28 March 2017

Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American RightStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a liberal who was not surprised by President Trump's election victory. Sad and angry, yes, but I always knew it was a possibility because I do not live in the "bubble" that the media placed many of us blue-state people in. I am as equally aware of the economic situations in the Midwest and South as I am of the poverty-line populations in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

Dr. Hochschild focuses on the Tea Party supporters around Lake Charles, Louisiana. The oil industry has destroyed the environment, people's health, and ways of life for at least a generation. Yet the residents of these areas continue to support it because they believe oil brings in jobs. Dr. Hochschild provides research to show that that is not actually the case yet people continue to vote for oil and against regulation. One statistic she brings up over and over again is that Louisiana receives 44% of its budget from the federal government yet everyone she talked to wanted less federal government intervention. Governor Jindal gave away money from the education budget as incentives to oil companies but that investment was never returned in any significant way. They bring in foreign workers who don't spend money on the local economy. Much of the the company makes money goes back to a corporate headquarters in another state rather than investments in Louisiana. Tourism is sinking because it's not safe to go into most of the water. No one wants to eat the fish. Yet people persist on believing in oil.

I want to tell people that the American Dream we were sold a generation ago, two generations ago, has changed. One of the great things about Americans is that we adapt. However, this segment of people refuse to do so. And with President Trump's revoking of environmental regulations today -- I literally got the news alert as I was typing this review -- we get to regress instead of grow.

As I skimmed the other reviews for this book, however, I felt like I was joining a tide of like-minded people, and it's Trump supporters who might actually benefit from reading this book and opening their minds to some facts rather than going along with ideology. (At least read Appendix C, if nothing else. It will only take about fifteen minutes.)

This book is clearly well-researched. Dr. Hochschild considers many of the people she interviewed and visited with friends even though they are about as far apart ideologically as can be, because as humans there are more things that bring us together than tear us apart, ultimately.

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10 March 2017

Book Review: Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Highland PursuitsHighland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this after reading Emmanuelle de Maupassant's short story of the same name in the Because Beards anthology, but I would have read this novel anyway because I am a fan of hers. This story did not disappoint.

Ms. de Maupassant creates such a rich world in the Scottish highlands. In real life I've only spent one day in the region but I feel like I spent my entire summer vacation there after living in her world through these pages. I've always loved the humor that Ms. de Maupassant brings to her worlds, as well. Life is funny sometimes, and love and sex are part of life. Ms. de Maupassant brings us to a rich, sensuous place that I look forward to visiting again and again.

View all my reviews

19 November 2016

I'm Not Giving Up My New Balance Shoes

Thanks to some idiot fringe of the alt-right, I know find myself in the awkward position of saying, "I'm not a racist, but..."

I'm keeping my New Balance running shoes.

A vice president at New Balance praised Trump's rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came out against TPP as well. Some white supremacist group took one sentence from a New Balance executive about supporting one sentence of Trump's platform, in an interview for the Wall Street Journal where it should be obvious it's a business discussion, and turned it into a symbol of their white-power group.

And without understanding the facts, people started burning their New Balance shoes in protest because they assume New Balance supports white supremacy.

New Balance still makes its shoes in the United States when other major shoe manufacturers have moved their business overseas. I fail to see how, by supporting American workers, I'm now a racist because some other white people, who are racist, have stated they will start wearing New Balance shoes. Either they don't understand the statement was made about trade policy or they don't care. They wanted to say something ridiculous so they could watch liberals overreact and laugh at us. So they could distract us from actual issues of civil rights and equality.

New Balance as denounced this hate group more vigorously than President-elect Trump has, by the way.

New Balance executives supported one part of Trump's economic plan, which many people believe makes sense for American workers. Whether I agree with the trade policy or not, or whether it's going to actually benefit workers or not, isn't important right now. I can't blame someone for voting for what they think will offer better job opportunities and business opportunities for Americans. And if Trump's plan doesn't work out, I'll be there to listen and to be a good friend to those who are disappointed.

We need to not let some of the worst idiots on the right take over the conversation and lead us away from facts and reason. New Balance shoes are the only ones that fit me properly. I've been running for over half my life, I've put in a lot of miles, and I've tried a lot of shoes. I can honestly say that ethically I have no problem continuing to buy them. Go ahead and protest and boycott, but do your homework first.

Forbes: New Balance Gets Political
Washington Post: We live in crazy times: Neo-Nazis have declared New Balance the ‘Official Shoes of White People’
The Post Game: New Balances Support of Trump Win Triggers Sneaker Burnings

18 November 2016

Turning a Blind Eye to Steve Bannon -- Now Who Lives in the Bubble?

There's been a lot of talk of the liberal elite bubble in the last week. But what about the rural, white bubble? People are genuinely concerned about the economy, I get that. But does that mean there's no room to be concerned about racism and sexism as well? Just because these things don't happen in one small town doesn't discredit them as being national problems.

Steve Bannon is going to be toxic as the strategist who is crafting the message for our next president. Calls from the left for his removal from President-elect Donald Trump's administration will not be taken seriously unless we have support from the right as well.

Mitch McConnell literally said nothing when asked about Bannon in a press conference earlier this week. He just started ahead awkwardly until the reporter gave up. This is unacceptable. Conservative leaders have to say something, otherwise they are condoning this placement of Bannon in the administration. He's not an appointee who's going to be approved by Congress so the only course of action against his being hired is to put pressure on Conservative leaders to put pressure on President-elect Trump.

Even if you believe the alt-right is a fringe group, putting its megaphone to the ear of the president like this surely must signal to you that something bigger is going on. From National Review:
The problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream....
Principled conservatives, especially those in leadership positions, have a political and moral duty to condemn, and to work to eradicate, the animus that is the alt-right’s raison d’ĂȘtre.
You don't have to leave a comment here, or on Facebook, or anywhere else. But if this bothers you, call Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and any Republican senators and congresspersons who represent your state and your district, and tell them you are not okay with Steve Bannon being so close to the president.

If this does not bother you, then you are the one who is living in a bubble, not me.

11 November 2016

To Anger or Not to Anger. To Unite or Not Unite.

We get one day to mope and then we have to get to work.

That's the comment I left in many places around the internet Wednesday and also in person, over the phone, in texts, anyone I was talking to.

But as the day wore on and I listened to more analysis and I read more reactions, I became angry. I'm trying not to be, and I'm going back and forth on whether or not it's okay for me to be. Which I hate, that I can't feel comfortable having this emotion, let alone expressing it. I think my anger is going in a different direction than many people assume, however.

Trump supporters voted for him because they are angry. Those of us who didn't vote for him are now expected to remain calm and work together and find unity. But we have a right to our anger as well. Trump supporters felt things weren't going their way so they got angry and they did what they thought would change things. We have the same right to be angry and work to change things as well. And we will change things, for the most part legally and peacefully, because the Constitution gives us the right to do so. There will be some fiery bursts of anger that may lead to violence from some, but unlike the Trump side of things, we will condemn violence rather than condone it.

I expect that if I'm taking one day to mope and then get to work, that Trump supporters will take their one day to revel in victory, and then work to keep their candidate in check. You voted for him but your job isn't over. Your world isn't going to magically change now.

One thing that bothers me among all these calls for unity is that I feel like we are expected to be good losers while Trump supporters are allowed to be bad winners. In order to make this country work they have to be gracious winners.

Many of them are not being gracious winners. Many of them have taken the win by Trump as a free pass to be even more racist. For being publicly racist if they were privately being so before. President-elect Trump, this really is your problem now. You have to reign in your supporters and call for them to knock this shit off. You wanted to be the law and order president. You have to instill that over your own supporters now who are assaulting blacks, gays, Muslims, and Mexicans since you won this election.

Among people I know who voted for Trump I'm seeing a lot more calls for Hillary supporters to calm down and unite than I'm seeing comments condemning these violent, racist actions. Sitting quietly and waiting for it to blow over isn't an option anymore. We saw this in the aftermath to Brexit and it's what many people feared would happen here as well. I've said this a few times over the last couple weeks, that it's not the policies of a Trump president that bother me per se, because we have checks and balances. But all the policies in the world mean nothing to the people who were beat up yesterday by celebrating Trump supporters. It's happening just as many of us feared it would. And Trump himself, alongside all of his supporters who are not racists or sexist, have to speak out against this. Ellie Wiesel said, "Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

I am tired of calling for calm and unity. Calls for unity from one candidate gave us the other candidate as our president. The people calling for unity from the Trump side now certainly didn't unify under President Obama. They unified against him in order to try and block a good deal of his legislation.

Be angry if you want to be. But understand that anger and Facebook posts don't amount to real change. Find a way to support your community. Keep active in local elections. Call out racism and sexism when you see it. Send actual letters to your senators and representatives, not just tweets. Donate to the ACLU and NPR because we need watchdogs more than ever. Subscribe to newspapers to keep good journalists in business.

And scrutinize this president. For all the scrutiny the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign came under these last eight years, let it be known that a Trump presidency will be under just as intense a microscope.

23 September 2016

Book Reviews: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and an Emmanuelle de Maupassant Short Story

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here are my reviews as they appear on Goodreads.

BirdsongBirdsong by Sebastian Faulks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was swept up in this book from the moment I started it. I didn’t know that much about it but a trusted source recommended it. I jumped in with both feet and got lost in it. It’s sensual and romantic, then heartbreakingly depressing as the story moves from a love affair in a French town to the battlefields of World War I. The writing pulls you along and you struggle with the hero every step of the way.

Stephen Wraysford is the hero but he’s a bit of an anti-hero. He’s young and passionate. He’s weird and quiet. He loses his passion throughout the war but works hard to do his job, and job that would be difficult for most people to fathom performing unless they were there themselves. The author writes with such emotion and leads you to believe that he really was there on the battlefields and in the trenches. The dramatic tension is amped up by anyone who knows World War I history. The reader who knows which battles are coming up will be struck with a particular horror, knowing the ending before the characters do.

I had a problem with the end of the book that keeps me from giving it five stars. And I really wanted to give it five stars. Not the ending itself; I’m satisfied with how the plot tied itself up. But the last couple of paragraphs. The point-of-view changed to a character that I don’t feel deserved it.

For me, this was a summer read for lazy afternoons in the hot sun, but it’s definitely worth reading anytime. Love, war, and history, it will appeal to many.

Because BeardsBecause Beards by Kacey Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of Emmanuelle de Maupassant's story in this anthology. Ms. de Maupassant story, "Highland Pursuits," is delightful. She injects so much personality into her characters and settings and I love her combination of erotica with playful humor. I love reading how much her characters enjoy each others' company. And the story, of course, has some very steamy, satisfying moments.

I fully plan to buy the book and read the entire anthology when it comes out because it features some of my favorite erotica authors.

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19 September 2016

Nineteen Miles

Today I ran nineteen miles. (I ran and am writing this on Sunday, but posting it Monday. I'm too tired to think into the future and change the tenses to match when this will be published and read.) It's my longest run to date. It was a lot harder than my seventeen-mile run two weeks ago. When I left early in the morning I was thinking a full marathon will be difficult but I can definitely get it done. By the time I hit mile eighteen I began to question that. I couldn't tell if I was hitting the wall or if I was simply hungry or thirsty. I cursed myself for choosing a route that had an uphill for miles fifteen through seventeen. When I checked my stats later, though, mile fifteen was one of my fastest; I don't know what came over me. I have a twenty-mile run in two weeks. I guess I'll see what happens when I keep ploughing on for one more mile.

The Marine Corps monument (pictured), also known as the Iwo Jima monument, is eleven and a half miles from our house. This is the second long run that I've passed it. It's the finish line for the marathon. It's an inspiration. I like stopping for a moment when I get to it to have my snack and contemplate what others have done and why I'm out doing this.

I've mentioned before that I'm raising money for Soldier On, an organization that provides services for homeless veterans. I need your help, guys. I'm six weeks out from my marathon and I'm going to start annoying everyone to donate. Click here to do so. Thinking about helping this great organization has been helping me through the tough miles. Thank you so much for helping me.

16 September 2016

Back-to-School Edition


We moved to the Washington, D.C., area. We are still surrounded by boxes but the place looks a little more put together every day as each box goes out. Mike started his job. Muffin has started school. I've started two volunteer jobs and a part-time job.

I'm still marathon training, slowly but surely. I have to run nineteen miles this weekend, my longest run ever. I ran seventeen miles two weeks ago and I have no reason to believe I can't complete a marathon in, what, seven weeks? Six weeks? I'm measuring my time by days between long runs right now. Nineteen miles, ten miles, twenty miles, ten miles, etc., for the next few weekends. It looks like the heat has broken, so that's something. There were many miserable miles run this summer by me and others and I'm ready for some cooler weather. You can still contribute to my fundraising for Soldier On, if you'd like. Click here.

Muffin has been in public school in Virginia for all of two weeks and we are dealing with a kind of culture shock. I feel like we have to be on top of everything to keep politics, gender stereotypes, and helicopter parenting at bay. I feel like we are definitely the weird parents with the weird kid because I don't care that Muffin pokes around in the dirt at the bus stop (other parents don't let their kids play before school) but I'm concerned about political parties handing out leaflets on school grounds. (I posted about my encounter with that on Facebook -- in the near future I'll modify it for posting here.)

I've got an idea for NaNoWriMo this year, too. I'm researching and planning right now. More to come on that later, as the event grows closer. It starts two days after my marathon. I'm a sucker for long, slow, arduous tasks, apparently.

And that's about it for now. How are you doing?

29 July 2016

Book Review: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

After you've read something, please consider leaving a line or two on Goodreads and Amazon. The authors appreciate it!

Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Assassination VacationAssassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first Sarah Vowell book I ever read and while I've read all her others, I've come back to this one several times to reread. We move in and out of the Washington, D.C., area every few years and I usually read it when we're heading back there in anticipation of seeing some of my favorite monuments and hearing some of my favorite stories. I of course had to read it again this summer since I'll be starting a job as a tour guide with our next move there this fall. I wanted to refresh my memory of the funny and interesting observations Ms. Vowell shares.

Assassination Vacation gives us a look at the assassinations of three presidents -- Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Students don't learn much about he presidencies of Garfield and McKinley these days but they are definitely worth a look. At the time she was writing, Ms. Vowell makes comparisons to the McKinley and Bush administrations. I'd make similar comparisons to a possible Trump administration this year.

Ms. Vowell makes American history accessible and points out how American history and politics have always been mired in scandal and downright silliness. I love how she goes into the lives of the assassins as well. Everyone knows John Wilkes Booth, but Guiteau and Czolgosz rarely get much mention. Ms. Vowell points out that many people were relieved to hear that Czolgosz had a foreign name because it made them assume a foreigner had shot the president. But Czolgosz was an American citizen, born in the Midwest to immigrant parents. Sound familiar to the fears one of our presidential candidates is helping to fester this year?

I do not want a presidential assassination. But I think it's worth learning about what drove others to do it in the past and take a look at the atmosphere of politics and the entire country surrounding those events. I recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in American history, politics, or current events.

View all my reviews

  • And, yes, I'm really going to be a tour guide in Washington! I'll be with City Running Tours. I'm so excited. I'll share more details once I'm down there getting started.

26 July 2016

You Don't Really Train for a Marathon Alone

I'm not going to lie. Running has been difficult the last few weeks. It's hot. It's humid. It's downright Bamako out. Friends in the Northeast, friends in Texas, friends in London -- we are all struggling to run right now. I guess that's how the summer is for everyone who's insane enough to train for a marathon through these months. We accept it because we got ourselves into this and we'll get ourselves out.

On Saturday morning I snapped this picture just before starting a thirteen-mile run. I wanted to remember appreciating the beautiful scenery when the miles go tough. Sunrise on the beach. Early morning surfers. Folks out for a stroll with their coffees.

The beautiful scenery barely pulled me through the first mile. My friends did, though. I met up with Running While Mommy and a few others. We were all running different distances but stayed together for a few miles. I would have given up much sooner if it hadn't been for my friends. I wanted to think of my goal. I wanted to think of all the people who have things so much harder than I do but perform amazing tasks every day anyway. I wanted to enjoy the beachfront. But I couldn't. I was too hot and too tired. My mind was a blank. But I had footsteps beside me and as long as I was accompanied by another runner I was going to keep going. Slowly but surely.

Since we all ran different distances we finished at different times. We caught up with each other by group text later in the day. Everyone was happy to have the motivation of meeting other people to get the run done. We were happy to have the run finished for the weekend. We probably all would have either skipped it or run shorter if we'd been on our own. It felt good to check in with my support system like that.

What made me feel great all over again was when the official Marine Corps Marathon account liked my image (to the right) on Instagram yesterday. It's a screenshot of the alarm on my phone going off at five in the morning with a caption of how I'm meeting my friends for the long run on what was the hottest day of the year so far. That little thing, that "like" from the organization that's putting on the marathon boosted my spirits immensely. It made me feel like I'm part of something big and they are recognizing every mile that the runners are putting into their training.

The marathon is less than a hundred days from now. My daily runs aren't as long as I'd like them to be, but I'm getting out there and doing something almost every day. And I'm confident that as long as I complete the long run each week I'll be able to complete the marathon.

Remember to check out my page for making a donation to Soldier On: Click here. Thank you to everyone who's donated so far to help me raise money to support homeless veterans.


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