33 Random Facts

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Today’s my birthday and so I thought I’d drop a few random facts to coordinate with the number of times I’ve been around the sun. Just for kicks! If you’re a long time reader, you may already know most of these and if you’re new you may learn more than you ever wished to. Either way, hope there’s at least one surprise in here:

1. My eye color changes slightly with my mood and Jeff jokes (accurately) that he can tell how angry I am by how bright green my eyes are. Funner fact, I share this trait with my mother and sister. The women of my family come with a warning beacon!

2. I cannot wash dishes for the life of me. Something about the sensation of grimy water triggers a gag reflex in me that I have never been able to overcome and it’s clearly partially psychological because even wearing gloves doesn’t prevent the feeling. I’d rather clean a bathroom top to bottom twice than clean dishes by hand.

3. One of my favorite snacks of all time is the most basic of basic: cheese and crackers. Bliss.

4. Meanwhile my favorite candy is probably sour gummy peaches. I remember going to the movies with my dad as a kid and always bee-lining for the pick-and-mix to buy a scoop or two of these goodies and now in the last year of my early 30s, precisely nothing has changed.

5. My most consistent emotional habit has been being way too influenced by what I’m currently watching, reading, or listening to. A book can absolutely wreck my mood for a week if I’m not careful.

6. I hate having to wash and blowdry my hair. Men and women who enjoy this grooming task baffle me. If I had endless wealth I would absolutely waste a portion of it on professional blowouts so I didn’t have to do it myself.

7. I took piano lessons for 12 years and was an absolute brat about it for most of that time. I didn’t awaken to the underlying parental wisdom until my late teens and subsequently paid for my own lessons whilst in university. Mom was right…

8. (If you’re new around here) I was raised Mormon and very publicly left the faith about five years ago. However I remain deeply interested in and invested in the Mormon community and other intersections of faith, culture, and community building.

9. In the interest of total honesty, I just counted them and I own 26 lipstick or lip products. Believe it or not, this is a dramatic downgrade from previous years. It’s my favorite addiction.

10. Growing up my parents were strict about what constituted appropriate “sabbath day” activities, including TV and movies. My enduring love for PBS 100% springs from the fact that Sunday night nature documentaries and performances felt like such a treat. (Editors note: my parents massively relaxed this rule with their subsequent three children, which I am bitter about to this day.)

11. One of the traits I’m least proud of is how naturally lazy I am. I talk and focus on motivation so much because given half a chance my preference is to be horizontal and lying in a sunbeam like a cat.

12. One of the biggest items on my bucket list is making it to all seven continents: only Africa, South America, and Antarctica to go.

13. Baths are my favorite way to end the day, no matter the weather. It can be high summer and I will still want to soak in hot water to wind down before going to bed.

14. My deep, abiding, and well-documented love of lipstick notwithstanding, if I had to run out the door with only one thing “done” to my face it would be mascara. I’m dark haired but my eyelashes are weirdly and obnoxiously pale so without it, I look like an extremely unwell person.

15. I have seen the classic A&E miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice literally hundreds of times. My mom and I used to watch it together on weekends (see Fact 10) and for a few years we just planned on “P&P Sundays” as we called them. The count, therefore, is exceptionally high. I regret nothing.

16. As a toddler I called bananas “beenas,” which is now something of a family joke.

17. Other family jokes and catchphrases over the years the maxim include, “No bayoneting at the table!” Once exclaimed by a vexed parent, but still sound etiquette advice, I feel.

18. The only video games I have ever gotten into, and it is a loose definition, are Sid Meier’s Civilization and Pokemon.

19. If there is one documentary I would make everyone watch to better understand America and Americans, it’s Ken Burn’s Prohibition. I’m dead serious about this.

20. Likewise if there is one book I would make everyone ready to understand British class and wealth attitudes, it would be Snobs by Julian Fellowes. But don’t try to use it as field guide, I warn you!

21. Favorite artist: Botticelli. Nevertheless…

22. Favorite works of art: Nike of Samothrace for statuary, tie between Botticell’s Birth of Venus and Almond Blossoms by Vincent Van Gogh for painting. Sheep May Softly Graze, by J. S. Bach for pieces of music. I refuse to choose between novels, but I will defend the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its original radio broadcast form to my death as a work of high art.

23. I am just under five feet tall, my husband is over six feet, and yet I require three quarters of our bed space to sleep at night. Thems the rules.

24. We got married one month past my 23rd birthday and I still joke about being a childbride.

25. I blogged anonymously for years because once upon a time (how quaint!) there was this weird idea about anonymity on the internet which seems to have fallen mostly by the wayside. Except for the troll farms.

26. While I may be a makeup and beauty junkie I have not dyed my hair since high school and I have never once worn fake tan or lashes.

27. My favorite color in the world is green. I initially chose it out of spite as a wee tot when a classroom exercise divided children up by eye color and I was the only one with green eyes. Some teasing ensued to which I declared that I didn’t mind standing by myself because my favorite color was green, so there! This story definitely reveals something about my psyche but I’m not sure what it is.

28. I bake when I’m angry or stressed.

29. One of the things that I like least about myself is how much I rely on other people’s praise and good opinion. I’d like to be more badass and say that I don’t care what people think about me…but in my heart of hearts I do.

30. One of the things that I like best about myself is my ability to sustain and enjoy friendships that literally span decades. It’s an investment of love and delight that has paid back more in interest than I could have ever imagined.

31. I got one of those “useless” liberal arts degrees that ends in the word “studies” and mostly made up of coursework in medieval history. It has nothing to do with how my career has subsequently turned out, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d pick the same degree.

32. Until I went to university, I never lived anywhere longer than three years growing up and to this day have a hard time staying in one place (whether that’s a job, an apartment, or a country) longer than that.

33. I have looked forward to my 30s since I was a kid and thus far, the decade is not disappointing me.

Weekend Links: How the Hell is it Already June, Edition

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.”
– Al Bernstein

This was a short work week, and so I’ve mostly been head down and nose firmly to grindstone, ducklings. What did I miss?

[Scans news headlines. Screams into cushion for full five minutes. Rises and shakes self off in a supremely British manner.]

Okay. I’m caught up. Woof. Let’s just get to the weekend reading and sharing of good things, shall we? This weekend we’re brunching with friends, celebrating my birthday, soaking up the sun and yes…unfortunately doing a bit of work. C’est la vie. Share your favorite links and stories with me in the comments and tell me what nice things you are doing with friends, family, or your glorious self. Points for bragging!

First and foremost, happy Pride Month! I hope all in the community and allies are doing something absolutely joyous and fun to celebrate.

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The BBC is about to do it again!

The long term effects of male-preference is going to last for a least a couple of generations, and some sociologists have shown rises in crime or military activity alongside gender ratio imbalances this great. The cost for women is inevitably huge, with rises in trafficking and worse. But the honest question I have in reading so many of these stories is one of foundational math: if you and everyone else you know are having sons, where exactly do you think your grandchildren are coming from?

What a ride this tale was!

A delightful Instagram account for your delectation.

The absolutely galling shenanigans having to do with the USS John McCain this week are embarrassing. Not least of all because the administration tried to put the genie back in the bottle and declare the whole news piece “fake,” after administration official already confirmed it. And frankly, the most generous interpretation of the situation is still pretty bad.

Congress is the only check on the executive that we have in the US system. I feel that Mr. Mueller has made it clear that this is his formal position. His actions have been as per existing law. The trouble…is Congress. And the fact that rules don’t seem to apply anymore.

The systematic changes to how the US government is tracking and publicly reporting on climate change is bad. There is a great The Daily podcast episode on this as well that’s worth a listen.

I delight that someone has studied this.

The kids are alright.

You’re either on the side of women having autonomy over their own bodies or you’re not. It’s that simple.

It’s the end of an era! Sidenote, I definitely have an old iPod with a bunch of unsynced songs somewhere. I should dig that sucker out.

The census isn’t sexy but it’s important and there is a reason that conservatives are targeting it. And they ARE targeting it. Our saving grace may yet be that a lot of bad faith actors reveal themselves to be piss poor at covering their tracks in the end.

So clearly the other side thinks that event went really well.

What is it going to take?!

My people are a proud people, our culture a vibrant culture.

Our president is an idiot or a troll, and either option is Very Bad.

And finally, you cannot convince me that this wasn’t some kind of lifetime high for several people involved:

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Year of Discipline: May

“As full of spirit as the month of May, and as gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.”
– William Shakespeare

What a month this was, my treasures. I’m just going to have to come out and admit that when it comes to goals and personal progress, most of this month was really just about getting through one week at a time with work commitments. That and a little overdue self-indulgence when it came to girl time!

I’m not entirely happy with myself when it comes to a my annual theme lately. I haven’t felt disciplined at all, just swinging from some version of over-severe austerity to utter laxness, with a side helping of emotional overwhelm for good measure. But I think this is why the idea of discipline felt so important for me to focus on, it’s not a natural state for me–at least a healthy version isn’t. The journey to a most sustainable set of habits and expectations which provide the structure I want is going to be a longer one that I thought, but I think that’s okay.

General Motivation: 

Shocking. Nonexistent. If it hasn’t been work or recovery from work, I don’t know her.

Health: 

*shoves another cheesey bread into her face and cackles*

Finances: 

…actually pretty good. My best friend X and I planned a near-impromptu girls trip to Naples and I was actually to pay for the whole thing up front and basically in cash. I was so excited about this milestone…until one of my brothers got engaged and planned a summer wedding in the same year! And while we’re absolutely delighted, we definitely didn’t plan or budget for a trip to the States in 2019. Ah well. Back on the savings to buy a lovely wedding present and humbly having to ask parents to help us out with travel arrangements. My parents are thrilled, it’s been literally ten years since their last wedding (mine) and the siblings are flying in from all across the world (literally) for the shindig. Yay, weddings!

Grooming:

With the warmer weather now fully in play, I’ve found it easier to make the effort to get up just a bit earlier and try and do something with my mane. Most days. The warm weather also brings humidity and its tendency to laugh in my face when I attempt to do anything grown up with my face and hair.

Other stuff:

Continued immigration work prep and conversations with landlord about extending our lease later this year. These are far from settled but it’s good to focus on moving these along. Here’s to not being stateless OR homeless!

Organized my Dropbox photos, especially my recent travel ones.

Set aside some things to hand over to my sister when I see her this summer–spoiled kid.

Tailored and repaired some clothing, as well as properly packed away my cold weather knits with cedar balls for protection against moths. Like a grown up!

Put the biggest corporate event project I work on all year to bed.

Worked on my next 101/1001 list...watch this space!

Five Things I Loved in May

“It’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s time to do a wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day one you’ll always rue.”
– Camelot

Piglets, another month has flown by and what a month…

Look, the world continues to be a wild ride but we all of us get by with a little help from our friends, small luxuries, cosmic vocations, or funny memes on the internet. You do you, beloveds. Here’s a short list of the things that made the lusty month of May a bit less angst-ridden than it otherwise could have been. Share your own sanity savers and favorite things in the comments and let’s chat about them!

Pompeii

I know, I know, I need to do a proper blog post about it and I’m long overdue but this month I finally got to see Pompeii and my little nerd heart could barely contain itself. The child of a classicist and one of a clan of history buffs, this has been on the To Do list since I was about five years old, but it’s still difficult to express how blown away I was by the completeness of the site. Many archaeological sites are fractured or so eroded that piecing together its mysteries is the work of a life time. Pompeii really is a time capsule tucked under the pseudo-benign shadow of its resident volcano. Please enjoy X’s snap of my general mood above.

 

Chernobyl, by HBO and Sky Atlantic

This miniseries is only five episodes long but is probably the most compelling “horror” piece I have ever watched. Twenty minutes into episode one and my whole body was clenched tight, the dread and slow-dawning fear was that palpable. It recounts the famous nuclear disaster, with an emphasis not so much on the science as the psychology of what it meant for those in the literal blast zone of an unprecedented catastrophic event with millions of lives at stake. The way the series is structured (the first episode recounts mere hours and each chapter encompasses more and more time as the long term consequences become more apparent) is masterful and not a single shot is wasted. It’s beautifully constructed and absolutely gripping. What I found so compelling was the portrayal of so many powerful people in the wake of the immediate aftermath being not just unwilling but in some cases literally unable to comprehend the facts on the ground when it didn’t correspond to their preferred narrative. The use of narrative–what nation states and individuals tell themselves and each other–is the key theme of the series, specifically why and how people lie, and especially when we do it collectively. Even though it’s telling a story over thirty years old, it feels horribly relevant. (A secondary recommendation is the accompanying podcast by the showrunner and NPR’s Peter Sagal about the background and making of the show. It’s excellent.)

 

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

What a gorgeous, generous book this collection was. Taken verbatim from Strayed’s now famous turn as an advice columnist (she’s still doing the gig but now in podcast form), what struck me most in reading her thoughtful and intensely personal responses to the questions her readers placed in her keeping was a deep sense of kindness. Whether dealing with toxic relationships, existential crisis, tragedy and loss, or perseverance, each of her essays are masterclasses in conveying care for her correspondent. I realized in reading the book how few expressions of generosity and kindness I see in most of my culture intake. It’s a vastly underrated thing and while she makes it look easy, I have come to believe that genuine kindness is actually very hard to do. Which is probably why all major religions advocate for it on some level. I’m behind on my reading goals for the year, but I swallowed this book in two sittings over a weekend.

 

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick, in English Beauty

Who am I? What am I? What have I become?! Yes kittens, this month I’ve traded in my customary red lipstick for a limited edition nude lipstick by Charlotte Tilbury. A much beloved makeup artist, she launched her eponymous line a few years ago here in the UK and more recently it made its way to the US and elsewhere. The aesthetic of her brand is distinctly glam, and while that’s not really my preferred style, her lip products are to die for. I can recommend her matte formula as one that produces a velvety, opaque color on the lips but does not dry them out or flake as other mattes tend to do. This particular shade is limited edition, but I’m not a person who hoards her rare or expensive products, waiting for the “perfect opportunity” to wear them. Life is short, makeup is perishable. Wear the damn nice stuff!

Girlfriends

This month I dashed off to Italy with X before she started an amazing new job and celebrated Hannah’s upcoming novel with her from afar. A good friend from work announced her pregnancy. Long phone calls, hilarious text chains, great coffee dates, and many a meme were shared. Girl gangs really are the best thing ever created.

Weekend Links

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Ducklings, I write to you from the comfort of my own desk as I took today off for an extra long Bank Holiday weekend. I’ve been working late most days for several weeks and Jeff’s schedule has been even worse by order of magnitude. My delightful near-impromptu romp to Italy with X notwithstanding, we continue to feel a bit run down and overextended lately. Hence an extra long weekend, and possibly the last one until the heady days of August.

Happy Memorial Day to American kittens, and enjoy the long sunshine to Brits and Yanks alike. I’ve pulled together a nice batch of weekend reading to take you through until Tuesday. Let me know what you’re getting up to in the comments, and share your favorites reads and finds from around the interwebs in the comments!

What must it be like to have leaders forced from office for this sort of crap? Sounds nice…

If you need a chuckle and enjoy people who in turn genuinely enjoy and revel in the weird things that give them pleasure, this one’s for you.

Go, girl!

Vanilla is not nearly as boring as it has come to colloquially represent.

Maybe let’s at least…try?

From the bottom of my heart, **** this guy.

A short but interesting video journalism piece on K-beauty, resistance, autonomy, and the strength of both personal and international soft power.

This is weirdly sad to me. There are almost no pristine places left to us.

Julian Asange is a bad guy, in my opinion. Full stop. But the way we prosecute him for his actions is going to be important and I’m afraid that the current indictments could open new precedents which could backfire on actual journalists.

Cool. What are you going to do about it, Representative?

What’s in a name? Turns out an awful lot, include podcast readability!

….yeah….

GIRL GANG GOOD NEWS MINUTE: Hannah’s second book cover has dropped and I cannot wait for you guys to read this absolute banger of a book! Revenge has never been colder or more sweet!

Very stable genius.” It really is extraordinary how almost uniquely good the Speaker is in getting under his skin. Why is that I wonder? Trick question, it’s because she’s a woman. (In related news, I’m already tired of 2020 bullshit. Here’s hoping we’re all a much better informed electorate this time around, because active misinformation and selective classification/declassification is getting weaponized in new ways.)

Well, it’s happened…and Britain is…the same, now? I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of deeply disliking this leader’s policies and mandate, disagreeing intensely with her choices, and grudgingly feeling sorry for the absolute shitty hand she was dealt when a lot of people pushed buttons and scampered away from the subsequent explosions and messes. She was never going to get out of this job unscathed. If we get Boris Johnson as PM I will have to scream into a cushion for a while.

The pettiness is the point.

We will not go back.

Weekend Links

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”
― Simone de Beauvoir

Darlings, I type this to you after a week spent preparing for and running a large work event. It went well, I’m delighted to say (notwithstanding a couple of technical snaffus that required MacGyvering mechanical fixes at 6:30 in the morning), but I am wiped after it.

Nonetheless, I have still whipped together a nice bunch of weekend links–because I love you, kittens!

I’ve spared you most American and British political news this week because it honestly makes me to angry. Instead I’ve bundled you up some reading that is a mix of tribute, lifestyle, weirdness that that jolly and uplifting standby: female rage in the face of attempts to control our bodies. All with a few chasers of wholesome loveliness to keep your spirits buoyed before we take to the streets.

She was a warrior in a cardigan.” I failed to include this farewell missive last week, which is criminal. She will be missed.

Patriarchy hurts everyone.

I’m hopeless, I guess, because I hate getting up in the morning.

…this is a thing?

HBO has chosen it’s attempt to keep the serial fantasy genre going once Game of Thrones ends this weekend. They’ve clearly spent the money on a good cast, but I wonder how this is going to work out. It’s an interesting move since I think the film adaptation of this didn’t do so well and the viewing public, being the fickle thing that it is, may be in the mood for something different than high fantasy.

Twitter is garbage but I’m never going to quit a site that gives me this:

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Bill Nye has snapped.

The food revolutions have not reached everyone equally. Well, except maybe the bad ones.

This is fucking scary. (It’s also not fucking surprising. Every single person who told us to “calm down” about Justice Kavanaugh or any of it can take a flying leap.

Because they are our bodies, it must be our choice. [uncensored images of postpartum women’s bodies in all shapes and sizes ahead]

Educate yourself.

…And then put your money where your mouth is.

Rebecca Traister, noted chronicler of women’s rage, its use in public life, and the many ways people try to use it to discredit the women feeling it, has some thoughts on this law as well as well as some solid advice. She does not disappoint. “…never again let anyone tell you that the fury or determination to fight on this account is invalid, inappropriate, or inconvenient to a broader message. Consider that this is also what women and marginalized people are told all the time about their anger in general: that they should not express it, not let it out, because to give voice to their rage will distract from their aims, undermine them; that it will ultimately be bad for them. This messaging is strategic. It is designed to get angry people to keep their mouths shut.”

An honest to goodness charmer of a story!

Style matters, and style guides matter.

Gen Xers, you have been profiled.

Oof, just read me, why don’t you….

I can’t believe we have to say this in the year of our Lady Beyonce 2019, but vaccinate, people. We’ve been doing it for a while!

RIP.

And in related news, a lovely take on THAT Keanu pop culture moment.

Weekend Links

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy” 
― Giuseppe Verdi

Well hi there, kittens! I took a break last week to run off to Italy with X in honor of our 20 year Friendiversary–a totally new holiday that I made up to commemorate two decades of pretty amazing friendship. We planned it a month ago and did it on the cheap, with budget flights and Airbnb, subsisting on pizza and cocktails. It was glorious.

I’m now back in the Big Smoke after a Neapolitan sojourn, riddled with anxiety about a big work meeting this week. All is back to normal. It’s also been another pair of jam packed weeks of news and as I type this I’m still catching up on it all. We had the Met Gala and a new squishy Royal Baby but on the other hand, the Trade War with China is back on, North Korea is firing missiles, there have been multiple mass shootings, Brexit is stalled with Prime Minister May being pressured to resign…

Doesn’t it feel like we’re just doomed to live 2017 over and over again at this point? What sick time warp are we stuck in?

This weekend we are getting our house back to rights, doing immigration paperwork some more, and trying to plan out our summer which now includes a family wedding! Nothing so constant as change, I tell ya. Let me know what you’re up to in the comments.

Six months to the day after the largest antisemitic shooting in American history, another synagogue was targeted. I’m no longer surprised, just permanently heartsick… Antisemitism and Islamophobia are twin children of the same ugly, hate-filled rhetoric and fearmongering, and both are on the rise.

Interesting royal news this week, this time from Japan.

While I think it’s ridiculous that the Trump administration bowed out of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner again, but the speech by historian Ron Chenrow is worth a watch which reminds us that we have always been fighting for the soul of America and the fight is renewed every generation.

What a headline! I couldn’t not read it with a teaser trailer like that, but luckily the payoff was well worth it.

This is both ugly and horrible, and so woefully executed as to be ridiculous. How is this incompetent troll not in jail? This is hardly his first rodeo.

Oh I just bet they did

Huh what now?

This was expected but still feels strange. I wonder what his long term legacy is going to be when we are a few administrations away from this present circus. What will his impact be then?

I am deeply and unrepentantly pro-romance novel. Therefore, how was so much of this interview a revelation: nine children, 179 novels, low caffeine!

Given how tight lipped the whole operation has been up until this point, it’s interesting to ponder on how this suddenly got out. “The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller wrote. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.” (Read the text of the letter here.)

Another horrific school shooting, mitigated by one young person’s extraordinary self-sacrifice. May his memory be a blessing.

Mere days later, another shooting with another young person’s act of self-sacrifice saving lives. Such actions are both

“She says she knows she was a racist. She says that she has changed. And she’s ready to tell everything she knows.” This profile of a member of the alt-right media during its height, her personal ascendancy and subsequent reversal of fortunes is a fascinating read. Not least of all because many of the platforms it discusses have not disbanded so much as moved location in recent years. Radicalization is still happening.

People are trying to sell water. Again. And we’re trying to sell make up to men, but MANLY MEN. GRRR! Late stage capitalism is wild.

For the last time, TRUMP IS NOT A BILLIONAIRE OR SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN, HE ONLY PLAYED ONE ON TV.

What a ride this piece was

And in the world of Good News: adorable babies!

Powerful op-ed. “I don’t blame Mark [Zuckerberg] for his quest for domination. He has demonstrated nothing more nefarious than the virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur. Yet he has created a leviathan that crowds out entrepreneurship and restricts consumer choice…There is no precedent for his ability to monitor, organize and even censor the conversations of two billion people.”

Goodness, this is bleak. My one consolation is that I’ve never used airpods once.

Speaking of tech…maybe we should listen to this woman. She’s gotten an awful lot right.

Congrats on doing the bare minimum

We have a new poet laureate!

Society is a-changing, and that’s impacting our living space.

There are only two episodes left in Game of Thrones, which has been a really important series in pop culture history. Unfortunately I, and a bunch of other people, think that the showrunners seem to be stepping all over the theses they’ve been serving us for the last several years. A big element of that is the (very sudden and not really internally consistent) pivots in the female characters. Tom and Lorenzo put this best in their last episode critique. Here’s hoping a show premised on subverting expectations pulls out a couple of whoppers this weekend.