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Preview: The Time for Change

The Time for Change

A girl in the world

Updated: 2018-04-25T20:11:46.042-05:00


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


We read Fates and Furies by Laurent Groff for our book club last month.  Last time we read Groff, I wasn't impressed.  But this book, we were assured, is different. It's good. People love it!

And, my friends, people in my book club loved this book.

I did not.

It tells the story of a troubled, tumultuous marriage, set against white male privilege and the author patting herself on the back a lot. 

Do you remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Sirius Black falls behind the veil at the Ministry of Magic and you had to read that scene over and over and over again because you couldn't quite figure out why Harry was so upset?  It took you several times until you realized, oh, he died.  Okay, just me? Well, that was a time when I thought Rowling's writing could have been a bit tighter. I actually generally think of Rowling as a really good writer, but I was just so confused at that moment.

That's how I felt through 50% of Fates and Furies. I honestly was rereading and rereading and then I'd flip back three pages and then.  Then. I started to think I was stupid. Like I'm a BAD reader.  Like I'm not a CAREFUL reader. Like I'm not a well educated woman who reads ALL THE TIME. 

And you know what I don't need? A book I'm reading for pleasure to undermine my confidence in my ability to do THE ONE THING I honestly think I'm good at.

1) I do not like to read about marriage in peril, particularly when peril could be prevented by the people involved in said marriage sitting down and having a conversation.
2) I do not like it when the book makes me feel inadequate because of its obliqueness.
3) I do not ever want to read Lauren Groff again.

I'm so angry with this book.

Podcast Roundup Week #16


This week I listened to 36 episodes. I'm not going to complain about the weather again, but the icy rain kept me indoors a lot.When I was in grad school, an assignment in our introduction to qualitative methods class was to interview someone, although the assignment didn't specific what the topic of the interview should be. One of my classmates interviewed everyone she talked to about food because food is universal and food is personal. She got great results and I think she is wasted in political science and should be an anthropologist, but what do I know?  Anyway.Food is something I think about a lot, but don't talk about much. My husband hates the process of eating, he hates food, and his relationship with food is not the same as mine. We talk as little as possible about food because it inevitably ends up with someone angry or crying. So I sometimes find myself skipping through episodes The Sporkful because it's too much joy about something that is so fraught in my life. I'm glad that other people can have awesome experiences with food and talking about food, but I just can't bear to listen to it.But the episode "Your Mom's Food, Part.2: Midwest Meets Masala" really touched me. A woman marries a man from a different culture than her own Midwestern culture and it's changed her relationship with food and her relationship with her parents.  The woman starts crying when she thinks about how it's her job to feed her son and if her son refused her food it would be heartbreaking and I was crying thinking about all the times food I've made has been refused and it does feel terrible. It's like I'm not good enough, even though it has nothing to do with me personally. And the mom talking about how she raised her daughter to be her own person and go off and live her own life, but that it's hard when that life isn't how she imagined it also made me cry. So, basically, I really resonated with everything in this episode.  Maybe I need to give The Sporkful another chance to win me over.Nate DiMeo tells the best stories. That is all. He could give a master class in taking something small, possibly uninteresting, and spinning it into an enthralling tale no one could resist listening to.  The Memory Palace has episodes that are rarely longer than fifteen minutes, but stick with me forever. I still talk about "Gallery 742," years after I first listened to it, an episode about a dressing room of a Gilded Age woman - a dressing room I've never seen and a woman I'd never heard of before listening to the episode.The recent episodes "Junk Room" brilliantly ties in the political turmoil of 2018 with the political turmoil of the past in a loving portrayal and history of Statuary Hall.  It's everything I aspire to be as a writer, but will never quite get to.  Also, Code Switch had a great introduction to racially segregated housing ("Location! Location! Location!") that I might use next semester in my housing unit. That's definitely more of a note for me than for you, dear reader.  Although if you don't know what redlining is or why environmental catastrophes hit communities of color harder than others, it might be worth your time to listen.  [...]

Work From Home Dilemma


This week, some guys have been working on rebuilding our front porch.  They showed up on Monday, right after five inches of snow had fallen and we had not really planned on getting a new porch in the snow, but hey, it's April in Wisconsin, so I guess that means SNOW.  Okay, I'm getting riled up about the weather and that's not what I want to write about.
I'm done with this snow business.

I work from home on Mondays. I count on Mondays as my serious, get stuff done day. I spend the morning working on grading and catching up on a class I do with adult learners and then I eat lunch and then I prepare for the week for my traditional undergrad class. After that, I allow myself a walk. Then I catch up on whatever housework needs to be done and perhaps get started on dinner. Mondays always end with me leaving for yoga class at 6:20.  I've done this since the beginning of the semester and I feel like me and Monday have a thing.

So these workers show up and they're drilling and sawing and there is a copious amount of noise and occasionally it feels like they have taken off the front of our house. 

But more importantly.

I feel like these workers are judging me. They don't KNOW that when I'm sitting on the loveseat with the cat next to me and my laptop open that I'm grading and returning emails and being productive. They don't know that when I disappeared upstairs for two hours that I was working hard on my PowerPoint slides for the week. We don't have kids, so I look like a stay at home wife. I mean, that's fine if that's what you are, but I feel like I'm being judged.  Like those workers are working hard in the cold and the snow and I'm just playing around on my laptop.

Then, on Tuesday, I ran to the grocery store in the morning and the workers were on a lunch break when I left for class, so I'm pretty sure they think I stayed home all day AGAIN.

And on Wednesday, we didn't leave until almost 11 in the morning and I'm pretty sure they think I don't WORK.

I take heart that this morning, when it was snowing like stupid, at least Dr. BB was out there with me when I was shoveling. 

Why do I care? I mean, they're getting paid no matter what, right?  So what does it matter if they think we're somehow independently wealthy (ha!) and I just sit at home and watch Zelda all day? I hate that I started avoiding the front room altogether because I didn't want them to see me sitting down for five minutes.  I hate that I care. I really do.

I'm hoping that they'll finish today and I can go back to my normal activities tomorrow without worrying about their impressions of this woman who seems to exclusively shovel, fill bird feeders, and compulsively vacuum.

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith


I bet there are people out there who, when they open a book and see a map, get really excited. I bet there are people out there who, when they open a book and see a glossary of terms and characters, get really excited.  I am not one of those people. I frequently wish maps were in the middle of books, just when someone's drawing a map in the ashes of a campfire, that map should show up.  I think a family tree should also sometimes show up when appropriate, but only in the context of the story. When I open a book and this is the information I see right away, I'm overwhelmed. This was the case when I opened Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. I just skipped through all that information and I didn't really ever need it, so I guess I'm glad it's there for the people who really want it, but I don't think you should let it scare you off.

The book tells the story of Marghe, a forensic anthropologist who travels to the planet Jeep to do something. That something is a bit mysterious to me (test a vaccine? learn about the planet's natives? save a fellow officer who is lost? because she's bored in her current teaching job?  because...well, there are lots of reasons, I guess), but that's okay because that pretty much represents most of my reaction to the book - vaguely lost, but hanging on enough to keep going.

(Parenthetical tangent: We are watching Altered Carbon on Netflix and I'm not kidding when I say I have to stop each episode at least once to ask my husband what is going on?  I swear I'm not stupid, but my entertainment choices really have me questioning the state of my brain sometimes.)

Anyway, centuries earlier, Jeep had been settled by the Company, some interstellar corporate behemoth, but had been abandoned after a virus had ravaged the planet killing all the men.  Now there are only women on the planet. How do they live without men? How do they continue reproducing?  What is going on on Jeep?

It was slow going at first, but then I really was invested in Marghe's fate. She was kidnapped, escaped, and was had to fight against the Company all at the same time. She was a terrible anthropologist (it was as if she'd done absolutely no research before trudging out to the field), but quickly found her way.  She wasn't perfect and there were times that I wanted to smack her, but I think that was the point.

In a society of all women, there are good women, bad women, smart women, stupid women, friendly women, spiritual women, strong women, emotionally unstable women, and just about every type of woman you would like to see. It wasn't a world in which men were even missed (Marghe was attempting to explain the concept of father, but without men, how can you even explain it?).  Anyway, I don't know if I'd recommend this book. I'd definitely read more Griffith, but this experiment in Jeep was just a bit too convoluted for me to follow as a casual reader. Maybe if I read this three or four or five times, I could figure all the ins and outs, but I don't want to spend that much time with Marghe, so it's probably not going to happen.

Podcast Roundup Week #15


This week I listened to 37 episodes.  Source: Funniest:The thing that made me laugh the hardest all week long was Tim FitzHigham's story "All At Sea" on The Moth. The Moth is a storytelling podcast (I wrote about it here and find my description still stands) where people get up in front of large audiences and retell stories that match a particular theme.  I think it's telling that the blog post I linked to is from 2013 and five years later, I'm still regularly listening to this podcast.Anyway, in this particular episode, this guy gets it into his head to sail in the English Channel in a bathtub. At one point, the English government has to grant the tub ship status so that the French will allow these shenanigans and when FitzHigham says "I have never been so proud to be a British citizen," it almost made me wish I were a British citizen.  He's a great storyteller with a great story to tell and it really made me happy that there are people who go off on wild tears and sometimes those crazy ideas become reality.On the Fence:The podcast 18 Days looks at the disappearance of an 8-year-old girl in the DC area named Relisha Rudd.  It's an interesting (but oh so sad) case, especially since she wasn't reported missing for eighteen days. It's a new podcast and as I type this there are only two episodes out and it's super interesting because the reporting digs deep into the places Rudd would have been and the people she would have been with, but so far that eighteen days is more of a teaser than something explained. Why did it take so long to report? Was the mother involved in her disappearance? Was the mother scared of law enforcement? Why didn't the school notice she was gone?  Maybe we'll get there.But.The real reason I'm on the fence is because the reporter says "as a mother" over and over and repeatedly asks people if they are parents. This drives me crazy. I can't understand how strange it is that she was gone for over two weeks because I'm not a parent?! That's crazy talk. Any PERSON can understand how tragic this situation is; you don't have to be a parent to understand.  Argh. If this continues, I will not listen to the entire thing.Broken Record Recommendations:Good old reliable Planet Money has a recent podcast called "Worst. Tariffs. Ever." that is just a nice encapsulation of why current economic policy from the current presidential administration is terrible and we have proof from history that it is terrible.  I know about Smoot-Hawley tariffs because I'ma big nerd, but if you haven't heard of them, give this a listen. And then maybe tweet a link to the leader of the free world.Also, just like I said last week, this season of Breakdown is riveting. This guy, Tex McIver, is on trial for shooting his wife Diane. Was it an accident or was it on purpose? It's an absurd tale and an absurd trial. The people testifying are strange caricatures of what I imagine white people in the south are like and to hear these caricatures come to life is...tragic. Poor Diane.[...]

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara


Part memoir, part true crime whodunit, I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara was published posthumously after McNamara's death by drug overdose.  She recounts her research on the unsolved case of the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS, if you're a true crime junkie like I am) who she dubs the Golden State Killer early on the book and then manages to refer to as EAR for the rest of the book. EAR/ONS is suspected of committing dozens of rapes and a dozen murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of the crimes have been linked through DNA in modern forensic analysis, although no matches for the DNA have yet been made. In places, the book was pieced together by researchers after McNamara's death, so it's sometimes a bit disjointed and the tone shifts at times.

If I'm being 100% honest, all of these factors made the book extremely hard to follow. It kept jumping back and forth in time, sometimes focusing on the many, many crimes that EAR/ONS committed, but also back and forth in McNamara's own timeline, including the crime that spurred her on to become interested in true crime.  I know a little bit about EAR/ONS (thanks mostly in part to an excellent miniseries by the podcast Casefile) and I would have been terribly confused without that background.  I guess I'm learning about myself that I really really really need my non-fiction to be linear in some way. If it's not, I'm just going to get jumbled and grumpy.

And I was grumpy about this book. It's Goodreads rating is 4.28 and 4.6 stars on Amazon. How can I be the only one who thought this case deserved more than this?  If I were a victim of EAR/ONS, I would be disappointed by this.  The book was hyped as "Michelle McNamara knew the identity," but she didn't. She had faith that technology would solve the case soon, but that's not actually a solution.

(Parenthetical rant:  The editors, responsible for putting the book together after McNamara's death, earned some very negative feelings from me late in Part Three of the book. They basically said that law enforcement should be able to use information from DNA databases like 23andMe and to solve violent crimes, including the EAR/ONS cases and then wrote the following sentence "Unfortunately, neither company will work with law enforcement, citing privacy issues and their terms of service" (308 - 309).  OMG!  That's not "unfortunate" at all! I would never voluntarily give my DNA to a private company just in case they got hacked or decided someday to share.  I just really almost lost my mind at that sentence. Oh, let's just write off privacy like it's no big deal. It's 2018 after all.)

If you're a true crime fan, I'd recommend this book, but if that's not your genre, stay far away.

Podcast Roundup Week #14


This week I listened to 37 episodes. It's been bitter cold here, so I'm not going for a lot of long, meandering walks. I'm literally just trying to figure out how get my steps without being more than 100 yards away from the warmth of our house.

The hands-down funniest thing every was listened to Al Letson admit to a hilarious crush on a unlikely celebrity in the episode of Errthang called "808s and Three Heartbreaks."  There is a lot of unncessary nonsense and music in this podcast, but if you skip ahead to the actual stories, it just illustrates just how good a storyteller Letson is (you may know him from his much more serious show Reveal.)
Also, is anyone listening to season five of the Atlanta Journal Constitution's show Breakdown?  This entitled old white guy shoots his wife while they are riding in a car with a friend and then tries to blame it on Black Lives Matter. I just want you to picture me shaking my head every time this jackhole speaks. Bill Rankin, the host, is the AJC's legal affairs writer and he is folksy and charming, but also mostly knows his stuff. (There was a moment when he was talking about other people mispronouncing voir dire in season two in which he himself mispronounced it that basically cemented my adoration for him.)  It's good stuff.

That's pretty much all I'd recommend at this point. Hopefully next week is better.

2018 Yearly Goals, Quarter 1


Here's my original post on my yearly goals. Let's see how the first quarter went.Area One: Fitness Goals1) Workout four times a week - 100% except for week 9 when I had the flu and could barely find the strength to pull the blanket up on the couch.  Many weeks I worked out five or six times. This is real progress.2) 11,500 steps a day - My average over the 90 days was 12,297 steps a day.  I missed my goal five days, all flu-related.  I'm going to call this 100%.  3) Track food intake each day - Other than the week of the flu, I only missed one day. I don't actually think writing down the food I eat makes me eat less, so we'll start tracking calories and see if that works.Overall, these fitness goals are going pretty well.Area Two: Communication Goals1) Update my blog twice a week - My average is 2.5 times a week!!!!!  Yay! Let's keep that up. It's been a long slog to get to this point.2) Make contact with four people (MDTT) at least once a week - 88.5% success rate. That's pretty good. I'll take it.3) See my mom four times in the year - I have not seen her in 2018. This isn't ideal, but we'll try to fix it.4) Send a letter or postcard to my grandmother and two of my elderly aunts at least once a month - 100%.  Yay. The communication goals are going well.Area Three: Finances1) Track every penny I spend each day - Mostly. I mean, I write this down.  I should probably then evaluate this data, but I honestly just haven't had time. Maybe I'll work on doing something with the data and not just having it.2) Low buy year - This has gone pretty well. I did recently purchase some workout gear, so that was quite a bit more than I would normally like to spend, but I don't think I'm spending recklessly.  I did break down and buy a rug for the main room because I couldn't stand waiting for the promised rugs anymore, but give a girl a break. It's for my mental health.3) Save $XXX to savings account each month - Eh. I was mostly successful. The problem is that my second job has been quite slow recently. I'm hoping this picks up in the second quarter, but if it doesn't, I may have to find another job to supplement this.Area Four: Personal Improvement Projects1) Complete three sewing projects this year - I have finished one project, so I'm calling this a success for the quarter.2) Spend 10 minutes a day on Spanish practice - My Duolingo streak is 236 days and holding strong. 3) Complete the Book Riot Read Harder challenge this year by reading two of the books each month - I've completed 13 of the 24 challenges already this year. If I finish the challenge earlier in the year, I might consider doing the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, too.Area Five:  The House1) Brush Zelda at least three times a week and brush her teeth each day - I missed four days (if you don't count flu week and let's be honest, I don't count flu week) on brushing her teeth. When I brush my teeth at night, I brush hers, so we have a system.  I've only met the brushing her fur goal five weeks, so a very failing 39% rate. I need to figure out a system for brushing her.  She just really hates it, so I hate to do it, but it's good for her and now that the weather is getting warmer, it's even more important. 2) Clean the house for 10 minutes a day -  This is basically not happening.  We have now started instituting  daily reminder of tasks to do to keep the house on track, using the app Tody.  I'm actually going to change this goal to make sure I do my Tody tasks for the day and I'll call it good.3) Water the plants twice a week -Ha ha ha. Not even.  More like once every two or three weeks. Don't be mad. They're hardy plants. I added this to the Today checklist, so this goal will go away in the future to be replaced with an item to check off on the Tody list.So these goals aren't going awesomely, but [...]

Podcast Roundup Week #13


This week I listened to 58 episodes. I'm not sure exactly how that happened, but here we are. The best podcast, hands down, I'm listening to right now is the fourth season of Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo. Missing and Murdered is a CBS podcast that does deep dives into unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and children in Canada. There are so many heartbreaking stories in this podcast, but this season hits all of the horrors of what North Americans have done to our native populations. It's a hard listen, but covers it all - children torn away from families, addiction, suicide, disappearing cultures - in a linear fashion.  It's hard to listen to the abuse that children went through and even harder to hear the adults these children became talk about themselves as if they're telling stories about someone else. I'm not sure I'd recommend any of the previous seasons nearly as highly as this one. Report Connie Walker has really come into her own with this one.If you're looking for something even less uplifting, how about Caught, an NYC podcast all about the juvenile justice system, the school to prison pipeline, and how the cycle of violence begins and never seems to end.  I've listened to five episodes and I have to portion them out because every single one of them makes me question my assumptions about the world. I am a victim advocate and I really think victims of crimes are frequently revictimized by the so-called justice system, but what do you do with a 14-year-old who stabs someone?  His brain isn't fully developed, but he did something he knew was wrong.  Poor impulse control isn't an excuse. Or is it?  I don't know. It's tough to listen, but important.Forget all this sadness, NGS. Don't you have something uplifting?  No, not really. But I do have a great episode from 99% Invisible with my main man Roman Mars all about gerrymandering.  99PI did a summation episode of a FiveThirtyEight podcast called The Gerrymandering Project that looks at the exceptionally wonky and complex discussion on drawing district lines. I have always maintained that if you can fix gerrymandering and money in politics, you could save the representative democracy that is the United States. But what does it mean to fix gerrymandering? It's not as easy as you might think.Intellectually, I was aware that the Social Security Act was passed in the 1930s as part of the New Deal. I did not stop to to think about how weird it is that all Americans have a number and dumb little piece of paper to show us that number and how hard it would be for people to figure out how to use it.  Planet Money's episode "XXX-XX-XXXX" does stop to consider that. And it's an interesting story.[...]

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a missionary family in Congo during a politically polarizing and tumultuous period in the 1960s.   Kingsolver alternates points of view in this book among the mother and four daughters, which is not a style I care for much, but it does really get us inside the heads of each of the female characters and since the male gaze is so prominent in much of literature, it was a nice change of pace. The characters were not perfect and there was a time or two I wanted to hit the (fictional) oldest daughter in head to knock some sense into her, but I liked the reality of imperfect people as Kingsolver wrote them.

It's hard to read literature about colonialism without wondering about all the baggage the author is bringing along to it.  This novel presents a definite perspective on American interference in the politics of other countries (very bad), the role of missionaries (sometimes well-intentioned, but always patriarchal and bad), Christianity (always butting into perfectly adequate faith structures and interfering unnecessarily), and the role marriage plays in women's lives (can possibly be okay, but usually constrains women so badly they cannot realize their full potential).  I think I can live with Kingsolver's political viewpoints, but I suspect many cannot.

What I struggled with was how the Price women always knew what was going on politically in this very isolate village. There was always someone breezing in with the latest news or the girls were eavesdropping on a radio, even though we were told travel was very difficult and there was only a radio for one in every ten thousand people.  It was sooooooooooooo exposition heavy that I just found myself wondering when McGonagall was going to award ten points to the village teacher.  It was a lazy writing trick from an author who is generally not lazy.

I do find myself thinking about this book days after I've finished it, though. I think about the role of colonization in the world economy of today, I wonder what happened to tiny little villages in Congo after the civil unrest, and I think about my friends who are doing missionary work in Thailand and how much I would like to shake them into thinking about what they are really doing. In other words, it's a thoughtful book.  I am glad I read it. If you want to read a book told from a female perspective with a wide variety of types of women, go ahead and get this novel. If you're not into bluntly political perspectives, maybe let this one stay on the library shelf.

Podcast Roundup Week #12


This week came in at a total of 48 episodes. It was actually kind of spring-like last weekend with nice temperatures and I went for some long walks that padded this number a bit. Here's some of the most interesting.  The Pope's Long Con "The Pope's Wife" - I wrote about this podcast in Week 3, but the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting just released its epilogue episode about what happened once corrupt State Representative Danny Ray Johnson committed suicide. His wife tried to replace him in the state House, but she lost the election. It was a nice wrap-up episode if you are looking for some closure.  You're the Expert "Raccoons at Just for Laughs Toronto" - This podcast mixes science and comedy in a way that I really love (enough that I've written about this podcast repeatedly). Sometimes the guest scientists are in on the joke and sometimes they're not.  Suzanne MacDonald, the guest in this episode, is totally in on the joke and I laughed and laughed and learned a bunch about raccoons in the process.  Planet Money "The Experiment Experiment" - If, like me, you're a social scientist, you're watching the fields of psychology and economics try to replicate experiments and you're watching as this attempt fails repeatedly and you're shaking your head, both knowingly and in dismay. Of course. Publication bias means that many journals only publish positive results and many of those positive results are fringe results. Of course we're having trouble replicating those fringe results. It's too bad people don't really understand statistics.  But don't worry, the good people at Planet Money are here to explain all of it to us.  I'm probably going to use this when I teach stats next semester.Reveal "Warning System Down: California's Deadliest Fires" -  One of my student wrote in a class evaluation once something along the lines of it should have been a drinking game in class for every time I talked about the evils of the automobile and the interstate system and the crumbling infrastructure in the United States. I'm pretty sure that the water or electrical systems will be the first things compromised as the United States fall into anarchy. This episode of the brilliant Reveal podcast does nothing to reassure me that the infrastructure, including first responders, is not prepared for an actual crisis.  So if you want a super somber podcast to listen to that will freak you out and make you cry when you think about a dog fighting for his life in a swimming pool, then this is the one for you.[...]

The Great Clean Fail


I grew up in a hoarding household. There was a path from the front door to the couch and to the beds and that was about it. The house was pretty much stacked from top to bottom with junk everywhere else. It was even hard to use the kitchen, what with outdated canned goods and empty soda bottles on every horizontal surface.So, as an adult, I overcompensate. I throw away pieces of paper we later need on a regular basis. I freak out if a grocery bag is not emptied immediately upon its arrival inside the house. I very strictly keep my wardrobe to one in, one out.  Everything brought into the house has a place to be stored. If there's no home for something, it can't come in.I like our house to be clean. I don't mind if there are books or magazines out on the tables or if the blanket is thrown willy nilly over the couch, but I really can't stand filth. Or things on the floor. I once read somewhere that the floor is no place to store things and it changed my entire worldview.Which brings me to an early sneak peek at how I'm doing one of  my 2018 goals, specifically the goal of cleaning for 10 minute a day.  I bet I've only accomplished this goal a handful of times and it will look like I'm failing this goal. But, no, I'm not. I just want the house to be clean if someone decides to stop by unannounced*.  And it is incredibly unlikely that I would ever let the house get bad enough that I would feel shame in someone seeing it.  Here's why. I have rules for keeping the house in okayish shape.1.  Leave the room cleaner than when you came in.  This is my number one rule of keeping the house looking nice.  If I use the bathroom, I also wipe down the sink. If I go to change Zelda's water, I also pick up the lint on the floor.  It doesn't matter how small the thing is that you do to make the room better, these little things add up.2. If it takes less than a minute to do a chore, just do it.  I don't necessarily want to empty all the dishes out of the drainer, but guess what?  It takes less than a minute. Just do it.  I don't want to wipe down the kitchen counters** for the fifth time today, but guess what? Less than a minute.3)  Don't be lazy.  If there's visible cat fur on the rug, get out the vacuum and clean it. It doesn't take ten minutes, but I vacuum almost every other day. Because it doesn't take long.  My innate, I grew up in a hoarder home tendency is to let things be. My own personal mantra is "don't be lazy" and I must say it a couple of dozen times a day to myself.4) Declutter before bed. The house needs to look nice before we go to bed. The kitchen is sparkling, the bathroom ready for whatever whirlwind is going to hit in the morning, and everything is in its proper place. This is crucial for everyone's sanity.Yes, there's dust and books everywhere, but it's not terrible, right?It helps that there are only two of us and my husband is naturally tidy, if not clean. I don't know that he's ever cleaned a mirror, toilet, or tile floor in our marriage, but when he sees me digging in for a big clean, he Swiffers and dusts with the best of them. We don't have kids or the clutter that comes with them, but we do have a cat and she brings her own special brand of cleaning challenges***.  Anyway, I don't clean for ten minutes a day straight on most days, but I definitely spend more than ten minutes a day cleaning in various smaller ways.I don't actually know why I'm writing this. I'm guess I'm already justifying how I've failed one of my quarterly goals by telling you that I don't think it's an important goal, but I must have thought it was important when I created these goals in December.  I don't know.  Just tell me I'm not alone in my overwhelming d[...]

Podcast Roundup Week #11


This week I listened to 49 episodes and unsubscribed from two podcasts altogether.  I'm much more likely to just hit unsubscribe these days than I used to be. I used to really give podcasts a break, but now if you have one or two bad episodes, I just don't have time for you.Here are the highlights from this week.The BBC's The Documentary had an episode called "China's Generation Gap: Part Two" that looked at changing norms regarding marriage and family in China, with a particular lens towards how the one-child policy affected women and women's roles. I thought it was a particularly well done view of China showing both an old school dude who is appalled that his son only has a daughter (but the family name!) all the way to young women who don't really see the need for marriage at all, although the desire to have children does seem to remain strong.Death, Sex, and Money had a great episode called "Sharing DNA, and Nothing Else" about a woman who found out through one of those mail-in ancestry kits that the father she grew up knowing was not actually her biological father. Also, she doesn't want to get to know this guy because...politics. In 2018, this makes so much sense to me. With the worries I have about the unintended consequences of these DYI DNA kits, this show really spoke to me. And when the woman talked about her father dying in front of her, I almost started crying in the middle of the street. I know I talk about DS&M a lot on this blog, but it's consistently excellent and Anna Sale is such an empathetic, but good interviewer. She gets honest responses, but never flinches from asking hard questions. I feel like this show makes me a better person.Speaking of crying, Code Switch released "A House Divided by Immigration" in which a family has kids with various immigration status (one is a citizen, two have DACA-protection, one is a DREAMer with no protection) and the youngest, the one who is a citizen, called the interviewer back into the room to tell her that if his family gets deported he's going with them and it was such a powerful moment from a teenage boy who until this point had seemed like a clueless kid who didn't seem to care about anything that I did choke up. You know what's important to this kid? His family.  Immigration is one of the most salient political issues of the day, but sometimes it's hard to forget in all the partisan bickering that there are real people and real consequences to these issues. In a more lighthearted recommendation, This American Life had a David Sedaris story "The Youth in Asia" in a recent episode. He tells the story of the role that pets had in his family's life in his typically hilarious way.  Sedaris tells of having to put his cat to sleep and here's the line where I laughed so hard I cried. My mother sent a consoling letter along with a check to cover the cost of the cremation. In the left-hand corner, under the heading marked Memo, she'd written, "Pet Burning."His mom sounds like she would be fun.  I like to put things under the Memo line because I'm pretty sure no physical eyeballs actually look at checks these day.  Anyway, it's good old-fashioned David Sedaris if you need a giggle.[...]

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran, leaving her family for Europe during the Iranian Revolution, returning to Iran as a westernized woman, and then her eventual self-exile.   And it's all done as a graphic novel.

It's a very honest telling of her story and the artistry of the panels is amazing. She tells stories of her own life that definitely put her in a poor light (becoming homeless, getting a guy arrested falsely) and I struggle to imagine if I would be as willing to put my own mistakes on the page in such an open fashion.  It also does a great job of humanizing the people of Iran - something that we don't always do a good job of in the United States. The stories of day to day life in Iran, through all of the political turmoil, were really some of the most remarkable pages.  The perspective of a young Iranian woman is one that I don't think we get much of and it's an important one to listen to, I think.

I didn't much like Marjane, though. I thought she was self-absorbed and indulgent. And, I mean, yes, of course she is - she's a child and an adolescent through much of the book.  But not wanting to be with this character meant that I would read five pages and put the book down for days on end, read another five pages and then put it down for another couple of days. I didn't want to read it and only managed to read it when I puposefully took it as the only book on a car trip.

So, yes, it's good.  And I think it's an important book.

But I would probably only give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's just not a book that speaks to me.

Podcast Roundup Week #10


This week I listened to 48 episodes.  My second job is starting to slowly pick up again (there's a normal decline at the beginning of the year, but this year has been especially slow) and so I'm spending a bit more time alone in the car commuting, which is a pretty normal time for me to listen to podcasts.

A highlight for me was definitely listening to the three-part miniseries that Casefile did on the Silk Road, a now defunct dark website that sold drugs, weapons, and poison.   The podcast walked through the development of the site, which could only be accessed using Tor and was one of the first "big" places to accept Bitcoin.  It tells the story of Ross Ulbricht, who would later be sentenced to life in prison on charges related to the operation of Silk Road.   If you want more on the Silk Road, there's a Longform podcast interview with Nick Bilton who wrote a book that was frequently referenced in the Casefile episodes.
Casefile is probably one of the top five true crime podcasts out there. The narrator doesn't even introduce himself - he just gives you the facts about the crime he's dealing with.  Many true crime podcasts try to lighten the mood with jokes and banter and this can frequently come off as disrespectful, particularly when there are victims involved, but Casefile just sticks to a recitation of the story.  The narrator seems to be Australian, too, so there are some cases that I bet are familiar to Australians that get covered, but that are new to me as an American.

I also want to just demonstrate my nerdiness by pointing out that two NPR podcasts I listened to this week made me laugh out loud in a way that attracted attention as I was walking down the street.

Pop Culture Happy Hour had an episode about the Winter Olympics in which Stephen Thompson admits to being stunned into silence as something happened in the bobsled, Glen Wheldon talks about his utter disdain for the entire affair, and somehow coalesced many of my complicated feelings into a fun conversation among friends. Also, Planet Money's yearly compendium of things they are jealous of "Our Valentines" had me rolling on the floor as a born and bred New Yorker talked about how much enjoyed leafing through the pages of Farm Show Magazine.  It was a good time.

There was also a Reveal episode on redlining and I am mostly making this note here so that next semester when I'm teaching this subject, I can quickly refer back to this post. 

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra was our book club book this month. It tells the tale of a small group of friends during the war in Chechnya in 2004.  A girl's father is abducted by Russian forces and the neighborhood must band together to save her. It leads us through this war-torn country, back and forth in time, before, during, and after the war, and is bleak as all get out.

I definitely don't want to be living in a place where a war takes place, that is for sure.  The most intriguing part of the book from my perspective were the day to day details that showed how life changed so gradually. The author talked a fair amount about food and you could kind of see the descent from food like you and I eat to food if you're really hungry to food if you have it to food is so rare that you have taken to eating unconventional items in the hope that you get some nutrients from them.

I also thought the plot lines that delved into the survivors' guilt and PTSD to be understated, but well done.  Yep, the doctor is addicted to opiates because it's her coping mechanism. Yes, the sprite is imagining conversations with her schoolyard bully who was killed by the Russians. It all makes complete sense in a world in which nothing makes sense.

I thought this book was an awful lot like All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is to say that the plot was similar, but they cover different wars. They're both award-winning novels that have beautiful writing and I would recommend reading them.  But there's a remove between the reader and the characters that I think is on purpose as a symptom of PTSD, but that remove makes it seem more like I'm watching a movie rather than intimately getting to know characters like I expect to in a novel.

Read it if you like. Even if you don't know much about the Chechen war, the book will take you along and explain what needs explaining.  It's well done and doesn't take all that long to get through.

Cage Match: New Diet Coke Flavors


Four enter the ring...which one will the heart and taste buds of NGS?
My love for Diet Cherry Coke is well known. Hearing the hiss of the can as I open it with dinner is one of the most pleasurable moments for my day.  I was quite worried when I heard that Diet Coke is switching up its flavors (not the original Diet Coke, though), but I've been reassured that, at least for the time being, I can still access Diet Cherry Coke online.

Our grocery store recently stocked the new flavors, so here's the lowdown.  Obviously, this is just what I think and taste buds are different for everyone, but here's my opinion.

Ginger Lime:  This tastes like watered down Diet Coke. I didn't get even a fleeting hint of ginger or lime in it. The OG Diet Coke with Lime is oodles better.  I didn't even finish the can.

Twisted Mango: Have you ever wanted your Diet Coke to be tropical?  I mean, I don't think I ever did, but this is what it would taste like. I'm not sure I got "mango," so much as "papaya/pineapple/coconut/tropical," but if someone handed one of these to me at a party, I'd politely drink it.

Zesty Blood Orange: This tastes like Sunkist and Diet Coke had a baby. I don't hate it. As a matter of fact, if I had to buy one of these four options, this is the one I'd get.

Feisty Cherry: This has the worst aftertaste of any diet soda I've ever had. This was revolting. I was kind of expecting it to taste just cherrier than the stuff I drink every night, but instead it tastes like someone threw battery acid into a Diet Coke and sold it over the counter as if it were safe to consume.  I do not recommend it.

Meanwhile, our local grocery store still has the OG Diet Cherry on the shelves and I'll keep buying it there until I'm forced to Amazon Prime it. 

Podcast Roundup Week #9


It was a total of 39 episodes this week. That's actually more than I would have thought considering it was the flu-pocalypse in our house this week and I spent three full days huddled under blankets on the couch without moving and praying that a fairy would send popsicles.  The fairy turned out to be my hsuband who got sick before I did, but managed to leave the house before I did, too.  Next time he gets sick, I'm literally just going to buy everything I want when I get sick because he requested chicken stock and Vitamin Water and USED NEITHER.  But, I'm back, if not at full strength, strong enough to get pumped about something.

I listen to a podcast called "Crime Writers On..." that discusses true crime media.  I really enjoy their main segments and pretty much skip everything else. I don't always trust their judgment (they were really much more enthralled with the podcast Done Disappeared than I was, for instance), but they recently reviewed the Audible original podcast series West Cork and they were so enthusiastic about it that I downloaded it as soon as I got home.

West Cork is available for free until May 9, so get it while you can.  It's through Audible, but Audible is apparently an Amazon-affiliated company, so I just go it through Amazon. For free.  I mean, most podcasts are free, but this is an Audible production, which is normally not free, so that's why I'm stressing the free part so much.

Anyway. It tells the story of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland in 1996.  This is apparently quite a famous tale in Ireland (maybe most of Europe?), but as an American, this was a brand new unsolved murder to me. 

I thought the first two or three episodes were a bit of a trudge, but then it just picked up and got zippy from there. The creators tell the story chronologically, but the best parts of the podcast are when they go back to an idea you thought they were just going to bypass. They might mention Topic A very briefly in episode 2, but then all of a sudden Topic A is the main topic in a later episode. I thought it was really well done.

It's 13-episodes long and probably 8 hours or so overall and I was riveted after the first hour or so.  I highly recommend it.

Also, there was a truly sad story about the high suicide rate for veterinarians on Death, Sex, and Money, if you're really interested in a sad tale. 

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty


One of the prompts for the 2018 Read Harder challenge was to read a western. If I'm going to read a western, I'm going to read The Best Western Ever. The 1986 Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty repeatedly came up in lists of great westerns and there's nothing saying I can't appreciate a good genre piece like everyone else.

And, you know what? It was good. The writing was so well done. It's just the kind of writing I like - sparse, to the point, and with just enough character to show that the author has a point of view. I because really attached to some of the characters and found myself quite sad at some points when things didn't go the way I wanted them to for those characters.

It's essentially the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, but it takes a quarter of the book to even get started on the cattle drive and there are many tangential trips from the cattle drive, but I frequently joked to Dr. BB as I was reading this that the title should have been Cattle Drive. Also, I can't possibly be the only one in the world who would start humming under my breath to a classic Garth Brooks song whenever my eyes would fall on the cover of this book.

She was a girl on a wagon train
Headed west across the plains
The train got lost in a summer storm
They couldn't move west and they couldn't go home

Anyway. I did like this book.  A lot.

But I didn't love it. All the women were either nags or whores. There were pages and pages in which literally nothing happened. I like a bit of plot and while this was a strange sort of quest book, the quest wasn't quite engaging enough for me. The ending was sort of cliffhanger-y and made it clear I should read the next book in the series, but I don't want to read another 900-page epic.  And, honestly, this is my own deal, but westerns sort of make me feel claustrophobic. All those description of the clear blue sky and endless fields make me a bit sick in my stomach and I just want to be back in my little cave. 

So, sure. I get why McMurty won a Pulitzer and I admire what he did here. The western genre was well served. I'm glad I read this novel and wouldn't seriously object if I had to read more McMurty for some reason or another.  But it's definitely not going on my top ten books ever list. 

Winter Olympics 2018 Notes #2


1) Ester Ledecka is my new hero.  She unexpectedly won a gold medal in her secondary sport of skiing in the super-G race and then won a gold in her specialty, parallel giant slalom snowboarding. I think I might not remember much from these games, but I will forever remember her face when she was staring at the scoreboard in disbelief when she won the super-G.  She was so charming in the interviews and she seems like a genuinely nice person.2) Maia and Alex Shibutani took the bronze medal in ice dancing. I think it's great that a sibling pair did so. I'm also vaguely creeped out by it. I don't have a brother and I'm not particularly close to my sister, but I just can't even imagine being that close to a sibling.  I'm not judging, really, but I am incredibly puzzled.3) I don't even know where to start with Shaun White. Like, should I be glad that he won a gold medal? I have started several posts to talk about the #metoo movement and what's going on with discussions of sexual harassment, sexual assault, regrettable sex, and gender norms, but every word I write seems trite and unoriginal and I don't really have an argument.I mean, yes, I do.  I do have an argument.Let me speak in generalities for a minute.Women are socialized to be relatively passive when it comes to expressing themselves about sex. Men are socialized to be relatively aggressive.  So when women and men communicate about sex, they're often not on the same page. When "Grace" tells Aziz Ansari says maybe they can fuck "next time," she's saying "no," but he hears a challenge that if she'd put out next time, why not just give her another glass of wine and hope for tonight. Why didn't she just say "no"?  Well, maybe she was scared he'd overreact. He'd hurt her. He'd hurt her career. Maybe she actually liked him, but just didn't want vaginal intercourse that night and she didn't want to hurt her feelings.  Maybe she really thought there would be a second date.This gap in communication is real.  No means no, of course, and most people agree on that, especially for early sexual relationships (let's put aside any role-playing stuff for later on when partners are more comfortable with each other for now), but there's a scale when people aren't saying no, but they aren't saying yes.And who is responsible for drawing the line?Popular culture tells us that it's the woman because the man is supposed to be the aggressor in sexual relationships. But we've spent generations telling women that it's THEIR job to make nice, be diplomatic, and not hurt people's feelings.  But suddenly these women are supposed to just, you know, "get a backbone" and talk about their feelings and desires frankly and honestly. I could you think that would happen?So Shaun White is accused of sexual harassment by the former drummer of his band and there's a settlement. There is evidence that he sent her sexually explicit texts and forced her to watch videos of a graphic nature. NBC never once mentions any of this in their comeback narrative of White (he won gold in the halfpipe in 2006 and 2010, but came in a disappointing fourth in 2014), but the story of this harassment lawsuit is percolating in the background of all other news outlets covering the Olympics.In his news conference after winning the gold in the halfpipe to reclaim his title as Golden Warrior of the Halfpipe, someone asks him about the allegations and the settlement.He calls it gossip.Of course he does. Why wouldn't he?  It's his job to be the aggressor. It's her job[...]

Podcast Roundup Week #8


This week I listened to 40 episodes. I honestly have no idea if that's a lot or not. I've actually added a bit of music into my life, so I'm listening to a lot of country music from the 1990s and early 2000s in the morning when I might have otherwise listened to podcasts, so I'm sure it's lower than it could be, but I think that's probably fine.I started listening to a podcast called Cults this week. I listened to the first four episodes, a two-part series on Charles Manson and a two-part series on Heaven's Gate. I thought the episodes did a nice job of being well-researched, but also relatively concise. They definitely could have taken the Manson Family and made it a twelve part series like You Must Remember This did, but for something much more superficial, I thought it was enjoyable. I DESPISE how they integrate their ad breaks, so I spend a great deal of time fast-forwarding and I'm sure I lost entire minutes of content just making sure I wasn't there as they tried to somehow connect spree killers to mattresses, but I can get over it. Hopefully the ad transitions will get better as the show goes on.I listened to the entire six-episode run of Missing Alissa, along with the two update episodes.  I have complicated feelings on this one. It tells the story of Alissa Turney, a 17-year-old girl who went missing in Phoenix, Arizona in 2001.  We hear from her sister, from friends, and try to piece together if Turney actually ran away or was the victim of something much more nefarious.  Part of the "something much more nefarious" may or may not be the result of bad actions from Turney's stepfather, who was her legal guardian after her mother died of cancer. It makes me veeeerrrrrry uncomfortable that the podcast throws around accusations about this man when he's never been charged and they name and SECRETLY RECORD A CONVERSATION with him.  I think it's a shame that Turney's story did not get attention when it was a recent development, but I'm also leery of a modern day witch hunt for someone. I find that entertainment is often filled with ethical quagmires and I frequently find myself wondering if true crime as a genre is, no matter how respectful, taking advantage of victims and their worst moments.  I'm not going to beat myself up over it, but as I listened to the Missing Alissa series, I knew that I was listening, not because I thought I could help, but because it was a mystery and I just wanted to know more.  That doesn't make me a bad person, but it does make me question some of my listening decisions.[...]

Podcast Roundup Week #7


This week I listened to 41 episodes. It was a light week because most of my free time was spent watching the Olympics, so I felt kind of like a normal person who watches television.I'm going to give you the best three episodes of the week here. 1) "The B-Sides Edition" of Slate's Hit Parade - I don't always like podcasts about music. But Chris Molanphy's Hit Parade is a veritable treasure of musical history. He looks at the musical charts, but always with a theme, sometimes even I theme I don't think I care about until I listen. This live version of the podcast comes complete with trivia and then trivia within trivia. I didn't care for the actual musical interlude, but I just fast forwarded until the musical guest was done. If you haven't listened to this podcast, but you like history and pop music and the intersection of the two, you should totally listen.2) "Live from Sundance" from Slate's Culture Gabfest - It's all live Slate shows up in my picks this week.  The three hosts from Gabfest and Aisha Harris of the Represent podcast team up for this live show. But the best part of the entire thing was at the end when Julia Turner, EDITOR of Slate, cracks up attempting to explain the bullet journaling phenomenon and has to say Huhuhero Pens multiple times because she is laughing so hard. I laughed out loud, while walking on a sidewalk.  People looked at me, me! inconspicuous middle-aged lady,  because I was clearly overreacting. 3) "Ghost Snakes" from You're the Expert - I've recommended this pod before and I will again, I'm sure. Chris Duffy hosts an incredibly funny AND education panel discussion with some scientist. In this case, the expert, Sara Ruane, tries to get people to stop being so paranoid about how dangerous snakes are and comes to a rousing defense of the study of non-human species at the end of the episode. It was brilliant.[...]

Winter Olympics 2018 Notes #1


We don't actually watch much television. As far as I'm concerned, our Apple TV is a vehicle for getting YouTube videos on to the tv so I can do workout videos.  But I purchased a one month subscription to SlingTV for the sole purpose of watching every Olympic event I can watch in two weeks time. I don't even necessarily care about these sports (I spent forty-five minutes of my life watching Norway defeat China in mixed curling despite the fact that I don't even really understand the scoring), but I care about the Olympics because, you know, community and cooperation and the limits of humankind.

So, you're probably going to get a few of these posts wherein I talk about my feelings about the Olympics.

1) I'm a smidge patriotic, but I have strong feelings about what I call "medal hogs," which is to say, once you get your Olympic gold medal, I feel you should retire and let someone else have a go. I'm talking to the Shaun Whites, Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolts of the world. This means I frequently, frequently root against the United States.

2) I also like a good underdog story, so you'll rarely hear me rooting for the most favored athlete.

3) I hold a giant grudge against Tara Lipinski for stealing a gold medal from Michelle Kwan (how did she get perfect 6s when she double-footed a landing? for shame, judges) and now that she announces many of the events, I get a bit salty whenever she criticizes someone's technical ability. How dare she?  I mean, I do dig the Lipinksi/Weir vibe, but I do think they're sometimes a bit cruel in their honesty and never have I heard Lipinksi admit that Kwan had better skates than she did in 1998. Yes, I'm holding on to a grudge for 20 years.

4) "And these last two laps are where the race is decided." Cut to commercials. I know it's the cool think to do to slag on NBC's Olympic coverage, but it really is that bad.

5) Seriously? Seriously? This is what we wear to the opening ceremonies?  How many times is "USA on these stupid things?  On the hates, on the backs of the jackets, on the pants AND on each of the gloves?  You know the rest of the world rightly makes fun of us when we consistently chant "USA USA" at these events (can't we get even another chant?), but it's these ridiculous tacky and terribly uniforms that are really the problem. I want a new American designer to come up to bat in 2020. Ralph Lauren, you're fired.

Podcast Roundup Week #6


This week I listened to 33 episodes, but that count doesn't include the few episodes I listened to of a podcast called Gone at 21 that I immediately unsubscribed from as soon as it became clear that polygraphs were being taken seriously. Psuedo-science gets no respect from me.The most compelling episodes I listened to this week were part of the genius podcast Death, Sex, and Money. The podcast is doing a miniseries called "Opportunity Costs" that is examining class.  Anna Sale, the host, is a genius. She gets people to open up about very hard topics and asks very probing questions, but she does it all while seeming sympathetic and kind. I honestly don't know how she does it. She's both hard-hitting and caring. It's a fine line and she walks it so carefully that as soon as I see an episode of DSM on my playlist, I feel like I'm in good hands.This miniseries is really interesting. In the United States, we often don't talk about money, but class is a big deal.  The interview with the guy in grad school who was working two jobs just to make rent and couldn't really spend the necessary time on schoolwork is powerful. He talks about how he grew up working class and feels really stagnated right now. He also talks about having to face other grad students who don't have problems with money and how alienating his life is. He is seen as sort of "uppity" by the people at his part-time jobs, but his classmates just don't understand how the constant low-level stress of how to pay rent impacts his life.  It resonated with me in so many ways. You don't want to compare yourself to others, but it's hard when you are doing all you can and just can't get out.There was another interview, one I wasn't sure I would care about, that dealt with two friends, Cat and Christine, who are very different classes. Cat is upper middle-class and Christine straddles the line between working class and lower middle-class. They both had trouble conceiving and Cat was able to afford fertility treatments and eventually the adoption process (that she admitted cost about $30,000 all told) and Christine just kept her struggles to herself as she was happy for her best friend, but was isolated because of money. Cat now has two kids and Christine doesn't have any.These two sound like GREAT friends, but this difference in access to money is the giant, unspoken obstacle to complete understanding. It made me ponder the whole "I'm friends with lots of different types of people" cliche that people throw out to show how tolerant they are. Most of my friends are pretty much like me. They do similar types of jobs, they make similar types of money, they live in similar types of places, and have similar educations. But I do have some friends who didn't go to college and it's HARD to find places of overlap in our lives. We work, vacation, vote, and hobby quite differently, so when we get together there are a lot of awkward pauses as we try to figure out how to gloss over uncomfortable aspects of our differences. I also have friends who, while they have the same level of education I do, don't make as much money as I do.  Sometimes that can get awkward as we try to figure out equitable ways to distribute costs.  This awkwardness is usually fine for me, but I wonder about them. Is a brief discussion about cost something they go over and over in their heads. Is it more than "brief" for them?I'd recommend you listen to this miniseries.[...]

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang


In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang is a graphic novel that tells the story of Anda, a chubby girl who begins playing a role-playing game online as part of an all-female guild after someone comes into her school's computer class to suggest girls start playing games as girls.  Anda meets another girl in the game who convinces her to kill "gold farmers" within the game because gold farming is technically against the rules of the game. Anda ends up meeting one of the gold farmers, Raymond, who speaks a little English and she learns that he is actually from China and he hurt his back in a factory and now his job is to farm gold in this online game for money. Anda eventually convinces him to attempt to unionize so he can get health insurance for his job(!), but his boss finds out and he gets fired. But don't worry - he's fine in the end.

I'm so torn by this book.

On one hand, the whole thing has a pro-feminist slant and it's nice to see a female character who is not super thin with perfect blonde hair. It's also refreshing to see someone address economic differences and quality of life issues from a global perspective.


Why is someone being allowed to come into a school to tell girls to play video games? Is this what's happening in 2018? 

More importantly, the whole idea that a teenager can just solve this person's problem from across an ocean is ridiculous and the entire ending got me really hepped up. There's a weird white savior issue, but more than that, everything dealing with Raymond is really a way for us to see Anda's personal growth. Which, I'm sure would happen, but it's sort of marginalizing of non-white characters to be used only as a way to build up your white hero. 


I found the whole thing problematic.

Someone please tell me what to think.