ASK Musings

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Monthly Archive: April 2018



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

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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

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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.



April 2018



31 03 2018 Heffers

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

In the UK, the Easter holiday is a four-day weekend. This is not a thing in the US, so we decide to visit Cambridge on our first official outing outside of London. It’s a dreary day (and also happens to be the day and location of Stephen Hawking’s funeral), but we take a morning train in, grab some brunch at a local restaurant, and then wander into the city center.

Of course, I’ve done some research, so I know that we want to head to Heffers, which is part of the Blackwell’s chain of bookshops.

They are in the midst of relocating some sections, so the shop is a little challenging to navigate. Still we both manage to come away with some books that strike our fancy. I’m excited for Dear Madame President, which should be both a quick and hopeful read.

They have a nice section of classics reset in various fancy covers (see my Persuasion pick, above). They also have a large board game section, and a nice chunk of Harry Potter memorabilia.

I’ll definitely pop back in the next time we’re in Cambridge; hopefully the relocation will be complete and it’ll be a bit easier to navigate.