Category Archives: About Kat

DST can be a mean mistress, but I like it; or a list of lists of things

Things I like that no one else does:

Daylight savings time:  I love the idea of capturing an hour in the spring and releasing it into the fall; that that extra hour, whenever you play it, has something special to it.  I am also very light sensitive so I naturally wake up an hour earlier, which always feels productive.

Humidity:  Telling me that “it’s a dry heat” does not endear me to Arizona or 100 degree temperatures.  The main summertime activity for my coworkers at my last job seemed to be to complain about the humidity as if it was a yearly surprise that we lived near a giant lake.  I will kill for fog and am constantly tempted to move to San Francisco or Seattle, but I would miss the snow too much.

Snow:  it’s prettier than grey or mud, it’s less wet than rain, and it can’t happen when it’s super cold.  Also snowmen.

Things I assumed that people knew about until I learned they didn’t:

Milking a cow:  okay not so much your Manhattanite or Angelino, but didn’t most people go on school field trips to farms, complete with cow milking?  See also, making your own whipped cream at home.

Sewing a button back onto something:  really?

How the non-fiction section of the library works:  again, school field trips?  The existence of  (card) catalogs?  I once had someone ask me how to find something at a place where I did not work, then bitch me out as if I was Melvile Dewey himself.  Side note: BS is the Library of Congress designation for the Bible.

Random technical mistakes that irrationally bother me:

Use of the term “second world” country outside of discussing the Soviet Bloc:  I will accept it for ex-Soviet countries or countries that are currently Communist, but Spain?  Spain is not a second world country, no matter how bad its economy.

Faulting politicians for saying a recession is over while the economy still sucks:  it’s just about GDP growth as determined by NBER though granted, not all that useful.  Can’t CNN/Fox News/the internet teach us that so we can move on from this point?  Isn’t it more important to talk about the actual (sucky) economy?

That people over-use apostrophes rather than under use them:  I, like many, wince at all the random apostrophes wandering around, although I try to not be overly snobby about it. What actually bothers me is that are too many rather than too few.  Why is that?

Things that tickle me:

Typos in books: particularly if they’re funny in their own right.  While reading The Alienist last night, I saw both “yolk” for “yoke,” which took me a second, and “pain” for “paint.”

Pens: in all types and shades, particularly fine point and multi-color.  Bic has a fine point, four-color pen that I adore.  The only place I know to get them in Chicago is the bookstore at the downtown location of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  At one point in my life they recognized me on sight and automatically went pawing through the back looking for the damn things.

Footnotes: I once received a love poem with footnotes; if I had been the least bit interested  or attracted to him, and if he didn’t treat me like an idiot, dear reader, I would have slept with him.

Nate Thayer Kerfuffle, Showing Everyone’s Internal Biases

I love looking at the comments on a really juicy NYT article because it’s a great way to find out all the weird perceptions and feelings that a certain American population has on a topic.  You get all the weird, nonsensical, prejudiced sometimes verging into race/classism, e.g. everything that most of these people would never admit in an aisle of the Whole Foods or a fancy dinner party, at least to a stranger.*

The Nate Thayer kerfuffle is that, but exploded, where everyone has their own slightly different angle on it.  In short, the Atlantic asked a very famous journalist to cut down an originally reported piece he had written for another publication by 75% and offered to pay him…wait for it…. nothing.  Well “exposure” but for someone who has won (and refused) a Pulitzer, that’s pretty much nothing. ** He, understandably cranky and to make a point, published the entire, civil, email chain on his blog, which shows among other things, that they weren’t really too upfront about the whole no pay thing and that, at most, they would have given him $100.


Opinions exploded all over the place, generally clumping into six groups, three on each side:***

I.e. who is Nate Thayer thinking so highly of himself and better than us?  This makes sense; we like to think ourselves better than others, not the other way around.  We also really don’t want to think about how working hard =/= success.   It scares us and once you add some jealousy, thus in short, we decide that Thayer is uppity, unrealistic, ungrateful, and possibly lazy.

For the other side we have:

You wouldn’t expect your dentist/janitor/software designer to work for free, so why your journalist?/You can’t eat exposure/Good for him

The Atlantic website wouldn’t exist if it didn’t make money/it made a shitload of profit last year/it sucks as a company if it can’t make money somehow/what’s the point of exposure or clips if even the Atlantic doesn’t pay

This is an example of corporations constantly making record profits while the relative income of average Americans has gone down.

I.e. we somehow identify with Nate Thayer or his situation and we’re angry.  Thayer is ex post example of ‘making it’ and if he still gets shit upon, what hope is there for the rest of us, the still-awesome but not quite as much ones.  I think it also hits a vein of people being mad at corporations who seem to keep just trekking along, whining about how difficult it is, while the rest of us are limping around grabbing things, Walking Dead-style.

Personally, I veer towards the second position.  I think we should call the Atlantic out for their ballsy bad behavior.  Remember not only did they not expect to pay Thayer, but they also thought they should get free stuff that someone ELSE**** already paid for.  I also want all of us to learn the distenction between I write something for free that consumers get to read for free and I write something for free that consumers get to read for free, but in the middle someone gets to make money.

And while, I do think that exposure can be a benefit or payment of some sort, if companies want to actually pay in that way, they need to really think about what value they’re offering and at least try to give a fair trade.  Imagine how this would have played out if they asked for a 200 word blurb that would function as advertisement leading to the story rather than asking him to rewrite it as an in essence stand alone article. Or even if they had been upfront about not paying him and that he would be doing them a favor, not the other way ’round.

Full Disclosure:  All of these links are things you get to read for free on the internet!  Some corporations may make a profit if you click.  I do not get paid for rambling.  Photo is from Inggmartinez under a creative commons licence.  I would probably have written for the Atlantic for free if they asked me, just so my mom would have bragging rights; now they would have to pay me at least five shiny silver dollars or a nice printout for my mom.  There are now accusations that Nate Thayer plagiarized.

*Notably some people do not have this filter.  I once had someone tell me on an informational interview that if more people who “looked like us” had worked at a place, he might have not quit.  He said it in a whisper, couched as “just between us,” and I still don’t know what the fuck he meant by looking like us, but assume that it had something to do with perceived shared race or class backgrounds.

**Although it’s never said outright, it seems safe to assume that they weren’t planning on paying the original publisher, NK News, anything either.

***Isn’t that tidy?  Just like when I was taught there were only nine schools of social science (in all of history) in a ten-week-long class.

****Poor NK News.  It’s still not clear if they paid Thayer but since he says that he doesn’t work for free, presumably they paid.   I think they should come out and say how much so we can discuss how much real journalism actually costs (in comparison to regurgitated blog posts, mine included).

Walk (talk) Softly and Carry (even though you have) a Big Stick

I hate being treated like I’m stupid.  This is very unfortunate for me since it happens a lot.

While I am nowhere near the smartest person in the world, I am also not the dumbest either.  I’ve been lucky enough to experience twenty-two years of fine, formal education provided by my parents and the government.*  I have a basic understanding of most things with the exception of Calculus and Physics.  I particularly understand basic social science concepts.  You do not have to explain double-blind studies,  the Flynn effect, (operant) conditioning,  long-tail, MacDonald/serial killer triad, or Milgram’s various experiments.  I have the skills to understand most current events, English grammatical rules, and historical and scientific concepts. I went to college,** for goodness sakes and pay basic attention to the world.   Assuming that you know these things and I don’t just shows that you have no respect for me, not that you’re a smarty-pants.  In fact, it makes me start to judge you, your supposed knowledge, your history, experience, and basic social skills.

Notably, the smartest, most important, talented, interesting people I’ve worked with don’t do this.  They know that they don’t have to prove anything to anyone.  Even though my famous economist boss often told me I was stupid to my face,*** he never talked to me like I was stupid.  He trusted that I knew things or could ask or figure them out. I once spent an afternoon geeking out with the DDB’s Head of Strategy, North America and he treated me like a peer.  He didn’t need to show off his title – I knew he was smart and talented and he knew that there was a reason why he wanted to spend an afternoon talking to me and that was it.  We were just two human behavior geeks drawing on white boards all afternoon.****

And before you ask, yes there were precipitating incidents for this post, but it’s important to say, with or without annoying people.  The most important thing I learned from being a Women and Gender studies major is simply to value other people’s experience and, well, treat others like your equals.  When it comes down to it, we’re all people and we’re all important, and I wish more people would act like it.

*Thanks mom, dad, and Uncle Sam!  Also Macalester College; Dartmouth College; the University of Chicago; the United Nations; the Lebanon, NH school system, particularly Mr. Swainbank; the NSF; NORC; the Federal Bank and University of Chile; the Ford Foundation; other grant agencies; the amazing Chicago Public Library; my super smart friends; Coursera;; the internet in general; and whoever pays for the political science convention that I sneak into every year.

** Not to say that everyone graduating from college would know all of those things, but really?  If you know I have a BA focusing on Social Science and a MA IN Social Science, explaining conditioning means you think I’m either an idiot or the laziest student ever.  Also seriously, half of that stuff comes up in Yahoo news stories or procedural TV shows.

*** Notably difficult to work with, aka huge bitch.

**** E.g. awesome!  Anyone who wants to geek out like this is not only worth my time, but is completely my friend.  I will even bake cookies or provide coffee for geek sessions, anytime, anywhere.

Pervasiveness of Performance for Lifestyle Bloggers

One of the main drivers behind the popularity of personal-style blogs (mommy, lifestyle, diy, etc, whatever, ad infinitum) is the glossy inspirational/aspirational pictures.  A few people have said that blogs have replaced magazines for them and it’s easy to see why.  Minus numerous typos,* the top personal blogs have the same if not higher quality.

This particularly struck me while I was perusing the most recent post in Rockstar Diaries/Love Taza.  A simple, casual after-lunch visit to the record score with family friends.  The first picture could almost be an old Life mag snap and the rest of it?  Well gorgeous.  Who wouldn’t want that to be their lives?

It may be their actual lives, something they would have done if they were just people “like us,” but it’s also a planned and produced photo shoot.  On of those friends, you know the lunch ones, is a professional photographer and it shows.  Note that this isn’t a one off.  Their lives, as documented in their blog, is all planned, polished, and promoted.

It’s also their actual lives.  It may be a performance but they don’t get to step out of the camera’s eye and go back to just being.  There’s constant, never-ending demand.  We, their readers, we want more.  We want a whole regular production schedule of the best, prettiest, nicest everyday.  The increased popularity of Instagram shows this insatiable hunger for more experiences, more pretties, more voyeurism until we end up saying ridiculous, stalkeresque things** or end up a puddle of self-doubt on the floor because we don’t and can’t ever live even a tiny bit like of that.  Or get angry or cynical, hence snark sites.

What’s it like to be that person with nearly your whole life opened up for scrutiny and consumption?  To either have to frame a day crashing on the couch or scrubbing the bathroom as more special/fun/beautiful/aspirational/cool/inspirational/touching/meaningful than any other scrub or crash or to be behind in production?  You’d probably wear perfect makeup while in labor too.***

*I notice them and wince every time.  Let’s blame it on all of my editing instead of me being a bitch.

** Recently noted using the case of ETST: mention of use of Instagram pictures to bribe potty training tots instead of the usual candy; that looking at pictures of the newest baby helped someone conceive; saying that she inspired wishes to start a family.

*** ETST again, sorry Kelly!  She does a truly amazingly styled labor and birth though

Multitasking and other skills

I know that I’m good at multitasking because it says so, right at the top of my resume.  Kidding, I know that I’m good at multitasking because I am.  Stick me with a pile of urgent tasks, a notepad of to-dos, and a beautiful thin line pen, and I’m your girl.   I suck at watching TV when not doing something else and I am possibly the only person in the world who likes to read while listening to music.

As things have wound down for me a little bit – it’s summer in South America, my clients are on vacation; post-Christmas is a slow time for market research – that I’ve stopped being so multitasky.  Oh I’m still unable to watch TV or listen to music by themselves.  That ingrained of a habit can’t be changed by the weather or new ideas.  I just get wrapped up in things and leave others by the wayside.  See blogging for two days, making a whole pile of half drafts, and then ignoring it all for a week.  I just can’t focus on them, fix this line or that, come to any sort of point.  They bounce around with the dust bunnies in the corners, but that doesn’t do anyone any good.  I even pushed my new academicy friend to write a paper on one of them, despite having a few pages of half-notes myself.*

This is what I’ve been working on instead:


My long lingering embroidery pattern that I hope to release out into the world for feedback and to begin a profitable pattern empire.  I’m already noting my next one, spring and Paris, with the goal of releasing it for sale before the appropriate season is over (this one is sadly autumny).  You wouldn’t believe how fulfilling typing in little letters in groups of a hundred while squinting at tiny stitches is – I can’t even really believe it myself.  My resume also says detail-oriented and I did spend three months in the basement of an art library shelf-reading Dewey decimals to ten places, but still.

 I spent a morning buying handfuls of floss and afternoons on downloading nearly as many wingding fonts trying to find the perfect one.  I can’t wait until I get the pattern back from my beta** but I’m trying to keep my emotions locked down.  My excitement is tempered with worry, of the let-down if there’s not any interest, and the new depression that would come after.  I hate that I crave approval and praise from others; that the existence of something I created isn’t enough, despite the fact that creating a pattern is only for other people anyhow.  Blah, emotions.  This instead:Image

*Not that I would write a paper for publication myself.  I miss academia something wicked, especially now, but the idea of writing a lit review makes me prickly all over.

** Which is, yes my mom.  In my defense, she once did seven pieces, Henry the 8th and all his wives, in maybe two months.  I expect her to get the pattern, do it, and send it all back before I finish it myself.  Also she’s retired and therefore needs things to do, lest she get herself in trouble.

Why I Will Never Be a Professional Blogger

  • I forget to update my blog for months on end, thus proving I don’t have an editorial calendar
  • I also forget to take bazillions of amazing pictures of my ‘perfect’ life;  the only documentation I have of the last week is a robot dispensing beer, awesome but with poor composition (there were people!  how do bloggers get rid of people?  pretty sure killing them is not an option)
  • I can’t afford and don’t really know how to use Photoshop beyond cropping and some other stuff.  I definitely don’t know how to make my pictures the same perfect pixel width as my blog text
  • By far my most popular post is about being crazy.  The bloggess already exists and is way, way more funny than I am
  • The amount of promotion/proper SEO in the last bullet point embarasses me
  • I think branding people is bullshit.  I already have a personality, backstory, and way to create genuine relationships; performing some idealized version seems exhausting.  I have way better things to do with my time like wash things in vodka, work, advocate for the Oxford comma, and take pictures of vending machines
  • My realization that Pinochet was horrible for people, pretty good for the export economy is completely useless and probably way less amusing to anyone who is not me
  • Pretty sure my frustration in being unable to make sub-bullets either indicates a lack of WordPress skills or that I’m not supposed to be using them in a ‘real’ blog post

Way more effective than Nicorette

Crumpled at the bottom of my closet is a pink silk-merino mix scarf.  Every couple of months I take it out and try yet another method to try to get the stink of cigarette smoke out of it.

A few years ago I took an emergency trip to the far suburbs of Boston to see my uncle before he died.  Every morning we’d go spend an hour or two at his house before he got too tired and would burn the rest of the day, traveling into the city just to get as far away as we could from semi-rural Massachusetts in the winter.  I always marvel at how big the sky is here in the mid-west, almost touching you at both the right and left foot since there’s just nothing else in its way.  New England isn’t like that and New England in January when there’s no snow?  The woods close in grey, the sky closes in grey, it gets dark at 3 in the afternoon, not just from how far north you are, but how all the trees and hills just eat the light.  It is even more grim than sitting around a tiny 1970s bungalow waiting for someone to die, realizing that you came too late for your answers.

It was the smoking that killed him; lung cancer in his brain, confusing any stories that he could have told me about my father, a dark unknown smudge in my childhood.  Another man that died from smoking, who wouldn’t stop smoking to the point where he died with a cigarette between pointer and middle fingers.

My uncle wouldn’t stop smoking either and I guess, since he was dying, it seemed cruel to make him stop.  The house was dusky, just as grey at noon inside as it would be at 3pm outside.  I think it was even worse than when I was a kid, living with a pack-a-day and 2-3 pack-a-day smoker; higher ceilings and more square footage I guess.  And so we reeked, truly smelled that whole trip like we were heavy smokers ourselves, other riders on the T sniffing and moving away.

I was lazy and hadn’t unpacked by the time he died a few days after we got home and then I was sad and didn’t unpack, not for a really long time.  It smelled just as god-aweful when I opened that suitcase, as if we were suddenly in that living room again.  Everything else sorted itself, even my coat which I couldn’t wash or even dry clean without freezing.  That one scarf though, that I wore everyday of that trip for stupid selfish petty reasons?  Nothings worked this far.

I just dowsed it in vodka, from a gallon bottle of Absolut that has it’s own sad, pathetic back story.  It’s still drying but I’m hopeful.  It smells more like a pre-smoking-ban bar than straight up as if I was a heavy smoker;  five or six go-rounds and I’ve never had that much success.

When Did it Get to be November?

Ahh seasonal slide.  One moment it’s Halloween and you’re sighing over the Christmas lights next to the Trick or Treat candy and suddenly, BOOM!  Holiday season is upon us.

In my defense, I had the flu and spent over a week eating applesauce, watching Bones, and getting way too many floors in a castle-themed tower game on my iPhone.

Still it’s yet again catch-up, catch-up, catch-up, which includes this poor misbegotten blog here.  Perhaps finally I will post my first tutorial!  Or finish my cross-stitch pattern!  Or even both!


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