Exercise Update

Athena ScalziBack in November, my dad and I started working out together at Planet Fitness. My goal at the time was to lose twenty pounds by March. It seemed realistic and achievable to me, given the time frame.

Alas, that didn’t end up happening. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve even gained weight since then.

After about a month of going to the gym, I got COVID for the third time. Obviously, I didn’t go to the gym while sick. Even after testing negative and not having symptoms, I still needed to rest and recover more. Then, less than a week later, I got regular sick, and it kicked my ass worse than COVID did. Then it was my birthday and Christmas and New Years and obviously I wasn’t going to go to the gym then.

Now it’s a week away from being March, and I haven’t been in the gym since basically the beginning of December.

Why was March my goal? Well, honestly, I wanted to be under 200 pounds for the JoCo Cruise. And at this point I’m not really sure why, considering the JoCo Cruise-goers are some of the nicest, understanding, non-judgmental people ever, especially when it comes to how someone looks. I seriously doubt anyone on the boat will care if I’m 195 or 215, so why do I care so much? I guess there’s some deep rooted ideas in my head about “beach bodies”, intentionally losing weight for a trip, and eating less before a vacation so that you’re technically “allowed” to pig out on vacay.

Appearance reasons aside, there’s also the reason of I don’t fit in my clothes from last year, and I need new dresses, shorts, t-shirts, etcetera, to wear on the boat. While I used to love shopping and honestly had a bit of an addiction for it, that has kind of disappeared as I’ve gained weight because I’m so upset with how my body looks and feels in everything I wear. So, now I have to go shopping not because I actually want to, but because I need bigger clothes, and that feels not great.

Generally, I try not to talk about my weight or my body often, because I feel like if I let myself talk about it, it’ll be the only thing I ever talk about. My brain is so filled to the brim with constant thoughts about food, weight, my body, my eating habits, I know that if I opened the flood gates, it wouldn’t stop pouring out. And honestly, I don’t want it to seem like I’m constantly throwing myself a pity party, so I don’t talk about it much. Even this post feels like me giving you excuses as to why I look the way I look, it’s just a thinly veiled plea for you not to judge my appearance, or maybe it’s actually just me fishing for reassurance.

Isn’t that why everyone talks about their weight? To explain away all the reasons they gained twenty pounds, or to have people say “you’re not even fat!”. Or maybe that’s just why I do it.

I feel like if I talk about my eating habits, it’s just a window into my home of mental illnesses. Do I not exercise because I’m depressed? Do I have an addiction to sugar? Do I binge eat because eating is the only thing I enjoy doing?

As you can see, I kind of end up spiraling if I start talking about it. So I try not to. But knowing that so much of my body will be visible on the boat fills me with a certain kind of dread, and I guess I just wanted to talk about it, because keeping it bottled up in my brain is starting to get to me.

Part of wishes I could wear jeans and hoodies the entire cruise, the way I used to at summer camp even though it was eighty degrees out. But I’m not going to do that to myself. I’m going to wear shorts and dresses and swimsuits and I’m going to enjoy the sun and the water and all the food I want. And I hope you all do the same.


Scalzi’s First Pączki 

John Scalzi

Weirdly, and despite my well-known love of deep-fried dough, I somehow made it through 53 years of life without ever once eating a pączki. I can give any number of explanations for this, none of them good; heck, I lived in Chicago for years, the heartland, if you will, of Polish-American culture, and yet still managed to miss out.

Well, no longer: Last night I stopped at the local Meijer to replenish my Coke Zero stock, and there was a small stack of pączki packages — on sale! — waiting for someone to take them home before the clock struck midnight and North American Pączki Day (i.e., the last day before Lent begins) faded into memory. I was that someone (I did also buy my Coke Zero. One must always stay on mission). I brought them home and shared one with Athena, because it was late and I did not want to eat a whole one right before bed.

Not surprisingly, I thought it was pretty darn good — close to but not quite like a jelly donut, with denser dough and not as sweet. A++, would eat again, and did, since I had another one this morning. I am relieved that this 53-year era of pączki deprival is behind me now. I have all the rest of my life to catch up.

For those of you who celebrate Lent, I hope this year’s season is a reflective and fruitful time for you.

— JS

The Big Idea: Matt Ruff

New York Times bestselling author Matt Ruff is back with his first ever sequel, The Destroyer of Worlds. Follow along in his Big Idea as he tells what led him to write a continuation of Lovecraft Country.


This novel is a departure for me. Over the course of my career, I’ve written in a wide variety of genres, but I’ve never published a sequel before. Typically, one volume is all I need to say everything I have to say about a particular subject. But Lovecraft Country was different. I really fell in love with the characters, and even before I finished the first book, I knew there were more stories I wanted to tell about them.

One of the most important questions I had to answer in returning to the world of Lovecraft Country was what the new novel would actually be about. I’m not talking about plot; I’m talking about theme, a unifying idea that would help me choose among the many possible paths the narrative could take.

A central fixture of Lovecraft Country is The Safe Negro Travel Guide, my fictional version of The Negro Motorist Green Book. The real-life Green Book ceased publication in the mid-1960s, not long after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. If I were going to turn Lovecraft Country into a series, it seemed to me that would be a good way to end it: the last scene could take place on the night the final edition of the Guide rolled off the printing press.

And when I did the math on that, another thought struck me. The character in Lovecraft Country I identify most closely with is Horace Berry, the budding comic-book artist. Horace is twelve years old when Lovecraft Country begins; in 1964, he’ll be twenty-two, ready to go out in the world and seek his fortune as an adult. It occurred to me that I could use the sequel—or rather, sequels, since I was clearly talking about multiple books here—to tell Horace’s coming of age story. His journey to adulthood would become the central arc around which all the other characters’ adventures would be organized. And each novel in the series would focus on a different aspect of that journey.

Which brings me to The Destroyer of Worlds. Shortly before the novel begins, one of Horace’s friends, a girl named Celia Fox, is killed in a particularly senseless fashion. When he overhears someone trying to comfort her stricken father by saying, “She’s in a better place now,” Horace reacts with a mixture of rage and dismay. “She’s better off being dead? How does that make sense?” And this starts him questioning the nice story he’s been told about how you get to go to heaven when you die. What if there is no heaven? he wonders. What if this life is all there is, and if it’s stolen or cut short, there’s no reckoning for that? And how do I live with the burden of not knowing?

So the book is about death: about coming to terms with mortality, and finding hope in the face of the ultimate uncertainty. And it’s also about history, because part of the answer Horace is seeking lies in the past. In one of Destroyer’s subplots, his cousin Atticus and his uncle Montrose travel to the old Swincegood Plantation in North Carolina, where, a hundred years ago, their ancestor Simon Swincegood began his escape from slavery. Their intent is to mark the anniversary by retracing the route Simon took into the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp, but a run-in with an old enemy turns their historical reenactment into a real life-and-death pursuit.

It’s a nail-biting adventure, but it also has a point: Horace isn’t the first person to wrestle with doubt in the face of death. The people who came before us—who made our lives possible—dealt with the same uncertainties we do, and the fact that they found the strength to keep going is evidence that we can too. Or as Horace’s mother, Hippolyta, puts it: “If the things we don’t know were all bad, you wouldn’t even be here to worry about them. So when you feel yourself despairing, remember that just because you can’t think of a reason to hope, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. And as for God, remember that even a universe where He didn’t exist could still act, sometimes, like one where He does.”

That’s what the book is about, in the big picture sense. But of course, since this is Lovecraft Country, it’s also a story about magic and monsters, about powerful sorcerers who want to rule the world, and about ordinary heroes who are smart enough and brave enough—and when all else fails, lucky enough—to win the day. And the real joy for me as a writer is that I get to take these weightier themes of mortality and faith and history and combine them with all the fun tropes of fantasy and science-fiction and weird tales. It’s why I was so eager to return to this story, and why I look forward to continuing it.

While I wait for Destroyer’s debut, I’ve started planning a third volume in the Lovecraft Country saga, which will be about dreams, and desire, and first love. I still have a lot of details to work out, but I know where I’m going with this story now, and with Horace as my guide, I’m confident I’ll find my way.

The Destroyer of Worlds: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Visit the author’s website. Follow him on Twitter.

It’s Monday, Have A Banger Song To Get You Through It

Athena ScalziI had never heard of the band Sleep Token until the past year or so, and their music was definitely not the type I usually listened to. However, there was something about their sound that was unique to me and I liked it.

Recently, they came out with a new song that is just unbelievably banger, and I wanted to share it with y’all.

This is by far their most interesting song I’ve heard, as it totally changes its vibe in the last two minutes. It’s like a completely different song towards the end, and I love it for that.

I’ve been listening to this song just about every day since it came out, and I’m still not sick of it. I hope you like it, too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and have a great day!


My Long Awaited Taste Test of Mary O’s Irish Soda Bread Scones

Athena ScalziIf you follow Humans of New York, you may remember about a year and a half ago when HONY did a story over an Irish bar owned by a woman named Mary O’Halloran. After the bar got shut down due to the pandemic, HONY created a special fundraiser where you could pay $30 dollars for half a dozen of Irish soda bread scones made by Mary, as well as a homemade drawing from her daughter.

I placed an order as soon as I saw the post, and I wasn’t the only one. Mary ended up selling a million dollars worth of scones. Needless to say, it took a while for them to fulfill my order.

But, after eighteen months, I finally got my hands on a box of Mary’s Irish soda bread scones.

A cardboard box of Mary O's scones, alongside a drawing and two coasters.

With a drawing included, as promised.

The box, opened, revealing an exploded container of jam.

Apparently the jam did not like being in an airplane because it exploded! It totally soaked the surrounding tissue paper and got on the tops of some of the scones.

Six scones divided into two columns of three scones, or three rows of two scones.

Here they are in all their glory, slightly jam covered.

The instructions on the box said to heat them in the oven for a few minutes, so I did just that and then cut one in half, spread butter and homemade raspberry jam on it, and dug in.

Half of one of the scones, covered in jam.

It was a good scone! Six for thirty dollars is a pretty good price, and it was ten for shipping, so all in all, can’t complain too much! I mean, the eighteen month waiting time was more an odd occurrence than a problem, as I didn’t particularly care when exactly I actually got the scones. In fact, I would say that getting them eighteen months later just proves how dedicated they are, still making their way through the long, long list of people who were willing to help out a random Irish bar in New York. Gotta love it.

I would link you to the scones so you could get some for yourself, but they stopped accepting new orders for the scones a while ago, so I’m not sure how you can go about getting your hands on them. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were pretty good scones! I liked them, and don’t regret being one of the thousands of people that placed an order for them.


Charlie and Me, 2/15/23 (Plus a Very Vague Announcement)

John Scalzi

On one hand, the fact that today the temperature hit the upper sixties in Ohio in February may be a worrisome indicator of where things are going. On the other hand, it still was a beautiful day to hang out in the yard with the dog. So, you know. Take your silver linings where you may, I suppose.

And now, the very vague announcement: After consultation with my editor, I now know what the 2024 novel is going to be. Which is good because, hey, I should write it soonish if it is gonna come out in 2024. The funny thing is, I knew what my 2025 novel was going to be before I knew what my 2024 novel was going to be. It happens that way sometimes.

Aside from telling you that I know what my next two novels will be, I can’t really tell you anything else about them, because a) I really do prefer to have them written before I tell people what they are, b) if the last few years are any indication, plans might change whether I want them to or not. But honestly I’m hoping they won’t; that shit is tiring after a while, and I would be really happy for things to go to plan for the next couple of years, please and thank you.

It does mean, unless I fall into a hole/am consumed by a bear/some other unfathomable-but-hopefully-ironic fate befalls me between now and then, you will get at least two more novels out of me. After that? We’ll let the future take care of itself at that point. But at least through 2025, I’ll have a career. What a relief!

— JS

The Big Idea: Jane Yolen

This Big Idea, for Jane Yolen’s new book The Scarlet Circus, tangentially involves me! In, I must admit, pretty flattering way.


I have loved John Scalzi, his work, and his Big Idea column for many years. I even wrote a bunch of stuff for him along the way. But in the manner of fantasy and fairy and romance fiction, there is no real reason for going any further than stating that. There was, alas, no romance, not even a small slightly off-color pun between us. 

But if he had been a jinn or an alien or a time traveler . . . the kind you can find in my stories, well then, our love affair might have made it into my newest book, The Scarlet Circus, stories and poems about fantasy (and science fictional) love.

So, perhaps he might at least have made it into the footnotes or one of the poems in the back. Alas, the hour of our NON-romance has past (although I have to say that I am newly remarried after fifteen years of widowhood, and all Scalzi has to show for it is this small post in his Big Idea column).

This surprises us both, because neither he nor I knew that I was much of a romantic fiction kind of person. But when I began looking at my backlog of published short stories, why, there they were! I put it down to being eighty-three and not remembering everything I have written from the 1960s onward.

So, John, shed a tear, or a laugh, or a sigh. Make a memory that never existed. And settle down to love the humans and others who find romance or a passing fancy in these stories. It couldn’t hurt!

The Scarlet Circus: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site.

Close To Home: Swan House Tea Room

Athena ScalziToday, I visited somewhere I have been wanting to go for months, and I am so excited to finally be writing a piece over the Swan Room Tea House in Findlay, Ohio!

The Swan Room Tea House is located right in the heart of Findlay, just off the main street. It’s a Bracketed Italianate style home, with high ceilings, an elegant foyer, and the perfect amount of charm for your Proper Tea. They offer Proper Tea by reservation on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as lunch Tuesday through Thursday.

I went for their Proper Tea, but I decided to go on Valentine’s Day to try their special menu they curated for the holiday.

A graphic of the

Upon arriving at our table, we saw it was already set with our teacups, saucers, plate, silverware, and fresh cut flowers alongside a menu of all the different teas.

A small, silver vase of flowers next to a list of all the teas. The menu is divided into five sections: black tea, green tea, white tea blends, rooibos tea, and seasonal tea. Next to each type of tea is a short description for it.

At first I thought it was going to be hard to choose between them all, but as soon as I saw the Vanilla Chai with milk and honey, I knew I had to go for that one.

A blue and white teacup sitting atop its matching saucer and plate, filled with light brown chai tea.

The server poured the first cup for us and left the pot at our table. It smelled like brown sugar maple oatmeal, but tasted like normal chai! Warm spices, the perfect amount of sweetness, and that hint of vanilla made for some seriously delicious tea. So much so that I ended up drinking several cups of it, and had to stop myself because I knew I was going to fill up on it before the food came if I wasn’t careful.

The first thing we were served with our first pot of tea was a chocolate chip scone:

A small, round, chocolate chip scone.

It was served with preserves, Devonshire cream, and lemon curd.

Three small glass bowls, each one containing a different scone accompaniment, and tiny spoons in each.

I tried the cream on half of my scone, and the preserves on the other half. It was really tasty! Scones aren’t my favorite pastry because they always tend to be dry, but these were quite good, and especially when paired with the tea it wasn’t a problem.

There were two choices for the soup course, lobster bisque and spinach tortellini. I ordered the bisque, but got to try a bite of the spinach tortellini one, as well.

Spinach tortellini soup in a small glass bowl.

I had expected the spinach tortellini to be broth based, but I like cream based soups better anyways, so this was a pleasant surprise. While it was good, I preferred the lobster bisque, which was rich, creamy, and had a few sizeable chunks of lobster in it that weren’t overcooked at all!

A small glass bowl of lobster bisque.

After the soup, we ordered our second pot of tea, which was the Lemon Soufflé:

A white and blue teacup full of dark brown tea sitting on its matching saucer.

The Lemon Soufflé was a much lighter tea than the chai had been, since the chai had included milk and honey, and served as a refreshing palate cleanser with its mild lemony flavor. It was an ideal tea to pair with the main event:

A three tier stand of finger foods and savory morsels, with desserts on the top plate.

We decided to start at the bottom and work our way up so we could finish with the signature Swan House crème puff.

On the bottom, we had quiche, prosciutto and pepperoni wrapped mozzarella, and coconut shrimp:

A triangle of quiche, a piece of a mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, a piece of mozzarella wrapped in pepperoni, and two coconut shrimp.

The quiche was warm, super herby, and wonderfully fluffy. I quite enjoyed the pepperoni and mozzarella, but I’m a much bigger fan of prosciutto than pepperoni, so that one won in my book. I also happen to love coconut shrimp, so I thought it was a great inclusion! It also had a yummy Thai chili glaze that was flavorful without being too spicy.

Onto the second tier, there was a meatball, a spinach puff, and a brie and preserves Phyllo bite:

A golden brown spinach puff, golden brown Phyllo bite with raspberry preserves visible, and a meatball in a mini cupcake liner type thing.

My favorite thing about this tier was the contrast of textures. You have the perfectly moist meatball, the ultra crispy Phyllo and jammy preserves, and the golden brown, light and fluffy spinach puff bite. I could’ve a hundred more of each of these little things, they were so good!

The top tier consisted of strawberries in a fig balsamic, alongside the Swan House crème puff:

A beautiful floral shaped glass bowl full of cut up strawberries, and a crème puff in the shape of a swan and dusted with powdered sugar.

First off, can we just appreciate that beautiful little floral bowl?! That is the cutest bowl ever! I want one so bad!

Anyways, the strawberries were ripe and juicy, and the fig balsamic was no where near overpowering. Meanwhile, the crème puff, which was almost too adorable to eat, was light and airy, while the cream itself was sweet and decadent, making for the perfect bite.

As if those sweets weren’t an optimal thing to finish with, we were then given our choice of dessert! We opted for the waffle sundae, which was a Belgian waffle, topped with maple syrup and vanilla ice cream.

Half of a waffle topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with maple syrup, in an ornate glass bowl.

Oh my goodness, this thing was seriously delish. The vanilla ice cream was almost custardy in flavor and texture, with an extra decadent and rich creaminess to it. It was truly the perfect finish to this wonderful tea time!

Once we were done, we checked out the gift shop, which had an array of teapots and teacups, as well as children’s books about tea time, and lots of mugs with tea infusers! It was super cute, and the Valentine’s Day event came with a $5 off coupon to the gift shop. We were also gifted a Godiva heart shaped chocolate to take with us.

I also got a cup of tea to go, the Pear Green, which was just so nice and light and honestly an awesome thing to sip on on the drive home.

I couldn’t believe how much you got for thirty bucks a person! Plus tax and 20% gratuity was included in that price. It is a seriously great value. I ended up tipping more than what was included because everyone was so nice.

All in all, I had an amazing experience at the Swan House Tea Room, and would highly recommend going. I would truly love to go back again. Between the super kind service, the yummy food, and adorable gift shop, I had a really splendid time. Be sure to check them out on Instagram or Facebook.

Which treat looks the best to you? Which tea would you try? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


A Valentine’s Day Song For My Gal: “That Ain’t Bad”

What do you get the woman who has everything, on Valentine’s Day? In my case, you get her a song! More accurately, you go down to your basement music studio and bash out a quick-and-dirty version of the 1990 song “That Ain’t Bad” by the Australian band Ratcat. Why? Because it’s a fun song with a really catchy chorus! Their version is much better, mind you (and their video for the song features a very young Naomi Watts in it), but I’m not trying to make the definitive version of the song, I’m just trying to let my gal know I love her, yeah-eh-eh-ah.

Hope you’re having a nifty Valentine’s Day, wherever you are.

— JS

The Big Idea: Paz Pardo

Writer Robert Benchley once noted that you can do anything, as long as it’s not the thing you’re supposed to be doing. Paz Pardo knows a little bit about that – in fact, it’s one reason why her colorful new novel The Shamshine Blind is now out in the world.


What if emotions were weaponized—literally. What if someone could shoot you full of envy, or ennui, or joy? What if you could feel giddy, teenage obsession just by taking a tab at a party? Would you ever trust your own feelings?

The Shamshine Blind happened because I ran out of books in an internet-less house in the Argentine Andes. I was a Playwright, who Wrote Theater. I’d just been accepted into playwriting grad school! But I’d discovered that I wrote best with a constant input of fun books with smart protagonists, weird worlds, and intricate plots. And here I was, working on a grim play about my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s and the Argentine dictatorship (great fodder for grant applications! Very hard to write!) and I’d run out of everything to read.

So I did the only thing I could think of—I started writing my own book. I had this idea for colorful weaponized emotions: psychopigments. Like paintball, but with feelings. I couldn’t shake the thought of chaos caused by jealous couples dosing each other with Envy Green. And once I started, the world kept growing. The main character, Kay Curtida, grew on me too.

Worldbuilding started out as a hoot. Who would’ve discovered the tech that turned emotions into weapons? Argentina, with the highest rate of psychoanalysts per capita in the real world, was the obvious choice to me (and I was immensely tickled by the idea of Argentina as a superpower). They would’ve used psychopigments to win the Falklands War in the ‘80s. Most of my friends in the States didn’t even know that Britain and Argentina had once faced off over a bunch of rocky, sheep-covered islands; setting that as a turning point in world history sounded excellent to me.

But as I kept writing, the repercussions of these choices made the world I was imagining a disconcertingly serious place. The brutal Argentine dictatorship, with its neo-fascistic willingness to murder civilians to enforce “traditional values,” would’ve stayed in power—would even have provided a model of government others would seek to emulate. It started out almost as an escapist joke, but in an era of creeping fascism I found myself writing about a world that felt uncomfortably familiar.

At the heart of the book was Curtida, a know-it-all with a keen eye for the absurd and a blind spot the size of the Argentine Pampa when it came to her feelings. Curtida works a small-town beat as a member of the Psychopigment Enforcement Agency, just south of the ruins of San Francisco. She’s extremely competent—a mixed blessing for someone without the interest or tools for politicking that could nab her a transfer to a bigger city.

Curtida’s snarky commentary grabbed me from the get-go, but it was her emotional blind-spot that really kept my going. Growing up, I was always afraid of being too emotional. I was often one of the few girls in the nerdy boys’ spaces—whether that was a Magic: The Gathering tournament in middle school, the robotics competition in high school or the computer science classroom in college. I saw my male friends trying to decide if their own feelings were rational, if they were “objectively” worth paying attention to; and I knew that, as a girl, I was doubly likely to get dismissed if I got too touchy-feely.

So I watched my emotions carefully, analyzing each reaction I had to see if it was reasonable, dismissing the ones that didn’t make the cut—oh, I’m sad because I’ve been listening to depressing music; oh, I’m angry because it’s raining again. Usually if I didn’t like a feeling, I could find some tortured logic to explain it as coming from outside of me. Squash it down and ignore it, pretend it wasn’t really mine. This was not conducive to robust mental health, but it got me through college and my early twenties. Most months, I was a pretty functional depressed person.

Curtida’s got those same tendencies, but she lives in a world in which feelings literally do come from outside of you, thanks to the psychopigments she spends her life chasing through the streets of Daly City. It’s a world in which that depressive ability to squash down feelings can come in really handy: being good at ignoring your emotions is important when you’re trying to do something like arrest a crook who’s been contaminating the emotional landscape of the whole neighborhood with runoff from their illegal Cyan Sadness lab. But of course, Curtida’s human, and those feelings she can’t—or won’t—see continually make messes in her personal life. Without knowing what’s going on inside her, how could she navigate loss? Love? Her mother? I found myself writing a person I could relate to on a much deeper level than just the wise-cracking gumshoe I’d started out with—someone who struggled with the same things I’ve struggled with throughout my adult life.

My big idea of paintball-but-for-feelings started as a fun escape, but like my favorite great escapes it turned out to have something deeper going on as well. I think it’s still fun—if not, I really screwed up!—but eight years later, I finally feel like I’ve written the book I was hoping to read back when I started.

I guess this means I should get back to working on that play about Alzheimer’s…

The Samshine Blind: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powells

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

I Think I’ve Finally Figured Out Why I Write About Politics Here Rather Less Than I Used To

John Scalzi

I mean, besides the reason I’ve already noted several times, which is that there are only so many times you can say “The political right in the United States is unambiguously all-in on bigoted authoritarianism and white supremacy and has no interest in helping any American, just in punishing some of them” before it gets tiring, both to say and to hear. That remains accurate!

And also, the other thing is that so much political messaging these days, particularly on the right, is so performative that engaging with it is also performative, and a furtherance in distributing the original performative messaging. The political right in the United States understands that, inasmuch as it currently lacks a coherent political strategy other than will to power, it must keep its followers forever afraid, and its opponents forever on the defensive — spending their energy responding rather than doing anything else. So: outrage at trans people and black people and librarians and candies and anything else that will keep the outrage cycle going on for another 24 hours.

And, you know, I… just don’t want to. I’d like to say that it’s because I don’t have time, but I have the time, as much as I ever have with regard to this site. I just don’t have the inclination. So much of it is fucking trivial, for one — the individual incidents, to clarify, not the overall intent to strip everyone but white dudes of their rights — and all of it is “I said or did something shitty, now you have to respond, so I can play my next card.” Engaging in that level of rhetorical dishonesty for anything more than the length of a tweet feels icky, and even engaging in it for that long is fast losing its appeal.

Likewise saying much about any of the “personalities” of the right, including the several congresspeople who have been making obtuse screaming their brand. Yes, I’ve seen your trick. What else do you have? The answer: Not much. And that’s fine, I suppose, if there is something else to talk about. But there is nothing else: No policy, no strategy, nothing other than whatever you are for we are against. That’s it, plus the white supremacy mentioned above. Again: How many ways are there to approach that before it just gets stale? And why would I want to write it? I’m not getting paid to.

(This is another aspect of it: There are lots of people getting paid to write about these topics, and I think the need to put fresh spins on the simple fact that US right has nothing but bigotry and rage going for it these days is one reason we’re getting some fundamentally nonsensical commentary out of otherwise sensible writers. Dear political writers in the US: I know you know better. Please do better. As for me, I’m glad I’m not getting paid to write on politics, otherwise I’d be in the same boat.)

I don’t think this means that I won’t ever write on politics again until the right in the US gets smarter and less addicted to fomenting outrage. One, that’s not going to happen: not being smart, and fomenting outrage, has worked well enough for the right, so why would they change that. Two, even if the right in the US did want to do that, it would be a multi-decade project. It does mean that when and if I write about politics, I want it not to be reactive, or if it is reactive, not in the way that those instigating the messaging want it to be. And, again, for something longer than a tweet, that takes time and effort. I don’t have it in me to be silent about politics, but more than ever I’m aware that I, no less than anyone else, am susceptible to the prodding and poking of others to run their play when it comes to messaging.

(Also: I have less interest in being snarky about politics these days, which cuts down the amount I write about it here, too. It used to be easy to be snarky about politics! But then we had an attempted coup and the right leaned really hard into actually taking away the rights of American citizens. I don’t know, I feel less inclined to make funny quips about all of that. You can think of it as a personal failure if you like.)

So: Writing less about politics here, but I hope that when I do, I actually have something useful to say, rather than banging out “I’m writing to write about the thing everyone else is writing about” response text. And if I can’t make it useful, I think it’s fine not to write it up at all. It’s not as if people will lack things to read on the outrage du jour. That is, after all, the whole point of the outrage du jour.

— JS

Stationery Haul Courtesy Of An Internet Pal!

Athena ScalziAn internet friend sent me an amazing package full of goodies, and I wanted to come on here and share a few of them with y’all.

We actually did a sticker trade, which was good for me because it prompted me to organize my sticker collection a bit and put things in my sticker binder and sticker book. Now, I’ve got even more great stuff for my collection!

First off, let’s talk about how adorable her packaging skills are:

An array of stationery items scattered across the table. There's envelopes full of stickers, pretty paper with matching envelopes, a colorful package tied with string, etc.

I mean how aesthetic is this spread! Basically, everything you see contains either sticker sheets, washi tape, or crafting supplies like pretty paper and envelopes.

Not to mention she handmade this oven folder to put sticker sheets inside of:

A folder containing sticker sheets that is made to look like an oven, with dials and a handle and an oven mitt, and the middle portion is clear like glass so you can see the sheets inside.

All the sticker sheets that were inside the oven laid out in rows. They're all food themed, one is coffee themed, one is bakery themed, one is all fruits and veggies, one is doughnuts, etc.

Also this candy bag packaging? So cute!

A bright yellow package that looks like a package of gummy bears, and says

But instead of sweets inside, there were these awesome sticker sheets:

Three food themed sticker sheets, ranging from baked goods, to ice cream, to drinks like milk, lemonade, and coffee.

Aside from all these sheets, there were a ton of individual stickers, too, like these adorable dessert ones:

Four dessert themed stickers. One is tiramisu, one is a cupcake, and the other two are strawberry cake.

As I mentioned, not everything included was stickers. For example, this grape soda on the end is a magnet!

Four boba themed stickers lined up next to each other, with a grape soda magnet at the right end.

These vintage style food ones are literally blowing me away, they’re just incredible:

Six vintage style food posters. There's a hot dog, ice cream, a hamburger, popcorn, coffee, and pancakes.

Funny enough, the pancake one is the sticker that started this whole sticker trade! I had commented on her post asking where she got that specific one, and she said a store I had never heard of because it isn’t around me, so we initiated a sticker trade and she so kindly included this set of stickers that I so love!

I know what you’re thinking, is everything food themed? Behold, plants!

Five sticker sheets, all of which are floral/plant themed.

Admittedly, there are some food items amongst the floral items on one of the sheets, but I assure you there is plenty of variety.

I mean just look at this postcard!

A California postcard showing tons of touristy spots throughout the state, plus the ocean to the left and all the surrounding states and Mexico.

This was just one of a few postcards, too.

As if handmaking the oven wasn’t creative enough, she put together this little booklet for me.

A smol, handmade booklet.

It lists different places in California to check out during my next visit!

A page of the booklet that says

It is genuinely so thoughtful and super cute, too!

While this is definitely not everything she sent along, I hope you enjoyed looking at some of these highlights. I’m very grateful for her generosity and kindness!

What caught your eye? Are you a fan of the food theme as well, or is a different style more your speed? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


Krissy’s Office at the Old Church

John Scalzi

Slowly but surely things are moving along in the church renovations. Krissy has gotten herself a pretty fantastic desk set, and it’s been installed, and now she’s doing work in her new office space. She’s not entirely done decorating — that chair she’s in is temporary, and there are area rugs to come — but it’s functional now, which is a nice step. My office space you can see in the center right; I have yet to do any decorating at all, but that will come in fairly short order.

We have one last major bit of outside renovation which needs to be completed, involving capping a chimney; this has taken longer than expected because contractors are scarce on the ground these days and also it’s been winter (still is, although it was 62 degrees here today), but we have someone coming tomorrow to take a look. We’re knocking on all the wood that this will solve that problem.

But enough is done that we can get to work in here. It’s a nice space for work.

— JS

Oh, Hey, A New Depeche Mode Song

“Ghosts Again,” ahead of their upcoming album Memento Mori, their first after the passing of fellow DM member Andy Fletcher. So, in terms of song and album, all too appropriate. Also, pretty decent song, in the late-era Depeche Mode style. The band had been about, in one iteration or another, for 42 years now. I don’t know that anyone expected that from Depeche Mode, not least the remaining members.

Aside from the obvious cinematic referents, I thought the video looked very much like an Anton Corbijn photograph come to life, so it was with absolutely no surprise that checking credits revealed Corbijn as the director. Some things you can just tell, after all this time.

— JS

I Have No Brain and I Must Veg: The Virtue of How It’s Made

There are times when your brain turns to cheese, and is not good for anything useful, and yet you are not tired enough to sleep. For times like this, I turn to How It’s Made, the TV show where, to bland-yet-weirdly-compelling background music, the creation process of every day objects is documented and explained. Are these explanations interesting? Not as such, but they have the form and function of being interesting without actually demanding, you know, thought. It feels like you’re learning things but it actually requires nothing of you. It slides into your eyeballs and falls right out of your brain five minutes later. I love it and could easily watch 14 hours of it without interruption.

What is your “my brain is cheese and yet I cannot sleep” distraction? I crave your answer.

— JS

Housekeeping Note For Big Idea Pieces, re: Bookshop.org

John Scalzi

This is a small thing but worth noting: Inasmuch as Bookshop.org is taking over sales for Indiebound.org starting March 1, I’m going ahead and making Bookshop.org one of the default bookseller links for the Big Idea pieces, along with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s. Existing Indiebound links will stay in place (because I am lazy and there are hundreds of Big Idea pieces in the archives), but moving forward it’ll be taken out of the default link list. I’ll be updating information here to reflect this change.

Also a reminder that the sales links at the end of each Big Idea piece are not affiliate links and that I don’t make any money off them; they’re there for your convenience. Don’t ever feel obliged to use them for my sake or the sake of the site, especially if there’s a local bookstore you prefer to give your money to. But if you’re so excited reading a Big Idea that you just can’t wait to buy the book, I want to make sure you have options.

— JS

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