dusts off blog

Not much going on in terms of reading published work lately. Read the Aaronovitch Waterstone’s short story compilation, Tales from the Folly, but not much else. I keep starting and stopping, and lack an attention span.

I’ve watched a fair amount of hockey the last few weeks. My team lost early, so I’m not invested in the teams remaining (other than my Western conference backup) and mostly cheering against teams – there are a couple of match-ups right now where I’d like for there to be some way for both teams to lose 😛

Watched The Old Guard a week or so after it came out, and have since consumed an excessive amount of AO3 material. There’s a crazy amount of analysis of the canon compared to history, as well as fiction. I haven’t picked up the source material (graphic novels) despite liking Rucka’s writing (Queen and Country!), because I really don’t care for the style of the art. Also, it feels like Rucka did not do a great deal of research or at least hasn’t written the comics to reflect it, and I’d rather not break my brain on bad/inaccurate history.

The B&N nearest me has announced that it is closing at the end of next week. I am not hugely surprised. They were *very* dependent on summer/tourist foot traffic, which is way, way down, and the space is huge and difficult to maintain. I’ll be sorry to see it go, but not really impacted. Maybe ten years ago, I visited on a weekly basis, but as it shifted more to games and novelties and gifts, and the fiction sections (other than YA) shrank and were moved around, I had less reason to visit to the point that I haven’t been since December. They almost never had anything I wanted in stock – I could order online for pickup there in a week, which sort of defeated the purpose, because if I could order it online, why wouldn’t I just have it delivered to my home?

Work has been exhausting in a way that it never has been before. I’m going to the beach in a couple of weeks, and cannot wait.

Also, since we are now teleworking until at least December, I now have magenta highlights/streaks in my hair. Because why not?

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Weekend travels

I hit the road on Friday for a couple of days Not At Home. It was pretty nice. Drove to Sharpsburg/Antietam; despite living in Maryland for the vast majority of my life, I’d never visited, not even on a field trip in grade school. Hopped off I-70 in Frederick and took the rural route. Lot of beautiful vistas, occasionally marred by political candidate signs. Just outside of town, but still on park land, there was a police cordon with a bunch of police cars: I caught a glimpse as I drove by, the statue on horseback had been graffiti’d – BLM and YOU LOST were among the things painted on it. When I drove by on my way home Sunday it had been completely draped in black and fenced off. Turns out it is a statue of Robert E. Lee…erected on private land in 2003 but now a part of the park.

The park itself is quite large with several different trails. On a less blazingly hot day, I would have spent more than 3 hours. Anyway, more walking on Saturday, but with more shade on the C&O trail out of Williamsport.

Stayed at a lovely farm/vineyard/B&B, hosted by a charming couple. The farm house, or the original part of it, is rather old and is decorated to match.

Visited Boonesboro on my wanderings around Washington County. I’ve never seen so many NR/JDR books in one place before. Their other selections were eclectic. Main street reminded me of my hometown as a teenager, maybe slightly better preserved.

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Recently read

Borrowed the new Nora Roberts novel, Hideaway, from the library. If I was a new NR reader, I probably would have found it engaging and original. But I’m not, having read most of her backlist and most of her romantic suspense. The plot and various elements felt repetitive of earlier books like The Search or Angels Fall or other books. I probably could have let that go – there’s comfort in knowing an author can deliver predictable enjoyment – but one scene early on soured the book for me. The local police (good guy! surfer dude!) violated the constitutional rights of the Bad Guy. Yes, he’s a Bad Guy. But that’s the whole point of constitutional rights: everyone is entitled to them, even when they’ve done bad shit. I get it: he’s not sympathetic, so I shouldn’t mind. No. That’s not okay. I do mind, and reading that casual disregard for rights and implicit approval of abuse by the police makes me side eye NR’s work more than I already do (see my previously expressed – either here or on other social media – about Eve Dallas’s casual disregard for criminal procedure).

Read NR Walker’s Throwing Hearts as well. It was kind of ~meh~. I liked the background romance of the older couple more than that of the narrators, whose conflict/issue felt really forced and unnecessary.

Signed up for Disney+ to get Hamilton; planning on canceling at the end of the month. It was worth the $6.99 for that plus The Mandalorian and some other material. Enjoyed it, particularly the staging, which of course was not evident from the soundtrack. Thought some of the editing choices were odd at times; focusing on single singers sometimes made sense and sometimes cut off the background activity that seemed relevant.

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Despite promises at the gardening store that air plants are practically unkillable, I have killed an air plant. Even though I followed the care instructions faithfully. 😦

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In theory, sports are returning to North America. Given the spikes due to premature reopening, this seems like a bad idea. One quote from an NHL player essentially said that they feel comfortable with the risks because the science says they’ll be okay since they are young, healthy athletes. Um, what science is he talking about? We have 6 months worth of data on recovery, and nothing about longer term impacts on health. The expectation that they won’t get sick because they are in good shape seems deluded to me. As a fan, I’d love for sports to be back, but as a human I want athletes to be able to live healthy lives today and well into the future, and I’m not sure the bubbles and protocols will be enough.

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It’s the little things

My local public library has a fairly good selection of ebooks and other electronic materials, so reading material was not exactly lacking during the shutdown of the city. But I tend to browse the stacks for books rather than borrow ebooks, unless there’s a new release or a book is unavailable in print locally. So I was thrilled when the library reopened for curbside service this week. One book I’d put on hold had arrived, so I arranged an appointment for the pick up Friday afternoon.

Bars and restaurants have opened with limited capacity, but I’m still not ready to eat out anywhere. Sticking to carry-out once a week as a treat.

Stepdad is improving, although more slowly than he would like. Mom is going back to the office next week part time; she’s pretty happy because the workspace has been reconfigured, so she’ll have a door that she can control, so people can’t come in at their convenience rather than hers. I’m worried about The Biochemist in Houston, because Texas’s cases are skyrocketing. I’m okay and my work is…fine? We will be teleworking until Labor Day at least now.

I read an article on Friday about the cost per person to return employees to big firms in NYC – as much as $18,000/person depending on remediation efforts. NYC prices are out of whack generally, but even if it is half that here, that’s a budget killer. We have singles; shared offices with two or three people; work spaces with anywhere from 6-15 people; carrels in open areas; etc. I can’t even begin to imagine how to reallocate space. Office space is already a hugely touchy issue that is mediated by the union and the collective bargaining agreement, plus GSA standards. Add in the kitchens/lunch spaces – ugh – the one in my space is among the nicest in the building, and people who work nowhere nearby congregate there for lunch and to watch sports occasionally – how does it get used now? Are people comfortable using the common area fridge? Mini fridges violate our lease (and the building manager affirmatively looks for them), so then what? What about the common area microwaves? Or the communal coffeepot and Keurig and toaster, all donated by various staff.

One colleague is buggering off to the beach, where her inlaws have a house. She’ll work part time. Another is planning on going to the Outer Banks for a couple of weeks, and working part time from there. A third is going also to the Outer Banks (a different town) and planning on NOT WORKING AT ALL. I was looking at the calendar and doing the math: I have more than 3 weeks of leave to use or lose so I need to start thinking about how to use them. Most of the places I want to go would require flying or at least two days of driving. I need to sit down with some back issues of AAA to look at day trips in the mid Atlantic.

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Bouncing among books

I picked up Color of Law again because it seems timely. Put down Lafayette in the Somewhat United States: Vowell’s style just doesn’t work for me. Enjoyed Bujold’s novella, The Physicians of Vilnoc, a Penric and Desdemona story that suits today in some ways; I can’t decide if the resolution works because it is so simple and pat within the story itself or if it just frustrates me given that is not a realistic expectation for our current parallel. I pulled Zinn’s History off the shelf, but I’m not going to re-read it until I’ve finished CoL. At some point I want to resume reading Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton – I set it down a few years ago about 1/3 in and haven’t gone back; after listening to the Hamilton soundtrack last week and noticing all of the liberties taken relative to that 1/3, I’m curious about the rest. And I kinda of wonder if fans of the musical realize *how* AU it is.

The Maryland primary election was held on 6/2, but the results for many of the Baltimore races – where the primary is effectively the general – weren’t finalized until 6/9 due to logistical issues involved in the mailing. [Which was NOTHING nearly as bad as Georgia’s election mess from this past week.] Anyway, the new mayor-to-be was trailing significantly before the mailed votes were finalized, and the then-leader was the former mayor who had resigned in 2010 and was charged with theft/corruption and perjury. I…really don’t understand that on a fundamental level.

Work has been as usual for the most part. The conference/training we were planning for August has been canceled and we’ll try to reschedule for next fiscal year; I just don’t think anyone will be willing or able to travel in August or even September. We have not been told anything about plans for after 7/15, when in theory we would go back to the office. But I don’t think it will happen. People have been asking about reimbursement for computer equipment at home since March and have been told no consistently, but that changed this week. Now a small amount is reimbursable as income, which makes me think they are preparing to tell us we should expect to be working from home for a while longer and people will need to improve their work at home setups.

Random thought brought to you by nice weather and my open windows: why do motorcyclists bother with radios? It’s been really noticeable lately, motorcyclists blasting music loud enough for the rider(s) to hear it, meaning loud enough to drown out the engine and to be heard for blocks around. That volume seems like it cannot possibly be healthy for the riders themselves long term.

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Week whatever of working from home: now with protests

Today’s Chomsky-esque translation exercise in Duolingo.

In other news, my neighborhood has been relatively quiet for the last week, given its proximity to staging for marches on Saturday and Monday. Lot of helicopters Monday. Woke at 3am this morning to a fire alarm: not my smoke detector but the piercing, building-wide wail that I’ve only heard during tests before. Unknown people set the recycling and trash on the curb on fire. Fire department was on scene before everyone was out of the building, and there’s no damage to the building, but it’s disturbing in retrospect. Went for a walk south this evening, after walking north and west the last couple of days. A bunch of small businesses have boarded up but have signs that they are open still. Not all have. I think most of the boarded businesses were damaged in 2015 and did it as a precaution this time around.

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Talk less, smile more

Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on my walk this evening, I was struck again by Burr’s advice to talk less and smile more. It reminds me of advice given to me, mostly by men: show a pleasant face and keep your thoughts to yourself, go along to get along. It looks like there’s a fair amount of analysis of this line online, based on a simple word search. It’s mostly from a leadership perspective, but I’d be interested in reading a feminist analysis of the lyrics. Frankly, I know a lot of women who are absolutely finished with being told to smile more.

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Stepdad had surgery over the weekend and seems to be recovering. Because of coronavirus concerns, he was not discharged to a nursing home or assisted living facility, which is what normally would happen, and is instead at home with visiting PT and health aids. It’s not ideal, he’s still very weak.

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I want a vacation. I don’t even need to go anywhere. I just want to not be responsible for answering peoples’ questions for a few days. The whole working from home thing is not ideal for me. A lot of my colleagues are angling already for expanded telework in the future, but I very much miss the separation between work and home life. One colleague mentioned a tentative plan to drive to FL to stay with a friend and telework from there because she doesn’t want to spend a winter quarantined here. That’s…further into the future than I’m willing to plan on teleworking at this point.

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Whining here – feel free to skip

I feel like tempers are fraying.  Mine certainly is.  I was ready for the weekend by Wednesday.  Our workload is going up, and everyone is scrambling to figure out childcare for the summer.  We’ve been told to expect to remain teleworking through at least July 15.

I’ve been trying to get a particular tool/license for more than a year.  I did the research.  I priced the options.  I checked out whether the provider meets security standards and if it has other similar customers/clients.  I had demos and included potential users.  I put in the funding request for the last fiscal year and this fiscal year with the primary use case and a hypothetical use case.  I updated the pricing periodically.  I’m not sure what value the “coordinator” has added, since any justification request was immediately bounced to me.  I included it in the new end of FY and next FY budget request a couple of weeks ago.  And then Coordinator, who our Director thinks is already handling this, called to ask me if I had any opinions about this tool, or if I had thought of the use case or how many licenses we might need or how it could be administered.  Why, yes, I have.  AND I GAVE YOU THIS INFORMATION IN SEPTEMBER, THEN AGAIN IN FEBRUARY, AND TWO WEEKS AGO.  But sure, I’ll give it to you again.

Thursday was…not ideal.  Stepdad’s mobility has declined a lot in the last couple of years and he’s very accident prone (falls, stumbles) and has limited range for walking and length of time standing, even with the support of a cane.  (He has rejected the idea of a walker or wheelchair to date.)  What he took to be a fall last week turns out to have been an initial stroke or mini-stroke.  He’s hospitalized and working on being stabilized, but needs surgery; the surgery may cause paralysis but doing nothing will also cause paralysis. So.  Can call and check on him, but can’t visit.

Yesterday after work I went to the grocery store, which was incredibly anxiety-inducing.  I usually go early Saturday or Sunday morning.  Friday afternoon shopping was a bad idea.  It was busier than I’m accustomed to, although the cashier told me that it would get much busier after 5pm.  No one was social distancing.  While everyone was wearing a mask nominally, most of them had them pulled aside so they could talk on their phone or drink something, or just not covering their noses.  There was toilet paper in stock!  No bleach or wipes though.  (I needed dish detergent, which was in that aisle.) The eggs looked pretty picked over, but there was plenty of milk, cheese, yogurt, and frozen foods.

I finally steeled myself and read Akim Aliu’s Player’s Tribune piece.  It was as terrible as expected.  To then read the bullshit article* published by The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa glorifying the bullying of a Bruins player, framed as “boys will be boys”, and using really tone-deaf, ugly language made me wonder again if hockey and hockey media are redeemable.  It normalizes verbal/mental abuse, and articulates a homogeneous, white, cis-het, masculine worldview that thinks anything else is Less Than and deserves persecution until conformity is achieved.  The only excuse I can think is that The Athletic doesn’t employ anyone who is not already steeped in the -isms that are hockey culture, to the detriment of both the company and the writers.

*The article’s headline and one shortish paragraph have been removed.  But the headline is still visible in the author’s Twitter feed, and the rest of the article remains pretty illustrative of oblivious, ugly, dudebro behavior at best.  The edited out piece can be seen in a screen grab in the replies to the author’s Tweet.  The comments are both excellent and awful, with readers who are horrified and readers who say that’s a normal working environment.

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World baking day

Twitter told me this morning that today is World Baking Day. So here is my participation bake: Nadiya Hussein’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Pancake Tray Bake. The jelly is jalapeño, which tastes delicious but doesn’t look as pretty as a red jelly would.

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Well, that was a bad idea born out of good intentions

Yesterday, feeling stir crazy, I decided to go on a drive.  So I went to put flowers on my grandparents’ gravestone.  It was nice to be out of my neighborhood, the drive was smooth.  At the cemetery, there were people out putting flags in all of the stones (they all have little holes for it since it is a veterans’ cemetery) but no one nearby and everyone was wearing masks.

Called mom to let her know I would be dropping some stuff on her porch.  (Mistake #1) She was out waiting for me.  She took off her mask.  She bugged me to take off my mask. (Mistake #2)  She wanted me to come into the house.  When I wouldn’t do that – her feelings were visibly hurt – she wanted us to sit on the back porch; me standing several feet away rather than sitting next to her also visibly hurt her feelings.  I didn’t want to hug or kiss her and she started to cry.  (Mistake #3) She wanted me to stay and socialize, asked me to come inside repeatedly.  She asked me to stay overnight.  (Even in non-pandemic times, I don’t stay overnight; I prefer my home, which is not far away, and also find the excessive attention smothering, which is weird since she wasn’t a smotherer when I was a kid.)

Mom knows better.  I know she does.  And yet she was utterly disinterested to actually complying with social distancing rules.  Mom kept saying that she’d been quarantined since March so it wasn’t a big deal and okay not to social distance.  Ugh.  I live in a multi-unit building in which some people refuse to wear masks in common areas; I go for a daily walk while masked and veer out of the way of other pedestrians who often don’t wear masks or make the slightest effort to keep distance.  She shrugged all that off.  I get that she’s lonely and this is hard.  But I am not doing that again; it feels bad to say it, but it probably would have been better if I hadn’t stopped by at all.

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