Two Weeks in the Life: December 25, 2023

Hello, friends and enemies. Merry Christmas, happy Yule, blessed (if belated) solstice, or you know, it’s Monday. We have had a relaxing day at home today. I cooked dinner last night but Kirk is cooking today, so I have a whole day with zero responsibilities. This is great because the last week was rough.

I know everyone enjoys hearing about our homeownership drama, so I am entering the tale of the new dishwasher into the record. Neither Kirk nor I had any big Christmas wishes this year so we decided to instead spend some money on a new dishwasher. Our old one wasn’t broken, but it did somewhat frequently require us to go reset the circuit breaker for it to function and the bottom dish rack had a deeply annoying propensity to fall out of its track. We ordered a fancy new one from Home Depot and decided to just pay them to install it and haul away the old one. It took five entire visits from various tradespeople, three of them in the last week, to get this dishwasher installed:

  1. Home Depot’s installers come to set up the dishwasher. We were young and full of optimism for the future. The installer promptly, but accidentally, snaps the water valve that connects to the dishwasher. After a scramble for a bucket, the old dishwasher remains functional and in place. The new dishwasher takes up residence in the garage. We are directed to call Home Depot to resolve the issue.
  2. We call Home Depot and explain that they have to send a plumber to fix the valve and install the dishwasher. Some days later, new installers arrive. They inform us that they are not plumbers and they cannot fix the valve. We call (actually Kirk calls. Kirk valiantly spares me from all the phone calls in this story) Home Depot again and learn that the company they contract to do installations usually has plumbers available, but our specific region does not have plumbers. We are instructed to hire a plumber to fix the valve, then send Home Depot the invoice. Home Depot will not reveal the upper limit they are willing to reimburse us for this problem that they caused.
  3. Our local plumber fixes the valve and charges us $225. The plumber does not do appliance installations. We tell Home Depot to send their installers again and finish what should have been an extremely simple task.
  4. Home Depot’s installers return two days later to install the dishwasher. Finally, we are going to have a beautiful, quiet dishwasher. This nonsense will end. Not so. The installer removes the old dishwasher from its nook. We learn that there is no electrical outlet for the new dishwasher to be plugged into because the old dishwasher is hardwired into the wall. Its bundle of wires trails behind it like a rat’s thin tail. The installer, who happened to be the same non-plumber who visited us on our second attempt, perhaps senses our desperation. He tells us that he isn’t supposed to, but he’ll install the outlet for us. We thank him. We gather cash in preparation to tip him. Some minutes later, he informs us that he doesn’t have the right tools and cannot finish the installation. Still, he relives us of the old dishwasher and settles the new one, unconnected, into its cubby.
  5. Kirk secures an electrician to come set up an outlet and finish installing the dishwasher. The electrician arrives early and we are near tears with relief. Finally, we will be free. We are ready to be done and put this saga behind us. We would pay any amount of money for this to stop. The electrician gets to work and seems to know what he’s doing. Unfortunately, we run into another problem. The dishwasher’s hose is too short to reach whatever it is that it’s supposed to connect with. Kirk gives up. He pays the man and resigns himself to a trip to Home Depot to buy a hose after work. After the electrician leaves, we discover he has, for no reason known to us, used a staple gun to affix the—for lack of a better word—dorsal flaps—of the dishwasher to the surrounding cabinetry. We are broken. I am a husk of a person. I spend the next 10 minutes laughing/screaming “Why would you do that! WHY.” Kirk says he will remove the staples. However, the scars will linger.

These five ghosts of appliance installation visited us, but this story is not yet over. Kirk went to Home Depot only to be informed that the hose we need is back ordered until January. I can only assume that removing the old dishwasher unleashed a powerful curse upon our household. That dishwasher was under the protection of some ancient force and now we are paying for our arrogance. Fortunately, Kirk double checked online and found the right hose was available and shippable. It arrived on Saturday and Kirk installed it. He also tore out the offensive staples (shouting the whole time, as is his right). The new dishwasher is nice, but the electrician who finished the install did not secure it very well (I mean … maybe he thought he did with the staples) and it’s still kind of rocking back and forth so we have to figure that out. Despite all this chaos there were only two days of not having a functional dishwasher and I mostly used paper plates on those days. I’m just fucking glad it’s over! I am tired!

Books and Other Words

The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft was a fun read. It’s a detective story set in a world where different types of magic practitioners—wizards, necromancers, hexologists, and alchemists—exist, but most forms have fallen out of favor or, in the case of alchemy, have been bent to fuel a sort of industrial revolution. Isolde Wilby is a hexologist, which means she can make magic through drawing. She’s also a private investigator and former cop (though she now has a real “fuck the police” attitude). She gets asked to solve a high-profile case for the government and hijinks ensue. I liked this book and was surprised by it’s use by very specific or maybe archaic words that had me frequently turning to the dictionary, which doesn’t happen to me too often in English. I also enjoyed the main character, who, to me, is very autism-coded, and her relationship with her spouse. I have probably said this before but there are not a lot of good portrayals of loving, healthy heterosexual relationships out there so it’s always nice to see that on the page.

I’m not shocked that Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis was good because my friend Lito said it was worth reading and he has great taste. I really loved this book. It follows the lives five queer women in Uruguay, beginning in the 1970s. This band of ladies escapes the city of Montevideo for a week to vacation in Cabo Polonio, a nowhere beach village far off the beaten track where our protagonists can actually breathe and be themselves without the fear of surveillance or being reported. This is an excellent story and I liked the way all the characters’ lives were portrayed, how the intersected and became their own chosen family. I liked the exploration of queer identity in a less modern, less anglo setting. The book also made me think about how much we can learn from fiction—not just in an emotional way or an understanding-the-human-condition way, but in a literal way. I had no idea, for example, that there was a dictatorship in Uruguay in the 70s and 80s (though I suppose I could have inferred it given the state of much of South America at the time). I’d never heard of Cabo Polonio either, but thanks to internet magic, I can see lots of pretty photos of it. I think fiction like this can be a portal into learning more about real-world events, and I appreciate that. Cantoras also made me sad for all the queers we lost along the way before humanity started getting its shit together in that regard. We lost many stories and lives but at least we have artists like de Robertis bringing light to what may have been.

Meanwhile, on the internet:

  • Why Bill Gates’s Philanthropy Is a Problem via The Nation. Bill Gates has made a reputation for himself as the “good” billionaire, but he’s still making more money than he’s giving away. You’re not helping the world if you still have over $100 billion. From the article, “Gates’s vast wealth could help the world in far-reaching ways, for example if it were redistributed as cash gifts to the poor. That can’t happen through the Gates Foundation’s father-knows-best, look-at-me brand of bureaucratic philanthropy. Gates isn’t interested in empowering the poor; he’s interested in imposing his solutions. Following the money from the Gates Foundation confirms this. Nearly 90 percent of the foundation’s charitable dollars go to organizations located in wealthy nations, not the poor countries he claims to serve.”
  • California police required to state reason for traffic stops before questioning drivers next year via Los Angeles Times. New law alert! “No, do you?” is now a valid response to “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  • Congress, Wrapped! 2023. via The Washington Post (gift link). Congress really spent the year fucking around and engaging in tomfoolery and a much larger scale than normal.
  • Inside The New York Times’ big bet on games via Vanity Fair. As someone who has become an avid player of NYT’s games, I enjoyed this profile on the team and their process.

Autism Thoughts

I had one of those “You don’t seem autistic” moments recently where one of my fellow dance students said (well meaningly, I have no doubt) that I seem to be only mildly autistic. I get why we call autism a “spectrum,” but I think this term is confusing people who don’t know much about autism. It’s not a spectrum of intensity where you just keep turning the autism up. I don’t have autism at a low volume. If you’re autistic, the whole brain is autistic. There are autistic people with higher or lower support needs (side note: I hate the illustrations in this article but the information is decent). Some of us need more help to navigate the world and the day to day than others. That need for help is usually what tips the neurotypicals off to the autism. However, even a relatively low support needs autistic person like me still needs help and I still need a lot of time to recuperate from operating in the world. It’s easy to look “normal” in an environment like dance class—there are scripts and specific rules about how to behave and not a lot of open-ended socializing. I don’t have to figure out what I’m supposed to do in class. I know ballet starts at the barre and then we’ll do some work in the center. Class generally progresses in the same order from plies to tendus to rond de jambes and it’s guided by the teacher so I don’t have to figure out what to do next. I do get that, to a non-expert, wanting to be on stage doesn’t seem really autistic. However, I don’t have to be in the crowd, I get to do a set routine that I’ve practiced, and I’m participating in one of my hobbies. No one is making small talk with me. I can go backstage and if I am overwhelmed and need quiet, I can tell people I need to practice/stretch/warmup on my own or I need to get into a good headspace. There are plenty of autistic people in the performing arts (though of course there are plenty of autistic people who would say “fuck you, no way” to performing, which is also fine). We just are going home to stare at the wall for a full day before coming back to the theater to be on for you all. I can’t find the clip, but I’m also reminded of the character Abed from Community. He says he loves musicals because everyone is singing a song to announce their emotions. He’s not wrong.

Corporeal Form

You may remember that I wrote last time about possibly having fatty liver disease. Well, the results are in and I actually do have fatty liver disease and the unlucky genetic profile that makes me more susceptible to liver disease.

First, the genetics: after detecting the alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency in my blood, the doctor ordered a phenotype test to see exactly what, if any, kind of genetic fuckery could be the cause. The test found that I have the MZ phenotype, a heterozygous type which means that only one of my parents is to blame (you’re on notice, mom or dad! [just kidding]). This phenotype means I am more susceptible to liver and lung disease. Though fortunately it sounds like most people with this phenotype won’t develop emphysema (!!) if they don’t smoke. So I have that going for me at least. I also learned there is a research foundation dedicated to this and I signed up for their study. Maybe I will make a few dollars from participating in science thanks to my dumb genes.

Second, the liver: on Tuesday morning, I went in for an abdominal ultrasound. They looked at my liver, spleen, and gallbladder. It’s actually really cool that we can use technology to look at the organs in the body. Rather less cool though is the fact that the ultrasound confirms I have fatty liver disease—also called steatoic liver disease—and an enlarged spleen (I know you are all jealous of my large and powerful spleen that is 15.8 cm long). The term for having an enlarged spleen is splenomegaly, which I think is a very funny word. I’m actually glad I’m no longer playing roller derby because one of the things you should avoid if you have an enlarged spleen is trauma to the abdomen. I read a fair amount about liver disease this week and everyone seems to say the same thing when it comes to treatment: avoid alcohol, lose weight, take your diabetes medication, and get vaccinated for hepatitis. I’m already very rarely drinking and I’m vaccinated. I don’t have diabetes so we are once again back to the question of weight loss, a subject on which I have already shared my feelings. I don’t really know what I’m going to be able to do about this to be honest. I am meeting with the doctor after the new year to review my life and see what I need to change. I also have an appointment to get a fibroscan, which is another way to measure how fucked up my liver is.

I know I try to write about this stuff with a bit of a light tone but I’m actually really stressed and upset about this one. There isn’t really treatment for fatty liver. The answer is lose weight but that’s just to reduce the risk of serious issues. Not all fat people get fatty liver and being thin doesn’t mean you won’t get it. The only treatment is like … liver transplant once you have cirrhosis. I am hoping the doctor will tell me some news I can use next week but I am not feeling particularly optimistic.

a wide-eyed hamster on a couch. Text reads: I can't fucking take it/seriously I'm at my limit
seriously I’m at my limit

Moving It

My dance recital was last Friday! I had fun and I think it went well overall. However, I do feel like I totally blanked on a large portion of our tap dance choreography. Like, my brain just shut off. I kept smiling and twirling and hopefully didn’t stand out in a bad way. Everyone said I looked good so I suppose I must believe them! I fooled them all! I completely forgot to take any photos so you’ll just have to trust that I looked wonderful.

Kitchen Witchery

You might think I would go berzerk cooking for Christmas but I already gave treats to everyone who’s getting them and I don’t like to create too much work on Christmas itself. I did cook for Christmas eve though. This year I opted for a homemade pasta, using a recipe for potato-filled tortellini from Pasta Grannies. Pasta fools me every time though and I always make it too thick. I forget that it puffs up when you boil it, but I kinda like it this way. I made a loaf of Italian bread (recipe: King Arthur) to go with the pasta and I made a princess cake for dessert using the recipe from The Nordic Baking Book! Princess cake has layers of cake, jam, and pastry cream. It’s topped with a big dome of cream and then the whole cake is covered with (traditionally light-)green marzipan. Everyone liked it but I thought the marzipan tasted a little weird. I am blaming the food coloring I used (does food coloring go bad?). Unrelated to Christmas, last week I also made a loaf of bread using semolina flour just to try something different. This recipe is from the king of bread cookbooks, The Bread Bible. It’s a chewy little loaf and I thought it was, of course, very nice with some cheese.

Cat Therapy

Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. Fritz is still extremely wary of the Christmas tree, but he’s not as scared of it as he was last year, so that’s good. He also annoyed the shit out of Huey by taking up residence on the couch a few days ago. And it wasn’t just anywhere on the couch, but her side of the couch. He has no respect for his elders and Huey is tired of it.