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Desi

may 2019 book club

Posted in Entertainment by

Like years past, Dani and I are doing our annual reading challenge with new categories this year! Despite a super strong start to the year with books – maybe it was the gross weather that was driving me inside – I fell off a bit in March and April. This month, I did make a bit of a comeback.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Amazon also has another ebook hack I’ve found – I purchased a “Great on Kindle” book, which gives you about 75% of that purchase back for a future Kindle book purchase. I’ve been turning those credits for a bit and I’m pretty well stocked on my summer reads now!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: One of the recent Kindle First Reads picks, I started reading this while we were in Minneapolis, killing time while Evan was in panels and I was the “conference girlfriend.” It’s an okay book. The main character is a likable heroine, and her relationship with her daughter was great, but I felt like there were some strange plot choices. It was fine for a free read.

No Hard Feelings: A book by best friends about feelings and communication in the workplace, this was a book I DESPERATELY needed to read. The animations are adorable, and since it was a library book, I did what I often do with books I don’t own – I took pictures of relevant pages and passages I wanted to remember. With this book, though, I nearly photographed the entire thing. Pick this up for sure, but if you need more convincing, I did a full review of this book over on dev.to!

The Girl He Used to Know: This book was being recommended everywhere, and with good reason. I was completely hooked from the beginning. Split in two different timelines, it’s the story of a woman who reconnects with her ex years later – an ex who was the only person to ever really understand her. If you’re looking for non-neurotypical heroines, put this on the top of your list.

The Stranger Beside Me: Finally, I gave in to the hype and listened to this audiobook on Hoopla. Ann Rule narrates it, and the production of the version I listened to wasn’t great, but it’s a really comprehensive story of all the missteps and near-misses on Bundy’s spree. As a true crime fan, this is one of the best books out there.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Sadie: HOLY COWWWWW I LOVED THIS. I put a hold on it last summer, and I was so pumped to finally get it. It was SO worth the wait. Another split timeline book, one timeline is told in podcast transcripts by a man who is trying to figure out what happened to Sadie. The other timeline is Sadie’s experience. The multimedia put into it is great (the publisher released the podcast parts of the audiobook as an actual podcast) and I’m still thinking about the end of the book, weeks after reading it. Without giving too many spoilers away, I truly hope that Sadie got vengeance.

The Happiness Project: This book was one of the first “want to read” books I added on Goodreads all the way back in 2012! I like to listen to non-fiction books while working (they’re like the original podcasts), and this was a really nice one to listen to, especially in the mornings. Another Hoopla book that’s worth a read, if your library offers it!

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks: Rob Sheffield is the king of music journalism, and his love of Stevie Nicks might even surpass mine. This Audible original, narrated by him, is a nice, fast listen – if for no other reason than Rob’s voice is so soothing and his love for Stevie and the Mac really comes through. (I feel like I also need to disclose that I’m lucky enough to call Rob my friend – just one more thing The Hold Steady has given me!)

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: Written by the founders of Basecamp, I was hoping that this was going to be a book of tips on how to help implement “less craziness” in your current workplace. To a degree, that’s true, but parts of it just sounded like it was hyping Basecamp as the perfect company (which didn’t help my existing workplace envy!) It is a good, fast listen, though, and I’d recommend it.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Another super-hyped book, this one took me a LONG time to get into. I wasn’t really hooked until probably 70% of the way through the book, but I’m very glad that I kept on going. Usually I can see twists a mile away, but that wasn’t the case in this one. Another really great neuro-divergent character that’s worth a read.

Do you read non-fiction and career books? What have been your favorites lately?

June 1, 2019
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packing in one bag for a mixed transit trip

Posted in Travel by

Last weekend, Evan and I headed out on a quick two-night trip to the northeast. We were flying in to Newark, Lyfting to Jersey City, using the PATH train to head into NYC, then taking a bus from New York City to Boston the next day, and flying home from Logan. (I’m exhausted just recounting all that!) Originally, I was packing into my small (but roomy) packable tote, but since I knew we’d be walking around a lot and trekking through Boston on foot, I wanted something easier to manage, since my tote doesn’t have a shoulder strap or anything.

We bought a packable backpack last summer that we’ve gotten a lot of use from, so I decided to pick up one of my own without spending a ton of money on it. VenturePal’s Large Hiking backpack fit the bill at just under $13. Initially I thought I’d just throw it into my tote and deal with switching things over once we got to Jersey, but I ended up doing the opposite – packing into the backpack and throwing the packed tote in, just in case. The forecast for the weekend was shifty – rain expected, of course – so I packed in a way that I thought would be optimistic, just in case things were sunny instead.

On the plane, I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a lightweight C9 track jacket. I really wanted to wear my favorite Crocs sandals, but since the weather forecast showed rain, I stuck with my trusty Sperrys.

What I Packed

Clothes

  • Two pairs of socks (I packed these “just in case,” and didn’t use them since it didn’t rain)
  • Four pairs underwear (extra underwear is something I’m always going to tote.)
  • Two sports bras
  • One pair sleep shorts (I wouldn’t have brought sleep stuff, but we stayed with a friend in Boston and I think everyone appreciated that I wore clothes to bed)
  • One sleep tank top
  • One pair Uniqlo drape pants
  • One pair Uniqlo Relaco shorts
  • One t-shirt
  • One Uniqlo sleeveless tank
  • One black popover shirt

Toiletries

  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Single face wipes to remove makeup (I didn’t use these. The first night in the hotel I used a washcloth and the second night I passed out with makeup on. Whoops.)
  • Body wipes
  • Dry shampoo
  • Meds for both of us
  • A couple random ziploc bags
  • Two lipsticks
  • Mascara
  • Foundation
  • Sponge
  • Contour
  • Welly first aid kit (I’m a sucker for branding and Welly is great at it, but I don’t recommend the band-aids. I used a fabric one while we were on the trip and it started fraying within an hour.)

Comfort and Entertainment

What Did We Buy There?

  • Dramamine (I had some at home but didn’t pack it. I would probably have been fine, but wanted to ensure a nap on the bus, so I grabbed some from Target on the way)
  • Evan forgot hair stuff, so he picked up a small hair pomade thingy

The organization of the bag was perfect – I don’t like a lot of pockets, and this one only has three, including the main space. Even though 50 liters is more space than I really need, I was glad for it because I could easily throw in the few purchases I made on the trip (another set of Uniqlo drape pants and Relaco shorts, and two shirts from the shows.)

I will say that this bag doesn’t look super touristy so if security is one of your concerns, I think this bag would fit the bill quite well. It would also be a fine daypack, too, if you wanted to offload some things where you were staying and set out for the day. It’s definitely durable, but not waterproof, and it probably wouldn’t be my primary bag choice for a week+ trip. But for a weekend where I specifically wanted to feel well-organized and mobile, it was really great, and I’m so glad I’m learning how to pack less!

Are you a minimalist traveler, or a “just in case” packer? What must-haves do you always pack?

May 20, 2019
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spring favorites

Posted in Living by

It can’t just be me – this winter felt, again, like it would never end. (It was so bad that this weekend, in late April, there was a snowstorm in Chicago that closed the airport, meaning we got “stranded” in Minneapolis.) I’ve been very glad for the brief moments of respite from the bitter cold and snow, and equally happy to find projects, games, and products that have made being stuck inside feel a little less-bad. Here’s what I’m into this season!

Uniqlo drape pants: Holy cow fam, I just discovered Uniqlo. Who was keeping them a secret from me?! I’ve long needed to replace things that I wear every day, like sweatpants and slippers (working from home has its own wardrobe, too.) When we stopped in a few weeks ago, I ran wild. I got two pairs of these drape pants, and I’m essentially living in them now. Perfect weight, light and flowy, stylish and comfortable. I love them!

Crocs Strappy Sandals: When a friend got married this spring, I realized that I didn’t really have any dressy shoes anymore. I saw these recommended by a one-bag traveler for their comfort and versatility, but by the time I got them in the mail I’d found a different pair of shoes to wear. After missing the Amazon return window I finally opened them and tried them on, and they feel like you’re walking on clouds – plus they’re really cute, and look nothing like Crocs!

Sadie by Courtney Summers: I had been in a real reading slump after reading a lot of non-fiction books about technology – I was getting too depressed and upset to finish them, and if I have an “active” book, it’s hard for me to start something new. Knowing that I’d probably get through a YA book in a few sittings, I overcame my aversion to starting something new when something is in progress and OMG. This book is totally worth all the hype it has gotten. I stayed up late finishing it one night, and have been thinking about it ever since. (If you’ve read it can we PLEASE talk about the ending??)

Superhi: This year, I finally decided to get really serious about learning code properly rather than the hack-and-paste strategy I’ve been going with for the last few years. Superhi is the first online course I’ve found that really works for the way my brain learns. I’ve tried Skillcrush before, and a few others, and I could never stick with them. I’ve taken three course so far and recently purchased another bundle to work through over the summer!

Notion: Everyone is singing the praises of Notion lately for organization, and I have jumped on board. The first time I tried it a few months ago I was overwhelmed by how flexible it is, but it didn’t take too long to get it set up and migrate a lot of my life over into it. Evan and I keep our schedules, our shopping list, and a sort of ‘future log’ in it, and I’m using it to track everything from code classes to essay ideas and research.

Llamanoes: Growing up, we played a lot of games, and in an effort to get away from screens and my phone, I’m working on playing more. These Llamanoes are ADORABLE and a fun game to play with kids because it’s super easy. If you’re more into adult games, we just picked up these plastic playing cards after a disastrous meeting between a bottle of water and a deck of cards.

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson: It takes kind of a lot for me to opt in to new shows, but one particular review made me move this up in the queue pretty quickly. And with good reason – it’s probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in the last ten years. The episodes are short, between 15-20 minutes each, with three or four sketches in each. This is my style of comedy – taking things too far, making people uncomfortable, the darkest of the dark.

What are you into lately? Anything I should check out?

April 15, 2019
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monthly roundup no. 10: february 2019

Posted in Living by

It’s that time of the month again where I clear out my Pocket articles and share some of my favorite articles I collected this month. It seems like I’m tending more toward technical-type investigations lately, which makes sense as I continue through my Superhi course. This is the first bootcamp I’ve found that really works for my teaching style, so if you’re a highly visual or design-oriented learner, I can’t recommend them more.

Since that kind of reading isn’t for everyone, I’m sharing some of my favorite entertainment write ups from the month. Lizzo! Laura! Roller coasters! More crummy musician men! It’s all here for you today.

It’s Just a Matter of Time Until Everyone Loves Lizzo: If you aren’t listening to Lizzo yet, what on earth are you doing? Her music is super feel good, and she’s unapologetic from everything from her body to her self-love. She’s the baddest ass flautist I’ve ever seen, and I just hope to someday feel about my self the way Lizzo feels about Lizzo. And also the way I feel about Lizzo.

The Spectacular Failure of the World’s Only Hard Rock Theme Park: This hits on two of my biggest interests: abandoned things and theme parks. I had no idea that there had even ever been a Hard Rock theme park, let alone that it had been in South Carolina of all places, and this thorough tour through its history was fascinating.

After many many years, favorite blog The Billfold is closing. One of my 2018 highlights was to finally be published there, and I’m very sad to see it go. Despite the popularity of other money sites, none of them are as personal as writers and articles were here.

On Dermatillomania: Laura Stevenson is an amazing songwriter and singer, and her jams have been there for me through some of the ugliest of times. She penned this essay on self-harm for Talkhouse, and I’m glad that she was able to share her experience so it can potentially help so many others. (Big ol’ TW on that if you’re susceptible to self-harm.)

13 Reasons We Type in Lowercase: I type almost exclusively in lowercase. At work, I type lowercase in our Slack channel, but it’s hit or miss everywhere else – Basecamp and Github see varied cases, I guess depending on the day. I’ve always thought it was mostly for speed – not hitting the “shift” key does save a little bit of time, I suppose – and, probably, a little bit of laziness.

Ryan Adams and the Betrayal of Teenage Girls: At this point it’s little shock when a powerful man’s abuse comes to light, and while I don’t think that Ryan Adams was a surprise, reading the NYT article with the women he abused hit very close to home. Mandy Moore’s quote at the end of the piece is something I think I’ve said verbatim about my abuser in the past. This Buzzfeed piece is just one more illustration that this is not isolated – it happens everywhere, to almost every woman.

I think capping it off with something happier would be nice. A friend of a friend wrote Hymns for Druggie Party Kids awhile ago, and it was recently published. It’s a great piece on how music can find you when you need it most, and it of course features my favorite band, The Hold Steady.

Any articles you particularly loved this month? Share them below!

February 21, 2019
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january 2019 book club

Posted in Entertainment by

book club book reviews

New year, new books, new me! Or something like that. I read A LOT in January, which I attribute to getting a library card for my new city, which has the most amazing library. I also started listening to more audiobooks again – often while playing a video game, because my boyfriend got me hopelessly hooked on Mass Effect – and I also picked up several graphic novels, which are usually quick reads.

I still love my Kindle – especially the feature that lets you check out library books – and Amazon’s Kindle First Reads have been really great lately too. (They offer six free books to choose from every month, so you can read them before release.)

Let’s dive in!

The Great Believers: Wow. Wow wow wow. This is the most incredible book I’ve read in a long time. It’s set in 1980’s Chicago – during the AIDS pandemic – and present(ish) day Paris. I wondered how the two storylines would intersect, and if it would make sense, but it does – and wonderfully so. To avoid spoilers, it’s hard for me to describe the book any more specifically than that, but I felt deeply for the characters, invested in their wellbeing and happiness. We went to visit friends while I was reading this, and they live in the neighborhood much of the novel takes place in, and I was just excitedly looking around at the places mentioned in the book. (I realize not everyone can have that experience, but it’s fun when a book can make you excited about your city.) Don’t hesitate, just pick this book up and read it – you won’t regret it.

Taking Turns: Following my binge of The Great Believers, I was reminded of this graphic novel that’s long languished on my TBR list. Written by a nurse who worked on Chicago’s only dedicated AIDS ward (a place many characters in the book spent time), it’s a really affecting account of the disease’s impact on families, the staff, and the city. It’s a great follow up to The Great Believers.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: This book had a lot of hype around it, and rightfully so. It’s not often that I hate a narrator but still enjoy the book, but that’s the point – rather than facing her problems, she finds a psychiatrist and uses her to basically sleep through a full year. Set in 2000, it’s an interesting time period, when it was maybe a little easier to slip through social nets and avoid and ignore people. Though I hated the character, the writing and story was amazing. This is a good one to curl up with on a subzero weekend.

Kitchen Confidential: Despite my love of the Food Network, I’ve never watched an Anthony Bourdain show. I still haven’t, but I loved listening to this audiobook. It’s fascinating, and I liked how he didn’t pull any punches about addiction in the restaurant industry, or the crazy hours and crazy hours, resulting often in crazy lives. It’s a really great food memoir, and it’s a heavy recommend from me.

Speak: The original novelization of this book was a favorite of mine in high school. I loved the mystery – what happened? Why did she refer to this guy as “Beast”? – and was very excited when I learned a graphic novel had been published last year. Unsurprisingly, I read this book in one sitting the night I brought it home from the library. The illustrations capture the story well, and the revelation scenes are really well done. Graphic novels aren’t all comics and jokes, and Speak is an excellent example of that.

The Four Tendencies: When we picked the “book about personality types” prompt for the reading challenge, I knew immediately I was going to read this book. Gretchen’s podcast is great, so I listened to the audiobook while working, and it had a lot of interesting insights. While it’s always fun to hear about your own personality type, there were a lot of suggestions on how to interact with other personality types, including kids. I made Evan take the quiz to see what his result would be, and it was exactly what I had expected. He asked what my type is, and I said “what do you think?” I can’t imagine a more perfect response from a Questioner.

Sick: I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. America’s health system is broken, for sure, and this is the story of a writer who struggles with getting care and a diagnosis often without health insurance, a consistent primary provider, and the stigma of being brown, a woman, and having a history of addiction. After many years (and many caretakers, a marker of her illness), she gets a diagnosis and learns the early signs of a relapse. As someone who has been through rounds and rounds and rounds of medical testing, often without resolution, this book felt very familiar and truthful.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Fun Home: This graphic novel about a woman’s relationship with her father and the lies she uncovers as she grows up and comes out is really beautifully done. The artwork is lovely and I liked the way the story started to finally weave together in the end. I didn’t love it as much as some other people do, but I didn’t dislike it by any means, and it was a nice read.

Lush: Unsurprisingly, my obsession with addiction memoir continues. I haven’t read any of Kerry Cohen’s previous work, but she makes several references to topics covered in her first two memoirs, and they sound great. I related to a lot of this book – I’m getting to the sort of awkward age where a lot of things center around drinking, and I’m tending more toward red wine. Not that I needed any cautionary tale, but this is a great look at problem drinking outside the stereotypical 20’s college student.

What did you kick off the year reading?

February 1, 2019
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