house battle of the nerds

We got some nerd battles going on up in this house as my son grows up. I’ve successfully passed on my love of reading, sci-fi, and video games (a bit too much on the last one), so my son is Harry Potter-loving, Star Wars geekin’, computer-game-playin’ nerd. 

He even got me playing Pokemon Go, and then freakin’ abandoned the game which sucks even more because I wanted to be on blue team (Go Ravenclaw! … yeah, yeah, I know they’re some other not-Harry Potter name. Don’t care.), but he convinced me to be team yellow, and now I’m a freakin’ Hufflepuff (I KNOW, again, don’t actually care about the real team names: They are Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff to me, and somehow I–a Pottermore-official Ravenclaw–am wearing Hufflepuff colors while I’m hunting down Evees. Wtf).

Also, Pokemon Go won’t let you change teams after you pick your team. BEWARE. This especially sucks because, apparently, yellow is a super unpopular color, so the gym aspect of the game is pretty much shut-down to me. All the gyms around are high-level blues and reds that take far more time than its worth to battle down for 10 freakin’ coins, at which point, oh, another red or blue team takes it right back over. Look at that. What’s the freakin’ point?

Personally, I think Niantic should have anticipated this, and randomly assigned teams. I mean, there are plenty of studies showing how color preferences impact food choices, film theory, and marketing–why wouldn’t they realize their goddamn teams would distribute unevenly? grumble grumble grumble

You can probably guess at the HP divides in our house by the Pokemon Go disagreement. Over the years, I’ve taken a bunch of personality tests (including the Meyers-Briggs based ones, and yes, I know that’s a totally biased/ defunct/ worthless test) to see which house I get sorted into. Over and over, I was scored between 70-85% Ravenclaw, 10-20% Slytherin, and a minimal percentage of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. Then Pottermore was released and I took the Pottermore test (twice, because I lost my login info once), and both times was confirmed Ravenclaw.

It’s okay. You can say it. Neeeerrrrrdddddd. 

My son, on the other hand, took those tests for years and kept scoring as Gryffindor/ Hufflepuff, so he was devastated when Pottermore sorted him Slytherin. I was like, “My BOY!” but he’s just like, “NOOOOOOOOO.”

Weirdly, despite his love for the good guys in HP, he loves quoting Kylo Ren and Darth Vadar when it comes to Star Wars. Oh! And that’s our final nerd battle.

See, I’m kinda a Star Wars fan (OG, natch), in that the original episodes were a big part of my childhood– specifically, every year on my birthday, my family would relate the tale of how my birth interrupted my older brother’s much-anticipated opportunity to see The Empire Strikes Back (the family was living in Germany, and the English-speaking release had apparently just arrived). It seems my arrival interrupted big plans. Big plans. I did not hear the end of that guilt trip for like 20 years, haha.

Anyway, I like the franchise–actually, I like the whole space opera thing in general, honestly. I mean, holy shit, Jupiter Rising? Watch it as a big, glorious, not-to-be-taken-seriously space opera, and it’s so awesome. My husband could not understand why I was loving that film so much the first time we saw it, but I was like c’mon! Don’t watch it seriously–enjoy it for the camp that it is! Hilarious acting, cheesy costumes, big epic scenes, a genetically engineered werewolf soldier from space on a hoverboard? What’s not to love?

So, yeah, I adore space opera. It is so over-the-top, you have to be a humorless goon not to love it, and Star Wars falls squarely in space opera territory. It is so melodramatic and campy, and just a big ‘ole political soapy soap opera with fantasy elements, set in space!

So when my son comes in with deep, serious, deconstructive questions about the science or politics or economy or history of Star Wars, I’m like, “Uh huh, yeah. That is a contradiction. Don’t worry about it.” waves hand 

Because space opera, like normal opera, does not abide by the rules of common sense. Space opera, like normal opera, operates in a fantastical, upside-down world where all the rules as we understand them are suspended for The Story. So in a space opera, plot holes abide and technology stutters and stagnates in a contradictory timeline, and ducks show up every-friggin’-where and the most feared weapon is–inexplicably–a close-range laser sword.

At least Dune had an explanation for why they fought with swords. Star Wars deploys literal armies of robots shooting actual freakin’ laser guns, but somehow a couple hundred Jedi with glowy swords are supposed to be a political threat? So my stance is don’t question it! Just accept it. Just smile, and be like, “Okay! For the story!” and proceed.

But nope, not my Star Wars fan of a son. He says, “Where did Kylo Ren get the mask? Wasn’t Darth Vadar burned on pyre?”

“Yeah, probably a bounty hunter sold him a fake.”

“But he has the Force. Wouldn’t he be able to torture the truth out of him?”

“Not if the bounty hunter thought it was the real deal.”

” … I guess that makes sense.”

“Like, the bounty hunter was sold it by another bounty hunter, and who acquired it from some other asshole, and so on down the line–each guy swearing it was the mask of Darth Vadar, personally acquired by the guy who sold it to him, or at least the guy who sold it to the guy who sold it to him. So eventually someone brings it to Kylo Ren, swearing it’s the real deal, and he force chokes them for the truth, and they’re like I already told you the truth it’s really Darth Vadar’s mask, straight from Endor! Fifty fucking Ewoks died so you could have that mask! and he’s like, oh. Okay, then. And then cries to some melty piece of plastic about his granddad.”

Should be enough, right? But nope. My kid wants to know why technology doesn’t really progress in the Star Wars universe. See, my thought is, because the writers weren’t paying attention? But if I say that, my son just gives me this look, and I sigh with impatience.

The problem is, I’m definitely more of a Trekkie. It was adult-onset; I binged the entire tv series, from TOS through TNG, DS9, Voyager, and even 00’s Enterprise. I haven’t really gotten into the films, because I have a hard time sitting through films, period, but yeah. I’m a Trekkie, with Opinions about Trek. I could easily and happily delve into long discussions and debates about the progression of technology in the Trek ‘verse, or the relative merits of the captains–and I have.

My entire family is all-to-aware of my hypothesis that fucking Captain Archer is the reason Captain Janeway, centuries later, was forbidden by Federation rules from bringing her dog on-board the Voyager, because we all know how Captain Archer’s preferential (and, I would argue, endangering) treatment of Porthos threw a wrench in several first-contact situations), but Star Wars? C’mon! It’s a space opera, just meant to be enjoyed!

Unfortunately, my son has only seen The Next Generation, and while he’s (rightly) a fan of Data and Picard, he lacks the whole-series perspective gained by viewing TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. (Seriously, Enterprise had so much suck. Can we just kick Captain Archer out an airlock and erase the whole time-war plot? Please?)

So I try, like a good mom, to engage with his attempts to find meaning in the meaninglessness of Star Wars. And that is … an interesting endeavor.

So I’ll be like, “Um, I dunno. Because it’s an essentially capitalist system? All the planets seem to have distinct cultures, languages, and monetary systems, and we’ve seen the influence trade treaties play–Star Wars is clearly structured around a far more quintessentially capitalist economy than 90’s Star Trek, which is structured around the Federation with the equilizing technology of the replicator. Granted, the Federation still had capitalist and expansionist leanings–as illustrated by the conflict with the Maquis–but it’s no-where near the inequality apparent in the Star Wars universe.”

… and my son is tuning out because there I am, on a Star Trek rant. Somehow.

 

 

 

 

official american idiot 

​Shocking. 

Trump somehow manages to make cutting funding, shutting down agencies, and firing thousands of employees even worse by icing this shit cake of widespread closures and related unemployment with the blood and tears of resourceless abuse victims

He hasn’t even been in office a full week, and the dude has already: 

  1. Raised middle class housing costs: Day one, Trump signed an executive order reversing an Obama-era FHA insurance rate reduction program. Now, low income homeowners, those who paid down payments of less than 20%, and those with middling credit scores will see their hosting costs rise, starting Jan. 27, 2017. The FHA estimates this order means homeowners with $200k mortgages will pay roughly $500 more in 2017 than they did in 2016.
  2. Moved to remove health coverage from 25 million Americans: Signed an executive order to gut the ACA, with no replacement proposed.
  3. Suppression of free speech: The official public service/ informational gvm’t Twitter feeds seen as mocking Trump were briefly suspended for investigation on January 20th.
  4. Engaged in propaganda/ rewriting history on official government sites: LGBT issues, Civil Rights, Healthcare, and Climate Change, Immigration and more were scrubbed from the official White House site after the Trump Administration took control.

Women’s safety, housing costs, health coverage, free speech … gee, I wonder why an infantile, narcissistic, billionaire sex predator wouldn’t prioritize these issues. 

Probably the same reason he’s planning grant cuts to other Dept. of Justice programs, like eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or shutting down grant administration for low income Americans who can’t afford legal assistance. 

I mean, it’s not like community oriented policing is important, or the low income people who voted for Trump ever need legal aid, right? Why should he care about those programs?

Oh, wait. He should because it is important and they do need it–he doesn’t care because it doesn’t matter to him.

And, of course, with the defunding of these departments will be hundreds upon thousands of lost jobs. 
Unemployment. 

Shocking. The guy who promised to bring jobs to America fired a bunch of people right off the bat.

I’m sure things will only improve from here.

Women’s clothing: Losing a size and pockets

My local Costco has these Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans in stock for about $26, and I thought they looked pretty sweet. Also, I’ve shed a few (like 50-ish) lbs over the last year, and I kinda needed some new jeans. So I was like sah-weet, and snagged me a black pair in a size 12 back in October.

I considered the size 12 a “win,” because I’d been hovering between size 14/16 for a bit. So I was like aaawwww *happy dance*. Buuuut it quickly became apparent that these (extremely comfortable) jeans were a titch too big for me, and I’d underestimated my weight loss. It was getting to the point where my “skinny” jeans were literally falling off me, and I could shimmy out of them without undoing the zip.

Granted, I’d lost a few more pounds after buying them, and they have some give/ stretch to them because they’re, like, 10% polyester … but it didn’t help that I started out by just plain underestimating how my weight loss impacted my clothing size.

Sizing is hard, and it’s really hard to eyeball.

Now, I assumed the jeans were out of stock after a few months, but that was an assumption based on the following facts:

  1. I hate clothing shopping
  2. I actually kind of tend to avoid the clothing section at my local Costco because there’s often a strong perfumey-fragrance hanging about the area? I’m not sure if it’s due to an employee or the result of the type of shoppers attracted to the area, but it’s like a heavy cloud of floral/ patchouli/ gaggery sort of thing, and it makes my eyes water and my skin break out, so I tend to just sort of rush past holding my breath and not browse the area.
  3. Also, I hate clothing shopping.

But! Last week, the air surrounding the area was all fragrance-free and clean, so I figured I’d take a peek and see if the pants were still in stock. And lo and behold, they were! Yay! So I located a size 10 and did the whole no-dressing-room measure trick, which is good to see if something’ll fit (not as useful for seeing how something will fit). For pants/ skirts/ shorts, hold them up to your waist, but from small-of-back to belly-button, not hipbone-to-hipbone. If they don’t reach, it won’t fit.

Anyway, fit seemed to work, so I bought them. Took ’em home, tried ’em on–perfect! Lounged about all happy for a day in my beautiful dark blue comfy-as-hell, brand-new skinny jeans. Next day, went out to get a flu shot and visit my husband at work, and I discovered something horrifying. 

My new jeans do not have front pockets.

My old ones do. Same brand, same materials, same everything but size/color–they have front pockets. True, they’re tiny little jokes of front pockets, useful only for a handful of change or a lighter, but still. Pockets! In my pants! Pockets in which I can tuck my thumbs! Pockets for folded receipts, change, lighters, and the various other detritus I collect throughout my day!

POCKETS!

My new pants have a neatly stitched line of lies, pretending to be a pocket. LIES.

It’s not even a stitched-over fake pocket, like you’ll sometimes find in suits! There is no pocket! If I were to take a stitch ripper to the seam, I would merely open a hole in my jeans! It’s just for show! A cruel seam of trickery!

I HAVE NO FRONT POCKET IN MY JEANS!

What is this vicious cruelty? Why, by going down a size, did I surrender my pockets? I don’t want pocketless jeans! That’s insanity! Who wants pocketless jeans? My gods! I might as well be wearing yoga pants, or leggings! If I wanted to wear fucking yoga pants, I would get yoga pants! I wanted jeans! With pockets!

I’m utterly appalled, just utterly. Appalled. I googled Buffalo David Bitton skinny jeans and damn. Apparently these things were also a steal, because the website is listing their skinny jeans as between $79 and $108 dollars, which is fucking insane for jeans that are apparently hit and miss for front pockets under size 10! I mean, at least four of the models on their skinny jeans page are posing with a hand tucked into the front pocket–but is that because they’re wearing over a size 10? Or is it because its a brand which actually comes with pockets in all sizes? I do not know. I am so baffled.

Why no pockets?! Why? Why? Who would design pants–jeans–without pockets? What kind of outrageous insanity is this?

Well, I mean … actually, I do have some related reading for anyone actually interested in diving down the rabbit hole of that question. But it’s kind of a fucked up/ annoying explanation:

Which, all super fascinating, sure … but doesn’t resolve the lack of pockets in my pants. *grumble grumble grumble*

The worst part is, I’m keeping the damn things.

 

 

guilt prone employees

Recently, this Scientific American article popped up in my FB feed about mistakes employers are making in hiring. Something about how the current model of relying on a combination of interview performance, length of resume, and whether or not a candidate has ever been fired is, according to research, going about things all wrong.

Then the blurb ended and I needed to pay to read more.

Anyway, I curiously went off to research the issue, because damn, do I perform poorly in interviews! And, as it turns out, the best employees rate high in conscientiousness and are guilt-prone, which is different from having a guilt complex. Basically,

“Guilt-prone people … are simply those with a tendency to be over-sensitive to the opinions of others combined with an over-active sense of responsibility toward others. Conscientious, guilt-prone people believe any poor outcome in work or life reflects on themselves alone, even when others are involved; perfectionists, they believe they can do better… always. They are the kind who undersell themselves on a job interview rather than oversell and disappoint.” — How to Be SuccessfulMedicalDaily

So the exact same personality traits that make me such a good employee are the ones that make me such a shitty interviewee.

I have a deeply internalized need to be 10-15 minutes early (or I’m actually late, goddamnit), which means I’ve developed excellent time management skills and am always on time; but that also translates into intense anxiety and a tendency to blame myself when the schedule goes off track or I failed to anticipate wrenches thrown by other people.

I have an intense internal drive to complete projects to my satisfaction, even if it means I stay a few minutes after my class/ study session/ shift has ended; but this almost compulsive perfectionism has also seen me skipping meals, neglecting my mental/ physical/ emotional health, and ignoring my family in pursuit of my goal. This is, by the way, why I chose not to go to law school: Becoming a lawyer (especially a public defender) sounds fascinating and amazing and challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Also, it would be upwards of 60-70 hours of work a week, and something would have to give. Statistically, that would be my family. Maybe once my son is grown.

When I am working as a member of a team or group, whether its in a classroom or office, I feel a strong sense of responsibility toward my peers and assisting the “team,” which is actually problematic because I have a tendency to say, “yes,” or, “sure,” without hesitation when my assistance is requested, regardless of my workload, and I’ve actually had to start learning to set boundaries and accept that, “No,” is an acceptable response.

But all those traits–that need to be early, and the perfectionist drive to complete a project, and the impulse to help others (a rising tide lifts all boats!)–arise from the same places in my personality that my self-deprecating mockery, cynicism, and inclination to tear myself down comes from. I’m always telling my friends not to expect too much from me, because I’m the laziest person they’ll ever meet. Inevitably, I get an arched, disbelieving eyebrow and amused denials in response, but they’re not getting it.

I really am, I promise–the only reason anyone might think otherwise is because I said I was lazy from the outset, which set the bar so low, that anything I do above that expectation ends up looking amazing.

But you can’t set the bar low at an interview. It doesn’t work like that. At an interview, you’re expected to set the bar really high, then launch over it, and that’s a problem for me. Interviews are sales pitches, with the product being yourself, and I am just not a salesperson. I can’t help but point out the flaws.

I have barely learned to accept a compliment; shifting uncomfortably in my seat and offering a quiet, “Thanks,” with a tight smile. How am I supposed to, “sell myself,” an endeavour that necessitates not just talking about my skills and assets, but pumping them up–explaining why I am somehow smarter, better, preferable than all the other candidates of similar education and background. Seriously?

I’m an anxious perfectionist terrified of failing others’ expectations, and I’m supposed to go into a room of strangers and brag about myself for an hour? Ha. There is no way this situation could possibly end well, and guess what? It doesn’t. One of two things inevitably occurs:

  • One: I undersell myself, and that in tandem with my scant work history causes the interviewer (rationally) to conclude I’m completely unqualified to handle even the most basic secretarial/ office/ filing position, so I’m dismissed from the running.
  • Two: I try to “fake it til I make it,” and put on a facade of confidence, but it feels unnatural and I’m pretty sure I just come off looking like a braggy and insecure overconfident bitch, because that’s sure how I feel. I also feel miserable and slimy when I try to do this, which makes me feel sick to my stomach and sweaty. I find myself gauging the interviewers’ expressions and body positioning; talking faster and faster as frantic terror seeps through me and I’m suffused with the sickening certainty that everyone knows what a fraud I am; that I have been exposed as the weak failure of a candidate I am instead of the confident professional I’m trying to imitate. I panic, and before you know it, I blurt and babble–oversharing and apologizing. It is a mess.

So, first, I do not understand how anyone aces interviews, ever; and second, I would totally crack under interrogation. No need for torture, just, like, a steady stare and a few minutes of silence, and I’d be a babbling mess unlocked by my own neuroses.

But the feedback from professors/ classmates/ friends/ etc is that I’m intelligent, and my performance evaluations would always say something about how my ability to exceed the expectations I set for myself. I was praised by my peers and professors for my teamwork, willingness to assist others, and the quality of my research and work. When I read my student evaluations, or ask my husband and HR-employee friends to assess them as though they’re employee performances, the consistent response is, “I’d hire this person. They’re hard-working, a team-player, and they accept feedback.”

Now, I admit its possible they’re just humoring me; trying to comfort the girl who can’t get a job. But damn–honestly I feel like I’m just shooting myself in the foot with interviews, and all this research is just bringing the issue into sharper focus. Now it feels like, okay, so it sounds like according to research, I am actually a pretty ideal employee … but it doesn’t matter because there’s just no way to get a job without going through an interview.

I wish that all jobs had a, like, apprenticeship interview option. A working interview, I guess–something where I could go in and just work for a day or two, or a week, and they could see how I perform and adjust. Like, they could provide a low-level project and be like, “Complete this objective by X time,” and release the candidate to see how they perform.

Who do they approach with questions? What do they do, immersed in an unfamiliar environment and given a task to complete? How do they handle/ adjust to the unfamiliar computer system in the office?

See, that I could actually do.

But to go into a room full of strangers and convince them I’m awesome? Nah.

Drifting for a focus

I dunno what to do in this space. 

I’m kinda exhausted with political rants, and I don’t really feel, I dunno, super qualified/ enthusiastic about regular pop culture type reviews. 

For a while, it was like a journal that happened to be online, and among other things I used it as a space to think out loud and work through interpersonal issues where every other avenue of conversation/ resolution had been shut down.

But recently I’ve come to realize those individuals/ disagreements are really just situations I’d rather leave behind and forget. Purge and prune from the blog; erase the words and memories. 

My favorite thing to write/ talk about is often psychology/ neuroscience and the ways it can intersect with environment. The whys of human behavior … but I usually end up there when trying to figure out why so-n-so did thus n such inexplicable thing, and that leads me back to the things I’d rather forget. I suppose its a form of editing the past. 

I used to think that was dishonest. Now I realize its nature’s default, and that’s good. I think a side effect of forgetting is relationship preservation, because its harder to nurse a tiny stupid grudge without being able to revisit the record of it. It’s harder to mull it over and get pulled down into a dark spiral contemplating the wrongs been done to you. Not impossible, but harder. In this way, the frailty of memory is a gift that allows us to mend fences, move on, and forgive. 

But records and bookkeeping were developed to augment our faulty memories–to facilitate storage and trade, banking and sales. The first written records were of grain storage, but soon poetry, scripture, and literature followed–and, of course, graffiti. Memories to outlast a fickle hearts, and even survive the passing of transient flesh. 

In Pompeii, a lovelorn (or spiteful) youth wrote, “Marcellus Praenestinam amat et non curator,” on the wall of a house, which translates to, “Marcellus loves Praenestinam, but she doesn’t care for him.”

Did Marcellus write it? Praenestinam? A jealous rival hoping to sow discord with the happy couple? Who knows. All we know, centuries down the line, is that someone, at some point, linked the names of Marcellus and Praenestinam in a single sentence that paints a familiar story of love, longing, and rejection, regardless of the actual truth of the situation.

I was explaining to my husband the other day that I take photographs as memories, because my memory stutters so unreliably. I cannot recollect the sound of my mother’s laughter, or the sound of her voice, because I have no recordings of them. 

For me, the tangible evidence of love–photographs, art, letters, texts, recordings, etc– is the most precious, because that is the love an individual has prepared and curated through a lifetime to comfort those who grieve through their loss. 

It is a distinct sort of heartbreak and tragedy to me when the record a person spends a lifetime curating of themselves is filled with impatience, cruelty, demands, insults, reproach, vitriol, mockery, and unkindness. 

I have a few such texts and emails stored in the cloud; reminders of long-forgotten disagreements resulting in longer silences and schisms. Sometimes I re-read them, my heart clenching, and wonder if these will be the words that always define the relationship–if the golden warmth of sunny afternoons, shared laughter, and smiles will inevitably fade into to ashes and dust under the cold, black and white reality of insults on a glowing screen.

I have some creative writing pieces, artwork, letters, and stuff– memories I’ve created, collected, and hoarded over the years, but never organized. I’m kinda thinking that instead of spending time writing entries, I might just start scanning and uploading shit, or copy/pasting old creative writing projects from Dropbox. I dunno. 

If I did, I’d probably schedule those posts for Thursdays. 

Happy New Year & 2016 Reading Challenge Review

In January 2016, I challenged myself to complete the following list.  I finished 1-4 and #6 by June … so how’d I do on the rest?

  1. A book published this year– Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. A book you can finish in a day (done — Married with Zombies)
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read (done — Outlander)
  4. A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller — The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (recommended at a Scholastic Book Fair a few years ago and on my list ever since. Finally read it.)
  5. A book you should have read in school.
  6. A book chosen for you by a spouse/ sibling/ child/ parent — kind of cheating, but we jokingly call DJ my sister-wife, so yeah. She recommended it, I finally read it. The Gunslinger, first Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.
  7. A book published before you were born. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  8. A book that was banned at some point. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  9. A book you previously abandoned. 
  10. A book you own but have never read.
  11. A book that intimidates you.
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain and Power & Constraint by Jack Goldsmith

Yeah, I totally cheated with Huckleberry Finn. Basically, I re-read it in early fall partly because I read something about some previously unknown and utterly complete (edited and everything) published works of Mark Twain that were rediscovered, which got me looking to read some other Mark Twain stuff (actually started looking for his satire about the Garden of Eden), but then I read an article about Huck Finn being banned in a school for use of the n-word and I was like ummmm. Its been a while since I read that, but I’m pretty sure its a) era appropriate, being written in that era and all, and b) Twain is vehemently anti-slavery. Context matters.

Five, nine, ten, and eleven I didn’t complete.

Five, because its hard to think of a book I “should” have read in school and did not– I read every book I was assigned, which kinda just leaves me in the grayer area of reading lists where I was allowed to select amongst a variety of texts, or perceived failures in literary education.

Nine, because its only been in the past five years or so (after I read Twilight and Women are from Venus, Men are From Mars) that I started actually putting books down when I thought they were garbage and walking the fuck away, which is super freeing. For years I had this weird compulsion that I like had to finish every book I started no matter what, and now I’m like, why? If the book is balls, why?

Ten, I have no excuse for. I have a to-read pile of books I own but haven’t read that were either gifted to me, picked up from a free bin, or I purchased on a whim at a used book shop … and yet, somehow, I went and purchased best-selling series by Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu instead of reading any of those books. No excuse.

Eleven I didn’t complete because–like five–I was having difficulty coming up with a candidate I was interested in reading. I suppose that’s the point of an intimidating read? That they’re intimidating, not interesting? But I just feel like reading is for enjoyment, enrichment, and education, not punishment.

I don’t mind reading things that are complex or difficult, but I do want to at least be interested by the writing and material, no matter how intimidating the topic. Its a fairly low bar.

So with that criteria in mind, I find myself at a loss for intimidating reads. I enjoy reading academic nonfiction, which some people have reacted to as unusual, maybe not their choice? Like, after I re-read Power and Constraint and discussed it in unbook club, the reaction was, “A book on law and policy in the White House? Um, sounds … interesting …. ,” in a tone of voice that indicates it sounds the opposite of interesting and more like an awful chore. Which is interesting to me, because that’s how I view, say, Infinite Jest or anything by Tolstoy.

I enjoy fiction, and believe fiction is a useful and necessary medium in which to distill larger cultural stories about ourselves–but I hate slogging through emotionally draining, dense, psychologically complex, unentertaining fiction. I’d much rather read about law and government policy, haha.

Don’t get me wrong: I can enjoy emotionally draining and psychologically complex fictional pieces. I just prefer them short instead of long and dense, and most of all interesting. More Of Mice & Men than Moby Dick. So I did have trouble coming up with an option for number eleven, I dunno.

games n stories

Xmas with family was fun. Different– haven’t spent xmas with the in-laws for well over a decade– but fun. Really fun.

We’ve been doing this family game night thing with them about once or twice a month, when our husbands days off align. 

Honestly, I’d probably go down more often on my own during weekdays just to hang with my sil if writing time wasn’t so dear, because she’s peaceful and soothing to be around, but its hard to find the stretches of silence I need to write in peace. So when people (husband and kiddo) are gone, I’m writing, and when they’re home, I’m doing chores or cooking or errands or whatever. 

All told, with the way kiddos school schedule and husband’s work schedule overlap, I think I usually get an average of about 16 hours of time with the house to myself while husband is at work and kiddo us at school. Their hours overlap, but imperfectly. I used to spend that time doing chores and shit, or socializing with friends, so the remaining 152 hours in the week could be straight family and sleep time. Lately, though, I’ve gotten a little selfish and have shifted doing most chores to when they’re home so I can steal some time for myself. 

Socializing is, admittedly, tending to drop by the wayside altogether. It either cuts into writing time or family time, and either way creates misery and resentment (external or internal). 

Another reason I treasure family game nights: socializing.

So xmas was like family game night on steroids: We played Pandemic, Superfight, and Munchkin Apocalypse (Sheep Impact). 

Usually, we only get in one, maybe two games! Admittedly, we were kinda punch-drunk/ trash-talky aggressive by the end of Munchkin Apocalypse, and Kiddo had to be dealt out of the game because he literally fell asleep at the table, but still. We got three games in!

It was pretty fun. We’d actually opened our gifts at home on xmas eve, starting at midnight, and played Superfight around 3 am. Then husband and I played Pandemic twice that afternoon before coaxing Kiddo out for a round of Star Trek Catan (I won), so it was good because we were all familiar with the rules.

Its kinda funny. So, I used to hate board games growing up (probably for all the same reasons my son hates them now: repetitiveness, lack of plot, forced interaction, losing), but as an adult I find myself preferring them to video games. 

Mostly because my preferred video games are, like, fucking nonexistent– I want multiplayer couch co-op action adventure RPGs like the old Baldur’s Gate I & II,  Champions of Norrath, Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, etc etc. I mean, the Dragon Age‘s were good and all, but they aren’t multiplayer couch co-op! Sacred was okay, but the world was too sprawling; too open. Not a tightly focused enough plot. Didn’t play Elder Scrolls because its not couch co-op, and there’s a specific reason I want couch co-op: to play games with my family. My son and husband. We did play Diablo 3 for a bit, but we finished it and now its just boooooring and repetitive. Same old scenery, same old fights, same old things. Nothing new. Nothing interesting. No plots. Sometimes we play Helldivers or Magika 2, but unfortunately friendly fire is not a menu option but a game default, which is annoying.

So, basically, we’ve played fewer and fewer video games in this house over the years as fewer and fewer couch co-op are available. But then we discovered (rediscovered?) board games, and in the past two years, have accrued: 

  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Clue
  • D&D 5 Starter Set
  • Exploding Kittens
  • Gloom
  • Munchkin
  • Munchkin Apocalypse
  • Munchkin Fu
  • Munchkin Game Changers
  • Munchkin Gloom
  • Munchkin card expansions (6)
  • Munchkin meeples
  • Munchkin Sheep Impact
  • Pandemic
  • Seafall
  • Settlers of Catan (3-4 players)
  • SoC Cities and Knights expansion
  • SoC expansion for 5-6 players
  • SoC Seafarers expansion
  • SoC Star Trek
  • Superfight

And I loooove playing board games. I even download apps when I can to play against the computer (totally guilty of this with Catan) and improve my technique.

I love sitting around the table with friends, drinking and bullshitting and trash talking while we play. I love the friendly conversation and friendly competition. I love that every board setup changes the game a little. I love the different game styles. 

But mostly, I love that we do them together–something I can no longer find with my preferred video game genre, where game developers have apparently decided gamers are all a bunch of lonely single friendless nerds who can only find people to game with online, so why bother including couch co-op?

What’s funny is, I’ve noticed a difference in my husband and my gaming style that was never evident when playing video games, since video games handle the worldbuilding and rules for you. I guess, in retrospect, there were signs, but barely noticeable–the way I always wanted to skip the tutorial, if possible, and plunge straight into the plot (I hated skipping dialogue or cut scenes, though), while my husband wanted to proceed through the tutorial. The way I didn’t care if I died a few times charging too enthusiastically into early battles, while my husband wanted to proceed with caution and a plan.

Now, as we play board games, the differences in our gaming approach are starker, more noticeable. 

Here’s me on unwrapping a board game: Tear off plastic, unpack board and packaged pieces, set things up according to instinct/ best guess. Skim rule book. Adjust board/ pieces according to setup instructions. Start playing, occasionally consulting rulebook as questions arise, or shrugging and creating “house rules” until we “figure it out”.

Here’s my husband: before opening game, he watches a YouTube review/ tutorial on game. Then, he carefully unpacks all packaged pieces, board, and the rule book. He begins to read rulebook in its entirety, but gets distracted by the section on setting up board. He starts setting up board and game pieces. 

At this point, thinking this is the signal to play, I drift over to table … and husband begins to explain the board, pieces, setup, and rules in detail to me. For what feels like an hour, I twitch with impatience and try to pretend I’m paying attention or remembering anything he’s saying, and then we finally, finally start to play the game … except he keeps checking the rules to make sure we’re doing it right, and if the rulebook is unclear, he will google and YouTube the question until its clarified. 

Also, any time a novice to the game joins us, my attitude is: throw em in, they’ll learn to swim. We will explain as we go. No point telling them a bunch of information without context.

My husband prefers to give novices a complete rundown of the rules, rule deviations, and point structure–complete with strategy tips.

So, like, when we play Catan with a newbie, my preference is to guide them to a good setup, with (depending on personality) a brief explanation: You can’t build shit without these resources. These numbers tend to roll more frequently. Build here. 

I figure as we play the game, the role of roads, settlements, etc will become self-evident.

But my husband prefers to go into detail, explaining the necessity of roads to settlements, and settlements to cities. Then he’ll go into detail about the roll probability, and what the dots by the numbers mean. Then he’ll discuss potential strategies taking this data into account.

And meanwhile, I’m twitching impatiently and eyeballing the board for my top six choices of potential starting placement (you only get two starting settlements, but I always choose six on the map I’ll settle for, because odds are one or more of the others is going to fuck you with their placement and you need a backup), and then everyone yells at me for winning again and I’m thinking well if I didn’t have so long to plot!

Xmas

​I admit to a certain amount of seasonal depression around the holidays, regardless. This was my mom’s favorite time of year–maybe it has to do with her absence. 

Or maybe that as an atheist adult, the “reason for the season,” I was indoctrinated with as a child doesn’t apply, so everything feels a bit hollow.

Or maybe its just everything going on. Facism on the rise, climate change, etc etc. The ending of all things. 

Maybe its just that I’m sick and have a black eye and my face is broken out with acne, so I feel miserable and icky. The polar vortex has returned, granting us a winter of freezing rains and occasional snows, dominated by heavy grey skies, and I find myself feeling unaccountably lonely despite being surrounded by family and friends. My son speaks of video games, my husband speaks of squidding, and my friends are busy with work. After the conversation about their interests peters out, I ask what books they are reading. My son is too busy with games and school to read. My husband does not like to read. My friends are generally too busy with work to read, so I find myself with few outlets to discuss reading or writing.

We opened gifts yesterday, because we’re going to spend today with family. My husband, as usual, eschewed making a gift list, while Kiddo and I both provided them. Kiddos’ was predictable: video games, Star Wars stuff, Legos.

Mine was pretty simple, I think, with both generic and specific options: Nook Glowlight, B&N membership & gift cards, blank journals, Star Trek Catan, some specific book titles, or jewelry (I have two types of jewelry: homemade/ everyday, or fancy/ special occasion, but girlshly delicate and youthful). A Starbucks or Forza coffee card would’ve been welcome as well, or Shari’s or something. Something where I could treat myself and go out to eat instead of dealing with the hassle of prep and cook and cleaning up after myself.

John got a ThinkGeek toolkit for taking apart electronics, a 21st anniversary bottle of Plantation rum, an air chuck set, a screwdriver set, two board games (Munchkin and Pandemic), some Munchkin expansion card sets, a rabbit fur lined waterproof hat to wear squidding, and the Borderlands Handsome Jack Collection to play with Kiddo. And a book from my dad.

Kiddo got four PS4 games, a $50 Steam gift card, two Lego sets, a bunch of collectable poseable figures (Doctor Who and Star Wars), some comic books and graphic novels, some Munchkin card add-ons, and a 3D modeling set (only thing off-list, and I don’t think he’s opened it yet).

I also got some Munchkin card add-ons. Hilariously, Kiddo apparently had forgotten about the shopping trip we’d gone on a month or so earlier, and had carefully and lovingly selected for me exact repeats of several card expansion sets we’d picked out his dad. I also got an automatic egg cooker and some baking supplies, which was unexpected but thoughtful. My baking supplies are showing wear from overuse, and when I hard-boil eggs in a pan, I do tend to walk away and forget them. And I got the Nook Glowlight and Star Trek Catan! Yay! I also got one set of Munchkin cards that wasn’t a repeat (I wrapped them and put them in my stocking myself–shhhh!).

So that’s this solstice. We’re heading out to spend the rest of the day with family in an hour or so. 

Becoming feminist was my exit from the gender wars

​I read this New York Times article, What Women Really Think of Men. Apparently Trump gave a speech to a group of men in Cincinnati and told the listening crowd that women hate them. The author of the article then went around talking to a bunch of women to gather their thoughts on men.

For myself, I actually began identifying as feminist after I realized being a feminist did not mean hating men.

Growing up LDS in the liberal PNW, I was surrounded by men in leadership positions at home and church–a message reinforced on the national stage through the Bush-Clinton-Bush regimes. I did have female principals/ vice principals in my schools. 

The media that shaped my youth was a kind of interesting blend of Mormon and 90s  grrl-power pop culture (slightly limited by my  lack of access to cable TV). I watched Mormon films like Saturday’s WarriorLegacy, and God’s Army, but also loved anything Baz Luhrman or with Winona Ryder, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Claire Danes. I didn’t have cable TV at home, but I watched Daria or My So-Called Life or Ally McBeal at friends houses, or when I babysat–and shows like Friends, Star Trek: Voyager, and Stargate were on network television, all with women in leadership roles. I read Mormon authors like Jack Weyland and Chris Heimerdinger, but preferred authors like Patrica C. WredeDavid & Leigh EddingsAnn Rinaldi, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. My music was an eclectic selection of EFY music, Broadway soundtracks, and 90s Top 40 Hits by the likes of Nirvana, Alanis Morrissette, Meredith Brooks, TLC and the Spice Girls. 

I didn’t doubt that women were perfectly capable of handling shit, is what I’m saying. I saw it all around me, at home and church and school, and reinforced by pop culture. Women handled shit constantly. Hell, my mom was Relief Society President. And there was always a woman available at the annual General Conference sessions to lead the prayer or give a speech– I knew perfectly well women could do any job a man could do, when called on.

That was the key, though. “When called on.” I didn’t question that growing up; that implicit idea of women waiting in the wings to be called on. If I thought about it, for a long time, I just thought of it as the natural order of things. 

Men were the leaders, movers, and shapers. Women cleaned up the messes they made. It was how things worked, and this was a message largely supported by both my explicitly anti-feminist/ pro-woman LDS upbringing and the pop culture here power feminism of the 90s.

At church and home, I was taught that while men and women were not equal, they weren’t unequal–the genders were complementary, like pieces of a puzzle. The whole picture wasn’t clear without the contribution of both male and female. Alone, each gender was weak, but combined, their innate qualities interweave to support and enhance one another’s strengths in a sort of coupled allspark of awesomeness. 

That’s why getting a college education was always cast as secondary in importance to marriage and motherhood– because, for women, the only role a college degree was supposed to play was emergency credential to secure work in the event I was abandoned or widowed. Pretty much every LDS woman in my ward, including my mom, had at least a BA, knew a second language, and was well-travelled. My role models were educated, literate, intelligent women who’d chosen to give up careers in order to stay at home and raise children and take care of their husbands.

The secular support for this message started filtering in through language and messenging like, “Boys will be boys,” and “Boys are incompetent,” and, “What else would you expect from a boy?” from the David and Leigh Eddings books.

See, my parents disapproved of TV shows like RoseanneMarried With Children, and Dinosaurs — even early seasons of The Simpsons — because of the disrespectful language and attitudes. So unlike a lot of people my age, I pretty much didn’t see those shows until they came out on Netflix–and those shows have a lot of that sort of mocking, “boys are so stupid, hurr hurr hurr” narrative. 

So the Eddings series are really the first thing I really strongly remember reading and feeling unsettled about the gender dynamics, and I couldn’t put my finger on why, exactly. The women were smart, beautiful, funny and powerful, which seemed like it should  appeal to me … but they way they spoke about and to the male characters was off-putting. 

The men were Kings, sorcerers, warriors, guild leaders, etc., and generally presented as the “face” of power, while the queen/ sorceress/ etc. women tended more to, “power behind the throne,” types–the wives, sisters, and relatives advising the male rulers. So these men are supposed to be people they trust, love, and respect … but the women are trading jokes right in front of the poor bastards about how they’re incompetent, emotionally stunted toddlers? And the guys just laugh along? 

It was really strange and off-putting to me. A similar gender dynamic (as well as publication schedule issues) ruined The Wheel of Time for me. I gave up on that series around book 7 and never returned.

Even though the disrespectful language between genders bothered me, I didn’t really have a framework for why, or what exactly was wrong with it/ why it had to do with gender and not just basic respect. When I tried to talk about it with friends or family, my words seem to get all twisted up. Everyone mostly seemed to agree it wasn’t right or fair, and more than a few blamed feminism–that women wanted to put men down.

That didn’t feel quite right either, because I was a woman and I didn’t want to put men down … but I was also no feminist, and I didn’t want anyone to mistake me for one, so I just kind of shut up and shoved the matter aside. Adjusted.

The next escalation in gendered language was in my 20s. I married at 21 and had our son a year later, and there are a lot of things about being a newlywed and young parent that are scary and isolating. Luckily, I chose a partner who–much like the example given to me by my father and brothers–has always been an active parental and household presence with a strong  emotional investment in his family.  

However, it seemed in that I was alone in that, as I learned from the tenor of conversations peppering womens spaces: those moments before and after Relief Society classes; the lobby where we soothed crying babies; the nursing rooms mothers retreat to feed infants in privacy; the carpool Visiting Teaching partners chat in as they drive from one house to the next; the quiet chatter overlaying an Enrichment meeting activities; the bustling kitchen or cleanup at a ward activity.

As married women and mother, I suddenly gained entry into a conversation I hadn’t realized was happening. 

Like, a man would bustle self importantly into the kitchen to check on the proceedings, and his wife, smiling, would offer up her cheek for a kiss. He’d look around at the flock of women a bit bashfully, say hello. They’d chorus a polite greeting, and he’d leave a bit later.

“How sweet,” one would say, and someone else would agree, and someone might giggle. When I was an unmarried teenager and child, that was it. Maybe a remark about how he means well or something. But as a wife/ mom … if there are no little pitchers with big spouts present, then once that husband exits the snark starts, with husband kitchen mishap stories galores.  

Sometimes the men start these themselves, as a self-deprecating illustration of how reliant they are on the women: they’ll appear in the kitchen to check on the proceedings, announce they don’t really understand what they’re looking at, share a kitchen mishap story in which their wife saved the day, and leave. In their wake, the other women begin to share stories of their menfolk malfunctioning in the kitchen, and from there, around the house.

I was always silent because although I like to bake and cook and am generally good at it, I am also the kitchen malfunction in my house. I am the one who blows up eggs in the microwave and pyrex pans on the stovetop. I’m a regular Spoke St. James. My husband and dad both, in contrast, have decades of successfully preparing meals without once destroying the kitchen.

Or we’d be working on a craft in an Enrichment meeting, and one woman would ask another how her baby was sleeping/ feeding/ teething. She’d answer, usually complaining about how baby is effecting her sleep and voicing the desire for more help from her husband–wishing he’d take some night feedings, or a few loads of laundry, or changing some diapers.

From around the room would come a murmur of commiseration, and women of all ages would start sharing anecdotes about unhelpful husbands, sons, and sons-in-laws. 

Men who juggled the Bishopric duties of running a congregation and work associated with a successful business, but couldn’t figure out how to wash laundry without staining the entire load red. 

Men held up as spiritual advisors, who were incapable of soothing a fussy infant. 

Men who negotiated important business deals, but were overwhelmed to tantrums by simple household tasks like remembering to put their dirty laundry in the hamper.

Over time, I noticed all the anecdotes of unhelpful men shared a common theme: It wasn’t that men didn’t want to help. It was that they would just create a bigger mess in the process, and the women always had to clean up after them anyway. 

I was pretty offended on behalf of all these guys– guys like my dad and brothers and husband. I mean, these were guys who were leaders in the church, holding successful jobs, but they’re being talked about like they couldn’t read a recipe, or figure out how to put laundry in a hamper without oversight, or watch their own kids. 

For fucks sake, “people skills,” is just a business buzzword for the same personality and skillset as a, “caregiver personality”! 

I never knew what to say at these moments. I didn’t want to kvetch about my husband–I didn’t have much to complain about, and didn’t want to make up lies. Besides, it felt disloyal and petty, not to mention undermining to the relationship. At the same time, it seemed to be an expected social bonding ritual, and I quickly learned that praising your spouse threw off the rhythm of the group and made things weird.

It bothered me–not only in terms of my own relationship, but for the son I was raising. I wanted better for him. I wanted him to grow up and marry a partner who wouldn’t secretly despise him. 

This couldn’t be blamed on feminism, because these women were definitely not feminists. Feminism wasn’t exactly a regular topic of discussion, and certainly not feminist philosophy, but if it was brought up by way of politics or pop culture, the general distaste toward it was clear. Wrinkled noses, frowns, voiced expressions of disapproval and non-support.

I quit attending church when I was about 24, for mostly unrelated reasons. Three years later, I took a college class called Women in Literature. On the first day, we were asked whether or not we were feminists and why or why not. 

I said no, I wasn’t–that I was pro-choice, and I thought it was great women could vote and all, but I liked men too much to be a feminist.

Somehow, my teacher kept a smile on her face.

By the end of the semester, I’d revised my answer. I now understood what feminism really was–the fight to dismantle the patriarchy; a social construct that, like a spiderweb, traps and limits all genders within the insidious and limited boundaries of its expectations. 

Feminism isn’t about “picking a side,” in the war between between men’s rights or womens rights, like everyone had been telling me my whole life. It was never about choosing between standing up and demanding respect for myself and my sisters or throwing my support behind my son, my husband, my brothers, my dad–I just thought it was. 

Up until then, I’d bought into the messenging that there was a gender war with feminism was on one side, so I thought if I said, “Yes, me too,” then I was saying no to my son and husband and all the wonderful men who’d supported and loved and respected me. 

But after that class, I realized the only “armies” in the gender war are people buying into the gender divide–and judging by their language and expectations of male behavior, a lot of the women who despise men the most aren’t feminists at all, but conservative religious women.

I also came to realize all those stories about household male incompetence? They don’t really believe it. Neither of them. Its just a way for disempowered women to hold onto what powers and spaces they are allowed, and the men in their lives to get out of doing the chores literally everybody fucking hates.

If you can read and do basic math, you can cook, do laundry, and every other household chore. And if you have the people skills to make it in politics or business, you have the skills necessary to take care children–who, after all, are just tiny people. Men like Trump know this–they think they’re throwing women a bone.

And women like Ivanka and Melania and Kellyann Conway have been taught their whole lives that men are all like Trump, and to be ready to sweep in and clean up after their messes when the men inevitably screw up, and they believe it. They buy the narrative that behind every powerful man is a woman, waiting in the wings to handle things before stepping back to let him take credit, because “a real man” can’t handle the blow to his ego presented by a competent woman.

Feminism is acknowledging that gender is a bullshit social construct used throughout history to create, enforce, and maintain inequality–but really, we’re all equally capable and in this together, so we should stop tearing each other down. 

Women aren’t naive ingénues who faint when confronted by politics, war, economics, or hard labor; and men aren’t weak little babies incapable of adulting, emotional depth, maturity, or accepting criticism. 

Tech joys and woes

I finally got a new phone to replace my malfunctioning Galaxy Note 4.

Basically, my Galaxy Note 4–which I got on a plan upgrade in Spring 2015 because of the 8 hr battery life and positive reviews–has spent the past year slowly crapping out on me until it got to the point it was dying after 45 minutes while showing a 67% charge. 

This is despite two new batteries, a factory reset and cache wipe, and even shelling out $50 through my warranty replacement option to get a completely new device.

The warranty reps say its probably a logic board issue. Apparently if a phone is ever dropped–ever, even just a teensy little tumble from bed to floor–it causes small impacts which might show no external body damage, but will jar and misalign internal components, causing long term logic board issues and battery drain.

I dunno. I mean, I’m not a designer, but that seems like kind of a major design flaw for a portable device intended to be carried everywhere. Honestly, it always kinda seemed to me like some sort of built-in obsolescence effect gone mad, but what the hell do I know?

Anyway, after the warranty replacement device didn’t perform any better (worse, actually) than the ones it was replacing, they offered to reimburse me for the market value of the device, which is great, but also not a lot of money when you’re looking at replacing a phone mid-contract.

Technically, I’m not eligible for a subsidized phone upgrade under the contract terms for another 6 months or so. 

There is an upgrade eligibility currently on offer … but it changes the terms of the contract and thereby increases oir rates and decreases our data access,  as the plan we’re on is no longer offered by the company. We’ve grandfathered it in solely through our annual contract upgrades. 

So if I took advantage of that option, I might get brand new phone for very little out of pocket up front, but we’d pay so much more in the long run. Plus, none of the new devices appeal to me. I figured I’d probably get something used off Amazon or Craigslist, like we had for our son when Destructo slapped his phone from his hand; or maybe I’d dig up an old phone out of the garage or something.

Then I remembered out-of-contract devices exist, and did some research on those. Told my husband I was thinking of getting the basic Moto G4 for like $150, and the next thing I know he’s got the customization website up and I spent a little more than $150, haha. But its beautiful, and still way more affordable than buying a non-subsidized phone from the carrier.

Of course, now I get to go through the replace my device under contract. 

Lucky me, I’ve already had experience with that, and let me tell you, it is a HASSLE. 

Sprint has a section on their website for customers to switch to a new device, so theoretically I should be able to complete this task online in 5 minutes without talking to a customer service agent, right?

Wrong.

I’ve had to switch two in-contract devices on the plan, and its been a nightmare both times. They were even the same models of device!

My son has a Samsung Sport S5. About a month ago, he was showing his friends some videogame review on YouTube at lunch, and when the video ended a kid I can only call Destructo randomly slapped the phone, knocking it from his hand and destroying it. Screen shattered, body cracked–$200 worth of damage, for no goddamn reason.

I waited like a week for the parents to contact me, because if my kid randomly destroyed $200 of private property, you know for goddamn sure I’d call to have him apologize and offer to work off costs, and if I could afford it I’d also offer to cover at least partial costs. I understand not everyone can afford that, but damn. At least fucking call.

A week and not a whisper, so I contact the school. Yadda yadda yadda, this happened on this date, these kids were witnesses, my son spoke with these teachers and showed them the damaged phone. Would like the parents to contact me. The VP calls me later that day, says he spoke to Destructo, who totally copped to it–apparently he asked the kid,”Did you break (son’s) phone?” and the kid just broke down sobbing. 

Feels terrible, doesn’t know why he did it, said it was total impulse and a random,  spur of the moment action. I was like great … has he tried apologizing? VP said he’d suggested that, too, and he thought Destructo was probably going to seek out my son today.

Nope. Not a whisper. In fact, from what my kid tells me, Destructo has steadfastly avoided him since smashing the phone–which I get; he’s a freshman in high school, and modern teenage boys aren’t exactly known for being taught skills in managing emotions like impulsivity, guilt, or regret. I feel bad for him, and pissed at his parents–who still haven’t contacted us.

I don’t think they will. Destructo learned his attitude toward personal property from somewhere.

Anyway, so I had to shell out $189 for a refurbished Samsung Sport S5 on Amazon to replace that one, which wasn’t warrantied because when we bought it, it was only $45 with plan upgrade, so paying an extra $100 or so for a warranty with a $50 device replacement fee seemed kinda pointless, since that’s basically $200 for a replacement device in the end, anyway. Besides, we figured our son is pretty responsible, so it’d be fine.

We just didn’t account for his peers.

Anyway. Point is, same model of device, same number, same contract. Tried to transfer to the new device, activating the old SIM in the new device, and it just freaked out. 

We had to call the rep to unlock the SIM (which shouldn’t even be a thing), and that didn’t even fix it–months later, the phone still isn’t connecting properly.

Same thing happened with my refurbished Galaxy Note 4. I tried to activate the new device on the account using the Sprint website–deactivated the old device, entered the IMEI number, selected the option to use my old SIM card and … kaput. Freak out. Had to contact customer service to, essentially, unlock my SIM card.

At that point, I didn’t really think anything of these issues, aside from them being a pain in the ass. 

But then I ordered my Moto G4, which numerous tech websites noted is compatible with the Galaxy Note 4 microSIM card. The Moto G4 also apparently comes with an adapter for nanoSIM cards, so that’s cool.

So the Moto G4 arrived yesterday (a day early!) and I’m all like ooooooh my shiny new and pretty toy is here, I am so happy! Immediately go onto the Sprint website to deactivate my old broke shit so I can send that defective crap away and enjoy a working fucking phone again … and they won’t let me use my old SIM card. 

So I contact customer service who, bafflingly, insists SIM cards are device specific, and physically cannot work in devices they’re not made for–as in, the microSIM used in the Galaxy Note 4 might fit in a Moto G4, but it won’t work in said device because it wasn’t designed for the Moto G4.

This is baffling because the purpose of a SIM card is to determine which network to connect to and act as login credentials for the users device. 

Ironically, SIM cards should make activating a new device on an account easier, not harder, because all the subscriber data is the card–I should be able to pop it into the new device and be good to go. 

But that grandfathered contract is the sticking point. It’s a really good deal and there’s no equivalent on any of the networks. Once we’re forced out of this particular contract, we’re probably going no-contract, unless some huge changes happen. 

For right now, though, we are locked into a two year upgrade contract, with all the restrictions, controls, and limitations attendant to that–including, it seems, our carrier locking our SIM cards.

Anyway, I responded to the rep with basically, “Uh … what? That makes no sense,” and she kept repeating this nonsense about how the size of the SIM was irrelevant because it had been designed for the Galaxy Note 4, and was therefore physically incompatible with the Moto G4. After some back and forth, she tells me Sprint will mail me a free replacement SIM, or I can pick one up at the corporate store.

Yay, wait a week to use my phone? I’ll go to the corporate store.

So we popped into the corporate store, where I was approached by a cheery  contract specialist who wanted to know how he could help me. I explained I wanted to pick up a Sprint SIM and activate my Moto G4 on my contract … and he said, “Moto G4? That’s not one of ours, is it? I don’t think we’re allowed to do that.”

“Yes, you can,” I said, at the same time as my husband. He ignored us, asking one of the tech specialists, “We can’t activate a Moto G4 on our network, can we? That’s not allowed?”

The tech specialist, who had headphones in, shook his head, and the contract specialist turned to us with an expression of commiseration and started to say, “I’m so sorry about that,” when he was interrupted by another guy coming from a back room.

“Moto G4? Yeah, I think we can activate those. We should be able to–although we are running low on SIM cards.”

The new guy was introduced as a tech specialist as well, and we were passed off to him. I explained my issue trying to transfer the SIM from my Note to Moto, and he clucked his tongue sympathetically. “Yeah, the SIMs are model specific, so it wouldn’t work. You’re not gonna be able to run, say, even a Moto Plus SIM in this phone. They’re just not designed that way anymore.”

“Really,” said my husband flatly. “Because we had trouble transferring SIM cards between devices that were the exact same model.”

“What? Really? That shouldn’t have happened,” he said, looking up from his computer. A faint cloud of dismay temporarily dimmed the round, beaming sun of his childlike expression as he considered the puzzle, and then his retail smile returned full force as he dismissed the concern to wherever such banished questions go. “Well, here we go! I just need your phone?”

I handed him my new phone, and he exclaimed admiringly over the customization (I had the red back engraved with the quote,”Love is a verb”), then asked as he scanned the IMEI and HEX codes by the battery,”And did you say this was the Moto G4, or the Moto G4 Plus?”

Before I could answer, my husband said,”Moto G4 Plus.”

Amused, I didn’t correct him.

The tech, while still nattering on with the same canned explanations the Sprint rep on the phone had given about how modern SIM cards are designed specifically for each unique model line and are not interchangeable, pulled a SIM card from a drawer labeled Moto G4 Plus and registered it to my Moto G4, then handed us off to the contract specialist, who inserted the SIM and activated my phone.

I keep reminding myself its not their fault. You get what you pay for, and the retail sector is so rife with employers who pay minimum/ substandard wages, combined with the stress of shitty and unreliable hours and poor scheduling notifications–not to mention the lack of decent benefits, or often any benefits at all–that its no wonder I’m regularly presented with employees wearing tags that declare them a specialist in a subject they clearly have no knowledge, interest, or training in. Its not their fault; its the employer for not investing in them.

It is still frustrating.