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.

Two Weeks in the Life: November 12, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. I started writing this post and it made me realize that a lot has been going on! I got my tattoo touched up last week (yes, the one that got spelled wrong). I’m quite happy with the new version, but still a little salty with the tattoo artist justifying his mistake by saying “well, I don’t speak Spanish.” Are you also illiterate? It’s the same alphabet. In any case, the updated version is pretty cool so I’m not too upset about the whole ordeal.

In other news, last weekend I went to another roller derby game to lend my vocal talents. I ended up working solo, which is fine but I don’t know if I’m a great solo announcer for an in-house game. I kind of forget about the “hype up the crowd” portion of the job. However, if I can toot my own horn, I am really good at explaining what’s happening on the track.

I’ve been documenting the ongoing shower drama over the last few posts. We finally got the original contractor to come take a look at the damn thing this week after telling them we would call the Contractors State License Board if they didn’t stop ignoring us. They called right back. Surprise! The guy said that the weep holes were clogged and was able to unclog one of them (then asked if we had a wire hanger he might use to unclog the other. What year is this? No, I don’t have a wire hanger). He told us to use the shower for the week and then report back. It seems that water is still seeping where it shouldn’t be seeping so I can’t wait to find out what kind of dumb shit we have to go through next to get this resolved.

Finally, I must note that we had ZERO trick or treaters stop at our house on Halloween. I actually was going to hand out candy this year instead of piling it in the bird bath like usual. I think Halloween should be the last Saturday in October instead of fixed on the 31st. Let’s be real, parents are not excited to walk their kids around to beg for candy on a Tuesday night—and I’m not that excited to sit around and wait for the doorbell to ring on a Tuesday either.

Books and Other Words

I mostly enjoyed and agreed with The End of Reality: How 4 Billionaires Are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto by Jonathan Taplin. The book chronicles how Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and Marc Andreessesn are promoting their pet projects—life on Mars, the metaverse, transhumanism, and crypto, respectively—and don’t really care what anyone else has to say on the subject. Because they all have so much money and influence, it’s easy for them to push for less regulation and oversight on what they do. The book’s argument is that these billionaires aren’t living in reality and they’re trying to drag us along with them. This makes sense and I picked up a lot of good background information on these four rich jerks. However, Taplin does kind of veer into ornery old man territory at times. He almost lost me in a chapter called “Fantasy Culture,” which describes how varied pop culture influences like science fiction books and movies, hip hop music, and violent video games have basically made us stupider as a culture and paved the way for believing in fantasies like living to 160 years old (Peter Thiel’s goal) or living on Mars. Taplin cites science fiction works by H.G. Wells and Aldus Huxley, as well as movies like the Avengers series (to be fair, I don’t think Taplin is wrong about the Avengers movies. They’ve got a wide streak of military propaganda.). Of course, this leaves out tons of science fiction that makes us question the status quo, like the works of Ursula LeGuin, N. K. Jemisin, or even Star Trek (more Deep Space Nine, less Next Generation here though). Most importantly though, I think that bringing up how these billionaires take inspiration from science fiction is really giving them too much credit. As we learned recently from Musk saying that CyberTruck is “what Bladerunner would have driven” (see Max Read for why this statement is complete nonsense), these guys don’t seem to have learned anything at all (or even understood) what they have read and watched. In any case, overall a good read if you can put up with a little bit of old man yelling at cloud.

I also re-read the next Murderbot book, Artificial Condition. I don’t have much to add about what I’ve already said about this series, but here it is! It’s a fun little read.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Finders and Keepers via Lux Magazine. I really appreciated this account of Palestinian foragers. Totally worth the read.
  • Confirmed: From next year, tracks on Spotify will have to be played 1,000 times before they start earning money via Music Business Worldwide. Maybe it’s time to consider buying music or otherwise supporting artists in a more direct manner instead of giving money and attention to Spotify.
  • SAG-AFTRA committee approves deal with studios to end historic strike via Los Angeles Times. I’m glad the actors’ guild strike is over and that the studios are meeting their demands. I’m very curious to see what kind of statistics come out about streaming once this and the new wrtiers’ guild contracts go into effect because studios really did not want to release that information. It’s interesting to see that we went from studio executives saying they wanted to drag the strike out to make writers homeless and desperate to now with the execs being upset about delaying next year’s movie releases. From the article, “After sealing that deal, the studios were motivated to resolve the actors’ standoff in an effort to salvage the current television season and next year’s theatrical film slate. Film executives also worried that the feature film business, which has been ailing since COVID-19 shutdowns, would struggle to recover if theaters went another year without potential blockbusters to draw moviegoers to cinemas.”
  • First-gen social media users have nowhere to go via Wired. On the decaying institution of social media and how those of us who came of age with it are feeling.
  • Platform Wars (part 4): A Public Option for Social Media via Joshua Citarella’s Newsletter. I love this concept for fixing social media with a public option. Everyone would get an email address and social media account from the USPS-run service. You pay “postage” to share your thoughts on social media. You get a finite number of likes per day (so trending internet crap isn’t always lowest-common denominator content). I really recommend reading the article because it’s such a cool idea. I think something like this would be a huge improvement in our relationship with social media and the internet.

TV and Music

We have just about finished watching the second season of Wheel of Time. This has been a fraught subject in our household because Kirk loves the book series so much (I like the book series but don’t have the same kind of attachment). The show is good but hasn’t followed the course of events from the books super closely. I’ve been reassuring Kirk that they had to adjust the story for TV, put all the characters and events in motion in a way that makes sense for viewers. The latter half of this season has finally been coming back around to the events of the book, so that’s a relief. What I am really loving about this show is the costume design. So many fantasy series just go with kind of a European peasant look but the costumes here manage to communicate that, yes, we are in a preindustrial society but it is also a totally different world from our own.

We have also been playing the new Mario game, Super Mario Wonder. I can’t figure out how to describe it other than it is a Mario game where you take a little acid trip in every level. We’re having fun.

Languages

I’m proud to announce that I have translated another Wikipedia article into Spanish (with help from Ana). It’s Verbos débiles en lenguas germánicas (Germanic weak verbs). You might think this is a really niche and random choice. It is, but I found it in the course of reading up on types of verbs and realized there was no equivalent in Spanish Wikipedia. I did a lot of work for this article, on top of the translation, because the English version had a note that instances of text in other languages had to be tagged. I learned that, in the code of Wikipedia, editors are supposed to use an ISO 639-3 tag to mark which language words are from (if different than the main text of the article). This helps browsers render the text correctly, screen readers know how to read, and supports data collection. So, the original article in English was lacking all that and I spent a couple of hours going through and tagging all the languages. Did you know there’s even a code for protogermanic? I do now. Fortunately, I was able to reuse a lot of that work for the Spanish translation. I’m planning to translate the companion article, Germanic strong verbs, but it’s even longer than the weak verbs article. In fact, some Wikipedia editor has warned us that this article is too long. Pray (or whatever) for me.

Screenshot of the warnings at the top of the "Germanic strong verb" wiki page including a note that "This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably."
This article may be too long!

Rampant Consumerism

two square yellow frames with pink mattes. Top frame has an illustration of five orange kittens on a black background with the word "gang." Bottom is a collection of comic panels collaged into the frame
new arts

Back in January I ordered some very cool art prints from the artist Ruth Mora and, like the responsible adult I am, immediately ordered some very specific frames to match. Here we are in November and those prints have still not arrived at my door and the artist has since run a failed fundraising campaign for her business, closed her shop, and yet promised to eventually deliver the art. I decided to give up on her and I disputed the charge on my bank account so I could get a refund. Instead I ordered some art from the artist “catwheezie” and some comic panels from Clarice Tudor. I put them up in my office and they look great. This is one thing I do love about the internet. It’s so easy to find people making cool stuff everywhere.

Corporeal Form

⚠️TMI ALERT⚠️ If you don’t want to hear about some body stuff, go ahead and skip ahead to the next section. For those of you reading on, three … two … one. Here we go. A few months ago I mentioned I was having some exciting (ha) new pain, which my gynecologist told me was called vulvodynia. I am actually very glad I posted about this because it prompted one of my friends to message me and say she had also experienced this when she was taking birth control pills, but the pain went away as soon as she stopped taking the pill. This made me theorize that there is some kind of hormonal component, so I decided to get my IUD removed. Although IUDs have served me faithfully for over ten years and I hadn’t had any pain issues like this before, I decided it was worth removing it just to eliminate potential variables. I think I might be hitting perimenopause—although the gyno basically laughed and said I’m too young—and whatever hormonal shift is happening made my body not get along with the IUD hormones. In any case, I got the IUD out in September (why does the gyno hold up the removed IUD to display it like a man who just caught a fish?). It does seem like the pain went away! I’m a little skeptical that it could be that simple but so far, so good. I have, however, had to start contending with menstruation again, which my IUD had put a stop to. This is good in a way because I can keep an eye on the menopause situation, although also bad because, you know, the bleeding. I had my period after getting the IUD out then another round forty whole days later. So, something is clearly going on here.

It feels a little weird to be out here on the internet talking about my period and my birth control but, had I not mentioned this in the first place, my friend wouldn’t have told me about her experience, and I would never have thought to remove my IUD. I also feel like I know almost nothing about menopause (although I’m reading a book on the subject so that’s helping). I hear women complaining about hot flashes but that’s about it. So, I am going to keep talking about this to uplift the matriarchy.

Kitchen Witchery

I looked back at my photos from the last two weeks and realized that I have been cooking a lot. Last weekend, I roasted a chicken. This is partly because roast chicken is delicious but also partly so I could use the remains to make chicken stock in advance of my Thanksgiving cooking bonanza. Because I am that bitch. I also auditioned this sweet potato and gruyère gratin recipe to see if I wanted to make it on Thanksgiving. It did not make the cut! It was just mushy and bland in a bad way. Since the weather cooled down, I made some beef stew, which I have pretty well gotten down to a science. I build off a recipe from How to Cook Everything and slow cook it. The onions dissolve in the broth and it tastes super savory. I saw an idea for chickpea pot pie and decided I had to give it a try with my favorite pot pie recipe from The Harvest Baker. We liked it, so that’s a nice alternative to have available. I’ve had this recipe for baked farro with lentils, tomato, and feta bookmarked for a while and finally got around to trying it. It’s really good! Kirk agreed we should have it again. It’s also very easy to make, so that’s a win.

In sweets, I used some pumpkin rolls that were getting a little stale to make a french toast casserole. It was delicious and I would definitely make it again. I also made this black and white pound cake, which unfortunately did not make a clean exit from the pan. However, thanks to a little reconstructive surgery and a chocolate icing, we were able to eat it just fine.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz has been mad with wanting to bite things lately. Here’s a shot of him in the throes of biting mania. Huey is missing her box that she ruined, but I’ve replaced it with one of her pillows for now. I ordered one of these cat caves that I keep seeing online (the instagram ads got me again). We’ll see if she likes that instead.

Two Weeks in the Life: October 29, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. I generally think of myself as productive and not hampered by executive dysfunction, but other times I get completely stymied by how many steps a process has and I’ve really been feeling this lately. For example, I had some shirts to return. This involves going to the post office, and that involves finding a time to go, being willing to stand around in public, and getting dressed beforehand. And if I’m doing all that to go outside, I should probably do some more errands like return my library books. I had to print a return label, which had been the sticking point in this process for the last two weeks. I knew my printer was going to be annoying. I had to connect it to our new wifi network, which changed when we switched to fiber internet last month. Then I knew I would have to run various head cleaning and other maintenance things because the damn thing never prints correctly on the first try. On Friday, I managed to overcome my resistance to doing so many tasks but the head cleaning didn’t fix anything so I just printed a several unusable shipping labels. I finally gave up and sent the label to the local fedex store for printing (more tasks!). The good news is that I did eventually get the shirts in the mail.

Apparently, this kind of view on tasks is very neurodivergent. Most people would just see “print the label” or “return the shirts” as the whole task, whereas I’ve got ten things to do to reach the same goal. It’s exhausting. Another version of this that is wearing me out daily now is our shower. You may remember two posts ago when I said our shower isn’t draining right. It’s still not. We had a contractor come out and agree that it’s shit and the whole floor and 18 inches of tile (at minimum) needs to be ripped up. The original contractor also sent someone out when we asked for them to look at it. Their guy said “This is bad. Who did this?” YOU DID, MY DUDE. We’ve called the contractor to follow up but haven’t heard back from them as promised. Shocking stuff. So, we’re showing in the other bathroom, but the other bathroom is where the cat litter box is. That means that showering now involves moving the cat litter box, putting the bath mat on the floor (we hang it over the shower curtain rod when not in use because, again, cat litter box), and then taking a shower. Plus I have to do the whole thing in reverse afterwards. This is adding way too many steps to a daily process and, it might sound ridiculous, but it’s super draining (unlike my stupid shower!!). I constantly feel like Hal in this scene from Malcolm in the Middle. Although I do feel like I’ve been getting a lot of stuff done lately, the background on that is everything I do has all these little extra steps that are making me crazy.

Current Events

I’ve been reading up on the Israel/Palestine conflict over the last two weeks. I am feeling a bit ashamed of my ignorance because I honestly didn’t know a lot about it. I have heard for my whole life that this issue is just too complicated. What I’ve learned, however, is it’s seriously not complicated. I don’t mean this in a “I read a few articles and now I’m an expert” way, but like, it’s a much more clear-cut issue than I was led to believe. Reading about how Israel was founded was extremely eye-opening. Palestine became a British colony after World War I. According to Palestine: A Socialist Introduction (currently free as an ebook!), which I read last week,

Britain privileged the small Jewish population over the Palestinians. In 1917 there were 56,000 Jews in Palestine and 644,000 Palestinians. Nonetheless, Britain gave 90 percent of concessions for projects like building roads and power plants to Jewish capitalists, and by 1935, Zionists owned 872 out of the 1,221 industrial firms in Palestine.

Palestine: A Socialist Introduction

Wow! It really always does go back to the fucking British empire. Britain did this, despite being “rabidly antisemitic,” because they wanted to pay someone to keep the Arab population in check and they wanted to support Zionism because they were a powerful opposing force to the leftism otherwise prevalent in Europe’s Jewish working class. It only gets worse. During World War II, Israel’s leadership had opportunities to take in Jews fleeing the holocaust, but they “sabotaged proposal after proposal” because they didn’t want poor and old Jews immigrating. The state also confiscated over a million acres of farmland from Arab people to give to Israelis, often after setting off bombs to level entire villages. It’s just disgusting. This is all public knowledge! This stuff is on Wikipedia. It’s not a secret but it’s also not exactly what they tell you in the news either.

Returning to the present, Israel “imposed a ‘complete siege‘” of Gaza, cutting off supplies and power. Israel has now also shut off internet and phone services, which has cut off Palestinians from the rest of the world. Not to be histrionic, but this is war crime stuff (although, to pause for a little philosophy, shouldn’t all war be crime? But you get my point, I’m sure). Israel is unequivocally wrong here. Another article that stuck with me was this one, which describes how Israel has even limited how much of the sea Palestine has access to. It hadn’t even occurred to me that Palestine had a coast, but of course it is on the Mediterranean. the article explains that, in 1995, “Palestine was allocated a 20-nautical mile zone for economic activities and subsea extraction.” Now they’re down to three. This means Israel reaps the profits for the gas production just 15 miles offshore. Everything I read has me massaging my temples and whispering “Jesus fucking Christ” to myself. Every single thing is like this.

Big, global conflict stuff like this is depressing in part because it feels like there’s nothing we can do to stop it. I know you like it when I provide some concrete ideas, so here are a few things we can do on this issue:

  • The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is working to put economic pressure on Israel similar to tactics used to pressure South Africa to end Apartheid. Here’s some information about companies you can boycott to get you started. One company I am going to start personally boycotting: Sabra Hummus! People on instagram have also been spreading the word about boycotts, calling out L’Oreal, Nestlè, and Disney as brands to boycott, among others.
  • On the other hand, you can buy something from a Palestinian business. One option: Hirbawi, the “last and only” kufiya factory operating in Palestine.
  • For those of us in the United States, contact your elected representatives. Tell them they need to demand a de-escalation and call for a cease fire. Jewish Voice for Peace has a call script you can use. If, like me, you hate calling, you can use something like Resistbot to send your thoughts in via a messenger app.
  • Straight up send cash. I understand that Anera is doing a good job distributing funds. Doctors Without Borders also has a campaign going on for Gaza support.

Books and Other Words

I accidentally got on a Martha Wells kick the last couple weeks. I read her new book, Witch King, which had some really interesting things in it but the plot wasn’t really one of them. The story alternates between past events in which all the characters met and escaped some harrowing circumstances, and the present where they are escaping a new harrowing circumstance and rescuing one of the character’s wives. The world was cool, the characters had a lot of potential, but the resolution had me kinda like “that’s it?” Sorry, Martha! I’ve also been re-reading Wells’ Murderbot series, starting with All Systems Red, in anticipation for a new book coming out in November. Murderbot is a SecUnit, a human/bot construct whose job is to keep clients alive when they go on trips to dangerous places. Murderbot would prefer to do no such thing, and wants to hang around and watch its TV shows. Hilarity ensues. Most fans of the series, myself included, find Murderbot to be very autism-coded and that’s part of the joy of the story. Its a bot construct but really it’s a metaphor for being autistic and dealing with people.

No Meat Required: The Cultural History and Culinary Future of Plant-based Eating by Alicia Kennedy is a book I wasn’t sure if I was going to resonate with. I follow Kennedy’s substack, From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, because I like what she has to say about food, so I was curious about the book, and it didn’t disappoint. Let’s get this out of the way: I’m not going vegan (or even vegetarian). I’m just interested in food and food discourse. I liked this book and really appreciated how Kennedy got into the politics and consumerism around food, even vegetarian and vegan food. The chapters all dealt with interesting facets of non-meat eating, like the punk roots of veganism with cookbooks like Soy Not Oi! or the chapter about how vegan “cheese” is made (which, shockingly, made me want to try some of the fancy things people are making now, not as a cheese replacement, but just to see what people can do). One theme in the book was not eating meat is about celebrating all the great food that already exists, not making a bunch of faux-meat products to sell at Target so corporations can make money. This resonated with me because I do like vegetarian food but I hate the fake vegan food that’s trying hard to be meat. Just eat a veggie burger made of beans or vegetables! What is the point of making non-meat that approximates meat? Who wants that? Vegans don’t want it. Omnivores would rather eat the meat. Kennedy states that “vegetarianism and veganism reject the consumerist, efficiency-driven, labor-abusing, environmentally taxing status quo on which the US food system is based” and I think that is the most persuasive argument for vegetarianism that I’ve heard yet.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

Since we finished watching Stargate: SG-1 last year, Kirk and I have been leisurely working our way through Stargate: Atlantis when we need something to watch. It’s not a brilliant show, but it’s reasonably entertaining. The last two weeks though we’ve been in a rush to finish it because, of course, Hulu is about to remove it from the platform. We have something like 4 days and 5 episodes left. This keeps happening to us. We never finished the last season of Babylon 5 because that also got removed from its platform. It’s annoying because the promise of streaming was that you can watch anything anytime but of course that was a lie and we’re all paying for more and more fragmented services to try to get all the things we want to watch.

Knitting and Crafts

I finally finished a knitting something! This has been a very slow year for knitting for me, which is fine. Hobbies ebb and flow, but it still feels gratifying to make something. This is a new pair of gloves that I made for Mandy. The pattern is spiced cocoa on Ravelry and I used Noro yarn. It was a nice, simple pattern and I like the results. I haven’t blocked them so don’t judge any lumps you may see!

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been on a bit of a pumpkin kick because, in at least this sense, I’m pretty basic. I made pumpkin rolls, which is a recipe I love, and I tried a pumpkin cinnamon roll. The cinnamon rolls were good but I think they needed double, or at least one-and-a-half times the filling. I’m a maniac like that. I made a batch of pumpkin and goat cheese macaroni, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. I probably only make it once per year but we both really enjoy it. By request, I experimented with the concha cookie recipe to make a chocolate topping. I think I ended up adding about two teaspoons of cocoa powder instead of adding food coloring. In retrospect, I should have added a little water or something with it because it came out super crumbly. It was good though. Finally, I made a potato-leek soup with spiced chickpeas. I already had a leek and potato soup recipe that I liked, but this one adds chickpeas into the soup so it’s a little more filling than the strictly potatoes version. Plus the crispy chickpeas on top are enjoyable. As a bonus for Great British Bake Off fans, I’ll note that this recipe is from Chetna!

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Huey has spent almost a whole year loving this little box. It showed up last Christmas and she immediately claimed it. She has even resisted the urge to bite it apart, as she would normally do with anything made of cardboard or paper. Unfortunately, we finally had to throw the box away this week because she pooped in it (reasons unknown!). Kirk threw the box out and Huey spent the next two hours glaring at him and pouting. Sure, it’s Huey’s fault for ruining the box, but she’s still convinced that Kirk did her dirty.

Two Weeks in the Life: October 14, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. I’ve been on vacation this week! I planned a week off to hang around at home and chill and read my books. Then I filled my time with appointments and social calls. I don’t regret it but I would like another week off to rest now. Alas, I am trapped in this system that permits me a mere 80 hours of paid time off per year and I had barely gotten out of PTO debt from last year’s Iceland trip. Still, I enjoyed the time off, even though it went fast. I got to see another comedy show, did a double Spanish class with Ana, went with Mandy and her four-year-old daughter to a pumpkin patch where we fed the goats, joined Lemon for an outing to the new Beer’s Books location and to try a new pizza place, and got a new tattoo. Plus I did all my usual dance class stuff and got in a little studying. I had pictured laying in my hammock all week, but I’m not mad about how I spent my time.

Current Events

I was going to put these thoughts in my “on the internet” section but I realized I had more than one bullet point’s worth of thoughts, so today we shall introduce a “current events” section. Here goes.

I’ve seen a lot of bad takes on social media about the Israel/Palestine situation over the the last week. I hope I’m not going to be one of them. In fact, there’s a part of me that is like why comment at all but it’s my blog so I can comment if I want. I’m far from an expert, but I do actually have a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, for what it’s worth. My first thought is that whatever people here in the U.S. say, it kind of doesn’t matter. Everyone (myself included), is rushing to take a stance, but who is that affecting? One of the few insightful things I’ve seen online this week is a comment that it’s easy to sit here and say “violence isn’t the answer” when the implied threat of violence from the United States’ 700+ military bases worldwide is actually what’s making it possible to be “nonviolent.” Our government is extremely obsessed with supporting Israel, even though the United Nations has characterized Israel’s occupation of Palestine as maintaining an “open-air prison.” Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending more weapons to Israel while continuing to arm the rest of the Middle East. The weapons that Hezbollah is using in Syria have also come from the U.S., although not directly. While individual U.S. citizens aren’t the ones sending weapons all over the world or asking for these policies, I find it kind of ridiculous for people in this country to be like “well, both sides are bad :-(” because the side that is bad is actually this country arming everyone to the teeth.

All that said, this is not an excuse to be anti-semetic. Just like individual Americans aren’t responsible for supplying arms to the entire Middle East, individual Jewish people aren’t responsible for Israel’s atrocities. By the same token, we can’t judge all Palestinian people by the actions of Hamas or use this to fuel anti-Muslim bias. Still, I feel it’s unfair to be mad at the desperate actions of Palestinians who have been living in this system for decades. Here’s a statistic from the Los Angeles Times, “Before last week, 6,407 Palestinians had died in Israeli strikes since 2008, most of them in Gaza, according to the United Nations. The Israeli death toll from Palestinian attacks was 308. In a single day, Hamas killed four times that many.” So, I think we need to put some of this information in context before we rush to let our social media followers know that we’re a good person.

Facts and figures aside, I admit this is scary and gut-wrenching even though I don’t personally know anyone involved. I don’t know what the solution is, but my first suggestions are that we all have to see each other as fellow humans and maybe we should stop making so many weapons just to turn a profit. It’s also scary that this could be the spark that ignites the whole Middle East in war, inevitably dragging in the U.S. and others.

Books and Other Words

I haven’t read that much over the last two weeks! I think my brain got tired. I’ve been very interested in all the non-fiction books on my reading list but haven’t been able to sustain the energy and attention required to read them. I got through just one book in the last two weeks. Then I went and bought more books. I could live 1,000 years and not read everything I want to read.

Imagine you’re traveling through space on a mission to establish human life on a new planet with 79 girls you went to middle and high school with. Then someone dies. That’s the basic nature of the plot of Yume Kitasei’s The Deep Sky. Humanity isn’t handling the climate crisis well and some trillionaire holds a years-long school program/audition for the space mission. Space exploration meets murder mystery, expect it’s all girls you grew up with. I thought it was a good book, I liked the way the characters were developed and, you know, can’t go wrong with a little global warming to spur people into space!

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • 911 dispatcher calls labor situation ‘dehumanizing’ via Easy Reader & Peninsula. My sister made her local news for going to the city council about the shitty treatment she and her coworkers endure as emergency dispatchers. The people who work the 9-1-1 phones are not okay! Mia told me this week that she worked seventeen days in a row then got one day off. It’s not sustainable. Maybe next time we’re thinking about giving the cops more money, we should give it to the dispatchers instead of buying a helicopter or whatever.
  • The all-out revolt against knitting.com helps explain boycotts at Reddit and Etsy via Quartz. I would like tech/finance bros to stop being fucking scavengers and getting involved in things they know nothing about just to make money. Go get a hobby.
  • The American dream is a nightmare via Men Yell at Me. This interview with author Molly McGhee made me immediately preorder her book Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind. I really liked how she talked about approaching writing as someone who loves to read. McGhee states, “I think of myself as a reader first. I was always a reader. And when people are like, “What do you do?,” I still have to work really hard not to say I’m a reader because that makes no sense. When I’m writing, it’s just because I love reading so much.” Honestly, I totally get that. I love her for this perspective.
  • Meet this year’s MacArthur ‘genius grant’ recipients, including a hula master and the poet laureate via AP News. Wow, another year and still none of you nominated me for a MacArthur grant. Unbelievable.

The Case of the Misplaced “S”

I have been wanting to get a tattoo in Spanish for quite a while now, but especially since passing the DELE exam last year, I have been emotionally ready to get it to celebrate my Spanish skills through putting words on my body. I had a little post-it note with the phrase “todo para todos” (everything for everyone) up in my office for a while because I’d seen it somewhere and really liked it. The tattoo has to do double duty; it can’t just be any random Spanish but it needs to say something about my feelings and beliefs. When, about a month ago, I finally got serious about making an appointment I did a little more research on the phrase and realized the original version is from the Zapatista slogan, “Para todos todo, nada para nosotros” (for everyone, everything, nothing for ourselves), which is about mutual aid and taking a socialist position to uplift everyone.

My appointment was, stupidly in hindsight, yesterday, Friday the 13th. I didn’t realize the tattoo shop would be doing a $13 flash tattoo sale and there would be chaos and a line around the building. This left me sitting the lobby feeling a little overwhelmed as an overly chatty and chummy young woman talked our ears off with honestly no prompting for thirty minutes. I was relieved when I finally went back to get the tattoo started, though less relieved to discover that my tattoo guy and the person in the next room were running competing loud musics. So, I was feeling pretty over it by the time we got to the actual tattoo portion of the day.

To avoid burying the lede any further, I’ll let you know now that my tattoo is spelled wrong. Instead of para todos todo I got para todo todos. I feel stupid about it, which is why I’ve set the stage to tell you how overstimulated I was and how ready I was to be done before we even started. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the problem until I left. I was taking a slow video to show the tattoo to my internet friends (hello, all of you) the new tattoo, which runs along the curve of my arm when I realized the problem. I turned off the sound when I uploaded it, but the original has me exclaiming “oh no.”

Para todos todo

What’s annoying is I know exactly how this unfortunately permanent error made it’s way onto my body. Here’s the reference I provided to the tattoo guy:

So he printed it and brought it back and I explained that I wanted the words laid out horizontally across my arm, like my other tattoos, and not vertically. He left to cut up his stencil and returned with the words in a line instead of a stack. He laid it across my wrist and asked me if it looked right. And it did because it kind of disappears over the edge of my arm unless I turn it at a weird angle. I feel to blame for not catching this but also, can you not keep three words in order? Really? I’m asking so little here.

When the guy started working on the tattoo I asked him if he liked to chat or liked to focus and he said “What do you want to chat about?” so I, foolishly, said “Well, I’m not trying to start a discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” Naturally that’s what we ended up talking about. Fortunately, it was pretty amicable but, uh, this guy was nuts. He said that you can’t believe everything you see on TV and I was like, yeah, of course, propaganda is real. Then he said it’s fear-based mind control and I was like, oh, okay. He added that he won’t be hypnotized and doesn’t want to be a slave. At this point, reader, I was really ready to leave. Unfortunately, the tattoo was only halfway done. When he finally finished, he folded some kind of fancy paper towel over it and taped that to my wrist (as opposed to the traditional plastic wrap) and sent me on my way. I was tired and ready to escape the chaos.

Of course, the question now is what do I do with a misspelled tattoo? I am not chill enough to be like “haha, life is funny that way sometimes.” After extensive consultation with my friend group (and some crying), Abby made the winning suggestion to put proofreading marks on it. This is a great suggestion since it adds another layer of meaning to the tattoo because editing is my job. It lets me take this with a little humor. “Oh, you misspelled this, let me just make a little adjustment.” We were also considering adding more words to the tattoo, but I really liked the original meaning and I don’t want to feel like I have to launch into a big explanation everyone time someone asks me about it. Here’s what I think I want to do:

I texted the tattoo shop to let them know I want a touch up and I am probably going to have a follow-up appointment soon. So, it’s not exactly what I wanted but it’s going to work out.

Doing Stuff

Last weekend, Abby and I went on another adventure to see a comedian. We drove to Colusa for Atstuko Okatsuka’s “Sacramento” tour stop. Colusa is a weird little place out in the the middle of nowhere but they have a casino and for some reason, that casino hosted the show. Their bingo hall was done up as if for a timeshare or pyramid scheme sales pitch. There were, for reasons no one understood, security guards positioned at either side of the stage. Just … in case? I guess? Abby and I once again struggled to get a pre-show meal, with the casino’s single, casual restaurant advising us of a 30-minute wait (we waited even longer than that). We eventually got food to go. That said, the show was hilarious and I love Atsuko and she loves us. She said she could see who was here as a casino VIP and who her real weirdos were. She also addressed the fact that we were out in the sticks, not Sacramento as advertised. One thing I like about her comedy is that she talks about her relationship with her husband in a way that’s really positive and loving. So many comedians are like “I hate my wife, am I right, fellas?” which was always more sad than funny (hot tip: You can marry someone you like!). Atsuko had some jokes about how she and her husband spend their time together and their inside jokes and it felt very genuine. We just don’t get a lot of representation for weird ladies in heterosexual partnerships who are having a good time. Thank you, Atsuko!

Kitchen Witchery

It’s cooling down and that means it’s soup season! I do make soups all year but it’s more satisfying during the fall. Unfortunately, I have no recipes to offer you today because both of these were a freestyle effort. I made a little soup with what I had in the pantry, namely cassoulet beans, a couple of potatoes and carrots, plus a perfect grilled cheese. I also made a bean chili with cornbread.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: October 1, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. We are going through another round of house drama here. We had ants appear in the kitchen, which seems to happen every six months. Fortunately, we dispatched them quickly. Kirk puts some kind of poison near where they enter the house and I disrupt their chemical trail with Windex. It’s a good system. Worse than an ant visitation, we now have water seeping out from under the wall of our shower, which I find frankly offensive considering we had the shower remodeled just four years ago. Keen readers may remember that this drama was well documented. It seems that the drain and its weep holes (fun new vocabulary for us all) were not installed properly. When the water hits the drain, it travels between the floor tile and the liner to the edge of the shower, where it seeps out. We may have to have the floor and 18 inches of wall tile ripped out to repair the floor, which we are not at all pleased about (to reiterate: a vehement ANTI-RECOMMENDATION to Solid Construction in Sacramento). Finally my expensive desk chair broke. This is distressing for a few reasons, not the least of which was me being like “great, I’m fat and can’t have anything nice.” The good news is my chair has a 12-year warranty and the company is going to fix it. The bad news is I had to wait for them to ship me a box so I could send them the chair. Now I am waiting for the chair to return to me in a usable state. Because I am too old for sitting in shitty dining room chairs at my desk, my back has been hurting. I bought a less expensive chair as an intermediate measure. I didn’t really want to buy another chair, but it is useful for me since I usually drag my chair from my main desk to my office every day, which is kinda silly but I don’t know. It makes sense to me. This is too much house drama!

In better house news, we got fiber internet! Our old internet provider, Comcast, had been dicking us around for months. Our internet connection was dropping out around 9:30 every morning, which is a problem for many reasons, not the least of which that we both work from home. Comcast tried to tell us that our router was to blame, which makes no sense. Getting fiber became quite a saga because one of the groups that was supposed to come put little flags on the ground to identify their line didn’t do it and we had to reschedule the install. Then, installation day came and the workers were here for five minutes before telling us the line from our house to the main fiber line was blocked. Someone had to come out and unblocked it. Eventually—finally—we got the new internet installed. The tech who came also told us that, rumor has it, Comcast has is running a nearby casino on the residential internet line, which could explain our internet problems. Assholes! In any case, I am happy to report we’ve had zero issues since switching to fiber.

Books and Other Words

I decided I wanted to read about the Zapatistas so I looked into what the library had to offer. That’s how I ended up reading Land and Freedom: The MST, the Zapatistas and Peasant Alternatives to Neoliberalism by Leandro Vergara-Camus. This book compares and contrasts two movements that are pushing for their own form of autonomy and control over their labor: the EZLN (aka the Zapatistas) in Chiapas, Mexico and the MST (the Landless Workers Movement) in Brazil. Vergara-Camus gives us a little background about these movements, then talks about their form of self-governance, goals, and relationship to the state. I don’t recommend this as an introduction to this subject. It’s clearly an academic work written for other people in the field; don’t get into this if you’re not ready for phrases like “post-structuralism” or “Gramscian approach.” Still, I liked the book. I find it fascinating to see the way groups of people band together to demand a better life on their own terms.

Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson had me texting my friends in the first 20 pages to say “You can’t tell me this protagonist isn’t autistic!” Something about the character’s specific brand of detachment from everything—much more than a regular teenager—spoke to me. The story takes place in a middle-of-nowhere town in Tennessee in the 90s. The protagonist, Frankie, and her new friend, a boy who is living in town for the summer, make a piece of art, photocopy it, and anonymously post it all over town. Everyone loses their damn minds as the town goes full Satanic panic about it. I really liked the book. I totally relate to getting totally fixated on something and never wanting to shut up about it.

I don’t usually write about books that I don’t finish, but I am trying something new today. Telling the Bees and Other Customs: The Folklore of Rural Crafts by Mark Norman seemed like the kind of book I would like. Yes, I do want to hear about traditional crafts (sure, we’re calling it “crafts,” but this includes things like, weaving and knitting. The stuff that keeps everyone clothed and alive and some of the main media for women’s art through history) and their associated myths. Unfortunately, this book was totally boring! I gave up around 40 pages in. This is more of a litany of various peoples and their weaving goddess(es) than anything. Where is the analysis? Moreover, where is the drama? Treating this as a dry subject does it a disservice. I will simply have to get a Ph.D. and write my own book instead (I’m JOKING. I do not want to go back to grad school. You’d have to pay me. Plus, how am I supposed to pick just one subject?).

Meanwhile, on the internet:

Doing Stuff

Abby invited me to go with her to see Aparna Nancherla in San Francisco. I didn’t know anything about her, but I trust Abby’s comedy judgment so I agreed. She was so funny! She talks a lot about anxiety and depression (notoriously hilarious subjects), but I was laughing like a maniac the whole time.

Languages

I have entered my Wikipedia era. I think I mentioned previously that I had been translating some Wikipedia articles from Spanish to English. I took a break for a while but I’ve gotten back into it. I recently translated the article on bedtime procrastination from English to Spanish. It’s of course trickier translating into not my native language, but Ana (my teacher) helped me smooth it out. Now, here it is on Wikipedia! I feel so fancy! Maybe one day translating could be my job, but for now it’s cool to just do it for fun.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been enjoying making a few treats lately. I tried out an oatmeal sandwich cookie with a brown sugar frosting from Stuffed: The Sandwich Cookie Book, which I borrowed from the library. They were really good! I had to return the book but I saved the recipe. I have completed my recent run of making rice krispie treats with an all-chocolate version studded with mini M&Ms. Kirk said it was too chocolatey for him, but I liked it. I also enjoyed this very simple recipe for gnocchi with peas and sausage. I added more seasoning though because NYT is downright miserly. Put some red pepper flakes in! Live a little! Finally, I made the Smitten Kitchen pumpkin bread because it is fall now and I think pumpkin treats are delicious. I tossed some pearl sugar on top, which seemed like a good idea, but all the sugar escaped when I tipped the bread out of the pan. Alas. It made for a good photo though!

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: September 17, 2023

a tablet showing a score of SRD blue 203 points to SRD yellow 188 points. There's a microphone on the table in front of the tablet and a sports floor in the background
Blue v. Yellow 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. Yesterday, I left my enclosure to do a little roller derby commentary. I was on the mic for Sacramento Roller Derby’s first home team game of the season. It feels nice to still be welcomed even though I’m not skating anymore. A little while before the game started, I turned on the mic and said “test, test, test” and the skaters started cheering. Easy crowd, yes, but I’m glad people like to listen to me narrate roller derby. If only this was a skill I could use to make money, haha. I was also glad that my former home team, Blue aka Blue Steel, won.

Books and Other Words

I tried something new for this week’s post. I’ve been writing out my thoughts about the books I read as I finish them instead of waiting two weeks then struggling to remember what I wanted to say. Please enjoy these new and improved book thoughts.

I bought Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis & Cultural Strategy by Ben Davis without knowing much about it (this feels like a recurring theme for me), but I was intrigued by the idea of art criticism through the lens of socialism. This book looks at how art intersects with a lot of topics, from social media influencers to climate change to QAnon, and I learned a whole lot. There was so much trivia in here that I want to remember, like the fact that the DDoS attack was invented as a method of digital protest and first deployed in solidarity with the Zapatistas. I mean, what? The whole book is rich with tidbits like this employed in the larger narrative of examining art’s role in and relationship to modern issues.

I enjoyed The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera. It’s set in an alternate universe version of what seems like southeast Asia. Our protagonist, Fetter, has been raised by his mother to be an assassin and murder his father, who leads a religion (or perhaps a cult, it’s a grey area). This sounds thrilling but it’s not really that kind of book. Fetter grows up and immigrates to a new place and lives in public housing. He goes to his group therapy and gets somewhat accidentally gets involved in a political movement. In the background, the state is imprisoning low-caste citizens (Fetter has to reference an almanac to try to figure out where people fall in the caste hierarchy–and still remains confused). There is plague and revolution but Fetter is really just trying to live his life. In this sense, the book is highly relatable.

The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem is a new fantasy novel that takes place in a world based on medieval Egypt (I’m honestly not sure if ‘medieval’ functions as a description for non-European countries but it’s the best I can offer). Our protagonist is the titular Jasad heir, a deeply traumatized orphan whose family was murdered at the hands of another kingdom. She, like the rest of her family and people, can wield magic, but given past atrocities, it’s now illegal to be magic so she suppresses it and lives as a peasant. Naturally her world gets turned upside down in service of the plot. I liked the book well enough. I always enjoy fantasy based on places other than Europe, and it’s especially nice to get something that’s Arab-inspired, although the bar for that field has been set especially high by S. A. Chakraborty and her Daevabad “trilogy.” I’ll be curious to see what Hashem does with this series.

I am a contrarian, a misanthrope, and at times, a hater. So when something reaches a certain level of popularity, I tend to assume it’s not that good (apologies to Taylor Swift fans; no apologies to Twilight fans). Still, I decided to see what all the fuss was about over Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, a gay romance that was recently adapted into a movie. For the first part of the book, I was not that engaged and was thinking about how I prefer science fiction and fantasy with romantic elements to a straight (lol) romance because there’s more to think about. However, this book unleashed a mega fantasy scenario, as unreal as anything set in space. We’ve got the bisexual coming of age story of the first woman president’s son. He goes enemies-to-lovers (more like ‘doesn’t-realize-he’s-bisexual-and-holding-a-grudge to lovers’, but that’s neither here nor there) with an English prince. We’ve got the millennial parent apology fantasy. Most of all, we’ve got a Trump-free world. The main character’s mom becomes president after two terms of Obama. I WANT WHAT THEY HAVE. I think this, as much as anything, explains the appeal of this story. It’s romance in a world where we didn’t have to endure the worst president of all time and slide towards fascism.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

We started (and finished, at least of what there is so far) watching Foundation recently. I read the original Asimov novels when I was a teenager and watching the show has me wracking my brain trying to figure out how much I actually remember to compare it to the television adaptation, and this has made me want to read the books again. The show is very good though. It’s pretty, the characters are well developed, and it’s taking us to interesting places. I hope they make more.

Knitting and Crafts

a bit of knitting showing the pattern emerging of the Marsh tee
Marsh tee knitting sample

I’m finally getting back into my knitting and I’ve been working on this marsh pattern. I was struggling with it at first because (I suspect) I wasn’t paying attention enough. After ripping out some 80 rows, I have been more carefully working this piece back up. I’ve re-done 40 rows so far and it’s looking a lot nicer, so even though I was mad about undoing so much work, it was the right call. I need to finish this up and start knitting some holiday gifts before it’s too late!

Kitchen Witchery

The only new and noteworthy food I made this week was this giant skillet cookie, which was as good as it sounds. I added mini M&Ms because there are no rules. I got a great new cooking tip from one of my facebook groups (this makes me sound 100 years old) this week. I saw a suggestion to use a large tea diffuser when cooking beans. You can put all the spices and seasonings in the diffuser ans save yourself the effort of fishing out the bay leaves, chilis, and other bits from the broth at the end. So I bought one and tried it out and it did make my life a lot easier.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Two Weeks in the Life: September 2, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. Around this time last year I started getting really into the New York Times crossword puzzle. I’m still into it, but I’m not as fanatical about digging into Wikipedia to try to solve every single clue like I was at first. I was reminded of this anniversary because the NYT emailed me to inform me that my promotional subscription rate of $6 every 28 days was ending and access to all of the NYT would now cost $25 every 28 days. Note this is not $25 per month—NYT is eking out a thirteenth payment every year with that every 28 days maneuver. I’m galled by their audacity. I’ve switched to the “games” subscription which is still $6 per month(ish). I was briefly annoyed at losing access to the cooking section, however, I can get it through the library, so that’s cool. Frankly, I could be reading the whole newspaper through the library but I always forget that’s an option. Shout out to the public library for saving me at least $18 every 28 days.

Books and Other Words

Sappho is Burning by Page duBois is a book I bought based on it’s title alone, an allusion to the documentary on New York City ball culture Paris is Burning. This book is about Sappho the Lesbian poet, patron saint of modern lesbians everywhere. I didn’t know much about Sappho before reading this book and I kind of still don’t because we just don’t know that much about her. All that has survived are fragments of her poetry, which duBois analyzes as a whole to discuss her themes and philosophy. I’m not much of a classicist, so although I understood the book I don’t have any real analysis to offer. If you’re looking for a rhetorical and philosophical analysis of Sappho’s work, this is it.

I picked up Vampires of el Norte by Isabel Cañas on my library’s “Lucky Day” shelf and checked it out because the author description said she was getting her Ph.D. in near eastern languages and civilizations and I said, “hey, that’s what I got my degree in!” I liked this book a lot. It’s a historical fiction set during the Mexican-American war, focusing on a pair of star-crossed lovers from a rancho just south of the Rio Bravo (which I learned is what they call the Rio Grande in Mexico. Why did it take a random novel to teach me this information? After seeing “Rio Bravo” a few times, I looked it up because I thought, how many rivers in northern Mexico can there be? JUST ONE it turns out.). I enjoyed the writing style and the story itself a lot but, being the person I am, I also liked that the author used a lot of words in Spanish for the world of the story because I picked up some new vocabulary.

What I love about Becky Chabmers’ work is how hopeful it always is and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is no exception. In this novella, She imagines humanity going to space just to explore, with expeditions funded by citizen initiatives and not governments. I liked the technology she came up with to make prolonged space travel safe for humans and I enjoyed the way the characters interacted.

Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is one of the many non-fiction books I’ve bought and took a while to get around to. I’m trying to just pick a book and start reading instead of spending several days hemming and hawing over what I may or may not be in the mood for. Moods are fickle and these books aren’t going to read themselves. This book is about how radical political ideas get co-opted by the very people the idea was targeting. Think about the idea of “woke.” It started as an in-group description of a certain way of thinking and quickly got picked up by trashbags like Ron DeSantis to vilify everything he hates about modern culture. That’s a form of elite capture. This book is deeply grounded in history and theory and I found it all really interesting. I recommend it if you’re into that kind of thing.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

TV and Music

You may remember that last year I wrote about how I stopped using Spotify and started getting reacquainted with my MP3 collection. This week, I finished updating the metadata for all the music I have, some 30+ gigabytes. The digital music I have comes from various sources—ripped CDs from my dad’s collection, music purchased legally, tracks from the heyday of peer-to-peer sharing—so the metadata was all over the place. I realized this disorganization was an active problem for me when I wanted to listen to my B-52s albums were variously labelled “The B-52s,” “The B-52’s, “b-52s,” etc. and I couldn’t get my app to play them all together. So, I did what any reasonable person would do (lol), and went album by album to make sure all the artist names, track numbering, year information, and album art were stored consistently on my computer and got all the file names into a consistent format. I’ve been working on this here and there for at least the last year. But I’m done now! Finally!

It feels really good to know exactly what music I have. This process reminded me of a lot of songs that I have and like but had sort of forgotten about when I abdicated the task of curating my music taste to the Spotify algorithm. I also found a lot of things I apparently downloaded at one point and forgot about, like the entire Yello discography (I have a habit of finding one cool song and then wanting to hear everything else the artist has ever made. And if you think you don’t know who Yello is, yes you do.). When I was listening to music on Spotify, everything started to sound the same because the algorithm figures out what you like then keeps giving you that kind of thing. It definitely would not have recommended me this cool-ass group, which I found on Tumblr of all places. It has been fun to look for music and discover it on purpose. I know you can still do this with Spotify or Amazon music or whatever, but I wasn’t, which brings me to this Anne Helen Petersen article I just read on this same topic. She writes, “Algorithms do the work for cheap, but when they reflect our taste back at us, it feels misshapen and insulting, a crude and unfair representation. When everything is available, all knowledge, all information, all entertainment … nothing is perceived as valuable.” That’s how I’ve been feeling about music. Okay, I can find any song I want (provided Spotify hasn’t randomly made it unavailable in my region), but I have no connection to it. I like having unlimited music, but I’m also nostalgic for when I knew and loved every carefully chosen CD in my collection. So, yes, downloading music and organizing it, to say nothing of finding cool music, is a little more work, but now I’m actually engaged with that music and enjoying it.

screenshot of VLC media player with a playlist of B-52s albums
nice, clean files

Moving It

After two weeks off, I’m back at my dance classes for the fall semester. I am in the very beginnings of the process of working towards being able to dance en pointe, which is exciting. I didn’t really expect that was something I would be able or get to do as someone starting ballet in her 30s, but it’s cool that I have the opportunity to try. I’m in a weird middle place right now though because, ideally, I would add another day or two of class to my schedule to get stronger and improve my technique, but there’s only one adult class. They tried adding a second weekly class, but I’m the only one who signed up. So, I am currently attending a teen class once a week to supplement my dance time and that is a little weird. The youths do not seem to notice or care about having a random old person™ in their midst, which is just as well. Seeing the kids in the class made me think about doing circus classes growing up and had me thinking about if I was as much of a crazed goofball as some of them seem to be (I might have been worse, actually). But that also got me thinking that we had adults mixed in with the kids for some circus acts, so maybe this is all just a normal way of existing and learning new things. Going to school for twelve years gets us too used to learning only with people who are exactly our age, but that’s simply not how life moves.

Kitchen Witchery

It’s cooled down just a little and it seems that’s all I needed to have some kitchen motivation. I made these great walnut and pesto rolls (recipe from The Harvest Baker). The recipe said to put them in a nine-inch cake pan and I, being a genius, thought I’d put them in the spring form so I could get them out more easily. This was, in fact, fucking stupid. The rolls are full of pesto (oily) and cheese (oily at high temperatures) and all that oil seeped out, pooled in the lip of the pan, and eventually overflowed onto my oven floor, where it then started smoking. Fortunately, I did not burn down the kitchen but it did lead to an evening of cleaning the oven. Kirk got us Del Taco for dinner and we saved the rolls for the next day.

As usual, it’s bean-centric cooking out here. It’s what I like to make and eat and now that I’m getting bean subscriptions, I gotta keep up. Fortunately, everything I made the last two weeks has been deemed a keeper. First, we had this brown butter lentil and sweet potato salad (which led to an epistemological debate on what constitutes a “salad;” we have fun here). Next, I cooked a batch of chickpeas so I could mix them with noodles and feta and other flavors for lunch last week (no recipe, just a bit of lemon, chili flakes, and vibes). I used the rest of the chickpeas in a riff on a Pasta Grannies recipe but mixed gnocchi into the sauce with the chickpeas then put a bunch of cheese on top and set it under the broiler for a few minutes. Delicious! Then, I tried this vegetarian tamale pie, which ended up being really good. I tossed in a bit of corn and I used bayo beans and it all turned out great. Finally, I think my season of making rice krispie treats (in my rice krispies era?) is coming to a close, but I wanted to try a black and white version by mixing chocolate and plain rice krispies. No one stopped me so here I am. I also have most of a box of chocolate rice krispies remaining so I will probably make at least one more batch before we shut this category down for the season.

Cat Therapy

Fritz has been an absolute maniac lately. When he was a kitten and started peeing on our bed all the time, one of the suggested solutions was to add another litter box to make sure there were ample sanctioned zones to pee in. So, for the last two years, I’ve had an extra litter box in my office, which I do not like, but I have tolerated. However, this stinky pee boy kept peeing on the floor and on the (washable) rug near the litter box, and I finally lost my mind and threw out the office litter box, vacuumed the floor, and washed and put away the rug until I’m sure Fritz is going to behave. This asshole is adorable 95 percent of the time, but that other five percent is pure demon.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Here we have Huey camping next to me in my office because she wants me to do things for her. Fritz was annoyed by this so he started being a door troll to be a problem when she tried to leave. We also have Fritz being cute in bed and administering some licks.

Two Weeks in the Life: August 20, 2023

Program for The Play that Goes Wrong held up in the theater. Stage and set visible but blurry in the background.
Another night at the theatre

Hello, friends and enemies. Last night I got a little enrichment time outside of the enclosure and went to see a play with Kirk and Abby. We saw The Play that Goes Wrong, which is totally hilarious. I love the actors at B Street Theater because they are so great at physical comedy. I mean, they are also good actors but they way they put their whole bodies into the performance just kills me. Go see it! It will be playing for a few more weeks.

I’m really enjoying becoming a person who goes to the theater now that I have the disposable income and presence of mind to do so. It’s nice to get out of the house and take in some arts. I feel like I have some deeper thoughts on this subject but they haven’t fully coalesced yet. Something about how you can always go back to things that interest you (I was a bit of a theater kid in high school), the fun of having a reason to get dressed up and go places, and enjoying the arts in a public setting. I’ll probably come back to this subject in the future.

Books and Other Words

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

  • The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon. This book is a high-concept science fiction that didn’t quite come together for me. I thought it was a cool idea, but it was honestly very difficult to keep up with all the terms and ideas the author introduced without a whole lot of explanation into the world. I wanted to like it, and I did on certain levels, but I think it needed a stronger editor.
  • Translation State by Ann Leckie. I loved this entry into Leckie’s Imperial Radch universe. It’s not really a sequel to her Ancillary trilogy, but it inhabits the same space. I think Leckie is brilliant at creating worlds and exploring what it means to be human through science fiction. One of my very early posts on this blog is actually about her book Ancillary Justice. I always say I’m not really a writer but looking at something I wrote almost ten years ago is making me cringe, so I guess I am a writer by at least some metrics (achievement unlocked: be embarrassed by past work). This was no I’ll be famous one day but for now I’m stuck in second grade with a bunch of morons.
  • Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. I enjoyed this novel a lot too. I thought it was a compelling tale and I’m looking forward to the second book. I don’t have any big thoughts about it, but it was good!
  • Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in Archives by Amelia Possanza. I’m getting on queer history kick in my reading lately. Lesbian Love Story is a work of creative non-fiction work that profiles seven historical lesbians (although some of them may have never used that word for themselves) interwoven with vignettes from the author’s own life as she works to understand her queerness and what it is to be a lesbian. Possanza does an excellent job of making these women real using a combination of archival text and a little creativity to show what their lives might have been like. Highly recommended!

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • California COVID surge confirmed by 4% Walgreens positivity rate via The San Francisco Chronicle. Covid is on the rise so please be safe out there! An updated covid vaccine is supposed to come out in late September along with the flu shot.
  • You either see everyone as a human being or you don’t via Current Affairs. Texas has put buoys in the Rio Grande to keep migrants out. The buoys have saws on them to injure anyone who tries to pass. This is unconscionable. Even if you think we shouldn’t accept immigrants, do you think they deserve to be ripped apart? Awful.
  • For many home-schoolers, parents are no longer doing the teaching via The Washington Post. This article got me riled up. There are many reasons that public school is difficult and lots of good reasons to homeschool, but the fact that adults can just set up a “school” like an AirBNB for other people’s kids and that these “teachers” have no interest in learning about education or actually giving feedback on student work pisses me off. School already exists! It’s not perfect but there’s a whole system in place to give kids education! There is a system of screening the adults to keep the kids safe! Anyone beating the “school choice” drum is sounding the dog whistle for defunding public education. That’s all this shit is. School is also not a “product,” and anyone telling you it is should be suspect. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking hated teaching in public school, but at least I wanted to do a good job and tried. The woman in this article says “that she has no interested in formal training. ‘I could take an exam and say, “I’m a teacher.” I don’t feel there’s really any benefit in doing that.'” YOU DON’T? Why are people sending their children to this woman. Everyone in this article needs to get a grip.
  • How to uphold the status quo: The problem with small town witch romances via Tor.com. In more lighthearted internet discourse, I found this article about witchy romance stories interesting. The author here is inviting us to stop and think about the power structures that might be represented in these stories, if glossed over for the sake of “coziness.”
  • Use my new slang in meetings and score accordingly via McSweeney’s. For some levity, get down to goat treats and summer coats in your next meeting using these wonderful new pieces of corporate jargon. Get coned up, idiots.

TV and Music

I watched both season one and season two of Somebody Somewhere over the last two weeks and now I’m sad that there isn’t more. This show is great. We’ve got found family, returning to a hometown and having a lot of feelings about it, and being a well-rounded person with friends and hobbies in your forties. I don’t know how to describe this show. There’s vulnerability and joy. It’s good.

I came across this really cool music website on Tumblr this week. You can select a country and a decade and hear music from there and then. It’s called Radioooo! Go discover some new music before someone forces them to take it down.

Corporeal Form

This might be TMI (too much information) for some of you. If you don’t want to hear about a weird body problem, just skip to the next heading. I want to write about it though because I had never heard of this ailment and because women’s health is often treated as a taboo subject. Okay last chance to stop reading this paragraph … I found out from my gynecologist (here I will spare the details) that I am presently afflicted with something called vulvodynia. It’s pain around the vulva. I’ve read up on it and learned that we don’t know what causes it and we don’t really know how to fix it. Women’s health, am I right? My doctor’s prescription was to take hot baths and massage the area, which sounded very funny but has actually not been as fun as it sounds. You know, because of the pain. What sucks about this is I saw the gyno because I was having pain at certain times, but once I started trying to massage out the tension and identified this specific flavor of pain, I realized I’m actually feeling it often but I had been misinterpreting it as cramps or gut problems or just general discomfort. Apparently, it was my vulva! Neat! (not really!). So, this sucks on its own but the last couple of years have just been a cavalcade of ailments. It needs to stop. I’m not going to have any health body parts left at this rate. I am once again posting this hamster who is at her limit to express my feelings. No more body problems! Whoever is running this simulation needs to give me a fucking break. End program!

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

Kitchen Witchery

In better news, the weather hasn’t been horrible every day so I’ve been able to make some food. Although I’ve been a little hit and miss when it comes to motivation/my brain being cooperative about doing the tasks of daily life. I made some really tasty pizza beans, roughly based on this Smitten Kitchen recipe to eat for lunch last week. I knew Kirk wasn’t going to like these, so I just made them for myself, which is something you’re always allowed to do. I also tried a soup recipe in the instant pot. It’s a Persian barley-lentil soup from the Milk Street Fast and Slow cookbook, which I have checked out from the library. The instant pot is really saving my ass in this hot weather, I have to admit. I also made another rice krispie treat variation, because I had cereal left over and why not. I mixed in some cinnamon bits and topped it with cinnamon sugar. Recommended!

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I must again apologize to Huey fans, but Fritz is simply too photogenic. He keeps posing. He knows where the light is. What am I supposed to do?

Two Weeks in the Life: August 5, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. I was very sad to learn of Paul Reubens’ death this week. While I am not usually much affected by celebrity deaths, this one did get to me. Watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and having Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure on near-constant repeat were formative parts of my childhood. I can confidently say that Reubens had a huge impact on how my sense of humor developed and, certainly, my appreciation of camp (if you don’t think Pee-Wee’s Playhouse is camp, please watch the Christmas special. Seriously). I watched Big Adventure this week as a memorial and that opening music really had me letting go of anxiety and existential dread within minutes. I was surprised at how quickly it took me to a certain emotional place.

me as a baby, looking up at a TV showing a close up of Paul Reuben's face
Portrait of the author watching Pee Wee on the TV

While I am sad that he’s no longer with us, I am happy that his art is still out there for us to enjoy and appreciate and share with others. Thinking about his death made me think about my mom, who is the one who introduced me to Pee Wee and who has always been his biggest fan. My mom is the one who started cultivating my sense of weirdness and my taste for the other from a young age. I realized that appreciation for Pee Wee Herman is one of the main mediums for our relationship. When my sister and I were young (and even not so young), mom liked to take us out to Cabazon, which is located in the middle of nowhere just west of Palm Springs, to see the dinosaurs. It looks like it’s been built up a bit more now but it used to be just the two dinosaurs, a small diner, and a truck stop on the side of the 10 freeway. You could go inside the brontosaurus (and I have, multiple times), but the t-rex was typically not open to the public. I’m not sure whether my mom knew about the dinosaurs before Pee Wee made them famous—although I would not be surprised because she is a true connoisseur of weird and cult shit—but I’ve always associated them with Pee Wee and the movie. Sometimes we just visited the dinos but we would occasionally get lunch at the Wheel Inn, which was also featured in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I used to think it a little cringe-worthy (in the way of young people everywhere who think their parents are being too much) when she would ask to sit at the Large Marge booth. However, I can now say I ate at the restaurant featured in the movie AND in the Large Marge memorial booth. The Wheel Inn is closed now and its delicious peanut butter pie and place in pop culture are lost to us, but I do have the rare distinction of having experienced it myself and with my mom.

In 2010, mom and I went to see Reubens’ new live show in L.A. I had moved back to southern California after college and, while I didn’t have a lot of cash on hand, I had a Ticketmaster gift card that I won in a raffle so I bought us tickets to see the show. We had a lot of fun and we ran into the actress who plays Miss Yvonne on the way out and my mom got to hug her. She still talks about it. A few years later, Netflix released Pee Wee’s Big Holiday on the same weekend that my mom happened to have plans to visit me. We got to watch that together too. Kismet.

My mom and I are both autistic (although she is not formally diagnosed, I know this is true). Autistic people often communicate through bits and pieces of pop culture cobbled together to form their own private lexicon. One example that my mom and I always come back to is “what is that your business?” from the Woody Allen (don’t start. I know.) movie Radio Days. We use this when someone is getting wound up about something that doesn’t have to do with them (as the character does here, complaining about the universe expanding. Troubling!), which happens to us often because we both have anxiety. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure gave us lots of handy phrases to use. There are thousands of uses for corn (said when something is irrelevant). I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel (said to emphasize the ridiculousness of trying to relate to other people). I just wanna get a look at that cute little outfit (said when someone is, in fact, wearing a cute little outfit).

As ever, art is about making us connect with others and feel things in a lonely and indifferent universe. Sometimes it’s hard to find things in common to talk about with my mom but the good news is that we’ll always have Paris the Alamo.

my mom, smiling at the camera, the set of Pee Wee's Playhouse on the stage in the background
mom at the Pee Wee Live Show in 2010

Books and Other Words

I feel like I’m in the middle of a lot of books but I only have two finished books to talk about today. I will also note that I have read 50 books this year so far. Will I make it to the elusive 100-book goal this year? Time will tell (I’m not super optimistic but I remain hopeful).

First, I read Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle, an author better known for erotic stories like Space Raptor Butt Invasion, released his first traditionally published (non-erotic) novel last week. It was good! It was spooky but in a way I like, in which religion is a source of terror. The protagonist, Rose, is explicitly autistic and it’s clearly a book written by an autistic person, which I find really interesting. There are not a lot of novels where we see an unmasked autistic thought process, but I hope we get more of them. I found Rose’s thought process familiar and I was surprised both to see my style of thinking on the page and to realize how infrequently I’ve seen it represented in general.

Next, I read Un vaso de agua bajo mi cama: Inmigración, feminismo y bisexualidad by Daisy Hernández. I picked it up for the Spanish language, bisexuality, and feminism, but stayed for the immigration. This is a memoir in which the author talks about growing up the daughter of Colombian immigrants and becoming a writer. I liked that it felt fairly easy for me to understand! To be fair, memoirs are always easier to read than fiction, but I’m still feeling accomplished.

TV and Music

me, dressed up and posing in the Barbie doll box at the movie theater
Barbie Mode

Like more or less everyone, I saw Barbie last week. The movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining. That sounds like a low bar but considering how many moody, “gritty,” or cookie-cutter super hero movies we get in a year, this is actually high praise. I don’t think enough movies are fun. Barbie, however, is super fun. It’s also fun that it became an event and took on a life of its own. People are dressing up for the theater! You can take a picture in a big Barbie doll box! Girlies are greeting each other with “Hi, Barbie!” That shit is fun. Regular life doesn’t have enough little events to punctuate the monotony. As for the film itself, I don’t think it’s the feminist rhapsody that people are making it out to be. It’s a pretty basic level of feminism. If you’ve read a book or even maybe an article from Jezebel, you probably are operating at a higher level of feminist knowledge than the Barbie movie. However, considering it’s a summer movie made with a toy corporation’s intellectual property, it goes pretty hard. The fact that they use the word “patriarchy” repeatedly will, I hope, have some young people reading up online. For that, Gretta Gerwig is doing the (non-denominational) lord’s work (sometimes people stumble on this blog via search engines so I am going to say that if you liked Barbie and want to read up on patriarchy, try The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls). I do think the story lines that would have been the most interesting were not the focus of the movie. What’s going on in Weird Barbie’s house? Is she living in a polycule with Skipper, Earing Magic Ken, and Sugar Daddy Ken? Does Allan hang out with them? What do the Kens do when not subjecting themselves to the Barbies’ female gaze? How come some of the dolls know about the real world but some don’t? When I was discussing the movie with my friend (and Spanish teacher) Ana, she asked how the events of the movie would affect the real world, considering that we know Barbie Land and our world have some kind of metaphysical connection. Good question! Now that Stereotypical Barbie is gone, will another ascend to take her place? Is she dead to the world? As usual, I have a lot of questions and all of them are fairly pointless. Movies are only good if they get me thinking about their world, so I guess this was a good one.

Like almost no one, I watched the Venture Brothers finale movie, Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart. Venture Brothers is a show that began in 2004 and aired seven seasons over the course of sixteen years. No one waits longer between seasons than Venture Brothers fans. My college roommate introduced the show to me and convinced me to watch it by telling me there were David Bowie references. I have been obsessed with this show for years and was sad to see it end, but I’m glad they got a movie to wrap up some of the series’ ongoing questions. They also used this opportunity to finally pass the Bechdel test, for which we applaud them.

Kitchen Witchery

a pan of rice krispie treats that have chocolate chunks in them and chocolate sprinkles on top
chocolate chunk rice krispie treats

I haven’t been cooking that much, probably because it’s hot. However, I did make carnitas and really good beans and rice this week. I didn’t take a picture of it because it wasn’t new or special but it was delicious. The only other notable thing I made was rice krispie treats, which I had never made before. The New York Times food newsletter included a recipe for it recently and I thought, that’s a good way to eat treats and not make my kitchen hot. I threw in some chocolate to be extra about it, et voila.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. It’s a Fritz appreciation week here on the blog because I got some good pictures of him. My Huey photos are more of the same with her sitting on me. Die-hard Huey fans will have to wait until next time!