ASK Musings

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Yearly Archive: 2018



April 2018



What I’m Reading – 22 April 2018

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UK Immigration Policy Horror

“When Gretel arrived at Tilbury Docks in East London, aged 24, all those years ago, she had a Jamaican ­passport with a stamp inside giving her indefinite leave to remain. But that document was stolen in a 2006 burglary at her house in Lambeth. She applied for a new one and her daughter Pauline ­Blackwood immediately filed a police report. The authorities told Gretel she would not be given a UK passport and if she left Britain she would need to apply for a visa on her new Jamaican passport.” “I’m heartbroken I can’t rejoin my children in Britain”: Windrush gran blocked from UK after living here for 59 years (by Christopher Bucktin for The Mirror)

“There were angry exchanges at Prime Ministers Questions yesterday as the Labour Leader called Theresa May’s government “both callous and incompetent” after it emerged that Brits who had lived for generations in the UK faced being wrongly deported to Commonwealth countries, the evidence for when the Windrush generation had arrived in the UK having been destroyed by the Home Office.” Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’ immigration policy compared to ‘Nazi Germany’ by her own ministers (by Ben Gelblum for The London Economic)

“If you are angry about the treatment of the Windrush generation it is important to understand that this anger cannot be selective, if there are to be no more violations. There is no cross-party, cross-media support for a different type of immigration policy victim than the Windrush scandal has managed to muster. Not for those who are illegally detained, those on hunger strike in protest against poor conditions. Not for those whose illnesses were treated as lies and to which they later succumbed. Not for the sexually exploited and not for the children separated from their parents. Not even for those British subjects separated from their families by unreasonably high income visa requirements.” It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants (by Nesrine Malik for The Guardian)

“Robinson was told that he did not have the correct paperwork to get into the UK, even though he had lived, worked and paid taxes there his whole life. The grandfather of three was forced to say goodbye to his relatives at the departure gate. “I felt like someone had just punched me in the head. ‘What do you mean, I cannot come back?’ I thought. The next day it really hit me that I was not with my family,” he says. He says he ended up staying in Jamaica for 21 months, stranded and living in one-room bedsits and cheap hostels.” Windrush generation tell of holidays that led to exile and heartbreak (by Sarah Marsh, Haroon Siddique and Caroline Bannock for The Guardian)


“Nelson recalled asking the manager to use the bathroom after he and Robinson arrived at the Starbucks. He said she told him no because he hadn’t ordered anything. Nelson sat down at a table with Robinson — his friend since the fourth grade — and waited for Yaffe, who is white. That’s when the manager came over and asked if they were ordering anything, they said, and phoned the cops when the pair told her they were waiting to meet someone.” Starbucks manager called the cops on black men two minutes after they arrived for business meeting (by Terence Cullen for New York Daily News)

““And where are you from?” asked the prince. “Manchester, UK,” I said. “Well, you don’t look like it!” he said, and laughed. He was then ushered on to the next person. Although I have experienced such off-the-cuff, supposedly humorous, comments before, I was stunned by the gaffe. Prince Charles was endorsed by the Queen, in her opening speech to the heads of government, to be the future head of the Commonwealth: it’s her “sincere wish” that he become so. That the mooted next leader of an organisation that represents one-third of the people on the planet commented that I, a brown woman, did not look as if I was from a city in the UK is shocking.” Dear Prince Charles, do you think my brown skin makes me unBritish? (by Anita Sethi for The Guardian)

Sexual Assault

“Richard, a student and linebacker on the football team at SUNY Cortland in upstate New York, went to a house party on Long Island in July 2017 with his friends from high school while he was home from school for the summer. As he was getting ready to leave, Richard heard noises coming from the bathroom — the sounds, he said, of a woman’s cry. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Richard told BuzzFeed News. “I just knew something what up.” Using his shoulder, Richard said he and one of his friends pushed open the door and saw a man standing behind a young woman with his hand on her neck, attempting to assault her. The woman was crying and bleeding from the mouth, Richard said.” This College Junior Was Shot Twice After Stopping An Attempted Sexual Assault (by Mary Ann Georgantopoulos for BuzzFeed News)

“The House bill, which received support from across the aisle, came after a half-dozen lawmakers were forced to either resign or retire last fall in light of sexual harassment allegations, would require lawmakers to pay for harassment or discrimination claims out of their own pocket, instead of using taxpayer-funded settlements. The legislation would also mandate transparent reporting of previous harassment payouts and eliminates the requirement for Hill employees to seek counseling and mediation prior to pursuing a claim.” Male GOP senators balk at new rules requiring them to pay their own sexual harassment settlements (by Rebekah Entralgo for Think Progress)

“Towards the end of the two-hour hearing, following emotional testimonies from the survivors, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the ranking member of the subcommittee, asked all four if they thought that sexual abuse was ongoing in their respective sports. A few responded that they were certain it was: not only are the current policies still insufficient from both a response and prevention standpoint, but, as Farrell said, “I think the majority of athletes and coaches are wonderful people, but every child molester would love to be a coach.”” Survivors stun senators with testimony on prevalence of sexual abuse in sports (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

“Despite all of that, this year’s Coachella experience was also full of moments I never saw on Instagram: being repeatedly violated by strangers. In the three days I was at Coachella, I only spent a total of 10 hours at the actual festival, where I watched numerous performances and interviewed festivalgoers about their experience with sexual assault and harassment for Teen Vogue. During the 10 hours I was reporting on this story, I was groped 22 times.” Sexual Harassment Was Rampant at Coachella 2018 (by Vera Papisova for Teen Vogue)

“At Penn State, sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted, and fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than other male students, according to the university’s most recent Sexual Assault Campus Climate survey. Erin Farley, programming coordinator at Penn State’s Gender Equity Center, said 1 in 4 women and 1 in 16 men say they’ve been sexually assaulted at Penn State, according to the anonymous survey.” ‘Like sharks looking for minnows’: Sexual assault is a problem in Penn State’s Greek culture (by Sarah Rafacz for The Centre Daily)


“The 30th anniversary of the anti-gay legislation known as section 28 is a useful moment to pause and examine the parallels between the trans and gay movements: not only are the struggles analogous in that they were both designed to improve the legal rights of a minority group; the responses they provoked have been at times eerily similar.” Today’s anti-trans rhetoric looks a lot like old-school homophobia (by Shon Faye for The Guardian)


“A report, Housing for the Many, accuses ministers of stretching the term affordable to breaking point to include homes let at up to 80% of market rents – more than £1,500 a month in some areas – and homes for sale up to £450,000. “It has become a deliberately malleable phrase, used to cover up a shift in government policy towards increasingly expensive and insecure homes,” it says. The Labour leader and John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, set out the party’s plans to link affordability to people’s incomes on tenures including social rent, living rent and low-cost ownership, in the 40-page green paper, to be launched on Thursday.” Labour would rip up definition of affordable housing, Corbyn says (by Heather Stewart for The Guardian)

Corporate Malfeasance

“According to the New Food Economy, Amazon ranks high on the list of employers with massive numbers of employees enrolled in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps). In Ohio, around one in 10 Amazon employees uses SNAP; in Pennsylvania, about one in nine. In Arizona, nearly one in three Amazon employees is enrolled in the food stamp program.” A large number of Amazon workers rely on food stamps for assistance (by Luke Barnes for Think Progress)

“Owen and Demetric, father and son, allege in the lawsuit that Demetric’s supervisors hurled racist statements like, “All you f***ing n***ers,” Bloomberg reported. Owen told Bloomberg that the racist statements made him feel helpless. “It made me feel like I was less than a man,” Owen Diaz said. “I couldn’t do anything.” Owen and Demetric were contractors at Tesla who worked with firms West Valley Staffing Group and Citistaff Solutions. They are suing all three firms who have denied the allegations, Bloomberg reported.” Former Tesla Contractors File Discrimination Lawsuit Against The Company Claiming Racial Bias and Harassment (by Kimberley Richards for Blavity)



April 2018



Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett

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Five Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in a compelling story about how a professional athlete lives his values.

In a nutshell: Former (sniff) Seattle Seahawk and current Philadelphia Eagle team member Michael Bennett shares his prospective on a wide range of topics, including the NCAA, the NFL, racism, and sexism.

Line that sticks with me:
“They also tell us to stick to sports when we speak out on issues. But they don’t seem to have a problem when we’re making commercials, selling their kids sneakers they can’t afford or fast food that will give them colon cancer.”
“But none of this is new, and we shouldn’t pretend it is. Racists may be more confident now because of who is in the White House, but it’s been there all along.”
“I think their real reason for calling me a liar is their whole worldview is built around the idea that racism in policing doesn’t exist. They would rather live in the comfort of that fiction than be forced to confront the uncomfortable truth: that racial profiling is a reality.”
“I realized that I wouldn’t be the person I aspire to be if I called out injustice here at home and just stopped at our border. It doesn’t work that way.”

Why I chose it: I mean, a former Seahawk writing about things like social justice? Sign me up.

I grew up loving professional football. I was a 49ers fan, and got to attend many games growing up. However, I didn’t watch a single game in the 2017-2018 season, because of how the league treated Colin Kaepernick. I wrote about my decision here.

But living in Seattle, it was impossible to avoid news of the Seahawks, and Michael Bennett (until recently) was a major piece of that team. So when I heard he was writing a book — and with Dave Zirin, whose work I’ve reviewed before — I knew I had to pick it up. Saw it at the airport before returning to London this week, and I’ve not been able to put it down.

This book has so many insights, it was hard to limit the number of quotes to share above. Mr. Bennett talks openly about how hard college life is for ‘student-athletes’ (who he says would more accurately be called ‘athlete-students’), how the NCAA and universities don’t give a shit about their players. He talks about life in the NFL, and the fear of CTE and how poorly retired players are treated. He shares how important the brotherhood of the Seahawks locker room has been in his growth as a player and a Black man.

He covers many topics I expected him to, like the racism inherent in calling the NFL team owners ‘owners’ when so many of the employees are Black, or Mr. Bennett’s involvement in the anthem protests. In fact, the preface could stand alone as a wonderful essay on the need to stand up (or, in this case, sit down) for what’s right. But he also talks about things like the importance of access to healthful food, or his thoughts on Palestine, or the importance of forgiveness, which I wasn’t expecting.

I think this is a book anyone with an opinion on the role of college or professional athletes should read. I also think this is a good book for anyone who is looking for inspiration to keep fighting injustice.

Note: Mr. Bennett was charged in late March with assaulting someone working security at the Super Bowl in 2017 (a felony, because the person is over 65). I find it hard to believe that the incident went down as suggested in the indictment; I’m especially suspect because of the way the Houston police chief shared it (Google the press conference if you’re interested). Mr. Bennett’s attorney has said: “He just flat-out didn’t do it. It wasn’t a case of, ‘He didn’t shove her that hard,’ or anything like that. … He never touched her.” That said, I wasn’t there, so if that’s something that might affect your interest in picking up this book, I wanted to put it out there.



April 2018



The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

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Best for: People who enjoy Tiffany Haddish

In a nutshell: Comedian and actor Tiffany Haddish shares stories – some hilarious, some serious – from her life.

Worth quoting:
“I try to forgive him. I really do try to find a place of forgiveness in my heart for him. That shit is hard, though.”

Why I chose it: I was about to board a nine-hour flight, and thought this would be a good choice for helping the time pass quickly. I was right.

Some memoirs by famous folks are co-written by someone who has more experience writing books. Ms. Haddish employed Tucker Max to assist, but I didn’t even realize it until I read the acknowledgments at the end. That is to say: this book sounds exactly like Tiffany Haddish.

Some of the chapters in this book are fantastic. Ms. Haddish is a great storyteller, and that isn’t limited to traditionally ‘funny’ fare. Her deep honesty around past relationships, and her recognition of how hard it is to understand why she returned to her abusive ex husband make the serious stories as enthralling as the funny ones. She’s been through some shit, and she doesn’t seem to hold back in sharing it all with us.

That said, I think others enjoyed this book more than I did, and I might not be being fair in my review when I say that the way she writes about her date with Roscoe (who lives in a group home and has an arm that didn’t fully develop) left me … unimpressed. That’s not to say that I think it was mean. In fact, I think Ms. Haddish comes across throughout as a very sweet woman. But I think she just missed the mark in how she told that book, and it kind of took the wind out of the second half for me. I also didn’t appreciate how she seems deeply insulted by the idea of anyone being fat. For me, that’s such a ridiculous thing to still be employing for laughs / insults that I get especially annoyed when I see it from someone who is a very smart comedian.



April 2018



What I’m Reading – 15 April, 2018

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Horrible Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Action

“On Friday, as part of a crackdown that long predates SESTA, the country’s best known adult classifieds site, — a vital site for sex workers — was seized by the FBI. Without traffic from, the community has speculated that some will become hungry, homeless, or even dead. Professionals who serve actual trafficked victims believe the only way to track them now no longer exists.” Sex Workers Are Canaries In The Free Speech Coal Mine (by Emily Smith for BuzzFeed News)


“On lawyers’ advice, the Francos waited to start legalizing his status through their marriage until late 2016, after he had lived a productive, crime-free decade in the United States. They never anticipated that President Trump’s promised immigration crackdown would be so swift, and so ruthless in their region. By last spring, when Pennsylvania roads were starting to feel like a dragnet for immigrants without papers, Ludvin Franco had mostly stopped getting behind the wheel of a car. Often he relied on his wife to drive him, their twin toddlers buckled into the backseat. But the night his soccer team faced a rival in the semifinals of an indoor league, his wife was in the queasy first trimester of a second pregnancy. He headed out alone.” In Pennsylvania, It’s Open Season on Undocumented Immigrants (by Deborah Sontag and Dale Russakoff for ProPublica)

““We are dismayed that an invited guest to our annual PEN World Voices Festival in New York, which starts on Monday, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, herself the founder of an organization called Youth Without Borders, was turned away by US Immigration officials in Minneapolis, reportedly had her phone and passport seized, and was put back on a plane to Amsterdam,” said Nossel. “Abdel-Magied is an advocate of the rights of Muslim women and refugees and is a citizen of Australia, traveling on that country’s passport.”” This Young Muslim Woman Says She Was Blocked And Deported From America Before She Could Speak At An Event Called “No Country For Young Muslim Women” (by Brad Esposito for BuzzFeed News)


“After arranging for Colin Kaepernick to work out for the Seattle Seahawks this week, team officials postponed the trip when the quarterback declined to say he would stop kneeling during the national anthem next season, a league source told ESPN on Thursday.” Seahawks postpone visit after Colin Kaepernick won’t say if he’ll stop kneeling during anthem (by Adam Schefter for ESPN)

“The GAO found that black students are overrepresented in the disciplinary data, which is a very nice way of saying that black children are punished more often and receive harsher punishments than white kids. “These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty or type of public school attended,” the report explains (pdf).” Government Study: School Is Racist (by Michael Harriot for The Root)

“A Texas appeals court in 2010 turned down an aunt’s attempt to adopt Devonte Hart and three of his siblings because she previously violated an order barring their biological mother from seeing the children, court records show.” Devonte Hart’s aunt fought — and lost — battle for custody, court records show (by Everton Bailey, Jr. for Oregon Live)

Gun Violence

““Rep. Norman’s behavior today was a far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like,” said Lori Freeman, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who attended the event and spoke with Norman, according to the Washington Post. Another attendee, Lori Carter, said, “I felt it was highly inappropriate for an elected official, honestly, and it almost felt like an intimidation tactic.”” South Carolina congressman draws loaded weapon at constituent event (by Ryan Koronowski for Think Progress)

“On Tuesday, teens from Miami Northwestern Senior High School marched from their school’s campus to a housing complex where four young people were shot on Sunday. Kimson Green, a 17-year-old sophomore at the school, and Rickey Dixon, an 18-year-old alumnus, were killed. Students chanted: “No justice. No peace. No violence in the streets,” the Miami Herald reported.” Black Students Marched Against Gun Violence In Florida, But You Likely Didn’t Hear About It (by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman for HuffPost)


“After being pulled from her fifth-period class at Braden River High School, the 17-year-old from Bradenton, Florida, found herself in the dean’s office, and was told that nipples and breasts were “distracting” other students and “a boy was laughing at her,” thus she was violating school dress code policy, according to the teen and statements from school officials. Martinez said that school officials originally told her that her third-period teacher flagged the dress code issue, but later said a student came to the office to report her.” This 17-Year-Old Was Told To Put Band-Aids On Her Nipples After Not Wearing A Bra To School (by Brianna Sacks for BuzzFeed News)



April 2018



What I’m Reading – 8 April 2018

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Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Action

“A week later, Henry was called to the principal’s office to speak with the police officer assigned to the school. In El Salvador, Henry had learned to distrust the police, who often worked for rival gangs or paramilitary death squads. But the officer assured Henry that the Suffolk County police were not like the cops he had known before he sought asylum in the United States. They could connect him to the FBI, which could protect him and move him far from Long Island.” A Betrayal (by Hannah Dreier for ProPublic and New York Magazine)

Corporate Malfeasance

“Now, almost three years to the day of that announcement, the few McDonald’s workers who are employed at corporate-owned restaurants have seen no action from the company and are still being paid just barely above minimum wage in their cities. In a 2015 statement announcing the change, Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook said “A motivated workforce leads to better customer service so we believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve the McDonald’s restaurant experience.” The announcement, however, was widely criticized by labor experts at the time, who noted that the pay raise only applied to “company-owned restaurants,” which roughly constitute only about 10 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants. The rest are owned and operated by franchisees which make their own decisions when it comes to benefits and wages.” McDonald’s stiffs employees on promised pay raise (by Rebekah Entralgo for Think Progress)


“In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, McNair revisited that controversy, and took an opportunity to express his regret. Not for his initial statement, mind you: he apologized for apologizing. “The main thing I regret is apologizing,” McNair told the WSJ. He rehashed his initial excuse — that this was a figure of speech, and that he was actually referring to the control the league executives had over the NFL owners. “I really didn’t have anything to apologize for,” he said.” NFL owner says his only regret about comparing players to ‘inmates’ is apologizing for it (by Lindsay Gibbs for Think Progress)

“”Bernie’s comments were tone-deaf and will not help him with communities of color, especially black folks,” said Joshua DuBois, a strategist who led Obama’s faith-based initiative. “On that hallowed day, our focus should’ve been on the transformative legacy of Dr. King and how we can come together to continue King’s fight against systemic racism and injustice — not attacking the legacy of the first black president, who fought against many of the same things Dr. King fought.” Bakari Sellers, a South Carolina Democrat who emphatically supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, told BuzzFeed News that he and black Democrats have had patience with Sanders as he’s sought to better understand the role that race plays in the United States, even as Democrats have pushed Sanders to not just rely on the narrative that he marched with King in the 1960s. To Sellers, anyway, Sanders’ time is up.” Bernie Sanders’ Revolution Needs Black Voters To Win. But Can He Talk To Them? (by Ruby Cramer and Darren Sands for BuzzFeed News)

“Last month, these three Native American teams were suddenly expelled from the DPLL by league administrator Corey Mitchell, for reasons players and coaches say they still do not understand. Members of all three teams say they have experienced severe racial abuse from other DPLL players, parents, and referees, and they allege they were kicked out of the league because Mitchell was uninterested in addressing their allegations of racial abuse.” Native American Lacrosse Teams Reported Racial Abuse. Then Their League Expelled Them. (by Curtis Waltman for Deadspin)


“Muslims and those perceived as Muslim due to their race or other factors were far more likely to experience negative media coverage and outsized legal ramifications than perpetrators not seen as Muslim, according to the study. A review of incidents shows that prosecutors sought sentences three times longer for Muslim perpetrators — 230 months versus 76 months. In actual sentencing, Muslims typically received sentences that were four times the length of non-Muslims, despite the similarity in severity or general scope of their actions.” For perpetrators, ramifications are different if you’re Muslim, new study shows (by E. A. Crunden for Think Progress)


“If you followed the men’s March Madness tournament, you’re well aware that Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt is the 98-year-old team chaplain for Loyola University Chicago, the 11th-seed Cinderella team that made a remarkable run to the men’s Final Four this year. That Sister Jean received more extensive coverage during one tournament than Ogunbowale will likely receive over her entire basketball career is not a slight on the luckiest nun alive, but rather a way for us to take stock of how we tell stories and where we choose to direct our attention.” The More Women’s Sports Are Covered, The More Popular They Will Be (by Jessica Luther for Huff Post)

“I agree with Goldberg that a person’s worst tweets don’t sum up who they are. But there is a difference between “just a tweet” and a belief. What Williamson tweeted (and doubled down on many times over Twitter and the podcast) was not a bad joke or a even a cruel comment dashed off in anger. It was a political position – and the Atlantic had a decision to make over whether it believed that political position was within the norms of reasonable critical debate. Whether or not they wanted to expand their definition of acceptable discourse to include “hanging women”. ‘Hang women who have abortions’ is not a view that’s fit for public debate (by Jessica Valenti for The Guardian)


“Here’s why: Paterno — which stars Al Pacino, is directed by Barry Levinson, and premieres on HBO on April 7 — builds a compelling case to implicate the adult bystanders who enabled Sandusky’s crimes against children, which included other Penn State officials. Through flashbacks and Paterno’s stubborn and naive conversations with his family — during which it becomes clear he did not do nearly enough to stop Sandusky, his former defensive coordinator — the film makes a powerful point about community responsibility. In 2018, it’s impossible to view Paterno without drawing parallels to the months-long national reckoning on sexual harassment, abuse, and assault precipitated by the exposés about Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times and the New Yorker in early October.” Watching “Paterno” During The #MeToo Era (by Kate Aurthur for BuzzFeed News)


“Entire families died while hiding in cellars, trying to seek shelter from air raids and barrel bombs, the group said on Twitter. The reports have not been independently confirmed. Other relief organizations and watchdog groups, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society, also reported the attack, though the number of victims killed has varied. Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters he could not confirm if chemical weapons had been used.” Trump Blames Putin And Iran After Reported Syria Chemical Attack Kills Dozens (by Stephanie K. Baer, Patrick Smith, and David Mack for BuzzFeed News)

Something Good

“Anchorage’s transgender community worked tirelessly with the city’s faith and business leaders and local and national organizers, to build a powerful coalition of love and support, and to combat the fearmongering tactics of anti-LGBTQ activists to defeat this dangerous anti-trans ballot measure,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “Proposition 1 was exposed as a clear attack on transgender people and unequivocally rejected by voters who put their love of their neighbors and the safety of their entire community above hate.” VICTORY! Anchorage Alaska rejects anti-transgender ballot measure (GLAAD blog)



April 2018



Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

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Four Stars

Best for: Those looking for a quick read about complicated relationships.

In a nutshell: Frances is a 21-year-old college student who writes poetry and performs it with her best friend / ex-girlfriend Bobbi. They meet writer Melissa, and her actor husband Nick, who is quite appealing to Frances. Events transpire.

Worth quoting:
“I didn’t know how to join in their new friendship without debasing myself for their attention.”
“Realising not only that hurting Bobbi’s feelings was within my power but that I had done it practically offhandedly and without noticing, made me uncomfortable.”
“I thought of myself as an independent person, so independent that the opinions of others were irrelevant to me.”

Why I chose it: I was at a Waterstones and picked the book up (it was prominently displayed on a table). The review pull quote across the top said “Fearless, sensual writing.” I immediately put it down, because I’ve not ever found myself enjoying writing that I would characterise as ‘sensual.’ The shop manager noticed and spent the next two minutes trying to sell me on the book, and to ignore that quote. I acquiesced, and am happy I did so.

Author Sally Rooney has an interesting way with words. With this book, she is able to create characters that I don’t think we’re meant to root for or against, but to just be interested in. The book is told from Frances’s first person perspective, so the other three main characters come to us through that lens, and it’s clear that we’re meant to recognize that what Frances is telling us isn’t everything there is to know about them. And I don’t mean this in an ‘unreliable narrator’ / ‘there’s a mystery to be solved’ sort of way, just that with Ms. Rooney’s writing, I feel that she understands how little we all know about the people in our lives.

The book centers around the ideas of love and relationships. The primary focus at times seems to be romantic relationships, but I think the book also does a good job at looking at friendships as well as relationships with our families of origin. How much do we choose to share of ourselves with our partners? Our parents? How do we make those calculations? How do those relationships shape us? How much do we re-frame and reformulate those relationships as a way to help us understand ourselves?

Frances’s character develops over time, and you can see her taking more steps to get to know who she is. In some moments its easy to forget that she’s still in college and has to sort out the big life questions like ‘what do I want to be when I grow up,’ and I think that’s mostly due to Ms. Rooney’s writing. Yes, there are some eye-roll-worthy moments that those of us who have been out of college for many years might look at and think ‘awww, I remember debating that in the pub. How sweet,’ but Ms. Rooney doesn’t condescend to her characters. Frances and Bobbi are younger than I am (I’m not quite old enough to be Frances’s mother, but I could be her aunt) but they aren’t acting especially immature, at least not in unexpected ways. I think they’re relatable, even if the actions they’re taking aren’t ones I’d necessarily take.

So thanks, Waterstones bookseller. I DID like it!



April 2018



Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri

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Three Stars

Best for: Those looking for a quick read that’s mostly about Hillary Clinton’s run for president.

In a nutshell: This is “An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World.” But it’s more a short retelling of some parts of the Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign framed around the idea that it’s a letter to the first woman to be US President.

Worth quoting:
“I have always thought that I could do any job a man can do just as well as him. Only recently have I come to realize that I don’t want to. I want to do the job the best way I can do it, not the way he would.”
“Yes, I’m sure you loved her concession speech. Because that’s what you think is acceptable for a woman to do — concede.”
“We have no idea what beneficial qualities we might be stifling in ourselves as long as we continue to follow an outdated set of behavioral rules that were designed to permit women to play a niche role in a workplace built for men.”

Why I chose it: I heard the author speak on the Rachel Maddow show, and the excerpt shared sounded interesting.

The concept behind this book is a good one, but I’m not sure the execution worked for me. The book is 175 pages, but each page is probably half the size of a standard hardcover book, so it’s a very quick read — I started it at 9:30 PM last night and finished it just after 11 PM. It moved me, and it frustrated me, and it angered me. So in that respect, it certainly got me thinking.

But I think it’s a bit of false advertising. It’s really a short review of the Clinton campaign, with a few anecdotes from the author’s time in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama White Houses. The author means to take lessons from the campaign and share them with readers (specifically, woman), but after sleeping on it and thinking about it more today, I think the concept wasn’t realized in as strong a way as it could have been.

There are clear nuggets of wisdom in here, and there are interesting stories that illustrate them. But I think the book would have worked better for me if there had been more concrete suggestions. Or fewer. It’s in the middle space for me, where the book is not long enough to dive deeply into this issues, but is too long to be a tight booklet with a more coherent message.

The overall idea is that we (women) need to stop looking at the way men do things and aim to be like them; instead, we need to be like us. I don’t disagree that women are judged differently (and Ms. Palmieri certainly provides loads of great examples of this), but something about this premise felt as though it were lumping ‘how women act’ into one bucket, and I’m not okay with that.

I do think the book is worth a read, and I’d be interested in reading what other women think after reading it.



April 2018



Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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4 Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in getting swept up in a bit of period drama.

In a nutshell: Two sisters deal with the loss of their father and the change in lifestyle that follows, while trying to sort out their love lives.

Worth quoting:
“I am afraid that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”

Why I chose it: The cover, honestly. This lovely cloth cover drew my attention in a bookshop a few weeks ago, and I figured why not finally pick it up.

The book was originally published over 200 years ago, but just the same … SPOILERS!

I claim on Good Reads to have read Pride and Prejudice, but I don’t think I have (odd, I know, and I’ll be correcting that). The cover of the film version of Sense and Sensibility has flashed on Netflix as I’ve skimmed through options over the years, but I’ve never watched it (until now – it’s playing as I write this review*). I share that only to say that because of that, I had Emma Thompson in my mind as I read Elinor, and Kate Winslet as I read Marianne. But I didn’t know the rest of the cast, so luckily my imagination was able to fill in the rest of the characters.

It took me a little bit to get into this; I don’t read fiction often, and I read fiction from the 19th century even less often, so the writing took me some time to adjust to. That said, by about fifty pages in, I was engrossed. Unfortunately, because I wasn’t entirely understanding what I was reading (beyond picking up that Franny Dashwood is a conniving snot and her husband is a wimp), the whole Edward-Elinor pairing completely slipped my mind. When he was mentioned again much later on (as his engagement is revealed by Lucy), I was confused why Elinor would even care. So that’s a big whoops on my part.

I did enjoy that characters were developed and shown to be a bit more complex (not always, although often) than they originally seemed. That said … I don’t understand why anyone’s opinion should be moved by Willoughby’s big confession to Elinor when he thinks Marianne is dying. Like, I guess the fact that his wife dictated the shitty letter matters, but I didn’t see anything in what he said that changed anything. Did I just miss something? Or was that whole reveal meant to just endear us even more to Elinor and her willingness to find the good in people? It just seemed unnecessary to me.

Overall, I’m glad I read it. Up next, per a friend’s suggestion, is Persuasion; after that I’ll go with Mansfield Park, and eventually work my way around to Pride and Prejudice.

*The casting in this film is BRILLIANT. I actually squealed when I saw Gemma Jones was Elinor and Marianne’s mother. AND ALAN RICKMAN JUST SHOWED UP!



April 2018



Social Media Reset

Written by , Posted in Random

Earlier this year I read a book about phone usage and have been actively working on reducing the time I spend on my phone. I deleted all casual games as well as all social media apps except Slack, WhatsApp, and Instagram, which means I need to actually log into Facebook and Twitter to post or view. It’s been a pain at times, but it’s also forced me to be a bit more intentional with my words and my time.

I know that in the past couple of weeks many people have deleted their Facebook accounts due to the data collection, use, and abuse by among others Cambridge Analytica (among others). I absolutely respect that, although it does make me a bit sad. Facebook is a nightmare, but it’s also the way I see pictures of your children, or find articles of interest, or learn about events to attend. Having moved yet again, it keeps me feeling connected to friends who may not have time to Skype or send long emails on a regular basis. Plus, it’s a way for me to promote How Not To Be A Jerk When…

Same with Twitter. It’s basically my news aggregator (RIP Google Reader, which was the best), as well as a way to share little jokes with friends.

However, I’ve found that for the most part,* I don’t need a running history of my life available for public consumption. So over the past week, I’ve taken my own steps. I’ve deleted everything I posted on Facebook prior to 2018 (yes, everything), and deleted all tweets I’ve ever made from my personal account, and all but a handful of writing-related posts from my public account (more on that below). I’ve also changed up some names.

What this means going forward is that I’ll probably not be liking your Facebook posts or Tweets as often. I’ll be reading them, and possibly reaching out to you via other means if the post shares particularly awesome (or not awesome) news. I’ll likely still engage, but there won’t be a record of it for long, as for my personal Facebook and Twitter, I’ve set it up to only keep 3-4 months of history going forward.

For Twitter, that means I’m using a third party website that deletes tweets that are more than 93 days old. For Facebook, I have a recurring task at the start of each month to go and delete any Facebook activity from the previous month.

This doesn’t mean I think what I’m doing is the only or best way to do social media; it’s just what I’m trying out to see if it works for me. The only reason for posting this is in case you notice that something I’d posted on your awesome profile pic disappeared, or you wonder why I didn’t react to the news you posted. Of course, I’m not under any illusion that any friends just sitting there waiting for my like or retweet (we all have lives), but I didn’t want to just disappear either.

So! Going forward:

Personal (history retained for three months or so)

Public (history retained indefinitely)

Finally, if you have any questions about how I did what I did, including apps or sites I found helpful and ones I found to not be helpful at all, drop me a note.

*I’m not deleting Instagram, because I love those pictures, and I do like having that little history available.



April 2018



The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises by Adam Campbell

Written by , Posted in Reviews

2 Stars


Best for: Women interested in strength training who aren’t overwhelmed with a million (733, to be specific) options.

In a nutshell: Author Campbell provides an overview of lifting, a diet plan (boo), and chapters with body-part-specific target exercises.

Line that sticks with me:
“So whether you’re toting groceries or holding a baby, you’ll notice the difference.” Really, dude? Women use their arms for two things: shopping or children? Awesome.

Why I chose it: I’ve been consistent with my non-strength exercise for many years (running, elliptical, long walks), but haven’t really done much focused strength training in quite a while. Plus, I had a gift certificate to the shop where I found this one.

When I started this review, I planned to give the book three stars, but after considering it further, I’ve bumped it down to two.

There are components of it did like. There are workout plans, and there are detailed images. I’ve already tried one of the Back workouts (and learned that not only can I not do a chin-up, I can’t even jump to one and lower myself down) and the Quads / Calves. The latter was good. When I get back from a vacation I’m taking in a couple of weeks, I’m going to jump into the “Get Your Body Back” collection of exercises, because, as I said, I haven’t done strength training in awhile. So at the very basic level, this book is as advertised.

Now, let’s talk through what bothered me about this book.

First, every person in the book is TINY. Like, there is variety in ethnicity of the women showing the moves, but it seems as thought the person responsible for staging the photography thinks the only people who do strength training are a size 2-4 with no boobs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that body type, but come one. There are strong women who are larger than Keira Knightly; perhaps a few of them could be featured?

Next, there are a probably too many exercise options. I fully get that I bought a book that is literally called the “Big Book of Exercises,” but there’s a difference between a dozen exercises per body area and over ninety. It’s just a lot, and it all blurs together. I think it’s possible it could have been better edited to not seem so overwhelming, but this version? Not so much.

Third, the sections on nutrition are pretty generic and a little blech. There’s even a part with a heading called “Why Diets Work.” The text below talks about why nutrition is a necessary component of changing your weight, but come on. Anyone who has read any studies knows that for the vast, vast majority of people, diets don’t do anything good, and often do very bad things. It’s disheartening to see that in a book ostensibly from a health magazine.

Fourth, the marketing of the book. The subtitle is “Four Weeks to a Leaner, Sexier, Healthier YOU!” Again, blech. I’m sexy as I am, thanks. Would it have been so hard to just replace those words with things like ‘stronger?’ Also, is it just me, or is the photo-shopping of the lovely cover woman just a bit too uncanny valley?

And finally, it bugged me that this book was written by a guy. I’m sure there are plenty of women out there who could compile a bunch of exercises, and I wish Women’s Health magazine would support those women. Also, at the end of many chapters are suggested workouts, which I appreciate, but again — full of guys. Seriously, I thought maybe I was misremembering, but I just flipped through and the one time a name stuck out that I thought might belong to a woman or non-binary person, nope. Still a dude.