Friday, December 29, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/29/17)

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when scientific journals decide to be funny: Scientists simulate the climate of Game of Thrones

Very important journalism: Who’s the Sexiest Onscreen JFK?

I had actually wondered about this for years: Investigating the Titanic Fan Fic in the "Oops!... I Did It Again" Video

Some New Year's inspiration: The Ghosts of Parties Past

2017 In Review: The Year in Wills & Kate

Some Older Books I Liked in 2017!

I feel badly that new books get all the attention and then I feel guilty for not reading them all in time to make an annual list and HEY, I'm giving you some of my favorite older books I read for the first time this year, too.

Classic literature:
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Contemporary literature:
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carre
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters
Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (and several of that series leading up to it)

Speculative fiction:
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Historical fiction:
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Historical romance:
In for a Penny by Rose Lerner

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

Morning Coffee (12/29/17)

Time for the last happy Friday links of 2017!

AWW: Twitter appeal reunites man with pay packet he left in London pub

!!! Men Who Have Been Best Friends Since 6th Grade Discover They Are Actually Half-Brothers

LET'S GO: How Britain’s finest stately homes do Christmas decorations

Ooh, I love black and white drinks: Starbucks Reveals New Drinks For New Year's Eve

I'd try this: Dunkin’ Donuts Is Officially Making a Coffee-Inspired Beer. Here’s How to Get It

Oh, this is fun: New Yorker Holiday Covers Through the Years

Rejoice! For Laura Dern Is Living Her Best Life This Holiday Season With an NBA Player

So many interesting suits: 2017: Your Year in Harry Styles

Watch Two Brothers Build a UFO Gingerbread House

And if that's not enough: Harry Potter: The Burrow Gingerbread House

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/28/17)

How Braids Tell America's Black Hair History

Americans Love Spices. So Why Don't We Grow Them?

John Milton's Strange Christmas Poem

The Delusion That Made Nobles Think Their Bodies Were Made of Glass

Why Millennial Catholics Are Re-Adopting the Traditional Chapel Veil

Weekly Rec: My Top 10 Books of 2017

Whenever I make a list like this, I feel like I first need to point out that many, MANY books came out this year that I just haven't had time to read yet, including several I can think of off the top of my head that I'm pretty sure I'll LOVE. But here are my top ten 2017 books I happened to get to in 2017! They're alphabetical by author. Please read all of them immediately.

Nutcracked by Susan Adrian - A young dancer is pulled into the magical world of The Nutcracker. This is a great blend of fantasy, holiday themes, and interesting character growth.

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg - A messy, imperfect single woman reconsiders her view of adulthood and what she wants out of life as she approaches 40 and her family deals with tragedy. Funnier than I just made it sound.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton - I guess you don't need me to tell you what this is, but I will say that it was more interesting and thought-provoking than I anticipated.

American War by Omar El Akkad - I don't always love dystopians but this was great, especially in the ways it dealt with themes very relevant to our current world while avoiding too-easy analogues or messages.

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins - A Hawaiian teen haunted by her past moves in with her grandmother in Nebraska - where someone starts brutally murdering her classmates. I loved this even though I usually hate horror.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan - This starts out with a "normal" boy leaving for boarding school in a magical world, and then it subverts every single trope you're expecting. Hilarious and feminist.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera - A teen boy struggles to put himself together and figure out who he wants to be in the wake of his ex-boyfriend's death. Beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking and life-affirming.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan - A compelling, funny, moving look at family dynamics and social change, tracing fifty years in the lives and families of young Irish sisters who move to America.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - A stunning novel about a young black girl who witnesses her friend's death at the hands of police and has to decide what to say and do in the aftermath.

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh - The first in a new mystery series about a female medical student in Victorian Edinburgh. Great if you're looking for feminist historical fiction that doesn't idealize the past.

Check back tomorrow for my favorite older books I read for the first time this year! And subscribe to my free tinyletter if you want more of my thoughts on books.

(Join me on Patreon and support more blog posts!)

Morning Coffee (12/28/17)

Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

Oh: Duterte’s Son Quits Post After Battling Daughter on Social Media

!! Tied Virginia Race That Was Headed for Name-Drawing Gets Another Twist

Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options

What a surprise: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been accused of sexual harassment

This sounds normal: Echoing Stalin, House Republican calls for ‘purge’ of the Department of Justice

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 44 percent of Republicans think Trump repealed Obamacare

Heh: New York Removes Old Nuclear Fallout Shelter Signs in Move That Seems Premature

Interesting: Manhattan DA Launches First Antiquities Trafficking Unit

After Mysteriously Disappearing in WWI, Australia’s First Submarine Finally Found

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/27/17)

Thousands Once Spoke His Language in the Amazon. Now, He’s the Only One.

Why Aren’t Fashion ‘Disruptors’ Serving Plus-Size Customers?

The Most Amazing Archival Treasures That Were Digitized This Year

I can't figure out why they don't have a podcast: Why a Maritime Forecast Is So Beloved in the United Kingdom

The Next Bechdel Test

Morning Coffee (12/27/17)

A bit of good news! Measles Deaths Fall to a Record Low Worldwide

Cities sue Defense Dept. over gun-check system failures

I for one am shocked: FBI Software For Analyzing Fingerprints Contains Russian-Made Code, Whistleblowers Say

New York's attorney general has taken his ONE HUNDREDTH ACTION against the Trump administration. Already.

This must be KILLING these racists: White House to cut back magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson

The Roots of Poland’s Defiance of the European Union

Ooooh: Clock Is Ticking on $10 Million Reward in Gardner Art Heist

The Millennia of #MeToo in Mary Beard’s “Women & Power”

I didn't know about this whole saga! Simonetta Puccini, Keeper of the Composer’s Flame, Dies at 89

Inside 'The X-Files' Season 11: Mulder and Scully Take on Their Biggest Mystery Yet

Friday, December 22, 2017


I am not particularly a coffee snob. For regular coffee, I am perfectly happy with my basic Mr. Coffee. But I do like fancy coffee drinks, and wish I could have them more often than the once a week or so I allow myself to go to Starbucks. I haven't had great luck with home espresso machines in the past - particularly because it tends to be difficult to get the milk to froth correctly. (And I do know how - I used to be a barista - so it's not ENTIRELY user error.)

But this fall I visited a friend who had a Nespresso CitiZ and Milk machine and I LOVED it. The milk froths itself! It's incredible! I ordered one for myself on a great Black Friday sale and after a few weeks I am SO PLEASED WITH IT.

I've tried a whole bunch of different blends and kinds of drinks and I'm enjoying it so much. It's even making me into a plain espresso person:

So if you happen to be in the market for one of these, I absolutely recommend this one. It's currently on sale at Amazon, but watch for sales at Williams-Sonoma (and elsewhere? probably!) too!

Afternoon Tea (12/22/17)

How Layers in a Latte Form

This made me want to read a bunch of these books IMMEDIATELY: In Praise of the ‘Career Romance’

Go Fug Yourself rounded up a year in Tatler covers and the best cover lines and it's quite a ride.

Why Monks and Nuns Make So Many Beloved Foods

Ice Skating in New York Has Always Been Magical

Morning Coffee (12/22/17)

Time for some pre-Christmas happy Friday links!

Harry and Meghan’s Engagement Portraits Are Here at Last!

Oooh, trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. So pretty.

I must have this Outrage Lipstick. ($5 from each one goes to the ACLU!)

Ha! Wil Wheaton wore a Star Trek uniform to a screening of Star Wars

Useful holiday information: These Are The Best Under $12 Bubblies, According To Experts

Go Fug Yourself rounded up a bunch of great party purses, which might also be useful to your holiday plans.

Let's ogle the Icehotel in Sweden.

Ooh, books about being snowbound. Most of them involve murder. As they should.

23 Rye Cocktails to Chase Away the Winter Blues

Harry Potter workout clothes!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/21/17)

I'm so excited to read this translation: A Translator's Reckoning with the Women of the Odyssey

Why More Young Black People Are Trading In Church for African Spirituality

Untold Stories of England’s Militant Suffragettes

Malta, Where the West Was Born

Toasting Your Friends Once Involved Actual Toast

Morning Coffee (12/21/17)

I wasn't even going to link to this because I'm sure you've seen but UGH: Sweeping tax overhaul clears Congress

The True Lesson of the Tax Bill: This Country Is for Rich People

China left wondering what ‘America First’ foreign policy actually means

This situation is insane: The one-vote win for Democrats in a Virginia state house race may have just slipped away

In Honduras, Calls Rise for New Presidential Elections

Obviously this made me think "Oh, I should watch Spotlight, that's a good Christmas movie": Bernard Law, Former Archbishop Of Boston, Dies In Rome At 86

A Federal Ban on Making Lethal Viruses Is Lifted

Catt Sadler quits E! News after finding out she made half as much as her male co-host

EU Rules Sorbet Can Use the Champagne Name, Much to the Chagrin of French People

Oooh, Chappaquiddick trailer.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/20/17)

"Murder, Mayhem and Torture" Off the Sunset Strip: The Tragic Story of the Budding Director and His Dead Girlfriend

YEP: The Year That Skin Care Became a Coping Mechanism

How Titanic’s Iconic Necklace Almost Sank an Entire Company

A Glimpse of American History Through the Process of Becoming a Citizen

I'm not sure I quite understood all of this, but it was fascinating: Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics

Morning Coffee (12/20/17)

YOUR VOTE MATTERS: A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia legislature

We’re witnessing the wholesale looting of America

'The future is very dark': Central African Republic's relentless cycle of suffering

Belgium to be first country to post a female ambassador to Saudi Arabia

How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford

Billionaire philanthropists found dead in basement under suspicious circumstances, police say

The Historical Truth-Telling of Arseny Roginsky

Bitcoin never makes any sense to me but this helped a LITTLE: The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust

Aaah, Ocean's 8 trailer! I can't wait.

Whoa: John Legend To Play Jesus In NBC’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!’

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/19/17)

This Time cover story on A Wrinkle in Time is great: Hollywood’s Once and Future Classic

I love this: The book that made me a feminist

How Physicists Recycled WWII Ships and Artillery to Unlock the Mysteries of the Universe

WHAT: Two beers and a Tchaikovsky, please

The sales blog cult of LinkedIn

Morning Coffee (12/19/17)

Europe’s Plan to End Its Migrant Crisis Is Failing

Of course: Trump Administration Dropping Climate Change As National Security Threat

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program

Dahlia Lithwick on Alex Kozinski is an important read: He Made Us All Victims and Accomplices

How the Facebook Sharing Habits of Democrats in Congress Changed After Trump Won

What a headline: Twitter Starts Banning Extremists Under New Rules, Which Exempt Trump

Oh awesome: NASA will screen Star Wars: The Last Jedi for astronauts in space

Safely Ship Your Holiday Cookies With These Tips

Oh, always interesting to see what makes it: War horse grave and Skegness gardens join Historic England list

Astronomers to check interstellar body for signs of alien technology

Monday, December 18, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/18/17)

Heh: Hallmark's Andrew Walker Finds the Christmas Spirit on — Gasp! — Lifetime

I'm very excited for Jasmine Guillory's novel The Wedding Date next month, and here she is talking about her Christmas cookie baking.

A fun interview with the Fug Girls: Meet the Women Who Accidentally Wrote Meghan Markle’s Happily Ever After

Witch Kids of Instagram

Ask a Manager rounded up her book recommendations for the year and there's a lot of fascinating stuff.

How to Plan Your Cookie Baking

Have some cookies to bake this week? Feeling overwhelmed? I MADE YOU A PLAN:

1. Block out your time. Do that FIRST so you can plan realistically. This year I'm taking two vacation days to get my baking (and a few other holiday prep tasks) done, but this method also works for a weekend day or a few weekday evenings or whatever you have.

2. Pick your recipes. I try to have a balance of different flavors and shapes, and a mix of my family's favorites with a few new things I want to try so I don't get bored. Try to be realistic, both as far as the amount of baking time you have and the number of people you're feeding. Some years I've done ten or more types of cookies; this year we're having a smaller group so I've reduced it to five batches of cookies and a batch of fudge. Also, read through the recipes to make sure there aren't any surprises that call for equipment you don't have.

3. Calculate your ingredients. Honestly, the easiest way to do this is with a spreadsheet. I have a row for each recipes, and a column for each ingredient. (If there's something you know is in just one cookie, you can put it in a separate list off to the side.) I go through each recipe and record how much I need of each ingredient, and then have the spreadsheet calculate totals, so I can avoid underbuying (or overbuying) things that are required in more than one recipe. Here's a sample:

4. Make your shopping list. Compare your ingredient spreadsheet with your pantry and write anything you don't have on your list. (This can also be a good time to replace things that might have been sitting around for a while, like baking powder.) Don't forget parchment paper, cheap white bread (put a slice in each cookie container to keep them fresh), and ziplock bags or airtight containers for the cookies! Also, get something easy for whatever meals fall in your baking time.

5. Shop. You know how to do that. But I WILL say that I find it easier to do it a day ahead, if possible; the last thing I want to do when I wake up on Baking Day is go to the grocery store first.

6. Write out your schedule. This is less important if you're just doing a few things or aren't on a tight schedule, I guess, but even when I have two whole days blocked out, I find it less overwhelming to know exactly what I'm doing when. Some things to think about or incorporate:
  1. Make sure you note which doughs need to be refrigerated and allow time for that. (If you're baking after work, make the dough one day, refrigerate overnight, and bake the next. Much less stressful.)
  2. Think about how you like to work. I'm going to mix up all my doughs the first day so I don't have to take the mixer out the second day, but if you'd rather have different kinds of tasks mixed together to keep you interested, that works too.
  3. Write down "take out butter and eggs" for RIGHT WHEN YOU WAKE UP, so you don't realize they're still cold when you want to get started.
  4. Build in breaks. Baking is fun but it's tiring. If you have other holiday tasks like wrapping presents or addressing cards, you can use them for some of your breaks, since a change is as good as a rest and all that. But give yourself some actual breaks too, especially for meals. You need actual sustenance and not just bits of cookie dough.
  5. Build in time for dishes.
  6. Pad everything. Seriously. Give every single task more time than you think it will need. Then you've built up a buffer for emergencies and you'll be so happy when things go more quickly than expected!

Here's a sample:
7:00: TAKE OUT BUTTER AND EGGS, have breakfast, get dressed.
8:30: Make gingersnap dough. Refrigerate.
9:15: Dishes.
9:30: Make peanut butter dough. Refrigerate.
10:00: Dishes.
10:15: Morning break!
10:45: Make chocolate peppermint dough.
11:30: Bake chocolate peppermint cookies. Do dishes while they're baking.
12:30: Lunch break!

7. Plan your entertainment. Baking is more pleasant with something in the background - Christmas music? Podcasts? Holiday TV specials? Whatever works for you. This is also a good time to rewatch favorite movies that don't require your full attention.

8. Clear your surfaces. I always forget I need lots of space for cookies to cool. Move anything off your counters that doesn't really need to be there.

9. Get everything out. You don't want to be hunting for the nutmeg in the back of the pantry or the half cup measure in the cabinet when your hands are full of flour.

10. Bake! Good luck! Tell me all about your delicious cookies!

(Like this post? Support me on Patreon!)

Morning Coffee (12/18/17)

Me elsewhere: TV news for the week.

Image of Cooperation Between White House and Mueller Starts to Fracture

They are every bit as evil as you've always suspected: This Is The Daily Stormer’s Playbook

It's about time: Bethnal Green WW2 Tube disaster memorial unveiled

I'm very excited for the new X-Files.

A Team of MIT Scientists Taught an AI to Get Emotional Over Movies

Ooh: New underwater discoveries in Greece reveal ancient Roman engineering

Thylacine DNA reveals weakness – and kinship with the kangaroo

Perfect: Am I Really Planning to Attend Your Event? A Guide

Oh hi, Robin Hood.

I should pay attention this because my strategy is generally just "let it freeze": Winter Is Coming: How To Protect Your Hair From The Cold Weather

Friday, December 15, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/15/17)

How Margaret H. Willison, the Internet’s Favorite Librarian, Does Breakfast

The Letters of Sylvia Plath and the Transformation of a Poet’s Voice

An Algorithm Isn’t Always the Answer

Recreating King Midas’s 2,700-Year-Old Feast

Ha: Size does matter: wine glasses are seven times larger than they used to be

Morning Coffee (12/15/17)

Time for some happy Friday links!

Liverpool made their annual Christmas visit to a children's hospital and IT WAS ADORABLE.

Someone wrote a Harry Potter chapter via predictive text and it's amazing.

Will and Harry met BB-8!!!

Pretty convincing: Why You Should Buy an Entire Case of Sparkling Wine for the Holidays

I am not this talented but I LOVE THEM: 13 Snowflake Nail Art Designs For People Who Love White Christmases

The Fug Girls have a fun chat about favorite books of the year.

NPR has PODCATS PAJAMA PANTS. Yes, as in cats listening to podcasts.

I wouldn't want this as the ONLY tree but I love them as SECONDARY trees: Pink Holiday Trees Are The Best Thing To Happen This Season

I'm not sure I GET this but it's fun: Pick Out 5 Junk Foods And We’ll Recommend A 2017 YA Book To Read

15 Blanket Scarves That Feel Like You Never Left Your Bed

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Suggestion: Make New Year's Goals, Not Resolutions

Yes, okay, I know we're still dealing with Christmas. It's not New Year's yet! But we're almost halfway through December and you want to be PREPARED, right?? You don't want to face January 1st UNPREPARED WITH RESOLUTIONS.

Except! I don't make resolutions anymore. I really like the idea of it, of starting the year by thinking about what I want to accomplish and what changes I want to make, but the "resolution" concept is somehow both too wishy-washy and too strict. How do you measure success? Is it an absolute thing? Does it mean you have to do whatever it is EVERY DAY? If you miss one day, have you just failed the year and should stop bothering? That's stupid.

Instead, the past few years I've tried to make highly specific, measurable goals. I like plans and concrete steps and well-defined progress. (You're shocked, I know.) And I really like how even if I have a bad week or month or kinda forget about something for a while, I can come back to it later in the year. I don't have to write anything off until the year is pretty much over, at which point I can decide to keep or refine the goal or let it go, if it no longer seems that important.

Obviously, this works better for some kinds of things than others - stuff like healthy eating can be harder to quantify than reading a certain number of books or getting important documents into a fireproof safe or finishing the draft of a novel, all of which have been on my goal list now or in the past. But as a general rule, making goals as concrete and specific as possible has worked well for me. I also try to mix in some fun goals with stuff I HAVE to do - in 2018, for example, I have decided I will finish reading all the Lord Peter novels, in addition to less fun things like cleaning out my storage room.

Oh, two other tips: 1. Make goals that are entirely within your control. For example, lots of people use "get a book published" or "get an agent" but that's not entirely up to you (unless you are self-publishing, in which case, go ahead)! But "Finish and edit a draft" and "Query agents" ARE attainable things that need no outside input. 2. REWARDS. Bribe yourself. It's silly but it works.

Anyone else thinking about this yet? What are your goals for 2018?

Afternoon Tea (12/14/17)

I want to make ALL these things: Showstopping Holiday Desserts For Home Cooks Of All Skill Levels

This is good and important: Rebecca Solnit on Women’s Work and the Myth of the Art Monster

The Un-Christmassy Origin of Gingerbread Houses

How One Mycologist Saved France's Wine (Among Other Things)

Heh: The Psychic Tea Rooms of 1930s New York Didn’t Predict All the Police Raids

Morning Coffee (12/14/17)

Tory Brexit rebels inflict major defeat on Theresa May

Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, will replace Al Franken

It’s not just scandal: Moore lost in Alabama because the GOP agenda is toxically unpopular

What we know about the Omarosa White House drama

Net Neutrality Protests Move Online, Yet Big Tech Is Quiet

Good for Patreon for listening: We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change.

News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

Rock Hall To Induct Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits And Moody Blues

All the SAG Awards presenters will be women!

This reads a bit like entertainment headline Mad Libs, but I remember hearing interesting things about this book, so I'm intrigued: Jennifer Lawrence to Star in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Burial Rites’

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/13/17)

I love Williams-Sonoma BUT I ALSO LOVE THIS: The 2017 Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog

Still so happy about Nicole Cliffe's new advice column: How Do I Keep My Old Work Friends Without the Old Work Drama?

The Bumpy Business of Hauling Historical Sites to Safety

This is really cool: Turning Hurricane Data into Music

Wow: Ada Blackjack, the Forgotten Sole Survivor of an Odd Arctic Expedition

Weekly Rec: The Librarian and the Spy

If you're feeling anything like I am this week, you may be in the mood for a quick, fun read that's just slightly Christmassy and very escapist. If so, have I got the book from you! Susan Mann's debut The Librarian and the Spy is marketed as a contemporary romance, but to me it read more like a light spy mystery that included a romance plot. It's about a librarian named Quinn Ellington who is asked for research help by a hot library patron - and winds up being pulled into a bunch of international intrigue, because the hot patron is actually a spy. It's kind of as silly as that sounds, but in a thoroughly enjoyable way; I expected it to be a cute romance I'd breeze through but not particularly care about, but it left me eager to continue with the series. It's light without feeling hollow, which is just what I need sometimes.

I don't want to give too much away, but the mystery here wound up being more interesting than I expected, with a combination history and current geopolitical tensions. And Quinn's library knowledge ends up being very necessary to figuring it all out - not just her research skills, but very specific aspects of library science. It's explained well enough if you're not familiar the specifics of cataloging and such going in, but it's a fun treat for those of us who are familiar. As with most of my favorite romances, this features a heroine who is very competent and cares a lot about her career and her family and friends and her own interests, rather than being focused on finding a guy. Also: the guy is the one with the spy training here, but Quinn is NOT a damsel in distress.

ALSO: There was a twist at the end that genuinely surprised me. I do NOT expect that in a romance novel. (But don't worry, it's not a romance-centric twist. This does have a HEA.)

And, yes, it's kind of incidentally set around Christmas - it comes up in the background a few times but isn't an important part of the plot. So that was a cheery surprise, but won't add to the problem if you're a little sick of ALL CHRISTMAS ALL THE TIME.

So if this sounds like what you need for your holiday binge-reading needs: The Librarian and the Spy (currently only $1.99!) and its sequel A Covert Affair (99c as of this writing!) are available now, and the third book, An Uncommon Honeymoon, will be out on Boxing Day.

Morning Coffee (12/13/17)

I did not expect this! Once a Long Shot, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race

Exclusive: Grassley urges Trump to reconsider controversial judicial picks

There's finally a conviction in the Irene Garza case!!!

Janet Yellen Didn’t Set Out to Be a Feminist Hero

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year is feminism.

This Year's Christmas Tree Shortage Has Roots In The Recession

This is an important study but SIGH: Diversity on Magazine Covers Saw a Slight Decline in 2017

Olympic Athletes From Russia, and the Politics of What They’ll Wear

Memoirs of an Emperor: Hirohito’s Account of World War II Sells for $275,000

!!! Harry Potter Mobile Game Will Turn Users into Hogwarts Students

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/12/17)

Remembering the Groundbreaking Life of the First Black Astronaut

The Greatest Clash in Egyptian Archaeology May Be Fading, But Anger Lives On

13 Wonderfully Specific Libraries Reveal Their Oldest Treasures

In the Middle Ages, The Upper Class Went Nuts for Almond Milk

I'm embarrassed to say I'd never really given this any thought: China and the American Revolution

Morning Coffee (12/12/17)

Rape and no periods in North Korea's army

No, the Pentagon Did Not Overrule Trump on the Trans Troops Ban

Uh... Right-wing group sends 12-year-old girl to interview Roy Moore

This is an important read on voter suppression: The Alabama Senate Race May Have Already Been Decided

That viral story about Alabama drivers license offices is from 2015, and it’s missing one key point

Mario Batali Steps Away From Restaurant Empire Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

HA: This Is the Single Greatest Way to Get Out of a Political Conversation You Don’t Want to Have

The 23-Year-Old Who Dresses African Soccer Teams

Good advice: Don't Make These 6 Mistakes at Work During the Holidays

Ooh, first pictures from the new Mary, Queen of Scots movie.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/11/17)

The First Photos of a Pearl Harbor Warship’s Watery Grave

The Politics of Myanmar's Changing Tea Culture

Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Greatest Natural Disaster in American History

The Unexpected Logic Behind Area Codes

The Curious Case of August Engelhardt, Leader of a Coconut-Obsessed Cult

Morning Coffee (12/11/17)

Me elsewhere: Your TV news for the week.

How ISIS Produced Its Cruel Arsenal on an Industrial Scale

21 Rohingya women recount rape by Myanmar armed forces

18 crucial days: What did the president know and when did he know it?

Under Trump, E.P.A. Has Slowed Actions Against Polluters, and Put Limits on Enforcement Officers

A fake Bruce Willis story is being monetized by Google AdSense and prominently featured on YouTube

Lobsters, Fajitas, Sex Toys, And More: The Best And Weirdest Heists Of 2017

Lawsuit Over Mashup of 'Star Trek' and Dr. Seuss Gets Past Alpha Quadrant

This should be interesting, given his combination of jobs: Kal Penn Lands Book Deal With Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Audible

Ooh, I forgot we're getting this next Christmas: Keira Knightley is a pink Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms first look

This is neat: Shonda Rhimes, Dana Walden, More Hollywood Moguls Pose With Their Daughters

Friday, December 8, 2017

A holiday interlude

The post I was going to give you today is half-written because I took the day off and have been doing holiday stuff with my mom. So have a picture of our tree instead!

And then I recommend a tea break.

Have a great weekend!

Afternoon Tea (12/8/17)

Heh: 20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 16 Years

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the Math Proves it.

What Archaeologists and Historians Are Finding About the Heroine of a Beloved Young Adult Novel

How to Put a Fake Island on the Map

Science! Cheap fizz or luxury champagne: can you hear the difference?

Morning Coffee (12/8/17)

Time for happy Friday links!

This is a GREAT news story: Service dog causes chaos at ‘Cats’ performance

!! Watch Astronauts Make Pizza in Zero Gravity

Let's ogle the Windsor Castle Christmas decorations.

Rachel Hawkins Shares an Excerpt From Her New Book Royals

Ooh: Boozy Balls Are the Season's Classy Answer to the Jell-O Shot

If that's not enough: 21 Winter Cocktails to Help You Survive the Cold

Okay, this Dolce & Gabbana pasta box is PRETTY.

You Can Now Buy Pink Prosecco Cheese

15 Pretty Nail Polish Colors Practically Made For Christmas

Totally Bookish: 20 Tote Bags for Every Bookworm

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/7/17)

This is great: I Tried Emailing Like A CEO And Quite Frankly, It Made My Life Better

How Neolithic farming sowed the seeds of modern inequality 10,000 years ago

Lovely: A Fleeting Resource: In Praise of the Deep Cold

Using a Particle Accelerator to See Inside a 1,900-Year-Old Mummy

This made me want to read all these books: A Little Noir in Macau: “The wickedest city on earth.”

Morning Coffee (12/7/17)

THIS IS NOT HOW ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE WORKS: Trump Jr. cites attorney-client privilege in not answering panel's questions about discussions with his father

Flynn Said Russian Sanctions Would Be ‘Ripped Up,’ Whistle-Blower Says

"Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on 'seeming pro-Israel,' in the words of one, and 'making a deal,' in the words of another."

This is fascinating: God's Plan for Mike Pence

Bryan Singer: The Epitome of Hollywood’s White Male Privilege Problem

Good: After Sexual Assault Investigation Massage Envy Changes Multiple Policies

Phew: Curious George Store to Stay Put in Harvard Square

I love her: The Duchess of Cornwall poses with four Donald Trumps in London

Ooh, first pics from Abi Morgan's new show.

Found: A New Ice Age Cave Network Below Montreal

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Afternoon Tea (12/6/17)

NPR's Book Concierge is out!!!

200,000 died in Guatemala’s civil war — this digital archive is finally bringing families closure

This is fascinating: How Dollar General Became Rural America’s Store of Choice

When a City and a Bishop Went to War Over Beer

“Kill the Ámpaya!”: On Latin American Baseball Fiction

Weekly Rec: Susan Adrian's Nutcracked (+ a Bonus Author Q&A!)

I love Christmas books, but I'm a little picky about them. And I love The Nutcracker, so I'm SO PLEASED to be able to report that Susan Adrian's new middle grade novel Nutcracked is a COMPLETE delight. (Just look at it! It's adorable inside too! There are little drawings for the chapter headings!) It's the story of a young ballerina named Georgie who gets cast as Clara in The Nutcracker . . . and then gets magically pulled into the Nutcracker's world. And she has to save him. As though that's not enough, Georgie is dealing with family troubles and evolving friendships and figuring out her own goals and dreams and who she wants to be in the world.

I'm theoretically recommending you buy this for kids on your list, especially those into dance and/or fantasy stories, but I bought it for myself and had a wonderful evening reading it while drinking cocoa and listening to The Nutcracker. So, you know, maybe both?

And something extra this week . . . Susan is a pal of mine and was kind enough to answer a few questions, because I ALWAYS want to talk about The Nutcracker!

The original Hoffman short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" is, let's face it, kind of weird and not particularly accessible, especially for kids. What do you think it is about the Nutcracker concept and its various forms that went on to capture the public imagination for two centuries? Does it capture the magic of Christmas in some unique way?

Susan Adrian: The story has certainly lasted through many incarnations. I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the original Hoffman story...I hadn't read the entire original, in fact, until I started writing this book! My knowledge of the story came from various ballet productions and a Maurice Sendak book version. The ballet is actually based on an adaptation by Alexandre Dumas (author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, among others). He seems to have simplified it and taken out some of the odder bits of the Hoffman, and then the ballet simplified it further. From there came many, many different versions of the ballet. I think at its core, The Nutcracker has a few key elements that allow it to continue to captivate: Christmas, with the tree and the big family party; magic, with the grand growing of the tree/shrinking of Clara; and lots of fun, short, attractive dances. I've tried to include all of those elements in Nutcracked as well.

You were a ballerina yourself, and I know that absolutely informed Nutcracked. Is there anything fun/weird/interesting from your Nutcracker experiences or your ballet years in general that you couldn't work into the book but would like to tell us about?

I was quite a serious dancer from ages 8 through 16, and over the years I danced nine different parts, including Clara. So much of the dance parts and studio parts are adapted from whole memory! I managed to fit in a lot of the quirky things I remember, like sneaking sugar cubes from the coffee/tea tray and warming up backstage. I didn't include some of the minor disasters we had: when the girl who was dancing Arabian decided to take a bath in Nair hair remover right before the show, and an understudy had to go on because she had a rash and was in so much pain, or when Mother Marshmallow, the man-in-drag character, fell over coming onstage, giant skirt with children underneath and all...good times. :)

You're now working on another middle grade fantasy novel inspired by a classic - Forever Neverland, about kids who discover they're descendants of the Darlings from Peter Pan. (Can't wait to read it!) What is it that attracts you to this genre?

I am having SO MUCH FUN with these books. I realized, once I started writing middle grade, that my favorite books of all time are in this age range: A Wrinkle in Time, Ballet Shoes, The Dark is Rising, and many others. Those books are when I fell in love with reading, with the magic that other worlds could bring to my life. I want to carry that magic on to other kids as well, and I adore being able to tie in classic stories in whole new adventures. I have some ideas for other ones too...

I've enjoyed many versions of The Nutcracker but the one I have on DVD (and previously VHS) and watch over and over is the 1977 TV version with Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov. That's the REAL Nutcracker to me. Do you have a favorite?

That one, and the one I danced in at the Sacramento Ballet, are both very vivid to me, though I prefer the Nutcrackers where Clara is a child, 12 or 13, instead of a young woman like in the Baryshnikov. As far as choreography, Balanchine all the way. I just saw the Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker this weekend, and they did a very classic Balanchine production that was beautiful.

Nutcracked is available now and would make a perfect stocking stuffer OR holiday treat for yourself!

Morning Coffee (12/6/17)

Time's person of the year: The Silence Breakers

WHOA: Russia Banned From Winter Olympics by I.O.C.

Hm: Trump lawyer denies Deutsche Bank got subpoena on Trump accounts

Tax Bills Could Expand Private School Benefits and Hurt Public Education

... New Book Claims Hope Hicks Steamed Trump’s Suit While He Was Wearing It

To Cut Waste, U.K. Grocery Chain Will Sell Products Past 'Best Before' Dates (This is a good idea! I have recently discovered that my store vastly marks down yogurt about to expire and it's GREAT.)

Heh: Which Doug Jones Is Which? A Handy Guide.

I am not necessarily convinced that what the world needs right now is Quentin Tarantino's Star Trek.

I like this: Instagram will now create a private archive for all of your stories

Huh: James Patterson Signs Three-Book Deal With Albert Einstein Archives

This is gonna be adorable: Adorable Children to Steal Spotlight During Family Wedding