Thursday, April 19, 2018

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.

Monday, April 16, 2018

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.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Podcast Roundup Week #15

This week I listened to 37 episodes. 


The 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.


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.

Monday, April 09, 2018

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.

Friday, April 06, 2018

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.

Monday, April 02, 2018

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 Goals
1) 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 Goals
1) 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: Finances
1) 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 Projects
1) 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 House
1) 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 I have a plan to fix it, so I feel good about that.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

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 gerrymandering99PI 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.
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