A Week in the Life: November 8, 2020

This has been the longest (and most meme-filled) week of my life. I have many thoughts about the election and what comes next, so my post today will focus mostly on that, but I’ll include some of the usual stuff at the end—I know you’re only here for the cat photos.

Election Thoughts

I’ve spent pretty much this entire week staring into the abyss with my internet friends on twitter. Sharing memes and talking through it all on election twitter really helped me get through. We were worried on Tuesday night, laughed about Nevada memes on Wednesday, cheered for Philly on Friday, and switched from doomscrolling to joyscrolling on Saturday.

A Biden/Harris Victory

On Friday, when Biden’s win seemed like a sure thing, I heartily enjoyed all the Philadelphia and Gritty memes making the rounds. It’s maybe a little unfair that the last states counting votes get all the credit for winning the election, but I can’t be mad at Philly when they’re out there in the streets grooving in support of democracy. You love to see it.

a painting depicting the French revolution with the woman in the center replaced by Philidelphia mascot Gritty
liberté, egalité, gritté

I found out that Biden and Harris won around 8:30 Saturday morning. My friend Mike was the first to message me about it and I had to check the AP to confirm because I was in shock that the election finally ended. I spent most of Saturday slack with relief. I kept sighing and, as the day progressed, I felt less and less tense. I was getting rid of strain I didn’t even know I had and I think I’m still not done working through these emotional callouses. I almost cried last night watching Biden’s “we did it” speech. Biden is a perfectly average, competent politician, but I was so moved with relief that we’re going to have a president who isn’t a sociopathic asshole and a leader who I can stand to look at and listen to. The bar is super low right now. I feel like we’re getting out of an abusive relationship. America needs someone nice and stable for a while.

I know that Biden as president isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it’s going to make our fight a lot fucking easier. The Biden campaign has announced that they’re going to start passing executive orders to right some of Trump’s wrongs as soon as he takes office. Thank god.

The “Four Seasons” Press Conference

Plenty of other people have already covered the hilarity that is the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference, but I am compelled to comment on it for posterity. It’s the hardest I laughed in four years. If you missed it, the Trump campaign apparently set out to hold a press conference at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia but, through some sort of mix-up, ended up holding the press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

It’s the perfect, bizarre ending to what has been an insane presidency. The catharsis of laughing at this has been wonderful. How perfect that this would-be authoritarian is closing out his tenure in front of a garage plastered with campaign signs. I will laugh about this for years to come.

A picture of an alien from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The alien is known for only speaking in metaphors. The caption says "Four Seasons Total Landscaping when the campaign ended"
This is now part of our cultural vocabulary

Republican Hypocrisy Strikes Again

It took about five minutes after Biden was declared the winner of the election before conservatives started telling Democrats that they need to be nice. I seem to recall in 2016 that conservatives were telling us to “get over it” when we were distraught about what four years of Trump might bring. On Tuesday, when it looked like Trump would win, conservatives were already tweeting shit like “cry more, libs.” That’s not how this works. You don’t get to tell people to empathize with their abuser—and what has Trump been as a president if not an abuser. Furthermore, what have conservatives lost other than the right to gloat? I know this will sound condescending to conservatives, but I mean it sincerely: I want policies that will improve everyone’s lives. That’s where the Democratic party should be heading. In contrast, Trump’s and the Republican Party’s policies since 2016 have worked to tear people apart and make lives worse. We’ve seen a ban on people coming from majority Muslim countries, families separated at our southern border, an an absolute unwillingness to slow the spread of coronavirus. Our lives are worse after four years of Trump, but conservative pundits have the audacity to lecture us about compassion? Can you imagine the reverse? Of course not.

Picture of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The first picture is him with a hand up indicating "stop" and the text "reconciliation & healing." The second he is pointing and incicating agreement with the text "motherfucking consequences"
motherfucking consequences!

Instead of encouraging Democrats and progressives to pretend everything is fine now, we need to have consequences for the people in charge who spent the last four years tearing down the country and the people who let them do it. As Sarah Kendzior has said, Biden “needs to spend four years identifying every official who was complicit in the Trump admin corruption. They have to be named, outed, and permanently banned from power. they can’t let it go.” If not, we’re going to be sucked into another round of Trumpism (with whoever ends up being his ideological successor). Americans need to see their lives improve. That’s not going to happen if we don’t root out the people who have caused this suffering.

Worries for the Immediate Future

I wrote two weeks ago that the right would be unwilling to accept the election results. That seems to be true. They’re out there protesting where votes are being counted, shouting that we need to stop counting or continue counting, depending on how things are going for Trump. In Sacramento, trumpistas are out protesting in front of the capitol. This seems like an extra-strange choice given that Biden beat trump by a gigantic margin here, but I don’t think most of these people are living in the same reality as we are.

Stills from the show "Schitt's Creek" where David and Moira argue over what it means to "fold in the cheese." The text is replaced with "The next step is to count the ballots." "What does that mean? What does count the ballot mean?" "You count the ballot"
fold it in!

A lot could happen between now and the inauguration in January. As I mentioned earlier, this is like an abusive relationship. Right now, we’re in the most dangerous part: the abuser knows we want to leave. We don’t know what he’ll do to try to stop us or hurt us on the way out. As much as I would like to put my mind at ease now that Biden and Harris have won, I can’t completely do it. We still have a lot of people who were fed a media diet of Trump’s inevitable victory. Let’s be extra careful and look out for each other for the next few months.

What Next?

One positive outcome of the Trump presidency is we have learned to be active citizens. We know now that you have to participate in democracy and fight for the future you want. So here are some things on my radar that I’m going to push for. I encourage you to join me.

  • Georgia senate runoff: Both senate seats in Georgia are going to face a run-off election in January. This is important because right now, senators are tied 48 to 48 for Democrats and Republicans. For those of us outside of Georgia, we can provide support. Outside of donating to the campaigns, you can support Fair Fight, which is working to get more Georgians to vote. I also saw a suggestion that supporting Atlanta Mutual Aid and the Atlanta Community Food Bank can help. People aren’t going to care about voting if they are worried about being hungry or other basic needs.
  • Abolishing the electoral college: So far, officials have counted over 75 million votes for Biden and just 71 million for Trump. There are four million votes between these candidates, yet we were kept in suspense all week to make sure our arcane system of choosing a president would have enough states to go for Biden. This is stupid. We need to get rid of the electoral college and establish a National Popular Vote instead. This campaign is something I plan to read up on and put some of my energy into in the coming months.
  • Keep pestering the Democrats: We’ve done the initial harm reduction of getting Biden and Harris elected, now we need to keep them accountable to do what we want and need them to do. Biden has said he’s going to put a lot of great policies in place and I hope he does. We can’t let him give up and “compromise” with Republicans without even trying to do progressive things first, especially when we’ve seen how much Republicans are willing to comprimise when they’re in charge (read: not at all). I started making a monthly donation to ResistBot to remind me to keep speaking up. It’s the quickest and easiest way to contact my elected officials.
  • Local community work: A big part of what made this election a success for Democrats is the work people have put into their local communities to get out the vote. One organization I’m going to start supporting is NorCal Resist. They do a lot of good mutual aid work locally. If anyone knows of other organizations worth supporting or working with in Sacramento, I’m interested.

Books and Other Words

I am running low on energy after this week of election madness, so here are some quick thoughts on the books I read this week (somehow I found the will to read despite it all):

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. This book got a lot of good press but I thought it was just okay. It was an interesting concept and I kept reading, but by the end I was like “what did I just experience.” It’s been a week and I still don’t know what to say about it.
  • The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. I liked this a lot. Alternate universes, inequality, finding your place in the world. All the good stuff.
  • Sombras de Reikiavik by Anthony Adeane. I am not normally interested in true crime but I read this because I saw it on the library’s “new book alerts.” It’s in Spanish and it’s about Iceland so I thought it would be fun. Turns out I’m still not really interested in true crime when it’s in Spanish and set in Iceland. I tried.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: November 1, 2020

a foil-lined bird bath filled with halloween candy. A large, fake spider is percehed on one side
trick or treat: pandemic style

Happy Halloween and happy Día de los Muertos! We didn’t do much for Halloween, what with the ongoing pandemic, but we did leave out some candy for any trick or treaters. We have a bird bath in front of our house that was here when we bought the place. I decided we should fill it with candy, so we did. That said, I don’t think anyone actually came by. So now I’ve got a costco-sized bag of Halloween candy. Oh no.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains by Kerri Aresenault was an interesting read. It’s part memoir, part history, part investigative journalism, and part case study. Arsenault’s narrative focuses on her hometown of Mexico, Maine, which is known for its paper mill and extremely high rates of cancer. I struggle to describe this book because it contains so much. That said, it is definitely worth reading. It’s a window into small town, blue-collar life and how corporations don’t really give a shit about the people or environment around them.

Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches is a battle cry. Harrow starts with the premise that witch stories are really allegories about women and their power. The story takes place in the late 19th century where our protagonists, the Eastwood Sisters, each overcome the patriarchal bullshit of their time to find out how to exercise their power as women in the world. Of course, since this is a book about witches, they literally exercise supernatural power. They also do the hard emotional work of reconciling after being pitted against each other by their abusive dad and set about liberating knowledge and power, spreading it to other women. I really liked the magic system in this book; to do a spell you need the words (what you say to work the spell), the ways (accoutrements like herbs, candles, or other artifacts of witchery), and the will (the raw insistence that the world must change around you). It also turns out that the ability to work magic isn’t preordained by fate or genetically inherited—thus avoiding the slippery, uncomfortable slope of magic eugenics—but belongs to anyone with the will to work it. What better metaphor for women seizing their power? We don’t have to wait to be born to the right parents or for someone to give us permission, women see a need and work their will. Real witchcraft.

Finally, Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf was on my reading list this week. I admit I had never read any translation of Beowulf before this one even though it seems like something I “should” have read by now. I liked Headley’s translation a lot. It felt vibrant and it was fun to read. It skips trying to sound old or overly poetic and instead chooses colloquial language and incorporates some rhetorical devices, like alliteration and kennings, to preserve some of the feel of the original. If you’ve ever wanted to hear medieval warriors addressing each other as “bro” and telling each other they had better “come correct,” this is the Beowulf for you.

Meanwhile on the internet:

TV and Music

Kirk and I have been watching Silicon Valley, which, we have discovered, is really funny. The way the characters interact is perfect. Recommended it you want something to laugh about while you’re trying to get your mind off current events.

Last night we watched the new(ish) Disney/Pixar movie Onward. It was quite cute and entertaining. We are continuing with our theme of light entertainment since real life is such a trash fire these days.

Rampant Consumerism

It is perhaps a little early for such things, but now that we can’t fully trust the mail to run on time, I’ve been buying things in advance of when I want them. Long story short, I bought this hot cocoa advent calendar. Advent calendars are a lot of fun and it gives me something to look forward to (life after the election?) so I went for it. I cannot yet comment on the quality of the cocoa, but I am hoping it’s good!

Making Things and Doing stuff

garden bed with herbs, spinach, lettuce, onions, and broccoli
winter garden 2020

I mentioned last week that we bought some plants. We got them planted last weekend now here they are. It’s apparently a little late in the season, so what we bought was already halfway grown, which is okay with me. We have some returning crops that we successful last year like the spinach and broccoli. We also planted lettuce, onions, and some herbs.

Moving It

Despite not doing a lot lately, my hip flexor has been bothering me this week. I’ve dealt with this problem before, but not outside of actively playing derby and lifting heavy objects. I don’t understand what could have strained it and I am annoyed that, even when I’m barely doing anything, I can have issues. It mostly hurts when I go from sitting to standing—the act of unfurling my body is a source of discomfort. I almost didn’t go to ballet class yesterday because of it, but I figured I’d be more upset if I didn’t go than if I went and couldn’t do everything. Fortunately, once I got warmed up, I felt fine and I was able to do everything without any trouble. Conclusion: bodies are weird and annoying. I’m also glad I didn’t skip class because we started learning how to pirouette! We’re doing quarter turns for now but it is fun to learn something that’s a really recognizable ballet move.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been using the weekends to do some time-consuming baking. I’ve got nothing better going on and I’m trying not to let my anxiety get the better of me (-rueful laughter-). Last weekend’s baking took the form of empanadas. I made pumpkin empanadas from the Decolonize Your Diet cookbook, which came out really good. Although I did get frustrated with making a bunch of tiny-ass empanadas and eventually starting making what was basically a pop tart. Kirk suggested that some kind of chocolate topping would only improve them and I said “you right” and whipped up a chocolate ganache for dipping. Highly recommended. I also made carnitas empanadas, since I had made a large batch of carnitas and had a bunch of meat. I used the dough recipe from the Gran Cocina Latina cookbook, but just winged it on the filling.

You may notice that my empanadas are not especially beautiful. I tried to follow Gran Cocina Latina’s crimping driections, but they were not super helpful. Could I have looked for a video online? I have no doubt. Did I? No.

Empanadas aside, Kirk’s birthday was this week so I made him clam chowder. I also made white chocolate macademia nut cookies but forgot to take a picture. I’m sure you can imagine it though. Since the weather has cooled off, I made beef stew, which I always enjoy. I use the recipe from How to Cook Everything, but transfer it to a crockpot after browning the meat and onions.

For Halloween, we had roast chicken (not pictured), acorn squash, green beans, and the return of pumpkin knots. I tried this chicken recipe, which came out great in the end. I took it out of the oven too early though and let it sit for 15 minutes before realizing it wasn’t cooked. So we had a course of sides while we waited for the chicken to finish. After dinner, we had these pumpkin sandwich cookies because I love pumpkin and fall flavors.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: October 24, 2020

a selfie of me holding up my ballot in front of the ballot drop box at the library
I voted!

I voted yesterday! It felt really good to finally turn in my ballot after spending a lot of time researching the issues and writing my voter guides. Speaking of, if you’re looking for information on the election, here’s what I’ve said about it:

I’m stressed about the election (or rather, about what’s going to happen after the election), but I feel like I’ve done what I can by voting and helping other people vote. I am also cautiously (very cautiously) optimistic about the early voter turnout, which has in many states surpassed all early voting in 2016. Will this be enough to keep Trump from stealing the election? Hard to say.

I’ve been grappling with the fact that both the left and the right are not going to want to accept the election results. The right because Trump has been claiming the election is rigged and because the Republican party has been doing everything they can to rig it, like setting up fake ballot boxes in California. The left because we know that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and there’s really anything to stop them from a repeat performance. What troubles me about this is the false equivalency. It The left may dispute the election based on actual evidence. The right on conspiracy theory. It gives the appearance of everyone throwing a temper tantrum for not giving what they want, even though that’s not the case. The Trump administration has been shouting about “rigged” elections for years so that any accusations against him for rigging the election will look reactionary. I don’t know how we will ever repair this rift in what was a shared reality.

Consuming

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

Books and Other Words

I recently read some really good books, starting with Machine by Elizabeth Bear. This book is the next in the series (or perhaps I should say next in the universe since it doesn’t exactly seem to be a series) following Ancestral Night. It’s a far-future, space operatic mystery involving trauma doctors, sick AI, and space-faring people from Earth from an earlier age who haven’t joined mainstream society yet. Something I really like about this series is it imagines a culture in which everyone takes an active role in stewarding their mental health and in questioning their biases. This is, of course, one of the joys of science fiction: an opportunity to imagine the kind of society we want.

The more of C. L. Polk’s books I read, the more I love her. This week I read her new book The Midnight Bargain, which is basically a romantic fantasy. This book has it all: magic, fashion, women becoming best friends, and everyone smashing the patriarchy. The Midnight Bargain was fun to read and gave me everything I wanted. Go read it.

Finally I read Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, which talks about the human element of space travel. Roach brings her characteristic humor and research skills to the question of how space agencies get people to survive in space. It shattered any illusions I was secretly harboring about ever going to space. I’m convinced I’m absolutely unfit for space travel. Between the motion sickness, questionable food, and the difficulty of relieving oneself, I know I would be a fetid ball of misery.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Self-help hacks at the end of the world via The New Republic. This piece talks about the toll the pandemic is taking on our collective mental health and the futility of individual “hacks” or solutions. It shouldn’t be on individuals to deal with the trauma and grief of all this through daily journaling or whatever. We need social change.
  • Facebook manipulated the news you see to appease Republicans, insiders say via Mother Jones. This is some heavy stuff that confirms what you might already suspect: Facebook’s algorithm favors conservative news outlets over liberal (or even neutral) ones. This information does explain why so many of our relatives are caught up in a conservative echo chamber and why facebook is so unbearable to use these days.
  • The California tribe the government tried to erase in the 60s via Vice. This article talks a bit about the Nisenan tribe, which lived where Sacramento is before Sacramento was here. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years and didn’t know a thing about the indigenous people of this region. This educated me a little and provided some perspective into their struggle for recognition.
  • The mad, mad world of niche sports among Ivy League-obsessed parents via The Atlantic. I’m sharing this because it’s weird and funny and sad. There are a lot of parents who are hustling extra hard to get their kids into a top school. They have decided that the best way to do this is to get them to be one of the best players in a sport like squash or fencing. The amount of grinding these kids are doing is insane and it made me think of the book I talked about a couple weeks ago, Can’t Even, and how kids are becoming walking college resumes.

TV and Music

Last night we watched the movie Hotel Artemis and, boy, was it mediocre. It looked cool. It said it was a near-future movie about a hotel/hospital for patching up criminals. It was an alright concept and it was pretty, but when it was over I was left wondering what the movie was trying to tell us. It seemed like it had too many characters it was trying to develop in too short a time. It was a moderate piece of entertainment with some good actors in it, but it wasn’t a great movie.

Rampant Consumerism

I have started doing some Christmas shopping, but of course I don’t want to divulge the details here. Instead, I will say that we bought some new plants for the garden. Our summer garden was not productive. We forgot to refresh the soil before planting and then I never wanted to go outside to water between the extreme heat and the smoke. We’re hoping for more success this season. We bought broccoli, spinach, and lettuce, among other things. We’re planning to actually plant it all this afternoon so I don’t have any exciting photos yet.

Making Things and Doing stuff

As usual, I have been doing a bit of everything lately.

Spanish

As you may have already guessed, I spent some time working on my voter guide translation. My teacher Olivia helped me refine it, but she said I had done a really good job . I was really pleased to hear that I was able to get my voice and style to come through when writing in Spanish.

Knitting and Crafts

I finished another pair of socks. This pattern is Cirrus Socks and the yarn is from Black Cat Fibers. When I was knitting it, I wasn’t sure I liked the pattern, but I’m happy with how it eventually came out, thankfully. I’ve also set up my yarn winder in the guest/craft room to wind up some of the yarn I bought recently. Normally I leave my sewing machine on the table (I try to keep the number of steps between me and a project low otherwise I’ll never do anything), so I’ve been on a winding bonanza to get everything wound and put away. This is a great activity for when I’m stuck on a conference call but don’t need to participate in any way.

Moving It

I’m having a lot of fun with my weekly ballet class. Today we started learning grand allegro (I obviously look nothing like this yet), which is fun. The big, dramatic stuff feels more like what I expected ballet to be rather than the smaller movements and fundamentals we spend most of our time on. But I guess most physical activities are like that.

Kitchen Witchery

As for food stuff, last weekend we had a shark coochie (no coochies at this link, don’t worry) extravaganza in honor of Mandy’s birthday. I also made red velvet sandwich cookies and attempted to make snickerdoodle ice cream from the recipe in the Salt & Straw cookbook. Unfortunately, the recipe resulted in a horrible, gloopy mess that still has me traumatized. I’d already made the cookies so we spread them over some vanilla ice cream instead for more or less the same end result.

Birthdays aside, I want to show that I have perfected the chickpea-loaded sweet potato. I’m sure I’ve shared this recipe before because I make it a lot, but the last round it came out very attractive and tasty, probably in part thanks to getting a fresh pomegranate, instead of buying the prepacked seeds that always seem to be the edge of spoiling. I served it with a cauliflower recipe that I usually reserve for Thanksgiving, but you only pandemic once so why not. In the interest of trying more festive drinks, we also had this pomegranate cider spritzer, which was good but I think the proportions are a little off. It needs a bit more fizz and a little less cider. More experimentation is needed.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

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.