Monday, December 11, 2017

Newly Listed: Red Creek Jasper Pi Necklace

This is straight-up one of my favorites in the shop right now, and I don't understand why it hasn't sold yet—or at least why it doesn't have more hearts/views/etc.

Sciart mathart gold pi necklace math teacher nerd gift
Pi Red Creek Jasper and Gold Necklace by Kokoba
Red Creek jasper is one of my favorite stones these days. I love the warm, earthy colors and the marble-like striping and variegation in almost every piece. It's the kind of stone where you don't need to do much with it; you can just Mother Nature do all the talking.

Sciart mathart gold pi necklace math teacher nerd gift

The spacer beads in this piece are carnelian and gold-filled beads. The clasp is also gold-filled. I usually prefer base metal, but once in a while you want to make something a little nicer. And I think this humble little jasper is nonetheless gorgeous enough to deserve a treat.

Sciart mathart gold pi necklace math teacher nerd gift


 I think now's a good time to remind blog readers that the code BLOGGETTE will get you a 15% discount on any purchase in the store, including this beauty.

Sciart mathart gold pi necklace math teacher nerd gift


I just love this necklace so much! I might make another version for my own personal consumption. Such cozy fall colors!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday 5: Makin' It



What skill seems like it would be really fun to learn?

I really would love to sit down and learn how to crochet. Lawyer Mom crochets, and she tried her best to teach me (I asked!) but for some reason nothing beyond a chain stitch ever really stuck with me.

I still want to learn because sometime last year, I watched an interesting TED talk about how to prepare for aging and dementia. One of the things the speaker recommended was to develop some kind of hobby to keep your hands busy, even if your brain and body give out. Reading and writing don't cut it; making jewelry can ask a lot on the eyes (and requires lots of little bits and bobs, some of which can be expensive). But crocheting just takes a hook and some yarn and you're good to go.  I know my future old lady self would appreciate it if I could just figure it out, once and for all, but it's hard to find the time!


Which of the winter Olympic sports would you love to compete in?

Is drinking hot cocoa in the ski lodge an Olympic sport? No? Too bad.





What fun craft did you make when you were a kid, in school or at camp or somewhere else?

There are two that come to mind. The first is from elementary school, when we had a year-long (or semester-long? quarter-long?) weaving project. In all of the moving overseas (and back again) that I've done, and all of the purging and downsizing (I did the Mari Kondo thing before it was a thing), I've held onto that bizarre hodge-podge of a tapestry. I just loved working on it and learning the different kinds of weaves so much. (Another skill I'd love to learn: how to weave on a proper, actual loom!)

The second one is from middle or early high school, when I was at camp: basket weaving. (Weaving: noticing a pattern yet?) Mine turned out really well, I thought, and it's one of the few school/camp crafts that I've kept around; not only did it turn out nicely, but it was the perfect size and shape to hold pencils and pencil-shaped knick-knacks.


If everyone in the world is the best in the world at some very specific thing, what are you most likely the best at?

For a long time, I was unusually good at remembering people's birthdays. Sad to say, I've since offloaded that mental task to Facebook and I can tell that I'm not as good at it as I used to be.


What’s something you own that was handmade by someone you know?

Circling back to the first question, I have a wide array of scarves, hats, wraps, and blankets that Lawyer Mom has crocheted for me. Here's one, though technically for my sambo and not for me:


I also have an adorable owl magnet that was a gift from a friend I visited in the US in August.



This is in addition to the jewelry that I make and then hoard like a freakin' dragon or something, of course!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

#TBT Pi Chain Necklace

Sometimes you just want to look punk. Or metal? Or bling-y? I don't know. My point is, sometimes you don't want beads. And that's where chain comes in!


Most of the bulk chain in here is aluminum, meaning despite the look it's actually incredibly lightweight.



Each section of chain is a different style, and has a number of strands corresponding to a digit of pi.



This would be a great piece to add a simple pendant to. if that's more your style.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What I Read: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

I was really, really angry about this book.


Given the state of science fiction these days, I should clarify what I wasn't angry about:

I wasn't angry about a huge variety of characters and alien species with different ideas about gender (as well as biological sex) or cultures generally. On the contrary: I was angry that all of those cool ideas about different languages and culture and gender were hampered by a writing style that I would describe as "aggressively twee."

I was angry at Kizzy. Just. Everything about her seemed to be the worst kind of pander-y fanservice (but what a time to be alive, that fanservice can be more than just "wank material for straight dudes"...!). Other characters ranged from kind of cool and interesting to inoffensively bland, but Kizzy was The Worst.

I was angry at a romance that developed out of nowhere.

I was angry at how much was "showing and telling" rather than "showing not telling." Around a third of this book could have been taken out and the story would not suffer at all for it.

As one GoodReads review puts it, putting out a negative review of this book feels like "publicly kicking a kitten," but there you have it. Consider this kitten publicly kicked.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday 5: Space




Of all the spaces in your residence, which is most powerfully your space?

We don't have a lot of space in our tiny Stockholm apartment, but I've made around a third of our unnecessarily large kitchen my office, including my Art Wall corner.

I also have an entire bookshelf to myself, which is obviously very much me.


What’s the most spacious space in your everyday life?

The outside, I guess?


What’s a good song about space?


What’s under your bed?

The floor.


What are your thoughts on typing one or two spaces after sentences?

Two spaces are no longer necessary as we live in an age of digital typing and typesetting! One of the first things I do with every document I copy edit is find and replace two spaces with one. STOP DOING THIS.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

#TBT Yellow and Red Planck Bracelet

I'm categorizing this piece under the Throwback Thursday label because, while the bracelet itself is relatively new, it's a destash attempt to use up some very old stock in the ol' bead box.

Yellow Red Planck constant sciart bracelet nerd jewelry physics teacher gift
Yellow and Red Planck Constant Bracelet by Kokoba
The reds turned out very weird when trying to photograph this one. I don't know if it's the combination of weak, pale daylight (#WinterIsComing) with the overhead "warm white" LED and  fluorescent bulb in my office/the itchen, or if there's something about cherry red that's hard to capture or if I did something funny to my settings, but the first round of pictures of this bracelet came out looking hot pink.

Yellow Red Planck constant sciart bracelet nerd jewelry physics teacher gift

All the beads involved are Czech glass. The yellow ones have a cool stripeyness to them that doesn't show up well in the pictures.

Yellow Red Planck constant sciart bracelet nerd jewelry physics teacher gift

It's the yellow beads that "spell" out h (Planck's constant), as per the latest CODATA value. The red round beads are the spaceholders in between digits.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What I Read: Ancient, Ancient

This was another selection for Austin's feminist science fiction book club. (Maybe I'm an honorary satellite member now?) I went in with high hopes and was mostly....




There were a lot of cool ideas in this book that ended up suffering from overly workshopped, possibly way too abstract writing. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Freshwater, but where Emezi takes that abstraction and works with it until you get it, grounding it with concrete language and imagery and deliberate call backs to specific mythology, Salaam just leaves it all out there, confusing and weird in a world that seems to be entirely of her own creation but without any rules or explanation.



The stories are the strongest when Salaam remains more or less in this world: "Marie," "Rosamojo," and "Ferret" were probably my favorites, as well as a very short piece about ants whose title I can no longer remember and that no one else seems to mention in their reviews so there it is. A trilogy of short stories focus on moth-like aliens who can take a human form and who harvest nectar from humans, most often by seducing them. The premise is unique enough that it really deserved to be its own book rather than a handful of short stories. So as it is, they're just kind of weird.

And unlike almost everyone else, I didn't care much for the first story ("Desire") or the last one ("Pod Rendezvous"). "Desire" is just too distracting, caught up as it is in what is (as far as my Googling can find) a fictional mythology and an unusual-and-completely-unnecessary narrative structure. The same can be said for "K-USH" and "Battle Royale," though people tend to rave less about those two. (I wonder if people pick up the book, read the first and last story, and then declare that they've read the whole book?) "Pod Rendezvous," like the nectar-gathering moth aliens, had so much in there that it should have been a proper novel rather than an overly long short story. A story should be as long as it needs to be, and "Pod Rendezvous" was definitely the wrong length.

Overall, a disappointing collection. It wasn't bad, but I made the mistake of going in with impossibly high expectations.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Friday 5: Functions

What are you holding your breath in anticipation of?

2018 midterms! Can we please do damage control on this administration already? Also, looking forward to WorldCon Dublin and going to Korea for a wedding in 2019!




What most recently gave you goosebumps?

Probably just straight-up being cold, because it's November in Stockholm.


What’s giving you that pain in the neck?

My work setup is less than ideal. I have my beast of a laptop, Regan, to the left and my work notebook (Samwise) in the middle. But since I do all of my blogging from Regan, I have to contort my neck and back to get anything done. Or just scoot my chair over, which I just did.


What’s making your heart ache?

I miss so many people and places, but that's the neo-liberal cosmopolitan life, I guess: nowhere and everywhere feels like home; you're always missing someone.


What are you yawning at?

Just trying to get my ears to pop because my head is full of fluid. Hurray, being sick. =/

Thursday, November 23, 2017

#TBT Amber Pi Necklace

This is another Kokoba beta release, so probably from around 2010 or 2011. First it was stuck in storage in the US, then I brought it to Sweden and it languished in different storage for nearly a year before I got around to photographing it. And then it took another month to list it, and a couple extra weeks to finally write up this blog post.

Amber Pi Necklace Fall Sciart Jewelry Math Nerds
Amber Pi Necklace by Kokoba
Well, better late than never, right?

Amber Pi Necklace Fall Sciart Jewelry Math Nerds

I like the look of this necklace a lot. I don't usually work with bulk chain, and I don't know why, because every time I do I like how things turn out.

Amber Pi Necklace Fall Sciart Jewelry Math Nerds

This necklace features glass beads in the bulk chain, and then carnelian, red aventurine, and genuine amber chips in the dangles. Which "spell" out the digits of pi, but you knew that already from the name.

Amber Pi Necklace Fall Sciart Jewelry Math Nerds

Fall is almost over but you still have time to enjoy these cozy oranges while you sip your PSL (or enjoy the One True Fall Beverage, apple cider). TREAT YO' SELF!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I Read: Journal of a Solitude

This was a book that I bought at a library sale I don't know how many years ago. After falling in love with Walden in high school, the similar premise of this book (memoirs of living alone in the countryside) intrigued me. Yet somehow I never got around to reading it until I was going through my books to ship across the ocean. Out of all of the books I hadn't read yet but really wanted to, this was at the top of the list. So I tore through it during my last days in Pennsylvania and up the highways to Albany, then ended up re-homing it to my friend and hostess in Maine. Incidentally, this also hits two items on my 101 in 1001 list: it's nonfiction and it's a book I've owned for over three years!


Image courtesy W. W. Norton & Company

I could tell that I had started and stopped this book at least a few times: the first few entries were familiar to me, and I had dog-eared a page or two. Younger Me wanted to like this, or wanted to be the kind of person who liked this, but I guess she needed a few more years to be able to really get into it. Now Me couldn't put this book down.

There isn't much that happens, which is what you can expect from something titled Journal of a Solitude. That might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it was mine, at any rate. There's a directness and simplicity to her writing that pulls you along, and I think it's exactly the kind of cozy book that makes for perfect winter reading.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Newly Listed: Faux Pearl and Green Marbled Clay Pi Bracelet

Big ups to friend and former coworker Kelly, who dropped a whole load of old jewelry off with me with the explicit instructions to salvage them for parts and make something new out of them. This is one of the lovely Frankensteins that resulted from those parts.

Faux Pearl and Green Marbled Clay Pi Bracelet by Kokoba
I should note that I normally stage my pieces so that you can read the numbers from left to right. This one got flipped and I don't have time to take new photos when these are otherwise serviceable, so it stays, but it bugs me a little bit!



I'm not 100% on the provenance of the green marbled beads, but they are light to the touch the same way that polymer clay beads are, so I expect that they're made out of something similar. The faux pearls are plastic with a coating for that faux pearl shine.



The clasp and all of the metal beads are your standard base metal alloy (copper/nickel/zinc) and come from my own stash rather than anything repurposed. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday 5: October 6 Through 10

The first week of October is National Customer Service Week in the United States and Kenya. Where have you received especially good customer service?

Flying Scandinavian Air Services (or whatever SAS actually stands for) is always a treat. But that said, I value price over comfort in air travel, and Norwegian wins on that front. And they're pretty good for a budget airline. Skimpy meal service (but I hate eating on planes anyway—the food is okay but it's just so cramped), but the planes are new and comfortable.

Noraebang! // Image courtesy PBS News Hou
Noraebangs (karaoke boxes) in Korea also are really good at customer service. One more than one occasion my friends and I received "service" items from the noraebang we were partying it up at: free beer, ice cream, or an extra half-hour of room rental.


The second Saturday in October was National Tree-Planting Day in Mongolia. When did you last do anything resembling tree-planting?

When you're a teacher, every lesson is like planting a tree!


October 4 was World Animal Day (the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals). What’s an obscure animal you know a thing or two about?


Okapi2

Okapis are related to giraffes and, just like giraffes, have blue-black tongues. They're also endangered, so maybe consider supporting okapi preservation as a holiday gift to yourself or others?


October 6 was National Poetry Day in Ireland and the United Kingdom. What’s a line of poetry that springs to mind now that you’re thinking about poetry?

I've been thinking about Karin Boye recently, so here:



Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister.
Varför skulle annars våren tveka?
Varför skulle all vår heta längtan  
bindas i det frusna bitterbleka?
Höljet var ju knoppen hela vintern.
Vad är det för nytt, som tär och spränger?
Ja visst gör det ont när knoppar brister,
ont för det som växer
                              och det som stänger.

Ja nog är det svårt när droppar faller.
Skälvande av ängslan tungt de hänger,
klamrar sig vid kvisten, sväller, glider  -
tyngden drar dem neråt, hur de klänger.
Svårt att vara oviss, rädd och delad,
svårt att känna djupet dra och kalla,
ändå sitta kvar och bara darra  -
svårt att vilja stanna
                              och vilja falla.

Då, när det är värst och inget hjälper,
Brister som i jubel trädets knoppar.
Då, när ingen rädsla längre håller,
faller i ett glitter kvistens droppar
glömmer att de skrämdes av det nya
glömmer att de ängslades för färden  -
känner en sekund sin största trygghet,
vilar i den tillit
                              som skapar världen.

What’s in your pocket?

Nothing, because my pajamas don't have pockets!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

#TBT Neon Fibonacci Necklace

As it turns out, when you have three jobs, it's hard to do all of them really well simultaneously! I listed this neon Fibonacci necklace in the shop weeks ago? probably? but am only posting about it now.

Neon Fibonacci necklace - perfect math jewelry gift for teachers and nerds
Neon Fibonacci necklace by Kokoba


This is a Kokoba beta release. I'd date it as around 2010 or so? Hence this post going up on the Throwback Thursday tag. It's definitely not to my usual style now (so busy! much bright! very color!) but I appreciate the sentiment it's coming from, especially with the drab, dark days of winter in Stockholm staring me down yet again. 

Neon Fibonacci necklace - perfect math jewelry gift for teachers and nerds

And I'm not trying to throw shade on you if this is is your style. If I thought this was genuinely hideous, I would have cannibalized this necklace for parts and never spoken of it again. Even if I wouldn't make it today, it still has a certain charm to it.

Neon Fibonacci necklace - perfect math jewelry gift for teachers and nerds

Like, I can't deny that it has a funky Miss Frizzle vibe to it, and quite frankly I think the world needs more Miss Frizzles. Be the Miss Frizzle you want to see in the world!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What I Read: Murder in Retrospect, or, Five Little Pigs



This book was a selection for my Facebook book club. I was surprised to learn that many of the members had never read an Agatha Christie novel before, or even seen one of the innumerable screen adaptations! I went through a huge Agatha Christie binge in middle school. This was about the same time I went through a big band jazz binge as well, so I guess I was a little old lady in a 13-year-old's body.

Even during my pubescent enthusiasm, I never tackled all of the novels and short stories. (Our school library only had so many books, after all.) Murder in Retrospect (or Five Little Pigs, whichever title you prefer) was one that I hadn't originally read, so I was excited to read it. I had a nice afternoon in the Bethlehem Public Library doing just that: reading. I finished it in one sitting.

I still love a good Agatha Christie novel, even today, but I have to admit that this one was a little disappointing. There are lots of recurring secondary characters that make a Poirot novel what it is—Miss Lemon, Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp—and none of them make an appearance. The nature of the mystery also means that the bulk of the book is everyone repeating their testimony of the same day. This is, of course, part and parcel of any mystery, but because this is a cold case (or rather, an already-closed case), there's nothing else for Poirot to go on, nor is there any sense of urgency.  Without any clues to inspect, without any banter with Hastings or Japp, and without the possibility of bringing the true murderer to justice, Murder in Retrospect is more repetitive and less fun than the Christie novels I read when I was younger.

If you're a mystery buff, you can't go wrong with an Agatha Christie novel. Even a bad Christie novel is still pretty fun; I've always like Christie's writing style just as much as her mysteries. Overall, I'm a completionist when it comes to writers I like, so I'm glad I read it. I don't think Murder in Retrospect will be a novel I pick up again, though.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Day 6: Bethlehem, PA

After a busy weekend full of social activity and sight-seeing, I take it easy for the next few days at my parents' house. I spend my first morning back just putzing around the house and going through the books I had packed up four years ago (surprise, there are more that I can bear to part with!), and then I drive to Lost River Caverns to catch up with my old boss and coworkers and do some shopping. It's busy, at least compared to what I would have expected mid-August, so my old boss tells me to just help myself. I must give off "I work here" vibes still; people ask me questions about how to get to the bathrooms or where things are.

The inside is all done up and it looks fabulous—so much better than when I was still working there—and I linger a while to talk to my old bosses and coworkers and some of the new shop ladies and guides. Everything is familiar despite the fabulous makeover and once again I miss my weirdo minimum wage retail job.

Next stop on the agenda is the Bethlehem library. I don't bother driving in during Musikfest; I just wait for the bus (have I gone full European native?) and meander towards the library from the parking/bus hub. There's no Amerikaplatz next to the library anymore, which I don't like (fond memories of Tea Leaf Green and Royal Noise Brigade at that stage), but I suppose the library employees appreciate the new-found quiet. I pick out a book—Murder in Retrospect, or Five Little Pigs, which is my Facebook book club's August choice—and sit down and read, and alternate my reading with checking Facebook and talking with friends on gchat.



After I finish the book, I wander through Musikfest, grab a "Marga-mead-a," and head down to Volksplatz to wait for The Skatalites. I sit through The Hillbenders, a bluegrass act, and enjoy them enough to buy an album as roadtrip soundtrack/thank-you gift for my ride up to Maine. I totally sneak a preview listen later and the album is way more straight country, and kind of worse, than their live performance. :( For me, the highlight of that show was probably a high-energy cover of MGMT's "Kids." I had spent the whole day being sad and moody over leaving Austin, and that moment was the point where I started to maybe feel like not everything was a total garbage fire.

Then, after time to change sets and move the first rows of chairs out of the way, The Skatalites come on, and I dance my heart out. They do their cover of the James Bond theme and I get a powerful hit of high school nostalgia. I had listened to their version of the incomparable movie theme a lot in high school, but this was in the days of Napster and people being really ignorant and slapdash with labeling artists ("Wish You Were Here" by Oasis? Really?), so I was never sure if it was actually The Skatalites. I went into the show with zero expectations I'd hear that song, so it's a nice surprise to hear that opening bass riff.



Later in the set they also do the theme from "From Russia With Love" and I wonder: is that a coincidence or a political statement? Other covers include "A Message To You, Rudy" and "Three Little Birds."

I ducked out in the middle of an encore to make sure I could get a bus home, only: surprise! The late bus I thought was running wasn't, so I dropped in at a friend's instead. Not the most gracious way to make an entrance from across the ocean ("I can't read bus schedules, Tesia, can I crash your guest bed?") but friendship is magic! And I'm stopping by home to celebrate Tesia's PhD, after all.  It's not super late, but I still conk right out.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday 5: More Questions About Buildings and Food

Smorgatarta

What’s the best layered food?

Lasagna, for me, is basically the only layered food. I may be Swedish, but smörgåstårtar (pictured above) freak me out.

What’s the best rolled food?

There are so many options, aren't there? Enchiladas (and I would say burritos count, too), cannoli, gimbap, California rolls, kanelbullar...the list goes on! But for nostalgia purposes, I'll have to say it's a tie between cannoli and gimbap.

Gimbap: confused with sushi, but actually not.


What’s the most recent cuisine you’ve tried for the first time from an ethnicity not your own?

I had some Turkish pistachio candy at a student's house on Monday.


What’s a food that scares you?

San-nakji: octopus arms. While the octopus is technically dead by the time it's on your plate, octopus anatomy means that the nerves in the arms and tentacles are still doing their squirmy, moving thing by the time they're on your plate. The Japanese puffer fish won't kill you if it's prepared correctly, but even if san-nakji is prepared correctly, the very nature of the dish makes it a potentially deadly choking hazard.


What’s something you eat solely because it’s good for you?

Even the healthy food I eat, I eat because it's tasty. The only thing I consume purely for health reasons are vitamins.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday 5: Dear Old Golden Rule Days



when did you last raise your hand to be called upon, to get someone’s attention, or in response to a “how many of you…” question? or heck, for any reason at all?

I probably did it to get the moderator's attention at the last English Debate Club meeting I attended a few weeks ago.


When did you last have to do anything akin to homework?

Around a year ago, for Academic Swedish.


when did you and your friends last go outside to play?

Me and friends? I guess the last time I was at a picnic, which was probably sometime last year. Me by myself? On my run yesterday.


how’s your penmanship nowadays?

Pretty good. Teacher skills, etc.


among stuff you periodically eat, what reminds you most of your lunches in the school cafeteria?

I don't remember school lunches much except chicken nuggets and "French bread pizza." The laziest, easiest thing I eat is boiled pasta with a dollop of creme fraiche and some roasted onions. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Phonebanking for Viriginia

Local elections are coming up in Virginia. Local elections are also the ones that most voters don't bother voting in, which is how we end up with backwards-ass local governments that [insert your particular most-hated pet peeve here].

I'm unable to absentee vote in the small local elections coming up this year in Pennsylvania, so instead I'm opting to phonebank for Virginia.



Why Virginia?

Pundits and politicians are considering the local races in Virginia as a miniature bellweather on the current administration. If Republican candidates do exceptionally well, or as well as they always do, then Republican politicians in other seats will be less inclined to break from White House policy and rhetoric. But if they end up losing seats, or just having closer races that require more spending, then they might less inclined to tow the current party line.


But I'm not from Virginia!

Neither am I. There is an ethical question of how much moral right you have to try and influence another state's (or commonweath's) election. I can't answer that for you; I can only say that 1) since I'm not allowed to absentee vote in the races going on in PA, I want to do something civic-minded and 2) I put national interests over state borders. I'm not from Virginia but we're all Americans, right? Otherwise, feel free to research any local events that are closer to where you live. There are local elections happening all over the country!


What is phonebanking?

It's calling people and talking to them a bit and making notes in a database. If you've been using 5calls.org on the regular, you already know that they've diverted some of their resources to helping out Danica Roem. If you're interested in other races in Virginia, MobilizeAmerica has a whole bunch. listed, as does Indivisible. (If you're not keen on helping in Virginia, you can put in your ZIP code into MobilizeAmerica's website and find a more local event to support.)


But I hate the phone!

Me too! I don't know what to tell you except power through it. I made about 20 calls before I went to work yesterday, and I spoke to one person (who was perfectly nice, though too busy to talk). Depending on the time of day, lots of people won't be home. And a few numbers will be straight up disconnected. You can think about it was gathering data for the group—finding out which numbers have been disconnected—instead of trying to talk to someone. And if you do end up talking to another human being, you'll have a script of what to say right in front of you!

But it was still really stressful and I thought my heart would jackhammer right out of my chest. I did it, and I'll do it again, and maybe if I do it enough times it'll be no big deal.

 "Get Out the Vote" phonebanks also involve simply reminding people to vote—not trying to campaign for a particular candidate. And finally, we live in a time where you can sign up for "Get Out the Vote" text campaigns, so you don't have to call anyone at all! What a time to be alive.

The other piece of advice I have for phone calls is to be kind to yourself beforehand. I brewed some of my favorite tea that one of my friends back in the US sent me, lit a stick of my favorite "special occasions only" Japanese incense, and listened to some of my favorite Ur-American music: Fanfare for the Common Man, Rhapsody in Blue, etc.

If you're okay with the phone but are anxious about confrontation, you can try to focus on phonebanks that mobilize registered party members to vote rather than phonebanks that try to sway undecided voters.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday 5: Nonstrosity

What’s a good movie for October that has nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?

Back when I worked in South Korea, I spent a few months at a hagwon that was not a good fit for me. At all. I started in June, and by August I was starting to fantasize about tragedy befalling my family so I would have an excuse to leave early and go back home.

For real.

So for the first time in my life, I quit a job. And for the last two weeks of October, I was between jobs, free to wander around Seoul as I liked.

In honor of those weeks of freedom (and the amazing job I was able to take instead because I quit that one), I would say Little Miss Sunshine. Watching it with a friend was what convinced me to carpe diem and quit the damn job.


What’s a good couple of songs for October that have nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?

I kind of want to continue on my "two-week knockabout in Seoul" theme, so here are some selections from Korean indie musicians that I really, really like.

Danpyunsun and the Sailors, "Yellow Room"


Hyun Lee Yang, "Is Help on the Way?"


Floating Island, "Parade"



Jun Bum Sun and the Yangbans, "Seven Year Itch"

What are some reasons to love October?

The foliage is gorgeous, but it's not quite the grim winter wasteland that is November or December. There's a nice balance between "still enough daylight" and "cozy weather." Also, apples are in season! Apple crisp, apple pie, apple cider...


Radio stations sometimes call this month Rocktober, doing special playlists or giveaways in celebration of rock music. What would be a better rhyming name for this month, and how might it be celebrated?

I'm fine with it being Rocktober, but celebrating geology and rocks and minerals as well as rock music. Second to that, Schlocktober, and you celebrate by watching terrible movies.


What would be a good holiday to establish in October for those U.S. states not commemorating Columbus Day?

Indigenous Peoples' Day seems a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What I Read: Freshwater

I can't deal with how good this book is, y'all!

Image courtesy Grove Atlantic


I got a free ebook copy from NetGalley but it's times like these I wish I was eligible for receiving dead tree versions because I want to press this book into people's hands and say YOU NEED TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW. You can't do that with an .epub file.

I was especially glad for Freshwater, I think, because right before I read it I had finished Ancient, Ancient, a collection of ostensibly Afro-futurism short stories that had way too much blurb hype on the covers for what it actually was. But Freshwater tapped into that vein of timeless urges (sex, death, blood, deities, demons) that Ancient, Ancient claimed to tackle and delivered a coherent, shining python egg of a novel.

Freshwater is about Ada, a young Nigerian woman who houses, among other beings, an ogbanje inside her? Or is perhaps simply unwell? We follow her through childhood, then in university in the American south, and then adult life afterwards, as she tries to figure out who she is and to navigate through her relationships with the others inside of her: Smoke and Shadow, Asugara, and St. Vincent. But most of the story comes from their perspective rather than "the Ada's."

The voice and language in Freshwater are captivating and distinctive, experimental without being alienating. This is the first book in a long time where I felt compelled to read more: after reading on the subway, I'd keep reading on the walk back to the apartment and even after I got home, standing in the doorway, coat and hat still on. Emezi is a shining goddamn star and we don't deserve her. #BlackGirlMagic strikes again.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday 5: Payday

From whom did you receive your first real paycheck?

When I worked at Gilman's/Lost River Caverns, where I also learned to love rocks.


Among board games involving the exchange of money, which have you enjoyed most?

Do you exchange money in Life? I think you do. I didn't have anything against Monopoly, but I think I actually finished more games of Life.


PayDay is the name of a candy bar consisting of salted peanuts rolled in caramel surrounding a firm, nougat-like center. How does it sound to you if you haven’t tried it, and how do you like it if you have? Is there a similar candy bar you like better?

I don't like nuts in my chocolate, nor do I like peanuts or peanut butter mixed with chocolate. (Unpopular opinions!) Anything with caramel, nougat, and chocolate without nuts is just peachy keen.


When did you last do something nice for yourself just because it was pay day?

I went out and bought new bras. Ladies, I recommend making sure that you're wearing the correct bra size. (In other words: if you've been fitted at Victoria's Secret, or you've used that bizarre "add an arbitrary number to your band measurement," measure yourself again.)


What person with the surname Day are you most familiar with?

I had a really hard time parsing this question at first; I took it to mean "Person With the Surname Day," as if there were multiple holidays we observe in honor of people with specific surnames. Like, I had to read the question two or three times to understand what they meant.

And my first answer is, of course, Doris Day! Infinitely superior to Felicia Day.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What I Read: Crossings

I originally requested Crossings from NetGalley because I was in the middle of working on a memoirs project and thought that it would be beneficial to read something else in the genre.

Image courtesy Penguin Random House


I was also, to be entirely honest, inherently put off by the book based on its content, as a more-or-less pacifist. Ironically enough, that also tilted me towards requesting Crossings, because I think it's important to engage in dialogue with people who disagree with you. It forces you to critically examine your own beliefs and principles, it builds empathy, and it broadens your understanding of the world. While I can't say that I now understand the appeal of going into combat or the thrill of engaging the enemy, I at least understand how it was appealing for Kerstetter. Even though the war memoirs were my least favorite part, they were still engaging.

What I found the most powerful, however, was everything that came after Kerstetter's tours in Iraq: his stroke and the possibility of recovery. Kerstetter gives a clear account of the cognitive impairments resulting from his stroke and also his frustration with them. Here he was, someone who had always loved reading and literature, who had gone through university and then medical school, now struggling to make it through children's books. War might not be anything I'll ever be able to relate to, but the effect that old age or an accident might have on my mental capacities is something that gnaws at me.

As America (and other nations) continue to cope with the metaphorical fallout from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, accounts like Kerstetter's will become invaluable as far as the domestic effects are concerned. How could we have better taken care of troops while they were in combat? How can we erase the stigma of PTSD? Can we better acclimate soldiers to their own crossings: from civilian to solider and then back again?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Running, "Good" Fatties, and Inspiration Porn

I'm taking a break from the slow eking-out of my travelogues to talk about running. Again.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this on my personal Facebook:

Last Friday I woke up, had a cup of tea, and then went out and ran a 5K. Not any kind of official race; I mean I ran 3.1 miles, nonstop, around my neighborhood. (3.5 miles, if my running app is to be believed.) I'm including a recent, honest-but-not-flattering photo with this post so you can see more or less what I looked like when I did it, down to the hairdo and tanktop and sneakers. Probably equally sweaty, because damn Boston was SWELTERING that day. This is what a runner looks like. 
I'm talking about this on Facebook for a few reasons. The first is that I did something that I'm proud of, something I thought for years that I would never want (or be able) to do. Running a 5K was only slightly more likely, I thought, than going to Mars or winning the lottery. And last week I basically went out and did it by accident. Cool! I did the thing! I even *enjoyed* doing the thing! (And me *enjoying* running was, not so long ago, as alien to me as "enjoying paperwork" or "enjoying scrubbing toilets.") I worked hard at it for 18 months and then I did it without dying or injuring myself!* (I also did it without filling my albuterol inhaler 'script which in retrospect is a terrible idea for someone with asthma. Don't Do What Donny Don't Does!) 
*I did suffer a twisted ankle during all of this training, but not while I was actually running. I stepped off a sidewalk funny while I was in town. 
The second reason I'm talking about this is to be up front about something: it was hard. It was physically difficult (my earliest workouts were just 5 seconds of jogging mixed with 55 seconds of walking for a grand total of 15 minutes, and even those "easy" workouts were hard at times) and it was mentally difficult (exercising in public while fat and female is fraught). I felt weird and embarrassed and discouraged way more than I felt awesome. Sometimes it felt like there was something wrong with me for finding it so hard and progressing so slowly. If you feel like that about anything -- exercising, learning something new, coping with mental illness -- I want you to know that my fat, sweaty, awkward, struggling self knows what it feels like. I don't know if it'll get better for you or not when it comes to that particular arena of self-improvement, but I know what it's like in that moment and I see and recognize your struggle. We're all reforming fuck-ups together! 
The third reason I'm posting this screed with this specific honest-but-not-flattering photo is to make it clear that 1) I didn't wait until I wasn't fat, or until I was less fat, to try to do the thing and 2) I didn't do the thing to be a "good" fatty or to make me less fat. I did it because I wanted to, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could, and then at some point just because I liked it. 
This is what a runner looks like. It's not a "before" (hell, or even an "after") photo. It's me. The body I have *right now* can do this awesome thing. And maybe more! Maybe I'll train for a 10K. Maybe I'll benchpress my own bodyweight. Maybe I'll take dance lessons or take up MMA. Maybe I'll just keep running around three miles three days a week. During it all, I'll almost certainly continue to remain more or less fat. 
Every single person reading this is already capable of so much, just the way they are. All of us not equally much, or of the same things -- limits DO exist, illnesses and disabilities take their toll, we all only have so much spare time -- but often of much more than we realize. Your body is fine the way it is.
I shared this post with this picture of me visiting Diana (of Redskirts and Arisia fame) in Boston:

Diana looking all business casual dressy fly and me looking like a sweaty mess, in front of a burrito restaurant.


I suspect people might have misunderstood my desire to disable comments on the post. It was friends-only, and the friends on FB who get to see the friends-only stuff aren't assholes. I didn't think anyone would be mean or shitty about it—effusive praise is what would bug me, and naturally that happened (some of it more easy for me to digest than others). The idea that someone might process the picture and post as "inspiration porn" is what would bug me.

Inspiration porn, if you're unfamiliar with the term, is the use of images of disabled athletes or artists or whoever used as a means for the able-bodied to feel inspired (or to guilt them into Doing The Thing). This article on The Mighty has more information about that. While fatness and physical disability are not marginalized to the same degree, or equivalent in any way, I think, to an extent, images of fat people accomplishing cool shit are leveraged similarly. There can also be a well-meaning condescension and patronization when it comes to images of fat athletes or fat aspiring athletes: "How cute of you to try!" "Good for you for being a good fatty!"

This is better than images of fat people being distributed for the purposes of ridicule, but it's not really ideal, either. And it's exactly why I wanted to disable comments. I knew that no one was going to come at me with a shitty comment; it was much more likely for people to be effusive in praise and encouragement, all of which would have meant well but some of which would no doubt be coming from that place of "I'm inspired by your willingness to do this thing with a body I consider undesirable (even as we are friends because of my admiration for your personality etc.)" "I'm glad you're doing something to become less Fat." If you're thinking or feeling those things when you see pictures of fat athletes, please ch-ch-checkity-check yo' self.

On a positive note, I'd like to thank LineageWear for those awesome peacock bike shorts and my other leggings: they really are the #bestleggingsever. (If you don't have a pair of your own, you can shop through my LineageWear referral link and get a 10% discount. TREAT YO' SELF!)

I'd also like to thank Aardvark Sports Shop in Bethlehem, PA. When I walked in there almost a year ago to get fitted for my first-ever pair of running shoes, I thought I would die of embarrassment. But the employee who helped me was super chill and treated me and my big ol' duck feet with perfect, expert helpfulness and found me the perfect shoes. Gear matters, and without those leggings or those shoes I wouldn't have been able to do what I did.

And finally, I'd like to put in a good word for Charity Miles. A lot of times it was easier to go out and do the thing because I knew it would help a better cause as well as myself. Personally, I run for charity: water because damn there's nothing like a glass of cold water after a brutal run!

Playlist shout-outs include: basically every Tarantino soundtrack up to Kill Bill Vol. 1, Say Sue Me, Kanye (I'm trash), Garbage, Eve 6, Drunken Tiger/MFBTY, The Blue Hearts, and The High-Lows.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday 5: I Don't Get It Either

Twitch is an enormously popular livestreaming platform mostly for watching people play video games. It has more than 1.5 million broadcasters and more than one million visitors per month, and Amazon acquired it for nearly a billion dollars in 2014. Which of your computer activities would you livestream if there were a way to make some money doing it?

Y'all want to watch me write blog entries in real time, right? Right??


EDM (electronic dance music) is usually performed by DJs on stage in front of audiences, playing tracks they’ve mixed, right off their laptops. If you were a push-button DJ playing your tunes in a club, what would be your opening and closing songs, assuming everyone’s there because they’re into whatever sounds you’re into?

My opening song would be absolutely be "Gangnam Style," or one of the infinite mashups out there. This one might be my favorite:



Or this one:



What can I say? 2012 might have been my peak year.

As for the end of the set, I think this is a good closer:



What’s a good Adele song, and why is Adele so popular?

I don't know if I like this shade you're throwing on Adele, Friday 5! I'm not obsessed with Adele but I like her voice.

Speaking of 2012, I was also cheered to see that Adele was so popular with my Korean students. In a country that can be even more looks-based and body-conscious than the US, I hope that at least a few of my girl students realized that it's possible for them to be talented and successful without looking like a typical K-pop star.

I listened to "Rolling in the Deep" a lot with those kiddos, so that's probably my favorite Adele song.


The Walking Dead?

I don't get this one either, Friday 5.


Every generation seems to arrive at a “They don’t write ’em like that anymore” attitude. Why does it seem like most middle-aged people lose interest in new music?

There's actually a reason for this! I think it has something to do with the way your brain is still developing as a teenager versus how it is as an adult, and so music from your childhood and teenage years will always be more immediate and visceral for you than most anything else. In other words, nostalgia's a helluva drug.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What I Read: Stories of Your Life and Others

It's October and somehow I'm still not finished writing up all of the reading I did on my summer vacation (as well as what I did besides read on my summer vacation). This was a book I started and finished during my long weekend in Austin.

Image courtesy Small Beer Press


The problem with reviewing short story collections so long (months) after you've read them is that it's harder to keep all of the stories in mind. I know that I liked what I read a lot, but I struggle to remember exactly what it was that I read -- except the titular story, "Story of Your Life," which is definitely the strongest of them all.

After a quick refresher (as in, reading someone else's review on GoodReads), my memory came back to me. The other stories I remembered enjoying were "Hell is the Absence of God," "Liking What You See: A Documentary," and "Division by Zero." Despite winning a Sideways award (whatever that is?), "Seventy-Two Letters" didn't really appeal to me. Neither did "Tower of Babylon." "Understand" was mildly interesting, in that it was probably the most "traditional" science fiction of the lot (what happens when people give themselves supergenius intellects?), but it didn't have the same existentialist concerns or the same experimentation with form that characterized what I thought were the best stories. And, finally, "The Evolution of Human Science" is a clever and pithy little work and I enjoyed it in the moment I read it, but by the time I sat down to write this review I'd completely forgotten it.

What I appreciate about this collection is one of the same things I appreciated about The Three-Body Problem: author commentary is included at the end. It's interesting to take a peak behind the curtain and see the germ of an idea for a story (if I can mix my metaphors a little). Chiang has yet to produce a novel-length work, but I think many of the ideas in here have enough meat to become novels on their own. I look forward to any future work from Chiang, and I hope he tackles more long-form work in the future.

Monday, October 9, 2017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Day 5: Austin, TX to Bethlehem, PA

The weather for my Monday flight out is appropriately dour and unpleasant: overcast, drizzly, and just plain "blah." It matches my mood.

I'm up half an hour before everyone else, so after I triple-check what small amount of luggage I have, I sit out in the living room with the cats and read some more James Tiptree, Jr. while the rest of the household wakes up and does their thing around me. Things move quietly and efficiently until Noah gets the text alert that my ride to the airport's arrived. I say my goodbyes at the door, but then an idea hits Noah.

"I'll come out with you. I just realized that the driver will probably be looking for me, since I called for the ride."

I'm reminded of our goodbye in NYC last October, when it was Noah disappearing into an Uber to the airport and I was the one left behind. On that equally gray morning, after hugging out our goodbyes, I had hung by the open door and watched him disappear down the stairs with our host, only for him to dart back at the last minute for a last hug. This time it's me vanishing into an Uber for the airport.

We meet my ride at the curb, a cheerful woman in early middle age. I swing my larger bag in the back of the car. Noah pulls me in for one hug then, and then the "one more hug" trick again right before I step in the back passenger seat. After that, he lets me go for real, and I get in the car.

It's the price you pay to pull up stakes and move to another country. Facebook and Skype and email help, but they're not the same. And some people translate better online than others. Noah is markedly worse than others. That's probably what makes our goodbyes so heavy.

On the plus side, I have a pleasant ride to the airport. It's weird talking to human beings for no reason again; it's weird how comfortable I am doing it (after stony silences in cabs and Ubers in Stockholm and NYC). Is this my inner American coming out? Is this who I've been all along?

No, it's probably just being in Texas. Extroversion acquired via osmosis.

We talk about music festivals: how much money people can make off of SXSW, how busy it can get, how small Musikfest (on my to-do list during this trip) is by comparison, even though both festivals have been running for about as many years.

Musikfest 2013. Image courtesy the official Lehigh Valley Flickr account.
I check in at the airport without a problem and see again that I'll be among the last board. Whatever. I make it on board and text Noah and my mom to let them know that everything went according to plan.

The weather in Newark is equally crummy and I'm convinced that we're going to hydroplane into the back of a tractor trailer or get sideswiped or anything else on the way home. I'm no longer used to car rides on the highway in inclement weather; is this a small sign of my own de-Americanization?

Obviously we make it home just fine. I get Priscilla, my indestructible-except-for-her-hinges laptop, up and running (how many months of updates do I need to install? too many), check in with my sambo on Google Hangouts, and then begin the long work of culling my library yet again. I work on the project off-and-on for the next few days; eventually I'll have five(!!) boxes of books for the Riegelsville library.



I take a break for Jeopardy!, because I'm a nerd, and then decide on my course of action for tomorrow: library and 'fest.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday 5: What Ails Ya

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash



How do you treat a bad case of the Mondays?

When you're a freelance tutor, you don't really get "the Mondays." People often have the most forgiving schedules on weekends, so that's when the bulk of your tutoring happens. Couple that with spending the work week on editing and other work-related tasks, the answer is that I don't get "the Mondays" because I don't have Mondays or weekends. My downtime comes in small chunks throughout the week and then periodically in longer breaks for vacations.


How do you fight off a case of the blahs?

I check in with what I'm doing. Usually I feel the most "blah" when I'm sitting at the computer and compulsively checking social media just for the sake of checking it. If I can stop that cycle and do something else (write, read, listen to a podcast while I play Diablo III), I usually feel better. I also recognize that I'm more prone to the blahs during the winter months, which I try to counter by lighting the apartment with full-spectrum bulbs and making sure to take a multivitamin with plenty of vitamin D.

The other thing I do is clean. Stuff tends to accumulate around me: papers get piled up, jewelry projects I intend to finish "soon, really soon" float around on my desk, things like that. Sometimes I feel "blah" because I'm surrounded by a mountain of unfinished things; when that happens, I take a day to clean up and organize. (The last time I did this, I found a year-old piece of unopened mail from Skatteverket.)


How do you deal with a bad hair day?

Ponytails and dry shampoo.


What’s your strategy for FOMO?

I don't know if I suffer from a "fear of missing out," specifically. On bad days I can be a fairly compulsive smartphone user (check Facebook! check Twitter! check your emails!), but for me it isn't an anxiety about missing out on something cool or exciting. It's about not knowing: not being able to answer that head-scratcher right away, not knowing what that email from a friend says, etc. I'd say that I have FONK (Fear Of Not Knowing) more than FOMO.

My strategy for FONK is non-existent. I can get sucked up into it really easily. If I notice what I'm doing, I'll switch out of email or Facebook and read something on the Kindle app instead, but I don't always notice.


How prone are you to Instagram envy?

Not at all, since I don't use Instagram!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trek Thursday: Discovery

On Friday, JV and I sat down with our weekly pizza to watch the first episode of the new Star Trek series. I went in with cautious optimism: it had received a lot of good reviews (when they finally lifted the ban on reviews?), but all of my friends who are actual Trek fans (including Diana of Redskirts) were ambivalent at best about it.

Despite the caution in my optimism, I left the episode DISAPPOINTED.


I say this as someone who liked the J. J. Abrams reboot—initially. Rewatching it after mainlining TOS over the course of a few months, though, it loses a lot of the shine. (Or maybe I just paid better attention to the plot the second time around.) I didn't even bother with the second one. We've hit peak Cabbagepatch.

Discovery takes its cue from the Abrams' reboot more than something like TOS or Next Generation, both in terms of aesthetics and also in story style. It's a lot of whiz-bang visual effects, Dutch angles, lens flare, etc. The story is more about what will look good on screen and not what would be interesting to think about.

Also, minor point, but when you make a prequel fifty-odd years after the original material, first of all: why? (Do they want that Klingon–Federation war backdrop?) Second of all: if you're going to do that, why are you blowing the budget on these fantastic hyper-future sets that are so clearly more advanced than the tech that's supposed to be, in-story, ten? fifteen? years later? Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, but the visual continuity between the prequels and the original trilogy (I can't speak for the new movies, haven't seen them and have no interest in there) is pretty solid.

There are also plenty of Star Trek episodes where the conflict is based on someone in Starfleet making a terrible decision that errs on the side of optimism and naivete. But the point always seemed to be that even if it ends up being a mistake once in a while, that's the Starfleet standard operating procedure and it's based on (what I think is) a pretty noble ideal. (Like, we just watched the Next Generation episode "The Samaritan Snare," where La Forge gets kidnapped when they stop to repair a broken-down ship right after we watched the first episode of Discovery.)

A Starfleet where striking first—and violently—is framed as "the thing that should be done" and the officer who promotes it is being framed as being unjustly punished is not a Star Trek I find particularly inspiring or entertaining. I don't have hopes for future stories: Kurtzman's previous writing is much more in the action-oriented line (Transformers, Cowboys vs Aliens) and one random, stilted-sounding drama (People Like Us). Of course, Fuller has worked on other Star Trek incarnations: he's also written stuff that's more nuanced than giant fighting robot cars (Pushing Daisies, American Gods, Dead Like Me).

Good thing I have so many more episodes of Next Generation left to go!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Talky Tuesday: What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Austin, TX, Day 4

It's my last full day in Austin and I try really hard not to be sad about it. Fortunately that's easy, because today's the day we go to Natural Bridge Caverns in San Antonio and see the bats!

Everyone sleeps in and I'm the first up, again. I've finished Stories of Your Life and Others by now (I finished it while I was waiting for the bus to/at Book People yesterday); my eye catches a James Tiptree, Jr. collection and picks that up.

"Take that with you," Elizabeth says when they wake up. "I'm basically holding on to those books to give away to people."

Noah and Elizabeth decide to take advantage of the rental car and do the grocery shopping for all of the heavy things (read as: kitty litter). I follow along, because I really do genuinely like wandering around grocery stores, even if (like my trip with Elizabeth yesterday) there's no giddy quality of planning and anticipation involved.

After we bring the groceries back (and make a quick run to the store to find a misplaced "bag of bags"), we decide to try to get lunch in town before the drive out to San Antonio. The places we check have incredibly long waits, though, so instead we get some macarons and a turkey and cheese sandwich (for me and Noah to split) and head straight to San Antonio and decide to eat there. Noah consults with a friend via text about the best tacos in San Antonio, and he responds: "Rolando's Super Tacos, Jesus is Lord."

A podcast interview with Eddie Izzard fills the silence on the long drive; a Texas state lawmaker (who both Noah and Elizabeth recognize, since they both work in the Capitol) drives very aggressively, ultimately passing us on the right, and Elizabeth and Noah both shriek in inchoate rage. (Apparently she's a garbage politician in addition to a garbage driver.)

We get to Rolando's Super Taco without incident. We took the "Jesus is Lord" part of the text to mean that really, they're awesome tacos, but then when we arrive we see it: bold text, professionally painted on the side of the building.



The tacos are, indeed, super. And the water glasses are comically oversized. ("Welcome back to America," either Elizabeth or Noah says when a "Jesus, this is huge" reflexively escapes my lips.)

Stuffed to the gills, we continue to the cave, which is a jaw-dropping tourist trap of truly American proportions. I suppose when your cave is in the middle of uninhabited ranch land, you can spread out as much as you like; there are two different gift shops, some kind of zip line attraction, a maze, gem panning, and even a cafeteria.



The next tour leaves in about five minutes, giving us enough time to stroll over to the tour holding pen. This cave opts for the "tour guide at every station" model, which I like less than the "have a new friend and personal cave psychopomp for an hour" model, but given some of the hairpin turns in the path, I see why it's run the way it is. I don't fall, thankfully, though Noah almost does.



They have an obligatory photo spot, which Noah and Elizabeth resent—"even if they don't sell your picture to you, they can use it in promotional material"—and so they strive to look as awful as possible when the flash goes off.

I shrug. "Joke's on them. I'm not photogenic at all!"

The cave itself is spectacular and miracle of miracles, my camera phone manages to capture some of the magic. I lose my mind repeatedly on the tour.



"Thank you for indulging my weirdo nerdy interests," I say as we follow the walkway back to the main tourist campus of shops and food. I still have OMG CAVE HIGH thrumming through my veins.

"You'd do the same for me," Noah replies.

"What would be the equivalent? That Eugene O'Neill play, I guess."

"Oh, yeah. Which one was that?" He stops to think and we both say, together, "'The Hairy Ape.'"

We wait in the cafeteria for the bat tour to begin. There's some short paperwork to sign, a waiver for something or other, and then we're out on the patio for a short lecture on bats. The bat colony here are Mexican free tail bats; they don't hibernate, so they haven't been devastated by White Nose Syndrome like the little brown bats in PA. But the BCI volunteer touches on WNS, and other kinds of bats as well. She brings up the flying fox: "Do I have anyone here who's six foot?"

"This guy is," Elizabeth says, pointing at Noah. The BCI volunteer asks him to stand and hold his arms to demonstrate the wingspan of a flying fox. Elizabeth and I both crack up, and she snaps a picture of his demonstration. The volunteer moves on to other bat species and Noah sits down.

As we're caravaning out to the cave where the bats will emerge, Elizabeth tells Noah, "I volunteered you to stand up because I knew you would love it. Everyone watching you? Perfect."

The drive to the cave is surprisingly long, though we can't be driving more than 20 mph, so that's part of it.

"They could just be really efficient serial killers," Elizabeth wonders as we drive. The rental car isn't exactly made for off-roading; I think we all are fervently hoping that we don't get a flat or suffer any other road maladies. The survives, and right away you can smell the presence of bat. Woof. It's a short walk through the Texan scrub and then we're at the mouth of a cave. Or not at, not entirely; we're a few hundred feet back, separated by a gentle slope full of rocks and debris.

At ground level a few benches have been built to seat bat observers, and some artificial terraces. We make our way to the front-most ledge and sit and wait, while the BCI volunteer continues to inform us about the nearby wildlife and other bat facts.



We see a few flutters of individual bats here and there, and then eventually they're out, like a bat vortex. They stream out and into some fields we can't see to feed on assorted pests. After a few minutes of watching, the BCI volunteer announces that she'll be leading people to the other side, right over the cave, so we can be right under the bats as they fly.

It's a pretty amazing sight, though I'm mindful of the fact that we're under animals and try to remember to not stand and gape with my mouth wide open. Don't want to be a bat toilet!

"They look like an aurora borealis," I say.

"There is a river-like quality to their flight," Noah agrees.

Again, I think of Vonnegut: If this isn't nice, what is? "Not everything is a total garbage fire," I comment, and Noah just laughs.

On our way out, we can still see bats silhouetted against the clouds in the vanishing daylight. According to the BCI volunteer, they can hit bursts of speed up to 100 mph. With the right wind and atmospheric conditions, I guess.



We pull back on the highway and listen to a podcast Elizabeth wanted to try out, The Babysitter's Club Club. It's two guys reading The Babysitter's Club books, one for the first time and one for the first time since childhood. It suffers the usual podcast problem: desperately needs more editing and/or more scripting, and much of the episode is full of only moderately funny banter. We all pick it apart a little, and then Noah puts on another podcast for the second half of the trip home: Pop Culture Happy Hour.

As we wind in to Austin, food comes up. Noah is hungry; Elizabeth isn't. (She had a huge platter at Rolando's Super Tacos, Jesus is Lord.) Elizabeth drops us off at the all-purpose eatery Noah and I had patronized for breakfast on Friday and goes home herself. Noah gets loaded vegetarian nachos (tofu instead of bacon!) and I get a cider. We sit and talk about everything important and nothing in particular: friendships, relationships, anxieties, veganism. There's no postponing the inevitable, though: we finish the nachos and my cider runs out and it's definitely time to go home.



"Should we wake you up, or do you have an alarm?"

"I'll set an alarm. Have I checked in?" Weird to phrase it like that, but since Noah bought the ticket, he's the one who keeps getting the email reminders from Southwest.

"Yes, I did that this morning."

"Okay, great."

A few minutes into me last-minute packing and double-checking everything, Noah drifts out of the bedroom. "Okay, so I didn't actually check you in. I had the window open to take care of the airport cab, but I never hit the button. Should I send it to you, or...?"

I wave him way. "You can just do it yourself, it's fine." If my flight back is overbooked and I get bumped to a later one, I don't really care so much.

"Okay. Night!"

"Night!"

My things are packed as best as they can be with me still in pajamas. I double-check my alarm (poor form to miss a flight someone else has paid for), and then drift off to sleep.