ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Saturday

12

October 2019

0

COMMENTS

An Edited Life by Anna Newton

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People looking for another guide to organizing their lives.

In a nutshell:
Author Newton offers detailed suggestions for organizing one’s life.

Worth quoting:
Not quotes per se, but there are definition a bunch of suggestions that I’ve underlined and will be incorporating into my life.

Why I chose it:
I’m a sucker for a organizational book, especially one that’s visually attractive.

Review:
I do love me a good home and life organizing book. As I’ve probably said before, at this point its usually good not for wholesale overhauls of how I run my work and home life, but I always get some interesting tips. I’ve been reading enough of these books to have my own opinions about suggestions that may or may not work (and at this point I pretty much always skip money/budget sections — YNAB or GTFO). Usually there are also whole sections about organizing related to children or pets, but the author has neither, is open about that, and so doesn’t venture into that area.

I enjoyed Newton’s conversational style – the overall tone was less user manual and more blog, and I mean that in the best way possible. Organizational books can lean too far into dry tips, or conversely feel overly familiar or even emotional. Newton strikes a good balance there. I don’t think there was anything life-changing (no immediate Marie Kondo-ing my house), but lots of little things that might help improve the daily business of living.

I have to end with the first thing I said when I picked up this book and started flipping through it. It has fairly tiny type, is a tall book, and runs over 250 pages. “An edited life? Maybe start with an edited book.” It’s a dad joke but it applies. It’s pretty to look at, but I did at times have a hard time actually reading the book, because there is color text, and that color is pale blue. That is not easy on the eyes; by the end there were whole sections that I just couldn’t read without straining, so I just skimmed.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Wednesday

2

October 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for:
Those who have read (or watched) The Handmaid’s Tale.

In a nutshell:
We know that Gilead eventually fell. But how?

Worth quoting:
“The truth can cause a lot of trouble for those who are not supposed to know it.”
“Another girl’s disgrace could rub off on you if you got too close to it.”
“They said calm things like ‘You need to be strong.’ They were trying to make things better. But it can put a lot of pressure on a person to be told they need to be strong.”

Why I chose it:
I read The Handmaid’s Tale a few years ago, and have watched two seasons of the show (I live in the UK and can’t figure out how to watch season three).

Review:
This book is told from the perspective of three people: Aunt Lydia; a daughter of a Commander (Agnes); and a teenager living in Canada (Daisy). Each have different experiences of Gilead – Aunt Lydia helped create the way women experience it, Agnes is being raised to become a child bride to a Commander and is fully steeped in the Gilead belief system, and Daisy has parents who are helping fight Gilead from afar.

Aunt Lydia’s section includes the story of how she became involved in Gilead, and I found her sections the most interest to ponder from an ethics perspective. What would each of us do in those situations? Some will fight to survive so they eventually fix things, some will fight to survive so they can acquire some power in the new word; others will see no possible option except to fight until their own death.

I also found Agnes’s sections fascinating. We don’t get the perspectives of the children in the first book (that I can recall), so I appreciated learning a bit about how it all worked in practice. Daisy’s story was the least interesting to me, but her chapter were still compelling.

The writing in this is excellent as expected (the Schlafly Cafe made me lol), and while I think this is a satisfying book and even a necessary one, it didn’t quite match my hopes. But my hopes were quite high.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it.

Monday

30

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

Educated by Tara Westover

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
People who generally trust Barack Obama’s judgment on books.

In a nutshell:
Tara Westover was raised in a devout Mormon household, with an overbearing father who wouldn’t allow her to go to school. She finds a way to college, and learns about so much that has been hidden from her before.

Worth quoting:
I listened to this one, so nothing stands out, but the writing is great so I’m sure there are many choice phrases.

Why I chose it:
This book seems to be everywhere. I’ve picked it up and put it down at least a dozen times; I finally got the audio book to listen to while running. Good choice.

Review:
I don’t think I was expecting a book this intense and dramatic. Tara Westover is one of seven (I think) kids, raised in Idaho by her parents: a faith healer and a scrapper / contractor. The family believes in a very devout form of Mormonism, though Westover makes it very clear up front that she does not attribute her family’s action to being religious. This isn’t a book about religion being good or bad; it’s about how the decisions parents make affect their children. How withholding education and creating a bubble can cause so much harm.

Westover doesn’t have a birth certificate. She spends her entire youth being homeschooled, except she isn’t really taught anything that doesn’t come from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or her mother’s holistic ‘healing.’ She’s not vaccinated, and she doesn’t take an ibuprofen until she’s in her late teens. She works around heavy machinery. But she also has interests and desire outside of the mountain that is her home.

I appreciate that the book isn’t about a need to get a college education – it’s about needing the opportunity to learn about the world from more than one person. We don’t all need college degrees, but we do need to be exposed to different ideas, to be able to form opinions about the world and our place in it. I also appreciate how Westover explores the traumas of her youth. She has a physically abusive brother and parents who refuse to intervene, and she has to wrestle with what that means for her and her continued relationship with her family.

It’s a deeply personal, intense, and interesting story, and despite the specifics being things I doubt many of us can relate to, there’s still something in there that we can all take away.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
If I’d bought a physical copy I’d pass it to a friend.

Sunday

29

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 29 September 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Failing at Diversity and Inclusion

“Where I wanted to talk about racism and sexism, they wanted to talk about unconscious bias. When I wanted to talk about women of color, they said, “women and minorities.” Questions were raised about my tone. Those conversations weren’t about acknowledging my humanity or my human rights. They were about the intersection of workforce concerns with national security considerations; they were about appearances; they were about educating white students; and they were about how diversity and inclusion played in the public eye.” The Rules of the Diversity and Inclusion Racket (by Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein for The Riveter)

Corrupt Trump Administration

“Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducted Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, announced her call for a formal impeachment inquiry in an essay for Elle Magazine published Friday morning. The senator wrote that the government must investigate whether Kavanaugh lied under oath during his confirmation hearing last year. Three women accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault or misconduct last year during the justice’s Supreme Court confirmation process. One of the women, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, delivered an emotional testimony in front of the entire country about her accusation that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school. Just this month, two New York Times reporters surfaced another account of alleged sexual misconduct against him.” Kamala Harris Calls For Formal Impeachment Inquiry Into Brett Kavanaugh (by Alanna Vagianos for HuffPost)

“No restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, is safe for Mitch McConnell, it seems. Protesters followed the Senate Majority Leader to his dinner destination on Sunday night, blasting Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and chanting “no justice, no peace.” McConnell and his group was forced to leave Italian restaurant Sarino mid-meal due to the disturbance, according to the Courier Journal. The episode follows a lunch in Louisville over the weekend after which McConnell was chased by protesters yelling “Vote him out!” “Abolish ICE!” and “Go home!” (McConnell is based in Louisville when he’s not in Washington, D.C.)” Mitch McConnell Heckled Out of Restaurant for Second Time in Two Days (by Daniela Galarza for Eater)

Climate Change

“Friday’s climate strike in New York City concluded with remarks from indigenous leaders, activists and organizers. Artemisa Xakriabá, a 19-year-old indigenous climate activist of the Xakriabá people, spoke about the increasing intensity of environmental destruction across Brazil and the interconnectedness of the fight for climate justice. “We fight for our Mother Earth because the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all other fights,” Xakriabá said. “We are fighting for your lives. We are fighting for our lives. We are fighting for our sacred territory. But we are being persecuted, threatened, murdered, only for protecting our own territories. We cannot accept one more drop of indigenous blood spilled.”” 19-Year-Old Indigenous Climate Activist Artemisa Xakriabá: “We Fight for Mother Earth” (via Democracy Now)

Something Amazing

Aristocats and Lizzo

Sunday

15

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 15 September 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Misogyny

“The scale of hypocrisy here is so staggering it’s almost impressive. People, often young women, who dare to speak up can expect to face public harassment and private retribution. Young women can expect to be punished for the crimes men commit against them—but if they dare to speak up, they are the ones who are “ruining lives.”” Gaming’s #MeToo Moment and the Tyranny of Male Fragility (by Laurie Penny for Wired)

Racism

“Penguin Random House, the publishers of the book, told the AP that “we’re working with our author, Eni, on this issue and are in contact with Amazon.” The players’ union in England and anti-racism activists have denounced Amazon, whose CEO is Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, for not removing the posts.” Amazon criticized over racist reviews of soccer star’s book (by Rob Harris for AP)

Religious Interference in Health Care

“We believe in a creator who has given us choice, and that’s what overarches the approach that we take,” Carlyle Walton, president of the Adventist Health Policy Association, told Rewire.News in an interview. “We think that infringing, for want of a better term, on people’s choices is not something that God has called us to do.” But that position does not extend to abortion care. Loma Linda University Health, a California-based Adventist system with six hospitals, said in a statement that it offers abortions “only in situations in which the fetus has a condition that is incompatible with life, or in a situation when the pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother.”” Meet Another Religious Health System Restricting Reproductive Care (by Amy Littlefield for Rewire)

Prison Industrial Complex

“Angola would become one of the nation’s largest maximum-security prisons — and one of its bloodiest. Over the many decades, reforms have been made, but criminal justice advocates continue to push for more. Angola, Gardullo said, is a lesson in the “long arc of history and what changes and doesn’t change.”” From a slave house to a prison cell: The history of Angola Plantation (by Krissah Thompson for Washington Post)

Trans Workers

“Before my transition, people assumed I knew what I was talking about. They didn’t talk over me in meetings. They trusted me when I spoke, and they didn’t look to others for confirmation of my ideas.There was a baseline assumption that I was competent and capable. Since my transition, it’s distressingly common for people to talk over me, to look to men for validation of the things I say, to assume that I couldn’t possibly know anything about [technical topic] because I’m a girl. I’ve actually had people tell me, “what could you possibly know about that? You’re a girl!” In a previous role at my current company, I had a male coworker who needed to be told *by my boss* “Tammy knows what she’s doing and I trust her judgment, so please stop trying to hijack her meetings and run them like they’re your meetings!”” How Work Changes When You’re A Woman: An Interview with a Transgender Woman (Ask a Manager)

For my fellow Londoners

Reduce your plastic usage!

Thursday

12

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for:
Fans of Liane Moriarty, fans of mysteries that unfold in unexpected ways, and fans of books that go a little deeper than you might expect.

In a nutshell:
Alice and Jack Munro abandoned their baby girl – named Enigma – 70 years ago. She’s now a grandmother, and one of the sisters who rescued her has died, leaving behind some unfinished business.

Worth quoting:
“If her back had ever hurt like this when she was twenty she would have been hysterical, demanding painkillers and cups of tea in bed, but she has found that nobody is especially surprised to hear you’re in pain when you’re in your eighties. You might find it astonishing, but nobody else does.”

Why I chose it:
I realized after finishing her latest book that I hadn’t read all of them, so I remedied that quickly.

Review:
I liked this one a lot. I have a vivid picture of the fictional island where most of the book takes place. I can picture the characters, and while I don’t think I relate directly to any of them, I appreciate how they are mostly well-thought-out and well built characters. They aren’t one note.

The book starts after the death of Connie, who is in her 90s and was one of two sisters who discovered baby Enigma after her parents vanished from their home on the island. Connie has left her home to her great-nephew’s ex girlfriend Sophia, so that’s weird. Much of the book focuses on Sophia, but also on Grace, who is struggling deeply with post-partum depression. I was not expecting that but I think it’s handed interestingly (though I would defer to those who have actually experienced it). In broader terms the book looks at what family means, what secrets can do to and for a family, and how we often don’t really know our partners and family.

I also like that we get the perspectives of older people in the book – people in their 70s and 90s. Rarely do we have those points of view, and as I’ve mentioned before, I appreciate exploring those experiences.

I think What Alice Forgot is still my favorite of Moriarty’s books, but this one might be a close second.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it

Sunday

8

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 8 September 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

My football (soccer) team’s Sunday league season starts today. WOOOOOOOOOO!

Racism

“But the two Chinese-born men at the center of the incident told BuzzFeed News it all began as a case of racial profiling. In their first media interview, the men said they did not know each other, did not run away, and that it was the airline employee who had been acting erratically.” What Caused The Mass Panic At Newark Airport? Racism. (by Amber Jamieson for Buzzfeed)

Healthcare

“Marjorie agreed to do the job for a flat rate of $160 per day plus room and board. Her workday starts when Bob wakes up, or before, and finishes after he goes to sleep, and can stretch for 14 or 16 hours or more. She works 26 or 27 days out of the month. The pay is not much — at 16 hours a day, it would come to $10 an hour — but Bob’s family is deeply grateful, and that counts for a lot.“If I take a client and I have the respect,” she said, “I will stay through to the end.”” On the Job, 24 Hours a Day, 27 Days a Month (by Andy Newman for the New York Times)

Anti-Trans Movements

“Last March, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor. “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said in its decision. “An employer cannot discriminate on the basis of transgender status without imposing its stereotypical notions of how sexual organs and gender identity ought to align.”” The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained (by Katelyn Burns for Vox)

Something Good

WSL 2019-20: our club-by-club guide to the new season (Suzanne Wrack for The Guardian)

Saturday

7

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

Pharricide by Vincent de Swarte

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone looking for something dark, evocative, and quickly read.

In a nutshell:
Lighthouse keeper Lefayen is not doing well, folks.

Worth quoting:
N/A. Not because there wasn’t anything particularly interesting or moving; I was just so caught up in reading it that I didn’t stop to underline anything.

Why I chose it:
The cover drew my attention, and then the description on the back made me want to read it.

Review:
I didn’t close this book thinking ‘what did I just read,’ although that might be the reaction some will have. A few sections are a bit … much, but overall it is an enthralling book, one that I started and finished on a three-hour train ride. It’s the perfect book for when you’re going to have a couple of hours of undivided attention, which is what you’ll want to give it, because it’s pretty short (160 pages) and you’ll want to … not STAY in this world, but see it through.

Lefayen tells the story of his time at this lighthouse (the oldest in France) via journal entries, which get increasingly erratic. Something — or things — has happened to him in the past, which we don’t necessarily learn the full extent of (or maybe we do) but which have clearly has an impact on him. He is excited to take on this particular lighthouse keeping exercise, even though it will be through the cold of winter and he will be completely alone, save occasional resupply visits.

I’m not saying anymore, but the author is a talented writer who created this small world for us to inhabit – both the tiny lighthouse and the mind of someone who is perhaps not doing so hot.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it.

Saturday

7

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those who know someone who is dying, or those who may die themselves one day.

In a nutshell:
Palliative care nurse Sallie Tisdale offers thoughts on both the reality of accepting (or at least acknowledging) one’s own mortality while also providing seriously practical suggestions and examples for what to expect.

Worth quoting:
“Our image of Grandpa at home in his own bed assumes that Grandpa likes his bed, that his house is safe and quiet, and that he really wants his relatives to take care of his most personal needs.”
“Sick people need to not be sick people all the time. They are also plumbers, parents, students, friends, chess players.”

Why I chose it:
Old habits die (heh) hard. I used to do planning related to death in my old job and I still find it interesting.

Review:
What happens as one dies? Not after, but before and during? And what can those of us who are supporting those people do (or not do) to make that experience less scary?

Tisdale’s book is not exactly a road map, and it is not really a memoir, either. She does use some stories to illustrate points (the experiences of three people she knows who have died are shared in different chapters), but this is not a book on the wisdom of those who are near death. No, instead it’s a mixture of how to confront one’s own mortality as well as observations from someone who has been with those who are dying and knows what to do (and what not to do).

The book follows essentially the path of death from illness, including chapters on what to do with the remains and what grief may be like. I think the most valuable chapter is the one on communication, full of dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts). If you haven’t been close to someone who is seriously ill, it’s likely you don’t know how you’ll react or what is appropriate to ask, say, or do, and this book provides some suggestions on that front.

At times this book had me confronting my own mortality; at other times it had me thinking about the mortality of those I love (especially those who are much older than me). I think it’s useful reading, and I’ll be keeping it around until I’ll need it.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Sunday

1

September 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 1 September 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Racism

“Recall how cartoonist Mark Knight rendered Serena Williams with Sambo-like lips throwing a temper tantrum in a tutu after she defended what she, one of the greatest athletes of all time, deemed bad referee calls during a 2018 U.S. Open upset. Former First Lady Michelle Obama was routinely drawn as masculine and equated with being an ape in a trope planted in the American psyche by the likes of venerated Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, an investor in the burgeoning 18th century business of trading Africans into enslavement.” When They (Don’t) See Us (by Deborah Douglas via Medium)

“I started writing because every single day I was living a half-life. I started writing because I was tired of taking in every racist joke, every insult, every assumption. I was tired of hearing the locks on people’s cars click down as I walked past theirs in a grocery store parking lot. I was tired of worrying about my brother’s safety when he went on tour. I was tired of worrying that I might die at each traffic stop. I was tired of seeing Black body after Black body lying in the street like so much garbage after an encounter with police. And I was so very tired of being silent through it all. Silence was not helping me. It was killing me.” The Thing About Safety (by Ijeoma Oluo via Medium)

Democracy

“State officials, however, confirmed at least two other machines in Calhoun County also “jumped.” One voter reported similarly voting for Waller but having the machine change his vote to Reeves. Though state officials only confirmed problems with three machines in two counties, the Waller campaign told the Ledger that it received reports of the same issue in Leflore, Lamar, Pearl River, Lincoln, Washington, Forrest and Scott counties. Reeves won the runoff with about 54 percent of the vote, The Associated Press reported.” Voters say touchscreen machines switched their votes in nine Mississippi counties (by Igor Derysh for Salon)

General Ridiculousness

“Are we to believe that arguing for the murder of a quarter of the female population is “flippant,” but calling Stephens a bedbug is an offense worthy of censure? This is someone who mocked sexual assault survivors for wanting a break room with counselors during a debate on rape culture, a writer who questioned the “moral proportion” of firing sexual harassers. Is targeting a professor’s job for a barely seen quip morally proportional? Are high-profile columnists more deserving of a “safe space?”” The Unbearable Fragility of Bret Stephens (by Jessica Valenti via Medium)

Trans Issues

“Shortcomings in the technology used by the TSA and insufficient training of the agency’s staff have made transgender and gender nonconforming travelers particularly vulnerable to invasive searches at airport checkpoints, interviews and a review of documents and data shows. The TSA says that it is committed to treating all travelers equally and respectfully. But while the agency has known about the problems for several years, it still struggles to ensure the fair treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming people.” When Transgender Travelers Walk Into Scanners, Invasive Searches Sometimes Wait on the Other Side (by Lucas Waldron and Brenda Medina for ProPublica)