Friday, September 30, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Getting Ready for A Birthday Edition

Petunia turns 7 (7!!!) on Sunday, and party preparation and the like has eaten into my online time this week. This is also why I didn't answer the email I got from the reader who couldn't comment on my last post. I didn't get a chance to log in to that email account to answer. I read it, though, and thank you!

Despite my temporary but fairly consuming obsession with birthday party planning and birthday gift procurement and wrapping, I have some links for you, so let's get to them.

First, if you missed Michiko Kakutani's amazing review of a new biography of Hitler, rectify that.

If that book review made your blood run cold, warm your heart with this story of a letter Hillary Clinton sent to a little girl.

The guy who created Pepe the Frog isn't a white nationalist. And he's voting for Hillary.

Graphing opiate deaths in the US vs. time, broken down by region and then state. I stared at those graphs for a long time. Trying to understand the differences between seemingly similar states (e.g., Vermont and New Hampshire) would probably help us come up with better strategies to deal with this problem. And West Virginia's line just breaks my heart.

Michael Chabon's article about taking his son to the Paris Fashion Week was all over my timeline this week, and I finally read it and figured out why. It is really very good.

I came across two really good discussions about writing characters from other cultures and backgrounds. Kaitlyn Greenidge at the NY Times and Mollie Copley Eisenberg at her own blog both explore the idea that you can write outside your own experience, but you have to be able to do it well. You have to have something believable and true to tell the reader. It comes back to the idea that I've seen advance by others (maybe Daniel José Older? I can't find the post I'm thinking about) that a failure to portray diversity well is a failure in the craft of writing.

Rose Eveleth's essay about the damaging myth of effortless is very good.

Some promo news: Academaze was excerpted at Chronicle Vitae this week. They published an essay about colalborations on the tenure track.

And the happy thing at the end: Bhangra dance in the Maritime Provinces. Here's the full video that went viral:

Happy Weekend, everyone! We can't all be turning 7 this weekend, but hopefully we can all have a good weekend, anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Political Wish

I couldn't watch the debate tonight. It was in the middle of dinner time and the bedtime routine. And really, I just couldn't face it. I am finding the coverage of this election really gets under my skin and brings up all sorts of things I prefer to keep stored under lock and key in my imaginary trunk of sexist crap that has happened to me.

So, anyway. I didn't watch. I gather from my Twitter feed that Hillary did great, Trump was Trump, and no one knows what this will mean for this election.

I am finding it funny to watch a bunch of men be amazed by Hillary's calm, collected response to Trump spewing hateful nonsense. Do they not realize that the Republicans have literally spent more than 20 years giving her opportunity after opportunity to practice the ability to control her reactions to being on the receiving end of hateful nonsense? Practice makes perfect.

I have one other election-related thing I want to get off my chest, too.

As long time readers know, I follow several Republican pundit-types on Twitter, because I like to know what people with different political viewpoints than my own are thinking. Mostly, I'm glad I've done this. Even during this election season, it has on the whole been more informative than infuriating. All of the Republicans I follow are anti-Trump. It just turned out that way: I added these people to my Twitter feed after the last election. I picked people whose views were different than mine but who wouldn't make me want to punch my computer, well before Trump was a candidate.

However, I've noticed a certain lack of self-awareness. To be fair, we all have a lack of self-awareness in some area or another, so this is hardly surprising. But I've watched one after another of these guys do things like tweet about how much Hillary does or does not smile. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes it is a joke, and usually they are surprised and/or dismissive when people are displeased by what they've said. I think that is because they "know" that they aren't sexist or racist or whatever, and so of course the rest of us must be misunderstanding them or not "getting" the point they are making.

I think they genuinely mean well, at least most of the time. In fact, having followed them for quite awhile now, I tend to think they are not more racist or sexist in their own personal beliefs than their peers on the other side of the political divide. But they live inside a distortion field of sorts. No one ever tells them to smile. No one ever holds their purse tighter when they approach. They have never wondered how to handle the weirdly sexist thing their colleague just said to them. No one has ever called them an affirmative action hire. And so on and so on. They probably read about these things happening, and they may even believe what they read. They don't see it and they certainly don't experience it, though, so it is easy to forget about and dismiss.

This makes it is all too easy to decide that it is OK to overlook the racist crap some Senator is spewing, because he agrees with them on taxes. And they can convince themselves that it is OK to ignore the misogynistic policies a candidate proposes, because he's got trade policy ideas they like.

The problem is that ignoring that racism and sexism, and in fact agreeing to be a fellow traveler with that racism and sexism, has allowed this cancer in our body politic to grow and spread, until it threatens our democratic norms. Anyone who thinks they can control this cancer is mistaken. If we let it remain, it will continue to weaken us, and we will always be at risk from another outbreak of Trumpism or some other equally disturbing disease.

If we make it through this year without electing a racist, misogynistic fascist to the White House, it is my fervent wish that these nice, reasonable Republican guys stop and really think about the extent to which their own willingness to be fellow travelers with people who embrace racism and sexism and other forms of bigotry helped enable Trump's rise.

Really, we all need to stop and assess this, because like I said: this is a cancer. It makes us weaker. I suspect most of us can find a way to do more to help excise it. But in particular, I hope the "never Trump" Republicans think about it. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, etc., etc. They might hold themselves to a higher standard, but they walked alongside the standard Trump has embodied for a long, long time. Is it really so surprising that so many people think it is acceptable?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Something Happy

I meant to write a post today, but I took a nap in my hammock instead. I regret nothing.

I also did some chores. One of my tasks was catching up on sorting through photos. I don't want to get 6 months behind again.

I came across some great photos. Here's one of my favorites, which happens to meet the "no faces" rule I have here.

That's Pumpkin, doing some gymnastics on the beach. It was taken on Labor Day. We were in Imperial Beach, visiting some relatives of mine who had rented a condo on the beach. The kids had so much fun. So did we.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Let's Get Right To It Edition

Well here we are at Friday again. And here are some things you might want to read this weekend:

Zack Beauchamp wrote in Vox about racial resentment and the rise of politicians like Donald Trump.

While we've been distracted by the Trump nightmare over here in the US, Britain is having political turmoil of its own, and this short article about the difference between Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn might be worth pondering as we think about our own political choices.

A last bit of politics, in the form of a tweet of a Facebook post (I miss the age of blogs....)

Oops, one more political thing: the California ballot initiatives in haiku.

I wish the world wasn't so harsh on kids who don't fit our gender expectations, but I'm glad this family found acceptance at Justice. Also, I love the phrase "gender creative."

I want to visit Canadian World, but I think I should go to the real Prince Edward Island first.

We stumbled across this bit of New Zealand history recently, and I defy you to watch it without smiling:

It was a huge hit in NZ.

They've made a documentary about it:

That seems as good a way to head into the weekend as any. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trivial Loose Ends

I feel like taking a break from the worry and bad things on my Twitter timeline right now and so I will update you on some trivial things.


I figured out why I wasn't super-satisfied with my Nordstrom personal stylist experience. It was because I felt like the stylist was trying to dress me like a magazine page instead of like myself. I like having quirky things that are distinctly "me" even if they aren't completely in fashion, and she was steering me more towards a vanilla "in style" look.

I wonder if an independent stylist would do differently?

No matter, it is done now, and I like the things I bought. I eschewed the fashionable ballet flats and weird but fashionable sandle/boot mashup things the stylist showed me, and came home and ordered some Taos black mary janes to be my shoes. So I guess that will be the bit of "me" in those outfits! I love mary janes. When I was browsing for shoes I might like, I just kept pinning mary janes.

Well, and these cool retro-ish wingtips.

I wonder why I like mary janes so much?


In other clothing news, someone from Leota apparently noticed my recent post saying I liked the look of their dresses, and emailed me to offer me a free one to try. So that's cool. I'll let you know how it goes.


In non-clothing news, I think I was a bit too cavalier about some perishables during our fridge saga last week. (It failed, we pulled everything into coolers or the beer fridge in the garage, we got the fan replaced, we put everything back in the fridge, only to discover that the new fan wasn't working correctly. It is all fixed now.) Something I ate either Sunday or Monday didn't agree with me AT ALL by Monday afternoon. I never got really sick, but I was clearly not really well, either. That screwed up my plans for Monday and Tuesday, and now I'm behind on work. SIGH.


In news that I can't remember if I told you the first part of: Pumpkin really liked The Lilies of Dawn. She wanted to try it, and while it isn't specifically pitched for middle grade or YA, there is nothing in it that I'd be worried about her reading, so I let her try. She loved it and wanted more things like it this weekend. But then, of course, didn't want to read anything I suggested.

She is finally letting me read her Anne of Green Gables, though, and that is ever so much fun.

Did I forget anything that needs updating?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Day Off Didn't Go How I Planned Edition

This post is late today, because my day off didn't go to plan at all. It started off well. I finished the little bit of work I needed to do, and headed off to rollerblade by about 10 a.m. I got to my favorite rollerblading spot to find it closed for a speedboat race this weekend. So I went to a different part of the bay. The rollerblading there was just not as good, and I could hear the damn speedboats, taunting me with the fact that I wasn't rollerblading where I wanted to be.

Then I had lunch with my husband, which was nice. After lunch, I went to my personal stylist appointment at Nordstrom. It was fine, but took about twice as long as I expected. I am undecided about whether I'll do it again. It will be easier to use the stylist now that she knows me, and she picked out good things for me. I bought two dresses, two jackets, a cardigan and matching tank, and a pair of pants and a blouse that can be both for everyday and for dressier occasions if I pair it with one of the jackets. Based on what I bought, Nic+Zoe is my new favorite brand. The dresses are fabulous!

So, that was good. But the problem with working with a personal stylist at a place like Nordstrom is that she has every incentive to push me towards trendier things, so that I'll need to update more often. I resisted and ended up with what feel like pretty basic things. Certainly, the dresses should last for a good long time. The pants will need to be updated whenever we change our pant styles again, but there's no way around that. Still, it rankled a bit to have her keep talking about making me look more "up to date" and "modern," particularly when she was showing me accessories and shoes. I didn't buy shoes there, because the shoes that are in style won't work with my feet. I am happy to spend a lot of money on shoes, but only if they are completely comfortable and will last for years and years. The stylish ones will be out of style before I get good value from them.

Anyway, I consider that a mixed bag. And by the time I got home from the shopping, I only had 20 minutes in my hammock before I had to go get the kids and then get ready for the back to school picnic. We're just home from that now.

So... links. I have a few.

I found this piece about the changing Democratic consensus on economic policy interesting.

Here's another interesting piece: Maori women talking about deciding to get the traditional chin tattoo.

The Sit With Us app is such a wonderful idea. It is also an example of how people in a community (in this case, teenagers) will often see a need that those of us outside the community do not see. This is a particularly striking example, since we were all teenagers once and should have remembered this!

Cate Huston's post on changing how you think about money as a woman in tech is really good, and applicable beyond women in tech.

This is a really fascinating article about schizophrenia. Or at least it is fascinating to me: I'm really interested in how different cultures view the biological states we call mental illness. The intersection of culture and human biology is interesting to me from a purely intellectual standpoint, but I also wonder if understanding this better would help us treat mental illness more successfully and also whether we would discover that there are aspects of our culture that are harming people.

I think this Anil Dash post about the "teach kids to code" movement is very good.

Finally, a little self-promotion. The Kal Ho Naa Ho watchalong to support Don't Call It Bollywood is this Sunday. Join us if you can!

And I'm running a promo for Okay, So Look next week, and have discounted the ebook price to $0.99 in support of that. The price changes should trickle out over the next couple of days, so if you're interested in that book, you can grab it for a discount.

Leaving on a smile... this is amazing:

And there is a joke that runs through both Frozen and Zootopia.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Logistics, Time Off, and Paying for What I Read

I'm taking tomorrow off, and I'm very excited about that. I'll take care of a couple of small tasks first thing in the morning, and then after that, my plan is to not work all day.

Of course, it isn't a completely free day. We have our back to school BBQ tomorrow evening, and I'll need to drop by the grocery store and get the things we need to take to that. It could be worse: my local grocery store, the one that is just a few blocks away, is closing at the end of October. After that, it won't be a "drop by" the grocery store situation, it will be a "drive out of my way to the store" situation. A new store is going in the space, but there is going to be a major remodel in the interim, so I'll have a year of shopping some place further away. The next closest grocery store is about 10 minutes away by car, so it isn't terrible... but it will be an adjustment.

I'm also going to go meet with a personal stylist at Nordstrom. I decided to make that my first step in my "solve the what to wear to client meetings and presentations" project, because I need to try some things on to get a better feel for what styles are more likely to be flattering. If the stylist manages to turn up items that I want, so much the better.

Still, it is mostly a day off, and I'm excited. I need one. I don't know if I'll make it back to put up my weekend reading post or not. I suspect I will, but if I don't, you can assume I rollerbladed a bit too long.

It feels a little strange to be heading to Nordstrom to drop what could be a large sum of money on clothing this week, since as luck would have it we also repaired our refrigerator and replaced our water heater. But, I have the money: I'm transferring some extra profit over from my business specifically for the purpose. So I'll do it.

In amongst all the chaos caused by failure of household appliances, I also managed to do something I've meant to do for a long time: sit down and audit my online reading preferences, and make a plan to provide financial support to the site I read regularly. I'll walk you through my thinking below, because it is my blog so why not. Also, since I get a lot of my news from Twitter, who I follow influences what I read, and therefore which publications I want to send money to. So I'll note who I follow from each publication I decide to support.

The first thing I wanted to do was pick a major daily newspaper whose reporting I read regularly. In thinking back over the reporting I've appreciated (and the reporting I haven't appreciated: I'm looking at you, NY Times and your weird reporting priorities this election season), I found that The Washington Post is the newspaper site I should support. I'm constantly bumping up against their free article limit, so if I support them I'm likely to get actual value beyond the warm fuzzy of "doing the right thing." I appreciate that they have published David Farenthold's deep look at the Trump Foundation and that they are continuing to follow that story. Looking back farther, their reporter Wesley Lowery has been excellent on the police brutality story.  Also, I often find Alexandra Petri's writing really funny.

So, decision #1: The Washington Post gets $100 per year from me for a digital subscription.

I follow Alexandra Petri, because how could you not follow someone with the handle @petridishes?

I feel bad that I'm not supporting a newspaper likely to do any reporting on my home town. My own local paper isn't really a good source, although they do have an excellent reporter on the biotech beat. So instead, I've decided to support the Voice of San Diego, whose "explainers" on local politics I often find useful, particularly near local elections. (I already support my local PBS/NPR station, and hey, did you know that if you are a PBS member above a certain level you can get some of their shows streaming on demand? It is called PBS Passport and it made me so happy when I found it.)

Voice of San Diego has a membership deal, but none of the benefits matter to me, and I don't read it all that often. I thought about it and decided I get about a hardcover book's worth of value from it each year.

Decision #2: $15 per year to the Voice of San Diego.

I follow their managing editor, @SaraLibby.

Then I looked at the commentary sites I frequently visit. There are three: Vox, Slate, and Talking Points Memo. Vox is entirely ad supported. Their ads are not obtrusive, and I don't block them, so I guess that's my contribution there. That and frequently sharing out their articles. Slate has ads and also Slate+. I've been on the fence about joining Slate+ for a long time. I really like Jamelle Bouie's politcal analysis and Dear Prudence is one of my favorite short breaks. Joining Slate+ gets me extra Dear Prudence, and also access to a podcast on the history of slavery that Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion did, so again, I get some value beyond fewer ads and more warm fuzzies.

Decision #3: $50 per year to join Slate+.

I follow Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie).

(I also follow people from Vox: @mattyglesias and @libbyanelson.)

Talking Points Memo also has a "plus" option. It is called Prime, and it is also $50 per year. I had to think about this one a bit more, because I tend to gravitate away from TPM in non-election years. But during election years, I really value it, particularly the editor/founder Josh Marshall's insights.

So decision #4: $50 per year to TPM.

I follow @joshtpm, their editor and publisher.

Finally, I really appreciate Mother Jones' in depth investigations. Their big one on private prisons this year was really important, but before that I found their look at stopping mass shootings and their article about the possible link between lead poisoning and crime really informative.

So decision #5: a digital subscription to Mother Jones, at $12 per year.

I follow @ClaraJeffery, their editor-in-chief.

Total cost of my planned donations and subscriptions: $227 (not counting my KPBS membership, which I think of more as supporting the entertainment I like, but also supports their reporting). That seems like a reasonable yearly expense to me. Our household total is actually a little higher, because Mr. Snarky is a devoted subscriber to The Economist, old school print edition style. I read it quite a bit, too

There are many people I follow whose publications I didn't decide to fund (e.g., @HeerJeet, whose election tweets are often really insightful), and many more fine writers and journalists who come across my feed, too. I wish I could support them all, but I'm not that wealthy.

I am not happy with the current state of how we pay for news. The model of individually subscribing/donating to a bunch of different publications seems unwieldy to me, and I don't think it will ultimately be sustainable. I actually have a bona fide business idea for a different method, but it would involve becoming a different type of entrepreneur than what I want to be, so it will stay just an idea I guess. Unless y'all buy truckloads of books so that I become wealthy enough to self-fund my idea. (This seems unlikely, but feel free to try to make it happen.)

When I started in on this audit, I planned to subscribe this month. But then the fridge broke, and the water heater started leaking, and I still had to pay my estimated taxes, and I am finally getting off my butt about the clothing situation... so now the plan is to start subscribing and donating next month. Although WashPo might get my money sooner. I think I've already hit my free article limit.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Deep Dive on Clothing

Do you want to take a deep dive on clothing? I do, because I've actually made some progress on solving the "what the heck should I wear?" problem lately and because this morning I read an essay on Vox by Emily Crockett about women's clothing sizes. It prompted a little Twitter rant. I'll embed it here, or you can click on one of the tweets to read the entire thread on Twitter:

Like I said in my rant, about a year and a half ago, I gained a few pounds and that tipped me from a size 12 to a size 14, and as Crockett notes in her essay, this is like falling off a fashion cliff. Or, at least teetering on the edge of one: I can often still find size 14s at my usual stores, but there are almost never size 16s. As hard as I find shopping now, I can tell it will get even harder if I gain more weight.

Now, I'd like to be back to my earlier weight. In fact, I would like to be about 5-10 pounds lighter than that earlier weight. But I also want to enjoy life. I want to live the healthiest life I will enjoy, and given the realities of how I'm experiencing perimenopause, that probably means I'm stuck as a size 14.

So that means figuring out how to solve this clothing problem. I've been thinking about how to solve this for awhile. I wrote about it way back in March. I've decided against hiring a stylist, at least for now. I can't justify the expense. But I also need to recognize that my specific challenges require spending more money than I might like on clothing. Actually, it really boils down to one specific challenge. I am busty, and the extra weight has made me even bustier: I've settled into a 38E. This means two things: (1) I am going to spend a lot of money on bras, and (2) Anything I wear on my top will be stretchy or customized. I have tried and tried and it is time to accept that this last bit of weight gain has made it impossible to buy any non-stretchy item for my top that fits properly off the rack. It was always a challenge to do so, but I'd found some brands that worked. I cannot find any brands that work anymore.

My bottom half is significantly easier to dress. I am lucky that I can still usually buy off the rack trousers that fit, and skirts are no harder than they ever were. It is a struggle to consistently find the cuts that flatter me and I am constantly searching for decent pockets... but these are not new problems.

Having acknowledged these facts, I have made a plan. I recently accepted a project that essentially guarantees I'll make enough money to stay in business through 2018, and therefore I'm going to stop hoarding money in my business account quite so aggresively and bring some extra profit over to my personal account to allow me to buy what I need to get without worrying about how much I am spending.

I am going to spend what I need to get the following items immediately:

  • One or two jackets (or structured cardigans) to wear when I need to dress up a notch. If I go with a structured cardigan, I don't need to customize, so I'm considering this one from MM LaFleur, a brand I've heard good things about. (I've considered doing a Bento Box from them, but their collection is a step too dressy for the laid back style required in my particular locale and industry. Looking like a lawyer would not be a good thing here.) For jackets, I either need to go to Nordstrom (or similar) and find one that fits across my chest and then get it tailored to fit everywhere else or order a bespoke one from Sumissura. I have no idea which will be cheaper, but I have a suspicion that I'll have to shop the plus size collection to get a jacket that fits around my chest, and I am generally unimpressed with plus size jackets. So we'll see. Also, I'm not super enthused about a shopping trip, which may tip the scales for the bespoke option.
  • One or two solid or business-friendly print dresses that I can wear with a jacket or nice cardigan. I've heard good things about Leota for dresses, so I'm considering ordering from them. Or checking them out at Nordstrom. Or both. I am also considering customizing this dress at eShakti. I'd need to change the neckline, but eShakti lets me do that.
  • If I can find one, I 'd love a nice business skirt in black or navy. However, I have been looking for something appropriate for quite some time, and haven't found it yet. There are lots of lawyer skirts, but see my comment above about how it would be a mistake for me to dress like a lawyer. So I'm looking for something that may not exist. I'll address this in the second part of my plan.
  • Some good tights. I'm looking for a new go-to brand of tights. I used to love tights from the Gap, but either they changed or I changed (or both) and now those no longer work. Suggestions welcome in the comments. I like a fairly opaque tight. 
  • Appropriately dressy (i.e., nice but not lawyer nice) black and possibly navy shoes to wear with skirts and dresses (and maybe also trousers). I want to be able to walk in my shoes without my feet hurting. I have these Taos shoes in red and they are perfect. I'd buy them in black, but they are out of my size. My need to buy black winter shoes in summer (because I was going to New Zealand, where it was winter) led me to discover how easy it is to buy shoes at Zappos, so I suspect I'll just do that.
And that's it. Once I get these things, the urgency will be off. Then, I can move to the next phase of my plan, which has exactly one step: find a good local tailor/seamstress who will make me truly bespoke clothes. I think this is likely to be the only way to solve my skirt problem. It will also provide a good way to solve future problems that crop up. Individual pieces will be expensive, but my hope is that they will be worth the extra cost because they will truly fit and be exactly what I want/need. Perhaps then I will spend less money buying the "almost but not quite right thing that will do because I need something to wear NOW" items.

OK, so that's the plan. And now I'll share what I have found that works well for me, a slightly overweight and definitely busty middle-aged woman. I share these things in case any of them also work for any of you.
  • I buy a lot of my "wear to existing clients" shirts at Eddie Bauer. The men in my field wear chinos and button down shirts. Or, to be honest, jeans and t-shirts. I am never going to like the button down shirt option for everyday. Bespoke is really the only way I can get ones that don't pull and gap and look trashy, and that is expensive. Plus, I don't think the style is flattering on me.  I find that Eddie Bauer polo shirts work great for me, and I have several different colors. Their Favorite V-neck T-shirts also work great. They are thick, in a flattering cut, and with a v-neck that flatters without showing too much cleavage. I can absolutely get away with wearing one of their t-shirts to work, particularly with a cardigan. 
  • Trousers are harder. Eddie Bauer bottoms do not fit me right. I used to have a favorite go-to style at the Gap, but they changed it. Then I found some nice Tommy Hilfiger ones, but those are gone now, too. Basically, when my pants wear out, I have one really crappy shopping trip where I try on a bunch of different pants. If I find something that looks good, I buy it in several colors and wear it until it fades or otherwise stops looking sharp.
  • I love eShakti (that is a referral link) for dresses and occasionally for skirts and tops. I find that I like things better if I add an extra inch to my bust measurement.
  • After many trials and disappointments, I have found a sports bra I love. To my surprise, it is not an underwire style, but it has an extra top clasp that makes it awesome. I am at the upper limit of its size range, though. Yet more incentive not to gain more weight.
  • I like the Corporette blog for providing ideas of brands to look at. That is where I found out about MM LaFleur and Leota. It also led me to Lo and Sons bags, and I love my bag from them. The style on Corporette tends more towards the lawyerly than will work for me "as is," but it does provide new ideas and leads that have helped. 
And that's my deep dive on clothing. Feel free to leave suggestions and ask questions in the comments. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Mostly Politics Free Edition

Thanks for the thoughts about the headaches, everyone. @Sciliz sent me a link to an article in which a doctor basically argues that magnesium supplements might help and won't hurt migraine sufferers. I may follow the thread on this one and see what I turn up.

The only political thing I'm going to share this week is David Roberts writing about some dudes who really need to get a grip.

Unless you consider articles about Deep Space Nine articles about politics. I have two of those. It is my favorite Star Trek show and reading these two articles makes me want to find a way to watch it again.

First up, Beth Elderkin writes that DS9 is the best Star Trek world because it is most like the real world.

Then Analee Newitz writes about how DS9 helped her find hope in a dark time.

Speaking of invented worlds... Vanessa Fogg's The Lilies of Dawn picked up three new reviews this week. The longest is Cait Coker's review in The Future Fire. It has some light spoilers, though, so here's a quote:

"Fogg’s writing is incredibly vivid and at times poetic; it makes me wish that one day it will reappear in a heavily illustrated edition, especially given the lovely cover art by Likhain that already graces the slender paperback. Fogg is also incredibly skilled with detail and world-building."

The other two reviews were from DJ Cockburn and Nthato Morakabi and are spoiler free.

Speaking of Annorlunda Books... we've scheduled our next Hindi film watchalong. We'll be watching Kal Ho Naa Ho on September 18. Join us if you can! If the last watchalong is any guide, it will be a lot of fun.

This letter to a parent of an undiagnosed autistic girl is a really beautiful explanation of the benefits of a diagnosis.

This post about how to grow and preserve a garden is also beautiful, and more than a little heartbreaking.

And two fun things to end on:

More about that adjective order thing that has been going around the internet recently.

And Alexandra Petri provides advice on how to get that Presidential look.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

As We Age... We Need Sports Drinks?

A few weeks ago, someone left a comment suggesting I try electorlytes to stave off migraines. I am too lazy to go back and find the post and comment... but thank you to whoever it was who made the suggestion, because I tried it (honestly, I am at the point with headaches where I'll try just about anything that doesn't cost a bunch of money and/or seem dangerous) and I believe I successfully staved off a migraine this weekend. Also, it seems to help with the garden variety headaches I've been getting lately. So, whoever makes Propel is doing well out of me right now.

I'm glad it helps, because nothing else was helping, and when I asked my doctor she agreed that it seems that the trigger is hormonal and well... as we age....

But I'm also frustrated by the fact that the electrolytes help but no one seems to know why. I'm not dehydrated: I sit in an office all day and I drink plenty of water, but not so much that I could possibly have a weird water poisoning type thing going on. So it is a mystery.

Also bothering me: why, all of the sudden, do I need to drink electrolyte mixes to avoid headaches during certain points in my cycle? What the heck changed? Is this normal? Is it a sign that something is missing from my diet?  After all, "sports drinks" is not a food group.

I've done some searching, and turned up an article about hormonal changes in menopause and fluid balance, which might eventually lead to something useful if I follow the trail long enough. From the bit I've followed so far and my vague memories of my endocrinology class in college, I suspect this is a not altogether surprising side effect of the hormonal wackiness of perimenopause and that given my options, drinking Propel is probably a decent response.

To really know, I'd need to dig some more and maybe even chase up my old endrocinology textbook and look at some regulatory pathways. But I don't want to sink a bunch of time into this. I have other things to do. I want to be able to ask my doctor and get solid advice about how to handle this phase of my life. I like my doctor and generally think she's on top of things, but it seems like the medical consensus on any concern of a perimenopausal woman is to shrug your shoulders and say "as we age...."

At some point, I'll cave and go trawling through PubMed and see what I can find out about aging as a woman. I suspect I'm not going to turn up many definitive answers. It seems to me that we've been a bit fixated on the question of whether or not hormone replacement therapy is a good idea. Fine, that is a reasonable priority to have. But I'm curious about more basic things. We've treated menopause (and aging in general) like a disease and not a normal life phase, and this has perhaps obscured our view of what is normal and healthy for aging women. Sure, interventions that will make this phase of my life more pleasant would be nice, but I also just want to understand what's going on.

I guess I should get used to not having answers. You'd think the "yeah, your baby really can't handle it when you eat dairy even though your entire digestive system is between the cow's milk and the baby, and no, we don't know why, just have almond milk instead" thing would have prepared me for this. But it didn't. I'm affronted anew. Where's our basic curiousity? Come on, the milk thing is just weird!

Still, there's not much I can do about it. So I guess, I'll just go to bed. I finished my Propel while writing this post, and I don't have a headache anymore.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Two Weeks in One Edition

Thanks for the suggestions on my last post. I think my first step will be to take a proper day off. The next step is to figure out which day that can be. Maybe I can swing a day off next Friday. As a down payment, I'm taking off early today to go rollerblading by the bay. It is a gorgeous day here and I want to go enjoy it a bit!

But first, I need to share some links. I'm not sure I'll pick up all the links I meant to share last week. Maybe I'll get some more in next week.

Read Arlie Russell Hochschild's Mother Jones article about spending time with white blue collar people in Louisiana.

And then read Washington Post piece about prescription drug addition and rising death rates in white women.

Read those two together, because I think maybe they're two aspects of the same story, a story that I'm struggling to grasp but starting to understand as perhaps being a story about a failire in white American culture. I think it is linked to the lack of breathing room I wrote about back in May. (Was that really all the way back in May? My, this summer flew past.)

Like I said, I can't quite get the story to come into focus yet, but here's what I'm thinking. Note that in this thinking, I'm focusing specifically on white people in the US. Some of this may be true for people of color, too. I do not know and although I'd eventually like to understand the full picture, including everyone, right now I'm thinking specifically about what is going on in white America that gives us falling life expectancies and Donald Trump and other bad things like that.

Anyway, here's my line of thought so far: White culture in the US looks down on taking help, particularly from the government. I've seen this during layoffs, when some of my colleagues have been reticent to claim their unemployment checks, even though those are benefits they paid into and that they have every legal right to claim.

But we're not supposed to need help, and we've had generations of people telling us that taking "government handouts" is bad and a sign of moral weakness. Usually these messages came with coded racial undertones. Sometimes they came in an outright racist framing. The message is that "upstanding" people like us white people don't need help. We work hard and pay our own way.

Meanwhile, we have a culture that tells us our worth is tied up in our productivity and our work. A lot of people I know have a very large part of their identity tied up in what they do for work. In fact, I do, too. This is part of what I struggled with when I changed careers.

These things combine to make us not take the vacation time we're owed, even when we can afford the time off. I suspect this has made it easier for companies not to provide paid time off to all of their employees. We shouldn't need time off! We are hard-working! And so we have a growing sector of jobs in which employees can't even afford sick days, let alone vacation time.

Even among the salaried classes, we're working harder and harder, trying to get more productivity from our work time, not so that we can take some time off, but so that we can do more work. Because that's what makes us valuable: the work we do.

In this culture, the only way you feel entitled to a break is by being physically unable to work, by having a medical ailment.  So we work people until they have physical ailments: bad backs and the like. Or people take themselves to their doctors feeling physically unwell, and what may actually be exhaustion or something like it presents as a physical medical condition that the doctors try to treat.

And all of this stress and pressure and constant working isn't doing our mental health any good, either. So maybe we self-medicate to unwind a bit, to help us get through our lives, which feel so much harder than we think they should.

I'm thinking that maybe for some people, this eventually leads to addictions. And for some people it leads to racism like what Trump is exploiting, because we need someone to blame for how crappy our lives feel and we have a long cultural history of blaming "those people."

Like I said, I'm still trying to think this through. But that's what reading those two pieces has made me think about.

Moving on...

All of these thoughts and a bunch of others have made me think more and more about how we can create a little more breathing room of all types for everyone. Here's a good post by Tressie McMillan Cottom about one idea for creating breathing room for students who need it.

And here's a thread about what operating without margin looks like for some college students:

Here's Tressie McMillan Cottom about why the announcement from Georgetown about giving the descendents of the slaves that helped build Georgetown legacy admissions status is remarkable, but not reparations.

Read that piece even if you don't care two hoots about Georgetown. Read it and think about what it might mean for our country if we could pay reparations to Black people still dealing with the harm accumulated through slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and the like. McMillan Cottom writes:

"Reparations has three components: acknowledgement, restitution, and closure."

Think about what it would mean to acknowledge the harms and provide restitution. Think about what it would mean to enable closure. I firmly believe we're going to need to find a way to do this if we are ever going to really fulfill the promise of our multicultural, multi-ethnic society. We had our chance during Reconstruction and blew it. We'll need to try again eventually. I think it is in everyone's interest to do it. I have no idea how we get enough people to realize that, and see the promise offered by really achieving some closure on the racist wounds of our past, to make this happen.

I used to think that we needed to stop doing racist damage before we could make reparations for past damage, but I am starting to think that maybe the acknowledgement piece of reparations is going to be a necessary precondition to stopping the damage. Until we can acknowledge the past, we will continue to misread the present and that will make us do harm.

For an example of the damage we continue to do, read Gene Demby's storify on black-on-black crime.

Ijeoma Oluo's piece about growing up Black with a white mother is beautiful and moving.

Linguist John McWhorter wrote a really good piece about racial euphamisms.

Moving  on again...

Vox's Matt Yglesias has had it with the media's treatment of the Clinton Foundation.

I really liked this piece about being in the last generation that can remember life before the internet.

This is a really longread from CNN (of all places!) about journeying down the San Jaoquin river, the "most endangered river in America" but it is really worth your time.

Here's Bad Mom, Good Mom about one of the things that is great about the US: free access to weather data!

Here's my funny thing to end on, the story of how my high school English teacher told me that Langston Hughes' poem "I, Too" was about a stove:

OK, I lied. Here's another funny thing: this XKCD cartoon made me chuckle.

And now I'm off for some rollerblading to end my work week. Happy Labor Day to folks in the US. Happy weekend to everyone else!