Hello, friends and enemies. I’m publishing slightly early this week. I wrote most of this post on Thursday because I had no idea how lucid I was going to feel on Sunday, when I normally write my posts. I got my liver biopsied yesterday because my doctor is trying to find out how dire my fatty liver really is. I was supposed to go for the biopsy on Wednesday, but I got a call from the hospital at the last minute that morning telling me they needed to reschedule for “staffing issues” (I assume everyone got covid and called in sick). This was very annoying because I just wanted the damn thing over with and I had oriented my whole week around dealing with this. Kirk and I both ended up working on Wednesday instead.
Getting the biopsy was way less terrible than I thought it might be. I had been informed that it’s a routine procedure and not that bad but it’s just hard to imagine that getting a needle directly into an organ to take a sample like those scientists extracting ice cores in Antarctica is going to be anything other than horrific. The procedure itself only takes about five minutes, though I did have to spend a few hours at the hospital between getting ready and then being monitored afterwards to make sure nothing bad happened. I also thought I would be fully knocked out for the procedure since they told me I would be under sedation, but they actually just gave me enough to feel a little goofy while staying conscious. The doctor said it would feel like “two margaritas.” I did feel a little out of it afterwards, but not enough to prevent me from reading a book while I was waiting around to be discharged. The doctor also told me I could “resume normal activities” the next day, which of course had me asking “what constitutes normal activities?” I don’t think you can tell someone to resume normal activities if you don’t know what those are. I ended up getting some more details from my nurse (who was really nice and attentive through the whole process). I said normally on Saturday I have an hour-and-a-half ballet class. He said maybe do thirty minutes and stay hydrated. I am going to rest for at least a few days and see how I feel but I do think it’s silly that the doctor is like “yeah go back to normal.” How do you know I’m not planning to pull a truck tomorrow, my guy?
I am feeling okay today, considering, a little sore and a bit tired. Kirk has announced he will be handling all household tasks for a couple of days so I am planning to take it very easy and make sure I don’t aggravate anything.
Books and Other Words
Yellowface by R. F. Kuang really had me hooked. I finished it in one day. The story follows Juniper “June” Hayward, a 20-something author with one book that almost nobody read and had zero cultural impact. June is deeply insecure and jealous of her successful author friend Athena Liu. When Athena suddenly dies, June steals her freshly printed first draft novel about Chinese laborers in World War I and, in a series of increasingly insane justifications, publishes the book as her own under the name Juniper Song (Song being June’s middle name bestowed by her former-hippie mother). This book had me practically screaming at June’s audacity. She is the picture of an apparently liberal white woman who is, in fact, constantly belittling all the people of color she comes in contact with. She is fueled by jealousy over the “unfairness” of Athena’s riotously successful career. I’ve read several of Kuang’s novels so far and really loved the last one, Babel: An Arcane History. Yellowface is a very different novel but still has a strong affinity with her previous work through the theme of “white supremacy and colonialism can go fuck themselves.” Highly recommended.
Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery is by Annie Liontas, who I don’t know personally but who is good friends with my good friend Lito (and they host the LitFriends podcast together) so I feel like we are almost friends. And if we weren’t (almost) friends before, I feel like I know Liontas a lot after this book, which is so vulnerable. The work is a window to what it’s like to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Liontas combines her own experience with research, which shows, among other things, that people who get a TBI have a high risk of getting a second (and then a third, a fourth, perhaps a fifth) TBI, complicating the recovery process. Sex with a Brain Injury emphasizes the feeling of otherness that having a TBI brings, a sense of being outside the body or that someone else has taken over your life and you’re just riding along. I was surprised at how much overlap there is between this and what it can feel like to be autistic (because I gotta make everything about autism). The experience of being overwhelmed by stimuli, needing routine, getting emotional without knowing why—that all overlaps with the autistic experience. Liontas also talks a little about going to vision therapy as part of her treatment process and I laughed when I realized she was describing the exact same activities and 1990s-looking computer program that I used to treat my wonky eyesight. It is weird how delicate the brain is and that there are multiple issues that can lead to the same problems with navigating the world. We’re all walking the neurological tight rope one misstep away from infinite migraines.
Fugitive Telemetry is the penultimate book in Martha Well’s Murderbot series (so far) and System Collapse is the most recent installment. I have said a lot about Murderbot already here while re-reading the previous five stories, but I will say again that I love Murderbot and find the character endearing. AI, robots, what have you are always fictional stand-ins for discussions of what it means to be a person. System Collapse in particular focuses on the question of trauma and how not dealing with it can affect us bodily (but, you know, told through the medium of a sarcastic human-bot construct named Murderbot). I think it was a good entry in the series and I hope Wells keeps writing these stories because I always enjoy them.
Meanwhile, on the internet:
- World Court orders Israel to prevent genocide—but falls short of demanding end to Gaza war via the Los Angeles Times. South Africa sued Israel in the International Court of Justice to try to get them to stop committing genocide against Palestinians and requested that the Court immediately order Israel to “halt its military campaign until the case is decided.” The ICJ is letting the case continue and has told Israel they have to let humanitarian aid through. I know I’ve written a little about the situation in Palestine a little so far but I just don’t know how to express how horrific it seems. I hate that the United States is bankrolling a genocide. Israel has killed over 26,000 people since October. They have no water. There are no more hospitals left in Gaza. It’s atrocious.
- Trump and allies forge plans to increase presidential power in 2025 via The New York Times. The damage a second Trump term would cause really cannot be overstated. Some will think this sounds hysterical, but if Trump wins the election, we may never have another one. I mean, “Personal power has always been a driving force for Mr. Trump. He often gestures toward it in a more simplistic manner, such as in 2019, when he declared to a cheering crowd, ‘I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.'” This is a man who wants to be a dictator and there are enough rogues supporting him to make it happen. We’re already living with the consequences of his presidency. For just one example, I ran across this study this week: rape-related pregnancies in the 14 US states with total abortion violence. The research found that, “In the 14 states that implemented total abortion bans following the Dobbs decision, we estimated that 519,981 completed rapes were associated with 64,565 pregnancies during the 4 to 18 months that bans were in effect.” And this is just ONE THING Trump fucked up for us. We have seen enough.
- Half of recent US inflation due to high corporate profits, report finds via The Guardian. From the article, “corporate profits accounted for about 53% of inflation during last year’s second and third quarters. Profits drove just 11% of price growth in the 40 years prior to the pandemic.” It would be one thing if prices went up so employees could be paid fairly, but no, this is a blatant cash grab for people at the top.
- How Boeing ruined the JetBlue-Spirit merger via The American Prospect. Look, I’m not that interested in plane news but, uh, did you know they are running out of planes? Boeing “has delayed all new orders until 2029.” This does not inspire confidence in air travel as a system. Can we get a robust rail network now or what?
- The self-checkout nightmare may finally be ending via Gizmodo. Self-checkout! Everyone hates it! Stores are losing money because it’s easy to steal both accidentally and on purpose! Could corporations finally be learning that sometimes you just have to pay people to do a job instead of laying off as many people as possible?
- Abby R on The Moth Story Slam via YouTube. My wonderful friend Abby is hilarious and a genius and tells a damn good story. Someone needs to set her up with a Netflix special already.
TV and Music
Kirk and I have now watched all four seasons of For All Mankind on Apple TV. The premise of the show is that the Russians beat the U.S. to landing on the moon. This pisses the U.S. off and motivates a lot of investment in the space program, culminating in sending a team to Mars in 2003! It is both cool and depressing to see a dispatch from an alternate timeline (Al Gore became president in 2000! I fucking wish!!). I love that for them. I hope they enjoy their fancy technology that came from investing in scientific advancement. The episodes are long, about an hour each, and there is a lot of juicy interpersonal drama to keep the show moving amid the space stuff. It’s not the greatest show I’ve ever seen but it was entertaining enough to watch and made us yell at the TV a lot about how jealous we were of the characters.
This is something that is kind of the opposite of consumerism, but I did spend money so I’m putting it here. I was reading a tumblr post about setting up programs that block ads. Not just ads on your web browser, but stopping ads at the source, before they load. This person found that 60% of the web traffic they were getting was from ads. Isn’t that insane? You’re just paying to get the ads piped directly to you. I fucking hate ads. Advertising is fundamentally opposed to who I am as a person so I was surprised and delighted to learn you can actually buy a program that stops the ads an the trackers. I’ve been using AdGuard Home for the last few days and it seems great so far. I had to laugh when I clicked on a Yahoo article and it prompted me to “enhance your Yahoo experience by allowing us to share and sell your personal information.” Really? That enhances my experience? Fuck off, for real. I also installed AdGuard on my phone, which you cannot do through the App/Play stores because blocking ads and tracking is antithetical to the business model of smartphones. The phone version of the program keeps a running tally of the data it’s saved by blocking all this shit. I saved 2 gigabytes of data over about 48 hours. What the fuck? So, a hearty recommendation for this product. Join the biggest boycott in history! Block your ads!
I’ve had Arabic on my mind all month. A friend asked me to recommend some resources to start learning it and my embarrassingly influenceable mind was like “hell yeah, we should learn some Arabic.” To my credit, I’m not wrong. I should learn some Arabic. I got a whole bachelor’s degree in Arabic and basically all I can say is “I studied Arabic in college but forgot everything” and “I am a UN translator” (shout out to textbook videos that stay with you forever). The language feels like unfinished business for me. I don’t need anything more to do (lol. lmao even.) but I did start studying just a little Arabic (as a treat) on the Lingq and Drops apps. It’s surprising how being reminded of even a few words has awoken a whole network of information in my mind. Running into the word for “week” immediately had me remembering how to say “next week” and “last week,” for example. It is nice that I already know how to read, and I mean that in the literal sense of I can read the Arabic script, so it doesn’t feel as hard to drop in on studying this language again. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up Icelandic or Spanish (quite the opposite), but if I don’t get to study everything I feel like studying, I will die.
I’ve still been working on incorporating the recommendations from my dietician into what I’m eating and to that end I tried two new bread recipes: back-of-the-bag oatmeal bread and no-knead oat bread. Oats are a whole grain! Both were quite good. I really liked the “back of the bag” loaf. The no-knead bread was good but to be honest I think it needs to be a some-knead bread. I also should have let it rise a little more because my house was cold but I was like let’s get this show on the road and baked it anyway. It still came out respectably though; I’m not mad at it. I am also making more smoothies, which is honestly the most surprising thing to me. Smoothies can be good? Because I have no respect for made-up rules, I have tried adding some ice cream to my smoothies, which was an excellent choice. If the goal is to eat fruit, adding a little ice cream to make it easier is definitely allowed. Encouraged, even. Ice cream or not, I never thought I would want to make smoothies. The dietician asked me to try one and I have been making them every other day because I’m actually feeling better having applied her suggestions. I don’t feel as constantly hungry as I normally would. She has definitely cracked some kind of code for me. Adding more omega-3, fruit, and whole grains to my diet is doing something good, even if it doesn’t help my liver (but I also really want it to help my liver). This is great for me but is also makes me so fucking mad that all I need was some fucking extra fiber in my diet and I feel better? A big “fuck you” to every doctor who has been like “I know you exercise, why are you still fat?” and “Try not drinking soda.” Have even a little curiosity about your patients, for fucks’ sake.
Anyway, I have made some regular food too. I tried some more Rancho Gordo bean recipes, of course. I made the Christmas limas with gorgonzola sauce, which was rich and delicious. I added a packet of gnocchi at the end to round out the dish, which is going to be a permanent addition to my version of this recipe. I also tried a snowcap chowder with sage, bacon and sweet potatoes (not pictured and, sorry, no link. Why did I even bring it up, right?). It was good but I think I added too much liquid and it would be better as just a bowl of food instead of a soup. Next time I might roast the sweet potatoes then pile it all together. Finally, I roasted a chicken (here’s the guide I use)! Because I can and it is actually very easy. I love that I can cook risotto in the Instant Pot. I don’t have to stand around stirring forever. Bless you, pressure cooker.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.