Category Archives: About Kat

A Busy April Weekend

A few pics from my weekend adventures around the city

First, there was this weird theme to my Saturday afternoon:graffiti and sign about masturbation

Then I had the exciting realization that I would finally, finally be walking past Sprinkle’s Cupcake ATM.  I’ve wanted to go for years, but I’m never in the neighborhood

Cupcake ATM in ChicagoIt was fantastic!  How was your weekend?

Things the Internet Can Teach You About Yourself

Quote from a book - the lesson you need to know about the Shakers is that they all died out.

In case you were wondering, this is always the lesson. Also they invented the flat broom, the seed packet, and the three-legged stool. Additionally, this has nothing to do with this post AT ALL, but does show that I know a fair bit about the Shakers.

Because I am vain when I meet someone new who I think might google me, I google myself to see what comes up (after internet snooping on them of course).

I’ve worked pretty hard on my Google presence for the last couple of years.  Not because I had done something internet bad that I wanted to hide but because I unfortunately share my name with a woman who was murdered by her husband several years ago.  While I don’t think people will confuse the two of us, it seemed like a prudent move to try to kick the story off the first search page.

A few things I realized/was surprised by in my most recent google-though:

  • While I definitely dominate “Kathryn McLellan”  (sorry other Kathryns!), I lose out on “Kat McLellan” to another Kat, one who unfortunately was a grad student at UIC, also interested in women’s studies and material culture.  She seems pretty cool but this is actually potentially confusion-making.  Sadly, although I go by Kat, I’m thinking I probably need to give up on that one and use Kathryn for all my public online crap.
  • Another issue is that this blog doesn’t show up under my name at all. While I’m not always the proudest of this thing – particularly my inability to hit the publish button on anything – that seems like an oversight.
  • I really, really, really need to update my poor website.
  • The most pleasing realization is that one of my professors in grad school credited some of my work in a footnote in his book (!!!!) This is, sadly, probably my biggest academic “professional” accomplishment.

It’s that time of year again

…where we all take an accounting of what we’ve accomplished and all our faults that can be fixed in the New Years.

I don’t think this works well for just about anyone.  At least half of the posts/updates/tweets/stati that I’ve seen say that 2013 was the worst year ever, that people had thought 2012 was bad until 2013 happened.  I’m sure there’s some people out there who are tucking into their eggnog satisfied with their long list of accomplishments, but mostly people see where they could have been just a little bit better.

This alone disproves the allegory that my generation things that we’re the hottest shit ever and that it’s everyone else’s fault.

Anyhow, while I want, desperately, to focus on my failings,  I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to talk about my (offbeat) successes.  I have to admit, it’s hard to look at them and see them and not just what’s missing, so I’m going to take a break and watch this turtle video instead.

(fyi the cheering section is my husband and I).  Anyhow.

My mom and my sister now talk, nay not just talk but hang out constantly. The constantness is a little creepy since outside of my wedding they haven’t talked to each other in 18 (yep EIGHTEEN) years, despite living in the same small town.  I certainly didn’t make them – I don’t think you can make anyone who remembers you eating jimmies on mashed potatoes do anything – I’m going to give myself a lot of credit for the constant pushing I’ve done over the last 6ish years.  It’s not something I could see happening even six months ago, so that’s a big accomplishment – for all of us.

I drove for the first time since I moved to Chicago.  I don’t have depth perception so city driving is out anyhow, but I managed to really psych myself out about driving at all in the last couple of years.  Except for a minor problem in a parking garage, it went fine even with the weather, dirt roads, and blind curves on tiny roads that are endemic to northern New England.

While all of the new friendships I tried to start this year went bust, I’ve been able to really work on some old friendships.  My closest friends from college and I have gotten into a pattern of the odd Sunday google hangout, with or without Settlers, which has gotten me out of bed during some really difficult weeks.


When I was little someone, I think maybe my dad, taught me the @ symbol.  This was before the internet so it was an obscure bit of stenography at best.  I remember carefully tracing it, working out how to make the swirly bit not cross over the a.  There’s still something delicious about hand-writing @ – how swirly and smooth it is, how loopy and fancy.

aesthetic snafu handwritten

I wrote this

I love writing by hand particularly when it involves fancy pens.  I particularly like the Bic four-color fine-point pen (with the orange barrel) which I’ve only found for sale in one store in Chicago – the bookstore at the U of C’s downtown business school.  It got to the point where they knew what I wanted by sight, possibly because I’m the only person who ever bought the stupid things.  When I was in San Fransisco, I got a make-your-own three-color pen.  I was so excited that I may have scared the other shoppers, but I now own a teal/purple/melon combo.  (my inner pen lover is clearly also a eight-year-old girl).

As you can see, I have kinda awful, fakey-fancy handwriting.  (the digitizing was done by my friend Clea who is the most amazing and helpful artist ever).  I also like to write in tiny little caps.  I think that’s part of the fun of handwriting; it says more about how I’m thinking than any random typing could and can tell me how I’m thinking better than I can.

Twenty-Seven Birthday Goals

I’ve always admired people with long lists of goals that they blog, crossing them off one-by-one throughout the year.  Since I’m still trying to get back into my life after my unfortunate seven or eight months, I thought it was time to do the same for myself, pushing myself along.

The first list, the first I got stuck after ten, which made me realize that I was being too big, too sweeping with my goals.  After all, the point is to be able to complete them, right?  So I started over focusing on the measurable and manageable; although are a few that are more inspiring than concrete.

  1. Help Gary get an apartment – Gary is the nicest, most-useful friend ever.  He took our wedding pictures, built my website, helps everyone move.  And he needs an apartment and could use some help.
  2. Run Jog a 5k
  3. Visit Miranda in Madison
  4. Make Charlotte’s baby’s quilt – Charlotte’s mom was the most amazing artist and nicest person.  She died of cancer last year, unexpectedly and way too young, and her family gave me her fabric.  She’ll never meet her grandchild, but I can pass a little bit of her on.
  5. Get my reading list to under 450 books – you don’t want to know
  6. Finish my cross-stitch pattern
  7. WORK ON FEELING BETTER – not small or measurable, but important all the less
  8. Make a fruit cake – I’ve been trying to do this for years even though I don’t like fruitcake
  9. Create/update my portfolio
  10. Get someone to hire me for a UX project (paid or unpaid)
  11. Earn $X – where X is a reasonable amount that I have made in a previous freelance year, but am not currently on target to make this year.
  12. Write 52 blog posts (e.g. weekly)
  13. Create wedding album
  14. Scan my mom’s family’s pictures – one of my two suitcases from my family trip was just family photos
  15. Scan my dad’s family’s pictures
  16. Make a list of IMPORTANT birthdays and card/call/celebrate – I’ve tried to do this in the past but included way too many people; this year, I’m focusing small and doable
  17. LEARN
  18. Finish up my back room project
  19. Decorate the living room
  20. Finish going through/clearing out my books
  21. Go on and document twelve (day+) trips – this isn’t as crazy as it sounds, we’re going on two this weekend; I’m look forward to making so much progress on something so quickly.  Route 66, AZ.Apple PickingMadison, WI;
  23. Finish knitting my first sweater
  24. Volunteer at least monthly
  25. Learn how to use some sort of photo software
  26. Get a non-Chilean-economist editing client – please, oh please.  I love my economists but I need a little variety
  27. Get a new market research client – again I love my current clients, but you can learn so much working with different clients; everyone has a different way of doing things.
  28. – 31.  currently unoccupied – for future goals or maybe like the free box in the middle of the bingo board

Introvert Overload: (but you like me, right?)

A week ago I got back from a weeklong visit with my family, a hard, beautiful, busy week packed full of sister/mother/niece/nephew/niece-in-law/cousin/second-cousin/friend who is like a sister/friend who is like a brother/tens of other relatives if only in picture form/driving oh man driving on dirt roads/have I mentioned I didn’t drive for five years before that/wine oh the wine/really more wine then I’ve drunk in the last year and a half/four brewery tours/the most beautiful landscape you’ve ever seen/morning people/night people/amazing hospitality/exhaustion.  I loved every minute of it except that the only alone time I had was with Siri and what felt like the world’s largest non-American sedan.

This was followed by a four-day holiday weekend with my husband.  We went to a state park for a picnic, my second state park in a week and also in the past 18 months.

Today, my in-laws arrive.  I love my husband’s family, for themselves and how different they are from mine, but they are people who believe in traveling and visiting in pack-form and doing things.  I’m hoping to avoid screaming “I love you but please let me sit alone in this dark room for a least an hour” and then spending that hour crying because I’m being a horrible host/daughter-in-law.  They leave Tuesday.

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Last year my birthday heralded a depressive period I’m still trying to pull myself out of. On the (good) advice of my therapist, I’m throwing myself a big house party next weekend. A big party with people.

What I’m really trying to say is that I desperately need an introvert vacation.  Even with people I love, that I’m so lucky and happy to spend time, I really need a couple of days alone.  Alone alone, you know… by myself. Preferably with a cupcake.

Is This What’s Really Going On? Notes from Therapy

I screwed up some scheduling and it’s driving me crazy.  It didn’t matter in the slightest – God love me some absentminded economists – but it makes me feel like a screw-up, out of control of everything, second- and third- and forth-guessing myself.

I hate myself for it.

I hate myself for it.

That is depression. Depression is your toughest critic, your meanest boss, your cattiest friend.  In short, depression is an asshole

I know perfectly well it’s depression and yet?  Still can’t make it go away.   So instead I spent an hour reality-checking with my therapist.  Working through the steps of telling my depression to fuck itself; to focus on that everything was fine; to come up with new shiny successful tasks; to second-guess my emotions, not myself.

My new motto for the week is “is that what’s really going on?”


I think I liked it better when the motto was “is it really snowing again?!?!?”

Why I shouldn’t be left home alone with the art supplies: an exercise in procrastination

This is what I did on Saturday afternoon instead of working:


In my defense, wrapping a birthday gift was on my list.  Wrapping, note, not art project extraordinaire.

I started with some comic book coloring pages downloaded from Dover, a really awful gift box, and some art goodies.


I decided to cover the box up with random stuff and then have epic superhero woman as a topper.


The edges looked really terrible as you can see, so I covered everything with as much washi tape as I could.  This was my first real project using washi, and I have to say that I loved it.  I think it really saved the project, don’t you?


Next was the top, which had its own logistical concerns.


Happily the birthday boy was very impressed.  Less happily is that this is so not the work on the ethics of photography online that I have been trying to finish up for a week.  It’s coming though, I promise (to myself)!

Just Because a Woman (or Feminist) Does Something, It Doesn’t Make It Feminist

When we got married eighteen months ago, I kept my last name.  In some ways that’s almost the prototypical feminist action, right?

I didn’t change my name and I certainly took advantage of the battles of my feminist fore-bearers.  I get pissed off when friends and family write to me as Kathryn HisLastName and livid when it’s Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName.

I didn’t change my last name but keeping it wasn’t a feminist act.  I never thought about changing it  because of my father who was passionate about our family history, who took me to see our family’s ancestral home months before he died.  I kept it because it I already owned the family merchandise and pay my clan dues, and because I’d already gotten used to both saying “no, that’s three Ls” and “no, it’s pretty much phonetic and thus not McLenin, McLennan, McLeod, or McLachlan,” and because HisLastName is Jewish and I’d rather have a conversation about why I kept my last name than why I kept my religion.

All of those are great reasons, but they’re not feminist reasons.  I wear my choice with pride and don’t mind that it makes some people think I’m a feminist, because I am, but just because I’m a feminist doing something doesn’t make it a feminist choice.

This is a long way of saying that the second thing I did this morning was to read The Feminist Housewife and the accompaning Jezebel commentary.  It introduces a lot of feminist concerns, that housework and childrearing fall on women even in egalitarian households, that the modern workplace isn’t overly friendly to having families, that woman tend to get screwed by a lot of the workplace anyhow, that childcare can cost one person’s wages.  In these conditions, becoming a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is a perfectly fine pragmatic choice, even a preferred one although one that can be fraught with fiscal problems as women unfortunately lose their earning potential.

Although some do, I don’t think that decision makes one a bad feminist or not one at all.  Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do or even what you want to do.  At the same time, it’s not automatically a feminist choice either, even if a feminist is making it, such as our NYMag protagonist.  Just because a woman does something, it isn’t automatically feminist.  It just is, and I don’t hold it against her one way or the other.

This bullshit on the other hand…:  “I feel like in today’s society, women who don’t work are bucking the convention we were raised with … Why can’t we just be girls? Why do we have to be boys and girls at the same time?”

Yes, a woman who calls herself a feminist, who is being called a feminist, just equated having a job with being a boy and staying home, minding the kids as being a girl.  That’s some grade-A bullshit there.  That’s 100% anti-feminist bullshit and I think we should call her on it.  Not on staying home, not on leaving her job, not even on her making a point of massaging her husband’s “work-stiffened muscles,” or that she thinks that maternal instinct is a biological fact, but that she is says such bullshit, on the record no less, and calls herself a feminist.  I know that there are people who hear that and think oh, she hates SAHMs (and men, and leg shaving, and…).

I don’t. I just hate bullshit, especially when it’s be sold as feminism.  Gender essentialism isn’t cute, even if you use boys and girls instead of men and women.   We can’t just be girls, Kelly Makino, because you’ve decided that boys are the ones who work and the rest of us girls over here?  We have fucking jobs.  We’re doctors, teachers, police officers, social workers, bloggers, and yeah, SAHMs.  Stop selling us (and yourself) fucking short.

This happens when you are sleep-deprived and deadline-enhanced

This is one of those days when I ask myself, “who thought it was a good idea for me to be an expert on the labor market returns of the Chilean educational system?  I don’t even speak Spanish? Or econometrics?”

Spoiler alert! Consistent with the literature, youth orchestras in Curanilahue improve test scores on both the PSU AND the SIMCE(!!!!); the results are both significant and robust.  Who would have ever guessed?  Well, except, you know, the literature.  Lucky for us, and by us I mean academics and I guess me, the literature is nice and never says I told you so.    We should probably send a thank you note, maybe some flowers, or a man in a horse suit who dances and sings some sort of You’re a Good Neigh-bor song.

I am still the most sane person in this coffee shop.  Who thought that that was a good idea?

The woman next to me keeps saying “I don’t trust her.”  I am hoping very much that I am not that particular her, whoever she is.  She should distrust the men on the other side of me who are discussing card counting using their two coffee cups as some sort of very abstract demonstration tool.  Maybe she doesn’t gamble.  That would probably be best.  Maybe I shouldn’t procrastinate.  That too would probably be best.

A week ago you got links and social commentary.  Today, you get a goose. Please enjoy it responsibly.


Update: my client just gave me an extension. Thank god.  I can go back to deleting “Children’s and” in peace and not panic.