ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



September 2018



What I’m Reading – September 23, 2018

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Fall has arrived, which means warm drinks, wet weather, and the hope that the leak in our apartment doesn’t open up again.


“One young woman aged between 11 and 16, said: “One thing that would improve girls’ lives would be to make it safe for girls to walk down the street alone.” Another, aged 17 to 21, said: “Girls’ lives would be better if things like harassment and stalking were taken seriously and punished properly.” The survey also found that an increasing number of girls have experienced unkind, threatening and negative behaviour online compared to five years ago.” ‘Sexist, unsafe’ world experienced by young girls (by Hannah Richardson for BBC)

“Specifically, the complaint refers to three women in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois who were not shown advertisements for what have traditionally been considered male-dominated professions. The complaint highlights 10 different employers who posted job adverts on Facebook – for roles such as mechanic, roofer and security engineer – but used the social network’s targeting system to control who saw the ad. In one example, that targeting meant one job was promoted to “men” who were “ages 25 to 35”, and lived “or were recently near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”.” Facebook accused of job ad gender discrimination (BBC)

Sexual Assault

“In the last three days, Christine Blasey has had to move out of her house, and she’s had to hire security because of the number of death threats she’s received, and given the particular gun-culture climate we live in, there’s no doubt that she should take those death threats seriously. Dr. Blasey also wrote a letter suggesting that she did not feel comfortable testifying on Monday until and unless the FBI does a thorough investigation of Brett Kavanaugh and the allegations.” ‘I Just Want to Say To the Men of This Country: Shut Up and Step Up’ (by Dustin Rowles for Pajiba)

““We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story. It demands a thorough and independent investigation,” said the letter. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.” “Holton’s motto teaches students to ‘find a way or make one.’ We dream of making a world where women are free from harassment, assault, and sexual violence.”” Christine Blasey Ford’s Classmates Deliver Letter of Support to Congress (by Katelyn Burns for Rewire)

“Republican state Rep. Jim Knoblach abruptly ended his re-election campaign Friday as MPR News prepared to publish detailed accusations from his daughter of inappropriate behavior toward her since childhood. The announcement came hours after an attorney for Knoblach denied the allegations in an interview. Knoblach, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, declined to be interviewed after being approached more than a week ago.” MN Rep. Jim Knoblach ends campaign ahead of MPR abuse allegations story (by Nina Moini and Briana Bierschbach for MPR)

“I believe Ford, as there is no credible reason to doubt her. But while I agree that her testimony before the Senate is necessary, this will be less a hearing than a debate between a woman who claims that she was assaulted, and a man who claims not only that he didn’t do it, but that he can’t recall even being where the alleged event happened. Neither can his friend, Mark Judge, who Republicans have not yet called to testify. That is curious, given his essential role in the story Ford recounts — his alleged piling onto Kavanaugh during the assault, Ford says, allowed her to escape. Many Republicans, even White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, have said that Ford should be heard. What they aren’t saying, outside of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and a few others, is that they are interested in the truth. That makes sense, given that the Monday hearing is being expedited to save the candidacy of yet another Supreme Court nominee with an earned reputation for lying under oath.” Jamil Smith: How Can We Trust Brett Kavanaugh? (by Jamil Smith for Rolling Stone)


“But the Trump administration’s immigration policies have done absolutely nothing to streamline the immigration system, abroad or at the United States’ borders. At every turn, it has made immigration processes more convoluted and austere—and simultaneously more costly to U.S. taxpayers. From child separation, to increasing the length of time people are held in the immigration detention system, to more stringent vetting procedures for refugees, the Trump administration has added complexity and bulk to its immigration system while putting those who must go through it at higher risk for unnecessary harm. So while Secretary Pompeo may say that refusing more refugees will somehow reduce the immigration system’s operational burden, this is simply an excuse for more immigration policies that could drastically harm or even end immigrant lives.” White House Sends the Wrong Message With Refugee Cap (by Hannah Harris Green for Rewire)


“Which brings us to one of the largest gaps between science and practice in our own time. Years from now, we will look back in horror at the counterproductive ways we addressed the obesity epidemic and the barbaric ways we treated fat people—long after we knew there was a better path.” Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong (by Micheal Hobbes for Huff Post)

Criminal Punishment System

“The sheriff said he believed the deputies drove around barricades on the flooded road. He said they are trying to determine why. Deputy Sheriff Tom Fox was on scene. He said the victims were mental health patients being taken from Loris Hospital and Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health. Fox said the van was headed west on 76 into Marion County when it was overcome with flood waters.” Sheriff says deputies drove around barricades before van flooded killing two patients (by Summer Dashe for ABC)


“Vernon Unsworth helped with the rescue of 12 Thai teenagers from a flooded cave in July. Mr Musk has made several accusations against Mr Unsworth without evidence, including that he was a “child rapist”. The lawsuit seeks $75,000 (£57,000) in compensation and an injunction against Mr Musk to stop further allegations. The filing also says Mr Unsworth is seeking “punitive damages” as well as the compensation, “to punish him for his wrongdoing and deter him from repeating such heinous conduct”.” Elon Musk sued for libel by British Thai cave rescuer (BBC)



September 2018



To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Young adults.

In a nutshell: Lara Jean writes letters to boys as a way to get over them. Somehow, they get sent. Yikes

Worth quoting: “It’s funny how much of childhood is abut proximity. Like, who your best friend is is directly correlated to how close your houses are; who you sit next to in music is all about how close your names are in the alphabet. Such a game of chance.”

Why I chose it: The Netflix version of the book has been getting great reviews, so I figured I’d check out the book. After accidentally ordering the German-language one, I finally got my hands on it in English this week.

*Minor spoilers*

A few months ago, my mother and I were talking on the phone and she shared that while she was cleaning up in my old room, she ran across a letter I’d hidden in a book. It was apparently something I’d written in middle school, and was to a boy who I don’t know anymore, but who I definitely remember having a crush on. She said she didn’t read it, but who knows. Regardless, when she told me about it, laughing, I told her to shred it. I was MORTIFIED.

Guys, I’m 38. That letter was written at least 24 years ago. Even typing it out now, I’ve got slight butterflies in my stomach, because it would have been humiliating had it ever gotten to its intended recipient.

Which is all to say – holy shit, does Lara Jean handle herself amazingly well when the letters she’s written get out. Luckily, none of the guys she sends them to are total assholes, which I guess helps. But still, I think the biggest take-away from this for me is that she doesn’t just immediately disappear into herself; she takes back what control she can to try to fix the situation. I think that sends a good message to readers.

As far as the film is concerned, I think the changes they made make sense, but it’s odd to see Josh with so little screen time and Peter with so much. Also, I did not picture John Corbett as the dad, but he does a great job. The ending is a bit more Hollywood than the book, but again, I get it. They had 100 minutes; they made it work. If you had to pick one or the other, I’d say it’s about even for me, but I think the book every so slightly wins out.



September 2018



Three Months Off

Written by , Posted in Random

At the beginning of the summer, I reviewed a book about deleting social media. After a lot of thought, I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts, and pared down my Twitter. I didn’t have a page for my etiquette blog anymore, and I didn’t tweet anything except new essays and book reviews.

Monday, I created new Facebook and Instagram accounts, and I’m not entirely happy about it.

When I left Seattle after college, social media wasn’t really a thing. My Space existed, but I don’t remember using it as much as we all seem to use Facebook and Twitter now. Even texting wasn’t huge, so my friends and I stayed in touch with emails and phone calls.

I know. Phone calls. Without video!

When I closed down my Facebook account about five months after moving to London, I figured it’d be the same as before. Occasional long emails, perhaps a Skype or WhatsApp video call. But it wasn’t. At least not entirely. A few friends did stay in touch that way, responding to my emails, or writing their own. And a couple downloaded WhatsApp (it’s used by pretty much everyone over here, but seems to not have caught on in the US) so I can text with them almost daily.

But from the rest of my friends, I didn’t hear much about what was going on. It made me sad, and I felt cut off, even forgotten.

That’s more than a bit self-centered, I know. But it’s what I was feeling,

And for some friends, it probably rings a bit true. If I’m not in front of them, and I’m not following them online, and they’ve got a lot of other more important shit to deal with, are they really going to settle down to send me a long email when they could be playing with their kids (or the new Spider-Man video game)?

But for others, I’d imagine (and, let’s be real, I’d hope) that it was less a statement about or friendship and more about just not having the energy or time to repeat themselves. As we’ve all gotten so used to sharing so much of our lives with our friends via this one method of social media, it’s pretty easy to forget that there are a couple people out there who haven’t seen the pregnancy announcement or career change update.

Given that, I’ve come to recognize that since Facebook and Instagram are so common, asking for another, separate update from some folks was a bit presumptuous of me. I mean, yes, writing an email doesn’t take that long, but if a person has already told their story on an outlet that I can easily access, is it fair for me to expect they do it all again, just for me?

I still don’t like Facebook – as they say, if you don’t have to pay for a service, it’s probably because you’re the product that’s being sold, and I don’t like being sold. I also don’t have any interest in getting sucked into fights on there again, or in connecting any of my other online life through it. I’m also not going to bring back my etiquette blog page at this point, because a main benefit of that would be using Facebook to advertise it, and I don’t want to give Facebook any of my money.

I do, however, want to know what’s going on with people, and share what’s going on with me. So that means that, at least until there’s an alternative, or everyone leaves at once and starts sending emails again…



September 2018



What I’m Reading – September 16, 2018

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

The Tr*mp Administration Horrors

“This is a scandal,” Merkley said in a statement to the Washington Post. “At the start of hurricane season—when American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still suffering from FEMA’s inadequate recovery efforts—the administration transferred millions of dollars away from FEMA. And for what? To implement their profoundly misguided ‘zero-tolerance’ policy. It wasn’t enough to rip thousands of children out of the arms of their parents—the administration chose to partly pay for this horrific program by taking away from the ability to respond to damage from this year’s upcoming and potentially devastating hurricane season.” Trump Moves $10 Million in Disaster Relief to ICE ‘Family Internment Camps’ (by Tina Vasquez for Rewire)

“In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her,” reads the New Yorker report. “She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself.” Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Allegations Detailed in New Report (by Katelyn Burns for Rewire)

“An investigation by Quartz, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Associated Press has identified 487 victims of Maria. It is the most extensive record yet of who died and why. Many families say that the real cause of death was government inaction.” Hurricane Maria was a manmade disaster. Hundreds of families told us what really happened (by Ana Campoy and Omaya Sosa Pascual for Quartz)


“In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America,” College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in a statement. “If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.” Two Colleges And A Whole City Have Banned Nike Over Its Partnership With Colin Kaepernick (by Ashleigh Atwell for Blavity)

Anti-Trans Bigotry

“Language on the U.S. State Department webpage regarding gender marker changes, the process of changing one’s gender on U.S. passports, was surreptitiously changed for the first time since 2010 this week, alarming LGBTQ rights advocates. Archived versions of the agency’s site show the page titled “Gender Designation Change” as recently as this Tuesday now bears the title “Sex Designation Change.” Though the actual policy and requirements for changing passport gender markers appears to be mostly unchanged—meaning transgender people can still change their passports without surgery—several of the page’s “frequently asked questions” were also changed.” State Department Changes Passport Website Language for Transgender People (Updated) (by Katelyn Burns for Rewire)


“I promptly explained to him that I didn’t need his advice because I’m not interested in “improving” my body, I liked my body, and I was just there for anxiety. Upon this response he looked at me with surprise and slight pity even. He was trying to angle his blatant body shaming as trying to “help” me. Fascinating isn’t it? In 2018, someone felt they not only had the right, but the duty if you will, to tell me I wasn’t good enough as I was. A total stranger, minding her own business, not asking anyone what they thought about her or her body. Wild.” A Message To Those Who Body-Shame People At The Gym: Shame On You (by Jameela Jamil for Huff Post)

“The essay could be considered part of a genre that’s recently emerged, in which men who have been exposed by the #MeToo movement attempt to return to the spotlight by throwing themselves pity parties in the country’s most prestigious publications. On Wednesday, John Hockenberry, another disgraced radio host, published a similar piece in Harper’s titled “Exile.” Hockenberry denies the sexual allegations that were brought against him late last year, and describes the grand injustices that he feels the #MeToo movement has wrought. The question of how “exiled” either of these men really are, considering national magazines are granting them space to tell their story, is certainly worth considering.” What I Know About Jian Ghomeshi (by Ruth Spencer for New York Magazine)

Police Surveillance

“Tom Arabia, a co-founder of Combat, said: “No one can deny the Massachusetts state police are surveilling leftwing organizations.” He added that the image on the state police tweet “was both unsurprising and also a bit scary, because of how intimate it is in a sense to see your own organization listed in a police browser’s bookmarks”.” Massachusetts police tweet lets slip scale of leftwing surveillance (by Sarah Betancourt for The Guardian)



September 2018



Running With One Earbud Out

Written by , Posted in Feminism

A few months ago, a relative of mine drew my attention to what they thought was a “very informative” segment on Good Morning America (has there ever been such a thing as a “very informative” GMA segment?). This relative does what many people do: they worry about things that are outside their control, and then share information that may or may not be helpful, at which point it becomes my responsibility to worry (or not) about these things. It’s a fun cycle.

Given this, I was dreading watching it, but I chose to take a look at what ended up being a “security expert” telling women how to stay safe while running. This relative probably thought I’d be interested as my sister and I both run for exercise; she was a cross-country star in high school, and I’ve run ten half marathons and am training for one in October.

You can watch it the video here.

But let me cut to the chase: it was pretty much standard issue victim blaming wrapped up in “helpful tips” meant to keep women safe.

It was produced because a woman had just been kidnapped while running. It quotes from an unscientific poll about women feeling unsafe, and references all manner of “dangerous” situations (sorry for all the scare quotes, but there’s so much bullshit here that I need to point it out). Like having earphones in, or running alone, or having a ponytail.

(Always with the fucking ponytail.)

The voice-over says infuriating things like women need to make it difficult for “somebody” to grab us, which, come on. It’s not somebody, it’s dudes. In light of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts (warning: a video may auto-play), news outlets across the US and the world are again drawing attention to the safety issues women face when out for a run, which made me think back to this video, and I got pissed off all over again.

This fear-mongering is ridiculous. It stems from the same lessons that tell us to have our keys out in our hands, pushed through our fingers like weapons, as soon as we get out of our car or off the bus. The same lessons that tell us never to leave our drinks unattended or, even more disturbingly, tells us to wear nail polish that changes color when interacting with GHB, so we can make sure our drink hasn’t been drugged. It feeds into the same issues that any other campaign that puts the onus of not being raped on the woman: what you’re really doing is just telling them to rape that other girl. The one who goes running with ear buds in, or has a long ponytail, or didn’t put the right nail polish on before going out that night.

And that’s bullshit.

I get that tackling rape culture and toxic masculinity might be a bit much for 7AM on a Tuesday. But the thing is, it isn’t ever going to be any easier, and it’s lazy reporting to default to the sensational “don’t get kidnapped” of “don’t’ get murdered” story. Do better. Explore why men rape. Why men attack.

You know what I want to see on GMA instead? How about a video about women running that doesn’t focus on things like tight clothing and not listening to music, but instead talks about things like footfall, cross-training, and intervals. I run for exercise, for my mental health, and to be outside in the world, and it’s ridiculous to put the onus on me to be safe when doing it, when there’s no real effort to do the same with men.

Once again, women aren’t being given the tools and information to thrive; and I’m tired of it.

Me, today, eight miles into an 11-mile run.



September 2018



What I’m Reading – September 9, 2018

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Fight Back

“Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of branding for North America, was quoted by cable sports network ESPN as saying: “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward.” One of the other stars of the Nike campaign, tennis great Serena Williams, expressed her support.” Colin Kaepernick to be face of new Nike ad campaign (BBC)

““Actions often ripple far beyond the immediate objective,” Solnit writes, “and remembering this is a reason to live by principle and act in the hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.” I don’t know about you, but I find this statement incredibly comforting.” Resisting the Rage That Paralyzes: Rebecca Solnit Writes of Organized Anger (by Eleanor J. Bader for Rewire News)

“We are here to invite city leaders to stand on the right side of history. To invite Pete Holmes to stand on the right side of history,” said Angelica Chazaro, a member of Mijente and The Northwest Detention Center Resistance. “This is a moment of crisis. The defenders who locked down to protest the pipeline are fighting to avert climate disaster, and secure all of our futures. The defenders who locked down to protest ICE, are fighting the deportation terror that is being inflicted on so many of our community members. Instead of focusing on prosecuting those who are literally putting their bodies on the line for a world that would benefit us all, city leaders should be asking themselves: Has the city of Seattle done everything in its power to stop ICE’s incursions into our communities?” Protestors Unit Following City Attorney’s Threat to Aggressively Prosecute ‘Reckless’ Protestors (Editorial, South Sound Emerald)

Reproductive Health

“There is nothing “hysterical” in the response from U.S. women to either this judicial nomination or this presidential administration. In 2017, Kavanaugh voted to block a lower court order that required the government to allow an undocumented teenager to have an abortion. Such a ruling would have allowed the government to delay her abortion by more than a month, pushing her into the second trimester and making it even more difficult to obtain an abortion. He also ruled against the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act that required employers to make contraceptive coverage available to their employees. During the campaign, Trump promised to only nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and Kavanaugh’s record and avid support from anti-choice leaders leave little doubt of where he stands on the issue.” Ben Sasse, Women Aren’t Being Hysterical. They’re Begging the Government Not to Kill Them. (by Lauren Rankin for Rewire News)

Impacts of Xenophobia

“The university group is arguing for a more “welcoming” message, by giving international students the right to stay and work in the UK when they complete their courses – as they could before the rules were changed in 2012. The US, Australia and Canada allow international students to work after graduation – and Universities UK says that their research in countries such as India has shown this to be an important attraction.” UK ‘missing out’ on overseas students (by Sean Coughlan for BBC)

Healthcare in the US

“For many DACA-mented young people, or “Dreamers,” DACA provides temporary relief from the threat of deportation, a permit to work legally in the United States, and sometimes eligibility for financial assistance for higher education. President Trump has tried to end the program, but the courts have ruled in its favor, allowing DACA recipients to renew their applications for this year. The program’s future, though, remains unclear. Either way, DACA does not permit recipients to receive most forms of public assistance, including Medicaid. For Dreamers who are denied health care, treatable illnesses like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease can quickly become life-threatening.” How Poor, Undocumented, and Uninsured People Are Being Left to Die (by Chika Solidarity Community for Rewire News)



September 2018



Back on the Pitch

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I currently have a large purplish-yellow bruise on the inside of my right knee, and a smaller one on my right. I’m also a little bit sunburned, thanks to having spent Sunday playing in my first league match in nearly two years. I’m sore, and I love it.

I started playing soccer when I was about six years old. Six-year-olds can’t really do that much on the field; there’s a lot of running around in bunches, and screwing up throw-ins. When I was a pre-teen, I started playing in goal, and never left. I played for 12 years growing up, and only stopped once I got to college. I then played off and on until I returned to Seattle seven years ago.

Thanks to a little serendipity, I ended up at a Sounders match with friends of a guy I’d just started dating (who is now my husband), and his team was looking for another player. I joined the team and played with them for almost five years. We only met on Sundays for matches; there were no practices. Sometimes folks went out for drinks after, and sometimes people brought their little kids to the games. It was a generally relaxed environment, and we were a solidly middling team.

Occasionally someone would join who took the whole thing more seriously than the rest of us, and would get frustrated that we didn’t practice. Those folks were often the ones to lose it with the refs. They were also folks who didn’t really last long. (We were sponsored by a tap house. Like, come on. Read the room.)

When our league unexpectedly shut down, we joined a different one. Our original league required a 50/50 split of men and women on the pitch, understanding that sometimes it’d be six men and five women, and sometimes it’d be the reverse. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many women who wanted to play co-ed soccer in Seattle, so most of the time it was the former, which meant six men and four women running around on the field, with me in goal.

When we switched to the new league, the rule was that it had to be five men and five women on the field, and the keeper could be a man or woman. Since we regularly had trouble finding more than five women available to play, I wasn’t able to be in goal anymore. Because of that, I left the team.

The only position I play is goalie, and while I’m not great at it, I love it. It’s a fun challenge, trying to keep the ball out of the net. I’m the only one on the field who can use her hands. I get to watch the game unfold ahead of me while also playing it. I have to learn how the back line (the defenders) play, so I can know when to expect that they’ll send the ball back to me, or clear it out.

(Also, I don’t have to run as much – I do enough of that on my own. My next half marathon is on October 7!)

When we moved to London I thought hey, maybe I’ve got a chance to start back up again. I did some research and found a club that practices just a couple miles away. They were open to new members, so I went to training.

That’s right, training! They actually practice every week. And then there are matches for an entire, proper season — September to May. It was a little awkward at first. People are nice, but they’re a club and many have been playing together for years. One can’t just drop in and immediately feel at home. I followed the drills, and was able to get a little time in goal that day. I came back the next week, and found there was another new goalie who had joined just before me, and she and I have quickly become buddies, commiserating when we have to do fitness drills or when we don’t get a lot of time practicing in the goal.

We played a scrimmage a couple of weeks ago, and just this weekend I played in my first real match, on the Reserves team. It feels so different from my time in Seattle. We had changing rooms, and proper warm-ups. It was a fairly hot day, and we played on turf, so we were all a bit sluggish. Our captain — who also plays in goal — was delightfully supportive. She warmed me up in goal, offered tips, and during the match, yelled to me (not at me) when I’d forget something or couldn’t recall the way this team does things (they have actual set plays! It’s amazing!).

There’s no guarantee I’ll get to play in any given week. The club has three teams – a rec team on Saturdays (starting this weekend), and then a First team and a Reserves team that play on Sundays. There are three keepers that I know of, and I’m probably the weakest, so I imagine if I do get to play, it’ll usually be on Saturdays.

It feels so good to be playing again. Yes, I’m older, and yes, each week I’m going to be sore the next day. I’m going to screw up on occasion. But I’m also going to get better. It’s so great to have someone (in this case, our manager and captain) offering direction about how improve. I love that I have the chance to keep getting better, and keep pushing myself.



September 2018



Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: People who enjoy an interesting mystery set in a different country (unless you’re from Iceland, in which case, people who enjoy an interesting mystery).

In a nutshell: Ari Thór is about to finish police school and has been offered a posting in a very small, very northern town in Iceland, starting right before winter arrives. Someone has died, and he suspects murder. But the rest of the town isn’t so sure.

Worth quoting:
“She was a prisoner of her own prosperity, here in this spacious detached house in a quiet neighbourhood, where people paid to cut themselves off from the world’s problems.”

Why I chose it: I visited Iceland this summer (it was amazing and I can’t wait to go back), and of course had to buy a book while I was there.

I read this book in a day and then immediately went online and ordered the other four books in the series. So, there’s that.

I enjoy a good mystery — I’ve just never really known where to go to find one. A couple of years ago I got into Stephen King, but I’m not big on supernatural components, and wasn’t sure when it was going to pop up in his writing, so I’ve mostly stopped. I used to read John Grisham books (more thriller than mystery, I guess) when I was younger, but haven’t picked one of his up in years (is he still writing?).

For me, this is a good mystery. There are a lot of characters, but not so many that I can’t keep up with them. There are some red herrings, but they aren’t ridiculous. However, I’m not sure if there is enough there that one could actually figure out exactly what really happened, so while the reveal is satisfying for sure, there is a very little bit that one might suggest comes out of left field. Regardless, it was an enjoyable read for me.

As I’ve made clear (, I don’t read nearly as much fiction as non-fiction (I just checked, and I’ve read 100 fiction books since starting with Cannonball Read 5, and 297 non-fiction books), and generally I don’t pick books with male protagonists. I also am leery of male writers, as the women they write (if they include them at all) are often superfluous to the story, or outright offensively stereotypical.

Mr. Jónasson’s writing didn’t fall into that category for me, thankfully. While his main character is a young man, there are women who feature prominently in the book. They don’t all exist just to satisfy or move forward the men in the book. Because of Jónasson’s writing choices, many of the women get at least one point-of-view chapter, and I think he does a good job of creating an interesting community of characters that I wanted to learn about.



September 2018



Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: People who enjoy good writing about medical issues. NOT for those who get squeamish reading about surgical procedures.

In a nutshell: Surgeon Atul Gawande (you probably know him from Being Mortal; I think my favorite of his is the Checklist Manifesto) shares stories about his time as a surgeon, exploring the reality that surgeons are humans and make mistakes.

Worth quoting:
“In the medicine, we have long faced a conflict between the imperative to give patients the best possible care and the need to provide novices with experience.”

Why I chose it: I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet – I thought I’d read all of his books. So when I sorted my Goodreads list for this CBR10 I was shocked to see it on there. I worried I’d start reading it and realize I’d read it before, but nope. It was new to me!

First off – CANNONBALL! My sixth since I started with CBR 5. Ah, how the time flies.

I enjoyed this book. I think it could have been better organized, but any time I get to read Dr. Gawande’s writing, I know I’m going to learn something and I’m going to enjoy reading it. He’s so talented, it seems unfair – a surgeon who can also write, and write well?

This book explores, through three distinct parts, the challenges of medicine that arise because humans are humans who need to learn and who make mistakes. The first section looks at learning and mistakes, the second at trying (and sometimes failing) to solve medical mysteries, and the third focuses on indecision.

The book starts off intensely, with Gawande sharing how he learned to put in a central line. It’s quite graphic, and does a great job of getting across the point that we all know somewhere in our mind (or every Thursday night when we watch Grey’s Anatomy): that doctors have to learn somehow. And usually that means performing on patients who are sick and injured. As patients, we want the best to treat us and our families, but the best only get there by practicing, which means that at some point we’re going to get the worst.

The second section, on medical mysterious, explores the frustration of healthcare professionals and patients when there is something wrong but we don’t know the cause and don’t know how to fix it. Like, for example, the woman who had nearly uncontrollable nausea for her ENTIRE PREGNANCY. Basically, what the Duchess of Cambridge had, but apparently it never stopped. I just … ack.

The final section is a reminder of the fact that sometimes, doctors just don’t know exactly what to do. The last chapter illustrates this amazingly well, with a woman who either has cellulitis or flesh-eating bacteria, and the doctors — and the patient — need to make a decision on the path forward. It looks at how much should doctors be directing care and how much should patients be? How do you find a compromise that respects the choice of the patient but also the knowledge and experience of the doctor?

Like I said, it’s an interesting book. It’s not a five-star read for me mostly because the chapters aren’t as well-connected as they could be. But it’s a strong four, because it’s Gawande.



September 2018



What I’m Reading – September 2, 2018

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Ridiculous US Government Action

“But under President Donald Trump, the passport denials and revocations appear to be surging, becoming part of a broader interrogation into the citizenship of people who have lived, voted and worked in the United States for their entire lives. “We’re seeing these kind of cases skyrocketing,” said Jennifer Correro, an attorney in Houston who is defending dozens of people who have been denied passports.” U.S. denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question (by Kevin Sieff for Washington Post)

“The US administration has “carefully reviewed” the issue and “will not make additional contributions to Unrwa,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later said the move was an “assault” against his people. “Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution,” Nabil Abu Rudeina told Reuters news agency. He added that the decision was “a defiance of UN resolutions”.” US ends aid to Palestinian refugee agency Unrwa (BBC)

Ridiculous Local Government Action

“The City Attorney’s office this week filed charges against 15 protesters who blocked 2nd Ave in May in action targeting JPMorgan Chase’s financial support of a tar sands oil project and pipeline. Holmes’s office also reportedly plans to file charges against protesters arrested at another action in June that blocked 2nd Ave in a protest against the Immigration and Custom Enforcement office on the street.” Seattle cracking down on protesters who block downtown streets (by J Seattle for CHS Blog)


“The 2017 survey revealed that 43% of women experienced harassment while running – with the number rising to 58% for women under 30. Just 4% of men reported the same. The poll also found 30% of women said they had been followed by a harasser on foot, by car or bike. And the vast majority of women said these fears led them to change their habits – to run only during the day, to change their routes, to carry pepper spray or – in the case of 1% of women – to carry a loaded gun.” From catcalls to murder: What female joggers face on every run (by Ritu Prasad for BBC)

Police Violence

“Roy Oliver, who is white, fired a rifle into a car that was driving away from a party in Dallas in April 2017, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. It is very rare for police officers to be convicted in shooting deaths. Oliver’s lawyers say they intend to appeal against the verdict. Jordan’s family say the jail sentence is too lenient.” Roy Oliver: Ex-police officer jailed for Jordan Edwards shooting (BBC)

Sexual Assault

“According to the Beast, many sources claim that NBC News general counsel Susan Weiner made a series of phone calls to Farrow, threatening to smear him if he continued to report on Weinstein. Farrow had noted in interviews how Weinstein’s team had made similar threats but he has never personally accused NBC of doing the same. NBC News deny the claim.”  Did NBC Threaten Ronan Farrow Over His Harvey Weinstein Story? (by Kayleigh Donaldson for Pajiba)

“In this way, Avital’s case has become a strange referendum on literary study. Generations of scholars have been suckled at the teat of interpretation: We spend our days parsing commas and decoding metaphors. We get high on finding meaning others can’t. We hoard it, like dragons. We would be intellectually humiliated to learn that the truth was plain: that Avital quite simply sexually harassed her student, just as described. Sometimes analysis is simply denial with more words. Sometimes, as a frustrated student in a first-year literature course always mutters, the text just means what it says it means.” I Worked With Avital Ronell. I Believe Her Accuser. (by Andrea Long Chu for The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Labor Rights

“A week after my father died I returned to work. I was in shock, I had just barely begun to grieve. I was tired and I managed my pain badly. I began having panic attacks. I desperately needed a break. A month later I asked if there was any way I could have another few days of vacation, as I’d spent my previous vacation planning his sudden memorial and was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was told no. I trudged along, worked ridiculous hours, didn’t have the time or energy to process my grief. Eventually, I was fired. I was told I had become too inattentive, made too many mistakes.” A Lack Of Bereavement Leave Is Injustice (by Alex Blank Millard for The Establishment)

LGBTQ Rights

“he Philadelphia Department of Human Services in March suspended foster care referrals to Catholic Social Services after learning the agency was refusing placements with LGBTQ families and allegedly requiring potential families to provide a “pastoral reference” before they could be considered for placement. CSS filed a lawsuit in May arguing the city’s decision to suspend referrals was unconstitutional because it targeted CSS for its religious beliefs.” Supreme Court Won’t Enter Fight Over LGBTQ Foster Care Placements—But Gorsuch and Alito Want To (by Jessica Mason Pieklo for Rewire)

Criminal Punishment System

“The main leverage that an inmate has is their own body,” Amani Sawari, a spokesperson for the protests, told Vox. “If they choose not to go to work and just sit in the main area or the eating area, and all the prisoners choose to sit there and not go to the kitchen for lunchtime or dinner, if they choose not to clean or do the yard-work, this is the leverage that they have. Prisons cannot run without prisoners’ work.” (Here’s What You Should Know About The National Prison Strike That Is Calling For An End To Modern-Day Slavery (by Alexa Lisitza for Blavity)

Fighting Back

“The 30-year-old has been without a team since opting out of his 49ers contract in March 2017. Kaepernick’s lawyer Mark Geragos has posted a statement from system arbitrator Stephen B Burbank denying the league’s request to dismiss the case. The ruling means there is sufficient evidence to allow the case to go to trial. Kaepernick first protested by sitting during the national anthem in August 2016, before opting to kneel instead.” Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against NFL team owners can go to trial (BBC)