Zero Fail by Carol Leonnig

Amazon link: Zero Fail

I found this a compelling book that details serious mistakes in Secret Service management and culture. In many ways the failures of described are human failures of the “I haven’t had a day off in weeks, why not go out to the bar? Why not bring a person I’m attracted to back to my hotel room?” It’s a compelling rationale, if you skip the details like “Need to be on duty tomorrow” or “My hotel room has sensitive information that would be really really useful for any wannabe assassins.”

Details matter.

The book reminded me of software teams I have known, and not just in the “We work hard and you can’t tell us how to change.” Like in tech, doing your job as an agent well doesn’t mean you’ll be a good manager. 

We are shown early in the book that consequences happen – if your misdeeds make the news. Everyone else gets a free pass. And, like many cultures, reformers are fighting both inertia AND specific sabotage from within. There aren’t easy answers, but it’s a good look at a problem culture with some amazing stories.

Happy Saturday

In no particular order:

My household continues to abide without strife, hooray.

I appear to have hit on a balance for strength training and stretching that keeps my knees happy and doesn’t disappoint my back or hips or anything. else.  Yay.

My state, Washington, has decided to start vaccinating more non-frontline workers who are under 65, and even to count comorbidities, so I may be vaccinated sometime in April. Hooray.

Washington state is also reopening indoor dining again. This was greeted with sighs and “Again?” and “That’s dumb” in my household.

I acquired and read Seanan McGuire’s new InCryptid novel, Calculated Risks. Recommended but makes the most sense if you have read the other books.

We’ve been watching the Australian “Miss Fisher’s Mysteries” of late. I appreciate that the attention to detail includes 1928 laws regarding women, along with how nearly everyone 30 or above was affected by The War (or as we would call it, World War I).  I’ve also read a few more of the Phryne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood.

Sadly, I am dealing with more acid reflux these days. I’m not sure if it’s stress or what, but I am making some changes as a result.

And Now She’s Gone

Just want to drop a recommendation for the book And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall. It’s a gripping thriller that made me laugh as I tried to solve the mystery within. Grayson, our protagonist, is trying to move from writing reports for investigators to solving her first case. It starts as a simple missing person case. Over time we realize that both Grayson and the woman she’s trying to find have reinvented themselves – but for very different reasons. The conclusion felt satisfying in Grayson’s success and hope of her future. Content warnings: domestic abuse, including some body shaming.

Yoga revisited

I never really stopped stretching, but now I’m starting to do a few yoga poses again.  I stand in a “warrior” pose and marvel at how my mat holds my feet still, and I remember being able to have my feet further apart without any of the balance wobbling I’m doing.

I remind myself I used to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and when I started again it was 3 minutes, so quit worrying about “used to do” and just do.

So. A few standing poses. I’m aware of my balance. A few floor poses. I’m aware of my back. A few twists.  I feel looser. Getting off the floor is harder but doable.

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MegaYoga by Megan Garcia

I often refer to the book MegaYoga by Megan Garcia when I’m unsure about how to position my feet and so forth.

This is written as I am rebuilding strength and stamina after a pulmonary embolism and other issues that made me persistently short of breath. 

 

Review: The Relentless Moon

The newest Lady Astronaut book from Mary Robinette Kowal is fun. It features a 50ish woman, Nicole Wargin, who finds and defeats bad guys in an alternate world where the space race started in the 1950s; by the early 60s, there’s a moon base and a mission to Mars.

Nicole is an ex-WASP who admits she was probably only accepted to astronaut training because her husband, Kenneth Wargin, was a senator. To the surprise of everyone else, she excelled. By The Relentless Moon Kenneth is governor; Nicole wants more time with him, but is happy to live in the moon base 3 weeks a month since her arthritic toes like less gravity and no heels. That said, Nicole is frustrated that she doesn’t get to pilot the “big rockets”, just the on-moon “puddle jumpers”.

This world is like ours in the early 1960s, with sexism, racial segregation, and protests.  Add in rapid global warming, food shortages, and an expensive space race, and Earth isn’t exactly a quiet place to be. Both the civilian government and the space organization – including Kenneth, Nicole and her coworkers – must deal with protests, riots, and sabotage.

The Relentless Moon is set on Earth and the moon in parallel with the Mars mission in the prior book, The Fated SkyThe Calculating Stars is the first book in the series.  Amazon has a page with all three books.

I loved this book, but I also have some content warnings.  If you are a completely “no spoilers” person, stop reading.

LadyAstronaut

First: Eating disorders. In particular the narrator forgets to eat, doesn’t want to eat, and deals with resulting dizziness, muscle weakness, and fainting.  She is supported in her recovery and her symptoms are treated.  I came out of this book with a new awareness that forgetting to eat is not a virtue.

Second: A polio outbreak occurs at the moon base. (Polio vaccine development was delayed in this history due to the event that kicks off The Calculating Stars.) It’s noted that polio has an incubation period of up to 10 days, most people who have it are asymptomatic, and it can affect patients who’ve recovered years later – does that sound familiar? A recap of how polio spreads and how they wouldn’t know who had it for up to 2 weeks had me trying to back up through the couch, if that makes sense.

Third: Intentional weight loss to join the space org is discussed.

Quotes: Persist

“It is not enough to be well-intentioned; one must strive to put those intentions into action in a capable way. One must consider the effect his actions will have on others. Looked at like this, to persist in ignorance is itself dishonorable.” — Andrew Cohen

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” — Carl Sagan

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

“The sun persists in rising, so I make myself stand” — Suzanne Collins, in Catching Fire.

I Read This And It Changed My Life

Readers like to talk about books they’ve read.  And one thing you’ll hear about sometimes is “this book changed my life.”   Maybe it was a book that made you feel less alone, or changed how you see the world, or inspired you.

But sometimes they’re more mundane than that.

Dealing with my father’s finances reinforced for me how differently I deal with finances than my parents did.  And a big reason why is that I read Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson shortly after I graduated college.   There are probably other books that could’ve done the job, but this was the one I found and that worked for me.  It was accessible, practical, and yes, inspiring.  This book encouraged me to reduce and track my spending, to pay off my college loans early, and to live differently than my parents had shown me.

It may not be what most people mean by “this book changed my life.” But I no longer get daily phone calls from creditors. That’s a big enough thing to me.

Thankful Thursday

Things that I am thankful for:

1 The man of the house packed a yummy lunch for me today.  He also cooked each night I was home this week.
2 AC. Most houses in Seattle don’t have AC.  I don’t regret installing ours, even if we barely used it last year.
3 A job where showing up in shorts one day and a dress the next is fine.
4 A boss who reminds me that I have strengths, and who encourages me to use them.
5 Initial “let’s start probate” paperwork has been fixed for accuracy and ready to mail.
6 I fell in love with temperature-controlled computer labs in college one summer term when the temps were stubbornly sweaty &  sticky.  Except the minicomputer lab, which had to be kept cool per warranty.  All of which is to say, taking computer classes to help cool off has served me well & I’m glad.
7 Leg lifts are my friend.
8 Stretching makes me feel divine.
9 Chocolate covered espresso beans are yum.
10 So much enjoying Mira Grant’s book Blackout and how it improves my understanding of the prior two books.  (Feed, then Deadline. They are a trilogy, not a book & two sequels.).

Thankful Thursday

[an occasional exercise in gratitude]

  1. My father has been in his new Adult Family Home for over a week and is doing well.
  2. The political-bloggers-with-zombies novel Feed that I’ve been compulsively re-reading for the last year did not win the “Best Novel” Hugo but it came in second.  Feed and its sequel Deadline are by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire.
  3. While I did not get to Worldcon this year, I do get to enjoy this ustream of the comedic “Just A Minute” competition, including discussion of various Apollos, the seven dwarves, parallel universes, what’s wrong with steampunk, and Seanan McGuire requesting a big boo for Bill  Willingham.
  4. I am getting better at enjoying things without feeling that I have to own them.  For example, a password book, a typewriter bookend, or a Crayola rollerball pen, or the entire ThinkGeek “Geek Toys” catalog (including an Adipose stuffie!)
  5. Cooking at home and relaxing with the man of the house.

How’s the week going for you?

Music Monday: Tanglewood Tree

…featuring New York Times Bestselling author Seanan McGuire (blonde) with Vixy (redhead) & Tony (guitar), Betsy Tinney (cello) and Amy McNally (violin).  Recorded at a bookstore event for Seanan’s first novel Rosemary and Rue.

(Music starts about 30 seconds in.  A studio recording of  Tanglewood Tree with many of the same performers is also on Seanan’s latest CD.  Song lyrics and chords are here. Late Eclipses is Seanan’s first book to hit the New York Times list.)

Happy Labor Day, y’all

Two cats, lying on the floor. "In observance of Labor Day, we're just going to lie here and snooze.  Thanks heavens for a day off finally." Other cat: "Fo reals, yo."

"Two Lumps" by Mel Hynes & J. Grant

If you have not already discovered Two Lumps, check out their site. Or the books, which include bonus commentary from the writer & artist:

Hope you have a happy Monday, whether it’s a holiday for you or not :)

Fat Acceptance Quote for Parents and Teachers

If you exercise as “punishment” for weighing too much, how can you learn to enjoy being active? If you eat salads only as a way to change the body you hate, how will you enjoy the wonderful tastes of fresh vegetables?

Besides, if hating one’s body effectively motivated change, do you really think there would be many heavy people in the world?

Accepting yourself as you are today doesn’t mean giving up. It means learning to live in the present with the body you have. It means facing and acknowledging reality.

— Linda Bacon, PhD, in Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

Quote of the Day

From an Alternet article focusing on Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size, Jamie Oliver’s new show, and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign:

[R]esearch shows that people of all sizes have similar diets, but it only manifests as weight gain in some of us. People today eat more calorie-dense, nutrient-poor convenience foods than Americans did in the past. How we eat also plays a role, as eating while focusing on something else like driving, or eating while in a stressful situation affects our digestive processes. As the average American diet has gone downhill for people of all sizes, weight gain occurred for some — contributing to the high rate of obesity in America today — but Bacon says that “assuming fat people are eating worse than thin people is wrong.” For this reason, focusing efforts on obesity sends the message to thin people that they do not need to make any changes in their lifestyles when in fact they may also engage in unhealthy behaviors that put them at risk for disease.

Second, focusing on obesity stigmatizes larger people and imbues everyone with a fear of fat. Instead of encouraging people to adopt healthy behaviors, an anti-obesity message encourages the development of eating disorders and the adoption of dangerous, restrictive eating habits. In fact, dieters readily admit they are willing to engage in unhealthy eating patterns in order to lose weight. Bacon encourages focusing on health instead of weight and promoting acceptance of people of all body shapes and sizes. […]

The AP article that declared Huntington, West Virginia the fattest and unhealthiest town in America also says the town’s economy “has withered.” The piece describes a high poverty rate and an unemployment problem teamed with the problem of low-paying jobs with poor benefits for those who have work. In fact, when the mayor was confronted about his city’s health problems, he replied that he was too busy worrying about the economy to think about public health. The best way to accomplish Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver’s goals is to address social injustice and to reduce poverty in America. Why aren’t either of them talking about that?

The article also mentions that a second edition of Health At Every Size has been released.  (I reviewed the first edition here.)

Music Monday

…I spent the weekend running around a fan convention.*  Today is my “recuperation” day before I return to work.  One would think I could write a great article today, but … no.  I can’t brain today, I haz the dumb.

So instead, here’s a sweet song about fandom.

Sung by: Vixy & Tony
Written by: Tom Smith and Ron Balder.

*…and if you are curious about fan conventions, check out Donna Andrews’ mystery We’ll Always Have Parrots, set at a fan convention. The webcomic Unshelved also did a take on We’ll Always Have Parrots for its book club.

Time for what?

This year I was able to take off one day a week from work in December, along with the time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Which means this is my first full work week in  over a month.

I happened to run across this last night, in Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk:

In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chew us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it. A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told me that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. “You never really finish anything in life,” she says, “and while that’s humbling, and frustrating, it’s all right. The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study, and for play.”

Of course, from what I’ve seen of monastic schedules, they often have less time allocated for work and commuting than is common for those of us with “normal jobs”.  But they also make time for their priorities, with an overall goal of balance.

What do you make time for?  What do you want to make time for, and what do you want to NOT spend time on?

What would you put into a Fitness for Life class?

Everyone’s talking about Lincoln college requiring students with a BMI of 30 or larger to take a “Fitness for Life” class.

What I’m wondering is, what would you like to see in such a class?  Not what is usually in such classes, or what Lincoln is including — what would rock your socks to see?

Here’s some ideas:

Topics:

Reading list:

Activities:

  • Critiquing popular fitness articles & ads
  • Weightlifting and bodyweight strength training
  • Dancing, walking, and other “stealth” aerobics
  • Stretching and Yoga

What do you think?  What would you add?  I’d like to put in a weight-neutral “how to exercise” book but I’m not sure one exists…

Fun: Two Lumps: Fat & Furry

The left leg (which has traditionally been the “good” leg) has decided to give me pain and occasionally not want to work.  I’m not thrilled with this.  I am exercising carefully and taking ibuprofen and trying to not freak out.

In the interest of not freaking out, I’m reading They Still Suspect Nothing: Two Lumps Year Four which came in the mail today.  (It’s the 4th year of the comic, with commentary on each comic from creators Mel Hynes & J Grant.)   I’d completely forgotten about this filk of the song “Ridin’” (which some know better as the basis of “White and Nerdy“).

Snooch, rolling on couch: They see me rollin' I'm purrin' But they're just jealous 'cause I'm all fat and furry! Ebenezer:  Wo yeah he's fat and furry!  Cantcha see he's fat and furry? Snooch: People tell me to just get lean But they ain't down with the feline scene No cat wanna be all shaped like a string bean I wanna nap and eat my weight in poutine! Snooch:  All the moggies wanna be like me! I steal Mom's food when she gets up to go po--- Off screen: HEY! What happened to my tuna sandwich?! Ebenezer: 5-0 at the do', gotta go

This comic really worked for me today.  Cats don’t *care* about whether they’re fat, they care about stalking and sunbeams and pets.  :)