weekend open thread – March 23-24, 2024

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: You Only Call When You’re in Trouble, by Stephen McCauley. A man going through a break-up and his niece, who’s in a professional crisis, navigate their relationships with their high-maintenance sister/mother. It’s quietly funny.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,020 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The weekend posts are for relatively light discussion and comments should ask questions and/or seek to discuss ideas. Recommendations or one to two updates on things you received advice about in the past are fine, but “here’s an update on my life” personal-blog-style posts are not.

    We also can’t do medical advice here.

    Please give the full rules a re-read if it’s been a while!

  2. My Brain is Exploding*

    Alison, I want to thank you again for asking for the posts on kindness. I have been lamenting the state of the world lately and there are very few outlets for good news. I hope that periodically you will have more of these positive posts/good news. Maybe even a weekly thread for people to specifically share these (v finding them in a weekend open thread)?

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I do not like horses, but I like Bitey the horse. Who’s a good boy? Bitey’s a good boy!

    1. Aphrodite*

      I refuse to give in to the increase in meanness and nastiness. There is so much of that, it seems, in the world, most of which I can do nothing about. But I can attempt to improve my own corner of it. One of the ways I do is to pass out special cards (the size and shape of standard business cards) I created and had printed. At the top in a large and pretty font it says, “Thank you. Next to it is an image off a bouquet of red roses. Underneath those, in a very readable font, it says “I wanted to let you know that I think you are doing wonderfully at your job. Please always remember that it is only your actions and your thoughts that matter in your life. And you are doing great today!”

      I always carry these with me on my person and in the car. I hand them out to the people working at food places, grocery stores, gas station stores, delivery people, postal people, all the people in the cancer center I went to for a short time (including the cleaners), doctors, receptionists, in fact everywhere I go and to almost everyone I meet. I have been doing this for almost two years and in all that time only one person has refused it. A few have said “I remember you! I got one!’ so I say, “Have another!” Several people have cried because their day had been so rotten up to the moment.

      And do you know what? The emotions and thanks everyone expresses, no matter how great, are always less than what I feel when I can make their day. It brings me so much so all of the time that my moods seem to have been permanently altered by this action. I am feel just happy all the time.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This is really great. May I copy your idea?
        I feel the same way about the world and try to do at least one good deed a day. Plus give many complements. It feels almost like injecting kindness and positivity into a world that really, really needs it.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Your kind request is touching, Chauncy. Yes, you may. I wish you as much joy in handing them out where you live as I have. A small gesture, but important. Please let us know how it goes for you.

          1. ypsi*

            I did not know about this but this caught my attention “…when a vet office employee took her out without a leash …” – how is this even possible?!? What the what was he/she thinking?!?! That person should be fired immediately.

      2. ShinyGoldHat*

        I am also going to start this. I already compliment strangers as much as possible, because I think if someone’s outfit or hair or behavior makes me go “wow that’s cool”, then they deserve to know that. Adding this aspect would just level up the experience (depending on the vibe, of course, I’m not going to tell a grieving widow her heels are killer).

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      Yes, please! I would love it. Any reminder of ALL the prosocial behavior in the world would be amazing, no matter how small.

    3. Chicago Anon*

      Yes, thank you! I read only a few when the post first appeared but today I woke up with back pain (it will pass) and going back and reading those stories both makes me feel better and gives me ideas about ways to support co-workers.

    4. Firebird*

      I emailed a non-profit website to let them know the results of publishing our group on their site and they were super excited to know how effective it is.

  3. My Brain is Exploding*

    I can’t believe no one else posted yet. I’ll start a reading thread? What are you reading and what do you think of it? I am almost through reading Caste: the Origins of Our Discontent. Wow. Such a thoroughly researched, well-written, impactful book. I am, by turns, angry, sad, ashamed, astounded, shocked, and full of lament. Powerful.

    1. EA*

      Stuck around 20% reading Piranesi. I feel like it’s going over my head! A friend said it was the best book she’d read this year. What did others think of it?

      1. GoryDetails*

        Re Piranesi: I loved it – and hadn’t expected to, as it was so different from Clarke’s first novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. (Or is it? Some of Piranesi resonates strongly with the realms of faerie…) Anyway, the dreamlike quality of Piranesi – and the narrator’s unusual viewpoint on things – took a while for me to get into, but I found myself increasingly delighted (and sometimes terrified) by the strange world he lived in. And there are explanations, of a sort – though one could interpret the novel’s conclusion in different ways. [Side note: I first read it via audiobook, and the narrator voiced Piranesi so beautifully that I think that helped me step into his world. I think I’d have enjoyed it even if I’d read the print version first, but if you like audiobooks, maybe try that one?]

        1. word nerd*

          I posted below before reading your post, but I agree–the narrator for the audiobook was amazing. I also went into it not expecting much and was blown away.

      2. Reba*

        I think it is extraordinary, but not for everyone/every type of reading brain. If it helps, going over your head is kinda part of it.

      3. word nerd*

        I really loved Piranesi–I thought it was so atmospheric, and I felt so immersed in that world–the confusion and trying to figure out what’s going on in the beginning was part of the charm for me. Things do start making more sense as you go on. I did it as an audiobook and thought it worked really well in that format. But it is one of those books that’s probably not for everyone, and that’s ok!

      4. OtterB*

        I have bounced off Piranesi twice. Didn’t get as far as you did. But several people whose judgment I trust have recommended it, including one who compared it to The High House by Stoddard which is one of my favorites. So I plan to try again sometime.

      5. carcinization*

        I was into it, it probably isn’t going over your head, it’s probably just that not enough of what’s going on in the book has been revealed yet! There was a recent Studio Ghibli film called “The Boy and the Heron” that kind of reminded me of it.

    2. Plugging away*

      I’m reading A Memory of Light (Book 14 of the Wheel of Time). Just getting started so not too many thoughts yet except that yikes, it’s a long book to describe 1-2 days.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          It’s good. Very immersive. VERY long and involved. The action slows way, way down around the 8th book and doesn’t pick back up for awhile; fans call that part “the slog.”

        2. Plugging away*

          I’ve enjoyed it! The commenter mentioning the “slog” is not joking, but it still has parts that have kept me up reading way past my intended stop. There are a few places that can be problematic, unfortunately; some of the chapter-by-chapter recaps have good discussions and/or warnings for those.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I read Book Lovers by Emily Henry. It’s a romantic comedy that squarely skewers the tropes of romantic comedy. I really enjoyed this, even though romance is not usually my genre at this point. The depiction of the relationship between the sisters, and of each with their deceased mom, is really nuanced and complex.

      Nora is that career-focused doesn’t-want-kids lover of New York City whom the hero so often leaves for the perky small town heroine whose career is “my parents own an adorable little inn in an adorable little town.” A literary agent, she has in fact been dumped for a variation on this three times, and is resigned to it.

      She hasn’t taken a vacation in years. Until her much-loved younger sister, pregnant with her third child, pleads with her to take a vacation together, just the two of them. To a surprise destination: the adorable town of Sunshine Falls, setting of sis’s favorite novel, for which Nora is the literary agent. Nora agrees. And stumbles over Charlie Lastra, an editor from NYC. They have met once before–to discuss the novel in question, in fact–and found each other quite annoying.

      Nora and Charlie don’t want kids, something they actually talk about when they decide to start dating. Both have outside passions and commitments that might mean “I am so hot for you” is not enough to sustain a happily ever after. Nora and her sister Libby took different lessons from the same events in their childhood, something they start to discover and reconcile on this trip. Was surprised how much I liked this, and it’s for that complicated, deep, loving bond between the two sisters.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Also, there’s a lot in here about the different things books mean as an escape to so many kids. And how a good story transforms into a page-turning novel.

    4. Jay*

      I’m reading A Rift In The Soul, a Soulwood novel by Faith Hunter.
      It’s pretty great. I’m liking these better than the Jane Yellowrock novels they are spun off of.

      1. RedinSC*

        Oh yes, I really liked the Soulwood series. Again, more than the Jane Yellowrock books, too.

      2. ShinyGoldHat*

        Is this the newest one?!?! I’m holding off as long as I can before giving in and reading it, I love the anticipation!

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m rereading “If on a winters night a traveler”, one of my I don’t really remember it but I gave it a 5 on Goodreads books. It’s very meta about the relationships between readers and books and writers, I love it

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          In the first chapter when it spends 2 pages describing you settling in to read and finally gets to “do you need to pee? all right, you know best” I laughed out loud. Ya got me Italo!

    6. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Re-reading Hilary Mantel’s *The Mirror and the Light* about Thomas Cromwell’s last years (the last in the *Wolf Hall* trilogy). It’s more of a downer and more uncomfortable than the other books, as he hurtles towards his end, as I wind up going “noooooooo” at everything that will turn out to have been a bad mistake.

      1. Flames on the Side of My Face*

        I didn’t get to that one last year. Is it as satisfying as the first two?

        1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

          No, not really for me.

          I found the first two satisfying because all these people were being rotten (to Cromwell and others) and arguably got their just deserts. It’s fun riding along with a protagonist who succeeds.

          The last book has a different feel — Cromwell is finally on top, and he’s now the one making mistakes that will ultimately lead to his downfall. And you can see each mistake as it comes and think, “Oh don’t say/do that — that’s going to be a problem later!”

          The book has maybe a bit too much re-hashing of things from the first two books, though that would help anyone who read it first, and I guess part of the point that the book is making is that our pasts come back to haunt us. And Mantel’s also constrained by historical facts and how things ultimately went down.

          That said, I still find it compelling reading, and Mantel does a great job with the (upsetting) ending. I’d say it’s worth reading, but only when you’re feeling up to the emotional rollercoaster.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I think it could have used more editing, but Mantel threw in not only the kitchen sink, but the entire refrigerator, because she knew she would have to say goodbye. I do think she sluffed over the execution (hint: almost world’s worst) but I actually can’t blame her that much.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Making inroads into Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor. So far the writing and characters are really good, but.

      This is set in the early 20th century American south, and unfortunately racial slurs are quite present–so far they’re used by characters, not by the narration, but that’s hair-splitting, of course.

      I never know what to do with this kind of issue–I mean, it’s not totally unexpected, the way it can be with some books/authors where suddenly it slaps you in the face and ruins everything, but it seems pretty facile and privilege-y to just chirp “well, that was back then!” or similar. On the other hand, trying to eliminate or skip over that language comes across as dishonest and insulting to readers.

      1. IT Manager*

        As a POC who loves Agatha Christie – solidarity! I feel your pain and also not super sure what to do with it.

        At the moment I’ve settled on – if the artist is dead eg not able to benefit from my attention/money, then I will make allowances until it actually feels ugly enough to make me unhappy. Then I drop the book/movie/music and walk away guilt free.

        I also have enjoyed some of these alternate-universe type updates, like BBC’s Christie mysteries where the main character is now Black, or Sanditon where they made Jane Austen’s Miss Lamb into a main character with a plot line that included abolition. Kind of feels like a “so there!” to the original works’ racism :-)

      2. JSPA*

        There’s nothing easy about Flannery O’Connor in general. If the slurs get you noping out, you…might not be up for the story either? Even when there’s humor, it’s written with a scalpel, backed up by a hatpin and a straight razor. Very worth reading, but one has to start with the knowledge that you will be rendered uncomfortable, in ways small and large, from start to end. (Including the slurs, which are not accidental nor merely “of their era.”)

        1. Reader*

          Seconding JSPA. I have a highly relevant PhD and teach this sort of literature. There is nothing simple about reading or teaching O’Connor. Wise Blood’s slurs are not there to be dismissed as “that was then.” For myself as a human, scholar, and teacher, I think it’s important for us as humans in 2024 to challenge ourselves with literature from other times, places, and perspectives. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to read Wise Blood. I’d recommend her to you if you like Dostoevsky and Cormac McCarthy.

        2. Jamie Starr*

          I read my first Flannery O’Connor earlier this year (A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories). I hated every single story and every character. I don’t normally have such strong reactions when reading — I might not love a book, but I really dreaded finishing this one. It a chore and took me way longer than it should have.

          In addition to the racism, I thought most of the characters in the stories were generally unlikeable and/or unpleasant. Maybe it’s because I’m not from the South, but I just didn’t get why O’Connor is supposed to be one of America’s great writers. I have no interest in reading anything else by her.

          1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

            Not a Flannery O’Connor expert, but I think we’re not supposed to like the characters or necessarily be rooting for them at all. I think she’s trying to expose a lot of the ugliness of early- to mid-century American life and attitudes.

            But I know what you mean — when I first read some of her stuff, I just couldn’t relate and hated it. It’s only when I looked at it like she’s trying to make people realize how truly awful lots of seemingly “nice, respectable” people really are that it made more sense to me.

            I found the same thing in some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories — he was trying to show the ugliness of racism and classism, but to do that, well, he had to show a lot of racism and classism.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I actually appreciated my edition’s forward by O’Connor; she described it as “comic novel” in the sense that you weren’t to suppose the main character, or any character, were “good but tragic.” They were raggedy, hag-ridden people thrashing about in the remnants of their sanity and society trying to grasp the scraps of free will that were torturing them.

              Sounds pretty intense, but I got what she meant.

            2. Jamie Starr*

              Interestingly (?), I love Fitzgerald. Maybe I need to re-read him though. I remember really liking This Side of Paradise.

              Still not buying O’Connor — I didn’t think any of her characters could be mistaken for “nice” or “respectable.” They thought they were, though; it was very obvious to me from early in each story. I guess you’re saying that’s the point.

      3. Not Totally Subclinical*

        I just finished a reread of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and yes, the unexpected slurs are jarring.

    8. Past Lurker*

      I’m reading “Violeta” by Isabel Allende. I’m liking it so far. Already teared up once though. I guess a good author can make you care about fictional characters!

    9. Double A*

      I just finished book 2 of the Emily Wilde series that just came out: Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands. Very delightful; I liked the first one a lot, and I may like this one even more? Hard to say. It’s about a curmudgeonly professor of dyadology (sp?) (the study of faeries) in the early 1900s. In the universe of the book, faeries are real, and the subject of rigorous academic study.

      1. Sharpie*

        Possibly ‘dryadology’, dryads being wood nymphs and therefore can tie into faerie lore though, as I understand it, their backgrounds are quite different with dryads coming more from ancient Greek legends.

    10. Flames on the Side of My Face*

      I’m finally reading Shogun. I couldn’t watch the new series in good conscience without reading the book first.

    11. Lemonwhirl*

      I was reading “The Clinic” by Cate Quinn, but I put it on pause because a more interesting hold came in from the library. (I am only 20% of the way into it, so maybe it picks up, but it’s told in first-person by two different narrators and their voices are too similar. So even though the premise of a woman going undercover in an isolated rehab facility to find out why and how her sister died there is interesting, the book felt like a slog.)

      Now, I’m reading “Follow Me” by Kathleen Barber, which is about a social media influencer who has an obsessive follower who consults the Dark Web to find out how to get close to her.

      Also just finished the audiobook of “The Hunter” by Tana French. So good…an absolute gem of a book. Compelling characters, a twisty plot, lush descriptions. I am now re-listening to “The Searcher”.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Oooh, Follow Me sounds right up my alley (I have a “social-media-thriller” shelf on Goodreads).

    12. word nerd*

      I’m still on my children’s lit binge, so it probably wasn’t the best idea to tackle Ed Park’s Same Bed Different Dreams this week too when I wasn’t in the right head space for it, but I didn’t want to charge my library again to check it out again on Libby.

      Someone encouraged me to listen to Watership Down last week, and I was a bit apprehensive because I adored it the first time and was afraid it wouldn’t hold up this time, but no fear, it was still amazing.

      Yesterday I finished Tuesdays at the Castle, and I’m currently attempting Susan Cooper again because I haven’t been able to get into her in the past, but you’d think I would based on some of the other books I like.

      1. Blue*

        Ohh Susan Cooper is one of my very favorites! I love the whole Dark is Rising sequence (and I do think it’s best to start with Over Sea Under Stone even if Will isn’t in it and he’s really mostly the protagonist and f the series), and Seaward is sad and weird and lovely. I haven’t revisited King of Shadows, or the Boggart books, in a long time, but I reread The Dark is Rising books every several years.

        Also if you usually like this kind of fantasy I highly recommend Pamela Dean’s The Secret Country trilogy, which I wish more people knew about it. I just reread all three, plus a “same world” book by her, The Dubious Hills, in a week despite having read all of them multiple times before. She uses a lot of allusions to Shakespeare and poetry so if you hate that kind of thing she might not be for you, but I love the characters and the story she — and they… — created.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I really need to read Susan Cooper’s series — my BFF in high school kept trying to get me into it for years and I never went there. Not sure why I wasn’t interested. It might have been because I was more into horror than straight-up fantasy.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I read The Dark is Rising as a preteen and couldn’t connect–I may try her again as an adult.

            1. Jackalope*

              I enjoyed them a lot when I first read them back around late elementary or early middle school or so. When I went back to try again, I bounced off the memory wipes. The main character, Will, had a couple of times during the series when someone he loved in his pre-magical-hero days would find out about his magical powers, and they would make a surprised or disbelieving comment. He would say, “See, this is why I can’t tel anyone about this,” and would wipe their recollection of the conversation. I think this was supposed to show how alone he was and how his abilities separated him from his family and friends, but all I could think was, “They’re reacting like this because it’s big and improbable news. Give them more than thirty seconds to come to grips with this and think about it, and maybe they’ll be able to understand. Don’t just wipe their memories at the first sign that they are surprised.” There was another bit at the end of the series where someone had his memories wiped of a tragic-for-him series of events, and while he sort of consented (he was in the throes of grief and basically said that he couldn’t decide so the other person could decide for him), I still never liked it.

              Basically what I’m saying is, I don’t approve of wiping people’s memories like this. And that was enough to throw me out of the story permanently.

        2. JSPA*

          hm, I could never get into Over Sea Under Stone, but I love The Dark is Rising and Greenwitch. And of course the poem that binds them all together.

        3. fallingleavesofnovember*

          My library doesn’t seem to have the Secret Country books! As a longtime Susan Cooper fan, your recommendation piqued my interest for sure!

          1. Blue*

            Oh yay I hope you are able to track them down! They came back into print in the early 2000s through Firebird but still don’t seem widely known. Pamela Dean is part of the same writers group as Patricia Wrede so folks who loved the Enchanted Forest Chronicles might also like them.

            My copies are starting to show their age so might need to track down new ones myself soon!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Husband’s favorite book of all time is Watership Down; it took me years to read it because of the traumatizing animated version (that first one) and I cannot bear animal peril, but I finally did, and it is gorgeous.

    13. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      This week I read The Wife App, which was recommended last week. I really enjoyed it!
      Anyone who also enjoyed it would probably also enjoy The Love Algorithm by Claudia Carroll.

    14. Cleo*

      I’m reading Wrath Goddess Sing which is a queer reimagining of the Iliad, with Achilles as a trans woman. I’m enjoying it. It’s a very different take than A Song of Achilles, which is interesting. I’m not familiar with the source, so I don’t have strong opinions about the differences, just letting the story wash over me.

      Next in line is How You Get the Girl by Anita Kelly – ff queer romance between two basketball coaches. It looks so cute!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        That sounds fascinating! Ancient Greek writers/myth dealt a LOT with what would now be considered queer/trans stuff (not always, of course, in the way modern society would) and Achilles’ story is such an exemplar in many ways.

    15. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I’m reading American Kingpin by Nick Bilton, which came highly recommended based on the sort of true crime rabbit holes I tend to fall into.

      The story is very interesting, once I get reading I can’t put it down. I imagine it’s more geared towards readers like me who didn’t know much about the Silk Road to begin with – there’s probably more specialist writing out there that covers finer technical details. The writing isn’t particularly good though. A review I found said something like “good story, but he’s no Patrick Radden Keefe”, and I’ll agree with that.

    16. No name yet*

      Recently read two books: The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory. Contemporary straight romance, part of a series I’m really enjoying. In this one the main characters meet when the woman is proposed to at a baseball game by her casual boyfriend of a few months, and the guy helps her out with the media fallout. Protagonists are Black and Latino.

      Also finished the Framed Women of Ardmore House, by Brandy Schillace. An autistic American woman inherits a large estate in England, but when she gets there, someone is murdered. I really liked the story itself, and the inner look at the main character, what she appreciates and doesn’t about her autism, and how she copes with NT folks. The author describes herself as autistic in the author description, so I assume it’s based on her experiences and other ND folks she knows.

    17. InkyFingers*

      Just finished an astonishing forgotten piece of American history: _Master Slave Husband Wife_, telling the story of Ellen and Wm. Craft who craftily (pun intended) escaped from slavary in Macon, Ga, in 1848. They went on to become world-renowned for many years, as lecturers telling their tale. Ellen didn’t lecture much for two reasons: it was unseemly for a woman to do so, but *worse* she had crossed-dressed as a man to make the escape. Unspeakable! (Oh, and Daniel Webster turns out to be much less honorable than we were taught in the classroom.)

      All the dialigue is lifted from historical records and my gawd if someone doesn’t turn this into a feature film they’re missing an incredible opportunity. The book is by Ilyon Woo, came out just last year.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I read that one recently – definitely a surprising bit of history that I hadn’t heard of before, despite the case’s notoriety at the time..

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I also just read it recently. I think someone recommended it here last month?

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, not too long ago. The Crafts also wrote a book about their experiences, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.

    18. GoryDetails*

      Fiction: Providence Girls by Morgan Dante, about two women from extremely challenging backgrounds, who find each other – but can they overcome their pasts AND their futures?

      The twist here: they live in the world of H. P. Lovecraft, and their troubled back-stories include being forced to bear eldritch monstrosities (“The Dunwich Horror”) and being body-swapped into mouldering corpses (“The Thing on the Doorstep”)… so, yeah, not the easiest basis for a loving relationship! Things work out unexpectedly well, but they do have to work for it.

      Non-fiction: Travel and Adventure in South-East Africa by Frederick Selous – a British explorer, adventurer, and big-game hunter whose deeds inspired H. Rider Haggard’s “Allan Quartermain” character. The book’s got some fascinating elements (and assorted stunning illustrations, done by different artists from Selous’ descriptions of the events depicted), but I keep getting distracted by the sheer number of animals that Selous shoots. Yeah, some of it is for survival – meat with which to get supplies to feed his expedition staff, etc. – but not all, and it gets quite jarring. Selous himself notes how many types of wildlife are diminishing noticeably *during his own lifetime*, and I gather he became a conservationist as a result, but still…

      Audiobook: I’m listening to a collection of “Brother Cadfael” stories, read by Derek Jacobi (who portrayed him in the TV series). They are abridged, which isn’t my usual preference, but I am enjoying re-visiting the stories.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I tried watching a seventies movie version of City of Gold and turned it off ten minutes in because it featured footage of actual animal hunts. This was promoted as a big feature to lure in audiences of the time. Mutual of Omaha it was not.

    19. Bluebell*

      For Emily Henry fans, I can recommend Sierra Godfrey’s Second Chances Hotel, a romance set on a tiny island in Greece. It has her vibe. Also read Delicate Condition, an OK thriller by Danielle Valentine. Once I’m ready for something more substantial, I’ll be reading Loving Our Own Bones by Rabbi Julia Watts Belser.

    20. Nervous Nellie*

      Two for me this week. At the library I just got the newly released Until August by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his last novel posthumously published by his sons. Glorious, poetic, wow. It has echoes of Love in the Time of Cholera. What a gift to the world. I am carrying with me everywhere.

      And then I am also reading the 630-page owner’s manual that came with my new car. Yikes! The learning curve for new cars is quite something, but on top of that, it’s terribly badly written, both the technical writing and translation. That said, there’s real poetry there. “The uplifting of the trunk hatch will be performed swiftly when the button is depressed.” There are so many jokes here I don’t know where to start….

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I had a moped once that the manual reminded me to “be sure to not park the scooter near the hay of inflammables.”

        I actually just put a shelf together this morning that after rereading the instructions about four times, I finally figured out that “shelf panel” was what it actually meant every time it said “internet film” – I don’t even KNOW.

        1. Nervous Nellie*

          Gaaah! That is fabulous. And just think, if translations were this bad when humans were making them, what on earth will AI instruct us to do? A competent writer AI is not. Idiocracy is now. But I’m with the manual on avoiding the hay of inflammables. Good call.

        2. Jasmine*

          I live in Taiwan and just had a countertop oven delivered today. The manual of course is in Chinese. My husband checked online to see if he could find an English one…. Nope. So I used Google Translate.
          If any of you have an English manual, which does not make sense to I suggest you put it in Google translate from English to Chinese and a Chinese friend to tell you what it says.. it will probably make perfect sense to them!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        That’s a good story plotline–frustrated poet employed writing tech manuals starts slipping their work into the text!

    21. Sitting Pretty*

      I just finished Telephone by Percival Everett. Holy moly, he is an extraordinary writer. This is by far the best book I’ve read in ages, probably since the last Percival Everett I read sometime in 2023 (Erasure).

      Telephone isn’t an easy read. It involves a very sick child and some bad stuff done to women at the US-Mexico border. But it’s a haunting and beautiful story with a rather unexpected redemption at the end that left me physically shaking with some big (and not at all unwelcome) feelings

    22. Helvetica*

      Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes – Greek myths about women re-examined and explained through actual classical sources, showing how Pandora, Helen, Jocasta, etc. had more interesting and richer backstories than what is usually known about them. It is academically inclined but very readable and fascinating.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Love that one! Be sure to check out her other nonfiction work, Divine Might.

    23. DreamOfWinter*

      I’ve been binging my way through Annika Martin’s Billionaires of Manhattan series. Perfect potato-chip wish-fulfillment contemporary romance- exactly what I needed in a week with a lot of travel.

      More slowly, I’m rereading the Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette (who also publishes as Katherine Addison). Despite reading these for the third time I find they need full attention and a specific mood in order to fully enjoy the language, characters, and worldbuilding.

      Finally, in work reading, I’m about to finish Essentialism, a book I recommend to anyone who feels like they should be able to do it all.

    24. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Just read Max Fisher’s Chaos Machine which pulls together a decade or so of research into the negative effects of social media into a highly readable page-turner. I was familiar with a lot of the examples he uses – Justine Sacco, Gamergate, etc – but they made a new kind of sense in this context. He also has a genuinely global reach (Brazil, Sri Lanka, Germany, Myanmar), which is awesome given the US-centred nature of most Books About The Internet, a deft historical touch, a really crisp prose style, and some genuinely shocking research findings about the correlation between Facebook use and violence on a population level, from attacks on refugees in Germany to the genocide in Myanmar.

    25. carcinization*

      I re-read Every Heart a Doorway for book club this week (after reading it upon original release years ago) but then was unable to attend due to a migraine. But I really enjoyed re-reading it. I need to read the most recent book in the series, but I usually check them out from the library these days since they’re so short.

      I finished two books I’ve been reading for awhile, Emshwiller’s The Mount and Islington’s The Light of All that Falls. The Mount was definitely its own thing… if it is intended to be an allegory I’m not sure I completely got it, but I still liked reading it. The other book mentioned is the third in a series of doorstopper-sized fantasy books, they were fine but I’m not sure I’d actually recommend them.

    26. Ali + Nino*

      A few pages away from finishing The Master Key by Masako Togawa, published in the early 60s and translated from Japanese into English. I’m loving the atmosphere and that it takes place in a women’s -only residence, so a lot of the writing is about the women’s internal worlds and their interactions.
      I enjoy reading translated books that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Anyone have recommendations for translated lit?

    27. Clisby*

      I am re-reading The Shipping News for maybe the 4th time. I have a couple of early Agatha Christie books on hold at the library, but they’re not in yet.

    28. ShinyGoldHat*

      I just finished “What Feasts at Night”, which is the second novella in a surprisingly lovely alternate-history gothic horrors.

    29. Quinalla*

      Finally reading Shogun by James Clavell. I’ve watched the PBS miniseries so, so many times and am enjoying watching the newest version on Hulu, so decided it was time to read the book. It really is quite good and also while not perfect and a lot had to be left out because the book is LONG, it is surprising how true to the story honestly both versions tried to be. The book is really quite good and I’m glad I watched the miniseries many times first as it is much easier to follow the story since I already know nearly all the characters. I’ve got 10% left and have been recommended to read the follow up book so will probably do that as well :)

  4. Ruth A*

    My question this week is about sun protection. I usually just stay inside all the time, but I have a few outdoor events coming up over the next few months.

    1. I want a sun hat. My mom has the Scala Giana, which is very stylish and looks good on everyone, but she said it gets hot in our summers (hers is black so that might contribute to it). One of the events is a graduation ceremony, so the brim can’t go outside of my personal space. Any favorites that are cool and comfortable?

    2. I haaaate sunblock. I don’t love the feel of it, but more importantly, I’m very sensitive to scent, and I hate the smell of it. Anyone have any ideas for sunblock that doesn’t have overwhelming scent?

    1. katertot*

      Baggu makes a lightweight giant sun hat that folds up and is very easy to keep handy, and they usually have colors that range from normal to more interesting patterns. Not sure what kind of material they use, but it feels nice and light. It looks a little ridiculous, but I’ve come to enjoy leaning into how ridiculous it is— makes me feel superior for taking sun protection seriously!

    2. Jay*

      I’m a guy, so my standards might be a lot different than yours, but Palmers has a moisturizer cream with a mild sun-block that smells, very faintly, of chocolate.

    3. Dannie*

      1. San Diego Hat Company, Women’s Ultrabraid XL Brim Floppy Hat, UBX2535OSMBR, Color “Toast.” This was my purchase after researching the topic to death, cross-referencing style blogs with practical “best for hikers” lists. It’s cute, comfortable, and less than $65. Comes packed flat, so the brim isn’t damaged.

      2. Eastern sunscreens are more cosmetically elegant, so anything Korean or Japanese will probably be less of a sensory issue. I personally prefer Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF45 PA+++ but the Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence is also very popular. Do NOT buy from Amazon, there’s a ton of counterfeits and you will burn. Safe online retailers are YesStyle, Stylevana, and Jolse. Plan ahead because they do not ship with the urgency you’d expect from Western brands; my order from late February isn’t even finished processing yet.

      1. office hobbit*

        Came here to recommend Missha too! I have “All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA+++” It’s really lightweight, not greasy at all.

      2. Reba*

        A few that that can be found in somewhat larger packaging (i.e. useful for body sunscreen) include
        Nivea Japan UV Super water gel
        Kose Sun Cut UV super essence — this one is decently waterproof
        Scinic Enjoy all round water sun cream
        Biore Japan UV aqua rich watery essence

        All of these have little or no scent (the scinic is faintly “sunscreen” smelling) and are perfectly clear.

    4. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Sun Precautions/Solumbra has a very chic Italia Sun Hat made of canvas. I like the black version, but the white one looks good too. The company also has a whole line of sun-protective clothing, including dresses, skirts, jackets, shells, etc., so maybe you could avoid sunblock on most of you at events by wearing that or some other sun-protective elegant clothing.

    5. Anonymoss*

      Personally for sunblocks I enjoy the spray kind. They’re lighter, dry faster, your hands don’t get as dirty, and if there’s a smell it vanishes fairly quickly. I would agree, take a look out for Korean or Japanese sunscreens. The youtube channel LabMuffinBeauty does a lot of skincare and sunscreen breakdowns if you’re into that. If you’ve got one near you, an Ulta will have a wider range of sunscreens available, so you can check them out and try to find ones that are fragrance-free.

    6. Rosey*

      I use a Sun Bum lotion sun screen (comes in SPF 50 and 70) that is fragrance free. It’s meant for your face, but I’m sure you could use it on your whole body.

      1. ampersand*

        This is what I use, too–everywhere, not just face. It works, has a very mild scent, and I like it.

    7. The Only One With This Problem*

      One problem I’ve had with a lot of sunblocks is that they rub off onto my clothing and they bleach it. Especially when I try to use sunblock on my neck, it rubs off and bleaches the collars of my tops. Or sometimes when I use it on my arms, it will rub off and bleach the sleeves. Any recommendations for products that don’t bleach or stain clothing?

      1. Genevieve en Francais*

        That usually happens with the physical blocks (like titanium dioxide). And depending on your water, laundering actually makes it worse! I found out the hard way at my in-laws’ house, where they have extremely hard water. It happens less for me with the chemical blocks. I’m not a huge fan of them, especially for my kids, but I realized I was avoiding sunscreen because I didn’t want the mess and decided the potential harms of chemical blocks were less than the very well documented harms of no sunscreen…. especially since I’ve already had melanoma in my 30s.

    8. Magdalena*

      I’m using Supergoop! Matte Screen which is a primer/bb cream and sunblock in one. It has zero smell and zero stickiness. I love it bc I hate feeling oily/sticky and can’t stand most facial cosmetics for that reason.
      For the rest of the body I use the SVR Laboratoire Dermatologique spf 50+ which also has no smell (that I can perceive).

    9. Sharpie*

      Oddly, long sleeves. Light linen, with long loose sleeves. Linen is a natural fabric that breathes.

      Long sleeved garments have been a natural sunblock in North Africa for centuries.

      1. Genevieve en Francais*

        Ever since my melanoma diagnosis (I’m banging that drum a bit on this thread but I feel like it’s relevant), I have been living my best Coastal Grandma life with linen and big hats and honestly, I wish I’d come to it sooner! I still wear plenty of sunscreen, especially at the beach or long stints at the park. But when I’m only going to be outside for a bit and don’t want to do the full-body thing it’s perfect. It’s also perfect on every other occasion because it just feels fabulous.

    10. Lozzapalooza*

      This is more for face than body but in the summer, I use a moisturiser or BB cream with 25 or 30 SPF. The game changer I found is SPF Powder to go on top which is 30+SPF. My favourite is supergoop invincible powder. You can get in plain or tinted. Seconding Sun Bum too.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      Ive found the most wearable and cool type of sunhats are the ones with no centre? They’re called visor sunhats and they give this redhead all day coverage. For some reason they’re usually way cheaper and have a tie at the back that makes them easy to hang up. They don’t always cover the back of your neck, but my hair and collar do. I really like to have a white linen or cotton shirt handy as it goes with everything and you can tie front it. This should cover your arms and you can turn up the collar. Men’s shirts are more likely to have full length arms.

    12. aubrey*

      Look into Korean sunscreen. I think one I used before was Biore Watery Essence and I just bought from Amazon and it shipped from Korea. It was WAY lighter feeling than ones we have here in North America, and smelled like lemon powder not sunscreen at all even though it was very high SPF.

    13. Jujuuu*

      This might depend on where you live – I think there are pretty big differences between the US and Europe (where I live) – but I absolutely love Avene Sunscreen. It has no scent and even SPF 50 goes on like a light moisturizer, without any buildup.

    14. Workerbee*

      SUN HATS:
      -My favorite is a black floppy wide-brimmed hat from Target. The floppiness makes it come down around my face and doesn’t extend past my self. My face is hidden from the sun but I can still see! :)
      -For windy days, or when I’m mowing the lawn or will be out on the water, I switch to The North Face’s Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat. Sweat-wicking sweatband on the inside and UPF 40+ protection.
      -Note: Black & dark colors allegedly protect you MORE from the sun. (I don’t think the color itself contributes to us feeling hotter, at least I haven’t ever thought it had.)
      -And just about any hat is better than no hat, so try a bunch out at department stores, sporting goods stores, and outdoors-y stores. Lots of fun colors and styles all over these days.

      SUNBLOCK. I use these two interchangeably:
      -Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50. 100% naturally sourced Zinc Oxide. Free of fragrance, PABA, parabens, dyes, octinoxate, and oxybenzone.
      -Banana Boat Sensitive 100% Mineral Lotion, SPF 50+. Natural mineral zinc. No parabens, oils or fragrances. Free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. Also water-resistant up to 80 minutes.
      -I also prefer the spray kind, but have the gloop kind as well for my own perception of extra coverage.
      -Just because I see so many people who were never told to put sunscreen on their necks: Slather it on _everywhere_ that’s exposed, at the very least.
      -And don’t forget to spray/gloop/sunstick the part in your hair! Hats don’t stay on all the time.

      ADDITIONAL SUN PROTECTION
      -No matter how hot it is, I also carry/wear a lightweight, crunchable/foldable cotton wrap or button down to put over my arms. CottonFlowerClothing on Etsy has lovely options.
      -I also have invested in long-sleeved swimwear (long pants, too), all of which have SPF protection (up to a # of uses, of course). It may SOUND like it would be hotter to wear, but it’s really not. The material is all synthetic, alas, but in this case I’ll take it b/c at long last I can enjoy myself twofold: Not constantly worrying about reapplying sunscreen, and not digging my swimsuit out of my own crevices, ha. :)

    15. fhqwhgads*

      Biore makes a sunscreen that’s mostly sold in Japan but you can usually get on amazon. It’s literally called “watery sunscreen”. It feels like water, not like sunscreen. It does have a scent, but it’s not standard sunscreen scent, and it address the “how it feels” probably really effectively for me. It’s expensive, but to me it was worth it, so may be worth a try.

    16. former recruiter*

      For face, my holy grail is EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 Sunscreen. It’s a physical sunscreen which is great for sensitive skin, no scent, and feels very nice going on. It is pricey at $43 for 1.7 ounces but lasts for about 2 months with once daily application. I used to use the Biore Watery Essence but it was not a great match for oily/sensitive skin – nice texture though. Also hard to tell if its expiration date when buying off Amazon.

    17. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Skinceutucals brand has the only sunblock that doesn’t break me out, smell, or cause me irritation. It is a mineral (as opposed to chemical) sunblock but doesn’t leave white residue unless you really go overboard. It is expensive though, last I checked.

    18. RedinSC*

      I have super sensitive skin and the sunscreen that I’ve found that works are the power sunscreens for my face and neutrogena sprays for the rest of me. I use the 70-100 SPF.

    19. Tea and Sympathy*

      I use sunscreen for babies because it has little to no fragrance and doesn’t have that greasy feeling.

    20. Spacewoman Spiff*

      I’ve been using Supergoop for years and find it a lot better than other sunscreens (since I wear it most every day, I don’t want anything with a strong smell). But last summer I picked up Trader Joe’s sunscreens and they’re fantastic. They make a face sunscreen which is a pretty direct knockoff of a supergoop product (I think), and their normal sunscreen in the orange tube has become my go-to for the rest of my body. Doesn’t have a real smell, doesn’t leave me feeling sticky or get marks all over my clothes, and is affordable!

    21. Clisby*

      I usually get the sunblock made for babies, on the perhaps mistaken premise that if it’s OK for a baby’s skin it’s OK for mine. I don’t recall any of it having a heavy scent.

    22. Quinalla*

      I would suggest a bucket hat for something that does not protrude past your space, but still gives good sun coverage.

      Aveeno makes fairly lightly scented sunscreen, frankly it all has some amount of scent though.

      I personally use sport type sunscreen (usually Coppertone Sport or the store brand version). Scent is not bad and the sunscreen is thicker so I find it easier to put on and get good coverage. My skin is quite pale and I hate being sunburned.

      I recommend against spray on sunscreen, it stinks!

  5. rr*

    can people please share their experiences with the state medical exchanges, please? I realize it differs by state, but I’m just interested in general information to try and assess if it is even a remotely feasible option for me.

    1. Big sigh*

      In my state you can go on to see what’s available without giving any personal information. The only info they need is income to give you an idea of how much you would get to offset the cost. The one thing I noticed is they tend to have high deductibles. Which can be a problem if you have to satisfy it before you you see any cost benefit. (Does not include legal mandates like the annual well visit) You need to check for the copays and restrictions.

      1. ThatsNotSoecificToExchanges*

        All plans these days have high deductibles. I saw data the other day that 60% of covered lives in the US are currently on official high deductible plans (and some portion of the rest still have high deductibles, they just don’t meet the formal requirements of that plan types). The plus side is that most of these plans also qualify for out of pocket maximums and a rarely discussed but crucial part of Omamacare is that both drugs and copays must be included (before the ACA most copays weren’t counted toward patient out of pocket maximums). So basically plans are top heavy now – you pay for the first X months then the rest of the year is free.

    2. ronda*

      I used in GA (the national one) and WA (a state based one)

      They are very similar, On the national one I selected get coverage then scrolled down a little bit to search plan, put in your zip code, age, sex, income and few other questions. It estimates your subsidy and shows you all the plans available. The subsidy is federally defined but does depend on the cost of the 2nd lowest silver plan for your area. Your subsidy amount is not final until you do your federal taxes for the year. It reconciles the subsidy based on what your income actually was vs what you estimated on the website. you either get more subsidy or more is added to your taxes if you underestimated your income.

      If you are at certain income levels you can get a Silver plan with more cost sharing (lower deductible, you pay only part for services, etc). My income is higher than needed for those plans so I usually choose a bronze plan with the lowest cost and have to pay for everything up to my out of pocket max and then I am done for that year. I have only hit my out of pocket max 2x in my life. each of those years I had a surgery.

      Even when I had a higher income that gets subsidies at least I was easily able to get a health insurance policy. I would likely have not been able to get an individual policy because of pre-existing conditions without the exchange.

      If you do decide to get a policy, you do have to fill in some other details and put in an application, when I did one outside of the open enrollment period I did have to send them proof that I moved states (there are other reasons to be allowed, like lost job provided health plan). When I enrolled during open enrollment(nov&dec, I think) that was not required

    3. TierDifferences*

      For what it’s worth, my last ACA plan was a lot nicer than the employer plan I gave it up for.

      In general the total out of pocket costs for plans at all levels is about the same; depending on your situation there may or may not be tax benefits from choosing specific distributions of how you pay that money (ex: the higher premiums of a platinum plan if you can deduct part of your premium).

    4. Unemployed in Greenland.*

      I had success with Pennsylvania’s (“success” being “something I could afford on string of 1099 jobs”) … but 1) that was about 6 years ago, and 2) I’m apparently due a payout from the Blue Cross Blue Shield lawsuit. Still waiting on it, though!

    5. Annie Edison*

      I’ve been on state exchanges in MA, CA, WA, and OR and they’ve all been… fine? I don’t feel like my experiences with them are any better or worse than my friends’ insurance experiences through their employers.

      It takes some practice to get used to navigating the system and I’ve had moments where I really wish there was an HR rep or something to help me figure it out. (there’s usually a number you can call if you need help but I’ve had mixed results there and try to avoid it when I can) But I get some federal subsidies to help cover my premiums so cost has been manageable and I’ve generally been fine with the quality of care and plan.

      As others have said, most of the websites have an option to enter your approximate income and window shop to see what plans are available and what they’d cost, so you can check it out without formally applying.

    6. Old and Don’t Care*

      It’s important to look at the networks for the plans you are considering, doctors and hospitals. In my state, at least, the ACA plans are all HMOs, with zero coverage for out of network. So, this is something I look at closely, even though there are not a lot of options in my state (this varies greatly by state). I figure I am truly buying health insurance, not health care and if I ever have a major issue I want as many options open to me as possible.

    7. Kathenus*

      Having spent countless hours researching this for my brother recently, I highly recommend looking into the SHIP program – State Health Insurance Assistance Programs – https://www.shiphelp.org/#:~:text=SHIP%20provides%20unbiased%20help%20to,your%20Medicare%2C%20SHIP%20can%20help.

      They can be so helpful assessing the different options and helping to understand the pros and cons of them for your situation. They have no skin in the game, aren’t repping any insurance programs, so offer unbiased information.

      1. Washi*

        SHIP in my state just does Medicare help. I’m surprised in other states they do Marketplace!

        1. Kathenus*

          You may be right, I looked at so many things, Medicare/Medicaid/Marketplace. So thanks for mentioning that.

          In thinking back I do remember talking to someone from the HealthCare-dot-gov website helpline and that they were amazing. And available 24 hours/day.

          So especially if Washi is right and SHIP can’t help with Marketplace check out the help line on the HealthCare-dot-gov website. And if one person can’t answer your questions, try again as you’ll probably get someone different. We only spoke to one person and she was fantastic – but not sure if we were lucky or not. Thanks Washi!

    8. Texan in exile on her phone*

      We have had a surprisingly good experience with Network Health in the Wisconsin exchange. We have a $17k deductible but with copays for doc and ER.

      Their customer service is excellent. They answer questions in writing within 24 hours and they will actually say in writing if a certain procedure code is covered. (This was not my experience with Blue Cross)

      My husband has had long covid cardiac issues leading to out of network ER and cardiologist follow up and it has all been covered.

      Premiums based on income not assets, which doesn’t seem fair, but means it’s super affordable for us.

      1. Texan in exile on her phone*

        In contrast, a physician college friend in Texas can’t retire because the ACA options are so awful. He’s working part time at medical center in Houston just for the insurance.

    9. Washi*

      If you go to local help.healthcareDOTgov, you can search for navigators and brokers in your area. I definitely recommend a navigator over a broker as navigators are required to be impartial. They can discuss your individual situation and what you qualify for, and sign you up over the phone if you are able to do a special enrollment period (open enrollment is currently closed.)

      Coverage really depends on the level of plan, but the silver ones seem fairly similar to what you might get through an employer. The main issue I’ve seen people run into is it can potentially be challenging to get a procedure done out of state. (For example I’m in NH and it is possible to get approval for a procedure in Boston but you have to have medical documentation that it can’t be done in state). A navigator can tell you if that’s likely to be a problem for you.

    10. Sloanicota*

      I used ours when I was a freelancer! My specific situation that I’m generally healthy and rarely use medical services, so insurance is a “just in case” situation for me, plus I do like to have at least the basic physical. I found good options (in a blue state) and at one point qualified for reduced prices, but it was annoying to have to recertify every year. It was as if my coverage completely ended, no matter what I did, and I had to re enroll from scratch just to stay on the plan I had. That was irksome. They kept notifying me that there may be cheaper options, but there never seemed to actually be any cheaper options. Still, it was worth it since the alternative would have been losing insurance entirely when I left my job.

    11. Generic Name*

      We had a very good experience with Colorado’s state exchange. It’s easy to compare plans, the plans available offer decent coverage, but not great coverage. The price was more affordable for similar coverage that was available through my then employer, which is why we turned to the exchange. When I got another job with a large company that offered more coverage for less money, he went back on my insurance. We were not eligible for any subsidies, but I’d be sure to check to see if you are.

  6. Bookworm*

    I’m reading a fictional novel with a very active fandom and find I’m disagreeing with other fans on a point. The main cast is full of minorities. Among the characters that I would consider the main group, there is an Asian gay woman, a Hispanic physically handicapped man, a black man and black woman in a romantic relationship, and one white female character, who is the narrator of the story so she is untouchable. In the most recent book, the black man was killed, and it was revealed that his partner, the black woman, was pregnant. The setting for this book is a lot of battles and communities at war, so it’s not surprising that a character would die. This death caused a lot of stir in the fandom, with people saying that this promoted the missing father figure in black characters and people said that they were disappointed that character of a minority demographic was killed.

    My thinking is that, because of the action oriented nature of the story, in which several side characters have died, you can’t get upset when a minority dies, if all of the main characters are a minority. it is one thing to say it of something like the show The Walking Dead which had a huge main cast, and I recall that two gay characters died within the same season, when not many other characters died and there is a lot of non-minority character in that show. I get the frustration there that it seems like minority characters are picked off when there is a large group of non-minority characters to choose. But it seems like an unfair criticism when you have a work of fiction in which all of the main characters are minority characters. Am I wrong in thinking that it seems like an unfair criticism to lay at creators who are actually including minority characters as the majority of their cast? When I tried to phrase this to another fan, they said, I must be prejudice, and it was hurtful that I was buying into the stereotype. I just think that if we want to see more characters of minority representation, we can’t get mad at them if they then die in realistic settings, when most of the cast is a minority character.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Well, first, you probably should detach from this fan community. (Like, I discuss Survivor, at one particular spot, and ignore a tsunami of other takes.)

      For this specific critique: I recall reading a review of the first Community paintball episode, and the reviewer was like “So Troy is shot, not sure what trope this is referencing” and 500 commenters shouted together “The black guy dies first!” So you could have listed these plus a dozen additional diverse characters, and if you asked me to guess which one died, I would have been right.

      Some people will see this as an annoying and predictable trope. Some people will see it as an organic part of the story. Some people will see it as inverting and then re-inverting the trope. Any or none of those might have been the intent of the author–once art is out there, it can take on many meanings.

      1. Bios*

        Yes, it is a trope that black characters die first, I don’t disagree with that. I guess I was thinking was that it was not as egregious if the black character was the only minority among this main character group. But I do see what you mean. And I do think I’ll disengage with the fandom less. I don’t mind an interesting conversation, and that’s why I asked it here. But I was a little disappointed that people immediately thought I had some kind of biased towards the minority characters when I just don’t think we should dogpile creators who are actually doing diverse representation. I’ve engaged with this work of fiction because I want to see my more minority characters, so I was glad for such a diverse main cast.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        I get where these fans are coming from. For a long time, any book with a gay character would have that character die or in some way suffer by the end of the book. (This goes back decades; my experience was I’ll Get There. It Had Better Be Worth The Trip which was published in 1969 and in which the main character’s dog dies, of all things, after a single gay experience. Years later, I was watching Pacific Rim and there was The Rock and a geeky Asian scientist trying to outrun an earthquake (yeah, I know) and I said to myself “the Asian guy dies”. And sure enough, he did. (Ironically, Duane Johnson is technically Asian, but he’s pretty much white passing, so his characters are never viewed as outsiders. For all intents and purposes, he’s a white dude.)

        So yeah, I get it. But there is such a thing as “social justice training wheels”. I remember being in an English class 15 years ago and I mentioned “Orientalism” during a discussion and one of my younger classmates said “You’re supposed to say ‘Asian’.” She wasn’t wrong — “Oriental” is not the preferred word any more to describe people or cultures. But “Orientalism” is an actual description of how the West has viewed the East through a rather romantic lens. In fact, the term was used by Egyptian scholar Eric Said in his book of the same title. (It’s a good book, and I highly recommend it, though I don’t always agree with it.)

        I guess the question I have is why is the majority of the characters from a minority? To sell books? To be representative? To just have characters to kill off? It’s not enough to just have minority characters in a book or television show. Those characters should be represented truthfully and should have agency. If they exist just to fulfill a story arc, that could be problematic, depending on skillfully, or rather, unskillfully, this was done.

        (You don’t mention the book, but I would be willing to bet pretty good money that the author is probably white and female. That’s just from living on the other side of this particular set of fences. But just because you are part of a disadvantaged group doesn’t mean you automatically have some magical insight into other disadvantaged groups. I say both with regard to the author and with regard to my own comment here.)

        You are asking a complicated question which has many complicated answers. It’s not enough just to have a cast of mainly minority characters; it is far more complicated than that. But the basic question remains: why are all these characters in this story? And how truthfully are they written?

        1. ThatGirl*

          This is a side note but I find the idea that The Rock is “a white dude” really … weird? Funny? He’s very mainstream and I guess you could argue that his characters mostly don’t have their ethnicity front and center but also…he was Maui? Possibly his most famous role? Like he’s not really shy about his heritage!

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I don’t think the point was that he is ashamed, more that he has been used as white passing in that movie, whereas others wouldn’t be able to. Basically he’s got enough fame, clout, or just been lucky enough to not have been stereotyped.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I didn’t say he was ashamed, I said he wasn’t shy about it :) as noted, he’s Black and Samoan, he doesn’t pass – if people are ignoring that, that’s on them.

              I think the difference is he is stereotyped as a goofy but macho athlete, as opposed to more “harmful” racial stereotypes.

          2. UKDancer*

            Yeah I mean I would not consider The Rock white. I mean I’m not a wrestling fan and my first exposure to him was in “The Mummy Returns” and I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t know where he was from but I had kind of assumed he was Polynesian or Samoan. I would never have considered him to be white.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              My recollection is that his dad is Black (one of the first Black WWE champions, as I recall?) and his mom is Samoan. I have never heard anyone consider him white or even white-passing before today, and I’m pretty sure he’d be bothered by the suggestion that he was trying to pass as white.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Correct, and I think it says a lot about people that they don’t “see” his ethnicity.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Err they don’t? Really? I mean it’s kind of obvious that he’s not white when you look at him if you’ve not seen him before.

            2. Maggie*

              I mean he’s just straight up not white. It doesn’t matter what people “consider” him and we aren’t the arbiters of other people’s race. He’s black and Pacific Islander. That’s just a fact.

          3. Leandra*

            Johnson’s feature film Walking Tall (2004) took its premise from the 1973 TV movie biography of the same title. The source material was the story of Buford Pusser, a white man in Tennessee who got himself elected as sheriff and set out to clean up his crime-ridden county.

            In an interview Johnson said that as a person of color, he didn’t fit either the real-life Southern setting or Pusser’s even more Southern name. So his film kept the original’s premise, but changed everything else for a more present-day audience.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I remember that film; it was surprisingly good, especially Johnny Knoxville as his bad-news friend whom he deputizes while ignoring the guy’s protests (“I’m a CONVICTED FELON!”) But yes, there was no way the original film could have been made with Johnson’s character simply stepping into the role.

        2. Bookworm*

          Dwayne The Rock Johnson wasn’t in Pacific Rim, nor was there an earthquake in that film. What movie or actor are you referring to?

          And I don’t really question why an author writes a majority of minority characters because I figure it’s for the same reason I’m reading it, because I want to see it. I went on a binge of reading books with queer main characters because I wanted to see some diversity. But this leads into my point. It’s one thing to point out bad representation, but why get mad as people just for putting representation in their story?

          1. Awkwardness*

            And I don’t really question why an author writes a majority of minority characters because I figure it’s for the same reason I’m reading it, because I want to see it.

            And there is the disconnect. Some people will question why a character was included and how this was done. Is there any depth to the character, do they merely represent a stereotype or how into-your-face was the character introduced as minority?

          2. Hlao-roo*

            I think Peanut Hamper may be referring to San Andreas instead of Pacific Rim. Just a guess, because I haven’t seen San Andreas but from the Wikipedia page:

            Dr. Lawrence Hayes and his colleague Dr. Kim Park are at Hoover Dam testing a new earthquake prediction model when a nearby and previously unknown fault ruptures, triggering a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that collapses the dam. Park sacrifices himself to save a young girl and gets swept away by the water.

            Lawrence Hayes was played by Paul Giamatti and Kim Park was played by Will Yun Lee. Dwayne Johnson played the protagonist in the movie but (as far as I can tell from Wikipedia) wasn’t in that particular outrun-the-earthquake scene.

        3. NeutralJanet*

          The Rock isn’t Asian, “technically” or otherwise, he’s Samoan and Black – Pacific Islanders and Asians are often grouped together, but they are distinct (he’s also definitely not white-passing, but that’s a different issue). He also wasn’t in Pacific Rim and there weren’t any earthquakes in that movie.

        4. Maggie*

          The Rock is literally not even in the movie Pacific rim. He’s also not white – he’s black and Pacific Islander.

          1. Maggie*

            Idris Elba is in Pacific Rim… so I guess you’re mixing up your black dudes. But it’s the others who racist.

        5. LilPinkSock*

          Interesting choice to invoke Duane Johnson, since he wasn’t in Pacific Rim…and he isn’t “technically” Asian, he is actually half Samoan.

        6. RagingADHD*

          Do you mean the Palestinian-American author Edward Said, who wrote “Orientalism” in 1978?

        7. Tea*

          …The Rock isn’t in Pacific Rim (or its sequel). Like, at all.
          You weren’t talking about Idris Elba were you??? Two totally different actors!

          And at least some of The Rock’s movie characters do tend to have some connection to his heritage, such as in Moana, or Hobbes & Shaw, or the later Fast and Furious movies. So it seems like he’s been able to, at least as his fame has grown, use his clout to that end.

          There can be a lot to side-eye The Rock over, but I don’t know that is the hot take I’d go with. It’s not a great look.

        8. Tea*

          The movie you’re thinking of is San Andreas (earthquakes) and the two characters were played by Paul Giamatti (the Caucasian guy) and Will Yun Lee (the Asian man who dies). The latter sacrificed himself to save a little girl during the earthquake. Both characters were earthquake scientists and IIRC, it was Lee’s character specifically who figured out there was an earthquake about to happen and started warning people.

        9. yeah*

          Wow, this comment is really, really racist. I assume you didn’t mean to be, but please do not describe a POC as being “technically” [ethnicity], and please never use the expression “for all intents and purposes, a white dude” ever again, especially in reference to someone who is Black and indigenous.

          1. YNWA*

            Perhaps Eric is Edward’s long-lost Egyptian cousin? Because I know of Edward Said who is Palestinian-American, but I’ve never heard of Eric Said.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it’s reasonable and worthwhile to consider the fact that whether it’s realistic or not, it’s still a fictional story… which means the author CHOSE to have the “untouchable narrator” be a white woman and surround her with a diverse supporting cast. It’s also reasonable to question the circumstances around a character’s death – does it primarily serve to motivate the white woman or influence her main plot? is it a tragedy/trauma dump on the black woman?
      how would it impact the story if a different character died instead? It can be an honest, unproblematic story choice and still be worth talking about.

      That said, broad fandoms rarely manage to have nuanced discussions without getting super weird about it at some point. You don’t have to join that kind of conversation and you’re not a bad fan/person for drawing your own conclusions about the book :)

    3. Roland*

      Mostly I think you’re not going to be successful in trying to get online strangers to be less mad about something in their fandom and it’s kind of a futile argument to have.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Usually an author’s goal is to evoke strong emotional reactions and keep the readers engaged. They pick who to kill based on who they think will deliver the biggest gut punch at that point in the story.

      Since all the people arguing about this appear to be avid fans of the book / series, it sounds like the author is successful in getting people hooked on the story and emotionally invested in the characters.

    5. Alice*

      I’m with you but then again I’m a cis straight white woman so not qualified to offer deep advice. But it sounds like most of the fandom is composed of minorities which means that the writing of these characters must be at least acceptable and thus it hurts when it doesn’t live up to their expectations. I wonder if it would have been more accepted if the black guy died second. The writer must have been aware of that cliche so they’d better have a good reason for it which will take time to reveal itself. Wait and see.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I think it would be weird if people didn’t get upset about their favourite characters dying! It’s also worth considering why is the white female narrator untouchable? Sometimes the narrator dies, but if she doesn’t then the author has decided that this is the person who the readership is rooting for and who will deliver the most satisfying ending. If, however, you’ve imprinted more on the male black character because him potentially being a father is a really satisfying possibility to you, this doesn’t apply to you. So, it turns out you’re not part of the readership the author is trying to satisfy, and the author is not delivering the story you thought they were. I don’t know if I would call that fully inclusive, but I still see what you’re saying about the attempt at inclusion. I’m hugely picky about satisfying and happy endings though, so I get were the readers are coming from totally. It doesn’t matter if “Oh there are still plenty of diverse characters left” if all you’ve been hoping for is one damn example of X ethnicity doing Y achievement and X has been killed yet again.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think it was fair of them to say you must be prejudiced just because you didn’t find one particular book problematic.

      That said, without reading the book, I can’t say if you were right or wrong, because a lot depends on how it was done. It’s not necessarily wrong to how minority characters killed. Minorities are just as likely to be killed in wars as white people, but on the other hand, while it isn’t wrong in itself to have a white woman as the heroine and narrator (after all, she has to be some race), there is an issue with the number of times a white person is the narrator and untouchable character in books and films and I can see how people might feel this is contributing to that.

      And it is also possible that the book played into problematic tropes in a way that somebody who is white (I don’t know if you are or not, of course) or somebody who hadn’t read many books with those tropes might not notice. So it’s hard to say just from what you have written whether this was problematic or not.

      And of course, people will always read things differently and there’s nothing wrong with people having different opinions. It is very likely that both your readings of the story are valid and that they are being reasonable in finding this problematic and you are being reasonable in thinking it makes sense in the context of the story.

    8. anon today*

      This is one of the paradoxes of “DEI”. (The quotes are there for a reason.) When a group is more diverse, there are more chances for anything to happen to the folks who aren’t of the majority group, because they’re there for it to happen to. And since fictional deaths/layoffs/promotions/whatever happen, it’s in isolation not A Thing.

      It’s the pattern over time that starts to be… interesting.

      A few anecdotes that aren’t all the same but maybe give a feeling.

      I went to an engineering school that was disproportionately male; I am female. In college I was asked out on dates a lot. A guy asking a gal out is not a big thing or surprising per se. But at some point when you’re asked out All The Time at a college, where you both live and work, it starts to be an issue. It becomes hard to form good working relationships with the mostly-male population around you. No one was wrong in this situation — no guy did anything wrong by asking me out — but it had an effect that was detrimental to my study groups and so to my career progression.

      Goldman Sachs had a bunch of senior women leaders leave over the last 5 years. They all left for reasons that in isolation are perfectly reasonable and happen to guys all the time. In isolation, each departure makes plenty of sense. Isn’t it interesting though that at least 2/3 of women in leadership have left since 2018, while this rate of departure is much lower for men?

      At some point in the book you mention, someone’s gotta die. But it happens enough that the Black guy dies (first or otherwise) that Samuel Jackson has died 8 times. (Some informal internet research indicates that the Black guy only dies *first* 10% of the time in horror films, but dies at some point in, oh, 50%? This is not proportionate to population or to movie representation.)

      Two things can be true at the same time: a decision or act can be totally “innocent” at face value, in isolation, and also be part of a pattern that has disproportionate impact on a group. And no one is doing anything “bad” per se (we often conflate actions that tie in with discriminatory patterns with lack of personal virtue, or evil intent, which clouds our vision by putting our focus on the wrong thing). It’s just… how things are, right?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think this is a really good explanation. I also want to add that sometimes, one particular [man asking you out/Black character dying in a work of fiction/etc.] hits harder than all the rest because the effect is cumulative. To continue with anon today’s “female student in a male dominated field of study” example, from the outside it can look like “why is she so upset that Colin asked her out? He asked nicely, and she didn’t flip out last week when Tim asked her out.” From the inside, it could be because she now feels like she has to find a new study group, or because the TA in one of her classes today assumed she was in the wrong classroom (because she’s a woman, and all engineering students are men), or because Tim has been harassing her over text for turning him down, etc.

        I know that there are times that I enjoy books, movies, TV shows, etc. with some problematic tropes (Black man dies first, male protagonist motivated by death/harm of their female love interests AKA “fridging,” etc.) and other times I have to stop reading/watching. It’s usually more about my mood and what else has been going on in my life than it is any sort of indicator of which works are deserving of criticism.

  7. Sasha’s Spring Break*

    Spring break snuck up on me and I have no plans for it. I can’t afford to travel on plane or staying in a hotel, so I’m trying to think of a couple day trips I could do. I’m located near Washington DC, so I can get to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland. Any ideas on day trips in the area?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Aquarium? I was just talking today about how great an aquarium they have. Luray Caverns/Virginia wineries? We’ve done both as day trips.

    2. Knighthope*

      PA – Brandywine Museum of Art, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Lancaster – Strasburg Railroad
      MD – Annapolis, Baltimore – Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Ladew Topiary Gardens (opens 4/1 – N of Baltimore), Frederick
      VA – Fredericksburg, Alexandria

    3. IT Manager*

      Go east across the bay – Easton, Cambridge, Blackwater nature preserve … also apparently the Harriett Tubman new museum/preserved home is great although I have not managed to visit yet.

      1. Blue*

        Cosign, it’s beautiful! If you want to hike I recommend getting there early morning as the lines just to drive in can get long as the day goes on.

        Charlottesville is cute, and closer to home I think Leesburg, Manassas, and Occoquan are all cute for an afternoon. I haven’t made it yet but I’ve always wanted to check out Boonsboro, MD, which is Nora Roberta’s hometown and I believe she and her husband own the bookshop and some of the local businesses. It’s near Antietam, if you’re interested in Civil War history.

    4. Just a name*

      Solomons Island, MD. It’s about 65 miles south and east of DC. A boardwalk on the Patuxent River near the bay, the Calvert Marine Museum with a screwpile lighthouse, exits on paleontology, estuary biology, local history, and boat trips to get out on the water; restaurants on the water (The Pier, The Lighthouse, Island Hideaway, La Vela our our favorites, as is the CD Cafe but it isn’t on the water). Nearby is AnnMarie Gardens, an art destination with an outdoor sculpture garden and indoor exhibits. Has a relationship with the Hirschorn in DC, so some sculpture from there. Nice wooded paths to walk and enjoy.

    5. Felicity Porter*

      Third the suggestion for Philly (even though that can be pricey—and my station is Wilmington!).
      Other suggestions:
      – day trip to Rehoboth. The boardwalk is great and the beach is beautiful.
      – solo museum tour in DC (with the cherry blossoms as a bonus)
      – if you’re into history, Gettysburg is nice this time of year, not too crowded. If you go, there’s a website that you can get a Bluetooth enabled tour from for a reasonable price.
      – walk around Arlington. Cap it off with a trip to El Pollo Rico on kenmore near the Ballston metro.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        +1 for Rehoboth. My best friend moved down around that way in 2007 and I’d go down for a few days during the summer and stay in Rehoboth and I miss that.

        I recommend Mariachi’s a Mexican restaurant on Rehoboth Avenue. It’s a block from the beach and has a porch type area on the second floor, so you can see the water if you sit at the right table.

    6. GardenGal*

      Stay home and go see the cherry trees in DC, attend the festival bits if you can. The trees are at peak now, and after this season some 300 will be removed for renovation. Trust me, if I had the $ I’d be there in a heartbeat.

  8. Elle Woods*

    I wrote a couple of weeks back about being angry with my mom for the choices she’s made health-wise over the years. I wound up having a busier than expected weekend and didn’t get a chance to respond before comments were closed. I really appreciate each and every member of the commentariat who responded with their stories, perspectives, and advice.

    After a long talk with my husband and a great session with my therapist, I’m much more at peace with the situation. I’m not responsible for her choices, only my own, and I’m choosing to make very different ones that she has/does. I’m open to learning new things, trying new ways of doing things, changing what isn’t working for me, and so on. My mother is bull-headed and won’t do any of those things, so she’ll have to live with the consequences of that. I’ll help out as I can but I am not going to twist myself in knots or run myself ragged because of the choices she’s made. In the end, the only person I’m ultimately responsible for is me.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Interesting. I’ll need to go back and read. I’m very disturbed by my father’s choices about health and I’m trying to detach myself. He’s very very unhealthy and just turned 65. He lost most of his teeth over the last 20 years and has co-occurring mental illnesses that he refuses to treat. He doesn’t have health insurance and doesn’t seem to have any interest in signing up for Medicare. He. Just. Won’t. Change.

      1. My Brain is Exploding*

        Oh goodness. Please read about penalties incurred of you don’t sign up for Medicare!

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          No! Don’t! This will not help you detach! You are not responsible for your father’s health and getting more upset about something you’re powerless to change will only make it worse all around.

          Good luck, Zona and Elle. (I’m putzing around on the weekend thread today because my mum is in hospital on the other side of the world* and I had to ask my siblings what might be a good way to contact her, as she and I have not communicated outside the family group chat in some years, so I am full of weird family health feelings.)

          * with something that could be “an allergy or cancer, or maybe lupus”

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      I understand. I went through this with my mother-in-law. She made very poor choices about her health for many years, and it decreased both her life span and the quality of the life she had. I was deeply annoyed with her toward the end of her life and fairly angry at her afterward, and I’ve had to make peace with the fact that you just can’t make people’s choices for them. One positive I’ve seen is that my young adult children have consciously made some healthier choices having seen the long term impact of poor ones.

    3. Venus*

      I’m really glad to read that you are feeling better about it. Being in that situation can be so hard!

    4. anon_sighing*

      It’s a hard lesson to learn (been there), but I’m happy you get that part of your peace of mind back. You’ve just done something great for your own health (stress is not good for you).

  9. Cat*

    My friend’s daughter is having a very serious surgery out of state in a couple of months. They are recuperating in an apartment that they are renting for a couple of weeks. I am trying to think of something nice to do, but I am not sure what. I don’t think gift certificates to restaurants because my friend loves to cook and I’m pretty sure will feel that is the best way for her to nurture her daughter. I thought about sending some kind of nice tea/treats, but I think that could be an issue as well, because they are flying both ways. All I can really think of is flowers which is fine, but I would like to do something a bit more thoughtful. Any ideas?

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      I don’t know — I think some nice treats/teas would be lovely, especially in case the surgery doesn’t go 100% smoothly or the surgery or healing takes longer than expected. Maybe your friend will be emotionally exhausted and won’t feel up to cooking right away or could use a yummy snack and some tea to enjoy while she cooks. And if they have to ditch a couple of teabags or a snack at the rental apartment when it’s time to fly home, *someone* will still probably enjoy it!

        1. Anonymous cat*

          Also—if they have the bandwidth to deal with this—if there were teas, etc left over, maybe the nurses or admins would like them?

          (I often see the advice to bring treats for nurses, and I always wonder if nurses get tired of sweets. Some new teas or fancy crackers might be a nice change.)

          1. Pistachio*

            I can confirm that – I’m a nurse, and a parent gave us a thankyou gift of a box of assorted fancy teabags, and it has been a source of great excitement and enjoyment in the break room!

          2. AnonRN*

            We don’t get tired of sweets! Sweet or savory treats that are individually packaged and/or single-serve and/or stable at room temperature are the most enjoyed. On my unit the break room is pretty minimal so we don’t have, say, a cutting board to cut up a brick of cheese or a melon, and it’s unlikely that everyone would get a chance for a break before the food really needs to be put away. But a bowl of fruit salad or single-serve cheeses is easy for people to grab some when they get a chance. Individual tea bags are great!

            (With all that said, please please do not feel it is necessary to bring your nurses treats. Having a family member in the hospital is stressful enough, you don’t need to stress about finding the perfect treat or spend money during this time. We also keep cards from patients and families up in our break room and enjoy them for months…long after any food is gone. So if you are really moved to give a gift, a card/note really is a meaningful one! No need to do more.)

    2. purple spotted giraffe*

      If your friend and daughter are going: chances are the patient won’t have a ton of energy, but mum will want to hang around the apt, if I’m reading right. Definitely some light reads for your friend, books where every word isn’t important (I like Sue Grafton, Carl Hiasson). Can you buy a couple of weeks of a streaming service? Like, if they have netflix, two weeks of Disney? Does the mum knit/crochet at all? fun wool. Can you have fruits/veggies/cookies sent to the apt?

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Ooh, what good ideas! I love the books idea. My go-to for people who are upset is P.G. Wodehouse (preferably one of the short story collections, but if not, *Luck of the Bodkins* or *Leave It to Smith*) — nothing too serious ever happens, and all is resolved happily by the end of the story. I like the mystery suggestions too! Maybe some Nero Wolfe (*Some Buried Caesar*, *Black Orchids*)?

          1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

            I have issues with the portrayal of Lula, but yeah, in general, the early Stephanie Plum novels are super funny! I was laughing out loud in public reading one.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      1) Can you send to the location? Like is it near to where daughter lives, or would the apartment management take in a box?

      2) I think having some thoughtful things that they aren’t necessarily expected to keep and treasure, but could enjoy in the moment, might be really special. My first recommendation is a soft and fuzzy fleece blanket–which is bulky enough that it inspired my first question. Also good can be magazines; I like the tea suggestion; something that would go toward healthier snacks, like say maybe some nice crackers and some dried fruit?

      Context: Looked after my daughter when she had knee surgery, and we stayed in a hotel suite because her dorm had stairs. I found a fuzzy llama blanket when tooling around the grocery store while they filled the prescriptions, and it wound up being really useful.

      1. Cat*

        Books and a blanket – great ideas. The daughter is a big anime fan – was trying to think of something for her

        1. Anon_adjunct*

          I agree with the fuzzy blanket – several friends who’ve had surgeries or illnesses or injuries have really appreciated one of those Sherpa blankets.

    4. Squidhead*

      Instacart gift card for delivery of groceries (if available in that area)? That way they can cook but not have to deal with shopping in an unfamiliar store.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yeah, I was thinking this same thing. That way if they feel like cooking they can get groceries, and if they don’t feel like cooking they can get something they can microwave/bake, etc.

      2. nnn*

        Building on this, in some cities, things like doordash or uber eats can deliver both restaurant food and groceries, so it might be able to meet whatever needs they have in the moment.

    5. Jay*

      I suppose it all depends on how you think your friend and her daughter will be able to cope with what is going on.
      For some folks, a few visits from a cook or maid service would make things so much easier and more bearable during a convalescence.
      For other people, these are the tasks that let them decompress a little and make the caregiver feel useful without hovering over the patient.
      For those folks, I would think maybe something like puzzles or (if they are into them) a gift card for Steam or some other video game service so that they can pick up a game to take their minds off things for a bit. Maybe, even, if the caregiver is fond of cooking, one of those meal kit plans for a little while.

    6. KayDee*

      I don’t know if it’s possible for a short period of time, but maybe a meal service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh for the time that they’re there? I know they can be problematic due to the amount of packaging, but maybe for a short time it would be an acceptable option.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Pizza! We send pizza to people from out of town orderers all the time.

      Things to keep in mind:

      You will need to know for sure that your friend is home and can accept delivery.
      You will need the full address and a phone number where your friend can be reached directly (in case the store/driver needs to contact her for the delivery.)
      Make sure to ask about any religious restrictions, allergies, and/or inplacable hatreds, topping wise, before ordering.
      If you order on the phone, make sure the person taking the order doesn’t save your credit card. If ordering online/an app, be sure there’s a box or similar to click or unclick.

      Having food delivered can mean the world when people are tired and disoriented in a strange place.

    8. Two cents*

      A really nice card with a heartfelt message goes a long way. And then when they get home you can give them stuff they won’t have to haul in an airplane. Presumably there’ll be more recovery at home and probably more need for help once their lives start up again.

    9. Camelid coordinator*

      I am about to have surgery and will be laid up for 2-4 weeks, depending on what the surgery ends up being, so I have been thinking a lot about what I am going to do to make my space comfortable and pass the time when recovering.

      I have a puzzle ready to go and have also been thinking about a craft project. Is there any easy craft project they could do together? In my case I might appreciate if it was for someone else like a scarf for Seamen’s Church Institute or a blanket for Project Linus. If I could find some good audiobooks I might listen to them while knitting. A pal bought herself a really nice coloring book and high end colored pencils for her time at home after surgery.

      This might be too specific to me, but what about some nice lotions or sheet masks? If the daughter can’t shower some nice cleansing wipes? (I am going to be looking these up for me!) If they are not scent-sensitive (which I am, alas) some nice candles or flowers for the space might make it more cozy.

      1. sagewhiz*

        Yes to the wipes! After my hip replacement it was some time before I could shower and the wipes saved me from feeling/smelling like it!

      2. PoePuck*

        ooh, maybe one of those diamond art things that are all the rage these days? no skill required and easy to come back to it at different times.

  10. Dark Macadamia*

    Is there a mosquito repellent that actually works and doesn’t stink? For some reason mosquitos love me and my legs are already covered in bites after like half an hour in my yard :( I usually use the unscented Off spray which I think helps keep the bugs away at least a little, but it still has a noticeable chemical smell. I don’t want the bracelet type unless they can comfortably fit around a fat ankle and work REALLY well.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I have heard that mosquitoes don’t like the smell of coffee, so I have been saving coffee grounds all winter (now that I can drink coffee again) to spread around and hopefully deter them. Not so great on a nature walk, though.

    2. Reba*

      I am also one of those people that are delicious to mosquitos.

      The bracelets do not work. Deet, Picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil work.

      If you are still getting bitten, you probably aren’t applying enough stuff (sadly, since you don’t want to smell it!) or spreading it evenly. I have a Sawyer picaridin spray that I think is decent. Loose ish clothes that cover your skin also help.

      If you seem to have a ton in your yard in particular, look out for breeding spots that might be encouraging them!

    3. Rosey*

      I haven’t used it in a long time, but Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus worked well for me. It has sunscreen in it and I think it just smelled like sun screen. (I thought the scent was pleasant.)

    4. Jay*

      Some people have had some luck with those “sonic” type bug repellents that you wear on a belt. Smoke works, so things like campfires and tiki torches can help. I LOVE the smell of Citronella candles, so those are hardly a hardship for me, but you may find them too pungent.
      I’ve even heard of people having success by eating lots of garlic.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        I walk once a week in light loose clothing and get bitten multiple times, so this doesn’t work for everyone! Glad it works for you though.

    5. allathian*

      Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. It’s partly genetic, and if you’re unlucky enough to be a bug magnet…

      Mosquitoes are attracted to chemicals like lactic acid and ammonia that are present in human sweat, as well as the carbon dioxide we exhale.

    6. Maryn*

      I’m a mosquito magnet, too. I saved an article about it from Scientific American. Highlights were that body chemistry, even with changes to dietary and grooming habit, makes people whose skin produces high levels of carboxylic acids attractive. Being female, pregnant or overweight contributes to those acids, but weight loss or giving birth alone don’t seem to impact it. There are lots of other theories, from blood type to DNA secretion to levels of Vitamin B1, none with proof.

      I’ve found exactly one repellent that works, which comes in two forms, both about $9:
      Spray: Sawyer Products SP544 Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin
      Lotion: Sawyer Products SP5642 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent

      I use a combination of the two when I work in the yard, mostly lotion on arms, legs, and neck. I spray my hands and apply it lightly to my face, ears, and anywhere else exposed. Avoid the mouth area; you can taste it.

      1. Shiny Penny*

        These two are exactly what I’ve settled on as well. My skin reacts to a lot of things, but these two by Sawyer have proven acceptable to my alarmist skin.
        The herbal wrist bands burned my wrists and ankles, and were small (for me) for regular ankle use.
        And the herbal spray (that tested well on the Consumer Reports testing) set my skin off really badly and caused facial flushing/burning even tho it was nowhere near my face.

    7. SuprisinglyADHD*

      OFF Deep Woods is the only one I’ve found that works while I’m in my yard. I still have to wear long loose denim jeans (and spray the legs of them), and spray it directly on my arms if I’m wearing long sleeves, plus the front AND the back of my shirt to keep them off my neck. I’m very scent-sensitive, and the smell is managable to me (it’s not scented but does have a chemical smell while it’s wet).

    8. OhGee*

      picaridin – I’ve gone on long hikes in very buggy woods after applying it and emerged unscathed

      1. Maryn*

        Oh, I should have mentioned those, too. We set them out maybe a half hour before we plan to spend time in a fixed place outside (like on the patio) and they work nicely! No smell, either.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        A friend swears by Vicks vapo rub, but I’ve never tried it. It’s still strong smelling but might not be as chemical-y.

    9. GardenGal*

      Avon Skin so Soft – you’d probably have to order it in line. Had two friends posted to Zaire/Congo and they brought huge bottles as it was recommended to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I’m

  11. Mitchell Hundred*

    I’m reading a book about the history of lesbians in the US during the 20th century (Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman), and at one point she quotes an opinion piece written by the Dean of UCLA in the ’50s. Apparently this man wrote about how awful it was that college had become attractive to “overt, hardened homosexuals.” And all I could think after reading that was: If I had any graphic design skills whatsoever I would put that phrase on t-shirts and sell them at Pride Parades.

    Anyway, if anybody else has examples of quotes whose original intended meaning has been hilariously eclipsed like that one, I would love to hear about them.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      There is a “Lavender Menace” tee shirt that you can buy on the Autostraddle website. As far as I recall, the excellent documentary *After Stonewall* claims that phrase was used by feminists in NOW who were concerned about lesbian influence on the feminist movement. Wikipedia concurs.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      There’s a guy (TechnicallyRon on various social media) who makes movie posters using hilarious bad reviews in the style/font associated with the film, and they always just make me like the movies more.

      My favorite is Liberal PC Nonsense in Space (Rogue One – another one was It Will Be Full of Gays Next)

      Some Barbie gems were An Alienating Dangerous and Perverse Film and The Feminist Agenda Will Kill Us All

      I don’t think it was the same creator, but when Jodie Whittaker was cast in Doctor Who I remember coming across a TARDIS shirt that said “my god, it’s full of bras!”

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Someone once wrote in to my favourite film podcast (Kermode and Mayo) whining that the current James Bond film was not macho enough and was written to appeal to blue-haired feminists. So now when people write in to the podcast, they will often sign off with “up with the blue-haired feminists” and sometimes people will write in and identify themselves as blue-haired feminists.

      1. 248_Ballerinas*

        Side note: It’s interesting how “blue-haired” once evoked a staid older woman and now is shorthand for a young quirky feminist.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Oh interesting. I absolutely thought “blue haired” in this context still meant old. Like, people who were feminists in the 1970s and are now in their 70s. Not quirky young people with dyed blue hair.

    4. AGD*

      I’m in Canada and all I can think of is around 2011 when hockey announcer (slash general loudmouthed bigot) Don Cherry was ranting about “LEFT WING PINKOS!” – and Toronto filled up with buttons, magnets, and T-shirts happily going along with this.

    5. anon_sighing*

      Some of the propaganda films around “Lesbianism” in the 50s and 60s are on YouTube and they’re funny in the worst way.

    6. WorkingRachel*

      I went to a restaurant a few months ago where they had t-shirts for sale quoting a 1-star Yelp review that called them “gay and overpriced.”

    7. ham*

      i’m a graphic designer and a lesbian (who makes clothes) and i will 100% put this on a t-shirt for you o7

  12. LemonDrops*

    if you’re an atheist or a member of a religion that doesn’t do blessings, this question’s for you: how do you respond to someone who says “God bless you?” Or even “blessings to you?” not after a sneeze, but more like a “have a good day” or “you’re welcome” situation

    1. RMNPgirl*

      I just say “thank you.” I don’t find it offensive because someone is just wishing me well and I assume good intentions, especially if I’m interacting with strangers or acquaintances. I’ve even had close friends who know I’m not a believer say they were praying for me when I was going through a tough time and I just took it for the love and care that it was.

      1. Despachito*

        Same here. I just say whatever feels right to me at that moment (thank you/I wish you well too) to reciprocate the thought.

        It is by no means awkward, it is just this person wishing me well according to his/her beliefs. Unless he/she is doing it in a proselytizing/combative way, it is actually sweet.

      2. Vio*

        Agreed. It used to feel a little weird to think that people were praying for me, or even trying to cast a spell for me, but I recognised that it came from caring and does no harm. If somebody asked me to pray with them then that would be uncomfortable and awkward but depending on the person and circumstances I might even do so. I’m always honest and open about my own beliefs if anybody asks but I always try to respect other peoples as much as I reasonably can.
        If it’s clear that the blessing is more of an advertisement for their religion than a kindness then my reaction will just be dismissively polite, same as I’d treat anyone trying to push something I don’t want.

        1. Future*

          Pretty much same here. Also I consider myself to have been a little immature to have had such a weird reaction in my youth to people who said such things and were genuinely wishing me well. I’m glad I’m over it now.

      3. Clisby*

        Seconded. I don’t have to believe in what they’re doing to appreciate that they’re thinking of me kindly.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      If that’s just their gut instinct on how to respond, and it’s not a proselytizing thing, I just say “thanks” and move on. The less said the better in some cases.

    3. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Thank you. If someone tells me to have a blessed day, I’ll tell them to have one as well. I just take those as expressions of goodwill.

      And, like RMNPgirl, I don’t worry too much if people say they’re praying for me, even though that’s totally not my thing. If someone asks me to pray for someone else, I’ll tell them I’m sending good vibes and wishing them strength or something.

    4. Kay*

      I don’t say thanks, as I don’t find it unreasonable to expect a non religious response in this day and age, but I do give a slight pause and response with whatever non religious response would fit. Typically this ends up being something like I hope you have a good day/take care, etc.

    5. CanadaGoose*

      This awkward agnostic would: Nod and vague smile while quickly moving on with my day. Or a cheerful “You too” if it felt like they meant “have a good day” and I wanted to say something. I agree that “thanks” works just fine in acknowledging the goodwill.

        1. allathian*

          Thirding, although I’m glad that it doesn’t happen very often here.

          I don’t think I’ve ever had blessings said to me like that in person, at least not as an adult. When I was a kid one of my great aunts used to do that, but she was very devout.

          Now it only happens online, and I take it in the spirit it’s meant.

    6. Pistachio*

      I would take it as an expression of their goodwill towards me, and respond as if they’d said “have a good day”, or “you’re welcome”.

    7. IT Manager*

      The only reply I have found that doesn’t feel like i am endorsing their religious greeting and assumptions in a non-religious setting (usually a store or other service transaction) is to pause a little and say “Have a nice day”.

      Anything like “you too” makes me feel like I’m supporting this whole monstrous move towards living in a theocracy (I’m in the US). I wasn’t so sensitive about it before the last decade, but now I VERY MUCH DISLIKE any assumptions that we are all the same religion and by association, we all agree that this religion should inform our laws and rights.

      (Yes, I admit I have some baggage here!)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same baggage here too. A lot of people say “Bless you” as a reflexive and automatic response to a sneeze because they learned it as kids and that’s just what you do. “Blessed day” is evangelical-coded; I know of no other group who says that, it smacks of proselytizing, and although I’m not an atheist, it sets my teeth on edge. In the past, I’ve said “And also with you,” which is a very Catholic response and somewhat pointed since many evangelicals don’t consider Catholics as true Christians. But I’m not Catholic anymore either.

        I like “Have a nice day.” No one can really argue with that.

        1. Potoooooooo*

          “And with your spirit.” if you want to be the “with the times” version of Catholic, since they decided to change all the mechanisms for some reason, I guess.

    8. OrdinaryJoe*

      Thanks/Thank you … I don’t take offense and simply hear it in the spirit in which they are meaning it (assuming it’s good thoughts and not some backhanded ‘pray for you sinner’ sort of thing).

      I do the same thing when someone who is from a different culture wishes me a happy/good holiday from their culture. Good will, good thoughts, fun, etc. is never offensive to me.

    9. Frankie Bergstein*

      I thank them and feel it, genuinely. I interpret it as being less about god and more about them acknowledging me and seeing me as a person who deserves that. I genuinely appreciate being seen and acknowledged, no matter how teensy the gesture.

      I am an atheist, but was never censured for it in any way.

    10. Chauncy Gardener*

      Just “thanks.” I mean, it means something nice and positive in their language, so that’s how I try to take it.

    11. DCLimey*

      I silently pledge to eat an extra baby that weekend.

      Then I say “Thank you”, like a normal person.

    12. LemonDrops*

      thank you everyone for the input. I found that the people who say this to me are people at the end of our interaction, like the tow truck driver or the handyman who came out for a couple hours. I find I can just rephrase it as a caring thing when it comes from some family members, but from relative strangers it just feels so awkward to me

    13. Ellis Bell*

      Good luck/take care/take it easy/have a good one/nice meeting you etc. In the working class community where I grew up it would be really common for relative strangers to say “G’night, godbless” after a stint of time together, like.. attending the same funeral or doing a night shift as casual staff together. It basically just means nice to have met you, and can be responded to with that.

  13. Peanut Hamper*

    Can anyone recommend a skin cream/lotion that is good at hydrating dry spots?

    I have some dry spots behind my ears. This has been a thing since childhood; all the doctors have just described it as “dry skin” that comes and goes. Wearing a mask for the past few years probably has not helped. My usual go-to for really problematic dry itchy skin is Bag Balm, but it has not helped in this case. (FWIW, the middle joints of my index fingers tend to get dry spots that Bag Balm takes care of in no time, but it’s not working behind my ears.)

    Note: I’m not asking for health advice. I’ve seen all the doctors and it’s pretty much just dry skin, not eczema or anything similar. Their advice is always “use some cream/lotion”. I just haven’t found anything decent that works.

    So I’m looking for something that actually works. When I read the ingredient list of most lotions, they all seem to be fairly similar. Is there a really good cream or lotion that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

    1. ItDepends*

      It really depends on what your skin likes or doesn’t like. I know people who swear by Eucerin, plain old vaseline, cocoa butter, or loads of other options. My dermatologist loves Cetaphil cream. I find all of these kind of meh, but my skin doesn’t respond very well to any moisturizer.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Aquaphor. I was given it by surgeons, it’s really good for wound healing, and it also works a treat on mysterious dry flaky patches.

      1. No name yet*

        Second aquafor. Not super cheap, but definitely good for dry spots. Our pediatrician rec’d it to help with/avoid diaper rash, and it’s now a winter staple for us.

      2. Wormentude*

        Aveeno is fab. Very gentle but better than a lot of thick eczema creams are. Recommended by the nurses when my mum had dry skin from chemo as was brilliant.

        Udderly Smooth was also good on her feet which were permanently dry, but may be too thick behind ears.

    3. anon24*

      I have very very dry skin on my feet, and after trying so many lotions and creams I’ve settled for using either plain raw shea butter or pure lanolin. Both work very well for my dry skin, and a very little bit goes a long way.

    4. ronda*

      just a thought since it is behind your ears…. do you think some product(s) you are using on your hair might be contributing to it?

      I also just looked up layering moisturizers and it looks like the slugging technique was what I was thinking I had read about. maybe try that?

      harlanmd . com/blogs /smartlotion-blog / how-to-layer-moisturizers-for-thirsty-skin

      I also have gloves & socks for doing feet & hands, but can’t really think of a good way for covering moisturizer behind ears….. maybe some kind of head band?

    5. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      My dry skin does well with Amlactin and a goat’s milk lotion I found at the farmer’s market.

    6. Keeks*

      Vanicream. I have eczema but it also works for normal skin (& I use it when I’m not having an eczema flare). They make shampoos too (just thinking that behind your ears = close to scalp). I have tried every cream / skin product in the land and this is the best one for regular maintenance!!!

    7. Rosey*

      Cetaphil Advanced Relief Cream with Shea Butter is like $10 at Target. I use it on my face and hands before I go to bed in the winter, because otherwise those areas get very dry/irritated/cracked.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      Smith’s Rosebud Salve. You can get it at Amazon and Sephora, and I’m sure their website will list other stores as well. I have a tin in my purse and one in my desk–it’s utterly fantastic for soothing and healing flaky skin, and smells wonderful.

    9. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      O’Keefe’s (the cream version in the hockey puck container as opposed to the lotion in the tube). Or Naked Bee cuticle balm–smells great. Or maybe Palmer’s Cocoa Butter (in the tub, not the tube), which smells like chocolate!

      1. Panicked*

        Seconding O’Keefe’s! I also tend to get dry patches and this works incredibly well! It does sting ever so slightly if the patches have cracked, but it heals them up quickly.

      2. Sharpie*

        I love Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, I get the bottle and it’s my go-to hand cream. I’ve also used it when I get dry skin on my feet and it works a treat, and yes, it smells of chocolate.

        1. Pippa K*

          Palmer’s also makes a cocoa butter moisturising body oil. Smells wonderful, not too strong and not artificial, and it’s worked very well on my dry heels. Might not be suitable for face, though?

    10. sagewhiz*

      Montana Emu Ranch’s Replenishing Cream. Not cheap but abs fab! It’s the only thing that cares for my psoriasis and keeps it from cracking painfully during dry winter months.

    11. Reba*

      For heavy duty moisturizing, try something with urea. If the skin seems inflamed as well, you can try a hydrocortisone cream. If it resembles dandruff (sebhorreic dermatitis) or you have dandruff on your scalp try washing the area with a dandruff treatment shampoo or look into skin treatments for malassezia.
      Good luck. Weird skin things are so weird.

      1. Janne*

        I would also recommend trying something with urea, it works really well on flaky spots. My brother uses it for his eczema when it’s not so bad that it needs hydrocortisone cream (because you shouldn’t use hydrocortisone cream non-stop, so he switches to urea cream as soon as he can)

    12. Alex*

      Yes! Sween 24 coloplast once a day moisturizing body cream. My mom received some in the hospital to put on her skin that had received radiation treatment (she’s fine now!) and now my entire family uses this stuff (family full of extremely dry skin). It is the only thing that keeps my hands from bleeding in the winter. It is perfect for weird dry spots on the skin, and it is truly unscented. It comes in a pink and white tube. I wouldn’t use it as a whole-body kind of thing, as it can be a bit heavy for that, but for the hands or small spots it is perfect.

    13. Chauncy Gardener*

      This stuff is amazing: La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream. It’s about $20 for 13 oz, which to me is expensive, but a lot of times CVS has great coupons on it. It also WORKS and a little goes a long way.

    14. Sparkle llama*

      The person who did my one and only pedicure recommended using oil, which I now regularly use on my feet, elbows and hands when they get dry. She recommended baby oil as an option. I use coconut oil since it is solid until it melts in your hands so it is less messy.

    15. Chip Chip*

      I love Udderly Smooth – you can sometimes get small travel size tubes at the Dollar Store (in the US) if you want to try it out cheaply. It’s not too expensive (compared to some), but I hate buying full sized products if I don’t know if they’ll work.

    16. No more dry skin*

      Melt in microwave, some olive oil, 1/4 sheat butter and 1/4 beeswax… this will make a very ncie emollient cream or body butter that can work wonders on extremely dry skin.

      if you want make emollient properties, add mroe shea butter,.. or a tbsp of castor oil.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      On a cold, windy day, I saw two pigeons nesting in what looked like a fast-food container that they had dragged up behind the “anti-pigeon” spikes on the covered ledge over a local business’s door. They were entirely unfazed by the spikes and were enjoying looking out of their nicely-fenced home, all safe and warm, protected from the wind.

      1. Sharpie*

        That’s awesome. I once slowed for a pigeon using the zebra crossing (=crosswalk) to cross the road near my home.

        Apparently theyve been known to use the London Underground, though whether they use Oyster cards is unknown.

        They get a bad rap but really, they’ve adapted to city life incredibly well.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Got a great review at Place That Must Not Be Named; always nice to be appreciated! The only real comment was “please don’t leave.”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, and I finally went to see the Calder mobile exhibit at the museum! I picked out the little rat sculpture for my private mental collection (see link):

    3. missb*

      I won a lottery! Yay!

      Okay, so the lottery was for the opportunity to purchase rare whiskey/bourbon. Our liquor control commission had a scandal a few years ago that revealed that the bosses were taking the good stuff, never letting it make its way to the retail shelves. Our liquor in this state is controlled by the commission, so liquor is shipped out from the state warehouse to the retailer/liquor store. Folks got fired over this.

      So to show that they’re being fair, they offered up an online lottery a few weeks ago- winners get a chance to purchase a bottle. They listed a bunch of them, and you could enter for up to 5. I got my email this week, letting me know my name had been drawn for one of my choices. I don’t get to choose; it literally told me what bottle my name had been drawn for.

      I’m ridiculously excited. But… of course I hate the stuff. Dh, however, loves it.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Wow, I can’t imagine the uproar if the Washington State Liquor Board tried to pull those shenanigans. They caught holy hell (and rightly so) for trying to swing at local gay bars for completely transparently bigoted reasons just a few weeks ago.

    4. Pam Adams*

      My sister is out of town, so the dogs and I have been Door Dashing. I found a chicken Place, Pollo Campero, that does plantains. Yum!

    5. Past Lurker*

      I got a snack for someone on a whim, and they loved it. It made me happy that I brightened someone’s day unexpectedly!

    6. Knighthope*

      Just got “Mona of the Manor,” the newly published 10th book in Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” series which began as a newspaper serial in 1974! It’s been quite a ride!

    7. Rara Avis*

      I just saw The Wedding Singer. (The stage musical) Very funny and I got all the jokes. (A lot went over the heads of the middle schoolers I was sitting with, but I was in high school in the 80’s.) my kid was on the costume and makeup crew and had a lot of fun making George fabulous.

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      I had to spend 20 minutes on hold with HMRC (UK tax people) to try and resolve a complicated payment issue – but when I got off hold, I was able to speak to a lovely man with a very soothing Scottish accent who was extremely patient with me while I tried to track down the info he needed. And we worked out what had gone wrong and it’s (hopefully) going to be solved now!

      Thank you to Scottish man, and to all the people out there who are patient when frazzled people call them with complicated questions. :)

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Kind, patient people doing customer service are the BEST!

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      At the end of my day on Friday (3:30) I called up my team leads who would still normally be working til 5 or so and told them to pack it in for the day and have a good weekend, catch you Monday. They were surprised and pleased – technically I’m probably not officially allowed to do that, but my boss won’t care, we’re all remote so it’s not obvious, and it made all of us feel happy going into the weekend. (One of them was like “What? Are you sure?” and I said “Did I stutter? Beat it! :)“ and everyone cracked up.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          If anyone happens to notice and ask me about it, that’s my explanation to a T.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      The sun is setting later. Yay!! I went to the grocery store after work and made it home before dark. :)

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Last week it was finally light enough for me to walk home from work using my favorite route; so nice not to have the Stygian Abyss surrounding me!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m looking forward to getting off the bus the stop before mine and walking the back way to my apartment to get a few extra steps in. It’s too dark to do it in winter — not only is it scary, but I can’t see where I’m going and I don’t want to fall!

      2. allathian*

        The vernal equinox was this week. I’m so happy that days are longer than nights again.

    11. Firebird*

      My CoDA group has been meeting online since the Covid lockdown started and some of us decided to keep it as a spinoff of the original group. We just registered on the official website and already had one email inquiry and two newcomers came to our last meeting. I emailed the webmaster and they were very happy to know that it’s reaching people.

    12. Chauncy Gardener*

      I had a really nice lunch with a friend yesterday. It was so great to see her. I also made some super dinners this week. One was the Vietnamese chicken salad by RecipeTin Eats. Wow, it was good!

    13. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Big joy, admittedly, but: after more than 20 years I bought a new bicycle! (I still used the old one but it recently broke irreparably) And I went on a lovely little 10k ride today and enjoyed it immensely. (I have not really enjoyed anything in the last few months, so that was a wonderful feeling today)

    14. Dannie*

      After 4 years of not meeting my NY resolution to get something creative published (“creative” because I get boring B2B copy published all the time and that doesn’t count), this week I FINALLY got off my azz and submitted an essay to a writing competition. I won’t hear anything until the fall, but it still feels like a box checked.

    15. Camelid coordinator*

      I’ve been trying various nonalcoholic beers and decided to also try hop water. Today I tried Sierra Nevada Hop Splash Citrus, which is hop water with blood orange and grapefruit juice. I love grapefruit and it is delicious! It is like a punchy seltzer but with no alcohol.

      And here is the part that is perfect for us here. Above the label it says “Family owned, operated & argued over.” Ha!

    16. Healthcare Worker*

      My sweet granddaughter turned one this week and her parents hosted a fabulous birthday party. It makes my heart happy to see how many people love this little one!

    17. carcinization*

      Took a couple of friends to a bookstore that’s a bit out of the way, and wanted to get lunch afterward so picked out a Thai restaurant that was really close to the bookstore, expecting it to be just okay like the Thai places in our respective towns. It was actually amazing, the 4 of us ordered 8 dishes total and all of them were so great!

  14. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

    On a cold, windy day, I saw two pigeons nesting in what looked like a fast-food container that they had dragged up behind the “anti-pigeon” spikes on the covered ledge over a local business’s door. They were entirely unfazed by the spikes and were enjoying looking out of their nicely-fenced home, all safe and warm, protected from the wind.

  15. Falling Diphthong*

    What are you watching, and would you recommend it?

    Watched Dune (the first one, on Hulu) again to review for the second. This is a really great epic saga type of movie. I really love how Jessica is depicted in such a restrained way–it gives the character a gravity, that you understand why a room could orbit her or fail to notice her.

    Watched The Signal on Netflix, a 4-episode German show dubbed in English. The plane carrying two German astronauts just returned from the ISS crashes, seemingly an attempt to make sure they didn’t tell anyone what they found in space. The husband and 9-year-old daughter of one astronaut try to figure out what happened. Parts were well done and compelling. The hard science parts of this are miles off, which we found confusing as we have a basic understanding of radio waves and orbital mechanics that the writers lack. We can roll with that, for a good story based on the human reactions, and then there was a late twist for the motive which was very… Huh. Not bad–like, I wasn’t mad I’d watched it–but wished it had been polished a lot more.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I watched Jules last week (I think I mentioned it last weekend) and it was so low-key and beautiful I may watch it again this weekend.

      There are some weird documentaries that I have queued up on various services. I should make a list and watch them and see which ones stick.

      1. TackyB*

        Jules was my nice surprise on a flight a month ago – beautiful and quirky story and a pace that allowed it to unfold as it should.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Invincible’s new episodes on Prime: we found it amusing that this incredibly NOT kid-friendly show featured Hasbro’s Peppa Pig Playset ads at each break.

      1. Cookie Monster*

        I didn’t realize Invincible finally has new episodes out! Woo-hoo! Thanks for letting us know!

    3. missb*

      I just started watching the 3 Body Problem on Netflix. It’s a good sci-fi series. I’m on episode 3. Really good so far!

    4. Writerling*

      I rewatched Dune recently too! Can’t wait to watch the sequel.

      I’m watching Eye Love You (Japanese drama), which began hilariously but is quickly veering into cringe territory (for me). I do enjoy watching it for my Japanese comprehension, plus my Korean comprehension when they don’t use subs though.

      Also finally watching Shazam 2, which I think I’ll enjoy, when I get to watching the rest in one go.

    5. CTT*

      Loved Dune 2, but strongly recommend seeing a late showing like I did; we got out after 11 and I felt hungover the next day despite just having a Diet Coke and chocolate covered pretzels.

      1. allathian*

        I concur, we saw it last weekend at 1 pm in IMAX and I was jazzed up for the rest of the day, which was rather surprising given that the movie wasn’t particularly fast-paced. I only ate a couple handfuls of my son’s popcorn.

      2. The OG Sleepless*

        It’s a pretty overwhelming movie, sensory-wise. We saw it at 4:30 and I was still a little amped up when I went to bed at 9:15 (it was Sunday night so an early workday loomed). We saw it in a Dolby theater and there are lots of Dolby-enhanced booms, and a lot to take in visually.

    6. Annie Edison*

      I’m currently binging Girls 5-Eva on Netflix. It’s fun and fluffy and light. Would recommend for a quick watch if you grew up in the era of Spice Girls

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      I saw Monster, the new film from Hirokazu Kore-eda. Films that tell a story using multiple perspectives often use it in quite an obvious way, but this one doesn’t – and also throws in some non-linear storytelling too.

      I love a good political thriller, but it’s a genre that has been on the wane recently, so I really enjoyed watching a Korean film called The Man Standing Next. It’s about the assassination of the South Korean president in the 1970s. (There are minor fictionalised elements to the story.) Since I knew very little about the subject beyond the fact that the assassination took place, it was totally gripping. And it was really interesting to see a film set in the world of South Korean politics and to see the similarities and differences with US and UK politics.

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I haven’t picked up my Babylon 5 rewatch since I got back from vacation; I’ve been weirdly distractible and didn’t want to miss things as it’s been a minute since I last re-watched, so I’ve been mostly-ignoring trashy murder tv for the last couple weeks instead. But I have three seasons of B5 to go, and I also want to watch Ahsoka and Echo at some point, so hopefully the spring flighties will settle down here and let me pay attention to something :)

      I saw Dune (part 2) earlier this month, and while the ending had some mild tweaks that I wasn’t sure about, I overall really enjoyed it. I hear that they’re tentatively planning for a third movie, based on Dune Messiah, and I believe a prequel series (based on a storyline from one of Brian Herbert’s books, Sisterhood of Dune) is due out later this year?

    9. WellRed*

      I just finished season four of True Detectives. I haven’t watched the first three but was drawn to this for the setting, that it’s women lead and that it’s Jodie Foster. I tried season 1 but couldn’t deal with it both woody Harrell son and Matt mcconnaughy playing yet another version of their weird selves.

      1. GoryDetails*

        Re True Detectives 4: I enjoyed that! Hadn’t seen the previous seasons, but that one featured the Arctic frozen-fear/secret places/hints of the supernatural that I like, and the two leads, Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, were awesome.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I’m another person who watched season 4 without seeing the previous three because of the Arctic/the supernatural/Jodie Foster! I also thought it was a good watch :)

    10. WellRed*

      Oh and I also discovered they’ve made a series based on the movie Ted. That may be next up!

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I just started watching The Good Place on Netflix. How did I not get to this before? It’s hilarious!

      1. Filosofickle*

        It’s so good. Keep faith in the writers over time, they really know where they’re going and what they’re doing. Even when it seems like a plot flaw or a dead end, it’s not.

      2. Writerling*

        I LOVE that show! It’s a really, really well told story and well written show. Seconding above comment.

      3. RC*

        It’s a truly amazing show. I have rewatched that and Crazy Ex Girlfriend more times than I’m readily willing to admit :x Don’t look at spoilers, just go with the ride. (And then there’s the Good Place Podcast with one episode a show to drag it out longer, and after they were done Mike Schur wrote a book called “How to Be Perfect” about all the moral philosophy stuff he learned working on that show. Love them all.

          1. RC*

            I think Season 3 might be my favorite, even though it includes the lowest of the low points.

            Something small that took me a few watchthroughs to clock: Susie Reynolds (it’s fine, she’s a state senator now) lol. Mentioned in Seasons 2, 3, and 4!

    12. Professor Plum*

      The Greatest Night of Pop on Netflix—the making of We Are the World. Great fun to see how it all came together.

    13. allathian*

      Watched Sisu, the Finnish action movie. It’s so over the top that it becomes a farce. Rather gruesome in places, but it’s also utterly ridiculous. It’s like a mishmash of Die Hard, Rambo, Mad Max, and The Terminator with a main character who simply refuses to die.

      This one was an international success and a sequel’s in the works.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’ve read about that film and was wondering whether all the gruesome-ness was entertaining or just a bit pointless, so I’m glad it was entertaining.

  16. PhyllisB*

    I just wanted to report that my mother passed away on Tuesday.
    I want to thank everyone for your kind words of support, your advice, and the funny stories when I requested them. Y’all are the best.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      I’m so very sorry. Please be extra kind to yourself during such a stressful time. Maybe imagine what loving advice she’d give you about self care if it were someone else you loved who had passed away and then do that for yourself?

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Phyllis. I’m glad that we could be there for you.

    3. Not A Manager*

      Oh Phyllis, it’s never easy. I’m sorry for your loss. May your good memories comfort you.

    4. Double A*

      I’m sorry for your loss; I hope she had a long life and you have many warm memories to revisit. Sending love to you and your family.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you. She was 93 and she was doing great until January. She was funny, feisty, and sometimes aggravating, but once she went down, that was it.

    5. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss and glad to hear that you found some comfort in the funny stories we shared.

      Losing a loved one is hard even when you know that it’s only a matter of time.

      How’s your sister doing? She spent a lot of time caring for your mom, after all.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you. My sister is doing OK, she only cared for her intensely for about two weeks, but she was always advising from afar. I don’t mean that she was intrusive, she’s a retired nurse practioner and my mother solicited her opinions.
        She was with her when she died, and though she was sad, she feels like I do, we’re both so glad she didn’t linger. She requested no heroic measures, and we honored that. She didn’t linger a long time. She had a bad spell on Thursday and passed on Tuesday.
        She also was with family who loved her the last couple of weeks and she got to see me and my sister reconcile and I know that made her happy.

    6. vombatus ursinus*

      So sorry for your loss, PhyllisB. Hope you and your sister are surrounded by love and support right now!

    7. Becky S*

      Grief is so universal, so painful and so different for each of us. It’s also not linear!
      Thhinking of you!

    8. Jean (just Jean)*

      Condolences and sympathies. I hope you and your family can take comfort in each other’s company and shared memories. Be kind to yourself for a long time into the future. Grief is an unpredictable experience. Over the long haul, it is easier to handle it with sufficient food, sleep, and stress reduction. But don’t be hard on yourself if any or all of these are woefully out of sync right now! It’s hard, hard, hard to survive the death of a parent plus the administrative follow-up. I hope you are surrounded by helpful, supportive people.

    9. Sharpie*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s been four months since I lost my own mum, so I know what it’s like. Be kind to yourself and know that everyone grieves differently, if your grief doesn’t look like what it ‘should’ look like, there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Make sure you look after yourself and do things that you enjoy.

      Many many hugs from an internet stranger.

      1. Sam I Am*

        Sorry to hear about your mum, Sharpie. Excellent advice you give here, I’m sending you internet hugs too.

  17. bassclefchick*

    Is anyone using or tried Virta? It became available through my health insurance this year. Since it’s free to me, I thought I’d try. I’m pre-diabetic and have a really high BMI. I know, BMI isn’t really a good measurement of health, but those were the parameters for being accepted to the program.

    I just started all the “welcome to the program, here’s how it works” tasks. It’s basically a low-carb keto type diet. I’m mostly excited, a bit nervous, and a bit skeptical. I know I have to change my lifestyle if I don’t want to become fully diabetic. I just don’t want this to be “yet another diet” that won’t help me. Besides, I’m a MidWesterner – carbs are my staple foods.

    What did you think? Is it sustainable? If you are on some other keto-type diet, what made you choose it and how did you keep it interesting without lamenting the loss of potatoes, rice, and the other carbs?

    1. Despachito*

      If you search for “Virta, diet, criticism”, you will find some critical voices to consider.

      Overall, it is not good to exclude carbs (or any other basic nutrients) altogether, and a “diet” should not be something that is not sustainable on the long term (barring serious cases under strict medical supervision) . If I were you, I’d consult a trusted nutritionist before.

      1. RagingADHD*

        In the US, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. There are no educational or licensing requirements, and no oversight.

        Registered dieticians have to go to school and be accountable for the quality of their work.

    2. LNLN*

      My 65 year old sister has lost 82 pounds on Virta over the past year. She is very well supervised medically, as she has a chronic medical condition. My sister traveled numerous times over the past year and feels it was not hard to follow the program. It provides a lot of support and information. I understand the program is not for everyone but my sister is very happy she has participated.

    3. Professor Plum*

      I changed my diet in 2018 and began eating a keto diet. I wasn’t following any specific program like Virta, just what I was picking up about keto from lots of reading and podcasts. I lost weight, dropped meds from my life and was feeling healthier.

      Skip ahead to the fall of 2022 and my annual bloodwork showed an HbA1c indicating prediabetes. I was dumbfounded because I thought eating keto and having lost weight should have kept that away. Started more research and discovered that the likeliest answers were too much fat in my diet and not enough muscle in my body.

      I discovered this through a website called Optimising Nutrition started by an engineer who was seeking nutrition info to help his type 1 diabetic wife. I can’t say enough good things about the programs there—it’s about finding your nutrients through nutritious Whole Foods and prioritizing protein. You can follow these principles from any dietary plan: be it low carb, vegetarian etc. Each program starts with baselining how you currently eat, tweaking your diet incrementally and learning what works and doesn’t work for you, take a short break and then start again. You make short-term gains over time that lead you to better health. There are lots of free resources, and, if you want more, it’s very affordable and has an amazingly supportive community.

      I have lost more weight and my doctor has been very pleased with how my bloodwork results have all improved.

      Here are a couple articles from the site with more info.

      https://optimisingnutrition.com/type-2-diabetes-reversal/

      https://optimisingnutrition.com/insulin-resistance-pre-diabetes-and-diabetes-management/

      If you’d rather listen to podcasts, check out some of the following.

      Wellness While Walking, episodes 211 and 212 with Marty Kendall

      Diet Doctor Podcast, episode 104 The Secret of Nutrient Density.

    4. Rebecca*

      I’ve been following the 70/20/10 fat/protein/carb percentage by calories diet. Previously, I ate a mostly plant based diet with all kinds of carbs and honestly didn’t think much beyond making sure I got plenty of fruits and vegetables. I actually don’t really miss the rice and pasta that much, which is a surprise. I do miss fruit, and I miss just eating without having to do math at every meal.
      I tend to stick to a couple staples and rotate them for variety. I’m mostly eating cruciferous veggies, and I rotate which ones I buy in a given week. I will change up the preparation, too, sometimes eating them raw, sometimes roasted, sometimes sautéed.
      I rotate which meats I eat, too. Last week was pork belly, this week was hot dogs, yesterday I sautéed some ground beef.
      Contrary to keto canon, thermodynamics is a real thing, and my biggest challenge has been adjusting the amount that I eat to account for the greater caloric density. I had some weight gain for a couple weeks, but it seems like I have figured out the right amount to eat to avoid gaining any more (although I’m still carrying the initial pounds, which is frustrating). I am slim, though, and eat small meals in the first place, so replacing my carbs with fat had a different impact for me than for anyone who eats larger meals than I do.
      In terms of sustainability, eating this way requires a lot of overhead. It’s a lot of reading nutritional information, and a lot of cooking. I kind of hate it. If you don’t need 70% of your calories to come from fat, it will probably be easier for you. I’m actually almost hoping it won’t be effective at managing the condition I am trying to manage so I can go back to eating a plant based diet.
      YMMV

  18. Peanut Hamper*

    I can drink coffee again!!!!! Please send me your coffee facts!

    I loved reading about the two admins a couple of weeks ago who would only drink Kirkland brand coffee, which is the only coffee my parents will drink as well. (I tried giving them some Marcella Southern Pecan–which I love–but they gave it back.) Someone in that thread had mentioned that a coarse grind will be less bitter than a fine grind. (Interesting!) Since then, and because I can finally drink coffee again (see below) I am interested in any little interesting tidbit about coffee you may have. I’ve also watched Inside the Factory where they make instant coffee more than once, so documentary recommendations are also welcome!

    tl;dr: I got terrible GERD at my last job and had to give up coffee (and pasta sauce) as a result. Two and a half years into a new job and my stomach and esophagus are healed up and I can drink coffee again. So now I’m interested in all things coffee!

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Yay — this is such happy news!

      I don’t know if you like espresso, but my late dad once told me that it is easier on the digestive tract than regular coffee is. Who knew? My favorite is Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso, which is indeed super smooth. And when I was trying to cut down on caffeine, I discovered that Medaglia D’Oro made with half a teaspoon of espresso plus sweetener tastes just as good to me as it does when I use a full teaspoon.

    2. Jay*

      -Light roast has more caffeine than dark roast.
      -Corse ground coffee works best in old fashioned percolators and French presses.
      -Medium and fine ground work best in drip coffee makers.
      -Extra fine ground is for espresso.
      -Try mixing a bit of cinnamon and/or Dutch processed cocoa powder in with your coffee grounds before brewing. Thank me latter.
      -Add just a tiny bit of salt to your coffee. Just the smallest amount. If you can taste the salt, it’s too much. The salt will bring out hidden flavors and mask the bitterness.

      1. Zephy*

        The salt thing is handy for crappy diner/gas station coffee that’s been sitting on a burner too long. It really does take just the tiniest amount, though.

        1. Jay*

          That’s exactly where I learned the secret!
          I used to do a lot of late night traveling (I worked nights for years) and another frequenter of a local late night oasis clued me in.

    3. BRR*

      I’ve recently gotten into coffee YouTube channels with my two favorites being James Hoffman and lance Hendrick. I’ve learned so much over the past month

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        Strongly seconding James Hoffmann’s youtube channel! He’s a self-ascribed “weird coffee person” and shares his tons of knowledge in an engaging and fun way. I especially like his video where he tried all Nespresso flavours available – and slowly went a bit insane – and one he did in colaboration with Tom Scott (who says he doesn’t like coffee but also hasn’t tried in years) where James basically gives an intro into coffee tastings and finding the kind of coffee that you personally like.

        (Oh and also love the James Hoffmann parody account Hames Joffmann who did “unhelpful versions” of James’ videos. My favourite is the “No” compilation xD )

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I started drinking the Chock Full ‘O Nuts brand of coffee I found at the grocery here. I always wanted to try it because the name is so odd. Wondered why it was called that, so I looked it up.

      The company founder was a Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant named William Black (originally Schwartz) who ran a roasted nuts stand in NYC in the 1920s. He eventually opened brick-and-mortar stores, and during the Depression, he switched from nuts to coffee since no one could afford the nuts. The stores changed to little cafes that served a sandwich and a cup of coffee for a nickel and he also sold the coffee locally. In the 1950s, supermarkets started selling it.

      It tastes good, especially the dark roast. It’s a bit finely ground for a French press, but it works okay if the filter is also very fine — my current press has a filter like that (I say “current” because I break them all the time :P). I also like that it comes in small and large steel cans — I get the big ones when they’re on sale. They’re great for holding dry goods like steel-cut oats, and I can put them in the recycle bin. :)

      1. Jay*

        I eventually gave up and bought an all metal French Press.
        Knock on wood, it’s still alive and well after about five years!

    5. Sam I Am*

      The blossom of the tree is small and white, similar to the small flower on a spider plant. It has a rich perfume bouquet- heavy and gorgeous like jasmine but its own scent, if you follow. If you grow it indoors like I did, you probably want to poliinate it by hand since there’s no wind or critters to do it for you. Use a little paintbrush like the one with the Crayola watercolor set. She won’t flower for the first three years of life. The fruit is ripe when it’s almost bloody red, but lighter red than a bing cherry. It is also called a cherry. You can eat the flesh, it’s very thin, only a little thicker than the skin. It tasted like sugar water. The bean is inside the cherry.

    6. mreasy*

      Cold brew coffee has less acid than regular hot brewed coffee! Also adding milk or milk substitute does make it much easier to digest.

  19. My Brain is Exploding*

    I just want to thank all the commenters on the kindness post. It took me forever to read it and there were so many I wanted to reply to, but there were so many! I’m sure others felt the same.

  20. Jackalope*

    Gaming thread! What have you been playing lately? Share your games and give or request recs. As always, all games are welcome, not just video games.

    I’m playing Skyrim a lot this week; trying new quests that I hadn’t done before.

    1. Magdalena*

      I started playing Cell to Singularity after seeing it recommended here. It’s interesting but also frustrating – after a while I stopped making progress and have to wait ages for a new development / step.
      I’m still hooked though.
      I think I might be playing it wrong.

      1. Jay*

        I’ve got 3100 hours into that particular game, so thin I can shed a little light on that ;)
        -Don’t worry about playing 24/7.
        I log in once in the morning before work and then again after work.
        -If you’re going to be around anyway, keep it going in the background and check back every so often (the fact that it’s running when I’m not actually at the computer is why there are so many hour in).
        -There are multiple games within the game itself.
        You get the ‘Main’ game.
        Then there is the ‘Dinosaurs’ game.
        After that, you get the ‘Outer Space’ game.
        You also have the ‘Short’ games that last about 3-5 days and cover a single, small subject. The current one is all about the extinction cycles Earth has been through over the course of evolutionary history.
        Once you have them all unlocked, you can bounce from one to the next every time you reach a waiting point.

    2. Mornington Crescent*

      I’ve picked up Pokémon Legends Arceus again after putting it down for two years!

      I’m about to head into the fourth area and I forgot how fun, and how *good* this game is. It’s so good!

    3. Moog Moog, Space Barber*

      I bought Balatro last week after seeing a positive YouTube review from a channel I follow. So fun! It really distills the essence of a rogue-like deck building game- constructing a perfectly optimized machine to make Numbers Go Up.

    4. Claire*

      I’ve been playing Palia a lot over the last couple of weeks. It’s not perfect (still in beta so lots of bugs, graphics aren’t the best on the Switch etc) but it’s my first time playing a MMO type game and I’m really enjoying it. It did take me a while to relax and stop expecting monsters to pop up and fight me constantly, after playing Tears of the Kingdom for the last few months, but I’m getting there!

    5. Panicked*

      I’ve been giving Fallout 4 another try, but it’s not grabbing me the way the other Fallout titles have.

    6. Gingham Altar*

      I was playing Elder Scrolls Online for a while but found it unsatisfying compared to Skyrim. But just yesterday, I discovered my 10 year old save file on Skyrim with 80% of quests done. I’m looking forward to the other 20%! I don’t remember where my house is. :(

    7. Irielle*

      I’ve been playing a rogue-lite city builder called Against the Storm. I’m enjoying it because you generally “win” at about the time I’d be getting bored of a traditional city builder (everything has just turned from a struggle or a mess, but hasn’t quite reached totally boring, nothing to do but over optimise and pretty everything up), and then you go and buy meta upgrades and start the next settlement.
      I’ve also been trying Wildmender again, I got a bit bored of it when I first played it, but I did really like the concept and graphics so I’m giving it another try.
      I’m also looking at going back to an early access game called Enshrouded. I got it the same weekend as Against the Storm, and felt like I didn’t give it enough time because AtS kind of took over for awhile there.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Started playing this Mahjong game on my phone. The tiles click when you match them and it’s so relaxing.

    9. Emily Elizabeth*

      Going to try to beat Tears of the Kingdom tomorrow! I beat BOTW only about 2 months TOTK came out, after almost a year of playing, and then have been playing TOTK on and off since it came out. However I realize my off has been the case for long stretches now and I feel like moving to a new game – but don’t want to leave it hanging so going to do some “last” (for now) concerted play.

  21. Help Me!*

    I would love thoughts from commenters on how to make a difficult decision I am struggling with.

    My husband, toddler and I live very close to his family (walking distance). We see them every week. This is okay with me – some weeks I would rather take a break (and sometimes we do), but most of them would like us to all see each other more, vacation together, etc. Husband and I have put in a lot of work re: appropriate boundaries over the last ten years and things are overall good.

    Sadly, my husband’s grandmother passed away recently. Her family was her entire life, and now many of the grandkids have families and live a few hours away, so it has been challenging to find a date for a service where everyone can come. They landed on a date where I am scheduled to be out of town on my annual vacation with my best friend as it is the best date for the majority of people. I told them before the date was picked that I could not attend on that date. The date of the service is the same day I am scheduled to leave.

    My best friend and I have been planning this vacation for over a year, and I’m really looking forward to it as time with them and also having some kid-free time doing some not-super-toddler-friendly activities. Technically, I could change my flight to a later one, or go the next day, both with an additional cost (money is tight but it’s just reasonable enough I could make it work). But then I would be flying 8+ hours without my friend (which I’m comfortable doing – but the point of the vacation is to hang out together), and I’d miss some of my trip (which is already shorter than my friend wanted it to be, see: less free time as a parent). I am feeling sad at the thought of missing the service and family time when our family culture is so all about family. But I am also feeling upset about the idea of giving up some of the very little me time that I get because of family. So basically, either way I’m going to be cranky that day. Would love any insight into how to think about what to do.

    1. Double A*

      Oof this is tough… My absolute first instinct is that you should not change your flight. And I think that I’m going to stick to it. You told them in advance that date doesn’t work for you; you don’t have to get into “Well technically with expense and sacrifice of a year’s worth of planning it could work.”

      Probably when they were picking the date they prioritized immediately family, and the fact you couldn’t do it wasn’t enough to change that consideration. Which I think tells you you’re an optional attendee. It would of course be very lovely for you to be there, and if they stream the service maybe you could watch it from the plane if there’s wifi.

      Will out of town family be coming in the night or days before and could you try to see people for like a dinner? A funeral is a time for bringing people together, so if you can make those connections during the funeral weekend I think that is all part of the memorial process.

      But as a mom with young kids…I think you should take the vacation.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree no need to twist yourself all up with whether you *could* change your flight. It’s your spouse’s grandmother and no matter how *family* you all are, it’s not as important for you to attend. I don’t mean that harshly. I’d also hate for you to shorten your trip and then oh, have that flight get mucked up or something and you miss more of it.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I agree. Of course it’s sad that you couldn’t attend the service itself, but it doesn’t erase your sadness or being there in the millions of ways you have been for your husband and family.

        It’s not like the service was scheduled and THEN you booked the vacation. Life happens.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Go on your vacation. Send some thoughtful notes to the family about what the grandmother meant to you, and also how much the letter recipient meant to her. Reiterate how sorry you are to miss the service. And go on your vacation.

      Also, don’t apologize or explain about your absence.

      1. Time for Tea*

        100% this. You told them you couldn’t make that date so they can’t *possibly* expect you to be in attendance. Could you do a family meal or something else as a memorial later on after your trip?

    3. NorwegianTree*

      I would go on the vacation. My husbands grandfather died last year, and our 2year old was a bit sick at the same time as the service, so he went and we stayed home. My mother-in-law thought also that was the best option, since our 2 year old was too little to understand exactly what was happening (we explained what dead means as best we could), and it was of course much more important that my husband was present than me.

    4. Pistachio*

      It seems it’s possible for you to do both things though, it’s not a matter of cancelling your vacation. In your situation I would change my flight and go later that day. OK you’re missing the flight with your friend, but really, thats not the important part of the holiday, and it sounds like you’d only be missing a day. This sounds like an major family event at a time of loss, it’s not the same as making alternative plans for Thanksgiving one year, for example. I’m not saying it’s wrong for you to go on the trip, but that’s what I’d do.

      1. Mia*

        agreed. that way you can do there for both things and being there for a funeral is really meaningful to people but also have your own time. also, whether your husband wants support there is also a question I’d think about.

        I definitely know the feeling of having your own special plans with friends affected and how it can feel so bad when even the small amount of time you get away is cut into but when you’re with her, you’ll still have a great time.

        1. KeinName*

          But it’s quite a long plane journey. The friend might be sad to have to do it alone, and it would be just a chore, not part of your holiday. And it might be delayed and you’d rather be delayed together than maybe both end up at different destinations to each other and your luggage in the worst case :)
          Or feeling stressed out about the possibility of this maybe happening.

    5. Morning Reading*

      Go on your trip. You have a “previous commitment,” the best reason in all the etiquette advice. Besides, it is your spouse’s grandmother. If it were your grandmother and your FOO gathering, and you hadn’t seen them in some time, my suggestion might be different. But it’s your spouse’s family and you see most of them frequently.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This is about where I land.

        Caveat: You don’t mention whether your husband (not his family, just him) has an opinion on whether you stay or go. I’m assuming that if this was a bone of contention that you would’ve mentioned that, so in my head canon he is fine with you missing the funeral if that is your choice – and that’s where my husband would land, knowing I don’t attend funerals anyway. But if that’s not the case, that does potentially make the situation more complicated.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah it would be my spouse’s feelings that would guide me here. The rest of the family (or the main people) chose a date they were informed I couldn’t make, which means I’ve done everything I can by them. However if I had a very upset spouse/closer than average to their grandparents, that might sway me, but they have the rest of their family there too, so YMMV.

    6. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      I think most people would tell their loved ones not to drop everything to attend their funeral. If you think the Grandmother would say this if she could, then don’t change your plans and think of it as doing what she would have wanted.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This too. My husband’s mother was in the hospital for a couple weeks leading up to our destination wedding, and she specifically instructed him, do not change your plans no matter what happens to me, I don’t want you to overshadow your trip and your wedding with sadness. And she did pass away the morning after our wedding on the opposite side of the country. (A couple of years later, the dog we got married for had to be put to sleep the day before our wedding anniversary. It’s kind of a bummer now, unfortunately, despite his mom’s efforts. But our memories of the trip – we did our honeymoon first, then got married at the end – mostly override the downers.)

      2. Help Me!*

        This grandmother would absolutely not say that. She would be appalled that someone would consider missing a family event haha.

        1. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

          Ok then you should just revert to the fact that you made it clear you couldn’t attend on that date and still not change your plans.

    7. Still*

      I think it depends on your husband. I think if he’s doing okay and is fine going by himself, then you should go ahead with your trip as planned. He’s also the best judge of your family culture and how important it is that you’re there.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      This would fully depend on how my spouse was feeling re needing my support. For a parent, I would change the other trip. For a grandparent, I would expect there to have been more front-loaded mourning (that is, the death wasn’t a sudden shock) and also it sounds like there are a lot of people to offer support to the family members who are her children, or were particularly close.

    9. One Story of Many*

      Did you ask your husband? Does he feel like he needs your support? Several years ago a memorial service for our nephew was scheduled for a time when I was supposed to go on a non-refundable silent retreat (which we could afford to not get the money back). After discussing it with my husband, I left the retreat half-way through and we went to the memorial service. This worked for us; I was glad I did it in the end.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      Keep your plans. Plenty of people miss funerals for various reasons and it’s really not a big deal unless YOU want to be there for your own grief. It sounds like you’re mainly concerned about the family obligation and what people will think, but they knew this date wouldn’t work for you when they chose it. If your husband is okay with you going there’s no problem here.

    11. Anon Poster*

      I think the question you need to ask yourself is how does your husband feel? Does he want you there for emotional support, but would feel guilty about asking you to change your trip? What would you expect of him if the roles were reversed? When you’re on the plane, how will you feel about not being there with him, and how will he feel about you not being there with him? If the two of you can talk through that 100% honestly and decide that attending the service itself is not a marital priority, then I think you can go on as planned with a clear conscience. His feelings are the only ones who need to be taken into consideration.

      If the concern is more about how it will look to the in-laws if you miss a family event, I think you can mitigate that by being there for everyone in the lead-up to the service. Help with planning where you can, attend the family events in the lead-up, be available (within reason, of course) to see the out-of-town relatives who arrive before you leave for your trip. People, especially the out-of-towners, might still gossip about you being gone, but that’s just what families do when they have big gatherings. As long as you and your husband are both good with your choice, no one else’s opnion matters.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        This is where I land as well. The extended family has voiced how they feel about needing your presence by scheduling it on a date you said you were unavailable for, but you need to have a Real Talk with your husband if you haven’t already. That’s the relationship that may suffer if you haven’t tended to it in this situation. Think about your plan B vacation right now, though, because you do need that time and freedom to fill your own cup. Is there another time in the not too distant future that you can spend time kid-free with your friend, even if it’s not doing the things you planned to do on your trip as it currently stands?

    12. Rachel*

      I have a different perspective on this.

      It sounds like you are local to some of his family, but other family is distant and coming to the services requires some travel. How often does your husband get to see the distant family? Does he like them?

      If he doesn’t get to see them often and they are in the area for this event, it would be a kindness to be at the services so you can be the primary kid-wrangler while your husband has more focused time with his family.

      If you can guarantee your husband X – Y time where he can just focus on family, that might be a nice thing. It would probably help you to reframe this as a gift to your husband instead of honoring his grandmother.

      If he isn’t close to them or is very good at socializing while putting a straw in a Capri sun, then disregard my comment

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        Yes – I wondered who’d be in charge of the toddler-wrangling. Realistically someone needs to be in charge of getting a fractious toddler out of the service if the occasion arises; I don’t think the immediate family of the deceased should be the ones to do it. Figure out in advance who that will be.

        1. Rachel*

          Another option, if it’s available to the OP, is for their family to come to the services. They can be the point person for the toddler.

          Something I want to get ahead of. There is an insidious cultural expectation that women carry mental load/caregiving and men do the fun bits. I’m afraid my response plays into that a bit, I am saying that it might be a good idea for a woman to adjust plans to help a man caregiving. I would not give this advice in response to nearly any other set of circumstances.

          The reason I think it’s worth considering moving the flight to later on in the day is that events with a toddler are challenging solo if you want to do anything other than watch the toddler.

          There are a lot of things that can sway me on this. If the OP’s child is very good in groups and accustomed to ceremonies, don’t change your flight. If the OP’s husband is ambivalent about socializing with other guests, don’t change your flight. If the OP’a husband’s family is accustomed to watching each other’s kids, don’t change your flight.

          This is more of a parenting question than funerals or traveling.

    13. Maggie*

      :/ I’d probably leave later in the day but still go. Unless your husband really doesn’t care if you’re there or not in which case I’d just go. Def wouldn’t cancel. My husband and I have to travel for funerals usually so we often don’t bring the other person

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        How close were you with the grandmother? If you were closer it might make more sense to go to the funeral.

        BTW, lots of families will say things low ” you should go, funerals are for the living” but then berate you after anyways. It is still worth keeping your trip, but make sure you’ve factored in potential family drama into your plans and maybe have some scripts for dealing with that or talk to your husband about how to handle it. Grief is weird and can make people behave unpredictably.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

    14. Bluebell*

      This thread already has a lot of good advice about talking with your husband and figuring out what to do with your toddler during the service. I come down on the side of keeping your trip plans. You already told people that date wasn’t good for you, and I’d be wary that going forward, the family could just say “ sure, help me doesn’t want that date, but she’s changed plans before.” Also, as someone who has taken a yearly trip with a best friend for more than 10 years, I can say it has been such a good thing for our relationship. Let us know what you decide.

    15. Caroline*

      I think you should prioritize your trip, but possibly see if you can manage to find a sitter or someone to watch your little one during the funeral so your spouse can focus on grieving with his family.

      I am in a similar situation – living close to tightly knit in-laws who get together weekly and would prefer it to be more often. I’ve been married for more than 18 years now, and would prefer to see my in-laws at holidays, or in smaller groups maybe a little more often. Certainly not more than once a month. We definitely had to work at boundaries for a very long time. They still get together weekly. My husband and son still want to go join them weekly. I get the house to myself for a few hours once a week. I started out skipping a week here and there and gradually ramped it up. Now I only show up at holidays and a few special occasions. It is glorious and I highly recommend it.

    16. GardenGal*

      Maybe send a really nice floral piece to the family or where the service will be held?
      Go on the vacation.

  22. Myceliyum*

    I’m looking for realistic examples of healthy romantic relationships in fiction.

    Are there books, movies, or TV shows you would recommend that represent ‘real’ relationships? It seems like dysfunctional relationship dynamics are popular in fiction because they help drive conflict and advance the plot. But I want examples of relationships I can aspire to and learn from, where characters address conflict and grow through life together and generally act like adults. Please share your favorites!

    1. Double A*

      This is a weird one and you need to be okay with campy violence, but I think the relationship in Santa Clarita Diet is delightful. A couple (played by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyfant) are a loving and a great team that has to work together to accept and accommodate a big change in their relationship when the wife suddenly becomes a flesh eating zombie. One of my favorite shows of all time.

      And the emerging relationship between the kids is really sweet too.

      1. Vio*

        I felt the kids relationship was a bit forced but still sweet. The parents are definitely a great example, although their neighbour not so much. Hilarious show, pity it was cancelled.

    2. HBJ*

      Never seen the show, but I’ve always heard the relationship between the coach (Taylor? I think) and his wife on Saturday Night Lights is like this.

      Leslie and Ben in Parks and Rec.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        I was coming here to say Friday Night Lights – and yes, the relationship between Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami is very realistic and healthy.

      2. Anon Poster*

        I also immediately thought of Coach and Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights. I haven’t seen the last season since it aired originally, but I remember thinking the career issues that came up for them in the end were handled especially believably.

        Also seconding the Book Lovers mention from further down in the thread, I read that recently and was very pleasantly surprised by the relationship between the two lead characters. Everyone was just doing their best!

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Book Lovers reminded me of the great novel and great movie, In Her Shoes. The primary focus is the sisters’ relationship, but one of them also gets romantically involved with two different guys and the contrast and what constitutes an actual partnership is well written.

      1. RC*

        It irritated me to no end that apparently 1) they never discussed whether to have kids before actually getting married; and 2) once that convo came up, they discovered they were on completely different pages, and the issue was resolved in 22 mins. Arghhhhhhhh.

        1. Anon Poster*

          That episode was so baffling. There is no way Amy Santiago’s wedding binder didn’t have a whole section devoted to important topics to discuss before the wedding. I think the writers just wanted to write the gimmick of Holt and Kevin moderating the debate, had the idea a season or two too late, and went with it anyway.

          1. RC*

            Right? She’d definitely have a binder. Including, probably also, financials which are another thing that’s baffling about their relationship (and played for laffs). Amy would know the statistics on why couples break up and be sure they had the requisite counseling first to work it all out!

        2. Double A*

          I agree, and it’s out of character for Amy! However, I actually think the overall discussion about having kids once it happened was thoughtful and realistic; since it’s a sitcom, of course it’s resolved in 22 minutes, so I don’t necessarily fault the form for an unrealistic timeline for resolution. I think if you can get over the clunky way they handled it, some of the substance of the conversation, and the respect they show each other, is good.

          1. RC*

            Yeah, but this is a show that hasn’t been afraid to not wrap things up/neatly in the 22 mins before though (thinking Kevin and Holt’s reconciliation, the fertility storyline… the whole saga in Florida?). And this one was just so jarring because it had one of them just do a complete and definitive 180, in that time period, on a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION. Like you don’t even just want to take the night to sleep on it??

            The longer arc of Jake and fatherhood I think did a better job of laying things out evolution-wise, but that one episode just irked me so bad (not to mention the aforementioned binder comment above; totally out of character for Amy to begin with).

    3. Alice*

      I don’t know if this couple grows as such – they love each other as much in the beginning as in the end – but it was so nice seeing Peter and Elizabeth Burke in White Collar. Completely trust in each other.

      1. Pharmgirl*

        I was going to say this! Although they aren’t the focus of the show, they definitely have a great, supportive relationship.

      2. Helvetica*

        My thought exactly! Especially for a law enforcement leaning show, so rare to see a pairing where the job isn’t the constant source of conflict.

    4. Forensic13*

      If you’re okay with a show geared more toward kids, Bluey has GREAT examples of this. They show the parents parenting well, parenting less well (and then figuring it out,) getting along perfectly, struggling with being “romantic” with each other, having conflict and figuring it out, etc. As a married parent with a lot of childhood baggage about marriage and parenting, the show has been very healing and reassuring in a lot of ways.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      They are college aged so that’s a caveat but the relationship in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a healthy one and it’s a great read.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      TV: Nikita and Michael, on Nikita. In Season One, they have sexual tension but were on opposite sides of a shooting war, so they didn’t do anything about it, like sensible people. In Season Two they’re on the same side, and from that point onward in a serious relationship with each other that they each try to make work, despite each having a ton of baggage.

      Book: I recommended Book Lovers by Emily Henry up at the top in the reading thread. I also really like the romantic relationship in Donna Andrews’ Murder With Peacocks series, going strong at 30+ entries.

    7. Jay*

      Daven and Venessa in the mid and latter days of the internet comic Something Positive by Randy Millholand. Just a little note on that one, though: The early days of the strip were pretty wild and rough. It’s pretty clear you are reading something from a young person with issues who needs some sort of help/medication. You get to watch as the author gets his life together and creates a really fun to read world around his characters.
      Further note: The same author now writes the Popeye comic strip and he’s given Popeye and Olive Oil the same sort of wonderful relationship. It can get shockingly sweet and romantic at times.

    8. ThatGirl*

      It’s maybe not 100% what you mean but I love Bob & Linda on
      Bob’s Burgers, they squabble and argue over real and silly things but ultimately love and support each other.

    9. Gyne*

      The YouTube channel “Cinema Therapy” has a video about exactly this! It’s all film-based, but it’s a series of videos with a family therapist and a filmmaker who watch, react to, and discuss movies.

    10. Siege*

      It’s an older movie and probably objectively terrible, but Alan Rickman’s Blow Dry has a lovely relationship arc between Phil, Shelley, and Sandra. The relationship between Rachel Leigh Cook and Josh Hartnett is kind of basically dumb (my assumption is that she can’t do an English accent so they wrote a stupid subplot for her) but Phil, Shelley and Sandra have a really lovely relationship progression from deep conflict to growing together, all set against a hair styling competition.

    11. TPS reporter*

      Life & Beth created by Amy Schumer is loosely based on her relationship with her husband. They both have trauma/parent issues and disagree but work through various obstacles with respect for each other.

    12. Armchair analyst*

      Maybe Ma and Pa Ingalls in the Little House books

      Based on memories but also very fictionalized. Laura does experience more conflict-ridden relationships later in her life in the books so she knows the difference

      1. Oread*

        I reread these to my kids and was surprised how their relationship had changed since I was a kid :)

        I remember Ma being a stick in the mud and Pa being adorable. On rereading I’m currently of the opinion that Pa had an advanced case of Patriarchy and Ma was patient largely because she had no other options. She wasn’t consulted in lots of life decisions, and was expected to always find a way to make up for his irresponsibility.

      2. Rusty McCornfed*

        There’s a lot that looks different in the Little House books today–and often not in a good way–but I think it’s worth observing that Pa Ingalls is a tremendously engaged and present father. He dedicates time and energy to the daughters’ needs as well as to their amusements, and he has real emotional intimacy with them. It seems like there’s a lot of propaganda to the effect of “caring for children has always been only women’s work,” or “back in the day, men only cared about their sons, not their daughters.” Laura’s memories of Pa show a much more nuanced emotional landscape.

    13. BookMom*

      Armand and Reine-Marie in the Gamache series of books by Louise Penny have a lovely, mutually supportive marriage. I particularly admire how they maintain their own individuality even when Armand’s career could easily take over. It’s perhaps not the most well developed relationship in the series, though.

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      Hmmm… I really enjoy the relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Whimsey in Dorothy Sayer’s novels. It starts out with them in very different places in their lives, to put it mildly, and his evolution from pursuing her for essentially selfish reasons to really putting thought into what he wants from a marriage relationship.

      His utter and unwavering support of her career; even when it’s tough love and not just pats on the back is so forward thinking and rare, even nowadays.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think this is an interesting one not leastas thye do discuss the issues and it’s very clear that love alone is not enough “Best intentions no guarantee”

    15. Part time lab tech*

      Cinema Therapy on YouTube has done rankings of movie relationships and
      parenting. I think A Quiet Place has ranked as a good movie marriage.

    16. Shiny Penny*

      I really like Lois McMaster Bujold’s rendering of human relationships in her books. She’s written the Vorkosigan series, Penric and Desdemona series, the World of the Five Gods series, and the Sharing Knife series. Her characters give me hope that healthy romantic relationships can be a thing, and hope for humans in general.

    17. Anon Poster*

      I have Schitt’s Creek on while I fold some laundry, I think David and Patrick are so great. The beginning of their relationship is handled very gently and sweetly, and the episode where Patrick comes out to his parents makes me cry every time. Patrick as the “reasonable one” manages to neither shame nor overindulge David when he’s being the “ridiculous one.”

      Alexis and Ted are also great the second time around. This is my go-to show for character growth and growth in all kinds of relationships.

    18. Myceliyum*

      Thank you to everyone for the recommendations, I’m looking forward to digging in on these!

      The book that prompted me to ask this question is The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune, which I really enjoyed.

    19. Happily Retired*

      Parenthood (the film), with Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen. It’s a mostly-comedy, but there’s a tough and loving sweetness underneath that I love.

      Note: I was in a pretty miserable marriage at the time, so there might be a bit of idealizing going on here, but maybe give it a try. – I did kick DH #1 to the curb eventually, and life with DH#2 is very different and far more rewarding.

  23. MassChick*

    Alison, how are the cats dealing with Hank being gone?
    (Sorry if this something you don’t want to get into, please ignore)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They are okay. I think they knew he was sick, and I think they know he is gone now (partly because we let them smell the blanket he was in when he left us). I was worried about Sophie, who was the most bonded to him (she spent his whole last day cuddling with him) but Fig seems to be moving in to fill that hole for her.

      1. MassChick*

        Sophie <3
        I think animals have an instinct about impending death.

        I’m just amazed at how well all your cats seem to get along. I’m hopeful we can get our boy a kitty companion at some point and have them be friends.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Our trick has been that the only factor we screen potential new cats on is “do they actively like other cats?” We figured we owed that to the cats who were already here and it has worked out really well.

          1. MassChick*

            Good to know. I wonder if adding a kitten would be easier.. the inhouse cat might feel less threatened by a smaller creature and eventually his nurturing instinct would kick in. And little cat would adjust to the established hierarchy.. (given this is cats I have no doubt the opposite would just as likely happen)

        2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          When my boisterous and somewhat obnoxious dog suddenly became very respectful and gave my old kitty space, I knew it was a bad sign. Kitty died two days later. It’s amazing how they know.

      2. Happily Retired*

        That’s wonderful, and very sweet. I’m glad that Sophie has others to help fill the space.

  24. nnn*

    Oddly specific product recommendation question: Can anyone recommend a brand of compressed air (i.e. to clean computer keyboards, etc.) that they’ve used for a long time without the straw falling out?

    The straws keep falling out of my compressed air cans and I’m tired of it!

    1. Jay*

      None of them.
      They all do that.
      There is a solution, though.
      They make miniature air compressors especially for this purpose.
      They are more expensive initially, but canned air is so expensive these days, it’s actually a savings in the long run.
      A decent one is about the size of a small teapot and runs between $25.00 and about $50.00.
      You can, of course, get better ones for a bit more money and cheaper ones that are a bit worse, but that seems to be about the mid-point.
      Just Google “Miniature Air Compressor For Electronics” and you will find a bunch of them.

    2. ThatGirl*

      It’s detachable, they all do that. Does it come out while you’re blowing? If so you may just need to jam it in a little tighter or temporarily tape it.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      My husband just went to a computer specialist (he builds custom ones) and the guy said never use compressed air because he doesn’t trust that it really really has no moisture in it. He said just reverse the flow on a handheld vacuum.
      I had no idea!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I uh… what? Blow potentially dusty air out of a vacuum which is less sealed than a factory made can? I don’t follow.

        1. Jay*

          If you use the vacuum for that purpose only, you would have a larger, clunkier, more expensive version of one of those mini air compressors I was talking about.

  25. Cookies For Breakfast*

    Can anyone recommend a reusable water bottle that checks all these boxes?

    1) Leak-proof even when horizontal in a bag (leaks are the main reason I’m throwing away my old bottle)
    2) No flimsy plastic bits that might break
    3) Transparent or semi-transparent
    4) 500ml capacity
    5) No more than £15 or so

    I nearly settled on a 600ml black stainless steel one from TK Maxx. Then my partner reminded me about points 3 and 4, and it was back to square one. I carry my bottle everywhere, and when going to events like concerts or football games, venues can be fussy about bottles over 500ml. I might spend a little more on a small CamelBak, but am curious about what others people like.

    1. Ka-ching!*

      I was gonna say the Canelbak with straw, no spill and I carry mine with me everywhere. You can also buy a new straw when it gets old, a big win for me.

    2. Pistachio*

      I’ve never found a plastic one that doesn’t leak, though I have also never spent much money on them so that might be the reason why. I have a couple of stainless steel ones that are totally reliable and were not expensive, but obvs not transparent – is that a dealbreaker for you? Because I do think the steel ones are much better in terms of not leaking.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I’d happily go with stainless steel, designs are nicer anyway. I’m just concerned about going to venues that have bag checks – not sure whether they’d let in a bottle that isn’t transparent (i.e. they can’t see what’s inside). Not a problem I’ve had so far as my old bottle that I’ve had for years is transparent :)

        Which bottles have you liked in particular?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’ve never had a bag check bat an eye at an opaque water bottle personally.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Meant to add: I’ve been very happy with Iron Flask bottles. They come in a bunch of neat color options and have a variety of lid styles to choose from, each wide mouth bottle comes with three plus they sell at least two more separately. I prefer the ones with a screw-on cap and have never had leak issues.

        2. office hobbit*

          In my recent but limited experience, they required any bottles be empty (if they let you bring them at all). I don’t remember a transparent requirement like there is with bags. But it depends on the venue–can you look up venue rules for the place you’re most likely to go?

          1. Cookies for Breakfast*

            Yeah, they vary so much! I’ve been to places where I didn’t bring a bottle at all, because they’d only allow them without caps screwed on. I’ve been to places where my usual bottle, filled with water, would be just fine because they had a maximum size limit and I was within it. And then, I’ve had different security officers at the same venue say different things, several letting my 500ml bottle in without problems, one insisting I couldn’t take it because it was “too big” (I said “I’ve been here with this bottle many times” in the firmest way possible and was let in). So, trying to minimise the variables :) I just ordered a 600ml bottle, having realised my old one was 550ml anyway.

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      My kid has had a plastic one from Swiss company Sigg for four years now, and apart from becoming scratched on the outside – because kids – it’s holding up very well.

      It’s
      – fully leak proof due to two locking mechanisms
      – can be opened one-handed
      – is transparent and available in various transparent colours
      – is easy to clean because it has a biiig top to unscrew
      – various parts can be ordered seperately in case something does break
      – and costs from 17£ upwards.

      Were very happy with it and plan on getting a 0.75l one in a few years so the kid can have more water on them.
      I’ll put a link in a comment.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Thank you! I just ordered the one you recommended, in the darker grey which looks like will still show the liquid inside :)

        1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

          Oh lovely! I’m very glad I could be of help!
          The darker grey one does look very dark but as it should still be transparent, you will hopefully be happy with it :)

    4. Px*

      I’ve got a Joseph&Joseph bottle that I’m pretty sure ticks all the boxes which I got from TK Maxxx. It does have an excessive plastic bit (a counter to track bottles drank) that is a bit pointless but also hasn’t broken.

      I also had one from some fancy Finnish brand from John Lewis that was lovely but had a handle attached to the lid which came off a few times. didn’t actually impact the functionality but just annoying enough to not buy it again.

      personally I’ve found if you spend a bit more on the bottle (your range seems about right) Ive never had leakage issues.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Thank you! The Joseph&Joseph one would be perfect for me, I wouldn’t mind the dots too much. Of course, it seems it’s only on sale on their EU website now. I might still check out another TK Maxx if I happen to be near one in the next few days :)

    5. Blue wall*

      What about a Nalgene? They are plastic, see through; I’ve owned them for 20+ years, abuse them, never had them leak.

      1. Genevieve en Francais*

        And they make smaller versions (or at least they used to – ours is very, very old). I like to throw a straw into it so I can open it, pull up the straw, and then not douse myself while drinking from the wide mouth.

      2. dot*

        Agreed, Nalgene is my go to. Several options as far as size, mouth width, nearly indestructible, and fairly cheap. Never had a problem with leaks.

    6. trust me I'm a PhD*

      Maybe Yeti, which is what I’m using. The cap is screw-on but I’ve had it for about a year and it doesn’t seem to be leaking at all, very durable, occasionally winds up rolling around the backseat of my car for two days & I’ve never had a problem. Lots of different sizes. Just Googled and it does look like they go down to 500ish ml, though it’s hard to tell for sure.

      1. Jay*

        I also love my Yetis. I’ve got a couple of them for different purposes.
        Unfortunately, they are very expensive.
        Until about a year or so ago, I would have recommended a Stanly, but they have gotten a bit….odd since they became a fad. Less well built, flashier colors, pricier. Also way to big and really unstable.
        It sounds like a Yeti Rambler thermos would be ideal, but they start at around $40.00 or so US.

        1. trust me I'm a PhD*

          I spent $35 for a plastic, translucent blue Yeti water bottle (not a thermos) that is 2.5x the size of the one OP wants, so it’s possible that a smaller one will be closer to OP’s budget.

          (But. I’m also a “sometimes you need to pay more for a high quality product” person, which is something OP would have to decide for themselves.)

    7. Generic Name*

      Nalgene bottles fit the bill, except maybe not the price. You could look for 500ml Nalgene bottles at lab/scientific supply companies. They might be cheaper there, but they will be plain translucent white plastic. No carry handles or fun colors or images.

  26. Liz*

    Seeking advice from fellow cat people: we have a big move coming up this week and will need to take our cats on a long drive, we expect at least 5 hours in the car. Two in particular are quite nervous and do not like to be caged. They will also be facing 2-3 nights in kennels while the team move our things in and out. I gather vets will sometimes prescribe sedatives for this kind of thing – what are the opinions of the commentariat? To drug or not to drug? They don’t tablet well either but may be preferable.

    1. Quandong*

      If there are no medical reasons to avoid sedatives for the cats, I’d always recommend sedatives for nervous or anxious cats, especially considering they won’t be returning to a familiar home after boarding and car travel.

      If you can also get Feliway diffusers and/or spray, it’s worth having on hand for when you get to the new place. (You might also be able to get Feliway used at the kennels but I’m not sure about that). Anything you can do to minimise stress to the cats, and the chance of stress-related UTIs is worth it in my experience.

      Cats who don’t like to be caged will still do better in a crate or carrier than roaming free in a car on long journeys. Please talk with your vet about the logistics of the car travel for your cats, as well as sedation. Good luck with the move, I hope it goes as smoothly as possible!

      1. Morning Reading*

        I read somewhere recently that there is a new med out useful for anxious cats, before vet visits or travel. Don’t remember the name but better than a sedative.

    2. aubrey*

      Some sedatives are either crushable and can be mixed with treat (or liquid and shot into the back of the mouth if giving liquid meds is easier) or possibly even as a chew – I have used gapapentin that came as a soft treat that my unpillable boy devoured but I had to special order it.

      I found that my boy did better with a milder sedative than one that made him feel loopy. Other cats do better with a stronger one and just sleep. Talk to your vet about the options and how your cats may react.

    3. Flower necklace*

      If you do have to go with sedatives, my cat takes gabapentin to go to the vet and I started using a thing called a “piller” or “pill shooter” after some advice from a coworker. It’s basically a little syringe with a rubber part at the bottom to hold the pill. He doesn’t like pills, so it really helps.

      1. Chicago Anon*

        Gabapentin capsules can also be opened and the powder sprinkled on wet food or mixed with baby food. If your cats think wet food is a treat, this is a good way to avoid pilling them.

        1. carcinization*

          My cat can tell the wet food has this powder sprinkled on it even if he was closed up in a different part of the house when I added the powder. He’ll eat a couple of bites and then hide under the bed. So I got liquid gabapentin for future use!

    4. Commander Shepard's Favorite Store*

      When I moved across the country (three days of driving) with five cats, we got sedative pills from the vet, and my review of the experience is definitely mixed. We tried putting the pills in their food, but they ate around them, so eventually we had to force them in, which sucked for everyone, but it did keep them very calm all day (they all hate crates and car rides with a passion, too). On the last morning, our smallest girl had some kind of reaction to the pill and passed out, for lack of a better description. It happened so suddenly I had no idea what to do, and I actually thought she was dead for a few seconds before I saw she was still breathing very faintly. We were in the middle of absolute nowhere in a town with a hotel and a gas station and a restaurant and almost nothing else, so I was on my phone freaking out and trying to find the nearest vet when she woke back up. Amazingly, she was totally fine and acted like nothing happened at all…but I’m still traumatized! I hope I never have to do that kind of a road trip with cats again, but if so, I’d probably skip the sedatives, even if it makes us all unhappy.

    5. Zona the Great*

      With either decision, I suggest packing some just-worn clothes in their carrier with them. It will comfort them to smell you close to them.

    6. Zephy*

      Sedation doesn’t make you calm, it just makes you slow. If the cats will be upset, they’ll just be upset in slow-motion.

      You say “kennel” and “cage” in your comment; for safety, make sure your cats travel in hard-sided cat carriers that are big enough for the cat to stand up and turn around in. You also don’t specify how many cats are involved beyond the two nervous Nellies; everybody should have their own carrier. Wire dog crates and soft-sided cat carriers will collapse if, heaven forfend, you get in a car accident. A large wire dog crate is a fine temporary accommodation for a cat once you’re in your new place, and just need to keep them inside and out from underfoot of the movers, though.

      To help your cats through the trauma of moving, wear some old ratty clothes that you could stand to lose forever if necessary for a few days before the move. Put those clothes in the carriers with the cats as bedding. Smelling you will be comforting to them, but in case of a toilet accident, you want to be OK with tossing them out at the end of the trip. (The cats will probably not want to try to use a litterbox in a moving car; any waste expulsion on this trip will be an accident due to nervousness, not for lack of access to a bathroom.)

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        OP, I think you might want to have a litterbox in the car. Not for them to use when the car is moving, but if they have to pee and you’re not near a hotel yet, being able to pull over somewhere and let them use the litterbox in a stopped car could help them feel better and a little more in control.

    7. Once too Often*

      I moved two cats half way across the country by car. Our vet recommended no sedation. She said that sedation interferes with their ability to regulate their body temp, often leaving them cold.
      You might ask about gabapenthin to take the edge off anxiety.

      Be sure to keep the cats in their carriers, don’t let them roam in the car. Be sure they have collars with tags with their names & your contact info on them.

      Mine fussed, loudly, for the first hour or two each time we got on/back on the road. After that they mostly gave up.

      Safe travels.

    8. office hobbit*

      Talk to your vet. Stress can have medical effect on cats (more so than people) so that needs to be weighed too.

      1. Anon_adjunct*

        we use gabapentin for vet visits and other rides in the car – we have a really large cat and even a tiny dose, 1/2 of the recommended dose works really well keeping her less anxious but not sedated.

    9. anywhere but here*

      I’ve used gabapentin on my cat but 1) it’s very hard to actually get it in her and 2) even at the lower doses, I’ve seen her have some balance troubles and be excessively sleepy, so I prefer not to dose her if at all possible. When I did a two day drive with her, she was initially upset but got used to it after a couple of hours – it helped that I let her out to explore the car some, and that she always has access to her carrier at home so that is a comfy and trusted space for her. I wouldn’t consider 5 hours worth dosing the cat, personally.

      You know your cats, though, so use your own knowledge of them rather than general internet opinions.

    10. Shiny Penny*

      Just fyi, sedatives and anti-anxiety meds are two different things. I had to learn much more about this when I adopted a dog with really severe separation anxiety/generalized anxiety.
      I found a number of vet sources online and in books, saying that the latest research shows that it can make things worse for the animal if they are terrified, and only given a sedative.
      So talking to your vet is a great place to start. But if you are in a rural area your vet may or may not have much experience providing mental health comfort care for house pets. In the past, sedation alone was considered the norm.

  27. PhyllisB*

    Today is my 73rd birthday. I’m not feeling really celebratory today because my mother passed away this week (see earlier post) but I am still thankful for another year, and I’m thankful she didn’t have a long lingering death. And this may sound selfish, but I’m thankful she didn’t die on my birthday. I would never enjoy it again if she had.
    It feels strange to not get that early, cheerful phone call wishing me a happy birthday.

    1. Harriet J*

      I don’t know if I should start with “Happy Birthday” or “My deepest sympathies”
      Be kind to yourself today. It is challenging to have a special occasion so close to a major loss.
      Sending you healing thoughts.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t think it’s selfish at all. When I hear of someone passing (like in the news) and it’s near a holiday or mentions a birthday my first thought is how that can ruin the day for family going forward. Be kind to yourself today.

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        A family member passed away very unexpectedly a few years ago, and they deliberately waited till after midnight to make the death ‘official’ (I think they had to turn off machines) so it didn’t coincide with another family member’s birthday.

    3. Chicago Anon*

      I hope you have a peaceful birthday and for today can enjoy your memories without the painful side of grief.

    4. Generic Name*

      Oh, you poor thing. I don’t think that sounds selfish at all; it shows how much you loved your mom. I hope you can do something small to celebrate yourself today.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you. I’m getting a pedicure this afternoon which always makes me feel better.
        Even better, hubs is paying for it!! He treated to that and a haircut for my birthday gift.

    5. My Brain is Exploding*

      Not selfish at all. My cousin’s mom died on her birthday; I get it. I miss my folks’ phone calls on my birthday, too. It’s good to find things for which you are thankful – we were thankful that Dad didn’t linger on, and that he didn’t outlive his money, and that we all knew we loved each other.

    6. Dannie*

      Close family members have died on my birthday, two different years. You are correct that it messes you up in the long-term, if only because others refuse to stop annually mentioning it. I am glad you don’t have to deal with that.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      My father passed the day before my birthday; yes, it was really strange. But knowing he loved me helped a lot.

      Happy birthday and my deepest sympathies. Strange bedfellows, but both sincerely meant.

    8. Once too Often*

      I’m glad she didn’t wait for your birthday. And I’m sorry you didn’t get another cheerful early birthday greeting.
      And I’m glad for all of you that this wasn’t long & drawn out with discomfort & frustration for her.
      Your sister & you stepped up for her in significant ways, & I hope that gives you both comfort.
      Glad you have an indulgence planned for yourself, hope you’re enjoying the warm parts of your day.

    9. Oh, honey*

      Not selfish at all! My mom’s beloved stepfather died on her 47th birthday. She hasn’t really allowed the family to celebrate her birthday since. You have plenty of grief to deal with without that added element.

    10. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      My condolences for the loss of your mother.

      My father passed 4 days before Christmas and I understand what you are going thru. It was his decision to forego extending treatment and the family was together. It’s not selfish to be thankful she didn’t pass on your birthday. I was grateful it wasn’t on the holiday, but couldn’t help but wonder how it would affect future holidays. I suppose I will find out in 9 months.

      Everyone handles grief differently and I have no idea what seems to work for me now will help you… I have found comfort in just allowing myself to have whatever emotions happen and not suppress them or judge myself for having them. So don’t judge yourself harshly for any feelings you have.

      I came across this quote to remind me to be as kind to myself as I would be to someone else.

      “Grief is love with nowhere to go”

  28. 2024*

    My building has 2 apts, with storage and a separate laundry room. On the same lot is the main house. All of us are being terrorized by a mentally ill homeless man, who found the unlocked laundry room door and moved in. All of us are women.

    Last Monday night he TWICE tried to break into the upstairs apt. Next afternoon, he jumps my side patio fence. I think he was looking for another unlocked door.

    Thursday at 5 am, he’s outside my kitchen window screaming to no one, banging things. I’m on the phone with 911, shaking until the cops came. He’s been given a trespass warning and will be arrested next time. But he has 14 prior arrests for trespassing, so he’s probably coming back.

    The owner is doing not one thing to improve building security. No lock for that door, no outside lights – pitch black out there at night – no replacing the “charming” original hollow wood doors. We are being accused of being nice to this guy and encouraging him to stay around.

    Really?? Our lives and security mean nothing to the owner and property manager.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Oh, that’s rough :( Could you possibly ask the police bureau who issued the warning and would be doing the arrest next time to call the owner/property manager and recommend that they (add locks, add lights, whatever), possibly along the lines of “your tenants aren’t doing anything inappropriate to encourage this, dude is just causing problems and here’s how you can mitigate this to help everyone out here”?

      1. 2024*

        They recommend I call the community relations dept to do an inspection. I could give that report to the property manager but I’m sure she would shrug it off. Might do it anyway. They only accused us because they want to deflect responsibility. Did the same thing before with needed repairs. They love to say “didn’t happen with the other tenants before”. I hate these people.

        1. Generic Name*

          Don’t make it easy on your landlord to do nothing. Right now there is no problem for them (clearly concern for your well-being isn’t something they care about). Make it their problem.

            1. 2024*

              Right ?? it’s so odd. Both the house and my building are old and in bad shape. He won’t do anything but won’t let tenants do anything either, even if we had any money. It’s just bizarre. I talked to the woman who rents the house in front, the city told her she had a water leak, owner said no you don’t.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          “Well, monkeys wielding laser rifles didn’t happen either; what is your point?”

    2. WellRed*

      I’m all for giving the mentally ill as much of a pass as possible but curious why attempting to break in ( he’d actually already broken in if he’s in the building, no?) to an apt is only treated as trespassing? I don’t see any reason not to go through with that inspection ( not clear on what that means).

      1. WellRed*

        Also have you and other tenants tried the old “make it your bosses’ problem. Call the police, call the property manager especially at 5am. Every time. All of you. Maybe this isn’t possible of course.

      2. 2024*

        For some reason I will never understand, upstairs didn’t call the police that night. She ran him off herself. The inspection is for that dept to identify security risks for us. I can see them myself, but obviously my word is nothing to the owner.

    3. Jay*

      I am so very sorry that you have to deal with this crap.
      I had something similar happen with a severely mentally ill upstairs neighbor and it can be Hell, especially when all the people who are SUPPOSED to be dealing with this mess pawn off their responsibility to people who can’t really do anything about it.
      If you are in the US, it’s likely that the police cannot do much of anything until AFTER he does something very serious.
      You can try everyone getting a protective order/restraining order and calling the police every single time he steps onto your property.
      It probably won’t do much of anything because, again, this isn’t meant to protect you, but to make it easier to arrest and convict AFTER the person has done something terrible to you.
      I hate that this is the case, but it might just be time to invest in a large dog or learn to use a firearm, if that’s legal/allowed where you live.
      Either that, or move.

      1. 2024*

        I know the police are limited. These are complex social problems with not enough money and not enough political will to solve. My real concern is how unconcerned the owner is being. I just cannot fathom it. I’m working on plans to move soon, I hope, but would require breaking my lease. Hopefully they both tired of me and ready to see me gone.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Oh, break that damn lease. And document this crap so if they try to dun you, you can point out that they utterly failed their end of this legal relationship and maybe the local news would like to hear about it.

    4. strawberry lemonade*

      Keep those police reports, get the inspector to say something about how the security sucks if you can. If you haven’t emailed your landlord with the requests for improvements do that so you can get his refusal in writing.

      Your city or state may have tenants’ laws about the safety owed to you by your landlord. I think it’s likely that you’ll be able to break your lease without penalty; also look up tenants’ rights organizations in your city or state and they may be able to help.

        1. Enough*

          Follow up with an email summarizing the call making sure to reference date of call. And make sure to save the proof of the call on your phone. This way you can prove your complaints and that they did or did not respond.

    5. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

      I’d probably resort to self help at this point on enhancing security. Install a combo or padlock on laundry. There are solar powered lights that have a spike to put in the ground (cheap at Walmart). Amazon wireless Blink cameras with floodlights.

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      I would go back to the police and see what can be done, legally, and also talk to a lawyer. And charge your landlord for the daily hotel bills for the rooms you’ll be moving to until he deals with this situation!

      (I have absolutely no idea if that last thing is feasible in the least; I’m just infuriated on your behalf.)

      1. 2024*

        I did ask the cops when they came about laws regarding security. Not much is required of the owner. It is infuriating and frankly, I don’t see how those two can live with themselves. We aren’t asking for luxe housing, just decent accommodations. Security is just one aspect. I’m sure there are many code violations. I know for sure of one, a federal one, we don’t have access to the breaker boxes for our apt.

    7. WS*

      You need to make this the property manager and owner’s problem, not yours. All of you need to call the owner or manager every single time there is a safety issue. Call the cops when needed *and* call the manager or owner. He can “accuse” you all he wants, keep making it harder for them to ignore the problems than to make some kind of fix. And move as soon as your lease is up.

    8. WestsideStory*

      This is alarming. And I think you both should get the kind of alarms that go off if a window or door is opened or there is motion near your fence.
      These can be the kind of alarms that trigger a police visit. I had one of these in my old NYC apartment and the first time one of the landlords minions opened my door when I was not home, they were surrounded by cops. Landlord was mad but never sent anyone unannounced after that.
      My rage for you imagines trying an electrical fence but that’s probably not practical.

  29. Hy*

    What is driving on the highways like in California in terms of speed? Where I live, everyone goes 5-10 miles over with no risk of ticket. You start to become at risk of a ticket if you speed more than that. Is that the same in California?

    1. California Dreamin’*

      Pretty much. Speed limit is 65 in most places on the freeway, and I’m typically going 70-75. Lots of people are probably going 75-80. Not many are going 65. This is of course assuming light traffic that allows maximum freeway speeds, which will rarely be the case anyway if you’re in Southern California. I just try to blend with whatever the flow of traffic is.

    2. Squidhead*

      I grew up in Southern CA and moved away 20+ years ago (so take this with the appropriate salt) but my experience was that you risk becoming a casualty if you are not going *at least* 10 miles over the limit on the freeway. I lived there when the speed limit was 55 and everyone on average drove 75. Then they raised the limit to 65 and everyone on average went 75-85. Traffic at rush hour was no joke, but unimpeded by traffic, 75 seemed to be the default “low” speed.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Pretty much. I typically go 5-10 over on interstates and am about in the middle of the pack, passing some and getting passed by others. No tickets in 20 years here. I set cruise to hold it to 10 or a shade under because that does appear to be the ticket-free zone…keeping up with traffic will often lead me to 15 over, which i am sure is possible ticket territory so I back off the pedal when I notice that’s happened!

    4. GoryDetails*

      Re local “guidelines” for over-the-official-limit speeding: some time around 1990 I was driving across Texas with a friend, and somewhere along I-10 we saw road-signs with a series of “exceeding limit by” numbers, with the dollar amount of the speeding fines for same. As in, “10 miles over the limit, $150; 20 miles over the limit, $250”, etc. Our immediate reaction was to laugh for a very long time, while calculating how fast we could go and still remain within the travel budget!

      I couldn’t find images of those signs after some Googling, and we didn’t think to take pictures at the time, but I swear they were there. Since the obvious reaction was not to make people slow down but to make them calculate how much speeding they could afford, perhaps that’s why the signs aren’t there anymore? There are such “rate tables” on various highway-department web sites, but seeing it posted on the signs just like the escalating rents on a Monopoly card tickled the heck out of me.

    5. mreasy*

      I max out at 5 over. A lot of people go a lot faster, but that is incredibly unsafe. If you stay in the slow lane or at least the next to slowest (to avoid everyone entering and exiting) you are fine to go the speed limit. Speeding is always less safe. I am from California and drive there, in LA and SF as well as the 5, 101, and other freeways. Don’t be pressured into driving super fast.

      1. Cicely*

        This wisdom is so often overlooked. If anything, at a slower speed, it’s easier to control a mistake, like overcorrecting.

    6. L. Ron Jeremy*

      no worries about speeding in the bay area. unless it is a weekend. normal commute speed is <20mph.

      weekends make up for it with drivers exceeding the limit by 20mph, and I'm right there with them. go with the flow and don't go slow.

  30. Warm sweater*

    I am having terrible stress because of my job. It creeps into all of my life. I work from home a lot of the time which makes it harder. Please give me all of your advice for disconnecting from work. Normally biking or walking does the trick, but I not now. I walk in the woods and find myself arguing in my mind

    1. Jay*

      I’ll be completely honest with you.
      In my life, that means that something has to change.
      Generally the job (although a couple of times it’s been personal drama/stupidity on my part).
      Either find ways to change it up or start looking for a new one.
      The only other thing that’s worked for me, and I can’t say this is exactly HEALTHY, is finding something I can get so lost in, so that there is no room in my headspace for work to scream in. Then at night, Melatonin gummies and/or ZzzQuil, enough that I sleep through the night, no matter how miserable I am. Because being tired makes me miserable, being miserable keeps me awake, which makes me MORE miserable, etc., etc.
      Also, how long has it been since you had a real vacation. Not a long weekend, but a good two weeks off in a row? You might just need to NOT BE THERE, all caps, bold faced font, underlined twice, and highlighted. Even if you spend most of it on the couch, snuggled under a blanket, with a nice hot chocolate and a good book, it can still help a LOT.

    2. Still*

      Journaling to get it out, so that your mind can let go and stop arguing. Or exercise that’s intense enough that you literally can’t focus on anything else.

    3. WellRed*

      Are you creating enough of a boundary between work and home when you do wfh? I always get dressed to work, wirk at a desk and at the end of the day, shut down or or put away work things but my roommate works in her pajamas and from her bedroom and often her bed. I also agree with a Jay that the job probably needs to go but obviously that’s a whole other problem.

    4. Liminality*

      Audiobooks/podcasts.
      Brain stays busy.

      Craft projects.
      Hands stay busy.

      Both at the same time, neither while at work.
      Maintain busy/focus shift.

    5. Girasol*

      When my brain gets in a rut I like to do puzzles. The need to focus completely on something other than whatever is bothering me seems to help.

    6. Rebecca*

      Practice mindfulness, specifically practice noticing what you are thinking about. When you notice that you are having arguments in your head, practice actively returning your attention to the woods you are walking through (or whatever, if you are washing dishes, return your attention to the dishes).
      I find that low cognitive effort activities, like taking walks, just give me more head space for rumination. I used to be a long distance runner, and my runs started to give me time to think about how much I hated my job. It’s really hard to stop those intrusive thoughts from arising in the first place, but with practice, you can learn to think about something else, like noticing the trees or your breathing.

    7. Warm sweater*

      Thank you all so much for giving me ideas, food for thoughts and also for the solidarity of sharing. this means a lot

    8. Madame Arcati*

      I too find if I want to take my mind off things walking etc will not do the trick because that’s just occupying my body not my mind. That’s why I don’t go jogging because it’s so boring – I go orienteering because I have to read the map and plan the route and find the markets. Anyway.
      If you need to get pot of the house try adding a thinking activity to your walk. Do you have something nice or neutral you need to plan – what will you wear to an event, what will you plant in your back garden this spring. Even a fantasy one – if you could entirely refurbish your flat to your tastes, what would you do? It can be as ridiculous as you like with things that don’t even exist – maybe you’d have a desk modelled on the bridge of the starship enterprise which rises out of the floor!
      Or I sometimes play a little word game in my head like, can I make a fruit, flower, author etc with every letter of the alphabet?

  31. 2024*

    For some reason I will never understand, upstairs didn’t call the police that night. She ran him off herself. The inspection is for that dept to identify security risks for us. I can see them myself, but obviously my word is nothing to the owner.

  32. acmx*

    I have my phone’s calendar synced to Outlook on my phone. However, I can’t see my phone calendar events in Outlook on any other device (PC). I’m not finding the answer online.
    Does anyone know how to do fix this?

    1. Roland*

      What calendar are you using on your phone? Double check if it has options for where new events are saved and see if it’s currently set to something like “on this device” instead of some online account.

      Also possible that you are showing outlook events in your calendar as an extra source of events. That doesn’t mean events will flow back into outlook. But can’t say without more details.

      1. acmx*

        It’s Samsung’s.
        Thanks, in looking where it was saved, I saw that EAS wasn’t chosen (not sure why as it’s an outlook email). One of the T/S tips was to make sure the account is exchange activesync and it is (now).

        Now, to see if I can get past events to sync.

  33. Rara Avis*

    I think what I’m asking about isn’t medical advice, but more a social anxiety thing. I’m being urged by friends and family to seek a second opinion for a medical condition. Because I have insurance for a big system where you use their facilities, I have to get a referral from my current doctor to go out of network. Is it awkward to tell the doctor, “Hey, I trust you, but I want a second opinion?” Or does it happen regularly enough that it’s no big deal?

    1. captain5xa*

      It is absolutely no big deal!

      Many insurance companies require second opinions and doctors are used to this.

      Go get a second opinion and don’t worry about it!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It’s pretty common and most doctors should expect it, especially in these circumstances.
      In fact, I consider it a red flag for a doctor to get pissy over a second opinion.

    3. Dannie*

      The way decisions are made for insurance is stupid AF, and doctors know that. What the heck is the point of “I’m not 100% sure I trust your judgment call, so I’m going to rely on YOU to choose the next person I ask?”

      1. Rara Avis*

        If I understand your comment correctly, I want to clarify that I wouldn’t be asking my doctor for a recommendation, just permission to go outside of their system. My insurance is Kaiser, so it’s all one system — insurance, doctors, etc. I only learned today that they will cover care at the regional world-class medical center — but you have to have your Kaiser doctor give you a referral.

        1. Oread*

          My kid’s pediatrician in Kaiser needed to do this for us. He was amazing and supportive. I think the fact my kid got the care he needed was very related to this physician caring a whole lot more about my kid than he did about limiting costs or being right.

          If you have an even halfway reasonable physician they will want you to get the best care, and they will be grateful you are engaged and working to get it for yourself.

  34. Anonymous Educator*

    I know people have made podcast show recommendations in the past.

    What about podcast episodes?

    Is there a specific episode of a podcast that you’d recommend, even if someone doesn’t regularly listen to the general podcast show?

    1. Sitting Pretty*

      The Maintenance Phase episode about Angela Lansbury’s diet book is an absolute delight.

      Also the 99% Invisible episode about Whomst Among Us Let the Dogs Out

      I just started listening to the Handsome Podcast and every episode so far has me giggling so much I can barely see straight. The ones with Jameela Jamil and Elliot Page are great.

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      The Moth recent episode “A Point of Beauty.” One of the stories is told by Sunny Jacobs, who spent 17 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. She has a beautiful spirit.

      1. NB*

        I love The Moth story called “Carry Him Shoulder High” — six Irish sister grieve the death of their father. It’s both funny and moving.

    3. Jay*

      Lions Led By Donkeys (this is a military history podcast and, although funny as hell, it deals with harsh, often gruesome situations and heavily features gallows humor) has some real standouts:
      -Episode 289 on Eugene Bullard
      -Episode 204 on the Potsdam Giants
      -Episode 247 on moronic weapons made by Germany in WWII
      -Episode 242 on The Combat Of The Thirty
      -Episode 236 on The Bob Semple Tank
      -Episode 171 The Soviet Axe Berserkers Of World War II (yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds)
      -Episode 168 even more moronic weapons made by Germany in WWII
      -Episode 151 on Mad Jack Churchill
      -Episode 149 on The Ducks Of War (yes, you read that right, ducks)
      -Episode 110 on Joseph Medicine Crow
      -Episode 117 Gerald Bull and the Space Cannon
      -Episode 64 Tarrare and Charles Domery: The Men Who Stare At Cats (ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS but both incredibly interesting and unbelievably funny)

    4. RMNPgirl*

      The Iran Contra episode of You’re Wrong About. Also their episode on the McDonald’s hot coffee case.

    5. TPS reporter*

      Las Culturistas with Tina Fey is glorious.

      NPR’s Throughline is always fascinating, I really liked the recent episode on the history of house music.

      I love all of Maintenance Phase, but celebrity diet books are the most absurd/hilarious. Check out the Ed MacMahon episode. Also the Scarsdale Diet episode was so interesting, I didn’t know any of the details about that whole situation.

    6. Anon Poster*

      You’re Wrong About, the Survival in the Andes episode. I talked about it for days afterwards, whether anyone was interested or not.

    7. Lady Alys*

      Sue Perkins (BakeOff host ages ago) did an interview podcast a while ago, didn’t last long, but her first guest was Mary Berry. It was just adorable. You could tell they got along like houses on fire on the set.

    8. Anonymous cat*

      Selected shorts ep 31. Make ‘em laugh A celebration of James Thurber. Whole episode of JT stories and was really funny!

    9. Annie Edison*

      If Books Could Kill did episodes on The Rules, 5 Love Languages, and Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus that I really enjoyed. I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s and was surprised by how many of the attitudes about dating, marriage, and gender roles I recognized, even without having read any of these books. Some weird ideas about relationships very much permeated my sub-conscious in ways I wasn’t fully aware of, and it was really helpful to have some of the more dated/misogynist ideas named and called out.

      1. Chip Chip*

        I don’t have a particular episode, but if you’re looking for podcasts where you don’t have to listen to all of them or not listen in order, No Such Thing as a Fish is great for that. They occasionally do call backs to past episodes, but there’s usually enough context to still follow. Basically the 4 hosts each pick an interesting fact they’ve learned about then they discuss the fact and go off on tangents about things even vaguely related to the fact. So it’s generally completely different and unrelated topics each week. I would just not choose one of their infrequent best or deleted bit shows, those could be confusing to listen to at first.

    10. Anonynon*

      Not a specific episode recommendation, but I can recommend a podcast that you don’t need to listen to sequentially! It’s called No Such Thing as a Fish (it’s by the researchers on the British panel show QI, if you know that) and each week is pretty independent of the others. Occasionally there’s a call back to a past episode, but there’s generally enough context that it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard the past one.

      Basically, each of the 4 hosts chooses an interesting fact they’ve learned about. Then they all discuss the fact and anything even slightly tangentially related that they came across while researching the fact. For example, I’m listening now to one where the fact started off being about Ebay having people who sniff sneakers (or something like that) and somehow they got onto talking about various soft drinks (I wasn’t really paying attention to how!). I would just not recommend listening to one of the best or deleted bits episodes, those might be a little harder to follow if you don’t know the show at all.

    11. RC*

      A less intellectual one: How Did This Get Made did all 3 50 Shades of Grey films recently. And their recent Dungeons & Dragons ep where they basically bring an audience member a mic to be their D&D expert, was IMO one of their best. (It’s what I listen to to just disconnect)

      1. I'm the Jason of my group*

        Great recommendations! The 50 Shades of Grey episode with Jessica St. Clair was excellent. And quite a good Second Opinions song!

        That D&D one is a thing of beauty. I cried with laughter at one particular interchange between Morgan and Jason. (18:25 time stamp) (I kept skipping back to it and laughing so hard)

        My top How Did This Get Made episodes include Safe Haven, Teen Witch, and the Vampire Academy one because Aisling Bea is so hilarious.

        1. Tiny clay insects*

          Those are all such good ones! I think my personal favorite is the Action Jackson episode. By the time we got to the whole “man woman scene” bit, I was laughing so hard I was crying.

    12. Tea and Sympathy*

      The Moth episode “A Dish Best Served Cold”. The speaker was the victim of identity theft when he was either in college or had recently graduated, had a lot of spare time, and so launched his own investigation. He’s a good storyteller and is funny.

    13. Forensic13*

      I’ve only ever listened to a single episode of the podcast Reply All, called “The Case of the Missing Hit,” but it’s amazing.

      A man has had a song stuck in his head for years. . . but it seems like nobody else has ever heard it but him. The podcast host tries to help him, and it turns into a whole detective story and deep-dive into how songs get made, late 90s pop music, and the joy of research.

    14. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      A few years old now, but Out to Lunch, when Jay Rayner (a British food critic) was the host, there was an episode with Jason Isaacs that I still go back to listen to because he is hilarious!

    15. NB*

      Two episodes from This American Life:
      Fiasco! (Ep. 699; April 3, 2020)
      Kid Logic (Ep. 605; December 16, 2016)

      Also any episode with a reading by David Sedaris.

  35. One step at a time*

    Hoping a crowd internet strangers can spark some inspiration. I’ve been struggling for a while now and have finally accepted that this isn’t sustainable. I have a much needed, long overdue vacation next week. The priority is self-care and relaxing. My therapist has suggested I use the change to start thinking about small changes to make in day-day life. I’m trying to find “hacks” to build more mental load so I can more consistently do the things my doctor recommends to deal with the underlying health issues. What are low lift changes you’ve made that have had an outsized improvement that helped you get over the hump?

    1. Jay*

      Alarms.
      Alarms for everything.
      Alarms that I need to get up and move to turn off.
      Once I get moving, I’m fine, but it’s the act of actually starting that’s the difficult part for me. Otherwise, I’ll sit and rot on the couch while my life rots around me.
      Stopped using the elevator and started using the stairs.
      That little bit of extra effort payed dividends for me in a lot of ways.
      It made me really stop to think before buying something, it built up some neglected muscles, it helped me loose some weight for both of those reasons. And those things put together gave me more energy which made all of the other parts of my life better.

    2. vombatus ursinus*

      I am not quite sure what you mean by “building more mental load”, sorry, but one thing I thought of is how I have recurring alarms that tell me to ‘start getting ready for bed’ (so I start thinking about it) and 30 minutes later to ‘START GETTING READY FOR BED’ (so I actually start, haha). I need a lot of sleep and have good intentions about wanting to go to bed early but always have trouble actually making myself do it. So the alarms help me to get more sleep and thereby be happier and more functional in general :)

    3. TPS reporter*

      I set alarms for two things: one is stop work and the other is get ready for bed. I have a ritual after stopping work to sit and meditate or play a very meditative/zone out game like sudoku. For sleep time I also set up certain rituals and banned the phone from being in bed, I only let myself read physical magazines or books.

    4. Venus*

      I don’t know if you have the funds for it, but options include paying someone to clean your place even superficially once a month and getting subscriptions to meal services. Friends of mine were in this situation and they were able to pay their way out of some chores, and that really helped them cope with the harder health issues for a couple years until their mental health situation became much more manageable. I have done similar but I’ll buy a big frozen meal, such as lasagna or chicken pot pie, and eat it for meals throughout the week.

      1. just here for the scripts*

        Agree! The pew institute did a study and found that two Things that made a world of difference in people’s happiness were 1. having someone come in and clean and 2. Eating out more.

    5. lunch*

      Get veggies and make cooking easier. For lunch: large salad, bought bagged from the grocery store. Add beans and dressing. Lots of fibre, protein, veggies. Lets me not think about lunch, and actually getting veggies helps the rest of the day.

      1. RagingADHD*

        In this vein, buying fruits and veg that you don’t have to cook, cut, or even peel, just wash:

        baby cut carrots or precut celery sticks
        cherry or grape tomatoes
        mini English cucumbers
        Apples, grapes, etc.

        When I have a real bad case of the “can’t evens,” having easy food that won’t make me feel worse afterwards is a huge help.

        1. Melissa*

          Agreed, I bought a microwave veggie steamer, a microwave pasta cooker and a microwave egg poacher. Such an low cost, low effort way to have a variety of healthy foods (it’s chickpea pasta)

    6. Firebird*

      For days when I have very little brain capacity, I have a set daily menu, that I always keep on hand, so I don’t go hungry. (oatmeal & raisins, pre-cooked chicken, frozen vegetables, and soup) Sometimes I just nuke a whole bag of frozen peas for a meal. A variety pack of tea gives me something warm to hold and reminds me to keep hydrated.

      Even if it feels weird, put stuff you use often near the places you use it. I started taking more showers after I moved my underwear and pajamas into the bathroom. Getting ready for my shower took more mental energy than actually doing it.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Putting stuff you need where you need it is key! If you find dirty laundry in the bathroom, because you or someone in the house leaves it there after a shower, put a laundry hamper there. There’s a book called “How to keep house while drowning” that gives tips for doing the minimum when low on spoons for whatever reason.

        1. Firebird*

          Yes, the hamper in the bathroom is so helpful.
          And I just put myself on the wait list for the book you suggested.

    7. Dannie*

      Automating every bill I can, which is easier said than done because it really only became possible when I got a better-paying job and had enough cushion to support auto-debits coming out willy-nilly. (For all their claims about the process being predictable/timely, the reality is quite different.)

      Switching as much paperwork to e-mail as possible, not just bills. Medical EOBs, voting and car registration reminders, etc. Also great if you have friends wanting to help but flailing about because they don’t know what to do: give them all your catalogs and have them call to get you off the list or switched to e-mail. It doesn’t seem like much, but knowing my mailbox doesn’t contain a stack of homework every day really makes a difference to my “brain static.”

      Batch cooking, if you can tolerate eating the same thing multiple days in a row (which I actually like). If you need variety, you can do something like make an entire sheet of baked chicken but do a few each of multiple types of seasonings, then use it hot or cold for things like salads, burritos, etc.

      Streamline dressing to minimize decisions. For example, commit to black slacks with loafers and gold huggie earrings every day, then only change out your blouse.

      1. Squidhead*

        Ha! I’m laughing because getting a bill via email is like 5 times more annoying to me than a paper mailed bill. Paper mail: open it, decide if I need to deal with it right now, either do it or put it on the desk where I will deal with it later. email: see it every time I open my email for any reason. Have to scroll past it when looking for something else. (Why don’t I just pay it right away and get it out of the inbox? Mostly because I don’t do financial stuff from my phone, only from the desktop, so paying a bill online is more of a process and I have to see the email every time until then.)

        OP, my take for you is that we’re obviously all different. Sometimes it’s about literally making a task easier and sometimes it’s about reducing the cognitive load. Paying a bill with a paper check and stamping the envelope is a lower cognitive load for me than seeing it in my email. Or, as another poster mentioned, moving the PJs to the bathroom made the whole cognitive process of showering less burdensome (for me, it’s putting on my pajamas a while before bed because otherwise I will stall around about getting changed and go to bed later). If you’re able to take the spirit of the advise versus the details on specific tasks, I hope it helps!

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I agree. It’s more time consuming and mental load for me to have to go to a website (and remember to go to that website monthly) to review a bill and pay it than to get a bill in the mail and pay it online.

    8. Generic Name*

      I have a very demanding job, and I have a teenager and I volunteer. Here’s what I do to help me lighten my mental load:

      -I’ll set myself reminders via Siri if I think about something I need to do later (which seems to happen when I’m driving)
      -I keep a notepad and pen in my night stand so if I wake up thinking about work, I’ll write it down instead of ruminating and not sleeping (often my middle of the night thoughts or worries are actually dumb ideas or aren’t actually a problem lol)
      -I buy frozen veggies instead of fresh so I have vegetables for dinner when I want and they don’t rot in the fridge
      -I do most of the cooking, but on nights I have other stuff going on, I’ll ask my husband to be in charge of dinner
      -We meal plan on the weekends and buy ingredients for the week’s meals on Sunday. The menu for the week is written down, so we just look on the menu and cook that for dinner each night. On the nights no one wants to cook, we have plenty of premade frozen or shelf stable meals to eat as needed.
      -I always park in the same section of the parking garage at work. If my usual level is full, I’ll drive by other open spaces to go the floor up so all I have to do is remember what floor I’m on
      -I try to have good boundaries with my family. For example, when I had finished work on Friday, I just wanted to relax and start the weekend. My husband wanted to talk about chores/allowance for our son, and I was just not in the mood for that discussion right then. So I said that I really wanted to relax and get into weekend mode and that I’d like to have the discussion later.

      I also try to take a walk every day

    9. AnonyOne*

      I bought a robot vacuum (a knock off one, not the big brand name). It did not clean perfectly, but it kept my floors at an acceptable level of clean in between proper cleanings, which helped reduce my mental load. I recommended this to a friend who was suffering from depression and she also found it helpful – it reduced cleaning guilt for her and also kept her space feeling a bit better.

    10. Observer*

      What are low lift changes you’ve made that have had an outsized improvement that helped you get over the hump?

      If you have a smart phone, automate your DND. Like, my phone goes into DND about when I need to start getting myself to bed. I don’t have to remember to do it, I don’t have to keep myself from responding to the pings and pongs and other sounds. Same for other occasions (eg your phone goes into DND for the first hour of your workday). You can often set your calendar appointments to set your phone to DND for the duration of the appointment.

      Related, look at your notification settings. I’ve turned off a lot of notifications – and take advantage of the apps that allow you to customize certain groups / individuals. (eg I have whatsapp set to not have an audible notification, just a visible one. Except for two emergency only groups.)

  36. Might Be Spam*

    When was the last time you got a scam letter in the actual mail as opposed to scam emails? In the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten two actual printed letters from a lawfirm(?) in Canada (I’m in the US) telling me about an inheritance from someone I never heard of before and of course he wants a percentage. The real kicker is, right under the signature is his Gmail address. Riiiiight, I don’t think lawfirms use gmail.

    1. 248_Ballerinas*

      I don’t doubt that it’s a scam letter, but some legit lawyers do have Gmail addresses. They may have been solo practitioners and didn’t change it when they joined a firm.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Can confirm. In one of my jurisdictions, I work for a firm and have a “glomarization at lawfirmname dot com” e-mail address and all the rest of the supporting technology I could want. But in the other jurisdiction — in another country — my practice is so small that I run it on a 10-year-old laptop, Zoom calls, and a gmail address, with some safeguards in place in the event that we are exchanging information that I don’t want transitting thru gmail.

    2. A313*

      There are firms that find heirs of the recently deceased and notify them, for a cut, of course. I’d never heard of this before, but it could be real. I’d investigate just in case, but not spend too much time on it.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Better off searching public records for the decedent. You can claim without going through the lawyer, unless they are the ones representing the estate.

    3. Squidhead*

      We got a letter for some kind of insurance?? I shredded it and don’t remember the details. Something to do with home insurance and it actually did reference our current loan company (but not the financing company) which made it all the more difficult to discern whether it was something legitimate or not. I Googled the phone number they wanted us to call and it was widely reported as a scam.

    4. Jay*

      I get them ALL THE TIME.
      The previous tenant of the apartment I’ve lived in for the past fifteen years or so was an elderly lady (I moved in when she wanted to trade the large one bedroom on the third floor for the tiny, easier to keep up with one bedroom on the ground floor) who apparently fell for all the scams, especially the “religious” scammers. She’s been dead for almost 10 years now and I STILL get scammers sending letters to this address and mass mailings sent to “Occupant”. They get tossed unopened.

    5. Girasol*

      Very official looking letter came from a lawyer two days after Dad died saying that he had a big debt that needed paying. I had been watching his finances and doubted it. I looked up the law office and a ton of recently bereaved people complained of bogus demands from them. Probate lawyer said I could legally ignore it and see if they ever write again. They didn’t.

    6. Rebecca*

      I got a letter in the mail telling me my car’s warranty was expired and giving me information on how to extend it.
      My car is from 1966.

    7. Might Be Spam*

      I have to admit that my interest has been piqued and I will check into it. I was reminded that I once won a drawing at work and I thought people were just messing with me. I didn’t believe it until they sent the store manager down to tell me.
      I still think it’s a scam, because the deceased person had my former married name. Maybe my kids will get something.
      I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    This podcast is on how exercise affects the immune system. It was really informative. Link initially sent out by my cancer support center as covid got rolling.

    Highlight: Marathoners had described how they felt almost protected from disease when training, but then got sick after the race. Scientists tested this, and it was true, and they give some explanations about the underlying physical process. Exercise is a lot closer to sending a cleaning service through regularly, rather than storing up health points in a savings account.

    https://huffines.podbean.com/e/268-exercise-increases-immune-function-how-we-know/

    1. anon_sighing*

      Interesting. Are there people who really think exercise is “storing up health points in a savings account”? It doesn’t make sense how it would work.

      One of the best things when I had COVID was to get up and move, if I could. It’s something I noticed before when I got the flu or colds – my nose would unclog, even just for a bit, when I really got going. Of course, being sick makes it harder to have the will to do this, but when you can bring yourself to do it, it’s a relief.

  38. Strong Aroace Vibes*

    I would like to hear your stories of getting to know someone very intentionally, quickly, closely, excitedly—as friends.

    Recently, to my delight, an out-of-state “background” acquaintance has over a matter of weeks turned into a connection where we chat every day, plan future visits, etc — all things that good friends do, but not typically good NEW friends.

    It’s a trajectory most commonly found among non-friend pairings, and indeed other similar relationships in my life have been tracked (by cultural options or by the other person) in a “dating” direction. I know how THAT works but that’s not what’s going on here, which is great…but thing is I don’t have many models of how this sort of relationship can unfold.

    I’m interested to hear your own stories of friendship with a similar origin story (that did not pass through “dating”)—please share!

    Both because I want to be even more confident that this sort of thing CAN happen among friends (though I know that it can), and because I’m curious how it’s gone for others!

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      I think it can definitely happen when you meet a kindred spirit!

      However, I’ve also been the recipient of some kind of problematic “love-bombing” behavior by a person who was not interested in me romantically. I could see her trying to isolate us from the larger group during a get-to-know-you activity at a new school we were entering, and she turned out to be kind of a problematic person.

      I guess I’d say, even though this is not a romantic situation, maybe keep the same kind of look out that one would to avoid toxic romantic situations — Is this person trying to isolate me from others? Does this person expect an unreasonable amount of my time? Does this person magically seem to love everything I love? Does this person handle the inevitable conflicts that arise in any relationship/friendship maturely and sensibly? Does this person start sulking for no reason, expecting me to read their mind? Once this person feels secure with me, do they start putting me down? Does this person respect my boundaries? Is this person trying to get me to give/lend them money?

      If the answers to the above all come out in a good way, then enjoy your time with your kindred spirit! If they don’t, maybe step back a bit from the friendship.

    2. Alex*

      Honestly this is how I more often make friends lol. I struggle with gradually getting to know people…I’m too impatient.

      I made a friend once because we were paired to carpool someplace by the organizer of the event (who was like hey, both of you are coming from the same long-distance location, want to carpool?) We were young and broke and so we very much did. We were definitely instant BFFs. Within a few months we were making plans to move in together (as roommates).

      Another time I became instant BFFs with someone was actually a friend’s girlfriend. My friend was dating someone and we just instantly hit it off and basically talked every day. My friend and her eventually broke up but we are actually all still friends lol.

    3. Jay*

      Years back I met a woman about my age at the company Christmas Party.
      We hit it off right away.
      We were WAY too much alike (in the wrong ways) to make a good couple, that was obvious immediately, but we had a blast hanging out every week or two for years until she moved away for work.
      We still run into each other on occasion and have a nice chat.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      I became really good friends very quickly with someone I met last year. We just hit it off and went from there! It was so nice to make a new good friend in my 60’s.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Back when the local Alt-Weekly was a physical newspaper it ran personal ads. I used to skim them for amusement.

      I found two that were really funny and intriguing. I called the message box number for the first, while earmarking the second (I didn’t want to call both at once.)

      I met the guy and we had an utterly fantastic, if nonromantic, “date” and I ended up going to his place and meeting his equally funny/chill roommate. I mentioned how wild it was that we met through the personals and how there was only one other ad that had caught my eye…yep, that ad was the roommate’s. We were pals for years afterwards.

    6. anywhere but here*

      My personal experience is that friendships that get intense quick end up going poorly & ending. There’s not enough time in the “getting to know each other” phase to build a strong friendship and then personality clashes arise when you’re too close for comfort.

    7. anon_sighing*

      I thought this was fairly normal – I find my romantic relationships were always a lot more slow forming because of all the implications. For friendships, there is something more freeing about the lack of romance and the connection isn’t hampered by all the extra nuances there. For the average person, it’s normal to have many close friends but typically there is only one person in the “romantic partner” role. Friends usually bond very quickly over a shared interest (or whatever context you meet, this is why school friends always seemed so fickle for me…you’re only friends because you see each other each day or because you actually picked each other, you know?)

      Recently, I hit it off with someone who has been in my periphery for a while…we finally got to talk in a shared space and we just had a lot in common & shared many of the same opinions, which created a great base. When we diverge (and we have some things where we hold harmlessly different opinions), they have the same type of “agree to disagree, but it’s nice to hear where you’re coming from” attitude. It’s been a year since the first “talk” and we chat nearly daily (via text, mostly). It’s been about a year now and we have a nice groove going. I don’t expect them to be my all but I’ve had some toxic friendships and being in this friendship has taught me what a normal, healthy one looks like even when there is disagreement.

      I would be careful though – just because it’s not romantic, doesn’t mean you don’t still have a “honeymoon” phase. Many friendships have this and it’s still wise to be vigilant of “bad habits.” Trust me, I had a friend I knew for years who’s bad and inconsistent behavior I tolerated for far too long because I enjoyed their company when we were really clicking. I realized later that I had put other more pleasant and healthy, if not really deep, relationships on hold because this person made me feel like I was walking on egg shells 75% of the time (they were so oddly secretive and uncommunicative about their life — they also admitted to “faking” interest in things and tried to spin it on me as if it was a favor…very strange now that I am away from her).

      I would also be careful not to make your friend your everything. I saw a post recently about someone who was angry their friend “replaced” them with a romantic partner, but in reality, they weren’t replaced…their friend just got a partner and now 100% of their friend’s free time wasn’t theirs anymore. Friendships can be a wonderful thing but really…they have the same pitfalls as romantic relationships, even if you don’t ever have a romantic relationship in mind.

    8. Anonymous cat*

      My experience with sudden new friendships happened when we were new transplants to a place and were trying to build a friend circle. Someone to hang out with in a new place!!!!

      I had good experiences. Sometimes the friendships lasted after we made more friends and sometimes they didn’t. But it was nice to have them.

    9. Rachel*

      I would zoom out on this as a pattern of behavior.

      I think a few occasions in a lifetime, people meet and there is an instant connection that lasts.

      What can also happen is that intense, immersive attention to people is part of a larger pattern. Some people are all-in from the jump and not just interpersonal relationships, but hobbies, careers, etc.

      Some people are obsessive and focused on something until the next thing comes along. This is completely fine when it comes to hobbies. When it involves people, hurt feelings can occur.

  39. Anonymous cat*

    Minor computer question. You know how PCs make a tone sound when you do something wrong or reach the end of a form or do anything it can’t handle? Is there a way to turn that off?

    I’ve looked for an option and clicked what I think is the right option, but the sound is still there. I don’t want to turn off all sounds, just this tone.

    I regularly use forms that for some reason trigger the tone when I reach the end of the section and I want the noise to stop.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      The error sound? You can disable it in Windows.

      This will turn off system sounds altogether.
      -Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Hardware and Sound > Sound > Change system sounds. A sound control dialog box will open.
      -Click the Sound tab.
      -In the Sound Scheme list, click the dropdown and choose No Sound.

      You can also set the sound to one you find more pleasant (or hilarious). I set mine to a clip of Korg from Thor: Ragnarok saying “Hey, man.” :)

      -In the Sound Control Panel list, click on the sound and then click the Browse button. -Find a sound file on your computer you want to change it to. Click Open.
      -Then click Apply and OK.

      I can’t find a way to turn off just ONE sound in Windows 11–if someone knows that, please post.

      1. office hobbit*

        If OP can get a sound file that’s just silence, they could set the tone to that using the second method you describe.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      No idea, but solidarity. I keep my whole work computer muted because of the annoying error sound in exactly one system that does not have an individual control for its sound, and for god knows why, uses a long (like 4-second duration, which is FOREVER for an error beep) off-key electronic-sounding bell chime.

    3. MJ*

      Are you able to figure out what the sound file is for this error and either delete/rename the file or overwrite it with a “silence” sound file?

      I’ve no idea if this is possible – but in theory it should be.

    4. Dannie*

      There is a way to do it, but my work laptop has those options disabled, because the IT department is run by ridiculous control freaks. I plugged in the headphones and let them lie on the desk behind the laptop, so all sounds are shuttled towards no ears.

    5. Anonymous cat*

      Thank you! I will try these.

      It’s an annoying sound and like I said, even happens when there’s no mistake!

  40. Sam*

    pharmacy phone tree: call your doctor if you need a renewal of your prescription!

    doctor phone tree: call your pharmacy to get the renewal processed!

    man, i just want to get my meds before I go home (2hr drive) for spring break!

    1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Does your doctor have a health portal with a messaging app where you can leave a message about the problem (giving them the pharmacy’s phone number and address)? Or can you physically go to the pharmacy and give them your doctor’s office phone number and ask them to call?

      1. Sam*

        It took some exasperating phone calls (mostly because I hate talking on the phone) but the prescription will be filled. Unfortunately, I’ve already left and it’ll be a week before I get back…I have enough to get through break technically, so there’s that. (it’s an injection med and I got new needles before I left, it’s just the vial is technically a single use vial. Should still be fine, that single use label is mostly just for hospital type settings where you don’t want reuse between patients.)

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Been there, it’s the worst. Usually everything autofills between my annual checkups but one time one of them “expired” only 6 months into the year.
      Ended up just calling the doctor’s office because it’s easier to get a live person, explain that both places were expecting me to call the other one, and asking wat they recommend.
      Got a deep sigh and an “I’ll take care of it this time but next time you need to have the pharmacy call us”
      Whatever, got my meds.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I have enough inhalers to last me five years, but trying to get an antibiotic? You’d think I was angling for Class C Narcotics with insta/endless refills.

    3. Generic Name*

      OMG, when my son was taking adderall, I struggled so much getting his prescriptions refilled. I swear the process changed every single month. Or at least what I did to get the refill was different every time. At one point, I wrote down the steps I took that achieved success, so I followed the exact same process the next month. Didn’t work. It was endlessly frustrating. It’s literally my job to follow Byzantine rules and processes, and I’m pretty damn good at it. But the Kaiser Permanente system for behavioral health defeated me every time. I just resigned myself for it to be a multi step, multi day effort. I worried every month we’d run out no he’d get suspended from school again.

    4. Girasol*

      If you have a phone at home or work that allows it, you might see if you can get them both on a three way call. I couldn’t believe how fast this solved a runaround between a hospital billing office and insurance that had been going on for months.

    5. Llama Llama*

      My son was on a seizure med (that honestly was not that helpful). It was required to be sent in monthly because of the type of drug it was. It was such a a hassle each month. Since it really wasn’t helpful anyway, we dropped it because of the hoops we had to jump through each month.

    6. Rx*

      lol I’ve had a doctor “forget” (?!) to fill my meds, finally get their act together, the pharmacy physically doesn’t have the pills in stock. I come back exactly when they told me to so they’d be back – tech at pickup says oh the rx is filled but the pills actually still aren’t here. Go to consults. I walk three feet to my left and she tries to tell me the order isn’t in. The man three feet away from you 20 seconds ago said the opposite. I’ll wait here til you figure this out and watched her call other branches til it was filled. No care whatsoever for people with chronic illness – no sense of urgency.

  41. Hatchet*

    Washing machine recommendations? Our 10 year-old washing machine is on the fritz (refusing to run complete cycles and even drain and spin). I’ve got one more round of Googling fixes before I give in and buy a new one.

    For those of you who’ve bought washing machines recently, any brands you loved or would stay away from? (I just need a simple top loader that’s going to last; no need for wi-fi connectedness and those sorts of features.) Thanks!

    1. Generic Name*

      I got an LG top loader from Costco. It has Wi-Fi and they want you to download an app, but it is fully functional without that nonsense.

      1. office hobbit*

        I have a 8 year old LG front loader. It was my top pick after doing the research and was also the model carried by Costco at the time. Not sure if it’s “smart” as I’ve never introduced it to the wifi. It works great and has never caused me any problems.

    2. Squidhead*

      I think when our old washer started doing that it was the outflow pump getting buggy. We also cleaned the (gross) coin trap at the same time. Replacing the pump wasn’t super expensive ($75 on Amazon?) but we had to unstack the dryer and take off the front panel of the washer (that’s where the coin trap was hiding too) . We’re reasonably handy and got it done but it was a pain! And then some other part failed a year or so later and we decided to just replace. Currently running a Samsung front-loader that does not have wi-fi and it works fine. It has a superheated water cycle if you want that. It consistently over- or under-estimates the time remaining in the cycle which is minorly annoying because the “done” alarm is too quiet to hear outside the basement, but it’s fine. We wipe out the door gasket after using and so far (2 years?) no mold. (A front-loader fits better in our space but otherwise I’d probably prefer top-load.)

    3. Lifelong student*

      I very recently had to replace my 17 year old washer and dryer. Bought a Maytag/Whirpool. No internet or app issues but a learning curve. Both are larger capacity than prior machines- seem to take longer per cycle but the loads are bigger so probably equal in use. I did require a top-loader washer- don’t want to have to bend down to load and unload. That made choice fewer. Only complaint after two uses- no buzzer to tell me the load is done on either washer or dryer- but since the old one’s buzzers hadn’t worked in years I can adapt. I will note that the cycles seem longer- but that may be because the loads are bigger. Haven’t done a small load- I seem to only do loads every two weeks these days! Older couple, no kids at home.

    4. office hobbit*

      I’ve heard from many sources that Samsung customer service is terrible.

      Can you check Consumer Reports ratings? Your library may have access.

    5. My Brain is Exploding*

      We have a Maytag Commercial Technology top loader HE washer, with actual dials and few “features.” We’ve enjoyed it.

      1. Girasol*

        We lost two expensive front loaders one after the other. The fancy electronic panel was fried, apparently from a rural electric problem (long story), and panel replacements cost as much as a whole washer. So I got a Whirlpool HE because it was cheap and I didn’t want to blow up another expensive front loader. It’s been around for ages now and it’s the cat’s meow. It loads from the top, but instead of having a standard top loader’s agitator it has a little flat swirly thing at the bottom. It looks ineffective but mysteriously gets clothes extra clean and soft, even better than a front loader, and it doesn’t have the front loader’s moldy door problem. It does everything from a small load to a sleeping bag. Very happy with it.

    6. Enough*

      Just got a GE to replace the 20+ year old Whirlpool. It is as basic as they come and would fit in my space. ~27 1/2 inches deep. 4.5 cubic feet. GTW465ASN They have a 4.2 cubic feet version. GTW335ASN
      Have had it about 2 weeks and works well and quieter. My biggest adjustment so far is how much bigger the tub is. My normal laundry load seems so tiny now.

    7. Spring guacamole*

      Another option is to call a maintenance person that might be able to identify the problem and fix it for you.

    8. Llellayena*

      LG. Consumer Reports has listed multiple models from them in their top ratings and the pricing is good. I have a steel drum, no agitator, top load, no smart capabilities one that I bought within the last year or so and love.

  42. Is it Friday yet?*

    Need advice from my expert cat folks! I’m integrating two cats but at a standstill on progressing things and hoping ya’ll have thoughts so they can co-exist without being separated.

    The bf and I have moved in together, each with our own kitty. They’re both solitary one-person cats, never lived with another cat, his probably hasn’t seen another cat since she was born. They aren’t friendly with other humans either – both are pretty indifferent to other people, I’ve made some headway with his but at most can get in a pet here and there, mine dislikes him more and will sometimes hiss or swipe if he tries for more than a few pets. Yet they are lovebugs with us (their respective persons). At the moment, the apartment is split into a 2-zone house with a blanket covered fence separating them. His cat had already lived here a few months, mine just moved in a month and a half ago.

    We started with the study being my cat’s safe space, and I sleep in here with her. She’s finally settled in to this space. The other cat has the rest of the apartment but the upstairs is recognized by both cats as hers only. My cat can go in the living/kitchen area, when his cat is upstairs (with a barrier up on the stairs) or she’s in her high cat tree that my cat can’t access and one of us is there to supervise. They both fully know the other exists and have seen each other. We started with feeding them on either side of the blanket. But once they saw each other, my cat definitely is the aggressor and will just hiss/growl. Which now means his cat is scared of my cat, even though they are always separated. His cat is hesitant to even go to her food bowl and will stare at the fence (whether or not my cat is out and about) before walking over to the kitchen. They’ve both had a chance to explore the other cat’s space – when mine was at the vet and once when his cat was sleeping in the tree, we took them on tours through the others safe space just to see and smell things.

    Not sure how to move past this step and get them to at least co-exist in the same space? Or do we need to go back a step somehow and if so, how?

    1. Time for Tea*

      A very small thought, have you got Feliway diffusers in situ? I used to have the Optimum which has the pheromones of both the original and the friends versions in it.

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        This is a good idea – we’ve used Felliway a lot when first moving in, but just moved them to more strategic places for both cats.

    2. TPS Reporter*

      Jackson Galaxy has a My Cat From Hell episode just like this. I hope you can find it somewhere or try reading his blog

      I remember he asked the couple to swap their attention so the cat developed a bond with the other partner. and they did: territory swapping, strict feeding schedule near each other; play time together, showing old cat that new cat has confidence

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        Excellent suggestion – went down a rabbit hole yesterday watching those videos. I like the idea of building the other cat’s confidence, and what someone down thread mentions, not letting the bully cat see the other one backing down. We’re also going to start regular swapping. The first time was a success, since they are both super curious about each other.

    3. sswj*

      This is going to take time. Like, maybe 12 months worth of time. Yu might be able to reduce the stress with a kitty-prozac prescription. They can compound it into a thick liquid that gets rubbed in an ear, so no pilling needed. It might chill them enough to be able to process the new situation.

      For now though I’d go back to complete separation. Let them be in their own spaces for a week or so, and then start trading out bedding. I’ve used towels or fleece blankets that they love, and every few days swap them for the other cat’s. That way they can get used to each other’s scent.

      In a month or so, if there’s a way for each to still have their own space but have a screen in between, that’s a perfect setup. They can occasionally see each other but each can retreat if it’s too much.

      They will eventually get over it, but it may take a while. Just make sure that your cat’s hiss never goes beyond that. This hiss is probably her fear more than aggression, and that’s fine – she’s allowed to say she needs space. What you don’t want is her realizing that the other cat will back off and then taking advantage of that to turn bully, which can happen.

      So time, patience, possibly meds, and supervision is the key here.

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        Thanks! And yes, agree on time. They have never progressed past both being in their own spaces, we still keep them fully separated. While they’ve had supervised time in the same room, they never have real access to each other – one cat is in the tree where the other one can’t get to, or one is on the stairwell watching the other, but there’s a human in between. They’ve never physically had an altercation nor really tried to get at each other through the fence, it’s just lots of hissing. We’ll keep on with these strategies (plus more Felliway and some swapping territory time) and see what happens!

  43. Once too Often*

    Shout out to everyone dealing with cancer, directly or indirectly. May your treatment go well, your medical team be great (& full of goofy jokes), & your community warmly supportive.

    Thinking of you & sending care via the ethers.

    1. Bethlam*

      Thanks! Just got home from the hospital yesterday after my 5th round of chemo. 1 more to go in 3 weeks, then scans 2-3 weeks after that to gauge success!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Glad you’ve only got one more round left, and sending good thoughts for scans showing success!

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      Oh, thank you! I thought surgery would be soon but after an MRI the team decided to do another bunch of biopsies. I had already cleared my schedule in anticipation of being out for surgery, so I am trying to not feel guilty and enjoy the break and also not worry. Only doing so-so on all 3 counts!

      1. Once too Often*

        No guilt! Docs are being docs, why would you be guilty? Here’s to easy biopsies with good results, & surgery that does what’s needed.

  44. To Zona the Great*

    I left a reply to your comment but am not sure you will see it. Your dad needs to sign up for Medicare – there is a penalty if you don’t.

    1. Venus*

      There might be a penalty, but we can’t force people to do things that they refuse to do, even if it will be very bad for them.

    2. Zona the Great*

      Thanks! This, unfortunately, will not mean anything to him. He’s wildly intelligent and is well adept at all things bureaucracy. That he is not signing up for Medicare is 100% a deliberate choice. I can’t explain this besides serious mental illness. In March of 2020, he ignored all CDC warnings and drove at night across two states, to come to my state for baseball spring training. Spring training had been cancelled. People were already dying of COVID. He still got in his car at 6PM, and drove at night through the snowy mountains, no seatbelt, no car insurance, no health insurance, and fell asleep at the wheel and almost died. He still doesn’t use a seatbelt, have car insurance, or health insurance. He never paid his huge medical debt and is incensed that my state police is still trying to nail him for the crime he committed of wrecking his stupid ass into a mountain side. He bought a second home and is renovating it yet claims he cannot afford Medicare or the state employee retirement association private insurance he is entitled to as a retired teacher. Yes, this man taught youth.

        1. Zona the Great*

          Thanks. It’s nice to let some if it out. As you can tell, I’m fired up about it. But if he doesn’t care, I can’t care for him. We’re on the border of low-contact and total estrangement which he is somehow oblivious to. I appreciate your comments very much.

          1. Venus*

            A good friend’s father just passed, and he was similarly difficult and also worked with youth and mental health. His bad decisions were completely illogical and it was difficult. I’m thankful that he had a sudden illness and deteriorated quickly so that he didn’t become dependent on others. I wish you good luck.

      1. Understood*

        That’s very hard. Mental illness is often so intractable, and devastating for everyone involved. (Not armchair diagnosing your father, but I have a relative with bipolar illness and I was nodding along while reading.). Sorry you are going through this.

      2. Generic Name*

        Your story reminds me of my late father in law. He was basically an outlaw his whole adult life. Drug running, passed bad checks, was decades behind on child support, goodness knows what else. He was also an active alcoholic. He actively chose to live in what can only be described as a shack, even though he could have lived on his own in a much nicer house owned by his family only 2 blocks away. It was very tough on my husband to watch.

        And you know what? Things have turned out mostly fine. Obviously, FIL dying an early death in his 60s was not good, but I really feel he was done living. There has been no mess legally or financially for the family, surprisingly. There was no will, but also no assets in his name. The state sent a final “bill” of $0 owed for his final days in the hospital, and that was that.

        I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    3. Clisby*

      Not necessarily. I have been assured of this multiple times by Medicare. I’m 70 and Medicare Part A is all I’ve taken so far – and I’ve never used it. If you get your insurance from your employer, or your spouse’s employer, you have to be able to show that you had that coverage without a break. I have all the IRS forms required by ACA, showing who my husband was employed by, the insurance company, and all dependents. My husband’s employer pays 100% of the premium for a family policy, so I’m not enthusiastic about signing on for upwards of $5000/year just to get Medicare on top of that.

  45. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    My mom has arthritis in her thumbs. She has tools to help with things like opening jars, but does anyone know of any tools, such as screwdrivers and pliers, designed to be used without thumbs? She used to be really handy and it’s really affecting her quality of life.

    1. Ouch*

      If you can’t find anything on an online search, contact an occupational therapist – they will have ideas.

    2. Firebird*

      I use locking pliers and ratcheting pliers. For screwdrivers, you might be able to fit a wrench (adjustable or box) over the handle. You can steady it with the other hand. You can also get a push drill that you can use with screwdriver bits. When I’m using tools, I also wear my thumb brace for a little extra padding and to remind me not to use my thumb.

        1. Firebird*

          I don’t have any brand suggestions. My tools have been accumulating over the years, so I have several different brands. You could find them at the store and then check reviews.
          I’ve gotten a lot of good advice from the guys working at smaller regular hardware stores and Ace Hardware. One time I was on crutches and they took my list and found everything for me, while I waited up front.

    3. Reba*

      Sort of! There are things called “grip aids” – one brand is Active Hands — that is kind of a glove/mitt situation that lets you hold things without hand strength.

      Some power screwdrivers and other tools can be pretty lightweight.

    4. Jay*

      Look up T-Handled Screwdrivers (and other tools).
      They are shaped like a capital “T” and are turned by using the entire hand and you can grip them easily without using your thumbs.
      https://www.google.com/search?q=t-handle+screwdriver&rlz=1C1AWFC_enUS906US906&oq=T-Handled+Scre&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUqCQgBEAAYDRiABDIGCAAQRRg5MgkIARAAGA0YgAQyCQgCEAAYDRiABDIJCAMQABgNGIAEMgkIBBAAGA0YgAQyCQgFEAAYDRiABDIICAYQABgWGB4yCAgHEAAYFhgeMggICBAAGBYYHjIKCAkQABgPGBYYHtIBCDY3MDVqMGo3qAIAsAIA&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    5. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I have arthritis in my hand and my favorite tools are a good old-fashioned metal nutcracker and the reacher/grabber tool I got when I had a hip replacement many years ago. The nutcracker fits around small jar and bottle caps that the regular jar tools sometimes won’t. The reacher will grab just about anything. It’s almost like a game when I use it, to see what I can grasp.

  46. Josephine Beth*

    Tw: grief

    I apologize if this is a bit heavy for the weekend thread, but I know you all have been so helpful with similar topics in the past and I could use some advice.
    2 days ago my daughter (young adult) and her partner found out their very good friend had a serious medical emergency and passed away. They are all young, healthy people so this has been a devastating blow. I’ve also been crying a lot (away from them), both because I knew her and she was a truly wonderful person, and because it feels so wrong.
    Family circumstances and my profession mean I’ve unfortunately had a lot of experience with deaths, but none quite like this. I have no idea how to best support my daughter and her partner, and if it’s weird that I feel so very emotional. Any suggestions on coping and supporting would be deeply appreciated!

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      It’s not weird that you’re emotional.
      You knew her. You liked her. You probably saw potential in her that is gone. It’s okay to feel that loss even if you weren’t close.
      Also, you see and empathize with your daughter’s grief. With her partner’s grief. Likely also with the grief of this young person’s parent.
      Which brings me to the third thing that might be coming up. If it could happen out of the blue to her friend, could it happen to your daughter? I know that unexpected loss can make people feel vulnerable.
      As for supporting your daughter:
      Listen more than you talk. That’s way more helpful than most things you could say.
      Talk about the friend. Use the friend’s name. Share fond memories. Do this for the rest of your life whenever it comes up. If in 10 years, you’re in the car with your daughter and a song comes on that they used to love, say “I remember when you and Friend used to pretend sing this song into fake microphones and dance around the room” – just little things so your daughter knows it is okay to talk about Friend. And so Friend isn’t forgotten.
      Don’t expect anyone who knew Friend to be “over it” or to “move past it” ever. If grief seems to be long term interfering with their ability to function, it’s likely depression. Suggest treatment for depression instead of telling them to get over it. Take an “I see you’re having a hard time because you’re hurting. Would you be open to talking with someone about it?” type approach.
      I’m sorry you and your daughter + partner are grieving a tough loss.

    2. Liminality*

      The best advice I have is: try not to ‘fix’ anything. This kind of sudden, out-of-order loss can only be supported. Just be there to listen and handle the smaller details as you can. It’s okay to cry, you don’t have to wait until you are away from them. Grieving together is one way of helping each other cope.
      I was given a copy of It’s OK That You’re Not Okay by Megan Devine by a friend who was unexpectedly widowed in her 30s. It has good advice for early grief and good perspectives on supporting others who are grieving. I would recommend it to anyone looking for guidance.

      1. Josephine Beth*

        Thank you, I’m going to order that book now. And thank you, too, for the reminder that nothing I do can fix this and that it’s okay to grieve together.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Of course it’s not wierd. All our emotions are connected, so when you grieve it can bring up a lot of the past as well.

      I’m very sorry for your loss. Just be available. Make sure they’re eating and sleeping. Listen and be with them.

  47. From Munich to the Alps!*

    Thank you to everyone who assured me it would be easy to go on a day trip to the Alps at the end of my surprise w*rk trip to Munich!
    I went to Tegernsee and it was great! I even went up a mountain and had lunch at a berghutte with a great view of the lake! And I can’t remember the last time I slept as well at night as after that little trip xD
    Should the opportunity arise again, I would definitely bring my walking boots and possibly my walking sticks, though. And I would *make sure* to have enough space for that in my luggage :D
    Thanks again!

    1. UKDancer*

      Wonderful! I love Tegernsee it’s so pretty. I think the mountain air makes you sleep really well. Hope you can get back again soon. I think the best work trips are the ones where you come away thinking “I like this place and I must come back here again when I have more time.” I view those ones as an aperitif for a place.

  48. Dark Macadamia*

    Kind of an oddly specific question, but I’d like recommendations of YA fiction that is both decent quality and sparks joy. Any subject or genre. Ideally published in the last 20ish years and enjoyed by actual teens, but I’ll take grown-up suggestions too!

    Background: I’m an English teacher and I really want to update my curriculum with something kids will enjoy reading but also be challenged by and aren’t likely to have chosen on their own (so like, not Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Things the teen in your life wishes would be taught in school, or loved being taught, etc…

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Maybe one of John Green’s books? There is even teaching material available for some of them, I think.

    2. OtterB*

      My reading is mostly fantasy and science fiction. Not a teen and my kids are in their 30s but I do read some YA and follow online conversations about it. Here are a few suggestions:

      A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T Kingfisher. The main character Mona has a minor magical talent for baking. When it turns out that stronger magical talents in the city are being systematically eliminated, she may be all that stands against an invasion. Simultaneously funny (mischievous magical gingerbread men! A sourdough starter familiar!) and thought provoking (what does it mean or should it mean to be a city leader?).

      All Systems Red, Martha Wells. Not YA, but on the ALA’s Alex award list for books for adults with appeal to teens. A construct, part biological and part android, tries to do its job of keeping a planetary survey team safe when it would really rather be watching downloaded media. The snarky internal voice of Murderbot, as it calls itself, is a delight and there’s great stuff here about what it really means to be human, to be independent, and to be part of a society. First of a series but stands along well. TV adaptation currently in filming.

      The Mimicking of Known Successes, Malka Older. Human colonies in the atmosphere of Jupiter were established after the failure of earth’s ecosystem. They are linked by rail. Mossa, an investigator, is trying to find out about an apparent suicide. The investigation brings her in contact with her ex-girlfriend Pleiti, now an academic. There’s a lot more of a conspiracy than originally meets the eye. Very Sherlock Holmesish vibe and might make a good read comparing to an original Holmes story.

      1. Intaglia*

        Mimicking of known successes also works very well as a post-Covid novel, and I thought that it was very well-constructed (central theme of ruminating endlessly over the past vs. how to move forward playing out in the mystery and in the relationship.). Not sure it’s so timely anymore, but I really liked it.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Re Mimicking, I will say that it drove me crazy that the drastically higher gravity at Jupiter’s surface seemed to be something the author didn’t know about. It was like she had a flash of two characters on a foggy train platform, but on Jupiter, and the story grew out of that, rather than whether building steel bands encircling Jupiter near its surface and dotting habitats along them was a remotely sensible plan.

          Also I felt the romance rested on “these two people dated in the past, which is all you need to sustain a relationship.”

          1. Intaglia*

            I mean, I feel like the fact that they dated in the past and are living in that past still but that’s *not* enough to sustain a whole relationship is the entire point of the book.

            You can’t recreate an old relationship, and you can’t recreate a dead world.

            I don’t really have opinions about a dreamy fake-Jupiter setting.

    3. Sutemi*

      I’ve recently enjoyed Justina Ireland’s books Rust in the Root and Dread Nation, which might be more of an older teen audience than younger YA.

    4. Jay*

      Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books and his standalone novel, Nation.
      Warning: Read them yourself first (this is no hardship, as they are a joy for adults to read, as well). These novels are smart, brilliantly written, focus on and encourage independent thinking, and tend to have non-typical heroes and heroines. It is my understanding that these things are considered problematical in some school districts.

    5. Helvetica*

      Something probably less common for American teens:

      “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder, which introduced me to philosophy and to ask questions about the world in new ways when I was around 14. And 20 years later, I still think about that book a lot.
      “Timm Thaler” by James Krüss is about a boy who trades his laughter for luck; it really is a tale of bargaining and realising what things are actually worth. Kind of like a kids version of Faust.

      1. Sticky Bun*

        I loved Jostein Gaarder’s Solitaire Mystery even better than Sophie’s World. Don’t know which book came first, and both have a philosophy theme that runs through them. Solitaire Mystery is so funny and delightful. It is the story of a boy and his father who take a road trip from Norway to Greece in search of his mother who left 8 years earlier and has “lost herself in the fashion world.” On the way, the boy learns more about his father and there is a mystery that occurs. The book is clever and engaging and is one of my all time favorite books. Reviews say it is meant for YA audiences, though I came across it as an adult and adored it, and have re-purchased and re-read it several times. It’s the kind of book you want to share and that people tend not to return to you.

    6. purple spotted giraffe*

      My daughter loved The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship (boat?) of her own making, by Catherynn Valente. Also the Lady Trent series.

    7. Yoli*

      Not technically YA but written by a teenager and reads YA to me (the protagonist is ~16 years old iirc): Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley. Sexual exploitation is key to the plot, but it is not graphic. 11th and 12th graders could handle it (speaking as a former HS teacher in Oakland, where the book is set).

    8. HannahS*

      Protector of the Small (and its sequels) by Tamora Pierce is pretty good, as is Trickster’s Choice (and its sequel.) I loved all of her work as a teen.

    9. MaxKitty*

      With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
      The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

    10. office hobbit*

      They’re older than your ideal range, but anything by Diana Wynne Jones. I also second the above rec for the Murderbot books.

    11. Alex*

      My absolute favorite YA book of all time is Nothing to Fear by Jackie French Koller. It was published 30 years ago, but it is historical fiction so that shouldn’t matter too much. It is the story of a 13 year old boy in Depression-era NYC. It’s just really wonderful, and I loved it so much as a teen. I think I first read it at 14 or 15 but it could easily go younger and I’ve leant it to my grown-up friends who really enjoyed it (but were able to finish it in 1-2 days).

    12. Wormentude*

      I was given a copy of The Hate You Give as an adult a few years back (the original owner wouldn’t read it as it was pink) and couldn’t put it down.

      Also, both me and my sister loved and still sometimes reread the Stravaganzer books. Essentially time/dimension travel between modern day London and 1300s (I think) Italy.

    13. allx*

      Estelle Laure: Practice Girl, and This Raging Light. Both are about a teen over-coming adversity tied to an absent parent. Both stories end in an uplifting way. The writing is excellent.

    14. Fiction Reader*

      There’s an interesting article in the NY Times about a high school teacher whose students love the book There There by Tommy Orange. The article was published March 18 with the title: A Bronx Teacher Asked. Tommy Orange Answered.

    15. Double A*

      I teach 10th grade and this year my students recommended the Six of Crows duology by Lee Barduga, which I also loved (I read the Shadow & Bone trilogy too, and it was good but not as good). The characters have a lot of trauma from serious issues including being sex trafficked and there’s some graphic violence. So I wouldn’t recommend it for middle school.

      They also like the Scythe trilogy by Neil Schusterman. It has some very violent parts but I would say it’s less graphic than the Hunger Games.

    16. Irish Teacher.*

      You haven’t mentioned what age group you are teaching, so I’ll give a few suggestions for various ages. I would use different books with 13 year olds than with 18 year olds.

      If you are teaching the younger side of the spectrum, then I’d reccommend Under the Hawthorn Tree. Very well known in Ireland, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be so well known elsewhere. It’s about 30 or 35 years old and is set during the Irish Famine and just a warning: it has the death of a baby in the first chapter or so. In Ireland, it is commonly used with 10-12 year olds but it would work for 13 and 14 year olds too, especially as they wouldn’t be as familiar with the history.

      Another older one, but my students loved The Silver Sword as did I in my old childhood. My students were 12 and 13 when I did it with them.

      For older teens, Fangirl is an awesome book.

      I also strongly feel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd should be used in schools, as the final chapter includes a musing on literary style and so on, the narrator is thinking about how he phrased things earlier in the book and how readers might interpret them.

      This is the list of novels that can be studied for the Junior Cert. in Ireland: https://www.curriculumonline.ie/getmedia/c547ebff-8813-450c-9e23-0c7c0f427e33/Prescribed-material-for-JC-English-for-examination-2024_-2025_2026.pdf

      The Junior Cert is taken at 15ish, so most of the books would be suitable for 13-16 year olds.

    17. Hypatia*

      Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.
      War of the Worlds by HG Wells
      The Martian by Andy Weir.
      The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
      The Curious Incident if the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
      I honeschooled one of my high schoolers for a semester, and I tried picking books that would spark conversation ( and had a movie/play tie-in). The,Tiffany Aching books are great too; I just finished that series. Though I think the first one was harder for my son to get into. I like the later ones best. I did have to avoid anything romance heavy ( Romeo and Juliet did not impress him).

  49. Soon to be Parted?*

    Has anyone had any experience buying items from Chinese websites? The ones that I’m seeing a lot of advertising from are: Light in the Box, Shein, Temu, and Ali Express. Apparently these websites are similar to Amazon, but they’re located in China and, like Amazon, they list items for sale from third party businesses. There are probably other similar sites that I haven’t run into.

    I haven’t ordered anything from any of these sites, but I am tempted. One thing that I’ve noticed on Ali Express is that there will be very good “Welcome Deal” on certain small items, where you would probably want to buy several of the item, but the “Welcome Deal” only applies to a single item. The regular price is NOT a good deal, so if you bought several of the item you wouldn’t get a good deal and if you bought a single item when you add the shipping costs to the item, the single low-priced item really isn’t a good deal either.

    I understand that some of the clothing items are not very good quality and there may be some issues with sizing. Apparently the items advertised tend to run small. So far I haven’t found any shoes in my admittedly hard-to-find shoe size on these sites. Are there anythings I should be wary of before I order anything from these websites and give out my credit card information?

    1. Pearl Puffin*

      I have ordered little trinkets from temu with no problem. Things like hair clips, hooks to hang my purse off of head rest in car and goopy stuff to clean dirt from cup holders etc. I don’t order from them anymore because I got thinking about how little people got paid to make this stuff.

      1. Maggie*

        I would highly advise you delete the Temu app at minimum and possible reset your entire phone. They are being sued for essentially installing spyware on devices that can screen shot every page of a persons phone even when the appt isn’t open. You can google Temu data breach or data mining. Only use Temu if you are ok with them having absolute unfettered access to everything on your phone.

        1. Manders*

          My brother (into all things techie) swears by Temu, but said that he only orders on his computer and does not recommend the app. He also has some sort of credit card (or credit card service) that basically gives a one-time credit card number for purchases (akin to using tap-to-pay instead of a regular credit card reader) to make it more secure.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve ordered a bunch of miscellaneous things from Temu with a range of success. I always used a throwaway email address, not my real one, and I paid via Apple Pay (which puts a layer of safety in because they don’t get my actual credit card number; you could also use a card that does one-time-use virtual numbers if you have one of those), and have not had any security issues as a result that I know of.

      Successes: Little knickknacks – key chains, novelty pens, stickers, pins. (I have 26 direct reports on both my teams at work, but don’t have work budget for gifts, so if I’m giving them any little stuff, it comes out of my pocket.) Some kitchen tools — small silicone tongs for under a buck a pair, big bowls for salads or pasta, a pizza cutter. Some travel/toiletry bits – rain ponchos, blister bandaids, coban tape, sponge wedges. I have a ton of hair bands that I wear all the time, wider than an Alice band but narrower than a full buff. Some decorative things – plaques or signs, stuff like that.

      Definitely not success: pretty much anything clothing. Either the fabric is weird and scratchy, or the sizing is about six miles off, or both. I tried to order my dog a set of fleece pajamas and they were the wrong color, the wrong size, and not the style I expected. I tried a set of compression travel cubes; half of them split on the way to my first trip destination and the other half split on the way home.

      That said, every time I’ve had issues with something, I’ve gone through their return process and they’ve given me an account credit for the same amount I paid originally, no hassle, and they haven’t expected me to return the thing, they said just donate it or toss it or whatever I want. So in general, it’s been a perfectly satisfactory experience all around.

    3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      As far as I am aware, both Shein and Temu (are at least willing to) sell your data on. Ali Express seems to be more trustworthy concerning data and has also been around much longer.
      Quality tends to not be great and things break easily/develop holes quickly.
      The sizing tends to be according to more typically Asian measurements, so smaller in all directions.
      The – to me – biggest problem, is that due to the third-party selling, there is little to no regulatory oversight concerning health and safety, and usually little recourse for broken and non-functional items.
      I would generally not recommend buying from there, sorry.

    4. Tx_Trucker*

      My brother buys stuff wholesale on Ali Baba all the time and resells on Amazon with great success. I have bought stuff on Temu with good (not great) success. On Temu you need to READ the descriptions in great deal and not make assumptions based on a photo. I once bought a tiny scratching post, but after reading the description again, the dimensions were accurately listed and they must of used the tiniest cat ever for the photo. I once got a single glove assuming, they would send a pair. But once again, a more careful reading showed that they listed the item clearly as a single glove. The one time I got something that didn’t match the written description they refunded my money in a few days (less than a week).

      1. Enough*

        My daughter had a friend who ordered a shirt dress from TEMU. She got a t-shirt with a picture of a dress on it.

    5. Emma*

      A lot of these are known for having really shady labor practices. I would Google them and read some articles.

      1. Maggie*

        Yeah there’s just no way to even somewhat ethically produce things at those price points. Shein contracts with tons of factories but they’re what we think of as sweat shops. Staffed by people from another country usually who are indebted to the factory owner and working for pennies. The others I know less about other than that Temu installs spyware on your phone and sells your data. No one should be messing with these places.

      2. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

        I would recommend Karolina Zebrowska’s October 2022 YouTube video on Shein! (~20 min?)

    6. YNWA*

      I have had terrible luck with Shein. Things come as ordered but the quality is very poor. Temu and Wish might as well be the same, they both are so hit or miss to not be worth it, especially with anything electronic (like ear buds). Unless Ali Express has changed, I remember it being cheap but that you had to order in bulk (so you want 1 bracelet, you have to order 50 type of thing).

      1. Maggie*

        I mean yeah, the quality is going to be bad on a $3.50 shirt or a $7 sweater. Shein only gives their contracted factories less than a week to make huge orders and barely pays them. It’s made by people who are being abused and working non stop overnight for pennies.

      2. Soon to be Parted?*

        My understanding is that Ali Baba and Ali Express are the same company, but that Ali Baba is generally intended to sell items in bulk quantities to retailers and distributors, while Ali Express is generally intended to sell individual items (or smaller numbers of items) to individuals.

    7. anon_sighing*

      Of all those sites, only Ali Express and Shein seem to be ones people any “luck” with. They’re usually low quality (except if you luck out, think fast fashion — you may get an unexpectedly well made item). Shein is known for stealing art and designs, running small, and for the pictures on the site not matching the product. Both of them may not be ethical in their practices, but they seem well-established and highly used.

      Temu installs spyware and frankly, all their ads look very scammy. I don’t hear many people ordering from them anyway – just a lots and lots of ads. This makes me wary. Never heard of Light in the Box, so can’t say.

    8. Kay*

      I think I did twice for some specific item I needed couldn’t get elsewhere. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise, and I will never do it again. The quality is horrible, and so is the thought of my products being made as a result of literal slave labor.

    9. Soon to be Parted?*