Tag Archive | life

Why I hate hay fever reason #6508

It is that time of year…

I’ve written before (many, many times) about the frustration at being unable to distinguish a really bad hay fever day from the early stages of a head cold. For a couple weeks the pollen count has been high or very high, so my hay fever has been pretty bad all of that time. By the middle of last week, in addition to the usual hay fever symptoms, I got two new ones the usually indicate more than just allergies are wrong: my blood sugar was suddenly all over the place, and I felt so thirsty that I couldn’t seem to get enough cold water in me. Either of those usually means that my immune system is fighting an actual bug, so I figured that I’d caught a cold, right?

Friday night/Saturday morning I could not stay asleep. I would wake up because I felt too hot and kicking off blankets hadn’t helped. Then after dozing for a while I wake up and felt like I was freezing. So Saturday morning I checked my blood sugar, took my morning meds, and laid back down to try to get some sleep. By late afternoon I felt a lot better. We showered and walked to a nearby restaurant where a friend’s band was playing and had a good time. I thought that if it had been a cold, I was actually getting over it.

Again, I had trouble sleeping the next night, but Sunday went a lot better.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning Monday I woke up with a much worse sinus headache than I had had in a long time. I was so out of it that I stood in the bathroom for a while staring at the clock and trying to remember when I had taken the last set of anti-histamines and such and whether I could take some more.

The upshot is that when my alarm went off in the morning, I did my blood sugar, took my prescription meds, took the over-the-counter allergy meds, called in sick, and crawled back into bed.

Today was the first time in nearly a week that my blood sugar was behaving. If it goes out of kilter because of a cold or flu (a very common problem for people with diabetes), it going back to normal usually means that the virus has run its course.

Today headache, congestion, and red itchy eyes are all usual hay fever symptoms, just much, much worse than normal.

So I don’t know what’s going on? Did I have a cold on top of the allergies? And then by random chance as the cold was subsidying something new bloomed and my sinuses had a melt down?

I don’t know. But please pass me another kleenex. Thanks.

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Confessions of a Coffee Maniac

“Behind every successful person is a substantial amount of coffee.”

(click to embiggen)

I’ve written before about how growing up I thought of cans of Folgers ground coffee as high quality, and then the little cans of instant with pre-mixed flavored creamer that was sold under the name General Foods International Coffee were gourmet coffee. A coffee grinder was an antique appliance with a big hand crank on top that you would see from time to time, and the adults would explain that in the Old Days™ you had to grind your coffee yourself—and no one described it as if it were a good thing.

So I was a little surprised in my late teens when a couple of friends took me with them up to Seattle one weekend to go to a comic book shop there, and one of the other shops we went by was a place where they sold whole coffee beans, or if you wanted to buy a cup there, they would grind some beans and use what to me was a very weird looking machine to make you a single cup.

Advertisements like this convinced a lot of people to buy small tins of pre-mixed sugar, flavored non-dairy creamer, and instant coffee.

Advertisements like this convinced a lot of people to buy small tins of pre-mixed sugar, flavored non-dairy creamer, and instant coffee in the 70s.

It would be some years later, after I came to Seattle to attend university, that I would start seeing whole bean coffees on sale regularly in supermarkets, and it wasn’t until I got my second full time job after college, in an office building in downtown Seattle, that I would learn that the odd shop my friends had shown me was the oldest continuously running Starbucks in the world (not exactly the original, because that had been a few blocks away, but they had had to relocated when the building they were originally in was renovated).

The upshot is, that it wasn’t until my late twenties that I owned my own (electric) coffee grinder and started buying whole bean coffees of various varieties and blends. And soon I had opinions about which blends (and which companies that sold blends of roasted beans) were the best.

One type of coffee I became fond of were various Kona mixes. The Hawaiian islands are the only place within the U.S. where coffee can be grown, and the Kona district of the Big Island contains a large number of small farms most of which are still owned by individual families. The climate in that district produces coffee beans with a distinctive flavor. Because the area where it grows is restricted, the annual production is low, in comparison to coffees from other parts of the world, so there are laws defining when one can put the work Kona on a coffee blend.

Starbucks isn’t the only company to sell blends that consist of a small percentage of Kona beans mixed with other beans (usually Brazilian) that have been determined to compliment the flavor well. Pure, 100% Kona coffee is always sold at a premium price.

For years I was perfectly happy to purchase these Kona blends. Until one day, while shopping at Ballard Market (a store only two blocks from my home at the time) I saw bags of coffee called Wings of the Morning, pure Kona Coffee. And the canvas bag further indicated that the beans were grown on the Wings of the Morning Farm which was still owned and run by a family that had been growing coffee there for many generations. It was about $22 bucks for a bag, which was a bit steep (other whole bean coffee was often on sale for $7.99 per pound, as I recall) but I’d never had pure Kona before. So I bought it.

And I became quickly addicted. Because it was more expensive than my usual coffees, I tended to ration it. The $22 bag at the time contained only 14 ounces of coffee, not a full pound, which meant that it was even more expensive than I had originally realized, but it was so, so good!

As I said, I rationed it. I would only make a pot at most once a week. The rest of the time I used other coffees. Sometimes, yes, much cheaper Kona blends, though I’ve always liked switching between light roast coffees (Kona beans are usually lightly roasted) and very dark roast coffees. Over the next couple years I watched the price creep up, eventually reaching $29 for the 14 oz bag. I kept buying it, but continued to ration it.

Then the coffee vanished from the store. For several months there was no Wings of the Morning on the shelf. When I asked about it, I was told that some years the supply of coffee from an individual Kona farm will run out before the next year’s crop comes in. Then, one day I’m in the store by the coffee and I looked up and there it was! And it was back down to $22 for a bag! Yay!

It wasn’t until I was unpacking groceries at home that I noticed that the bag now said it only contained 12 ozs of beans. But it was still really good. And I had been without it so long, that I let myself make the coffee a little more often, because, it’s all right to treat yourself kindly, right?

Over the next couple years, the price crept up a bit faster than before, and I was feeling a little bit guilty. I had about half a bag at the house, and I almost bought a new bag, but the ghosts of my penny-pinching ancestors all seemed to be scolding me for unnecessary expenses. So I bought a pound of cheaper Kona blend instead. And the cheaper Kona blend was a perfectly fine coffee. I liked the coffee it produced. It wasn’t bad, it was good. It just wasn’t as remarkable as the Wings of the Morning.

It was as I was heading home with my purchases that I got an idea. The Kona blends usually contain about 10% Kona beans, while the rest of the blend is some other kind of coffee. What would happen if I mixed in a little bit more of Kona beans in the blend? Would it taste better than merely perfectly fine?

When I got home, I carefully cleaned out the coffee grinder. I measured out equal parts of the cheap Kona blend and the more expensive Wings of the Morning—just enough for one pot as an experiment, right?

I made the coffee, then sat down to try it.

It was not merely a perfectly fine cup of coffee, it was superb. Not as stupendous as pure Wings of the Morning, but definitely much better than the cheap Kona blend alone.

I took some of the cheap Kona blend and carefully mixed it with the remainder of my Wings of the Morning. I put the new mix in a bag that I labeled so I would know it was my blend. When that bag was about half empty, I bought a new bag of Wings of the Morning, I made myself one pot of pure Wings of the Morning (which produces a damn fine cup of coffee, let me assure you!), and then I blended the rest of the Wings of the Morning with my blend. Then, when I used about half of that up, I bought some other Kona blend to mix in. And from there on I started alternating.

When I get a new bag of the Wings of the Morning, I make myself one pot’s worth of coffee with it, then blend it. The last couple of years instead of really cheap Kona blend, I’ve been mixing it with Lowry’s Dark Roast Hawaiian, which isn’t really a very dark roast at all, but I find superior to the really cheap Kona blends.

The other thing this adventure has taught me is that many coffees can be improved with a bit of blending. A few years ago I picked up a new Starbucks blend and roast that was… um… well, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t very good. It was definitely worse than mediocre, to my taste buds. But it hadn’t been cheap, and those penny-pinching ancestors turn into a cacophony in my head if I even think of throwing out something like that just because it doesn’t taste great. And it occurred to me that it might be improved by blending with some cheap Kona. So I tried a single pot and darn, if the less than mediocre coffee didn’t turn into perfectly fine coffee once blended.

Earlier this year my husband (who doesn’t drink coffee at all, and usually only buys me coffee if he sees that one of the Christmas blends he knows I like has popped up in the store before I’ve bought any) picked up a two-pound bag of some coffee I had never heard of before at Costco. It wasn’t their Kirkland brand. I tried it, and well…

Okay, if you are a coffee drinker, I am sure you have experienced the phenomenon where a good cup of coffee turns into something icky tasting when it cools to room temperature? Remember that taste. That’s what this stuff tastes like when it is piping hot. And it just gets worse as it cools off. I even tried turning it into an iced coffee, but no, that was really really bad. If I added some creamer it was tolerable, but only just. And it it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried mixing it with a cheap Kona blend yet. Once again, something that wasn’t good was transformed into a perfectly fine cup of coffee, simply by blending in some Kona blend beans.

So I was able to use up the rest of that really big bag of coffee and actually enjoy drinking it. But, now that I’ve used it that up, well, I’ve indulged myself with Wings of the Morning two days in a row. I’ll blend it with some Dark Hawaiian for the rest of the bag, but every now and then, you need to reward yourself, you know?

Confessions of a bad son, part 3: the myth of regret

“Insensitive comments to suvivors of abuse: 'You need to give mothers a break because they tried their best.'  'You need to be the bigger person.' 'You're going to regret this when they are gone.' 'You are gong to understand when your own children to the same thing to you.'” - @theblacksheepsurvives

From @TheBlackSheepSurvices. Click to embiggen.

I was texting with a close relative this weekend. After the initial topic of conversation was nearly played out, they noted that when they checked their calendar just then, they realized the third anniversary of Dad’s death had passed recently. “I can’t believe I didn’t even notice it passing this year.” I had to confess that I hadn’t thought about it on the day, either. There was a point last week when I had thought about it, but it was in the context of the unexpected death of a co-worker.

Because I follow some blogs that focus on surviving abusive parents, I happened to see the graphic I’ve included above the same day this conversation happened. One of those example insensitive comments made me laugh—perhaps more than a bit sardonically. Because as soon as I read “You’re going to regret this when they are gone,” my immediate thought was how many people I would enjoy saying, “Every time you said that you were wrong. I absolutely do not regret cutting him out of my life at all.”

Before I go on, I should make a content warning. I’m going to be talking a bit about my abusive father, and some things he did… Read More…

Fumble fingers, again

If you’re here following a publishing link, I apologize. I was trying to save a draft of the unfinished post and clicked the wrong button.

Confessions of a bad son, part 3: the myth of regret is now published and available.

Snap, crackle, pop isn’t just about cereal

Tweet from @AaronLinguini: “*demon tries to inhabit my body* Demon: OUCH Me: yeah... Demon: WHAT THE HELL Me: I know Demon: EVERYTHING HURTS, WHY?? AND WHATS WRONG WITH THIS SHOULDER??? Me: idk man, can I offer you a mint?”

From Aaron Ansuini (@AaronLinguini). Click to embiggen.

Yeah, I used the graphic recently, but it’s appropriate. I need to do a real NorWesCon review this week, but today we’ll stick to one discovery I made.

On Monday morning, after our fourth night sleeping at the con, my husband was up and had already carried some things out to the car when I woke up. Most other mornings he had gotten up before me, gotten dressed, ran off to do his staff job, and sometimes came back as I was getting moving to see if I wanted to go to breakfast. So Monday was the first morning he was there the entire time I was doing my initial get up and get ready shuffle.

He kept expressing concern, asking if I was all right, a lot during the process. I attributed it to him feeling tired because he never sleeps well away from home, and he had been very busy all weekend. So I thought it was a bit of projection: I didn’t feel quite right, so he assumed I didn’t, either.

But when we were almost done loading the car, he asked again, with a really concerned tone of voice. So I asked him did I look bad? Why was he asked.

“You were complaining a lot while moving around this morning.”

I explained that that was just the usual thing: my joints are always stiff when I first wake up until I’ve been moving around for a while. And I always mutter to myself while doing certain tasks. “I just had that in my hand a minute ago… oh, there you are!” and so on.

“You weren’t just groaning! You were dropped the F-bomb several times”

And I had an epiphany. On weekdays, he leaves for work about three hours before my alarm goes off. Then on weekends, he sleeps in. So he’s almost never around during that time when I’m just getting up and moving. Apparently in the last couple years I’ve gone from just groaning when I reach for something and my shoulder protests. I now mutter bad words along with the groaning.

Now, I probably did it a bit more than usual Monday, because I also don’t sleep very well when I’m not in my own bed, so by the fourth night of sleeping at the hotel, I was also feeling less than fully rested. I was also trying to pack, which meant lifting and moving a lot more things than I’m usually handling during a typical get-up-and-get-ready-for-work routine.

The truth is I am getting older, and parts of my body just don’t work as well as they used to. I own several folding canes and keep them stashed around. This started in the early days of my pre-diabetic treatment. When I started eating a low-carb diet I started having random gout flare-ups where suddenly just trying to walk on whichever foot was having the flare-up was extremely painful. I almost never have random flare-ups any more, thanks to more adjustments to my diet and medications, but some days the ankle that had all the torn tendons a few years ago starts hurting when I put weight on it. Or the knee (in the other leg) that got banged up really bad a couple of different times gets a little unreliable.

Those are more likely to happen in certain kinds of weather, or when there has been a significant weather change. Someone watching might notice me having a slight limp on one side or the other for part of a day, or if it gets bad, I get out one of the canes.

Similarly, because of scar tissue in one inner ear, when there are fast changes in the local barometric pressure, I get to hear all sorts of buzzes and clicks and whistles and pops on one side only. That one can get particularly surreal, since ordinarily that’s the ear I can barely hear anything with.

Of course, I’m not the only person who mutters while doing things. Michael does it, too, and it can get particularly comedic if we’re both hurrying around the house trying to get something done. “What did you say?” “Nothing, just talking to myself.” Over and over and over again.

When we got home and we were both doing it again while unpacking–it was worse because home is much bigger than the hotel room, and so we’re often further apart and in different rooms making it even harder to tell whether the other person is trying to get our attention, or just talking to themself. I had to tease him about it, particularly since today is his birthday. For the next five months, he’s only nine years younger than me, instead of the usual ten.

Catching up with me!

The wheel of time keeps turning, but never enough to make fresh coffee while rushing to get ready for work

Tweet from @AaronLinguini: “*demon tries to inhabit my body* Demon: OUCH Me: yeah... Demon: WHAT THE HELL Me: I know Demon: EVERYTHING HURTS, WHY?? AND WHATS WRONG WITH THIS SHOULDER??? Me: idk man, can I offer you a mint?”

From Aaron Ansuini (@AaronLinguini). Click to embiggen.

I found a meme some time ago of the text from the tweet pictured here, but just white text on black and no attribution. It been sitting in my “For Blog Posts” folder for a while. Because this weekend I kept getting more twinges in various joints than usual, I kept thinking about it and that maybe I should do a post about that sort of thing. Anyway, I’m happy that I seem to have found the source of the text, as some others who have shared it have attributed it to Aaron Ansuini on twitter, so I replaced the black graphic with a screenshot, because if Aaron is the one who came up with this, they deserve the credit!

When I first saw it, I immediately wanted to do my own version, which would go something like this:

*demon tries to inhabit my body*
Demon: OUCH
Me: Yeah…
Demon: WHAT THE HELL?
Me: Welcome to my world, buddy!
Demon: EVERYTHING HURTS, WHY?? AND WHATS WRONG WITH YOUR SHOULDER???
Me: Which one?
Demon: WHAT? *moves one arm, then the other* WHAT THE HELL? BOTH?
Me: Left shoulder is because of broken collar bone from a beating from my Dad when I was ten.
Demon: BEATING? TEN?
Me: Right shoulder was shattered in a bicycle crash when I was forty-one and should have known better. So that one is on me.
Demon: *grabs a pencil* I NEED TO WRITE THIS DOWN… WHAT THE HELL? HOW DID YOUR WRIST DO THAT? AND WHY ARE SOME OF THE FINGERS NUMB?
Me: That’s kind of a funny one. Horse stepped on my right hand when I was 14 helping repair a stable floor with my grandpa. My younger cousin was supposed to be keeping the horse outside, see…
Demon: *moves fingers again* BONES SHOULDN’T DO THAT!
Me: I learned years later that the doctors should have put a pin in my elbow after stitching the hand back up and putting the braces and cast on, so I couldn’t move the wrist bones while they were trying to heal. They didn’t even tell me not to try to do things with the hand…
Demon: WHY WOULDN’T DOCTORS TELL YOU THAT?
Me: I mean, I was 14 years old, probably in shock, and they gave me stuff for the pain. So maybe I missed some things. Fortunately I’m ambidextrous, though since most of the school desks weren’t built for lefties, I didn’t have much practice writing with my left hand before that, so my writing was even sloppier on that side. And then, of course, there was Mr. Stahlecker, the geography teacher.
Demon: WHAT DID HE DO?
Me: Yelled at me for doing my work with my left hand. Said my right hand wouldn’t heal if I didn’t use it. Maybe if the doctors had told me not to use it I could have told him. But he probably would have scoffed and given me more detention. I mean like he did when I told him it hurt to try to write with the right hand.
Demon: DETENTION FOR BEING IN PAIN?
Me: Well, he said it was for talking back. But, yeah, basically. He was a real piece of work. Kept a swear jar on his desk and made us put money in it if he thought he heard us mutter a dirty word? But he was also the assistant basketball coach, and he called us faggots any time any of us failed to do something during practice.
Demon: WHAT THE FUCK?
Me: I’m kind of disappointed you don’t know all this. I mean, I always figured that the redneck American public school social environment had to be designed in Hell.
Demon: DON’T TRY TO BLAME ME FOR THAT!
Me: I suppose next you’re going to tell me that arthritis and gout aren’t plagues from Hell, either?
Demon: OH, THAT’S JUST BIOLOGY! TECHNICALLY HEAVEN’S FAULT, SINCE THEY SET UP THE PARAMETERS OF CREATION AND… WAIT, SO THE ARTHRITIS IS WHY MOST OF THESE THINGS HURT?
Me: Actually, going by the tests, I barely have any arthritis, yet. But, they say the damaged joints show it first, and it just gets worse everywhere over time.
Demon: AND YOU HAVE GOUT, TOO?
Me: Don’t worry, if you just remember to drink at least one glass of water every hour you’re awake, and take the little white pill each night, it’s almost never a problem.
Demon: *reaches for the pill minder* WHICH PILL… WAIT, WHAT ARE ALL OF THESE FOR?
Me: Oh, this and that… I can go over all of it if you want.
Demon: AND DID YOU SAY A GLASS OF WATER EVERY HOUR? EVERY HOUR?? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WREAK EVIL ON THE WORLD IF I HAVE TO TRACK DOWN A GLASS OF WATER EVERY HOUR?
Me: Don’t forget, you’re going to be needing to find a bathroom just about every hour, too.
Demon: THAT’S INSANE! AND EVERYTIME I TRY TO DO ANYTHING *waves one arm wildly* OUCH! I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS!?
Me: You get used to it.
DEMON: …
Me: I have some dark chocolate squirreled away if that would make you feel better.
Demon: I REFUSE!
Me: I was just offering.
Demon: NO, I MEAN, I REFUSE THIS ASSIGNMENT! THIS ISN’T A POSSESSION, THIS IS UNSAFE WORKING CONDITIONS! THIS BODY IS A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT! I’M GOING TO GO FIND MY SHOP STEWARD AND LODGE A COMPLAINT WITH LOWER MANAGEMENT!
Me: If that’s what you think is best!
Demon: DAMN RIGHT I DO! *starts to withdraw from the body*
Me: Sorry it didn’t work out.
Demon: *pauses* WAIT, YOU SAID DARK CHOCOLATE?
Me: Would you like some for the road?
Demon: IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I HAD ANY WHILE I WAS WEARING HUMAN TASTE BUDS, SO, YEAH… JUST ONE BITE.
Me: Sure!
Demon: *eats chocolate, sighs appreciatively* I BETTER GO.
Me: Good luck with the complaint!
Demon: UM, YEAH, THANKS. *withdraws and vanishes in a puff of sulphuric smoke*
Me: *coughs* Gee, we never even got to the hay fever…

Carmeggeddon! Viadoom! (Or maybe not)

Oh, Homer!

A couple weeks ago every local news site, local TV and radio station, and neighborhood blog was filled with dire warnings about how horrible traffic was going to be when the rickety elevated highway (known as the Viaduct) was finally closed and the final work would be done to connect a highway and other roads to our new gigantic tunnel. Because state and local transportation departments were using the term “maximum constraint” some folks have been calling it the Seattle Squeeze.

One of the local stations had a more pessimistic term: Viadoom! They used it in stories leading up to the closure, and during the first two or three business days after the closure the stories were headlined with “Day 1 of Viadoom” and “On Day 2 of Viadoom…”

We are now in week two of the Squeeze and so far, traffic has not been apocalyptically bad. No one wants to be the first reporter or blogger to say those fears were overblown, because the situation could get worse. The current conventional wisdom is the the first week went okay because some people are still on holiday break, many commuters are working from home, others who normally drive have switched to transit and/or biking. But many are convinced that most of those people are either going to get “fed up” with transit or will decide that because traffic has only been a little heavier than normal that there is no problem and they’ll all hop back into their cars.

Maybe they will. But I think the fears were always overwrought. For one, traffic analysis and computer simulations had shown—back when a replacement for the elevated part of the highway was being debated more than ten years ago—that all the traffic could be diverted to surface streets without causing gridlock. The horrible paralyzing gridlock that happens from time to time when there is a serious accident on that highway is because people are caught by surprise and are already on routes feeding to the unexpectedly blocked road when things go bad.

Those simulations also assumed that the number of cars being driven each day would be decreasing (because things were already trending that way). Lots of people were skeptical of that. Some thought the downward trend was temporary or something. Guess what? Single car ridership has declined faster than those simulations assumed. Many more people are already taking transit, carpooling, telecommuting, and so forth than before.

Other folks are focusing on the fact that the replacement tunnel has less capacity that the old viaduct, and that it’s going to be at least a couple more years before we have finished removing the old structure and making street improvements along its old route. There is also a big worry that, because the tunnel will be tolled, too many people will avoid it to avoid the tolls.

Yeah, while construction is disrupting other streets, things will happen. But anyone who has lived or worked in Seattle for any length of time already knows that there are only two seasons here: Rainy Season and Construction Season. We manage to keep getting around during Construction Season.

It’s never pleasant to be stuck in traffic. When traffic becomes persistently bad, people change their behavior. We try to find ways to work around it. We adapt. Well, most of us do. There are those whackos who decide, instead, to file initiatives to try to repeal or financially cripple big transit projects because they are so convinced they have a god-given right to drive an enormous gas-guzzling behemoth all by themselves and dang it, the state should just make the roads wider so they can do things the way they always have. I hate those guys.

I’ve been riding the bus to work for over 30 years. Yes, I have amusing stories to tell of some misadventures and unpleasant people I have encountered on the bus. But those rare times that I have driven instead of taking the bus have also led to stories about misadventures and reckless drivers. Because if you’re in your car, you’re surrounded by people just as much as you would be on the bus—it’s just that each of them is armed with a ton of glass, steel, and composites. And maybe you feel like you’re in control in your car in a way that you aren’t on the bus or train. But if there’s an accident up ahead, and you’re stuck in the middle lane of a long bridge, you don’t have any more control than the passengers in a bus.

Anyway, I think it is mildly funny that, so far, Viadoom hasn’t materialized. The station that was using the term has stopped posting daily stories detailing how the commute went, because each day there has been nothing to report. And really, how many times can you say with a straight face, “None of the bad things we predicted have happened yet, but just you wait!”

So, I’ll keep riding my bus and keeping my fingers crossed.

Sometimes someone needs an explanation

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?   We're all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?
We’re all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

I’ve been finding myself doing a lot of eye-rolling and teeth gnashing and biting my tongue lately over extremely asinine questions and assertions that cross my various information streams. Some of these are on social media, but a lot are also in news stories and/or coming out of the mouths of politicians, pundits, and so forth. When it happens on my social media, I sometimes decide to mute, block, or just unfollow the person. And when I mentioned that recently, someone asked didn’t I have a responsibility to educate people who unintentionally said bigoted things (or asked questions that are layered in all sorts of bigoted assumptions) so that they wouldn’t keep causing other people pain.

I had several answers—all of them true:

  • It takes a lot of time and energy to try to educate someone on these complex topics, and that’s time and energy I will never get back and which I’d rather spend on writing or editing my own stuff.
  • In my experience, very few people actually listen to your attempt to explain such things, they instead become defensive—sometimes extremely aggressively defensive. So you’re asking me to put myself into a fight.
  • I’ve been explaining these things my whole life—just look through this blog!—and it’s exhausting. Please refer to the first bullet.
  • One reason it is so exhausting to try to answer is because of what Foz Meadows once described as onion questions: “seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail. There are layers to what’s being misunderstood, to what’s missing from the conversation, and unless you’ve got the time and inclination to dig down to the onion-core of where your perspectives ultimately diverge, there’s precious little chance of the conversation progressing peacefully.”
  • Thousands of other people have been explaining all of these things. There is no shortage of information about these things out there. I’ve educated myself on all sorts of things that don’t directly affect my life, why can’t they do that, too?

However, K. Tempest Bradford recently shared a link to a post she wrote on this topic a few years ago, Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother and she makes some good points. I’d read the post before, but had forgotten. In the post she’s referring specifically to a long article that astronomer Phil Plait wrote, attempting to answer questions from people who don’t believe in evolution and so forth:

“I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.

“So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.

“If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!”

And it reminded me of a recent exchange with a friend who shared something with me that was chockful of misconceptions and concealed bigoted assumptions. And I decided that his friendship was probably strong enough to deal with the discussion, so I wrote about a thousand word email explaining the misconceptions, false equivalencies, and so forth. Even though he is a good friend and generally a nice guy, I have to admit I was a little worried he would be upset. Instead, he replied thoughtfully and realized, having read my explanation, that there were some things that he had been taking in and just accepting in various videos and articles and such that were similarly full of false equivalencies, straw man arguments, and so forth.

So, I’m reminded that not everyone gets defensive. Also, as Bradford observes: “Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry… But then their anger and defensiveness went away and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding.”

I’m not going to go back and unblock any of the people I blocked this week and attempt to re-engage. I am going to think about whether I could keep a list of handy links to certain blog posts or articles on topics that come up again and again and share those links when it might help.

Confessions of an information junkie

Having multiple tabs open is not a new phenomenon. (click to embiggen(

When I did most of my personal computer work on a desktop machine with a pair of large screens, my husband used to tease me about how many applications I had open all the time. One time when I had a browser window open on one screen, with about 12 tabs open on that browser, and a second browser with a similar number of tabs open on the other screen, he teased me about having two dozen open tabs, and what kind of drain that put on my system resources. I laughed and said, “Two dozen is nothing!” I then proceeded to show him the other browser windows that were minimized. After opening all of them and resizing them did some counting, and said, “Today it’s only about 62 open tabs.”

I have always considered this just a variant on an older technology behavior: I would have piles of books on my desk or stacked beside my bed with bookmarks in them. Sometime a small book with a bookmark would be acting as a bookmark inside a larger book. Yes, a lot of the books in those piles were books that I was reading, and just hadn’t finished. But a lot of them were part of one of my research projects, and the bookmarks were things that I wanted to be able to look at again as I moved forward with the project. Some of the projects were for school, so the books would be returned to their shelves once the essay or whatever I had to turn in was finished. Other projects were personal. I might be researching something for a story I was trying to write. Or I might be researching something for a scenario I was running for one of my gaming groups, and so on.

I do try to do a better job of limiting how many tabs are open on my computer, though improvements in browsers (sandboxing among them) has made it less likely that having all those tabs open is going to slow the computer down or cause crashes. And there are some websites (certain news sites, for instance) that I learned long ago that I need to close down as soon as I finish reading an article.

One problem with this habit is that it also means I always have a whole bunch of projects in progress at any time. Which means things don’t get finished as quickly as I like.

Which sometimes plays out here, as I will have dozens of draft blog posts ranging from a dozen or so words to hundreds that I just haven’t finished, yet.

Even when I give myself a totally arbitrary goal to post something every day for thirty days in a row, I find myself staring at a bunch of draft posts, opening one after the other, maybe adding a few words, yet somehow unable to commit and just finish one.

And it’s more than a bit frustrating. It’s also a little confusing, because finishing, and putting things away once a project is done, are things that I really enjoy. So you would think that would motivate me.

And yet…

This isn’t a political post, but this image was too funny not to share

Humpty Dumpty stood on a wall...

Humpty Dumpty stood on a wall…

I’ve got a lot of blog fragments that have been aggregating for a while, mostly about things happening in the mundane side of our lives, rather than having anything to do with writing, or sf/f, or political craziness, and so on. And there will be some who dismiss it as a “what I had for breakfast” thing, but I like to think of is as an “everything but the including the kitchen sink” post. You’ve been warned.

First, Birds: So, the saga of the bird feeder continues. Quick refresher: over a year ago I put up a bird feeder on our veranda in a spot where I could watch birds that visited it from my living room window. We got so many birds coming to the feeder that my husband decided we needed a web cam so I could get pictures more easily and/or check on it from the office. Much to my delight the number of birds kept increasing, we had cool species like Stellar Jays showing up, it was very cool. Until just before Halloween, when the amount of birdseed consumed each day suddenly dropped for, then a few days later I learned why as an immature Cooper’s Hawk landed on my railing. Over the course of the next many weeks I witnessed the hawk snatching chickadees and juncos and sparrows out of midair in the vicinity of the feeder and then all the little birds stopped coming.

The level of birdseed in the feeder didn’t go down between the last time I topped it off just before Thanksgiving up to New Year’s Day. I cleaned out the feeder and tried scattering some feed on the deck and different locations, because I still very occasionally saw little birds on the deck. I cleaned out the feeder and put a very teeny amount of seeds in it.

Since then, I have seen pairs of small birds (usually pairs of juncos, but occasionally a pair of chickadees) show up on the veranda together and they have all adopted a similar strategy: one bird perches in one of my larger lavender plants, or on the branch of a nearby tree, the other hops around on the deck for a couple of minutes picking up seeds. Then the one that has eaten will flit to the spot where the buddy bird as been keeping watch, and the buddy bird flits down to the deck to peck at seeds. They trade off like that, one standing lookout the other eating, a few times before flying away.

Very, very occasionally a pair will take turns at the actual feeder, but it is clear that they all feel safer down on the deck where they have the planters and other things as cover.

I haven’t seen the hawk since late November.

I’ll keep scattering birdseed on the deck for now.

Dining: When we moved from Ballard to Shoreline, we decided to try to make some changes in the way we did things around the house. One of those changes was that I wanted us to sit down and eat one meal together at the table every day. The old place had not had adequate counter space or cabinets, and the way the kitchen was arranged, our table wound up being supplemental counter and storage space. So we almost never could clear it off enough to have a meal at the table. We instead would use the TV trays (or folding tray tables, as some people call them), or just each of us eat separately at our computers.

I admit that one reason that I wanted to make this change was the incredible guilt I felt at the dozens and dozens of tablecloths I found squirreled away in a couple of the closets. Tablecloths that had never been removed from their packaging. At least two of which I recognized as ones that were bought before my late husband, Ray, died. In 1997.

Michael had one change to my original proposal that we start using the tablecloths and eating at the table: he wanted to haul all the vinyl tablecloths to Value Village, and only use actual fabric cloths. Mostly because he just preferred fabric ones. Anyway, we got rid of all the vinyl ones, which left us with only a couple of fabric ones. We have since acquired a number more, some of them I think of as seasonal, some aren’t.

But we have eaten at least one meal at least six days out of every week at the table since moving. And the fact that on weekends we often eat two or three at the table in a single day, I think lets us off the hook for the nights that we go out instead of eating at home.

One of the things that means is that we have to keep at least half the table clear most of the time. That is a bit of a challenge, given that the table is really the only horizontal surface of any size near the front door, but we’ve been doing it.

So far, whenever we are cleaning for company, it never takes more than a few minutes to clear the table, pull off the tablecloth, wipe down the table, and pick out and deploy a clean cloth. And I can’t tell you what kind of happy goosebumps I get every time.

Haunted by Expectations: We have a certain number of habits about how we clean and keep the house that cause the voices of my grandmothers to occasionally admonish me. Both my nice Grandma and evil Grandma had very strong feelings along the lines of “a place for everything and everything in its place” and it’s amazing how much of that stuff got engraved in my neurons.

So, for example, t-shirts and laundry. A few years ago, thanks to a care label that came on some t-shirts we bought on Red Bubble (each with artwork that had be created by friends), when I did laundry I would pull those t-shirts out of the wash while transferring laundry from washer to dryer. Those t-shirts were put on broad hangers and hung on the shower curtain rod to dry.

About six months after I started doing that, I noticed that some other cute graphic t-shirts which we had purchased as a sci fi con around the same time as the bunch from Red Bubble were noticeably much more faded. As in, they looked years older in comparison. So I stopped running any graphic t-shirts in the dryer. They all get pulled out and hung up on the shower curtain.

When I started doing this, Sunday was our laundry day, and the t-shirts were often still damp when we needed to shower Monday morning, so Michael would move all the hangers to the end of the towel rod & take his shower (since he went in to work much earlier than I). And then I would, after finishing my shower, move them all back up to the shower curtain rod and spread them out to finish drying.

At our new place, for various reasons, Friday evening is when I do laundry, and the t-shirts wind up hanging in the bathroom all weekend. If one of us decides we need a shower, me move them, then put them back. Until Monday morning.

Neither of us puts the t-shirts away Monday morning, mind you. We just leave them hanging in a bundle on the towel rod. Michael often chooses one of the shirts hanging there to wear to work that day. While I don’t wear t-shirts to the office, on Monday night, when I come home and peel off the office drag, I’ll pick a t-shirt, sometimes from the ones hanging up, somethings from my drawer, to wear while kicking around the house.

The upshot is that the t-shirts that were washed last laundry day often hang in a bundle on one of the towel rods all week long. Unless one of us is suddenly inspired to put them away, the pile slowly dwindles as we wear some from it, but there are usually still about three hanging on the towel rack by the next Friday evening when I carry up a new pile of damp t-shirts from the laundry room.

Both my Grandmothers would be appalled. My Nice Grandma, if she saw it, would give me that look and ask, “You know, it only takes a couple of minutes to put things away, right?” Whereas my Evil Grandma would say something like, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t expect you to understand how important cleaning is, since your mother was atrociously bad at housekeeping. I remember one time…” and a story implying that my mother was not only insane but also morally corrupt on a Lovecraftian level would follow.

And some mornings while I’m rushing to get ready to work, I hear one of the other of those voices in my head, wanting to know why I don’t just put the t-shirts away.

And while my Nice Grandma’s version of the question does sound perfectly reasonable, we often forget that the inverse of the question is just as reasonable: “What is the harm in leaving them hanging there, clean, dry, and within easy reach, for a few days?”

Yeah, putting them away (folding and separating them into my chest of drawers of Michael’s, putting the empty hangers into the hall closer) is probably only a two-spell-slot task… most mornings I don’t know how many slots I’m going to need that day. And getting myself dressed and out the door with my lunch packed and everything else I need for the day are tasks that much be done. Putting away the t-shirts? Not an imperative.

Some times I realize I have the slots and the time and let’s get this done now. And that’s great. But I have to remember that it is okay to prioritize.

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