Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday evening stuff

* Well, Imperfect Foods got back to me. They are supposed to be refunding me my shipping (about $6) and I am to e-mail them if anything arrives spoiled. They seem to think it won't; I am pretty convinced it will because unless the FedEx terminal has a refrigerated locker or at least climate control, that box is gonna be sitting in 90+ degree heat for two days.

I'm still unhappy. But yeah, this is just disappointment number 6,745,328 of this year, so whatever.

My mother reports FexEx was delivering in HER neighborhood (Illinois) today, so I don't even know. Driver sick-out? Decided they didn't want to brave the construction on 75? Who knows.

* I know I can feel stuff like this making me excessively petty but yeah, like I said - this is just one more disappointment in a year that's been overfilled with them, and it wears on you. If this were the before-times - well, I wouldn't even be DOING Imperfect Foods, probably, because I'd be able to easily go out whereever to get groceries.

* Thinking about an Ask MetaFilter I read today, and how I can tell my empathy is strained - someone was writing about how they were "sheltering in place" with their spouse and kids earlier, but apparently spouse and kids were out of town now (the individual in question having had to do the post-exposure quarantine). Anyway, they were like "so how do I enjoy the Fourth of July ALL ALONE" and I am like

I did Easter alone. And Memorial Day, not that I ever do much. And I am doing 4th of July alone. And heck, I will VERY likely be doing Thanksgiving and Christmas alone if nothing much changes between now and then.

At least that person (and yes, this is where I get petty) has a spouse and kids with them most of the time. Until this week, for the past 4 months, I have barely seen another human other than on a screen.

I dunno. I was also thinking - well, this is probably what finally kills of Trick or Treating at Hallowe'en, if the virus is still around I cannot imagine parents wanting to take their kids out and I can't imagine people wanting to hand out candy. We're going to all have to figure out some new set of distanced  celebrating things and I don't even know. I can see doing stuff "for the kids' sake" or even for a spouse, but for a single person? Not much point. Not much point in trying to celebrate anything, and I admit my main feeling about Independence Day this year is annoyance at all the yahoos shooting off fireworks until 2 am.

I mean, if I had a little Hibachi grill (I don't) and either steaks or hotdogs or even hamburger patties (I don't have any of those things), I could do a little cook out for myself on my side porch, but I don't so I can't.

I may have to make another Pruett's run Monday, boo, if the meat that I ordered comes all spoiled.

If I had more room in my house I'd get a chest freezer and just buy a crapton of meat and stuff and be more disciplined about remembering to take it out to thaw in the fridge the night before I want it. This kind of thing is for the birds.

the other option would be to get pick up barbecue Sunday if the barbecue place is open then. (I doubt they would be open tomorrow).

* Also, I realized that most people will be off the various social-media places I hang out this weekend, so it will be very still and quiet and I will have to remind myself that it's just that people are doing things with family, and it's not that I've driven them away from wanting to interact with me. (And yes, that's one of the things my goblin brain says to me some times: that when people don't interact with me, they've gotten sick of my BS. I don't even look to closely at profiles because I don't want to see that someone's unfollowed me, maybe, and I'm grateful Twitter doesn't send notification of that. I guess they do of blocking? I don't know)

* I'd weather this better in the before-times, because I could have gone antiquing today (even though it's hot) or gone out and had lunch somewhere and felt less....transparent.....somehow, because I am around other people even if they are not people who are friends. And I think part of my upset with the (rare, I know) cases of people caught on viral video being just absolutely horrible (the woman throwing things out of a grocery cart in a tantrum because she doesn't want to wear a mask) is that I start to feel like even THAT very limited sort of socialization will be closed off to me, because the tantrum-throwers will win and the public square will be too unpleasant. And I don't even know.

I used to be more content with my own company. At least, I think I was? Or maybe it was that those small daily interactions - saying hi to someone in the hallway, having a little conversation with someone working in a shop - met the need I had for socialization and I didn't notice just how very alone I am?

* I was also thinking the other day about that thing I read about robots that were being developed to "interact" with people in nursing homes - mostly as pet-substitutes (cats or dogs or ducklings with somewhat realistic behavior patterns) but I guess there were a few that would, in some way, communicate back and forth with the person and darnit, if we're facing a future of pandemics where we maybe need to lock ourselves away every few years, they need to get those developed and affordable so people like me can get those little daily interactions.

And no, calling people doesn't really work for me, it feels have to plan it in advance, and sometimes they're busy and can't talk and it's just easier having another being there in your same space to talk to. Calling and even texting feels like I'm intruding on the person's time and I don't want to do that.

I can't quite resurrect the imaginary friends I had as a kid; I think by the time I was able to remember the idea of having them, I was already to the point of KNOWING they were imaginary and basically in a weird way play-acting at it, because kids were "expected" to have imaginary friends.

* I've been slowly watching through the early seasons (am on season 1 right now) of "30 Rock" as something shorter and a bit less dated than Murder, She Wrote. I can't tell if I like it or not. Some of the jokes are funny but the characters are mostly either unlikeable (greedy, needy, selfish, rude) or get dumped on by life on a regular basis and I find that particularly painful to watch. There's something about a character who at least presents as earnest (Kenneth) or hard-working (Liz Lemon) getting dumped on again and again by life that hurts me.

It's almost like the "unkind alternate universe" version of Parks and Recreation - there, even though Jerry/Gary gets some verbal abuse, there's the sense that the characters all more or less care about each other. And even the people I'd find deeply annoying in real life (Tom Haverford, for example, or Andy Dwyer, whose sheer dimness, in real life, would send me into conniptions), have an endearing edge to them that makes them seem not so bad.

I wonder if you could pair dark/light universe pairs of shows or media - I was listening to one of my Pandora stations and "Piano Man" came on, and it struck me that that was like a sadder Alternate Universe version of "Cheers."

* And yeah, another thought - the other day (or maybe it was today, they all blend together now), the BBC news played a little clip of the "Cheers" theme song to introduce a story on pubs reopening and I admit I nearly cried at it because even though I never have been a bar goer (and suspect I would never fit in with the clientele at most), the idea of having somewhere to go, where everyone knows your name (and where, perhaps, they at least act happy to see you when you show up) is something I have missed in my life during this time.

Really, at the end of this, I'm going to see this time as being sort of like the Swamp of Sadness in the Neverending Story, or perhaps the Slough of Despond (though I have never yet read The Pilgrim's Progress, and I guess that slough is more about feeling bad about your own sins, rather than being dragged down by the sheer random terribleness that happens in the world). Sort of a grey mass that feels like Silly Putty and is hard to get out of, and when you're in it, it's all much of a sameness - the days are long but the weeks sometimes seem short and time has a strange elasticity to it.

This is one of those times where you just have to hang on....but I've been hanging on through this for SO LONG, it feels like, and I still don't really see a way out of it. I hope we get out of it before I can't hang on any more....

Customer-service hell

I PROBABLY should just eat something first, but I'm angry, and I need to get this out.

I had been getting boxes from Imperfect Foods, right? Mostly it worked, though I learned fairly early on that "delicate" things like berries or salad greens are not good choices - my boxes come Fed Ex and they tend to be knocked around a bit by the time they get to me.

Refrigerated things come in a big foil bag, sitting on an ice pack. It's worked okay so far.

It won't work this week.

Apparently my box got to Sherman, and met what they call a "delivery exception," and won't be here until Sunday - two days plus sitting in what I presume is a non-climate-controlled warehouse.

Most of the stuff in the box (other than the jar of spaghetti sauce and possibly the bagels) will be ruined.

I'm angry. I tried calling Fed Ex. Got a representative I could barely hear - sounded like he was talking into a tin can - and the best I got was the verbal equivalent of a shrug and a "not our problem." I explained that there were refrigerated items that would spoil.

I've  contacted "customer care" at Imperfect Foods but of course you have to do it all via e-mail and there's a time delay involved, so I don't know if they're going to do anything. The Fed Ex guy was like "maybe they'll overnight you a new box" but Imperfect doesn't work like that.

I mean, yes: it's a holiday weekend but I didn't think they'd take BOTH today and tomorrow off, and the box is in Sherman. If I were more aggressive I'd look up where the depot was and DRIVE down there and argue with the guy to just give me my box, seeing as I'll just have to THROW IT AWAY when it comes Sunday with nearly everything spoiled.

I am considerably upset about this, not just because of the impression I get that no one cares AT ALL about it.

So I don't know: Maybe in the heat of summer I just have to quit doing Imperfect Foods if this is going to be an issue. It's going to upwards of 95 F for the foreseeable future, so nothing that can spoil can be mail ordered. (No chocolate, for example, until October or November, so if I can't get it locally, I'm out of luck).

This is another problem with giant corporations running the world: you're a bug to them, and once they have your money, they stop caring about you.

I said on Twitter I'd consider unlocking my account long enough to tweet at Fed Ex and see if I get a response, but then I'd get a million pornbots trying to follow me and about eight reply guys deciding to 'splain my tweets to me or hit on me, and I can't deal with that.

The worst thing for me about the whole pandemic has been the sheer isolation. In normal times, I would go down to the natural-foods store and get a little more diversity of food, or to the Kroger to have a nicer big grocery store, but that doesn't feel possible now (especially not with Texas' cases increasing). And the feeling that those whose job it is to provide what you need don't care about you is a bad feeling. Because for me, it too quickly morphs into "nobody cares about me" and I dissolve in tears.

And yeah, it doesn't help that it's been loud at night here (fireworks) and I am not sleeping well.

Added: This kind of thing is why I have trust issues. I trust a company to do its job, and then it stops doing that job, and I feel like

Ah, well, from everything I've been able to find out online, the "delivery exception" could be "we are taking a long weekend" and while I still feel like they should have informed Imperfect Foods they wouldn't be delivering Friday, it was mostly a missed communication.

I just hope Imperfect will refund me for the spoiled food I can't use. But it's not something "personal" directed at me - I know I do sometimes tend to take things like this personally when it's just poor communication or someone being lazy or something like that.

(I did look up to see if the main "artery" highway between Sherman and here was closed - that happens at times, lots of bad wrecks - and it seems not to be, so I am assuming "holiday." Also, I guess the Imperfect Foods people are off today, I have not heard back. I guess I will go and pick a box of stuff as usual Saturday, and give them one more week....but if things get bollixed up again, I'm dropping the service, it's too annoying to depend on a delivery and not get it.

Mainly I am sad about the bagels; I ordered six Everything bagels and was looking forward to having one. Oh, they might still be edible when they finally reach me, but I was looking forward to one TODAY.

That's one of the hard things about living in a small town in a pandemic - things you used to maybe be able to get (I could have gotten bagels in Sherman, most places here don't carry them), you can't get now, and it does feel slightly unfair that on top of everything else, you can't have that one particular food item you might want)

I tried to live-chat with them, to emphasize that it's super hot here and food will not last, but they had a big thing (this being Imperfect Foods) basically saying "don't even contact us until your box is more than two days late" so I don't even know. That seems a little....dismissive. Especially for those of us in really hot climates.

I switched from the medium box to the smallest size for next week, and we will see - based on if my food arrives okay, or if it doesn't, based on if Imperfect makes it right or not, that will decide if I stay with them. If the food comes spoiled and Imperfect is not helpful (doesn't refund, or even if it takes a lot of pushing in my part to get a refund, or they are dismissive of me), I'm done with them. Life is too short to put up with really bad customer service and I have been a doormat for this kind of thing too darn long. (I am the kind of person who never sends food back unless it is unhygienic; I have choked down enough overcooked steaks or wrong-sides with my meal in the name of "not harassing the waiter or chef" to last me the rest of my life. Maybe this is how the lockdown breaks me? By unleashing my inner "Karen"? Okay, then.)

Thursday, July 02, 2020

And out again...

I have been, comparatively speaking (certainly for pandemic times, and really, even for a typical summer for me) a real social butterfly this week:

Monday through Wednesday: delivered Meals on Wheels, which meant I got to see and talk to several people from church, and also see one or two people I actually knew who are now homebound

This morning: went shopping at Pruett's and I have Blue Bell fudge-bars in the freezer and I am going to have one for dessert after dinner tonight, and I have milk ahead for the coming week and salad and more oatmeal.

And then, this afternoon, Dana and Bill's wedding. Dana is (was, and I hope sometime again will be) the bell-choir director at church. She is also the person - and I just remembered this on the way home - who came and sat with me and *even packed my suitcase for me* last year when I had to make that trip north as my dad was dying. So yes, I wanted to be at her wedding, pandemic or no.

(This is a second marriage for both of them - they are in their late 60s/early 70s. She is a widow, and I *think* he is a widower rather than divorced.)

There were only about 25 people there, nearly all of them masked and sitting far enough apart in the pews for social distancing. We didn't sing - in fact, they had taken away the hymnals and the cushions in the pews for cleanliness' sake. It was a quick ceremony.

I got there a little early; I live mere blocks from the church and I never know how early to show up for things. I saw a number of people - Mike, and Brandolyn, and Cindy, all of whom I had seen at the Meals on Wheels, but also a few people (our pianist and her husband) that I have not seen in four literal months and I admit I could feel myself tearing up a little as I waved to them.

It was an interesting ceremony. Strange in some ways - so few people, and very short, and everyone masked up - and yet, there were familiar things, too. There was a tiny little girl (a great-niece, I think) who was a flower girl who scattered rose petals.

And the music was different - entirely recorded, of course (I think we won't be able to sing in public again until there's been a vaccine for a while). They played, let me see if I can remember:

Wake me up, before you Go-Go
I feel good
Somebody to love

I forget what they played as a processional now because I was all caught up with "are we going to stand like at more formal weddings" (we didn't) and wasn't paying attention.

And I admit, I nearly teared up again during the vows. Though I guess that's pretty normal. Part of it was just the general "lots of people cry at weddings" but part of it was also that it's SO strange and SO different to see a wedding during a pandemic.....but also something almost like relief? I guess? The feeling that "here's ONE thing that is happy during this time, here's one thing  that is good"

Also, being in the sanctuary again - the place that has essentially been a second home to me (much more so than my work place) for the 20 years I've lived here, the place I've worried over (during the congregational split, and the times when we lost ministers, and the seemingly dwindling membership), the place that I've felt valued in a way my workplace never valued me....and so being back, especially for a happy thing, was kind of emotional.

(I was there, oh, last week was it? For Mr. Tucker's funeral. But then I sat in the little side chapel and I was worried about all the people around - there were lots more for that, and it was also the first time I had been out in a crowd since early March, and I was worrying about the reception)

But also...well, like I said, they're both about 10-20 years older than I am, and they found each other, and it maybe gives me a tiny wild hope....

They had written their own vows (which I admit I would not choose to do, were it me, but it's their wedding and the vows weren't "weird" in the way personal vows are sometimes lampooned as being)

And then they played a bit of "Louie Louie" as the recessional. Yes. That's the first wedding I've ever been at that did something like that.

(Then again, in that church I've also been to a memorial service where both the Ave Maria and show tunes were part of the music. Disciples of Christ tend to be very....individual....people)

And yes, I did hug Dana on my way out the door. We were both masked and I know she's been careful and darnit, the risk, however small, was worth it (and anyway, I've read that hugging, when your faces don't come into contact, is safer than almost any other kind of affectionate gesture) and I congratulated Bill.

There's a reception at a local restaurant later tonight but I have decided not to go - if it's outdoors, it will be far too hot, and if it's indoors.....well, I am not doing "indoors" on restaurants until we have a vaccine. I gently demurred when one of the women asked if I was going but I garaged my car and am in my pajamas already, so.

I can tell, though, I met my minimum weekly requirement with actual interaction with other humans and I feel worlds better than I did in some of the weeks when the only other person I spoke with was my mom over the phone.

Hopefully we can figure out some kind of way to safely "do church" in person again soon. I think that would help me a lot.

I also got another lab mostly written today, and that helps too

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

One more day

One more day of delivering Meals on Wheels for me. It's supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far and it's exceptionally humid - just for fun, after doing the run yesterday (masked up for about an hour on a pretty hot day, part of which I was in my air conditioned car for) I took my pulse oxygen (I bought a pulse oximeter back in April or so when I was in a mood of "well, we're all gonna get it eventually, and I have to be extra careful I don't totally decompensate before I can call someone because I live alone, though perhaps as someone with lowgrade asthma, it's not so dumb to have one).

My pulse ox was 97%.

This morning, it's 94-95%. Perhaps not statistically significant as a difference but it does tell me humidity plays badly with it.

I also am reminding myself I need to take a different route to the senior center - normally I would drive past the county courthouse, but there's going to be a protest there today, partly focused on the Confederate soldier statue and agitating for its removal*

(*We've been at this place before; in 2016 or 2018 or one of those years, there was a push to do it, but enough people - including some with ancestors who were slaves - said they wanted it to stay. We'll see what happens now. I admit I don't have any attachment to the statue - it's one of those mass-produced in the 1920s zinc ones that is identical to the ones in many towns, and I would not be bothered if the decision was to move it to a museum or private land, or take it away altogether. Granted, I am pretty much a Damn Yankee here; most of my ancestors fought for the Union (the most famous one, apparently, from a Wisconsin regiment). Though also, the fact that it's designed to represent some anonymous farmboy who went to fight and not one of the leaders maybe mitigates things a bit, I don't know. But like I said: I have zero attachment to it and wouldn't be bothered either way.

Also, I feel like right now there are more pressing concerns; this is similar to episodes of "The Golden Girls" being pulled because of one throwaway joke when there are still some real issues with militarization of the police* in many, many places in the country. But we humans are good at doing the simple easy feel-good things instead of the big, hard, complicated things that are more important)

(*And I have friends BOTH to the right and the left of me who have been speaking out against this for some years)

But anyway. It just makes me think....I guess everyone has their role. Some people go out in the heat and chant or request things, whereas I would rather go and do the behind the scenes type of work that always needs to be done (especially now; we had a few extra deliveries yesterday, to people who would normally go to the senior center to eat, but can't now, because of coronavirus concerns)

I just hope the people out protesting stay safe. Not just from viral spread; it's already a dewpoint of 73 F here and we're under a heat warning for today.

Still, I do still feel somewhat lonely and sad and feeling as if my life is slipping away as I sit in my house and read books that low-level make me angry and try to search for more labs online an it seems we're only going backwards in terms of how safe it is for someone like me to go out and about very much. I do need to run to the Pruett's at some point (maybe first thing tomorrow morning), but anything remotely "fun" is off the menu for now.

This is all a giant experiment on some of us - how long can we continue to stay healthy with minimal human contact, how long can we last without fun? I hope it's not years and years longer. Six months I could do; eighteen months I am not so sure about.

ETA: there's a rumor - not supported by the noon news but not denied either - that someone showed up to the courthouse with an AK-47. Going out to the senior center, I took one street north of what I normally would, but I could still see people gathered. One of the women who was working with us said that she heard there was someone there with an AK-47 and if we had to drive through that area, to detour.

I detoured coming home, just to be safe. I tend to be of the "don't be in stupid places" mindset and an angry person with a gun by definition makes a place stupid. But I wish so many places these days WEREN'T stupid.

It was unbearably hot and unpleasant but at least we got our six houses delivered to. Now I have to figure out lunch, despite having no appetite from the heat.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

It's getting closer...

I started the dropped stitches on the "One and Done" shawl today:

There's just the border left, and then a picot bind off (which takes longer, but looks nicer).

I am thinking about next projects. I should probably finish the various socks on the needles, and maybe the couple of almost-done hats, but I also have this yarn, which I want to make into a simple small shawl some time:

I have a lot of different options I could use for it, I will want to think about it.

(So apparently New Blogger won't allow you to post photos from Flickr? What am I even paying for Flickr Pro for then? Argh)


Carl Reiner died today, there have been a lot of encomiums to him online - he seems to have been a genuinely nice guy from what I've read, supportive of people, and funny, of course.

One of my favorites is from someone on Twitter called David J. Roth:

"The fact that Carl Reiner hung out with the same buddies for the last 70-odd years of his life, just, like, eating deli sandwiches and trying to make each other laugh, is the most crystalline expression of "squad goals" I've ever seen. I just think it's great."

(Yes - he was friends with Mel Brooks and also with Sid Caesar. Apparently he and Brooks would watch "Jeopardy!" together in recent years and there's just something so wonderful about that to me)

And yeah, sigh, squad goals. I know I've said before I wish I had friends like that. (There are two women at church who have been friends for at least 60 years - grew up together, married local men, lived here their entire lives. They support each other a lot, especially now since one is a widow and the other's husband is unwell).

Sometimes I wonder if something failed in my generation - if we were too mobile or something - to have those kind of lifelong friends. (Or if it's a failing in me, or if maybe I just was unlucky in how my life played out, in that I moved enough and at critical times. It's very hard to make friends, I think, once you're over 30 or so: everyone is too busy and also people get very fossilized (?) into a belief system and sometimes it's hard)


Little change in plans; instead of G. and me delivering today, it was Mike and me. That was good, though, I like Mike and also like me he is a quiet person and doesn't always need to be talking. And while I like talking....these days I find too much talking overwhelms me a little after a while. (It is going to take me a while to be back out in public again once it's safe/once I have to go. Too many people).

(It's hard to find the sweet spot of human contact. Many days now it's way too little, but back in the before-times, it was often too much for me and I couldn't wait to get home where it was quiet.)

One more day of this. I will say it kind of eats a bite out of the middle of the day - I go down there at 10:30 and it can take from 45 minutes to an hour to deliver all the meals, and then once I get home I have to scrounge up some lunch for me....


Finished Kolata's book on the flu. It was not as harrowing as I feared it might be - most of the book is NOT about the 1918 flu specifically; it's either about the "swine flu" of 1976 (which I just barely remember) or the actual search for remnants of the 1918 flu in preserved tissues or bodies buried in permafrost so it could be sequenced. I think Kolata wrote the book before the 2009  H1N1 outbreak when people realized "cytokine storms" were a thing (and they may be a thing now in our current troubles, or the fact that apparently in some people the coronavirus causes something like a clotting disorder where the blood goes nuts and clots - I wonder if there's a hemagglutinin gene in the thing like there is in some influenzas).

I stared another book, on the history of ecology in the US and while I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to learn it....well, some of the early "natural historians" were fairly racist, especially in re: Native peoples. (One of the naturalists talked about setting aside most of northern Canada as a giant park, and I guess encouraging the Native folk to move there, and so they could be, "the noblest animal of the vast preserve" and big oof, as the cool kids say now.

(I mean, yes: all humans are technically animals. But when you are referring to a group you do not belong to, one that has historically been pushed aside and oppressed, as "noble animals," that's....yeah, yikes)

There were also people who were weirdly into eugenics and the like who were on the fringes of it, and that is Not Cool, but then again, I suspect 120 years ago there were a lot of fields that believed a lot of Not Cool stuff.

(Interestingly, early on, women were....perhaps more welcome in botany/ecology than some fields? Because they were seen as "softer" I guess, than geology or physics is.)

I will say that ecology is still - or at least was up to about 10 years ago when I last went to the very big conferences - exceptionally white, and it makes me wonder what perspectives we are missing. (I do remember one Afro-Caribbean woman from an ESA conference who spoke, but I would be hard-pressed to name very many people).

I don't know if that's because of exclusion the past and perhaps currently, or if particularly promising students in certain groups were persuaded to go into lab or medical science (if someone had thrown $50,000 at me to do a Ph.D. in some lab thing, I probably would have, even though the field is my real love and my lab technique is kind of crappy - I suppose you would have to have good lab technique for it to be offered). Or if it's just a realization that better money comes from medical or lab sciences. Being an ecologist is generally not that remunerative and I admit now, especially, I read of the coming "higher ed apocalypse" and wonder what earthly good I would be to anyone if I couldn't be teaching; most ecology skills are pretty specialized and are not that useful to industry.

For "fun" reading (before bed) I am trading off between The Castle of Llyr (I plan to finish that whole series this summer if I can) and a book on prehistory called "Home" - where the author points out that humans lived much more settled and "civilized" lives than was once assumed, even quite early in the Paleolithic.

I don't know, I just like trying to imagine what life would be like. Much less comfortable, I am sure - but maybe if you don't have comforts and never had them you don't miss them? And there might be other comforts - far fewer worries than modern people have (well, we don't have to worry about large predatory animals, and most of us in North America need not worry about starving) and maybe more closeness of clan?

You'd have to have a high tolerance for dirt and bugs and parasites, that's for sure. Though again, I suppose you get used to that. (Please God that we won't have to, though I keep thinking of another quotation I read somewhere, about a woman in Britain during the period of time the Romans left, and how it would have gone from a fairly orderly - if perhaps, oppressive of the native Britons - life with currency and jobs and something like cities to a very rural, barter-based economy where you had to scrabble to either grow enough food or hunt enough food or have something worth bartering for enough food....and I admit at the worst if the epidemic I look around and go "just how bad is the economy going to get?")

But it's nice to imagine that even the so-called Stone Age people may have had their happinesses and their comforts in life, even if they are very different than the happiness and comfort we seek (though some, I suspect, are not so different: being warm, having sufficient food, being close to ones you love...)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Some Monday things

* Did the first day of Meals on Wheels. I worked with G., who is from Germany and is pretty much no-nonsense. Also, since this is the middle of a pandemic, no real going into people's houses (when I did it previously, the person I was with knew some of the people, and they invited us in to talk took like an hour and a half to deliver to five people. Today, it was more like 45 minutes). I am with her again tomorrow and with Mike on Wednesday.

The people were all doing well today; even the person where there was a warning on their file to "knock loudly, hard of hearing" heard us and was right at the door.

I admit I am always slightly apprehensive about this because one of the women I once worked with told me about the first time she did it - at one of the houses she got no answer, and no answer, and looked in, finally, and saw the man  lying on the floor....she called the EMS, it turned out he had died (I think it was that he was a Type I diabetic and went into a diabetic coma) and that's a little unsettling, though then again: Meals on Wheels probably provides the additional useful service of a check-in on people who are very much alone. (My mother, even though she's alone now, she has good neighbors who call or stop by regularly, and my brother's family and I speak with her a couple times a week. And she's in pretty robust health, though a fall could be bad.

We went masked up and gloved, and the food was packed into plastic bags we could easily hand off.

* One of my neighbors (and I admit I am embarrassed that I don't remember her name; I should try a reverse white-pages lookup by address to see if I can find it) came over and talked to me while I was clearing out my car (moving the field equipment - sadly unused now - to the back so I could fit the big coolers for Meals on Wheels in my back seat) and she talked a little bit. Apparently down the block there's a condemned house where people were selling drugs out of it; and there was a "prowler" in the neighborhood the other night and, yeah, it is not as nice a neighborhood as when I first moved here, and I think that's because better-off people want bigger fancier houses and most of the houses here are rentals and are not kept up to a high standard, and so....they rent them cheap and apparently are not too picky about who rents them.

it is kind of sad. And yes, she remembered the House Full of Buffoons that was next door to me years ago and yes, it turns out they were selling drugs too, as I suspected based on car traffic and the fact that people would come to "visit" for five minutes or less and then leave.

Then again, with the exception of them and the dude a couple years ago pounding on my door late one night, I've never had problems or even seen any of the supposed "prowlers," but then again, I'm pretty much closed up in my house from nightfall until the next morning - and in the before-times, when I would go out, I had lights on.

I would HATE to move at this point (though in-town moves, maybe, are not so bad?) but I admit if the neighborhood decayed much more and I could afford it, I'd move to a slightly fancier neighborhood just to have more quiet and peace of mind. (Then again: I've had few problems up to this point, maybe because I am quiet and I also don't live "flashily" so I might not attract people who might want to rob)

* Nearly done with the One and Done shawl, or at least, nearly up to where I do the dropped stitches, so at least 3/4 done

Also nearly done reading Gina Kolata's "Flu" and it was less harrowing than I feared (though yeah, the recounting of 500,000 Americans dead in the 1918 flu gives one pause, even if we have better medical technology now). But I see some of the same missteps being made (and apparently there were anti-maskers back in 1918, too). And the whole Swine Flu mess and the question STILL about Guillan-Barre syndrome (and they still ask you about that, every time you get a flu shot, though the evidence Kolata presents seems to suggest the link with it and the swine flu vaccine is tenuous at best)

Next up in the reading for "continuing ed" is going to be a book on the history of ecology in the US, because there may be some things useful for my own teaching in there.

And looking over my labs - well, I transferred them to the new flash drive (along with allllll the downloaded patterns, just in case), I realize that I have five labs ready to go, and a sixth one that can be made ready to go with a few minor tweaks, so I am at least half-prepared with that. (And, as I said - if we get even a few weeks on campus, I can do some outdoor labs during that time. I'll have to think of a few more but....I'm doing okay)

I do need to get back to these, maybe spend a couple hours tomorrow hunting around at that ESA site to see if I can get any inspiration.

* The Smurfs I ordered finally came, and yeah, it is weirdly like having a little piece of my childhood back. Most of them are the late 70s/very early 80s make; one of them (I'll note which one) is marked "W. Berrie Co." in addition to the Schliech and Peyo marks on it, which tells me it's later - I know a lot of them were re-issued in the late 80s and early 90s (before the weird CGI  movie, and the movie tie-in Smurfs look REALLY different and I reject those).

My favorite one is the king Smurf, because he is so detailed. His copyright date is 1978, so I presume he's of the era when I was collecting them as a kid (I think one of my friends had one like this, but I never found one to buy when I had money to buy them)

Gold paint and everything.

I also got a beer-drinker, which amuses me (can you imagine the Alpha Moms now, who scan everything their kid might be exposed to, and want to ban anything - from everyone, not just their kid - that they deem "inappropriate" for their kid?). But of course "les Schtroumpfs" were originally French or Belgian, and they have more relaxed attitudes to such things

This is the Smurfette. Unlike the others, marked "Made in Hong Kong," she is marked "Made in Portugal" (I guess for a while manufacturing there was cheap; I have some other small toys from the same era marked "Made in Portugal"

The arrow that was part of her set is broken off - I knew that - but I've never seen an intact one of these for sale (I do not remember this Smurf being available when I was a kid)

And then, last of all, the two harvest-time Smurfs:

first, with a cornucopia. Perhaps that's part of their magic and how they can be little creatures in a little town but still have enough to eat, even without what looks like extensive agriculture

And finally, the clumsy one - there was a Clumsy Smurf on the Smurfs cartoon (at least in the English language version, they were mostly named based either on some characteristic, or based on a profession (e.g., Baker Smurf)). I think this one is newer because of the different mark and the pvc just FEELS a little different, but it's a cute design all the same:

I find now I....kinda want more of these. I am telling myself I still have my childhood ones at home (and I really do need to put up a small wall shelf somewhere for these and a few other small things) but there is something familiar and comforting about them. Smurfs were....just "there" when I was in late childhood/tweenhood. I didn't always have the pocket money to buy them, but they were a thing. And it was a good day when I had the money for one or two, and the chance to go to the store that sold them, and to hunt through the big basket for the ones I wanted. They didn't always have them - in the early days they were sort of a craze and of course the kids who had more pocket money and more indulgent parents would get down to the store more frequently and get the popular ones (it was a big, big day when I was finally there when they still had a Smurfette in the bunch; she was hard to come by at first).

This was also the same store - called The Land of Make Believe, and it apparently held on until just a couple years ago and then closed when the original owner retired and couldn't find a buyer - that sold the Mrs. Grossman stickers. So that's two big thing-memories from my childhood (well, my later childhood; I don't think Smurfs were really a thing until I was 11 or so)

(And now I'm thinking: in some other timeline, the My Little Pony blindbag type figures would not be blindbags, they would come in a couple hundred different poses - each of the Mane Six in many different poses, as well as many of the so-called Background Ponies - and they would be sold like Smurfs were, loose, in small gift shops, and you could go in and hunt through the box or basket and pick out and buy the ones you wanted.)

I dunno; I just like small things like these. When I was a kid I played with them - or made "houses" for them of various sorts - or just lined them up on a shelf to look at them. And as an adult I can still enjoy them, even just lined up on a shelf.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Literal dark day

The big "Sahara cloud" came over today. It looks kind of like when there are far-off grassfires and we get some of the particulate matter but you can't really specifically see smoke. The little air-quality app I have on my phone (though I am not sure how accurate it is, as I don't think there's an "official" station anywhere near me, so it's probably data from Dallas and OKC that's had the heck splined out of it) said that it was unhealthy for sensitive groups due to PM10 - the bigger form of particulate matter was unusually high

(there are two PM classes in air quality assessment - and they are also "critical pollutants" the Clean Air Act looks at, which is how I know them - PM2.5, which is 2.5 microns and under, and PM10, which is 10 microns down to 2.5. I presume bigger than 10 microns generally is too heavy to be suspended in the air, or too big to cause human health issues)

I didn't really notice much with it - when I went out to pick up groceries (I made use of wal-mart again and they only had to substitute three things so I guess I did pretty well) I could feel it a little in my lungs, and after going out to get the mail and do a walk-around in the garden, my eyes started burning and watering.

It's looked ominous out there this afternoon. I joked elsewhere that "mummy dust content is no more than the FDA allowable amount of bug feces in a bag of corn chips" but it does still look...not good. Oh, not as ominous as when there's wind erosion from fields off to the west (or at least, to me that looks ominous; I've read enough about the Dust Bowl to be concerned when I see it). But still, not good.

And on days when I can't see blue sky, I notice I feel noticeably worse. This was NEVER a thing before, in fact, I used to like the "aesthetics" of overcast skies, but now....I don't know. I don't know what has changed. But on overcast days, I feel like no amount of lights on in the house is enough, and one thing I need to do is get a slim-line floor lamp to put over on the other side of my desk. I have a desk lamp but it seems not enough, and the ceiling light is too far away to do much.

Also, the kefuffle on Ravelry I alluded to - well, one of the threads I've been watching where people are expressing concerns, someone referenced the PTB comment about "but sign ups are actually up" and they were like "guys, you know the accessibility controversy/redesign controversy has hit reddit" and I was like "ruh-ro" and decided maybe a good move is to download my whole library of paid-for patterns....just in case....just in case griefers come and make the site unusable for a while. Or if it gets taken down for a retooling, which would actually be a not-bad thing, if they could address the issues that are bothering people.

So I am using Down It All, and am slowly having the files now transfer into a folder on my hard drive.

I have something like 1200 patterns but those are not all unique; some have multiple files if they exist in translations (you get all the languages when you buy or download one). I hope there's room for it.

I also ordered another flashdrive, it's 128 GB and I have 2.55 GB of patterns so I should be good there, I could just dump them on the flashdrive and have a grab-and-go pattern library. (If I had an old, cheap e-reader that could handle .pdfs, I might stick them on there and have The Biggest Knitting Pattern Book Ever, but I don't, and e-readers don't last forever anyway, so).

Then again, I also have them, at least as long as the computer's hard drive functions (and the flash drive would last after that) in case internet goes away. (Yes, I've been feeling a bit apocalypticy these days, but there's little in the news that assuages that feeling for me)

And yes, this does NOTHING to shut up the gremlin in my head that goes "See, you need to own the actual media, you can't trust things in the cloud at all" and that's why I have something like 10,000 books (not even counting the pattern books, I think - I think I estimated that based on counting the number of books on several 5-linear-shelf-feet and averaging them, and then multiplying by roughly how many feet of shelves I have (plus, um, heights of piles of books that are on TOP of the sets of shelves and on the floor next to my bed). I also like to have dvds and CDs though I really do need to invest in a new CD player for my bedroom, the old one (bought in 1997) gave up the ghost some months back though the radio and clock and alarm-clock feature still work....

Still waiting on stuff in the mail. The Smurfs I ordered a while back are....somewhere in transit. Not clear where. No cards from the card swap anywhere on the radar and I've decided I stay in for one more round, but if I don't get a round 5, 6, or 7 card, I'm going to leave, because it's too depressing to try to come up with cheerful things to write on a card and not get one yourself. (And yet: all the election spam still makes it through). And yes, I know, this is deeply petty of me, but lockdown is making me petty.

I was hoping that all the yardwork I was doing might make me angry and buff, like this cat:

But instead, I think it's just making me petty and focus on things I normally would not be focused on.

Friday, June 26, 2020

yes, it works

Thanks, Diann, commenting does work!

So now as long as I can figure out all the pictograms on the new dashboard, I'm in business.

Trying new Blogger

No sir, I'm not sure I like it.

So, three things have changed in my online life recently - and my life is pretty much ONLY online right now, so it's noticeable.

- The whole Ravelry "New Coke" mess, the less said about that the better.
- New Blogger, which....well, I hope I can find the "publish" icon to even publish this. I don't like how they change everything from labeled buttons to pictures because I don't always recognize what a pictogram represents
- My campus is migrating everything to a new interface system (I KNOW, RIGHT? IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC WHERE WE MIGHT WIND UP TEACHING ONLINE THIS FALL)

So yeah. I'm not happy, discombobulated, feeling like everything is changes where the old system worked okay for me, and the new one has a learning curve to it I don't like.

Also, I'm wondering if Blogger closed off commenting? I tried to comment on a page and got a "you are not authorized" screen and....yeah, great. So maybe I'm just shouting into a void, which seems to happen a lot these days.

In other news - the state to the south of me is having to "roll back" some of the reopenings because they reopened too early, I guess. I am trying very hard not to despair but it seems like there's bad news in re: COVID almost everywhere.  I may never see my relatives again in person. I may never get out to a craft store or an antique shop without feeling I'm taking my life into my hands (Well, more than I do with driving there)

I'm reading more on Kolata's book on influenza - I am now up to the 1976 swine flu debacle and it seems like the people who should have known their stuff back then either didn't, or they were not listened to then either so (shrug emoji)

Also, I'm giving wal-mart's pick up system ONE more try after realizing there were some things I wanted that neither Pruett's nor Green Spray sells, and being unwilling to drive into Texas (if they will even let us in to the state: our R0 is higher than theirs and apparently Gov. Abbot is panicking a little.

So the state of my world today is not great.

At least I haven't had any pandemic nightmares for a couple of days.

Added: hey, I think it worked. If you can see this (and are allowed to comment, if comments aren't broken), could you let me know? Or e-mail me if it's visible but un-comment-on-able?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Socks in progress

These are the socks I've been working on. The pattern is just a simple one - Nancy Bush's "Yarrow Ribbed Sock" from her Vintage socks book. I'm using an Opal yarn, I think it's from the Imagination line? Opal is a little hard-feeling to knit on but it does soften up after washing, and it certainly wears well as a sock yarn (some of the softer sock yarns don't)

sock in progress

I didn't try to make the patterns match; it's a very long repeat and I didn't want to risk running short of yarn.

Honestly, I've actually been wearing my socks a little bit these days despite it being summer - there is an airconditioning vent right under where my feet are when I work at my desk, and my feet get chilly, but turning the air conditioning to a hotter temperature means it's too warm otherwise. So I just put on a pair of socks with whatever dress or skirt I am wearing. It might look odd, doesn't matter, does it?

I might work on these more tonight.


I spent the day both writing from-scratch a lab on "animal presence/behavior vs. environmental conditions" (which could be done distantly, with students watching pollinators in their gardens, or birds, or squirrels, or even observing cattle behavior (if they are a ranch kid, like a lot of my students are)  where they will observe over the span of ten days or so for a short period each day (or over fewer days for multiple times per day, if they are interested in looking at "time of day vs. activity") and try to correlate behavioral patterns with temperature or windspeed or presence of competitors/predators, or air pressure, or whatever they think of. (And if someone is stuck in a tiny apartment with little access to the outside world, I'll find webcams, like that fishing-bear webcam that's out there, and suggest they use that, that would work okay). Not the GREATEST lab in the world but....if we're stuck at home, it's still a lab, and it's a lab that's not doing clicky clicky buttons on the computer.

I also totally overhauled my cemetery demography lab and included everything (including a link to a set of .pdf files of data) that would be needed to do it, so that's another one that could be totally distantly.

I'm now up to five labs more or less ready to go, and there's one more I can pretty easily adjust to be doable alone at home.

That would leave between four and six more to find; if we do wind up opening in person there are a couple things I could do on campus. (But I also want to have a full slate of "distanced" labs if I can figure out enough, just in case. I may also consider writing up my "process" for some journal or other, even though I suspect every other prof in the nation is going to do similar)


A few bad days recently. Caseloads are going up; Texas is apparently either slowing down its reopen or maybe re-closing some things, this tells me I need to stay strictly home (except for groceries) for as much longer as possible.

The sad thing is, a couple weeks ago, when it looked like cases were going down, I began to think, "Gee, maybe I could consider going to JoAnn's or Ulta some time, just to get out of the house" but nope. I have all the craft stuff I need, and Ulta does mail order (I have a few things on the way to me. I don't wear much make up these days - I did put on lipstick today just because, even though no one saw me - but I do use more shower stuff now because I am doing more yardwork and on really hot days I may shower twice). Also they sell masks so I bought a few in the most recent order - if we do reopen in person I will need a bunch, and the reusable/washable ones seem more environmentally friendly BUT my colleague the MD warned us that (a) we will need to wash them after a day of wearing them and (b) we will want a spare or two in the office in case the mask gets damp, because damp masks don't filter as well.

But anyway. I've been using a little "tactile therapy," which does seem to help - sitting hugging this ridiculous thing:

strawberry dog

I was casting about for a name for her but couldn't find one I liked - and was going to ask for ideas but then I realized I was thinking of her as Strawberry Dog and that seems good enough, some how.

(I also have a Squishy Dog - the Yeast Ken stuffed dog I bought last summer and that came, actually, shortly before I had to make that trip up home at the end of July, and he was kind of my companion during that and I admit he's absorbed his share of tears in the past year).

So Strawberry Dog it is.

even though I think she's actually supposed to be a fox.


I grabbed a couple photos on the way home after the funeral on Monday - I hadn't seen many butterflies recently (other than a few of the small skippers, the "little brown jobs*" of the butterfly world)

(*Or "LBJ" - a term used for sparrows and some warblers that move fast enough and are similar enough in appearance to other species that you have a hard time identifying them. And now I'm wondering if the term is "problematic" now)

But this was a swallowtail (I am pretty sure it's a black swallowtail). I've seen this one and a smaller one and I wonder if one is male and the other female; sometimes in insects there is a bit of size dimorphism between the sexes

Black swallowtail

And the underside of the wings:

swallowtail reverse

That's an Abelia bush. It's not native* but it doesn't spread (unlike Nandina, which I absolutely LOATHE because it is kind of invasive) and it's hugely attractive to pollinators - right now it's mostly bumblebees but earlier it was the big carpenter bees. I also see honeybees and wasps and some of the small native bees on it as well. 

It's in the honeysuckle family, it blooms almost all summer long. It has a faint scent but not a strong one - but it is very attractive to a lot of pollinators (I have even seen hummingbirds try it). It's a species I would recommend for the South, especially if you like pollinator watching. It's also kind of evergreen - it looks pretty manky in January and February and drops a number of its leaves, but then it comes back....right now, mine is very full.

My only complaint about it is that you have to trim it CONSTANTLY - I'm cutting out leggy leaders about every three weeks now. Usually these leaders have no blooms so I don't feel bad about cuttin gthem off so I can see out my front window.

Huh, it's now put in the genus Linnea, which....I thought of as something different but I guess I was wrong about it.

(*Or maybe it kind of is? Some species are native to Mexico but I don't know where the grandiflora ones - the most common cultivated ones and I think the one I have - come from)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

that was today...

So I'm glad most of my plans for today were to do work outside. Early this morning, my internet was out. A call to the place got a recording saying they were doing "maintenance" in my area, that was supposed to be done at 6. I grumbled a bit (it was after 6) but it came back at 7.

When I was in taking a break around 2, it just....quit. I could connect to the router but not to the internet - "No internet service" but "Logins and Messyna connected" (yes, I still call my router wifi that).

I tried my phone - nope, no service there either. (Sometimes my computer, which is older, does dumb things; the phone is a good check on that.)

So I called. And waited a LOT. Walked out and got the mail while waiting. Finally was told, "um, yeah, it looks like maybe a few other people in your area seem to be out"

Well, fine, okay. Except the modem was doing that weird light-cycle thing the last one did when it died. And there's no phone number for the LOCAL office (this is a remote answering system). So I thought: heck, I'll drive down there and ask in person, can pay my bill in person too.

Got down there, the lot was FULL. Uh oh. But then it turns out - they were working on a side lot, so people all were parked in the front. Got out, grabbed my bill and check and the modem and masked up. Waited for the area near the door to be free. Approached the door.

Was stopped by a guy: "Are you just paying your bill? You can't go in"

He looked official so I decided to play a tiny bit dumb - I held up my modem (yes I had taken it with on the slim chance the person on the phone was ill-informed - they were once before about something else, saying my cable box was broken when it actually was not) and said "My modem's not working"

"They ALL aren't working! There's an outage! We're working on it."

I didn't say anything - probably good, I didn't know at the time - but I admit, I LOOKED at him and the four other guys standing around who also appeared to be....not working.

"Okay, thanks" I said and stuck the bill and check in the envelope and shoved them in the drop box.

Someone on Twitter suggested I check Downdetector but there's a problem there: you need a fast enough connection to do that, and my cell-phone connection at home is two bars at best. So after I finished the trimming and mowing, I drove over to my campus building (wifi I can use that isn't Vyve) and checked.

Yup. Everything everywhere was down. Report was: cut fiber optic cables. (Plural. More than one).

So I grumbled a bit - this probably meant no service for a day or more - and drove back home, but first e-mailed my chair that I needed to know if there was a meeting tomorrow over Zoom so I could be sure to be in my office at work (and I'd have to haul the little webcam i have here at home with me). No response as of the last check, but it doesn't really matter now.

Anyway, I got home and garaged my car and felt very Eeyoreish - I had lost practically my only way of communicating with the world (the one where I wasn't imposing on someone's time by texting them or whatever) and I couldn't even have streaming music or the BBC or anything. And who knows for how long. And cut fiber optic cables? Holy hell, are there beginning to be "hey let's shut down utilities for whatever nefarious reason" actions, and are we going to start losing electricity and water and landline phones, and the idea is to make it so we can't live? (You can see how fast my mind goes to this when I am alone). I sadly called my mom and said "no FaceTime tonight, you'll have to call me on the landline" (because the connection on the cell phone is terrible when it can't use the WiFi - we really need some kind of booster here to make reception better, but then, most people use their wifi with their phones at home)

At about 5:15 it came back Which kind of amazes me. I wonder now if it was actually just one cut, on whatever you might call a "trunk line" for the Internet - which is much easier to explain away as "someone doing construction was an idiot" rather than "a bunch of coordinated groups cut the cable in different places" At any rate, it's back. And I'm grateful - I was feeling very down last night about "trapped in the house here for weeks and weeks more (our R0 has spiked up again, Texas' has, and I don't know if it's early re-opening or Memorial Day parties or if actually it can be accounted for by meat-packing plants, but - I am going to stay home for longer. And just a week or 10 days ago I was thinking "maybe not too long before it would be okay to brave a trip to the JoAnn's" but no, not now)

But actually: if I have the internet connection, if I can stream music while I work and listen to programs on the BBC and have contact with my friends online and be able to FaceTime my mo, that's enough, I guess.

I mean, I still would like to be able to comfortable go out for "fun" some time soon, but being able to watch streaming video and tell bad jokes on Twitter is better than NOT being able to do those things while stuck at home.

(Cable stayed on. They'd probably have had even more upset people if both internet and cable went out, though I suspect with WFH, there are more people having a hard time with "no internet" than would have a hard time with "no cable" - and of course if you have Netflix or similar, you can always find something to watch online.)

But here's hoping the internet stays on, and no more people are dumb about where they dig

a gripe dump

Sorry, guys. I just need to get it out. (And then I need to get out and mow the lawn and do some extensive trimming - gonna get the ladder out to get rid of some of the leggy leaders on the yaupon holly. And yes, I will be careful, and I am going to be out in the front yard so if I have a problem hopefully someone will see me, especially if the workers replacing the trim on that one house down the block show up today.

But anyway:

1. Ravelry had a big interface change. Apparently not all the necessary accessibility testing was done, some users report migraines and even seizures after viewing the animation. They did offer the "classic version" as a switch-back but I guess the opening animation is still there? (I stay permanently logged on at home so I don't have to go to the login screen, which is the problematic one. Then again, it's been a fair few years since I had a migraine triggered by strobey things). The bigger issue is the folks in charge seem to have been dismissive of people's concerns and....yeah. I realize I'm not working there but I feel like if there's a problematic animation....maybe that animation should be taken down, or converted to a still shot? Now another tranche* of people is talking about leaving and I feel like "yeah, great, so in the middle of a freaking pandemic maybe I lose one of my very, very few social outlets"

(*A word I learned this spring which I now wish I never had had reason to learn)

Also this is just a bad time to change ANYTHING. I get being excited about a new change but they could have waited. (Or maybe they couldn't - there are some rumors of a sale in the works and similar and I hope to God that's wrong because I have so many patterns in my library over there, and if the site gets wrecked after a sale** then what do I do? I tried downloading some yesterday but even with a plug-in to assist, it's incredibly long to download and save even 25 or so patterns - and I have 800-some, though most were free, I definitely want them and I want the ones I paid for but, meh, it doesn't seem worth my time now. Anyway, I still have the many books I've bought through the years, and the patterns I've already printed....)

(** I remember all my favorite craft magazines being sold to F and W, and now some of them are gone forever and the ones that remain had to find new publishers and while that's good for Piecework, where they ended up, and perhaps good for Interweave Knits, still - I hate having the good things of my life screwed with)

2. Lack of human contact is wearing on me, which is also why the Ravelry thing is extra-upsetting. It has been 3 1/2 months since I really hugged someone - I kind of patted Charlene's shoulder on Monday but that's not the same.

3. I feel generally useless. I am doing continuing ed reading, I prepped a few labs, I am thinking about going back in early July to do some research (IF I can even complete that - see next bullet point) but I feel useless. Doesn't help that one of my colleagues commented he had got a couple manuscripts done "because I can't travel right now"

But I can't bring myself to try to do research. I know, I know, people are going "people have found SIX WHOLE INVERTEBRATE SPECIES NEW TO SCIENCE IN THEIR BACKYARDS" but I am not a taxonomist, I don't really know that much and....yeah. I fully expect the next post-tenure review to be dire but who even KNOWS. We may wind up closed and me out of a job, the whole human race might even die off, so why bother? Why try to do research during a pandemic when it's doubly hard to do it?

4. Cases are on the rise here. The Texas governor, who pushed for a fast re-open, is now telling people "the safest place for you is at home" (I presume, though, there's no further support for people like waiters or shopclerks who are expected to be on the job while people "stay home")

So I don't even know about restarting research - what if we're chased off campus again mid-July?

I hate this; I hate uncertainty and this is uncertainty on steroids and I feel like no matter what I try to do, it will be wrong somehow - I will start research and then get chased off campus and all that time and effort will be a waste. Or it turns out there are problems down the line because I chose not to do research....either way you look at this, you lose.

Note: I do not get paid for the summer; I am not on contract. So anything I do now is 100% on my own time. And while I'm doing prep for the fall because I know it will be BAD if we have to pivot to online and I have nothing ready, still....I'm coming to resent the idea that if you're an academic, you work many more hours than what you're technically paid for because you're supposed to "love" your job.

I don't....really love my job any more. Oh, I still love the teaching and one of the reasons I am really, really holding out hope for either some kind of effective preventative, or test-and-trace that's really good, or eventually a vaccine, is that I want to get back into the classroom. But this....this right now? It suuuuuuuuuucks. Teaching online is not fun, it's stressful, and you don't get the small casual conversations you normally get, and that's what makes it worthwhile - all the conversations with online teaching is "I need this" or "this thing is broken" or "I don't understand" and there's never "hey I never thought about...." or "have you heard of ..." or "we're covering something similar in this other class...." and I feel like a robot doing online teaching, it's all very stimulus-and-response.

Even as I'm afraid that going back to campus in the fall will be too soon and people will get sick and it will also be awkward and kind of scary with the distancing and making and handwashing and everything - teaching online has its downsides too.

If I could do full time editing from home online I'd do that instead, really. That's the one thing that's felt remotely normal right now, doing the editing work (and not much of it at that) for the Native Plant Record. But textbooks don't hire people for that any more, and it's a very hard field to "casually" break in to.

I think what I miss is having tasks where I can see when they are done, and where they take a set amount of time - the reading, I could read for 8 hours a day and there'd still be more books and I also don't remember everything I read. And the lab-writing - well, they'll never be quite good enough. But being able to find the errors in a document and point them out and then hear a "thanks, I missed those" is incredibly helpful towards making me feel like I'm not just a waste of oxygen.

5. I am participating in a card-swap through ITFF. I've sent off all my cards, but my round 5 card - the one that was supposed to go out two weeks or so ago - is still missing (I never received one) and I am sad. I know it's a tiny petty thing but tiny petty things are all I have now.

it's not showing up in today's "Informed Daily Digest," so I know it's not coming today. Either it's lost in the maelstrom of missing mail, or the person never sent it.

these days, those tiny possible violations of "fairness" - where I do as I'm ought but others do not (or the Universe does not) - rankle even more. I know, I know, it's childish and petty but literally all I am getting in the mail now are bills and campaign flyers and charity begs.

Maybe I just quit the card swap if I don't get a round 5 card (we are now on 6, and if I don't get a 6 card either? I'm out.)

I'm also angry - and the card-swap thing is maybe proxy-anger for this - that I stayed carefully locked down since early March, and now lots of places re-opened too early, and like 2 weeks ago I was looking around at the case loads going doing and going "gee maybe by the end of the summer I might be able to consider going somewhere other than just the grocery store, the doctor's, or the home center when I need to do repairs on my house" aka go somewhere for fun but now, nope, I can't do that, because people went out too early and too incarefully and cases are going up fast around here.

6. When I got up this morning, I couldn't connect to the internet for like an hour. At first I thought it was my computer because my phone was showing WiFi but it turns out that was wrong - a call in to my ISP said "We are doing routine maintenance between midnight and six am and internet service might be limited during this time" but it wasn't until 7 am or after that I got it back.

This is going to be really bad if this happens during wfh or teaching from home - which seems increasingly likely (teaching from home, I mean)

7. Another petty thing: I've been watching the carpenter bees and now the bumblebees nectar-thieving (they bite a hole in the top of the flower and drink the nectar, and then later when butterflies show up there is none left for them) and it's making me low-level angry. They aren't doing their job to pollinate! They shouldn't be using these flowers if they don't fit - leave them for the honeybees and butterflies! I have hanging baskets of other flowers they can fit into!

I know, I know. But the idea of "nectar thievery" has always bugged me, somehow.

So anyway. I can tell I'm in a petty angry mood when I'm getting irritated at freaking bumblebees. But I'm sad and I'm tired and like I said I haven't had a nice, comfortable in-person conversation (that didn't have some PURPOSE like "how do we hold AAUW meetings in the fall" where I had to problem-solve) in MONTHS and it's getting to me.

I am also fearful I may be developing a pinched nerve on my left side, based on occasional symptoms I have.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday early evening

* I did finish one of the "simple socks of very bright colors" and I just barely started its mate. After I do one more short reading session I may switch over to some light-hearted entertainment and continue on the cuff of sock #2.

* I finished a book called Botanical Essays from Kent (by Tom Cooperrider, who I think I maybe met once? And yes, it is the Kent in Ohio - I grew up not too far from it and my parents knew people who taught at Kent State). Kind of interesting; I liked the chapter on Kent Bog the best. He also mentioned in passing a memorial that had been planted - an enormous number of daffodil bulbs, I think the number designed to correspond to the number of dead in the Vietnam War? which was also a memorialization of the May 1970 shootings that happened there.

That looms kind of large in my mind. Oh, I was a baby when it happened so I don't remember it but it was something people a bit older than I was talked about when I was growing up - and earlier this spring, the BBC did a program on the history of it that I happened to catch.

Also that same day some talk online brought up the Jonestown massacre - which I DO remember; it was the first big ugly "human doing bad" news story I remember (the first big sad news story I remember was from like six years previous to that - the big tornado break in Xenia - but somehow, it's a different sort of sadness I feel over a natural disaster than I do over a human choosing to do wrong. Tornadoes are not evil; they are not alive  and do not choose to destroy. Humans who murder other humans do give into an evil impulse and make the choice to destroy another life - and usually with it, a family and friend group. I know family/friends of people who have been murdered and it is a very hard thing to come back from)

* I started a new book today. It was one I'd had on the shelves for years but thought maybe it would be good to read it now, especially thinking about fall teaching when I do the disease ecology section.

It's Gina Kolata's "Flu"

Yeah, I know. I'm having to be careful with it but in some ways it's been less upsetting than I feared (I'm about 1/3 of the way in).

A couple of things struck me:

- How much some things about the past pandemic seem mirrored in the current one. I daresay there seems to be more bumbling and getting-things-wrong now to me, given that we have, like, a freaking higher level of knowledge now (the structures of DNA and RNA were not even known in 1918, they were barely posited, I think) and the fact that people tended to go chasing after leads that turned out to be wrong later on.

- Kolata writes about how some of the military doctors, long after the pandemic was over, wrote their memoirs of the time, and she comments on how little they wrote about the flu pandemic, with a tone of "I don't get it, it was this big monumental thing, why wouldn't they want to write about it?"

And I am sitting here in 2020, in the middle of an actual freaking pandemic, and this is my reaction:

(Kolata wrote the book in 2000, so I forgive her this, but: yeah. I have as much as said if humanity still exists around 2045, and I am still alive, I don't want ANYONE sending their freaking kids to my house to "interview" me about "what did it feel like to live through the pandemic of 2020" because I will not be exactly hospitable. When this is over - and dear God I hope it is "over" some time, and I don't mean "over when we are all dead" - I want to put it in a box in my head, seal the box up, rivet it shut, wrap chains and a lock around it, and put a big sign on it saying "don't open this ever again")

- She also quoted Thomas Wolfe's (lightly fictionalized, from one of his novels) account of watching his big brother die and holy cow. I cried at it, and did have to get up and walk away for a few minutes. Part of it was, the character Wolfe was writing (I do not know how much it was "him" or not) was essentially an agnostic, but he found himself praying over and over again: "Whoever You are, be good to Ben to-night. Show him the way...Whoever You are, be good to Ben tonight, Show him the way" and....yeah.

I've lost too many people in recent years and while I've never sat at someone's bedside while they died....that prayer, in a way, feels very familiar and not unlike one I was praying in late July of last year.

Like I said on twitter, I am going to need something very light and fluffy this evening to serve as a mental palate cleanser. Oh, the book is an interesting book, don't get me wrong, and I feel like I'm learning from it, it's just....hard.

Though I don't know. Maybe I need to toughen up. I suspect there's going to be a lot more "hard" before we get "easy" again, if we ever do get "easy" again, or even "pleasant"

* I wanted to mow the yard today and use the brand-new clippers that came to trim back the shrubs (was even going to get the stepladder out to get the really tall bits of the holly that I can't reach otherwise without scratching heck out of my arms) but it rained most of the morning and it was probably too wet later on. Maybe tomorrow, I hope.

I find that on days I can't get outside I do worse, especially if they are grey/dark days where there's no sun. I suppose recognizing that helps, in that I don't go "I'm in a really bad mood and don't know why," instead I go "ugh, it's overcast again and that's why I feel lousy"

* Maybe later this week I need to plan another jaunt out in the "just go and drive" sense like I did a few weeks back - not really go anywhere I'd plan on getting out of the car, but drive somewhere so I see some different scenery. Not sure where; but I guess if the point is "just driving," it doesn't really matter.

* Evenings are the hardest. I suppose it's getting through the entire day and not feeling like I've done much or had much fun. For a while I was even delaying getting into pajamas - in the before-times, some days when I got home, I'd change and put pajamas or something like them on around 5 pm and it was nice and cozy because it meant I was in for the night and didn't have to think about going out again or anything. Now it feels a bit like giving up and I admit there are nights it's been 10 pm an I'm still in my "day" clothes. (I usually wear a skirt and blouse or dress, as that's what I'd normally wear for working in the office and it feels important to try to have a few bits that are normal)

* Am hearing some reports that in some cities, firework usage is up and there are various conspiracy theories (which I won't quote) floating around but my feeling is....yeah. Even if it's absolutely the most innocent thing possible (bored people looking for something that resembles fun), I admit I would not be down with loud popping banging noises EVERY night. Around here it is bad enough the week of July 4 - I am find with a day or two on either side of the 4th being loud (well, provided we're not in Massive Drought so I worry about fires) but a whole week of interrupted sleep is a lot. Especially when a lot of us are sleeping badly as it is.

* Purlewe, in the photo with Patty, she is sort of sitting on my dad's stomach but has her front legs extended so they are standing on the arm of the chair. So kind of half sitting half standing? I guess?

Monday, June 22, 2020

In public again

Well, briefly.

Today was Mr. Tucker's funeral - this was the one I had to order the plant for. The person filling in for the head of Bereavement (who was now herself the bereaved) called me and asked if I could help serve. I said yes.

I wore a mask. I kind of laughed it off to people as "Yeah, I' need to get used to wearing one of these for when I teach this fall" which wasn't even really a white lie, because that was part of why I wore it (kind of like breaking in hiking boots before you go on a long trail). But I was also slightly apprehensive as there were People In From Outside and of course you never know.

Observation one: When it's people you're familiar and friendly with, social distancing is REALLY easy to forget. Though I wasn't in close proximity to anyone for long, and I'd remember myself after a few seconds and take a step back.

Observation two: wearing a mask isn't so bad. Well, until you're into it for about two hours, and then you get hot and really conscious of your breathing, but it's still better than the risk of getting sick. I probably could have dispensed with it in the kitchen (most of us were masked, though, so maybe it was better to stay masked). In the service, though - they tried to space people out by taping off every other pew but there were maybe 75 people there and they just had to give up on that. I sat in the corner chapel with the other women from CWF, because we had to go down to put out the cold foods right at the end. There were a few late comers that came in and sat by us; one man wound up directly ahead of me but I was masked and he was facing the other way, so I hope everything is okay.

I admit the anxious part of my brain kept muttering "superspreader. superspreader." except we didn't sing (they used pre-recorded music, which seems a reasonable compromise) and no one breathed on me and it didn't feel like there was that much air circulation (and I was masked). The service was maybe 40 minutes long.

Maybe as many as 25% of the people had masks - and they even had boxes of them out for people who didn't have ones. I saw more people using hand sanitizer which makes me wonder if maybe the perception is "hand sanitizer protects me, a mask protects other people" which is an uncharitable interpretation, perhaps; it's also possible "hand sanitizer is a small thing but masks are uncomfortable" though I will say, having used hand sanitizer several times this afternoon in cases where there wasn't soap available, it does dry out my skin a lot and I'd almost rather wear the mask and just wait until I can get to a restroom with normal soap and wash my hands

I will say I almost teared up during the Scripture reading (Ecclesiastes 1, and I think that may have been Mr. Tucker's choice). Not because I was grieving him so much - he was a nice  man and all, but quiet and shy, and I didn't know him all that well, and also, he had been ill for SO long that this is one of those cases where you go "Well, he's free of it now" and don't feel quite as sad as you would for a 20-year-old killed in a car wreck. But because it was the first time I'd heard Scripture read IN PERSON since March and....that's something.

Also, interesting about the "time to build" and also "time to gather stones" - Mr. Tucker had done construction (though he had originally trained as a chemist, I remember that now) and I think he did some work with masonry, at least at his own house. Whatever you may believe about the level of inspiration behind Scripture, I think there are absolutely a lot of things that capture the human experience, and often every time I re-read or re-hear a passage, I see something new and different in it, or something that pertains to the situation at hand.

Then we went down and served food and YES I KNOW that's one way this thing gets spread but....what are you going to do, flush 4000 years or so of hospitality customs? I think it will be okay, maybe only about forty people stayed and I was able to stay apart from them and while I did grab a bit of cheese and one brownie, again - I think because I chewed and swallowed them and sent them down into the acid pit of my stomach, rather than inhaling them, I should be safe.

(It's really, really hard to know how much of the "virus avoidance" is stuff I already do and have always done, like washing hands before I eat and regularly at other times during the day, and trying not to rub my eyes or nose (hard with allergies), and not touching tons of things, and tending to be a bit of an arm's-length person with most people and also not going and hanging out in packed bars or clubs....if maybe I'm being paranoid and what I "normally" do is probably good enough. I will say these days I pretty rarely get colds or the like EXCEPT when travelling or if I have that student who comes to my office sick and is right next to me while I help them....)

Anyway, as people finished up and left, we boxed up the leftover food (some of which we had never even put out) to send home with the widow and her family, and I washed all the platters and put them away....and while I have a piece of skirt steak to make fajitas with, I think that will be a tomorrow-thing (the sell-by date for the meat is Wednesday, anyway) and I might just do the simple but less healthful "get a grilled chicken sandwich from out" thing as soon as I dress again after showering and washing my hair...

Sunday, June 21, 2020

It's Father's Day

First one for me without my dad.

Here's a photo of him, as I remember him in later years, also with the cat who was "his cat" for pretty much her entire life:


And a much older photo - this would have been 1976 - of us at the Grand Canyon:


I learned a lot from him, and some of the good parts of my personality (and even some of the not-so-good parts, like the tendency towards perfectionism) can be traced to him.

I miss him.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday afternoon things

* Day of taking care of stuff: went to Pruett's for food for next week (fajitas will be a thing, maybe Sunday afternoon), got more cash at the bank (been MONTHS since I've been there, I use credit cards for nearly everything any more), got gas, ran through the drive-through car wash

Then, this afternoon, I weeded the garden and did some trimming of the hollies, until my little hand nippers broke.

A new pair has been ordered already from Amazon (I considered going to Lowe's, but I was grubby, they will be busy and mask-compliance is poor and we've seen a spike in cases, and I'll have the new clippers Monday - and it's supposed to rain much of the weekend anyway)

I seem to remember a Japanese (?) custom of having funerals to memorialize broken tools. These were good little nippers; I think I've had them since I moved into this house, so close on to 20 years.

* One of my missing Doki Doki crates finally showed up (May's, as it turns out; I am still waiting on April but need to give it 10 more days before they will conclude it's lost - though now their website said "we expect all of these to arrive by the end of July, so I don't even know, I guess I just write that crate off and am happy if I get it). This one had a strawberry theme and two particularly nice little things in there:

I suppose some people eat from these little plastic bowls but I don't like to - it's kind of specifically unaesthetic to me (it's a sensory thing, I need to use a glass or Corelle (which is a type of glass, I think) or china bowl) and I also worry about the leaching of chemicals.

So instead, it will hold the various "working colors" of floss for whatever project I'm embroidering at the moment. (An earlier set of bowls now hold pins in my sewing room.

And also, the big stuffie. I have several of these now:

I have three of these from doki doki - this one, which I think is supposed to be a fox with a strawberry hat, another fox, and a Shiba Inu. I also got a clownfish a while back but included that as part of my niece's birthday present last year because she is a really big fan of "Finding Nemo."

I admit I briefly thought of saving this one in its packaging and sending it to her but (a) I think my brother and sister-in-law feel like she has plenty of toys already and (b) I waited SO LONG for this box I feel like keeping it.

* Considering taking the weekend off. Another thing I had to do today was order flowers (well, I went with a plant - a peace lily) - on behalf of the CWF; the woman who normally did it in the past is the bereaved party. Her husband, who had been unwell for a very, very long time (was on dialysis, had a slow-moving cancer, and most recently wound up in the hospital with pneumonia, but not the COVID kind) died on Wednesday....I got the text last night at the CWF executive-board meeting about it. So it was another "first time adulting" thing for me - order something, which I will get reimbursed for (so I wanted to walk the line between "cheaping out completely" and "spending too much of someone else's money" - I went with the midsized one which seemed a reasonable compromise.)

And yeah - they are planning on going ahead with services. I guess I will go? With a mask on? They want me to help serve lunch too....I admit I'm apprehensive but....I guess I have to start doing stuff again and hope the people around me have the good sense to stay home if they're sick, and I will just have to try to distance from people?

* And yeah, we had the executive board meeting for AAUW and came to the conclusion that the safest and best way to meet, at least for the first few months in the fall, will be over Zoom. I have an account so I can set up the meeting and send out the invitations, so that makes me feel useful.

(And the woman who WAS to host in September said "Yay, I don't have to clean my house!" so maybe it will be accepted OK? I hope? There are always a few complainers but another thing I guess I have to grow up into all of this is sometimes ignoring the complaints when something is decided that is safest for the majority - one person in the group is coming right off cancer treatment and still has a suppressed immune system; another is the caretaker for a frail elderly parent.

I am ...actually kinda good with the idea of Zoom meetings; I can come home, eat, and then I don't have to go back out.)

* Another reason I'm thinking of taking some time off this weekend is that this is going to be one of those "hard firsts" - Sunday is Father's Day, and I admit I had a distinct twinge earlier this month when I realized that this year, I don't pick out a card and a gift for my dad, and I don't call SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM on that Sunday and...yeah. Hard. I admit I unsubscribed from a few advertising mails when they were riding the "buy this for dad!" stuff hard, and I know they DON'T know but....this is an easy way to weed out when they are places that I don't really need to get the mails from anyway.

Yeah, I still miss my dad. As I said, I don't think it would have been good, with him having the health issues he did, to try to live through this pandemic, but still, I miss him and it sucks that he's gone, and it sucks that his last years involved so much physical pain and disability. (I am giving myself permission to nope out of either of the online church services I do if it's too father's-day centric and I start feeling sad. But since Del lost his own dad a couple years ago....he may be sensitive to that)

But tomorrow may be a day of watching old "Murder, She Wrote" re-runs, or "Parks and Recreation" re-runs and either knitting or doing some handsewing.