Guardian Building lobby

On summer Fridays I daydream about hot, coverless books.

So here's a book meme from brittdreams.

A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read:
What the Eyes Don't See, for sure, given that in my graduate program we worked on several projects in Flint (if you've not been following me since 2012 or so, you can read up on the major one of these at this tag). It's not the first non-fiction book on my list this year about Flint, and I am getting to the book soon!

A book that's been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven't picked it up:
I've done much better in the last couple of years on culling down the oldest things on my list, but probably my undergrad architecture professor's book, Building the Cold War, has been on there the longest.

A book in a series you've started, but haven't finished yet:
I don't do series anymore, but I suppose I never finished The Dark Tower series, and that was when there were only three installments! Now there are seven? Never going to happen.

A classic you've always liked the sound of, but never actually read:
Tropic of Capricorn comes to mind. I ate up Tropic of Cancer but never got to the other one.

A popular book that it seems everyone but you has read:
Where the Crawdads Sing.

A book that inspired a film/TV adaptation that you really love, but you just haven't read it yet:
Olive Kitteridge, maybe? I have read reviews saying the book actually wasn't great, though.

A book you see all over Instagram/Tumblr/BookTube but haven't picked up yet:
Lots of chatter about Hillbilly Elegy, but I'm still not sure I feel like supporting the author or that it's really the compelling and unique story a lot of folks make it out to be.
Most comfortable chair ever.

Fairies in America's Dairyland

Still workshopping my blog titles, tyvm.

Roof view
On the huge observation deck of the Wisconsin State Capitol. 360 degree views!


First, though, the evening prior we chose a restaurant more or less at random from the G***le Maps app and it turned out to be an excellent Mexican place. We shared a pitcher of margaritas, guacamole, and a couple of taco plates*, and it was surprisingly good, probably the best meal we had all week. The server seemed kind of taken aback at our compliments, so maybe the kitchen was having an unusually good night. Hah.

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Hotel room party supplies.


Given that it was Sunday when we arrived in Madison, we didn't see a whole lot going on, so drove through a mess of construction to the nearest open liquor store and got some beers for the hotel room. In the morning, I rehydrated as best I could and went out for a run, my only exercise of the entire trip!

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And Madison makes 13!


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Cute attention to detail in the elevators.


I'm also watching The Witches of Eastwick in the background for the first time in ... 10 or 12 years? GD, this is an amazing cast for such a campy plot.

*Calories on vacation don't count.
oh noes!!!1!!11

Well, we're back.

But if not for these "job" things, we might have stayed forever and lived as dairyhands.

Wisconsin was super fun, and exceeded expectations! That makes 33 states for me, and 13 state capitols. I somehow thought I was now at 14, but close enough. I also added Indiana to my list, since we stopped there twice for gas (once each direction, it isn't that big) and once for a very uninspiring lunch.

The wedding was also fabulous, and they really put a ton of effort into making it happen on the relatively remote "farm" property. Spent two days hanging out with Keith, Tristan, Kate, and her husband Dave as well. Kate fried us cheese curds! I have basically 300 photos on my phone, maybe I'll share those in future posts.
Shirley 1

Q2 reading update

Crucial for ignoring the person next to you on this Hell Flight.

Plugging along on my book lists continued. Somehow I read no fiction at all for an entire six months, but will finally turn that around in July. Not much of a theme with these titles as I deduced from my Quarter 1 reads, but perhaps you could classify this as an anti-establishment reading list of a sort.

Ratings are also what I included in my LibraryThing account, but I haven't yet figured out how to crosspost reviews and other content from there to here, so you get to see them in this narrative format.

The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann
Another of the older titles that has been on my reading list too long. Some of this history is important to consider again, as the SATs were in theory going to be revamped again in 2019 before public backlash put the kibosh on the planned "adversity score" that test takers would also get. You can learn from this title that this feature was first devised in the middle 20th century! And some of what feels backwards about standardized testing as a student or a teacher did make more sense with detailed background about its inception. Still, it was a bit too fussy about including a play-by-play of the ETS Corporation when we didn't need that to get the overall point. 2.5*

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridhiradas
I read most of this title on a substitute flight from San Francisco after my original one was cancelled, so I was in an uncomfortable seat and trying to zone out. I say this because it was an apt setting, as the very frequent flyer next to me flirted with the flight attendant and they each tried to one-up the other in their respective knowledge of the American Airlines fleet. The premise is that we have no good reason to assume that the most wealthy in our society should have taken charge of all that they do, too often try to use philanthropy as a substitute for real problem solving, and aren't even very skilled at what they rule over. And the fact that this small group has largely segregated themselves from the rest of us is a corollary, enforcing further his main point. If you want the public sector to be strengthened and reclaim its work that has been contracted out, Giridharadas has the ideas for you. 3.5*

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Let me just start this one by noting that I hate TED Talks. The supposedly beneficent "non-profit" that puts them on is extremely wealthy and charges literally thousands of dollars for their annual event, after which they use the generous proceeds to do ... nothing else of consequence all year. Still, once in a while an "original" TED Talk is actually inspirational, and hers is my favorite.

With that digression complete, I did enjoy this one. The writing is approachable and not at all academic, mirroring the effectiveness of her lecture style as mentioned above. Much of the story recounts how she recognized her own stroke and the subsequent years-long recovery, from a deeply humble perspective. I will also say this is a very useful book: she includes easy-to-understand symptoms that you or someone around you may be in the early stages of a stroke, and when that merits medical attention. In addition, she has been part of the NAMI board and advocates for supporting them, plus details you how can donate your brain to science after you die! 4.5*

In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu
Maybe you wouldn't consider a book by a big city mayor from a politically famous family to belong on a list of "anti-establishment" reads. But in this case, the focus is on how Landrieu used his mayorship to remove four huge and imposing monuments of Confederate soldiers/other figures from the City after decades*, in response to the request of a much more famous New Orleanian, Wynton Marsalis. The latter issued this challenge while they were planning the city's 300-year anniversary, and it was personally nice to be a visitor in that year knowing the statues were gone. But the book focuses far more on civic pride and the feelings of long-time residents, especially black residents, that had to endure their presence. This book is largely about Landrieu's legacy, and he did a decent job noting why these events should be a part of that. Since it was published, the city has continued to discuss their fate, and it is notable that ideas to re-display two of them can't be carried out because Landrieu and the City Council passed laws prohibiting it that courts have also upheld. 3.5*

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young
If there's a book about Flint, I am eventually going to read it. And if there were a category for people feeling conflicted between their hometowns and wherever else they end up, that would overlap pretty thoroughly with my bookshelf. This author is a youngish guy trying to buy a house with his wife in already too expensive San Francisco, while at the same time wishing to somehow keep a presence in his hometown of Flint. As an admittedly indecisive person, I liked his forays into the city and what didn't work. What he could have done better, though, was to distinguish between the relatively local (like the ghastly but tidy subdivision where he crashed with a friend) and distinctly global (like the auto industry and thriving cities that attract Michiganders away) phenomena that Flint has to fight against. 4*

Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris
While it's difficult (and not necessarily wise) to try to boil down a whole generation's experience into one book, the never-ending litany of media coverage on boomers, millennials, and sort of demands that someone take a crack at it. I've done a very limited amount of that in my profession, but Harris is undoubtedly doing a better job here, indicating how the nature of labor and endless credentialing for its own sake have shaped and misshaped us. Aside from getting at the broad differences between the growing pains that each young generation experiences and the problems unique to this time period, he had well-researched micro-stories that reinforced his points, too. Like, the Vine stars that proposed a deal to the company directly, got turned down, and abandoned the platform. And we all know how it turned out for that app. My favorite nonfiction of the year so far. 5*

*Unsurprisingly the statues in question were put up between 1881 and 1911, not close to the end of the Civil War and not intended as the innocent remembrances their proponents would have us believe.

Titles YTD = 12
Gay black clouds

Summer travel intensifies.

Remind me to pack my love of cornfields.

We've reserved a terribly inefficient SUV with lots of room and on July 3, we will set off for southern Wisconsin for Blockhead's wedding! Rather than fly out to either Madison or Milwaukee and have to rent a car anyway, we decided to make a weeklong road trip out of it. And my 15-year old two-door coupe is certainly not the comfortable way to do that, hence the rental car.

The wedding is on the 6th with a welcome dinner the day prior, so we only have to be there by dinnertime on the 5th, then will leave as soon as the 7th to return. There's a whole lot of Midwest in between here and there, and we've been researching things to do for a while now. There's a good chance we will visit the cities that have been work clients, including Rockford (where we may spend July 4th; very America!) and Peoria in IL. In WI we may also visit Taliesin or House on the Rock, but for now we're keeping the itinerary flexible.

Got any recommendations for traveling through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, or Wisconsin? Let me know in the comments!
Zoolander 2

If it's spring, my gym must be on fire.

Mind your machinery, capitalists.

On May 12th (a Sunday), I downed a yogurt, grabbed my umbrella and headed for the gym. It was a somewhat miserable rain that can't really be deflected, and my raincoat would have been the better choice. Still, I have been trying not to succumb to laziness on weekend days, especially when the weather is crappy and I know running won't happen.

The universe decided otherwise, as a fire truck passed me by on Connecticut Ave. while I was around the corner. Not just passed by, but traveling south in the northbound lanes. Where were they going? To my LA Fitness, unfortunately. There were already two trucks there, so as I arrived and saw firefighters running in with hoses and some of the regulars out on the sidewalk shivering, clearly the workout wasn't going to happen.

Luckily that wasn't a serious fire, and based on what floors they needed to replace due to water damage after getting back in I think the actual fire was in other parts of the building*, specifically from one of the elevator banks. While there was some residual smoke odor and the floor had to be replaced in half of one of the downstairs classrooms, I applaud them for reopening within 3 days. And said floor was replaced within a couple of weeks.

Fast forward to yesterday. I went to work out at 11 am, then showered and went off to work. Later that evening, I saw this on Twitter.



Maybe it's cursed.

Anyhow, as of now their website claims they will be closed through Wednesday (no one is answering the phone, obviously, and I am not interested in attempting to get a non-answer from corporate HQ**). Tomorrow I plan to use the tiny gym at my office. Then we'll see if they have reopened by then, and what water damage they may be mitigating when they do.

*This gym is in the basement and sub-basement levels of a ten-story office building, with other retail/shops on the ground level.

**My contract states that I can start getting prorated bits of my monthly membership fee back if I'm unable to access the facilities for at least 72 hours (I only have a one-location membership, and there aren't any others in the city anyway). My guess is they will try to get back on track before that amount of time has elapsed, and which Taylor pointed out is what they did the first time around.
Bacon

Push button, receive bops.

Love, Carly Rae Jepsen.

Am attempting to consume a lot of media this month: am trying to catch up on Schitt$ Creek, RuPaul's Drag Race, and whatever B may put on the TV, plus listen to new music from Jenny Lewis, Madonna, and yes, Carly Rae Jepsen. Then I have four books currently going. So if I'm not responding to comments all that timely, you know why.
Zoolander 2

Vincent Van Go-f**k Yourself.

What I will call you if you make me attempt wall painting. Oh, and this is a Friday Five.

1. Has your house been renovated?
My childhood home was, several times. And houses I've lived in since (all rentals) were prior to me moving in. The most haphazardly done one was where I lived from summer 2008 to summer 2009, but man, did that house have character. And reading back in that tag, I am pretty impressed by how many DIY fixes I made during that move-in and while I lived there, even knowing I would most likely be there just for a year. And I already linked to a bunch of old entries, but THIS is the entry that best captures the essence that was 2111 West Knox Street.

2. Have you ever painted a room?
Many. I hated it every time and will gladly hire pros to do it for me.

3. Have you ever put in a new floor in a house?
Not myself, but when I was like 11 or 12 my father ripped out our living room carpet and put in the tile that is still there today. It looked like a shit ton of work. He led all the aforementioned home renovations, including what I originally thought this question meant: adding a second level to that house. That was an epic renovation to live through.

4. Have you ever worked with wallpaper?
Nope! Not my thing. Despite hating the application of wall paint, it works for me.

5. Have you ever choose [sic] new colors for your flat or house?
I don't think so? Not that I remember, anyway. Our blue accent wall was already here in this apartment, and I like it enough that we've kept it. Pretty much everywhere I lived before this had off-white or beige/tan-ish colors that were practical enough to keep.