2019 Travel & Conferences

2019 is going to be a big travel year for me based on work, sabbatical, and a lot of leftover vacation from dealing with surgery. If you’re in any of these locations or have recommendations for them, let me know!


San Francisco–Sketchfest


Tucson–Gem Show


Florida (St. Pete, Orlando, Palm Beach, Miami)–Family visit & IA Conference




Turkmenistan, Ukraine (Kiev & Pripyat)…TBD

Swimming Gear Recommendations

As a person who learned to swim as an adult I found it hard to find gear that worked for me and wasn’t aimed at high school or college athletes. Here’s the stuff I like and how I found it.


A lot of swimsuits are made for sitting by a pool or occasionally going into the water but not for doing laps. For a regular lap suit I love Lands’ End Tugless Tanks.

I usually wear this with a rash guard. Over the years rash guards have gotten more popular, especially for sun protection, which is great, except they too tend to be sized for general lounging and are way too big. I need a rash guard that is skin tight so water doesn’t get stuck in it. I have had good luck with men’s Volcom rashguards.

More recently I have been into the swimming unitard! It’s extremely comfortable, I never have to worry about anything falling out, and I look like an old tymey strongman. I like to think of it as my only chance to look like a Vaudevillian.

I don’t know how often one is supposed to wash their swimsuit but I’m pretty sure it’s more than I do. I put cold water on my suit after I swim, put it in that machine that mostly drys it out, and hang it (and my cap, socks, rash guard, etc) when I get home. I wash it whenever I am doing laundry and remember to do so. I am skeptical of how much people think chlorine erodes fabric because mine is doing fine for years with this process.


I have pretty short hair but it’s wavy and dyed a lot of the time so traditional caps would pull and damage it. There are silicone caps but you have to baby them after each swim which I am not going to do. I love lycra caps. They are actual fabric and feel great and tend to be less ugly IMO. They’re small so I always carry an extra in my swim bag.


Goggles are the most individual but I will say I probably tried 10 pairs of goggles before I found my one true goggle pairing. Some sports stores have goggles to try on in person, especially in summer so that was helpful. It made me realize Swedish goggles are not for me. I prefer a bungee cord (for hair pulling and fit reasons) and a big ole rubber gasket. I mostly swim inside in pools so I prefer a blue tint. This has led me to the Dolfin Bungee goggles which I love. A decent runner up, without a bungee is the Aqua Sphere Kaiman. I usually wear contacts when I swim, but I also love prescription goggles. I don’t have the same prescription in each eye so they’re not perfect but they can get me between the pool and the locker room. I have these Sportis because I couldn’t find a good bungee version with rubber gaskets. I find the thick band less painful too.

I also bring two pairs of goggles in my bag–usually one prescription and one non-prescription. And I always keep them in a case. This one fits 2 pairs and some disposable contacts and some Spit.


Most important to me is a wet bag for storing my suit post swim. They make these for diapers and swimmers–it’s cloth on the outside and has a waterproof lining on the inside. I buy mine from sellers on Etsy because they have cooler, non-baby patterns. My favorites have been from this store and this store. I’ve had this one for seven years and still looks great.

On larger gym bags, I still haven’t found the ideal. A lot of swim bags are duffels and I hate duffels. They have an advantage though if you’re mostly driving with your bag and you use fins. I use this one and it does have really great separate sections for wet stuff, fins, shoes.

I prefer though this Tyr Mummy Bag. It comes in great colors and has mesh so things dry a bit. I am always amazed by what it will hold. The downside though is that it doesn’t have a lot of sections so everything’s just jumbled all together–wet and dry, dirty and clean, pool shoes and towels. Ew.

It’s also not great if you’re swimming and doing another sport where you need another change of clothes. Or if you’re swimming and then going to do errands, which is frequently my situation.


I think everyone knows Speedo is a famous swim brand but I’ve never had any luck with anything Speedo. If a Dolfin version of something is available, I will always get it, because their stuff has always been great. Tyr & Sporti have also been good. Finis seems to make fancy things and they’re twice as expensive so I haven’t gotten into them. Swimoutlet is the best!


All fins seem pretty similar to me, tho I am on the edge of sizes. I have these Tyr burner ones. They’re fine. It looks like silicone fins are the next evolution but I haven’t tried them yet.

With my fins I also use these socks. I get raw bits on my feet if I don’t. I have also tried latex socks and they’re terrible.

I wear shoes out to the pool and in the shower, and Crocs are where it’s at here. I see a lot of people wearing an Adidas slide, but I would fall out of those shoes, so it’s loud Crocs all the way.


I haven’t found a great chlorine wash, but I do love Nivea’s in shower moisturizing products. I have the most sensitive skin, and it works for me. I also use a stick face wash because it’s easier than carrying another bottle.


A microfiber hair cap is my favorite thing. I also suggest buying the largest microfiber towel you can. Bringing a normal towel to the gym seems totally unfeasible to me. I like to use a separate towel for drying off from the pool than drying off from a shower, so i use the terrible gym towels for pool dryoff and this one for post shower. It’s a huge bath sheet so I can then wrap it around my whole bod and not be constantly naked in the locker room!


I hate locks very much and cannot remember lock combos especially if I take a week or more off from swimming. So I bought a word based lock. I still hate twiddling tumblers when cold, naked, and dripping wet but it’s a little better. Is it less secure? Maybe, I dunno, but no one’s ever broken it.


If you’re even barely familiar with me, you know I am constantly listening to audio! This usually takes the form of podcasts and audiobooks. I apologize ahead of time that most of our conversations will include me saying, “I heard this interesting thing on a podcast….”

I do get a lot of questions about what I am listening to, and almost no one is ready for the sheer numbers of podcasts I listen to. There are many I just listen to a few episodes of, a lot that I binge a bunch of episodes every once in a while, many that I listen to only occasionally, but at least half of these I listen to every episode. All hail smart speed.

So here’s the list of my recommended podcasts. I have been using Overcast because it has features I like, including the aforementioned Smart Speed, Voice Boost, sleep timers, and an account login (in case your phone dies). I have an account grandfathered in. I personally probably would not pay a monthly amount to use a podcatcher. I avoid Apple podcasts at all costs. I have tried many others and Downcast was pretty much the runner up. I have only switched back to Overcast because of the account features.


My “Ride or Dies”

These have changed through the years but currently my drop everything and listens that seem to still be active are:

  1. Red State Update/Extra 20 Mins with Jackie & Dunlap/Redneck Matinee/100 Ways to Love a Cat– They are all by the same comedy team and they are amazing.
  2. The Dollop— funny history.
  3. Buzzfeed’s Internet Explorer— It’s active like, once a year but I miss it so. If you’ve never listened, you have a treasure trove of internet weirdness to hear about.
  4. Cocaine & Rhinestones— Country music history. So well researched.
  5. Truu Stowray— M. Doughty & Dave Holmes go through every ep of the Real World. I cannot wait for more episodes.
  6. Oh, No, Ross & Carrie— Skeptics try out religious & paranormal experiences.
  7. Tights & Fights— A wrestling podcast that isn’t sexist or bigoted and celebrates the really fun things about wrestling.
  8. Cult Podcast— Comedians discuss cults.
  9. Do By Friday/Aftershow— Merlin Mann & the Cards Against Humanity crew try a new thing once a week.
  10. Pounded in the Butt by My Own Podcast— Chuck Tingle stories read aloud.
  11. Zealot— Australian podcast about cults
  12. Reply All— If Internet Explorer was done by serious journalists
  13. Tomefoolery— Comedians discuss odd books–usually political, religious and self published.
  14. Throwing Shade— Calling out anti-women & anti-queer news & politics.
  15. Eat Your Kimchi/Tokyo Tales— The very short podcast of youtube stars Simon & Martina.
  16. My Brother, My Brother, & Me— Funny advice.
  17. How Did This Get Made?— Good-hearted look at “bad” movies.
  18. Unspooled— A look at all the AFI top 100 movies.

I Went to North Korea

Me at Peace Monument

Over the New Year’s Eve holiday I went to Korea–both! I had some frequent flyer miles to burn and tried to go as far as possible in first class with the least amount of points. That place turned out to be Seoul. I booked a long trip with the plan of taking a side trip.


I have wanted to go to North Korea for a decade, so maybe secretly my brain thought this might make it happen. Seoul was great, and my photos from there aren’t fully processed yet, but will be here soon. But most people are interested in the pictures from the other side.


My pictures from North Korea are here. My tour had a videographer whose film of the trip is here. It’s worth watching for the music. An interview I did with the podcast Super Awesome North Korea is here for part one and here for part two.


It’s been about two months and I still have a lot of thought processing to do. Mainly my takeaways were that since we were lied to about some really random things, it made us more paranoid to know when we were hearing the truth or not. I think the longer you’re in North Korea, the more overly paranoid one becomes. Unlike many of the documentaries I have seen then, I feel like most stuff wasn’t for my benefit. Yes, we were shown the best of the best, but even in that the cracks are evident. I would encourage anyone to go to North Korea, and will probably say more after I’ve thought a little bit. But feel free to ask any questions and I will definitely answer them.


When you ask an unpalatable question in North Korea, the response is a laugh, “I don’t know,” or most likely a very long answer to some other question–just nonsense. It got to the point where after a few days I stopped asking those questions because I knew the answer would be nonsense. A few days is all it takes to stop asking questions. The scariest thing I learned is that this could happen anywhere. It could happen to me.

I never want to talk politics

I refuse to believe that people who disagree with me are inherently dumb, inhuman, or deserving of degradation. I try to resist name calling people just because they disagree with me. I don’t see how it gets me closer to any goals, it alienates people, and it doesn’t deal with fixing the actual issue. Dehumanizing others instead of having empathy is easy and shitty. Generalizing about large groups of people, especially those I do not know, whose lives I do not live, is bullshit. I haven’t be in a situation where disrespecting people makes a situation better. I think most normal people can be driven to extremes when really frustrated, just like I am. I value a diversity of opinions and want to understand why people think differently than I do. Holding one belief I think is terrible doesn’t make a person bad or inhuman. You probably love a lot of people who think things you think are shitty. People are complex.
Dehumanizing, snarky reactions are momentarily fun, anti-progress, and keep the people who want us distracted in power. I don’t say these things out of judgement for other people’s actions but to remind myself of these things I wholeheartedly believe and hope you’ll help me stay accountable for them and not take the unproductive road. Because being snarky on the internet is easier and more fun than thinking hard about a thing and fixing it, and I am offender #1.
If you disagree, that’s awesome. We’re still friends.


So as you might know, I love podcasts (so much so I have my own!).  Like everyone you know, I  enjoy the podcast Serial, which you either binge listen to or wish people would shut up about.  I’ve heard it called The Wire of podcasts, and that’s a pretty accurate assessment–addictive Baltimorean crime drama…but true!

Since Serial is ending next week, I’ve been looking for similar podcasts.  I love true crime and figured there must be something else in that genre out there.  And boy did I find a whole bunch of lists recommending podcasts that claim to be like Serial.  On just the first page of a google search I found this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this.  And I found most of these lists really lacking.

Because in addition to a podcast addict I am a librarian and thus I literally took classes on how to recommend books to people based on what they liked about another book.  And the recommendations in these lists were for great podcasts I loved, podcasts it’s easy to binge on, but podcasts that have nothing in common with Serial.  That’s bogus.  If someone likes Harry Potter you don’t recommend them John Grisham just because both happen to be popular binge reads.  Podcasting has a “captive” audience of podcast lovers waiting to get a good recommendation and we’re not even giving them anything relevant to feed their love of this burgeoning medium.  This cannot stand!  What none of these lists take into account is WHY someone likes Serial.  So I fixed it.  I give you a list based on reasons you might like Serial.

Podcasts in bold are those that were recommended by several sources.  Italic are ones with my personal recommendation.


Serial related

First, a couple of podcasts ABOUT Serial that you can check out to keep it going:

True Crime Podcasts

If you liked Serial because you love Forensic Files and Law & Order you might like….

People discussing shameful/hard to believe true stories

There are SO MANY podcasts like this, so if you like Serial because people talk about secrets and shameful things, you’re in luck.


Do you not give a fig about whether the story is true or not but just love suspense and a spooky atmosphere?  These are for you.

Please include any other suggestions in the comments and I will add them!

The Road Less Traveled

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This reddit AMA with Martha Stewart made me realize that truly everyone has an unrequited friendship

Best Film Ever

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This is from a Christian film masterpiece filled with a lot of reenactments of communists coming to America. It’s sort of Red Dawn + Reefer Madness + Billy Graham. The main character is a hussy who likes to DANCE and DRINK ALCOHOL with her boyfriend despite being a churchgoer for appearances.  In the screen cap above, the man is teaching children that Fidel Castro is better than Jesus because he brought them candy.  This pops up at minute 20ish, so you can skip that first 20 and go straight to the crazy.

Extra points for the terrrrrrrible Russian accents on the Southern “actors.”

An hour of delightful programming on youtube, in case you slept in and didn’t get to church this morning.

Quantified Diet

I’m not a fan of resolutions or diets.  In fact there will soon be an episode of the podcast I co-host about that.  However I love quantified data and the science of habits.  So when my friend Elizabeth sent me a link for the Quantified Diet Project, I was in!


Basically, there’s a phone app called Lift, which I had previously used to track habits I wanted to create or change.  Basically you can pick whatever habit you want or you can choose from pre-made tracks of habits.  Within that you can talk to others who are trying to do the same habit as you, encourage each other, ask questions, etc. and it will send you reminders if you want. It follows a few of the basic ideas of how you change or make a habit–choose a small thing, be accountable, reward yourself for the habit.  If you want to learn more about that I highly suggest this class.


So for promotional and citizen sciencey reasons, Lift chose the month of January to crowdsource an experiment.  Everyone got assigned a diet randomly.  You were allowed to veto your diet, and get assigned another, but I got Paleo.  Because of my general eating habits, Paleo was probably the closest I could get to my regular eating habits, however I was really hoping for the group where you sleep more.  More info on the project and all the diets you could get are here.


So it’s two weeks in and I will say I have minorly broken once and majorly broken (in a planned way) one other time.  But generally it’s been easy for me.


How I Generally Eat

My fridge is mostly frozen cooked meats–ground turkey, cooked shrimp, grilled chicken breast and frozen or fresh vegetables.  if I am eating at home I mix those two in a bowl and add a sauce. DONE.  Also I have a lot of convenience foods like TJ’s turkey meatballs and hummus.  While I am an infrequent sugar user, I do use it once a day in my coffee.  I eat a lot of yogurt and cottage cheese and sometimes other cheese.  I pretty much never eat bread except for burrito tortillas.  My main carb is rice.  DELICIOUS DELICIOUS RICE.  Basically I eat meat, and I try to eat vegetables.  If I am somewhere and someone has made a special dish or this is the only place I can get something, I’m going to have it.


Good Things About Paleo

I generally like cheese but hate other dairy so coconut milk is awesome for me.  Also, basically it’s a fat and meat free for all, which is exciting.


Things I Miss

I can’t say I have had an intense longing for much, other than convenience.  I’d like sweetened dark chocolate.  I love rice and f’rice is not rice.  I am not a huge sugar eater generally but I very much miss a dunkin donuts regulah regulah.  Hummus is a daily staple for me, usually, but I can’t say I’m dying for it.  I was in the grocery store the other day and there were lots of things that smelled great and I would totally eat if I could, but I’m not really jonesing.  I would say for the first week I was constantly hungry but that seems better now.


Cooking & Going Out

Basically I have to cook all the time.  Which is a total pain.  It’s a good thing it’s winter and most of the time this month it has been a polar vortex outside because I have been cooking like crazy.  I definitely feel like paleo food porn blogs say that you could batch cook (which I do) but essentially unless you are at home all the time or really like salads, it’s a lot of cooking.  Going out to eat isn’t super difficult in theory–I’ve been easily able to find food, but usually not enough.  When you subtract most of the filler portion of a meal, you need twice as much meal to be full, at least.  That doesn’t necessarily pan out if you ask for no fries or sub veg for something.  There’s also no real way to know there’s not secret sugar or some other non-paleo thing in your food when you go out without asking and taking up a lot of server time and then having to talk about it with your dining companions.

Let’s Not Talk About It

And talking about it is, despite me posting this, generally not something I want to do.  No one cares what you’re eating unless it’s really delicious and they get to have some too.  Moreover the few times I have mentioned it people either get very defensive about their own diet or have to tell me how paleo is stupid.  Which I sort of agree with.


Paleo Is Kind of Dumb

While I think it’s fairly well proven that for many people if you stop eating carbs you drastically drop a lot of weight, paleo allows weird carbs.  I can’t have cane sugar, but I can eat dates, fruit, honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc..  While every paleo tome would say to use any of those sweeteners sparingly, how is cane sugar better or worse than coconut palm sugar?

I’d posit that a lot of people who lose a lot of weight on Paleo (notice, we don’t know how healthy we are, just that they lose weight) do so for the reason they do on any other low or no carb diet by cutting out a lot of sugar in their diet.  What they also cut out is convenience food.  I’d guess this is true of most other diets–if you can’t easily get things at most restaurants you cook for yourself, and that diet is almost always going to be healthier for you.

Despite what the blogs that encourage you to cook paleo might say, it IS pretty expensive.  I am an extremely savvy and thrifty shopper (I worked in retail for crying out loud!) and I’m spending more money on groceries than I would if I ate out every meal.  These are rough estimates at the moment but I’ll definitely do some calculations at the end of the month.  Paleo websites suggest doing CSAs and buying half a cow.  These are reasonable options if it’s summer and you have a car.  I get the impression that most paleo cooking bloggers have at least one stay at home cook.


It makes socializing pretty hard unless none of your friends go out to drink or eat.  Or unless you want to be That Guy.  As a person with intense non-food allergies I cannot bring myself to tell servers I have a gluten allergy, which lots of paleo sites encourage you to do.  Basically, if there’s a little non-paleo in my meal, I am not going to worry about it.


Paleo Is a Conspiracy of the Coconut Lobby

Basically everything I eat has coconut in it.  Which is not a complaint in my book.  I love coconut.  But seriously, everything has coconut.



Okay let’s talk about the actual problem with paleo–NO BEER.  Basically booze isn’t paleo but the most approved of alcoholic beverages are dry red wine and tequila with soda and lime.  Okay not to belabor this but AGAVE IS SUGAR IS CARBS!!!  Several sources have all suggested vodka and soda too, which is even more baffling because vodka is wheat.  Anyway I hate red wine and most bars I go to with friends are beer bars so I have ended up just not drinking.  So far, no one has noticed.  Which was an amazing revelation.  I didn’t know what I’d say if they asked anyway because again, I really would rather not talk about it.  No one cares about what you’re drinking!  Woo!


What I Won’t Take With Me

So I will definitely not be paleo when this ends, but I generally don’t eat most carbs so that will stay the same.  I will definitely go back to rice, dairy (mainly cream and cottage cheese and yogurt), and sugar in my coffee once a day.  Also being so incredibly diligent about everything seems like a lot of work for not as much return as just MOSTLY being paleo.  So I’ll be gambling by eating out more after this ends.


What I Will Take With Me

I will definitely be cooking more after this.  The creativity forced by eliminating ingredients has really jump started my cooking again.  Also the use of rendered fat.  I’m using rendered fat all the time!  I’ve come up with some awesome dishes that will totally go in my normal rotation, except with cheese on top.


Eggs.  I generally hate them.  I hate the whites, specifically.  Why is there not little carton of yolks?  I could eat that fine.  I am okay with poached and can deal with anything with a runny yolk if I can put salsa and cheese on the white part.  A couple of years ago I went to a restaurant named Street in LA and had this sweet coconut runny fried egg.  It was delicious and anytime I fry an egg with coconut oil it tastes like that.  Huzzah! I can eat an egg now!


Fruit.  I know this sounds weird but I almost never eat fruit.  Again, I like sweets, but if I am hungry I want a savory thing, not an apple.  Fruit always seems crazy expensive to me–I could buy steak at that price!  But I will definitely be eating grapes, bananas, and more dried fruit after this.  FYI fruit is not acceptable on all paleo diets but is on the one they set out here.


I’ll probably check in at the end of this to see what changed.  Until then, I’m going to go eat more meat.

Year in Review: What I Learned

This year flew by!

I started out the year with a whole bunch of MRIs and a general shrugging of the medical establishment.  Maybe I have a degenerative bone disease that teen gymnasts get?  See how it goes!

I got acupuncture for the first time and (for me at least) it was the bunkiest bunk that ever came to bunk town.

I quit my job to be intentionally unemployed.  I had the best quit party ever, complete with a pinata of a beer can.

And after quitting your job there’s really only one thing to do: go to Disneyworld.  I went for a day en route to Miami, where I had never been.  On the way we went to NASA and got to see the Vehicle Assembly Building, which is the largest single story building in the world.  I seriously cried at the wonder of science.


I walked around the Wynwood Walls, which is an amazing industrial neighborhood that is full of amazing graffiti.  There I committed to buying a DSLR and learning how to use it.  I went with my good friend Rachel and we saw art deco and jai alai and ate a ton of Cuban food.

Then I started the long process of going through my dad’s, grandparents’, great-grandparents’ and friend of the family’s stuff.  Because it is all in my condo.  A lot of it was easy to get rid of, and what I want is easy to glean, but the stuff to sell is all weird collectables that I need an appraiser for.  If an old man collected it, I own it.  I have a coin guy, a few watch guys, and a gun guy.  Selling a weird estate is hard, and though theoretically it may result in me getting some money, the per hour of work salary is pretty low.

I started taking singing lessons and learned a little bit how to sew.  I turned a year older than Jesus and stayed out long enough on my birthday that the brown line began running again for the morning commute.  I got to accompany my friend Sam to a production of his great play here in Chicago and walk around some cemeteries with him.

I ate at Next and Ing but also at Sheetz and Mario’s Fishbowl, and I enjoyed all of them.  I got up egregiously early to tour the Fermi Lab Particle Accelerator.  It was awesome.


Claire & Peter visited. Genie & Stu got married.


Chris & Elizabeth got married.  The Cubs played the Mets.

I saw a lot of metal shows with Paul.  And we did a bunch of podcasts.  And I went to the beach with Ellen before they both moved to Portland.

I read & fell in love with The Great Gatsby.  I saw the movie in 3D with Zach and it was shockingly better than I expected, but I thought it would be The Worst.

I took a trip to Pittsburgh with my friend Heather,


and then a road trip through West Virginia with Molly.  I found a pig in the Morgantown, WV Ramada parking lot.


I saw The Mountain Goats for the first (and second) time.  I hit both WV and MD for the first time.

I made a commitment to see more movies in the theaters which meant a lot of movies I wouldn’t normally see.  I saw my first Fast & Furious film and forty others which is some sort of record for me.

The American Library Association had their conference in Chicago, so I got to see a lot of friends.  I ate the best pie I have ever eaten at Gilt Bar.

I went to my first Comicon in San Diego.  Thanks to my friend Eric R. I got to meet the cast of Grimm, Wayne Knight, Roseanne Barr, and William Shatner.  My fb profile pic is me and William Shatner still, because what can beat that?


I went to a seriously life changing panel where I met John Layman and Ed Brubaker (among other giants) and totally dorked out.  I learned which kind of geek/nerd I am and which I am not.

I went to Stone Brewery and spent almost a week in Orange County with my friends I & T.  We ate all the amazing food and saw the Nixon Library.


The ocean seriously beat me up in Laguna.  We went to Knotts Berry Farm and got to go on real roller coasters!  Then I went to LA to hang with Tavis, Rachel & Brett.  We met Yakov Smirnoff.


I got to visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology, one of my favorite places in the world.

Mary & I went on what I think is our best road trip ever throughout Appalachia.  We went to bluegrass fests, mountain dance fests and the Carter Family Homeplace.  This was the hardest vacation to plan since so many awesome places were left on the table.  But it was amazing and we made all the right decisions.  We spent like half a day in a library one of the days.  Glorious.  We ate at White Duck Taco, meals I dream about still.  We visited Billy Graham’s home place, the Andy Griffith Museum, the Cheng & Eng Bunker Museum, the Foxfire Museum, and Bob Jones University.  I visited GA and SC for the first time.  It was really pretty:


I finally came home and Adam visited from Philadelphia with a free ticket to the Cubs/Phillies game.  I went to Champaign and saw tons of great people and set up some work for the coming year.

Then I went on a cruise with my friend Matt and a whole bunch of podcast nerds and famous people.  Three of my heroes hugged me.


I made a ton of friends.  I got real sunburned and visited the Bahamas for the first time.  I ate conch.  I saw a man ride a horse in the ocean.


I got a behind the scenes tour of the Field Museum with the AMAZING Emily Graislie of The Brain Scoop and met some great adult Nerdfighters.


After much work, I got a new iphone.

I fell in love with Baltimore


and went to a professional conference.  The trip renewed my faith in solo travel and my profession.  I went to the Pentagon, the DEA, and the Laogai Museum.  Then I went to see Dan & Laura.  We went to Foamhenge and saw a Holocaust Denier.


I started going to a regular meditation group I really like.  I went to NYC over Thanksgiving, and a lot of people were in town and I got to hang out with so many of them, despite getting food poisoning while sleeping on my poor friend Eric‘s couch.  It was the first time I got sick all year, which is shocking based on the number of planes I was on.  I spent my first and only night in New Jersey visiting the very pretty Asbury Park.


I went to the TBN studios and my friend’s new restaurant.

I faced my first homeowner crisis and, though it was terrible, it’s over!  I had Steaks for Frank.  Lots of friends visited for Christmas.  Chris & Angie had a big anniversary party.  Dan & Cherry got married.

Sometimes when I tell people I am purposefully unemployed they ask what I could possibly do with all the time.  Or they assume I do very little.  I’ll admit I didn’t accomplish every goal I set out for this year, but it wasn’t until I actually checked out my flickr and foursquare feeds for the year that it really hit me–I’ve been busy.  Without this time off I’d never have had the ability to see so many friends, learn so many things, or make so many memories.  The ability to have a friend call me and ask if I want to take a weekend to go to a city we’ve both never been to at the drop of a hat has been priceless.

With my brand spanking new camera I took a picture of my favorite place in the city.  The Calder Flamingo:



Have a great 2014!

Steaks For Frank

On December 4, 2009 my dad died.  He’d been ill for a while and I had moved back to Chicago to take care of him.  While it didn’t come out of nowhere when he died, and I knew it was eventually coming, it wasn’t something I knew was coming that soon.  Obviously someone’s parent dying is pretty much the worst, but my dad was my primary caregiver growing up and I am the last person on that side of the family.  So, while my dad had many friends, there weren’t a lot of people to commiserate with.  And the primary person who held pretty much all the history of my growing up was gone.  I’m relatively young to have relatively elderly/sick parents so I didn’t have a lot of people I could talk about it with without them getting the “OH MY GOD I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY WHAT IF MY PARENTS DIE?!?!?” look in their face.

So on December 4, 2010, I spent a lot of time laying around the house being depressed.  It had been a sucky year.  Caregiving for a parent remains one of the hardest things I think a person could do.  I still didn’t know who to talk to and I didn’t want to bum people out.  I hadn’t eaten all day, which rarely leads to excellent decisionmaking.  But I knew my dad wouldn’t want me sitting at home alone, crying and not eating.  That is pretty much the opposite of everything my dad stood for.  So I did what I thought my dad would want.  I took a shower, put on fancy clothes, and went out for an expensive steak downtown.  And that’s how I started Steaks For Frank.

So now every year I encourage people to use December 4 to do things to both remember Frank, but things Frank would like are also pretty convenient things to celebrate the people you have in your life and also remember the people you lost.  So go get a steak with some people you like.  And remember the people you loved and lost.  If there’s anything I have learned over the last four years is that despite dying, a great person is pretty much always with you, and more so when you get to tell funny stories about them.  It’s a great annual reminder to take a day to think about the great people in your life who made you who you are and how you will honor them.  It’s modern day ancestor worship.  With steak.

I can’t guarantee you won’t break down bawling in a steakhouse, or get too drunk.  And I can’t even tell you that your dead loved one would appreciate this.  In fact Frank would have hated anyone doing anything to make him some center of attention.  Sorry, Frank!  I gotta deal somehow.

So “rules” of Steaks for Frank, because I am always asked:

  1. Eat a steak.  If your vegetarian I have no tips.  Frank would not have any either.  However he would also have told you to eat what you like and not really care what other people thought, so there’s that.  You can make it yourself, but I prefer to go to a fancy steakhouse.  Frank liked restaurants.  I think going out and getting gussied up makes this more of a celebration instead of just being sad in your house.  If your loved one liked another food, I think that would be great, or any other food that says celebration is totally acceptable.
  2. Bring people you like.  Socializing, particularly in restaurants, is probably somewhere in my family crest.  Friends are important.  Otherwise you’re just that weird dressed up lady crying over a steak.  And I have been that lady, and it’s not the best.  This holiday is a celebration, but it’s also good to have your friends around to support you when you need. it.
  3. Drinking.  People always ask about this.  Frank didn’t really drink.  He wouldn’t be against it, unless you were getting out of control, which is kind of easy on a sad holiday.  So I tend to try not to drink much.  I would suggest a well made old man cocktail.
  4. Hashtag. One of the best parts of INTERNATIONAL Steaks for Frank is that people from all over the world talk about participating.  It makes it easier if you hashtag these posts so we can all see you participating.  Official hashtag is #steaks4frank.  Also acceptable is the abbreviation S4F.

That’s about it. I’d love if more people participated, not just to honor my dad, but to honor their own important people.

For posterity, I think I’ll leave a roll call of where I’ve spent S4F and update it annually!

2010: Gene & Georgetti, Chicago

2011: Peter Lugar, NYC

2012: Chicago Cut, Chicago

2013: David Burke’s Prime House, Chicago

2014: Sir Winston’s, Long Beach, CA

2015: Las Tablas, Chicago

2016: El Che Bar, Chicago

2017: Peter Lugar, NYC

2018: Swift & Sons, Chicago


Large Set of Mid-Century Dishes – $125 (North Ave and Western Ave)


Shortly after I moved back to Chicago, I tried to purchase some dishes on Craigslist.  What resulted was the weirdest exchange with a stranger over email I have ever experienced.  I forwarded the exchange to friends, who forwarded it on.  Even years later, I will meet people and get introduced as “the plates email person.”  One of them, upon meeting me, told me he was happy I was alive.  I always knew this exchange would go on this blog, but, as the craigslist seller knew vaguely where I lived and read this blog, I waited many years and a move to publish this out of fear.

In response to an ad about dishes (now lost in time), I contacted the seller and said:

could you deliver these?  I am in lakeview, so not that far….

The seller, Maria, replied:

Hi, Jenny.
Yes, we would be happy to deliver the dishes, especially to anyone who doesn’t have a car.  I hope you don’t mind–I took the liberty of googling you and read a few entires in your blog, or should I say one of your blogs.  You are quite prolific (and very amusing)!  I guess it should also not be surprising that people who are drawn to the same objects should share certain values, though I can’t say I agree with all of your opinions.  You’re name also sounded very familiar and I wonder if we haven’t crossed paths in some other context–I guess we can figure that out when we meet.
When is a good day and time to bring you the dishes?  We’ll  (my roommate Derek and I) be available this afternoon (I obviously won’t be up too early in the morning).  If today won’t work for you, we’re free most late afternoons and evenings.
Thanks very much for your interest.

Hmm okay, she google stalked me.  That’s weird, but that’s what I get for having a blog–I live my life pretty openly on the Internet, and I don’t say anything I would feel bad about complete strangers knowing.  And, you know, she’s coming to my house and wants to make sure I am not a serial killer.  Telling me she doesn’t agree with me on things is weird, but it’s all very complimentary.  She thinks we’ve crossed paths?  Also weird.  So I replied:

Ha I actually have these dishes already! Well, a few of them. And I looove them and through the years a few have broken so the idea that I could get a whole new set is terribly exciting!
Thanks for the compliment!  I don’t know if we’ve crossed paths? I grew up here but I haven’t lived here for 12 yrs…your name isn’t on the email so I dunno!
I have to work way out in the suburbs today, but will be home from 7-9 tonight. I will be home all day tomorrow  until like 430–I have a flight at 7.
Which I know is the most annoying schedule ever, but I am leaving until next tues! I am totally willing to wait till next week for them too but I assume you want to get rid of them!

Will these days work? 

Clumsy dish lover,


And here is where it goes insane. She replies:

Hi, Jenny.

I think everyone has had a few of these dishes at some point, and yes, it was very cool and exciting when we obtained a whole set of them. Derek and i seem to have commitment issues when it comes to things like dishes, furniture, and style in general (maybe because we really don’t have any style) but eventually ended up settling on plain white, and have been slowly assembling a set of Arzberg, Form 1382. Someday, however, I hope to acquire a fruffy, frilly, thoroughly feminine set of Limoges to appease my ever-present conflict of rational vs. romantic sensibilities.

This starts reasonably enough, but why is Derek so involved?

You sounded like you don’t have a lot of possessions, perhaps that has changed or I just didn’t read enough of your blog to get an accurate impression, so I was a little surprised you would want such a large set of dishes (not easy to move, to be sure), but you certainly seem to have plenty of friends to actually have occasion to use them, which is certainly something I find enviable and for which you also seem to be appropriately grateful.

What does a person who has few possessions sound like on their blog? She’s assessed how many friends I have and how grateful I am. Again, this is all complementary, but this is getting weird.  Why is this so lengthy and a discussion of my personal characteristics?  I just want some dishes!  Shouldn’t I be the one to judge if I am responsible enough for them?

Though once fairly gregarious myself, due some traumatic events in my life, I don’t feel very comfortable in larger groups anymore,

Full stop. This is the moment of overshare that foreshadows it all.

and though I am not especially anxious to get rid of these, I like the idea of a bunch of amiable, hip young people enjoying a festive meal over them. As an underlying mission, I think the lost art of hosting a dinner party is due for a comeback, so I hope these will inspire you to have some good old-fashioned fun. At the very least, it’s nice to know you have an ample supply for daily use that you won’t readily run out of, no matter how many you break.

This is now definitely the longest conversation I have ever had with anyone about my usage of dishes. This must be what it’s like when you adopt a purebred dog. She’s making sure I have a lifestyle capable of these dishes? Wait, is that last line a passive aggressive way of pointing out that I am not worthy of these dishes? WHY IS DEREK SO INVOLVED ANYWAY?

Okay, so we could possibly come tonight, not available tomorrow evening, and doubt you’d want us to come when you’re trying to catch a flight, anyway. In fact, we’re trying to pay off a bill that is due tomorrow, and the amount we’re asking for these dishes is exactly how much we are short.

Hold up. At this point, I’m clear about this: This is a person who overshares, who had a traumatic life event which makes it so she does not socialize. What she does do, is collect vintage ceramics with a man named Derek. She and Derek collect things even though they can’t pay their bills. So it’s a hoarder house, right? She goes on:

I’m pretty fatalistic about these things, and somehow it always works out, so if it’s not till next week, that’s fine, too. We’ll be out and about running errands most of the day, so if you want to confirm for tonight, you can call me at 773.555.5555.I will tell you right now that I am really paranoid about giving out information, and just paranoid in general, but I actually think I have developed a specific phobia of librarians. I have a couple of friends who are librarians and know of their super-human capacity for research. I also am convinced the CIA/ aliens/ and a myriad of scammers/slackers and hackers have access to my computer and information. Not that I have much to hide, ironically, but I certainly wouldn’t want to make myself vulnerable to just anyone who I might encounter on Craigslist, and have to wonder why you (like a surprisingly large number of seemingly bright young women) would readily do that. The fact that you list as one of your professions ‘competitive intelligence’ did not help put me at ease, and though I have no idea what that even means, I suppose it could be a fancy way of saying you’re a mystery shopper.

Okay, you’re going to have to reread that a few times to get everything.

  1. Librarians are evil.
  2. They are in league with the CIA/Aliens.
  3. People should be frightened of the Internet.
  4. I am possibly in league with the CIA but also maybe just a mystery shopper.

Sorry for all the babbling. I hope knowing a few details about me makes you more comfortable about having us deliver something to your home.

So much the opposite. The overshare just comes rolling out now:

I’m 45 years old, on disability due to being bipolar, and still recovering from a family tragedy.

This is not a laughing matter. That sounds terrible. I have empathy for this. But I do not need to know this. I just want plates.

Derek is my roommate and knight in shining armor.

OH! Derek!

Our worst vice is probably an addiction to treasure hunting at thrift stores, auctions and estate sales. Occasionally we have the wherewithal to sell a few of our finds to make ends meet. Mostly, we have just acquired a lot of junk that we don’t need but are nonetheless attached to, and the longer it is in my home and consciousness, the less inclined I am to be rid of it.

Hoarding. DING DING DING. I am getting the impression that Derek is a mummified cat.

I desperately do not want to end up being one of those people, you know, with the paths through the mountains of stuff in their house and 87 cats,

Right. Not YET a hoarder.

but we do have four of them, so we are definitely on that trajectory.

Well, knowing you have a problem is definitely the first step! But once again, it turns to me:

I’m sorry you don’t like animals. They know things that we don’t know and if you pay attention, they have a lot to teach us. I like to think of pets as the ambassadors of the animal world and nature in general, some sort of cross-over artists and a link to both our less and more evolved selves. And then there is having clean floors, which, as someone who spends way too much of her time cleaning up cat vomit and fur, I can also appreciate.

We haven’t discussed my opinion of animals, but at the time, on the about page, I had a joke about how I have a pet Roomba. I don’t like animals, mainly because I am allergic to it, but I don’t make a point to write about it, so she dug deep. After this personal turn, it switches to all business:

Give us a call if you want to try to meet tonight. Or just let me know what would work when you’re get back next week.Maria

At this point, I forward this email chain to my friends. This is the email I sent:

This is the craziest email exchange I HAVE EVER BEEN A PART OF. Read backwards, please. Is this person going to kill me?

They fall into several camps. One of my friends immediately replies only:


Another sends a non-reassuring:

She’s probably fine. She probably won’t kill you. Also, those dishes are fabulous.

But the general sentiment is looky loos who, while they fear for my safety, really just want to know what Derek & Maria are like:

WOW. WOW. I am simultaneously terrified and jealous of you possibly being in the same room with Maria and Derek. I can’t imagine what they look like–are they real? Is this real?

No, no, wait. No matter how appealing the dishes are, and or how much I might want you to discretely take pictures of them on your cell phone, there are just too many crazy lights flashing. Don’t do it. And if you do, please don’t be alone. In fact, it would be a great time to throw a party with all your many friends– friends who are trained in the martial arts and/or own weapons!

I consider meeting them at a Starbucks on my block, but hampered by plates, I will just be easy pickings. Mysteriously, none of my friends are able to come over for this potential dinner party where Derek & Maria show up. My friends thoughts turn to Derek–what’s the story there?

I think Derek is a small dog. Dunno why, just do.

Another theory:

Best-case scenario: Derek is the William Holden character in Sunset Boulevard. Worst-case: Maria throws acid in your face.

And another:

And what of this Derek? I’m imagining a Mrs. Bates scenario, or perhaps she’s like a Bond villain and she keeps him locked in a dungeon — I’m picturing the guy from From Russia With Love with the steel teeth.

And finally:

Little known fact: she is currently wearing Derek’s skin as a mask

Several astute readers point out that early on Maria said she keeps trying to sell the dishes to no avail–“something keeps happening.” GEE I WONDER WHAT?

At this point, I realize I have basically proven Maria right, as I have emailed this wacky email chain to thirty librarians, and people who work at the American Library Association (who encourage me to call from their work number so it shows up on her caller ID).

Someone suggested bringing a friend along, and I considered my brother. He is a cop, so we’d be safe! I considered what I would tell my brother when I called him to ask him to come with me to pick up plates at a weird person’s house. I actually was more interested in meeting Derek & Maria than I was to pick up the plates.

And it was at that point I realized that if I need an armed guard to meet Derek & Maria, possibly I should not do this.

So I never replied. I did get a final, sad email from Maria:

Hi, Jenny.I didn’t hear back from you, so if you’ve changed your mind about the dishes, I won’t bother you again, I promise. I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be available most of the day tomorrow and in the evening, and not during the day again till Saturday this week, though most evenings are fine. We actually put the dishes in my car in case you wanted to meet last Thursday, so I’m really just wondering if I should return them to the garage until we set up a definite time. This is, of course, futile attempt to outwit whatever the law is that guarantees you will want them the day I put them back in storage. Not a big deal, really.

Hope you are having a nice trip and return home safely.


I just googled Maria’s email address and phone number (I am a slacker hacker, after all), and they result in nothing. Who knows, maybe this email exchange drove Maria underground.  An anti-climax, but one in which I do not die.

And if Maria is reading this, I wish you no harm, I have not stalked you, and please, please don’t kill me in my sleep.  I am very grateful.

Keep Moving & Get Out of the Way

Should be your walking strategy.  And your life strategy.



I’m Unemployed. On Purpose.

In case you have not heard, I quit my job in February of this year to take time off. When I tell people that I usually get a response that includes:

  • “Wow! You must have REALLY hated that job!”
  • “So what career are you changing to?”
  • “Oh, so you are somehow incredibly wealthy–must be nice!
  • “I wish i could do that!/I’m so jealous/You’re so lucky.”

I love being a taxonomist and I love being a librarian.  I am not changing careers at all.

I loved my previous position but over the four years I was there the job changed wildly.  I was hired for a six month contract to work on a tiny site and ended up authoring a good portion of the taxonomies on twenty sites with over twenty million items.  A department of two rose to double digits.  I loved everyone I worked with but it was time to move on.


Several years ago I decided that when I did finally quit that job I would take some time off.  I spent the first year of my employment in Chicago taking care of a dying parent and dealing with that loss.  So I was sure that when I left, it would be for some time off.  Because I knew that was my plan, over several years, I saved up money.  I drastically decreased my expenses up to five months before I quit my job.  I am not super wealthy.  I am not particularly lucky.  I just had a plan.  If you are interested in taking a sabbatical I am here to tell you it is in your reach with some planning.


So here’s what I learned:


People really hate the idea of me being unemployed.

It’s amazing to me how hostile or rude (people who are otherwise wonderful) become when I tell them I am intentionally unemployed.  I don’t know if it is part of the American capitalist ethos, or it’s jealousy, or what, but many people have to tell me that my situation is not something they could do or it’s not something they advise doing.  I feel that way when people make choices all the time but I’d never tell them that to their face.  There’s something about rejecting the paradigm to make as much money as possible that really doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.


You do not magically become that better person you imagine you’d be without a job.

Well, that was shockingly almost eight months ago.  I’d like to tell you that I have accomplished every goal in short order.  Of course I have not but I have moved forward in pretty much every area I was interested in.  I’ve taken a lot of fun classes and learned some stuff I’d been interested in learning about.  I’ve traveled a bit, knocking a few states off my goal of getting to all 50 states.  I didn’t magically become a person who meditates for an hour every morning at the break of dawn, or someone who makes all their extremely healthy and delicious food from scratch as I think everyone’s work pipe dream of what they would do if they didn’t have to work.  The time shockingly fills up, especially if you tell other people you are unemployed.  Everyone has a task for you.


Staying unemployed is harder than you’d think.

I have turned down a lot of jobs, which seems like the scariest, worst karma thing a person can do.  It’s definitely been the hardest part of the whole adventure.  First, there’s the scary thought that maybe when I am finally ready to get a job these people I keep turning down will stop calling.  They’ll be sick of hearing my negative answer.  Also a lot of nice people who think I am not willingly unemployed have offered me employment, which is super nice and feels rude to say no to!  Finally, those naysayers who would like me to know what a terrible idea being unemployed is have to remind me over and over again that gaps in my employment look terrible and I will never ever ever ever get a job again.  Several jobs in a city I love, a city that notoriously never has jobs, have come up, and I have to have faith in my decision to not have a job instead of jumping at them.  Because if this all comes true, I am the only one to blame for such a boneheaded decision.


Despite being technically unemployed, I’ve been consulting a little bit on some projects pro bono.  I’m still professionally lecturing.  I’m podcasting.  And soon I’ll be teaching a class on taxonomy at a graduate school.  So perhaps not as break-y as one might have assumed.


But that’s part of the break–realizing what the set point is.  I kick myself for wasting any of the precious moments (no pun intended) I am able to have, that most people will never have, that actually cost money.  But everyone needs a day off some times.  Even from their sabbatical.


Although I am definitely not done with this funemployment, I can definitely see the time in the not so distant future when it will be over.  That foreshadowing kicks me in the ass to get my things done. But it also puts the brakes on letting employment back in my life a little at a time.  Taking this break has made me better able to say, “No!” to jobs I know will not be in my best interests more than ever before.  Of course everyone takes jobs they know they won’t love for the money, but knowing the time and experiences you’re giving up to do so puts that all in better perspective!

Amazing Spam Voice Mail

Please enjoy this call informing me that the government wants to give me free money, okay? Right?

Make My Mom’s Day

Hey friends!

My mom is a trooper.  She got done with chemo for Hodgkins Disease for the SECOND time only to fall and break her hip.  She’s now sequestered to a couch.  It’s the worst.  On top of that she’s taking a LOT of opiates and they make her really loopy.  She’s super bored.  She really hates relying on other people and not being able to go outside (she is my mom after all).  I don’t really know how to make this better other than to have my friends send her notes and postcards.  All you’d have to do is send a postcard or card that says you’re a friend of mine and you hope she gets better soon.  In fact YOU don’t even have to send and stamp a letter–you can do it online and sites will do it for you.  I suggest:

If you are interested in helping out by sending her a card, send me an email or comment here and I’ll send you her address.  I really appreciate it!

Music 2012

Top Ten Artists Listened to in 2012

  1. The Long Winters (16)
  2. Weezer (9)
  3. R. Kelly (35)
  4. Jonathan Coulton (8)
  5. The Mountain Goats (54)
  6. The Magnetic Fields (2)
  7. Dwight Yoakam (13)
  8. Wilco (6)
  9. The Velvet Underground (17)
  10. The Misfits (39)

Bands in bold are bands I only really got into this year.  Bands in italic are bands that I saw in concert this year.  The number following each band is where they fall in my overall number of listens, which is based on keeping the metadata for everything (roughly) I have listened to since 2005.

Top Ten Songs of 2012

  1. Weezer–Across the Sea (15)
  2. Weezer–Tired of Sex (4)
  3. The Long Winters–Ultimatum (56)
  4. The Long Winters–Fire Island, AK (56)
  5. Misfits–Skulls (56)
  6. The Long Winters–Seven (71)
  7. Weezer–El Scorcho (15)
  8. Weezer–Why Bother (39)

and a four way tie for ninth place: Weezer–Falling for You (48), The Long Winters–Pushover (118), The Long Winters–Rich Wife (118), The Long Winters–Sky is Open (118).


I really hated Spotify at first and I still have intense data quality issues with it, but it’s my daily music source these days.


This list compiled while listening to Exodus’ Exhibit B: The Human Condition.

annual book roundup 2012

I read 50 books this year–20 more than last year.  Go me!

26 non-fiction/52% (18 last year/-8% last year)

24 fiction/48% (12 last year/+8% from last year)

 1 audio/2% (6 last year/-18% from last year)

 11 digital/22% (22 last year/-51%)

 38 paper/76% (8 last year/+49% change)


Biggest surprise: How much paper I read this year!  And I got way back into comics.  Looking at everything I read this year I pretty much liked everything–read a lot of great things.  Once again, a longer commute (and more comic books) have helped me out with more books read.

Biggest letdown: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children


  • Chew: A great comic which has everything I love: gritty police drama, food politics, weird supernatural aspects, humor.  Great.
  • Ready Player One: I knew it would be great and it still exceeded my expectations.
  • Escape From Camp 14: I read a lot of things about North Korea and this was the most heart wrenching.

Most Overrated: Bone. Who likes this?
Books I could not finish this year:

  • Crisis on Infinite Earths: Holy man, what’s going on in this book?
  • Moonwalking with Einstein: I couldn’t get over the attitude of the writer.  Seriously I was listening to the audiobook in Turkey when no one spoke English and I STILL had to stop listening.

I most recommend: Chew, Ready Player One, Team Rodent.

Book tech: I still love my ereader.  I have noticed ebook formatting becoming more important.  Still can’t get into comics on e-devices.

Book Wish(es) for 2k12: I’m getting rid of this because it’s the same every year.

annual book roundup 2011

Apparently this never got posted last year…..

I read 30 books this year–3 less than last year.

18 non-fiction/60% (19 last year/-13% last year)

12 fiction/40% (9 last year/+13% from last year)

6 audio/20% (4 last year/+8% from last year)

22 digital/73% (10 last year/+40%)

8 paper/27% (19 last year/-31% change)

I didn’t count the intense travel research I’ve been doing for my upcoming trip, so I feel pretty cool with that number.

Biggest surprise: That not one, but TWO of my best buds from college published books this year. I can highly recommend both Grandpa Won’t Wake Up by simonmaxhill AND My Sweet Saga by Brett Sills.

Biggest letdown: I Was Told They’d Be Cake–I have no idea why people like this book.


Most Overrated: The book True Blood is based on.
Books I could not finish this year: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (Because Mary took the book back with her after our vacation), Travel As a Political Act, which I should finish soon, and Human Transit, which I should also finish soon.

I most recommend: Bearded Women Stories and Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.

Book tech: I now find reading paper books a total pain. I like that more people are adopting ereaders all of the time, and that kindle now has library lending. Amazon’s increasing hostility over ereader format compatibility is concerning.

Book Wish(es) for 2k11: Exact same things as last year:

  • Less crazy DRMs on ebooks I check out from Overdrive; (same as last year)
  • A more universal book wishlist export standard (so every time a new book website comes out, I don’t have to put all 658 books on the new list manually. Seriously people, Amazon is the standard. Find a way to import it. (same as last year)
  • Downloadable library materials more integrated with other materials & more browsable.

i’ve got esoteric syndromes!

“I’ve got a number of irrational fears
That I’d like to share with you”  –Weezer, “Falling For You”


My primary care physician likes to tell me how interesting a patient I am.  I am a generally fairly healthy person, but I have had a fair number of sports injuries over the last year, and if I get injured or ill, it’s generally some weird condition she hasn’t heard of since doctorin’ school.


Anyone familiar with the internet for a few minutes has looked up their weird assortment of symptoms and decided they have a tumor of the pineal gland.  However, I have had assortments of symptoms that I never even thought of as symptoms, only to one day read of a weird condition and think, “oh man, not everyone feels that way!? I just thought that was normal!”  I am a total syndrome hipster–you’ve probably never heard of my syndromes.  They are as follows:


Stendhal Syndrome  The first time I went to the Art Institute in Chicago was in high school.  I remember breaking off from the group and sitting in front of El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin.  Generally this is exactly the kind of art I do not like.  I mean, I get that it’s beautiful and such, but it generally doesn’t do much for me.  I’m also not religious, but hooboy have I had hours of training on religious art–I went to 14 years of Catholic school.  I believe I had an entire class period on this painting alone.  I sat down because there was a bench, not because of this painting in specific, but because I was feeling dizzy, nauseous, and near fainting.  I never feel this way.  I never vomit, pretty much.


I’ve been to lots of art museums over the years and whenever I really like some art, I feel this way.  I have felt this way in non-art museums, and generally even when seeing cool natural things.  Lately it also includes random weeping!  In college I was in a class where The Red & The Black by Stendhal was required reading.  And that’s when I learned that this is actually a (psychosomatic) condition people tend to get.  It’s generally unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing.  Yes, I have wept openly at the Library of Congress.  It’s something I have to build into tourist experiences now.


L’appel du Vide/Call of the void This is an urge, when in a high place, to jump off.  Growing up in Chicago, I was not faced with many high places.  It’s flat.  We do have a very tall building but I don’t get the call of the void when indoors.  I only get it in what I call “unsecured heights.”  If there’s even a rail, I have no impetus to throw myself over.  But a trail?  Yes.  The Grand Canyon?  Hooboy yes.  I have rappelled off of a 28 story building and thrown myself (and someone else) out of a perfectly good airplane in order to attempt to get more comfortable with this.  Sort of helped.  I am even freaked out if there’s intense traffic with no guardrail–I want to throw myself into it.  The el tracks?  They are very compelling.

Let me clarify that I have no urge to die.  I am a clumsy person so I try to avoid being near these places in general because I trip and fall a lot.  So I think this fear is actually totally rational and keeps me from these places.  If I could throw myself (safely) off of a building every week, I would do so with glee.  When I rappelled, I was told I went way too fast and they physically stopped me several times.  MUST GO FAST TOWARD GROUND!


When I skydived, it was the least frightening thing ever.  It was more exactly what I want to do whenever I am high up.  The jumping out wasn’t frightening–it’s the having to make myself not jump all the time that’s frightening.  In fact I jumped out of the airplane too soon–before my instructor told me.  It was fine but he thought this was hilarious, especially after hearing I was a librarian and totally thinking I would wuss out.  He commented on how extremely calm I was.  WELL OF COURSE MAN!


I may also have Freiberg’s Syndrome/Infarction/Disease, something that only affects one metatarsal and is common in gymnasts under 20 (I am neither of those things). And I have a weird genetic anemia which kills my red blood cells and would kill my children if I had a Mediterranean babydaddy.  On the bright side, it makes it really hard for me to get malaria! Yippee!


Do you think this is why I was such a big fan of House, M.D.?

R. Kelly 101

Audio for my R. Kelly 101 talk is available here and the slides are here.


There’s a print interview of me here about why/how I research weird things.


Also I will be on the radio station Vocalo next Monday, Oct. 9 at 9am CST for an interview on R. Kelly.  If you’re in Chicago you can listen to that at 89.5 or online here.

My name thy be coupon code

My name is now an eshakti coupon code.  While I am psyched by ordering from eshakti in general–awesome clothes that they tailor for you, and I am psyched by free money, I am most psyched by my name being a coupon code.


So go to eshakti.com and use code jennybenevento to get $25 off your purchase!

Speaking Engagements 2012

Just a quick speaking update.  I’ll be speaking at:

10/9/12 at The Hungry Brain in Chicago on R. Kelly

10/17/12 at Taxonomy Boot Camp in Washington DC

biweekly at my podcast with Paul at Jenny & Paul Sellout


Also, today I participated in an ALA webinar on the librarian stereotype co-hosted by librarian wardrobe. If you’re a new reader I welcome you!  If you weren’t at the webinar you can listen here.


moving apartments

I am moving apartments. I am actually pretty much done with packing a few days early, but it’s still stressful and there’s a lot of mess in the apt I can’t really clean up until all the furniture leaves.


I’ve lived in this apartment for almost four years, which is the longest I have lived in any one domicile since I was 15.  I am used to moving every year or so, often across the country, meaning I have been very buddhist about belongings–used to throwing them out every year or so, not getting attached.  Staying in one apartment for so long meant a LOT of stuff being thrown out.  A LOT.  With that and the inheriting of all of one side of my family’s worldly possessions, I am super overwhelmed by STUFF at the moment.  I hate stuff!  I’ve never been a person who needed to collect objects, but then I’ve never really had objects worth keeping for the most part.  Do I need 3 sets of family china?  I’d say no, but would me 20 years from now regret parting with them? I have no idea.  Future Jenny, answer me!


But the irony is, in the process of throwing all this stuff out, I have an ongoing list of stuff I need to buy when I finally get out of here.  I need new glasses, and another sodastream bottle, a swim metronome, a jawbone up, and a clarisonic.


While I think most of my friends would laugh at the idea that I spend frivolously and buy too much stuff, I still feel like we all wrestle individually with what is a necessity and what is not.  When you’re on day 10 of packing your house nothing seems like a necessity–except for the stuff you’re unwilling to pack yet.  In my house this is: the electric kettle, beer (it’s hot out and the weather would ruin it!) cleansers, reading material, my computer & router, and tea.  In fact, I packed too many of my clothes and have to do laundry in order to be able to wear anything.


While I could live a life with only these few things, clearly some things make my life easier/happier.  How do you make the decision though if it’s something you’ll be throwing out a few years from now? And does throwing it out a few years from now mean it wasn’t worth it?  And if you throw it out a few years from now, will you regret it a few years after that?


I’d love your rules of thumb.  In the meantime I will go watch some Hoarders and then throw out a lot more stuff.

Awesome Search Terms

So here are the most interesting search terms people have used to get here, lately. I’ll try to answer any questions:

1. joey rourke

2. manhattan mall
it’s terrible, don’t go.

5. mormon movies online
I suggest netflix.

6. “appreciate cereal” “r kelly”
both? I can’t help.

9.”her whoring legs”

10.angry sluts
are awesome?

14.dads home big cock

15.daniel pinkwater conspiracy

I love Daniel Pinkwater! I’m unaware of a conspiracy.

17.does rite aid sell safety pins
do you really need to google this? yes. they have them.

18.does zupan’s take ebt
Yes. Or at least they did 8 years ago.

19.dress up like an og female gangster
I don’t think OG female gangsters are a thing.

20.duane reade safety pins
All drugstores have safety pins.  Just go there!

37.mickey and joey rourke
Seriously I do not understand all the fuss about the Rourke boys

39.moving boobs

40.my dad sleeping nude
Don’t google this. Just buy your dad some pajama pants.

54.the opal man spring green wi complaint
I have no complaints. He seems cool.

63.wikid klown
not the only clown reference by far, but the most amusing.

Public Service Announcement

Are we friends on a social network? Probably. Do you like surprises and/or free things?  Then you should do a few things:

  1. Have a public wishlist somewhere. Amazon? Pinterest? Goodreads? Etsy? I don’t care where. I’ll find it, believe me.  Keep it up to date, yo! (Side point: doing this makes it really easy in December when someone asks you what you want for xmas. You just send em a link.)
  2. Have your address somewhere on the internet.  Now I know everyone has different privacy concerns. I am not asking you to just publish it anywhere.  But hey, facebook has privacy settings so you could put it there and only expose it to your real friends.
  3. Be thankful.

What’s in it for you?  Well that second one means I won’t txt you every single time I have to go to your house because I don’t remember your exact address.  Combined with the first, it probably means you’ll get presents.  If I have to ask for your address, it will no longer be a surprise, which is no fun.  If you don’t have a wishlist, I might find it too hard to know what you’ll want.  If you get something from me and don’t send an email to even say you received it, I might get cranky and rethink sending you presents out of the goodness of my heart.


I love sending people presents, especially when it’s NOT a holiday or their birthday, but rather when I find something I think they’ll like or they are having a sucky time.  I know I much prefer random presents.  So follow my three step plan and you’ll get presents!


And yes, this means someone out there is getting a present because s/he follows rules. 🙂

weather advisory

At my old job I had to categorize weather advisories as part of my job.  Or rather, weather advisories would pop up in lots of category you wouldn’t expect them to, and I had to reign them in.  As a result I read a few weather advisories, something I had never done before.  I mean generally the titles are something like, “tornado warning in effect.” You don’t have to read farther than that.


But I REALLY suggest you do.  They are well written, even flowery.  The fact that they are frequently in all caps is some weird annoying technological holdover which makes them visually hard to read, but press on.


I am currently in Chicago, which is having a heatwave.  The warning I read today told me, “current indications are the heat wave will be rather unrelenting.”  Can something BE rather unrelenting?  Basically the weird detail and phrasing in these alerts are amazing, and I encourage you to read them.  I am pretty sure meteorologists assume no one else reads them and so it’s fair game for wackyness.

Podcast Topics

I am on a new podcast which I’ll be discussing here in the coming weeks.  However if there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to hear me talk about, let me know!  We generally will be discussing technology, selling out, and culture (especially music).  But we’re open to topics.

don’t trust the ill

I have had some sort of flu/food poisoning thing for 4 days.  It has resulted in me eating white bread and soup and mostly gatorade for 4 days.  I am starving but when I try to eat other things, my body disagrees.


So I went to the store to get some supplies of things I can eat.  But I basically returned with nothing I could eat.  It’s worse than being a giant stoner.  My bag includes:

  • An instant 4-pack of velveeta mac n cheese
  • 1 bag chocolate donettes
  • 1 pack of baloney
  • 1 bag of rolos

Why do I become a character from Raising Arizona when ill?