Voter Guide: March 5, 2024 California Primary Election

Hello, friends and enemies! It’s election season again. In California, midterm elections are on March 5, but you should get a ballot in the mail in early February, if you haven’t already. Remember that you can vote by mail or in person.

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Reminders and Resources for California Voters

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on politics or government. I’m just a person who’s good at reading and looking things up. If you trust my judgment, you can vote how I vote. You can also use my guide as a starting point for your own research.

Quick Reference

This table summarizes how I’m planning to vote in this election. I explain my choices below!

Position/PropositionMy Vote
President of the United StatesClaudia de la Cruz
Senator – Full TermKatie Porter
Senator – Partial TermKatie Porter
Proposition 1No
Congressional District 7David Lee Mandel
Assembly District 10Stephanie Nguyen
Judge of the Superior Court Office No. 21Noel Andrew Calvillo
Sacramento County Board of Education, Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 6Heather Davis

Party-nominated offices

California has an “open” primary thanks to the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. This means that you are not restricted to voting for candidates for the political party you belong to. The two candidates with the most votes—regardless of party affiliation—will face off in the general election in November. That means we can have, for example, two Democratic candidates running for the same senate seat, rather than one candidate from each party.

However, this does not apply to voting for president. You must have a party preference listed to be able to vote in the presidential party. If you’re a registered Democrat, you’re restricted to choosing from among the Democratic candidates when voting for president. I am registered for the Peace and Freedom party, so my ballot only has their candidates (Cornell West, Jasmine Sherman, and Claudia de la Cruz) available for me to vote for.

I want to note here that the primary elections are the time to vote with your heart. Vote for the candidate you feel strongly about even if you don’t think their chances are good in November. Don’t preemptively pick a worse candidate. We’ll have plenty of chances for lesser-of-two-evils voting in November.

President of the United States

My vote: Claudia de la Cruz

Of the Peace and Freedom party candidates, I think Claudia de la Cruz has the platform I most resonate with and the level of organization possible to make it in the general election, or at least to create a strong coalition and movement. If you’re feeling disillusioned with Biden and the rest of the Democratic candidates right now, I highly recommend taking a look at de la Cruz’s website. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to hear a candidate calling for slashing the military’s budget and nationalizing fossil fuel corporations.

Most of you are probably agonizing over the choice for the democratic candidate (though let me remind you that you can change your party preference and get a new ballot at any point! Use the same-day voter registration form to do so anytime from February 20 through the election itself on March 5). The list of candidates on the ballot probably seems random and that’s because the Democratic Party is only backing Joe Biden for this election. The other two national contenders are Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips. Williamson is a nut. There’s a whole episode of the Maintenance Phase podcast dedicated to how bonkers she is. Do not vote for this woman. Dean Phillips seems fine to me. He’s a congressman from Minnesota who apparently founded a gelato company of all things? I don’t know. We could do worse I suppose.

So, Joe Biden. I know a lot of us are in the uncomfortable position of really not liking the same guy conservatives have been hating for the last few years (albeit for completely different reasons). It’s hard to want to vote for a president who is 81 years old and is, at best, showing the early signs of dementia. I don’t think it’s wrong to want a president who is younger and mentally agile enough to do the job! Biden has done some good stuff as president. We got the American Rescue Plan act and money for infrastructure. However, I know for a lot of us that his unwavering support of Israel in spite of the mounting death toll is a huge deal breaker. I don’t want a president who is supporting a genocide. I also want to note it’s not merely my opinion that this is a genocide, the International Court of Justice, in response to South Africa’s suit against Israel, says that Israel does seem to be committing some genocidal acts (page 4 of the linked PDF). I legitimately don’t know if I have it in me to vote for Biden in the November election, even knowing that Biden losing will probably mean Trump winning (which will be a fucking nightmare by the way). The Democrats need to grow a spine and pick a better candidate. We need more than two political parties in this country. I don’t know if any of that will get resolved before November and I’m sorry I can’t bring you better or more definitive voting advice.

Voter-nominated Offices

United States Senate: Full Term and Partial/Unexpired Term

My vote: Katie Porter

This is confusing and it took me a little while to figure out what’s going on with having the full term and partial term senate seats on the ballot. Both of these votes are for the same position. One of our California senators is Alex Padilla who will serve until 2029. We are voting to fill Diane Feinstein’s position. After her death last year, Governor Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to her seat. Butler is not seeking election to the Senate. Voting for the Partial/Unexpired Term is picking a senator to finish the rest of Feinstein’s original senate term, which ends in January 2025. The Full Term position is our regularly scheduled senate election for the term starting in 2025. You could vote for different people for each of these positions, but that would not be super helpful because you’d have a senator coming in for two months then a new senator taking over in January.

This race is really between three high-profile candidates: Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. All three are currently serving in the House of Representatives and are very well known for different reasons. I am torn between Lee and Porter but am ultimately voting for Porter because I am just fucking tired of being governed by a gerontocracy. I have a huge amount of respect for Lee for being the only member of congress to vote against going to war in Afghanistan. I think she is a great legislator. I just can’t bring myself to vote for another person who should be enjoying their retirement. I am not voting for Schiff because he was one of the very few Democrats to vote to support the Republican’s standalone bill to give Israel $17.6 billion. Stop trying to give them money! Schiff’s platform says he wants to fund NASA and have Medicare for all. We can’t do that if we give literal billions to Israel to support their genocide.

Porter is probably best known for grilling corporate representatives and holding up whiteboards while doing it. Her campaign is not taking money from corporate political action committees, which I think is great because that means she can hold corporations accountable instead of being beholden to them. We need her tenacity in the senate. Something notable in her platform? Banning members of congress from trading stocks! It’s completely insane that sitting members of congress can trade stocks. Yes, insider trading is illegal. That doesn’t mean they’re not doing it! This is the kind of thing that seems like a small change but would do so much to improve our political system.

I have to add this note before we move on. This isn’t about these three candidates but I saw that the Secretary of State added a disclaimer to one particular candidate’s statement. You have to be very off the rails for the SOS to do this.

Measures Submitted to the Voters

We have just one statewide proposition on the ballot this time. Honestly, I’m thankful because it takes a lot of time to read up and write about these things.

Proposition 1

AUTHORIZES $6.38 BILLION IN BONDS TO BUILD MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT FACILITIES FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE CHALLENGES; PROVIDES HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS. LEGISLATIVE STATUTE.

My vote: No

This is another hard one because my gut feeling is to always vote to fund programs to help people. However, I am not convinced that this proposition would actually help anyone. What unhoused people need is housing. I have been following the Sacramento Homeless Union online and a big sentiment is they don’t want to have to be forced to go through these programs to get access to any services. People just need places to stay. That’s it. They need help without having to give up all their possessions and jump through a bunch of hoops. Yes, a lot of people do need various therapies, but solutions should prioritize housing first. There aren’t enough places to live! People can’t afford rent! There are already programs in place for helping people with substance abuse and mental health. This proposition would reallocate local funds from other services for unhoused people to these residential facilities with substance treatment. Disability Rights California opposes the proposition. Cal Matters notes that “the $6.4 billion bond would create up to 4,350 new homes for people who need mental health and addiction services — 2,350 of which would be reserved for veterans … in a state with an estimated homeless population of more than 180,000.” It doesn’t seem like this is the answer. It seems like Newsom just wants to seem like he’s doing something.

Local Races

This is where our ballots probably diverge. I still like to share my thought process even if these elections aren’t relevant to most of you. If you have a question about one of your local races, leave a comment or contact me! I’m happy to help you figure out your ballot.

Congressional District 7

My vote: David Lee Mandel

I don’t dislike our current representative, Doris Matsui, but Mandel sounds like he is a lot more progressive. He is calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, wants single-payer healthcare, and supports getting rid of the Electoral College. Also, Matsui didn’t even submit a statement to put in the voter guide. I get that she’s the incumbent, but she can’t bother to write a little something about why we should vote for her? That feels disrespectful to me. Also, she’s another legislator that’s a million years old! She’s 79 right now. Please retire and enjoy your life, I beg you.

Assembly District 10

My vote: Stephanie Nguyen

Look, I’m not voting for a Republican so of course I’m voting for Nguyen, the only other person running in District 10. The Republican candidate didn’t even publish a statement in the voter guide. So lazy! Nguyen is the incumbent here and it seems like she’s done a decent job so far. She seems more pro-police and pro-business interests for my tastes, but we could certainly do worse.

Judge of the Superior Court Office No. 21

My vote: Noel Andrew Calvillo

It always takes a little work to figure out who the judicial candidates are because these are nonpartisan offices (not affiliated with a political party) and judges don’t put out a platform like prospective legislators do. We have to judge them on their background and who endorses them. My initial choice was Amy Holliday because she’s the only person who has a statement in the voter guide. However, she is currently the district attorney for Sacramento County and half the endorsements on her website are from police groups. I don’t like that. I think Calvillo is our best choice. It sounds like he has done a lot of good work and he has endorsements from actual people (not just police).

Sacramento County Board of Education, Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 6

My vote: Heather Davis

Davis is the incumbent in this position and has been on the County Board of Education since she was elected in 2016. I couldn’t find any information about her opponent, Shazleen Khan. She didn’t provide a candidate statement or respond to local news outlets. This sounds super basic, but if you’re going to run for office, you at least have to have a website or a facebook page or something. So, I guess I’m voting Davis.

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You made it to the end! I invite you to share this post if you found it useful. Please leave a comment if you think I missed something important. Thanks for voting!

Two Weeks in the Life: February 3, 2024

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.

Rampant Consumerism

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!

Languages

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.

Kitchen Witchery

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.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: January 21, 2024

Hello, friends and enemies. The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve had a lot of appointments. I am taking many dance classes. I am trying to read my books and live my life. Oh yeah, and I have to work. On top of all that, we have noticed that the ice maker inside our refrigerator is leaking. We have had to turn it off to prevent further problems. Someone is supposed to come look at it this week and I am desperately hoping this doesn’t become a whole thing. We have barely recovered from the dishwasher saga. I have had to resort to making ice in ice trays again (first world problems, I know). This is a reminder to stay humble. Just when you think you’ve arrived in life, you’re back to making your own ice cubes.

Books and Other Words

Martha Well’s Network Effect is the fifth book in the Muderbot series and the first to be a full-length novel. What I like about this story in particular is we see Murderbot, a machine-human construct, figuring out what it means to be friends with another bot, the research vessel Perehelion (aka ART [Asshole Research Transport]). Seeing both Murderbot and ART ready to kill all humans on each other’s behalf just warms my heart.

The Future by Naomi Alderman was a really good read. This doesn’t surprise me. I liked her previous book, The Power, enough to write a whole post about it. The Future asks what it might take to improve the future. What would stop or slow global warming? What would reduce wealth inequality? What can anyone do about it? The Future is set in the near future and focuses on the people close to three tech billionaires who are running companies roughly analogous to Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The billionaires are obsessed with the idea that there will be some kind of apocalypse and only they will have the resources to weather it in safety, unlike the rest of us plebs. I don’t feel like I can really describe the plot without spoiling it, but I will say that it’s kind of a fictional distillation of the non-fiction books The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and The Big Nine, plus maybe Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media is a book published in 1988 that feels extremely relevant in today’s media climate. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s argument is that the way the American media choose what to report on, and the framework they use in reporting, creates support for the United States government’s political agenda. There’s definitely a reason that this book is a classic in the genre. Even though this book is almost 40 years old, it felt completely relevant to the way, for example, that Israel’s war against the Palestinian people is being depicted in American news (just look at all the comments about how the media largely ignored South Africa’s opening arguments at the International Court of Justice). The book discusses several examples, including the Vietnam war, and elections in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador and how the media covered these topics. The essence of Herman and Chomsky’s argument is that the media apply different frames of reporting to the United States’ enemies versus its friends. Elections in a friendly country are considered fair and citizens are seen as enthusiastic participants (even if, as in the El Salvador election, voting is compulsory and anyone who doesn’t vote may well be murdered by the state). Whereas elections in a country that is, say, flirting with socialism, are coercive, don’t have enough choice, and problematic for various reasons. The authors ultimately conclude that the press is supporting the agenda the wealthy and political elite rather than focusing on informing the public. They also note that, because news reporting is funded by advertising, advertisers themselves play an outsized role in what is allowed to appear in print. Herman and Chomsky are not arguing that this American media model is like what you would see in an authoritarian state—no one is getting disappeared for reporting on sensitive subjects—but the press selectively ignores some topics that don’t agree with the government/elite’s viewpoints. The antidote to this kind of media malaise? As usual, it’s up to use to educate ourselves and our communities. The good news is, with the internet, we have a lot of options for where we can get our news and it’s easy to find sources from other countries or independent outlets.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • I was told no one wants fat girls. Growing up, my body was a punch line via The Cut. This essay was a gut punch for me. There are a lot of poignant bits for me but this one really hurts, “the systematic derogation of certain bodies — ones that are fat, as well as trans, nonwhite, or disabled — leaves some of us vulnerable to additional harms. For one, we may consent to sexual and romantic relationships we don’t want out of a sense that we’re not entitled to say no, or that this is the best we can do.”
  • Fast-food giants overwork teenagers, driving America’s child labor crisis via The Washington Post (gift link). Yikes. “Child labor violations have more than tripled in the past 10 years, with violations in food service increasing almost sixfold.” Call me a radical socialist if you must, but I am against workplaces taking advantage of children.
  • Asking people to “do the research” on fake news stories makes them seem more believable, not less via Nieman Lab. Some researchers did a literature review of what happens when people attempt online “research” on news stories. The results found that this often entrenches incorrect information and fringe beliefs. Gang, I think our society is in real danger.
  • We need jungle [I’m afraid] via Venjent on YouTube. And now for something fun. Some British quiz show asked a question about electronic music and, when the contestant responded “drum and bass,” the host said “I can’t accept ‘drum and bass.’ We need ‘jungle’ I’m afraid.” This has, of course, spawned a bunch of jungle remixes. I find this hilarious.

Rampant Consumerism

I mentioned last time that I’d been having a lot of back pain while in bed and I ordered a new pillow about it. Now that it’s here and I’ve had the chance to use it, I gotta say, it’s great. My back does not hurt! I’m not rolling around all night like a gas station hot dog under the heat lamp! It’s a triangular pillow that goes under the thighs and gets the back into better alignment. Highly recommended! I also got a new pillow for my head and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but the last few nights I have sunk into the bed and passed the fuck out so I guess it is working. For the curious, this is the pillow I bought.

Languages

On the recommendation of my Icelandic teacher I tried out a language-learning tool called lingq. I told him that this year I am really trying to get out of the intermediate slump and he thought this might help. So far, I’m into it. It has texts and, as you’re reading, you can click on any word to see the definition then mark the word on a scale from known to unknown, then the app quizzes you on the words later. You can also add your own texts, so you can use it to read articles online or ebooks (if you have a format you can upload) or whatever. I think this is going to be really good for me. It seems like a good intermediate tool. I definitely would not use this for my Spanish, since I can already read books with minimal assistance. I think it would be a little overwhelming for a true beginner, but it’s working great for me for Icelandic right now.

Corporeal Form

I’ve had a whole bunch of appointments in the last two weeks and I did learn a few things. I shall start with the most annoying. Note, if you are sensitive to any discussion related to eating disorders, please skip the next paragraph.

My gastroenterologist referred me to one of Kaiser’s “wellness coaches,” which I did not think was going to be useful but I’m trying to keep an open mind and avoid being seen as a difficult patient. This appointment lasted all of ten minutes, which does not seem to me like enough time to do much of anything. The woman asked me very few questions. One was “how often do you eat.” I told her I try to eat when I’m hungry and she responded to that with “sometimes we shouldn’t eat when we’re hungry.” Red flag! If you want someone to develop/reacquaint themselves with an eating disorder, that seems like great advice to get you there. I’ve spent years trying to learn to listen to my body so this actively made me angry. She also asked if I had tried to lose weight before and I said yes but I always plateau after maybe losing 30 pounds. Her advice was that sometimes to get through a plateau, we just have to eat even less. Which … jesus christ. Other than “don’t eat,” her main advice was that half of what I eat should be vegetables, which sounds great in theory but very challenging in practice. I asked how to eat half a plate of vegetables for breakfast and she suggested putting them in an omelette. I am a committed egg-hater, so I said that advice will not work for me. At this point, she changed the subject and asked if I’d like to try weight-loss drugs. I said no because I have osteopenia and these drugs are bad for your bone density. I’d rather be fat and have bones. Anyway, she wrapped things up pretty quickly after that.

I had not one but two fibroscans, which measure the fattiness and the fibrosis of the liver. The first was at Kaiser and the second was through a study. I thought the study was paying me a lot more than the $25 I got, but I guess I misread the website and there is more money that you can get with doing some more activities over time. In any case, the first scan at Kaiser showed that my fibrosis score was 42 kilopascals—a normal liver is not over 7—but the second scan was only 27 kilopascals. Unfortunately, either score is in the “you are in the worst stage of fibrosis” category, but that is still a really big difference. My doctor said that, for fat people, this test is often unreliable and inflates the severity of the fibrosis, so she wants me to get a liver biopsy to find out what’s really going on. I’m going to do it but I’m annoyed because, no matter what the results are, the doctor’s only advice is to lose weight.

I met with the physical therapist who I saw last year for my shitty knees. Since getting the abdominal ultrasound to find out if I have fatty liver and learning more about my organs, I—and I know this sounds a little wacky—have noticed my spleen (yes, my enlarged spleen) is kind of hurting. So, I emailed my PT like “am I crazy and also can you help?” Because she is extremely cool and smart, she said I am not crazy and there are some things we can try. She gave me a couple of activities that I can do to very gently massage my torso and some stretchy kind of things to open up my chest. We also talked about referred pain, which is when pain from internal organs can cause ouchiness (technical term lol) in other parts of the body. Apparently liver issues can cause shoulder pain? So wild.

Finally I had a full intake appointment with my new dietician, Jackie. I will just say: she is great. She is the only person who has told me that there are some specific things I can do for my liver. She scoffed when I told her all the doctor advised me to do is lose weight. She asked me a ton of questions about what kind of stuff I eat, when, and who I eat with, what I hate, what other medical conditions I’m worried about, etc. She gave me a few recommendations to start with and we’re going to meet again in a few weeks to see how it’s going and add more things to try out. First, it seems like getting omega-3 fatty acids is good for the liver. Unfortunately for me, one of the best sources of omega-3 is fish, which I cannot eat because it makes me sick. Jackie has me trying out adding a tablespoon of flax meal to my oatmeal in the morning to get omega-3 instead, which is pretty easy. I also ordered some of the non-fish-based omega-3 supplements. Second, as many of you know (probably from reading my blog and seeing what I cook), I’m also not a big fan of fruit, mostly for texture reasons. So one of my other dietician homework tasks was to try making a smoothie to get some fruit in my diet. I still don’t love fruit but it wasn’t that bad and if this is all I have to do to improve my liver health, I am not going to complain (very much). Finally, I am supposed to try adding some more whole grains to my diet. Jackie suggested getting whole grain pasta, which I may yet, try, but I made a mostly whole-grain bread recipe this week and it was really good. So, I think all this stuff is pretty doable. As with most things in this life, I just needed someone to give me a little direction and now I can run with it.

Kitchen Witchery

I looked back at my photos and apparently I cooked a lot of new stuff in the last two weeks! I like having oatmeal for breakfast but do not like making breakfast every day, so I tried this spiced Irish oatmeal with cream and crunchy sugar recipe (reminder, you can get access NYT Food through the Sacramento Public Library [and probably other libraries]). I added some pecans because that’s how I like to live. I also used this as a vehicle for the flax meal the dietician suggested and that worked very well. I tried making a smoothie and it was not as horrible as it might have been. I know this sounds weird but I just don’t like drinking not-water things very much. It feels like a lot of work to me. It probably took me at least 30 minutes of concentrated effort to finish this smoothie. I also don’t usually love smoothies because they insist on being full of banana, which I genuinely think tastes bad. This one was good though and I managed to avoid the dreaded banana. I used this recipe as a base and went with a frozen fruit blend of pineapple, mango, and coconut then blended it with some oat milk, yogurt, and a bit of almonds. This is not going to become a smoothie blog (lmao can you imagine), but I am writing about this one. I also made a maple-walnut oat bread (but I used pecans because I was out of walnuts) to try to get some more whole grains. This was a really good bread! Again, if this is what it takes to make my liver a little better, it’s not so bad.

Kirk and I both really liked this winter squash and rice soup topped with bacon and we enjoyed another variation on lentils and farro: french onion baked lentils and farro. You can probably add cheese and caramelized onions to almost anything and it will be good, so this one isn’t really surprising. I tried out a bean recipe served with some cheesy polenta, roughly based on one of the Rancho Gordo bean club recipes. Kirk told me he doesn’t like polenta, but he was willing to try it. I guess his past experiences with polenta were bad, but he liked what I made. I have also converted him to lentils and Indian food, so whenever he says he doesn’t like something (which is rare!) I like to take it as a challenge. Because I am a menace.

I also tried out a few simple desserts. We had this oat milk chocolate pudding, which was good. Regular pudding with milk doesn’t sit great with me so I was happy to find this oat milk alternative. I got the Snacking Bakes cookbook from the library, which is the followup to the beloved Snacking Cakes. I tried the loaded chocolate chip cookie bars and the glazed cookie butter cookie bars. Both are great! The chocolate chip cookie bars did not last long in our house. I love making bars because you get all the joy of cookies without having to take things in and out of the oven for 45 minutes.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I know I have previously mentioned Huey’s love of drinking shower water. Here she is with her wet little face after vigorously shoving her face into my shower.

Two Weeks in the Life: January 7, 2024

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.

Corporeal Form

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.

Moving It

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.

Kitchen Witchery

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.

Cat Therapy

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.

A Year in the Life: 2023 in Review

Hello, friends and enemies. Another has come to an end. This year I decided to write separate posts to review the year that was and consider the year that will be. I’ve already posted about what I want to do this year (a post that includes everyone’s favorite tradition, the mood board). Now that 2023 is officially done, I’m sharing my thoughts on the year as a whole.

Some of you may roll your eyes at this, but this year I finally started to think of myself as a writer. I know I am out here writing on the blog frequently, and this blog has existed for ten years now, and my job is to disassemble and reassemble words, but I still struggle to consider myself a writer. Yet, writing here and elsewhere is how I organize my thoughts and understand the world. I guess I think of writing books as writing. Anyone can set up a blog and put words on the internet (though blogs are not nearly as popular as they once were thanks to the scourge of video! [do not make me watch a video for information!]), so it doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy and yet, here I am, writing week after week. I also think of myself primarily as a reader, not a writer. Though both of course are engaging with the written word, just from different directions. In any case, here’s to not downplaying myself as a writer in 2024. I’m writing, therefore I am a writer.

This year I found a nice balance of being busy but not overwhelming myself (at least … not often overwhelming myself). I do want to do everything and have a tendency to just keep saying yes to shit or feeling like I have to do everything myself just because I can. The pandemic leveled my busyness out and forced me to think about what works for me. Now I’ve been engaging in public life a little more and finding a good balance. In contrast, when I was playing roller derby pre-pandemic, I was doing way too much. I need a lot of downtime. It is good to do nothing and pet cats. There is no moral superiority to be found in doing the most. That probably sounds a little counterintuitive because the next paragraph proudly announces how many books I read. However, it is not to me and I do not care to explain at this time.

Media

I read 82 books this year! The book list and a little analysis of the year’s reading trends is in my books of the year post. I’m proud and pleased that I put the time into resting and learning more and entertaining my mind. Reading time is also time I’m not spending on social media. As much as I love all my friends in my phone, the less time on my apps, the better.

Since I stopped using Spotify last year, this year, I organized all my MP3s, which was a pretty big task. I’m really happy with it though. I like not being lost in the algorithm and feeling like I know all my music. Some of my the music I enjoyed this year included Jungle, Vision Video, Janelle Monaé, Rosalía, and Yelle.

I watched eighteen movies this year, which is a lot for me! I also watched a lot of Star Trek and RuPaul’s Drag Race, which are my media of choice at this point in my life.

Languages

It was very nice to not have to study or think about any big exams this year! I am glad to have the DELE behind me (though it could still be ahead of me if I take the C2 exam … to be determined, but not anytime soon). With Spanish, I have entered my Wikipedia era. I’ve been having a lot of fun translating articles from Spanish to English and getting some help from Ana to translate from English to Spanish. For Icelandic, I spent the year still in my awkward intermediate stage where I don’t know quite enough of anything. That’s okay though. This is how it goes with any language.

Corporeal Form

Well, it has been another “fun” year for my health. I thought after I finished my year of vision therapy for binocular vision dysfunction, got the TMJ situation under control, and started taking care of my plantar fasciitis last year, things would let up. Alas, this has not been the case. This year I found out I have osteoarthritis (the kind you get from your joints wearing down with use, in contrast to rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder) and osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). The doctor told me to strengthen my legs (lol) and stop eating bread. Thanks! So I got physical therapy from someone outside of my health insurance who works with dancers and she was extremely informative and helpful. I am not going to die anytime soon, but it is fatiguing to have even more ailments to manage. I dealt with this potentially TMI subject, which thankfully seems to have been resolved. But still, what the fuck? To end the year on a strong “please stop” note, just last week I got diagnosed with fatty liver disease. Being alive: it’s NOT easy.

Going Places and Doing Things

I suppose you could say I re-entered society a little more this year. Roller derby started again and, although I am no longer playing, in part thanks to my junk bones, I am still doing live game commentary, which I enjoy. I also spent the year being a patron of the arts. I went to the Sacramento Ballet’s performances with my culture gang, saw The Play That Goes Wrong at B Street Theater (which had everyone rolling with laughter), saw not one but two comedians with Abby, and like everyone, I saw the Barbie movie and took my obligatory photo in the doll box. I also got a new tattoo (part 1 and part 2 to this tale). I am definitely not getting any new tattoos in 2024. I have to forget the trauma first.

Knitting and Crafts

It was a very slow year for knitting. I don’t know, I just haven’t been in the mood to knit. Or maybe it’s that Huey is sitting on me all the time when I’m on the couch. I’ve been very slowly working towards finishing this shirt. I think part of my resistance is it just doesn’t seem to be coming out quite right but it doesn’t look wrong enough to rip it all out again. I think I may finish it just so I can mentally move on. I did manage to knit a single pair of gloves this year so I can’t say I did nothing at all!

Moving It

I had a good time this year with my dance classes and got to do two recitals on an actual stage, which you know I love. I feel like I’m a respectable amateur at this point and I’m getting better all the time. I didn’t do all that much weight lifting, despite having the gym set up in the garage. I am planning to do more picking up and putting down of heavy objects in 2024.

Kitchen Witchery

It seems that I didn’t do any big experiments in the kitchen this year. The only really new thing that I tried out was scones, which were a hit and this has reminded me that I should make more. This was also the summer of the rice krispie treat, because of course one box of rice krispies is more than what you need to make a batch of treats, so that led to multiple variations, including my favorite: the black and white rice krispie treats. I also finally made it into the Rancho Gordo bean club, which is very exciting to me, regardless of how corny (beany, really) some might find this. Getting a steady supply of beans really guided my recipe selection this year. Some of my favorites were pizza beans, vegetarian tamale pie and baked farro with lentils, tomato, and feta. Although I think some of my best bean recipes were just soups that I threw together with what I had, which is a nice reminder that not everything has to be a formal recipe and that I’m a really good cook.

Cat Therapy

I have one of the most photogenic cats in the business. Huey lives here too. Don’t get me wrong, I love Huey to bits, but everyone says she looks mad. She’s not though; she just has resting bitch face.

Finally, here are some of my favorite cat photos from this year for your nerves.

2023: The 16th Annual Year in Books

Another year of reading is in the books! I love that I’ve been keeping track of my reading for almost my whole adult life—I started in 2008, when I was 21. I think it’s neat to be able to trace my interests and how I’ve formed my opinions on a lot of issues over time by seeing what I’ve read.

This year I finished a very respectable 82 books! This is quite a bit more than last year’s 51 (recall that last year I was doing a lot of work in vision therapy) and 2021’s 62 books (recall that I was taking that big Spanish exam that year). In 2020 (recall that … never mind) I read 88 books, so I guess I am reading more than I realized, even though I was once again disappointed to not read 100 books in a year. However, as I wrote in my plans for 2024 post, I am giving up that goal for good. If it happens, it happens. I’ve been joking that for every day I spend on the internet, I add three to five books to my reading list. There are just so many interesting books out there and unfortunately finite time in this existence (if any of you become a vampire, PLEASE turn me). I would like to take a year off of work and responsibilities to read a book every day and get caught up. I would also like the publishing industry to take a year-long moratorium on new works so I can get caught up. I think both of these requests are reasonable.

  • Page count: I read 27,566 pages. For comparison, last year I read about 18,000 pages in and 2020 I read just under 33,000. The most pages I’ve ever read in a year is 35,000 back in 2014 (when I had an office job and nothing to do all day).
  • Library use: 30 books from the library and 52 of my own books. Shout out to the library for saving me money! Thank you, local tax payers.
  • Digital and analog: 49 ebooks and 33 paper books. I’m definitely finding it easier to read the ebooks than the paper books lately. For example, I was trying to read this giant book about tap dance and it was hard to hold and the print was very small. I am weak, give me the ebook.
  • Fiction and non-fiction: 56 fiction and 26 non-fiction books. I am only growing more interested in the world around me, so I predict that my non-fiction to fiction ratio will increase over the next few years.
  • Instead of favorites, this year I am giving you some notable reads:

If you want to see what I read in previous years, you can click the books of the year tag to see all my past annual book posts.

If you would like to be book friends all year, you can join me on StoryGraph! My username is linzomatic.

And now: the list of books I read in 2023.

Date FinishedTitleAuthor
1/1ArmisticeLara Elena Donnelly
1/3AmnestyLara Elena Donnelly
1/7High Times in the Low ParliamentKelly Robins
1/14Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on EarthJohn Darnell, Collen Darnell
1/15Miss IcelandAuður Ava Ólafsdóttir
1/22The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American SupermarketBenjamin Lorr
1/22Battle of the Linguist MagesScotto Moore
1/26Cultish: The Language of FanaticismAmanda Montell
1/29Black Water SisterZen Cho
2/2Hotel SilenceAuður Ava Ólafsdóttir
2/4Permanent Distortion: How the Financial Markets Abandoned the Real Economy ForeverNomi Prins
2/13Plain Bad HeroinesEmily M. Danforth
2/21Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ RevolutionR. F. Kuang
2/25“You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat PeopleAubrey Gordon
2/28Remote ControlNnedi Okorafor
3/10The Citadel of Weeping PearlsAliette de Bodard
3/13Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the VikingsNeil Price
3/19The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms that Sustain LifeJohan Eklöf
3/19Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real LibertaliaDavid Graeber
3/27The Wolf in the WhaleJordanna Max Brodsky
3/30OutlawedAnna North
4/8The SelloutPaul Beatty
4/12The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps Our EconomiesMariana Mazzucato, Rosie Collington
4/13Rest is Resistance: A ManifestoTricia Hersey
4/16The Age of WitchesLouisa Morgan
4/20A Court of Thorns and RosesSarah J. Maas
4/28The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English LanguageMark Forsyth
4/30Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China ModernJing Tsu
5/1Caperucita se come al LoboPilar Quintana
5/2Half A SoulOlivia Atwater
5/5Ten Thousand StitchesOlivia Atwater
5/13LongshadowOlivia Atwater
5/14Tema LibreAlejandro Zambra
5/18A Court of Mist and FurySarah J. Maas
5/25A Court of Wings and RuinSarah J. Maas
6/3Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of NeurodiversityDevon Price
6/5The Fairy Bargains of Prospect HillRowenna Miller
6/7The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of DragSasha Velour
6/10Some Desparate GloryEmily Tesh
6/22The LibrarianMikhail Elizarov
6/23A Court of Frost and StarlightSarah J. Maas
6/29A Court of Silver FlamesSarah J. Maas
7/5The Restoration ProgramMary Dublin, Anne Kendsley
7/11The Book of GooseYiyun Li
7/12An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and GraceTamar Adler
7/17Strong Female CharacterFern Brady
7/19Deep as the Sky, Red as the SeaRita Chang-Eppig
7/21Ink Blood Sister ScribeEmma Törzs
7/25Camp DamascusChuck Tingle
8/1Un vaso de agua bajo mi cama: Inmigración, feminismo y bisexualidadDaisy Hernández
8/10The Archive UndyingEmma Mieko Camden
8/12Translation StateAnn Leckie
8/17Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in ArchivesAmelia Possanza
8/20Daughter of the Moon GoddessSue Lynn Tan
8/23Sappho Is burningPage DuBois
8/24Vampires of El NorteIsabel Cañas
8/27Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity PoliticsOlúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò
8/29To Be Taught, If FortunateBecky Chambers
9/4Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis and Cultural StrategyBen Davis
9/7The Saint of Bright DoorsVajra Chandrasekera
9/14The Jasad HeirSara Hashem
9/17Red, White, and Royal BlueCasey McQuiston
9/24Land and Freedom: The MST, the Zapatistas and Peasant Alternatives to NeoliberalismLeandro Vergara-Camus
9/24Now Is Not the Time to PanicKevin Wilson
10/4The Deep SkyYume Kitasei
10/19Witch KingMartha Wells
10/24All Systems RedMartha Wells
10/24Palestine: A Socialist IntroductionSumaya Awad, Brian Bean
10/26No Meat Required: The Cultural History & Culinary Future of Plant-Based EatingAlicia Kennedy
10/29Artificial ConditionMartha Wells
11/8The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and CryptoJonathan Taplin
11/17Rogue ProtocolMartha Wells
11/21The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017Rashid Khalidi
11/22Exit StrategyMartha Wells
11/24A Marvellous LightFreya Marske
11/28A Restless TruthFreya Marske
12/1A Power UnboundFreya Marske
12/10The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and FeminismJen Gunter
12/20The HexologistsJosiah Bancroft
12/23CantorasCarolina de Robertis
12/27Jonathan Abernathy You Are KindMolly McGhee
12/29Heart of the Sun WarriorSue Lynn Tan

Two Weeks in the Life: December 25, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. Merry Christmas, happy Yule, blessed (if belated) solstice, or you know, it’s Monday. We have had a relaxing day at home today. I cooked dinner last night but Kirk is cooking today, so I have a whole day with zero responsibilities. This is great because the last week was rough.

I know everyone enjoys hearing about our homeownership drama, so I am entering the tale of the new dishwasher into the record. Neither Kirk nor I had any big Christmas wishes this year so we decided to instead spend some money on a new dishwasher. Our old one wasn’t broken, but it did somewhat frequently require us to go reset the circuit breaker for it to function and the bottom dish rack had a deeply annoying propensity to fall out of its track. We ordered a fancy new one from Home Depot and decided to just pay them to install it and haul away the old one. It took five entire visits from various tradespeople, three of them in the last week, to get this dishwasher installed:

  1. Home Depot’s installers come to set up the dishwasher. We were young and full of optimism for the future. The installer promptly, but accidentally, snaps the water valve that connects to the dishwasher. After a scramble for a bucket, the old dishwasher remains functional and in place. The new dishwasher takes up residence in the garage. We are directed to call Home Depot to resolve the issue.
  2. We call Home Depot and explain that they have to send a plumber to fix the valve and install the dishwasher. Some days later, new installers arrive. They inform us that they are not plumbers and they cannot fix the valve. We call (actually Kirk calls. Kirk valiantly spares me from all the phone calls in this story) Home Depot again and learn that the company they contract to do installations usually has plumbers available, but our specific region does not have plumbers. We are instructed to hire a plumber to fix the valve, then send Home Depot the invoice. Home Depot will not reveal the upper limit they are willing to reimburse us for this problem that they caused.
  3. Our local plumber fixes the valve and charges us $225. The plumber does not do appliance installations. We tell Home Depot to send their installers again and finish what should have been an extremely simple task.
  4. Home Depot’s installers return two days later to install the dishwasher. Finally, we are going to have a beautiful, quiet dishwasher. This nonsense will end. Not so. The installer removes the old dishwasher from its nook. We learn that there is no electrical outlet for the new dishwasher to be plugged into because the old dishwasher is hardwired into the wall. Its bundle of wires trails behind it like a rat’s thin tail. The installer, who happened to be the same non-plumber who visited us on our second attempt, perhaps senses our desperation. He tells us that he isn’t supposed to, but he’ll install the outlet for us. We thank him. We gather cash in preparation to tip him. Some minutes later, he informs us that he doesn’t have the right tools and cannot finish the installation. Still, he relives us of the old dishwasher and settles the new one, unconnected, into its cubby.
  5. Kirk secures an electrician to come set up an outlet and finish installing the dishwasher. The electrician arrives early and we are near tears with relief. Finally, we will be free. We are ready to be done and put this saga behind us. We would pay any amount of money for this to stop. The electrician gets to work and seems to know what he’s doing. Unfortunately, we run into another problem. The dishwasher’s hose is too short to reach whatever it is that it’s supposed to connect with. Kirk gives up. He pays the man and resigns himself to a trip to Home Depot to buy a hose after work. After the electrician leaves, we discover he has, for no reason known to us, used a staple gun to affix the—for lack of a better word—dorsal flaps—of the dishwasher to the surrounding cabinetry. We are broken. I am a husk of a person. I spend the next 10 minutes laughing/screaming “Why would you do that! WHY.” Kirk says he will remove the staples. However, the scars will linger.

These five ghosts of appliance installation visited us, but this story is not yet over. Kirk went to Home Depot only to be informed that the hose we need is back ordered until January. I can only assume that removing the old dishwasher unleashed a powerful curse upon our household. That dishwasher was under the protection of some ancient force and now we are paying for our arrogance. Fortunately, Kirk double checked online and found the right hose was available and shippable. It arrived on Saturday and Kirk installed it. He also tore out the offensive staples (shouting the whole time, as is his right). The new dishwasher is nice, but the electrician who finished the install did not secure it very well (I mean … maybe he thought he did with the staples) and it’s still kind of rocking back and forth so we have to figure that out. Despite all this chaos there were only two days of not having a functional dishwasher and I mostly used paper plates on those days. I’m just fucking glad it’s over! I am tired!

Books and Other Words

The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft was a fun read. It’s a detective story set in a world where different types of magic practitioners—wizards, necromancers, hexologists, and alchemists—exist, but most forms have fallen out of favor or, in the case of alchemy, have been bent to fuel a sort of industrial revolution. Isolde Wilby is a hexologist, which means she can make magic through drawing. She’s also a private investigator and former cop (though she now has a real “fuck the police” attitude). She gets asked to solve a high-profile case for the government and hijinks ensue. I liked this book and was surprised by it’s use by very specific or maybe archaic words that had me frequently turning to the dictionary, which doesn’t happen to me too often in English. I also enjoyed the main character, who, to me, is very autism-coded, and her relationship with her spouse. I have probably said this before but there are not a lot of good portrayals of loving, healthy heterosexual relationships out there so it’s always nice to see that on the page.

I’m not shocked that Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis was good because my friend Lito said it was worth reading and he has great taste. I really loved this book. It follows the lives five queer women in Uruguay, beginning in the 1970s. This band of ladies escapes the city of Montevideo for a week to vacation in Cabo Polonio, a nowhere beach village far off the beaten track where our protagonists can actually breathe and be themselves without the fear of surveillance or being reported. This is an excellent story and I liked the way all the characters’ lives were portrayed, how the intersected and became their own chosen family. I liked the exploration of queer identity in a less modern, less anglo setting. The book also made me think about how much we can learn from fiction—not just in an emotional way or an understanding-the-human-condition way, but in a literal way. I had no idea, for example, that there was a dictatorship in Uruguay in the 70s and 80s (though I suppose I could have inferred it given the state of much of South America at the time). I’d never heard of Cabo Polonio either, but thanks to internet magic, I can see lots of pretty photos of it. I think fiction like this can be a portal into learning more about real-world events, and I appreciate that. Cantoras also made me sad for all the queers we lost along the way before humanity started getting its shit together in that regard. We lost many stories and lives but at least we have artists like de Robertis bringing light to what may have been.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Why Bill Gates’s Philanthropy Is a Problem via The Nation. Bill Gates has made a reputation for himself as the “good” billionaire, but he’s still making more money than he’s giving away. You’re not helping the world if you still have over $100 billion. From the article, “Gates’s vast wealth could help the world in far-reaching ways, for example if it were redistributed as cash gifts to the poor. That can’t happen through the Gates Foundation’s father-knows-best, look-at-me brand of bureaucratic philanthropy. Gates isn’t interested in empowering the poor; he’s interested in imposing his solutions. Following the money from the Gates Foundation confirms this. Nearly 90 percent of the foundation’s charitable dollars go to organizations located in wealthy nations, not the poor countries he claims to serve.”
  • California police required to state reason for traffic stops before questioning drivers next year via Los Angeles Times. New law alert! “No, do you?” is now a valid response to “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  • Congress, Wrapped! 2023. via The Washington Post (gift link). Congress really spent the year fucking around and engaging in tomfoolery and a much larger scale than normal.
  • Inside The New York Times’ big bet on games via Vanity Fair. As someone who has become an avid player of NYT’s games, I enjoyed this profile on the team and their process.

Autism Thoughts

I had one of those “You don’t seem autistic” moments recently where one of my fellow dance students said (well meaningly, I have no doubt) that I seem to be only mildly autistic. I get why we call autism a “spectrum,” but I think this term is confusing people who don’t know much about autism. It’s not a spectrum of intensity where you just keep turning the autism up. I don’t have autism at a low volume. If you’re autistic, the whole brain is autistic. There are autistic people with higher or lower support needs (side note: I hate the illustrations in this article but the information is decent). Some of us need more help to navigate the world and the day to day than others. That need for help is usually what tips the neurotypicals off to the autism. However, even a relatively low support needs autistic person like me still needs help and I still need a lot of time to recuperate from operating in the world. It’s easy to look “normal” in an environment like dance class—there are scripts and specific rules about how to behave and not a lot of open-ended socializing. I don’t have to figure out what I’m supposed to do in class. I know ballet starts at the barre and then we’ll do some work in the center. Class generally progresses in the same order from plies to tendus to rond de jambes and it’s guided by the teacher so I don’t have to figure out what to do next. I do get that, to a non-expert, wanting to be on stage doesn’t seem really autistic. However, I don’t have to be in the crowd, I get to do a set routine that I’ve practiced, and I’m participating in one of my hobbies. No one is making small talk with me. I can go backstage and if I am overwhelmed and need quiet, I can tell people I need to practice/stretch/warmup on my own or I need to get into a good headspace. There are plenty of autistic people in the performing arts (though of course there are plenty of autistic people who would say “fuck you, no way” to performing, which is also fine). We just are going home to stare at the wall for a full day before coming back to the theater to be on for you all. I can’t find the clip, but I’m also reminded of the character Abed from Community. He says he loves musicals because everyone is singing a song to announce their emotions. He’s not wrong.

Corporeal Form

You may remember that I wrote last time about possibly having fatty liver disease. Well, the results are in and I actually do have fatty liver disease and the unlucky genetic profile that makes me more susceptible to liver disease.

First, the genetics: after detecting the alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency in my blood, the doctor ordered a phenotype test to see exactly what, if any, kind of genetic fuckery could be the cause. The test found that I have the MZ phenotype, a heterozygous type which means that only one of my parents is to blame (you’re on notice, mom or dad! [just kidding]). This phenotype means I am more susceptible to liver and lung disease. Though fortunately it sounds like most people with this phenotype won’t develop emphysema (!!) if they don’t smoke. So I have that going for me at least. I also learned there is a research foundation dedicated to this and I signed up for their study. Maybe I will make a few dollars from participating in science thanks to my dumb genes.

Second, the liver: on Tuesday morning, I went in for an abdominal ultrasound. They looked at my liver, spleen, and gallbladder. It’s actually really cool that we can use technology to look at the organs in the body. Rather less cool though is the fact that the ultrasound confirms I have fatty liver disease—also called steatoic liver disease—and an enlarged spleen (I know you are all jealous of my large and powerful spleen that is 15.8 cm long). The term for having an enlarged spleen is splenomegaly, which I think is a very funny word. I’m actually glad I’m no longer playing roller derby because one of the things you should avoid if you have an enlarged spleen is trauma to the abdomen. I read a fair amount about liver disease this week and everyone seems to say the same thing when it comes to treatment: avoid alcohol, lose weight, take your diabetes medication, and get vaccinated for hepatitis. I’m already very rarely drinking and I’m vaccinated. I don’t have diabetes so we are once again back to the question of weight loss, a subject on which I have already shared my feelings. I don’t really know what I’m going to be able to do about this to be honest. I am meeting with the doctor after the new year to review my life and see what I need to change. I also have an appointment to get a fibroscan, which is another way to measure how fucked up my liver is.

I know I try to write about this stuff with a bit of a light tone but I’m actually really stressed and upset about this one. There isn’t really treatment for fatty liver. The answer is lose weight but that’s just to reduce the risk of serious issues. Not all fat people get fatty liver and being thin doesn’t mean you won’t get it. The only treatment is like … liver transplant once you have cirrhosis. I am hoping the doctor will tell me some news I can use next week but I am not feeling particularly optimistic.

a wide-eyed hamster on a couch. Text reads: I can't fucking take it/seriously I'm at my limit
seriously I’m at my limit

Moving It

My dance recital was last Friday! I had fun and I think it went well overall. However, I do feel like I totally blanked on a large portion of our tap dance choreography. Like, my brain just shut off. I kept smiling and twirling and hopefully didn’t stand out in a bad way. Everyone said I looked good so I suppose I must believe them! I fooled them all! I completely forgot to take any photos so you’ll just have to trust that I looked wonderful.

Kitchen Witchery

You might think I would go berzerk cooking for Christmas but I already gave treats to everyone who’s getting them and I don’t like to create too much work on Christmas itself. I did cook for Christmas eve though. This year I opted for a homemade pasta, using a recipe for potato-filled tortellini from Pasta Grannies. Pasta fools me every time though and I always make it too thick. I forget that it puffs up when you boil it, but I kinda like it this way. I made a loaf of Italian bread (recipe: King Arthur) to go with the pasta and I made a princess cake for dessert using the recipe from The Nordic Baking Book! Princess cake has layers of cake, jam, and pastry cream. It’s topped with a big dome of cream and then the whole cake is covered with (traditionally light-)green marzipan. Everyone liked it but I thought the marzipan tasted a little weird. I am blaming the food coloring I used (does food coloring go bad?). Unrelated to Christmas, last week I also made a loaf of bread using semolina flour just to try something different. This recipe is from the king of bread cookbooks, The Bread Bible. It’s a chewy little loaf and I thought it was, of course, very nice with some cheese.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz is still extremely wary of the Christmas tree, but he’s not as scared of it as he was last year, so that’s good. He also annoyed the shit out of Huey by taking up residence on the couch a few days ago. And it wasn’t just anywhere on the couch, but her side of the couch. He has no respect for his elders and Huey is tired of it.

2024: The Year to Come

Hello, friends and enemies. I haven’t posted my thoughts on 2023 as a whole yet (it’s not over!) but I am already thinking about next year. A new year! 2024! Can you believe it? The new year is really one of my favorite holidays. Our culture doesn’t afford a lot of opportunities to reflect—it’s more about productivity “hacks”—so I enjoy the opportunity to think about the year that was and the year that will be. That said, I hate new year’s “resolutions.” You don’t have to set some kind of impossible goal for yourself (normally around the shape of one’s body) just because we’re flipping the calendar back around to January. However, I like this time of year for taking stock of how we feel about things, where we want to go in life, and what steps we might take this year to put us on that path.

Now, the moment you all have been waiting for, I present the 2024 mood board. These are the vibes I wish to carry with me this year. Making my annual mood board has become a beloved end-of-year tradition for me. Plus it gives me something to do with all the funny internet pictures I save.

a collage of internet pictures presaging my vibes for 2024. Cats with sunglasses, a shocked opossum, ladies floating in the ocean and eating pasta, among many other images.
My 2024 Mood Board

Books and Reading

The last few years I really wanted to manage to read 100 books in a year. I think I am giving this goal up for good. As much as I really want the satisfaction of reading so many books in one year, I don’t think it’s going to happen for me because of the type of reading I do, competing demands on my time from other interests, and dealing with my stupid vision issues. Given that I have been aiming for volume, I have been avoiding the really long books on my shelves. So, this year, I want to read from the longest books I have. Fuck me up! I’m looking at you, Barkskins and The Venture of Islam Volumes 1 to 3! Something I am very proud of, however, is how widely I read. I’m taking in a bit of everything, especially when it comes to non-fiction. So, that is something I really want to continue into 2024.

My other reading goal for 2024 is to read every day. You might think that I’m reading a lot, surely I read every day. Nope! Some days I am tired and I lie in bed and stare at my phone for an hour like anyone else. Maybe some days I will read just a page or two but I think if I tell myself “just read a page or two” I will actually read instead of staring into the infinite-scroll abyss. I like to keep track of my reading on StoryGraph (by the way, follow me on StoryGraph!), and they have a setting where you can track how many days in a row you read. I am hoping this will be fun and not frustrating. Something I know about myself is that putting a daily demand on anything can be a problem, partly because it’s just a rule I made up for myself and partly because you can’t tell me what to do! So … we shall see how this goes.

Languages

For Spanish, this year I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I want to get to a point where I feel fluent (you may be surprised to learn that “fluency” remains elusive to me but I still run into things I don’t know). I think what will help is reading more in Spanish. This is getting easier but it still takes more time and energy than reading in English and sometimes feels more like a chore or homework so it’s hard to sit down and do it, even though I enjoy it. I’ve learned that reading ebooks is a lot easier than paper books because I can look up the words as I go instead of having to stop. I also want to keep translating wikipedia pages, either Spanish to English or English to Spanish. I think it’s a lot of fun and it’s helping me, as ever, fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

For Icelandic, I want to do a better job keeping up with my studying. I have an Icelandic lesson almost every week but sometimes I’m not doing much more than that, which is frustrating because I really feel the difference pretty quick when I do study. I also want to find ways to actually engage in the language like watching TV or finding something to read. I have materials available, but it’s a matter of actually using them. I’m turning 38 this year and I’ve decided I want to be able to read a book (within reason) or watch a movie and mostly understand it by the time I hit 40. I’m not saying I need to be fluent in Icelandic in two years (lol. lmao even.) but I want to feel more solid it in. I am constantly fighting the urge to start working in other languages so I am telling myself wait two more years, and get the Icelandic in a strong place where I can just interact with the Icelandic-language world before I start splitting my time with yet another language (please respect my privacy at this time by not asking me which language is next! All of them are next!).

Knitting and Crafts

My knitting goal is year is to … knit. I barely touched my knitting in 2023 and that is a tragedy because I have many beautiful yarns from beautiful places. I don’t know if I’ll finish both of these, but two big patterns on my radar are this Icelandic sweater and this cool-as-hell cloak. I also want to knit a parasol at some point, but I’m not sure that this will be the year. I think part of the problem is that Huey cat wants to sit on me and hold hands now whenever I’m on the couch. This, understandably, makes it hard to knit, but I cannot deny her anything (who could?).

Moving It

I am, of course, planning to continue dancing because I see no reason to stop. It amuses me in a way to see how much I like it, considering I picked it up during the pandemic to fill my time without roller derby. I think this just proves my ongoing theory that I like everything and would do nearly any hobby given infinite time on this earth. I haven’t made any goals up to this point other than have fun, but now that I am sort of working towards learning pointe in ballet, I am going to make one goal for myself: be able to do a single, clean, consistent pirouette from fifth position. This probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of you but I basically want to be able to master a basic turn. I have it in me to do this! I am tired of low-key dreading turns and feeling like a yutz!

You would think that putting a gym in my garage would mean I’m out there all the time. Not so! I still contend with the demon of executive dysfunction. It whispers to me that getting dressed, figuring out what to do, selecting the right music, and moving the car from the garage are too many things to do just to lift a little weight. My plan this year is to lift weights twice a week. Obviously there will be exceptions—like when it’s a million degrees—but we will try.

Kitchen Witchery

Maintaining my recipe spreadsheet has helped me a lot when it comes to figuring out what to eat (another executive function struggle) and keeping track of my options. So, I definitely want to keep building on that. I also want to try making something new. I am thinking about macarons and meringues. Maybe this is the year I master the art of the egg white? My only other plans are to keep trying new recipes and keep up with my bean subscriptions (lol). I’m going to have so many bean recipes in that spreadsheet before I’m done.

Cat Therapy

Look, I don’t have any thoughts about what my cats are going to do this year. I’m sure they will remain languid and spoiled, which is their right as house cats. It seemed wrong to end the post with anything other than some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: December 10, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. Last night, Kirk and I made a rare public appearance at Sacramento Roller Derby’s end of year awards party. I got the “announcer of the year” award, which I also received in 2018 and 2019. This makes me SRD’s only favorite announcer (the team was formed in 2018 after Sacramento’s two competing teams merged). I hope to continue my reign of terror for long enough that the award gets named after me or people start referring to me as “the voice of Sacramento Roller Derby,” like some of those old dudes who do sports commentary get nicknamed. I was very excited to have an excuse to finally wear my moth dress but people kept asking me if I was an avocado! Can you believe the nerve! I also made the mistake of asking a man there about his hobby. I found out there this guy associated with the team also unicycles after someone on facebook posted a picture of a car with an SRD sticker and a unicycle sticker to ask who this might be. People thought it was me (our car is, however, stickerless), but it was this man. So, I thought, let’s have a nice little chit chat about unicycling. How many people are out there doing the roller derby and unicycling, you know? I ended up living the titular essay of Men Explain Things to Me. This guy launched into a monologue about how he unicycles, his revolutionary technique of not holding on to the seat (which honestly took me a while to understand because, reader, one does not typically hold on to the seat while riding unless for a specific trick), and the only shoes that fit the specific needs of unicycling. I did not get in a word edgewise. Kirk told me afterwards that he assumed I was standing there thinking “I’ve mad a huge mistake.” He was right.

Current Events

Last weekend, I was talking to my dad and we got on the subject of Israel/Palestine. He asked me why I described the violence happening there as a genocide. I gave some reasons in the moment and even followed up with a few links but I have still been mulling over this question all week. Technically, genocide is a legal term with a specific definition that notably includes an element of intent. However, I think most of us, when we’re discussing events happening there, are using it in a more colloquial sense. We don’t have a lot of words available for us to describe the scale and brutality of Israel’s aggression against Palestinians. When we hear that for example, Israel has turned off communications or power or water to Gaza, or that Israel is ordering Gazans to evacuate but there are no safe places for them to go, that “at least 63 journalists and media workers were among the more than 16,000 killed since the war began on October 7″ because the IDF “could not guarantee the safety of their journalists operating in the Gaza Strip,” or—and this is from 2018—Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a plea “to declare as unlawful any regulations that allow soldiers to open fire at unarmed civilians.” I don’t think we have another framework or way to understand this outside of genocide, regardless of whether it is one, legally. Even so, the UN says that this situation is on the cusp of becoming a genocide. How much damage has to be done by the time we get to formally labeling something a genocide? By the time the UN is ready to call it that, how many more people will be dead?

The other thing that gets me, as a U.S. citizen is that this violence is being committed with our country’s explicit financial support. So, while I also think that Hamas killing civilians and taking hostages is bad (does this even need to be said?), Hamas and the Palestinian leadership do not have the institutional support that Israel does. Hamas hasn’t received a cumulative total of $318 billion in aid from the U.S. since World War II, but Israel has. My country gives $3 to $4 billion dollars a year to Israel, which is more than it gives to any other country. So, call me a naive idealist if you must, but I am not comfortable with my tax dollars funding something that’s on the brink of genocide. If describing this almost-genocide (per the UN) as a full-out genocide helps reduce this completely ridiculous flow of funds to a country that, from the start, planned to “transfer” Palestinians out of the country so Israelis could live there instead, then we should call it that. This might be a radical statement, but I don’t want my tax dollars paying for murder. I want it to pay for everyone here to be able to have good health care, a free or at least affordable education, and a place to live (because I am a rotten socialist, as we know). As I’ve written before, I don’t think it’s that complicated, although reaching a solution may, indeed, be very complicated. The United States removing its thumb (or, like, whole body) from the scale of this conflict by limiting itself to sending humanitarian aid would, in my non-expert opinion, go a long way to de-escalating this conflict and, perhaps, leave a little room for a solution to emerge.

Books and Other Words

Because the main way I know how to deal with things in my life is reading books about them, I read The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism by Dr. Jen Gunter. I learned a lot from this book. Dr. Gunter explains what happens in menopause and the signs of it, plus the type of health risks present for women in this stage of life. She went into a lot of detail about various menopause symptoms and how to treat them, with a particular focus on taking hormones and the research on the subject and the risks associated with each type. She also really went in on supplements and other “wellness” remedies that people sell to menopausal women. She pointed out the irony of people not wanting to trust “big pharma” but being willing to buy supplements whose effectiveness isn’t supported by research and that the FDA does not regulate. Dr. Gunter has a strong voice—this book isn’t just a list of facts—and a firm feminist perspective, which I of course appreciated. It’s really nice to just get a big book of everything you might need to know about menopause. I’m not there yet, but as I recently wrote, I think I might be coming up on menopause sooner than is typical. It’s reassuring to get some actual information and know what things are worth going to a doctor about.

I also read A Restless Truth and A Power Unbound, the second and third (and final) books, respectively, in Freya Marske’s The Last Binding series. A Power Unbound was so good! It was, ahem, notably smutty but also brought together the characters and story lines from the first two books in an extremely satisfying way. I think it’s really clever to add a queer, romantic element to a fantasy/magic tale. You get multiple dimensions of power differential that makes for an interesting story!

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies via Rolling Stone. Rotting in hell is not enough for this guy. What more can I say?
  • Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest Spotify Wrapped of them all? via Defector. Spotify, taste, and wanting to be truly seen. From the article, “A machine like Spotify exists in an eternal present. It is forever in need of new content and more content to survive. It is a platform that not only values quantity over quality to the nth degree, but also teaches its audiences to do the same. The audience, then, must be wary. We have to at least acknowledge that while the reflection of ourselves is beautiful and exciting, the mirror we see it in is haunted. We have to try and remember that to stream songs on Spotify is not supporting artists, and that if we love something, it deserves to be paid for. We have to believe that artists deserve more than fractions of pennies for art.”
  • #63 On collectively bottoming out via Recovering. This piece explores how easy it is to from snap judgments based on the headlines we see online.
  • And to end on a lighthearted one, please enjoy this absolutely inspired video of a opossum prancing across a football field.

TV and Music

The last few days, I haven’t been able to stop listening to Jungle’s album Volcano. You might have heard some of their song Back on 74 making the social media rounds a few months ago because they had some kind of dance video challenge, but the whole album and the music videos are very much worth your full attention. Their music videos for this album all have this kind of backstage at a theater feel and the choreography is so fun. I think my favorite song from the album is Dominoes, but honestly they’re all bangers.

One of my wonderful friends has started a podcast! It’s called LitFriends and my friend Lito and his “lit friend” Annie interview pairs of authors who are good friends. I really enjoyed the first episode and was surprised to be feeling some feelings while listening to a podcast. The first episode’s guests, Angela Flournoy and Justin Torres talked about being chosen family and actually reframed the idea of chosen family, explaining that chosen family seems like you did it once and it’s over, but we actually chose our families again and again. I was expecting a podcast about books and literature, and it is also that, but it really went into our relationships with art and each other and I just really liked it. This episode actually made me think of my friend Anne, with whom I had a friend-breakup earlier in the pandemic. I don’t think I’ve discussed it here on the blog because I try to keep other people’s personal business private (even though it’s intersecting with my business), but we got in a spat and then she stopped talking to me and told me she would talk to me again when she was ready. After several months I tried to talk to her and she said she still wasn’t ready, didn’t know when or if she would be, and didn’t want to discuss the problem. Listening to this episode had me thinking that Anne stopped choosing me as family and that helps me a little bit in dealing with how that whole event made me feel. Anyway, I am looking forward to more LitFriend episodes.

Corporeal Form

This year has brought several new ailments to light—osteoarthritis, osteopenia, vulvodynia—but I actually have one more developing ailment that I haven’t talked about yet because it’s taken a while to really know what’s going on. Don’t worry, it’s nothing dire. But it is very ughhhh.

a bent out of shape plastic alligator toy that looks like it's rolling its eyes and sighing. Text says "things that make you go"
ughhhhhh

The short version of this is that I may have or be on the way to having fatty liver disease. The longer version is that I got a blood test earlier this year that showed mildly elevated levels of alanine transaminase (ALT), which indicates something is fucked up with my liver. I got another blood test in October and the levels were still a little high, so my doctor sent me for a more detailed blood panel. This week, I met with a gastroenterologist to discuss the results, although she didn’t tell me much beyond what I had already learned from researching my test results online. So, my higher ALT levels mean I could be heading towards fatty liver disease. My blood tests also found that I have a low level of something called alpha-1 antitrypsin, which a genetic deficiency that can result in lung or liver disease. The gastroenterologist is going to order some kind of genome testing for me to confirm this one, and I’m supposed to get an abdominal ultrasound in about a week to see what’s happening with my liver. The doctor wants me to lose five to ten pounds in the next six months and then do another blood test to see how things are going.

Something fun (sarcasm) is that doctors don’t really know what causes fatty liver disease, but being fat or having sleep apnea (which I do) are risk factors. Another fun thing (extreme sarcasm) is there’s no real treatment for it. The doctor told me that losing five to ten percent of one’s body weight can reduce the risk of liver issues. Note that reduced risk is not the same as “cure” or “treat.” She then went on to annoy the shit out of me with some worthless weight loss advice. She told me I should exercise regularly. I told her I take six hours of dance class per week and she said she’s “not asking me to run a marathon or lift weights,” so of course I was like, “I do lift weights” and she didn’t really respond to that. She also told me to not drink soda (I don’t) and I should cook meals at home. It was at this point that I struggled not to shout “you don’t even fucking know me!” If you read this blog, you already know I cook all the time, which I told the doctor. But, you know, can you really believe a fat person about their health? She also, completely unprompted, offered to refer me for a bariatric surgery consultation! I do not fucking want bariatric surgery! Why would I sign up for feeling hungry all the time when I know I get extremely hangry and sometimes I feel like I’m going to throw up if I don’t eat right now. I’m not going to get a surgery to reduce my stomach to the size of, as my mom always puts it, a highlighter. Fuck all the way off.

I’m just so, so tired of doctors being like “have you heard the good word of taking a 20-minute walk every day?” As if I’m going to be like “oh my god, I have not! Thank you so much. That really is a great idea” then immediately lose 100 pounds. Listen, if it were possible to lose weight in the long term, people would not be fat. I would not be fat. I know this because there is really nothing else in my life that, having decided I want to do it, I haven’t been able to do. I mean, I can jump rope on a fucking unicycle. Do you think I couldn’t lose a little weight if I wanted to? I have tried to lose weight many times. I spent much of my teen life and my whole adult life trying to lose weight. If long-term, significant weight loss were possible, why would the weight loss industry be worth $75 billion? Why can’t my doctor give me any advice other than “don’t drink your calories” or “eat a piece of fruit when you’re hungry”? Because they don’t fucking know! My body wants to be fat. It is waiting for a Scandinavian winter or a famine to hit and then I will be pleased for my copious fat stores that help me survive. However, it’s 2023 and I live in California. I’m still fat (and I look fantastic).

If you think I’m just a bitter, misguided, fat crackpot on this issue, I’d encourage you to read the very well written and well researched books by Aubrey Gordon, What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Fat and “You Just Need to Lose Weight:” And 19 Myths about Fat People. You could also try reading The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should be Easy by Caroline Dooner. Maybe even read You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar. If you don’t want to read, try listening to the Maintenance Phase episodes Is Being Fat Bad for You? or The Trouble with Calories.

Moving It

My dance recital is fast approaching and you are invited! It’s next Friday evening and you can buy a ticket here.

I was thinking about how this time last year is when I started worrying about my knees. I was feeling really sore and crunchy after last December’s recital and I thought I had overdone it somehow. After getting diagnosed with arthritis and going through almost a year being aware of it, I’ve realized that the cold weather is just a lot harder on my joints. This is such an old woman thing to say, but it seems to be true. The knees are just stiff and crunchy in December. They will feel better in a few months when things warm up.

Kitchen Witchery

Although I swear I also made real food over the last two weeks, I’ve been focused on holiday baking. I realized I had to get my cookie situation sorted in a hurry if I wanted to bring some treats to my dance teachers before our recital and holiday break. So Elk Grove’s most exclusive bakery has been hard at work over the last week. I made my signature treat, million peso shortbread (based on this recipe) and everyone’s favorite M&M sugar cookies. Not to be a shill, but something about the Christmas colored M&Ms in a cookie makes me feel very festive. I also made this orange olive oil cake, but skipped the glaze, which dries out the cake if you don’t eat it right away, and instead put a little layer of sugar on top before baking. I think that worked a lot better! Finally, because I need everyone to know that I also fail regularly, I tried this microwave nut brittle recipe for peanut brittle. We did not achieve brittle. We achieved goop. I think this would actually mix well into some ice cream. Kirk also suggested rolling it up like a popcorn ball. It tastes good, it’s just not the right texture. I should have checked the temperature even though I was cooking it in the microwave. Lesson learned!

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. It’s cuddling and blanket season here.

Two Weeks in the Life: November 26, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. I don’t have a lot of big thoughts this week, partly because I’m tired since the Huey Alarm meowed me awake before seven this morning (rude) and partly because I spent the last week hyper-focused on Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving behind us, I’ve had a nice, relaxing weekend of doing as little as possible and it has been great.

Books and Other Words

I’m still working to learn more about the Middle East and the situation in Israel/Palestine, so I read another book on the subject, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 by Rashid Khalidi who is Palestinian himself and a historian of nationalism and colonialism in the Middle East. I found this book to be very thorough, accessible, and well-sourced without being super long. You don’t need a degree in Middle Eastern studies to understand the book because Khalidi lays out the history so clearly. However, if you are more of an expert, there are loads of citations, including to lots of primary sources, that you can follow up on. As to the content, well, I saw a tweet (that of course now I can’t find!) recently that said something to the effect of “Everyone said this subject was too complicated. They did not expect us to read up.” Just … history and the facts of the situation are not looking good for Israel here. For example, in 1918, when Zionists were creating the idea of Israel, they made sure not to mention that “the Zionist program required the expulsion of the Arabs, because that would cause the Jews to lose the world’s sympathy.” They knew it was going to be bad press from day one! In 1919, when the U.S. was assessing the situation, a commission concluded that supporting establishing Israel “commit[s] the American people to the use of force in that area, since only by force can a Jewish state in Palestine be established or maintained.” Here we still are! Or, as Khalidi states, they “accurately predicted the course of the subsequent century.” Khalidi makes it clear that none of this could be happening without America’s complicity. I was both cheered and dismayed by the chapter on the First Intifada, a popular Palestinian uprising against Israel that describes how seeing the images of Palestinian suffering, similar to what we’re seeing on social media now, led to a swell of support for Palestine in the court of public opinion. However, the news cycle continued and people forgot about it over time. Khalidi writes that Gaza is even more tightly controlled now than it was during the First Intifada. Of course, now we have social media, too, and everyone has a little camera in their pocket. Maybe we will see some change for the better this round. That said, Biden is the top of recipient of donations from pro-Israel lobbying groups and just this week Haaretz reported that the U.S. is going to encourage Israel to develop Gaza’s offshore gas reserves. It’s capitalism every time, baby!

World events aside, I did some less serious reading this week too. I finished Martha Wells’ next two Murderbot books, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy. I also re-read Freya Marske’s A Marvelous Light because the third and final book in that series has been published. I don’t re-read all the books of a series every time a new one drops but, especially for a final book, I like to read through the series again so I can get maximum appreciation of the story and this one is definitely worth it.

Normally, this is where I post some links to what I’ve been reading online. However, I haven’t read anything interesting online in the last week or so because I got obsessed with this little game instead. Have fun!

Languages

It’s funny to me that, when I try to speak a new language, my brain tries to pull vocabulary from all over the place. In my Icelandic class this week, I was trying to speak a little more, which is hard in any language but I think especially tricky in Icelandic. When I was assembling things to say and didn’t know something or couldn’t think of a word fast enough, I kept wanting to use Spanish words and phrases. Like, I know we’re not using English so my memory is like “Can I interest you in some not-English?” I’m glad to know that my Spanish is solid enough to try to fill in the gaps but it’s a little annoying. I’ve also been seeing a lot of Arabic online lately and, despite years of study in college, I’ve forgotten a lot so my memory is trying to fit it into what I’ve been doing more recently. So, I’ll read something in Arabic and then think of similar-sounding Icelandic words. Also very annoying! I need everything to stay in its lane! (I also need to re-learn Arabic properly but I am unfortunately forced to work and can’t do what I want full time. Alas. MacArthur grant when??)

Moving It

It’s almost dance recital season! If you’re reading this, you’re invited to my dance recital. It’s on December 15 at 7 p.m. and you can buy tickets here. I know you all live for my performances!

Kitchen Witchery

It was, of course, Thanksgiving this week. As someone who likes to cook, I do enjoy the challenge of getting so many different things ready to eat at the same time, even if it is a lot of work. I kept my menu fairly consistent this year, but I did add this corn casserole, which was pretty good but not amazing. I also tried this sweet potato casserole recipe, which we liked a lot. It’s basic but it’s good! I added a little mocktail to the presentation and tried out these pomegranate tonics, which we liked but they were not as pink and beautiful as the website photo would have you believe. Also I think I could have achieved an equally good beverage just by mixing pomegranate juice and club soda. On the subject of pomegranate, I made a pomegranate gelato because I can’t handle just having pies for dessert. This is fucking good! I’m ready to turn around and make another batch this week. Finally, as a bread aficionado, I tried a new bread recipe. I think this one is a keeper. It’s pull-apart sour cream and chive rolls and they are so soft and good. All that said, I am highly ready to return to some more normal (less casserole-based) cooking.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Enjoy everyone sleeping in weird little places.