Category Archives: miscellanea

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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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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:|

I need to figure out how to change my Shutterfly settings. They keep sending me notifications about my memories from years past. Staying home is fine. I’m doing the right thing, we all are. But reminding me that this time last year I was in Boston, the year before in Rome, the two preceding years before that in Pittsburgh for playoff hockey – it isn’t helping right now.

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Something has stuck!

Colleague mentioned reading Hillbilly Elegy, which reminded me I bought a copy a long time ago.  Dug out my copy and am now into Chapter 3.  It’s not fun reading, but it is very engaging.

Watched the first episode of Nadiya’s Time to Eat on Netflix.  Nadiya is one of my very favorite bakers from GBBO, and I’m kind of interested in both the types of meals she cooks and how she works on a much more produced show.  The egg tortilla wraps looked delicious and like something I can (and will) make.

I’m procrastinating.  We put off doing performance reviews while shifting from fiscal year to calendar year reviews, and then did all the paperwork, followed by a glitch in the HR system tracking it all.  Re-did everything, then quarantine.  We delayed the face to face part thinking we’d be back at the office shortly.  But it’s May now, so we have to do it by phone or video, so.  Anyway, I need to prep for my reviews next week.  One person asked for help with a problem (of his own making), and I need to ask another to be more transparent about his workload and bandwidth.  Instead I just watched the replay of the 2010 men’s hockey gold medal game.  Crosby looks like an infant…then I remember this game was pre-concussion(s), pre-broken/rebuilt jaw.  o_o

Random:  The (armed) protests of the stay at home orders feel like they are revealing another subset of people who are Too Stupid and Selfish to Live.  On a personal level, I get it, they want life to be normal again.  But do they really need that non-essential thing more than the people who do that work need their health and well-being?  I mean, my roots are very visible, my self-pedicure is poor, I miss eating out, and I hate wearing a mask when I leave my home.  I’ll be happy to patronize the usual local businesses, operated and/or staffed mostly by women, often women of color, when (if?) they reopen.  But waving self-serving, exaggerated signs because some turnip-brain equates stay at home with prison is a crock.

ETA:  I looked at the HGTV Smart Home special online.  I’m kind of perplexed by some of the design.  A lot of the art is…not to my taste to put it mildly.  Which, whatever, it’s not like it’s my house.  And if it suddenly became my house, the bulk of the art would have to go.  Beyond that, I’m perplexed by some of the space/usage choices.  It doesn’t look like there is a bathroom or any running water in the lower level, which is where the family room and an outside space are, which seems like poor planning.  And there is no space that would be useful (as currently furnished or configured) as a home office space.  The study has two chaise lounges and no desk.  The game room has no desk space.  The master has no desk space.   I love the kitchen, dining room, and master bath (all minus art) though.

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Week 8 of staying in place

This week was the 8th week of working from home.  I am incredibly fortunate that I can work from home.  I know this.  But I’m still ready to not have to do it any longer.  Even so,  when the SIP is lifted eventually, I probably still can’t go back to the old, regular schedule.  Public transportation seems like a bad idea, and there’s not enough parking (or roadway) for everyone who normally uses public transportation to suddenly start driving in and parking.  Plus there’s the whole question of whether it would be a good idea for 2,000+ people to be in the building.  How do you do social distancing when half the staff works in cubicles or open/shared workspace? Do you have meetings in conference rooms?  Continue to webex?

I ordered an anti-fatigue mat several weeks ago for my work space.  The table height matches a bar stool or my standing height, and I prefer to stand, but standing for eight or nine hours was making my back ache.  Anyway, the mat finally arrived and I can already feel the difference at the end of the day.

My vacation in February feels like a very long time ago.  But an article in NatGeo refreshed my memory.  Three of the photos are of places I know/visited/recognized immediately.  I hope to make it back there again someday, when travel is possible once again.

Still not reading anything new.  I just don’t have the mental bandwidth; when I try to read something new, it doesn’t sink in and I wind up re-reading pages over again.

Watched the first episodes of Belgravia.  I’m hoping to hear the opinions of my colleagues who are Downton fans about it.  It seemed fine, a costume drama with social class and money issues set early in the reign of Victoria.

Diablo Donuts, which closed in mid-March, is reopening.  Pre-order pickups only, Friday-Sunday, with all booked/sold by Wednesday evening.  I ordered two Captain Chesapeakes for pickup tomorrow morning.  😀  It’s silly to be excited about doughnuts, but that’s where I am at this point.

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Checking in again

I’m trying to recall if anything interesting or unusual happened this week.  And blanking.  We’re still getting hammered at work; most of the division is less busy due to the situation but my office’s work is up measurably.

Enjoyed a virtual happy hour via House Party app.

Feels like I did a lot of dishes this week.  Mainly because I have been cooking something for lunch and dinner most days: grilled cheese, burgers, reheating the soup/chili/pasta that I make on the weekend for consumption the rest of the week.

Due to weather, I stayed inside for two days this past week, which really isn’t good for me.  If it rains next week, I’m breaking out the waterproof boots, because I can’t do that again.

Starbucks re-opened in my neighborhood for carryout only, with limited hours.  I’m a little worried about it being premature.  My favorite independent doughnut place, which has been closed since maybe March 9th or so, is reopening for pre-ordered carryout next Friday.  I miss their Captain Chesapeake doughnut, but hope they aren’t hurrying back too soon.

I’ve been playing through Frank Turner’s discography this week as I walk.  I like something from each of his albums, but the only two* I listen all the way through without skipping any tracks at all are England Keep My Bones and No Man’s Land.  The next one closest is Tape Deck Heart, which I love dearly, but I can’t listen to “Broken Piano” on that album, the key makes me twitch.  (It’s the only song I’ve ever heard FT play live that the live performance didn’t win me over; nope, don’t like it live or recorded.)  Listening to Be More Kind leaves me feeling ambivalent:  I love “21st Century Survival Blues”, which seems apropos right now, but the admonishment to be more kind in the face of the assholery that is our political climate right now (the 2016 elections in the US/UK and Brexit were the genesis of the album) feels a lot like a random guy telling me I should smile, it’ll make me prettier/less intimidating.

*Last Minutes and Lost Evenings doesn’t count – although I listen to it from end to end, it’s a compilation.  I have the albums that are its source material and tend to skip around on them.  It feels like cheating to ignore that I didn’t like their original album placement in favor of the compilation in this context.

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