Dandelion baby: My Mother's Day Reflection

I was standing in a long, long line at the airport, on the way to a girls' trip to Prague, when my former roommate Gretchen noticed a family of dandelion-haired little girls a few serpentines ahead of us. "That's what your kids will look like," she said. That's certainly how I looked as a kid--white-blonde hair in all directions--but that's not how my kids would look. I was dating my future fiance, my future husband, my future baby-daddy at the time, and Krystian is Puerto Rican, with thick, black wavy hair. "Is it racist," I asked Gretchen as the line dragged on, "that I'm a little sad that my kids won't look just like me?" Five years later, and I have a non-theoretical daughter, who doesn't look just like me (and, for that matter, doesn't look exactly like Krystian, either) and I'm extremely grateful for it. There's nothing wrong with little blondies, but let me explain why having a daughter who doesn't loo

Unsolicited Advice: Suddenly Online Teaching?

Fig 1: Empty Tables, Empty Chairs Welp, here you are. You’ve been asked to teach online for the first time. (Probably because of coronoavirus scares.) In a perfect world, you’d have lots of time to conceptualize your class in a whole new way to accommodate the strengths of the online format, providing a powerful educational experience. This is not a perfect world, though (e.g. coronavirus scares), so here’s some quick-and-dirty tips to convert your classroom experience online. Setting Up I: Technology As soon as they hint your class might go online, start exploring your online options. Most universities have a learning management system like Canvas or Blackboard, and maybe you’ve already used it for your face-to-face classes, but explore what bells and whistles you might have missed. You might set up a phone call or consultation with a specialist at your school or just someone you know who has successfully taught online before. Setting Up II: Adjusting Instruction Once you ha

5% Better: A Painless Approach to the Better Planet

This post actually began when I started listening to podcasts about exercising while exercising (Try it--it's remarkably motivating and self-congratulatory) and I came across this one from NPR's LifeKit series. It made me think: we tend to think in such extremes, especially in terms of activities that reflect an identity. Either you are a health nut or a coach potato. An obsessive workaholic or a work-to-live slacker. A rabidly alarmist environmentalist or a climate-change denying eco-villain. But what if I approached my environmental habits the same way I did exercise and eating healthy--not an all-or-nothing proposition, but a series of habits that get me incrementally closer to a better life? Much like living a healthier lifestyle, being incrementally more environmentally friendly starts with recognizing your current strengths and weaknesses and building on that. My household is not the worst. Since living in Austin four years ago, I've become extremely co

Unsolicited advice: My 10 must-dos during the 1st six weeks with baby

There are dozens of books, magazines and blogs giving baby advice, so here's mine, based on almost six weeks with one baby. So, you know, there's that. Dance, baby, dance But I've been feeling nostalgic already, so let me relate what I learned in this first six weeks. Here are 10 things to do in the first weeks after baby comes. 1. Heal. This is #1 and above #2 for a reason. Whether you had a c-section like me or had a vaginal birth, your body has some physical healing to do. Add to that what one friend called a hormonal hangover and a lot of powerful emotions and you've got a lot of working on yourself to do. And while someone else can lend a helping hand with baby, no one can take a nap for you, hydrate for you, take medications for you, or shower for you. This goes for mental health, too--take the Edinburgh post-partum depression test , which was given to me at every doctor's appointment, mine or baby's, and before I left the hospital, and seek heali

Let's not give up on travel: Why travel matters and how to do it a little better

The Adriatic Sea: The Closest I've Come to Croatia At the risk of sounding like an insufferable hipster, I've liked Croatia before it was cool. Heck, I liked Croatia when it was still Yugoslavia. Maybe it was that hottie Goran Visnjic as Dr. Kovac in ER or adolescent fascination with war-torn countries, but I fantasized about the turn-of-the-century glamour of pre-WWI resorts on the Croatian coast, and the fringes of both the Ottoman and Roman empires, and the melting pot of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim culture. I got a Croatian dictionary for Christmas once and tried my best to leverage my junior-high Russian into self-learning the Croatian language. I didn't grow out of loving Yugoslavia. I watched depressing subtitled films. My undergraduate thesis was on a late-20th century Slovenian war poet. In graduate school, I had to appeal to both my own department and the Slavic department to take a credit/non-credit spot in an undergraduate class where I finally got to stu

Three Horror Movies that Stuck the Landing, Three that Wiffed It and How They Could Have Been Better--Nothing But Spoilers

Literally this entire post is spoilers. There.   There are many things that can cause disappointment in a horror movie. Cheesy acting. Gross-out cheap thrills. Bad special effects. But the one that always slays me (no pun intended) is when a movie is saying really interesting things and then falls completely apart in the last ten minutes, not because the monster looks disappointing to what you imagined (they often do), but because of a lack of thematic consistency. A good horror movie is always about the monsters that we experience in real life as much as those that lurk on screen; great horror movie finishes the job it started with some internal consistency. Here are three horror movies that really stuck the landing, in no particular order, chosen at more-or-less random from my Saturday morning nap. I could have found others, but these sprung to mind as having particularly satisfying endings: Night of the Living Dead Theme: The individual, no matter how competent, is no match

Some Ramblings on Evil, Halloween Movies, the "Great Physician," and "This Political Climate"

[This movie poster is misleading, because there's far more naked ugly ladies and goats and other early Colonial goosebumps and (fun fact!) the dialogue comes from actual transcripts of witch hunts!] One of the most spiritually meaningful R-sie movies about Colonial America I ever saw was The Witch , or as I like to call it The VVitch . All kinds of spoilers here that don't matter to the enjoyment of the film, but the general plot is that a family, exiled from the settlement, because of their father's heterodox ideas, finds themselves on the edge of a dark forest. A literal witch literally steals and literally eats their baby, which is bad news all the time, but this dumb family blames their teenage daughter, who does regular teenagery things like tries to scare her annoying siblings. But everything she's done becomes interpreted as witchcraft and one-by-one everyone in her family begins to turn against her.  But the main thing is that everyone --total spoiler--die