Hello, friends and enemies. It’s been kind of a rough week, not because the holidays are over (happy new year, by the way!) but just dealing with being alive is a lot sometimes. My lower back has been absolutely killing me when I’m sleeping at night, to the point that I was up in pain at 5:30 yesterday morning and could not go back to sleep. In my fugue state I read online that sometimes you need a new pillow configuration to encourage the spine into alignment. So, I ordered a bougie pillow to put under my knees and a new pillow for the normal place and we shall see if this helps. Last night I put a regular pillow under my knees and that helped a little, fortunately. It seems really unfair that bed is now a source of discomfort. This is the ultimate betrayal (bed-trayal?). I kind of have enough going on without not being able to sleep.
Books and Other Words
Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee is about as bleak as possible while maintaining a dissonantly cheerful tone. That is to say, this is a very millennial novel. Jonathan Abernathy, known to most as just Abernathy, takes a job for the dream archive. When he sleeps, he reports to work. He identifies stressful motifs in other peoples’ dreams and directs his boss to vacuum them up. This work is pitched as a way to help America’s professional-managerial class stay productive at work, untroubled by nightmares. Abernathy has over $100,000 in student loan debt, his parents are dead, he rents a tiny room and can’t pay his bills. But he tells himself “You are kind. You are a pillar in your community,” and other feel-good mantras to try to get through the day, but ultimately he is hapless and a little naive. He just wants to pay his bills and have money to eat. He is complicit in various horrors. This indictment of modern life made me sad but in a good way.
Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan is the sequel to Daughter of the Moon Goddess, which I read last summer. Overall I liked the book, but the things that annoyed me a little about the characters in the first book were more annoying in this second book. I’m sorry, but a love triangle with two princes is just going to get old for me. Also, this is as good a chance as I’ll get to share this really amazing analysis of how the “good guy/bad boy love triangle” is a way to take a character through the hero’s journey. So please enjoy the fruits of my wanderings on tumblr.
Meanwhile, on the internet:
- Both Joyful and Killjoy, From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy. In this essay, Kennedy moves from thinking about grief to how she finds meaning in her corner of the world. What stuck with me here was this, “it is the job of those of us who are obsessed to make its realities, painful or joyful, apparent to those who don’t. It is our work to seek ways of making the necessary engagement with the food system by all people, who all eat, less of an ethical conundrum.” She’s talking here about being an expert in food, but I love this sentiment and it resonates deeply with me. We can’t all be experts in everything, but it is our responsibility to translate the things we are obsessed with to help others.
- How will California’s new laws affect you? Via the Los Angeles Times. New year, new laws! California is up to a $16 minimum wage, workers are guaranteed at least five sick days, and we now have “reproductive bereavement leave” for dealing with grief after miscarriages and other family-planning woes.
- Eight predictions for 2024 via Read Max. I’m mostly sharing this for the prediction that “internet atheist culture will have a revival.” I find it funny because I did really appreciate internet atheist blogs in the early 2000s, which gave me a lot of perspective as a young adult after I quit Mormonism. Although that niche of the internet was, ultimately, problematic.
- Dunkey’s guide to streaming services via videogamedunkey on YouTube. It do be like that. @_@
TV and Music
One of my favorite end-of-year things is the Best of Bootie mashup album. Bootie is a group that throws dance parties featuring mashups—tracks spliced together from two or more songs—and they release a best-of album every December. I love mashups because I get to enjoy songs in new and surprising (and often deeply funny) ways. They also get me listening to songs I wouldn’t otherwise care about (for example, mashups are the only way I will experience Taylor Swift lol). I applaud the mad genius who put ABBA and Rage Against the Machine together in one song for this year’s album.
I went to the doctor this week to discuss the fatty liver diagnosis (can’t this condition have a better name? I know steatotic liver disease is an option, but no one knows what I mean if I say that). She confirmed what I had learned online, which is the only thing for me to do is lose weight. I have agreed to see a kaiser “wellness coach,” for whatever that will be worth. I’m assuming they’re going to tell me to eat less and move more and I’m gonna be like “kay.” I am slated to get a fibroscan of my liver this week to see how bad my liver is. However, the doctor said that this test often inflates the severity of the liver fibrosis in scans of fat people, so if the results are bad, I will need to get a liver biopsy, which sounds scary to me (giant needle poking in to the liver) but is, apparently, routine. I asked the doctor what the point of knowing is and she said that, if the liver disease is more advanced, doctors may refuse to perform operations due to the increased risk. I don’t have any operations lined up but it is important to know that there are consequences.
I polled my friends and scoured the internet this week in search of a nutritionist who might actually know something and be able to help me specifically. I wanted someone who knows about autism because I don’t need someone being like “eat eggs in the morning” and then me having to explain that I simply cannot eat them because they are icky to me for texture reasons and then getting gaslit about it. I am feeling pretty lucky because I found Jackie Silver nutrition. She works with autistic/neurodiverse people and disabled people. I had a consultation with her in which she asked what my food aversions are, which was pleasantly surprising. I told her that I know there’s not really evidence of any effective weight loss methods and I have been doing the work of being comfortable with myself yet my doctor said the only thing I can do is lose weight (although one of my friends quipped that maybe I should chop off a hand to drop the pounds since the doctor didn’t clarify that I should lose fat specifically) and I recognize that it sucks to approach a weight-neutral dietician with this problem but I need someone who gets it. Jackie said she would do some research but she is pretty sure there are dietary adjustments I can make that will help my liver be healthy even if I don’t lose weight, which made me feel a little better. So, I am going to work with her and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Something exciting is I’m going to start taking a pre-pointe class this week! This is a step in learning how to dance en pointe in ballet. I actually had to adjust my work schedule a little bit because the class is early in the afternoon (because it’s full of youths). I am looking forward to learning something new and trying it out even though it’s probably going to be a very physically uncomfortable process.
I decided to have another go at making ravioli because I had a lot filling leftover from the batch I made at Christmas and I felt like I had it in me to do a better job. I did roll out a thinner dough and shape some good-looking raviolis, but I was defeated by my own foolishness. I stacked all the fresh pasta together while I was shaping the raviolis, and they of course stuck together in a big clump. I cooked it anyway and that resulted in an even worse clump. I did eat it for dinner all the same but I was fairly irritated about it all. I also attempted a ginger bread house, on the request of my niece who expressed a wish to decorate one, which was not structurally sound. Fortunately, it’s all the same to a four year old if you provide enough sprinkles and M&Ms to decorate with (and eat). I gotta share the failures to remind you all that I am just a human person like you.
For new year’s eve, I made this delicious garlic and herb sun bread. It reminds me of the breadsticks they have at Round Table Pizza, and I love those things. I also made some very good pizza (here’s the dough recipe I use). I did a pepperoni and onion, then a half cheese/half olive and roasted garlic because I had roasted garlic leftover from making the sun bread. On new year’s day, I made black-eyed peas and rice. Rancho Gordo always sends a “lucky” bag of black-eyed peas in their last bean club shipment of the year because it’s a southern tradition to cook them for good luck in the new year. It’s not necessarily a part of my belief system, but we did really like the beans. I followed this lobia masala recipe to make what is, essentially, a bean curry (although I know the photo doesn’t look like much, they were very good!). For a weeknight dinner, I made a version of this tortellini soup recipe. I like the recipe but I don’t always want it in soup form, so I reduce the liquid and I add some linguica because I can.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz will not stop biting and ripping up cardboard and paper. I don’t know what his deal is but don’t let him fool you into thinking we’re neglecting him.