The Oracle of Delphi

I’m going to try to do a better job this year of tracking my reading here. Here’s the first book of the year (such as it was) down!

The Oracle of Delphi: The Ancient World’s Most Famous Seer by Charles River Editors

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it was recommended to me, but I was immensely disappointed.
– The entire thing reads more like a school report or dissertation than like a proper book
– At least the whole first half of the book functionally has nothing to do with the Oracle itself but meanders through cultic myth and historical record of when the idea of an Oracle at Delphi first appeared, who it belonged to, etc.
– When it does get around to the Oracle part there is precious little information. The writers make a fair point about there simply not being a lot of historically verifiable information to work from and the risks of relying on what textual information we have, but if that’s their main point their book is grossly mistitled and misrepresented.
– There is no conclusion. It just… stops. 🤷‍♀️
– The audible version is read very flatly, again like someone reading a school report.

All things considered, I definitely do not recommend this book.

View all my reviews

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Two More Random Things I Learned

Last month, while doing some research for a work article, I learned that you are only allowed to transfer money out of a savings account a limited number of times per month. If you transfer money out too often your bank:

  • Can refuse to allow the transfer
  • Can charge/fine you for additional transfers
  • Can close your account or convert it to a checking account (with all the associated fees, minimum balances, etc.)

Apparently, this is the result of federal laws designed to “encourage” people to save money, since Americans routinely do not save enough. Personally, I think this is pretty sketchy on multiple levels. Especially since banks:

  • Take so long to process transactions in the first place, regularly requiring account holders to shuffle money around to make sure everything is covered
  • Charge tons of fees for non-savings accounts
  • Do not clearly explain that this is how things work when you sign up for an account
  • Do not make it easy to subdivide accounts so that you can realistically have, afford, and access savings specifically for things like gifts, medical care, etc.

Honestly, it makes you tempted to go back to the old-fashioned habit of sticking spare money in a coffee can somewhere, doesn’t it?

The other interesting thing I learned recently came from a Time Team episode. They were digging a site that totally didn’t add up. It very quickly became clear that somebody had “seeded” the site with things, but the weird part was that they were all real artifacts. (Side note: if you ever want to piss off an archeologist to the point where they seriously consider murdering you with a shovel, apparently the best way to do it is to stick real, invaluable historical objects in the ground unprotected and leave them there to weather and degrade for a while.)

At the end of the episode, their conclusion was that someone had been trying to “launder” artifacts. Apparently, this is when you acquire a valuable historical artifact in a shady way and then plant it at a legitimate dig site for someone to discover. The artifact is then recorded as belonging to the legit site and acquires provenance, which allows you to legally sell it on the antiquities market.

First thought: I didn’t know that was a thing a person could do.

Second thought: some people work harder at crime than they would at a proper job to make the same amount of money. I do not understand this at all.

Third thought: Maybe don’t do this, because you will get murdered and nobody has more access to holes they can lose your body in than an archeologist. 😛

Ask People vs Guess People

I recently ran across a fascinating thread about communication. It discusses the difference between “Ask” people and “Guess” people, and seemed like an intriguing intersection of:

  • Brene Brown’s work around “the stories we tell ourselves”
  • Love Languages
  • Cultural expectations and mores around communication

It made me think, not for the first time, about how many friendships, marriages, and work situations fail (often spectacularly and painfully) because most of us are never taught these kinds of things as children. Moreover, most of the time we don’t even learn the emotional awareness or language to even begin constructive conversations around these things.

(Mostly that’s a complaint against the fact that I have a business management degree and did all kinds of supplemental training/professional development crap and STILL had to learn all these things on my own because no one is teaching it in the spheres where it is uber relevant.)

Anyway, it isn’t long and I thought I’d share because it might be thought-provoking or useful to someone else as it was for me. : )

2020 in Books

At the beginning of 2020, I set myself a simple reading goal: I would prioritize the books that had been sitting on my to-be-read list forever. Either I’d read them or, if I decided I really wasn’t interested any more, I’d take them off the list.

Then, of course, I took up two writing-based jobs and 2020 in general happened. Audible and Libby (the library’s audiobook app) became my lifelines. I tried to find as many books on my list as possible in audio format and listened to them while I did dishes, cooked dinner, and in other moments where my hands were busy but my head was free. Along the way, I picked up a few books not on my original list as they crossed my path.

According to Goodreads, I read 23 books this year. That number isn’t entirely accurate, though. It doesn’t account for the histamine books I read but somehow didn’t review. It does include all the books that I picked up, gave a fair shot, hated, and didn’t finish.

Maybe it was a function of the year leaving me with limited patience for tedious writing or simply that I took some risks in what I chose to read, but I felt like “books I disliked too much to finish” accounted for a bigger part of my reading experiences this year than usual. Examples included:

There were a few solid winners, though!

As we head into a new year, I’m reevaluating my reading goals again. I’ve already had friends recommend books to me which will definitely make the list. I’ve got a few books on the list remaining that I did not get to in 2020 (so help me, I WILL finish Chris Kresser and Dave Asprey’s books!!). I also want to be more intentional about working lighter fare into my list — a little cotton candy for the brain can be a good thing sometimes. : )

That’s all I’ve got, but if anyone else has goals and wants and accountability buddy, let me know!

Fur Babies

It has occurred to me that I am overdue for a fur babies update. Specifically, as we close out the year, it is worth celebrating that all of our babies are still with us (despite how worried we were about the older two off and on last winter/spring) and Bran is settling in beautifully! He’s been with us for almost nine months now, and he’s finally gotten comfortable enough to actively seek out cuddles and love instead of just being happily surprised (and a little nervous) when they are offered.

As you might guess from the tuna cans in the above pic, Bran has learned to be a great cleanup helper!

All of the dogs love lounging in the sunlight. Fortunately, we get so much direct sun (and therefore heat) that we can often have the inner doors open even in the dead of winter so they get lots of opportunity to sun themselves. Below left you can see Nenya snuggling with My Prince’s new robe. It’s by Minky and, although I give them negative points for business acumen, it is a nice robe. It’s very soft and Nenya is always happy to lay on it if she gets a chance. : )

I would post pics more often, but Bran is *terrible* to try to get pics of. Hazards of having a black dog and dark furniture! Hope everyone else’s fur babies are doing well, too! 💕

Christmas Treats

This is just a quick post to share two recipes.

I made Keto Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast on Christmas. I have a good paleo version but was looking for a recipe:
(a) with no real sugar
(b) that was low-histamine-friendly
(c) that didn’t call for a freaking ton of almond flour (both for cost and as part of the low-histamine thing)

This was a good choice! They definitely took longer to bake than the recipe said and they weren’t nearly as pretty as the blog photos (nothing ever is) but they were delicious! They were also very filling, which was great! They took surprisingly little in the way of ingredients and I will definitely be making them again.

Yesterday, I made chocolate chip cookies for My Prince and wanted something sweet and indulgent for myself… but I also didn’t want to have to go out for groceries or to blow through my limited histamine tolerance. Enter Keto Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles!

It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been able to eat regular snickerdoodles and frankly most gluten-free versions are not worth the sugar or calories. THESE, however, were delicious! They’re also stupidly easy to make. (Disclaimer: I skipped rolling them in the suggested topping and made swerve-based icing to top them with instead. It was an excellent choice.)

Like all treats, keto treats are meant to be consumed in moderation. BUT if you’re trying to eat healthier/cleaner in 2021, they can be hugely empowering. Small, clean treats help you avoid the despair of feeling like there’s nothing indulgent to enjoy and that can help you stay the course. I am thankful for them as a reminder that I have more options than I feel like I do, too, even on days when coming up with low-histamine meals is challenge. ❤️

Conflicting Advice

As we approach the end of the year, I’ve seen two primary camps of thought. One camp strongly advocates following standard New Year’s traditions: making resolutions, setting goals, all those kinds of things.

The other camp advises exactly the opposite: focus on the now, don’t try to set goals you probably won’t be able to keep, etc. Advocates of this approach point out that everyone is largely drowning in feelings of being over-extended and exhausted right now and that focusing on what’s ahead won’t help.

While both sides have some merit, I am firmly in the camp that believes there’s value in looking ahead. Obviously the pandemic and all the associated craziness won’t just pack it in because our arbitrary human calendars flipped over to a new year, but I think there’s huge value in mentally turning a corner, if nothing else. Besides, all the science says that setting goals is powerful, so if we aren’t setting any goals at all, we’re not exactly setting ourselves up for success, are we?

Certainly there is room to set goals that leave space for adaptation. Goals that build in an awareness of everyone’s over-taxed state. But, really, the best and most achievable goals are the tiny ones anyway. (I am being lazy and not citing sources, but I have them to back up all these statements if necessary.)

So I propose that, as we head into the new year, we set goals that are:

  • Small
  • Flexible
  • Self-care oriented

We will do better work, have better relationships, and have better outcomes all around (for ourselves and others!) if we use those guidelines. So maybe take a few minutes this week to think about the year to come and ask yourself where you’ve got gaps in your self-care that you can turn into smart, healthy new years resolutions. (And don’t let anybody determined to stay stuck in a 2020 mindset convince you otherwise!!!)

Interesting Things

One of the things that I like best about my article-writing job is that I get to learn lots of weird and random things while I’m researching. Sometimes those things are useful. Sometimes they’re a little horrifying.

For instance, did you know that functionally the only way to get out of a timeshare once you’ve bought it is to hire an entire team of lawyers to accuse the timeshare company of breaking a technical law somewhere in the process of selling it to you until the company decides to release you from the contract to avoid going to court? Yup. You can’t sell it or give it back or anything. You can, technically, just stop paying and default, but doing so will ruin your credit for at least a decade. Oh, and if you do try to sell it, any time the buyer wants out all they have to do is stop paying and everything will revert to you because you can’t formally/legally get out of the contract by selling it.

If you, like me, think that shouldn’t be legal, most lawyers agree. Apparently the timeshare industry has just bought enough people in government to keep themselves in business, despite the dubious nature of what they do.

On a similar note, did you know that if you are injured (say in a car accident) and you go to court to sue for damages:

  • It can be a couple of years before you see any money
  • Other parties can put liens on your potential award (including your insurance provider!!)
  • You will not see a dime until every cent under lien has been paid out
  • The interest on a pre-settlement loan is so high you might not see a dime at all if you get one to help cover all your bills in the immediate aftermath of the accident (when you desperately need it)
  • There is no provision for legal representation in civil cases, which means you must foot the bill for a lawyer yourself or go without (even though statistically you don’t stand a chance of even making it into court, much less winning, without a lawyer) no matter how clearly you were wronged

There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that your medical bills must be paid upfront (or can be sent to collections) while it takes up to two years for a case to work itself through the court system. Also, we all literally pay for our insurance upfront — often for years without filing a single claim — but they can demand repayment from our court-awarded damages?? Even when the whole reason people even put themselves through going to court in the first place is because they need the money to pay for all the stuff insurance doesn’t cover (like copays and supplemental care and rent and food while you’re out of work and need the money)???

The entire system is a disaster and the more I read/write about it, the more appalled I am. *shakes head*

Oh, yes, speaking of things that are disasters: home-sharing (ala Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Did you know that:

  • You have to buy special home-sharing insurance in order to have any coverage on your home while renting out space via one of those platforms
  • If your guest stays more than 30 days in some places they become a legal “tenant” with all the associated rights and you become their “landlord” — with all the associated responsibilities (most of which no one participating in these systems has any idea about
  • If your guest stays more than 30 days and then refuses to leave, they are considered “squatters” which also comes with legal rights and it can take months and buckets of money to “evict” them… all while they’re living in your house! (Because that’s not terrifying or anything)

Anyway, all of that to say I’ve been doing a bunch of work lately and the more I work the more I appreciate the sheer depth of truth in the statement “reality is stranger than fiction” — and not just because it’s 2020 and we seem to be living in The Year of Murphy’s Law. 😛

Men’s Fashion

Several weeks ago now, we took a chunk of one of our days off and tried to buy some new dress shirts for My Prince. To say that we met with no success would be an understatement.

Covid didn’t help, of course. Weirdly, you can try on jackets and pants, but not shirts. 🤔

Setting aside the complete lack of logic in that, there was also the problem of how few shirts there were to choose from. You’d think that since we’re heading into Christmas/winter in general, there’d be a lot of bold colors – greens, reds, etc. You might also be forgiven for thinking there’d be a lot of variations on those themes.

You would also be wrong.

Apparently, finding men’s shirts in anything but the same handful of shades of blue and white is Not A Thing. Don’t even think about wanting nice touches like a unique collar or French cuffs.

Several married friends and I had a discussion on the point shortly thereafter, commiserating how hard it is find clothes for our husbands to feel good in and how dumb it is that while women struggle to find anything that fits even remotely flatteringly, guys can find stuff that fits but only in, like, two styles.

That was when someone pointed me toward a fascinating twitter thread about why exactly this is the case.

Forgive the profanity, but this really is worth reading. In the interests of time and spending my energy more productive places, I won’t rant here or now about how absurd these standards are or how damaging these kinds of arbitrary judgements and social boundaries are for both men and women. I will just say that I am personally not amused and that I’m now inclined to subvert these types of standards that much more often than I already am and to make an effort to applaud other people when they do, too. If nothing else, enjoy a brief history lesson (of the kind I wish I’d encountered more when I was younger) about men’s fashion. 👨‍💼

Happy Birthday, Arthas!

In honor of the fact that he turns 13 today (about 91 in dog years), have a photo of Arthas the day we got him when he was 9 lbs of fluff with a dip-stick tail who couldn’t walk in a straight line (because his back legs went faster than his front ones) and a pic of him today, sleep-rumpled but dignified.