Friday, September 25, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. As a proud owner of several Bailiwick Clothing Company items, I found this quick interview with the owner about the news that DC will be slowly adding an additional area code fascinating. 
2. The NFL has another currently unemployed player - Eric Reid - and it's hard to believe it's related to talent
3. This post about dating tips in the pandemic world was great. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

New Release - Hot Bartender

I have a new story out today, it's Hot Bartender. 
Louise's fast fingers and social media savvy have her spreading the story of a first date gone weird on social media.  But every story needs a good ending.  And Louise just told the world that she's dating the bartender now.
Except Louise doesn't really remember doing that. Oops. But he is nice. And hot.
Zane has been watching Louise have a series of first dates that all end with her chatting with him at the bar. Can he convince her he's just the change of pace she needs? 
-This story operates as a standalone, but Seth, Adriana, Rafe, and Felicia all make appearances (from Aloha to You, and Undercover Bridesmaid respectively.)
-It also includes, not necessarily in order, found friends, a this is of course temporary dating situation (spoiler, they might  be wrong about that), nosy parents, a pushy sister, and quite a bit of food discussion.    
-The opening chapter of this story was loosely inspired by actual events that took place in a bar in DC. The real life dude planned six dates.  I tried to do the math on that and found it odd, so I let truth be even stranger than fiction.  
-Hospitality is a huge industry in DC, and of course in current conditions it is being hammered.  It didn't seem like fantasy to write about a thriving bar scene when I first wrote it, and of course, we'll get back there.  In the interim, shout out to the folks trying to pivot in this new world and keep in contact with their customers.
-I did not intend to put two list making heroines back to back, but well, some people need lists for their jobs, and some people pretend lists make them organized.  Louise is a little more of the latter.    
-I had separately been researching Maryland's history as the Gretna Green of the mid-Atlantic.  I discovered that Maryland has now added a twenty four hour waiting period.  (Although there are still some B&B's on the border that invite you to just make it a special trip.)  And then I discovered the proxy filing process in DC and well, the writer brain was inspired.  
 
 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Imperfect But Workable

People say things like don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and mostly I ignore them. I don't disagree but I have never been much of a perfectionist. I am realizing that sometimes idealism gets you to the same place. So sure, some days the internet glitches and I can't do all the things I want to in the way I want to. And it's easy to be like well, I quit everything or everyone must suffer through my bad connection with me. And sometimes it means I will listen more than I talk (always a good thing to work on, I say as a big talker) and sometimes it means you do have to call it for the day, or move to voice, or use the chat function more.
This can be true of bigger life goals too. I think there are maybe only a handful of folks having the 2020 they had planned, but that doesn't mean no one is doing anything.
Plenty of things are happening and continuing to happen, this year. And yes, plenty of people are having to put a lot of things on hold and that sucks. Some people are sick. Some people are overburdened and unsure when help will arrive. 
But the things that are and can happen still exist and even if it's just a happy hour by video chat, that's still a cool thing. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Newsletter - What to Watch

Over on the newsletter, I'm talking about how I figure out what to watch on TV, and a few things I have been watching new and old.  

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This article from the now former Facebook data scientist about the work they were and were not doing to stop false posts about political events around the world was certainly food for thought. 
2. 730 DC did a survey on quarantine pods and posted a round up of the data
3. Verzuz - which autocorrect tried to fix for me - reached two legends this past weekend.  And while I ended up watching the tail end of an epic tennis game (men's tennis takes too long) I enjoyed watching the twitter reaction and these two posts about the experience.  

Monday, September 14, 2020

It's Not 2020's Fault

I understand that things in many places suck on many levels right now.  I also understand that anthropomorphizing 2020 (or whatever year) to be the doom bringer is something you can do safely and without causing offense or harm to anyone else.  As far as I'm aware, 2020 has no kin who will come tell you to be nicer.  And I really don't want to take away people's outlets.  
But, I have seen folks blame the year for things a lot in the past few years and I think there is a subtle trap inherent within this.  It is not 2020's fault, as an example that there is a global pandemic.  Heck the virus has 19 in it for a reason, because that's when it was discovered.  And the reality is vaccines for viruses take time, and herd immunity relies on vaccines.  I can't speak for all of you, but I live somewhere where testing is still only available to some (I am fine y'all, I am part of the some), where an unusually large portion of our population is considered essential, where the surrounding areas have leapt ahead of us in opening up, and we opened indoor dining before opening schools, and now we're going to watch the results of these combined decisions play out in continued infection rates for some time.  None of this is 2020's fault.  This is prioritizing capitalism over people's lives. It's expensive to keep things closed, but, as we're discovering, businesses can't survive when their staff keep getting sick, and so the businesses close and we have less revenue and it turns out that's just as expensive.  
Many people have been working too hard, carrying multiple jobs and multiple roles both paid and unpaid, and so it turns out having to spend more time figuring out where and when and how to get food is a lot. Worrying about job stability is a lot.  Worrying about kids is a lot. Worrying about chronically ill loved ones is a lot.  
Things are on fire.  Things are flooded.  We miss being able to do a lot of things.  I get it.  This is not a great time. 
But, well, why am I yucking people's yum here.  Because something someone said to me struck me.  They said, well, who would have known that in addition to a pandemic we'd have all this social justice stuff?  And my immediate reaction was, um, well, anyone who had been paying attention for the last decade or so.  
But I think in some ways that encapsulates the problem. The problem isn't the year.  Just about everything we're experiencing right now is something we were warned about and we decided would be fine.  Well sure, things seem to catch on fire more, but it just happens.  Well sure, hurricanes are flooding things, but that's what people get for living near water.  Well sure, asking people to carry three jobs to live is a lot, but that's what they get for choosing those jobs.  Some people really like having three jobs.  Well sure, opening bars and restaurants is risky, but what are we supposed to do, pay people to stay home?  Well sure, we've long known that some police officers kill people, but we have to wait for the whole story. 
So my concern is that focusing on the year, allows us to assume that when the calendar flips once again, things will all be fixed.  And none of these things are getting fixed without work.  
Yes, I am aware that people are so tired.  I am tired.  I get it.  And if all you can do right now is keep the people in your household okay, then you do that.  I mean that sincerely.  Surviving another day is job 1.  Everything else comes after that. 
But please don't blame the year for things not getting fixed.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Washingtonian spoke with seven DC area families with a family member killed by police over the last few years.  I assume this was already in the works before Deon Kay's recent killing.   
2. Friend data is not often as applicable as it seems, but I certainly have seen friends move - in with family and such already in this pandemic.  I've had people tell me everyone (everyone is always two friends of mine, right) is leaving cities.  But this was the first piece I saw that looked at the housing disparity, behind some of the numbers so far.  
3. I have been lucky enough to see this mural in Mount Pleasant since it is on my way to places with food, and this peek into the artist's experience of painting it was lovely. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Ripped Bodice Bingo - Recap

Because I actually won a prize last year, I was a more passive participant this year.  I posted some suggestions for books I had previously read over here
Here's some books I read this summer that hit on one or more of these categories.  I read more islands and secret identities than I might have expected. 

Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar - Debut novel
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson - Jewelry on cover, debut novel, midsummer ball
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wlsner - Debut novel, jewelry on cover
Nottingham by Anna Burke - Secret identity, accidentally in the wilderness
The AI Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole - Secret Identity, title is a pun
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron - I am on a boat
Jeremiah by Jayce Ellis - Healthcare professional, debut
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson- set on an island
Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu - Title is a pun
40-Love by Olivia Dade- I am on a boat, set on an island, title is a pun
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon - ice cream, secret identity
The Queen's Gambit by Jessie Mihalik - The Final Frontier 
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron- Debut novel, Midsummer Ball
A Duke a Lady and a Baby by Vanessa Riley - set on an island, secret identity
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer - secret identity, accidentally in the wilderness
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall- set on an island, meddling matchmakers

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This chat with some local theaters was interesting in part because it discussed the front heavy nature of putting on a show and balancing audience concerns.  
2. This chat with a so-called last responder in an area hard hit by corona virus was fascinating. 
3. Tom and Lorenzo collated their posts on Chadwick Boseman's looks.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Who Tells the Story?

Years ago, I pitched a YA to an agent that involved a multiracial Hawaiian, Chinese, and white girl investigating the Fall Queen election at her school and well, accidentally unraveling a few conspiracies. The agent asked me if I minded sharing my own ethnicity. I responded that I am in fact Hawaiian, Chinese, and white. The agent then told me a story about how she had once acquired a story about a non-white or not just white character from an author she suspected was not of a similar background and so she just didn't ask. That way if acquiring editors asked her, she could just say she didn't know.
I smiled and nodded. 
That agent ultimately did not acquire me and honestly I should look at that story because I think it had the bones of a great idea but I wasn't quite there yet.
I bring this up now to say that specific portion of the exchange stuck with me. I was always able to identify the mercenary nature of it. I do understand that part of agenting is mercenary. 
And I mention it was years ago because it's quite possible that agent has learned and changed her viewpoint on this. 
I will also tell you I also got a rejection from an agent who specifically requested stories about Pacific Islanders who did not ask for my ethnicity and took time to tell me that my story was not about Pacific Islanders (it was indeed about Hawaiians) and that she had family who lived in Hawaii. (Me too!)
So I do understand that there are lots of ways to make mistakes and ultimately in either of these cases I feel certain had the agent loved the pages more, my ethnicity would not have mattered. 
But, there are reasons the own voices movement gathered some steam.  It is because people with greater knowledge and understanding of a culture tell stories that fill a gap.  People diving into the tiny details of their culture, tell stories that in the end are more universal. 
But we've all also seen the Lee and Low numbers on publishing diversity and the Ripped Bodice numbers.  There are still more white people writing stories about everything.  
But, it is easy, as a white person, to think that the reason your story isn't getting acquired is because it's not diverse.  
The thing is, as we know from the Lee and Low numbers, a lot of people - agents and editors - are getting stories that fall outside their cultural knowledge.  Of course, a good story is a good story.  But stories that fall outside your area of cultural knowledge can cause harms that you yourself had not been trained to know about.  That doesn't make you a bad person.  But it means collectively, the industry has to do better.   
If I wrote a great story about a group that is woefully underrepresented in fiction then yeah, it is especially incumbent on me and the others involved in bringing this story to people to make sure the book does what it is supposed to and harms the least amount of people. 
So, a deal announcement was recently made for a person who grew up on Hawaii but is not Hawaiian, who appears to have been inspired by a random thing that she saw in a cross cultural display that she may or may not understand to be a cross cultural display. (Deal announcements often don't allow for subtleties.) 
And it matters. The book may be great. But an author who's been out there saying she should get to tell stories about native Hawaiians because most of them are dead these days - well, it does not appear that she is approaching the subject with sensitivity or cultural understanding. 
Am I saying no one can write about anyone else? No! Am I saying if you are going to assume that because you grew up next to something that you understand it without doing work, then it sounds like you aren't ready? Yes.
So I started this with a discussion of agents, because I think agents and editors need to think about this too. If they are acquiring stories, they need to figure out how to ask what makes you qualified to tell this story? And yes, hire sensitivity readers. But you should know people to call to look at it before you acquire. Because sometimes story problems are big. And you owe it to the author and agent to know what kind of ask you might need to make in the editing process. And if you don't know, then why are you acquiring such a story?

Edited to note: The author in question has pulled the book. The concerns that got us to this point remain.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Talking Theater - Newsletter

Over on the newsletter, I'm talking about ways to fill the theater-sized hole in my heart right now.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Susanna Barkati talks about the limits of labels in regards to being a biracial Indian and British American.
2. YA Pride has had a number of wonderful guest pieces this week, including this one from K. Ancrum about how fanfic provides a safe haven for readers and writers. 
3. Sarah Kuhn's Angry Asian Man piece on community, burnout, and kindness is just an amazing read.

Edited to correct numbering.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Forced Change

I've been working on a project where I talk a lot about authorial choices.  And one of the things that came up was that fiction likes using things like pregnancy, car accidents, death of a family member, because they are moments that make it very clear to the audience that whatever happens after this moment, the character will be changed. 
Well, and then my computer died.  To be clear, a piece of the power cord broke off inside the computer such that it can no longer be charged and of course, a new charger cannot be placed inside it.  In the middle of a pandemic. 
And because it's a pandemic computers are very popular items these days, where many households now have multiple people who need to do multiple things all requiring an internet enabled computer.  So yeah.  I should have a new to me one next week.  And in the interim, I have a small computer that basically has enough memory to have about 4 things open at any given time (Ie about 62 less things than I normally have open).  I hadn't used this one in a while.  It was purchased for its portability, but well, was never the choice for the everyday computer. 
And I'm very lucky.  I can afford to take a few less productive days.  I can afford to replace my computer.
I am never going to be grateful to be spending money for a thing I wasn't planning to purchase this year.  But it has given me time to reflect when the last time I allowed myself to have a few days where I didn't have to get six to ten things done. Perhaps a slowdown is not a bad idea.  I've been encouraging others to take vacation days even if they spend them sitting on the couch in front of the same laptop just chilling.  And I have been failing to follow my own advice. 
So, I'm going to give that a shot. 


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece about a joke t-shirt, so fully encapsulates a thing I have witnessed so many times that I had jokingly been calling it sexual osmosis.  (As if folks seem to think that their proximity through marriage or other partnership to a culture means they know it likely better than you do.)  
2. This piece on Vivan Stephens, a founder of RWA, is an interesting look into how some of the issues RWA is grappling with were baked in from the start.  Also she is an incredible woman, well deserving of such a lengthy piece.  
3. An oddity at the Linz chocolate factory meant that there was a brief chocolate snow shower.  (Note: Video autoplays no long after opening.) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Goodbye to a Pocket Friend

I met Corey Alexander who also wrote as Xan West on Twitter.  They had such a thoughtful interest in books, particularly romance books that were demonstrating protagonists find and falling in love that there might not be quite as many of.  I said to someone when I first heard they had passed, that they had excellent taste in books, which of course I consider an incredible compliment.  They also did a lot of work talking about things that romance and publishing could do to make all books better and safer places for readers.  It was a joy for me to see a rec list from Corey because so often I would have read two of them but not the others, and the two I had read I adored, so I knew this list was meant for me.  
It looks like it may have been complications of diabetes that led to their death, which is a sad reminder that our current healthcare system makes things tough for folks with chronic illnesses, and that the pandemic has only exacerbated that.  
Here's their round up of their fave YA they read last year
And here's their list of fave romance they read last year.  

Monday, August 17, 2020

Hope is a Discipline

I first heard this from activist Mariame Kaba.  As a person who has a high positivity strength, I find I sometimes have to remind myself of this.  I think this can often be the case, that folks who tend naturally in one direction, hit a speedbump in something and have to work a bit. Because we tend to build and practice things around the stuff we aren't as good at, it can be easy to let the stuff we are good at slide.
And of course, the challenge is there are people out there who assume things are going to work out without doing any work.  And gosh, wouldn't that be nice.  
When Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers he was talking to kids.  So, we have hopefully, in a variety of ways, become the helpers that kids of today would look to.  And of course there are days when that is a lot.  
But thinking of hope as a discipline, rather than a thing that magically shows up when you need it, is helpful to me.  It means I can practice, I can get better.  And if I'm having a day where it seems hard, I might need to think about changing my practice or seeking out new teachers.  

Friday, August 14, 2020

Newsletter - Part 2

Over on the newsletter, I've got part two of figuring out what to read and maybe how attending virtual book events can help.  

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Three Interesting Things

Content note:  Discussion of a documentary about sexual assault.  
RAINN has resources here:  The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800.656.HOPE (4673) Online chat: online.rainn.org EspaƱol: rainn.org/es  

1. This discussion of the behind the scenes editing concerns with the folks behind the documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly" was fascinating both, as the story notes, now that it has been nominated for an Emmy, and because, I do think on balance the series centered the survivors, but there were moments watching it where, as someone versed in reality TV tropes, I braced a bit that they were going to veer in a different direction. Also, warning that the link that follows contains an accompanying story image, where the perpetrator is larger than the survivors.  
2. I was saddened to see that this (and additional announcements since this piece) was the result of the weeks of pushing on the part of the various Bon Appetit video employees.  I wish them all well in their new and/or adjusted roles, and hope this push towards salary transparency will benefit them in the future. 
3. Tom and Lorenzo did a piece on Elle Wood's pink dress in the final act of "Legally Blonde".  Note: as "Legally Blonde" features sexual harassment, there are references to sexual harassment. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Viruses are Not Punishment

A friend of mine mentioned a comment a coworker made. I share this not to co-opt their story but to note a thing I expect we are all going to face. 
A co-worker commented they were low on leave because they had to quarantine when my friend got sick. 
Now it's possible they meant it the way you refer to lots of things. Like I am out of bread because I ate it all yesterday. 
It is human nature to try to dive in to find errors in what people who got sick did, so that we can feel assured that we would never do the thing that they did and therefore we will be safe.
As someone who has been wearing face coverings everywhere for months, upping the hand washing, limiting people interactions, and turning down offers to visit both family and friends, I get it. I am working hard to do everything I can to keep myself well, and also those I interact with as safe as I can.
But I also recognize it's an imperfect plan. The virus itself does not care how many masks I own, what song I sang while washing my hands, or how often I sanitized my phone. The virus is going to infect when and where it can. I will not get bonus points for the days I didn't leave my apartment. If I get it, I certainly want to be able to provide a good accounting of my movements to the appropriate people. 
But my contracting an infectious virus will mean simply that a virus whose sole purpose is to snack on humans got me. It will not mean I am or was less good than those who are uninfected. And yes, I know that there are folks out there taking less precautions than me, willingly and unwillingly. The virus does not care. It's going to get the people it can. Some of them will be making their first tiny exception. Some won't. The virus does not care. 
And, the reality is this. Crappy leave and sick day policies are neither the fault of the virus or the folks who contracted it and possibly exposed you. In fact, if I had to guess, I would suggest that crappy leave and sick day policies are part of why we're going to see infections continue. Here in DC small businesses are only required to offer two sick days for the year. Many teachers I know get very few sick days, because schools recognize so many holidays. So why would you need more? So we can tell people to skip work if they feel sick, but we aren't backing that up with policy. 
And I have to tell you, my last company mostly believed sick meant you checked your email only four times that day. 
So, all of this is to say, this pandemic is revealing and exacerbating some huge flaws in our society. That is barely the fault of the virus. It is not the fault of those who are sick. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. It appears some jewelers are seeing a surge in engagement ring purchases.  
2. NPR Life Kit has some suggestions, with illustrative comic, of handling COVID 19 related conundrums. 
3. Rick Steve's wrote about the possibility of new discoveries even while at home

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

RWA and Other Writers Groups - What is This Health Insurance Stuff

As you may be aware, I have worked in health care administration.  I am obviously not anyone's personal health care subject matter expert, but here's some information that I think might be clarifying.  
RWA announced here, that it and various other book industry groups have signed with LIG solutions to provide health care options to members.  They also have a FAQ here. I am going to try to answer some questions I think may be less clear.  
-Folks who have fiction writing as a day job are generally considered sole proprietors of their business.  Sole proprietors are not allowed to team up and get group insurance rates for reasons that probably don't matter so much, they just aren't.  If you and your writing business operate as a larger business type, the rules are a little different and so association health plans might be on the table for you.  
-This only helps folks who live in the US.  
-These are still going to be plans available through your state or federal marketplace.  There are a couple of things that will then follow from this.  
+ If you have access to a plan through an employer, depending on the size and negotiating power of said employer, the employer sponsored plan is likely to be cheaper than any individual plan out there.  Not always, but often.  
+ If you, like me, enjoy sifting through multiple plans, or have a good idea of what kind of plan you want, then you may prefer to do your own research.
+ If you really wish you or a trusted friend liked sifting through multiple plans to figure out options, while the LIG person may not be your friend, they are a useful resource for such research.  Especially if terms like PPO, POS, and  HMO make you cross eyed.  
+ Because these plans are essentially out there already, your access to the writer's organization is just facilitating your access to the consultant, not the plan itself.  


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Conflicted Thoughts About Sports

I miss sports. I can only imagine how tough this has been for the athletes, for the office, stadium, and arena staff.
I know testing availability has gotten better but I have very mixed feelings about prioritizing getting sports back in session instead of say schools. 
I wrote a letter expressing my concerns about librarians where libraries are open and almost all the issues with libraries apply to sports. 
I am pleased the various players unions negotiated new terms for this season including easy opt out. But I don't know that the folks who clean the stadiums, who staff the cameras, who wash the towels have been given the same opportunity. I hope so. 
And I confess that I feel like this is such an American approach, although I have seen comparisons to gladiators, that we have prioritized making stuff for us to watch over making it safer to shop and go to school. 
And I confess, I'm a little mad at how many tests sportsing safely will take. 
I may still watch. Which I know makes me part of the problem. (In the days when I still watched football, I had adopted a sports bar, using the convoluted logic that at least I wasn't adding to the ratings. Pandemic takes that option off the table.) 
I missed sports. But I remain a little conflicted about its return.

Monday, August 03, 2020

What Watching Chopped Will Teach You About Feedback

1. Sometimes you left an ingredient off or you screwed something up and you just have to sit there and take your lumps.
2. Sometimes they love one thing and hate another. 
3. Sometimes it seems like they wanted to critique something.  Like I loved the crunchiness but it was a little too crunchy.  
4. Sometimes they just wanted you to do something else. They will tell you you should have gone more Greek or should have picked a different cheese. You should have fried it instead of sauteed it. Sometimes they might be right. And look, the judge's feelings are valid. But sometimes the only important part of the feedback is they wanted something else.
5. Sometimes you made a technical error, and because they were watching they spotted the problem and have basically been waiting the whole round to tell you.
6. Sometimes they will start making the critique about you and not the food. They will tell you you didn't respect an ingredient or that you seemed too flustered or too nervous, or basically will talk too much about you and not the food. 
7. This is especially true if you are a young chef. Or a female chef. Obviously being critiqued is part of the show.  But sometimes, especially in a show that asks you to do something entirely different than the whole rest of your career, you have to accept that very little of what they can tell you will be useful going forward. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

What to Read - Over on the Newsletter

Hey, Folks, 
My first post is up on substack talking about how I figure out what to read these days.  Or at least the first part of it.  
I'll still be writing here and other places.  But for folks who like things delivered to their email box, there's this too.  

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Alyssa Cole's keynote speech about, among other things, a country that fails to grovel, is something to read.  
2. I found this look at the protocols the adult film industry uses to track disease testing and transmission interesting. 
3. This article on pandemic pay and other benefits being quietly removed was disheartening. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

StrengthsFest

I was supposed to be in Montana last week.  I've known Becca Syme for a while.  I loved her series in the RWR about unlocking the way that you work best and took both her Write Better Faster and Strengths for Writers Class.  So, when she announced a retreat last year, a retreat to learn and dive deep surrounded by other folks on the same journey, I was in.  I had a few friends I knew were going to be there, and discovered others there.  
Obviously with COVID 19 it went virtual.  There were some bumps, some rearrangements, but overall it was great.  I often suggest to folks who aren't sure if they want to take another personality test to take a look at a few of the Quitcast videos.  I think that they do a great job of using the Clifton strengths to help you figure out how to be your best you, rather than, oh yeah, you'll probably never like spreadsheets.  (For the record, I love spreadsheets.)  
It was four days of intense information and I am still processing it.  In my case, my strengths are super complimentary, which means I don't have one fighting the other.  But of course it means I can easily get carried away on a sea of happiness and learning fun, and leave my original goals behind.   

Monday, July 27, 2020

RIP Regis Philbin

I've spoken before of how many years I watched Regis Philbin as part of my mornings.  On summer breaks, before I left for work, or in the background as I worked, there was a long period of my life where part of my morning ritual involved Regis.  He was incredibly game, as evidenced by the increasingly elaborate Halloween shows.  He seemed aware of both the level of spectacle asked and willing to let the audience in on the spectacle.  And of course he made what could be really dull bits of business seem interesting.  It was always clearer how much he brought to the moment when someone else stepped in.  But his ability to work with a number of guests and co-hosts also showed an awareness on his part, an ability to meet the level and create the chemistry where possible. The man set records for being on TV for a reason. 
Of course I didn't know him, or his family.  But, as I've said to others, it is an especially odd time to grieve, so I wish his family the best in that process.   

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. Fascinated to see some local restaurants taking this moment of change to move away from tipping.  
2. This story of the pressure exerted on a magazine writer who on her personal account spoke out against skin whitening creams is a lot.  
3. This piece on local food change makers features some wonderful people. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Thing About Excess Death

Many of the terms we use to describe things sound innocuous. Okay, not innocuous, when you have the word death in there. But when folks talk about how a pandemic that causes an economic crisis in a country where healthcare is tied to both jobs and having money, well it doesn't seem like much.
Some of this is brain processing protection of course. There are so many people dead and ill right now. In my city juat looking at the COVID 19 numbers, at the difference between recovered and diagnosed, the gap is thousands of people. 
So yes, when folks' economic situation is precarious, in this country there is more death. When millions of people lose their access to health insurance, there is more death. When you know medical and hospital workers are right now working in terrible conditions, people are more likely to skip a screening, decide not to call about that issue that's probably nothing anyway. 
And of course, we know the time change every year leads to an increase in heart attacks and car accidents. When people's schedules get thrown out of whack, it sometimes shows up in the body.
So, it turns out excess death can even show up in celebrities. They are people after all. Sure, some folks were ill, or living with a possibly undiagnosed thing in their brain. All of these things would likely be true even without a pandemic. But when we ourselves are dealing with stress, grief, and anxiety for those around us, it seems like more. It feels like more.  
But it is more when paired with all the people in your immediate circle, or neighborhood, or city dying. 
So RIP to Carl Reiner, Grant Imihara, Naya Rivera, and John Lewis, in addition to all those less famous folks we are all keeping in our hearts.  You didn't have to personally know people to love them, for them to bring us joy.  It is only fair that we feel sadness in their loss.  

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Let's Go Steal a Podcast - Boys Night Out

I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" to discuss the "Boys Night Out Job" episode, the companion episode to the "Girls Night Out Job" episode.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Three Interesting Things

1. I shared this article on Twitter too, but I think Washington Mystics player Elena Dell Donne's issue with the WNBA's medical review board highlights an issue that affects many more people.  For places where they are allowing medical exemptions, there is often an expectation of disclosure.  And with that comes the possibility that someone somewhere will decide your medical issue isn't that bad.  The reality is it's a novel virus.  The novel means new.  Initially we told people with lung issues to be careful.  Then we added heart disease, inflammation, obesity, and blood clots. When you have a disease that affects a smaller portion of the population, it's reasonable to assume we don't yet know how bad it will be for patients with both.  Also, not to be a scaremonger, but people with none of these underlying or pre-existing conditions have died. But in this country we often expect people to detail their pain in public before we are willing to believe it.  And that's something we need to talk about changing.  
2. This story of this Denver school was wonderful.  Some of the students took a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and on their return asked that the curriculum be changed to better reflect the history they learned there, and advocated to get their teachers sent there as well.  I recognize one story is not a full picture, but this principal sounds wonderful in the way she listened to her students and created an environment where they felt able to ask for big change. 
3. Rebekah Weatherspoon talked about how she found romance novels and then became a writer of romance novels.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Legacy of Harm

One of the exhibits that was at the National Museum of the American Indian last year talked about the battle of Little BigHorn aka the battle of the Greasy Grass looked at how the mainstream media at the time reported on the battle, how Crazy Horse was treated as a hero, interviewed, memorialized in painting and memorabilia.  And how Crazy Horse and other tribal leaders surrendered to the US Army a year later.  Not too long after Crazy Horse was arrested and died.  Libbie Custer however was still alive, and worked hard to change the narrative about her husband.  She worked to change him from a fool who got his column massacred, she worked to cast him as a valiant soldier who wasn't afraid to die to protect the land he loved. 
Why am I thinking about this today.  Well this week, the Washington football team announced that it was retiring the name.  I applaud those who have been fighting for this change for about fifty or so years. I even am willing to offer some applause to the various corporations who in the last few months suddenly realized they too were supporting racism.  
I am ever hopeful that they are not planning on something like the warriors.   Or birds.  (I hate bird teams.  And if you haven't noticed how many bird teams "accidentally" riff on native iconography, well, I invite you to take a moment to consider that.)  
The harm done by years of this racist team name with it's racist logo and racist fight song and racist mascot will not be fixed this year.  The ideas that the indigenous peoples of what we now call America were all good at cooking and good at fighting, and are basically all dead now, oopsie, elides much of who those people are and were.  
Oh and also, Kansas, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, and many others, don't think we've forgotten about you.  

Monday, July 13, 2020

A Look at Passive Voice

There was a heated exchange last night between a murderers and murder victims. What began as a peaceful gathering grew strained. The murderers brought weapons, and the murder victims began screaming claiming they had been allegedly attacked. 
The murderer spokesperson said people who claim they are being murdered often exaggerate and yell, that the murder sticks the murderers carry are all perfectly legal, and there was no sign that anyone was carrying illegal sticks.  
"I was raised on murder sticks, taught how to use them by my grandfather," one self identified murderer said. 
None if those who claimed to be murder victims were able to be reached for comment by press time.

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.