Friday, August 17, 2018

Podcast Roundup Weeks #32 and #33

In the last couple of weeks, I've listened to 72 episodes.  There have been some really interesting episodes.

In Imaginary Worlds, host Eric Molinsky guides us through science fiction and fantasy the questionof why do we suspend our disbelief and enjoy these genres. It's a diverse podcast, covering things from the card game Magic the Gathering to Live Action Role Play (LARP) to fantasy maps, with occasional miniseries covering topics like Doctor Who and Harry Potter more in-depth. Even when I'm not super enthused with an episode topic on first glance, Molinsky is a master storyteller who will make me care by five minutes into to the episode.

The episode I want to talk about is called "Imaginary Deaths." Why do we mourn the deaths of fictional characters so much? I can easily get verklempt if I think too much about Harry Potter losing Hedwig (his present from Hagrid for his birthday and first real magical touchstone!) or Beth in Little Women who just didn't live a life worthy of her goodness except, you guys, Beth was NOT REAL. Molinsky talks with fans like you and I who have these deep feelings associated with death on the page or the screen and then talks to a psychologist, Jennifer Barnes, who studies this very thing. Basically, Barnes argues that it's relatively recently in human development that humans have had to distinguish fiction from reality and this skill is put to the test when we're consuming media. It was a fascinating discussion and, if you consume fiction, this is worth a listen.

I have written repeatedly on the genius of Roman Mars and his podcast 99 Percent Invisible before. He introduces me to things in the designed world that I have never thought about before (there's an episode about basketball which I ordinarily would be zzzz, but it raised a fascinating issue about deciding to actually have a hoop with a hole that I still think about a lot), but you don't need me to talk up one of the most listened to podcasts in the world, do you? The episode "Interrobang" is all about punctuation. I love to nerd out on the history of punctuation and typesetting and the idea that there's a need for a NEW end of sentence punctuation is a total mind game for me, especially as I find more and more ways I'd use it in my own writing.

A relatively new podcast in my arsenal is Dr. Gameshow, a show hosted by comedy genius Jo Firestone, who along with her very low energy co-host Manolo Moreno, plays games that people listening to the show send in.  She usually also has two guests in studio and they play against people who call in. The whole thing hangs on how good or terrible the games are and how game the in-studio guests are.  It consistently makes me laugh, although sometimes I'm laughing because I'm super confused as to what's going on because the games make no sense.  The episode "#NAHSMYOZ" has guests Jason Mantzoukas (of the super hilarious podcast How Did This Get Made) and Moreno's 10-year-old niece. I have actually turned off the podcast before when there was another child guest, but this 10-year-old girl is articulate and her rapport with Mantzoukas warmed my heart. Also, it was a cutthroat game.  I laughed a lot.

I have not been as enthused with Reply All in 2018 as I was in 2017, but there are still good episodes being released. "All My Pets" was an episode that left me confused and befuddled and I started looking up everything I could about it online and I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I don't know anyone who listens to this podcast, so here I am blathering. It tells the story of a girl who has a YouTube channel about pets. She grew up rather sheltered and when she became famous, she met an older guy, moved in with him, and now she doesn't know what to do with her fame.  It's a story from the producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni and I think it was brilliant, but I still have so many questions. So this woman is an animal hoarder? Are these animals cared for?  Is her boyfriend abusing her?  Is she going to be okay?  I mean, we don't know the answers to these questions at the end, but we do know that something is not okay in this woman's world.

The Story Collider is a podcast that curates stories about science. I mean, usually the science angle is quite tangential, but there's at least a bit of science. Each episode has one to three stories put together on a theme. The first story in the episode "Loneliness: Stories about Finding Friends" tells the story of a woman, Cindy Joe, who has an unusual pet and how much comfort she founds in him.  I think about this story all the time.  Pets are great, my friends.

The Adventure Zone is magical. Three dudes and their dad get together and play role-playing games. Their dad is clearly kind of a doofus who raised three other doofuses, but they're all SMART and FUNNY and so clever and quick and they love each other and the family relationships that come across in this stupid podcast about tabletop games frequently makes me tear up.  Also, sometimes it's so funny I snort out loud when I'm walking to a parking garage in a major metropolitan area, like this past week when a bit from the "Live in San Francisco" show in which they talk about an octopus looking like two halves of a horse. Even now I'm giggling, even as I know that what I typed is not remotely funny.  You guys. This show.  Please listen to it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson

Beware, my friends. Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson is the second book in a series. This is mostly a standalone novel, but I'm wondering how much more I would have enjoyed it if I'd actually read the first book. 

This is a middle reader, recommended for grades 5 - 8. Basically a girl, Ping, is in charge of the last remaining dragon, Kai, who is a young baby dragon.  In her duties as the dragon's caretaker, Ping winds up in a series of troublesome situations.  There's a pet rat who is more than just a pet rat. There's irksome court politics. There's adventure and frolicking. There's a baby dragon!

The main theme here seems to be about learning and being confident. Kai is learning to be a dragon and Ping is learning how best to communicate with and care for him.  The Emperor is new to his job and has to figure it out.  I liked that Ping was a female character who was strong and resourceful. There are actual mentions about how she's the only person with real authority in the Emperor's inner circle who is a woman and I think it's important to show to young readers that there are still obstacles for women, but they can (sometimes) be overcome.

But, overall, this was meh for me. Again, maybe if I'd been invested in these characters because I'd read the first book, this would be rectified. On the whole, though, it just felt a bit cartoon-y and predictable in its plot.  I can see how it would appeal to young readers and I certainly wouldn't stop anyone from reading it, but I won't be buying it for my nieces or nephews to read any time soon.

Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 CSA Week #10

This is the second week in a row I've been a bit disappointed in the basket. I hope it's not a trend. Beets
Dragon tongue beans
Tomatoes (x2)
Big patty pan squash
I found someone to take the beets and a bunch of onions, so at least those are gone.

We'll use the kale in a frittata and I've already eaten the tomatoes.  The cucumber was actually in rough shape - there was already a bit of mold on it, so I chopped it up right away and ate it for lunch.

I do not care for the dragon tongue beans. We have had them before and they must grow really well on our farm, but it's one of the few times I really have to tell myself that eating vegetables isn't always fun.  They turn green and taste kind of like green beans when you cook them, but I don't love green beans, either, so I'll take one for the team and eat these for lunch mostly drenched in ranch dressing.

You can't see it in this photo because the kale is on top of it, but that's the biggest patty pan squash I've ever seen. I'm not sure what we'll do with it, but probably just grill it for a side one night for dinner.

The mint smelled disgusting (I will eat a handful of mint things, but generally I find it to be overpowering) and the papicha we had a couple of weeks ago didn't go over well in our house, so those herbs are currently sitting in our crisper and I'm fully aware they'll end up in the compost heap before we get the next basket.

So, overall, I get some kale, two tomatoes, and a sort of suspect cucumber out of this. I will resentfully use the squash and beans.  Disappointing for a basket at the height of the summer season.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan - Leach

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan - Leach is the tale of two twin sisters, one of whom goes missing and the other who goes on a wild chase in an attempt to find her. There are complicated family dynamics, more alcoholics than you can shake a stick at, and a quest.

The tone was forbidding and menacing and while I wasn't exactly shocked by the ending, I also wasn't unsurprised. The mystery was solid, the plot convoluted enough to be interesting while also linear enough to follow, and the whole setup was twisted enough to make me start to really feel grateful for the relative saneness of my family.

I read this on a rainy day on the couch with no real break between chapters. I thought it was a page turner and I was really invested in the plot.  But. The drinking. Oh, heavens, the drinking. There was wine, champagne, beer, gin, whiskey.  There were mimosas before noon. Each one of these characters was a terrible person with a drinking habit that should have meant they had all died decades earlier.

But I generally enjoyed this. It was not a book I'll probably remember much of a year from now, but it was a pleasant enough diversion for an afternoon on the couch.

Monday, August 06, 2018

2018 CSA Week #9

This week has a bit of a disappointing basket, actually.
Rainbow chard
Tomatoes (x2)
Hot peppers (x2)

The onions and garlic are out of control, my friends. We have them coming out of our ears already. I don't know. I give up on them.

I'll make a slow with the cabbage and one of the carrots.

I'll eat those delicious tomatoes raw. I bet they're gone before this is even published.

I'll make some carrot stew with the carrots and some of the carrots I have left over from a couple of weeks ago. The carrots are not great raw, so I'm hoping that cooking them will bring out the sweetness and I'll be less likely to cut them up for lunch and just end up throwing them out because raw not great carrots are inedible.

We'll do a frittata with the chard.

We might make a risotto that will use some of the parsley.

I do not know what do with all the garlic, onions, and now peppers.  I try to give them away to everyone who comes to our house, but you know how people are - they already have too many from their own gardens.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Podcast Roundup Weeks 30 & 31

Since I last posted about two weeks ago, I've listened to 84 podcast episodes. I'm actually catching up a bit since a lot of podcasts go on summer break in August. Here are some of my most recent binges.
Small Town Dicks is the product of two hosts, Yeardley Smith (yes, from The Simpsons) and Zibby Allen, talking with police detectives from what they call Small Town, USA, but a cursory search online shows to be a city in Oregon.  I actually kind of hate this podcast a tiny bit because it's so rah rah police (when they talked about having a SWAT team in a small town, I almost lost my mind ranting and raving to myself about the militarization of police) and I really hate how all the cops on the show start stories with "Myself and my partner were called to the scene..."  No reflexive pronoun needed!!!! Stop trying to sound smarter than you are!

Anyway. I digress.

There's a four-part mini-series called "The Sociopath and the Whistleblower" (episodes 11-14) that examines how a police officer in this department got caught doing a lot of corrupt things, not limited to embezzlement, theft, sexual assault, and possible murder.  The podcast has the officer who investigated the corrupt officer on and it's pretty interesting. There's some good, old-fashioned gumshoe detective work and some good railing on the ineptitude of criminals and the police. I blitzed through those episodes, only occasionally muttering to myself about improper grammar.
The idea behind the Potterless podcast is that there is an adult man who has never read the Harry Potter books and he reads them and has a podcast talking about his reaction to the books. I had attempted to listen to this podcast before, but he was SO MEAN about the first book that I listened to two and a half episodes and unsubscribed (sidenote: 327 Pages We'll Never Get Back is two dudes dissing Ready Player One, which is another book on my favorite list and I also only listened to an episode or two of that podcast).  I mean, I think the HP series has some faults and I'm more than happy to discuss those faults (consider the awesomeness of the Witch, Please podcast that critiques the series through a feminist lens), but this guy had a grudge against the series and I found myself on the defensive, instead of reexamining my preconceived notions with some thoughtful and close reading.

At some point, someone who is also a Harry Potter fan told me I should revisit this podcast, so I skipped the first book and listened to the second book.  I thought it was better, but still thought it was a superficial critique of a beloved classic. By the time he got to the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, though, I thought he had chosen better guests (loyal Rowling-ites) and they started to push back on the main host's ridiculous and unfounded denunciation of Rowling's writing and characterization. I actually found myself occasionally nodding my head in agreement with some of his statements, so I think we're getting somewhere with this podcast. I have hopes that the next book will be even better.

And those are the binge-worthy notables, my friends.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Summer in the City

I can't say that summer is my favorite. I love many things about it. I have a flexible schedule. I get to wear sandals. I can go for walks outside after dinner and it's still sunny. Popsicles are a thing.  The produce will never be better.  There's regular Farmers' Markets and concerts in the park.  I like these things.

I don't always love the constant application of sunscreen and bug spray that lead me to taking two or three showers a day. The heat and humidity mean I have to take that walk after dinner because I'm too miserable during the day to move. I lack the willpower to work out.  I don't actually like swimming or the water.  I don't like the constant need to mow the lawn and wash the car windows of bug carcasses.

And what I like least about summer is my skin.

I was a lucky teenager. I had pimples, but it wasn't terrible. I don't have scars from acne, emotional or physical.  Until I was in my early twenties, I didn't give much thought to my skin at all.

And then something happened. I got these dry patches on my upper arms and, no matter how much lotion I used, they wouldn't go away.

And then I had a blistery rash on my hand - out of nowhere - and the blisters popped open and wouldn't heal. They kind of healed and the blisters came out  again and repeated the entire process all over again.

The first time I went to the doctor about it, it was more than ten years ago.

These blisters on my hands and upper arms are exacerbated by heat, stress, rubbing, water, and many chemicals. It's advised I keep the areas affected by this eczema cool and dry.  Now, I work in an institutional setting and come in contact with hundreds of people a day. I wash my hands approximately a million times a day.  I can't keep my hands cool and dry.  Plus, I have to apply sunscreen and bug spray or  I can't live my life. I can't void my life of stress, particularly during the summer when stress is all I have to keep me going.

I suspect it's also exacerbated by other damage to my skin. So, let's say, hypothetically, that a dog bites me and I have a giant bruise and a couple of gashes on my leg. That's probably going to cause an outbreak in totally unrelated area of my skin.

My current dermatologist ratcheted up the levels of steroids I use on my hands, but he's hesitant to increase the level even more because of the side effects. In the meantime, I have had an outbreak on the heel of my right hand for months. Just as the blisters are healing and the skin is growing back, I get a new set of blisters. I'm beyond frustrated at this point because my hand is either covered in gauze and tape or a slimy mix of topical steroids and non-lye based soap.

I don't know why I'm writing this, actually. I just feel like this skin issue is a constant in my life. My youngest niece described me as "aunt D with the yucky hand" and that's just not how I want to be remembered.  I'm frustrated while being very grateful that this is the health issue I'm dealing with and not something more serious.

But if you run into me, please don't try to shake my hand. It's super awkward.
Template: Blog Designs by Sheila