Some Amount of Time in the Life: May 30, 2020

The world’s on fire, sheltering in place continues, and I’m fine I guess. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I struggle with the dissonance between being personally okay and seeing what’s happening in the world. It feels like survivor’s guilt, although that’s not strictly accurate either. I don’t feel guilty. I feel lucky. Lucky to be employed and in my cozy house with plenty of books to read and food to cook. There’s a sense of “why should I feel upset or stressed,” but I’ve seen a few takes that essentially say we’re all witnessing and experiencing some level of trauma right now. Having society completely change and all your expectations get smashed is traumatic. I’m planning to read up on this idea some more and then perhaps I will have something more enlightening to say. For now, I’ll just say that if you feel weird or stressed or guilty or freaked out even if you’re “fine,” I hear you. I get it.

Consuming

Here are some things I’ve been reading, watching, and buying.

Reading

book cover of "Ancestral Night" by Elizabeth Bear as seen on Kobo ereader
Ancestral Night

I’ve been reading a lot and rotating through several books every day because it makes me feel like I’m doing different things, even though I haven’t left the couch or hammock. I’ve also been putting lots of library ebooks on hold because I want something to look forward to but everything is cancelled. Luckily, I’m easily entertained.

One of the fun novels I read this week is Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear. This is an interesting sci-fi story about a small crew of space scavengers who get caught up in some bad shit (as one does) and have to deal with their sense of self and ethics and ancient tech. There’s AI, lesbians in space, and space pirates.

In internet reading:

  • I don’t feel like buying stuff anymore via Buzzfeed. The U.S. economy is built on everyone buying stuff—pure, unadulterated consumerism. But the pandemic is making us a lot of us rethink the consumer life. The article talks about how we got here and where we might go. Essential reading.
  • Anti-racism resources. This is a resource list for white people looking to learn about racism and how to be anti-racist. Educate yourself.
  • Nearly half of the Twitter accounts discussing ‘reopening America’ may be bots via Carnegie Mellon University. This almost feels like old news given that everything in my feed right now is about protesting, but I still think it’s important to share. Most of the “support” for going back to “normal” life, despite coronavirus, is not organic from the people here. So, who benefits from Americans going out and catching coronavirus?
  • Fuck the bread. The bread is over. via The Paris Review. I don’t know how to describe this essay, so I will say simply that it spoke to me.

Watching

I watched HBO’s show We’re Here, which follows drag queens Shangela, Eureka O’hara, and Bob as they visit small towns across the country and perform a drag show alongside locals who they transform into drag queens. This show is everything I didn’t know I needed. It’s wonderful and exciting to see drag used as an art and a way of building community, instead of the way we usually see it on TV, as a reality competition. We’re Here honestly made me cry with its sincerity and compassion. I can’t recommend it enough.

Rampant Consumerism

Like many people, I haven’t felt moved to spend a lot of money lately. However, I have bought a few things to help keep me occupied at home. Months ago, I bought some thread and needles with intentions of learning embroidery, although so far all I’ve stitched is some patches onto my statement vest. I realized this would be easier if I had the right tools, so I ordered a little needle box and some cards to wind my thread on.

About a month ago I ordered a curated book bundle from The Last Bookstore as a birthday gift to myself and the books finally arrived this week! I paid $100 and got a huge stack of used and new books. It’s exciting to get surprise books picked out for me!

Making things and Doing Stuff

As usual, most of my things and stuff have been at home.

Knitting and Crafts

I think I’ve said it in a previous post, but I’ve finally settled into my quarantine groove and have been able to get back to doing things like knitting. I finished the Noordzee shawl! Finishing a knitting project is always exciting because they take so long. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it as I was knitting, but now that it’s done, I think it looks pretty cool. I love the cable texture (it’s the reason I decided to knit this pattern). I’ve gotten started on my next knit already. I cast on this sock a few months ago then decided it was too tiny and difficult for the moment. However, a tiny, difficult knitting project is exactly what this moment needs. Plus, a it’s not big enough to pile in my lap and make me hot. It’s a win-win.

Gardening

We decided it was time to pull up the winter plants and get on with the summer growing, so we made one last spinach and broccoli harvest—both were covered in aphids and I made Kirk wash them off. We also let Huey take a tour of the garden because she was staring at us from the doorway. Our new crops are a jalapeño, beans, zucchini, herbs, and tomatoes. We left the leeks to keep growing (although I think they’re about as big as they’re going to be) and our garlic is still in there too.

Kitchen Witchery

I’ve been keeping the food situation fairly simple lately and last week I was focused on making things that wouldn’t heat up the house any more than strictly necessary. I made some pork tenderloin in the slow cooker and a tortellini primavera based on the pasta primavera recipe in How to Cook Everything. I also gave non-alcoholic piña coladas another try with a better recipe, and they were really good! Although most things are good with whipped cream and a cherry on top. I might look for some more fun, alcohol-free drink recipes to try (Kirk doesn’t drink and I don’t particularly enjoy drinking so here we are).

When I was growing up, my step-mom (now ex-step-mom) made a recipe called chicken roll-ups, which I absolutely loved but that she was rarely willing to make. We got to request anything we wanted for dinner on our birthdays and that was always my choice, but she would grumble about having to make it because it was “hard.” Reader, it is not fucking hard. It’s shredded chicken, mixed with cream cheese, rolled into a crescent roll and baked, then topped with a “gravy” of cream of chicken soup. I elevated it a little bit by making my own rolls, using a little less cream cheese, and adding some actual seasoning (lol, white American cooking). It’s always a pleasure to reclaim something like this.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Apparently this is a Huey appreciation post.

A Week in the Life: May 16, 2020

I’m starting this post with some existential dread so skip ahead if you don’t need it.

The first time I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I remember thinking that I would not make the protagonist’s mistake. I would leave before things got that bad. It’s comforting to tell yourself that when faced with dystopian fiction—even though it’s not real, you know you wouldn’t make the same mistakes. I saw the news about the Michigan legislature cancelling its session due to right-wing terrorists and I thought, if I were going to leave the U.S. in an attempt to escape what’s about to be full-blown authoritarianism, it’s already too late. While this may not strictly be true, the idea has been haunting me. I also wonder where I would go. Where in the world is insulated from the problems created by wealth inequality, by corrupt elites? I guess I’ll stay where I am and keep on raging.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought this week.

Reading

book cover of Network Effect by Martha Wells, shown on kobo ereader
Network Effect

Network Effect, the last book in Martha Well’s Murderbot Diaries came out last week. I have really enjoyed this series about a sentient human/robot hybrid that jailbroke itself and is trying to decide what to do with its life and deal with its emotions. It’s fun, relatable (for me anyway), and a great distraction from the world. Also this statement from the book is probably the truest thing I have ever read:

photo of ebook text "There is a lot about what is going on here that I dont understand. But I am participating anyway."
Life in a nutshell

On to some more depressing topics, here are some things I read on the internet this week:

  • How (and why) coronavirus is changing our sense of time via the University of California. I know I shared an article last week about coronavirus and our warped sense of time, but I thought this was a good follow up. Basically, our sense of time is fucked because we’re living through trauma. “People lose track of time when the future is in question … The continuity from the past to the future is gone. That’s what they are experiencing right now.” Neat.
  • House changes its rules during pandemic, allowing remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history via The Washington Post. This is one of those things that I hope we keep once the pandemic is over. It makes sense for congress to be able to vote remotely. We have the technology. Why make 400+ people fly in from all over the country? I always wonder about the travel costs of being in congress. How many trips are you making back and forth? Just vote online, come in for the really important stuff, and you know, save the environment a little along the way.
  • Why capitalism can’t cure global pandemics via The Socialist Project. From the article, “It is the well-off countries who believed that infectious diseases did not concern them anymore. They were ‘forgotten’ by the rich, as they believed they could keep such diseases outside their borders. The third plague was almost entirely restricted to the colonized world, leaving the colonialists in the comfortable belief that they had now conquered the infectious diseases that only affected dirty, flea-ridden, rat-infested parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic proves that diseases can strike back, and we are always only one mutation away from a new infectious disease emerging.”
  • How Facebook could use Giphy to collect your data via One Zero. File under: modern life is garbage. Facebook bought giphy and now it has even more ways to surveil you.

Watching

I’ve been watching Motherland: Fort Salem on Hulu. I was really excited for the show because witch army! matriarchy! It’s a good show but it’s not living up to my patriarchy-smashing dreams. Witches are real and they do have a witch army but it seems like they’re just one branch of the military. The show centers on three new recruits who have to learn to get along despite their wildly different motivations for being in the army as well as how the army is dealing with a terrorist group that is using witchcraft as its weapon.

Although this is a cool concept, it’s also the most basic possible take on “witches are real.” Witches are real but in this alternate version of our world, all they do is reinforce the military-industrial complex? Witches are real but we’re still fighting in the middle east? Seriously? The most interesting parts of this show are hidden from us. For example, one character, Tally, comes from a “matrifocal” community where no men are allowed. There’s a terrorist organization targeting the witch army but there must be some activists in between who are witches and oppose the militarization of witchcraft but are not terrorists? I want to know about those parts of the world. Anyway I guess I just have to write my own witch story now to get what I want.

Rampant Consumerism

an assortment of baby plants, including several herbs and a zucchini
get hype for new plants

We bought some new plants! Our broccoli and spinach are at the end of their life and it’s time to plant some summer stuff. We got zucchini, jalapeño, beans, and an assortment of herbs, including basil because I keep wanting to make pesto but the basil I get from the store is always gross by the time I’m ready to use it. This is definitely a low-key entry for “rampant consumerism, but I’ve been trying to save more money since the news came out that State of California employees (which includes Kirk) will be getting a 10 percent pay cut thanks to coronavirus. We’ll be fine but it probably means we’re not going to buy kayaks anytime soon.

Making things and Doing Stuff

Monday was my 34th birthday! I didn’t get too wild since it’s plague season, although I probably wouldn’t have done much different anyway. I took the day off work, which gave me a nice three-day weekend, and made coffee cake for breakfast. I went for a bike ride and saw they had the goats and sheep out to graze, which was a highlight for me. Otherwise I just hung around and did some reading and played Nintendo. And Kirk made me dinner. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to plan a more exciting birthday, but I have no complaints about how I spent this one.

Spanish

book cover of Los hombres me explican cosas shown on Kobo ereader
Los hombres me explican coasas

I’ve had this ebook of Los hombres me explican cosas (Men Explain Things to Be) by Rebecca Solnit for a while but finally felt strong enough to read it this week. I realized that my kobo reader has both a Spanish dictionary and a Spanish/English dictionary, which is a total game changer for me. I look up random words all the time when I read in English and now I can do it in the moment for Spanish without leaving my reading. I’ve got a bunch of library ebooks queued up for myself to read after this. I’m excited that reading in Spanish is starting to just become part of my regular reading rotation. This has been the end goal all along!

Kitchen Witchery

I’m only sharing one act of this week’s kitchen witchery because I think it’s boring to post pictures of the same stuff all the time. I made a sourdough rye loaf again this week, but you’ve seen that already. In any case, I finally had a go at the sourdough crackers that everyone with a starter is making. They turned out really nice because I used our pasta roller to get the dough to the right thickness. Normally I struggle with having enough patience for that part of baking. I think next time I’m going to go one setting lower on the pasta roller to get them nice and thin and crispy the way a wheat thin is, for example. Kirk bought me a gift assortment of cheeses (among other things) for my birthday, so I’ve been snacking on that with the crackers.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. They seem to approve of the new blanket.

A Week in the Life: May 10, 2020

Something I’ve been struggling with this week is feeling like I’m not doing anything with my life. If you read my blog, you know that’s not true and you may also know that this is an ongoing struggle. Despite reading a lot about how “productivity” is a useless concept, I’m still having a hard time with applying this knowledge to me personally. I am trying to remind myself that I do not have to justify my existence through productivity, but it’s hard. This anxiety is doubly useless since I am doing plenty of things. anxiety is always telling me that I’m not doing enough. That might actually be part of why I keep this blog. I can look back and reflect on all the things I did. Shut up, anxiety!

Anxiety aside, I have to share Sacramento Roller Derby’s Big Day of Giving results. Last week I asked that anyone who wanted to make me an early birthday gift send a donation to my team. Thank you for anyone who did! We obliterated our original goal of raising $10,000 and raised $16,016! If you send me your address, I will mail you a thank you note.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought this week.

Reading

book cover of "The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper" shown on kobo ereader
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper

I read a fun book this week: The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A. J. Fitzwater. This is a collection of short stories about a pirate named Cinrak who also happens to be a lesbian—and a capybara. All the characters in this story are animals, in the tradition of fantasies like Redwall. The stories are basically about Cinrak being a chill and awesome pirate and undertaking legendary feats with her chosen family. It’s wholesome and fun, perfect reading for shitty times.

Here’s an assortment of interesting things I read online recently:

  • The coronavirus was an emergency until Trump found out who was dying via The Atlantic. This is unsurprising but depressing. Once we found that the majority of Americans getting coronavirus were people of color, the government and right-wing commentators started banging the drum of “opening up the economy” because it’s fine if it’s not white people who are dying. I can’t sigh and/or rage hard enough over this.
  • Research on facial expressions challenges the way we think about autism via The Conversation. This article really has nothing to do with coronavirus. Rejoice! The discussion around facial expressions and autism is usually about autistic people not recognizing neurotypical expressions, but this research suggests that the reverse might also be true: neurotypical people don’t know how to recognize autistic expressions.
  • Is time flying by oddly quickly during Covid-19? Here’s why you may feel that way via The L.A. Times. Long story short: nothing interesting is happening, so when you look back on the last month, it seems like it flew by because there’s nothing to mark the time. That said, the “novelty” of sheltering in place may have the opposite effect and make time drag out. I feel like I’m experiencing both at once and it’s messing up my brain. Make it stop!
  • Who figured out how to make leavened bread? via Slate. Shout out to the woman who accidentally discovered yeast 14,000 years ago.

Watching

I’ve been enjoying RuPaul’s Drag Race and I just got caught up on Celebrity Drag Race too. It’s been weird watching the show contort around Sherri Pie in an effort to remove her from the season as much as possible. I’m not the only one thinking about it. The AV Club has an interesting piece about how it’s affecting the narrative this season. Also, I’m curious: who do you want to win this season?

Rampant Consumerism

a box of 12 macarons from Cookie Bomb
treats!

I saw that my favorite local purveyor of cookies, Cookie Bomb, was back with macarons for mother’s day. I decided this was an opportunity for a pre-birthday treat for me, mother’s day be damned. They’re so good!

Snacks aside, I have been giving some serious consideration to buying a kayak. You know, since there’s no roller derby and I couldn’t skate now anyway because of my ankle and there’s nothing else to do this summer. If anyone has kayak recommendations (or anti-recommendations), I’d love to hear them.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

This week I finally harvested the broccoli! For as big as the leaves are, you’d almost expect more. Broccoli just gotta be dramatic like that.

Knitting and Crafts

You may remember that I was making a cat-themed quilt, if you were reading my posts back in October. I sewed the top and then set about ignoring it for months. Now, thanks to the magic of sheltering in place, it’s finally done! Last weekend I finally found the will to cut and sew the back and binding. I used a satin binding around the edge. When I was a kid I had a blanket with the same and I loved scratching it. The sensation still gives me a somatic thrill so here we are, despite the satin looking a little messy because I think I’m supposed to use a different needle or foot or something.

I keep forgetting to take and share photos of my current knitting project. I’m working on the Noordzee shawl. I had bought a packet of six small skeins of blue yarns a while ago. One of my many quarantine activities was taking stock of all my yarn and logging my “stash” in ravelry. I had bought the yarn ages ago but still had no idea what to do with it, so I finally went in search of a good pattern and decided to run with it. I’m still finding it a little hard to sit down and knit because I’ve been getting really restless. It’s easier to do things like baking, which feels more active and offers short-term gratification.

Kitchen Witchery

I tried a new, but not complicated recipe this week and made a potato and lentil curry (recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). It was simple but satisfying. I also grilled hamburgers, along with corn and potatoes, and served it with the homemade broccoli, which was really good!

This pistachio cake appeared in my feed last week and I was immediately obsessed with making it. It was obviously delicious and it served as part of a balanced breakfast for most of the week. I also made pretzels (recipe here)! Pretzels only seem like a good idea until I’m halfway in to rolling out all the dough and then I remember why I don’t make pretzels very often. That said, they are delicious and I’ve already eaten most of them.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: May 2, 2020

On the way back from the grocery store yesterday afternoon, I remarked to Kirk that I used to like grocery shopping. Now it’s much more stressful. I’m trying to stay away from people and there are way more decisions to make about what to substitute, what to buy, what to stock up on. It’s a really big paradigm shift to not have everything available anytime. My whole adult life, I’ve been able to buy pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want it. This trend, of course, was accelerated by Amazon, but this abundance is something that, I believed, was a characteristic of American life. Shortages were for other countries. There are a lot of shitty reasons that many things aren’t available now, but I’ve been considering the expectation that everything should be always available. What is the human cost of getting anything anytime? Is this a reasonable expectation of a civilized society? Who benefits and who suffers in this model? Not to be all “we are the virus”/”the pandemic is a good thing,” but it is definitely a time to reflect on what makes sense, and what is helpful or harmful for society. Maybe being able to have whatever we want the very moment we want it isn’t something we need.

Big philosophical questions aside, Kirk has been picking flours from the yard and presenting me with tiny arrangements. It’s sweet and I want to share.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought this week.

Reading

Now that the weather has improved, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading in my hammock! This is my favorite thing about this time of year when the weather is warm but still mild. Plus, Elk Grove usually has a pleasant breeze in the evenings: ideal hammock weather.

I enjoyed K. Eason’s How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse. This is a space opera riff on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty that re-imagines the story in a very satisfying way. There’s space travel, political intrigue, fighting, and feminism.

I also read Women Talking by Miriam Toews. This book wasn’t as “fun,” but I did like it a lot. I had read Toews’ book All My Puny Sorrows and liked it, so I figured I would give Women Talking a read. This novel is the author’s way of documenting and dealing with the abuse that a group of men perpetrated on women in an isolated Mennonite community. It’s based on a true story, which means it carries all that real-life patriarchal horror (the only horror I read), while showing women reclaiming agency from a terrible system. Recommended reading only if you’re ready to be sad and hate men.

Here are some of the week’s internet reads. Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity.

  • Pandemic! Productivity! Life! Hacks! (from a deeply unproductive & freaked out person) via Captain Awkward. Some advice for managing your to-do list and some thoughts on productivity and what we really “need” to be doing right now (answer: just surviving).
  • Nothing to Spare: What coronavirus reveals about the economic model that shapes our lives via Medium. This is interesting to me because I work for a big corporation and we talk about “lean” manufacturing a lot. We seem to have everything available all the time but businesses keep their stock as low as possible, so in an unusual situation like this, all the old logic goes down in flames.
  • Productivity is not working via Wired. I’ve been fascinated with the discussion surrounding productivity amid the plague and the American productivity obsession. So, here’s another entry on that category. From the article: “There has always been something a little obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that if you stop running for even an instant, you’ll be flung flat on your face—but the treadmill is familiar. The treadmill feels normal. And right now, when the world economy has jerked to a sudden, shuddering stop, most of us are desperate to feel normal.”

Watching

In the spirit of not wanting to think about anything, we’ve been re-watching Archer. We had stopped watching it a few years ago, but we decided to get back into it. We’re watching from the beginning before getting to the seasons we haven’t seen yet.

Rampant Consumerism

six bags of flour in a cardboard box
I am rich

I really haven’t spent a lot of money this week (unless you count yesterday’s trip to the grocery store) because there’s not much point when you’re chilling at home all the time. I already have all the day-to-day stuff I need plus plenty of entertainment. However, pandemic stress has compelled me to spend a lot of money on food. Last week I ordered flour from a small mill in Kansas called Hudson Cream (why is a flour called “cream”? Who knows). My flour arrived this week and now I am feeling wealthy, despite some of the bags splitting open in transit. The prices are reasonable, but I spent more in shipping than the flour itself. Understandable and worth it for me but I can understand why others would disagree.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

I have to share my broccoli because it’s flourishing. We planted this in January (I think?) and it seemed to do nothing except get leafier. While I know what the end result of broccoli looks like, I wasn’t sure if the plant was actually doing anything. About two weeks ago I noticed a little nugget of broccoli tucked inside this leafy ruff. Now the broccoli has matured into something that really looks like what you’d get at the store, which is my metric for whether I’ve successfully produced food. Yesterday we also discovered that one of the other broccoli plants is also creating something edible so this is very exciting! In addition to the broccoli, the spinach has been very active and I picked a whole bunch this week.

Knitting

I haven’t been knitting as much as I want to because I keep getting lost in playing video games for hours, which is fine. However, I am still thinking a lot about knitting. Two knitting books showed up into my feed recently and of course now I want them. It’s easy to think about stuff you want to make, but the making takes much longer than the planning. In any case, I am intrigued by this 52 Weeks of Socks book and this collection of Doomsday Knits—surprisingly not a new collection but the idea of apocalyptic fashion is hardly new, only its urgency.

Spanish

I am proud of what I accomplished in Spanish this month! I decided I need to keep up with at least one thing that’s important to me and be “productive” in that area and that has been Spanish. I met my teacher for two classes each week and we did some test prep in addition to our regular conversation. I also read nearly a whole novel! I’m feeling good about it because I’m doing a little better following the story overall. Usually I read Spanish more at a paragraph level and have a hard time keeping track of the plot as a whole. I’m improving.

The bad news of Spanish right now is that I wanted to take the DELE exam in July, but it looks like it won’t be offered in California again until November, even though their website says July. I could travel to another city to take it but I don’t think that’s a great idea either, so it looks like I’ll be waiting another six months. More time to get better at Spanish, I suppose.

Working Out

me, wearing a bike helmet having returned from a ride
Derby Pride while riding around town

I’m still working on my physical therapy for my ankle, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be better for a few months yet because it’s sore and still pretty swollen. My PT sent me a new schedule of exercises for the next two weeks that has step ups, split squats, reverse lunges, and squats all in one workout. This seems ridiculous to me, but I’m trying my best. The PT is also still prescribing bike riding, so I went for a ride today. I did the circuit that takes me to the library, even though the library is closed. I really miss my library bike rides. I also wore one of my #derbytwitter jerseys while riding to remind me that I am part of something cool and eventually I’ll get to play again.

Derby Life

Speaking of derby, the big news today is that Rollercon is officially cancelled. It is the right decision—there’s no way it makes sense to play a contact sport during a pandemic, especially at a convention—but it’s still pretty sad. I’m looking forward to Rollercon 2021!

In even bigger roller derby news, the word is now out that Sacramento Roller Derby is the proud owner of its own warehouse, thanks to an amazingly generous donor who gave the team almost $2 million to buy it. Although that’s a whole lot of money, we are still raising funds through Sacramento’s Big Day of Giving on May 7 to make the warehouse roller derby-ready. All our donors will be memorialized on the wall in the new space. Also, I’m on one of the flyers! There’s a lot to look forward to and I can’t wait for my ankle to be healed and the plague season to be behind us.

Kitchen Witchery

Now that I have plenty of flour (and a little more energy), I’ve been cooking more:

  • I tried a new granola recipe. It’s billed as “almond joy” granola, and it doesn’t quite put me in mind of the candy bar, but it’s still good. To be fair, it might be my own fault for using peanut butter instead of almond butter, but I don’t tend to buy almond butter and plague life is all about making do.
  • My sourdough starter went bad (RIP starter), but my friend Sharlotte brought me some of hers so I’ve been able to keep making bread. Last week I tried this whole wheat and rye sourdough, which was delicious. It was the first bread I’ve made with no additional yeast. I was surprised at how long it took to rise (all freaking day!) but couldn’t complain about the results. I am lucky in that I still have yeast, but I am trying to save it for things that really need it.
  • I made pita bread (recipe from The Bread Bible) to eat with a spinach dip, which I decided was the best use of all that spinach. Although I looked at a few dip recipes, in the end I settled on an amalgamation: spinach sauteed with a little garlic, combined with cream cheese and a packet of onion soup/dip mix. Because we are fancy, we ate this for dinner.
  • The return of million peso shortbread! I am bad at taking good photos of this but it was delicious and that’s what counts. I start with this version of millionaire’s shortbread from the Washington Post, which has a dulce de leche caramel, then add some cinnamon to the shortbread and a bit of ancho chili powder to the chocolate. #SignatureBake
  • Sometimes you just want a simple-ass muffin and that’s what we had yesterday. These chocolate chip muffins came out really pale, but they were good. Kirk has suggested that I add some kind of sugar topping next time I make them. Who am I to say no?
  • Yesterday I made this no-knead sourdough bread and I am pretty much obsessed with it. It is exactly what I want from sourdough. The only thing that didn’t go right is that I dusted the bottom of the pan with semolina flour instead of oiling it (both were options in the recipe) and my bread got stuck in the pan! Mistakes were made and I have learned a valuable lesson.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: April 18, 2020

Life is so weird right now. If you don’t pay attention, it can almost seem like things are totally normal. Like I just happened to have bunch of days in a row without needing or wanting to go anywhere. What a coincidence! It’s hard to know how to process all these pandemic thoughts and feelings because it’s ongoing. It’s much easier to make sense of something when it’s over; we can see it’s narrative arc and tell ourselves a story about what happened. Instead, we’re in the thick of it and having to grapple with news like U.S. ‘Perilously Close’ to Meat Shortage After Major Plant Closes Over Coronavirus. Neat. I read something like this and think “should I buy meat? Should I stock up on beans instead for when there is no meat?” It’s really hard to think through how to prepare for the rest of this crisis. At the same time, I’m still getting paid and I’m quite comfortable at home. The cognitive dissonance will get you.

Unrelated to pandemic life, this week I saw a targeted ad on instagram for deodorant. Ads generally aren’t noteworthy, but I had to laugh because the ad featured someone on roller skates. Apparently there are enough rollerskaters on instagram that it’s worth the targeted ad. It also reminded me of something funny (awkward?) from when I was growing up. In this ad, the roller skater is applying deodorant behind her knee. Admittedly that is a sweaty spot but I’m not worried about deodorizing there. When I was an impressionable young 10-year-old, I remember seeing a commercial on TV in which the women applied deodorant to that behind-the-knee spot. I interpreted this to mean that one should be putting deodorant in the pits and the … knee pits? I went to school the next day fully deodorized, but partway through the day a bunch of girls were like “uh, you have deodorant on your legs,” so I ended up trying to wash it off in the bathroom like a fool. This has been a glimpse into me trying to make sense of the world. You’re welcome.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought this week.

Reading

book cover seen on Kobo ereader: The City We Became
The City We Became

I read N. K. Jemisin’s new novel The City We Became. This book is an ode to New York and it’s a great one. Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been to NYC and don’t have much reference for it, so it took me a little while to get into it. However, it is a really good book and once I was more familiar with the city, as personified in the story, I really enjoyed it. The novel takes the concept of the city as a living thing and pushes it to its extreme: once a city matures, it quickens and a human avatar begins to embody it. Unfortunately for poor New York, not everyone in the multi-verse is supportive. This is a fun book and apparently it’s the first in a trilogy, so there will be more!

Some reading from the ‘net this week:

  • Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, and More via Vanity Fair. I read Frank Herbert’s Dune at an impressionable young age and it has stayed with me. I love that book, despite some of it’s problematic bits. The new Dune movie is set to come out at the end of the year and it looks fucking amazing. I’m so excited.
  • Michigan manbaby protest: Wait, we thought conservatives were “rugged individuals” via Salon. The title really says it all here. These people protesting having to stay home in a pandemic are just … what? Really? That’s what you want to be mad about? Sorry we’re trying to save your dumb lives. It’s just another piece of evidence demonstrating that modern conservatism has no logic or moral center. When people want health care or not to be shot by cops, there’s a “right way to protest,” but keep white people from going to Whole Foods every day, and you have a riot.
  • The Pandemic Is Not Your Vacation via Buzzfeed. Rich people are heading out to the country to whether the pandemic, but the problem is that rural areas do not have the infrastructure in place to treat even more sick people. Stay the fuck home.

Watching

Kirk and I have been taking turns watching each other play Nintendo, for the most part. I’m having a lot of fun with Super Mario Odyssey. Kirk has been playing a lot of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I don’t mind hanging out on the couch and watching him play that because it’s a fairly calm game. I treat it like TV and make it something to knit by.

Rampant Consumerism

About a month ago I ordered a few prints from Pink Tofu Art because I decided we needed some art in the guest/sewing room. They finally arrived! I had to special order frames from an etsy shop that has A4 paper sizes, which was mildly annoying but I cannot complain about the results. I love her art so much and I’m happy to have it decorating my house.

This week I also put in another round of book buying from Capital Books on K. They got a bunch of puzzles in stock so I though, well, why not, we’re going to be home for a while. I ordered some puzzles and a couple more books (as if I don’t have plenty to read) because why not.

three framed prints: left a desert witch holding a fox, mid two celestial women lovers, right: a woman archer in the snow
New Decor from Pink Tofu Art

Making Things and Doing Stuff

It’s been another week of work kicking my ass. We have multiple proposals due at the end of the month, so everything is piled up, which is a drag. I’m hoping the worst will be over soon, but maybe this is the new normal. It’s unfortunate that we’re heading into another recession (for many reasons), but I worry that the corporate overlords are going to keep demanding a lot of work output without giving us anything more because we should all feel grateful to have a job. They’ve already suspended our 401(k) matches for the duration of the crisis. I hope that comes back. The CEOs and executives have also taken some kind of pay cut that involves forfeiting their “base salary,” but most of their pay comes from bonuses and stocks so it seems like an empty gesture to me. In any case, I do feel stupidly grateful to have a job right now. Unfortunately, that’s how they get you.

Working Out

It’s been almost two months since I sprained my ankle. It still has some swelling and it feels uncomfortable with lateral pressure or deep squats so I finally got back to my doctor to ask for a physical therapy referral. I had a phone consultation with a physical therapist who, afterwards, assigned me a workout routine that I’m supposed to do every day for the next two weeks. I feel like daily workouts is excessive, but Kirk reminded me that I’ve been complaining that I’m not getting better, so daily workouts it is.

Kitchen Witchery

I have continued to embrace carb life as sheltering in place continues. Last Saturday, I made a lasagna based on the recipe in How to Cook Everything. Although for the bolognase sauce, I substituted ground turkey because that’s what I had. I also added some spinach to the cheese mixture because we have been growing it in the garden and I have more than I know what to do with. Naturally I made some bread to accompany the lasagna. The next day I made bread again for my weekly sourdough loaf. I tried King Arthur Flour’s sourdough boule, mostly because it used ingredients I had available.

Today I did a round of pickling for Kirk’s benefit. He loves pickles, but I hate them. I am, however, fascinated by the process of making pickles, so I have been learning to make them. I also made some chocolate zucchini bread, because chocolate is all I want to eat lately.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Some Amount of Time in the Life: April 11, 2020

The hardest thing about sheltering in place during this pandemic is losing my sense of routine, even though most of my day happens at home anyway. I’ve been thinking about the fact that I usually get a lot “done” in a normal day but a lot of that is driven by anxiety. Yes, I am doing things I want to do, but I also have a lot of conversations with myself like “If I don’t go to the gym now, I won’t be able to go later because there’s derby practice and I’ll be sore,” or “I need to study Spanish at this time so I’m done and then can make dinner.” A lot of my anxiety expresses itself around time: having enough, doing all the things I want. Now, in a way, I have an abundance of time. It’s diminished the urgency I usually feel around being “productive.” That’s a good thing, I think, but I do wonder how to find the balance between discipline and needless stress. If I want to get better at Spanish, for example, I need to practice regularly, I recognize that. I am forever striving to relax (yes, the irony) and I am getting better. Pandemic life is a good time to evaluate these things.

Now that we’re weeks into sheltering in place, I’ve adjusted to the stress, like background radiation, that’s permeating everything now and I have been able to re-establish some routines. I’ve gotten back into my groove of studying Spanish, which is good because I enjoy it and because I’m still planning to take the DELE proficiency test this summer (pandemic permitting). I am also chilling out more. We’re still playing a lot of Nintendo and I did two jigsaw puzzles this week. I bought several puzzles over the years with the vague idea that a puzzle would be fun, but I haven’t done any of them because it usually feels too lazy or indulgent to do nothing more than a puzzle. So be it.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, or bought.

Reading

book: The Starless Sea
The Starless Sea

I haven’t been reading as much as you might expect during this quarantine season, but now that I’ve accepted my at-home routine, I am doing more. I most recently finished The Starless Sea by Erin Moregenstern. This is a book for people who love books and stories. It’s got mystery, secret societies, magic, and everything really. It’s a love letter to stories and a pleasure to read.

Here are some things I’ve been reading on the internet. I promise they are not all about coronavirus. I take it back, now that I’ve compiled this list, they are clearly all about coronavirus or the way coronavirus is changing our lives.

  • Here’s how those hot jigsaw puzzles are made via The New York Times. I’m not the only one with puzzle fever these days.
  • Stop trying to be productive via Electric Literature. This is an interview with Jenny Odell, author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, which I read last year. I really like how Odell discusses productivity and what it means.
  • What everyone’s getting wrong about the toilet paper shortage via Medium. Apparently part of the problem with people not being able to buy toilet paper is we all need more of the kind that individuals buy and not the kind that corporations buy to stock your office or restaurant bathrooms. Capitalism is wild.
  • Lockdown was supposed to be an introvert’s paradise. It’s not. via MIT Technology Review. I’ve not felt moved to join anyone’s extra-curricular conference calls because it feels like work to me. I already spend half my day in phone meetings for work. “Video chat has become the go-to substitute for many people’s discarded social lives, the place where they can see the most of the people they can no longer be with. Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are easy to use. But they have a way of making everything feel like a meeting.”
  • Of tropes and tatas via Bohemian. This is an interview with Meg Vondriska, the woman behind @MenWriteWomen on twitter, which aggregates passages from books in which men do a horrible job of describing women. It’s worth reading, and you definitely need to check out the twitter account (but only if you’re prepared to be mad).
  • The social distancing culture war has begun via The Atlantic. Behaving responsibly during the pandemic now has a political “side” to it because this country and its political discourse is real garbage sometimes.

Watching

We finished Star Trek: Enterprise a couple of weeks ago and have been trying to figure out what show to watch next. Kirk has convinced me to watch Breaking Bad. I missed it when it was new and then people hyped it so much that I didn’t want to watch it. It is actually pretty good. We’re only a few episodes in, but so far, I am entertained.

Rampant Consumerism

I haven’t been buying much because my house already has everything I need for the most part. Although I did just receive some prints I ordered from Pink Tofu Art. I’m excited to frame them and put them up in my guest/sewing room (When asked, Kirk said they looked “interesting.” lol). I have been trying to send money to people who need it. I donated to 3 Black Chefs‘ campaign to feed people in Sacramento’s Meadowview community (not that far from where I live). Since our government is run by soulless dicks, I feel like people who can help others must.

Making things and Doing Stuff

Like everyone, all my things and stuff have been at home lately, with the exception of a few walks around the neighborhood and a trip for groceries yesterday (exciting!). I did two puzzles this week. Once I start I get obsessed with finishing them, which is weird, but I’m rolling with it. The first was a 200-piece image of Islamic calligraphy that I bought at the Dallas Museum of Art. The other is a 1,000-piece puzzle with pictures of cats (because obviously cats).

Spanish

I’ve decided to focus my energy on one “productive” thing and that’s Spanish. One thing is all I have the mental space for. I’ve scheduled myself for two hours per week with my teacher, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening practice. We’ve also started doing practice exam stuff again. It feels good to at least have one normal thing to keep working on.

Working Out (Or Not)

Judging by all the challenges and workouts and conference call exercise groups going around, I’m the only person in America not exercising right now. I know that’s not true but, damn, people are freakout out about working out. I keep thinking that I want to exercise but it’s really hard right now. I want riding my bike, but I usually ride to go somewhere, not just to ride, and it’s hard to convince myself to just ride around. My ankle is still recovering from the sprain, so my exercise options are limited because of that. The combination of rehabilitation plus sheltering in place has made me uniquely unmotivated, even though I have a great workout plan for home stuff that’s easy on my ankles from my coach. That said, I also think it’s completely okay not to work out at home right now. I want to do a little when it feels good and breaks up the monotony, but there’s no rule that says you have to come out of quarantine as buff as you went in. To attempt to do so seems like madness.

Kitchen Witchery

I also haven’t felt especially motivated to cook anything complicated lately. I made a pot roast in the slower cooker and I did make pumpkin cheesecake bars, not pictured because I forgot to take a photo and they didn’t photograph well, respectively. My sourdough starter is still going strong. I made a whole wheat loaf, since that’s what flour I have the most of now. It was tasty and I’m enjoying the process of sourdough. In other kitchen adventures, I had my first ever Cup Noodle. I’ve eaten top ramen and many variations but I’ve never had the particular styrofoam-cup variety. It was perfectly adequate. I also spent the week snacking on a gourmet dish learned from my mom: frosting on graham crackers. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: March 28, 2020

It’s been another week of covid-19 life. I haven’t been feeling my best this week (who is?), but I don’t know if it’s psychological or if I’m really fighting a cold. Earlier in the week, Kirk and I were wondering if we had a light form of coronavirus. I’ve been very tired and having headaches and he hasn’t been feeling great either. The longer it goes on though, the more I think this is “just” stress. Kirk also thinks he’s having some severe acid reflux, which seems to have been unfortunately catalyzed by my sourdough baking marathon this week. Fun fact: sourdough is acidic.

In a certain way, staying home all the time baking and knitting is kind of my dream life. But because humans are dumb animals, we only want things when we have options and can choose to do what we want. It’s not as fun to stay home all the time when you have to. Also, I secretly (perhaps not so secretly) like doing things, even though things make me tired. I’m trying to let myself relax into doing the home-stuff I enjoy and not get too wound up in the news (-insert bitter laughter here-). I’m also trying to remember that we’re all living through something we’ve never had to deal with before and that’s really scary and stressful.

Consuming

Here are some things I read or bought this week.

Reading

These are a few of the many depressing things I’ve read on the internet this week. I’ve also been reading books, but I haven’t finished anything that I want to write things about, so depressing internets it is:

  • Coronavirus modelers factor in new public health risk: Accusations their work is a hoax via Washington Post. It’s amazing (in a horrible way) that our sense of reality is so warped and enough people think this pandemic is a hoax that people who study these things can’t accurately predict the course of the disease. Also, if you were hoping you could leave your house soon, you might want to slow your roll. Estimates suggest that coronavirus will peak in mid-April and won’t have run its course until the end of June.
  • Why telling people they don’t need masks backfired via The New York Times. Yes, healthcare workers need masks more than the rest of us, but masks are still useful for the masses.
  • Guess what’s flying off the shelves now: Hair dye via NPR. This is interesting because it shows how our buying habits have changed in the last few weeks. Baking yeast purchases have increased by almost 650 percent, which explains why people keep telling me they want to make bread but can’t find yeast. It also explains why everyone is making a sourdough starter right now: no yeast necessary.

Rampant Consumerism

Partway through this week, I woke up from a nap with the sudden clarity that I needed to buy a Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, it seems like many other people had the same idea after a week of staying home and every store is out of stock. Luckily, I’m living that rich bitch life and can afford to throw money at my problems now and again. I bought an overpriced one. Kirk and I need a distraction, like many people do, I am sure. It’s supposed to get here sometime mid week, so this time next week, I should be living my best life playing Donkey Kong.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

winter garden with growing broccoli and leek plans, plus leafy spinach
the winter garden presses on

I haven’t left my house since last Friday so all the things and stuff are house-based now. The garden is still going strong. One of those broccoli plants looks like it’s about to do something edible, but for now it’s just taunting us. I picked some of the spinach but have yet to eat it because who could be in a spinach mood right now? We also planted some recently sprouted garlic, so I hope to have more garlic in my future, you know, for when I run out and the world ends. Or whatever.

I’ve also been napping when I feel like it and not doing much exercise. Part of me wants to work out but I’m just tired. The existential strain is too great.

Knitting and Crafts

I am pleased and excited to announce that I finished the Harmonia’s rings tunic! This is the first clothing I’ve knit, other than socks. I was so nervous that it wouldn’t fit. I finished knitting it and almost didn’t try it on because I was worried that after all that, it wouldn’t be right for my body. Luckily, those fears were completely misplaced; it fits great! I am feeling emboldened and definitely want to knit more tops, although I’m going to take a break first.

a small piece of newly started knitting, so far a little triangle in blue yarn
on to the next knit!

Of course I have already started my next project. This is going to be a shawl. I’ve been organizing my yarn stash and logging it all on my Ravelry account. I came across a package of several hues of blue that I bought a while ago and didn’t know what to do with. I finally womaned up and figured it out. I’m sure I’ll be posting updates since I don’t have a whole lot else going on right now.

Kitchen Witchery

I have been taking comfort in cooking lately, which is not unusual, but with more time on my hands, I think it’s escalated. Last weekend we enjoyed burgers and milkshakes for dinner one night, followed by pizza the next. Because why not? Although I am going to have to ease up on my baking because I’m almost out of flour. I ordered some online and am planning to get groceries this week, but I’m not optimistic that I’ll be able to find what I want since everyone decided to take up baking this month. Not that I can blame them.

Quarantine Sourdough Club

After multiple people asked me about baking bread and finding yeast last week, I decided this was the right time to make a sourdough starter. I shared on social media last weekend that I was going to make sourdough and encouraged people to join me (some did!). I spent the week tending to my starter, discarding the under-fed parts and feeding it with new flour and water. I started on Monday, and today, Saturday, I now have bread.

I’ve learned that making a starter results in a lot of “discard,” which you can use for mildly sour bakes. I put my discard to use in biscuits, pancakes, and a very delicious coffee cake. Anyway I am now out of bread flour and nearly out of all-purpose flour, so if I can’t make it with self-rising flour or what little cake flour remains to me, I’m not baking it this week. These are the hazards of quarantine life.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

A Week in the Life: March 21, 2020

It’s weird that two weeks ago I took a weekend trip and was like, yeah, coronavirus does seem bad, but we just have to be careful and wash our hands. Now, we’re officially sheltering in place. I’m not going to try to recount how things have escalated on the pandemic front in the last week because that’s not really what this blog is for. But I will note that the speed and intensity of how we’re responding to covid-19 is crazy to witness. Even though it feels like every day we’re responding fast and changing our lifestyles, it sounds like officials in the U.S. still did not act fast enough to avoid disaster. It’s stressful enough coping with a novel virus and friends losing jobs, and then you see the president responding to a question about people being afraid by saying it’s a stupid question and insulting the reporter. How do you survive a plague season when the president is a sociopath?

My emotions have been all over the place this week. I spent a few days reading a lot of news, feeling stressed, and manically cleaning before I either got too tired to be anxious or perhaps just moved on and now I’m mostly living my normal life. I already work from home and am recovering from a sprained ankle (preventing me from being too active), so in a way, very little has changed in my personal life. However, I can’t ignore the huge physical, emotional, and financial toll this is taking on everyone. The scariest thing is that we don’t know enough about coronavirus and how contagious or deadly it really is because our government is incompetent. The other factor that I find particularly stressful is that it is going to take a long time to recover from this. Our society is changing. It’s an opportunity, in a way, but of course any change is scary—and this one is coming with causalities.

Consuming

Here are some things I read or bought this week.

Reading

Here are a few things I read online this week. No, these will not make you feel good.

Rampant Consumerism

I’ve been doing my part to stimulate the local economy this week. I ordered yarn for two larger projects (a sweater vest and a big, squishy cardigan), I bought books from Capital Books on K (they drove the order to my house!), and I ordered some candy from Andy’s Candy Apothecary because if I’m going to be inside I want snacks and things to do.

I also ordered a bunch of odds and ends to organize the house. Something about staying inside indefinitely really drives me to tidy up (shocking, I’m sure). I finally addressed the long-neglected closets in my office and in the guest/sewing room. I also have plans for my annual-ish re-organizing of my clothes closet. To facilitate, I ordered a few little baskets and some shelf separators, which are kind of like bookends to keep your piles of clothes from tumbling into each other. I also bought a variety of hooks and hangers to organize a lot of closet junk. These have yet to be delivered, so closet frenzy 2020 will continue.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

You would think that I wouldn’t feel much stress about sheltering in place and staying inside because that’s pretty much what I do anyway. To keep spirits high, I’ve been trying to share entertaining stuff (along with most internet citizens). I posted my Collected Essays (1997) to the blog earlier this week, which was a lot of fun both to share and to hear about people’s reactions. Inspired by #derbytwitter, I posted a few videos of play-by-play commentary of my cats’ activities. I’ve been inspired to make more sports broadcast-style clips after seeing this collection of real-life commentary. Perhaps I’ll make some more clips in the coming days.

Kitchen Witchery

Given the state of things—being stressed about the impending collapse of social order and staying indoors to avoid plague—I’ve been baking a lot. In fact, let’s just make a list:

  • Sweet potato pecan pound cake with maple glaze (recipe: The Harvest Baker). This is pretty much what it sounds like, a dense cake covered in maple glaze like you’d find on top of a doughnut. Delicious.
  • Chocolate chip cookies (recipe: the back of the Guittard chocolate chip bag). Total comfort baking and eating.
  • Granola (recipe: Adventures in Slow Cooking). I make this granola regularly for breakfast. I like to mix it with yogurt.
  • Cheddar cheese bread (recipe: The Bread Bible) and grilled cheese sandwiches. I ran an experiment with this bread and it didn’t exactly work out, but the bread is still good. Normally the recipes from The Bread Bible call for kneading in the stand mixer with a lot of resting in between. I tried putting the dough in my bread machine but the results were … weird. All the cheese in the dough was melted by the time it came out of the bread machine (before I even baked it). Is it a good bread? Yes. Is it what I was supposed to get from this recipe? Probably not.
  • Chicken and rice soup (loosely based on this recipe): After cooking a chicken this week, I had plans to make chicken noodle soup. However, I decided to save my valuable noodles for future macaroni and cheese and make chicken and rice soup instead. It turned out better than I anticipated so I’m happy for that.
  • Crescent rolls (recipe: Taste of Home): I absolutely love crescent rolls and, when you have a bread machine, they’re not very difficult to make. I baked them to accompany the chicken and rice soup.
  • Roast chicken: (using the instructions from the Kitchn). We are out of chicken breasts, but I got lucky and found a whole chicken at Nugget earlier in the week, which was fine by me since then I was able to make broth (not pictured) and the previously mentioned soup.

I’m feeling less frenzied here at the end of the week so I’m sure next week won’t be so kitchen-intensive. Although I am currently making buns for hamburgers tonight so clearly we’re not slowing down all that much.

Kitting and Crafts

nearly shirt-length knit tunic in purple yarn
tunic progress, nearly there

I took this photo a few days ago, so my knitting is actually even longer than pictured here. I’m only a few inches away from finishing the body of this shirt. Next I have to finish up the sleeves, which is a little intimidating because I haven’t knit sleeves before, but hopefully it will be fine. I’m excited to be almost done with this and I expect to finish in the next few days! Afterwards, I think I’m going to knit another pair of socks. I also have some sewing I want to do, you know, as long as I have nowhere else to be. I never finished my cat quilt and I have some smaller stuff I want to work on too. Perhaps next week will see some big crafting energy?

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.

Collected Essays (1997)

A little while ago, my dad unearthed some of my early “work” while clearing out the garage. Included among various sticker-based arts was this small folio of collected essays from 1997. In 1997 I finished the fifth grade and turned 11 years old. I think my teacher had us write regular essays (weekly?) and then we bound up the best at the end of the year.

Presented here for your quarantine-reading pleasure are selected essays from my 1997 collection. You will note my life-long commitment to self-confidence, general unwillingness to give a fuck about what people think I should be doing, and complete fearlessness when it comes to telling people they’re being dumb.

green construction paper with text in marker "Collected Essays. 1997. Written by: Lindsey Ann Halsell"
I provided my own cover art.

The first essay is “The hardest things about being a kid.” Mostly, this proves how not-at-all hard my life was, or perhaps that it was hard in ways I was unable to articulate at the time. I don’t know what my sister was doing that was making me so mad (probably just being a seven-year-old), but we’re over it now.

Next are some thoughts on my “plans and dreams” for the future. I was clearly very fixated on getting married and having babies (thanks, Mormon propaganda), but luckily I was able to shake that with age. I guess my life was supposed to end after having kids though? I’m going to assume that my fifth-grade self would be way more impressed with how I actually turned out.

What will I remember about fifth grade? Apparently, how much I hated it all. Yes, I do appreciate the irony of not wanting to write essays week after week and becoming a professional technical writer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

An essay describing the many things I hate about fifth grade
Forever meta.

Finally, we have my self-assessment of my performance in fifth grade. I am a master of all that I do.

Thank you for sharing a laugh with me on this. I hope it gives you a chuckle during this time of social isolation.

Two Weeks in the Life: March 14, 2020

I had intended to get a short post up last Friday, before leaving for Long Beach to visit my sister, but it didn’t happen. So today I’m writing about the last two weeks, which, in these times, means covering a lot of ground.

First I want to talk about Elizabeth Warren. It already feels like a lifetime away, but Super Tuesday was only about 10 days ago. I have been vocal about my support for Warren. To me, she was the best candidate. She had the plans and the compassion and I think she would have been the perfect president for these bullshit times. Unfortunately, sexism won again. I got really emotional when I read that she was ending her campaign—much more than I expected to be. It’s so hard to see competent women losing again and again while the most incompetent, most corrupt president ever wreaks havoc. I really thought Warren had a chance, but it was an uphill battle against the media ignoring her, billionaires working to maintain the status quo, and so-called progressive bros shouting down women online. We need Warren but I guess we’re not ready yet. I hope I live to see a woman president.

imagine of Elizabeth Warren apparently flying through space with the caption "i think it might be sexism"

Next, I of course have to discuss life in the time of coronavirus, which I have learned is two words, not capitalized (thanks AP Stylebook). When we look back on this, what’s going to be hard to understand and remember is how fast things have moved. Monday was kind of normal. By Friday, everything was cancelled. We’re suddenly using terms like “social distancing” to refer to the concept of staying away from people to limit the transmission of disease.

It’s hard not to feel some anxiety. People are freaking out and hoarding toilet paper for some reason. The State of California has instructed us to not attend events of more than 250 people and sports are cancelled. People are losing their income while everything shuts down or being forced to work without sick time if their workplace is still operating. Basically, society is cancelled.

Let me remind you how smart you are | Psychology Today South Africa
Why flatten the curve when you can “catten” it? via Vox.

Despite the anxiety, I am fortunate in that I already work from home and I have a pantry full of food. I can afford to buy a few extra things. I can also afford to support my friends (or, hey, total strangers) if they need it. I know I’ll be okay but it’s hard to watch the country melt down on such a large scale. We knew the social safety net was broken but this is emphasizing how hard it is for so many people who are living paycheck to paycheck. While I’m not necessarily optimistic, I truly hope that this crisis drives our country to make some choices and enact policy that would support someone other than the rich. I was furious when I read that the federal government gave a $1.5 trillion bailout to wallstreet. Why are they still too big to fail? Why not spend some money making the coronavirus test free? Send funds to people losing work? Create housing for vulnerable people? I’m so sick of this bullshit. Why are the rich the only ones who get help in America? Why aren’t the rest of us considered worthwhile?

hand-washing-1
Wash your hands correctly!

Public service announcement: For those of you looking for non-paywalled updates about coronavirus, the Washington Post has free coverage of the pandemic online.

Consuming

Here are some things I read, watched, and bought this week.

Reading

I finished two books in the last week. The first, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is a sci-fi story set in the next century dealing with different forms of freedom. The other book was a little more serious: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shosasna Zuboff. This was a tough read mostly because Zuboff uses the work to define and document “surveillance capitalism,” tracing where it came from and how it’s impacting us—it’s always tricky to adjust to new concepts. Something she discusses is how we often say “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.” Zuboff reframes this. Individuals are not the “product” of social media, rather we’re the grist for what she terms “behavioral surplus.” Social media companies and the like are trying to learn how to predict behavior to effectively nudge us all into buying more things. They do this by learning our vulnerabilities so they can suggest just the right product at just the right moment to make more money. This book is a lot to take in and it’s definitely more than I can summarize here, but if you’re interested in what social media is making from all our data, this book is the one to read.

Watching

Last night, Kirk and I watched Jojo Rabbit, which is a feel-good World War II movie. When this first came out, I saw the trailer going around and remarked that I was uninterested in anything else about Nazi Germany. Fortunately, I’m not above correcting myself when I’m wrong. This is a great movie. The titular character, Jojo, is a 10-year-old Nazi and ardent Hitler fan. His imaginary friend is a hilarious version of Hitler played by Taika Waititi. Jojo discovers that his mom is hiding a Jewish girl in their house and has to deal with his fanaticism and emotions. I highly recommend watching it, it’s something of an antidote to these extreme times.

Rampant Consumerism

I’ve seen the recommendation going around that it would be a big help to our local businesses and community to buy some gift cards while we wait for the covid-19 madness to blow over. This weekend I’ll probably buy some from my local yarn store, Knituque, a new local bookshop that I like, Capitol Books on K. I’m also thinking about some Elk Grove restaurants to hit up.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

As I mentioned, last weekend I went to Long Beach to visit my sister, Mia. It was cool to hang out and I got to see her new place and meet her new cat who is an adorable little maniac. We mostly just chilled out and ate food, plus we took a trip to Ikea because Mia wanted me to help carry stuff, of course. My mom came over to get lunch with us too, which was nice. Despite all these activities, the only pictures I returned with were of the cat.

Derby Life

me, smiling at the camera, wearing my statement jacket thats covered in patches and pins
looking fresh at The Rink

We had our season debut on February 29 and although I was featured on the poster (a true delight), I didn’t get to play because of my sprained ankle, which, for the curious, is still swollen. However, I did get to debut my statement vest and I wore my fiber optic bowtie, so at least I got to have some sartorial fun. I also enjoyed pairing up announcers for our games. Everyone did great but listening to Calamity Wren and Bob Uckerlele call was a lot of fun. As much as I like announcing, being able to step back and support other people is also satisfying.

Practice is now cancelled out of coronavirus caution, but I did get to coach one more practice before this break. I had a lot of fun coaching (as always) on Wednesday night. It’s great when skaters tell me they get a lot of my practices. It makes me want to keep doing it.

Knitting and Crafts

the Harmonias rings tunic, knitted about half way so it looks a bit like a crop top
Team Crop Top?

I’ve made more progress on my Harmonia’s Rings tunic. It’s now roughly crop top-length. Maybe I should just stop there and join Team Crop Top? It’s really cool to see it taking on the shape of an actual clothing item. I actually took this photo last week, so it’s a little longer now than it was, but not enough to warrant taking a new photo. Maybe with all this social distancing I’ll get it finished up in the next week or so.

Kitchen Witchery

From the photos you can see that I’m still putting my dutch oven to work. We had a big batch of beef stew (one last cold weather meal, I thought. Yet, it’s chilly and raining today) then last week a whole pile of macaroni and cheese. I’ve learned that adding in some munster cheese to your mix provides that magical cheese stretch that we all dream of, so I’m upping my macaroni game with that. This week was fairly warm so I decided to do some grilling. I made honey sesame glazed pork tenderloin and some asparagus. Of course, I also made treats. My sister requested toffee and who am I to say no? I also had another go at the oat tuilles. I had hoped to shape them into little bowls to put ice cream in, but that didn’t quite go as planned. Still, we ate them with ice cream and they were delicious.

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.