ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: March 2019

Sunday

17

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – March 17, 2019

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Accessibility

“Looking at the data set as a whole, the likelihood of damage to wheelchairs and scooters in the month of December 2018 was around 2%. Since the data is based only on damage reported by passengers, it is important for wheelchair users to file a claim each time a mobility device is mishandled, even if the damage is minor or cosmetic. The Air Carrier Access Act states that wheelchairs and scooters must be returned “in the same condition” in which they were received.” First Data on Wheelchair Damage by Airlines Released by DOT (by John Morris for Wheelchair Travel)

“Of course, it’s unclear whether the students involved in the college admissions scam actually needed accommodations, though court records allege their parents exploited this feature to help their children get higher test scores. This, Cokley says, could delegitimize those students who depend on accommodations, making their requests seem like a leg up, rather than a leveling of the playing field. “This behavior is harmful because when celebrities and others with privilege use a marginalized community’s civil rights as a ‘VIP pass,’ it frames reasonable accommodations as something ‘special’ that you should be able to buy, versus actual civil rights that give people with disabilities an equal seat at the table,” she says. “My need to preboard on an airline due to my arthritis isn’t extra — it’s to ensure I don’t get trampled by average-height folks rushing onboard. The manipulation of a system that is put into place to ensure that students who have disabilities have their needs met can cause folk on the outside to infer that the entire system is corrupt. This is not the case.”” The College Admissions Scandal Could Have Lasting Impacts for Disabled People (by Brittney McNamara for Teen Vogue)

Sex Work

“In response, sex workers—both young women and longtime activists—got together and mobilized to fight for full decriminalization of their work. They rejected the so-called Nordic Model, which mandates the arrest of clients and managers but not of prostitutes, saying it impoverished them and still gave the police control over their lives by allowing police surveillance of their workplaces. They focused on lobbying politicians. The closing words of Ramos’s statement—“I’m here to say thank you for having the bravery of being yourselves, of advocating for yourselves. I can’t wait to keep working with you”—showed how effective their efforts have been.” ‘Whores But Organized’: Sex Workers Rally for Reform (by Molly Crabapple for The New York Review of Books)

Criminal Punishment System

““Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure,” Newsom says in prepared remarks he is expected to deliver at a Capitol news conference Wednesday morning. “It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.” Newsom also argues in his remarks that the criminal justice system is susceptible to error, citing a November Los Angeles Times editorial that reported 164 condemned prisoners nationwide who were wrongly convicted have been freed from death row since 1973. He also cites a 2005 Santa Clara University Law Review study that concluded people convicted of killing whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than people convicted of killing blacks and Latinos.” Gov. Gavin Newsom to block California death row executions, close San Quentin execution chamber (by Phil Willon for the LA Times)

A Few Good Things

“The couple’s love story started almost a decade ago, when they met in 2010 while they both played for the U.S. National Team. They started out as friends, and, Harris said, “The rest has kind of been history. Here we are nine years later, and we’re going to be getting married this year.” During a September 15 picnic near the rocks of Clearwater Beach, Florida, Harris, 33, surprised Krieger, 34 by popping the question.” Two Women’s Soccer Stars Are Getting Married (by Lisa Ryan for The Cut)

“And, to further inconvenience myself for YOU, our honored guest, I have finally procured and thusly scoured the Williams-Sonoma catalog for wares that will alight poor people all across this nation over in righteous fury. Because what is Christmas unless I invite a bunch of hoity-toity strangers over, break my back trying to entertain them, and then quietly seethe when they don’t appear to be jovial enough? It’s nothing. So, with that in mind, let’s have a belated look inside this tome of impossibly WASP-ish treasures. I hope there’s a $650 toaster in here! (SPOILER: There is!)” The 2018(ish) Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog (by Drew Magary for Deadspin)

Tuesday

12

March 2019

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COMMENTS

Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing by Chris Longmuir

Written by , Posted in Reviews, Writing

Four Stars

Best for:
People interested in self-publishing a book.

In a nutshell:
Author Chris Longmuir shares their experience in self-publishing while providing seriously detailed instructions to prospective self-publishers.

Worth quoting:
(Mostly because it’s a fun bit of trivia) “Project Gutenberg was launched in 1971. This was the year they digitized the United States Declaration of Independence, making it the first ebook in the world.”

Why I chose it:
I want to get my book out there.

Review:
A couple of weeks ago I was texting with a friend about the book I wrote a few years ago. It’s a non-fiction advice book, focused on the relationships between people who don’t have kids (me) and people who do (damn near everyone else). I’ve put together book proposals, built a supporting website (my goal is to write multiple advice books along the same theme), and reached out to agents, but I don’t have the type of platform agents look for. In lamenting this, my friend pointed out that her sibling self-published their books.

To be honest, I’d passed on this idea because I fell into the same trap that Longmuir references: self-publishing is just a vanity option for people who can’t write well. The reality is there are so many books out there, and a limited number of agents and publishers. I’m not a celebrity with a few hundred thousand followers; no one is going to make money off of me. But I like to write, and I think there is a market for the type of book I’m writing. I spent a lot of time on it (and still have editing and sensitivity reading ahead of me), and it’s silly that it’s just sitting here in Scrivener.

So, I bought this book. And it is exactly what it says it is: nuts and bolts. To the point where Longmuir provides detailed step-by-step instructions not just of the process but of the actions needed. It runs the risk of getting out of date if Amazon or other self-publishing outlets dramatically change their software, but it’s going to be wonderful when I get to the point of publishing. Instead of saying “when you get to the eBook details, fill in the information”, they list out all the information you will need (and whether you have to come up with it yourself or if they is a menu of options) so you aren’t starting at a screen, scrambling for the details.

Similarly, Longmuir offers warnings and suggestions based on their experience. Some publishing platforms will need to have exclusive rights unless you uncheck certain boxes. Others will provide the things you need (an ISBN) but then they are the publisher and you aren’t. Longmuir even offers a detailed breakdown of how royalties work.

It’s not the most riveting read, but it’s definitely as well-written as a book on this topic could be while still being useful. I’m not ready to hit submit yet, but when I am, this is the book I’m going to rely on to get me through it.

And then I hope a few of you will check it out.

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

Sunday

10

March 2019

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COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – 10 March 2019

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Fight Back

“Thompson has now joined over 70 UK women in the UK in writing an open letter in support of more inclusive gender recognition laws, in the process challenging a poisonous anti-transgender narrative that has taken root in some corners of the country’s discourse. A number of media outlets, commentators, and celebrities in the UK have been using their platform in recent years to argue that by advancing legislation that grants transgender people—specifically transgender women in this case—more of their human rights, governments are actually infringing upon the rights of non-transgender women. Proponents of this view have come to be known as trans-exclusionary radical feminists.” ‘They Do Not Speak For Us’: Emma Thompson and Other Female Celebrities in UK Pen Letter Condemning Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (by Petr Knava for Pajiba)

“The suit, in United States District Court in Los Angeles, comes only three months before the team will begin defense of its Women’s World Cup title at this summer’s tournament in France. In their filing and a statement released by the team, the 28 players described “institutionalized gender discrimination” that they say has existed for years. The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.” U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Sues U.S. Soccer for Gender Discrimination (by Andrew Das for The New York Times)

Health Care

“The Center for Reproductive Rights and Maine Family Planning—the state’s sole recipient of the Title X family planning funds targeted by the administration—on Wednesday filed the latest lawsuit against the recently finalized rule. Officials in 21 states are slated to bring lawsuits against the “gag rule,” expected to go into effect in early May. Pro-choice advocates see the rule as a backdoor attempt to defund Planned Parenthood—a longstanding goal of anti-choice activists and Republican lawmakers. The anti-choice policy bans Title X money from going to health-care providers who refer patients for abortions and requires clinics to physically separate Title X-funded family planning services and abortion services.” ‘More Than an Undue Burden’: Trump’s Domestic ‘Gag Rule’ Faces Flurry of Lawsuits (by Dennis Carter for Rewire)

Technology

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.” Here’s how we can break up Big Tech (By Elizabeth Warren)

Misogyny

“Are you the office cut-up—the person who can’t resist responding to a tedious presentation with a well-timed witticism? Do you wonder at times whether this behavior is helping or hurting your career According to a new study, it depends in part on whether you’re a man or a woman. A research team led by Jonathan Evans of the University of Arizona reports that using humor in the workplace raises the status of male employees, but has the opposite effect for women. The team argues that these divergent reactions are the result of ingrained gender stereotypes.” Witty Women Are Less Likely to Get Promoted Than Men (by Tom Jacobs for Pacific Standard)

“We are like this because girls are taught to never walk alone. Don’t use public restrooms solo. No drinks from strangers. We’re told to get to our cars quickly, start the car, and get driving. No lingering. Dress modestly, be aware of your surroundings, carry pepper spray, and learn basic self defense. The list of things we do to keep ourselves safe is long. But as Jackson Katz, an activist educator, found out through his research: Sexual assault safety is a nonissue for many men.” ‘Text me when you get home.’ We shouldn’t have to say it. But we do (by Jenee Osterheldt for The Boston Glob)

Racism

“The researchers then analyzed how often the models correctly detected the presence of people in the light-skinned group versus how often they got it right with people in the dark-skinned group. The result? Detection was five percentage points less accurate, on average, for the dark-skinned group. That disparity persisted even when researchers controlled for variables like the time of day in images or the occasionally obstructed view of pedestrians. “The main takeaway from our work is that vision systems that share common structures to the ones we tested should be looked at more closely,” Jamie Morgenstern, one of the authors of the study, told me.” A new study finds a potential risk with self-driving cars: failure to detect dark-skinned pedestrians (by Sigal Samuel for Vox)

Life

“This seems to ring especially true in creative fields, where these days selling art is less likely to be considered “selling out” than self-actualization. But even those who are commercially successful in creative fields often lament the disconnect between what it is like to do their jobs and how society views their life and work. Adam J. Kurtz, author of Things Are What You Make of Them has rewritten the maxim for modern creatives: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.” Which, aside from being relatable to anyone who has tried to make money from something they truly care about, speaks to an underrepresented truth: those with passion careers can have just as much career anxiety as those who clock in and out of the mindless daily grind.” The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles (by Molly Conway for Man Repeller)

Something Good

A cool design video focused on furniture. 

Saturday

9

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy investigative journalism told in narrative form.

In a nutshell:
A very Libertarian dude decides to make a statement and start a website that sells drugs. Things spiral. The federal government gets involved in multiple ways.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
After listening to Bad Blood, I needed another audio book for my runs. Memoirs have been my go-to in this format, but I think they have been replaced, as it’s easy to stay invested when it’s essential real-life suspense. And bonus: the narrator for this book happened to be the same one, and I like his style, so double-win.

Review:
I was vaguely aware of the Silk Road website, where people could buy and sell drugs and other contraband, but I had no idea about the story behind it. And OH MY GOD is it absurd. Like, this young guy with very specific ideals who is desperate to be successful in some realm just .. Starts a site. And it blows up to the point that it is doing hundreds of thousands of dollars of business a week.

A week.

What?!

The story alternates among a few major players: the site’s founder, two different homeland security inspectors, the FBI, and an IRS agent. The personalities are strong and interesting. Some people make horrible decisions. Some people make good decisions. And I yell “Are you KIDDING ME?” at least every 15 minutes. I felt like I was listening to a suspense novel, and then had to remind myself that this was real life.

If the whole Theranos situation has you intrigued, I think you’ll find this an interesting read as well.

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

Tuesday

5

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
Anyone who enjoys a true story about shady people who (for the most part) get what’s coming to them.

In a nutshell:
An experienced Elizabeth Holmes convinces a lot of people that she is on to the next big thing in biotechnology. She isn’t, and she gets VERY touchy when people point that out. Also, lots of powerful old white guys make some absurd financial decisions.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I listened to the podcast “The Drop Out,” which is just a few episodes long, but was definitely enough to get me interested.

Review:
Oh MY god did I love this book. I purchased the audio version and planned to listen to it during some long runs I have coming up. Instead, I could barely put it down, and listened to it every chance I got. It is a meticulously researched book, and Carreyrou explains complicated things (like how blood tests work) in ways that are not condescending or difficult to understand. The story develops slowly but never drags, as Carreyrou lays out the entire fiasco step by step.

What it comes down to is the Elisabeth Holmes was — is — a fraud. I think she started out with an idea (blood testing without the needles), and then became like a dog with a bone. She couldn’t and wouldn’t accept anyone disagreeing with her, because she was going to change the world. I don’t believe she was motivated by greed or money; I think she was fully motivated by her ego. She couldn’t dare admit that she was in over her head, or that her company Theranos wasn’t able to do what she promised; she just kept lying to others (and possibly herself) in the hopes that everything would work itself out.

The story is at times unbelievable. The number of attorneys involved. The cloak and dagger way the company treated its ‘trade secrets.’ The threatening letters. The lawsuits. The firings of anyone who questions anything. To think that people act this way — and think it is justified — is distressing to say the least. And frankly, I reserve about as much disgust for the attorneys who did Elisabeth Holmes’s bidding as I do for Holmes and her C-suite colleagues. The way the tormented people is offensive.

One area I think could have been developed a little bit more is the exploration of what the failures of the blood testing did to people’s lives. Carreyrou does share some stories of those who were harmed — such as a woman who ended up with $3,000 in unnecessary medical bills — but that can at times get lost in the story. And of course many of the whistle-blowers were motivated by the danger that faulty blood testing can cause, but it still wasn’t necessarily woven in as much as I would have liked. But that’s a very minor quibble, because it’s definitely discussed.

A little more than halfway through the book, the author become part of the story. It’s a slightly dramatic moment, but I think it is handled very well. The investigation of the Wall Street Journal article that predates the book is a huge reason why Theranos has been sued and why some of its leadership have been charged with crimes. It would be impossible for him to stay out of it, and the book would have suffered greatly without his perspective being shared in this way.

There were many moment when I got so angry at the things people were getting away with, but the last couple of chapters — I mean, there are some serious just deserts being served. It’s chef’s kiss come to life.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it. And probably listen again soon.

Sunday

3

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – March 3, 2019

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Islamophobia

“One staff member was physically injured during the morning’s confrontations, and another official resigned after being accused of making anti-Muslim comments. The display featured a picture of the World Trade Center in New York City as a fireball exploded from the one of the Twin Towers, set above a picture of Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim. “‘Never forget’ – you said. . .” read a caption on the first picture. “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” read the caption under the picture of Omar, who is wearing a hijab.” GOP’s anti-Muslim display likening Rep. Omar to a terrorist rocks W. Virginia capitol  (by Dareh Gregorian for NBC News)

Sex Work

“Raven was among the roughly 150 advocates who gathered in Manhattan, New York, on Monday to announce the launch of Decrim NY, a sex-worker-led coalition of LGBTQ, immigrant rights, harm reduction, and criminal justice groups. Coalition supporters also gathered to express their support of state bills to decriminalize sex work throughout New York state.” Advocates Gather in New York City to Demand Decriminalization of Sex Work (by Victoria Law for Rewire)

“Niki Adams, a spokeswoman for the collective, said female sex workers were forced to work in isolation. “One woman working alone was viciously attacked, raped and beaten. The case went to court and the man was convicted but the woman then thought: ‘I never want to work alone again.’ She started working from another woman’s flat, and within a few months the place was raided by police … The women were arrested for brothel-keeping. That woman spent months and months before the case came to court and was dropped at the last minute due to a big campaign by us highlighting how outrageous [it was] that women working together were prosecuted.”” Decriminalise sex work to protect us from crime, prostitutes say (by Sarah Marsh for The Guardian)

Health Care

“Lucas, who had a rare form of muscular dystrophy, used a power wheelchair and a ventilator. She also had low vision, was hard of hearing, and had type 1 diabetes. As she documented on her personal blog in January 2018, Lucas became ill with a bad cold. According to her Facebook page, her health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, refused to pay for a specific medication she needed, owing to its cost of $2,000. Consequently, she had to take a different and less-effective medication, which caused deleterious reactions. Lucas’ health rapidly declined, resulting in numerous hospital stays over the last year and the loss of her ability to speak. The obituary on her Facebook noted, “United Healthcare’s attempt to save $2,000 cost over $1 million in health care costs over the past year.” More importantly, Lucas’ friends and family argue, it cost her her life.” Carrie Ann Lucas, Disability Rights Activist and Attorney, Dies Following Denial From Insurance Company (by Robyn Powell for Rewire)

Sexual Harassment and Assault

“They are not talking about what happened during their swim meets, but rather what they’ve endured outside the pool. The girls say they received sexually explicit or violent text messages from a male teammate. Those texts are now at the center of a school district investigation and a growing controversy impacting Fishers High School, one of the state’s most talented swimmers, and the organization that oversees high school athletic competition in Indiana.” Harassment controversy surrounds Fishers High School swim team (by Bob Segall for NBC)

“According to the documents, over a thousand allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors in HHS custody were reported to federal authorities each fiscal year since 2015. In total, between October 2014 and July 2018, 4,556 sexual abuse complaints were reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — an agency within HHS in charge of caring for unaccompanied migrant minors. An additional 1,303 complaints were received by the Justice Department between fiscal years 2015 and 2018, but it’s unclear whether these complaints overlap with those reported to ORR.” Thousands of migrant children were sexually abused in U.S. custody, HHS docs say (by Camilo Montoya-Galvez for CBS News)

Something Good

Interview with Christopher Pike