Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday 5: Espirit

Close up on berries on a juniper bush.
Photo by Steve Richey on Unsplash 

What’s your spirit animal?

I'm going to back away from that specific terminology because I'm not even remotely Native American (no, not even 1/64th Cherokee Princess). But as for an animal I relate to, black bears spring to mind. I just want to nose around the forest and eat fruit and berries all day (and as I get older, my "fur coat" only seems to get thicker and darker, sigh...). But I'm not nearly as dangerous as an actual black bear when provoked.

It's my birthday at the end of this month, which makes me a Cancer in the Western zodiac. According to the stereotype, Cancers have a hard, tough shell to protect their squishy and vulnerable insides. That sounds about right.


What’s your spirit tree?

I can't relate to any tree specifically, but my mortal enemy tree is pine trees. I have a pine (and fir) allergy, which means I'm allergic to Christmas and pesto sauce. Are there other trees that hate pine trees?

Given my stature, I'm not even really tree-like at all. I'm much more of a shrub. I'll go with juniper, I guess. We had a bunch of juniper bushes lining our driveway for years. My dad was actually planting them when my mom went into labor with me.  (Mom: "My water just broke, we're having this baby." Dad: "Make some sandwiches while I finish getting this one in the ground and then we'll go to the hospital.") Those plants are no longer with us, but there are still a couple juniper shrubs (bushes?)  elsewhere on their property, and they remind me of home.


What’s your spirit food or beverage?

"Bullsky," or equal parts Red Bull and whisky (the cheapest bottom shelf stuff you can find). This is not an actual cocktail you can (or should) order anywhere, or any kind of actual "thing" except with a couple members of my trivia team in the US. But it's an oddball, low-class combination with a distinct flavor that's not for everyone. Just like me!


What’s your spirit weather phenomenon?

Clear skies, bright sun, 28 *C temperatures, a touch of humidity. I'm a wilting tropical orchid.


What’s your spirit passenger vehicle?

I am absolutely an off-brand knock off Mini Cooper.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Friday 5: Break of Day

A pair of broken windows in a white wall.
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash


When did you last break something made of glass?

Years ago. I had a whiskey glass from the tour I took of the Jameson distillery when I visited during spring break in 2008. It survived decorating my college dorm, but when I came home it slipped out of my hand and didn't survive its meeting with the concrete garage floor.

The friend I had visited in Dublin gifted me his later to make up for it. Friendship goals!

When did you last break something ceramic?

I don't know that I ever have, actually.

When did you last break something electronic?

After really good luck with smartphones for years, I finally dropped and cracked the screen on my smartphone last year.

When did you last break a non-traffic-related law?

I've definitely had more than my allotted amount of liquids on a flight.

When did you last break a promise?

I promised one of my students I would bring Dixit around for our next lesson and then didn't. I'm not usually that forgetful...!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday 5: How About a Knuckle Sandwich?

When did you last punch someone?  Alternate question: When did someone last punch you?

I suspect it was when I was drunk. Drunk Katherine gets a little punchy. (Not seriously. Just friendly shoulder jabs.) I suspect the people I drink with aren't inclined to return the sentiment because they're not into hitting women, which is an admirable sentiment.

How many of those frequent (whatever) stampcards/punchcards do you have, and which are you most likely to fill and redeem?

I have one to Details, a bra and lingerie store in Stockholm. I cheap out on everything else I wear, almost, but I will plunk down good money for a bra and you better believe that I'll take any discount I can get on those purchases.

I also have one for SF Bokhandeln, but I rarely spend enough on one purchase to warrant a stamp, and the resulting discount isn't really that much, so trying to fill it up would be a false economy. (Especially since any given card expires after a year.) The English Bookshop offers a slightly better deal (and I tend to buy more books there anyway) and the card never expires, so I actually fill it up now and then.

When have you had a really good fruit punch?

Does the smoothie I'm drinking right now count? Supercharged black tea (read as: I let it steep for hours, and then chill) plus mango plus bananas. When you need that caffeine hit but it's too hot for warm drinks!

What are your thoughts on boxing?

At this point, it seems more humane (and like the participants are taking a more informed risk) than in other public and popularly sanctioned sports in the US (what up, football).

When do you usually punch in and punch out?

Freelancers are never not working or thinking about work. Or maybe that's just me.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday 5: Who Put the Pomp in the Pomp Bah Pomp Bah Pomp?

A group of smiling, mostly white graduates adjusting their tassels at the close of the ceremony.
Image courtesy Caleb Woods from Unsplash.


What’s something you remember about your high school graduation?

That it happened, mainly.


If you were asked to speak at a commencement ceremony this year, what would be the theme of your message?

Live deliberately. Do the things you want to do; want to do the things you do.


What items in your possession are marked with the name or logo of your high school or college?

Well, my college diploma is in a drawer in the kitchen, and the school cane is boxed up and ready to ship from my parents' house. (My alma mater is a bit odd in that, in addition to being presented with a diploma, you also get a wooden ornamental cane upon graduating. I have no idea why.) I don't have any school spirit clothing or tchotchkes, otherwise.


What do you expect will be your next rite of passage?

Completing KPU at Stockholms universitet? Turning 40?


What’s a good movie with a graduation scene, or a good movie with a graduation theme?

I have no idea if it's in the movie, but Enid and Becky's attitude towards graduation in the original graphic novel version of Ghost World mirrored my own.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday 5: Mind Your Peeves and Qs

A small owl sitting on a branch in the daytime, looking grumpy.
Image courtesy Gunilla Granfalk on Unsplash.


What’s one of your language-related (that is, something people say or write) pet peeves?

Editors are supposed to have an endless list of these, right? So the stereotype goes. We are the gatekeepers of language and so on and so forth. And I guess we all do, probably. But if you look at the layperson's language pet peeves ("they're/there/their"! "your/you're"!) and the editor's pet peeves, the overlap would probably be quite small.

My personal ones these days are: The New Yorker's bizarre house style guide (co√∂peration? no thanks) and The New York Times's practice of referring to heads of state with honorific titles instead of, simply, their names.

Not what you were expecting, maybe!


What’s one of your dining-out-related pet peeves?

It's nobody's fault, but somehow the waiter always comes over to check on you just when your mouth is full of food. Or maybe they do this deliberately so as to avoid getting sucked into an actual conversation with someone who wants to nit pick the seasoning of the vegetables.


What’s one of your technology-related pet peeves?

Windows updates.


What’s one of your television-watching pet peeves?

Romance. Any time a show (or book or movie, for that matter) features a close friendship or even working relationship between a man and a woman, romance almost inevitably gets shoehorned in. If not outright romance, then something like Will They Won't They. It chafes for a lot of reasons (lazy way to add tension, heteronormativity, implying that the only possible relationship between men and women is romantic/sexual) but I think this one hits me personally because most of my inner circle are men. (Not for "women are just too much drama!" reasons; it just seems to have happened.) The close friendships I have with women are also way different than how they're portrayed in media (much more random weirdness, much less obsessing over shoes and sex) but at least they're not wholly misrepresented as some kind of waiting room for romance.

This is, incidentally, why I love Elementary so much. Sherlock and Joan are #FriendshipGoals to the extreme. Of course, now that I've said that, I've cursed the show to fall victim to exactly this trap. Sigh.


What’s something you do that you know peeves others?

Swedish has an expression: tidsoptimist. This is someone who lacks a solid grasp of how long it takes to get to places and (the implication is) is usually late.

I've been here for five years and I'm still a tidsoptimist. I still operate by American car-owning convenience and fail to take into account that I'm not leaving whenever I like, but according to public transportation's time table. I'm stricter about this with clients, or with traveling, but socially? All bets are off. I get there when I get there. (Maybe this is why I don't have many Swedish friends?)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday 5: Know When to Fold 'Em

Four aces on a background of black playing card backs with a Wild West motif


What did you last place into a file folder?

Physically? Some hard copies of comments and revisions I got back from a critique group member. I have an accordion file folder for this project (I've been working on it since 2014) and each slot is feedback from a different reader. I should probably go through and clean it out. Some comments are about revisions I've since made, others are on sections that have since been discarded. It's not really worth it to keep that much of a record around.


What do you know how to fold a piece of paper into?

Not much. A paper airplane? And I could probably make a cootie catcher, still.


What’s your laundry-folding procedure like?

I don't fold laundry.


When do you next expect to invite someone into your fold?

Making friends in Sweden is hard. Maybe I haven't met the right Swedes, just, but all of the new friends I've made (if the word "friend" can even be applied) have been other immigrants and expats. I think this moment is coming soon, though; I have quite a few acquaintances on the periphery that I'm ready to befriend.


When have you slept on a foldaway bed?

Probably not since high school. One of my friends had a fold-out couch in her rec room and if I slept over, it was on that bed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I Read: The Spider King's Daughter

The June selection for my Facebook book club was The Spider King's Daughter, the debut novel by Chibundo Onuzo. I went in hoping that it would pull me out of the book slump brought on by RadianceHow I Became A North Korean, Gena/Finn, and the middle grade books I previewed for some of my students. The Facebook book club has the best hit/miss ratio out of all three that I'm in, after all.



Onuzo is an engaging writer and I hope she continues down that path. (Her second book, Welcome to Lagos, came out last year. Hurrah!) This was engaging at a time when nothing else I was reading could capture my interest and Onuzo deserves a lot of praise just for that.

My favorite parts of the book all involve spoilers. I will say this: what starts as a meet cute adolescent love story takes on an unexpectedly darker tone. Or maybe I should have been expecting that, considering that the book opens with Abike telling us about how her father had her beloved dog deliberately run over.

Most of the reveals were more or less obvious, but the book doesn't rely on the shock of those reveals for impact. I think, even, Onuzo expects readers to already know the truth from the very beginning. It's how the characters react to these reveals that's engaging and unexpected.

The book switches between Abike and Runner G's perspectives, with Abike's in italics. Reading extended passages in italics is straining, at best, but Onuzo's prose (and the short paragraphs) make it much easier than in other books (James Agee's posthumous A Death in the Family, for example). At the book's climax, when we switch between Abike's and Runner G's perspectives rapidly—at every line, for a short while—this typesetting choice proves very necessary.

The Spider King's Daughter was engaging, it was readable, it was a diverting and fun read. I didn't love it, but I'm glad I read it. It certainly was a bad book combo breaker, and for that I'm grateful.