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book dump.

January 11, 2014

I read too much to go for months without giving recommendations. At any given time, I’m probably reading several books – a nonfiction, a bad mystery or chick lit to read on the treadmill, a good fiction, and probably a sci-fi/fantasy one too. Here’s my list of favorites since my last book post in April.

Complications – must read of my year. Written by Atul Gawande (I think this guy is brilliant), it talks about medicine from the view of a surgical resident. He splits his stories into three sections – Fallibility, Mystery, and Uncertainty. In general I really like healthcare books – ones that show that doctors are human and medicine is hard. Parts are scary and other parts are inspiring.

Second Sons Trilogy – I’d highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys fantasy series. The basic plot is the High Priestess is in power over a world with two suns, so it never gets dark. She cemented her power when the Goddess told her a human sacrifice was necessary to end the Age of Shadows (a period of years when the suns disappeared and plunged the world into darkness and chaos). But Dirk, the genius son of a supposed heretic, begins to uncover a different version of history. It kicks off a story of massive political maneuvering.

Wool Books 1 to 5 – I’m not one to read short stories, but Book 1 was rated very highly and was free on Kindle. Get it – even as a stand alone story it was really good. Taking place in the future, society now lives inside a silo, viewing an outside world too toxic to inhabit. The rule-breakers are sent to death – to go outside to clean the view for the people inside. It’s a cool idea. There’s several more stories in the series, but 1-5 comprise the first story arc.

Gone Girl – and Sharp Objects and Dark Places. In order of how I would recommend them. Gillian Flynn writes creepy books with creepy people. Gone Girl was my favorite – murder mystery about a wife who disappears and her husband is the prime suspect. But not a mystery in the Law & Order vein. Think more Hitchcock meets Stephen King (although I’ve never read any King books).

The Dinner – heralded as the European Gone Girl. Two upper class families go to a fancy dinner to discuss their juvenile delinquent sons.

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Started reading before knowing this is JK Rowling. Murder mystery about a PI who investigates a celebrity death that was ruled a suicide.

Friday Night Lights – This book took me a really long time to get through. But I was surprised how much I liked it. A different view of the world.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Hard to describe, but I really liked this book. It’s about a family – Microsoft exec dad, crazy mom Bernadette, and daughter just trying to be normal. When Bernadette disappears the daughter collects emails and other correspondence trying to piece together exactly what happened.

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diet.

January 7, 2014

Instead of doing full year resolutions, I’m going to try smaller 3 month challenges. A friend gave me this idea. The way he put it – 3 months is long enough that by the end you’ll notice some sort of difference but short enough that you can see the end in case you feel trapped. That’s exactly what I need!

See, I’ve always been hesitant to attempt any dieting because I know I’m not committed enough to stick to a new eating plan forever. My habits are very ingrained. Also, I really like food. And I never want to be that person who’s too picky to eat out with. And I don’t want to sit and read ingredient lists forever.

So to kick off the new year – I’m going to try cutting out dairy and white grains. Let me explain.

I personally love dairy. I also believe that most people who think they are lactose intolerant are making things up. Not saying that I don’t recognize lactose intolerance as a thing – it’s real; I get it. But I also recognize that tolerance can be built up. Just because I have one glass of alcohol and feel bad doesn’t mean I’m intolerant of alcohol – it mostly means I’m a lightweight. And likely, if I started having a beer every day, I would start feeling fine after just one drink. I think similarly about dairy; in most cases people just don’t eat dairy all that often. Now that that’s out of the way – I also recognize a lot of people do claim to feel better without dairy. So I’m giving it a go. Also, dairy is the easiest food group to cut out of my diet and to be on the lookout for.

The white grains – this is a compromise because I won’t go full out gluten free or cut out all my grains. But I will accept that really refined grains – white rice, pasta and bread – aren’t the best. Also, grains are a hard area to portion control (and I’m already the worst at that). And it gives me a chance to branch out and try out some new grains (if anyone has suggestions other than quinoa, I’m open!). That’s how I got to this goal.

We’ll see how it goes.

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subscribe.

September 25, 2013

I attempted to use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service. One of the nice things about Prime two-day shipping is that I can order normal home stuff when I’m on-site during the week and then my packages arrive by the time I get home. Perfect.

This one time I needed to buy more toilet paper. Usually, I just buy a pretty big pack at the store and it lasts for a while. But Amazon unfortunately only sells in massive packages (I do not need 48 double rolls), that with my already large pack of paper towels – I had no room for. But the small package didn’t have free shipping unless I marked it for subscribe and save. Fine – I guess toilet paper is a pretty regular use item that I’m happy to have just show up at my door.

Fail. It is very hard to judge how fast you use toilet paper. But in fact, I did pretty good. My subscription shipped the week I would be on my last roll. Now – it shipped from West Virginia. That just seems wasteful unless Amazon really doesn’t  have toilet paper on the West Coast anywhere. But also, their estimated delivery date was wrong. And unfortunately, toilet paper is not the kind of commodity that you can just wait an extra day and everything is great. I am disappointed.

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kids and computers.

August 10, 2013

Kids can’t use computers and we should worry. Except that we shouldn’t. This article smacks of the condescension I often see from IT help. Oh, you don’t know what proxy settings are? Oh, you don’t understand how my school’s crazy internet filter works? And you wonder why people roll their eyes and try to ignore them. This article completely glosses over the fact that computers are complicated. It takes experience to fix problems. And just because it’s your job and your expertise, doesn’t mean it should be everyone’s.

Of the seven situations the author describes as “can’t use a computer” – I’m pretty sure these have all happened to me. I would consider myself tech-savvy. I know 0 about hardware. I know 0 about proxy settings. I know very little about how things are working on my computer. I know almost 0 about how the internet gets to my computer. But I know how to read. And I know that very little I do on my computer will ruin it forever.  And I know how to call my IT department. And I have a really good memory about how other people tell me to fix problems. (*Full disclosure: I have taken my basic CS classes, they do not teach you how to fix a computer).

In my opinion, these computer problems are about as complicated as the fact that in a stick-shift car, you need to press the clutch to get it started. Or in a Prius, you need to press the power and the brake. Or if the power goes out, you should go check the breaker. If you’ve never been in this situation, it is pretty damn hard to figure out what to do. I mean really, how many of us have sat with a machine thinking it’s broken when it’s really unplugged? I know it’s happened at least once to everyone. But my car thankfully does not break down very often, while I think of weird computer issues that happen at least once a week. Most of which fix themselves the next day.

Now, is it a problem that kids won’t even bother to read error messages (or instruction manuals)? Yes. Would it be a problem if they run into the same stupid problem like a wi-fi toggle over and over again without remembering how to solve it? Yes. Because that isn’t a computer literacy problem. Is it a little concerning to have lawmakers who don’t understand technology at all? Sure. But from what I’ve seen, there are lawmakers that don’t understand female bodies or pregnancy or homosexuality. So maybe let’s start with the basics. And admitting we don’t know anything about some things. As my customer used to tell me, “You can’t fix stupid”.

Would it be awesome to have a “how to fix broken shit around your house” class? YES! Although I’m pretty sure that class could easily be replaced by “learn to Google search and read some instructions”. Or possibly, look up a professional on Yelp to help you. At least that’s how I’ve gotten by for the years I’ve been away from my parents. We don’t worry that people don’t understand cars, plumbing, electrical work, credit cards, or even our very own complicated bodies (all of which I would say are a little bit more important that if I can check my email or not). We have professionals that do that for us. Or if you’re that kind of parent, you can teach them. Computers are the same. Don’t freak out.

 

 

 

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pole.

August 2, 2013

Usually while I’m traveling, the only exercise I end up doing is running. My hotel currently has a very nice fitness center with a bunch of weight machines, which is a nice way for me to build up strength. But running still was my core cardio. So it was time that I did some searching for yoga studio.

But instead, I found pole dancing. My exact thought process was 1) it seemed like it would be challenging, fun, and provide a good workout, 2) like gymnastics, I really just want to learn some cool tricks, and 3) they offered an intro class for $6! Pretty much anything is worth doing once for that amount of money. Other factors: I know no one in Denver, so I don’t have to be embarrassed at all. The studio had 4 total reviews on Yelp, all positive. The website made it seem like everyone’s comfort was very important (no males, discreet entrance, etc).

I’ve been going to one class a week for the last two months. And it is awesome. It didn’t start out as a very good workout, but as I’ve started learning harder pieces – I definitely work up a sweat now. And I’ve had weeks of bruises to show for it. The classes are totally fun. Everyone is super supportive and encouraging and the teacher is really great. It definitely involves letting some inhibitions go, but that’s good for everyone to do at some point.

The strange thing though – is while I want to tell everyone what I’m doing, I also don’t. The questions I get when I do mention it (to guys) are just so…pointed? expected? sleazy? They all end up along the lines of “Is your teacher a ‘professional’?” “Do the other girls in your class look like strippers?” “Are they?”. Well, to be honest, I really don’t ask my classmates or my teacher those questions. Because why does any of that matter? It’s not like I’m suddenly giving up my healthcare IT career to become an exotic dancer. It’s kinda like any other fitness class – except you have “sexy hands” instead of “workout arms”. So it’s a bit sad to me that I can’t just tell everyone I climbed up the pole for the first time or I went upside down for the first time. But then again, here I am telling everyone in a sense. I’m just not one to keep secrets.

Side note for anyone in Denver: The studio I go to is Studio 3SixT. You should go.

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committed.

July 10, 2013

I realize my last several posts have been very “rant-ish”. And perhaps I should just stop reading the Atlantic.

This kind of article – or rather the comments that come with an article like this – make me sad. The article itself isn’t bad. It points out an expectation mismatch (somewhat unsurprisingly) and points to the fact that couples that live together before engagement tend to have worse marriages (also somewhat old news). What gets me is the comments. Apparently living together is apparently the new way to get girls to sleep with you. Well, in case you didn’t know – there are a lot of women out there who will sleep with guys without living with them. Amazing, right?

Beyond that, I was surprised at how many comments seemed to indicate that marriage is a bad deal for the males. Is it really because guys look at marriage and think “…but the divorce could be so bad for me”? Do men really have this fear that women are going to rip them off and that they’re somehow getting the short end of the stick? In fact, one of the comments goes on to say all the “cards” that women apparently hold are having babies, lying about abuse, or asking for help with chores. So are we arguing that you shouldn’t choose to marry a lying, cheating, lazy person? Because I totally agree. If you’re living with a guy who keeps dragging out the expectation of getting married and isn’t committed – I think that counts as lying, possibly cheating and totally lazy (or at least mostly unreliable). And I think I’ve seen more women give things up for relationships than guys; the girls I know have almost always been the ones to move, change jobs, deal with employment gaps, etc. But boo hoo because as a man you might have to pay some extra money (that no doubt, you are probably making more than your female now-single-mother ex).

Anyway, not to get too hung up on one comment. I am totally for people who don’t want to get married or have kids. If you’re happy being single – wonderful. If you’re happy being in a committed relationship but not getting married – awesome. If you’re happy married without children – that’s great too. But if you’re living for years with a woman who wants to get married and have kids – unless this topic has magically never come up – yes, it’s expected that you’re getting there. Otherwise, yes, it’s a huge waste of time. If I suddenly found out at 33 that guy I’ve been living with for 5 years doesn’t really want to get married – what am I suppose to do? Scramble to find a guy, get married and have a kid in two years? Are these people not adults? Is there no conversation about expectations once a relationship hits a certain point? Am I a weirdly excessive planner with my life?

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politics and appearances.

July 3, 2013

So this in The Atlantic. The title’s a little misleading. It’s not so much whether or not describing women politicians’ clothes is sexist, but whether doing is harmful for their likability. The article mentions a study that when describing an identical man and woman with similarly positive/negative/neutral terms, people rated the man and woman similarly.

There’s nothing inherently sexist or wrong about describing how a woman looks. I think the concern is more that women’s appearances are judged much more harshly in our society than men. The Atlantic article ends that journalists “shouldn’t be banned from noticing the carefully managed visual signals candidates of both sexes send.” And I would say that culture has trained women to try to manage a zillion different visual cues. Should I wear a dress or a skirt or pants. How short is too short? If I wear a long skirt, is that unprofessional? Should my hair be short or long? Worn up or down? Are flats to dowdy? What’s the right heel height? Black or brown or nude or navy or something else? Nylons? Is red lipstick too much? Have I waxed my eyebrows? I feel like any choice a woman makes, it can be portrayed negatively. Even mentioning it calls it out as something of note. Then let’s look at a male counterpart. Should we discuss his dark pants and button down shirt and most likely solid or striped tie? His conservative hair being too grey? Why does no one ask male politicians who makes their suits?

But this study only applied very general adjectives – “disheveled and sloppy”, “fit and stylish”, or descriptions of color. And if somehow journalists could always apply similar adjectives to men and women – more power to them. Women’s clothes however offer so many options for descriptions. And more options means more chances to color someone’s opinion. Are you really going to pass on mentioning Hillary’s bright cobalt blue jacket? Or Michele Obama’s sleeveless designer dress?

As you can see – I’m not sold on this study.

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