This year’s onslaught of things that can kill us rages on. It’s 92 degrees at the time of this writing: 9:30 a.m (note: now that I’ve finished it’s 100 degrees at 11 a.m.). There’s a part of me that can’t stand the banality of commenting on the weather, but another part of me that’s like “this is how I die and everyone needs to know.” Anyway, if you see me being melodramatic this week, you know why.
As for everything else, I am feeling overwhelmed lately. Pandemic life continues, now Trump is trying to tear down our most trusted institution, the Post Office, in an attempt to cheat the election. Biden picked Kamala Harris for his Vice President, which is great in many ways. Obviously I wish for a more progressive ticket, but the fact that recent political actions have moved them leftward is encouraging. I wish I could take a month of work to let my mind rest from the onslaught that is modern life but it’s not really a viable option.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, and bought.
Like many people, I’ve been reading up on prisons and police lately. I finished American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment. Journalist Shane Bauer took a job as a guard at a private prison and wrote about the experience, interwoven with a historical discussion of how modern prisons came to be in the U.S. One reason this book is so compelling is because Bauer had previously been incarcerated in Iran. He knows what it feels like to be a prisoner and he has to grapple with the moral implications of being on the other side. I also really appreciated the historical part of this book. A lot of people have commented recently on how modern police and prisons are totally rooted in slavery and this lays out the evidence. The 13th amendment to the constitution, although it largely abolished slavery, permitted the practice to continue as part of punishment for a crime. In the wake of abolition, many farms in the south lacked the labor to effectively work the land (in part because they were unwilling to pay for the service). States started buying the land and putting prisoners to work. This is a heavy read but thought-provoking and worth it if you want to understand more about modern prisons.
In internet reading:
- Therapy llama ‘Caesar the No Drama Llama’ calms tensions at protests via the Washington Post. Some feel good news about a chill llama that its owner takes to protests to help calm people down.
- It’s time to abolish nursing homes via The Nation. This brought up the interesting point that nursing homes are really only for old people for disabilities. Rethinking how we treat disabled people in society would also help us treat the elderly better.
- Baby boomers show concerning decline in cognitive functioning for Ohio State News. I’m not posting this to pick on baby boomers, but because it’s an interesting and concerning trend. What if this is a cultural problem that will also manifest in younger generations? From the article, “While many of the problems linked to lower cognitive functioning are symptoms of modern life, like less connection with friends and family and growing economic inequality, other problems found in this study are unique to the United States, Zheng said. One example would be the lack of universal access and high cost of health care.”
- Hygiene theater is a huge waste of time via The Atlantic. Corporations are pouring resources into disinfecting surfaces, but now we know coronavirus is mostly transmitted through the air, so why are we doing this?
This is more “playing” than “watching,” but I can’t stop playing Fall Guys lately. Kirk introduced me to it last week and I have played quite a lot since. It’s a goofball game where you play as a little jelly bean of a person and run through obstacle courses. It’s colorful and silly and a perfect distraction from these bullshit times. Highly recommended.
I’ve been revisiting the matter of our emergency kits because there’s nothing like an ongoing emergency to remind you to prepare for emergencies. I’ve been slowly putting together some kits based off this guide from Wirecutter, plus some information about how to account for your pets in emergency planning. So I bought the first aid kit that the Wirecutter guide recommends and a leatherman multi-tool to add to our bags. It’s hard to buy things you hope you won’t need to use, but 2020 is revealing how little it takes to rip civilized society apart so here I am.
I also spent money on this delightful cheese board/charcuterie spread from Grazing Craving. We don’t get to do anything fun anymore so the least I can do for myself is eat fun foods. It was beautiful and overall really tasty, although something in there didn’t quite sit right with my stomach. I am pretty sensitive so I am assuming it’s a me problem and not the fault of the seller. Even so, it was a welcome meal given that it’s much too hot to actually cook food.
Making Things and Doing Stuff
Most of my free time lately has been devoted to reading or making food. Seems like I’m not doing much but I am surviving so what more can I say.
Small progress, but I am impressed with myself for doing anything at all lately. July was a bit of a slump as far as Spanish is concerned. So far August has been too, for that matter. I didn’t study at all this week. I may continue this break for another week then try to get back into it. Like everything lately, it’s hard to do things that don’t have immediate gratification. Yeah, I may be investing in future skills, but like … why? I’ve never felt so disconnected from the future before.
I am starting with a couple of recipes that did not work out. I made zucchini bread. something I’ve made many times, but totally undercooked it somehow. My skewer came out clean but it was all a lie. The bread sunk as soon as I took it out of the oven. what a drag. I also tried this turkey zucchini burger recipe (I had a surplus of zucchini thanks to the gift of a giant zucchini from a friend), but I really hated it. The recipe worked out, I guess, I just didn’t like it.
We’ve been experimenting with snacks for dinner a little more often. It’s fun and it breaks up the monotony. It’s also nice to watch a movie and nibble throughout. I’ve found a spinach dip recipe that I really like. It’s basically ranch dip with cream cheese and spinach added to the mix. I also revisited those Levain-style cookies, but remade them with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts since Kirk recently informed me that those are his favorite (why did it take eight years to get this information?). The results were delicious. Highly recommended.
To celebrate my friend’s daughter’s first birthday, I put forth a dulce de leche feast. I made these sandwich cookies, basically a snickerdoodle filled with dulce de leche, that put me in mind of a churro. They came out curiously flat but they were good anyway. I also made dulce de leche cupcakes. I think I liked the frosting better than the cake itself, but I guess that’s normal for me. The paper umbrellas are a technique to keep the frosting from sticking to the foil (or whatever you cover things with) that I picked up from my mom.
Cat Appreciation Hour
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. I recently set up their carriers in a closet they like to hang out in and made them comfy. I am trying to make them not so scary in anticipation of a vet appointment this week. Huey is loving it. Viola, however, remains skeptical.