ASK Musings

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Monthly Archive: September 2015



September 2015



Reproducing Racism by Daria Roithmayr

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Four Stars

I wish I had bought this book, because I think I could do a better job of reviewing it. I’d have loads of sections highlighted, and could go back to my favorite parts. Alas, I checked this out of the library and have to return it tomorrow, so here is my best go at explaining this.

The author’s central thesis is that white people in the US continue to have advantages today not because of over racism (although that may – and obviously does – still play a part), but because of what happened long in the past. Dr. Roithmayr argues that society is stuck in a feedback loop that was perpetuated under slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today because it’s a lot easier to keep going than make the serious changes needed to fix it.

She uses many interesting examples to illustrate her point – examples such as red lining and the Chicago Real Estate Boards, to the admission process at Harvard. She discusses the fact that many informal networks help whites get ahead, and those networks have been building on themselves for generations.

I can’t do the work justice, but I urge you to pick it up if you are interested in race issues, or if you think you might have to (try to) have a discussion over the holidays with a relative who thinks that having a Black president means we live in a colorblind society. It’s pretty easy to read. My only complaints are that each chapter at times feels like a separate mini-book, so Dr. Roithmayr will often repeat in too great of detail items covered in previous chapters (as though she forgot we’d already read about it), and that the conclusion really isn’t a conclusion at all; it’s just another chapter.

Regardless, go read this. It’s really good.



September 2015



What I’m Reading – September 26, 2015

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– ““Today in a more troubled world, I think females should take more important roles, and then I told that reporter, if a female Dalai Lama comes, their face should be very attractive.” “So you can only have a female Dalai Lama if they’re attractive? Is that what you’re saying?” asked Myrie, trying valiantly to let him take it back.” Dalai Lama: A Female Dalai Lama Must Be Attractive, ‘Otherwise Not Much Use’ (via @jezebel)

Native Americans

– “In one of his many letters addressed to the Pope, Valentin Lopez, Chairman on the Amah Mutsun, writes: “Serra was the architect of the mission system; he developed the brutal, inhumane policies that had no regard for our ancestors … This terror included the violent capture, enslavement, torture and rape of natives, as well as an unhealthy diet and squalid living quarters that resulted in the death of an estimated 150,000 California Indians in the missions. This number includes thousands of women and children who died from syphilis and gonorrhea as a result of their sexual abuse. How the Catholic Church and you, Holy Father, can consider Serra’s actions to be holy, sacred or saintly is incomprehensible to our tribe.”” Man Who Helped Kill Thousands of Native Americans to Be Made a Saint by Pope Francis Today (via @micnews)

Reproductive Rights

– “The Republican obsession with the group seems to come to this: denying women, especially poor women, the health care they need; pandering for primary votes among Tea Party regulars; and obstructing the budget process and the smooth functioning of government. Quite a record.” The G.O.P.’s Obsession With Planned Parenthood (h/t @JessicaValenti)

– “It’s not “unclear” whether Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Nearly a dozen states called for investigations into Planned Parenthood after the heavily edited “undercover” videos were released, and not a single one of them has turned up any evidence of wrongdoing. It’s abundantly clear that Planned Parenthood is doing nothing wrong and has been complying with the law.” This Is Unconscionable (via @shakestweetz)


– “Told by the agent that she needed to be run as a man or a woman, Petosky said she replied, “I’m transgender. I am a woman, but I have an atrophied penis, trying to make it kind of not a big deal.”” Transgender Woman Says She Was Delayed by TSA for Anatomical ‘Anomaly’ (h/t @DrJaneChi)

– “For transgender people, those particle body scanners that passengers must now pass through are problematic, because TSA personnel push a button indicating whether — based on their visual perception — the passenger is male or female. Another agent views the scan to look for any “anomalies,” appearances that shouldn’t be on the scan. For a transgender woman (scanned as a woman), her penis might appear as such. For a transgender man (scanned as a man), it could be chest-binding that he’s wearing to reduce the appearance of his breasts.” Trans Woman Live-Tweets Her Frightening Experience With Airport Security (via @ThinkProgress)



September 2015



What I’m Reading – September 20, 2015

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– “That makes any foreclosures in the city based on these documents illegal and unenforceable, and makes the King County recording offices where the documents are located a massive crime scene.” Leaked Seattle Audit Concludes Many Mortgage Documents Are Void


– “But the English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Mohamed was pulled out of class by the principal and a police officer. They took him to a room where four other officers were waiting. When he entered, one officer leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s who I thought it was,” Mohamed told MSNBC.” ‘They thought it was a bomb’: 9th-grader arrested after bringing a home-built clock to school (via @washingtonpost)

– “First, what did the cop mean when he said “That’s who I thought it was”? Is this part of some racial profiling scheme going on at the school? How would the cop know who Mohamed was? I’m picturing a panicked principal calling the local cops about a possible homemade bomb by a Muslim kid while the cops flip through dossiers on all the Black and brown students at the school. I’m not saying that’s what happened. I’m saying I have questions.” Ninth-Grader Ahmed Mohamed Made a Digital Clock and the Internet Exploded (via @angryblacklady)

– “If calling things “gay” was hurtful to people, why do it? As a comedian, isn’t her job to bring joy to others? She knew for sure it wasn’t her job to reinforce negative stereotypes about the existence of an entire group of people.” Sarah Silverman’s answer to this question about ‘political correctness’ was totally unexpected. (via @Upworthy)


– “And the collateral damage of that war — of Apple going after Google’s revenue platform — is going to include the web, and in particular any small publisher on the web that can’t invest in proprietary platform distribution, native advertising, and the type of media wining-and-dining it takes to secure favorable distribution deals on proprietary platforms. It is going to be a bloodbath of independent media.” Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web (h/t @lauraolin)


– “Effie counters by saying that his summation is “not necessarily true,” and Matt Damon interrupts her again, this time by laying out what exactly diversity is. “When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show.” Meaning that they don’t have to hire any diverse filmmakers on Project Greenlight as long as they throw a few women and black people onscreen.” Matt Damon Interrupts Successful Black Woman Filmmaker to Explain Diversity to Her (h/t @zellieimani)

– “But if you receive casting notices regularly — and especially if you’re a woman, person of color, trans person, person with disabilities, a combination thereof, or a member of any marginalized group — you probably don’t find them all that surprising. These are relatively tame examples of the sort of casual prejudice embedded in casting notices that go out to thousands of people every single day.” The Terrible World of Casting Notices (via @jennyjaffe)

– ““Stop forcing diversity down our throats! Do it naturally! SJWs ruined comics!” Apparently, most of these guys completely missed the irony in this situation. To my fellow straight white guys, let me say this: You have been pandered to for your entire life. Nearly every piece of media you have ever consumed, from comics books to TV to cartoons, has been tailored made with you in mind as its primary audience. In fact, pandering to us is one of the greatest driving forces in entertainment today. I’d go as far to say that it’s responsible for many of the creative shortcomings of today’s media.” Nerd Guys, Pandering, and “Forced” Diversity

– “UCB does not care about black people or minorities. It does, has done and will continue to do the bare minimum when it comes to maintaining diversity not unlike the entertainment industry at-large. As nine openings on house teams quietly came and went, not one POC was added, despite the fact that in the past year, two POC have stepped down. We are technically less diverse from a racial standpoint.” Why I’m Quitting UCB, And Its Problem With Diversity (h/t @allisonkilkenny)

Higher Education

– “The data reveals how much money students are borrowing in exchange for earnings after graduation. While U.C.L.A. and Penn State are both prestigious public research universities, recent U.C.L.A. grads leave with about 30 percent less debt, even as their predecessors are earning about 30 percent more money than counterparts at Penn State. Harvard students borrow barely a quarter of what Brandeis students take on, and earn nearly twice as much.” Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data (h/t @tanehisicoates)

‘Justice’ System

– “In North Carolina you are considered an adult at 16 years old as far as being charged,” said Sgt. Sean Swain of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. “But to disseminate and receive sexually explicit texts, photos or videos, you must be over 18.” NC Teen Charged As Adult For Taking & Having Naked Pics of a Minor – Himself


– “The deck is stacked against plaintiffs in other ways, as well. From the first day of trial, I saw how hard it was going to be to win when every potential juror who expressed a belief that sexism exists in tech — a belief that is widely recognized and documented — was not allowed to serve on the jury.” Ellen Pao Speaks: ‘I Am Now Moving On’ (h/t @vnaylon)

– “Rachel Money opened her mailbox and saw an ad depicting the chaotic life of a mom of three next to two well-dressed men in sharp suits. And the ad asks a simple question: Part-time agent vs. full-time professionals — who would you want to represent you?” Local real estate company apologizes after its ad infuriates women (via @q13fox)


– “Beyond the reality that President Obama and his administration work closely with police officers and police departments every single day for his own security, the fact is that fewer police officers have been killed during the six-plus years of his presidency than during the first six years of any modern presidency.” Fewer police killed during Obama’s administration than any two-term president in our lifetime (via @shaunking)

– “Calling Black Lives Matter a hate group ignores the reality of how terrorism operates in the United States. It has historically — and continues to be — a primary way to uphold white supremacy. Of the 784 documented hate groups in America, the vast majority of them are actively fighting to uphold white supremacy, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.” NC Police Chief Resigns After Calling Black Lives Matter Activists “Terrorists” (h/t @jamilahking)

Reproductive Choices

– “We rarely have honest public discussions about this reality. And I understand why: Because I cannot say things like “I would not have the time and energy to dedicate to [this other part of my life] if I were a parent” without immediate and aggressive pushback, as though implicit in my factual statement is a condemnation of parenthood. Or inherent criticism of the quality of paid work done by mothers. Childfree 101: The “Women Are Designed to Love” Narrative (via @Shakestweetz)

State-Sanctioned Killing

– “But there was no corroborating evidence to back up Sneed’s story — no physical evidence linked Glossip to the crime — and transcripts show how Oklahoma City police detectives steered Sneed toward implicating Glossip during his interrogation. Sneed’s story has evolved considerably over the years — today there is mounting evidence to show that Sneed, afraid of being sentenced to die, was compelled to point the finger at Glossip in order to save himself.” Richard Glossip Set to Die Wednesday (h/t @radleybalko)

Trigger Warnings

– “There is literally no “opinion” on my humanity, my autonomy, my agency, my body that I haven’t heard a million times, and I don’t feel obliged to listen to every jackass who wants to tell me that I am less than in order to demonstrate my own tolerance.” Um (via @Shakestweetz)

– “To me, there seems to be very little reason not to give these warnings. As a professor, it merely requires my including one extra line in a routine email to the class, such as: “A quick heads-up. The reading for this week contains a graphic depiction of sexual assault.” These warnings are not unlike the advisory notices given before films and TV shows; those who want to ignore them can do so without a second thought. The cost to students who don’t need trigger warnings is, I think, equally minimal. It may even help sensitize them to the fact that some of their classmates will find the material hard going. The idea, suggested by Professor Haidt and others, that this considerate and reasonable practice feeds into a “culture of victimhood” seems alarmist, if not completely implausible.” Why I Use Trigger Warnings (h/t @DrJaneChi)



September 2015



What I’m Reading – September 13, 2015

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Black Lives Matter

– “How is it that the random acts of two mentally unstable Black men who had no formal or informal relationship with the Black Lives Matter movement constitute a trend, but the two dozen police killings of unarmed Black citizens again remain a collection of unfortunate but isolated incidents? Black America’s “gaslight” nightmare: The psychological warfare being waged against Black Lives Matter (h/t @EdgeofSports)

– “The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued.” The Truth of ‘Black Lives Matter’ (h/t @ShaunKing)

Healthcare Rights

– ““I was confident that the full Assembly, reflective of and responsive to the people it represents, would do the right thing and move us closer to making it possible for terminally ill Californians to decide for themselves how to manage their last days,” she said.” California Assembly approves right-to-die legislation (via @LANow)

Justice System

– “In other words, Cormega Copening is being charged as an adult for having pictures of Cormega Copening, because Cormega Copening is a minor. Horrified yet? According to authorities, the boy is both adult and child—perpetrator of a crime against himself, and simultaneously the victim of a crime committed by himself.” Boy charged as adult for having explicit pictures of himself—because he’s a minor (h/t @_JoHelen)


– ““Is it me,” said my friend, “Or is it just…okay to say things that are violently racist now? Has that always been okay, and I just didn’t notice till now?” No, it hasn’t always been okay, and in fact it’s still not okay – but it is a normal part of the public conversation, in a way it wasn’t, even a year ago.” Europe shouldn’t worry about migrants. It should worry about creeping fascism (via @pennyred)

– “A number of charities and non-governmental organisations have opened appeals specifically aimed at helping the plight of refugees. Various organisations spell out exactly what a specific donation could provide. Here’s a sample.” Refugee crisis: what can you do to help? (h/t @EdgeofSports)

Police Violence

– “In its 1998 report on police accountability, Human Rights Watch noted, citing an official commission’s report on corruption within LAPD, that “perhaps the greatest single barrier to the effective investigation and adjudication of complaints is the officers’ unwritten ‘code of silence’….[the principle that] an officer does not provide adverse information against a fellow officer.”” Has a Blue Wall of Silence Within the Seattle Police Department Been Protecting Officer Cynthia Whitlatch? (via @StrangerSlog)

– “So when police advocates say that 2014 saw an 80+ percent increase in homicides of cops over 2013, remember a few things: First, 2013 wasn’t just an all-time low, it was an all-time low by a significant margin. Second, the 2013 figure was so low that even a small increase will look large when expressed as a percentage. Third, the figure for the following year, 2014, (51 officers killed) was essentially consistent with the average for the previous five years (50 killed), and still lower than any five-year average going back to 1960. (See this graph, also from Wang.) Fourth, again, 2015 is on pace (35 killings) to be lower than any year but 2013.” Once again: There is no ‘war on cops.’ And those who claim otherwise are playing a dangerous game. (h/t @tanehisicoates)


– “The team is becoming the sports equivalent of the Donald Trump presidential run, a dead-ender operation with nothing to offer but a howl of anger at a slowly evolving world. To change the team name would mean conceding not only that this beloved brand is racist but that racism and white supremacy actually exist and deserve to be fought.”

– “This is the world Trump wants when he says he’s going to “make America great again.” It’s the America of 1950s TV shows, where people of color don’t exist in the lives of white Americans unless they’re being served or entertained by them. This appears to be a world longed for by many, as a recent poll found that 47% of white Americans look upon Trump “favorably.”” I’ve experienced a new level of racism since Donald Trump went after Latinos (h/t @TheTrudz)

Reproductive Rights

– “The United States is the only developed nation without some kind of national paid maternity leave, and proposals for national paid family leave aren’t going far in a Republican-dominated Congress. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their job.” Bleeding Wounds and Breastfeeding Hell: The Costs of No Paid Maternity Leave in America (h/t @denisehterry)

Sex Work

– “Media presented Amnesty’s decision as just the latest in a long fight about sex work, framing sex workers’ position as going against “women’s groups,” as if sex workers were not themselves present in women’s groups, or were maybe even not included in the category “women.” As incomplete as this coverage was, for a moment the issue of criminalizing sex work was back in the news.” How Sex Workers’ Rights Made the Mainstream (via @melissagira)


– ““It goes a long way to showing it’s not the students or the home, but the classroom teacher’s behavior that explains part of the differences over time between boys and girls,” said Victor Lavy, an economist at University of Warwick in England and a co-author of the paper. Previous studies have found that college professors and employers discriminate against female scientists. But it is not surprising that it begins even earlier.” How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science (h/t @sailorhg)


– “The Environmental Protection Agency predicts that Pacific Northwest wildfires will burn double the acres we’ve historically seen every year by mid-century if climate change continues unmitigated. In the Okanogan Highlands specifically, climate scientists predict the area burned could increase by a factor of four.” The “New Normal” in Washington State (h/t @fakedansavage)



September 2015



Facebook Break

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quitting facebook

This weekend I went back and deleted everything I’ve ever posted onto Facebook, with the exception of a handful of pictures, save the most recent round of birthday well-wishes. I hid every status update Facebook wouldn’t let me delete, un-tagged myself in a bunch of photos (I really wish there were an option for un-tagging that didn’t make it seem like the person who tagged me did something wrong. Why isn’t “I’d rather not be tagged in pictures” a choice?), hid my various page likes from my timeline, deleted all my comments on other posts (so sorry if you go back and it looks like you’re having a conversation with yourself). Basically, according to my Facebook page, I was born 35 years ago, and nothing has happened since.

I did this because I think I’ve been using Facebook as a way to share information with people who might not really be interested in seeing it. I can see the usefulness in posting a major life event for a couple of days (‘we’re getting married!’ ‘I’m starting a new job’ ‘we’re moving!’), but I’m hoping that if friends are interested in seeing my thoughts on a political issue or pop culture, they’ll follow me on twitter, or visit my blog. I feel as though I have more control of those than I do over Facebook.

So why not close my account? Well, because I do want to know what’s going on in the lives of folks who I don’t see regularly. Also, it remains one of the easiest ways to invite folks to an event, and I know other folks use it for that (so not being on Facebook could mean missing out on the occasional event). So I’ll still RSVP and even post the occasional event. But future birthday wishes are coming via email or text, and anything interesting you post on my timeline will get responded to in a message, not on my wall.

For now.



September 2015



Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

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Three stars


This was a pick-up at my favorite independent bookstore last weekend. I found it engrossing in the beginning, although I struggled to finish it. Not because it was bad, or even too heavy. I think I was just easily distracted.

Wave is Dr. Sonali Deraniyagala’s story about her life after the 2004 tsunami that wracked Southeast Asia. She was visiting a resort town in her native Sri Lanka with her parents, husband, and two sons. She was the only one to survive the tsunami.

Each section of this book follows a timeline, from the moment just before the tsunami hit through 2012, when Dr. Deraniyagala is teaching in New York City. It is heartbreaking at times (obviously), but it doesn’t feel like any other book of loss I’ve read. I think part of that is due to the fact that the book continues over so many years; it isn’t just about her first year of trying to get through the pain; it is about how her life has changed and how it hasn’t. It’s about how she is honest with herself but not honest with strangers when it comes to that part of her life.

I am having trouble describing the feelings the book brought up in me. This wasn’t about a ‘triumphant journey of unimaginable tragedy,’ this was instead a look into the life of one individual dealing with loss on a very large scale. Yet it’s often confined to chapters of the author unwilling to leave her room, or the house she is in, or the city she is in.

There is no one moment where she rises up and ‘moves on,’ instead the book serves as a way for Dr. Deraniyagala to both share the story of her life since 2012, and also share who her sons and husband were. There are stories of Dr. Deraniyagala contemplating suicide in a very matter-of-fact manner, but there are also stories about how much her son Vik loved blue whales. It’s both a love letter to her family and a way to let the world know a little bit about what it is like for someone to work through loss on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.

I think this is a book worth reading. I appreciate that it wasn’t as simplistic as some of the memoirs I’ve read; Dr. Deraniyagala shares the reality of loss in a way I haven’t read before. I don’t know if it would be helpful for someone who has lost a child or partner, but I can see it providing some confirmation that grief manifests in myriad ways, and that’s just how it is.



September 2015



Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller

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Four Stars

coming clean


I am actually in the middle of two other books, both of which would have been a fine way to reach the milestone of my third cannonball read. But I picked this up at the library before a camping trip this weekend and didn’t want to put it down. So it seems to be a fitting choice for review #52.

Author Kimberly Rae Miller was raised by two loving parents, one of whom is a hoarder, and the other who has, at times, been a compulsive shopper. This memoir tells Ms. Miller’s story through vivid anecdotes that really bring the reader as much into her world as possible, without dwelling so much on the details that shows like ‘Hoarders’ love to emphasize (cat carcasses, anyone?). Yes, she is clear on what she means by hoarding, and yes, sometimes the descriptions are enough to make one maybe not want to eat during those paragraphs, but in reality Ms. Miller is telling a very thoughtful story about the complicated but devoted relationship she maintains with her parents.

Ms. Miller was a shy child who tried to keep the reality of her father’s hoarding from the rest of the world. She began acting as a way to take on another personality in the hopes of figuring out how she could navigate the world. She shares stories of the time child protective services came, not because of the hoarding, but because of a lie she told, and the terror her parents felt because they knew she’d be taken away if CPS saw their home. She talks about the multiple surgeries her mother had, and how after each one the family faced more challenges. She talks about her nightmares and her need for her own place that is clean and under her control.

I really enjoyed this book. I think Ms. Miller’s writing style was vivid enough to create a mental picture in the reader’s mind without resorting to the type of sensationalism that a lesser editor might demand. She was allowed to tell her story, which is largely shaped by her experience with her parents and the hoarding, yes, but that isn’t everything about her. Ultimately I found this book to be about family, and how people do the best they can with what they have. After reading this book I find myself feeling affection towards Ms. Miller’s parents, and admiration for Ms. Miller’s ability to share her story in such a gracious way.



September 2015



Things I Learned While Camping

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So much going on in the world, but I did a bad job curating this week. So instead of my weekly round-up, today you get this: Things I Learned While Camping

This weekend Austin and I went camping with a few friends. Some of them are seasoned campers; others had only camped during their youth (me) or had never camped at all. It was car camping at the Tower Rock Campground in Washington State, and here’s what I learned.

  • As much as a ‘camping pad’ might claim to help, what I really wanted was an air mattress.
  • After watching multiple people start campfires, I understand how to start them in theory, but don’t think I could yet start my own in practice.
  • I really don’t have a problem peeing in the woods when the vault toilet is just too far away.
  • I still unintentionally scare myself by conjuring up scenes from the Blair Witch Project when I am in a forest in the dark.
  • There is a lot of prep work that goes into having fresh food during a camping trip. I failed at that this go round, but am ready for next time.
  • I can definitely go three nights without showering. After that I probably need to figure something out.
  • I enjoyed car camping but am clearly not ready to upgrade (downgrade?) to backpacking any time soon.
  • It’s nice to not have any internet or phone access for a few days.
  • I can share a little two-person tent with Austin and not feel claustrophobic at all.
  • The friend who planned this little camping adventure is the best. Here’s a shot of her photobombing us at the lookout near Layser Cave