathering to get flour from an aid truck. The cruelty.
  • Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are children, imperiling IVF via the Washington Post (gift link). What a fucking shit show! Embryos are not children. They are clumps of cells. I am sure I’ve said this before, but I fucking dare law makers to take this concept to its logical conclusion: child support starts at the moment of conception. Pregnant women can drive in the carpool lane (two people in the car!). They won’t of course offer any potential benefits for this (laugh/cry) because the motivation for these types of decisions is always controlling women and limiting our autonomy. It’s trash and I hate it.
  • The Memex method via Pluralistic. I really enjoyed this (slightly older) piece from Cory Doctorow’s blog about how he organizes information to write about it. I don’t write anywhere near as much as he does (he posts almost every day!) but I think the concept is still really interesting. Doctorow talks about how his blog is basically a big notebook, but the process of refining his ideas enough to share them publicly forces him to make better notes and makes it possible to make more connections between the stories he’s tracking. I feel like I do this to a certain extent. Writing the blog gets me to develop an idea in a way that dashing off a thought on social media does not. It insists that I hone my ideas more so I can share them. Since I’ve been writing regularly, especially writing about the books I read, has made it a lot easier to see the big picture and connect all the things I read and consider.
  • New St. Paul Public Library cards feature beloved ‘laser loon’ state flag design via MPR News. I simply must share the most banging library card design of all time: the laser loon. I wish Sacramento would do something silly like this with our library cards.

Doing Stuff

Last week I traveled to New Jersey to visit my beloved friend Lito. We spent part of the week working (thank you, remote work) and the other part of the week taking in the New Jersey of it all. Plus we spent a day in New York City, which was very cool! I had never been before! It was really wonderful to hang out and watch and comment on our favorite media and roam around and exist. I am longing for the day when all my best friends and I can buy neighboring houses so we can hang out and make each other dinner every night.

In New Jersey, we looked at lots of little shops, strolled the boardwalk on a chilly day, went to the local gay bar for Golden Girls trivia, and saw the new Bianca del Rio show. Of course I also had to try some east coast pizza.

We spent one day only in NYC, which is probably as much as I’m willing to do at one time because it is a very over-stimulating place and I think I’m too autistic for all that. However, we managed to hit the highlights! We went to the Met and saw a cool exhibit on women’s fashion called Women Dressing Women. We looked at all kinds of arts and I bought a beguiling, bright-blue hippo stuffed animal (we are calling her Wilma). We went to Central Park briefly and then headed towards Times Square for our dinner reservation and a show. We had spent a while trying to pick the perfect show but decided on Spamalot for some comic relief. It was actually much funnier than we expected. It was a genius blend of original Monty Python comedy along with more modern material. We cackled the whole time. I do sort of wish I could stay for a week and see a show every night but unfortunately we are not made of money and we have jobs to attend to. Still, it was very cool to see a Broadway show and see what the big deal is about New York.


I am so mad at Memrise for changing its platform! I’ve been using the site and app for about eight years to study my flashcards. However, Memrise is completely redesigning its platform and more or less getting rid of flashcards! I’m fucking annoyed about it because I’ve created thousands of flashcards in their app over the years. It’s one of the main ways I study my languages. I realized while I was traveling last week that I could no longer use the offline mode to review my cards, which was very annoying because I wanted to do some flashcards while I was on the plane. I looked it up later only to realize I was a victim of the new design. Memrise stated that their app needs to be connected to the cloud to access all its features. This aggravated me enough to change platforms. I’m going back to Anki, which is an open-source program I used to use (and I am now very annoyed that I ever switched programs and created more work for myself). I used this script to gather up all my flashcards from Memrise and import them to Anki. Bless the people of the internet for doing this work. I was able to rescue my cards and import them to Anki, which is great, however I lost all the metadata. Everything is now a “new” word to review. I am now doing the profoundly irritating task of going through all my vocabs to tag them and re-learn them. Remind me never to switch to a subscription-based app again.

I’m currently deep in the flashcard mines and I kind of hate it but I have also decided to term this my “flashcard audit.” I’m getting something out in that I need to study my words anyway and I can definitely stand to clean up and organize all the tags, but I would still prefer not to do it. On the upside, I’ll also be saving $50 a year that I had been giving to Memrise for the premium subscription.

just me and my 11,400 flashcards against the world

I am seeing this as another piece of a trend in my internet usage and the way the internet is going generally. The current internet is so committed to everything being a cloud-based subscription service that we don’t own anything. Netflix owns the movies and Spotify owns the music and Amazon owns the books and Meta owns your connections to your friends and if any of them decides to revoke the rights to something, you are shit outta luck. Rehoming my flashcards to a platform I can control is spiritually the same as quitting Spotify and organizing my MP3 collection or moving my primary email account to my own domain. This is fundamentally an old-internet way of doing things, but I think more and more people will get fed up with this system in which we pay for everything and own nothing.

Corporeal Form

I am, once again, not having a good time. I am still having issues with my stomach (as discussed in the previous post). I also sprained my fucking ankle! I was so happy to be back at my dance classes this week after missing like three weeks between my liver biopsy, stomach troubles, and traveling. Then I fell and twisted my ankle like an idiot two days in. I’ve been tap dancing for three years without incident but of course now I sprain an ankle. Fortunately, it was not the same ankle I sprained just before the pandemic started, so at least I’m not repeatedly wailing on the same joint. It’s also not nearly as bad of a sprain as the last one and I’m hoping it will sort itself out in the next week. As for the stomach issues, I’m legitimately starting to wonder if I have some sort of fruit allergy. I’ve been trying to be a good citizen and eat my fruit smoothies per my dietician’s instructions, but every time I have one, I’m getting sick to my stomach. I thought it was yogurt, but I cut that and I’m still getting the ick. I also thought it might be the flax meal or omega-3 supplements, but I stopped those for a week and still had troubles. I tried a smoothie while out and about last week and immediately got sick and then I tried one in controlled circumstances when I was back home and got sick again. Something isn’t right! It’s supremely annoying to be trying to be “healthy” and responsible and then the technically healthy stuff is just making me sick. I am thinking about getting a referral to an allergist to see if we can pin down the problem but I’m so tired of discovering ailments and issues! Although I’m even more tired of inexplicable tummy aches so something has to change.

Kitchen Witchery

I haven’t cooked much in the last couple of weeks, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I did try one new recipe though. My dietician suggested trying to get some tofu into my diet about once a week. This isn’t a hard request since I had already been trying some tofu recipes here and there. On Friday, I made these crispy sheet-pan noodles with glazed tofu. I am picky about leafy vegetables, and I don’t like hot leaves, so I substituted broccoli for the bok choy. We liked it and it’s going into the regular rotation. It was very simple to make and it tasted pretty good. We had some dumplings (just the kind you buy in the freezer section, I’m not getting that crazy in the kitchen all the time) with it to make it a little more filling, and that worked out well.

a one-pan meal of yaki soba, glazed tofu, and broccoli
sheet pan noodles with tofu and broccoli

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. It was lovely to see my beautiful niece and nephew, Magenta and Riff Raff, in New Jersey. Riff is a lover and loves to be held like a baby. Maggie never really got comfortable with me, but that’s okay. Boundaries. She appreciated playing with me and eating my food (I let her sniff a chunk of roasted potato and she fucking ATE IT) but did not really want anything to do with me otherwise.

Of course my own cats were very glad when I came home. You will be glad to know that Huey is feeling better. She begrudgingly finished her medication and her UTI seems to be gone. She’s back to peeing in the litter box like a lady.