“That girl looks expensive” (a 100-ish books post)

~~~ This is, at long last, one of those 100-ish books posts I proposed to write. The book featured (eventually, I promise) is “Men Explain Things To Me” by Rebecca Solnit. Why does this book make me proud to be an American? Because it was written and published in America, and while Solnit demonstrates that American women have a long way to go in the battle for equality, I am grateful to live in a country where we can talk about these problems openly. And by openly I mean that I will probably get harassed on Twitter for this post. Regardless of how many Alt-Righters call me stupid and ugly and tell me to “eat $%&” because they do not like my post yet can’t be bothered to come up with real criticisms of said post, we’ve still come a long way in recent years. ~~~

This afternoon, after dropping off my mother at the airport shuttle, I stopped at the Container Store to get some DVD storage units. I figure if I take the DVDs out of their cases and put them into sleeves, I can keep more of them as I put my life into storage. Will the savings in storage, shipping, and moving costs justify the expense of the new containers? I suppose it depends on how many times I move in the near future versus how soon DVDs become obsolete.

My medically-induced dive out of the middle class and into “voluntary” unemployment  was helpfully chronicled by a group of young men eating lunch on the patio of the burrito place next to the Container Store. As I walked towards the store, all of them watched me, and one of them said, “That girl looks expensive.” After I escaped into the store and away from their scrutiny, I pondered that comment. Which word had #ThatGuy meant to emphasize, and did it really matter?

Did the emphasis lie on the word looks? As in, “That girl looks expensive.”

As in, a) I dress above my station and ape my betters? Or b) I wear fashion knockoffs in attempt to make myself look richer than I am? My clothes in question today came from a local outdoor gear outlet, and my purse was made by a friend of mine. I don’t know enough about fashion to know if my clothes look like knockoffs of really fashionable stuff, and I don’t actually care.

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Cancer, I see, hath been his timeless end.

I have trouble with Tuesdays. They’re supposed to be better than Mondays, right? So why do I have such a dreadfully hard time with them? This coming Tuesday is Tuesday the 13th, which seems like a decidedly inauspicious day for the state primaries, but there we are.

Last Tuesday, I received a text to my email account that contained a few short sentences informing me that an old friend and colleague (old in terms of friendship — not very old at all in terms of years) had passed away in hospice near me. I did a wee bit of research and found the obituary. This old friend — let’s call him M — was only 53 years old when he lost his 10-year-long battle with colorectal cancer. As someone whom other friends have described as a “Facebook dilettante,” I did not even know he was sick. Did he post about this on FB, over the years? Was I simply not listening? The heartbreaking eulogy read by his sister, a registered nurse, talked about how M wanted to write his own obituary — one of the paragraphs he wanted to include mentioned how he would have made it if he’d only gotten more “Likes” on Facebook. I knew M well enough to know that this was just one joke among many that he made over his lifetime, but guilt is still rearing its ugly head this morning.

I am now afraid to go back and look at his Facebook wall. Was M posting about being sick? Did his pleas for help not reach me because of some BS Facebook algorithm? From what I know of M, I suspect that his wall was, in fact, devoid of complaints. I suspect that he made very few posts, if any, about being sick. But he was a chef who loved history and travel, so I’m guessing that being a Facebook dilettante means that I missed years of really amazing food and travel and fishing photos, as well as links to interesting historical articles and music videos of new bands, because these were all things that M loved.

Nothing can change the fact that I missed huge portions of M’s life since 2008, when I left the establishment where we both once worked. But one of my #FavoriteFormerBosses let me tag along to M’s Celebration of Life on Saturday, and I had the privilege of meeting more of M’s family and friends, and getting to share stories of M with them. We also shared an incredible meal that M had helped plan, which was prepared by M’s friends and fellow chefs.

M’s sister actually gave the eulogy in two parts — the first eulogy was full of memories of M, memories from childhood and beyond, of her and M as children, and of M interacting with her own children. The second part of her eulogy was motivated by the fact that she had forgotten to tell us about M’s last days. The end, as it always does, came sooner than expected. M saw his last chance at a cure come and go, and faced it with only a tiny bout of swearing before facing the darkness with his customary good humor. He did not go gentle into that good night — he spent his last days doing things he loved surrounded by the people that he loved. He managed to avoid the dreaded “H” word — hospice — until the very end. His sister shared that he passed within two and a half hours of arriving at the hospice center.

The thing I learned that surprised me the most? That M was a Republican — that fact had somehow escaped me, in spite of the fact that I thought I knew him well. We shared the same staff house at the lab for the summers of 2007 and 2008, and we each had an apartment in the same ramshackle old building over the winter between those two summers. M’s apartment in the main house was beautifully decorated, while the “girls” apartment was a wee bit more ramshackle. K & I wanted a two-bedroom apartment, since we didn’t have enough furniture for two one-bedroom apartments. We took a really dreadful apartment in the 1960s-era Carriage House rather than one of the grander apartments in the main house because my allergies just go nuts in buildings constructed before 1900.

In other words, that makes two summers of hanging out together every evening watching TV and playing whatever board games we could find. One winter where we worked in the same office and M would come over regularly to our apartment because K would give us all haircuts to save us trips to town in the dreadfully snowy weather. K and I would play the “hide all evidence of cooking & baking” game before M came, shoving our own creations into cupboards. Why? We used to joke it was because M was such a fancy chef that we didn’t want him to see our own paltry efforts. But I, at least, was always secretly hoping he would feed us if there was no evidence of food in the apartment, because he was such a talented chef. And the fact that M was a die-hard Republican and I was a die-hard Democrat was not mentioned once in those two years. Or if it was mentioned, it was mentioned in passing, and it went in one ear and out the other.

At his Celebration of Life, I learned that M was such a staunch Republican and so dedicated to politics that at one point he was selected by the Romney campaign as the “typical American.” This meant that M got to spend an entire day with Mitt Romney, at Fenway Park and other great Boston locales that M loved. Apparently when the Romney campaign called to tell M that he had been selected as the “typical American,” M thought it was a practical joke and hung up the phone. Fortunately for M, the political junkie and huge Romney fan, they called back. M’s uncle — for M is survived by his parents and most of the generation that came before him — told us that M laughed at the idea that M was in any way the typical American, but M was also incredibly pleased and proud to get to spend the day with one of his political heroes.

This story of M’s day with Mitt Romney, in addition to being hilarious, allowed me to pinpoint the time when M and I were separated by a Facebook algorithm. He is, and has always been since 2007, my Facebook friend. So why have his posts not been appearing in my timeline in recent years? In 2012, when M was bombing around the City Upon the Hill with Mitt Romney, I was walking around Austin TX, listening to angsty feminist rockers, attending graduate school, and posting about my support for President Obama. And so some helpful algorithm decided that since M and I had so little left in common, we didn’t need to see each other’s posts anymore. We could fade into the background of each other’s lives, just one friend lost amongst hundreds of other Facebook friends. Just one more signal lost among the noise of social media.

I have a million more lovely memories of M, but I shall save them for a letter to his mother. My question for this blog is: when did we stop talking to each other, America? Why did we let a few poorly written social media algorithms pin us into the trap of talking only to those who agree with us?

A house divided against itself cannot stand. We cannot wish the other 50% of our country away. We are what we have always been — a country of both liberals and conservatives. But if the conservative half of the house is supported by people like M, then it is a house that is worth living in. A house that is worth fighting for. A house that we should all vote to defend from the forces of hate and intolerance and general impatience.

So raise a glass, tonight or any night you’re enjoying good food and good company, to our best-beloved M. He was kind and witty and good-natured; and he loved his family and his friends. I truly hope that M was the typical American, in spite of his objections to that characterization — because if M was the typical American, we have nothing to fear from this election cycle or any other. He was a gentleman, a scholar, and a chef. He was a Red Sox fan and a fishing fanatic and a historian and a fan of U2 and My Morning Jacket. He was our friend, and cancer stole him from us far too soon.

Rest in peace, M. You will be missed.

take the leave.

I’m with her😉.

scatterplot

This coming week I will be two-thirds of the way through a medical leave – a paid medical leave that I almost didn’t take because I somehow felt it wasn’t warranted. My reluctance to take advantage of a benefit – offered by my university, supported by my colleagues, and recommended by a doctor who knows more about physiology and recovery than I do – is a problem.

Without a doubt, part of this hesitation is just me and my personality.* However, it was also the product of more widespread issues that I wanted to highlight here.  I also wanted to share the wisdom of others that finally gave me the courage to take the leave in hopes that someone else will do the same.

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A few great American books (a 100-ish books for 100-ish days post)

So, an old friend of mine has been posting some really interesting stuff on Facebook recently — every day for the 100 days leading up to the election, he’s posting a brief paragraph about a particular friend and all the things he appreciates about that friend. It’s essentially 100 friends for 100 days. I missed day 1 and the big explanation for why he’s decided to do these posts, but I think it’s to combat the grumpiness and cynicism that seem to be dragging us down lately. And so, I have been inspired to do something similar (thanks, Tyler!).

But because I’m a super-nerdy librarian, instead of posting about the people I love, I’m going to post about some of the many American books that I love. From here until the election, I’ll try to post about one great American book per day. I’m going to go ahead and count this as my first post, because I’ve got a bunch of errands to run today😉. It’s 100-ish books for 100-ish days!

I’m a Democrat, and my parents are Democrats, but my grandparents were all Republicans, so I’m used to hearing both sides of the political debate discussed over the dinner table. While I was growing up in the 90s, it seemed like both sides were willing to put in more of an effort to get along. I hope the days when conservatives and liberals were willing to work together can come again, because I think the 90s were a pretty great time to grow up in America. And I think we can make the decades to come even better if we start listening to each other, and to all voices in this country. The 90s were pretty great, but not everyone’s voice was heard equally. Some groups had a better chance of getting ahold of the microphone than others.

Because in order to have a truly representative democracy, all voices need to be heard, and we all need to vote. Voting is our privilege, our right, and our duty as American citizens — I hope you’ll join me in casting our ballots on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016.

If you’re not registered yet, find out how to register here: https://vote.usa.gov. Please remember that many states have a cut-off date for registering to vote — in my home state of AZ, you “must register to vote at least 29 days before the next election to be able to vote in it.

So, I’m a Democrat, I love my country, I am proud of my country, and these 100-ish books are just a few of the reasons why I love the U.S.A. so much. I read these books while growing up, and these books helped make me the person I am today.

Because history is not so much of a blueprint as it is a set of guidelines that can help us make sense of what’s happening today.

As the fantastic Connie Willis said in “Passage” — which will be one of the books in the list, as soon as I dig my copy out of a box: “Literature is a message.” What’s the message? It depends both on the author and on the reader — but I hope we’re all listening with our hearts and with open minds.

Happy reading,

Meg

 

Back off man, I’m a library scientist.

So, ThinkGeek — when are you going to get figurines and/or other merchandise from the new Ghostbusters movie? (the 2016 version, just to be perfectly clear — http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1289401/).
As much as I love the original GB, I also love the new GB movie. I have a lot of #GeekPride, but I’m also a girl. So the question is, do you think my #GeekPride is as important as the #GeekPride of your other customers? 

In other words, should I purchase all those non-Ghostbusters items in my cart right now? Or go find them at other stores and just forget about the ThinkGeek exclusives?

Because I’ve already bought some new GB stuff from Target and Amazon, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen new GB stuff at Barnes & Noble. So I know the stuff is out there, and I know you’ve chosen not to carry it. No amount of #GeekPoints or #GeekPride buttons will make up for that.

I’ve bought a fair amount of stuff from ThinkGeek over the years, but let me make myself perfectly clear — I love you, but I’m not in love with you. I’m totally still seeing other retailers.

And if you’re a fellow geek who gets mad about my comments and you decide that you want to hack me, please don’t bother — I’m already locked out of most of my accounts after various other people were offended by this blog. So, message already recieved, thanks. 

And I still like the new GB, even if you don’t like me. I’ve seen GB (2016) twice, and all of the original Ghostbusters actors still living made cameos — so I think they liked the new movie too.

In other words — back off, man. I’m a library scientist… (By which I mean I have an undergrad degree in bio and a master’s degree in information studies). 

I buy a lot of geeky stuff. And I’m gonna buy it from companies that consider young unmarried women to be an important demographic.

P.S. To Target, tell your analytics folks that their algorithm can’t tell the difference between a young Mom and a nerdy bachelorette Auntie, even though I have a RedCard, so I know you have full access to all my data. I’m an Auntie, so Power of Habit or not — I don’t need your darn Similac samples. Thanks!

P.P.S. This is my first blog post written on a smartphone — because yes, I’m so annoyed at you that I will hunt and peck on the world’s tiniest screen keyboard. The inspiration? The smarmy email I got from ThinkGeek just now telling me I should buy the items sitting in my cart because “I deserve it.” You used the word “deserve” AND made an LOTR joke in the same marketing email. It’s like you’ve never even read LOTR (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/471515-many-that-live-deserve-death-and-some-that-die-deserve).

Librarian-style take downs

Yesterday, my rental agent was mean to me for what I hope was the last time. Getting out of the apartment ASAP, and then I’m gonna take that #$&^# down, librarian-style.

We’re talking Chamber of Commerce. We’re talking Better Business Bureau. We’re talking National Association of Realtors. We’re talking formal written complaints.

And I’m going to tell my very nice Asian-American landlord, with whom I had a nice discussion with the other day in my driveway, that the agent has repeatedly told me that he “don’t speak English so good.”Read More »

Why am I being so difficult? I’m glad you asked.

This is the story of the first time I gave up stress, and why I finally decided to stop being stressed. I recently had to make the same decision again, because I had let stress come creeping back in. That’s the really annoying thing about big decisions — we make them, and then we have to keep making them every day afterwards. Life has an annoying habit of not being easy. If you figure out a solution for that, do let me know. But I think all we can do is make the best choice we can with the given information, and then not be afraid to revisit that decision later if it doesn’t seem to be working out.

This isn’t a particularly nice story — it talks about sexual abuse and suicide and depression and grief. So, please don’t read this if you don’t like sad stories. Some of [you] are such good friends that I feel odd not telling you myself, but I don’t want to force anyone to listen to this story. Read it or don’t read it – as you wish.Read More »