We are embracing Christmas this year, not the least because I am highly invested in putting up lots of lights. We finally got some lights to put up on the outside of the house, which I have wanted but we had struggled with the logistics. Kirk finally found a solution he was happy with and now we have delightful outside lights. We decorated our tree too, although it took us a week from getting the tree to decorating it. Life in the pandemic moves at its own pace. Life in the pandemic is also a lot of being in and around my house, so it might as well by shiny.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.
Books and Other Words
The trouble with skipping a week on the blog is now I have to remember what happened in all the books I read the previous week (in a surprise twist, I haven’t read anything since last weekend. My brain is tired). I had so many thoughts about them, but didn’t write them down, so you’re getting the abbreviated version today.
- Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. This was great. Cottom frames this as a series of personal essays, explaining that the personal essay is one of the only genres of opinion afforded to black writers. She talks about race, capitalism, politics, and how they all intersect. She writes about being the wrong kind of black and “knowing your whites.” This collection will give you plenty to think about.
- Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci. This is technically a narrow topic—how protests and twitter come together—but there’s so much to be said about how different movements have used twitter to organize and hold power to account. Tufekci focuses on the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Gezi Park protests in Turkey and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. I like seeing a serious discussion of twitter, often considered a frivolous application, being used in serious, world-changing ways. I also really appreciated the chapter on power and how we build it and hold politicians to account. Recommended for anyone looking to better understand the politics and realities of protest movements.
- The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. This was a quick read but had some cool world building for something so short. Court intrigue, wandering scholars, and a coup. It was fun and I’m definitely going to read the next book in the series.
Meanwhile, on the internet:
- The real reason local newspapers are dying via Men Yell at Me. The argument here boils down to newspapers not giving people what they need, so why would people pay for the paper? If a newspaper acts as a PR machine or only represents the interests of a rich owner, people don’t want it. Journalists are supposed to speak truth to power, and that’s happening less and less.
- Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic via Washington Post. This makes me sad and it makes me angry. You know what people are shoplifting the most? Baby formula. We have failed as a society.
- The Wife Glitch via The Baffler. On women’s work, compensating that work, and tech companies. From the article: “How strange and predictable it is, then, that wages for housework have, at last, become widespread—but in the form of our subscription to digital services and gig economy labor. This work has become concretely valuable at the precise moment its value can be effectively captured by a small cadre of men sitting at the top of the tech industry.”
TV and Music
We’ve started watching Star Trek: Picard, which is fun. Kirk (my spouse, not Captain James T.) says it’s not really a Star Trek show. It’s the equivalent of the Star Wars franchise calling something “A Star Wars Story.” You get a character you know and love but doing something entirely different and with a new cast of characters. I’ve been thinking of it as “Picard Solves a Mystery” more than anything.
Sometimes targeted ads show me something that I actually buy. In this case: cocofloss. I do not love flossing—but then, who does? One thing I hate about flossing and brushing my teeth is the flavor. I don’t like mint so I have this extra level of not wanting to do it. So I was really excited about cocofloss because it has alternate flavors. So far I’ve tried the coconut and it smells really pleasant. I also like that you can order “refill” floss and keep using the little case.
Much more exciting: lights! I hang colorful lights in the living room for Halloween and Christmas. Kirk discovered these programmable lights from a company called Twinkly. You can set them to different colors using a phone app. They have preset patterns you can use or you can make your own designs. It’s really cool! We just put them up this afternoon and I love them already. I posted a video on my instagram so you can see some different effects.
Making Things and Doing stuff
The December of Rare Household Tasks continues apace. I’ve dusted the bookcases and beaten back their chaos. I ran the self-clean on the oven for the first time ever. I know intellectually that all an oven can do is be hot so I don’t know why it surprised me to learn that the oven’s self-clean function is just … getting really hot. So, I ran that but then still had to wipe it down with some vinegar. These are the tasks that no one tells you about when you become an adult. We finally replaced the light bulbs in our bathroom too. Four of the eight had burned out so we replaced the lot of them with some of those cool bulbs with a spiral filament. This is a lot of words to say: we’ve been adulting pretty hard over here. I even cleaned the windows.
I was delighted in my ballet class today because we spent about half of it learning a short choreography to “Let It Snow,” which we then danced for our own pleasure with no audience. It wasn’t much but it was satisfying to put a few moves together after six months (time flies! and also crawls!) of ballet lessons. We have a break from class for the next couple of weeks because of the holidays, which is good but ballet has been my only out-of-the-house experience lately, so I’m a little bummed out. Maybe I will feel feisty and do some extra practice at home.
You may recall that, before Thanksgiving, Kirk held a pantry intervention and made me clean out the spice cabinet. That lasted for all of five minutes before I got some new things that didn’t fit. Fortunately, I have now solved the problem by buying some of these organizer bins. I’m super happy with how this looks! Now I can’t lose anything to the back of the pantry. Like sprinkles. Apparently I just keep buying sprinkles and then they disappear to the back of the shelf. They have their own bin now.
I’ve been doing a lot of holiday baking because I’m going full mom this year and delivering baked goods to a few friends. My cookbook club is doing a cookie exchange tomorrow and I have made “million peso shortbread” (this recipe, but add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the shortbread and about a 1/4 tsp of ancho chili powder to the chocolate) and toffee (not pictured). I had fun trying these sesame blossom cookies, which have tahini in them, and another fudge variation, featuring dulce de leche. I haven’t only made cookies (just mostly). I tried this chicken gnocchi soup recipe and it was quite tasty. It’s going into my rotation of things to make again.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.