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.


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.

Thankful Thursday

Starting this practice again.

  1. Our single-story home. We’ve been here for 2 years now, and it’s still the right decision.
  2. Unpacked some boxes this week. (We’re old and thus have lots of stuff.)
  3. Chosen family.
  4. Twitter friends.
  5. My mobility scooter, which makes events and shopping easier.

Thankful Thursday

An occasional exercise in gratitude.

Work is going well; I have a new boss who is not only on my side, but inspiring.

Levothyroxine and asthma meds, which keep me functional.

New cpap, now with built-in humidifier.

Close friends who shared hugs and helped discuss the election.


Himself, who made lasagna for dinner.

(I am very, very afraid of what Trump and his terrors are going to do, but I also want to not catastrophize. So.)

Treating Weight First?

The Twitterverse has been busy talking about some new treatment guidelines for fatties. Ragen Chastain posted about a piece from Medscape called “New US Obesity Guidelines: Treat the Weight First,” which also has quotes from the lead author.  I also clicked over to the guidelines themselves. They start with an extremely helpful objective, to wit:

Objective: To formulate clinical practice guidelines for pharmacological management of obesity.

That’s the goal here. That tells you what this is primarily about: weight-loss drugs.  Two more were approved in 2014, at least in the US – Europe has been slower to approve the drugs.

There are a few things in the guidelines that I like.

First: Some medications have weight gain as a side effect.  I consider this is a useful fact for medical practitioners.  It makes no sense to prescribe a drug that has weight gain as a side affect and then chastise patients for the resulting weight gain.

Second: Yes, it makes sense for medical practitioners to be aware that medications can cause weight gain or loss, and to discuss that with patients. A fat patient may prefer a drug that doesn’t cause weight gain. A slender patient may want to avoid drugs that cause weight loss.

Third: They’re measuring that a weight loss drug is “effective” if the patient loses 5% or more of their body weight in 3 months.  If that seems low? Yes, yes it is. Worth anal leakage? I think not.


Historically, patients and providers thought that weight loss medications could be used to produce an initial weight loss that could subsequently be sustained by behavioral means. The available evidence does not support this view.

This is an important admission. The human body doesn’t like to have its weight set point messed with.

The things I disagree with?  It’s hard to limit myself to just a few, but:

  • I disagree that patients need to be moved from drugs that control chronic health conditions just because the drug may cause weight gain. What are the side effects of the new drug? Is it as effective?  Does the patient have support during the transition?  That matters too — especially with psychiatric meds.
  • I disagree that patients should postpone treating conditions like hypertension until they lose weight. If the patient wants to try lifestyle changes first, fine — but it should NOT be under duress. The medical profession is already known to mistreat fat people. This can become another justification.

On the flip side, I was prescribed a drug that can cause weight loss (Levothyroxine) this fall. The endocrinologist was thrilled that I lost 3lbs after a few weeks of taking the drug.  I don’t care about that.  I care about FEELING BETTER.  Obviously I’m un-American.

Guidelines: Pharmacological Management of Obesity: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline,

Medscape: New US Obesity Guidelines: Treat the Weight First

Medpage Today: New Guidelines: Treat the Weight First

Interesting – research on insomnia & depression

I’ve written about depression and insomnia before.  Also that I can induce depression symptoms by shorting myself on sleep.

Now the NIMH is studying interactions between depression and insomnia. 

Doctors have long considered poor sleep to be a symptom of depression that would clear up with treatments, said Rachel Manber, a professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Stanford, whose 2008 pilot trial of insomnia therapy provided the rationale for larger studies. “But we now know that’s not the case,” she said. “The relationship is bidirectional — that insomnia can precede the depression.”

Full-blown insomnia is more serious than the sleep problems most people occasionally have. To qualify for a diagnosis, people must have endured at least a month of chronic sleep loss that has caused problems at work, at home or in important relationships. Several studies now suggest that developing insomnia doubles a person’s risk of later becoming depressed — the sleep problem preceding the mood disorder, rather than the other way around.

I doubt there’s a magic bullet here, but it is interesting and encouraging to see this sort of research.  (And on a more humorous note, check out Candorville.)

Some Good Things

Photos have surfaced on Flikr of Integrity Puget Sound & various Episcopal parishes in the Seattle Pride Parade.

Things that happen in Seattle: Officers assisted a man who took an early morning office chair ride.  (No one was hurt.)

A new Donna Andrews book, The Hen of the Baskervilles, has arrived.

A new Stop Paying Attention comic!

The Doubleclicks’ new album is out and includes their song “Rock Star Life”

How’s with you?

Necessary, but not sufficient

Money is not sufficient for happiness. Money is necessary to avoid certain forms of unhappiness.

It’s really not that complicated. It only appears complicated to those who: A) have enough money; and B) don’t have enough happiness.

The word they don’t understand there is “enough.” This is not entirely their fault, because much of our culture is based on preventing any of us from understanding that word. But it’s a really important word — particularly when the subject is happiness.

— Fred Clark at Slacktivist

When home’s not home

We cannot bring you back when home’s not home
We can’t make you pay debts you will not own
We cannot reason with the unforeseen
We can’t compromise when there’s no in-between

— Marian Call, in her song “In The Black”. She’s released both studio and live versions.

This reminds me of my parents; making my own life meant that my home wasn’t theirs anymore, that I didn’t own the obligations they thought I had, and there wasn’t always a good in-between. (And, of course, with Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, I’m getting reminded of my parents a lot.)

Full lyrics are at this page.

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude.]

It’s Thursday.  I made it to Thursday.

Monday I took 5 hours out of my day for a training class on interviews (with a special focus on behavioral interviewing, joy) followed by working late. Then my carpool buddy and I drove to the 1 post office still open so he could drop off his tax extension.

Tuesday I conducted two 1-hour interviews and a half-hour informational interview and, again, working late while carpool buddy was a morale event. By the end of the day I felt like my brains were mush.

Wednesday I had no meetings, no interviews, just work. One of my team members was out, but I still got lots done, including figuring out a bit of code that delighted me.

Today, Thursday, I had multiple meetings, including my annual performance review discussion with my boss.  Since I’d been promoted to management I had an idea it would go well, and it did. I got a raise, some stock, and a renewed sense of impostor syndrome. Also a feeling of “now what?”

….and then it was off to the Fairmont hotel for dinner with the man of house at his company’s quarterly dinner thing.

I’m grateful that what started as a temp job just over 2 years ago has turned into a place where I’m comfortable, liked, and rewarded.

I’m grateful that my boss and coworkers appreciate me.

I’m grateful that I can direct the raise into saving for emergencies.

I’m grateful that I can go back to work tomorrow and maybe have a normal day. ;)

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude.]

1) Getting things done at work.

2) Realized I was feeling a bit fuzzy-headed and tired everytime I took my SSRI.  Being able to notice this sort of thing is somewhat new. 

3) Successfully tapered down to a low dose without problems.  (Why? It’s been nearly two years since I started on them again, I wasn’t having symptoms, and seeing if it would get rid of the tired/fuzzy feeling.)

4) I am feeling less tired these days.  May also be due to Seattle getting more than 12 hours of daylight again, but good is good. :)

5) Feeling better about my parents and moving on.  Grief is a process and I seem to have moved to a less-fraught stage. 

6) Asthma meds. For breathing!!!

7) Coworkers who are patient as I learn new skills.

8) The man of the house, who improves my life in so many ways. 

What is good in your life today?

Around the web

Image courtesy of Rudd image gallery.

Image courtesy of Rudd image gallery.

A useful discussion of how to say the right thing to someone in hospital (or other bad situation.)

Christianity Today wonders if antidepressants keep people from God.  Fred Clark at Slacktivist responds:

No pious jackasses sit around pondering “Should Christians Take Insulin?” No insufferably holier-than-thou idiots pretend it would be deeply spiritual if they said, “Rattlesnake anti-venom can help, but it can also hinder our reliance on Christ.” Or “An emergency appendectomy may sometimes be beneficial, but only if we’re careful not to allow it to overshadow our true savior.”

Obesity Panacea debunks the latest “Paying people to lose weight is the ticket!” study, noting that the weight was regained during the 3-month follow-up:

Over the course of the 4 month intervention individuals in the incentive groups earned an average of approximately $300, in contrast to $0 awarded to those in the control group. Interestingly, the average weight loss achieved by those receiving a financial incentive was significantly greater as compared to that of the control group (13-14lbs vs. 4 lbs, respectively). Furthermore, only 10% of individuals in the control group versus approximately 50% of those in the incentive groups achieved the target weight-loss of 16lbs.

However, during a subsequent 3-month follow-up, study participants gained back much of the lost weight after the cessation of the financial incentives – a finding which is common to most, if not all, weight-loss intervention studies.


[I]ts a cute and gimmicky approach to providing incentive for weight loss, and the idea makes for great headlines (as recently illustrated). I’m sure financial incentives can work for some, but this is no obesity panacea.

(emphasis added)

At ASDAH’s HAES Blog, Fall Ferguson has an interesting question about the opportunity cost of society’s obsession with weight & thinness:

[W]hat do we forego as a society when we allocate precious social, economic, cognitive, emotional, and physiological resources toward pursuing and maintaining our weight-based paradigm of health?

Some of the damages discussed are to public health, proper health care for many thin and fat people, productivity, fun, creativity, self-esteem, and happiness.  I know many who’ve found that abandoning weight loss efforts provided more time and energy for LIFE, such as school and work.  (In our current culture, it can also mean accepting difference.)  But it’s worth thinking about: What could be accomplished if we weren’t wasting so much effort on weight?

Thankful Thursday

[An occasional exercise in gratitude]

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for….

  1. I belong to a church where women wearing pants to church is common.  As are women in leadership
  2. 1-year anniversary at work.  My signing bonus is now all mine, instead of something I have to pay back if I leave.  Also I get another week’s vacation next year.
  3. My own office, without a roommate.
  4. Upcoming 4-day weekend.
  5. Letting go of other people’s “Oh, but you have to do ________ for Christmas” and focusing on what I want to do.
  6. The man of the house, who has been supportive through work craziness in October / November.
  7. Splurging on things from tees to office toys because I can.
  8. Did I mention an upcoming 4-day weekend?
  9. Memories of a fun weekend of musical crafty goodness.
  10. Discovering that yes, washing the bed linens weekly (including the mattress pad) really really does affect my health.  (AKA “This week’s stuffiness, headaches, and increased inhaler usage is Proof that the laundry is not make-work, damn it.)

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]

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for…

  1. Being thanked for work I did on an event.
  2. Being complimented on my writing and this blog.
  3. Between blackout curtains and weight lifting I’m mostly getting enough sleep this summer.
  4. Physically feeling the benefits of regular strength training.
  5. Splurging on a few summer tops & such.
  6. New Donna Andrews book!
  7. I feel like I’m starting to wake up from the last few years.
  8. Reminders that even with my parents gone, I’m not as old as I sometimes think.

Things to read

From Jezebel’s Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just for Moms:

The basic point of all of this is that whether you have kids, have a partner but no kids, or are living alone, working too much sucks. It’s no way to live, and we’re not dummies. So at some point, most of us realize that we’d rather do something that allows us to actually have a life, rather than commit every waking hour to a job, no matter how fulfilling we find it.

This is why I’ve been avoiding startups.

Jezebel also had a good post from Lindy West on an Adipositivity Project  photo being used as “a joke”.

Can you believe fat people? Just existing willy-nilly all over the place, sometimes without even the courtesy to cloak their terrible bodies in heavy smocks and caftans.

Why, they even expect their copyrights to be respected?!?  It’s as if they think they’re people!

Why Obesity is NOT an Eating Disorder:

An ED is a serious emotional problem/illness and obesity is a measure of height and weight. …  The comparison between obesity and eating disorders is [akin] to comparing an apple with a chair. You can’t sit in an apple and you can’t eat a chair!

This sort of armchair misdiagnosing does not help anybody, especially not those with actual eating disorders.

Things to read

I think a lot of people look to exercise to help them lose weight, and when they don’t lose weight immediately with exercise, they quit. They return to the couch, and they basically never move again. What is lost in that is that fitness is almost certainly more important than fatness. — Gretchen Reynolds, promoting her new bookThe First 20 Minutes.

On the one hand, this is a bit of aduh“. On the other hand, there are clearly a lot of people who don’t get it.  From the same article:

Ms. Reynolds makes a clear distinction between the amount of exercise we do to improve sports performance and the amount of exercise that leads to better health. To achieve the latter, she explains, we don’t need to run marathons, sweat it out on exercise bikes or measure our peak oxygen uptake. We just need to do something.

“Humans,” she writes, “are born to stroll.”

While I’m writing about exercise, you may have seen references to the recent study which concluded “[h]ealthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.”  If you’re interested, the full text is here.  (I also realize that not everyone cares ;)

On a different note, Seanan McGuire has a great “Dear girls of the world today” post on her blog:

Collect dolls or knives or books or interesting rocks. Watch horror movies or romances or cartoons. Run races; go to spas. Eat cake or lettuce. Buy yourself a toy light saber and make your own wooooom noises while you wave it around; build a cardboard castle and chuck plush mushrooms at your would-be rescuers. Live your life, the way you want to live it, and understand that no one can kick you out of “the girl club” for doing it wrong, because you’re not.

May is Mental Health Awareness month:

Mental health is about more than mental illness. Please don’t hear “mental health” and just think “crazy people”, or even, more enlightenedly, “people with mental illnesses”. Health isn’t only a topic for sick people, and that’s just as true in the psychological as the somatic. — Siderea

I found this lesson in illustrating wheelchairs from someone who uses one rather illuminating.

Also: May the Fourth be with you!