Sunday Stuff

I’m starting to look over this year’s challenges and think about what I want to do in 2019. I’m currently at 40 out of 50 on the PopSugar Challenge, so if I buckle down, I could totally finish that by the end of the year, especially since I own most of the last ten books I need to read for it. To be honest, though, I probably won’t. I have far more interesting library books to read!

I’m debating starting two challenges without end dates on them next year. I’d still do the Goodreads Challenge, but that’s just number of books. The first of the two challenges that have been interesting me lately is the Dewey Decimal Challenge, where you read a book for every category of the Dewey Decimal System – or at least every 10s category. It’s a lot of books, but with no time limit on the challenge, it’s just something to keep track of over the next few years.

The other challenge is a geographical one – there’s two main ones, and I think I’d start first with the US challenge – read a book set in each state and territory of the US. Once I finish that, I might move onto the world challenge, which is a book for each country on Earth. Preferably written by an author from each country.

I have about six weeks to figure out what challenges I want to start.

On a completely different topic, I’m really glad I have posts scheduled out about a week and a half on average, because right now I am NOT feeling good. I caught my husband’s cold – which is really just a sore throat and some stuffiness, but it’s made my thyroid flare. So I’m coughing but trying not to, face is full of snot, and my immune system is going absolutely INSANE because the tiniest upset sucks when you have an autoimmune disease. I’m not getting much reading done, is what I’m trying to say! Heck, I’m having trouble focusing long enough to type up this post. Chronic illnesses, man. I just need it to clear up by Thanksgiving, as we’re getting away for the weekend up to Philadelphia, mostly to see VNV Nation in concert Friday night!

And of course this all hit me the same day I finally got my pre-ordered copy of Girls of Paper and Fire, and then the very next day the library sent me The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, but instead of reading either I’m about to go pass out. Blargh.

Oh hey it’s Sunday

And I still don’t know what I’m doing with this space. Saturday was long and humid working at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and I am absolutely pooped. I know about the SCOTUS vote, but right now (Saturday night, as I’m writing this), I do not have the spoons to even start to address it. There may or may not be an evening post tonight talking about it. We’ll see how I feel once I have slept.

Oh lord having a chronic illness SUCKS BALLS. I am so glad we’re never working both days of a Fair weekend this year. I don’t think I’m capable because one day makes EVERY. THING. HURT. And it’s not like I’m running all over the grounds. I am alternately standing, sitting, and occasionally walking around a, what, 10 foot square booth? Might be 12. I’m not really sure. It’s not large, anyway.

So yeah. I’m gonna go collapse in my bed and sleep until sometime Sunday. Probably far past when this post goes up. Then we’re going to lounge around the house until we find enough spoons to go see Venom, and then maybe I’ll write some long ranty opinion piece about the piece of shit that just got onto the Supreme Court.

I’ll leave you with some Wonder Women. 20181006_2207247668070089285426173.jpg

Book Review: Bonk

bonkBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
by Mary Roach
Microhistory
319 pages
Published 2008

It’s not often a nonfiction book has me laughing out loud, but this one did it. This is the first of Roach’s books I’ve read, but her voice makes me want to read everything she’s ever written! Bonk is the story of sexual research – how scientists have made discoveries about a topic that is awkward at best, and taboo or even criminal at worst. Roach takes research seriously, volunteering as a research subject more than once (and convincing her husband to help, in at least one case!) Her wordplay is clever and her footnotes are HILARIOUS – this was a nonfiction book I kept having to pause and read to my husband between snickers.

Even her chapter titles are giggle-inducing – with titles like “The Princess and Her Pea – The Woman Who Moved Her Clitoris, and Other Ruminations on Intercourse Orgasms” and “Re-member Me – Transplants, Implants, and Other Penises Of Last Resort.”

Roach writes about some truly awkward sexual encounters in the name of science:

On the bed are a man and a woman. They are making the familiar movements made by millions of other couples on a bed that night, yet they look nothing like those couples. They have EKG wires leading from their thighs and arms, like a pair of lustful marionettes who managed to escape the puppet show and check into a cheap motel. Their mouths are covered by snorkel-type mouthpieces with valves. Trailing from each mouthpiece is a length of flexible tubing that runs through the wall to the room next door, where Bartlett is measuring their breathing rate. To ensure that they don’t breathe through their noses, the noses have been “lightly clamped.”

Another passage mentions two gymnasts who have sex in an MRI tube. (For science!) I’m impressed these people can perform under these conditions at all!

There’s only one passage that squicked me out a little bit – there’s a few paragraphs describing a urologist performing surgery on a penis and it’s…a little disturbing. That aside, though, this is a delightful book on an uncommon topic. It’s an easy read, which I don’t say about much nonfiction. It might be awkward to explain why you’re snickering over this book, though!

This is also my pick for the PopSugar prompt “Microhistory.”

From the cover of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex:

The study of sexual physiology – what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better – has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey’s attic.

Mary Roach, “the funniest science writer in the country” (Burkhard Bilger of The New Yorker), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn’t Viagra help women – or, for that manner, pandas? In Bonk, Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm – two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth – can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

Sunday Miscellany

Oh man, it’s been a rough week. Monday was a very hot, very humid day working at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. I adore the friends I work with, but that heat and humidity just ruined me. I’ve spent most of the rest of this week in a bit of a daze, recovering. Couldn’t even stitch any codpieces. I got a little bit of reading done, but not much. And then Thursday night I couldn’t sleep worth a damn – I’d fall asleep for an hour or two and be woken up by a roommate getting home from work, or my husband’s alarm going off, or another roommate leaving for work – and each time, be up for at least an hour (sometimes three) before being able to sleep again.

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The Culprit looking innocent

So Friday night rolled around and I was really, REALLY looking forward to getting some sleep. Fell asleep a little after midnight – and woke up at 2 am to the cat puking up a hairball. Or trying to. It takes her a few tries sometimes. And then she wants to chew on plastic after she’s puked. So I was up until around 6:30 dealing with the cat. Then I got four hours of sleep – which was the biggest chunk of sleep I’d had in two nights so YAY! Hopefully I’m still asleep while you’re reading these words, as I’m writing it Saturday night before bed. I’m about to collapse.

I’m pretty sure I had a couple links pulled up to post here but I can’t remember what the heck they were.

So I’m just going to leave you with the soundtrack of my insomnia.

Book Review: Period

period twelve voices tell the bloody truthPeriod: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth
Edited by Kate Farrell
Nonfiction
208 pages
Published May 2018

Period consists of twelve essays about periods. The authors are wonderfully diverse, covering intersex, disabled, POC, and trans individuals. There are stories about fibroids, about wishing to have periods, wishing not to have periods, pads vs tampons, having periods at work, dealing with a period while being homeless, running a marathon while menstruating – just an amazing variety of experiences with periods. Some of the essays talk about how menstruation is treated in pop culture, from the famous “blue liquid” of pad commercials to the sitcom trope of “angry woman is irrational because she’s on her period.”

I think this is a book that every parent of a young daughter should read. I say that because it’s a little advanced, so perhaps not a book to hand to every pre-pubescent girl, but there’s a lot in it about what we teach our girls about their periods. Any person who has ever wondered if their period is normal should also read this book. There is SO. MUCH. VARIETY. when it comes to menstruation. But while there is plenty of variety that is normal, there is some that isn’t. The essay about the fibroids is an example of this. That level of bleeding is NOT normal, and it’s dangerous to tell people that it is. But because we don’t TALK about periods, people unfortunately assume things are normal that aren’t.

The book also makes me want to put together some hygiene kits for the homeless women I see in Baltimore. I’d never really thought about how difficult it is to deal with your period while homeless. Some pads/tampons, some hand sanitizer, and some cleaning wipes in a ziploc would go a long way towards making their lives a lot easier. The essay about having periods while homeless includes some ideas for kits to give out.

Overall, this is a very educating (and entertaining!) read. For those with periods AND those without. Menstruation should stop being a shameful topic. It’s a health issue.

From the cover of Period: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth:

Periods enter the spotlight, raising a diverse group of voices on a topic long shrouded in shame and secrecy.

In this collection, writers of various ages and across racial, cultural, and gender identities share stories about the period. Each of our twelve authors brings an individual perspective and sensibility. They write about homeless periods, nonexistent periods, male periods, political periods, and more. Told with warmth, humor, and purpose, these essays celebrate all kinds of period experiences. 

Periods are a fact of life. It’s time to talk about them. 

Book Review: Invisible

invisibleInvisible: How Young Women With Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine
by Michele Lent Hirsch
Nonfiction – Health
230 pages
Published February 2018

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately, so it’s about time to sprinkle in a nonfiction volume! As soon as I learned this book existed, I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I’ve been living with two autoimmune disease most of my adult life, and in the past three or four years their impact on my life has grown quite a lot. I struggle with fatigue, with my weight, with muscle pain, with migraines, with intestinal issues if I eat the wrong thing. Some days it’s just hard to function like a normal person when my brain is full of fog and every movement hurts. So this book? This is my life.

The author of this book did a LOT of research. She’s not only disabled herself, but she interviewed SO MANY PEOPLE, with all kinds of different disabilities, diseases, and experiences. Mostly patients, but she also interviewed a few doctors.

The book is divided into six chapters: “Could Someone Love This Body of Mine,” “The (Foggy) Glass Ceiling and the Wall,” “It’s Cool Guys I’m Totally Fine,” “Why Don’t They Believe Me? or the Case of the Lady Lab Rat,” “To Raise Small Humans – Or Not,” and “Sick Like Miss America.” I really enjoyed her divisions here. The first chapter is about romantic relationships, the second about work, the third about friendships. “Why Don’t They Believe Me” covers women’s relationships with their doctors, the next chapter is obviously about fertility and parenting, and the last chapter is about society’s expectations of beauty and how to be sick.

“Could Someone Love This Body of Mine” touched on some of my personal insecurities, as one of my autoimmune diseases leaves pretty ugly scar tissue on my skin. It talks about how men tend to leave women with disabilities or chronic illness, but women don’t. (The book has extensive footnotes detailing sources and studies to back up claims like this one.)

I think the only chapter in this book that I didn’t really directly relate to was about raising children. I was child-free before being diagnosed, and it hasn’t changed my mind. We don’t want kids.

If you or someone you know has a chronic illness, I’d recommend reading this book. There’s valuable information and insight here, even if all you get out of it is “I’m not alone in this!”

Now I’m off to take a nap.

From the cover of Invisible:

Though young women with serious illness tend to be seen as outliers, young female patients are in fact the primary demographic for many illnesses. They are also one of the most ignored groups in our medical system—a system where young women, especially women of color and trans women, are invisible.

Michele Lent Hirsch knew she couldn’t be the only woman who’s faced serious health issues at a young age, as well as the resulting effects on her career, her relationships, and her sense of self. What she found while researching Invisible was a surprisingly large and overlooked population with important stories to tell. Miriam’s doctor didn’t believe she had breast cancer; she did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender woman was less difficult than coming out as bipolar. 

And because of expectations about gender and age, young women with health issues must often deal with bias in their careers and personal lives. Not only do they feel pressured to seem perfect and youthful, they also find themselves amid labyrinthine obstacles in a culture that has one narrow idea of womanhood.

Lent Hirsch weaves her own harrowing experiences together with stories from other women, perspectives from sociologists on structural inequality, and insights from neuroscientists on misogyny in health research. She shows how health issues and disabilities amplify what women in general already confront: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, worries about romantic partners, and mistrust of their own bodies. By shining a light on this hidden demographic, Lent Hirsch explores the challenges that all women face.