23 Oct

Figuring out How to Vote: California 2018 Midterm Elections Edition

I’ve started listening to Gaslit Nation, an excellent podcast by two journalists who are experts in authoritarianism. The hosts have been emphasizing the importance of voting in the midterm elections this year and have said this could really be our last chance to make the democratic process work before autocracy tightens its hold on the country. It got me thinking about how I could encourage others to vote and maybe make the process less intimidating.

This post is to explain how I researched what’s on the ballot for the 2018 midterms and how I came to my decisions. I am not at all trying to tell anyone how they should vote. You can vote like me if that is what you want to do, but what I really want is to show you how to figure out how to vote and my thought process.

I am not an expert in politics. I work as a technical writer and I have a master’s degree in library science. This means I work with language and know how to interpret complex information. It also means I know how to find information. I am providing my process, but feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

Voter-Nominated Offices

Governor

My vote: Gavin Newsom

Although my grandma told me that I better not vote for Gavin Newsom, I’m doing it anyway. The California General Election Official Voter Information Guide (which you should get in the mail, but you can find online) does not provide a statement from Newsom, which I think is kind of a dick move on his part. I looked up Newsom’s website to see what he says about the issues. His stances are all ones I agree with. So, while he can’t be bothered to put out a statement, and someone I know told me she met him and he wouldn’t stop ogling her chest, I guess I’m still voting for him.

The Republican candidate, John Cox, provides a statement that is coded to rile up the Republican base, mentioning a that politicians have “rigged the game” and talking about repealing taxes on gas, among other things. It also says that California has the “highest poverty rate in the country.” I thought this was probably a lie so I went to look it up—operating on the theory that a politician lying about something means they’re willing to lie about anything. I discovered it’s actually true, but only when adjusted for the cost of living. I’m glad it’s not a blatant lie, but I’m still not voting Republican.

Lieutenant Governor

My vote: Eleni Kounalakis

Both candidates, Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez are with the Democratic party and, based on their statements, neither of them sound like a bad choice. My highly un-rigorous method of breaking a tie when two candidates sound good to me is to choose a woman or person of color. In this case, Kounalakis is a woman and Hernandez is a person of color, so this metric is not very helpful. I checked each candidate’s website and looked at what they said about the issues. Although they were fairly similar, I liked that Kounalakis supports universal broadband internet (that is, wi-fi as infrastructure) and building more housing, among other things.

Secretary of State

My vote: Alex Padilla

The Secretary of State is an important job in these times because this person safeguards our elections. Considering that Russia meddles in our elections, both directly and through targeted propaganda, we need a Secretary of State that will protect them.

Is Alex Padilla a person who can do that? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure Mark Meuser, the Republican candidate is not. His statement talks about “bloated voter rolls” and says that we need to remove “those who have died, have moved, non-citizens, duplicate and fictitious registrations.” This is a dog whistle. Voter fraud is actually a very small problem. When candidates bring this up, they usually mean that only the right sort of people should be voting, you know, white people and not pesky black people and immigrants with opinions.

Controller

My vote: Betty Yee

The Controller “serves as the state’s account and bookkeeper of all public funds,” according to the voter information guide. State of California employees see the controller’s signature on all their paychecks.

Betty Yee is the democratic candidate and the incumbent in this position, and a woman. These are the main reasons I am voting for her. These candidates don’t publish statements about how to tackle various issues because it isn’t really part of their job. However, Yee is endorsed by tons of groups, including a lot of women’s groups, which I think is important. Roditis, the Republican candidate, has a site that is focused on things like defunding the high-speed rail and repealing the gas tax. In general, I support paying higher taxes that pay for services so I disagree with Roditis on these issues.

Treasurer

My vote: Fiona Ma

Based once again on my metric of voting for women of color, I’m choosing Fiona Ma. This is also based on not voting for Republicans. Ma’s statement says she supports “accessible and affordable healthcare” and wants to work to “alleviate student loan debt,” which are things I also support. Republican candidate Greg Conlon is an old white man. In general, I do not vote for old white men if there are other, qualified candidates. Old white men have been running this country for too long and I want to see more women have the opportunity to lead. Also, Conlon’s statement says that public employees have pensions that are too “generous.” The pension is the main perk of public sector employment (as anyone who has gotten a paycheck for a public job knows). Screw this guy.

Attorney General

My vote: Xavier Becerra

This one is simple. Becerra is the democratic incumbent (if I recall correctly, he took over after Kamala Harris was elected to the Senate). Becerra has gone to court against the Trump administration multiple times to defend against encroaching Trumpism.

Insurance Commissioner

My pick: Ricardo Lara

I am voting for Lara because, as a member of the state senate, he voted for a universal, single-payer healthcare system and in general his positions line up with things I support.

Board of Equalization Member: District 1

My vote: Tom Hallinan

This is an interesting one this year. The Democratic candidate, Tom Hallinan, is running for the Board of Equalization (BoE) on the platform that the BoE is no longer necessary and that he will try to shut it down. I had to do some research to figure out what the BoE actually does. Per its website:

“Established in 1879 by a constitutional amendment, the BOE was initially charged with responsibility for ensuring that county property tax assessment practices were equal and uniform throughout the state. Over the years, the legislature expanded the BOE’s subject matter to include many taxes and fees. In 2017 and 2018, the legislature created two new tax administration and appeals agencies, reassigning some of the BOE’s tax functions. As a result, the BOE has rededicated itself to focusing on its historical responsibility of property tax oversight and its constitutional responsibilities.”

That does sound a bit like the BoE is no longer relevant. Also, I don’t trust the Republican party at all. I’m voting for Hallinan.

United States Senator

My vote: Kevin De Leon

Again we have two Democratic candidates on the ballot. Diane Feinstein is the incumbent and a ranking member on a few Senate committees. However, I am voting for Kevin De Leon. I am hoping that De Leon will push back harder against Trump and autocracy and Republican foolishness more than Feinstein does. I think Feinstein and Democrats should be doing more not just to say no to Republicans but also in setting an agenda and giving us something to hope for. Democrats are doing the minimum to keep our rights from eroding too quickly. I’m hoping De Leon will do more than that.

United States Representative: District 17

My vote: Ami Bera

My options are Ami Bera (D), Andrew Grant (R) here in Elk Grove. Bera is the incumbent and I am certainly not voting to put any more Republicans in congress, so I’m voting for Bera. I think he is a good congressperson, but I would like to see him be more progressive. His website has a lot about protecting the Affordable Care Act, which is great. However, I don’t see anything about pushing for single-payer or universal healthcare. Conclusion: could be better, could be way worse.

State Senator: District 6

My vote: Richard Pan

The options for district 6 are Richard Pan (D) and Eric Frame (independent). I actually met Eric Frame at a Sacramento Labor-Community Coalition Meeting in August. He has a good sense of the class struggle we are facing and I thought him very genuine. However, I recently saw this article in which he says he is against mandatory vaccinations. It makes me wonder if he has any other unconventional beliefs that I should be concerned about.

Member of the State Assembly: District 9

My vote: Jim Cooper

The options for district 9 are Harry He (D) and the incumbent, Jim Cooper (D). Based on Jim Cooper’s website, he has been involved in a lot of legislation that supports labor and women. I wanted to see what Harry He had to say for himself, however, he did not provide a statement in the county voter guide and I couldn’t find a website for him. If you can’t even get a website online, how are you going to be an assembly member?

Judicial

For judicial candidates, you get the option to say yes or no. These are hard because you have to be really into law and politics to follow individual judges’ careers.  I mostly used ballotpedia and some explainers I found, like this one, which suggests who to approve based on whether a Republican or Democratic governor appointed them. I am not an expert at any of this, but especially not at judicial issues. I encourage everyone to research and listen to voices they trust.

Associate Justice, Supreme Court

Carol Corrigan:  No

According to Ballotpedia, Justice Corrigan has served on the California Supreme Court since 2005, when she was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Being appointed by a Republican governor suggests she is a more conservative judge. From what I can tell, she’s also a big Trump supporter.

Leondra Kruger: Yes

I don’t know much about Leondra Kruger other than that she was appointed by Governor Brown in 2014.

Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, Third District

Cole Blease: Yes

This judge is an old white man, but I think his resume sounds like he has the people’s best interests in mind:

“Justice Blease received his undergraduate (1952) and law degrees (1955) from the University of California at Berkeley where he later taught undergraduate courses in freedom of speech and the logic of argument. Before appointment to the bench he represented civil rights organizations and had a varied practice in public law. His clients included the California Teachers Association, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the County of Placer, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and public employee organizations.”

Louis Mauro: No

According to Ballotpedia, Mauro (also an old white man) was appointed by Schwarzenegger. When I searched Mauro online, I found a bunch of attack ads against Justice Blease, which did not seem very professional for someone who “serves on the Executive Committee of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court, working to promote ethics, civility and professionalism in the legal profession.” I am sure that Mauro didn’t personally create these images, but why is anyone creating propaganda about a judicial candidate? Who is backing that?

State Propositions

Propositions are tricky, but I find that if there’s general agreement from organizations that you agree with, you’re probably on the right track. I referred a lot to this voter guide that was circulating on facebook. It consolidates guides from organizations like the ACLU, Sierra Club, and Democratic and Republican parties. You can also refer to the California Voter Guide for analysis and arguments for and against each proposition. I like to read the arguments for and against because it shows what kind of logic people are using to justify their choices. It is usually pretty clear to see what kind of perspective the writer approaches the argument with.

A table showing how various organizations suggest citizens vote on the 12 California propositions.

2018 California Election Cheat Sheet

Proposition 1

My vote: Yes

This proposition helps fund housing programs for veterans. The funding for this proposition comes from the State selling bonds, which means they are not planning to increase taxes to provide more affordable housing.

Oh, the Republican Party is against it. What else do you need to know?

Proposition 2

My vote: Yes

Basically everyone supports this measure, which provides funding for existing housing programs for people with mental illness. It seems like the humane thing to vote for.

Proposition 3

My vote: Yes

I read the title of this one and immediately thought “yes” because our water infrastructure needs help, especially with the increasingly extreme weather events we are experiencing due to climate change. I did notice, however, that the Sierra Club does not support this proposition. I wanted to know why. Here’s what their voter guide says:

“The flaws in the bond will enable certain dams and other infrastructure we have opposed. It also directs to unspecified water projects a specific category of funds collected through the state’s cap-and-trade program that should be used to efficiently cut climate emissions.”

The League of Women Voters rejects this proposition for an entirely different reason, stating that it “shift[s] the cost for water from the end users to California taxpayers”

That said, I still think it’s a good idea to shore up our infrastructure for water. Two of the organizations I am inclined to side with are against this proposition for different reasons. For me, this does not override why I want to vote for it.

Proposition 4

My vote: Yes

Proposition 4 authorizes bonds to fundraise for children’s hospitals. I do find it a little questionable that public money is going to private institutions. I did some quick searching and it does seem that most children’s hospitals are private institutions, so maybe it is less weird than it sounds. In general, I want to see better healthcare so I am voting for this.

Proposition 5

My vote: No

From what I can tell, this proposal would benefit rich people who buy multiple properties. The State also estimates that it “probably would lose over $100 million in annual property tax revenue in the first few years, growing over time to about $1 billion per year.” Property taxes fund schools. The voter guide says one of the benefits is it “allows the purchase of a more expensive home.” This seems like a bad plan.

Proposition 6

My vote: No

The only group supporting this is the Republican Party. This proposition would repeal a tax passed by the State Legislature last year and reduce state revenue by over $5 billion. The tax we pay on gas goes directly to supporting roads and similar infrastructure. If you’re driving on roads, you should help pay for them.

Proposition 7

My vote: Yes

I thought this proposition was to end our bi-annual time change, but it’s actually giving the legislature the power to make changes to daylight saving time. I personally think daylight saving time is dumb and we should get rid of it. Plus, the time change results in increased traffic accidents and pedestrian deaths.

Proposition 8

My vote: Yes

The money tells the story of proposition 8. Dialysis companies are spending like crazy to prevent this from being passed because they know they will lose money if they are more heavily regulated. Regulate those bastards.

Who is funding against regulation for dialysis treatment? The dialysis companies.

Proposition 10

(note: I didn’t skip a number. There is no prop 9)

My vote: Yes

This proposition basically establishes rent control by repealing a state law that currently restricts rent control policies. This allows local governments to set rent control policies. We live in California. We see the rents. Is any more explanation required?

Proposition 11

My vote: No

This one confused me because I don’t understand why we would vote to make emergency employees work their breaks. I thought I was missing something. According to the Peace and Freedom Party’s Workers’ Vote Guide (I’m a registered Peace and Freedom Party member, by the way), it really is an attempt to “deny breaks to private ambulance workers.”

Proposition 12

My vote: Yes

The voter guide says this “establishes new minimum space requirements” for farm animals and “prohibits certain commercial sales” of certain animal food products. To me, this sounds humane. I am a carnivore, but I support treating animals better.

A teammate of mine is an animal rights advocate and expert on this subject, so I checked her page to see what she had to say on this subject. She shared this page, which suggests that the main groups opposed to the proposition are the farmers who would be impacted by the regulation. It sounds a lot like the dialysis companies opposing dialysis regulation.

 

Did this guide help you? Leave a comment with your thoughts or tips for others. You are welcome to share this all over the internet.

27 Sep

When Nothing Happens

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have never been the victim of sexual assault or abuse. That doesn’t mean I have always felt safe. There have been many times in my life that could have easily escalated into assault or worse. It is hard, in some ways, to talk about these close calls because, I think, well I wasn’t raped. It wasn’t that bad. That said, here’s the scariest story of a time that something bad almost happened.
 
When I was in ninth grade I lived in London for a year with my (now ex-)step-mom, step-sister, and my actual sister. It was the first and only year I had to wear a uniform for school and I was very naive about how walking around in a city in a school uniform makes girls a target for harassment.
 
The day that nothing happened, I was walking home after school and, a few feet from my house, a car pulled up to me. There was a man driving the car and two women passengers. The women, both adults, kept giggling. In retrospect, they might have been on drugs but I didn’t know how to identify that at the time. I had never seen any of these people before. The man invited me to get in the car with them.  I said no. I don’t remember what else the man said to me, only that was I was scared and upset, and I hurried to the door (but did not run, because running shows weakness). I fumbled with my keys and went into the empty house. I don’t remember if I cried but I remember holing up in my bedroom.
 
I remember being extremely shaken by this incident and I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it—in part because nothing “happened.” But something did happen. That non-event has stayed with me for 17 years. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had gotten into that car. I didn’t know if the man was going to get out and overpower me. I am lucky that I got away and I was close to my house.
 
Even though nothing “happened,” this is one of many things in my life that has taught me that many men see women as objects. Actions like this, or like street harassment, serve to remind women that they are not meant to be in public, that they should not be alone or feel any power or agency in their own lives.
 
I have spent my morning watching Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford be cross-examined in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. I believe her. Republican senators brought in a professional prosecutor to interrogate the details of her story, as if she has anything to gain by making this up. No one wants to relieve the most painful parts of their life. To ask her to do so in front of the whole country and then to answer probing questions about any gaps in her story is cruel.
Dr. Blasey-Ford is a civic hero. She understands her place in the national conversation. She didn’t want to come forward. She didn’t want to do this. She has spent her life trying to forget about the time that Brett Kavanaugh almost “accidentally” killed her, as she stated in her testimony today. Yet, here she is, doing all of us the biggest favor by trying to keep another privileged rapist from joining the Supreme Court.
I wonder if, in some way, Dr. Blasey-Ford also thinks that “nothing” happened. She was terribly violated, but she wasn’t raped. Does she downplay her assault in her mind, despite the clear trauma it left her?
Even though “nothing” has happened to me, enough has happened that I, like most women, think through when and where to be outside alone. I look for exits in buildings. I avoid men who give me creepy “vibes.” These are the subtle accommodations women make for men’s incessant predatory behavior.
It’s strange, the imprint that nothing leaves on one’s life.
15 Feb

Books of the Decade 2008–2017

When I posted my books of the year update for 2017, I realized that I’ve been tracking my reading for 10 years now. My methods have evolved over the decade. The first year was just a list of books and authors, then I started adding the date I finished the book, and eventually added in data about reading books written by men or women, page count and all the rest.

I started this by asking myself “Where does my time go?” I was in college and curious about how I was living my life. Now it’s interesting to see how my tastes and priorities have changed over time. This is a decade of reading that has really defined who I am as an adult.

A few statistics for fun:

  • Total books from 2008 to 2017: 519
  • Yearly average: 51.9, or about a book a week for the last decade.
  • Year of most books: 2014 with 90 books
  • Year of least books: 2012 with 22 books (also known as the year I was laid off from my first-year teaching job and searched for a new job and started my second teaching job at a new school. How did I survive?)
  • Spanish: I read 7 books in Spanish in 2010, then didn’t start up again until 2016 when I read Harry Potter. As I wrote in 2011, “I didn’t manage to get through any books in languages other than English this year. Sort of horrifying, but I think this is indicative of how all-consuming it was to finish my credential/get a job/maintain my job/start my masters.” Sounds about right.
  • Non-fiction trends: It seems like I went from reading about atheism then to feminism, history and now socialism. That’s hugely simplified, but accurate, broadly speaking.
  • Reading More Women: Almost all the books I read in 2008 were by men. I didn’t start tracking if a book was by a woman or man until 2014, when I read 30 books by women and 59 by men. Last year, I read 15 books by men and 44 by women. I think this is something that will evolve over the next decade, as I consciously select more books by women, and especially by black, native, and latina women.

Without further ado, the list:

2008

1. The End of Faith – Sam Harris
2. Lamb – Christopher Moore
3. The Yacoubian Building – al-Aswany
4. The Republican War on Science – Christopher Moony
5. No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam – Genivie Abdo
6. A New Introduction to Islam – Daniel Brown
7. What Went Wrong – Bernard Lewis
8. Neuromancer – William Gibson
9. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
10. Count Zero – William Gibson
11. Shadowplay – Tad Williams
12. Shadowmarch – Tad Williams
13. Bloodsucking Fiends – Christopher Moore
14. The Stupidest Angel – Christopher Moore
15. Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson
16. You Suck – Christopher Moore
17. Stardust – Niel Gaiman
18. Island of the Sequined Love Nun – Christopher Moore
19. Freedom for the Thought that We Hate – Lewis
20. Fluke – Christopher Moore
21. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove – Christopher Moore
22. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Corey Doctorow
23. Practical Demonkeeping – Christopher Moore
24. A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin
25. A Clash of Kings – George RR Martin
26. A Storm of Swords – George RR Martin
27. The Translator’s Handbook – Sofer
28. A Feast for Crows – George RR Martin
30. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
31. Sock – Penn Jillette
32. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
33. Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire
34. A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
35. The Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby
36. Letter to a Christian Nation – Sam Harris
37. The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester
38. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
39. What’s the Matter with Kansas – Thomas Frank
40. The Dragon in the Sea – Frank Herbert
41. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
42. Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex – Mary Roach

2009 (50 books)

  • Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde
  • The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde 1/11
  • Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman 1/18
  • Islamic Historiagraphy – Chase Robinson 1/18
  • Something Rotten – Jasper Fforde 1/30
  • First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde 2/9
  • Coraline – Neil Gaiman 2/11
  • New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish 2/26
  • The Princess Bride – WIlliam Goldman 2/27
  • The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin3/9
  • A Room with a View – E.M. Forster 3/14
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest -Ken Kesey 3/22
  • The Golden Trade of the Moors – E.W. Bovil 4/5
  • Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood 4/7
  • The Scandals of Translation: Towards and Ethics of Difference – Lawrence Venuti 4/19
  • Malinche (Spanish edition) -Laura Esquivel 5/11
  • Stardust (Spanish edition) -Neil Gaiman 5/27
  • Empires of the World: a Language History of the World -Nicholas Ostler 5/28
  • This Side of Paradise -F. Scott Fitzgerald 5/31
  • The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women -Jessica Valenti 6/1
  • The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood 6/7
  • Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement -Kathyrn Joyce 6/22
  • Anansi Boys: A novel -Neil Gaimna 6/25
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Ston (Arabic edition) 6/25
  • American Gods -Neil Gaiman 7/11
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs -Ariel Levy 7/15
  • Assassin’s Apprentice -Robin Hobb 7/22
  • Royal Assassin -Robin Hobb 7/30
  • Assassin’s Quest -Robin Hob 8/9
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood -Charles Dickens 8/13
  • Ship of Magic -Robin Hobb 8/31
  • Mad Ship -Robin Hobb 9/16
  • El Laberinto de la Soledad y Otras Obras -Octavio Paz 9/22
  • Ship of Destiny -Robin Hobb 9/27
  • The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power -Jeff Sharlet 10/3
  • Fool’s Errand -Robin Hobb 10/17
  • Golden Fool -Robin Hobb 10/24
  • Fool’s Fate -Robin Hobb 10/27
  • The Magicians -Lev Grossman 11/16
  • From Eve to Dawn, a History of Women in the World Volume I: Origins: from Prehistory to the First Millennium -Marilyn French 11/7
  • Lost Boy -Brent Jeffs 11/8
  • Favorite Wife -Susan Ray Schmidt 11/14
  • Interworld -Neil Gaiman 11/16
  • Year of the Flood: A Novel -Margaret Atwood 11/21
  • Shattered Dreams -Irene Spencer 11/24
  • A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind -Michael Axworthy 12/7
  • The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future -Vali Nasr 12/12
  • Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets (Arabic Editionh) 12/14
  • Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic -Ray Takeyh 12/21
  • The Blind Assassin: A Novel -Margaret Atwood 12/28

2010 (51 books. This year I put a “k” next to books I read on Kindle.)

  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny 1/2
  • Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny 1/4
  • Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny 1/9
  • The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny 1/11
  • Wicked: Memorias de una bruja mala by Gregory Maguire 1/15
  • The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 1/15
  • Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny 1/22
  • The Zoroastrian Faith: Tradition and Modern Research by S.A. Nigosian 1/30
  • Blood of Amber by Roger Zelazny 2/6
  • Sign of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 2/14
  • Infoquake by David Louis Edleman 2/22 k
  • Knight of Shadows by Roger Zelazny 3/1
  • Prince of Chaos by Roger Zelazny 3/8
  • Multireal by David Louis Edleman 3/19 k
  • Geosynchron by David Louis Edleman 4/16 k
  • Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb 4/21 k
  • Fool by Christopher Moore 4/28 k
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde 5/3 k
  • Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb 5/25 k
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore 6/15 k
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum 6/15 k
  • Hijo de bruja by Gregory Maguire 6/19
  • The Sparrow: a Novelby Maria Russell 7/15 k
  • Palace Walk by Negeib Mahfouz 7/19
  • Breve historia de la literature espanola 7/27
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday 7/29 k
  • Introduccion a la linguistica hispanica 8/11
  • Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan 8/21 k
  • The History of Latin America: Collision of Cultures by Marshall C. Eakin 8/25
  • Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb 8/25 k
  • Forest Mage by Robin Hobb 9/1 k
  • Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb 9/16 k
  • Classroom Management for Middle and High School Teachers by Emmer 9/17
  • Classroom Instruction that Works by Marzano 9/19
  • Modern Arabic Literature by Paul Starkey 9/25
  • How Languages are Learned by Lightbrown and Spada 10/2
  • Supporting the Literacy Development of English Learners by Young and Hadaway 10/14
  • Introduccion a la literatura latinoamericana 10/18
  • The Venture of Islam Volume 1: The Classical Age of Islam by Hodgson 10/24
  • El Espejo Enterrado by Carlos Fuentes 11/2
  • Machine of Death by North, et al. 11/3
  • Shadowmarch by Tad Williams 11/11
  • Shawodplay by Tad Williams 11/19
  • Shadowrise by Tad Williams 11/28
  • La breve y maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 12/4
  • Shadowheart by Tad Williams 12/10
  • Perdido Street Station by China Melville 12/15 k
  • Girl Power: the 90s Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer 12/16 k
  • Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore 12/21 k
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick 12/25
  • What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire 12/26 k

2011

  1. Children of God, Mary Doria Russel 1/2 (don’t worry, this is a sci-fi novel)
  2. The Rise and Fall of Languages, RMW Dixon 1/5
  3. The Forever Machine, Mark Clifton 1/11
  4. The Art of Teaching Spanish: Second Language Acquisition from Research to Praxis, Salaberry & Lafford 1/14
  5. Double Star, Robert Heinlein 1/16
  6. What to Eat, Marion Nestle 1/26
  7. The Big Time, Fritz Leiber 1/28
  8. Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov 2/17
  9. Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman 2/23
  10. The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi 2/28
  11. Starship Troopers, Robery Heinlein 3/13
  12. Foundation, Isaac Asimov 3/21
  13. Foundation and Empire, Isaac Asimov 3/22
  14. Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov 3/24
  15. Foundation’s Edge, Isaac Asimov 4/2
  16. If I’m so Successful, Why do I Feel like a Fake? Harvey Katz 4/11
  17. Foundation and Earth, Isaac Asimov 4/21
  18. The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood 4/25
  19. Aspergirls, Rudy Simone 4/26
  20. Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson 4/30
  21. Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov 5/18
  22. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins 5/21
  23. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins 5/23
  24. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins 5/26
  25. Asperger’s Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Successful Stress Management, Nick Dubin 5/31
  26. Omnilingual, H. Beam Piper 5/31
  27. Containment, Christian Cantrell 6/3
  28. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H.R. Ellis Davidson 6/15
  29. Forward the Foundation, Isaac Asimov 6/17
  30. The Passage, Justin Cronin 6/26
  31. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, Marilyn Johnson 7/1
  32. The Wild Things, Dave Eggers 7/2
  33. Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages, Alex Wright 7/14
  34. Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, David Weinberger 7/19
  35. Hyperion, Dan Simmons 7/28
  36. Ambient Findability, Peter Morville 8/9
  37. Crash Course in Public Library Administration, Wayne Disher 8/15
  38. The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War, Michael Shaara 9/17
  39. The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons 11/5
  40. A Fire upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge 11/24
  41. The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan 11/25
  42. California: A History, Kevin Starr 12/28

2012

  1. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi 1/27
  2. The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher by Randolph Hock 1/30
  3. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan 2/24
  4. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston 2/28
  5. The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan 3/2
  6. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan 3/8
  7. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan 3/13
  8. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin 4/4
  9. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin 4/29
  10. The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann 4/29
  11. Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin 5/29
  12. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin 6/16
  13. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin 6/26
  14. Out of Oz: The final volume in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire 7/12
  15. The Craft of Research, 3rd Edition by Booth, Colomb, and Williams 7/22
  16. Bringing It All Together: Language and Literacy in the Multilingual Classroom by Marcia Brechtel 8/30
  17. Endymion by Dan Simmons 9/19
  18. Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck, et al. 9/26
  19. The Pearl by John Steinbeck 10/30
  20. Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons 11/11
  21. My Brother Sam is Dead by Collier and Collier 11/ 19
  22. The Magician King by Lev Grossman 11/27

2013

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 1/20
  2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan 2/14
  3. CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 8th Edition by Michael Meyers 2/18
  4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain 2/25
  5. Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane by John Amato and David Neiwert 3/1
  6. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan 3/7
  7. The Ordinary Acrobat by Duncan Wall 3/10
  8. The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi 3/19
  9. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr 4/2
  10. Every Day by David Levithan 4/3
  11. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright 4/9
  12. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 4/27
  13. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou 4/29
  14. Adventures of the Artificial Woman: A Novel by Thomas Berger 5/1
  15. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan 6/10
  16. Dreams and Shadows: A Novel by C. Robert Cargill 6/16
  17. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson 6/28
  18. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 7/2
  19. I Fired God: My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman 7/4
  20. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 7/10
  21. The Unlikely Disciplie: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose 7/24
  22. Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond edited by John Joseph Adams & Douglas Cohen 7/30
  23. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes 8/11
  24. Girls of the Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kernan 8/28
  25. Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi 9/3
  26. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan 9/4
  27. Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth about Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti 9/10
  28. Asperger’s on the Job: Must-Have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates by Rudy Simone 9/11
  29. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan 9/17
  30. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan 10/2
  31. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler 10/11
  32. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan 10/18
  33. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan 10/23
  34. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 10/24
  35. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan 10/25
  36. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan 10/29
  37. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan 11/7
  38. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan 11/24
  39. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsthe, Alwyn Cosgrove 11/27
  40. Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown 12/2
  41. Just a Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales of the Search for Life, Love, and Fulfillment Beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton 12/4
  42. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan 12/6
  43. Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh 12/8
  44. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/13
  45. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/22
  46. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/31

2014 (90 books)

  • Schooled: How the System Breaks Teachers by Dalton Jackson
  •  The Hobbit by J.R. R. Tolkien
  •  Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff
  •  MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
  •  Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
  •  A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  •  From Asgard to Valhalla by Heather O’Donoghue
  •  Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  •  Makers by Cory Doctorow
  •  Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  •  The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  •  A People’s History of the United States: From 1492 to the Present by Howard Zinn
  •  The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  •  Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  •  Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar
  •  The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
  •  Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler
  •  Loki by Mik Vasich
  •  Notes from the Internet Apocalypse: A Novel by Wayne Gladstone
  •  In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon
  •  Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
  •  The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
  •  The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente
  •  Queen of Kings: A Novel of Cleopatra, the Vampire by Maria Dahvana Headley
  •  Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  •  The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  •  Lexicon by Max Berry
  •  City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
  •  The Pilgrims by Will Elliott
  •  Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  •  Parasite by Mira Grant
  •  Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
  •  Writing Effective Policies and Procedures: A Step-by-Step Resource for Clear Communication by Nancy J. Campbell
  •  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  •  A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
  •  Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
  •  Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  •  Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  •  Jennifer Government by Max Berry
  •  No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
  •  Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
  •  Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler
  •  White Night by Jim Butcher
  •  Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
  •  When We Wake by Karen Healey
  •  The Waking Engine by David Edison
  •  Small Favor by Jim Butcher
  •  Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
  •  Changes by Jim Butcher
  •  Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
  •  Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
  •  Cold Days by Jim Butcher
  •  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich ENgels
  •  The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan
  •  The Girl in the Road by Monica Bryne
  •  Skin Game by Jim Butcher
  •  Supercapitalism by Robery Reich
  •  Lock In by John Scalzi
  •  The Bone Flower Throne by T. L. Morganfield
  •  Dawn by Octavia Butler
  •  Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler
  •  Imago by Octavia Butler
  •  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Kingdom of Gods by N. K. Jemisin
  •  The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil
  •  Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  •  Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force by Radley Balko
  •  The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  •  Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  •  The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  •  The Queen of the Dark Things  by C. Robert Cargill
  •  The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  •  Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
  •  Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  •  Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky
  •  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  •  When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange
  •  The Human Division by John Scalzi
  •  The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  •  God’s War by Kameron Hurley
  •  The Magician King by Lev Grossman
  •  The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
  •  Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
  •  Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
  •  Revolution by Russel Brand
  •  I, Q by John De Lancie and Peter David
  •  The World Split Open (multiple authors)
  •  WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding
  •  This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

2015 (71 books)

  • The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
  •  The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells
  •  The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  •  The Whispering Muse by Sjón
  •  Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
  •  Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap Americaby by Linda Tirado
  •  Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  •  The Just City by Jo Walton
  •  The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
  •  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor
  •  Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio
  •  The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  •  Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Skakur
  •  Down and Derby: The Insiders Guide to Roller Derby by Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen
  •  Infidel by Kameron Hurley
  •  The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson
  •  Rapture by Kameron Hurley
  •  In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
  •  2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
  •  Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer
  •  The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
  •  Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  •  Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley
  •  An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
  •  Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
  •  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  •   A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel by V. E. Schwab
  •  Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
  •  This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb
  •  The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  •  The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
  •  Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
  •  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  •  The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  •  The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  •  Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
  •  Dune by Frank Herbert
  •  Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn
  •  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
  •  The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
  •  The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  •  Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
  •  Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
  •  The Undreground Girls of Kabul: In Search of A Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg
  •  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  •  All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes
  •  Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
  •  The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
  •  Dream London by Tony Ballantyne
  •  Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
  •  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Max Gladstone
  •  Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  •  Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
  •  The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
  •   The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  •  Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown
  •  The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
  •  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  •  Luna: New Moon by Ian MacDonald
  •  My Real Children by Jo Walton
  •  Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  •  Butterflies in November by Auður Ava ólafsdóttir
  •  Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  •  Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  •  The Art of Language Invention by David Peterson
  •  Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  •  One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seirstad
  •  Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  •  Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby by Margot Atwell

2016

  1. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  2. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
  3. Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Pozner
  5. Chapterhouse Dune by Frank Herbert
  6. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
  7. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
  8. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  9. A Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
  10. Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
  11. Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal by J. K. Rowling
  12. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
  13. A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
  14. Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer
  15. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
  16. Harry Potter y la cámara secreta by J. K. Rowling
  17. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  19. In Other Words Jhumpa Lahiri
  20. The Judas Rose by Sizette Haden Elgin
  21. Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  22. Earth Song by Suzette Haden Elgin
  23. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
  24. Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
  25. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiveristy by Steve Silberman
  26. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
  27. Harry Potter y el cáliz de fuego by J. K. Rowling
  28. Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
  29. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  30. Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
  31. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
  32. Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
  33. Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
  34. The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  35. Mr. Splitfood by Samantha Hunt
  36. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
  37. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  38. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  39. Harry Potter y la orden del fénix by J. K. Rowling
  40. Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe by J. K. Rowling
  41. Bitch Planet by Deconnick & De Landro
  42. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  43. The Devourers  by Indra Das

2017 (62 books)

Date Finished Title Author
01/02/17 Shattered Pillars Elizabeth Bear
01/19/17 Lies Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics Arti Rabin-Havt
01/27/17 Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Anjan Sundaram
02/03/17 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild
02/09/17 The Stars Are Legion Kameron Huley
02/13/17 Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte J. K. Rowling
02/16/17 Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities Rebecca Solnit
02/27/17 Crossroads of Canopy Thoraiya Dyer
03/12/17 La distancia entre nosotros Reyna Grande
03/15/17 Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin
03/27/17 Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi
04/11/17 White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson
04/14/17 Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives Gary Younge
04/17/17 The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories Jared Shurin, Mahvesh Murad
04/20/17 Dark Orbit Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/21/17 Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
04/27/17 Halfway Human Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/29/17 Arkfall Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/01/17 The Ice Owl Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/14/17 Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
05/20/17 Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
05/22/17 The Geek Feminist Revolution Kameron Huley
05/24/17 Shipley Proposal Guide Larry Newman
05/28/17 El Mañana: Memorias de un éxodo cubano Mirta Ojito
05/31/17 Ammonite Nicola Griffith
06/09/17 Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
06/20/17 The End of Men and the Rise of Women Hanna Rosin
06/30/17 A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit
07/02/17 Double Bind: Women on Ambition Robin Romm
07/10/17 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story Angela Saini
07/15/17 Todas las hadas del reino Laura Gallego
07/18/17 A Conjuring of Light V. E. Schwab
07/19/17 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
07/31/17 The Refrigerator Monologues Catherynne Valente
08/02/17 History of Wolves: A Novel Emily Fridlund
08/07/17 Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World Clara Parkes
08/17/17 The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
08/18/17 Things We Lost in the Fire Mariana Enriquez
08/22/17 The Stone Sky N. K, Jemisin
09/10/17 The Radium Girls Kate Moore
09/11/17 Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee
09/15/17 Passing Strange Ellen Klages
09/19/17 Trainwreck: The women we love to hate, mock, and fear … and why Sady Doyle
09/21/17 Hunger Roxane Gay
09/27/17 Last First Snow Max Gladstone
10/01/17 We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement Andi Zeisler
10/06/17 Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone
10/13/17 Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq Hassan Blasim
10/17/17 The Mothers Brit Bennett
10/24/17 Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Samhita Mukhopadhyay
10/31/17 Three Parts Dead Max Gladstone
11/03/17 What Happened Hillary Clinton
11/08/17 Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
11/13/17 Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights Katha Pollitt
11/19/17 Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People Danny Katch
11/22/17 Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone
11/25/17 An Excess Male Maggie Shen King
12/03/17 How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett
12/15 The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty
12/18 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesamyn Ward
12/27 Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone
12/27 Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado

 

 

 

 

01 Jan

Hello, 2018

2017 was a very full year. It seemed like I had something going on every weekend, which is not my normal way of living, but it worked out. We have my work-from-home job to thank for this. Had I not had the weekdays as my private downtime, I would have surely collapsed by now. I expect 2018 will be similar. I am living my fullest, and in some ways most surprising life. Why stop now? With that, here are some goals on my mind as I start the new year.

Spanish

I started a “10-year” plan in 2015, which makes 2018 the third year, or as I usually put it, this is now the eight-year plan. The point of the plan is to become fluent in Spanish and start doing a job that I feel passionate about that involves the language. The biggest goal I have this year taking the DELE C1 exam. Passing this exam certifies that I have professional proficiency in the language. That means this year I’m going to try to take in lots of vocabulary, read a lot, and work on expressing myself more precisely and with a wider range of vocabulary.  These are some of my plans:

  • Continue weekly lessons with my Spanish tutor. In the spring, I started working with a tutor via Live Lingua, and she has helped me a lot in getting better at expressing myself.
  • Increase vocabulary by about 100 words per week. I take a lot of words from what I read but I am also planning to use Spanish Vocabulary an Etymological Approach.
  • Read eight books in Spanish, or 100 pages per week, whichever it shakes out to.
  • Watch a movie or a couple of episodes of a TV show in Spanish each week.
  • Call a roller derby game in Spanish. I surprised myself by doing a bilingual call for two games at WFTDA Playoffs in Seattle. I would do it again, given the chance.

Icelandic

Oh, Icelandic, you wild and crazy language. Earlier in the year, I felt like I was making some good progress, but things dropped off this summer when my tutor had to take a hiatus and I was left to my own devices. I stopped working on Icelandic for a while and decided to focus my attention on Spanish, but I’m not out of the Icelandic game yet. My goal for this year is to be consistent, even if I only do a little bit every day. I know I’m not going to get too deep since this is going to be a big year for studying Spanish, but I don’t want to lose everything I have learned. I’m planning to keep reviewing vocabulary on Memrise and Clozemaster and I hope I can start taking lessons again before too long.

Athletics

This year I became an athlete. I competed in my first Strongman competition in Santa Cruz, and I won in the novice women’s category (by defeating one other woman). I played roller derby on our B team, which felt great. I’m hoping for more of all that in 2018. I have plans to compete in another strength competition in April. I’m already prepping for derby tryouts (which are in just three weeks. yikes.) by skating outside and re-adjusting to life on wheels. I expect that it will be harder to make the B team this year because both of Sacramento’s derby leagues are merging, resulting in more skaters. That said, I’m feeling confident. I gained a lot of skill and strength last year.

Also derby related if not specifically athletic, I am planning to continue announcing this year and I’m going to start coaching our C team. Last year I was lucky enough to announce at a tournament, at RollerCon and at WFTDA playoffs. I’m hoping to do all that again this year because it was so fun. I also want to spread the good word of announcing and I’m going to work with my league to try to have some kind of announcing workshop.

Everything Else in This Life

Part of me wants to set specific goals for everything, but past a certain point, it’s better to just think about how I want to live, instead of the numbers I want to live by. One quality I developed this year was my ability to relax. I’m getting better at identifying when to stop doing things and at figuring out how to let myself rest. I want to read books that make me feel things and learn new stuff (this year I learned how to knit!). In short, I’m planning to keep on doing my thing.

31 Dec

2017: The Year in Books

I made it throught 62 books in 2017, which feels like a success considering the madness this year wrought. In comparison, I read 41 last year, 71 in 2015 and 90 in 2014.

  • Page Count: 20,522 pages, based on LibraryThing page numbers
  • Library Use: This year I had an even split. I read 31 books from the library and 31 books that I own.
  • Female and Male Authors: I read a lot more books by women this year. Fifteen books were written by men, I read two anthologies with a mix of men and women, and the remaining forty-four books were by women.  I read books from 50 distinct authors.
  • Digital and Analog: Another even split! I read 31 digital and 31 (dead-tree) books this year. I would like to note that I borrow a lot of ebooks from the library so analog and library books are not a total overlap.
  • Fiction and Non-Fiction: This year I read 27 non-fiction books. This is more than I usually read. I have been very curious about the world this year and committed to understanding what is happening in the world, plus what has happened to bring the world to this point.
  • Books in Other Languages: I read 4 books in Spanish this year, which was less than my goal but still respectable. I finished up the last Harry Potter book, read two memoirs, and a fantasy novel. Not bad.
  • Favorites: I read so many good books this year (do I say that every year?), but some favorites include everything by Rebecca Solnit, Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, The Cooking Gene by Michael Tiwtty, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

Here’s the list of what I read:

Date Finished Title Author
01/02/17 Shattered Pillars Elizabeth Bear
01/19/17 Lies Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics Arti Rabin-Havt
01/27/17 Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Anjan Sundaram
02/03/17 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild
02/09/17 The Stars Are Legion Kameron Huley
02/13/17 Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte J. K. Rowling
02/16/17 Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities Rebecca Solnit
02/27/17 Crossroads of Canopy Thoraiya Dyer
03/12/17 La distancia entre nosotros Reyna Grande
03/15/17 Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin
03/27/17 Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi
04/11/17 White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson
04/14/17 Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives Gary Younge
04/17/17 The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories Jared Shurin, Mahvesh Murad
04/20/17 Dark Orbit Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/21/17 Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
04/27/17 Halfway Human Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/29/17 Arkfall Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/01/17 The Ice Owl Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/14/17 Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
05/20/17 Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
05/22/17 The Geek Feminist Revolution Kameron Huley
05/24/17 Shipley Proposal Guide Larry Newman
05/28/17 El Mañana: Memorias de un éxodo cubano Mirta Ojito
05/31/17 Ammonite Nicola Griffith
06/09/17 Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
06/20/17 The End of Men and the Rise of Women Hanna Rosin
06/30/17 A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit
07/02/17 Double Bind: Women on Ambition Robin Romm
07/10/17 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story Angela Saini
07/15/17 Todas las hadas del reino Laura Gallego
07/18/17 A Conjuring of Light V. E. Schwab
07/19/17 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
07/31/17 The Refrigerator Monologues Catherynne Valente
08/02/17 History of Wolves: A Novel Emily Fridlund
08/07/17 Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World Clara Parkes
08/17/17 The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
08/18/17 Things We Lost in the Fire Mariana Enriquez
08/22/17 The Stone Sky N. K, Jemisin
09/10/17 The Radium Girls Kate Moore
09/11/17 Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee
09/15/17 Passing Strange Ellen Klages
09/19/17 Trainwreck: The women we love to hate, mock, and fear … and why Sady Doyle
09/21/17 Hunger Roxane Gay
09/27/17 Last First Snow Max Gladstone
10/01/17 We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement Andi Zeisler
10/06/17 Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone
10/13/17 Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq Hassan Blasim
10/17/17 The Mothers Brit Bennett
10/24/17 Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Samhita Mukhopadhyay
10/31/17 Three Parts Dead Max Gladstone
11/03/17 What Happened Hillary Clinton
11/08/17 Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
11/13/17 Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights Katha Pollitt
11/19/17 Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People Danny Katch
11/22/17 Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone
11/25/17 An Excess Male Maggie Shen King
12/03/17 How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett
12/15 The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty
12/18 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesamyn Ward
12/27 Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone
12/27 Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado
03 Dec

Empathy for My Teenaged Self

Memory is a mysterious force. Today I was cooking some cheese-stuffed pasta shells for dinner. It’s a dish I haven’t made as an adult, but one I did eat now and again growing up. I was always glad to get a dinner entree that I genuinely enjoyed, but I was routinely dismayed by the judgment that my dad and step-mom passed on my eating habits. I always wanted to eat more. Sometimes they told me no, others they would say, “Do you really need to have another one?”

Teenage boys are assumed to be constantly hungry. This incessant drive for caloric intake is not frowned upon, as it is in girls, but encouraged. Growing bodies need nutrition, of course. Teenage girls receive another message. The female adolescent body is ever at risk of being fat. As we all know, fat is the worst thing a young woman can be. If you’re fat, men won’t like you and that’s the worst thing of all.

I was always hungry when I was young. Actually, I am always hungry as an adult, but I am learning how better to manage my nutritional needs. A little knowledge and experience can make a huge difference. I’ve been reflecting a lot on diet, eating habits, and how to best eat for my body and level of activity. With these thoughts in mind when this memory of dinners past surfaced, I discovered a new perspective on myself.

I was always hungry because I never had the right food. I never went hungry. We weren’t impoverished and there was always food in the house. However, I lacked the practical knowledge of how to feed myself effectively. Left to my own devices, I’d cook a grilled cheese sandwich or get a pizza. I ate crackers as an after-school snack. Granola bars were a large part of my diet. This might sound obvious, but to me it feels like a revelation to discover that I was always hungry because I didn’t get enough protein or enough of the food I needed to recover from my daily life.

I wasn’t fat. Well, I was overweight but I wasn’t fat in the way we think of fat people, in the loaded sense of the word. But I wasn’t getting what I needed. If you’re told that nearly every food is “bad” for you, then everything becomes equal. Like when every email you get is “urgent,” then there are no urgent issues—it’s all equally important. My step-mom, for example, would see me eating cashews and say “Nuts are fattening.” Well, if nuts are bad and cake is bad, then, why not eat a cake? It all has the same conclusion: food is bad and you’re fat.

There was a year that my step-mom, her daughter, my sister and I lived in the UK. We regularly bought packages of cookies (gotta sample the local cuisine) and we’d all have a cookie or two after dinner. That was great except for when I started to sneak cookies after school when I was the only one yet home. Eventually this escalated to eating multiple cookies. The evidence of my crimes would be unveiled and my step-mom would ask “Who ate all these cookies?” while looking pointedly at me. I was too frozen with shame to respond.

I gained a lot of weight that year (whether it was a lot objectively or not is a question that I cannot answer, but I think I would have fared better if someone had told me it was normal for teenage girls to gain some weight). When we moved back home, my dad made us tacos for dinner. I had keenly missed eating Mexican food so I was excited to eat some homemade tacos. Of course, after eating two tacos and angling for a third I was met with “Are you sure you need another taco?” from my dad. I said I was and then he decided this was the right time to tell me I had gained weight and should stop. Thanks for the support.

From an adult perspective, I question why no one saw this weight gain, saw my eating habits, my emotions, and asked how I felt or if I was hungry or what I needed. Why the fuck would you tell a teenage girl she is fat. Why would you tell your step-daughter that, when returning home from a year abroad, all her friends will see how much she “ballooned out.” I can’t imagine ever saying something like that to anyone, let alone a child. I wish someone had seen what was happening and realized that I needed emotional support instead of judgment and shame.

When you’re fat, you assume it’s because you lack the self-control that thin people have. Or you’re lazy. Maybe you are too stupid to know that you’re supposed to eat right. These are the stories our culture tells us. If you’re fat, it’s your fault. Of course, this narrative ignores the billions that corporations spend to market nutritionally useless foods like breakfast cereal, sugary beverages, and snack cakes. It ignores the hundreds of conflicting diets (low-fat, low-carb, only juice, the tears of one’s enemies) that are backed by little more than the testimony of a thin white woman.

I am fat. I say that without judgment; it’s just a fact of my body. Recognizing some of the factors that have influenced a lifetime’s eating habits is helping me accept myself and accept that it’s possible to live healthfully in my own terms. I know I will never be thin, which is something I am fine with. However, I can be strong, active and confident all while being fat. I can choose what I need to fuel my life. I don’t have to be forever hungry or forever guilty. I can just be myself.

23 Oct

Out of Body

There’s something about choosing an inanimate object as a Halloween costume that simultaneously amuses and unnerves people. When I was a kid I was fond of painting boxes to resemble this or that. One year, a packet of gum, another, a teapot. This year, every person who I have told I plan to be a tree has abruptly burst with laughter. There’s something unexpected about being a thing instead of being a someone. But I struggle to embody someone else when I hardly can embody myself. How can I be someone else when some days, it seems like I am barely myself?

I remember taking a disposable camera with me on a fourth-grade field trip to Sacramento. After developing the roll of film, my parents discovered that the majority of my photos were of squirrels I’d witnessed in and around the capitol. In the eighth grade, when I went to Washington D.C., I used 8 rolls of film taking pictures of monuments, buildings from abstruse angles, and clouds. My parents were mad at the cost of developing all my photos, then puzzled by their contents. “There are no people in these pictures,” my step-mom observed, anguished, “Where are your friends?” Do people have friends in eighth grade? I’m not convinced I did.

Days into my student teaching assignment, my mentor (and now friend) Shannon asked me if I felt like I was observing my life from a distance, like watching a movie of my existence rather than experiencing it firsthand. I narrowed my eyes. Maybe? How would you know to ask something like that? Well, if you know what autism looks like, it’s really not hard to spot in the wild.

My father-in-law is not a man of faith in the typical sense but he has unrelenting faith in the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. Your path laid out before you in a four-letter sequence as tidy as your DNA. a-t, c-g, INTJ, ENFP. Destiny. Because my father-in-law and I share a type, INTJ, he believes he knows a lot about me. He doesn’t bother to ask my opinion or hear about my experiences. He knows me like he knows himself. He acts like we’re part of an elite club, leaning in conspiratorially to share a universal truth about the long-suffering life sentence of the INTJ. “You and me,” he begins, “we’re not compassionate. You don’t know how to be a nice person.” One time I said I was, in fact, a pretty alright person and he didn’t know my life, to which he informed me that my response was not indicative of a compassionate person. Apparently, the truly compassionate would have the forbearance and wisdom to take this character assassination in stride and merely smile into the middle distance, secure in the knowledge of themselves.

I want to not be bothered by the stupid shit my father-in-law thinks he knows about me. But when parental figures wade into sensitive subjects it’s difficult to remain steady and trust my sense of self. Why is it a sensitive subject anyway? Why have I spent years thinking I’m some kind of arrogant jerk when, I’m pretty sure, I’m not that at all? Why have I made such efforts to improve my people skills over time? Oh, right, that other father figure: my dad.

My dad has left me with some stupid ideas about myself. Intellectually, I know it’s not true and probably an act of projection, more than one of judgment, but intellectual understanding doesn’t always lead to emotional truth. My dad has said that I’m arrogant, I can’t relate to people. I’m a smart-ass, I’m rude, I’m too loud. But also, that I’m too sensitive, that I’m defensive and collapse under the slightest criticism. It’s taxing, being a living contradiction.

I spent a lot of time in my 20s working on my perceived faults, if they were ever really faults in the first place. Even if my worst traits weren’t as egregious as they were made out to be, I am still glad I was able to improve something about myself. That’s the nature of adulthood: you can choose who to be. I don’t have to be a compassionless jerk if I don’t want to be. So I developed better qualities. I worked on myself. I feel good about the person I am.

Unfortunately, it takes so little to strip me of my sense of self and leave me bare, crying in the bathroom at my in-laws’ house, hoping no one can hear my muffled sobs. My mantra isn’t “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and people like me,” but that’s not too far from what I hold onto when I’m hiding in the restroom. It’s too easy to peel back years of self-sufficient, emotionally mature adulthood to reveal the friendless eighth grader taking pictures of clouds on a field trip to Washington.

Ultimately these patriarchal take-downs hurt me because they reveal my fears about myself. I often feel disconnected from myself and others. Maybe I’m even less connected to people than I thought. Maybe my friends aren’t really my friends and everyone is just tolerating me. Maybe I really am just a tree or a teapot, a passenger in my own life.

I know none of those things are true, but sometimes, they feel very real.

17 Oct

Me, You, and Everyone Too

Me, too.

Of course, me, too. I struggle to imagine what sort of woman has never been harassed or assaulted. This theoretical woman would probably be the type to live under some mantle of patrilineal protection: I can only imagine a woman free of harassment if she lives according to the patriarchy’s ever-shifting rules. Even then, is she really free of harassment? If you second-guess yourself into oblivion, contort your whole life to conform to the rules and expectations of the men who surround you, have you really lived a life free of harassment? Or have you merely applied it to yourself, sparing the need for patriarchal sanction?

These discussions surrounding abuse always get me because I have been subject to the leering and dangerous attentions of men, but then I think, well, I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted. I’ve never not made it home safe. Yet, what I have experienced has stayed with me:

14 and walking home from school, a man pulls his car up to the curb where I’m walking. Two tittering women in the backseat. He invites me in. I can’t remember what he said only that terror overtook me and through the shroud of my naiveté I at least knew to stride purposefully (don’t run, don’t show fear) to my door, lock myself inside.

17 and working a high school job as a caterer. A male patron asks me, “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?” The threat, of course, lurking in the subtext.

19 and working in a mall bookshop. A male customer tells me that it’s cool that I like “reading and stuff.” He follows this statement up with, “How old are you?” and attempts to ask me out.

21 and a man on a bus won’t stop talking to me. He tells me I have a “smile like Malcolm X.” Perhaps this isn’t a true instance of harassment, but it stayed with me. I felt powerless to disengage from this commuter conversation. I still don’t know what about my smile put him in mind of Malcolm X. This mystery lingers.

24 and riding my bike home from work. A man (a youth, more likely) shouts at me from a passing vehicle, “Go eat hamburger, bitch.” Is there truly anything more offensive than a fat woman on a bicycle?

It’s interesting to me that I struggle to recall particular instances of harassment as an adult. Did people stop harassing me? I don’t think so. As I matured and grew confident, shedding my ignorance, I learned how to tell men to leave well enough alone. My male peers started calling me “intimidating.” But something else happened too. I stopped being young. I lost the casual fuckability that men ascribe to young women. I put on weight, shaved my head, became strong. That’s still a woman that men harass, but not the “hey baby” kind of harassment. It’s the “You’re too fat to fuck but I still would and that makes me hate myself and you by extension” brand, which I stopped caring about many years ago.

#MeToo is about sexualized harassment and violence, but I can’t help considering all sex-based oppression. Do I get sexually harassed at work anymore? No. But in my last job, I spent years being seen as some kind of untrustworthy bitch because I refused to do the things women are supposed to do to make men feel comfortable. I am unflinchingly confident. I stopped apologizing for having ideas. I no longer hesitate to correct a man when he talks over me or repeats my suggestions. And you know what? Men fucking hate that. So no, not me too, not lately. Yet, men still hang their expectations on me, and on women everywhere, and behave badly when we refuse to meet them.

Harassment, as #MeToo demonstrates, is not isolated. All women (and some men, sure) experience it. To me though, my experiences seem petty in contrast not only to those of my fellow women, but to those inflicted on us by this system of patriarchal, capitalistic oppression.

Men feel entitled to women. They think they have the right to punish women for not conforming to their “standards” of sexuality. They think they have the right to punish other men for encroaching upon what’s “theirs.”

When I thought about this “me, too” discussion, one of the first things that I recalled was not something that happened to me, per se, but something that happened to my dad.

At eight years old, I witnessed a man smash the side of my dad’s skull with a baseball bat.

My dad had come to retrieve my sister and I from my mom and her boyfriend’s (husband’s? who remembers) house. Some kind of argument ensued. The details I’ve forgotten or perhaps never knew, but can there be any doubt that the nature of this dispute was over who held the rights to my mother?

Dad’s face was covered in blood. We spent the night with my Aunt Ruth and my cousins. I don’t think I understood what was going on but I knew there was a lot of blood involved. My dad lost most of his hearing in one ear.

I know my dad wouldn’t be on team #MeToo, but maybe he should be. This incident wasn’t exactly harassment of me, my sister, or my mom, but it feels like we should think of it that way. What was this other than an act to threaten my mom, to get her in line, to remove a potential suitor and male competitor? Patriarchy is about the violent custody of women as property. Any act to further that system is a part of me, too, in my opinion. So, of course, me too.

21 Feb

Reading Harry Potter in Spanish

Canny readers may have noticed a few mentions of Harry Potter on the list of books I read in 2016. Last year, I made it my goal to read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish. Here I describe why I did it, my methods, and what I got from this exercise.

The Why

Harry Potter is a popular choice for language learners because it’s a popular work generally. It’s translated into a huge number of languages and it’s relatively easy to find. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of popularity. It also, ostensibly, starts with simple language that gets more difficult throughout each book. I liked the idea of reading something that would build up and having a series that I could focus on. It seemed like it would be easier to start building fluency with a lot of young adult works by one author than with many unconnected books.

Aside from the series’ ubiquity, I chose Harry Potter because I had not read it all. My family was an early adopter of the books. I think we got the first novel when I was, perhaps, 13 (for reference, the last book was published in 2007, when I was 21). My sister was the target age for the story. I was just old enough to still be entertained, but not enthralled. I read through the fifth book (of seven) as an adolescent, but never read the last two. Working the release night of book six at Barnes and Noble resulted in me being fully fed up with the Potter phenomenon. But, nearly 10 years later, I was ready to revisit the story.

The How

I knew that reading Harry Potter in Spanish would be an undertaking in vocabulary. When I started reading it, I was using Anki for flashcards. As I read, I looked up words and wrote down the word and the definition in a steno notebook. This is a method I had used in the past and I liked it well enough. After reading, I added the vocabulary to my Anki flashcard deck.

Sometime in the middle of Harry Potter y el prisoner de Azkaban (book 3), I decided to change it up. Looking up words was making the reading too slow—and I was already reading slower than I wanted (the problem with reading fast in English is that it feels terrible to go so slowly in another language). I decided to try underlining words to look up later, which hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it mentioned in Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words. This was a great choice for me because it made me focus on reading without stopping and on decoding meaning based on context. I don’t think it would have gone well for me to read the first book this way, but it was right by the time I was in the third.

I switched flashcard platforms partway through reading as well. On the recommendation of my Icelandic tutor, I began using Memrise. I decided I liked Memrise better so I made a “Harry Potter Spanish” course and started adding new words. I learned a lot of words this way. Unfortunately, I was taking down more vocabulary than I could learn. My vocabulary study was perpetually eight or more chapters behind my reading. It’s not the worst thing, but it would have been nice to keep pace.

All 7 Harry Potter books stacked

My pile of Harry Potter books

About halfway through Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (book 7), I declared lexical bankruptcy. I stopped underlining words to look up later. I hadn’t added any new words to my course since chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the misterio del príncipe (book 6). That said, I had about 2,000 words total in my Memrise course. Plus, I picked up some words and phrases that I didn’t formally study. Although I like learning new vocabulary and there was certainly more I could have learned, I was losing interest in the world of Harry Potter and decided to focus on reading instead of vocabulary for the last leg of the journey.

The Benefits

This seems like a good time for a bulleted list:

  • I learned a lot of vocabulary words.
  • I became familiar with a lot of phrases and bits of common usage. For example, you don’t “shake your head” in Spanish, you negas con la cabeza (literally: refuse with the head).
  • I started reading a lot more smoothly.
  • I accepted the fact that I do not and cannot know all words (which is also true in English!)
  • I read a lot faster now.
  • I can proudly say I read thousands of pages’ worth of writing in Spanish.
  • I am a much more confident reader.

Now What?

I’ve already started my next book in Spanish, La Distancia Entre Nosotros (The Distance Between Us). It seems much easier to read. In some ways, the subject matter is easier because it’s less fanciful. On the other hand, this is a book written for adults. I’m glad that I read Harry Potter, but I am really glad to be onto another book. My enthusiasm was seriously waning towards the end. In my goals for 2017, I said that I wanted to read 6 books in Spanish this year. At this rate, I’ll be able to get through more than that, which is really cool!

One question I have been asked is whether I would do this again. I am learning Icelandic too and Harry Potter in Icelandic is a real thing. At this point, I am not sure. I definitely got a lot out of reading the series in Spanish, but part of the motivation was also that I had not read all the books before. I might be inclined to read books originally written in Icelandic and that are a little more interesting to me (also good arguments for not reading Harry Potter in Spanish, for that matter). I’m at least a year out from being at a level where I would attempt Harry Potter in Icelandic. I need some time and distance before I could say for sure whether this is something I would do again. For now, I’m enjoying the benefits of being a stronger reader in Spanish.

13 Feb

What to Expect When You’re Divesting

I said in my last post that I would write about divesting from Bank of America. I am here to deliver.

I had never really thought about where my money goes when I put it in the bank. Money is just in the bank, right? I guess I pictured a Scrooge McDuck-ian style vault, or something like you see in a heist movie. I’ve learned that’s not the case at all.

Scrooge McDuck jumping into a pile of gold coins

This is not what a bank is like.

I gradually became aware of the Dakota Access Pipeline issue via Facebook, which seems to be the popular method for obtaining information these days. At first my opinion was “That’s terrible, but it’s not like I can go protest in North Dakota in the middle of winter.” I started paying more attention to the issue and following the Injustice Boycott. I learned that there are actions that I can take other than going to North Dakota. I can divest from banks that fund the pipeline. I was also surprised to learn that Bank of America is invested in private prisons. This is not what my money is for.

Preparation

A week or so before I went to the No DAPL protest, I polled my Facebook network to ask if anyone had a credit union in Sacramento they liked and wanted to recommend. I got a lot of responses. Asking Facebook is, of course, not a replacement for actual research, but if you have well-informed friends I think it’s a good place to start. I got a number of responses including Golden 1 (which I was familiar with), SAFE, and Patel Co, among others. I also learned about the credit union co-op, which links credit unions together. This allows credit union members to use other credit unions’ ATMs. I would not have thought to look that up on my own.

I looked at the sites for a few of the credit unions my friends suggested and decided on Golden 1. For my banking, they seemed to have the best rates. There are also two branches near my apartment, so I knew it would be a convenient choice.

Before heading out, I paid my credit card off and moved all but $25 to my checking. I wrote down how much I had left in my account and put a check in my purse so I could give myself the money. I think there are other ways to do balance transfers, but that seemed the most straightforward to me.

Opening New Accounts

Fresh from the excitement of the protest, I went to Golden 1 on Saturday morning. My boyfriend came along, too. Although he wasn’t ready to switch banks, he wanted to learn more about the accounts they offer. We were also keen to find out more about getting a mortgage. We’re not ready to buy a house, but we are trying to figure out what we could reasonably afford in the near future.

I hadn’t been into a bank to do anything other than deposit or withdraw money in a long time. I went in, wrote my name down on their list for people who want to speak with someone, and waited for maybe 30 minutes. I suppose Saturday mornings are a busy time for the bank.

When my name came up, the bank employee invited us into his office. I told him I wanted to open checking and savings accounts and apply for a credit card (all replacements for accounts I had through Bank of America), and that we were interested in learning more about mortgages. Getting the accounts set up was fairly straighforward, but we were informed that we’d have to talk to a mortgage specialist over the phone and they’re all quite busy on Saturday. I asked that they call me back during the week (they never did call me back. We’re planning to go talk to someone at the bank soon).

To set up the accounts, I only needed to bring a photo ID and, of course, money. They have it set up so you can open a savings account with just one dollar. I had a lot of dollars. I wrote a check to myself (I wrote “Divestment #NoDAPL” in the check memo, just to feel good) and left about $50 in my old account, to cover any direct payments I might have forgotten about. The bank employee had me fill out a few forms and got my checking and savings accounts opened on the spot. I got a debit card that day, but was informed I might not be able to start using it for a few hours. One thing to be careful of if you are changing accounts and moving a large amount of money is that they will probably put a hold on the funds. I got a few thousand dollars within two or three days and the rest of my money dropped in after a week or so. Fortunately, this wasn’t an issue for me, but I recommend that anyone divesting plan accordingly.

I also wanted to open a line of credit to replace my Alaska Airlines Visa, which was managed by Bank of America. I found out that the airline miles I accrued as rewards stay with my mileage plan account, not with my credit card. Even though I was closing the card, I still kept the rewards. It seems like a petty concern, but I have a lot of miles saved up for a trip, so I was quite relieved. The bank employee had me fill out a few forms. I wasn’t able to find out right away how much I would get because a real person had to assess it. However, they figured it out quickly enough. I got a call two hours later to tell me how much credit I’d been approved for.

In total, I spent about an hour in the bank and probably another hour researching and preparing to switch accounts.

Closing Old Accounts

The main thing I wanted to ensure was the continuity of my paychecks. My paycheck is direct deposited into my bank account every other week. The people at Golden 1 said it could take two pay cycles to get my direct deposit set up and provided me with a form to do it. I came home and looked on my company’s employee site. I was able to update my direct deposit account online. I thought it might take two checks to start, but I got paid to my new credit union account the next Friday with no trouble at all.

After my paycheck came through, I went to Bank of America to finish closing my accounts. I run most of my bills through credit cards (and most of them through an account other than the one I was closing). If I depended on my Bank of America accounts, I would have waited a little longer before closing it all up. I only had about $8 left in my checking account.

I spoke to the employee there and told him I wanted to close my accounts. I said that Bank of America is invested in companies that fund private prisons and oil pipelines. He responded, “I can’t argue with that.”

I handed him my debit card, credit card, and ID. He seemed surprised that I wanted to close my credit card too. When I quit, I quit all the way. He had to make a phone call to close the credit account, but he was able to close up my checking and savings accounts through his computer. When he was finished, he took me up to a bank teller, who gave me my $8 and a receipt. This took about 15 minutes total.

Next Steps

It took two weeks to get my new credit card. After it arrived, I made a list of all the bills I pay and set about switching everything to my new accounts. It helped me to write it down, but I still found things I forgot as I worked through it. The good thing is that most places you send money to want to keep getting your money, so they will give you a warning when your card stops working. Now nearly all my bills are getting paid through my new Golden 1 credit card.

I still have an Amazon Visa card through Chase bank. Chase is worth divesting from, but it’s not as dire as divesting from Bank of America or Well’s Fargo. I have decided that, in the interest of maintaining my credit score, I’m going to stop using that credit card, but not close the account right away. Closing a lot of accounts at once can impact your credit score.

Overall, switching banks was fairly simple. I can understand that if you have a car loan or a mortgage, there is probably more involved than there was for me. That said, I think it is important for individual citizens to do what they can to spend money in a way that supports or defunds causes, as appropriate.

Corporations do respond to the pressure of people voting with their wallet. Just last week Nordstrom, among other retailers, announced it would stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s brand. Specific to divesting from DAPL, the City of Seattle and the City of Davis have both voted to remove their cities’ funds from Well’s Fargo. That’s major. Far from being hopeless, the cause is gaining momentum. Two cities have divested. Individuals are divesting. It might take longer than we like for us to stop this oil pipeline and others like it, but it will happen. I am choosing the radical stance of believing that our actions have an impact.

One More Thing

If you’re following the Injustice Boycott and you decide to divest (I hope you do), you can check out their instructions and fill out a survey saying you participated. This helps track the true impact that the boycott is having.