Monday, May 25, 2020

a fragile day

Today was just another hard day. I guess it teaches me to get out of a useful schedule...

I mowed the lawn yesterday, moving very fast on a high humidity day (it was a dewpoint of 75). I was moving fast because storms were predicted and I got done just before my phone alert about "lightning in your area" went off. But I overstressed something or pulled something and my upper back and arms are very sore today (I use a reel-type mower, so I am the only source of power for it).

I didn't do much today. I had thought of baking bread but mid morning - when I should have started - I was in so much pain I didn't want to. So I mostly just sat around and faffed. Read a little. But didn't do much else. I'm still in pain. I took a tylenol but it didn't do much. I didn't really do anything all day

The problem with this is I begin to think about:

1. How long every day is when you're stuck indoors (it poured rain today so going outside made no sense)

2. How many, many, many more long days there are going to be in this state. If this is what eternity is like? I'm not sure I WANT an afterlife.

It's supposed to rain all week, and with a high probability at that, so no point in going to Twin Oaks - for one thing, I've not been able to clear out the rest of the area I might want to plant, and I'm guessing if it's pouring down they can't do the open-air checkout and probably just close up. And anyway, looking for plants outdoors in pouring rain is no fun. And even if there's a gap in the rain, they're a half-hour from me, so the chances of it not being rain there when I get there is not 100%, and not even high enough for it to feel worth it.

That was literally the big thing I was looking forward to. I guess the lesson is I'm not, for some reason, allowed to have anything to look forward to ever again - so many things I looked forward to this spring have just crashed and burned, both big things and little things. 

I need to make myself do at least one more hour of reading, and then maybe I watch another episode or two of "Murder, She Wrote," because at least that's diverting. I think my favorite shows these days are the ones where the central character has a network of friends (after all,what are all the co-workers in Pawnee's Parks and Recreation department but a little found family?) or family (they seem to have given Jessica Fletcher dozens of cousins and nieces and nephews). I'm sure that's partly because I'm so alone right now, but I've always liked situations (shows or books) where the main characters just....effortlessly....have a big group of friends, that everyone who kind of works together or hangs out together gets along. Probably because I feel like I've never had enough friends, or I've kind of "edited myself out" of people's lives because I tell myself they have friends who are more important to them than me, or that their family needs to be more important to them, and I have no claim on their time....

My own family is so small and so scattered and a couple people at the edges of it have kind of cut themselves off from everyone else and most of my mom's relatives are dead anyway.

***

I cooked dinner (pork chops from the most recent Imperfect Foods box) and it was disappointing. No more pork unless I can get it from someone raising heirloom hogs that actually have some intramuscular fat because otherwise pork cooks up inedibly dry and tough.

***

I don't know. I just feel kind of useless again. If I could go back in time, I'd pull Past Me aside and go, "look, I don't CARE that you like being outdoors for studying stuff, go into virology or pharmaceutical research, you will thank me in 30 or 40 years"  and then my life would take a different path and I'd be pulling 14 hour days trying to get through research on this thing as fast and well as possible - but at least I'd not be sitting here sitting looking at the rain and crying and being utterly useless to anybody, including myself.

I really hope that, despite the forecast, the rain stops for at least a while one day this week so I can get outdoors. I may just have to get in my car and drive - not to go anywhere, I won't even get out of the car - but I need to see something else, I need to convince myself that the world beyond my block still exists and it hasn't collapsed into a black hole leaving only the little slice of the world that I can see from my window.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday morning things

* I've been "attending" (virtually, of course) my mother's church (Well, right now, everyone is attending virtually: the minister preaches in an empty church and loads pre-recorded music and the like). In a way it's nice to have that link with where I used to live (this was the church I belonged to when I lived there, and the current minister - who was planning on retiring the end of this year but I don't know if that will happen just yet - was just starting out about the time I moved down here)

This week is Ascension (well, last week really was, but it was also Honor Graduates day, so Ascension came this week). In recent years at least some Disciples congregations have got more liturgical, and I like that; I find having those waypoints in the year helps, somehow: It's a cycle, you come back around to the same things, it reminds you that there were literally over a thousand years of Christians who came before you who did these same things.

But one thing today struck me - he played a short video, not quite what you would call an apologetic, explaining the Ascension and what it fundamentally means - and quoted the verse right after the Resurrection where Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to hold on to him because he had not yet ascended. And that struck me - perhaps one of the lessons in this is letting go. Learning to let go. That is something I am bad at. I would be like Simon Peter at the Transfiguration - "Let's build houses and STAY HERE FOREVER." I do not like change, especially when the change seems to suggest a worse future.

And that's something I'm having to sit with a lot through this - the idea that the future is going to be VERY different from what the past was, and on the bad days, I worry that it will be all bad - we will lose all commerce other than Wal-mart and Amazon, we won't be able to hug one another or be comfortable out in public, always scanning for someone coming within ten feet of us, and travel....well, if I travel on the train to see my mom I'd have to self quarantine, maybe in the garage, to make sure I'm not sick so I don't bring the virus to her.

But to survive, I have to not just tell myself that all those bad things are unlikely to happen, but also to let go of my expectation of having access to things like in-person quilt shops, or accept that maybe I will ultimately lose my job in the coming higher-ed apocalypse, and have to decide if I'm able to just retire early, and live a more frugal life and do volunteer work, or see if I can find a different job. (I am not going back on the tenure track treadmill, not in my 50s, not even if there were a job open for me elsewhere. Nor would I teach on an adjunct basis; it is too much work and too heartbreaking for that low level of job security and pay). That the future will be different but there will be at least some good things in it.

Though also now, one of my great regrets? My life was SO GOOD before, and I didn't see it, and I complained about petty things so much. I just should have been happy with what I had and if I could go back in time I would definitely tell 2010 me or whoever that I should enjoy the coming decade because there are big changes coming down the road that I won't like.

Maybe one of the curses people like me live under is we never see how good a thing was until it's over? I remember how I complained about all the 1998 fieldwork I "had" to do (it was added on at my dissertation-proposal defense) and now when I look back? That was one of the best summers of my life, I learned a lot, I got to hang out with a lot of people (I got a lot of different people to serve as field hands with me). 

It also strikes me that this is one thing Christianity and Buddhism share? The concept that we need to let go of things in the here and now, to not want earthly things, to not have too-set of expectations. And that is something that is hard for me - I make my plans and I hate having them disrupted, but I also hate not HAVING plans and just sitting quietly and waiting to be shown what to do. Maybe THAT'S the growth I'm going to gain from this hardship.

* I'm also listening to the (Anglican, I assume) worship on the BBC today and they used the phrase "Leave us not comfortless" in a prayer for today. And while I suppose that's one of the programmed statements that's always a part of prayers for this Sunday (Ascension is over but it's not Pentecost just yet), it is, as kids today say, Big Mood.

(A recording of the service is available, at least for a while here. It gave me a lot to think about)

* I find I cry a lot during these services, and yet....the tears are somehow *different.* They are not the desperate "Everything is terrible, we're all doomed, we're probably on the path to human extinction and all the governmental stupidity and spin is actually not that but a plot to keep us occupied with something else so we don't SEE how doomed we are" or a "I'm never got to be able to have just a nice casual face-to-face conversation with a person again, it will always be Zoom over a computer or over the phone, and both of those are so much worse,"

I can't quite classify what they are, but....there's some sadness there, but also some acceptance of the human condition, and some realization of....I don't know what. I can't explain it. They are tears, but not tears of despair, exactly.

* The woman - a professor and the spouse of a cleric - is talking about how we are still finding ways to do the things we have done - teaching, and helping others, and making things, and writing. And there's something in that. I think a lot of my frustration in this is that so many things have changed, and teaching online felt very different from teaching in person, and sitting at the desk I just bought after lockdown started doing continuing-ed reading feels very different from sitting in my office on campus (we are still being asked to stay away until the end of June) and yet....I still taught, and I am still reading.

(She also notes that the cried through the whole service her husband conducted, where she was standing in for the whole congregation, and so maybe my tears are not that odd?)

* I also will say I hope "Where two or more are gathered in His name" also counts "virtually" (as when I watch the broadcast of Jim's sermons as he does them) because....I'm here all alone. And that's hard. Being alone has been hard.

* Interestingly - Bishop Wilcox (that's the person conducting the worship on BBC) talked about how in some locations, people who were not regular church attendees have been "tuning in" online - he recounted the experience of a minister who had been doing nightly "bedtime stories" online for children had a child he did not know wave at him in the street, and when he looked puzzled, the child's mother commented that "Oh, she loves the stories! She watches them every night" and now I wonder....one thing we have talked about for YEARS in the Mainline churches is declining attendance and involvement, and what can we do to increase that. It would be ironic in the extreme if one result of the pandemic was people re-engaging with faith (whatever faith, though my perspective is as someone who is a Christian) because they have needed to slow down, and they have sought things to give their life meaning, and they are also looking for something that feels like human contact.

Maybe one good thing - I pray - that comes out of this is that some folks decide they want that connection to continue after the pandemic is over, and people start engaging with faith groups again? Or at least, people look for ways to be a *community* again? That would give me hope, even as I despair over news reports of people having emotional meltdowns over being asked to wear a mask when they go into a store, or saying that people who don't insist on re-opening the churches immediately are cowards and "bad Christians." Maybe most people are the people quietly sheltering at home, and who either are tuning into online church so they can have church, or tuning into it for the first time - either ever, or in a long time? I hope other people are helped by it in the way I am.

Or: maybe a lot of churches keep an online presence for people who cannot/do not want the in-person services. I know my mother's church was livestreaming services for a while before the pandemic hit, because they had a lot of "homebound" members that they wanted to include. But if Bishop Wilcox is right, a side effect of this might be more people coming to that kind of connection - he used the image of the Bible verse of "casting your net on the other side of the boat" and perhaps there is something to that. I mean, I would hope that people who COULD would be involved in person when it's safe to go out again

* I've also been re-watching (on Amazon Prime) "Murder, She Wrote." They have the early seasons - I think at least the first seven - up for free (but they do insert ads, which is maybe a new thing? And is kind of jarring, but okay, go on, I guess). It's comfort tv for me and is nice to be able to watch at the end of the day before bed. I know it's ironic that I find murder mysteries comforting, but in a more cosmic sense, they are - the murderer is found out at the end and presumably punished (usually you only see them being arrested; I guess in a few cases the murder winds up killing themselves, either intentionally or accidentally), some sense of order is restored - the "blight" is removed from the community. And yes, I know it's unrealistic in the extreme that a place as small as Cabot Cove would have so many murders (my favorite episodes are the ones set there) but there IS something pleasing to me of the idea that "wrong is found out, and the wrongdoer is removed from the community, so it can go back to being what it was before" and I know that's not QUITE right because in the real world, murder cuts a deep scar in families and also in small close-knit communities, and one way murder mysteries are unrealistic is that real life doesn't return to "normal" after the murder is solved as neatly as it does in Cabot Cove or St. Mary's Mead or London or Manhattan or wherever.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Lookin' out my front door

Apologies to CCR, but this is what I saw getting home from my pick-up trip to the wal-mart today:

007

Fuzzy moth! (The big ones like this, they are not generally pests, at least not how I think of moths being pests - they do not eat fiber nor do they infest grain).

Of course I wanted to know what it was - it's about an inch long. I didn't think to try to open the wings, I didn't want to disturb it, so I looked up online here. It's closest to 26,  which isn't identified to species but is the genus for Io moths. And Io moths are found in Oklahoma. (The caterpillars are what are known as polyphagous, meaning they will feed on many different species (mostly trees). They also have a venomous sting, which is a little unsettling to learn.

I have a pecan (which is fundamentally a hickory) and also an elm and a redbud, so the caterpillars could feed on any of those. I don't know if this is a recently-emerged adult or one looking for a place to lay eggs. (I *think* it might be male; the photos of female Io moths suggest they are darker in color).

When I went out to get my mail, I decided to try to persuade him to open his wings - the worst outcome being, he flies away. But it's chilly today and so he's a little sluggish, so it worked:

Io moth

Yup. Io moth.

Once in a while we get a few interesting critters around. I think I especially do in my yard because I don't spray and I tend to leave many of the "weeds" (unlike some people, I don't spray my lawn - about this time of year the St. Augustine starts crowding out the early-season weeds anyway, so I don't see much purpose in it). 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Little morning thoughts

What does it mean to be? I've realized that in these past months - actually longer than lockdown time, stretching back to the end of July when all the bad stuff in my life started happening - that's a question I've been asking.

and I can't find an answer.

And I also realize now - I always rolled my eyes over the people always on their phone, who couldn't even walk across campus with, out calling someone or texting someone and for me walking across campus was a chance to be out in the quiet. Well, now all I have is quiet and I don't like it and I wonder if maybe I was just covering up the fact that (a) I don't have that many friends (surely the people always on the phone or texting must have scores of friends) and (b) I have been "taught" in my younger life not to "bother" people, even people I consider my friends, so something like calling or texting without a reason or without it being a planned call isn't something I would do.

And that makes it hard, in lockdown. I ache for just casual human contact and while I can kind of simulate that with some forms of social media....well, Twitter is like being at a crowded event where the small number of people you want to talk to are there, but sometimes they're shouted down by louder, more attention-seeking people, or the bringers-of-bad-news. Or sometimes they ARE just offline because most people have more of a life than I do. And on Ravelry, maybe there aren't the loud random voices so much, but most of the people I interact with on there very much have other lives....and it reminds me, some afternoons when I'm idly hitting refresh and there's nothing new, just how empty my life is.

When you make work important in your life, when it's really the main thing, it's hard when that work changes or goes away. I fear for what might happen to me if we're still under some kind of lockdown* and if my university closes its doors.

(*Meaning: before a vaccine, or if a vaccine is never developed - which, holy Hell, there is a rather loud voice out there fundamentally saying and I don't want to believe it, but....I also worry).

I also think about things like the last time I was at church in person or at JoAnn's or felt able to free-range it in a grocery (without a mask, without moving as fast as I can and just grabbing the things on my list so I can pay and scram) and it makes me sad to think those might have been the LAST time. I am not ready for my life to tip over into the realm of "all lasts" - I mean, I already had the last time I saw my dad, and the last communications with a few friends, and the last trip to a now-closed-down quilt shop. I think that's really what scares me the most about getting older - that I'm going to stop having "hellos" and go to having mostly "goodbyes" and I don't know how you manage to keep going with that realization.

I am sad this morning because last night I dreamed about a lot of the people I have lost in the past 10 years and it awakened the fear of - what if most or all of the people I care about die while we're stuck under the cloud of this thing, and because I'm not going out and about, I have no chance to make new friends, and I become increasingly alone.

And it makes me mad that sleep isn't even a respite right now.

But what does it mean to be? I don't know that I know how to get meaning out of life any more; some days it feels more like I'm existing in this. And just waiting. And then I worry that that waiting might be forever, or it might culminate in me dying here, all alone, like Eleanor Rigby.

It's overcast again and going to rain the rest of the week so there's not even a reason to go outside. And apparently there is NO mail coming for me today, according to Informed Delivery, and I wonder if the mail system IS spiralling down; I sent a bunch of postcards 2 weeks ago and a couple greeting cards and so far only ONE person reported their postcard arrived so I assume the rest of those things are either swirling somewhere in a whirlpool of lost mail, or they just got chucked away somewhere. And again, it makes me feel like: what's the point? I try sending mail out to have a tiny little connection with other people and I can't even have that.

I ordered some really nice Totoro pop-up cards from JetPens, but now I'm afraid to send any of them out because they'll just get lost and never reach their destination, if one in 5 postcards made it and none of the three greeting cards apparently did. Well, maybe one of the three - I guess my mom mentioned her birthday card coming. But still.

Even a stupid ad that gives me a reason to walk out of the house and down to the mailbox would be worth it. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday afternoon things

* Kind of sick of reading about probability. Oh, I've finally got to the more familiar-for-me part of things in the book (distributions, especially the Gaussian), but yeah, I'm kind of sick of it. I have two more books on probability I intend to read but am really tempted to intersperse with either a history-of-botany book or possibly one on mycology.

* Another overcast day and I've fought a low-grade headache much of the day. Not bad enough to say "No, I'm not gonna work on the continuing ed" but not pleasant either. I don't know if it's allergies (I spent about an hour last evening pulling up blackberry vines and I was down close to the soil, where the molds live) or if it's that we're heading back into a rainy pattern and the air pressure is changing.

* Thinking about making bread again this weekend; at first I thought of a chocolate bread (one recipe is here, but then I remembered the tomato bread I used to make years ago (I cut down the recipe for the old bread machine I had, but I'd do this one the "real" way - with hand kneading and everything).

The recipe is from "Square Meals," which is a fun cookbook (I am pretty sure it's OOP but I got my copy from a used book seller for not a lot of money). The recipe is like this:

Heat up a cup of tomato juice (I plan to use sauce here, I have no juice on hand and also juice is way saltier). Add 4 T sugar, 1 T salt (I might cut both of those back), 1 1/2 T melted shortening (I will use butter). Stir all of those together, cool to lukewarm.

Also mix the equivalent of a packet of yeast (the jars usually tell you, as do the big brick packs) with 1 1/4 cups warmish water that has 1 T of sugar in it. Combine that with the juice mixture and stir.

It takes about six cups of flour (you always have to kind of judge; humidity affects it and also the KIND of flour - I might break into my new King Arthur bread flours for this). Knead 10 minutes. Let rise ~2 hours, punch down, let rise another 30 minutes. Shape, put in bread pans (it makes two, 9 x 4 loaves). Let rise another hour or two until it fills the pan, bake at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes.

This bread is good just buttered, but it also makes *excellent* grilled-cheese sandwiches, as you might guess. (It's also good with many leftover meats, as a meat sandwich). You can also make pretty good pan-fried garlic bread with it.

The recipe is apparently of WWII vintage, as the Sterns note - the government apparently tried out various additions to bread to make it more nutritious. The tomato bread was allegedly unpopular with GIs, but I have to admit I like it a lot.

There are other recipes online that are fancier and have you put garlic and Italian herbs in with the juice (and some call for juice AND sauce), and that might be good too, but I admit I like the plainer original.

In this case I will probably freeze (or maybe slice and freeze, so I can take individual slices out) one of the loaves. It's hard for a single person to use up a whole loaf, even, of bread before it goes bad - I keep mine in the fridge which adversely affects the texture but it's better than finding the loaf has gone moldy, and if you heat the slice a bit before eating it, it's better.

* The hummingbird and now some kind of a butterfly (a skipper, I think) have found the basket of callibrachoa I have up. I would love to get some more plants, especially for my backyard, but I am once again unsure about driving to Sherman to Twin Oaks, because they seem to have a lot of cases. I wish there were some way of knowing if the reported cases are the tip or the iceberg - if they're the iceberg, it would probably be okay; if it were just the tip, it would maybe not be quite so okay.

I could go to the Lowe's here again, at a low-busy time, since we have far fewer cases, but I admit after being snapped at rather than more gently told "no, you can't come in this way" (the signage was poor), I'm...less inclined. I drove by the Tractor Supply one day and they didn't seem to have much so I don't know.

I wish there were somewhere that delivered plants but there is nowhere around here that does. Come fall, I might order some perennial rootstocks (though Native American Seeds pretty much only has grasses, and I would want forbs, especially ones good for pollinators).

It frustrates me how hard everything seems now, and how I have to weigh the likelihood of getting exposed (which is admittedly low, even in Sherman) against whether the "fun" is worth it (and also: will I be uncomfortable the whole time there, which erases a lot of the fun).

And yes, masks: but wearing one protects other people more than you, and while I am 100% on board with wearing a mask on the random chance I get exposed and spend a few days being an asymptomatic carrier (I would not want to sicken anyone else), it seems a critical mass of my fellow citizens here don't care that much - last time I picked up a wal-mart order, except for the workers (who are all masked), only about 10% of the people I saw had them.

If we all wear masks, protection rate is high. If few people wear masks, the people NOT wearing them are the most protected, and....I admit that offends my sense of "fairness."

* The whole fairy-tale disillusionment thing for me was less "maybe my prince is never actually coming" and much more "if you are a kind and good person and do what's right, you will be rewarded, and most people operate under that expectation" and I admit one thing I'm realizing in this - I complained a lot at the beginning of this "will there be anything LEFT to go back out to" (as small businesses and restaurants bleed out) and now I'm more feeling like "Given how some of my fellow humans are acting and talking in this.....do I even WANT to go back out into the world?"

But yes, one of my favorite fairy tales as a kid was the one where the girl who was getting water at a well was approached by an old woman (really a faerie in disguise) who asked her for a drink, and because the girl was just a kind person, she kindly said "of course" and carefully dipped out the clearest and coolest water....and she was rewarded for her action (diamonds and pearls would fall out of her mouth when she spoke, which actually doesn't sound so great) and her selfish sister, when approached by the SAME faerie (here in the guise of a young noblewoman) was rude to her and fundamentally said "get your own water" and she was cursed to have snakes and toads fall out of HER mouth....well, yes, you can obviously see the moral lesson there, but the childish part of me always liked the idea that people who strove to be kind, even (especially?) when there was no expectation of a reward, eventually they are rewarded for that.

Like I said: I know that's childish to want that, but....

* And yes, I am maybe being over sensitive about that. I'm sure the guy was having a bad day, had dealt with a lot of people making the mistake I did, but....when you have ALMOST NO interactions, an unpleasant one looms very large in your mind. And yes, I do tend to be oversensitive to that kind of thing anyway; I always have been. If a teacher was short with me when I was in school, I often started crying; even now, when someone uses a tone that might be they're tired and frustrated with something else OR they might be snapping at me specifically, I interpret it as the second and feel bad for most of the rest of the day. (I don't ever really mention it, which I suppose makes me less of an exhausting friend than if I did, though I have had people say to me "you got really quiet all of a sudden" or similar and I will kind of shrug and go "I'm tired I guess" or some other deflecting thing even though my feelings are actually hurt - though that's because at least 8 times out of 10, the person wasn't actually being rude to me, they were just overburdened in that moment and it came out wrong)

And yeah, something else happened online that inflamed my sensitivity and I can tell my feelings and especially my capacity to feel hurt are way nearer to the surface than normal. (Not that they are ever that far from the surface; I wish I were tougher and cared about stuff less).

I dunno. I vacillate between three general moods: "mostly okay, going along and working on stuff, mostly pushing the bad stuff to the back of my mind" or "this really sucks but I am stubborn and can outlast it" to "everything is terrible and why was I even born if this is how my life is going to finish up, there's never going to be an end to this and maybe the terrible leadership we seem to see is intentional to distract us from the fact that we are actually doomed" and then I start worrying about everything and also feeling very sorry for myself that I didn't have more fun and do more things when I had the chance; that my whole life has been one long deferred gratification and I got suckered, there isn't a pay off for trying to be good and prudent and working hard and all of that.

And I can switch between those modes scary fast. Though usually it's a DECLINE in mood and not an improvement, the only thing I can do when I get really down in the evening (it's usually the evening) is to go to bed and tell myself I will feel better in the morning.

sometimes, if it's close to what should be a mealtime, eating something nutritious helps. (I don't always feel hungry when I need to eat. I sometimes wonder if the bad bout of gastritis or something I had about four years ago damaged some of my ability to perceive hunger - all I'll know is all of a sudden I'll feel shaky and either really irritable or really sad, and I'll look at the clock and go "wait, it's been eight hours since I ate anything" and then I eat something and do better)

* I talked to my mom this evening and she told me about how one of the groups (I think it was a retired-professors' thing in her state) had apparently either not got or had lost the notification that my dad had died, and sent a bill for his dues this past week, and she had to call them and go through phone-tree hell to get it fixed and it just made me sad all over again. I mean, standard disclaimer: I'm glad he's not having to live through this and I now have a very small taste of the unhappiness he experienced with being stuck at home and not being able to do much (though I can also get up and go out and work in my  backyard, he couldn't even do that when his knees and back got really bad) but yeah. Sad again.

And wondering: will I be fit company when it's okay to go out again, or will I have become so solitary I've forgotten the rules of conversation and things like that? I was never the most socially-adept person, even in the before-times, but I really worry I'll just become Interrupting Cow or that person who is completely blunt and walks into a room and says what they need without any kind of "hello, how are you" and stuff like that, and that I'll forget how to do eye contact.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

one little thing

I got a lot done today - read several chapters of the probability book (the Monty Hall problem still breaks my brain. It's NOT a Schroedinger situation, it is not something behind that door that is midway between a goat and a car and it becomes one or the other when you open the door, but many phrasings of it make it feel that way, and it also seems bizarre to me that the probability apparently changes)

While I read, I knitted on a very simple thing:

A simple dishcloth. I found a skein of the simple cotton yarn (this goes by various names; I think "Sugar and Cream" is the most common brand, but there's also a Lily, and wal-mart's house brand is apparently "Peaches and Cream"). This was from my stash, I bought it at some point and tucked it away. (I probably have more, I just have to dig a little). And at any rate, I have more - my first ever order from Herrschnerr's came.

I think it must have been Mary Maxim that some people complained about, years ago, or maybe one of the other mail-order places (this was in the era before online shopping was so big). I had avoided Herrschnerr's because I was mistakenly remembering that complaint as saying their customer service was not good and their shipping was slow and that seems to have been wrong - the order I placed came in good time, even given that it was a "SmartPost" shipping (which gets handed off from UPS or someone to the postal service for "last mile" delivery, which usually slows stuff down by a day) and everything in the order was as it should be. So okay - there's another source for craft supplies for me now.

(Herrschnerr's is an old, old company, founded in 1899, doing mail order before most places did. Their website is fairly basic but not hard to navigate).

And again: I would like to see them continue. I suspect that as long as at least some people have money, craft supply sellers will be okay - ESPECIALLY with a lot of people choosing to stay home in this, we need stuff to do!

The pattern I used is an old, old one, most commonly called "Grandma's Favorite" or similar. I assume "favorite" because it's easy to knit - I was able to do it while reading about Catalan numbers and conditional probabilities - and it works pretty well as a dishcloth. (The nice thing about these is you can wash them on hot in the washing machine, and dry them on hot in the dryer, and they come out fine. The plain white ones you can even bleach or boil if you have to; they are cotton). The yarn for making these is cheap and pretty widely available - most any craft store has it, even stores like wal-mart that have a craft "section" that usually isn't very good tend to have it.

It's also something I would perhaps pick as a "first project" if I were teaching someone to knit - it's fast (I made this in an afternoon, though I am an experienced knitter), you learn garter stitch and yarn overs and decreases, and best of all, you aren't doing it interminably, which is the case with scarves, a common "beginner' project. And if it's imperfect, it's fine - as long as it doesn't unravel, it will still wash dishes. (You can also use them as facecloths/washcloths if you don't mind something a little bit rougher than standard). I've even seen these worked up giant size (a lot more stitches before you start decreasing) as baby blankets. (Again, cotton might be a good yarn for these - washable, not too hot, generally hypoallergenic)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Just some photos

I have been working on stuff. Just, not really getting anything DONE done because everything is sort of in its middle. I am also trying to spend a couple hours a day reading for "continuing ed" (right now I am reading a book called Fat Chance, Probability from 0 to 1, which was one of the books I got for free when I evaluated a textbook for Cambridge U. Press a while back). I have other books too and will be happy to move on to one of the botany ones (or one of the history-of-science ones) soon; I find I am not as....good....at math as I thought I was. My memory for it is not good; I kept having to go back and remind myself of the difference between permutation and combination (how you calculate them more than what they are). Words stick in my head better than formulas do.

Anyway.

The biggest thing I've been working on lately is the One and Done shawl. I'm still not that far (three repeats of seven (plus some stuff at the end, and there are stitches that get dropped towards the end which I assume expands it)

shawl progress

There is a stellina thread running through the yarn so it has a little sparkle, but it's hard to see. I am not sure if a photo with flash helps:

shawl close up

The thing I'm probably working the *most* on is a pair of simple socks using Nancy Bush's "Yarrow Sock" pattern from her Vintage Socks book. This is one of Opal's wild-colored yarns. I like things that are obnoxiously bright, though usually I confine that to smaller items and accessories

bright sock

This is just the first sock but I am done up past the gusset decreases. I'm not going to try to pattern-match in the second sock - this is a long repeat and I'd be afraid of not having enough yarn.

I will say it's been cool in the mornings here and some days I do just stick on a pair of wool socks with the dress I usually wear (working at home means you can dress however you want and no one cares - I usually put on a dress or a skirt and a top because I prefer those, but if I feel cold first thing in the morning I will stick on wool socks or else throw a small blanket over my shoulders)

So my socks are getting a *little* wear, even if we're entering the season where it's too warm for them.

I also pulled out what HAD been my knit-and-invigilate project and added a few more rounds to it while watching "Bob's Burgers" last night:

mitt of Paton's

This is a simple mitt pattern ("Prairie Mitts") being knit of a Paton's sock yarn (pretty much the only kind I can get at the big-box type stores; this was obtained when JoAnn's was having a big sale on it last fall).


Also, something I ordered that was 100% an impulse/feeling sorry for myself purchase came today. These shoes were on a decent (20% off ) sale from Hot Chocolates, it was a color pattern I love (what I said about liking really obnoxious bright color combinations) and I wanted to try a pair of their wedgies (I cannot wear the high heels and would not even try: their original heels are 4" (!) heels and I know I'd break an ankle).

These are 2"

shoes 2

They are surprisingly wearable. So far I've only worn them in the house/out to get the mail, but I don't feel like I'm going to fall over or break an ankle in them. (I think wedge soles are a lot safer than high heels, also note that the wedge extends under the toes, so your foot isn't at such an extreme angle - which is why I think I have a hard time with regular pumps, it forces you into a different way of walking to have all your weight pushed forward onto the ball of your foot)

And they are....well, *I* think they're cute. Maybe someone else would think they were just loud.

shoes 1

And yes, I do have a couple of outfits these will go with; today I'm wearing my hot-pink M. Mac dress and they work well with it.

And I like being tall. I am like 5' 9" in these, and I can feel the difference.

And if nothing else, I can wear them in the house with my orthotics, and that's better for my knees and back than being barefoot is.

Also, I've found with the weighted blanket on my bed, I can actually sleep comfortably (psychologically)  on my back - and that is better for my hips and lower back. (I wondered why my hip bursitis had quit nagging me and then last night I woke up to go to the restroom and realized "Wait, I'm sleeping on my back, maybe that's it" and I know a lot of orthopods say sleeping on your stomach is generally bad for your joints and back....but for me, it was a "feeling secure" thing and maybe the weighted blanket helps with that?)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

maybe a message

I tend to remember the dreams I have. I think it's because I tend to be a light sleeper, and I wake up around the end of a dream. And then I often remember them into the next day. Sometimes that's good; a lot of the time, not so much.

But sometimes I think I should pay attention to them, because they are perhaps messages from the deep part of my brain I normally try to keep shut up with busy-ness.

And yeah, I know, a lot of people have been having uncomfortable dreams during the whole pandemic, partly from stress, though I suspect also for a lot of people like me, it's because we're alone so much and in our own heads so much and stuff builds up.

But last night I had one that maybe tells me something I need to consider once it's safe to come out.

In the dream, there was either a flood or something like a tsunami coming. And I had the job - or, more likely, I had taken on the job myself - of getting some animals to safety. Don't read too much into it that it's *animals,* usually my dreams are about animals and they often stand in for people or concepts*


(*Like: I frequently dream I have cats I am neglecting the care of when there's something in my life I need to attend to)

There were cats, because pretty much cats always feature in my dreams (also seeing the roaming neighborhood cats - some of the few other living creatures I see regularly now). There were also pigs, but small cute pigs. I suspect it's because I got to the part of "The Book of Three" last night where they found Hen Wen and were reunited with her, so pigs, especially the small cute kind, were on my mind.

Anyway, I was herding them to one place they would be safe - the area (I don't remember exactly what it is called) of my church up where the pulpit and choir loft and lectern are (they are higher than the rest of the sanctuary; they are in most traditionally-built churches). I had to get them up there and encourage them to stay there because apparently it was the safest place - and I had to go and grab a couple other cats roaming around in the sanctuary and then I looked out the front door (and the church was really kind of a hybrid of the one I currently belong to, and the one in Illinois I belonged to - like that church, there was a set of steep steps down to the street). And it was already raining and the wind was blowing and I knew it was going to get bad fast so I grabbed the couple of cats and headed back up towards the "safe place." And then I woke up.

(I had another, briefer one, where I was the person who exercised the small fluffy dog of someone who was unable to, I just remember having the dog's toy in my hand and telling the dog "The beach isn't safe to go to today, we'll have to figure out somewhere else to run")

I wonder if....after all this is over....it means I'm being called to some kind of additional work where I have a "protective" role. I don't know what that would be. The first thing that springs to mind is CASA (court-appointed special advocates - a group that goes to court with children when they have to testify, to be a supportive adult in cases where maybe no one in the kid's family is) but I also know I'm not great with children and not always comfortable around them. I don't know if there's a similar advocacy role but for seniors (then again - I am close to that age group now myself, which is bizarre to me) or for people leaving an abusive relationship. Or maybe something else?

Or maybe when this is all over, if I still have a job? I will be so busy with it I won't have time. (Though then again: maybe someday I will retire, if there's any money to, and will need something to do).

But yeah. I think some of my distress in this is that the many little things I did for people in the past, a lot of those things are just suspended and I miss it; it was part of my role and part of my meaning in life and now I am thinking about something I read about the 2000 outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease in the UK, where large numbers of animals were euthanized to stop the spread, and on some farms where the sheep were gone, the sheepdogs showed symptoms of what would be called "depression" in a human - because they had lost their purpose. (And some farms fixed that by inviting people to come to them, and to let the dogs herd THEM, and apparently that helped?)

I suspect a lot of us are mourning the (hopefully temporary) losses of our purpose. Maybe it hits a little harder for me, because so much of that was - out there - and when I returned home it was to rest and be alone (and in families staying together, they have each other to care for).

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday midday things

*I have done nothing productive yet today and that needs to change.

* Part of it is discussion about "the future of higher ed" and wondering again if my career is just a dead man walking at this point. That it's gonna go away and I'll need to find another way to both put food on the table and also wrest some meaning from life (because if you don't have that....well, if I don't have that....I might as well go out to the woods and lie down on the forest floor and wait for the the detritovores to eat me).

And maybe "put food on the table" and "wrest some meaning from life" will have to be two separate things in the future, and so I'll have to create TWO spheres and....yeah, it makes me want to lie down and not get back up.

* I think of Cottard's Delusion, the mental illness where a person believes fixedly they're already dead, and wondering if maybe my career isn't the reverse of that - that it's dead, but I don't see it yet, and so I go on reading about probability and trying to figure out how labs could be done online and maybe I just need to give it up?

* I made the mistake of watching this this morning:



Yes, it made me sad. I had forgotten how upsetting that scene was. But at the same time: I feel Artax hard here; some days I have really wanted just to sink down and give up. I've managed thus far to pull myself out - even in the absence of someone yelling at me "You're my FRIEND!....I LOVE you!" (which would help).

One of the big things I wrestle with in this is the loss of a feeling of meaning and purpose. It's not enough to get me out of bed in the morning to think about what I'm going to cook for dinner or that I'm going to knit; I need to feel like I'm doing something bigger or "contributing" in some way.

And maybe I need to unlearn that? Maybe this is my life now? Maybe I don't have an earthly purpose any more?

(I have lived too secular a life for too long to be able to comfortably go into the "our purpose is to love God and praise him" and have that be the end of that. I would make a poor nun, I see that now.)

* Oh, and to Jay's question: yes, I think heavy use of antimicrobials is going to lead to some knock-on problems. I know in my house I have gotten MUCH more lax - I used to Lysol my shoes after going out somewhere, and wipe down everything with bleach....I've stopped doing that. Apparently fomite transmission is fairly unlikely and ESPECIALLY if you wash your hands regularly (it's easier and faster for me to grab a bar of soap and turn on the tap than it is to laboriously wipe down every box from the grocery) and be careful about not touching your face unless your hands are clean....I never worried greatly about "sterile technique" in labs I worked in because I didn't need bacteriological sterility; instead, I would wash visible dirt off the countertops with a soapy paper towel at the end of the day.

I also don't use antibacterial soap; I have read much research saying that using regular soap but good "technique" (scrubbing and doing the 20 second thing) is equally effective and doesn't potentially select for "worse" microbes like antibacterials do. (And most plain soap is friendlier on the skin)

Though, I don't know. Fight a deadly virus vs. maybe temporarily disrupt one's microbiome? I'd take fighting the virus and just make sure to use probiotics later.

I do wash my hands after getting the mail or after opening a box containing something I've ordered. I've read that the virus breaks down after a day or two on cardboard so that might be an excessive thing, even.

I confess that part of me feels like some of that stuff beyond handwashing (which is an excellent way of preventing any kind of infection) is maybe a little bit of a ....Dumbo's feather? Like, taking hours and hours a week to wipe down every surface in your house multiple times and to wipe down literally everything you bring in, it's taking a lot of time and maybe giving a little sense of control, but it seems like the biggest chance of transmission is being in close quarters with an infective person for longer than about five minutes or so.

So the extreme I'm going to is not going out except for absolute necessities, and I'm not doing the wipe-down-everything procedure. Because I just...can't. It's too much time, and it's too much in-my-face about how "dangerous" the world is. So instead, when I have to go out and be around people I wear a mask, and I am careful to socially distance, and I wash my hands. But I'm not going to super-clean just because it might give an extra 0.05% protection.

I do still tend to change clothes and shower after having been out around people but I think that's maybe even a little paranoid.

* I don't know what made me think of it, but I decided I wanted to get back to embroidery. I started hunting around and I have....a LOT of kits ahead. Not all of them have the full complement of floss (and floss is one of those things there are some shortages of). I also....ordered a couple more (a unicorn, and one with simple flowers) from a place called 123Stitch, they came yesterday. (Again - short a few colors of floss, but some of it I had on hand).

I also found this while looking around:

That's just the first of two, but it's closer to finished than I remember. (I also forgot what color exactly I was using on the mom horse, so she is in two or three different shades of brown, but I think it will be OK. For the second one I will be more disciplined in my color choice).

It takes a LOT of time but....I have a lot of time right now. This is a better project for sitting at the desk for (better posture is important, and also, less likely to drop the needle into my lap and not be able to find it) so maybe I work on that here, either with one eye on my Twitter scroll, or half-watching something on Amazon Prime.


And yeah. I probably have close to a dozen of these (I also found the girl-in-a-garden one I was working on years ago, and that I tucked away during a fit of cleaning. I also found a nearly-finished toe-up sock, but just the one, and I can't remember what pattern I used! So I don't know. Maybe I unravel it and just reuse the yarn for something else, unless I can figure out what pattern it was....it's probably been at least eight years since I worked on it.)

Maybe the goal for me in this is to dig out a lot of unfinished stuff and finish it. (and I should also go through my closet and discard stuff that is either worn out or no longer fits, though I don't know if it's possible to donate good-but-just-no-longer-fits stuff right now)

Though I also really need to get to reading, and to start thinking about possible ways of doing labs online in the fall.

Edited to add: searching the archives of my blog turned this up. I will have to get out Knitting 24/7 and look at it - these socks do look like they are on size 0s so maybe I can finish this one and make the other?

Heh. Just as being a complete craft packrat is saving me now (I have SABLE - and in fact, will make the offer to my mom that if she needs something to do, I could send her some of my sock yarn), being a mental packrat of having a blog with archives is good because it acts as a sort of external hard drive for my memory. It would be nice to finish that sock and start the second one.....I hope I am guessing right about the pattern but I think I am.

Edited again: CONFIRMATION. That is the very yarn. So it's the traditional toe-up socks from Knitting 24/7 and it pleases me to think of finishing them some seven years after they were begun so maybe they are the next "new" project I pull out when I want to knit on something. (The first sock is very nearly done - I am on the cuff ribbing)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Couple quick thoughts

* Board meeting (we met in the Fellowship Hall and all sat 10' apart from each other on folding chairs). It was to decide when we reopen for in-person services. I admit I was apprehensive for two reasons: first, as one of two actual biologists in the congregation, I'd probably be the one looked to to decide or share information. And second, sometimes even people who are reasonable about many, many other things have....odd opinions....about the seriousness of this.

Well, the interim minister said his piece (fundamentally - that the concerns about "super spreading" in choirs and concerns about proximity of people in a confined space suggested to him it wasn't a good idea yet) and then said "But I'll defer to the scientist...." and I realized "oh shoot, that me"

So I reinforced what he said, said that the most important parts of in person church for me (singing, hugging people, taking communion) would be very difficult or impossible to do 100% safely (communion we could manage - there are individually sealed-up sets of the elements, often sold for people who do homebound communion - my dad took it many times when he was unable to get out to church). I noted that I would be apprehensive returning given my history with respiratory disease (the last time I got the flu I was sick for six weeks - and that was the case that triggered me to get the flu shot every single year since then, and I've also had walking pneumonia a few times and was pretty sick each time). Another woman mentioned "Some local churches are reopening but telling people over 60 not to come and....look around" (I think three of us present were under 60).

I said:"No earlier than mid-June, that's what I think, and at that - if we could do services outdoors, that would be even better" Maybe we don't sing - or maybe we get someone with an acoustic guitar to at least help keep us in tune.

A young woman who works for the local Tribal authority noted that she was apprehensive because they were going to slowly reopen the offices, but the casinos reopen June 1. So she thought maybe late June. She was particularly concerned about the casino reopening, as that will draw people from many areas, and probably in particular people who downplay the seriousness of the virus.

So now - the plan is, we re-meet mid June to decide - late June or early July? One other person suggested that maybe an outdoor July 4 weekend service, which might be a good way to consider it. But if cases spike (they might), we won't.

The financial secretary did say that we were doing okay - people are still making contributions (I am; I'm donating a chunk every month through the Givelify app, which direct deposits the money to the church's account, so Mike doesn't even have to deal with checks)

So I'm glad. It went well, people were all pretty much in accord. And I feel heard. And I think we made the right decision. It FEELS like the right decision, I don't feel conflicted about it.

* I asked my mom last night if she remembered the 1957 flu outbreak, which was apparently a bad one. (I've been reading a little bit on "central quarantine," which some people are suggesting may be a way of really squashing transmission, but I KNOW it would be near-impossible in our polarized nation, and apparently 1957 was one of the outbreaks where quarantine was proposed).

She said: yes, I do. I was still in college and was dating your father. He had a car, so one day we drove somewhere (she didn't remember where but could have been the county health department) and she said "We waited in a long line forever, but then we were able to get vaccinated" and I guess that was that....So there was a vaccine then. (MAN but I wish there were a vaccine for this)

I also remember around 1976 we were up visiting my grandmother and my dad took her somewhere to get a vaccine. I thought it was against swine flu but they say there wasn't a vaccine for that? Maybe it was AFTER the outbreak and a vaccine had been developed? I just remember him doing it because she didn't drive.


But yeah. I have effectively been near-quarantining (and if I were sick? Or really immune compromised? I'd find some way to get food delivered, even if it came down to either leaning on one of my church friends or paying someone to go get it for me - we don't have Instacart or anything like that here, but I am guessing SOMEONE would have a teenaged kid who'd like to earn $20 or $30 for going out and doing a grocery pickup for me, even if it was them doing a wal-mart PICKUP on my behalf, so they don't get exposed). I guess as long as I can keep doing that I do it....it seems the easiest way to stay safe. Maybe once a week or so, mask up and go to Green Spray, maybe go once or twice (masked) to the big open-air garden center (unless cases are really spiking up, and then no)

Yes, it is tiresome and I get lonely, but if I can make myself stay busy - get up and get dressed in the morning, and do Duolingo practice, and do piano practice, and then - and I find this is very important - do some "continuing ed" type reading for a couple days (keeps my brain busy and makes me feel like I'm doing something useful) and get exercise regularly (this afternoon I need to mow the lawn as long as it doesn't rain, that will be my exercise today) and just wait this thing out. I can stay put at least until August....and if my uni stays online come fall semester, I can stay put a while longer and hopefully....I keep holding out hope of either an effective treatment, a vaccine, or maybe enough people change their behavior to shut R0 down to a level low enough that it might be safe enough to consider travel again....

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mornings are better

They always are.

I got up a little bit after 5 this morning, did a 40 minute workout listening to one of my Pandora channels. Had a moment of nostalgic happiness when "Come On Eileen" came across the channel (yes, the lyrics aren't great - the singer is effectively pressuring his girlfriend to "put out" - but I STILL think the song slaps, some 40 years later.)

Did my daily Duolingo progress. In a moment, I'll practice piano and then buckle down to trying to spend at least an hour reading a book on probability - my training in probability was not great and I can tell it's the weakest part of the stats class I teach, so maybe reading a couple books on it will improve me.

I also thought - two prongs for attacking the issue of "how do I figure out 'virtual' labs if it comes to that" - I made a file on my desktop for ideas if I happen to think of any (I have a bad habit of thinking of something that might be cool, and then not remembering what it was hours later if I don't write it down) and also, at some point (not today but soon) write out a schedule for the semester, and think about what ecological principle I want the lab to demonstrate each week, and then either re-make my existing labs to work as distance labs (a surprising number would, if the students can gather a few basic materials for some of them) or do targeted searching on various information-sharing sites for labs that WILL work. I think that's the first thing to attack, and then figuring out the "how do we do data analysis in stats without access to on-campus SPSS" - it's possible there's a stripped down version online, or something similar enough, and what I could do is start compiling some data sets (with subtle changes for different students - to cut down on, ahem, sharing) that they could analyze. Really, the first half of the class can be done with pencil, paper, and calculator, it's really only when we get to Analysis of Variance that doing hand calculations is bad enough that you don't want to do it.

I'm telling myself a couple things to get through this:

- I had several nice notes from students thanking me for my help this semester and acknowledging it wasn't ideal for any of us, but that I managed to salvage the semester pretty well. That's what is important, not the idiots online

- Most likely, by 2022, we'll be able to go back out because there will be a vaccine. Or, who knows? If people were smart and got good at quarantining and we got good enough at testing, we might even be able to carefully go back out before then. 2022 isn't forever. It's a long time to stay stuck at home but it is not forever.

(And I keep thinking of how the original SARS - OG SARS? - just kind of....went away. But that was because it didn't get spread as far before they clamped down like heck on it, and the clamping down was in countries that don't have quite so much a "frontier mentality" where some people won't take what seem to me to be common sense precautions to avoid spreading disease. Or maybe in 2003 we were still more community-minded than we are now? I genuinely have no idea how wide spread the mask-refusers are, I'm telling myself it's less than 5% of people but that they get disproportionate media attention because of the freakshow nature of modern news. (See: Joe Exotic, who is once again getting a lot of attention here, because he's from this general area))

I also ran out to Wal-mart for a periodic grocery pick up (yes, yes, Green Spray but: I get a little tired of 2% milk, I've said that before, and Wal-mart has a few products I use that Green Spray does not). This time, NOTHING was out of stock and nothing had to be substituted. And I now have nearly 2 gallons of milk in the fridge* and some real sweet potatoes and a box of fresh spinach and more canned fruit and more sour cream and even a thing of bakery croissants (because you have to have treats once in a while). Lunch will probably be a big salad with some cheese on the side, and a croissant, maybe even with a little Nutella on it.

(*I think about how in the before-times, on weekend days, I could sometimes run through an entire gallon of milk between Friday afternoon and Monday midday. Not any more; I am a lot more careful about it so I don't have to run out - I drink more plain tea, and I drink more water, than I once did.)

I also have some powdered milk on order from Target because I have a few bread recipes I want to make that call for it, and I am not quite sure how well wet milk would work in them because of differing quantities of liquid vs. dry.

But yeah - I am beginning to be able to find things again that were gone at the start of this, and I am hopeful that that means the panic buying has stopped, and also, maybe? food producers are beginning to figure out some safety steps for their workers? I know meat plants are still bad, but....I do hope better protections for workers in those jobs are one thing that comes out of this; we need some benefit to someone who needs it* as a redeeming factor in all this mess

(*And not just "the rich get richer" where people somehow manage to insider-trade promising medical stocks or something, or someone benefits off of grift of some kind)

My main hopes right now are that my loved ones stay healthy - my mom probably will, she tended to be a stay-at-home even in the before-times, and I know she is being extremely careful about not going out. My brother and sister in law have kind of "bubbled" with another family who are friends of theirs and they have a little more contact, and of course my sister in law has to go out to her work a day or two a week (she telecommutes otherwise) so I hope they stay okay. I think my uncle the stockbroker is working from home (I think he did some days even before this) and my other uncle is retired so he can stay safe. Don't know about my cousins but most of them seem to have jobs that would permit wfh (patent work, teaching).

My other hope is that my job persists in some form - that the university here doesn't shut down. Though given that enrollment for the online summer semester was up considerably is hopeful. (Enrollment for fall is down but that could be a combination of uncertainty - I bet some students would vote for "online for safety" if asked - and also a horrible new enrollment system going online that we MUST use for fall semester, and few of the faculty advisors even know how to use it, and it's BAD.)

Other than that....well, I suppose we can eventually rebuild small businesses; I will miss quilt shops and yarn shops but I have SABLE. And books, though I suspect a lot of the online sellers will still be there, it does seem a lot of people are turning back to books in this. Restaurants? Hopefully some of the good mom and pop ones hang on - the good bbq place here in town was doing a brisk pick-up business on Thursday when I got food from them, and perhaps over the course of an evening they could serve MORE people that way than by having people come in for sit down (their dining room is not large). And for me, unless I am going WITH someone (rare these days), I don't really care about sitting in a restaurant alone, especially at a busy time - I'd rather pick up my food and go back home and eat while listening to music of my choice or something.

Anyway. I need to practice piano now, and then read a bit for work, and then maybe this afternoon I go and sew for a change. Maybe I need to set schedules and keep busy, maybe that's what I need to be happy. Or at least happy-ish.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I'm still here

Edited to add: I think I figured out some of my malaise: the idea of coming up with a set of ecology labs, figuring out cheatproof testing, and figuring out how to teach statistical analysis without recourse to SPSS access, all of those are great big mountains. Oh, I'll probably figure it out eventually but right now it's standing at the foot of a mountain you have to climb, and it looks REALLY steep, and the thing is, once you've climbed one, you've got two more to go. There are way too many quests in the video game my life has become, and there's no way of Leeeeroy Jenkins!ing it through.


Hopefully tomorrow will be better but I am just having a bad, sad night emotionally.


I have to go cook dinner in a minute but I thought I'd post quickly just in case anyone worries on weekdays when I don't post.

(I don't know. Maybe no one cares that much. But there are some people whose journals I read online that if they don't post for a few days - or if it goes longer than the usual gap between posts - I worry).

I'm just....this was not a good day. Without giving too much detail, in a committee meeting today we wound up coming to a joint conclusion that was bad news for someone. They took it  okay but I was really hoping today would feel more like one for the W column. No, the L here wasn't any of my own doing, but....I just didn't like that person having to get the bad news.

it was also an hour and a half long Zoom meeting and those are exhausting.

And more bad news coming out - the potential death total has been upped yet again, close to 150,000 now, and I am angry and sad and feel powerless because there is literally nothing I can do that will make anything any better.

Had an e-mail conversation with a colleague about "we may well be opening up online this fall" and what that means in re: labs, and while I can probably figure it out, it's going to be a tremendous amount of work and it's going to be a less-good experience for the students and there's not a lot "free" on the internet for ecology that's any good/appropriate for upper-division college students, so I'm going to have to do a lot of either reinventing the wheel OR expecting my students to pay a lot more money for another online resource, and I object to that. So I will probably be quixotic and make labs from scratch. (I am wondering if there's some kind of "testing the effects of changing environmental conditions on sourdough starter" that can be done. I'm serious. I'm going to have to do a LOT of lateral thinking in this, I suspect).

Okay, that's too much word vomit, putting the rest of my spiralling behind a break, but I am in a very bleak mood this evening.

Monday, May 11, 2020

And that's done

I totaled up and posted the grades for my classes this morning.

It felt weirdly hollow. I had kind of delayed on it, partly because I wanted to give people the maximum chance to get in late work (I said midday Saturday and would have accepted up to first thing this morning, but the last late work I received was late in the afternoon Friday) but partly because....well, with this semester ended for me, it feels like I have one less reason for "being."

What I probably need to do now is set myself timers and try to read continuing-ed type stuff (I have a couple books on probability, and some stuff on ecology and on environmental policy) so I don't feel so much at loose ends.

The hard thing with this is that all the markers, all of them, of "this semester has ended and the summer has begun." In normal years, I would calculate and submit my grades as soon as I had the final exams graded, because the expectation was that all the other work would be in well before that. And I'd finish up with it on Friday before graduation at the latest; it always felt right to me to have grades in before graduation even though it wasn't *required*. (And a source of some levity at graduation when someone "walks" that my colleagues and I know well will be repeating at least one class before they earn their degrees....)

Graduation would have been Saturday. Of course we didn't have one - well, there was a virtual one and I looked up a few of our graduates but couldn't bring myself to write any messages, it made me too sad. This week some time I would have been traveling up to visit my mom, possibly after taking a day to go shopping/antiquing in Sherman or Whitesboro.

And of course, this year, none of that is happening.

Right now, I'm fighting with the new advisement software (planned to be rolled out this spring, and I guess they couldn't undo that, even though faculty are having to learn *remotely* and on their own how to use it) but once that's done - once I've advised this student - I don't really have anything left today.

(Annnnnd the system crashed. So we won't be doing that today. And I just turned off my campus e-mail for a bit to get a bit of peace because people have been e-mailing me WHY ISN'T MY GRADE HIGHER e-mails when I explained on the class webpage how I calculated the grade and several of the complainants are earning As which....whyyyyy? Why are you complaining? I was kind of obsessed about my grades but if I earned a B or an A I was just happy with it, and I never accused a teacher of miscalculating them to try to up my grades)

I am tired, again. I had a vivid dream of taking a quilt in to the quilt shop in Denison to be quilted and when I woke up I was sad that it wasn't really happening, and it won't happen for a long time yet.

What I really need is some way of feeling....like I accomplished something this semester. I don't feel like I did.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Sense of purpose

This is something I've been thinking about, kind of below the surface, through all this.

One thing I sometimes do when I'm getting dressed for the day (which is faster now because I take less time on my hair, and don't put on hose, and do stripped-down make up if I do make up at all) is the BBC 4 "Prayer for the Day" which has a variety of different perspectives, not exclusively Christian

Today's (which you can hear here) comes from a Christian arts charity worker.

And it caught me. I stopped what I was doing and listened through it, and teared up a little.

Because she was talking about purpose and productivity. And the central question, being, "What is our purpose in all this?"

And yes - the lack of structure she speaks of is hard for me. I realize I have really bought into the idea that my "meaning" comes from "what I am doing" particularly "what am I doing that 'counts' with other people"

In part, I blame the way academia works, that you have to document and "prove" the worth of everything you do.

And that's in tension and contradiction with what she reminds us is the Christian meaning of "purpose" - she cites the Two Great Commandments and I admit, having less contact with my "neighbors" (my colleagues, my students, my friends at church) means I can't DO the things I normally do that is a form of loving them - well, still, I can do those things in some way. (I have been trying to reassure anxious students over e-mail, though that's hard when you are anxious about what's going on yourself).

And I realize: why is this so hard for ME? Why do *I* have to do something, I think, to justify my existence? I think of a conversation I had online with someone - this was someone with some health challenges (some of them developmental/emotional) and they commented something along the lines that if we let certain "medical ethicists" run the world, they would never have been born, as they fell into a category that arguably would be "does not have good quality of life" and I'm also reminded of the slight pressure my brother and sister-in-law felt, when expecting their daughter, because my sister-in-law was an "older" first-time mother - and how one of the OBs apparently asked her "and what are you going to do if this testing shows the fetus has Down syndrome?" and she assumed that the suggestion was to say "terminate the pregnancy" but my sister-in-law's response was "then we will learn what a child with Down syndrome needs to thrive, and do that"

And yes. I am a pretty firm believer in the idea that people with Down syndrome - or whatever issue - have the right to exist. And perhaps they teach the rest of us something important.

And my online friend and I had similar discussions about the aged, because another thing this so-called ethicist was implying was that older people should be okay with the fact that they might get sick and die of the virus, in favor of "reopening" (Well, joke's on them: my mom has what she needs to continue to stay home, for months if that's what it takes, and she is retired with enough funds that she wouldn't have to go out and work. Though of course not all elders enjoy this privilege)

Then why am I so gosh-darned focused on having to do "enough" to justify my own existence? Why do I set "laxer standards" for other people's "purpose" than my own?

And I have to work on this idea, given that it might be as short as a decade (or even less, considering on events) until I retire, and yes, yes, in more "normal" times, in retirement you can go out and do volunteer work and I'm actually beginning to think that taking a more-active role in the Native Plant Society than I have to this point - especially with the publications they put out - might be a good thing (I once swore I'd never serve as a volunteer journal editor)

But I think that's a hard lesson for a lot of us right now. And I intentionally referred to a lot of the stuff you see online as "productivity porn" - because it is that, it is something weirdly gratifying and yet also false and is not real for real life.

I think a related issue with this a throwaway comment I saw on Twitter, about "why are people bothering to bake bread? Stores and even bakeries are open and their bread is better" and there are a couple problems with that for me.

I mean, the most "duh" and banal reason - though that individual might not consider it - is that a lot of us DON'T have dedicated bakeries near us, and while you can get *tolerable* bread at the grocery store - well, here in down there isn't a grocery whose in-store bakery makes very good bread. So even my imperfect homemade attempts are better than most grocery-store bread.

But also: for one thing, baking bread takes TIME. You have to mix it up and knead it and wait while it rises and then punch it down and then either let it rise again or shape it and let it rise again, and then bake it. And while some of that time is wait-time while you can do other things, still - if you're home all day long, it does give you something to get up and work on periodically.

I think though, for a lot of people - it gives a sense of control over a tiny corner of your world. You can point to the bread you made and say "I did this." And there is a certain satisfaction in cutting into it, and eating a slice, and saying "this is good. This is good and I made this" and maybe for a lot of people, that's not something they get in their careers, the chance to look at a tangible thing and said "I made this and it is good"

And maybe that does give a person a bit of a sense of purpose. I've been cooking more in this - I've made beans, and I've made various dishes with whatever meat I can get (I got some ground beef in my Imperfect Foods box, so chili will be a thing tomorrow). I baked a wacky cake, and I almost never bother to bake.

It's a *different* purpose. It's different from going out and trying to change the world or make a lot of money* or any of the reasons we go out to work


(*Heh. I remember a comment my dad made, years and years ago, when my sister-in-law completed her doctoral degree - all of us but my brother had one - and at that time my brother was working in a fairly good job at State Farm - and the joke was "There are going to be four people in this family with Ph.D.s and one who makes a lot of money" but then my brother burned out on State Farm and my sister-in-law had a pretty good job as a forensic chemist, so she proposed he quit his job and do something he really wanted, which was to get a Master's of Divinity, and now he is a mostly-stay-at-home dad who does a little teaching on the side and preaches the occasional sermon and does stained-glass work....)

But also, really, knitting is like that too. Yes, knitted items have their practicality, just as home-baked bread does. But you can buy a sweater cheaper at the store (though made under what conditions? And made of what materials?) than you can buy one, and knitting a sweater can take *months* to do.

I spent some time last night knitting on the shawl I started a couple weeks back. And it felt right again, it felt like "I want to do more of this." So maybe I'm beginning to learn to relax back to a slower rhythm, and to be a little bit less consumed by the need to produce - reports, or articles, or teaching, or things that are all for other people or are to "prove" to other people that my life has meaning. Because really? It has meaning because it IS, and I need to remind myself of that.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Mail is arriving

I am spending waaaaaay too much money online these days, but....somehow stocking up/supporting the businesses you like seems a good idea these days.

I had seen this dress way back at the beginning of Lent (which feels like 40 years ago now) in Vermont Country Store, and wanted it, but at that point....at that point.....I was giving up online shopping for Lent. (Pause while I sit down and laugh to keep from crying).


The other day, I decided to order it. (And some elderberry "tonic," which apparently will help stave off viruses a little - maybe - unproven but - when you are starting with one, so I'm just going to put it on the shelf. In case of colds, of course, you understand.)

It came today. This is not a GREAT photo (taken quickly, my hair is a mess and I have no make up on) but the dress makes me happy. It's bright and loud and has a big print on it and has kind of a 1970s feel and I admit I sort of like that.

new dress

And yes, I am wearing dresses these days, that is how I normally dress for work and I reckon that maybe I will be better able to do "normal" work if I am dressed like "normal" work. (Well. All I have left of the semester is some grading and submitting grades Monday and a master's-student oral exam - via Zoom - Tuesday, but once that's over I have reading I want to do over the summer)

One thing I talked with the counselor yesterday was the need for scheduling as a way of fighting the "why even bother" feeling I've been having so starting Tuesday I am going to use Tomato-timer again to set myself work periods - I also ordered a small wire-frame book stand, which will hold a book and allow me to do simple knitting projects, either work on dishcloths (I want to make more for my own use, and it's always nice to have a couple on the shelf as little gifts) or plain stockinette socks or the stockinette part of a sweater. (Or a hat. I could finish up the Sockhead hat I've been picking away at first).

I am okay as long as I am DOING things. I practiced piano more today and while I wasn't great at it (some days I am not), I did it. And I did some grading and e-mailed some students.

Another thing that came: the whole wheat flour I ordered from Target. Hunting around in my cookbooks I found a "golden wheat loaves" recipe that's about half plain and half whole wheat flour and sounds good, I plan to make that tomorrow - you make a sponge with the white flour first, and then add the sweetener and shortening and the whole-wheat flour and then knead it. It makes two loaves so my plan is to make one plain and one cinnamon-swirl, and then freeze half of each loaf for later on.

My "Imperfect Foods" box came and I have lots of apples and also some pears this time. At some point I should either make an apple cake or something like tarte Tatin with some of the apples, and I need to ask my mom how she does poached pears because hers are good.

And I got some ground beef, so chili will happen in the coming week. (I eat a lot of chili, but I LIKE chili, it's easy and with beans and tomato in it like I make it, I figure it's fairly nutritious.)

And this came:

Ponyta

Yes, another Pokemon stuffie. This is "Galarian Ponyta" - when the "Galar region" (which is a stand in for the British Isles, apparently everywhere in Pokemon -land is a stand in for somewhere in this world, like Alola is Hawaii) variants came out and I saw this Ponyta, I said to myself "if they ever make a stuffie of that, I must get it.

(A unicorn, with pastel colors. It's hard to see the horn but she does have one).

She's very soft. I am still kind of contemplating names. I tried Eilonwy (after the female protagonist in The Book of Three) but that doesn't seem to fit. I admit "Frosting" popped into my head (because of the fluffy pastel mane and tail) but I am resisting it as Silly....though it may already have stuck. I will have to think on it more.

This weekend, my plans are (in and around the regulars of working out and doing Duolingo German and practicing piano) to do a little bit of the leftover grading, and knit for a while, and maybe put the binding on one of the quilts still needing it.

Sunday I need to remember to call my mom. (Do phone lines still get overloaded on Mother's Day? I remember a few years in the past - back when I was younger - there were times when it was hard to get through because so many people were calling, the circuits got overloaded. I suspect with cell phones now that doesn't happen....)

Thursday, May 07, 2020

leaving this here

I'm having a little bit of a hard morning (emotionally, though I'm also having some hip pain, as I think I tweaked my hip working in the yard the other day, and being in low-level pain makes my mood worse).

I got the grading done up to this point (mostly catch-up with people being late, and I am just allowing late work up through tomorrow, because this has been hard on everyone and I'd rather someone pass by my having to grade their stuff under the wire than have them fail because of a due date).

I made another mask:

This one is using a more shaped pattern with no pleats. It fits a little better but maybe next time I try the medium size - this one is a little big.

I lined it with horse fabric leftover from a pillowcase I made:

But the real reason I'm doing a quick post is to leave a link here so it's easy for me to find it again: during the pandemic, the Ghibli Museum in Japan has been doing video tours and they made a YouTube channel of them. Maybe this evening I will watch some of them - that might be nice.

I have counseling this afternoon but I'm not even sure what to talk about. Most of my frustrations are things I recognize are beyond my control. And I'm lonely, but that's also beyond my control, mostly. I mean, how do you fix problems that are caused by things outside your power? All you can do is rely on your stubbornness to wait the bad situation out....

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

working on things

I took today mostly off. Had my campus e-mail open for a while to answer questions (and there were a couple from one class about the exam tomorrow, but they were easily answered). Got a few things I'll need to grade coming in, but I can do that tomorrow while keeping my e-mail open in case anyone has problems with the exam.

I did run a couple errands - had to mail off a duplicate copy of a cookbook to a friend that I had offered it to. And I went to the Green Spray and was comforted to see the shelves fairly well-stocked: they had lots of flour (I bought another five pound bag of the unbleached bread flour) and milk and they had some meat (with signs limiting purchase amounts, but it was pretty much all giant family packs, and I didn't need meat anyway, so I didn't buy any). They had eggs and tp, neither of which I needed either, but I saw them there on the shelf. I bought some salad greens and will have a salad with dinner tonight.

The other part of my dinner is baked potatoes - after I complained about only getting "weird" blue potatoes in my produce box (I will have to figure out a recipe for this round of them), my friend Lynn sent me some REAL potatoes and I put the two smallest ones in the oven to bake, and I'm going to pull some of the frozen bacon out and fry it up and have sour cream and bacon and maybe cheese on the potatoes.

I'm working on a few things - I started trying to teach myself "Bethena" ("A Ragtime Waltz") by Scott Joplin on the piano. I'm only working on the first two pages (it is like six pages long, but bits of it repeat). It will amuse me if I come out of the lockdown being able to play this well, it would be really funny (in a nice way) to get my piano teacher back here and sit down and play this fairly complicated piece for her.

Someday I want to get a book of Joe Hisaishi's piano music - he is the composer who wrote a lot of the music for Studio Ghibli and I have been listening to some of it as background music on YouTube while I grade, and it's just....nice. As I said once before, it's kind of a hybrid of classical, quiet jazz, and New Age and it's pleasant and calming and I'd like to be able to play it. I found one on Amazon but I've spent SO MUCH this past six weeks that I just stuck it on my wishlist for the future. Either my brother and his family can get it for me for Christmas, or at some point this fall when I feel a bit more flush I can order it for myself.

I watched "Ponyo" the other night. I'd seen it a few times before but this time I was more struck by the parallels with the (Andersen, not Disney) version of The Little Mermaid - the whole "turn to sea foam" thing and the "can be saved by true love" thing (though it's left a bit ambiguous, I think, if the "true love" is brother-sister affection, or if there's the implication that Human!Ponyo will grow up to be Sosuke's love interest. (I like to think it's more of a sibling-love - Storge, or whatever the Greek word was; one thing I think is a flaw in a lot of Western popular culture is the implication that romantic love is the main love, or the only love worth celebrating)

I will say I can see one way in which current events have affected me - the storm, you know? Where the sea is angry because Ponyo wants to be a human girl? and Lisa and Sosuke have to drive home through it? It never bothered me that much before but this time I felt a fairly intense (and surprising) emotional discomfort watching it. (I've driven in bad rainstorms, where you can't see very well in front of your car, and it is nerve wracking, but that was long before the first time I ever saw the movie and it didn't bother me then)

I've been picking away at a few things - knitting on the hat, and I added a few rows to the grey cardigan while watching Ponyo (and now that I've found my place in it again, it will be easier to pick up again). And I'm still crocheting on the afghan which is the thing that appeals to me most to work on when I am tired or a little frazzled because there's no increasing or decreasing or keeping track of rows or length - it's just "do four double crochet, do two decreases, do four more double crochet, do two increases." And on, and on, and the colors slowly shift and there is something kind of soothing about it. (Maybe when I finish it the year of horrors will be over? I started this right after going up to my mom's after my dad passed away. Yes, I know: magical thinking. But it would be kind of lovely to hear, as I put the last stitch in, "There's a successful vaccine, all the pharmaceutical companies are gearing up to try to make seven billion doses." Heh. Maybe I need to crochet faster...)

I'm still planning to re-read the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain but after the crawling-out-through-the barrow scene I needed a break so I also started The Provincial Lady in Wartime. We'll see how I stick with THAT, I had to put it aside at some point last time I tried. (Is anyone else having problems "in these times" with books/movies/tv shows that are either scary, feature scenes of claustrophobia, bad storms, or violence? I mean, I had to quit watching Criminal Minds a long time back, and I can't watch the shows-set-in-hospitals any more....but I worry that what I CAN tolerate will get ever smaller and narrower. Or maybe this is just a temporary thing)

As I said, I spent a lot of money frivolously this month....I have a couple more things coming to me. Some staple items from Target (that's not so very frivolous; I need more corn oil and baking cocoa and Vitamin D supplement, and I also ordered five pounds of their house-brand whole wheat flour because you can't find it anywhere locally. I hope it's good. I have a vague plan to add some to a recipe I have where you make a pretty standard bread, but also add cinnamon and cardamom so it's good with various sweet spreads on it - not really a sweet bread, but one that's a little spiced. The original bread is all white flour but I think if I used 1/3 whole wheat and let it rise longer it should do fine. That might be a weekend project....)

I also ordered a Galarian Ponyta plushie. I do not play Pokemon but I like some of the creatures and I've watched the cartoon from time to time. This Ponyta is a pastel unicorn and when I first saw the character early this year I said "If they make a plushie of it, I have to get it" and the Pokemon center had them in stock this week....

I also ordered a Squishables hummingbird. I don't know why; it just appealed to me. It is a very round bird. A borb. And in fact, I might name him Borb (he has to be a "he," it is a ruby throat and it has the red throat patch only males have).

Part of it is, yeah, these are comfort objects to me (I ordered a pony - which I named Creamsicle because of his color - from Squishables earlier this month), part of it is I would like these businesses to keep on going (I ordered direct from Squishable, not through Amazon - Squishable.com has a better selection and they ship faster). Part of it is that it's mail that's not a bill or a charity solicitation. Mail gets very important these days. Or FedEx. Or UPS. Whoever is bringing the stuff.



I know some ink has been spilled about "getting back to our roots" or whatever the heck in all this but one thing that has reminded me of what I have read about earlier times (and experienced in my own childhood, back when it was typically "4-6 weeks to delivery" for most anything - and having to beg my mother to write a check to send off for what I wanted to buy with my pocket money (calling the place and using a credit card was not until later - at least not in my family)

I dunno. The mail being a big thing is maybe a good thing. And being grateful for getting what you need at the grocery store is a good thing. And not worrying so much about "productivity" is probably a good thing. But this is a really hard way to learn those lessons.

This weekend, maybe I try to do some sewing in between making bread.