ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: October 2017



October 2017



What I’m Reading – October 22, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Actions

“Unfortunately, Gov. Brown seems to not see it that way. Instead of looking at Title IX—and the right to an education free of violence—as an issue about civil rights and equity, he frames the issue as a struggle between warring factions. Instead of rapists vs. survivors, the true struggle is a matter of right (properly addressing campus violence to protect students’ civil rights) vs. wrong.” Echoing DeVos rhetoric, CA Gov. Brown vetoes turning campus sexual violence guidelines into law (by Wagatwe Wanjuki for Daily Kos)

“The law prohibits public workers — including doctors, teachers and daycare employees — as well as those receiving a service from the government from covering their faces. It was extended to municipal services, including public transit, in an amendment made in August.” ‘I should see your face, and you should see mine,’ Quebec premier says of new religious ‘neutrality’ law (by Benjamin Shingler for CBC)

“Advocates for students with disabilities were still reviewing the changes to determine their impact. Lindsay E. Jones, the chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said she was particularly concerned to see guidance documents outlining how schools could use federal money for special education removed.“All of these are meant to be very useful … in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations,” said Jones.” DeVos rescinds 72 guidance documents outlining rights for disabled students (by Moriah Ballingit for Washinton Post)

“A state lawmaker in Georgia who is married to former U.S. health and human services secretary Tom Price has drawn criticism for suggesting that people with HIV be quarantined to stop the spread of the virus, recalling language used in an earlier era when AIDS was little understood. “What are we legally able to do? I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,” State Rep. Betty Price (R) asked Pascale Wortley, the head of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s HIV Epidemiology Section, at a study committee meeting Tuesday on barriers to adequate health care, as seen in a video of the meeting.” Georgia lawmaker, wife of ex-HHS secretary Tom Price, asks about quarantining HIV patients (by Mary Hui for Washington Post)

Sexual Assault and Harassment

“It’s clear because the cultural malfunction that allows Allen to feel comfortable issuing that statement is the same malfunction that gave us Allen and Weinstein in the first place: the smothering, delusional, galactic entitlement of powerful men. When Allen and other men warn of “a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere” what they mean is an atmosphere in which they’re expected to comport themselves with the care, consideration and fear of consequences that the rest of us call basic professionalism and respect for shared humanity. On some level, to some men — and you can call me a hysteric but I am done mincing words on this — there is no injustice quite so unnaturally, viscerally grotesque as a white man being fired.” Yes, This Is a Witch Hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m Hunting You. (by Lindy West for New York Times)

“This has to stop. Instead of saying, “You cannot smoke in here,” we are telling every woman, “there is going to be smoke in the restaurant, so encase yourself entirely in protective sheeting.” Instead of saying, “Do not go around lighting people on fire,” we are telling women, “Don’t be flammable.” But you can’t be human and not be flammable. This is not like walking down a dark alley and getting mugged, because for that to be true you have to have the option of not walking down the dark alley.” Men of the world: You are not the weather (by Alexandra Petri for Washington Post)

“Given such a valiant declaration about this being the end of an era and all, it may come as a surprise to review who is in the academy. Members still in good standing include Roman Polanski, who has admitted to raping then-13-year-old Samantha Gailey in 1977 and has since been accused by three other women of rape; Casey Affleck, who was sued by two female colleagues for sexual harassment in 2010; and Bill Cosby, who has been accused by nearly 60 women of sexual misconduct and, this coming spring, will be retried on criminal charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in 2005. (The first trial, in June, ended with a hung jury.)” Why are Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, and Casey Affleck still in the academy? (by Jessica M. Goldstein for Think Progress)

“While my own Harvey story may be different, I have had plenty of Harveys of my own over the years, enough to feel a sickening shock of recognition. When I was thirteen, a fifty-year-old crew member told me that he would teach me to dance, and then proceeded to push against me with an erection. When I was fourteen, a married film director stuck his tongue in my mouth on set. At a time when I was trying to figure out what it meant to become a sexually viable young woman, at every turn some older guy tried to help speed up the process. And all this went on despite my having very protective parents who did their best to shield me. I shudder to think of what would have happened had I not had them.” All the Other Harvey Weinsteins (by Molly Ringwald for the New Yorker)

“What is even more naive is pretending that looking gawky will protect you from being vulnerable. Any girl who gets curves a little too young and has clothes that make her feel comfortable is automatically shamed for it. But being a waif, you get made fun off for not having breasts. Both are at risk because at the end of the day it isn’t about beauty. It’s about power—power over people: beautiful, ugly, fat, or thin, adults or children. If you’re aware of that, the you should never feel the need to bring women’s looks or clothing into the conversation.” Mayim Bialik’s Tone-Deaf Op-Ed Is a Reminder That Calling Yourself a Feminist Isn’t Enough (by Princess Weeks for the Mary Sue)

Corporate Malfeasance

“Soon after he started working on the assembly line at Tesla, Jorge Ferro said he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. “Watch your back,” a supervisor warned after mocking his clothes for being “gay tight”, Ferro said. The harassment didn’t stop after he reported it to a manager, and days after he made a second complaint, Ferro was punished, according to his account. An HR representative took away Ferro’s badge, claiming that he had an “injury” that prevented him from working and saying there’s “no place for handicapped people at Tesla”, he alleged.” Tesla workers claim anti-LGBT threats, taunts, and racial abuse in lawsuits (by Sam Levin for The Guardian)

“A rigorous recent study from the Economic Policy Institute evaluated the impact of “right to work” by controlling for the effects of worker characteristics and state labor market conditions on wages. In “right to work” states, the median full-time worker (whether or not they are in a union) earns $1,500 a year less than their counterparts in states that allows unions to collect fees from every worker they represent.4 Workers in “right to work” states are also significantly less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance or a pension through their job.” How So-Called ‘Right-to-Work’ Laws Aim to Silence Working People (by Amy Traub for Demos)

White Supremacists

“The confrontation unfolded at around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when the occupants of a silver Jeep stopped to argue with a group of protesters assembled near a bus stop, Gainesville police said. The men in the car displayed Nazi salutes and shouted chants about Hitler, and one of them, identified as Tyler Tenbrink, 28, pulled out a gun. The other two assailants, brothers William Fears, 30, and Colton Fears, 28, encouraged Tenbrink to shoot at the protesters. Tenbrink fired one shot, which hit a nearby building. Then the Jeep sped off, police said.” White Nationalist Richard Spencer’s Supporters Charged in Post-Speech Shooting (by Jon Schuppe for NBC)

White FeminismTM

“Of course, this was expected. White women historically and embarrassingly continue to drop the intersectional ball. But even with that being the case, there are some other reasons that the fact that white feminism is rearing its basic-ass head this time around shouldn’t be all that surprising.” #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, Part 2: On Rose McGowan and the Continued Failure of White Feminism (by Clarkisha Kent for The Root)

Fighting Back

“The meeting came after weeks of pearl clutching by conservatives, including Donald Trump who spent more time tweeting about NFL players than he did about the devastation in Puerto Rico or the ongoing wildfires in California. Three weeks ago, Trump escalated his war of words by calling on NFL owners to fire or otherwise punish players who don’t stand for the anthem, but on Tuesday, the owners ignored Trump and chose to allow players to continue to kneel if they so choose. The league also agreed to support some of the causes for which the protesting players have been advocating, including reformation of the criminal justice system, according to the New York Times.” NFL owners rebuke Trump, elect not to punish players who protest during the anthem (by Adam Peck for Think Progress)

“So, if our children are already seeing colour, and it’s natural for them to do so, how do we stop this recognition of difference from turning into racial prejudice? It turns out, one of the most effective ways to fight implicit racial bias in young children is to not only allow them to see colour, but to also deliberately show them more of it.” No, kids are not “colourblind” (For Ijeoma Oluo for Today’s Parent)

Disaster Response

“There is help available for the 18-year-old — right offshore. A floating state-of-the-art hospital, the USNS Comfort, could provide critical care, his doctor says. But nobody knows how to get him there. And Sammy is not alone. Clinics that are overwhelmed with patients and staff say they don’t even know how to begin sending cases to the ship. Doctors say there’s a rumor that patients have to be admitted to a central hospital before they can be transferred to the Comfort. Only 33 of the 250 beds on the Comfort — 13% — are being used, nearly two weeks after the ship arrived.” There’s a hospital ship waiting for sick Puerto Ricans — but no one knows how to get on it (by Leyla Santiago and Mallory Simon for CNN)

Something Good



October 2017



What I’m Reading – October 15, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

California Fires

““It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Already among the most destructive in the state’s history, the fires have claimed 23 lives, obliterated 3,500 homes and businesses and caused more than 20,000 to evacuate. They have also scorched some of the finest wineries in the country.” How to Help California’s Wildfire Victims (by Jessica Kwong for Newsweek)

“The 57-year-old, as well as another maintenance worker, and several residents and their family members describe a frantic, disorganized, and late-deployed effort to evacuate the sprawling Varenna complex, which houses 400 senior citizens across several buildings, just before the fast-approaching flames swept through the premises.” Workers Say A California Retirement Community Left Its Elderly Residents Behind During The Fire (by Brianna Sacks for Buzzfeed)

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Action

“Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday in Kentucky that he plans to sign a proposed rule tomorrow repealing the plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, according to the Associated Press.” EPA head announces plan to eliminate Obama’s signature climate policy (by Yvette Cabrera for Think Progress)


“Meanwhile, psychologist John Gartner started a petition on for “mental health professionals” (with no method to determine if their status as mental health professionals extended beyond self-appointment on the internet) to declare Trump mentally unfit to be president. So far, it’s received more than 60,000 signatures. As much as I wish Trump weren’t president, slapping him with lazy e-diagnoses is not the way to get there. This obsession with his mental state is not only irrelevant to the current political situation, but endangers the acceptance and treatment of people with mental illness.” Let’s Stop Calling Donald Trump “Crazy” (by Alexandra Mendez-Diez for Buzzfeed)

Sexual Assault

“The story, however, is complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. Their allegations corroborate and overlap with the Times’s revelations, and also include far more serious claims.” From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories (by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker)

“Everyone is having their say about Harvey Weinstein. But nobody has put in their 2 cents (2 pence?) quite like Emma Thompson. She’s just telling it like it is — bluntly, eloquently, and honestly. BBC Newsnight has been releasing quotes and clips from tonight’s interview with her, and they are FIRE.” All Hail Emma Thompson (via Pajiba)

Racism / Colorism

“Cosmetics companies in other countries aren’t under the same legal obligation as they are in the US to reveal their full ingredient lists, but most over-the-counter products — which are rarely labeled as skin bleachers — include some ingredient that could lighten your skin, even in the US. Those active ingredients vary from things you’d find in the kitchen to something like hydroquinone, which is only allowed in very low levels for nonprescription skin care. (Prescription skin lighteners can include more of that active ingredient.)” Some Of Your Fave Skin Care Companies Sell Skin Lightening Products (by Scaachi Koul for Buzzfeed)



October 2017



From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in death and mourning rituals from around the world.

In a nutshell: Author and funeral home owner Caitlin Doughty follows up her bestseller “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” with a look at different funeral and mourning rituals in an attempt to get those in some parts of the West who may be in denial about death to think about it differently.

Line that sticks with me: I’m going to cheat here and offer two:
1. “Cailin, can you smile a little, you look so dour.” “This is a human head. I don’t need pictures of me grinning with a severed human head.”
2. It’s a lovely thought, and a tree may grow from the soil provided, but after the 1,800 degree cremation process, the remaining bones are reduced to inorganic, basic carbon.”

Why I chose it: I love her first book and have since attended the Death Salon that her organization hosted in Seattle. She’s delightful in person, and her personality really comes through in her writing.

Review: This is one of those books that I didn’t want to put down. I started it late last night, and read almost a third of it before forcing myself to go to sleep. I then read it at the gym, on my walk to get errands, and finally finished it off while eating lunch.

Ms. Doughty is interested in helping those of us who might be living in a state of denial around death come to terms with the reality that everybody dies. Some folks are more privileged in this way than in others; people who have either personally experienced loss or have seen death in their community may have an all-too-familiar relationship with the concept of death, while others have only experienced death as part of the end of a very long life of a beloved great grandparent.

But, as we all know, we will all die. If you watch the Good Place, the most recent episode (”Existential Crisis”) shows what can happen when this concept first solidifies in a person’s mind. But in many cultures around the world, death is a part of life, and Ms. Doughty travels to learn more about these practices. Like the rituals of those who live in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and participate in the Torajan funeral, where individuals are removed from their ‘resting place’ by family members and cleaned and redressed on a regular basis. Or in La Paz, where ñatitas (human skulls) are displayed in some homes where individuals can come and make offerings to receive assistance in areas of their lives.

Back in the U.S., Ms. Doughty also looks at some alternatives to the traditional US cremation or burial, such as open-air funeral-pyre-style cremation, or recomposition (e.g., composting human remains).

As I said, I found this to be a fascinating read. Ms. Doughty is extremely respectful as she learns about other cultures – she isn’t there as a tourist, or as someone interesting in making a judgment. She is genuinely interested in learning from those who do it better than we do, in an attempt to figure out how to improve what’s going on at home.



October 2017



Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People interested in an exploration of what family means, told through an unconventional concept.

In a nutshell: Researcher is interested in creating broader supports for families, and so enlists nine couples and one single mother to enroll in the Infinite Family project.

Line that sticks with me: “David kissed her quickly, which struck Izzy as something he’d seen work out in a movie. She, on the other hand, hated the presumption that she would change her mind if she only made out with him.”

Why I chose it: It chose me! Sort of. This was an advance reader’s edition that I picked up during Indie Bookstore day in Seattle earlier this year. It was wrapped, so I didn’t know what I was getting until I opened it.

Review: This is, for the most part, an interesting tale. It is told mostly in the third person from Izzy’s point of view, although it is occasionally told from Dr. Grind’s perspective. Izzy is just about to graduate high school when she learns she is pregnant by her art teacher. He claims to want to be with her, but only if there is no more baby; she opts for the baby instead. Her mother died when she was 13; her father provides her with food and shelter but little else.

Dr. Grind, meanwhile, is a researcher who was raised by the Constant Friction Method, which his parents created and sounds a bit like torture – their thinking being that if he’s often uncomfortable (maybe his bed will be there tonight, maybe it won’t) and faced with challenges and loss (maybe his dog will be here in the morning, maybe he’ll never see it again), then he’ll develop the ability to handle anything that comes his way. And it seems to have worked, except now he’s more interested in creating families that can be expanded and support each other even if they aren’t related.

Hence the Infinite Family Project. Ten families (all but Izzy’s including one man and one woman) who are due to give birth in a certain time frame are selected to live together in a commune. It isn’t a cult; the parents are free and in fact encouraged to get jobs and pursue further education outside the community, but for the first few years of their children’s’ lives, the kids all sleep communally, and the parents all help raise their little ones. Each family has its own apartment, but the children don’t move in until they are about five. The project is meant to run for 10 years.

This is not nearly as soap opera-y as it could have been. Author Wilson does a good job of exploring how this impact Izzy as both the youngest parent and the only one without a partner. But I always felt distant from her. Perhaps it’s the third person writing, although I’ve connected with characters in similar writing styles. Perhaps it’s because the character of Izzy herself is meant to be a bit removed. I cared about her, but didn’t feel totally invested in her or the other parents. I did feel marginally invested in Dr. Grind.

I can’t say that you should run out and buy it, but if the plot sounds interesting to you, I think you’ll probably enjoy how it plays out.



October 2017



Crash Override by Zoë Quinn

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Everyone who spends time online. So, you know, all of us.

In a nutshell: Video game designer who experienced the hell of online attacks tells her story and provides us all with the tools to fight back.

Line that sticks with me: So many! But this is a great one: “Pretty much everything we’ve been told about dealing with online abuse is wrong, but the misconception that ‘trolls’ will just go away if they’re ignored is possibly the most damaging.”

Why I chose it: My husband purchased it (he’s works in the same field as Ms. Quinn), and I was excited for the opportunity to read about how she’s handled the abuse and what she is working on these days.

You may have heard of Zoë Quinn. She is the incredibly talented video game designer behind Depression Quest. Unfortunately, you may be more familiar with her as the person viciously targeted by an abusive ex-boyfriend in what eventually became known as GamerGate.

In this well-written and incredibly relevant book, Ms. Quinn shares her story. We hear first-hand about what it can be like to be in the center of a near-literal shit storm, and learn about how she worked (and is still working) through it. This changed her life. She went from being a couple of weeks away from moving with her boyfriend to France (where he was to start a new job) to having to couch surf and eventually leave her home in Boston because of the harassment.

The men who decided that they would believe Ms. Quinn’s abuser went after her like a mob. They targeted her online presence from multiple angles, but also doxxed her, finding out her phone number, her address, her dad’s phone number. Anyone who spoke out in her support — especially those who work in her industry — as also targeted. She, and those associated with her, have had to take very serious security precautions, to the point where she urges people to not share her location if they see her in public.

Instead of disappearing, though, Ms. Quinn has been a vocal advocate for change in our systems. She spends time in this book discussing the ways law enforcement is ill equipped to handle this, including how the system of restraining orders can actually make contact with abusers unavoidable (via court appearances) as well as make personal information readily available (as most of these orders require the petitioner to provide their address and phone number). More importantly, Ms. Quinn is quite aware that involving the police is not something a lot of people want to do if they are part of a group that has a history of being treated poorly by law enforcement. She has also been trying to work with tech companies that, as she points out, can somehow quickly ban for life a person who posts copyrighted Olympics footage, but claim their hands are tied with people spewing death threats.

Another thing that has come from this is that Ms. Quinn and her former boyfriend Alex started Crash Override to assist others who are being targeted by online abuse. They — along with unnamed agents — help people address the abuse, from assisting with gaining back control of hacked accounts to escalating issues at tech companies. They are temporarily not taking new cases, but have a wealth of resources available on their website to help people navigate the systems.

Some of this book will get your blood boiling, because it’s so frustrating to read tech companies essentially doing the bare minimum and not taking the steps that exist to help fix things. Its infuriating to learn that a judge could say with a straight face that Ms. Quinn should just find a new line of work, as though that should be an acceptable outcome of the abuse her ex boyfriend instigated. It’s frustrating that this is all continuing today, on a regular basis.

One thing I also wanted to mention is that Ms. Quinn is good at pointing out that her story is just her story, and that other people — especially people of color and trans people — also experience this kind of harassment, and, unless famous, usually are ignored. I appreciate that she is focused on finding solutions that will work for the most marginalized, not just people like her, who have some measure of privilege.

Please go read this book.



October 2017



What I’m Reading – October 8, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Action

“For most Americans, especially young ones, it’s easy to picture Amanda’s situation. $800 is an insane amount of money. According to Forbes, as of 2016, 63 percent of Americans don’t have $500 saved to cover an emergency. In March of 2017, CNBC reported that, according to a study by the health care information firm Amnio, more than one-third of Americans said they could not afford an unexpected medical bill for more than $100 without going into debt. Sixty percent claimed receiving a medical bill they could not afford would be as bad or worse than being diagnosed with a serious illness.” The 20-Week Abortion Ban is Designed to Hurt Poor Women (by Jennifer Wright for Harper’s Bazaar)

Reproductive Health

“To be honest, the choice not to have kids never really felt like a choice to me. I just never felt any way but one way, and that way didn’t include raising a child. My procedure in January 2014 wasn’t very memorable. I didn’t have sweeping emotions or feel grand waves of independence. A friend came with me, and we read magazines before I was called for surgery. I woke up cold and groggy after the anesthesia wore off. Another friend came to bring me home. I had some pain. I spent a few days relaxing in bed, and then returned to work and my typical day-to-day shenanigans.” I Tied My Tubes at Age 31. And It’s Not Up for Discussion. (by Laure Himiak for Rewire)

Gun Violence

“In this, Hodgkinson fits a pattern. As Rebecca Traister has written, for New York magazine, “what perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.” Traister cites Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, last summer, and Omar Mateen, the Pulse night-club shooter. She also cites Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, in 2015. According to Traister, “two of his three ex-wives reportedly accused him of domestic abuse, and he had been arrested in 1992 for rape and sexual violence.”” The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings (by Jane Mayer for The New Yorker)

White Nationalism

“These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream. It’s a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings “America the Beautiful” in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes. These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website — and, in particular, Yiannopoulos — links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.” Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream (by Joseph Bernstein for Buzzfeed)

“But a Buzzfeed News investigation has found that Breitbart didn’t just tolerate those white supremacist views that Bannon denounced on 60 Minutes; it actively allowed them to flourish. One of the key figures in the investigation was provocateur Milo Yiannopolous, a former senior editor at Breitbart, who was a link connecting far-right trolls and white supremacists with Steve Bannon and Breitbart’s powerful allies, like hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer.” Expose on Breitbart proves the ‘alt-right’ is just a euphemism for white supremacists (by Luke Barnes for ThinkProgress)

Sexism in Sport

“On Friday, the situation escalated when a group of former players published an open letter criticizing the federation. “We, the players, have invested years of our own lives and all of our energy to build this team and this sport to its strength today,” read the letter, which was signed by eight former players, including Cristiane and Francielle as well as the former World Cup stars Sissi, Rosana and Formiga. “Yet we, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport.”” Brazil’s Women Soccer Players in Revolt Against Federation (by Tariq Panja for New York Times)

Death, Dying, and Grief

“This kind of “reporting” does nothing to bring people together. It is offensive, cruel, unnecessary. The overload of imagery, graphic imagery, burns out our empathy, fries our hearts, infects our minds with things we can’t un-see, things we had no right to see. Is this ever appropriate? Yes. Yes, maybe. The only time this might be appropriate, the only time having your intimate experience of pain and loss spread across those wide channels of “news” or social media is if it comes with a strong, swift call to action: if it gives you a place to help.” Have You Been the News? When Private Pain Is a Public Spectacle. (by Megan Divine for HuffPost; reposted in light of the Las Vegas shooting)

“But it’s not always this simple. It’s true that categorizing any death as “good” is radical in our death-fearing society, but lurking behind this movement is a complicated disparity and dichotomy: A good death is often a privileged one, and the bad deaths — the violent, untimely, unexpected and patterned deaths — are disproportionately experienced by the country’s most marginalized people.” Who Gets To Have A ‘Good Death’? (by Tessa Love for The Establishment)



October 2017



Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in a good (failed) crime story, or the human desire to just leave it all behind.

In a nutshell: Author Elizabeth Greenwood explores the lengths (mostly men, usually arrogant) go through to leave behind their lives.

Line that sticks with me: N/A (didn’t have a pen with me when reading it)

Why I chose it: Do you listen to the “Wine and Crime” podcast? Because it’s great. And they did a whole episode on faking one’s death, including an interview with the author.

It started with an idea the author had, after realizing how much student loan debt she had, and how unlikely it would be that she could pay it off any time soon. And since student loan debt can’t be discharged through bankruptcy, the author briefly flirted with the fantasy of just leaving it behind the only way she could – if she ‘died.’

While she didn’t end up faking her own death (at least, not exactly, although she does have her own death certificate, courtesy of a contact in the Philippines), she decided to look into the people who do fake their own deaths.

Of course because of the nature of the topic, Ms. Greenwood can only discuss people who failed at faking their own death. There are people who have succeeded, I’m sure, but because they did, we don’t know they did. And while the people who fake their own deaths (and get caught) are overwhelmingly men, it’s unclear if there are women who do it and are just more successful at it, or if women are less likely to do it because they generally feel less able to walk away.

Ms. Greenwood doesn’t just focus on the people who do the faking – she also talks to the investigators who look into possible life insurance fraud, as well as the children whose fathers left. And in one unexpected chapter, she looks into those who believe that famous people (namely, Michael Jackson fans) faked their own deaths.

This is, admittedly, my kind of book. I enjoy books that look into death and crime, and I enjoy non-fiction. So while I was already primed to enjoy it, I think I am being fair when I say that this is a really good book.



October 2017



The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone possibly considering a move to Denmark. Or just people who like fish-out-of-water stories.

In a nutshell: Writer Helen Russell moves with her husband to the land of Legos for (at least) a year, and takes the time to document her experience and how it differs from life in the UK.

Line that sticks with me: “ ‘We have a lot of ‘curling parents’ in Denmark, who do everything for their kids and won’t say not to them. The expression is named after the sport — only it’s the parents with the brooms who keep brushing in front of their kids, removing any obstacles to make their lives easier.’ ” (pg 204)

Why I chose it: It’s possible I’ll be embarking on my own year of living Danishly in the next few months.

Review: This is a fun, fairly quick read (despite its 350 pages). Author Helen Russell decides to spend some of her time in Denmark getting to the bottom of why the country is consistently ranked as having the happiest inhabitants. She breaks the year down by the twelve months, focusing on one area in each month. She explores the home, the workplace (we’ll get back to this), child-rearing, the social support net, health, culture, and traditions, among other things.

Some bits are fascinating, and I’d be interested in reading a review from someone who was born and raised in Denmark. I’ve heard that the Scandinavian system — very high taxes, lots of social support, but not nearly as much income disparity as in places like, say, the U.S. — is great in general, and given the fact that in the U.S. our elected officials seem hell-bent in taking what little access to health care we are guaranteed away from us at the first opportunity (for example), it sounds a bit like a dream.

However, it is lacking in some parts. First, while Ms. Russell does sort of mention the issue when talking about animals and a law passed that was seen as impacting Kosher and Halal preparation, she doesn’t really discuss what life is like for immigrants who are not white. Do they have the same levels of happiness? How are race relations in the country in general?

The other main area that is lacking is the discussion of the workplace. While she does share some of her husband’s experiences, because she is a freelance writer, she doesn’t have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to work in a different country’s office.



October 2017



What I’m Reading – October 1, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Puerto Rico

“Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis. Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.” Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria (by Abby Phillip, Ed O’Keefe, Nick Miroff and Damian Paletta for Washington Post)

“As Trump was calling our people lazy, Lin-Manuel and I were on our way to increase support for relief efforts. We have been working nonstop to help Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit the island more than 10 days ago. It took my son an hour to respond to his insulting tweets, after a long hour of introspection and reflection.” Puerto Ricans aren’t ‘lazy’ and will remember Trump’s bad hurricane response, writes father of Lin-Manuel Miranda (by Luis Miranda, Jr. for The New York Daily News)

“There’s still little power on the island. In many places there’s still no water to drink or bathe in or to flush toilets. There’s limited food and cell service, and dozens of remote villages have been completely from everything cut off for 11 days. “Make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Monday.” What every American needs to know about Puerto Rico’s hurricane disaster (by Brian Resnick and Eliza Barclay for Vox)

“The Adventure of the Seas, which can carry 3,114 passengers, will forgo its scheduled Saturday voyage and travel to San Juan, St. Croix and St. Thomas on Friday to pick up evacuees and bring supplies. A spokesman for Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that the cruise line expects to pick up more than 3,000 people, taking them back to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.” Royal Caribbean cancels cruise, sends ship on rescue mission to Puerto Rico (by Avery Anapol for The Hill)

Unacceptable Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Action

“Fifty immigrants across the state were among nearly 500 nationwide arrested for federal immigration violations in an operation that targeted so-called sanctuary cities and, in the case of Massachusetts, a state that had not fallen in line with President Trump’s aggressive deportation policies. In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said its four-day “Safe City” operation, which ended Wednesday, was “focused on cities and regions where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators or jurisdictions where ICE detainers are not honored.”” 50 immigrants arrested in Mass. as part of ICE operation (by Jeremy C. Fox for Boston Globe)

“Adam Schwartz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for privacy and free expression, said the plan was disturbing. “We see this as part of a larger process of high-tech surveillance of immigrants and more and more people being subjected to social media screening,” Schwartz told BuzzFeed News. “There’s a growing trend at the Department of Homeland Security to be snooping on the social media of immigrants and foreigners and we think it’s an invasion of privacy and deters freedom of speech.”” People Are Worried About DHS Plans To Gather Social Media Info (by Adolfo Flores for Buzzfeed)

Fighting Back Against Police Brutality and Racial Injustice

“Protest is patriotic. Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation. Protest in America has been essential to ending war, to demanding equal rights, to ending unfair practices that keep citizens marginalized. If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants.” The NFL Protests Are Patriotic (by John Legend for Slate)

“The WNBA’s visible protest is no surprise: They’ve been the most socially conscious professional sports league for a while now. This demonstration is just the latest example in a long line of actions WNBA players have taken to protest injustice. Yet much of the media attention about anthem protests ignores the leadership role these women have taken. Sadly, this is part of a larger trend when it comes to women—and Black women in particular—not receiving the credit they deserve. In the United States, women’s sports are considered “second tier,” causing all women’s professional sports, including the WNBA, to fight for viewers and ticket sales.” All of the Work, None of the Credit: Don’t Drop the Ball on the WNBA’s Activism (by Britni de la Cretaz for Bitch)

Gender Disparity

“According to Dr. Michele Ramsey, Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State Berks, emotional labor is often conflated with problem solving. “The gendered assumption is that ‘men are the problem solvers because women are too emotional,’” she explains. “But who is really solving the bulk of the world’s problems at home and in the office?” As the household manager for my husband and three kids, I’m fairly certain I know the answer. I was gifted a necklace for Mother’s Day while my husband stole away to deep clean the bathrooms, leaving me to care for our children as the rest of the house fell into total disarray.” Women Aren’t Nags – We’re Just Fed Up (by Gemma Hartley for Harper’s Bazaar)


“As of late afternoon local time, some 465 people had been injured, according to El Pais, a prominent Spanish newspaper. That number was later revised to 761, according to the Associated Press. Officials have not yet discussed publicly the severity of injuries, or whether there were any casualties. Roughly 2,300 polling stations were open on Sunday morning, Catalan officials claimed, but the national government in Madrid said it had closed down more than half of those, according to Reuters. Riot officers were stationed outside, blocking voters from entering many of the buildings. In one video, police appear to break into a polling station in order to stop people from voting.” Violence Is Erupting In Spain As Catalans Try To Vote (by Rose Troup Buchanan and Ellen Cushing for Buzzfeed)