Books I'm currently reading or just finished:

DRAGON TEETH by Michael Crichton
Published posthumously from a manuscript found by his wife! It looks like he got the idea for is (based on the afterword) in the 1970s, and possibly even wrote it back then. It's no Jurassic Park, but it's a super fun historical fiction piece that is largely a Western adventure with some juicy tidbits about the Bone Wars (the framing device for the story). An A+ summer book, and I highly recommend you read it in a hammock (because that's what I did, and it was great). Also a fun, weirdly similar jaunt into Deadwood, for those who miss the show.

I've just started this one, so no official review notes at this time, but 2666 is one of my favorite books of all time, so I imagine I will at least thoroughly enjoy it, if not totally love it. It's literary fiction, in case that makes or breaks it for you (and no judgement from me if it's a deal breaker: I am firmly of the belief that people should read what they like and not be dicks when other people don't like the same things).

GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL by Jared Diamond
Also just started this one. I tend to read more than one book at a time, because I am a fickle beast and crave spice and variety. This book is nonfiction, and won the Pulitzer in 1998. I am a fiend for historical nonfiction that focuses (or *at least* heavily dabbles) in medical history, and this promises to do that. It was recommended to me by my friend Beth, and (based on the first thirty pages) I think it's going to be one that I recommend, as well. Bonus points to the author for use of the Oxford comma in the title. I feel strongly about Oxford commas.

BLUETS by Maggie Nelson
Read this when you want your next poetry fix. Though it was only published in 2009, it's already reached Classic status in the lit world. I have never met a person (who enjoyed poetry, or literature in general) who did not deeply appreciate this book. It's a work you'll come back to, so buy all your friends their own copies, because you'll want to keep yours safe and close to hand. 


Camp Comics! 

I spent most of the last week in central PA (roughly Port Matilda) for the June session of Barrelhouse Writer Camp. Since I am the comics editor, I thought it appropriate to document the time thusly:

It felt really good to draw every day and not be too regimented about the format--especially since everyone else was writing like mad and I'm in a bit of a "refueling" period (that's lasted roughly 2 years so far, but WHATEVER). It's remarkable to me that people find it to be such a productive space. I mean, that's basically why we invented it, but you never really know how these things are going to turn out until you get them going. We've done three camps so far (the other two were last summer) and we've got the next one scheduled for August. I'm hoping we can figure out the funding at some point to do a Camp West either on the coast out here or in Montana. A girl can dream.

If you want to join in the camp fun, keep an eye on the camp website and our twitter account. We're full up for August, but we'll open applications earlyish in the new year for Summer 2018. We do a couple of mini-conferences in Pittsburgh and DC and have some online courses that open up every once in a while, too, so check those out if you're interested!


1. Due to my desire to increase my fish intake (esp. bivalves, which are--by many accounts--basically meat plants and about as ethical to eat as any animal can be), I have gone back to visiting this super helpful website (courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium) that has a consumer guide of the most sustainable fish. They update it regularly, and you can print out/download a handy pdf that is specific to your state/region and lists Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Fish to Avoid. 

2. Doing some interesting layman's research into haplogroups and nutrigenomics, and I have a question that I'm sure has plagued the nutrition community since paleo diets became a thing: how long does it take, evolutionarily, for humans to adapt to a particular diet? Clearly, our bodies have issues with refined sugars (and probably most foods that are stripped down--white flour, etc), so an argument could be made that the 150 years since the Industrial Revolution definitely isn't enough time (makes sense--that's a very short amount of time). But livestock domestication began something like 13,000 years ago (conservatively), and agricultural reform began in ernest (let's be really conservative again) about 5,000 years ago. The Paleolithic/Stone Age overlaps quite a bit with these dates--ending, after 3.4 million years, somewhere between 8,000BC and 2,000BC depending on where you lived at the time. (Sumer, Egypt, and Peru were busy kicking ass real early.) And people were eating wild grains from 20,000BC. But, right, assuming we could come up with some arbitrary number that is "enough time" to evolve our stomachs, we then have to account for how weirdly good humans have been at crop cultivation and intentional mutation. We've been genetically modifying our food via tree grafting, for example, for up to 3,800 years (*takes a sick bong rip* GMOs are not new, maaaaan). And then there's the argument that people back in the day didn't have the same health concerns that we have now--heart disease, obesity. But also people had a ton of crazy diseases and didn't live very long, generally, so do we really have much of an idea how great their diets were? Two hundred years ago, 2000 years ago--neither were super duper times to be alive. There's a lot to deal with here.

Frankly, I don't think this even needs to be a thing that most people think about.

An additional note: as I mentioned in my previous blog post: this company looks interesting. I've thought about them a few times since my initial mention and obviously they aren't going to share exactly how they determine which foods are good for you, but I do wish there was some indication. For example, are they looking at haplogroup heredity like I mentioned above? Or are they looking at specific genetic markers for (ex:) heart disease and then recommending foods that are known to be heart-healthy? 




Pretty much all of my friends know that my digestive system is The Worst in about as ambiguous a way as is possible. I've done rounds of testing (SIBO being the most majorly disgusting), a few different elimination diets (ovo-lacto vegetarian; dairy-free, both vegetarian and not; low-FODMAP; paleo, but without eggs), and gone to see doctors more in the last two years than I have every other year of my life combined. The results are always along the lines of "Huh, that's weird, I would have put money on you having X, but you...don't." So I continue to have the vague and unsatisfying diagnosis of IBS. I live a life plagued by constant mild-to-extreme nausea (inc. occasional weeks of random barfing) and "urgent intestinal distress."* This is a big reason why I had to stop tattooing: having to cancel an appointment the morning of because I suddenly got nasty sick--which happened way too often--is a bummer for everyone. If only it had been carpal tunnel, man. 

But the point of this post is not to tell you the gross details of my idiot intestines. The point is that I recently discovered that there is a whole field of nutrition that might ACTUALLY be able to solve my problems, and that field is nutrigenomics.** Honestly, I am very surprised that, with all of the casual food and genetic research I do for funsies, I only just found out about this whole concept (by name)*** yesterday.

As the name suggests, nutrigenomics is the study of food+gene expression. The general idea is that no one diet fits all (duh) and that maybe we could dial in which foods work for you as an individual by looking at your genes. This sounds both logical and thoroughly awesome to me. Then again, on most days nutrition science seems about as hard-sciencey as sociology, so I'm trying to keep my expectations in the "tentatively optimistic" range. But, man, I would LOVE to take my raw data from 23&me and--much like I did with Promethease for pharmacogenetics (and general interest)--plug that ish into a program that poops out my ideal diet. 

I was not stoked on paleo when I did it because I felt like crap for a whole month. I'm not opposed to giving up foods--even foods I love (pierogi, burritos, Daniel's homemade pizza, etc). What I'm opposed to is giving up the foods I love and continuing to feel awful. This seems like a thing science could figure out, and that is really exciting. I am also a fan because I love lists, and so even if my ideal diet is literally five foods, I'm ok with it, because it's a list that I can follow and know is working. If someone could decipher the secret to my ideal workout, while they're at it, that would be stupendous, THANK YOU.

If you know of any good studies on this topic, I'm interested in links! No links to that "eating for your blood type" guy, though, because I think he establishes people's "genotype" by suspiciously phrenologistic means (i.e. with a "biometric protractor" + your fingerprints). I try to be open minded, but will maintain that this method is very sketchy until proven otherwise. I suspect I could get about as far by telling people to eat pears if they are shaped like pears, beans if they are shaped like beans, apples for apples, etc etc snake oil etc.

EDIT: Have any of my Bay Area friends tried/looked into Habit? I'm not in the Bay, but if I hear good reports and they expand their area of service, I may be interested.


*if you know me irl or on twitter, you know that I am not ashamed to be more graphic, but for you, sweet readers, I am attempting to be at least a liiiittle genteel about it.

**along with its close friend, nutrigenetics--a technically separate scientific pursuit, but obviously in the same camp

***I've read a lot of interesting blog posts that sort of talk about this, but never by name and usually in the context of a particular disease--usually something like blah blah this gene = heart disease blah blah eat less cholesterol blah duh blah blah.


I've been thinking a lot about why people move--about the concept of "home," and and the even more elusive concept of "happiness." People move for work, for affordability of life, to be close to their family and friends. Affordability aside (that's a whole separate issue to tackle), work and people are complicated. People move for an actual job, or for increased job prospects, or they telecommute and can live anywhere. That's kind of a new thing. People-wise, our families and friends are increasingly unlikely to live in the same city, let alone the same region or country. And then there's general location: what if you want to live in a rural area? This is connected to affordability, too (it all is, ugh) (why is the entire state of Oregon so expensive), but also proximity to airports and proximity to people and proximity to a grocery store. 

Given an ideal work situation where you could live ANYWHERE and make enough to live (pretend your pay scales up or down to fit the quality of life in your chosen area) and your parents don't have any health problems that require you to be close for hands-on care (assume everyone you know is super healthy), where would you go? If you are close to your family, do you choose their city as your hub? Proximity to the largest number of friends? Screw it all and pick the coolest house on the most beautiful plot of land and make it work? 

There are all kinds of real estate blog posts on millennials and their moving/buying habits, but they don't have that long-term data I crave* (which you can only really get from hindsight, so that isn't really their fault). For instance: a lot of us have moved for school and then for work but find ourselves, around 30 years old, finally starting to buy homes and "settle down." But will we stay in those homes, or are we so used to uprooting every few years that we'll get antsy and sell and move and sell and move, etc? 

This is an anecdotally-motivated question and not based on any studies I've read. But it wouldn't be so surprising, right? Is "home" the city or the people?** And with people so spread out, how do you prioritize between them? And would trying your hand at running a small bookstore in a teeny east coast town be even more fulfilling than social city living? How the heck do you know what will make you happy? Is happiness all an impossible illusion?? ...I mean, yeah, probably--but some situations are definitely better than others. Practically speaking, though, it's a bit difficult on any kind of (non-insane) budget to take your partner and your two cats on some kind of US/UK tour-of-living where you spend 3-6 months in each place that could POSSIBLY make you happy (and then create a real killer spreadsheet, because how do people make decisions without spreadsheets, I ask you). 

All of this is to say that I seriously envy people who can daydream and not be super depressed by it. I spent a few hours looking at old Victorian houses in the middle of nowhere and am now totally paralyzed by (1) existential confusion and (2) my apparent inability to comprehend my own preferences. 


*and are mostly dumb: they share stats on how those of use who move do it "for fun and adventure" when only 27-30% of people report moving for lifestyle reasons--40% move for a job, and 27-30% move to find a job, so that's 70% of people moving for work and not a "vacation," guys. MATHS.

**this obviously comes down to preferences and not some deeper "rightness." I'm just curious how people feel about it.


Time, etc

I was wondering the other day why countries still use non-standardized measurements for everything from weight to distance to currency, while the 24-hour clock exists across the board. The result of my hour on the internet is vague and complicated and I'm not even totally clear on if there's a "real" answer, BUT! here are a couple of things:

1. Humans seem partial to multiples of 6 when it comes to daily timekeeping, which seems helpful when standardizing time because everyone is pretty much on the same page. (I wish I could find more of these--Daniel was looking them up on his phone the other night, and he's not here, so you just get what I've got open in my tabs.)

"The weekday of a Hindu calendar has been symmetrically divided into 60 ghatika (= 24 hours), each ghatika is divided into 60 pala (= 24 minutes), each pala is subdivided into 60 vipala (= 24 seconds), and so on." 

The traditional Chinese time system, called shi-ke, split the day into twelve "milestones," each two hours long.

2. That said, some Chinese time systems were in decimal time: "Several of the roughly 50 Chinese calendars also divided each ke into 100 fen...In 1280, the Shoushi (Season Granting) calendar further subdivided each fen into 100 miao, creating a complete decimal time system of 100 ke, 100 fen and 100 miao."

The French tried to make decimal time a standard thing after the French Revolution out of a desire to reject the Gregorian calendar, and because measuring in multiples of 10 was a very Enlightened (and metric) thing to do.* I'm guessing it didn't take off because very few groups defaulted to decimal time.

In 1998, re: decimal time, a watch company tried to make "internet time" happen. 

3. A cool hypothesis about why the whole world (essentially--I'm sure there are some outliers) is time-synced is Railway Time. We had to have consistent methods of telling time or trains would constantly hit each other.

4. I then stumbled onto Planck Time (aside about how Max Planck is so cool, ugh), which led me to chronons and attoseconds, which led me to Orders of Magnitude (Time) in general, and then my brain exploded because a yottasecond IS A THING.

5. I also happened upon this during my Planck Time jaunt: "The speed of light in a vacuum provides a convenient universal relationship between distance and time, so in physics (particularly in quantum physics) and often in chemistry, a jiffy is defined as the time taken for light to travel some specified distance." So now you know how long a jiffy is (actually, it can denote like five different time measurements, but they are all very fast). 


I'm often hesitant to post things like this because they aren't really research so much as interested perusals, but I don't think anyone will suffer from my lack of rigorous scholarship. Ok, just gonna post this and not downtalk myself. Exposure therapy!


Short post! Behold, my current media consumption--in case you're looking for good things to consume, too:

1. Mikhail Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog. His novel The Master and Margarita is on my all-times list. If that's not enough Bulgakov for you (understandable) and you want to watch a delightful (and, warning, surprisingly gorey) limited series, A Young Doctor's Notebook is on Netflix and will give you your Jon Hamm fix. (Daniel Radcliffe is also in it, and is great! But, I mean, no one but Jon Hamm is Jon Hamm.)

2. Noah Hawley & Co's Fargo (FX), season 3. If you haven't yet, go back and watch the previous seasons, too--1 & 2 are on Hulu--and the revelation that is brilliant TV will descend upon you like tongues of flame à la the Holy Spirit. 

3. The Mysterious Universe podcast. A perfect friend for the (unrelenting) desire to have more (good) X-Files, or for days when you're frustrated with stupid realities and really want to believe. Which is every day, for me.


I missed blogging, but I feel like my old blog is very much a previous chapter in my life. So here we are, fresh new blog like a fresh new notebook. I can't promise I'll update regularly, but that's why RSS feeds were invented.

Here's a list of things I am presently into:


1.a. A related obsession: Saints Cyril and Methodius

2. I'm reading Hyperion, and (aside from the bad sex scenes--which, in defense of the author, most people are terrible at writing) it is super good. I'm pretty picky about my sci-fi, because I am picky about everything writing-related, and this is a winner for me.

3. If you are like me in that you are an anxious person who appreciates the meditative aspects of drawing straight lines but doesn't like to do things with no inherent purpose, bullet journaling on dot grid paper is extremely therapeutic. Bonus: you can track your moods and symptoms on a grid that your doctor will swoon over.

4. There has never been a time when I wasn't interested in medicine and medical history. Sawbones continues to be one of my favorite podcasts because it is smart and funny and sweet, and it's great background even when you have some knowledge of that week's topic.

5. Another super therapeutic thing? Playing with multi-media art. I'm all about drawing inks, acrylics, watercolors, and oil pastels at the moment. (And watercolor paper. That texture is delicious--and I'm getting better about being less precious re: my fancier art supplies. Regular drawing paper is great, but sometimes you actually need that heavy, textured, slightly-more-expensive paper.)

6. I know I've mentioned this in old episodes of Audiodidact (sorry for the lack of exact link--we talked about genetics a lot, and I don't know which episode it was in particular), but I'm really into exporting the raw genetic data from a place like 23&Me to Promethease. For example, I was working with my doctor recently to determine the best antidepressant for me to try (Fluoxetine gave me the most insane hypersomnia. Fourteen hours a day is way too many asleep hours). We were going to try Effexor, but she told me to check my gene report just in case it had any hints about it's effectiveness. Turns out: it did! I'm about 7x less likely to respond to certain SSRIs, including Effexor. So we're going the NDRI route. I've been on Wellbutrin for a little while now, and it's working really well! Our bodies are so crazy, man.

7. it me