Book Review: Invisible Women

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If I could give this 10 stars I would. While I expected it to be an extension of topics I’ve seen in other books recently it was so much more. Intensively researched, well laid-out, far-ranging, well-organized, and engaging it is a must-read for everyone but especially for women. Especially if you ever feel like life is so much harder than it should be and can’t figure out why.

Further notes: Sometimes things come to you when you need them most. Books, words of wisdom, podcasts, sermons, whatever. This book is one of those things. It puts into words things that I felt but couldn’t explain and ties together realities I knew about but had never connected. It covers everything from why seat belts irritatingly refuse to sit comfortably to why there never seems to be enough time to get things done to why it’s so hard to find a job that works. It was full of things I very much needed to hear right when I needed to hear them, and I’m grateful.

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Daffodils

For several years at our last house we tried to grow both daffodils and tulips. Unfortunately, it was so cold and we kept getting dumped on with snow so heavily for so long that we didn’t see much success. By the time the snow melted and things got warm enough for there to be any thought of flowers it was June. What few flowers did bloom were largely swallowed up by the weeds and wild plants.

Last year, we decided that we would try again here. The house came with a well-defined and well-mulched flower bed out front… with no flowers in it. So we bought bulbs and I got them in the ground last minute before the first frost. Since it’s mostly mulch (rather than proper soil), I wasn’t sure what kind of success we’d have. But look! Flowers!!

They popped right up and, to my surprise, are open almost constantly! Even when we are up in the middle of the night to let the dogs out, the daffodils are usually open and perky. 🌼

In light of this success, I think the next step is to find something else that will bloom slightly later (summer, mostly?) and plant it in and around the daffodil bulbs for a multi-season approach. I’m not sure what that second flower will be yet, but I’m excited to have the chance to give flower layering a try!

Stratzilla! Restoration Project, Part V

By now, my electric guitar had gained a lot of clarity.  It was fun to play and quite stable.  Nothing really jumped out as to needing a lot of attention, so it was a good time to do a couple of smaller things.  

With the increased clarity, I could finally hear what a lot of people would complain about: spring noise.  Play a strong chord (or even a couple of single notes) of a certain resonance, and the springs on the back side of the tremolo would rattle around to make a sound most similar to a broken filament rattling inside an old incandescent bulb.  A set of silent springs ran me only six bucks, so that mod was quick and easy!  Bye bye spring noise!

Elsewhere, I thought it necessary to add at least one string tree for stability and see how it would go from there.  After measuring and mapping the proper location probably five times, I committed to drilling a pilot hole, and screwed in the tree for strings 1 & 2.  

Since at least two strings were removed for the string tree installation, I decided to toss the pot metal saddles, and replaced them with a set made by Graphtech.  Just like the string tree I installed, the saddles were a synthetic material that matched the density of bone, which should add some sustain.  The white material added some nice contrast as well.

The saddles were easy enough to install.  The difficult part was to set up the action(string height), and the intonation, ensuring both the open tuning and the 12th fret tuning were spot on by adjusting the back screw accordingly.  

The end result was with mixed opinions.  I did appreciate eliminating the spring rattle but don’t think the new saddles did anything for clarity, tone, or sustain.  Oh well, they look nice.  

Documentaries

As a result of covid, most of the animation studios have delayed releasing new seasons of the few shows we routinely watch. But we’re not really at a point right now where it makes sense to pick up any new series, so the last two times we’ve had spare time and wanted to watch something, we’ve opted for documentaries.

The first one, Seaspiracy, we picked on a whim. Equal parts informative and horrifying, it was well done and thought-provoking. It combined things I already was somewhat familiar with (like fish farming and plastic contaminating the oceans) with other things I knew nothing about (like the mass slaughter of sharks). I was both furious and utterly unsurprised to learn that the “dolphin-safe” and “sustainably fished” food labels are as nebulous, unregulated, and useless as “all-natural” and other labels I’ve ranted about before. I’m not sure what impact the things we learned will ultimately have on our shopping choices, but it’s worth a watch.

The Social Dilemma is a documentary that I’ve seen recommended several times by names I respect in the functional medicine/functional health community but it was very much one of those “ouch and amen” kinds of things. Like yes, they have a hugely important point but ow does it suck to be called out on things you know you should do better on.

While it’s purportedly abut social media, the documentary touches on so many issues that I didn’t expect it to — all of which were directly related to social media or the technology driving it. I rank it as a must-see for everyone.

Book Reviews

During the second half of last year my primary listening material while I was doing chores, etc. was True Crime stuff. This was mostly because it sat neatly at the intersection of convenient and fascinating. There are literal reams of it free on youtube and in the library’s audiobook collection, it’s easy to listen to in small chunks without a ton of time or attention, and it’s like a good murder mystery without the annoying bits. I loved learning about where people made mistakes and how the intrepid law enforcement officers tracking them down found and leveraged those mistakes. Fascinating.

My Prince was slightly less amused and requested that I find something less morbid and less likely to contribute to my already-not-so-high tolerance for humanity to listen to instead.

I complied by doubling down on my several-lifetimes-long reading list. To his dismay, this has not actually improved things, as I’ve listened to/read several books in a row that have made me go from listening to stories of people being stabbed to actually wanting to stab people myself. (I swear that was unintentional on my part.)

Today’s first book, Doing Harm is on the list of unexpectedly-stab-inspiring works.

Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenbery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was phenomenal. I picked it up because I’ve seen it quoted in other books I’ve read and I decided I should probably just read this in its whole glory, too.

I was stunned by how much of this I didn’t know considering all the over-lapping stuff I’ve read and I desperately want to add it to my list of things that all women should read — and men, too!

It was well-researched, well-organized, and exceptionally relevant to modern healthcare no matter who you are. Absolute must-read.

Further notes: Holy glob is our medical system a disaster….

The second book in today’s post is highly specific, but I’m posting it anyway.

The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions by Terry Wahls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very well organized with genuinely delicious recipes! It does a better job of making a potentially challenging diet/constellation of diet options more accessible than I’d imagined possible.

Further notes: The Wahls Protocol is specific to people with MS and I picked up this cookbook because a friend has MS and we were discussing her attempts to shift over to this diet and its challenges. While I wasn’t able to make much out of it (because there’s a vast difference between what you need to eat for histamine intolerance and MS), I was VERY impressed with the accessible and organized layout and would absolutely recc this as a must-invest-in for anyone trying the Wahls diet.

Closing note: I am still in the middle of one stab-inspiring book but have promised My Prince that the next book I pick up will be specifically selected to *not* fall in that category. : p

One Year Later

Last year at about this time, just before lock-down efforts went into effect for our area, we drove out to Seattle. We’d been worried about our babies and the fact that both Arthas and Nenya had reached the average life expectancy for their breed. They were in rough shape (which we’re learning seems to be normal for this time of year — maybe because it’s so damp?) and I, especially, didn’t want to potentially lose them and be left searching for a new dog with that kind of hole in my heart.

So we talked about it and My Prince was interested in a German Shepherd/Border Collie mix. While we found several semi-locally, they were all female and we knew that Nenya would never tolerate another girl in her territory. So we kept searching… and found Bran.

I’d read that all-black animals were the hardest to adopt out and Bran had a rough history besides. He’d been born into an abusive puppy-farm situation and then returned by his first adopters because they weren’t equipped or interested in dealing with his quirks.

Of course, having adopted Nenya, we knew all about rough starts and quirks. I showed him to My Prince and we were both smitten. The rescue actually called in person and tried to talk us out of him because they weren’t sure we understood what we were looking at. We assured them we knew the breeds and knew the ropes and had two senior dogs who would help show him the ropes.

As we’d known they would, both our babies took to Bran immediately. Nenya mothers him, checking on him if he whimpers in his sleep and giving him sneak kisses whenever she can, and Arthas has taught him the key Facts and Habits he needs to know: poodles are evil, Mommy must be supervised at all times, those kinds of things.

While he’s still a funny little boy who will always have his quirks, he’s gone from painfully skittish to jumping up to sit on the couch with us while we have coffee in the morning or to curl up on the chaise with me while I work. He was slow to come out his shell, but has truly blossomed into a happy, well-adjusted boy. It makes me so happy I could almost cry when he bounds around the yard playing with visiting furry friends and then passes out and snores, his little toes still twitching when his friends go home.

I can’t wait to see who he grows up to be a few more years. ❤️

Making Friends as an Adult

When we lived in NY, we worked very hard to try to make friends and build community. Unfortunately, because of where we were, we simply had no success. Our neighbors were either NYC refugees “out in the country” for short periods of time who didn’t want to see or talk to anyone else while they were “vacationing” or they were small-town natives who’d lived there forever and weren’t interested in making nice with anyone who hadn’t been born and raised there.

Even out here, we’ve had a bad experience or two. It was discouraging and made me think of something my mother told me years ago when I was much too young to appreciate the wisdom of it: one of the hardest things about being a couple is finding other couples you both enjoy. I feel like this is especially true for us since I am so much more of an introvert than My Prince. I’m just not all that helpful when it comes to making In Real Life (IRL) friends and scheduling things.

We’ve been making an effort, though, and I was struck last week by the fact that those quiet efforts seem to have suddenly yielded an abundance of blessings. In the last six months or so, we’ve:

  • Taken to having monthly dinner dates with anther couple we deeply enjoy
  • Had a friend with fur-children that get along with our fur-children move in walking distance from us
  • Gone on a dinner date with a couple from My Prince’s work (they were wonderful and I loved them)
  • Had drinks and snacks with a couple we knew one half of and discovered that her husband is every bit as delightful as she is
  • Talked to another couple we know about having them bring their dogs over to play with ours

It is amazing to me that we’ve actually ended up with the community we so longed for and, as the weather turns nicer, I am excited about planning more changes to get together with people and do things and truly make the most of it!

The Bedroom Project

When we discussed house projects for this spring, we agreed that redoing the bedroom floor should be at the top of the list. It was the last room in the house with carpet and we wanted to paint, as well. Since our bedroom isn’t overly large, it made sense to do both at the same time.

As I was in editing hell for my most recent novel, My Prince did most of the work. I did take time out to help with the painting but the floor was all his masterful work.

He started, of course, by ripping out the trim, carpet, and underlayment. Our bedroom had far less junk underneath the carpet than the living room had, but there was still quite the odd array of pennies, loose screws, and other debris that had just been carpeted over because apparently no one thought to sweep/vacuum before laying it down. 🤷‍♀️😒

As you can see, when some previous owner painted, they literally just got a sprayer and sprayed the rooms down, heedless of the original wood floor beneath. (Reason #506 I didn’t even consider trying to refinish the floors instead of just putting new stuff down.) We also found tufts of hideous brown-and-green seventies carpet, evidence that before being white the trim was a very dark shade of brown, and co-axe cable that was also just carpeted over instead of removed. 🙄

As you can also see, the room (and the entire house when we bought it) was a cool, neutral, bluish-grey shade. We opted to paint it a darker shade of grey called Revere Pewter that we used in the last house and loved. It’s elegant and warm and creates a perfect backdrop for anything else you want to do with a room.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love having a small house when it comes to house projects. You just need so much less time and money to make projects happen. (Although I will say that the cost of housing project materials has skyrocketed and I am horrified. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Anyway, we did two coats of paint, and then my Prince knocked out the flooring and trim in record time. We used the same grey laminate that we have in the yoga room because I love it. It’s bright and easy to clean and provides the same warm, neutral feel as the paint.

This is not the best picture, but hopefully it gives you a solid idea of the difference!

I am thrilled with how well this turned out (and how fast it went) and to have no more carpet in the house hiding dirt and prickly goats-heads the dogs drag in. I also love how much more comfortable and welcoming and bright the room feels.

Given what the schedule looks like, I don’t know how many more projects we’ll get in before the year is over, but if this is the only one I’ll still be perfectly satisfied.

March Link Roundup

Interesting links I ran across this month.

Archeologists found 600 cats and dogs lovingly buried in what they think to be the oldest known pet cemetery. This made me think of all the episodes of Team Time that I’ve watched and the fact that for as much as humans change, some things have always been the same.

Learning a new language alters how we think of time. Once again, I am trying not to be resentful of the fact that European countries routinely teach students multiple languages starting when they’re young and their brains are like sponges while the US waits until everyone is in Middle School, disaffected, distracted, and overwhelmed, and then makes them take like two years of one language and calls it good.

The military is reverse engineering parts because we can no longer duplicate past technology on critically needed planes. This is not the first time I have seen/heard about this and its maddening. We like to think that we’re getting smarter and more capable as time goes on, but things like this remind you vividly and uncomfortably that that isn’t always the case.

Raising helpful kids through tiny, tiny steps. So technically this is about kids but as a former manager this really spoke to me about the problems in our perceptions as a society. If we used this same approach to training new employees (or helpers!!) at every level, our workforce (and individual workers) would be so much better off.

Interior Design Fails This is just a collection of 40 times someone made an absolutely horrific choice when building/remodeling that make you both cringe and laugh.

Stratzilla! Restoration Project, Part IV

After owning my electric guitar for a month, I was growing increasingly frustrated by the condition of the guitar’s neck, particularly on the frets.  Knowing the neck’s wood had thoroughly dried out, and needed some restoration, I was hoping things would get better after some conditioning.  They really didn’t.  Elsewhere, the finish had been completely eroded away, and several frets were either flattened from use or had risen from their seats enough to catch just about anything.  After the third time I got the first string stuck under one of those frets, I had to make a change.  

I did some quick research online, and visited the local guitar shop.  Side by side, I played a Squier, Mexican Strat, and an American Professional.  The latter was far and away higher quality than the previous two to the point that I was considering purchasing it!  Focusing only on the neck, I was still impressed at how playable the American made guitar was.  The quality was amazing, too.  The bonding points of the different materials were seamless as far as my amateur eyes could tell, which is what sold me.  

Fast forward a week, and I had a new American made Stratocaster neck, maple with a rosewood fretboard.  I elected to buy the longer 22 fret option where my current one had only 21 frets.  Side by side, the two necks were both similar yet so very different. 

When I had a free evening, I cleaned up the fretboard with lemon oil, and installed the neck along with some new strings after transferring over my locking machine heads.  The end result was an even warmer tone than before.  The neck was really smooth in my hand, and changing notes was actually easier as the satin finish on the backside made travel nearly effortless.  Best of all, nothing was getting stuck on these precision frets.  I didn’t transfer over the string trees quite yet; that would be a project for future me!

Upgrading the neck was expensive, but I had no apprehensions after I had all of my facts together.  This was only reaffirmed when I had it all in once piece.  Experiencing the dramatic improvement in sound quality and playability made it money well spent.  Even my instructor was beginning to notice the better sound.  I’d like to say it was just the wrench time I was putting in, but was I also getting better?