Sunday, February 26, 2017

What'd Red Do This Week

At some point, I'm going to quit being impressed with myself by actually getting this posted. Not yet, so GOOD JOB, ME!

So let's see what I got up to this week:

  • Reached out to local reps and Sessions to support Title IX and help protect transgender students
  • Reached out to local rep to thank him for actually showing up to a Town Hall (which I couldn't make), for saying he would stand up and push for independent investigation into Russian connections, support the free press, and stand up against the crazy spending from the Pres, while also sort of reminding that we would be watching to make sure he actually does these things.
  • Watched the next Town Hall (because there were so many people they had to have two). There was lots of yelling from the audience, some good stuff from the Congressman, some less good.
  • Booker signed a letter along with other senators about an investigation into the Russian connections, but since Menendez didn't, I contact him again about supporting these efforts.
  • Reached out to local reps to push back against the White House's press ban and general rhetoric about fake news

Just finished up The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, still listening to Order of the Phoenix (I seriously may re-listen and then do my own readalong about it, because OMG I want to discuss the stupidest smallest details as well as bigger things such as Ron being swell), and going to start Between the World and Me that a co-worker is lending me.

Work is hosting a private screening of Hidden Figures along with a panel discussion about the importance of STEM, and I am PRETTY EXCITED about that. Otherwise, it's the usual stuff. I have sort of soured on The League in its last season(s). I've learned that where I have trouble DNF-ing books, I am 100% cool with dropping a TV show the second it no longer interests me. So while I'm cool stopping right now, we're still finishing it cos Tom is a completionist. I also watched the first episode of The Santa Clarita Diet and I am undecided if I'll watch anymore. I didn't hate it, and I am a FAN of most of the cast, but eh.

I essentially keep going back and forth between My Favorite Murder and the Moana soundtrack, which makes for strange bedfellows, but there you go.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Audiobooks, what makes a good one?

Over the past year I have gotten into podcasts and audiobooks. Previously I had trouble getting into them. I mean, there were exceptions to that rule (and I will recommend the World War Z audiobook again and again and again, and I had listened to Welcome to Night Vale but even that was few and far between) but in general I couldn't get into just listening to something.

But now? Now I'm almost constantly listening to something. It started in our new house that the kitchen is separated from the living room. In our old place I couldn't see the TV from the kitchen, but I could hear and frankly I didn't so much care what was on, I just wanted some background. But in our current place, unless I BLASTED the volume, I couldn't hear the TV and at that point I realized podcasts are the perfect solution.

And so I began, listening whenever I'm cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. Then it expanded to when I was cleaning anywhere.*
me but instead of music, it's about murder
Eventually I started listening while in the shower (not with headphones, DON'T WORRY). Now I'll start ones and basically as long as I'm doing something else fairly mindless, I'm listening to something. First it was just sticking my phone in a measuring glass (which totally works to amplify things, BTW) but it was sort of a pain when I actually needed the measuring glass so eventually I got a blue tooth speaker, though the glass is still used as backup when I inevitably run the battery down. #responsible

I started with Freakonomics and Stuff You Missed in History Class. Then I started Oh Witch Please and How Did This Get Made and Stuff Mom Never Told You. I'm currently on My Favorite Murder (which I have on right now [as I'm writing this**, not by the time this gets posted. Or maybe. I can't tell the future.])

It's not just podcasts. I've also listened to Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, and Joe Hill's Locke & Key. I'm relistening to the Harry Potter books. And there's always World War Z.

[Surprisingly, there are no valentines about WWZ. I mean, surprising cos I expect to find everything on the internet instantly. I'm too lazy to make one, so just imagine your own here.]
But I'm still a bit hesitant when it comes to audiobooks. I've had more positive experiences than I have negative ones, and yet. I listened to Drop Dead Healthy and while it was FINE, it was not my fav listening experience. It was hard to get past the way Jacobs narrated. I listened to the opening of Lamb and was NOT into what I heard. So what's the deal?

I'm not entirely sure. I mean, WWZ and Locke & Key are sort of different than a straight audiobook. It's a bunch of different actors so we don't have a single narrator telling the story. Maybe that's my thing? And Born a Crime is a memoir, so maybe because there aren't really a bunch of characters, that helped. Or maybe I just love Noah's accent (yes, this is true). Harry Potter is Harry Potter so, I mean. Plus Jim Dale (the version I have) is just now the voice of the HP books for me.

So I guess, this isn't really a post about what makes an audiobook good so much as it's me talking about how I started to listen to stuff and asking you, what the hell makes a good audiobook?
I don't feel like I've listened enough to really say for sure what that magic sauce is. Is it just the narrator? How much is it the story and some that just work as audiobooks vs. some you need to read? TELL ME because I want more audiobooks.

Even if you can't say what makes a good audiobook, if you wanted to recommend some great audiobooks, YES PLEASE TELL ME. Or podcasts. Either. Both.

*This is a stupid side point, but I got wireless headphones recently and they make this whole cleaning while listening to stuff thing so much easier. So just saying, I recommend. Though I won't actually call our brands.
**Apparently blogging counts as a mindless activity? Except, not really. Or rather this does take brain power so if this post makes no sense, assume something CRAZY happened in a podcast and I got distracted. Or that I got frustrated cos I kept having to rewind the podcast cos I was missing stuff. Anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Something New: It's hard to explain how little and much things have changed

I had an evening in NYC to myself so naturally I found myself at the Strand. The idea was to JUST BROWSE and not get anything cos I mean, I don't really need anything and also I'm staying in the city and only have a backpack which is already filled with work stuff and clothes and I can't even fit anything else in there, so really, I won't actually get anything.

Of course, I ended up buying two books.

First was a copy of Caitlin Moran's latest book Moranifesto and it was a SIGNED COPY. Obviously I can't leave that behind. Then as I continued my just-browsing-not-buying-anything-except-this-one-book I ended up by the graphic novels which I always want to get into but have a hard time with. I remembered the book Relish looked like something I might be able to get behind and thought I'd flip through it. Instead I found a different book of hers, Something New. One of the copies was priced at $18. The other identical copy was priced at $10. Both had the correct label for the correct book. So I mean, I couldn't turn down this deal. The fates were MAKING me buy books.
One thing I have learned about myself (other than I have no willpower) is that I am down for memoir-type graphic novels because I was totally for Something New, a book about the author getting engaged and planning her wedding. She has a lot of questions from the more superficial (What sort of cat cake topper perfectly encapsulates us as a couple?) to more important (What's marriage actually mean for a feminist and is this something I really need to do and what do I want in my future?). Both sides of the question are great.

Even if this hadn't been a graphic novel, I would have been all about reading this story. But the graphic parts work as well. There are chapters that tell the story (in a somewhat non-linear fashion) and then sections in between like Weird Wedding Facts or Crafts done for the wedding.

The book is so fun and sweet and her drawing style is the type of thing I can get behind (vs. some of the more elaborate styles that are SO PRETTY but can be overwhelming for me when I'm trying to read the story). It was a book I didn't want to put down so I sped through it. And it's definitely a book that I want to give to friends going through the whole wedding process. And I definitely want to read her other stuff.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 277

Knisley, Lucy. Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride. First Second, 2016.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Red Did This Week

Look at this, three weeks in a row. Oh man, that's pretty impressive, me.
This time it's even on the right day. (Right date = the day I planned on posting this).

  • Reached out to White House (per ACLU reco) about the leaked Executive Order that would allow people to discriminate basically against anyone not white, Christian and straight
  • Reached out to local reps about concerns about the ongoing news of the Administration's ties to Russia because OMG YOU GUYS
  • Reached out to my local rep about the amount of money Drumpf is costing taxpayers, because the terrible things coming out of the administration spans all topics, and since my local rep is a Republican, I figure this is something that will appeal to that side. Also WTF STOOOOOP
  • It's the middle of Feb, so I made my monthly donation, this time to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I finished up Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and am just about done with All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and deciding what to start next (Do I read The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae? Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward? Invasive by Chuck Wendig? Something else entirely?) I'm also still listening to Order of the Phoenix but for some reason chapters 11-14 are not loading properly, which is a PAIN.

Still more of the same (My Fav Murder, How Did This Get Made?, Oh Witch Please). I haven't started it yet, but I did subscribe to the podcast Can He Do That? which is from the Washington Post about Tr*mp. I haven't listened yet because for the most part podcasts are my lighthearted escape (yes, even when I listen to Stuff You Missed in History or Freakonomics or Serial) and this just seems like it will be a stress causer. BUT it also seems like something I should know about.

Also, I was listening to My Fav Murder at work when someone snuck up on me and asked what I was listening to. Since he caught me off guard I didn't think to make up something else and just sheepishly said "Oh, um, well, it's My Favorite Murder. So. Yeah." Luckily he was fairly cool with this and we talked about some other podcasts and I didn't get an email for HR or something. 

As I predicted last week, I'd probably spend the week listening to the Book of Mormon soundtrack and yup, that's what I did. Current fav song from the show, "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" because I heart songs by pompous people (What's up, "Popular" from Wicked.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unfamiliar Fishes: A painful tale of native loss combined with an idealistic multiethnic saga

Back in December I went to Hawai'i for my first time. So how could I not get a copy of Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes to read while there? It would have been ridiculous not to. Ridiculous, I say!
For those unfamiliar with Vowell, what are you doing with your life?* Haha I kid (kinda). Vowell writes about American history with snark and wit and hilarity, which is all I ask for in a history book. Most books, really.

Unfamiliar Fishes is the history of Hawai'i. Or at least the history of Hawai'i from the point when Americans/missionaries decided to start sticking their nose in.
I mean, they meant well.
Sure, all missions are inherently patronizing to the host culture. That's what a mission is - a bunch of strangers showing up somewhere uninvited to inform the locals they are wrong. But it's worth remembering that these women, and the men they married so recklessly, believe they were risking their own lives to spare strangers on the other side of the world from an eternity in hell.
It's not only about the missionaries, though it is a lot about these people that traveled half way across the world. And they did some good things, like helping to develop a written form of the Hawaiian language. It's also about the Hawaiian royalty who perhaps weren't always the best (see rules governing what women could and couldn't do, down to not being allowed to eat bananas and just a whole bunch of incest).

She also mentions the Rainbow Drive-In, which we ate at during our trip and it was delicious. Oh and if you're wondering, while I don't understand the genius of macaroni salad with pretty much everything, I have come to appreciate it.
Seriously, so good
There are good parts in the history of these islands. And bad parts. And sad parts. You know, like any other history. I recommend the book. And if you can read it while in Hawai'i, preferably while sitting on one of the beautiful beaches, hey, all the better, right?

Gif rating:
*What are some other kick ass Vowell works? LET ME TELL YOU
Assassination Vacation
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World
The Wordy Shipmates

Title quote from page 9

Vowell, Sarah. Unfamiliar Fishes. Riverhead Books, 2011. Kindle

Monday, February 13, 2017

What Red Did This Week, again!

Alright, hey, another week and I'm still trying this whole "weekly wrap up but mostly let's keep myself accountable for this activism stuff". Except clearly I'm a bit late with this. It was a busy weekend full of sports (both basketball and hockey), multiple bar stops, and The Book of Mormon. Which was ALL KINDS of fun, but did not actually leave me time to write this. Or get to a computer in general.

I did manage to get pictures of some amazing paintings of possessed demon animals from one of the bars we were at. This is but a small fraction of what they had and I loved them all.

Anyway, let's see where we are

I am discussing with a friend if it makes sense/is worth it to email reps to say "Thank you for fighting against everything that's terrible right now." It seems like good thing and especially where I figure they're getting a lot of crap, maybe hearing "Thank you" would be nice. Or maybe it's just something that basically gets ignored cos there are a billion other things they're doing. But anyway, my senators voted against both Devos and Sessions, so thanks guys. I've also reached out about Bannon being added to the NSC. And I reached about about the Extreme Vetting EO (again) because it's awful and let's keep that one top of mind. There's a town hall meeting coming up soon but unfortunately I am not around that night (though I am debating changing some plans around).
Since I need lots of help with this whole citizening stuff, I've got a couple resources.
The first is It's Time to Fight which Sarah shared and is SUPER helpful.
The next is Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda which I am newer to but am looking forward

Also this isn't really citizening I guess but Cory Booker has a book club and since I am clearly a FAN of reading, this was pretty exciting. They're doing a FB Live event tomorrow for it and since the first book is one I have already read, The Sixth Extinction, I shall try and watch it.

Still reading Hidden Figures and finished Goblet of Fire so I'm about to start Order of the Phoenix but this is around the time it is hard for me to keep going. But I shall push through!

More of the same. More Oh Witch Please. More My Favorite Murder. A little bit of How Did This Get Made. This section is gonna get old real quick. (Except you should prob listen to all of these cos they are pretty fun.)

I probably won't do much of this topic either, since I am boring and this doesn't change much. I was listening to Hamilton while walking around the city this weekend and decided, I've probably listened to this enough, perhaps I should mix things up. At which point I put on The Hamilton Mixtape because I'm good at stuff. Since we saw Book of Mormon I'll probably listen to that soundtrack  few times this week.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Notorious RBG: Sometimes it helps to be a little deaf

Objective biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this is not. But then again, the cover is her with a crown on so. The assumption of objectivity probably should be thrown out the window.

That's certainly not to say that this was a bad biography, by any means. It just means that there's a lot about how kick ass RBG is. Which really, even an objective biography is going to address that, because she kicks a lot of ass. It's well researched, with chapters that include RBG's rulings and dissents, with annotations to help explain the legalese.

Notorious R.B.G. by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik covers Justice Ginsburg from her early schooldays through her time at law school, getting married and having a family, and of course being a lawyer and eventually the notorious justice she is today.

There were a few things that stood out

She has been fighting for equal rights since forever
Laws which disable women from full participation in the political, business and economic arenas are often characterized as "protective" and beneficial...The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.
Obviously there are women's rights. She was one of the very few women at Harvard Law and becomes the second woman to teach at Rutgers Law, where she was paid WAY LESS than men because, as was explained to her, her husband made good money so she really didn't need to be paid more. She later becomes the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law. She co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. She was only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. There's also a dissenting voice in the court's ruling to gut pieces of the Voting Rights Act. She was the first Supreme Court justice to officiate a same sex wedding.

She's crazy tough
"If you really want to study the law, you will find a way. You will do it." RBG says, "I've approached everything since then that way. Do I want this or not? And if I do, then I'll do it."
She went to law school while also taking care of young children. And dealing with husband Marty's cancer diagnosis. She keeps a schedule that exhausts me just to read. She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and didn't miss a day on the bench. She's in her eighties and does 20 push ups a day. I seriously just hope she's immortal cos really, we need her right now

She is intimidatingly smart
A conversation with her is a special pleasure because there are no words that are not preceded by thoughts.
I mean, it was obvious she was smart, right? And really, I don't have other examples here. It's really just a combination of the first two. That and she demands so much from the people she works with and the people that work for her. Sure, this means expecting a bunch of emails from her at 3 in the morning (cos oh yeah, she doesn't sleep either), but so be it.

The book was entertaining and informative, especially for someone (me) who knows very little about RBG beyond a few of her rulings and of Kate McKinnon's impersonation of her on SNL.

Gif rating
Title quote from location 218

Carmon, Irin and Shana Knizhnik. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Dey Street Books, 2015. Kindle

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hope in the Dark: To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear

It's hard to write about this book. Not because it was bad. I guess a little because it's a series of essays which I always find more difficult to write about than a single narrative. But really because everything is awful and while this book does what it says, provides some hope in the dark, it still sucks that there is so much dark.*

Hope in the Dark is a series of essays published during the G.W.Bush presidency when people were worried and afraid. Solnit pulls together a series of essays about how when things are dark that is the time to act and provides a few essays of examples and work done by herself and other activists.
Gandhi said, "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."
The essays that were more general, about the power of hope, and the work that should be done. Admittedly, the essays about the Zapatistas were harder for me to get into, probably because I don't know much (anything) about them and these sections could be a bit dry. Still good and impressive stuff here but it didn't stick with me like the other chapters. When she's addressing the horror and dread people feel at what's happening and talks about what hope is and isn't, I was 100% on board and wanted to underline everything. Probably because those chapters, at that time were speaking directly to me, someone wondering if we can have hope during a time when that seems impossible.
It's important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it's not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.
There is a focus on the fact that change is not instant, that because there aren't instant returns, actions can seem meaningless. That anything less than total victory is abject failure. It's a good reminder to not give up. She also makes the point that a single victory, even a big one, is not the end and that being engaged and staying engaged is important.

She talks about a response a guy had to a piece written about women's rights. The man argued that women used to make 66 cents to a dude's dollar and how they make 77, which is better than 66 so why are people still complaining?
[The] politics we have is so pathetically bipolar that we only tell this story two ways: either seventy-seven cents is a victory, and victories are points where you shut up and stop fighting; or seventy-seven cents is ugly, so activism accomplishes nothing and what's the point of even fighting?
There were certain essays that I have a feeling I'll be rereading over the next few months/years (ugh...years).

Gif rating:
*Obviously this is not to say that there wasn't dark before or that this is the worst dark ever because there was and this isn't (at least not yet), but it doesn't have to be a contest. We can be mad at all kinds of dark.

Title quote from location 443

Solnit, Rebecca. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Haymarket Books, 2005. ebook

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What Red Did This Week

I've tried to do these type of "what'd I do this week" weekly wrap up type posts (like Sarah always does and they're swell) but it takes a lot of effort to get 2 normal things posted during the week so thus far this weekly post deal hasn't happened yet. But now I have something I want to accomplish. And that is being held accountable for calling my reps because everything is terrifying and as much as I hate making calls, I hate the direction things seem to be going and I can't look myself in the eye if I don't do something. That and when I do make these calls, I want credit because I am pathetic and need adulation and approval.

So how'd I do this week?
Thanks in large part to Sarah, mentioned above, and my friend who actually works in politics, I have gotten some excellent advice and pointed to some great resources and so I called my rep and both senators because the whole nonsense Muslim ban and the Gorsuch nomination and H.R. 7 and H.R. 490 (both measures to make it near impossible to get abortions). SURE, I didn't get through to anyone on the first try, but I left messages and sent follow up emails and signed up for everyone's newsletters to stay on the front line for what they're doing. I also set up a spreadsheet (cos I am stupid nerdy and lurve me a spreadsheet) so I can keep track of what I have done and what I want to do.

I've also started donating since the election, each month to a different charity. So far I've given to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Human Rights Campaign and am in the process of deciding what charity to give to in February, so if you have good recommendations, please send them my way.

Making my way through Hidden Figures as part of book club and listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook. I'm also currently watching Goblet of Fire because it's a weekend so naturally Freeform is running an HP marathon.

When I haven't been listening to HP I've been doing podcasts. This week it's been My Favorite Murder. I need to stop subscribing to podcasts so the newest episodes download, since I instead have a habit of listening to ALL the back episodes

The League which I am enjoying despite some problems I may have with it (like, you know, the female representation). By the way, I am TERRIBLE at watching shows when they first come out. Not for any good reason. I guess stubbornness? Like, don't tell me what to do, even if that thing is watching something awesome.

So, let's see if I can keep this up. (Weekly writing more than citizening. I better be able to manage the citizening.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January Reading Wrap Up

First month of 2017 down. Just 11 more to go and then 36 after that. No, I'm kidding. Not about how time works, but about doing a countdown. I mean, it can't just be a countdown. Countdown plus action. I've joined a couple groups that will hopefully help with the action part as I feel like I need a lot of direction there so I'm not just flailing.

But anyway, this is about reading, so let's talk about reading. I finish so many books in January. And this is 100% because of audiobooks, which I didn't do AT ALL last year. I did a lot of podcasts last year, which obviously don't get counted here. But I finished all the back episodes of How Did This Get Made and I've made it a good way through Stuff Mom Never Told You when I got a copy of Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. Then I made a trip down to D.C. with my mom (not for the March, unfortunately. I went to a local sister March in my area the following weekend) and we listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone because HP is GREAT for road trips. And then once I started HP it seemed silly to not keep going, so I've been making my way through the series while cooking and cleaning and working.

Enough talking, let's see those stats.

Total books read
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
It's Up to the Women by Eleanor Roosevelt
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
John Dies at the End by David Wong

Total pages read


Female authors
White authors

US authors

Book formats
audiobook: 50%
ebook: 50%

Where'd I get the book:
Gift: 38%
Kindle/Audible: 50%
Netgalley: 13%




Review book

Books by decade
1900s: 13%
1930s: 13%
1990s: 38%
2000s: 13%
2010s: 25%

Books by genre
Childrens: 13%
Essays: 13%
Horror: 13%
Memoir: 25%
YA Fantasy: 38%

Resolution books
New year, so a reminder for what counts as a resolution book
By POC author
By non-US author
Published before 2000

My success this month has a lot to do with Rowling, being from the UK and all. Plus the first three books were published (just) before 2000. Outside of the 3 HP books
Anne of Green Gables was both published pre-2000 and the author is Canadian
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood is by a non-POC and non-US author (South Africa, you know, if the title wasn't clear)
It's Up to the Women was published pre-2000

Not to shabby. Let's see what next month brings.