Sleep Hygiene

I visited a friend earlier this year, and we were out with his wife at a board game party having a grand ole time. At some not-unreasonably-late hour his wife said “I have to go home now, it’s my bedtime.” I thought this was strange: I haven’t personally had a bedtime since middle school. I responded “It’s fine: tomorrow’s a holiday, so no one has a bedtime!” She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Well, *I* maintain good sleep hygiene.” Can’t argue with that! We left the party and (one hopes) got back in time for bed.

I had no idea what the phrase “sleep hygiene” meant at the time. What she said to me made me wonder if I was somehow a dirty sleeper. I mean, sure: I drool. Luckily for me, another friend soon recommended a book which explained everything. It’s by Matthew Walker, and it’s called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

Other than the basics of what exactly we mean by “sleep hygiene” (a simple google search can answer that), the book describes research on the phases of sleep and each of their relevance in our waking lives. It answered some questions I have always had such as:

  • Why do I work on a math problem for hours and feel completely stuck only to wake up from a nap with the correct solution?
  • Why do I show more improvement in piano the next day than after an hour of practice?
  • Why do I feel more hungry if I didn’t sleep well the night before?
  • Why do I have worse self-control if I’m sleep deprived?
  • Why was it so hard to wake up early and go to sleep early as a teenager?
  • Why do old people sleep less?
  • Can you actually die of sleep deprivation?

Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It’s one of my bibles now, along with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code. Though I am not quite as strict about bedtime as my friend’s wife, I have learned a lot from the book about the myriad of benefits of a good night’s sleep and the perils of not sleeping enough. Plus, now I have science on my side when I argue that it’s good for me and not just pure laziness that I sleep as much as I do!

“Nigger” is not Lord Voldemort

Right. I spelled the word out. We should spell the word when discussing it. We shouldn’t have to call it “the n-word” or use other ways to disguise it. Why? Because nigger isn’t Lord Voldemort. Using it in an academic context does not give it more power, but maintaining the taboo around it does. Here’s a discussion of the same on the Language Log blog.

I’ve seen it in a few discussions now, where some who want the word to be masked in discussion accuse those who refer to it in full of being racists, or of wanting to spell it out/use it. I tried to educate myself on why it shouldn’t be spelled out in discussion, or why doing so would be offensive, and I found an article by John McWhorter in The Atlantic where he mentions the case of professor Laurie Sheck, who was investigated for using the word in a discussion about James Baldwin. He said “I am not a nigger” in a speech, and this was changed to “I Am Not Your Negro” for the title of the 2016 documentary on him. She had her class discuss why. She said the word, but did not use it as a slur. In short, McWhorter defends academic usage of the fully spelled out word, and implies that those who take offense are being hypersensitive.

Since it has become common to mask the word in online discussion, I wanted to see if there might be a good reason to do so. From what I’ve read, I’m not convinced there is. Furthermore, news sources seen as liberal (NYT, The Atlantic, NPR) do not engage in masking. What it means for you: it isn’t necessary for you to use clunky terms like “the n-word” or a row of asterisks. Referring to the full word in discussion doesn’t make you racist.

Note: I am not saying it’s okay to go around using the word.Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a good explanation on context and why it matters. However, he only covers using the words to refer to people, not saying the words to discuss their usage. For example, he wouldn’t call his wife’s friends as bitches just because she does. But he feels comfortable saying the word “bitch” and does not feel the need to call it “the b-word.” That’s all that I’m arguing here: without a target, a slur is not a slur and we should be comfortable using words (spelled out in their entirety) in discussions about them.

And if people get offended? Why, it’s the perfect chance to tell them “that’s not my religion.”

That’s not my religion

I’ve figured out the perfect response to those occasions when someone starts to lecture you on concepts from social justice or critical race theory. You know those discussions. Where they’ve decided that a field that didn’t exist 50 years ago (e.g., African American studies) gets to dictate the meaning of already-defined English words like “racism.” Or where they tell you the fact that you’re wearing certain clothes or hairstyles is “hurtful” or “offensive.”

It’s a very simple response that does not invite argument: “That’s not my religion.”

Perhaps a devout Muslim is offended that as a woman, you’re out in public without a hair covering. If they tell you it offends them, a perfectly reasonable response is, “That’s not my religion.” It acknowledges that they have a set of beliefs you aren’t going to argue with, but firmly asserts that you have a different set of beliefs and are not inclined to live by theirs just so they aren’t offended.

The same phrase and concept can be applied to the following conversations:

“Black people can’t be racist because racism is a combination of prejudice and institutionalized racism.”

That’s not my religion. I believe anyone can be racist.”

“It’s wrong for [insert celebrity name] to wear cornrows because that’s cultural appropriation.”

That’s not my religion. People should wear their hair however they like.”

There is no sense in arguing with people who tell you they’re offended and therefore, you should live your life differently. You’re never going to convince them that their way of looking at the world is, at best, unhelpful. It’s exactly like an argument about religion: it’s a set of strongly held beliefs with no possibility of objective proof. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give in and concede to live by whatever others find most comfortable. We can simply declare that it isn’t our religion and continue living by our own beliefs. I hope you’ll join me in making this response a common one whenever faced with complaints about the hurtfulness of increasingly petty perceived racial slights.

Check your privilege

It’s a phrase thrown around by social justice types, but it’s also a fun game. My contention is that everyone has a set of privileges and while you might think someone else has a better set than you, it is often the case that they’re looking at you and thinking the same thing. Just like people with straight hair who want curly hair and vice versa.

Here are my privileges in no particular order

Privileges of small breasts

  • Bras are for decoration only, and cheap. Can find them for $2.50 on clearance because no one buys my size.
  • No back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, strap pain, constriction pain. No pain at all.
  • No one stares at my chest.
  • I never have to wonder if someone only likes me for my breasts.
  • Every clothing item my size fits and looks “professional”

Privileges of being Asian

  • Anywhere I go, people assume I belong there because Asians are “rule-following.”
  • I am assumed to be competent, especially at subjects like math.
  • If security screening is discretionary, I am never chosen for additional screening.
  • I am never suspected of shoplifting.
  • Even when I haven’t washed my hair in a month or changed clothes in a week (and look utterly homeless) strangers treat me with respect. Sales clerks especially.
  • When I look at a stranger, they smile at me. (Maybe I smile first. I don’t know.)

Privileges of being short

  • I can buy clothes from the children’s section. Usually about 50% less expensive.
  • I am comfortable in economy class and can sleep during long haul flights.
  • I never, ever hit my head on fixtures, doorways, or anything hanging from ceilings.
  • I can outsource all tasks requiring height.

Anyway, this game works for any category you can think of. If you’ve decided that privilege is something only certain categories of people have, you’re wrong. No matter what category you fall into, you have your own set of privileges and you may as well make the most of them instead of being bitter about the privileges others have that you don’t.

Americans misuse French

Sometimes it’s nuanced. Sometimes it’s blatant. Mostly it’s hilarious. Americans have taken some French words or sayings and made them something they aren’t to the French. If you know of any not on this list, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it!

Ooh la la!

To Americans, this phrase means “Well, isn’t that fancy.” It’s a response to a friend showing off a new designer purse, for example. When the French say it, there are usually more “las.”  It sounds like “ooh la la la la la la!” It doesn’t mean they’re impressed. It means something like “What a mess. How annoying.” It’s a common response when a child drops something and it breaks all over the floor, or when a child falls and starts screeching.


This one has a hilarious backstory. My boyfriend’s mother asked him to hand her a casserole from the kitchen cabinet. I stared at them both. “Don’t you refrigerate your casseroles? The French make shelf-stable casseroles?!” They stared at me, and he got a “casserole” out of the cabinet. It was a cooking pot. It wasn’t even the flat, rectangular baking dish that Americans bake casseroles in.


To Americans, this word has a romantic or sexual connotation. So when I heard a French person say they had a rendezvous with their hair dresser, I was curious. “You’re sleeping with your hair dresser?” That’s when I was told that in French, it just means any kind of meeting or appointment. Not necessarily sexual. Probably not sexual, in fact.

A la mode

In America, this phrase means “with ice cream.” In French, it isn’t used to mean anything other than its literal meaning, “in the fashion.” If you ask a French person to serve your dessert “a la mode” they’ll just give you a funny look. “In the fashion of what?” they might ask you.


Apparently, this is a name in America. In French, it means “the watch” (la montre). The most common reaction I’ve heard from French people upon learning that this is used as a name in America is “Really? But why?”


Fix Stranded Inventory on FBA

If you found this, you’re probably dealing with the frustrating problem of stranded inventory on FBA. This post covers only the specific case of “Please review for quality issues.”

When you mouse over the reason, you’ll see “Your listing has been paused. This may be due to a listing quality issue, such as a pricing error. Review your listing and verify that all information is correct. To resume selling, click Edit, make the required updates to the listing, then click Save and finish.”

Contacting seller support probably got you some canned response about the “fair pricing policy” and “match the buy box.” Which won’t necessarily make sense, because this problem often happens to people who have the only offer, who match the buy box, or who are already lower than the buy box. It is a bug with the pricing bot, and seller support associates either cannot or simply won’t help you get your listing re-activated, even if fiddling with the price on your end isn’t working. So here’s what may work for you:

  1. Delete all offending listings. It’s not enough to close. You must select “Delete products and listings” from your Manage Inventory view.
  2. Re-list them with the same SKU as before. Where to find the SKU? It’s the first column on your “Fix Stranded Inventory” page. When you add a product, there’s a box labeled “Seller SKU” right under the price box. Be sure to fill that with the same SKU as the stranded item.

Now wait about 15 minutes, and your listings should be good as new! This refreshes the listings when seller support is unwilling to do so.

Note: there is some risk to using this workaround. There is always the chance that Amazon will be unhappy with you trying to go around their pricing bot and suspend you. However, if your items are stranded because the pricing bot is still buggy, and seller support won’t help, what choice do you have? After all, it doesn’t make sense from a pricing bot perspective that your competitors can charge the same or more, and your listing is the one that’s blocked.

Dear Dolly: depressed friend

Dear Dolly,

This is a question for next time, because I don’t talk to this person anymore. I had a friend who was depressed. I tried to be a good friend, but I think I made some mistakes. For example, I started inviting her over all the time because she would say stuff that made me feel sorry for her, like she’d tell me she was eating crackers for dinner. Or not leaving the house all weekend. So, I’d have her over and feed her several meals through the week. Or I’d invite her along to whatever I was doing on the weekend. I thought I was being helpful, but probably, I was enabling behavior that wasn’t good. Over time, it seemed like she wasn’t enjoying the time we spent together, so I tried spending less time with her. This made things awkward because she was angry and hurt about this. I did not know how to respond to this because I felt it was inappropriate (i.e., why should she be angry — it’s my time: I can spend it how and with whom I want), so we stopped talking.

I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I just didn’t know how else to deal with it. The last few times I saw her were unpleasant — like I was forcing someone to socialize when they didn’t want to. You know, a lot of moody silence. I also didn’t know how to talk to her about her depression. She’d often message me, sharing depression memes and repeating her bleak outlook on life and the pain she was in. I am sure I said the wrong things in response (variations on “accept it or find a way to change it” or “you should talk to your therapist”). I know that was harsh, but she told me in the past that she did things to make her depression worse because the worse shape she was in, the more attention she got from friends. I didn’t want to be a part of that. The question is, what should I have done differently? 

— Not such a good friend for the depressed

Dear NSaGFftD,

Your first mistake was an early one. You know what they say about good intentions and the road to hell, right? You can’t be the one person fix-everything machine. Especially not if the problems are as serious as clinical depression. Your first mistake was the lack of boundaries. If you want to help someone, you need to help them in a sustainable way. Can you feed a person several times a week for the rest of their lives? Sure. But that’s not helping them. That’s making it easier for them to never figure out how to do better for themselves.

Better would have been to think of her as any other friend — go out to meals with her, invite her along to movies, or to your BBQ. Let her invite you out too! Don’t try to be her personal chef or cruise director. You saw for yourself that didn’t work. She was probably forcing herself to say “yes” to all your invitations even if she knew she wouldn’t enjoy herself because her therapist told her to try being more social. Or because she was afraid you’d stop extending invitations if she kept declining them.

You’re right in your analysis that how you talked to her about her depression wasn’t helpful. You shouldn’t give advice on how to deal with depression: you don’t have any solutions because you don’t know what it feels like in someone else’s head. A better approach would have been say that you care about her, and you’re sorry she’s in pain. Given what she revealed about her own patterns, you could add that you don’t want to see her get any worse, so you aren’t going to give her attention when she talks about depression. Emphasize that you care, and you want to see her get better, but you don’t think that talking to you about it will help. After that, if she brings it up again, reiterate that you care, but you can’t discuss that topic with her in a healthy way. If it continues, don’t respond to that line of conversation.

It’s not easy to find the balance between showing that you care about someone and trying to fix everything for them. You can’t do the latter without them becoming dependent on you. You have to set expectations and boundaries you feel can be maintained. Remember, people who are depressed and/or lonely are vulnerable and can come to rely on you for more than you feel comfortable with — so don’t set that expectation! Try to treat them as you would any other friend, but just be more understanding if they don’t feel like seeing you — make sure they know you’ll still be around when they’re feeling (somewhat) social again. Better luck next time!