Thursday, July 09, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Thes McSweeney's post on campus diversity centers is as delightfully satirical as you might expect. 
2. I know I keep comparing this pandemic to sex ed, but this Life Kit post looks at how the conversations about consent and boundaries that can help create healthy sexual relationships, are also applicable when deciding on who to social distance with.  Including discussing if those in your bubbles are seeing other people.  
3. The glass cliff is an idea that's been out there for a bit, but as a number of corporations confronted with their history of supporting and upholding racism look to diversify their staff and their leadership, it's fair to remember what we're asking folks to step into.  

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

"Hamilton" Linkery

I did the Disney thing so I could watch "Hamilton" this weekend.  I have very little new to say about it, although some of the theories going around on TikTok are blowing my mind.  
But here are my prior mentions of it for easy linkage:
The first time I saw "Hamilton" (and also "Fun Home" and yes I did just talk about both of them). 
The BroadwayCon "Hamilton" panel (and other panels form that day). 
The time I saw one of the touring casts of "Hamilton"
The Disney version has some muted language to get the PG13 rating.  It does still contain references to slavery, adultery, gun usage, and onstage deaths from both war and duels.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Reading Roundup - Second Quarter 2020

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is a story told in verse of a biracial and queer British kid trying to find himself.  It does contain some racism and homophobia directed at the character, but overall I found it a joyful journey as the main character found his way into the world.  
Leah Johnson's You Should See Me in a Crown was a delightful story of a girl entering into her prom obsessed town's elaborate prom process.  There is a forced outing, but I felt (other than the second hand embarrassment) the characters supported the lead through it.  Also smoochies with the new girl.  
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wisner is a story about Hollywood and the slowest of burns because gosh these characters are so delightfully confused by their feelings.  There is some workplace sexual harassment.  
He's Come Undone anthology has five buttoned up dudes being unraveled by feelings, so if that is your jam, you should likely have this.  
Rick by Alex Gino is a middle grade that I thoroughly enjoyed about figuring out that maybe your grandpa is like a cool person, and also that maybe the person you thought was your best friend isn't really the best friend for you.  
Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen is a story about being away from strict parents and the freedom and danger of all of that.  There is some revenge porn, along with some references to racist sports teams.  
We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Key Mejia is a second book in a duology.  It switches POV and I found the story of trying to live up the ideals you and your team have sacrificed so much to serve, really compelling.  Also there are smoochies. 
Brittney Morris' Slay was a fascinating look at gaming.  So many of the big gaming books (Warcross excepted) have dude, and often even white dude main characters.  So the idea of a gaming world created by a Black girl character for Black characters and what happens when the rest of the world finds out, was really fascinating.  Also, the game has a Mambo Sauce card.  
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is just great.  There are so many layers to the story of a Black woman working as a nanny to a white woman and the stories people tell about themselves and too themselves, and what happens when those are challenged.  Also, the children in there are delightfully rendered.  
Chemistry by Weike Wang is a book I tried to thank several people for recommending to me, and none of them claimed credit.  It is a story of a grad student trying to figure out her life using logic and logic is failing because human nature is not always logical.  She is kind of a mess, but I found it a fascinating journey.   

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This article focuses on "Survivor" but raises an interesting point.  Editing of reality shows can play into stereotypes.  And while "Big Brother" with the constantly available livestreams made it more explicit, a lot of reality shows seem to have decided not to air racist or homophobic slurs uttered by participants.  I totally agree with that stance.  But, editing it out can often lead to unexplained tension between contestants.  The targets of those slurs then look short with the contestant that uttered them, letting the viewers at home conclude that that contestant is mean.  Reality shows need to take a hard look at how they are allowing bullying, because tension makes for good TV.  I know "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" have let awful instances of bullying slide and hope the teams behind all these shows take an interest in changing that going forward.  Diversifying the production teams would definitely be a start. 
2. This parody of studio notes on a rom-com in the age of Corona, was amusing. 
3. This article focuses on protests, but has larger applications.  When covering issues and areas where we know oppressive structures are in play, shining a spotlight carries with it a risk of harm. We've seen this in book coverage where using screencaps of a Twitter conversation led to vicious harassment.  Twitter is public of course.  But articles about changes being made to books, as an example, are written to bring book news to a larger population. There are ways to cover these discussions more responsibly.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

Incremental Steps

I think often of Yarn Harlot (who I know has a name - Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) saying that she had no trouble imagining knitters as great fundraisers, because knitters and other yarn peeps engage in a craft where you intentionally set out to make something piece by piece, stitch by stitch, so the idea of small donations adding up to something huge is not much of a mental adjustment. Similarly activist Miriame Kaba often says, "Hope is a discipline."  
So on Friday I tuned into C-Span to watch the historic passage of HR51 through the House of Representatives.  It would shrink the official federal enclave to basically be some grass and some federal buildings, and make the rest of what is collectively referred to as DC a state.  
Oh, and if you are here to tell me that this is against the Constitution - a - it's not, and b, I don't care. The Constitution doesn't say citizens in DC shouldn't have rights, but it also was written with the assumption that a lot of people, including people who looked and were shaped like me, wouldn't need rights.  
It is possible that this bill will also pass the Senate and for the first time since DC was organized in 1801, the citizens within it would have rights.  (Note: Of course, when they shrunk DC in 1846, so a slave port in Alexandria could remain active while they banned slave trade in DC (but only DC in 1850) those citizens got rights back.  Weird.  No one minded then.  Oh wait, just some citizens.  That's probably why.)  
Or it may not pass the Senate. We shall see.  But this remains a historic step towards where we ought to be.  So I will celebrate it.  

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Three Plus Three Interesting Things

Since I got distracted with new book things last week, let's double up this week.  
1. L. L. Mckinney talked about how some books by Black authors are getting less coverage because they aren't about trauma, and what that means.  (Also, I've seen a lot of folks lately saying some variation of I would love to read more books by Black authors, but I read mostly [insert genre] and there just aren't any.  I promise you there are.  There are not enough, but they already exist, you can already find them from picture books to sci-fi, to lit fic, to romance, to cozy mystery.  The more you read, the more you will find.  And also hopefully those sales (yours or the library's) will help convince folks in publishing to find even more for you.  
2. Captain Awkward is often great at helping people verbalize boundaries, so this post on talking to family about travel and gathering amid a pandemic is great.  
3. I was directed to this piece from last fall regarding Amber Guyger, about reconciling the need for justice when it comes to police officers who murder on and off the job and also recognizing that adding to the prison population doesn't provide justice. As we work towards a community that is set up to provide justice, the very least that can be done is for police officers using deadly force to be terminated and unable to work in fields charged with community care.  But more prisoners does not happen to be one of my goals.  
4. I talked about this on Twitter last night, but a random post led me to this post, where I discovered that in 1908 three Hawaiians showed up at the Wyoming Rodeo and kinda killed it.  (This is a promo post for the book, which I have not yet read.)    
5. NPR talked to Ijoema Olua about tips for having conversations with your parents (or other relative, especially elder ones) about race, and how to frame them.  
6. R. Eric Thomas pointed me to this delightful story about a woman whose husband didn't know she could cook until she decided to reveal her skills in quarantine.  

Monday, June 22, 2020

Live Read of "Cuttin' Up"

In these pandemic times, we are all figuring out how to do these things. I've been making use of lots of virtual backgrounds, so have discovered that virtual backgrounds can overtake your face and get very confused when you reach your hand towards the camera. 
Also you may have discovered that your friends have varying lighting situations where they video chat.
"Cutting Up" debuted at Arena Stage in 2005. The live read was a collaboration between Playbill and the Classical Theater of Harlem.
The cast for the read included Joe Morton, Blair Underwood, and Tisha Campbell. Special props to Tisha Campbell, who broke out a different top and hairstyle for each character she played. 
There was sound and video editing. As with movies and such, it is interesting to discover how distractable I am watching from my own couch.
So, the play. The play has not stayed in 2005. There are references to current events. The three main characters are male, the owner of the shop, his more experienced barber, and the newer younger barber. As a neighborhood barber shop, it experiences a lot of peeks at folks' lives, and the barbers also reminisce about different experiences. It reminded me in ways of "Jitney", where the play stayed in one place and snippets that formed these people's lives layered in. It's unclear to me how long it will stay up, but it is a theater like experience if that has been missing for you.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Undercover Bridesmaid

 I have a new book out today - sort of.  It's releasing on Kobo today, so if epub and/or Kobo is your jam, you can pick it up now. It releases at the rest of the sites next week so you can go hit preorder.  

Rafe has been using charm both in and out of work. Finding himself the only groomsman at a weather interrupted bachelor party isn't going to stop him from having fun. Felicia has made a living for herself helping out brides by posing as one of their bridesmaids. She's used to handling all sorts of unexpected hitches, but a solo groomsman who keeps showing up at all the bachelorette events is a new one for her. It doesn't matter if he's hot, Felicia's there to make the bride happy not herself. Not even if the bride decides a little matchmaking might make her happy.

1. This book is written to stand alone, but it is part of the City Complications series, so if you have read Aloha to You you will already know who Rafe's friend Seth is.  In fact, you will have met Rafe too.  

2. I don't always know exactly what inspired my stories, because my writer brain is often like a sticky ball, gathering up bits of things until it coalesces into something.  For this one I know.  I was listening to NPR's "Ask Me Another" and on that same show they had a woman who was for some time a professional bridesmaid, and a gentleman who had garnered internet fame for being the only member of his bachelor party. And I thought what if I stuck them together? 

3. It is a particularly odd thing to have a book that involves travel to three different cities, and a number of non-socially distant gatherings amid a moment where essentially none of these things are really possible.  I have friends trying to figure out if they should even get married right now. 

4. I have watched a lot of TV shows about animal rescue.  I myself have a cat from a shelter.  The people who dedicate some or all of their time to animal rescue, are wonderful people who do a lot of work, and see a lot.  This book contains many fictional dogs, who all survive and are happy.  Let's not tell my cat that I have now written more fictional dogs than cats, mmkay?

5. This book starts in New Orleans, a city that called to me so much the first time I visited.  I've been lucky enough to visit it several times since. With groups and on my own. 

6.  This book, in addition to DC and it's suburbs (because of course) also spends some time in New York City.  New York City and New Orleans have been hard hit by both the COVID 19 pandemic, and police brutality.  (DC also.)  Here's hoping the world that we build going forward is better on all fronts. 

7. There is a teeny Broadway reference in here.  Let me know if you spot it.  

Oh also, if you are playing Ripped Bodice Bingo, this works for I'm on a Boat and Secret Identity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Black Publishing Power Week

The folks at Amistad publishing have suggested that perhaps if everyone bought two books by Black authors this week, the bestseller lists might* reflect this, which would be very cool.
I am a big fan of buying books, so this fits into my kind of economic power demonstration, if you will. 
I certainly don't want to tell you what or how to buy books. Because honestly, if all that happens is a bunch of people have two new books to enjoy, well yay.
If book buying is not in your budget this week, you can get two from the library, or request two you think your library should add. 
Sales matter to authors whenever they happen. 
But if you were looking for recently released books to take a look at, here are a few of my suggestions:
I'm put them all in a Bookshop list for easy ordering. If you prefer audio, may I suggest libro fm. Obviously you do you, but these options let you support local bookstores, so it's like a double win. If the bookstores near you are awful, I am fans of mine, including Loyalty Books.
I have not read all of these.  Some of them are still patiently waiting in my TBR, or made it into my cart this week. And obviously, this is just a starting point.  There are so many more great books out there.  

*There's a lot of factors that go into bestseller lists, most notably the NYT is open about the fact that sales is only one factor, and opaque about the other factors.  The USA and other lists are a little clearer about their methodology.  



Monday, June 15, 2020

Let's Talk About Privilege and Police

I had a friend who lived in Riverdale, right near the College Park border.  I had a car at the time, and she didn't, so much of our hanging out was me driving to her.  When I read this story, it sounded familiar. (Please feel free to read that whole thing and then come back.  I'll wait.)  My friend and I witnessed anywhere from three to six police cars showing up for what looked to us like traffic stops. We saw teams of officers gathered around handcuffed folks in parking lots.  I had a co-worker who talked about being pulled over late one night - and due to the at least two cops must be present rule - she and her friends had to sit in the car, cold and tired, waiting for another car to pull up.  (Interestingly I was pulled over in that same county by a solo police officer.  I am not doubting the rule.  I am saying that rules get bent at police officer's discretion all the time.)  
As I tried to list for myself the number of times I've been pulled over by police, I realized, other than a few sobriety checks, none of them involved multiple police cars.  Not one.  I've been pulled over in DC, at National Airport in Virginia, and in at least three counties in Maryland, including PG County.  And the reality is, I'm white presenting, I for a while drove a Volvo, often, I basically looked - as much as possible - like the most non-threatening kind of driver.  I also had no visible queer or queer ally paraphernalia.  
I'm focused on being pulled over as a driver, since that is my primary experience with police.  It wasn't until recently that I realized how much my own personal police interaction went down when I gave up my car.  
But again, I'm white presenting, I'm female, I look like I belong in most neighborhoods.  But I think one of the things that is true for anyone that has been pulled over, it is inherently nerve wracking.  I generally don't worry that I won't survive police encounters.  I do know that any police encounter can cost me money, time, or both.  Now, you can say, Tara, not if you aren't doing anything wrong.  And well, therein lies the question.  What actually counts as wrong?  I was once pulled over because the light over my license plate was out.  I personally, regularly checked my head and tail lights, but had not checked the light over the license plate.  Technically Maryland law does not require me to have a license plate light, only to make sure my license plate is visible.  So essentially, I was pulled over for something that was not illegal, because the police officer decided it was suspicious, and he wanted me stationary while he called in to make sure nothing additionally suspicious popped.  
Fortunately for me, I was headed home and had time to spare.  I left that encounter with no work order, and no ticket because I had literally done nothing wrong.  And we accept that as normal.  Same with sobriety checks.  We have accepted that at any given moment, an armed officer can stop and check in to decide if my behavior is in compliance.  
I could keep sharing stories of my own police encounters, but it isn't the point.  It doesn't matter that I survived all of mine.  I mean it does, because, yes, preferred outcome. It doesn't matter because surviving police interaction should not be a privilege.  
I also want to express, I don't think this is the fault of individual police officers. Some of them, sure.  But it is a broken system.  We have established a system where police are expected to be first responders for mental health, for homelessness, they are expected to interfere with people in order to prevent crime before it happens.  The only way to do that is to regularly infringe on the very citizens they are charged with protecting.  Police officers are in schools, they sit in stores, they are there to be threatening.  
We can keep layering in new policies to try and fix this, or we could accept that we built a bad system.   It wouldn't even require starting over.  Here in DC we have violence interruption programs, we have mental health services, we have programs that address homelessness, addiction, and sex work, and we have an alternative justice program.  Investing more in any and all of these programs, along with others to support housing and education would solve many of the things we currently rely on police to do.  We have ways to make life in the city better for everyone. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. As someone who had found some joy in the Bon Appetit channel, I have been watching this reckoning as employees who have been trying to fix things from within have finally made their issues public.  This look at the culture that marginalizes what appear to the audience to be some of its core creators, as well as discounting those working behind the scenes is, well, interesting. I hope the public reckoning allows for some lasting change. 
2. This frank conversation between two Black YA authors about the state of kidlit is fascinating. I was lucky enough that in high school we read one book that contained Black characters that was not about slavery or a miscarriage of criminal justice.  It is a shame that that is still not the case for so many.  
3. This booklist has some great suggestions for YA for Pride month.  

Monday, June 08, 2020

Welcome, There is Work to Do

I have been grappling with the notion that we all come to these moments in our own time balanced with, we are behind schedule and we cannot wait for everyone to finish the reading. 
This week local restaurants started putting up names of victims of police violence on their windowa. Names of folks like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This week the mayor painted "Black Lives Matter" on the street where I live, and changed a street sign to Black Lives Matter Way. 
These are all great public statements of support. I am entirely aware that these recent cases of police violence are what has galvanized this current moment, and I absolutely want justice for all of these victims. 
But I also want that for folks here, in this city. I am well aware that our same mayor imposed a curfew that was then used as an excuse for local police to chase and pepper spray protestors. I am aware that both the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police Department, the Park Police Department, and the Metro Transit Police Department have shot and killed people who have not received justice. 
I know that when one puts together a poster of prominent names, that you lean towards the ones that have the widest appeal. 
But I confess, I worry. I worry that it's easy to think, gosh things in Minneapolis are bad, but not here. That it's easy for restaurants to publicly support something that doesn't directly challenge and law enforcement likely to walk by their restaurant. 
It's easy for the mayor to paint a road near the White House, and still demand huge parts of our city's budget for police so they can buy more riot gear and pepper spray. 
But hey. Being cynical is bad. I'm sure all these folks here in DC are reading up and will want to demand justice for Jeffrey Price, D'Quan Young, Marqueese Alston, Terence Sterling, and others. Justice is not a one size fits all answer.  Sometimes it comes in the form of arrest and prosecution. Sometimes it is better funding for policies that allow for restorative justive, or the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers.  None of these options bring back people whose lives are lost.  None of these policies will take away the pain of those families. But they are perhaps ways we can limit the number of families that join their number.  
In a week where a number of corporations emailed me to let me know they were aware that racism is a problem and they are looking into how they participate, it is easy to dismiss these notes as performative.  They are performative, if they aren't followed by action.  But it is a moment worth noting.  If corporation X has decided they need to tell me they are against racism, then they have provided an opportunity for me to follow up with them and make sure they are living up to that, to challenge them about times I know they have fallen short.  
So, if you cheered for the painting of "Black Lives Matter" on the street but don't know the names of the victims of police violence where you live, welcome.  There is work to do.  

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. The 9:30 Club is forty years old, and this reminiscence of the original space where I saw many bands that no longer exist made me super nostalgic. It's so hard to explain to folks who only know the new space that there are bands I saw only in glimpses, because if it was packed, you might be pushed back behind the doorframe.
2. I think this post from a neighbor on Swann Street who witnessed much of the action Monday night about trying to explain it to her kid is interesting to read alongside this chat with the author of The End of Policing. Because the idea of who do you call if the people causing the violence on your street are police is something some people have only recently had to confront. But expecting police to solve mental health, homelessness, prevent, and solve crime is really too much too expect.   
3. I have been slowly doling out Meg Cabot's Corona Princess Diaries as a treat to myself.  (I'm still behind, so I assume they are still continuing.  Don't tell me.) Anyway I got to the protestor with the "Let My People Golf" sign which is such a delightful distillation of how privilege folks have been treating virus restrictions.  Scroll back to the beginning and read them all, is my suggestion.  

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Ripped Bodice Bingo

Ripped Bodice has debuted this summer's bingo card
Here are some books I have already read that would fit the qualifications: 
There was only one bed: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik
I am on a boat: Nothing to Fear by Juno Rushdan
Set on an island - He's Come Undone - Adriana Herrera's story here is primarily on an island
Suffragettes - Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole, The Sufragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
Secret Identity - See also Nothing to Fear, Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Title is a pun - Unsung Heroine by Sarah Kuhn (see, there's karaoke.  That's punny.)  
Healthcare professional - See also He's Come Undone - Ruby Lang's story has a healthcare professional
The Final Frontier: See also Chaos Reigning
Cover has a large piece of jewelery on it: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Ice Cream - Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

7 Things: Rubber Bullets

1. Rubber bullets, also called baton rounds, are not made of rubber.  
2. The rubber (usually not rubber these days) refers to the plastic bouncy coating surrounding the object.  
3. They can cause bruising, permanent blindness, injuries to internal organs, broken bones, and/or death.
4. In theory they are designed to be aimed at the thigh, since that's a fleshy part of the body to minimize damage.
5. Their bouncy coating makes them lose velocity quicker than other projectiles.
6. This of course also makes them harder to aim.
7. It's also really hard to aim when you fire them into a crowd.    

Monday, June 01, 2020

7 Things About Pepper Spray


1. Pepper spray is a weapons grade chemical agent. Pepper spray comes in multiple strengths, but what determines that strength is not regulated. It is designed to inflame any mucous membranes, so eyes, nose, throat, lungs. It generally causes burning, wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath. It can also cause bluish discoloration of the skin. If any of these also sound like the symptoms you have been told to watch out for with COVID 19, you are correct. It was terrible before we had a pandemic. It is especially terrible within one.
2. Repeated exposure can change your corneas.
3. If you have asthma, take certain medications (no I have not been able to find a clear list) or are otherwise experiencing breathing issues, the additional information caused by pepper spray can be lethal. Pepper spray has also been found to cause cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurological toxicity.
Because it is based on a plant, it also possible for someone to be allergic to it.
4. When pepper spray or pepper balls are released into a public area, there is no way to contain the spray, or be certain no one there has a pre-existing condition.
5. When pepper spray is deployed by law enforcement they often use large amounts designed to target a large area. They train on being pepper sprayed because most of their methods are so widespread they know they will also be sprayed. Also, studies have shown that police often employ racial bias (which yes, is a fancy way to say racism) in determining who to spray.
Also, pepper spray - though often the balls or pellets used to deploy it, damages nearby buildings.
6. Pepper spray cannot be rinsed off. It cannot be removed from the respiratory system.
7. Pepper spray is banned for use in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is currently only legal for use on your own citizens in the US. Oh and bears. It is legal to use on bears. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This story from a bookstore in Massachusetts reflected some of what I've heard from local small business people.  Yes, they miss customers.  Folks browsing are far more likely to come across something they didn't know they needed.  But keeping customers and employees safe is a tough proposition right now.  
2. This Steve Buscemi profile was fascinating.  
3. Silvana has a wonderful post about flower folk in romance, a subject dear to my heart.  
Also, a reminder that I wrote about tear gas being a weapon not allowed in war, and other things here.  Tear gas blankets the area.  It seeps inside homes.  And well, during a pandemic where a larger than normal portion of the population is having trouble breathing, it is especially cruel. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Let's Talk About Mental Health Days

I was talking to someone recently who had been advised to use up some of their accrued vacation time in the next few months.  Since I've been working a freelance life of late, let me tell you I totally understand that it can be very hard to take a day when there is always stuff to be done.  I wrote this post on a weekend which tells you how good I am at following my own advice. 

And for many of us who have bought into the work more, get more, because we only rest when we're old mentality, the thing that got you away from your desk was the prospect of going somewhere new.  Going to a new city, or just somewhere new in town, but something you couldn't do sitting at home.  In places where stay/shelter/whatever we are calling it orders are in place, it seems silly to say, hey I need a day where I can sit in essentially the same place I'm sitting now, staring at the same four walls I'm staring at now.  

You still need it.  And probably not just for a day, probably two or three, or maybe even a week.  I have essential workers in my life, and they are still taking vacation days, even if they can't travel to where they had hoped to travel. 

You may feel super privileged to be doing your job at home.  You may have lost your job or been furloughed.  You still need breaks.  Even if the break is from applying for jobs. 

While culturally we have accepted the idea of mental health days, I think we tend to think a few things about them.  You should only need one.  And you should probably only need it if things are really bad for you. 

Partially this is tied in with our thinking about mental health which is not great.  But also, hi, things are really bad.  I know sometimes we are asked to look at the bright side, to be grateful for all the things we do have. And hey, if your job and your health, and your loved ones are all doing great, then yes, things are good.  But, that doesn't mean your life has not been altered by this global event.  It doesn't mean that things aren't hard.  And it really, truly doesn't mean that you never get to have a day off that isn't a regularly occurring weekend or holiday (assuming that's how your job is structured.) 

To quote an ad slogan, you deserve a break.  Even if it means you sit in the same chair and talk to the same people you've talked to, you deserve a break from emails, or phone calls, or video calls.  Take the time.  Not to make the corporate overlords happy that you aren't hoarding vacation time.  Take the time because the corporate overlords gave you this time to make you a more productive human.  They didn't do it to be nice.  They did it because employees who burnout are less useful to them. 

And speaking as your pocket friend*, burned out pocket friends are less fun.  So do it for you, for them, and for me. 

*pocket friends are friends you know through the internet and therefore they are friends who live in your pocket, since many internet devices are pocket sized. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This short piece by writer Camryn Garrett takes a look at how social media has allowed us to feel connected in this time of  increased disconnection. 
2. This Eater piece, after a mouth-watering recitation of links to support it's premise, talks about how the latest food controversy represents an ongoing tension, as food becomes globalized, who gets to be the face of such food.
3. I confess, I have limited flour loyalties, but this is a lovely look at what things have been like for the folks at King Arthur as people turn to baking to find some comfort in the world.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Let's Talk About the Mannequins

I feel like sometimes as devout consumers of pop culture, we are constantly on alert for signs we might have slipped into an alternate world, being the one person who spots when we have gone too far.  Partly this is just human nature.  Constantly adjusting our sense of normal.  A decade ago finding out major news via the internet seemed impersonal, now it seems expedient.  
So, the internet chuckled greatly at the news that a DC area restaurant has a plan involving mannequins.  
Before we dive in, some notes.  DC and with various variations the surrounding areas are still in stay at home mode.  But obviously, restaurants cannot survive on takeout, and in fact some restaurants are of course quite honestly offering you an experience.  Some restaurants you aren't paying for the food, no matter how delightful, you are paying for tablecloths, napkins, a person to leap forward and refill your water glass before you even begin to get it half empty, mood lighting, and the chance to perhaps witness anything from a proposal to a dramatic breakup. 
This isn't to say I don't have elaborate fantasies about being about to go to a pizza joint again. I do.  But the experience of pizza travels back to my living room pretty well.  I am never going to be upsold to the wine pairing for my multi-course menu via takeout.  
So the point of this is that regardless of your feelings about mannequins, I don't begrudge any restaurant their attempts to imagine what a partially open dining room might look like.  And that includes the ones that fold up and decide to go do something else for a while.  
But, the mannequins.  Virginia, where the restaurant in question is located, has enacted a multi-phase opening plan.  As such, when indoor seating opens back up, restaurants will only be able to open 50% of their seating.  (This is where I note that according to one interview I saw, restaurants generally aim for 80% occupancy to guarantee profitability.  So, yeah.)  Filling tables that are not available to patrons with mannequins is smart. Not because your other guests will be fooled into thinking oh those just look like real people.  But the reality is you know at least one set of patrons is going to ask to change their table.  Restaurant seating is kind of a logic puzzle anyway, trying to get things to turn over steadily but staggered, to keep staff able to provide great service.  Moving one table over in normal times can throw things off.  When there's a pandemic requiring differently spaced seating, one table move can actually create a danger.  
So, having the mannequins in the tables makes it clear.  This table is taken.  I'm sure someone will ask anyway, but it gives the staff a better answer than no, I have to keep that table open.  Now they can tell them it's occupied.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

Goodbye My Friend

 As best I can recall, I met Chantell about twenty years ago.  We were working in a call center in Silver Spring.  We were on different teams, but then a third team had a huge event that spiked their call volume through the roof and suddenly all of us were taking calls for that.  At the time, when Chantell left for the day, she went to a second job where she handled a late night shift at another call center.  Even at the time the idea exhausted me.  I was impressed that she managed to ever be a functional human being in that situation. 

Call center life is tough.  Lots of folks cycled in and out.  Eventually I moved into a role where taking two hundred calls a day would be unheard of.  Chantell lasted longer than I did in the call center, although we ended up reunited on a client team later where we worked together for several years.  After that team was eliminated I moved into a different role and Chantell moved to a different company where some of our other co-workers had gone.  

We talked about TV shows, roommates, and religion. Our faiths were different and yet the questions she asked were respectful and came from a place of genuine interest. 

Chantell and I joked about having fake kids, when co workers wanted to leave early when there was bad weather.  (To be clear, we were both in favor of folks being safe. We just had some coworkers who were pretty sure we should hold down the fort while they went home.) 

She never showed up at the unofficial workplace reunions we put together to gather folks up.  So most of our contact after that was through social media.  She was quiet at work, and she wasn't a big believer in being nice to people just for the sake of being nice.  Polite yes, nice no.  She had a wonderful sense of humor and an incredible moral center.  

Chantell passed away last week as a result of COVID 19.  Chantell had moved back to New Jersey to be closer to her family, so the logistics of attending her funeral would have been tough even in non-pandemic times.  I say this to remind myself I would have had to find closure without that anyway. But the world was brighter with her in it.  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Let's Go Steal a Podcast - The Queen's Gambit

In a failure to pay attention to days, I forgot to mention that I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" discussing "The Queen's Gambit" episode, aka the one with chess and Sterling.  Also, if you haven't been keeping up with the podcast, there's a disclaimer added at the start - with a content warning - with regards to the recent news about Timothy Hutton.  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Fuck the Bread, is as you might expect both a bit profane, and perhaps the thing you need to read.  
2. This piece on Hong Kong takes a look at a place where the governmental response to COVID-19 lagged, and the citizenry stepped in.  
3. "Center Stage" remains such a weird and wonderful movie, and this oral history is a lovely reflection.  

Monday, May 11, 2020

Nurture and Control

I was reminded this weekend of two things.  I listened to someone say that there is nothing like becoming a mother to convince you that you have both been handed an immense responsibility, and that also that control is an illusion.  Because I am a person of a certain age that reminded me of the scene in "Days of Thunder".  "Days of Thunder" is a movie that is theoretically about testosterone and car racing, and like a lot of other sports movies is about raw talent versus practice, putting the time in versus being naturally great, and oh yeah, by the way this thing could kill you. There is of course a very attractive neurosurgeon, and of course at one point she asks the racer why the hell do you like risking your brain to run a car in circles?  (I may be paraphrasing, but not by much.)  He says, oh well, it's so fun to control a thing that is out of control.  And she responds with a tirade I loved so much, I recorded on an index card and kept it in my file of amazing quotes.  (Yes, I was that person.  Look y'all, before tumblr, we had our own methodologies.)  
She says: 
Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what's gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.  
And it seems relevant to this moment.  I can wash my hands more, I can wear a mask.  None of this guarantees I won't get sick or infect others, but they are two things that are within my control to do, so I will keep doing them until we have a better plan.  
I've seen that there is evidence a lot of folks were really hanging on to that initial no groups for eight weeks, and figuring it would be back to the status quo by then.  The challenge, as someone who tries not to harsh people's mellow, is that I know some folks needed to believe that.  But here we are, still - where possible - needing to stay at home.  

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I think this interview with Val Kilmer falls into a trap of sorts.  The popular notion of Christian Science is essentially as presented, but as will all faiths there are variations in practice, and quite honestly, believing in being spiritually well to be better positioned to handle physical ailments is not a concept unique to Christian Science.  However, Kilmer's description of his faith is just as important as the specifics of the faith itself, and I do think this interview provides a fascinating look at that.  
2. In addition to some various virtual book fairs that have popped up to replace book tours, various fairs that are typical in person, are going virtual.  Gaithersburg is one such fair.  They are spreading the programming out over several weekends.  
3. This piece on Darren Kriss on how he recognizes that he doesn't read Asian to many people and how he has tried to navigate that was fascinating.  

Monday, May 04, 2020

Steal My Idea - Virtual Book Club

In fairness, it is not even technically my idea, but I feel empowered to allow you to steal it.  Yep.  
Let me provide an unnecessary amount of backstory.  I have always loved reading.  Books Clubs seemed like a natural fit.  And yet, so many of them wanted to read what looked to me like boring books.  (Boring is in the eye of the beholder, of course.)  So, I didn't.  We tried starting one at work.  We had like twenty people at the first meeting and four at the next.  (Many of you who have tried to put together groups are nodding your heads.)  When a work reorg took us down to three we tried to keep going. Except one of the folks consistently kept not reading the book by the deadline, refused to have a meeting where we talked about the book in front of her, and also got sad if we had the meeting without her.  So essentially she killed it.  
So, imagine my delight when I found a book club dedicated to reading YA.  And then later one dedicated to reading romance.  (Shout out to the other book club I accidentally joined for a bit that I won't name because I never told them I was there accidentally.  They read cool things too.)  I've done some online ones with mixed success.  I never could tell how much was that even if you read a lot, having some portion of your reading be assigned reading was tough, or if the online things are easier to forget because it seems like since there's no commute you don't have to plan.  
So, anyway, I recently discovered Silent Book Club.  The idea is that you gather at a place with drinks and/or snacks.  Chat.  Read silently but together for an hour.  And then you can chat a bit more after.  I was enjoying it.  But obviously, with places that serve drinks and snacks not allowing gatherings at the moment, it is tough.  
My in person book clubs have gone virtual, so I have seen people and chatted books.  But you know.  Sometimes you want more.  
So, what me and a few folks have done, is once a month, I send out an email reminder to gather up your snacks and drinks.  We read separately for an hour.  And then I send out the chat link.  (I've been using Hangouts, but like there are a trillion options - Discord, Skype, etc.) So if you have bookish friends you would like to chat with in these times but the idea of selecting a book that everyone agrees on is too much, this works well.    

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this piece by Joel Grey about the loss of live and in person theater in a time a crisis very moving.  
2. I caught up to the whole Subculture concert with Jason Robert Brown, but as the headline suggests, Ariana Grande singing "I'm Still Hurting" (from "The Last Five Years") is a particular highlight.  Links to both in article.  Also, I've heard a few singers from Cynthia Erivo to Anna Kendrick perform "I'm Still Hurting".  It's a mark of a great song that it suits a number of performers.  
3. A cat alerted it's owners to a smoking crockpot. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

It Sucks But Also Gets Better

One of the things about living is the repeated chance to re-evaulate experiences you lived through.  I talked with someone a while back about recognizing that watching the Anita Hill hearings before I even truly entered the work force had lingering effects.  My thoughts on the harassment she experienced have gained more nuance at the time, but regardless, it sent a message, that you can show up and lay your pain bear, and people will say, that sounds bad, but why shouldn't he get what he deserves.  
I've been slowly watching "Little Fires Everywhere" and the discussion of privilege, and should you feel bad if you've never faced hardship shows up in lots of ways.  
So, all of this is to say, I've lived through a few health crises now.  And I will tell you that yes, it sucks a lot.  It sucks if you are newly working from home, it sucks if you are working from home like always but with extra people, it sucks if you are trying to teach PE to kids via video conference, it sucks if your job disappears when there aren't people about, and it sucks if you are a health care worker, a package deliverer, a grocery store worker or any of the other folks still expected to show up while all their friends are like join our sixty two video conferences, we're drinking at noon!  
I remember seeing one video in response to the "It Gets Better" series from a kid saying, okay, cool, but telling me I have to make it to adulthood to get better is kinda depressing.  And the kid was right.  There are many many things wrong with our current world.  Crises make clear some of these things.  I think a lot about Lin-Manuel Miranda saying when he read up on Alexander Hamilton, he realized so many of these issues we struggle with today are baked into our country.  
So we have always been broken as a system.  Some of the ways we fixed it were good.  Some were not.  Some were meant to be stopgaps until a better idea came along.  We have the chance to push for some changes now, and some more later.  I can't promise we will get a better, fairer world out there.  I can't promise you won't know people who died who shouldn't have.  I can't promise that in another decade something won't happen that will make you want to scream, "We already talked about this, why haven't we fixed it?"  I can tell you, that those who tell you this is not the time to push for social and political change are wrong.  I can tell you to remember the lessons you have and are learning and carry that with you.  I can tell you that if that sounds utterly exhausting, I hear you, you can take a nap it's cool. 
My church used to have a minister who talked about marching in the streets all the time.  And she said once, I know marching in the streets isn't the only way to make a better world, it's just my way.  If your way involves adopting cats, that's cool too.  There are many ways, and many paths.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This op-ed by John Cho reminds us that this pandemic has had additional implications for Asian Americans about the conditionality of their acceptance.  Also, Hollaback and AAJC are doing a virtual training right now, on bystander intervention training with a focus on helping prevent anti-Asian bullying.  
2. This piece is about New York, but I think most city dwellers will find something here.  I never thought I would miss climbing onto a bus or metro so jammed we all had to think carefully about how we stood.  But I do.  I miss that doing that seemed normal. 
3. One college student made masks designed to help deaf and hard of hearing folks still read lips.  Note: This article autoplays a video. 
4. Bonus non-pandemic thing: I caught up to this article with author Beverly Jenkins, who continues to be delightful. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

7 Things: Chopped

I've been watching a lot of "Chopped" lately.  "Chopped" differs slightly from other cooking competitions in that the format is very unchangeable.  They have certainly done special episodes, but one of the challenges you find in some other cooking competitions is that a chef who watched 2-3 episodes to figure out what they were signing on for might see three challenges that end up being not applicable to their own experience.  Of course, it does mean that when "Chopped" does break format - like everything is breakfast, use chocolate in every dish, I have even less sympathy with the contestants. 

But I have - in addition to be a dude, which helps tremendously - https://theintersectionoffoodnetworkandgender.wordpress.com/about/ - I have come up with seven tips for contestants that my non-chef, just watching at home self has determined.  

1. If you nicked yourself get it taken care of. The chef who gets blood on the plate goes home. Seriously, they will have more sympathy for your dish being unfinished and not bloody, than they will for bloody.  There is more than one instance of a chef who did not think they were bleeding who got blood on the plate.  The clock is your enemy but inedible is inedible. 

2. Any meat you have or anything else you have that has a long cooking time, you will do better using small amounts and getting it fully cooked. Sure they might ding you for portions, but cooked correctly is going to work out better for you. The number of chefs who thing they can cook steak in thirty minutes and then forget that you have to factor in prep, in some cases butchering, marinating, and resting.  If you can't cook it in ten minutes, make a new plan.  

3. Taste it. In fairness, a lot of these boil down (lol) to time.  But if you haven't tasted all the things, then little things like two little or too much salt that you could have fixed will escape you.  And if they asked you if you tasted it and you have to say no, it's bad.  Not as bad as trying to pretend you meant to serve a salt lick. 

4. Count. You have four ingredients.  But limited time.  So, as you race to get the things you need for ingredients A and B and your station gets cluttered, it's so easy to misplace that little tiny bottle or just not see that bag of greens or whatever.  Count.  Make it part of your process so that you don't have that realization a minute after they called time.  

5. Don't be a dick. I know the chef world prizes arrogance and boldness.  I know the show is designed to constantly ask you why you think you're better than your competitors.  I know my personal wishes and desires as a person who does not hire and fire chefs, probably matters little.  But here's why I think you should avoid being a dick about it.  Because the editors at "Chopped" get to pick and choose clips after the show has been decided.  And sure, if you say things like, well, I was really proud of what I served but I'm up against some great competitors, you're right that they may never use that even if you end up the winner.  (Although the winner always gets to say the last few words.  Plus the winner gets money.)  But if you say, at least my dish didn't look like trash the way Susie's did, and you get cut that round, they are definitely using you saying that.  And you go out looking like a dick. 

6. If you make it to the dessert round, only one of you is going to have time to use the ice cream maker. Also, this isn't a real kitchen.  Even if your competitor makes it in and out in time, they aren't going to clean the ice cream maker.  You shouldn't ask.  And if you try to use it without cleaning, your results might end up gross.  Basically, I'm saying have a plan B that isn't ice cream.  

7. Putting a cold thing on a hot thing melts the cold thing. I know this seems self explanatory, but I have seen this come up multiple times. It's often a result of thinking of ingredients and not the whole plate. So if you baked something that you then want to put something cold on, you need to allow time for that baked thing to cool.  

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I personally had planned to see my stylist for my biannual cut this month.  This article about how Black women in particular may be adrift when the salons and many of the places that sell hair care products are closed was interesting.  
2. R. Eric Thomas' look at "A League of Their Own" through a pandemic lens is fascinating. 
3. Ruby Lang pointed me towards Epicurious' Cook With What You've Got site. As someone who just discovered a lingering cup of yellow peas in the back of the cupboard, this is exciting news.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Clear as Ice - #HockeyFiction Prompt Seventeen

Note: The top of this post has been updated to correct counting. Also, I do have plans to get the rest of this story out in the world. Newsletter subscribers will get the first update on when that will be.

Previous entries: 

Prompt one - which includes what's happening and a link to the person who started this idea, Prompt two, Prompt three, Prompt four, Prompt five, Prompt six, Prompt seven, Prompt eight, Prompt nine, Prompt ten, Prompt eleven, Prompt twelve, Prompt thirteen, Prompt fourteen, Prompt fifteen, Prompt sixteen.    

Today's prompt is playoffs.  

Al: What's your schedule like?

Sienna looked at the phone.  He had texted her last night when they made it to DC, so it wasn't an idle question. 

Sienna: Why? You gonna whisk me away somewhere? <winky smile>
The junior hockey league was getting ready for their finals - a time-crunched playoffs and finals all in four days.  Sienna had offered to go, but it turned out there were limited seats on the team bus.  Once she had realized the whole team plus coaching staff needed to travel by bus for nine hours together, well, Sienna was happy to watch their games on the livestream.  
With a lot of the stuff for KeKi running well, it meant Sienna's schedule had normalized for a bit.  Although it turned out paying attention to hockey was a real schedule eater. 

But did she have some free time to offer a certain goalie?  Perhaps she did. 

Al was stopping off to do a quick appearance at the children's hospital after doing the media gauntlet. 

Sienna: Way to brag.

Al: Lol.  Yeah, there's no way to be like, oh I have to go smile a children and not sound like you are bragging or lying.  At least not that I've found. 

Al: But seriously, you pick anywhere you want.  Preferably not too fancy, although I own suits. 

Sienna: So all the pressure is on me.  It's cool.  I'm used to this.  
Al: I believe in you.

Sienna felt a little fluttery something.  But he was joking of course.  Gosh.  Sienna was so used to being taken somewhere.  Her one Ex seemed to know people at all these places.  And well, yes, in retrospect, they were mostly women that he knew in all these places.  Sienna was more savvy now.  Knew plenty of people said things just to say them.  Getting caught up in thinking every single one was true was how you ended up sleeping on your brother's couch for a while.
But food.  Sienna wished there was some place she had been secretly dying to go.  She liked food, appreciated food, but didn't track the food scene, mostly just went where other people suggested.  She could ask people of course.  Raven or Marcus might know somewhere.  But she had the whole of the internet available to her. Besides both Raven and Marcus would have questions she didn't want to answer. 

But Kyran.  Kyran wouldn't.  Kyran worked as a concierge at the hotel where her brother worked.  When things had gotten a little tense with Sienna staying with her brother, Kyran had let her stay with him for a bit.

Sienna: Hey, Kyran - gimme a good restaurant.

Kyran: Gonna need more info.  Price range? Group size? Desired ambiance?

Sienna: Two people.  Not noisy but not like Valentine's Day.  And price is not no object, but less of a concern. 

Sienna had googled hockey player salaries.  Not because she wanted a piece of Al's money.  But well, it seemed once you were on a long term contract, you were doing okay.  And while this felt like a date, Sienna was not going to be the one who took a friendly dinner request and pushed it over the line into date territory all by herself.  Nope.

Besides she had a focus on business not dating rule.  If someone else broke it that was one thing.  But she wasn't going to go out there making it happen. 
Kyran helped her settle on something and Sienna made a reservation and texted Al all the details. 

Now she just had to figure out what to wear.  Fortunately she had tons of experience in crafting an image.  

Knit Night Loses a Knitter

I can't remember quite how long I've know Cristina.  The knit night at Looped is about nine years old, but over the years there have been regulars, irregulars, folks whose lives, jobs, kids, and/or school have caused them to cycle in and out. 

At some point Cristina and I figured out we were the same age.  I am a dedicated cat person.  She was a dog person who had also had cats, but been too sad to find another when her previous one passed away.  But then she took over a relative's and she shared the slow winning over process as the cat decided she might be an okay caretaker.  

The nature of knit nights are that I can remember talking jobs, and bad bosses, and taxes, and condoms with Cristina. She was firm in what she wanted in so many ways.  She went from knitting stockinette that she never quite finished (oh those seemingly easy projects) to amazing colorwork.

It is easy to assign battle terms to illness, as if the amount of fight in a person has some bearing in their eventual success.  Cristina said they considered her young and healthy when she came in (which, being the same age, I heartily approve of this framing).  

COVID-19 is a nasty germ.  Cristina was added to the death totals in Maryland this week.  Due to various social distancing policies, we obviously haven't done in person knit night for a few weeks now.  It's heartbreaking to think I won't ever get to see her in person again.  


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Clear as Ice - #HockeyFiction Prompt Sixteen

Note: The top of this post has been updated to correct the counting. Previous entries: 
Prompt one - which includes what's happening and a link to the person who started this idea, Prompt two, Prompt three, Prompt four, Prompt five, Prompt six, Prompt seven, Prompt eight, Prompt nine, Prompt ten, Prompt eleven, Prompt twelve, (day off in between), Prompt thirteen, Prompt fourteen, Prompt fifteen.   

Today's prompt is draft.  


Al waited until they were on the bus to the airport in Toronto before checking his phone.  Just as he'd hoped there was a text from Sienna. 

Sienna: Good game. 

Al: Thanks. 

Sienna: Are you on the plane? 

Al: Bus now, then plane. 

Sienna: Cool, text me when you're back in DC.

Al: Okay. 

He pocketed his phone.  Kunyk was looking at him.  "Texting your sister?" he asked.

Al frowned.  "What do you know about my sister?"

"So not her then.  Parents?" 

Spruce leaned over the back of his seat in front of them.  "What are we talking about?"

"Stop is texting someone very intently." 

"Really?" Spruce said.  "Who is it?  Is this why you're watching rom coms?" 

"Rom coms are great." Mulvenna leaned over the back of his seat, so now Al had three sets of eyes trained on him.  He'd honestly rather be back on the ice, if this was the grilling he'd get off of it.  

"I was just texting a friend that I'd be home later tonight." 

"Do you have friends that are not on this bus?" Mulvenna asked.

"Are you guys this lacking for entertainment that we are counting friends now?"  Al asked. 

"I was honestly just teasing you, dude," Kunyk said.  "You looked so serious that I thought for sure you were texting your agent or something.   But then you smiled and got all squirrelly when I asked you. But you can have secret friends if you want." 

"Tell me the secret," Spruce chanted. "Tell me the secret." 

"Has anyone got Nyquil?  Some sort of sleeping pill. Chloroform maybe," Al asked.

"Hey," said coach who Al hadn't seen walking down the aisle until just then, oops. "No drugging your fellow teammates." 

"So," Kunyk said, "other teammates are still on the table.  Yes."  He fistpumped.

"And I'm walking away so I have plausible deniability later," said Coach. 

They all snickered.  
"Are we gonna have time to play a game on the plane," Spruce asked.  "Or are you fogies all going to sleep." 

Mulvenna pillowed his hands under his cheek and made fake snoring sounds. 

"Boo," Spruce said. "I need new friends." 

"Hey," Kunyk said ruffling Spruce's hair.  "Just remember fogies wake up early and know how to charm hotel staff." 

"Ugh," Spruce said.  "I hate you.  It was bad enough I had Hrkac as my roommate all last year.  This year I was supposed to have some privacy."  Spruce had been drafted last year.  First year players often had to share a room on road trips.  This year he didn't.

"I don't know why you need privacy to dress up like a princess and sing Disney songs.  That seems like the kind of thing that would go over better in groups," Kunyk said.

"It's called cosplay, duh," Spruce said.  "And I do do it in groups.  But only with people who like respect the characters.  Not people who confuse Elsa and Merida." 

"Those are completely different characters," Al said. 

"I know!" Spruce said.  "But this dude," Spruce pointed to Kunyk, "saw a red wig, a bow and arrow and somehow thought that was an ice queen."  Spruce shook his head. 

"Wait, why is this about me all of a sudden. Does everyone even know there is a Disney princess named Merida?" 

Al and Mulvenna both nodded. 

As the team filed off the bus, Al could hear Kunyk going up and asking the other players.  Al was sure the other players were confused, but honestly, everyone had post game entertaining themselves while they travelled rituals. 

"How complex is your cosplay?" Al asked.  "And do you bring it to every trip?  Is that why your bag is so huge?" 

"We can't all be one suiters like you, Al," Mulvenna said. 

"Wait," Spruce said.  "You have one suit?  I thought for sure you at least had two identical suits." 

"I do," Al said.  "Trust me, all it takes is one spill to learn to bring a spare."
"Okay.  And no, I don't bring it to every game.  Kunyk busted into my room to do whatever when we were playing Chicago at the same time C2E2 was happening." 

"Wait it was?" Mulvenna asked.  "That wasn't this year, right?  I'm gonna be so bummed if that was this year." 

"It was, dude, sorry.  But if it coincides again, I'll let you know," Spruce said.  "Usually C2E2, New York, and Seattle, are the ones I keep an eye out for when we get the schedule.  A lot of the rest are in the off-season." 

Spruce and Mulvenna started talking favorite conventions and Al slipped his phone back out of his pocket to text Sienna.

Al: Getting on the plane now. 
He couldn't wait to get back to DC. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Clear as Ice - Hockey Fiction Prompt Fifteen

Previous entries: 
Hilariously, I am going back to counting by prompt. Note: Post has been edited to correct counting. 
Prompt one - which includes what's happening and a link to the person who started this idea, Prompt two, Prompt three, Prompt four, Prompt five, Prompt six, Prompt seven, Prompt eight, Prompt nine, Prompt ten, Prompt eleven, Prompt twelve, Prompt thirteen, Prompt fourteen.   

Al and Mulvenna both suited up for practice even though the plan was for Al to play tonight.  Since two goalies had to suit up, it was easier for the goalie coach to run them both through a quick routine on one side of the ice, while the folks shooting pucks stuck to the other side.  It was more workout than practice, since the game itself would provide all the practice. 

After the players all showered and were reminded what time they needed to be at the stadium for the game and were sent on their way. 

"So," Spruce said, "I found like the best place to have lunch. We should all go." 

Al knew the we was really just Kunyk and Mulvenna.  Spruce would and had likely already texted the whole team about this place, but the players tended to stick to their sub groups on the road.  
Mulvenna was right behind them and nodded when Al looked.  "Did you already text Kunyk?' he asked.

They turned the corner in the hallway and Kunyk was standing right there, looking like a freaking hockey poster. 

"I did," Spruce said. 

"I'm so hungry," Kunyk said. 

"Did you skip breakfast?"  Mulvenna asked. 

They walked outside.  "Are we walking or driving?" Al asked. 

"We can walk."  Spruce said leading the way. 

The restaurant Spruce had picked looked kind of like a sports bar.  It was a good sign.  Spruce sometimes went a little more esoteric with his picks.  Nothing he'd ever selected had been terrible, other than the one place that turned out to only do raw food.  They had all gotten a snack after that.  The challenge was often finding something that was open, near enough to the stadium that they didn't have to worry about being too far away, but offering a wider selection than if they had just gone back to the hotel to eat. 

They ate enough hotel food anyway.  After tonight's game, they were going to check in at the next stop too late to have any other options.  

After they made their orders, Kunyk and Spruce started sharing pictures they had taken with the team dog.  Al looked over at Mulvenna.  "I listened to that podcast.  Just two episodes though.  Not gonna make a habit of it, but you were right, it's pretty cool." 

"Did you listen to my appearance?"

"I did.  And well, I already knew you talked to your goal posts, but man dd you have to tell like everybody about that?" 

"You talk to your goal posts?" Spruce asked. 

"Oh," Kunyk said, "that's not even close to the weirdest goalie thing I've ever heard."

"Well," Mulvenna said, "I'm so glad that's what we're going to talk about today, and not say, weird habits of forwards and defensemen." 

"What's the weirdest goalie thing you've heard?  Was it the guy who puked before every game?"  Spruce asked. 

"No, although that one's odd too.  Why make yourself feel gross right before a game?," Kunyk said.  "But it's gotta be-" 

"Here's your orders, gentleman," the waitress said, quickly sliding plates in front of each of them.

"Sorry, man," Al said quietly to Mulvenna.  Raising his voice so the other guys could hear, he said, "Of course I heard there was this one hockey player who liked to eat raw food before every game." 

"Oh come on, now," Spruce said.  "I apologized for that one.  I thought it was like the next level up from farm to table.  Or like sushi or something, where some things are raw.  I really didn't think they were going to give us like a plate of veggies and juice." 

"How did we start talking about this anyway?"  Kunyk asked. 

Al was fully able to take the blame when something was actually his fault, despite some people's thoughts about goalies.  "Mulvenna was on a podcast, and he mentioned talking to his posts." 

"Thanks for clarifying that," Mulvenna said.  "Who watched a good movie last night?" 

"I did.  I watched 'Then and Now'," Al said. 

"You and your chick flicks," Kunyk said. 

"It's pretty funny,"  Al said.  "There's this one part where-"
"Nope!"  Mulvenna held his hand near Al's face.  "No reenactments in the restaurant.  We all remember what happened in Boston." 

Al nodded.  "Fine, but it was funny.  You all should watch it." 

It was only as they left the restaurant, he heard Spruce lean over and ask Kunyk, "Okay, but what did happen in Boston?"  

What Social Distancing and Sex Ed Have In Common

Social distancing is like Abstinence Only Education.  Hear me out.  So, in much abstinence only sex ed, the instructor shows up, says don't have sex until your married, and then blathers on about how violating this rule makes you bad and worthless. 

So the folks in the audience who have children and are not married tune out. 

The folks in the audience who are already having sex tune out.

The folks in the audience who can't imagine a scenario in which they would ever want to get married tune out. 

Sure there are folks who keep listening.  And some of them think, okay cool, I just won't have sex until I get married.  And they don't ever engage in any sexual behavior until they get married. 

Some of the folks still listening think, okay, I'll just skip sex, but surely they meant like married sex, right?  So that's like a penis and a vagina together.  There's tons of stuff I can do that's not that.  No worries.

And I feel like we have arrive at this approximate place with social distancing.  Some people are healthcare workers, construction workers, food workers, pharmacy workers, grocery store workers, security guards, landscapers, bus drivers, first responders, taxi driver, and other essential employees, and so they are still going to work. Some of them have been given PPE and some have not. 

Some people have a job that is either currently cancelled, has transitioned to work from home, or was always work from home.  Some of those people have fridges and pantries large enough that they can go weeks without leaving. 

And they are either staying entirely inside, or going out with face coverings, exercising social distancing as they do so. 

Some people have kids or dogs or tiny spaces that don't let them keep several weeks of food stored up.  They are used to going outside every single day, multiple times.  So going out once or twice a day, feels like a huge adjustment already.  

Some people don't have homes, and while my city's current stay at home please order encourages you not to be homeless, I could hardly blame someone for deciding even now, especially now, that the street is safer than a shelter, where social distancing is near impossible.  (See also, jails.)  

And some people hate rules, and so they are going to do what they want to do, and if some stupid germ comes for them, so be it. 

It isn't even that last group that's the most dangerous.  They may be out there, mask and glove free, touching all the things and still spitting in the street, but they are clear dangers.  As with so many things, the person who thinks they are social distancing well, and yet continues to go out and touch all the shiny things outside, they are, in my humble opinion, the one who's gonna be the big infection vector. 

In the sex positive sex ed class that I teach we do an exercise with candies.  Everyone gets a bag with an randomly assigned batch of candies and they can go and trade with their classmates or not.  When we did this with adults in the training, one of the adults decided not to share with anyone.  A couple of us went wild, sharing with anyone who asked. 

At the end, we were told which colors represented disease, which represented condoms (ie PPE for sex), and which meant nothing.  It's a silly exercise, and a great excuse to get the whole class hopped up on sugar.  But in the end the idea is that the people who look just like your friends may be sick and not know it.  They didn't mean to infect you.  But the interactions you engage in without protection are the ones that don't only have risk to you. 

And yes, there is a PPE shortage in this country, and medical professionals do not have enough.  Do not use medical grade PPE unless you have been assigned it by your job or your medical professional. 

But we have to think not only about our risk, but that of others.  Maintaining equilibrium with those beings inside your house is important too.  I am not trying to take that away, especially as we face what looks like a longer bout of this. 

But so far we've been given a lot of don't go out unless it's essential.  And it seems, based on my recent trip to get some food, folks definitions of essential is where we are seeing a lot of variance.  

Friday, April 10, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I have become the person who has now made self isolation bread a time or two.  (I have kim chi.  If you have kim chi and bread, may I recommend kim chi toast?)  So this list of recipes using less staples was interesting.
2. I don't have children and have absolutely worked with folks who thought my childless state meant they should get more work accomodations than I.  Interestingly, when my old job made us all telelcommuters, it was a number of the parents who were like, crap, this looked like it was gonna be easier.  And schools were open at that point.  So, this Ask a Manager post about what is reasonable to expect of an employee who is also now tending to a child in their house is spot on. 
3. If there has been more or any Zoom in your life, Nerdist has compiled many of the great Zoom backgrounds. As folks have pointed out, not only are virtual backgrounds fun, it can also let folks who might be crammed into a closet while the other folks in their house try to get some work done worry less about what their actual background looks like when some of the folks on the call are in a screened in porch overlooking a beach. 

Monday, April 06, 2020

Clear as Ice - #HockeyFiction Prompt Fourteen

Today's prompt is offsides.  

Note: The top of this post has been edited to reflect counting by prompts. Previous entries: Prompt one - which includes the what and who, prompt two, prompt three, prompt four, prompt five, prompt six, prompt seven, prompt eight, prompt nine, prompt ten, prompt eleven, prompt twelve, prompt thirteen.     


Sienna did not get a call inviting her to go watch the Domes game against the Oaks.  It took her until the day of the game to realize that's what had been itching at her.  It was funny.  A month ago she wouldn't have cared, wouldn't have even known there was a game.  But having been invited to three, it had started to feel like a thing that would just automatically happen. 

She could buy a ticket of course.  She checked online, and there were still tickets available.  But maybe she would just watch it at home, the way she had for the away games. 

She and Jay had met up at the coffee shop again and Raven had sent her home with a bunch of brownies.  There were never brownies at the hockey arena so this was fine.  She had grabbed takeout from a nearby Vietnamese place. 

And she settled in with the game streaming, she kept her phone up.  She had joined a chat for the fans and folks on the podcast.  Her first appearance had gone well and they were having discussions about bringing her back on to do a regular feature. 

Someone had helpfully explained what offsides meant because the announcers for the game just told her it had necessitated a stoppage in play and a face off. 

SiennaClear:  Appreciate it folks, I'm learning.  Slowly but surely. 

The Oaks scored and there was a bunch of ughs and boos let loose in the chat. 

NumberOneDomeFan:  Mulvenna sucks.  They should put Stop in. 

ATMPMod1:  Hey, folks, just a reminder that we all love the Domes, but we want to critique specific player behavior on the ice, not make blanket statements. 

There was more mumbling with folks declaring their love for Stop or Al or Tseu.  Hockey players went by so many names, Sienna often found it was like reading a regency historical novel where the duke character would have a first name, a last name, a title, and different people called them some variation of each of those names. 

Actually, that was a great idea for a KeKi post.  Sienna grabbed a notebook.  Everyone had lots of names, personas, especially folks who existed on social media. 

There was something in the announcer's tones that made her look up at the screen again.  An Oak player skated across the ice, the Domes player behind him looking way to far behind.  The Oak player flicked his stick and Mulvenna dropped into a butterfly, but the red light behind him followed by the cheers of the Oaks players said it was too late.  Sienna watched the slo-mo replay. 

"Right through his five hole," the announcer said as the puck passed between the goalies skates while he was still dropping down. 

That had to be so hard, Sienna thought. 

Sienna thought about texting Al, but probably he didn't want to talk to anyone right now.  Sienna had caught herself scanning the shots of the bench, for glimpses of him. 

Sienna tugged her shirt and realized she had forgotten to put on her jersey.  She usually only wore it when she went to a game in person.  Of course that meant she'd worn it to the Blizzards game too.  But what could it hurt right?  And if it didn't work she just wouldn't ever tell anyone. 

She went over to the closet and grabbed the jersey sliding it on.  These things were so warm when you were sitting inside. 

Sienna check on the chat again. 

NumberOneDomesFan:  I told you that Mulvenna sucks.  They should put Stop in. 

There was more agreement this time. 

Keymaster: Folks, Stop gets a day on the bench like everyone else.  Heerema's a top ten scorer in the league this year for a reason. 

NumberOneDomesFan:  Hey Sienna, tell us the truth, you wore Stop out didn't you?
Sienna read it twice before the text disappeared before her eyes. 

Underneath a new message appeared.  
ATMPMod1: Okay folks, we've got a user on timeout.  Going forward, let's try to leave the penalties to the players. 

An alert appeared that she had gotten a private message.  "Hey, Sienna, we wanted you to know the user who commented on you has been moderated.  We apologize, that's not the environment we're trying to create here.  If there are additional concerns we can address, let us know." 

Sienna appreciated it.  She logged out of the chat anyway.  It was just too much.  Kunyk scored for the Domes next, and Sienna patted her jersey. In the end the Domes had a rocking third period and pulled ahead just before the buzzer.   

Jay had been right though.  Tangling with sports fans was a dangerous proposition.