Thursday, December 28

How To Troll People Who Tell You Your Marriage Won't Last

This was beautiful and I just had to share because there are SO many people who simply refuse to believe it is possible to remain happily married. I can't tell you how many people I know in my generation who have taken (and continue to take!) a ridiculous amount of flak for being solidly, stably married and happy about it.

I tell my husband all the time that I wish I could brag on him more than I already do without it somehow making a big chunk of the other girls/women around me miserable or making them feel bad about themselves.

So I was extremely gratified to find this example of a high-profile couple (Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prince, Jr.) proudly holding their own in lock-step with the rest of us who realize that it IS possible and NOT something to apologize for or feel self-conscious about.

Are you happily married? Go kiss your spouse! And the next time someone bitches about how awful and patriarchically/femistly oppressive marriage is, etc., smile sweetly and troll them to their face by point out how long you've been making it work and loving it! 

(Original here, because I know the pic is hard to read.)

Wednesday, December 27

Historical Perspective

photo credit
I recently ran across this article online about "the booming Japanese rent-a-friend business."

Lots of people are kind of freaking out about it, which prompted me (again) to be a little sad about how we, as a culture, teach history. Paying people to play what we might otherwise think of as intimate roles in our lives is not a *new* phenomenon.

Keeping a courtesan in the court of a French or Engish king, something people did for centuries, was (at its base) just a fancy system of paying someone to be your girlfriend. Numerous cultures have positively ancient traditions of paying mourners to weep and wail in funeral processions, which is just paying someone to pretend to be your friend under another another name. Wealthy Victorians (and people of other eras, as well) routinely paid young women to travel with them as "companions," filling a role somewhere between that of a servant, a friend, and a dutiful (adult) child. On the slightly seedier side of things, "escort" services have long been a big business in many cities and, again, they're essentially just a set up where you can pay someone to be your date - aka to play your girlfriend/boyfriend so you don't have to go to a social event alone.

Certainly there's value in being realistic about humans' universal need for connection and regularly asking hard questions about places and trends where we find a breakdown of the 'natural' healthy family and social environment. But I can't help but think that, in relation/comparison to other historical trends, this is a pretty normal development. (Food preparation and consumption, for example, followed a similar trend - it began as something done within homes and relationships as a natural outgrowth of caring and traditional family structures, and evolved into the generic, anonymous, paid-for service industry it is now.)

It's a pity that we spend so many years in school and have so much free (at least right now) access to online resources of every description, and our pool of shared cultural and historical knowledge is still so shallow that people can't recognize the reincarnation of an age-old idea. Once again, I am grateful to have been blessed with parents who taught me to love reading from a young age, so that I got exposed to a diverse array of ideas and realities that I would otherwise never have encountered!

Sunday, December 24

Reading Before Bed

Please forgive the language here, but it was too adorable not to share.  : )
Figured everybody could use a little humor to start Christmas Eve! ((hugs))

Saturday, December 23

Modern Twist on H.H.Holmes' MO?

Last week, my mom and I were talking and the book Devil the White City came up. (Supposedly, it's being turned into a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, now.)

The book follows the intertwined stories of the Chicago World's Fair and serial killer H.H. Holmes who capitalized on the massive traffic the event drew to the city to find nearly untraceable victims (all young women) who he then murdered and disposed of in his hotel of horrors.

(Disclaimer: my mom liked the book, I wasn't as much a fan. There are some great documentaries on Holmes free on youtube, though, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.)

The book/topic came up again this week when I saw the discussion displayed on the right of this post online (original here) discussing the Startup Castle in Silicon Valley.

Billing itself as "a community of excellence" specially designed to gather and equip STEM rockstars in an environment with every drool-worthy support they could need (including dedicated Angel investors) to launch their own thriving start-up tech company, it's been dissected by a wide variety of sources from a bunch of different angles... and the conclusions are always scary.

What made me pick this particular discussion to show you, though, (aside from the great "organ harvesting" line) was how freakily well they drew the connection between the reasonable-on-the-surface screening criteria for the Castle and the type of person it would lead to attracting - docile and easy to make disappear.

Which is, of course, EXACTLY what H.H. Holmes did a century ago! Set himself up with a gorgeous building in a desirable location. Developed rules/requirements for who he'd let in that looked upstanding and suggested safety and class for everyone who made the cut, but subtly also resulted in collecting a bunch of people who were hard to track and easy to lose. 

Kind of creepy, no?

Makes me glad we have the internet these days to help draw attention to and spread awareness of this sort of thing. Not that I expect that will be enough to root out all such dangerous places, but it puts us far and away ahead of those poor souls in Chicago at the turn of the last century who didn't have it and paid the price. 

Wit and Grace

Author Neil Gaiman is a riot and I just had to share this with you guys. Someone left the above message on his tumblr account... and his reply was delightful. One hundred and one ways to deal with trolls online, right?

Also, for the record, I think "Amanda Palmer Is Very Inconvenient" would be a hysterical title for an autobiography! I'd definitely have read more biographies in school (or at least read them less grudgingly) if they came with titles like that!

: )

Thursday, December 21

Reading Rainbow for Adults

Image credit
 Does anyone else remember watching Reading Rainbow when they were little? Hosted by Levar Burton (also of Star Trek TNG fame), it was a lot like Wishbone in its goal to bring books to life and encourage kids to read.

This past week, I ran into an article advertising the fact that Burton has recently started a podcast for adults in which he "read[s] short stories from all genres, with a little music and original sound design sprinkled in."

I'm still getting the hang of podcasts, and short stories haven't exactly been my genre of choice most of the time, but I thought it was pretty cool to see a familiar old face doing something new with the same overarching goal of keeping people connected to literature in our busy, extremely digital age.

If you're interested, you can find the podcast here or look it up in iTunes.

Sunday, December 17

Annoying Books

Last week, there was a rare occurrance in our house: both My Prince and I were reading very annoying books at the same time.

He was reading The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. It was one of those books that was well written, but a painfully frustrating read simply because it shines a harsh light on something completely unacceptable happening in our nation. It was nice for me that he was reading it, because it made for an interesting conversation topic - especially when I considered it in light of all the education grants I used to write, and how various terrible programs all play into and off of one another to make an already ugly situation drastically worse. 

I was in the middle of From Here to Security: How Workplace Savings Can Keep America's Promise. This, too, was a technically well written book. Unfortunately, it was annoying for entirely different reasons. The author's premise was that to ensure adequate funding for retirement, people need something in place that will allow them to replace 80% of their peak working income every year for the rest of their lives. He is convinced that 401k plans are that 'something' and that by implementing or massively expanding (usually through government mandates) a handful of "best practices" we can largely solve the problems of elderly poverty, people running out of retirement money before they die, and America's generally absymal savings rates/status.

As much as I respected where he was coming from, I spent the entire book wanting to buy the author an entire bottle of the red pills Neo takes in the Matrix... you know, the ones that wake you up to reality? The worst part was that the author briefly (and breezily) acknowledged the major challenges/flaws in his plan right up front... and then proceeded to completely downplay them, as if they were minor instead of the ACTUAL problems that need to be addressed to fix the savings/retirement situation to begin with! To add insult to injury, he didn't offer, suggest, or so much as give the time of day to ANY retirement planning option that didn't involve making one's money available to the vagaries (and atrocities) of the stock market. As if there's no possible reason (aside from 'ridiculously unfounded' fears, which he definitely discusses) why someone wouldn't want Wall Street holding, using and controlling their money for a couple decades... *ahem*

The other thing that made the nutritionist in me see red about the whole book was his blithe references to how we're all living longer, healther lives... unless of course, you're one of those unfortuantely souls unlucky enough to have a chronic illness. Because that would totally screw up all the ratios and things that otherwise support his thesis. (Spoiler: The occurance of chronic illnesses has been skyrocketing and shows no sign of stopping.)

Anyway, I gave the book a much more professional review over at Amazon, but I thought I'd share both these titles here for your general reference. If you see them come up anywhere, or hear anyone raving about them, you've been forewarned!

Friday, December 15

New Shower Set Up

Our house has two bathrooms. We took the tub out of the master bathroom a couple years ago while we had a giant dumster here for another project since we knew it was going to have to eventually get replaced anyway.

Between that, the stupidly damp/cold/awful weather we've had pretty consistently the last two years, and the fact that we're both working full time and don't want to spend every spare minute we're home cleaning (to keep up with the effects of said gross weather), we decided a while ago to just turn off the water to the shower in the master bath and use the tub/shower combo in the hall bath instead. It worked out really well... until the fixtures in the tub/shower combo started leaking.

It wasn't an emergency situation, but it did force us to start looking at replacement options. My Prince is wonderful and did lots of research, and then we examined our options on both the design side of things and the "how much of a pain is this going to be to install" side of things... because this house was very definitively NOT designed with ease of replacement/upgrades in mind. We ended up going with a Peerless dual-shower-head fixture. (In no small part because I feel like every house should have at least one movable shower head for the washing of pets, small children, and the like. Simply as a practical matter.)

Then, recently, on a day that My Prince was home and I was at work, he got the entire thing installed! I came home and it was all done and beautiful! (Much nicer than my sad photography skills can convey.) It felt like an extra victory, sneaking in one more house project under the deadline before we roll into 2018, and blessedly one less thing to worry about over the winter when everything seems harder. I'm very grateful for talented people like My Prince who can handle projects like that, and quite pleased with the results!

Wednesday, December 13

Early Christmas Present

Image Credit
We've invested a lot of time, money and energy this year in refining how we live. Not refining as in "gentrification" - the "streamlining" kind. In and around everything else going on, we made a serious effort to replace tools that needed it (e.g. extension cords, the stereo) and consciously invested in things that make daily life smoother and more efficient. We continued (and maybe escalated) our process of divesting ourselves and our property of anything and everything that didn't work out or is no longer serving us well. The work isn't done yet, of course, but already the results have been gratifying.

Unexpectedly, however, it left us scratching our heads a bit when we asked each other "so what do you want for Christmas?"

Finally, though, I decided that the only thing I wanted was this beautiful ring! I've been looking for/at something like it for a while, and since I'm actively working toward the goal of getting back into writing full time, I expect to actually get to wear it regularly. (Instead of sticking it on a chain like I do with all my rings while at work right now.) The stone is laboradite, which I love, but which is also really hard to find most of the time. Color-wise, the silver is a good match for the white gold of my wedding rings. It's designed as a "spinner" ring, which I thought was appropriate since I tend to figet with my jewelry anyway.

My Prince generously obliged, and even more generously didn't make me wait until Christmas to have it! It's beautiful and I'm delighted and spoiled. Just thought I'd share!

Monday, December 4

Biting the Bullet

Terrible picture of actually very nice
every day boots.
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of shopping. I am particularly not fond of shopping for clothing or shoes. (Seriously, do you have any idea how many positively hideous pairs of shoes there are in the world?! And somehow you have to scroll through all of them to find the one or two simple, attractive things that you want. Every. Time. Ugh.)

Most of time, I get off easy. Not only is my closet well stocked enough that I rarely need to shop for anything, but My Prince is much more patient about these things and very gracious about helping me search if I need to purchase something. Recently, though, I found myself in the unwelcome position of needing to buy shoes. Not just one pair, but two. It was my own fault - I'd been putting it off and putting it off, and finally reached the point where my black heels were too shot to keep wearing and cold weather was solidly here, meaning I could no longer avoid getting a new pair of every day boots.

(For the record, I tried a couple times in the last couple years to buy a decent pair of boots, but with no success.)

Finally, last month, I bit the bullet and just carved out time (and patience) to go through the whole online shopping process. Not surprisingly, both pairs of shoes ultimately had to be exchanged for a different size (why are these things so inconsistent?!). Even on sale, the boots were a lot more than I'd have liked to spend. That said, there's huge relief in finally having the ordeal done with and knowing that I won't have to do it again any time soon! 

New all purpose black heels. Super comfy!

Sunday, December 3

Random, Horrifying Fact

Because it's still stuck my head several days after I first read it (and I've told everyone I regularly see in daily life), have a fun, random and positively horrifying fact :

"Bromated flour is considered a class 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and has been shown to cause malignant tumors and to damage human DNA." source

It's been banned all over the world, but you can still buy it on the shelves of your average American grocery store. 

Meanwhile, we spend zillions of dollars annually on pink everything, proudly advertising our 'commitment' to finding a cure for cancer. Let's just file this one with all the rest under "reasons it's positively amazing humans haven't driven themselves to extinction already" shall we?

Saturday, December 2

Scalloped Potatoes

Have you ever had a recipe you were sure that:
(a) you'd made before;
(b) everybody has a recipe for (so you must, too); and
(c) you probably shouldn't need a recipe for in the first place?

Yeah... that was me this past week with scalloped potatoes. No idea how I somehow didn't have a recipe for that in my sprawling personal cookbook.

Seeing as it is a potato recipe (and therefore should almost certainly include unreasonable amounts of butter and probably some bacon), I looked up Ree Drummond's version first. (If you're not used to the Pioneer Woman's cooking, she's all about using butter, bacon fat, and the like in Julia Child-worthy quantities.)

I threw in a handful of diced bell peppers with my onions for color, and subbed a handful of diced bacon for the ham (sauteed up right with the peppers & onions). As always, I went with cornstarch instead of flour as my thickener, but otherwise I made this pretty much to spec and it was great! Definitely needed to cook a little longer than listed, but I was very happy with how quick and easy the prep was and with the rich, hearty end result. It more than qualifies to be a main course all by itself and should give you plenty of leftovers besides. Just wanted to share in case anyone else needs a (healthy) comfort food recipe now that December is upon us.

You can find Ree's recipe here: Scalloped Potatoes.