Taking and Making: January 20

Today, I took in:

Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Her Ironing,” James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” and Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews” in 100 Best American Short Stories

an episode of Lovesick


I made:

a start on possessives in Spanish on Duolingo

a lovely afternoon with friends at Winter Readalouds — I invite people ’round every few months and we read poems and stories to each other, and sometimes play music for one another on the theme of the season we’re in, and we have snacks and tea or wine; it’s nerdy, relaxed, and the closest I’m going to get to running a Parisian salon


Taking and Making: January 15

Today, I took in:

I Am Not Your Negro — as powerful as I’d heard it would be, not that anything James Baldwin ever said or wrote was less than incisive, witty, difficult, and true (if you’re looking for something to watch on MLK Day, I recommend this movie)

a playlist I made of wintry songs


I made:

beautiful music with my community choir

a little more progress on learning Spanish on Duolingo

Where Not to Go in 2018, According to Fodor’s

I love this article from Fodor’s, in which they detail the top 10 places you shouldn’t go in 2018. In the introduction, the editors emphasize that they love these places, but that for various reasons we should give them a miss for at least this year. Several of them are under environmental threat from so many visitors — the Galapagos Islands, various Thai islands, Machu Picchu. They recommend against other places for different reasons, for example they suggest that Americans don’t go to Cuba just yet because the American government has strict rules about what you’re allowed to do and see, which goes against the spirit of travel.

They also recommend against visiting three places because the human rights abuses there are so bad that they fear for travelers’ safety and also they don’t want us giving our tourist dollars to these regimes: Myanmar, Honduras, and Missouri. Myanmar is committing genocide against the Rohingya people, the police in Honduras target LGBTQ people for abuse and even murder, and the police violence and lack of legal repercussions in Missouri is such a problem that the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for the whole state.

Kudos to Fodor’s for facing the uglier side of travel head-on, and for naming and shaming the powerful groups that make some destinations unsafe for all but a very narrow slice of humanity. It can be tricky to decide whether you should visit a place and support the locals with your tourist dollars despite the bad choices their government is making, or whether staying away will help pressure that government to change. I really want to visit Russia and take the Trans-Siberian Railway, for example, but Putin and his cronies’ treatment of just about everyone is so vile that I can’t stomach the idea. Yet I’m planning a trip to Israel, and that government’s treatment of Palestinians is terrible. I make these decisions on a case-by-case basis. How about you? Do you have a set of criteria for things that might make you skip a place on principle?

Taking and Making: January 14

Today, I took in:

James Fallows’ “Have They No Sense of Decency?” in The Atlantic

Mark Oppenheimer’s “How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required)” in Politico

an embarrassing number of Castle episodes while I worked on some admin tasks


I made: 

a short blog post for tomorrow

a little more work on Spanish with Duolingo