I fell in love with this fantasy-themed coat

Seattle got much colder than I expected, and by the end of the first day, the light raincoat I’d brought was just not cutting it. I went out to look for a heavier sweater, at least. I didn’t plan to buy a coat, I swear! I’m trying to do something of a buy-nothing January, to recover a little from all the holiday gifting, etc.

I mean, buy groceries and other essentials, yes. (Although I’m also trying to eat down the pantry and the frozen foods, with some success. I just had some frozen curry chicken bao for lunch, that I bought three months ago, and they were delicious.) But mostly, when I feel the urge to buy a book or a game or clothes or whatever non-essential item, I put it in the shopping cart and save it for later. If I still want it in February, I’ll see if we can afford it then.

But sometimes the fates just step in. The Free People store that was literally across the street from my hotel happened to have ONE of these jackets left, in EXACTLY my size, AND it was on clearance, so still pricey, but not quite as outrageous as their normal pricing. I thought, “Well, I’ll just try it on.” Mostly, I admit, sort of thinking that Ellen Kushner would appreciate this coat, which seems sort of Tremontaine-ish, and I should at least try it on and take a photo for her.

Then I fell in love. It’s a great color for me, and I don’t actually own a dashing velvet jacket, and it was actually reasonably warm, and it had good pockets.

Plus, I do budget separately for convention / performance clothes vs. regular clothes, and think of those as part of my professional expenses, even though they’re not actually tax-deductible, which seems a shame and also sexist, given how much more pressure there is on women to spend a lot of money on work clothes / make-up / etc., often with professional consequences if they don’t.

AND, while I have a goodly number of starry dresses and the like at this point, so the SF side is well represented, I am still somewhat lacking on the fantasy side. When I host a SLF Deep Dish reading, I like to look the part, and SF has been much more represented than fantasy so far. So I kind of HAD to buy this jacket, right? (I would also like a dragon dress or several. Must work on that.)

I feel like my decision was validated by the fact that a) I was much less cold when I walked out of the store, and b) no fewer than FOUR South Asian writers in the next two days complimented me on this jacket.  No regrets!

(I did sort of fail to take a selfie that captured the full glory of the jacket, but hopefully you get the idea.)

#serendibwriting
#serendibtravel
#sala2020

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My gosh, they do feed us well here

At the commencement welcome, one of the conference chairs of SALA made a joke about how we’re going to talk well and eat well. I’m not sure I’m talking all that well (still tired and a little out of it!), but my gosh, they do feed us well here.

Breakfast & lunch for two days are included in your registration, along with a very hearty closing reception that they said could easily be your dinner that night; coffee and tea service is also laid out throughout, which has been very handy for me, as I duck out of my room, grab some hot coffee, and duck back in to work a little more.

But just look at what they’ve served us so far! (I forgot to take photos of the avocado tartine and the fig tartine at breakfast, but they were very pretty.) One slight tweak I’d suggest for the hotel — I love that they used chicken thighs instead of breast, in terms of flavor, but personally, I wouldn’t have served it on the bone for a buffet like this. Too difficult to eat while sitting on low couches, managing drinks, etc. Nothing that requires knives!

I think my favorite, flavor-wise, was the combination of the curried salmon w/ the roasted sweet potatoes. Mmmm… I liked it so much I decided to skip dessert and go back for seconds of that instead. The roasted potatoes were also perfectly done, and delish.

#serendibwriting
#serendibkitchen

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How dedicated am I?

So here is the question — how dedicated am I? I slept poorly last night, and I attended 4 straight hours of readings this evening, from 7 – 11 (two different readings). All of which is fine, but I have a 5 a.m. call scheduled (with various international futurist folks; it’s not a great time for them either, but it’s the best we could manage).

I am having a hard time making myself set the alarm, even though I can, in theory, wake up, take the call from my bed, and go right back to sleep afterwards; I have nothing I *have* to be at in the morning. All my commitments are for afternoon & evening tomorrow.

Going to go get actually ready for bed, and see if my position clarifies after teeth-brushing. Surely that will solve everything?

#serendibwriting

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A massive pile of logistical stuff

Okay. So I had a massive pile of logistical stuff to deal with, like contacting Elliott Bay and Hugo House and Book Larder and Capitol Cider here in Seattle, to see if I can stop by tomorrow and show them Feast and talk about ordering books / events, should I come back to Seattle soon.
 
(Hm. I’m not sure WHEN I should come back to Seattle. SF / Clarion folks, if you were visiting Seattle between March and October, when would you try to come? Are there cons I should peg the potential visit to? A great Clarion party or event?)
 
Much of this was very urgent, so I had to skip the after-lunch panel sessions at SALA, which makes me grumpy. But I have just one more thing to do, and then I’ll be clear enough that I can go to a panel — I’m planning on this one, which looks fascinating, if also troubling…
 
Teaching South Asia in Precarious Times
Chair: Masood Raja, University of North Texas
 
Rahul K. Gairola, Murdoch University, “Teaching Amidst Terrorism: Hermeneutical Tensions in the Expository Writing Classroom During the ‘New War’”
 
Masood Raja, University of North Texas, “Teaching Precarity in the era of Neoliberal Globalization”
 
Asma Sayed, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, “Teaching South Asia in an Interdisciplinary Social Justice Context”
 
Upasana Dutta, University of Chicago, “The Ethics of Reading Crises: Working on Kashmir after the Abrogation of Article 370”
 
#serendibwriting
 
[1-8-20]
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Funny travel / eating moment

Funny travel / eating moment. So yesterday, I was VERY tired, and I really just wanted some spicy Asian comfort food for dinner. Luckily, there was a Vietnamese restaurant with good reviews (Long Provincial) half a block away from my hotel. So I staggered in there, made it to a table, and ordered a dish I knew I liked, Cá Kho Tộ, which is caramelized and braised catfish.

The waiter asked if I wanted rice with that, which I mean, what kind of question is that? Does anyone actually eat this intensely flavored dish — sweet and salty and spicy — without rice? Maybe white people do? Surely Vietnamese people don’t? I don’t really know, but I was startled.

Anyway, I said yes, and he went away and came back eventually (service was a little slow; I think they were understaffed). I’d offer photos of the food at the restaurant, but they seated me in an area that was so moody and dark that I could barely see my food, much less photograph it.

Luckily, the book I had brought to read was on my Kindle; otherwise, I would’ve asked to be moved to the brightly-lit section. (Re-reading Civil Campaign, because when I’m that tired, all I want is comfort reading, and Miles being an ass and everyone he knows calling him on it is about as comforting as it gets. I love Miles, I identify intensely with Miles, but Miles is also often a very cogent warning as to how I might go horribly astray…anyway. Back to our story.)

So he brings me this beautiful big clay pot full of fish and intense sauce, and this teeny tiny bowl of rice. Hm. I started eating, but usually I don’t eat very much at any given meal (I eat many many small meals), so I only finished about a third of the fish and all of the rice.

You really needed the rice! I honestly don’t know that I could’ve borne to eat the fish & sauce otherwise, because the flavors would’ve been unpleasantly intense. But balancing each bite of delicate fish and savory sauce with an appropriate amount of rice, it was just perfect.

(Not the best Cá Kho Tộ I’ve had, and $22 was rather a lot for catfish, but eh, it’s downtown Seattle, and as I said, half a block from my hotel. I’m not complaining about the price (well done gouging the tourists, Asian peeps, say I!), and the dish itself was fine. I’d eat there again! And besides, it makes three meals for me, so it all works out. Only because of the rice, though, so onwards…)

Here’s the funniest bit, at least to me. When I’d finished, I asked him for a container to pack it up, but also, if I could have some more rice. And I swear, he almost laughed when he said yes. I can’t be sure. But when he brought back the container for the fish, he also brought back rice — TWICE AS MUCH as he’d originally served me. And he didn’t charge me for it either.

So, I dunno, because I’m not an expert in Vietnamese food, and I honestly don’t know how this dish is typically eaten in Vietnam. But I wonder if the first serving of rice was geared for white tourists, and the takeaway much larger portion was because he’d realized that I knew how to eat the dish properly…? Hmm…

Regardless, I ate half of my leftovers for first breakfast, and they were delicious. 

#serendibkitchen
#serendibtravel

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Panel at MLA

This is the panel I’ll be on tomorrow evening at MLA, just fyi.

“Sri Lankan American Women and Non-binary Writers: Contemporary Investments and Future Directions”

THURSDAY, 9 JANUARY, 7.00 PM-8.15 PM, SKAGIT 4 (Washington State Convention Center)

While examining investments in human rights, transgenerational memory, and alternative forms of justice, panelists investigate the current trends and future directions of the work by Sri Lankan American women and non-binary writers.

Respondent
Sonali Perera (Hunter C, City U of New York)

Speakers
V. V. Ganeshananthan (U of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
Maryse Jayasuriya (U of Texas, El Paso)
Mary Anne Mohanraj (U of Illinois, Chicago)
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Independent scholar)
Sinduja Sathiyaseelan (U of Toronto)

Presider
Dinidu Karunanayake (Centre C, KY)

#serendibwriting

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At the Seattle hotel for the SALA / MLA

I got off the plane in Seattle and although the forecast claimed 51F and raining, it is not actually raining, and thus I just wore my cardigan and didn’t pull out my raincoat and let us say that I do occasionally have a twinge of ‘why don’t we live somewhere warm?’ as I get older. 

(Kevin sometimes suggests moving back to the Bay Area for retirement, and while Jed and Kevin’s family are there, and it would be lovely in many ways (I loved living in Oakland), I am entirely unclear on how we could possibly afford it…)

As a separate note, Seattle airport has the best ride-share pick-up area I’ve seen so far, hosted in their parking garage (so you’re under some protection from weather), actually hosting parking spots for the drivers to pull into, and a reasonably smooth layout for them then pulling out of; other airports, please take note and do similarly!

What I’d really like (as I get older and peering for license plates gets trickier for aging eyes), would be a little blinky thing on the top of the car with “Mary Anne” in big bright letters. I suppose such electronic devices would be too prone to damage / failure to make it worthwhile to the drivers, and also rather gaudy for driving around town, so it’d be even better if it flipped down when not in use for a pick-up. Probably not really feasible; oh well.

I’m staying at the Thompson Seattle which is the conference hotel for SALA and rawther fancier than my typical sci-fi convention hotel. The view is not quite the promised water view — I’d call it a building view with hints of water and a ferris wheel beyond — but is quite lovely nonetheless. The bed is very inviting for someone who has been running on not quite enough sleep for a few nights, staying up late trying to finish everything before leaving town.

(And per the previous article I just posted on the professional cost of grooming for women, I think I spent a solid hour from 11 – midnight last night trying to figure out what I had that a) fit, b) looked presentable for a conference, and ideally c) had a little bit of my actual style to it. Would Kevin have just called it a night, gone to bed, thrown on jeans and a button-down, and been more rested today? Perhaps.)

Anyway, if you stay at such a hotel, do note that the ‘honor bar,’ as they call it, is really a mini bar full of outrageously overpriced items that are rather tempting to a tired traveller (and also such fascinating items as a ‘lover’s kit’ that includes a couples’ erotic vibrating ring (!) among other things, a wireless charger (unlabelled so that I had to open the package to figure out what it is), a fancy shave club razor and blades, along with a host of locally-sourced yummies).

There are actually no prices on anything except the water ($9!), which I find weird and honestly a little misleading. (Though they did hand me a complimentary half-size bottle of water at registration, which is just confusing. Mixed messages?) Plus, now that I’ve touched some of the items and even picked them up for photographs and investigation, I’m going to have to remember to check my bill and make sure that the hotel sensors don’t decide to charge me for them. Gah.

Instead of eating any of that, I’m planning to go down for the happy hour which promises $1 oysters. Mmmm… And I’m going to try to resist napping in that lovely lovely bed, because if I lie down now, I may not get up again anytime soon, and the conference opens with a reception @ 5, which I’d like to attend.

Among other things, I can’t remember if I actually REGISTERED for this thing, so if not, I’d better go do that. That’s been happening a lot lately, but Stephanie is going to make sure I stop doing that, once I stop loading her down with Kickstarter packages to take to the post office. (We decided that it really didn’t make sense for her to be doing much of that going forward; an occasional package, fine, but if there’s another BIG set at some point, I’m going to hire a nice local college student to do the hauling back and forth, and let Stephanie concentrate on the computer work.)

Okay. Oysters. And tomorrow morning, I’m planning to go feed myself breakfast at Pike Place Market, which I think is only a short walk from here. It will be delightful. The last time I went there, I think was for my birthday while at Clarion — I skipped class that day, and walked around with a boy I had a mad crush on. (Sadly unreciprocated.  ) If I’m remembering right, it might have also been his birthday? Oh, I really am getting old — I can’t remember!

#blog
#serendibtravel

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At the Thompson Seattle Bar

The best cosmo I’ve had (pomegranate instead of cranberry, and John uses citric acid instead of lime juice, to maintain the clear pink color, a trick I totally plan to try when I get home for my Sri Lankan arrack cocktail experiments!), beautifully balanced, along with a stunning presentation of my happy hour oysters (six for $6!). I even drizzled the tangy gingered sauce over the micro greens and ate those too! Thompson Seattle bar, you’ve revived me!

Funniest part? I think John may have fed me fabulously before, because ten years ago he was an apprentice chef at Charlie Trotters, where Kev and I went for an anniversary dinner that remains the best meal of my life.

#serendibkitchen
#serendibtravel

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Sun Salutations

Nice morning in Columbus. I woke up, realized I should pack before our 9:30 pick-up, so did that while eating leftover Indian food (if you stir the rice into the sauce, it won’t go dry overnight, and while it would be better heated, room temperature the next morning is okay with me) and listening to an episode of GBBO Masterclass — Mary and Paul nattering on about eclairs is remarkably soothing.

I had a little time, so before getting properly dressed, I tried a 7-minute yoga video on YouTube, on sun salutations, reminding me of the sequence. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Z7lix6Qao)

It’s been SO LONG since I did yoga; I’d really forgotten how the sun salutation went. I’m going to try to do this video a few times this week, get the pattern back into my body. Even just doing 3-4 of these makes me feel more awake, more present in my body, more stretched and comfortable, with the blood flowing. I swear, I think better after exercise, though it seems goofy to think that more blood is flowing to my brain, more oxygen. Goofy, yet believable. Pseudo-science? Still, so much of my day is sitting at a desk in front of a computer (or bent over a counter repetitively cutting trays of sweets right now); I need to find ways to fit more varied movement in, and little bits of yoga sound perfect to spot through the day. The question is, can I make it a habit?

When I’d finished yoga and dressing, I came downstairs and had the hotel people print me out 20 copies of my handout for today’s class on building characters around identities. Scott’s wife kindly picked us up (me and the other facilitators, Nick Mamatas and Chiwan Choi) and brought us over to the Streetlight Guild. I only interrogated Scott a little bit about the building (I poked my nose into the basement, and I totally think he can reclaim some more space down there if he needs it), before grabbing my coffee and retreating upstairs to the lovely conference/office space.

It’s rented out during the week, but quiet right now, so I’m hoping to get an hour of writing done now, while the others are teaching. Just have to stop procrastinating and actually start work. Maybe some music will help. Maybe the coffee will kick in. Maybe I will stop babbling to you all…

#parallelswriting

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