Two Weeks in the Life: May 12, 2024

Hello, friends and enemies. This time of year, I always get nostalgic for my circus days. One day I will write a full post about this but I think most know by know that my hometown has a community circus that I participated in when I was a kid and when I moved back home after college (I have written a little about it here). They do shows for the first three weekends in May, so I think of this as circus season. It’s something I miss but I am realizing that I don’t have to do the most special and unique activity to get the same sort of good feelings and fulfillment in my life. I think dance is doing a great job of holding this space for me. I get to do a fun, physical, and artistic activity with interesting people and I get to ham it up on stage once in a while. Here are some circus photos of me from the archives.

Me, outside, wearing red sunglasses and a cute swimsuit, smiling at the camera. My hair is in two buns on top of my head
38 and ready to be in the pool

Yesterday was my 38th birthday! I usually don’t do much in the way of festivities but yesterday we had a little party—the “dip and dip,” the successor to the souper bowl party we had in February. Everyone brought a dip and something to dip in it and then we took a dip in the pool and it was really great. I got to chill in the water and chat with my friends and eat good food and look cute doing it!

Current Events

As you know from reading this blog, I have been thinking a lot about the war Israel is waging against Gaza and, recently, the wave of protests and demands for divestment it has inspired. Something important that I had totally forgotten about but that this instagram video reminded me about, is that I have investments via my 401(k) and that is a site where I can do some divestment of my own. This is, however, proving to be challenging. On my 401(k) account’s site, I can pick which funds I want to invest my retirement in and at what percentage. The funds are a little cagey about what exactly they’re invested in, I assume because that’s the special secret industry knowledge that fund managers are charging for. Unfortunately, this makes it very to difficult to figure out which companies my money is invested in. There are info sheets available for each fund that show the top ten investments, and summarize the broad type of thing the money is going to (“healthcare” or “real estate,” for example). I tried contacting the company that manages me 401(k) to ask if it’s possible to get a full list of what any given fund invests in (I figured not because I assume this is proprietary information). The customer service representative told me I could but the thing they directed me to was the fund info sheets I was already looking at, which do not list every single investment. Alas. But, I am carrying on with the information I do have. One of the funds I was invested in had Meta, Philip Morris, Eli Lily, and Alphabet in the top ten investments. Why in the world are we investing in Philip Morris! A company that makes cigarettes? In 2024?? Also, fuck Meta (for so many reasons but here’s one particularly egregious example).

I know I’m not rich but my 401(k) isn’t nothing and I think every little bit counts. It’s fucked up that so much of the onus of this falls to the individual. I am certain I’m not the only person with retirement investments who would like to make sure their savings aren’t indirectly supporting genocide, but good fucking luck finding an investment fund that’s like “we’re the anti-genocide guys!” The problem is that war remains profitable. The problem is also that I have to play the big international gambling game to save money for retirement. We have only been using 401(k)s as a primary way to save for retirement since 1980. Before that, you relied on regular savings or a pension from your company. So we kind of don’t know if 401(k) savings even work as the main way to fund retirement. We don’t have data about how well people with only 401(k) savings are doing in retirement because it just hasn’t been around that long. People who started their careers around 1980 are just starting to retire now. This could all be a scam! Unfortunately, the possible scam is the only system we have so I’ve got a good fifty percent of my account invested in bonds because I, quite frankly, do not trust the stock market (can you blame me?) but I am also trying to have enough money to not work forever. Modern life is full of insane contradictions and I’m doing my best!

Books and Other Words

I really liked Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford. It’s set in an alternate version of the 1920s in which, as the author explains in an afterword, a different, much less virulent variant of smallpox made it to the Americas a few hundred years ago, so European settlers encountered way more Native people when they arrived. The story takes place in the thriving city of Cahokia, a place we know today as a historical site on the Mississippi. Cahokia Jazz is a detective novel that kicks off with some unknown killer murdering a white man in a mimicry of Aztec-style human sacrifice on top of one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. This inflames the city’s existing racial tensions and becomes a big priority for city leaders. I thought this was an excellently done alternate history and an interesting look into what might have been.

Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaicovsky is the third and last book in Tchaikovsky’s The Final Architecture series. I thought it was a good end to the series. At the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure I was going to be into it because some of the perspectives shifted to different characters and it felt like too much, but of course once I got going I liked it. It was a fittingly epic end to the series.

Chain Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a dystopian tale from the not-too-distant future in which incarcerated people can elect to join the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment program in which they literally fight to the death for a chance at freedom. The corporations behind the program produce multiple TV shows featuring the fights and the day-to-day existence of the “links” (aka the prisoners) and profit considerably off the whole spectacle. What’s effective about this book is that Adjei-Brenyah includes footnotes throughout the work to explain the laws that underpin this horrific system. The vast majority of them are based on real information, like that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has a loophole where people can effectively be punished with slavery if they committed a crime. It reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s stating that there’s nothing in The Handmaid’s Tale that there’s “nothing in the book that didn’t happen, somewhere.” Reality is often much more horrific than we give it credit for. I thought this was a good book and a chilling story for sure, but something about it felt heavy handed to me, if, as I said, fairly effective.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

Eurovision was this week, which feels like a little birthday gift for me. Thank you, Europe, for offering me a gigantic, campy, musical spectacle to honor my birth. It means a lot. I have learned that some people do not know what Eurovision is so: the Eurovision Song Contest started in 1956 as a way for European countries to be friendly and make television together. European countries (broadly defined here, especially because Australia now participates) send a musician who enters one song into the competition. All the countries’ representatives perform their songs and the winner is selected based on a combination of votes from the public and votes from the Eurovision jury (which is kind of like the Electoral College). I only started watching this in the last few years but I have been interested in it for a while. My favorite acts are the ones that do weird stuff because it’s Eurovision and you could do literally anything! I am disappointed when countries send some basic pop music girlie. How boring! Use your imagination a little. My favorite this year was Finland’s unhinged performance by Windows95Man. Where else can you see this? No where. Only Eurovision.

Corporeal Form

Last week, I had my intake appointment for the clinical trial I’m doing to test a medication for non-alcoholic fatty liver. Ironically, this included the longest actual conversation I’ve had with a doctor in some time. Why do I have to sign up for a study to get a doctor to listen to me? I don’t know, but this system sucks. Of interest: I did an EKG, which showed I have a resting heart rate in the 50 bmp range. The doctor saw this and asked if I was really active as a kid, which I suppose I was but I don’t usually think about it that way because I didn’t do any traditional sports (see above, re: circus). It was validating to have a doctor be like “hey, you clearly have done some exercise” because usually they assume I do nothing. I also mentioned my ongoing dizziness/lightheadedness stuff and that my primary care doctor thinks I have vertigo (I think I have POTS but have yet to get anyone to send me for a test). The study doctor told me that vertigo feels like being super drunk and the room is spinning all around. That’s definitely not what I’m experiencing. Crazy what happens when the doctor takes the time to actually chat with you and ask questions!

Moving It

First, here’s a reminder that my dance recital is in less than a week! You can get tickets here or message me for information.

Underside of a pair of tap shoes. One shoe has a grippy thing glued to the ball of the foot and the other does not
tap shoes: one with the grippy thing and one without

This week we solved a mystery. You may recall that, in February, I sprained my ankle while tap dancing (I am, unfortunately, still not completely recovered. Although I am close). I slipped and fell, which is weird because that hadn’t happened to me before, but I was like, well my new shoes are different I guess. It turns out, I was supposed to put a grippy thing on my new tap shoes and I did not do this! My tap teacher, Dawn, decided she also wanted some custom tap shoes from the same shoe company. She told me the shoes were super slippery until she glued on the grippy pad the shoes came with. I was like, hold on, wait a minute here. Because my shoes came with a rubbery thing but no instructions for what to do with it. You’re supposed to affix the rubbery things to the bottom of the shoe so you don’t slide around and, as I did, turn your fucking ankle! I’m feeling stupid (although how would I have known) and annoyed (why no instructions??) but also relieved that I didn’t injure myself out of the blue because I had been kind of doubting my stability and skills. It was an equipment issue! Annoying!

Kitchen Witchery

I tried a couple of fun recipes for yesterday’s dip party. I made this alubia bean dip with garlic confit. It calls for ‘nduja oil, which my grocery store does not have and I was not motivated to search for. I also wanted to keep it vegetarian since there are some non-meat eaters in the group so I topped the dip with harissa instead. I brought a dessert option too, this s’mores dip. The picture with the recipe looks very dippy but mine was more like casserole, I guess. It has chocolate ganache and marshmallows on a bed of graham crackers. I think, to make it more dippable, I would leave the crackers out and use those to dip. That said, it was good and no one complained that it wasn’t sufficiently dip-like.

A kitchen counter covered in dips and foods to dip into dips
dip party action

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.