About My Blogs

Like many writers, I've started, abandoned and returned to a number of blogs over the years, including ones on this site, at Medium and at the Huffington Post. I wrote a blog called Backward Messages for about three years, exploring the scapegoating of violent video games, heavy metal, the occult and other topics. I also occasionally post recipes from my kitchen at Gluten-Free With Everything

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Blog Index
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Thursday
Jun302016

Nine Cups of Sweetness: A tour of San Francisco magazine’s top-rated hot cocoa

For Valentine’s Day, San Francisco magazine published a list of their nine favorite cups of hot chocolate in the city. I happen to have a seven-year-old daughter who loves chocolate, warm drinks, marshmallows and whipped cream, which seemed a perfect excuse to regard the magazine’s recommendations as a to-do list. Here’s what we thought:

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Sunday
Feb282016

A Music Writer’s Guide to Reporting Sexual Misconduct Stories — Fearlessly

Michael Gira, leader of experimental rock band Swans, is the latest in a string of public figures to be accused of sexual assault or harassment. The number of folks facing similar allegations are beginning to pile up, including Kesha’s producer, Dr. Luke; ex-Life or Death PR leader Heathcliff Berru; Runaways producer Kim Fowley; comedian and television star Bill Cosbyand R&B star R. Kelly. While allegations against some big-name entertainers have been covered in the mainstream press, coverage of similar claims against lesser-known men has been left to the smaller presses — and often to music writers who have little, if any, familiarity with crime reporting. Until recently, there wasn’t much call for music writers to sharpen these particular skills. For the most part, victims of sexual assault or harassment in the music world kept quiet. Now that their stories are beginning to come out, writers accustomed to turning out reviews and features might be reluctant to tackle such claims because they fear making mistakes. But those fears can prevent important information from getting out — and can keep long-silent voices from being heard.

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Wednesday
Feb172016

Gavels, Benchslaps and Stupid Patents: 7 Surprises From The Judicial System

I’ve logged a “People’s Court” (the original series!) worth of hours sitting in courtrooms over the past three years, mostly federal and state appeals courts in the San Francisco Bay Area. You probably don’t need me to tell you that actual court isn’t at all like television court, but let me do it anyway. Real-life courts — civil courts, at least — have a lot less yelling, defendant-shaming and gavel-banging (in fact, gavels are rare; more on that later), but they’re not without their drama. It’s just that the theatrics are more complicated and more subtle. Less Donald Trump, more Barack Obama. They’re also full of surprises. Here are a few:

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Sunday
Jan172016

An Unexpected Mindfulness Lesson

Today I went to an all-day mindfulness workshop. It started off with a brief, 10-minute-or-so meditation in which we were asked to focus on our breathing, be aware of sensations in our bodies, and try not to get carried off by stray thoughts. To bring us out of the meditation, one of the teachers rang one of those small bells shaped like a bowl. One by one, the people in the room opened their eyes and sat ready for the next part of the workshop, except one. Up near the front of the room, there was a woman who didn't wake up. Her neighbors shook her gently, but within a few moments it became clear that she was unconscious.

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Friday
Oct302015

What Ellen Pao’s Trial Says About Our Understanding of Consent

One of the central stories of Ellen Pao’s gender bias trial against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was her affair with a colleague, Ajit Nazre, and how the aftermath led her to believe the firm treated women unfairly. Pao’s lawsuit didn’t claim Nazre harassed her, but over the course of the monthlong trial it became clear that he had made unwanted advances toward multiple women at the firm, and that those women were reluctant to fight it, despite how uncomfortable they were. Pao ultimately gave in to Nazre’s “relentless” and dishonest advances, which allowed the defense to paint the affair as consensual, despite numerous signs that it wasn’t. The fact that so many people seemed to buy this version of the story, including female reporters covering the trial, says we have a long way to go toward really understanding consent and power dynamics in sexual relationships.

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