Tag Archive | life

Surviving the massive smoke plume, or the ninth plague of 2020

“I don't need an inspirational quote. What I need is a freaking cup of coffee.”

Words to live by…

I kept not finishing this post, nor two others regarding sci fi topics. I have resolved to do better this week! You may be aware of the fact that week before last wildfire smoke from California came to the Seattle region via the jetstream. Slowly our air quality went from Good to Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals. Than Saturday before last the air flow below the jetstream also shifted, and we got smoke from Oregon as well as more from California. The air quality went through stages of Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and Hazardous for a bit over a week.

Meanwhile, only a few hundred miles south of us (where some friends and relatives live) the air quality was frequently “too bad for the sensors to measure.” So I was also feeling a lot of anxiety about their safety.

Despite closing up the house and changing the hepa filters in the air cleaners, I started coughing eight days ago (and had almost constant headaches and itchy eyes). After calling my doctor to verify that the inhaler he has me keep around for when I get bronchitis was okay to try to use for this, I began using it. I’m only supposed to use it four times a day, and each time it gave me relief from the coughing for about an hour at a time. Which isn’t much out of the day, but better than nothing.

My husband had headaches and a little bit of coughing during the same period, but nowhere near as bad as the symptoms I had. I blame past me. While I quit smoking 27 years ago, I did smoke for a number of years (which is why I tend to get bronchitis so often), whereas he never did. So I suspect part of the reason I reacted so badly is the damage done to my lungs back when I was a smoker.

It was not fun keeping all the doors and windows closed as much as possible, as things got uncomfortably warm and stuff on several days.

The good news is that we finally got real rain over both our state and Oregon for the last two and a half days. The Air Quality Index starting Saturday morning was all the way down in the Good range! I still have a bit of a cough but things are definitely improving.

Unfortunately, wildfires are still burning in Washington, Oregon, and California (not to mention many other parts of the world), so I’m not sure how long we’ll keep having good air quality.

In other news, I have a significant birthday coming up, and we have toyed with trying to do a virtual party, Unfortunately I don’t have a guarantee at this point that I won’t be called in to work despite having requested time off months ago because I’m the only Tech Writer that hasn’t quit, been laid off, or retired over the last few years in the entire division, and we have software releases this week.

I’m also still reeling from the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That has really done a number on my mood.

Still, we have to keep resisting, right?

Confessions of a Rambler, or, my blogging style is verbose, okay?

Since the rich are the top of the food chain, bio magnification means that  they accumulate maximum toxins in their bodies. It is not safe to eat the rich. Better to compost them.

Since the rich are the top of the food chain, bio magnification means that they accumulate maximum toxins in their bodies. It is not safe to eat the rich. Better to compost them.

Some years ago a friend was explaining her taxonomy of blog styles and mentioned among them the “What I ate for breakfast” blogger. This was a person whose blog regularly was full of a lot of minute details of all the mundane aspects of their life. Which might well be of interest to close friends, but might seem more than a bit boring to the general public. From then on, we would occasionally warn each other, “You might want to skip my entry today, because it’s a ‘what I had for breakfast’ post.”

More recently I was explaining about something my husband and I had been talking about, and a different friend said, “That’s practically a recipe blog!” Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I had to ask what he meant. Turns out that it’s a joke which has spawned an entire genre of memes out there I’d never seen. The idea is you search for a recipe on line, but several of the hits are long, rambling blog posts about the day that the blogger first encountered this dish, and all the things about the experience that have remained important in their life, only to finally, deliver a very short (and sometimes not all that helpful) recipe.

I felt attacked.

Of course, I have just committed that kind of Recipe Blog, in that I have shared not one, but two anecdotes about the topic I intend to write this post about, without having yet gotten to the point.

On the other hand, several years ago after I had brought a casserole I call “Great Grandma’s Chicken Noodle” to a social event, a bunch of people asked for the recipe. Which wasn’t easy for me to share, because I had learned to make as a child by helping one of my great-grandmothers in the kitchen. At no time had I ever had a list of ingredients and the exact measures, because that’s not how my grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked. So I spent an afternoon making the dish again, writing things down as I went along, and then converted my notes into a long post. I did include the approximate measurements of all the ingredients I used, but I also explained how substitutions could be made. And a lot of the process of the recipe were steps like, “stir the ingredients that are currently in a pan furiously until all the chicken pieces are white and the is a smooth, thick consistency–if your arm isn’t sore, you probably haven’t stirred long enough.”

After I posted it, more than one person who read it commented that never in their life had they been able to successfully follow a traditional recipe, because the writer assumed a lot of skills they didn’t have, but they felt this kind of recipe might be something they could do. One reported two weeks later they had followed my super-verbose recipe and it had tasted delicious.

Particularly if the subject I’m writing about is political or social commentary, I start with the anecdote because:

  1. It provides some context for my perspective, which may make it easier from someone who disagrees when I get to the point to at least see why I feel that way,
  2. It pre-empts accusations that I’m talking about something that never happens (a frequent tactic of bad faith trolls),
  3. It demonstrates that I have some experience with the topic under discussion,
  4. It helps to establish and nurture social glue.

Humans are social beings. We build trust and understanding through, among other things, sharing truths about ourselves. The more we know about someone, the more we feel we understand them. A blog is a type of social media (even if the long form that I am writing here has mostly been supplanted by tweets, instagram posts, and the like), so some social interaction is implied.

A lot of people misunderstand what it means that humans are social animals. It doesn’t just mean that we like to hang out together. Being social is a major survival trait of our species. We instinctively form communities, friendships, and so one, and we take care of each other. A lot of people think that taking care of each other is just about personal favors and charity. But it’s a lot more than that. All sorts of social customs, many of our ethical rules, and so forth, form an involuntary system of caretaking, as well. We punish individuals who do things that harm or imperil others–sometimes that punishment is formal, such as through the justice system, but far more of the punishments are informal and manifest in various social ways.

And we forget that notions such as private property, capital, and money as a means of regulating the exchange of goods and services are all artificial, and relatively recent inventions. Don’t confuse private property with personal property, those are vary different things. There is evidence that even before humans arose 200,000 years ago, some of our ancestral hominids had a concept of personal property: this sharpened stone tool I have made and use for various thing is my tool, that wooden carving I made with it and gave to the child of my sister is the child’s figurine.

Private Property is stuff such as Real Estate–specifically the notion that every square inch of the surface of the planet is available to be declared the private property of a specific person. There have been many human civilizations that existed for thousands of years that held as a basic concept that contrary idea that much of the land is common, rather than private, and if it belongs to anyone, it belongs collectively to the community. There are other types of metaphorical property that were also thought of as held in commons, that we have metaphorically fenced off and now require most people to pay for its use.

We have organized modern society so that most individuals must sacrifice a lot of their labor, time, and even their health merely to survive, while a smaller number are allowed to do way more than survive without expending the same amount of labor, time or health. The idea of taxation was originally an extension of those instinctive societal norms to keep us taking care of each other, but we’ve weaponized them in a way that instead allows some people to not just avoid doing their fair share, but to exploit that rest.

It can be argued (and has been) that the modern artificial notion of private property isn’t merely a bad idea, it is a deadly idea–for the majority of people. It is mathematically impossible for someone to become fabulously wealthy without exploiting and effectively stealing the value generated by hundred, thousands, or more individuals. And the system that has created that wealth is built on the notion that the wealth of those who have it must constantly expand, which means more and more exploitation of everyone else, which eventually means killing everyone else… and when there is no one left to exploit, the whole thing will collapse.

We have got to figure out how to unweaponize these systems, and make the parasites stop leeching off of everyone else, and actually pay their fair share to their fellow humans. Ignoring the problem is a recipe fo extinction.

And no one wants extinction for breakfast.

It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion…

August is almost over and I’m trying not to freak out at how fast the year has gone. Along with trying to maintain a reasonable level of anxiety (rather than completely falling about) as the political situation and the related pandemic and civil situations continue to get worse, dealing with the stresses at work, and so on. I keep meaning to write about things more mundane and personal that all the news related and sci fi related stuff that has been dominating this blog for the last many weeks. Let’s see if I can pull that off!

One of the challenges of me working from home every work day (and because of being in a high risk group the current guidelines are that I try to avoid going shopping et cetera more than once a week) has been just trying to keep track of what day of the week it is and what time it is and what I’m supposed to be doing on particular days.

Being home constantly does strange things to my notions of housework, as well.

For instance, I was finding myself getting more and more annoyed at how cluttered two parts of the kitchen counter were all the time. It was on either side of the sink, making it difficult to deal with dishes and the dishwasher, because there was always the chore of assessing and dealing with the clutter before I could get to the chore I had gone into the kitchen to do in the first place. And given how easily I distract myself and go down metaphorical rabbits holes and forget why I went into a particular room in the best of circumstances, this was getting much worse.

One day I made myself stop and look at all the clutter and ask myself why it was there. A small part of it is that both my husband and I have a habit of drinking multiple glasses of water a day, and so each of us has a glass or mug that sits next to the sink to be reused through out the day, then put in the dishwasher and a new one is used the next day.

But that was a miniscule part of the problem. A lot of the clutter were things that aren’t dishwasher safe. We have a rather lot of those. And what I realized was happening day after day was that I’d notice several of them beside the sink, and then not be certain if they had been washed out or not, so I would wash it out, and since and then I would sit it on the counter to dry… and later in the day Michael might to exactly the same thing, so I was come in and notice that one of the plastic water pitchers, for instance, which I thought I’d washed in the morning, is wet again. So I’d leave it. But then the next day I would find myself worrying that maybe I was mixing up a time it had been rinsed and waiting to dry a week ago, so I’d wash it again.

Several other things were items that don’t normally go in the cabinet after being washed, but instead have a spot in the pantry, which is slightly more work to get into, and so they were stuck in a similar cycle. And I realized there was a simple solution that we just hadn’t thought to put in place. So I bought one of those folder bamboo dish racks, cleaned everything and towel dried some things and put everything away.

The rack takes up one of the two places that used to be filled with random clutter all the time, but not the space is serving a purpose. If something in the rack and is dry, neither of us has to worry that it hasn’t been cleaned. We put it away, hand wash anything else that is on the other side of the sink, put in in the rack, and the rest of the counter is available for whatever.

It shouldn’t have taken me several months of being frustrated to think of that, I know.

So, we have replaced a bad habit with a more useful one, which is good. But I noticed a little wrinkle that has developed since. Every Sunday I put all the parts of the coffee maker that are dishwasher safe in the dishwasher and run in. I get down one of the antique bone china tea cups (which belonged to my late first husband’s grandmother), a saucer, and my infusing pot, and I drink tea all day instead of coffee.

At the end of the day I wash out the teacup and saucer and put them on the rack to dry, right? And the pot goes into the dishwahser when the coffee maker (and other cleaned dishes) come out. Throughout the week my husband and I wash other things, take dried items from the rack and them away… except we both keep leaving the teacup and saucer in the rack all week.

Most Sundays when I get ready to make tea, I put the teacup and saucer that have been sitting in the rack all week in the cupboard, each on the bottom of their respective stacks, and take another from the top of the stacks down to make tea. The latter part because I’m justifying hanging on to these small number of specialized dishes for all the years since Ray died by making sure I rotate so that all of them get used regularly.

Now, where I keep the teacups and saucers is on a high shelf in one of the higher cabinets precisely because unlike many other dishes and utensils they aren’t used every day. So I suspect I’m not putting them away sooner is because it’s fractionally more work. And I strong suspect Michael doesn’t want to put them away for fear that he’ll mess up my rotation system.

And it’s not really a conscious decision. At some point after we’d had the rack for a couple of weeks, I just started putting away everything on the rack except the cup and saucer, and now it’s like my brain literally doesn’t perceive them as being a separate object from the rack itself until the day that I go to make a cup of tea.

I know that it’s a very minor glitch in our improved habits on this issue. It just… when I notice that my brain isn’t doing what I want it to do, I get tetchy.

Sometimes we leap, sometimes we fall, sometimes we’re pushed…

Ouch!

Every time I’ve tried to finish a blog post this week it has turned into a meandering ramble that I’m not sure anyone would want to read. Of course, I’m never sure that anything I decide to write is going to be of interest to anyone else. I am frequently surprised by which posts get lots of clicks and which don’t. So it’s a little silly to be worried that much. Yes, I have repeated the writing rule that it is a sin to waste the reader’s time, but that doesn’t mean that everything one writes must absolutely appeal to every one. It means that if the reader follows you on the journey, the journey should entertain in some way, and there needs to be a pay off of some sort.

I am continually amused at how strangely our minds work. For example, a few weeks ago a friend was talking about crime being up in his neighborhood. I expressed surprise and mentioned that just the day before I had listened to a story on NPR about how overall crime has gone down quite a bit during the pandemic, with a few specific exceptions, such as property crimes in commercial building that are mostly deserted because so many white color workers are working from home.

This prompted the friend to specify that by crime what he meant was specifically people breaking into cars. Which of course is precisely the type of crime that the NPR story said was the exception: property crimes that are less risky than usual because people are staying inside. It took me a minute of thinking to realize that car prowls would also be up, during which time I rambled more about the overall crime rates being down, and how I would only use the phrase “crime is up” if it were multiple categories of crime—but then I am rather pedantic.

The next morning I was getting a cup of coffee while my work laptop was booting up in the other room, and as has become my habit, I paused at the dining room window to look down and confirm that our car was still parked in our spot, windows intact and so on.

Which is when I had to laugh at myself.

See, that specific habit started back in late March when I read a news story that the local police departments had found a number of abandoned cars that the owners hadn’t even realized at been stolen because people were staying home and many couldn’t see their driveway from most windows in their home. Which is when I started the habit of every morning looking out the window to confirm our car was there.

Checking the car every morning had become such a habit that the reason had fallen off the normal shelves of memory and then sunk into the mist in the back of my mind. Such that even when my friend had mentioned car prowls being on the increase, it didn’t remind me of that news story. You would think that one’s memory would correlate such things. But apparently not.

This made me think about something I was reading on an acquaintance’s blog recently. A couple weeks ago we learned that people in the White House made the explicit decision (and documented the discussion) that since the early COVID outbreaks were in Blue States, that the Feds didn’t need to do anything. All the people dying would be in states that will never vote for Trump, anyway, and Trump could blame the democratic governors of those states.

That’s genocide. That is a war crime. That is a decision to let voters you perceive as not yours die from a preventable cause.

And the President only changed his tune and started urging people to at least wear masks when the virus spread to Red States. There was even a graphic that showed that the highest COVID deaths were happening in districts that previously voted for him.

And while several of us commented on that at the time (some of us with great outrage…) it barely lasted as a blip in the national media consciousness. Let alone most of the public. Because since Day One this administration has done many illegal and immoral and outrageous things. Those of us who care literally can’t keep up. How do we expect people who aren’t already news junkies to keep up?

The outrage and the illegality became this constant stream and eventually all of it fades to just being white noise. Crap is pushed from our collective consciousness by the ever-growing stream of more crap.

And I wish I had a solution or an answer to this problem. I just feel like the person implied in the meme I attached above: laying on the ground damaged from the fall, looking up at the cats how pushed me, stunned and unsure how to proceed.

Supreme Court rules that existing federal law prohibits LGBTQ discrimination in workplace

This is a recreation of one the the two flags Gilbert Baker orignally created from Pride.

This is a recreation of one the the two flags Gilbert Baker orignally created from Pride.

I must admit, I did not expect there to be good news for queer people from the Supreme Court this year. The best I hoped for is that things wouldn’t get substantially worse. So when I saw the first headline this morning, I didn’t believe it: The US Supreme Court Just Ruled In Favor Of Protecting LGBTQ Workers
. I figured this had to be a joke. No way would this court, with two Trump-appointed arch conservatives on it, rule in favor of queer people! Right?

Yet, it did. And one of Trump’s appointees wrote the opinion!

It’s a 6-3 ruling, which is also unexpected. I want to pause here to point out that one of the rationalizations many Republican politicians have been giving for supporting Trump was that he had promised to appoint conservative judges that would start taking rights away from all us queer people. And one of those justices and just voted the other way. What was it a particular angel said? Oh, yes: “Evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction.”

One thing that is important to note about this decision is that it is about interpretation of legislation. This ruling does not assert that this is about a constitutional principal. So, if Congress passed a law amending the Civil Rights act of 1964 to change the verbiage of this section of the act (and whoever is President at the time of such passage signs it into law), this could all go away.

Clearly the Democrats currently controlling the House of Representatives aren’t going to vote for such a change, so there isn’t an immediate danger. But it is worth remembering this.

“Gay people exist. There is nothing we can do with public policy that makes more of us exist or less of us exist. You guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to essentially demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist, but you don't make any less of us exist. You just are arguing in favor of discrimination. Politics with Jared and Dave”

Gay people exist…

On the other hand, this case would appear to invalidate the reasoning the Trump administration used for writing the anti-trans rule that was announced on Friday. The policy that health care providers can discriminate against transgender people relies on the argument that when the Affordable Care Act says providers can not discriminate against an individual based on sex, that the term “sex” does not include gender identity. But today’s ruling says the opposite: it lays out that discrimination on the basis of sex does include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The reasoning is summed up in this sentence from the majority opinion: “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.”

Now, this doesn’t settle everything, and I’m sure there are going to be multiple legal challenges involving this, but I think we should all take a moment to savor a win.

Today’s announcements from the Supreme Court had two more pieces of bad news for Trump and his alt-right cronies:

California’s ‘sanctuary’ cities rules stay in place after Supreme Court rejects Trump’s challenge.

Gun-Rights Appeals Turned Away by U.S. Supreme Court. There were ten different cases pending before the court where the court could have significantly expanded the definition of the right to bear arms and therefore invalidate some state restrictions. The court turned all of those away, leaving those restrictions in place for now (and signaling that if other states enacted the same restrictions, they would likely be left intact, as well).

Adventures in feeding the birds and squirrels… and some blogging weirdness

Three years ago we moved from where we had been living in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle to this place just north of Seattle. While we had use of two flower beds and part of the yard at the old place, there hadn’t been a good spot to put up a bird feeder. Here, we don’t have a yard, but we have our “veranda” a deck 38’ long and 5’ wide, shaded by tall pine trees, and three stories above the ground. I supplemented out less-than a dozen flower pots with a bunch more pots and planters, so I have plenty of flowers… and I got a bird feeder to hang from the eave of the veranda.

I’ve been watching the birds ever since.

Before the current situation, I was only home during the daytime when I could see the birds three or four days out of most weeks. But since February I have been here every day. And the birds and squirrels have just gotten more interesting.

I no longer have just one bird feeder. I have the big seed feeder, a suet cage, a hummingbird feeder, and a squirrel feeder.

The squirrel feeder is attached at floor level, as it were, and is almost always stocked with dried pumpkin seeds (which are more nutritionally useful for squirrels than either birdseed or peanuts). The squirrel feeder has a hinged lid system that is supposed to thwart crows and jays and the like. So far I’ve never seen those birds at the feeder.

Part of the purpose of the separate squirrel feeder is to give the squirrels something easier to get to than the seed feeder, to keep them from spilling half the seed out of the feeder to get the few bits they are actually interested in. It mostly works.

I have gotten used to both the sounds of the many chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and the occasional finches at the feeder. The one or two crows that are too big for the feeder but like to forage on the deck under the feeder, and the sound of the lid of the squirrel feeder opening and closing.

There are at least three squirrels that regularly come to our deck. I know this because sometimes all three are here at the same time. The very fluffy tailed squirrels I can’t tell from each other. But one squirrel—the troublemaker I named Ivan back when he was terrorizing the Cooper’s Hawk that decided to hang out and eat the smaller birds for a month autumn before last—is easy to distinguish if you can see his tail, because it is the most bedraggled excuse for a squirrel tail you will ever see.

One morning earlier this week I was working, only passingly aware of the chirping of some birds outside and the irregular sound of the squirrel feeder lid going up and down. Suddenly, I heard some rapid and unfamiliar animal/bird sounds. I looked up in time to see the chickadees and juncos that had been at the feeder and under the deck fleeing. An millisecond later I saw one of the squirrels leap from the deck to a branch, followed by a crow that appeared to be trying to eat the squirrel!?

The crow was so closely chasing the squirrel that I couldn’t see the tail and identify whether it was Ivan or one of the others. Whichever squirrel it was, they fled into the pine needles up the branch. The crow swooped away, flying high in the sky, but then seconds later it dove back at the spot on the branch the squirrel had been at a moment before. It didn’t catch the squirrel, but swooped away and looped up to land on some branches above.

The squirrel is nowhere to be seen.

By this point I have set my work laptop aside and I’m standing at the window, trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

A few seconds later the squirrel’s head peeked out of dense cluster of sub-branches on another branch. Crow is still hopping between a few bare branches, head snapping back and forth as if scanning.

The squirrel remains motionless.

After a minute, the crow flies off. Squirrel doesn’t move for a bit, then pulls back and vanishes into the green. I shrug and go back to work.

About five minutes later I hear the tell-tale sound of the squirrel feeder lid—except much quieter than normal. So I stand up to look again. Ivan (I can clearly see his tail, now) is sitting by the feeder eating a pumpkin seed. When he finishes, he very slowly pushes the lid open, sticks his head in to get another seed, and then even more slowly pulls back, so the lid closes so gently that it makes a much softer sound than I’ve ever heard it.

I watch him repeat this careful, more quiet eating process for a minute, then I go back to work.

Later, I happen to look up and see Ivan the rail. I notice that when Ivan moves along the rail, he hobbles on three legs, holding is left forepaw up as if injured. He later makes a leap into the tree all right. I see him throughout the rest of the day poking about on the deck, sometimes using all four legs, but often limping.

I have no idea what was going on. The crow’s trajectory definitely started on the deck near the squirrel feeder, which is up against the wall. So the crow had to be walking around on the deck when whatever happened, happened.

So far since the incident, Ivan continues to open and closer the feeder very slowly, so clearly he’s trying to be quiet in hopes the crow won’t come back.


Edited to Add: So I went to check something else on my blog, and I saw the first draft of this post was what was showing, not the final with the meme… I had to restore a saved copy to get the post back. I reposted it… but a DIFFERENT draft was what was visible after that. So, I’m trying re-posted the whole thing as a new post, and if that works, will edit the other one…

Software is weird (or, I don’t know if I was the fumble fingers or if the backend was)

If you followed a link expecting a post about birds and squirrels: Click here.

I wrote a blog post based on some texts that I sent to friends describing a weird thing that happened outside my window. I re-wrote and expanded the text more than a bit, and added a silly meme. I scheduled it to post in the morning and went to bed. The next morning I went to check something else on my blog, and saw that the post had gone live… except it was just the unedited text from the text messages. No meme picture, no corrected typos, et cetera.

I had to restore a saved copy to get the post back. I reposted it… but a DIFFERENT draft was what was visible after that. So I copied the text and code from the restored draft and made a new post.

I’m going to try replacing the weird post with this text. Who knows what will actually appear to the web when I click update.

Why I hate hay fever reason #6529 (plus reason 3786 & 3113 & 2488 & 2149 & 1364, and don’t forget #47)

icanhascheeseburger.come

Except I’m too grumpy to remember to say please.

I was going to have a new entry in my why I love sf/f series today, but I needed to have time and energy to finish it Wednesday night, and that didn’t happen. I felt rotten all day Wednesday. I don’t want to get into all the symptoms, but not all of them are the sorts most people would associate with hay fever, and while some of them might happen if one has contracted the novel coronavirus…. and many weren’t. I didn’t have what any medical person (except my GP of more than 2 decades) would consider a fever—normally my body temperature ranges from 94-point-something to about 97-point-something if I’m not sick. My temperature very rarely goes above 98 unless I’m sick.

So for the last few days I had some weird symptoms, and yesterday they intensified and my temperature kept running above 98. And, as I said, I just felt bad overall. Very early after waking up I got some very stressful (and irritating) news at work, and the work day just kept getting more and more stressful. Wednesday is what I usually call my meeting hell day, anyway, with three half-hour meetings and two one-hour meetings every Wednesday (frequently running over), plus another one hour meeting on alternate Wednesday. Yesterday had the biweekly meeting plus an urgent extra meeting. And it was a day I was supposed to release a documentation set. Which means I’m trying to keep working during every meeting.

All of which contributed to the stress. And since the stress started so early in the day, there was no way to know how much of my feeling rotten was because of yet another day of moderate-high pollen count kicking my allergies up, how much because I had caught some kind of bug, and how much was because of the stress.

I got through the day. I hit my deadline. Some compromises were agreed to for some of the infuriating issues. And I was exhausted and still feeling rotten. I had planned to attend the Virtual Silent Reading Party again. What I actually did, after the takeout my husband picked up for us for dinner, was log into the party, then curl up with pillows and a blanket where I could hear the piano music…. and slept for a bit over four hours.

When I woke up, my temperature was back down to 97.3. I didn’t feel good, but I felt a whole lot less awful. I was awake for a while and tried to finish the blog post, but I just couldn’t string words together. This morning when I woke up, many of the symptoms had subsided. My temperature was 96.1. I felt much, much better.

The pollen count today is much lower today than yesterday.

The game that I usually wind up playing for the ten-ish months out of most years that pollen, spore, and/or mold counts are high enough to trigger my hay fever is “Cold or Allergies?” The first few days of even a severe cold are impossible to distinguish from a bad hay fever day. Because on a bad hay fever day I won’t just have sinus congestion and itchy eyes. I can have a cough. I can have gastrointestinal symptoms.

This year the game is “Cold, COVID, or Allergies?” And it’s just about every single day since early February. And it’s exhausting.

I still don’t know what was going on yesterday. Did I catch a bug when I went out to pick up a prescription a few days before? A minor virus that only took my body a couple of days to defeat? Was that plus the hay fever and the stress the whole explanation? Did I catch something worse than a minor virus, one that made me feel sick for a few days and now the symptoms are subsiding not because I’ve completely over come it. So am I contagious with whatever it is?

I don’t know. Fortunately since I’m already working from home, washing my hands a bazillion times a day, wearing a mask whenever I go out, and so forth, I’m not likely to infect anyone if I do have something, whatever it is…

Knock wood.

Talking to myself – it’s how some of us think, okay?

“If you see me talking to myself, do not disturb. I'm having a staff meeting.”

(Click to embiggen)

I don’t know how young I was, precisely, when my parents decided to talk to me about my imaginary friend. It was sometime before I started kindergarten, but I don’t know how long. I also don’t know if either of them thought I was already too old for that sort of thing, because the conversation very quickly went south, as I explained, quite emphatically, that I didn’t have an imaginary friend. I was talking, I said, to the voices in my head.

That was not a phrase my dad was at ALL happy to hear come out of his son’s mouth.

What I understood, even then, was that the voices were different parts of me. I was processing things by having a discussion with myself. I knew that the voices weren’t really voices. I knew that the voices were just different ways of looking at the situation I was thinking about or considering. I didn’t think that I was getting messages from god or something. I knew that all I was doing was thinking.

But I didn’t quite have the conceptual framework to explain that. So what my dad perceived was that I was confessing to suffering from severe delusions or some other mental illness… and you may recall from some earlier blog posts about my evil grandmother, Dad was raised by a woman who believed two contradictory myths about mental illness: 1) that it isn’t a real illness, and 2) mental illness was a form of immorality that was evidence of bad blood in a family. And my evil grandmother had opposed my parents’ relationship (and tried to engineer a divorce after they married many times), because she believed my mom’s family was nothing but bad blood (with the odd exception of one maternal great-grandmother that I have never quite unpacked).

In short, Dad went ballistic. I was never, under any circumstances, to tell another person about these voices! And if he caught me talking to myself in circumstances where anyone outside the immediate family heard, I would be punished. And yes, than means that several times over my elementary school career, I got a beating because a teacher mentioned at parent-teacher conference or report guard about me talking to myself at school or on the playground.

It wasn’t something I was doing on purpose. Being inside my head is like sitting in a crowded conference room. There are constant conversations going on inside there about everything from what I am seeing or listening to at the time, any number of work and personal projects, anything I have read recently, and so on.

No amount of shaming and beating would stop my brain from working that way.

I did become increasingly careful about trying to keep the conversations inside my head. To this day, under many circumstances, if someone overhears me talking to myself, I feel extremely embarrassed.

But inside my head, the committee just keeps going on.

And the voices have their own personalities, usually represented by taking on the voice of various actors/characters from various movies/TV shows/et cetera. Some have changed. For most of my childhood and well into my twenties, the practical and sensible voice sounded like Walter Cronkite. Somewhere around season three or four of Star Trek: the Next Generation that voice morphed into Patrick Stewart’s voice.

The most dramatic change was the voice that thinks most of the socially inappropriate and sexual innuendo-laden thoughts. From puberty until one particular fateful night in my late teens, the voice always sounding like comedic actor, Paul Lynde. Then, when two older friends took me to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time, suddenly that voice became Tim Curry as Dr Frank N Furter and it has never changed.

I started writing at a fairly early age, too (5 year old me tried to write a collection of stories based on my stuffed animals, entitled “Uncle Bunnys” {note misspelling} which thankfully is lost to the mists of time). And as I began creating my own stories, various characters I created became new voices in my head. And some of them love commenting on my real life, so I don’t just hear them when I’m thinking about stories or trying to write them.

They also, I should note, love to comment on the actions of fictional characters in any movie, show, or story that I take in.

The worst is when I am working on one of my one stories, and then a character of my own that doesn’t even exist in that world feels the need to chime in and tell the character I’m writing at the moment that they are doing it wrong. Whatever it is.

For many years I have had to warn new co-workers that when I’m deep in a problem, I mutter to myself a lot. And if the computer or software I’m working with (or something I’m reading) vexes me, my muttering swears like a sailor. One coworker I shared a cube wall with for a few years laughed when I warned him, “Join the club!” And yes, after that we got in the habit of commenting on each other’s muttered swearing when we heard it.

Some years ago when I was explaining this, someone asked how it was possible to think if there are voices always going on. I tried re-explaining that the voices were me thinking, but they didn’t quite get it. So I wound up asking a question that I’m sure he thought was me being flippant: “How on earth to you manage it without any voices?”

More seriously, I think the part I was failing to convey is that when I get in a groove on a task, most of the voices go quiet. I’ve made a decision and now I’m executing it.

I also realized that this might be why I’ve have always done a better job at writing or drawing or painting if I’m listening to music. It’s like any of the excess processing power my brain might otherwise use to second guess what I’m doing has been taken up with processing the song I’m listening to.

But that’s just a guess. In the end, it’s all just me.

And seriously, I have a hard time understanding sometimes how anyone whose brains don’t work this way manage to figure anything out.

“You’re going that way”

Interior: Gene’s mind, wee small hours of Saturday morning.

I’m dreaming. I’m hanging out with a friend who died not quite two years ago.

We have a lovely talk about things I’m writing now, people we both care about, things I’m worrying about.

We went for a long walk in a lovely wooded area.

We stopped to sit somewhere and look at the view. One of my favorite pencils is sitting on a table. Along with a bunch of very small slips of paper.

I start writing. I write an entire… something. A scene? A story? I’m not sure.

I look up.

She smiles.

I tell her it’s all finished. Then I look down, and see that all of the slips of paper covered with my writing are in a small box, but all jumbled.

“You’ll have to put them back into order,” she says.

“I can do that now,” I say. I look back up.

She’s standing again. In different, but still comfy clothes. “Yes, but not here,” she says. She points into the woods. “I’m going this way.” She points behind me. “You’re going that way.”

I look, and there is an ordinary road. One I sort of recognize. It looks a bit like the winding road down a hill that I used to drive on a lot when I was a teen-ager. I had three different friends who lived on the hill above the town we all attended school in, back then.

There is a car. It has one of the Lyft light things in the front. There is a driver, but I can’t really see him.

“But I don’t want to go back,” I say.

“I’m going this way,” she repeats. “You’re going that way.”

And I can see down at the bottom of the road home: my home, now. Where Michael and all of our friends are waiting.

“Oh,” I say.

And I wake up.

(My subconscious is never subtle, you know?)

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