Farewell, RBG.

I don’t know what I could say that others have not said better. I will miss her, and her pragmatic support for women and LGBT+ rights. (She performed the first same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court.) She fought the good fight as long as she could.

I wish I could be in Washington for the lying in state. I, and so many of my friends, owe her so much. As I understand it (not being Jewish), the Jewish response to death is “may her memory be a blessing.”

That it will be. Goodbye, good lady.

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Small victories.

I am not sure I have mentioned it before, but I have tremors. In the past couple of years, they have gone from moderate to significant. (Both typing and eating have become difficult, although still possible. Between tremors and recurrent vertigo, I cannot drive.) I tell people to think of me as Katherine Hepburn in her last few years, but without the looks, talent, or money.

I still wear earrings. It takes me quite a while every morning to get them in, but I don’t want to lose the muscle memory it takes. Not to mention that if I don’t, the holes in my ears close up, and with the tremors I don’t want thave them re-pierced.

A couple of days ago I found a very long-lost earring. I liked these earrings: 10 mm light creamrose faux Swarovski pearl (because Swarovski is the best) and 6mm dark indigo Swarovski bicones. They match my hair. (Did I mentioned I dyed my hair blue? It was that or get a tattoo, and the tattoo parlors were closed.)

These earrings had been gone long enough that the sterling silver ear wires were tarnished. Putting tarnished ear wires in your lobes may be perfectly safe, but it makes me nervous.

So I changed out those wires for surgical steel. It took me twenty minutes, three different wires, and the ball and spring were sort of mangled in the end, but the earrings are wearable.

I used to bead and wirework. It was my chief creative outlet. I can’t do that, now: the last attempt drove me to tears. So even attempting this simple repair was a big deal. Before the tremors, it would have taken me two minutes — five at the outside, nowhere as long as it did today.

So I fought a simple battle, and won.

Go me.

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Just four years ago…

We were a nation that valued truth telling … before Donald Trump.

We were a nation of laws… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation that believed in the Constitution and separation of powers… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the press, if not revered, were at least respected… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation that valued science… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the presidency was about public service, not about getting as much as you could for yourself and your kids… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where the Department of Justice worked to further the best interest of the country, not the president… before Donald Trump.

We were a nation where white supremacists kept out of the limelight… before Donald Trump.

Oh, there were exceptions, of course. There always are. But there was not the wholesale attempts to undercut the entire underpinnings of civilized society.

Conservatives often talk about returning to a better time in America. They are usually referring to the 1950s, when minorities knew their place and women stayed within their proper sphere, the kitchen and the nursery. Now, though, liberals, too, talk about returning to a better time in America. In this case, though, they mean before 2016… before Donald Trump.

We have to succeed.

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Elections checklist, updated

I was planning to run this on October 1st, but ballot have already gone out in some states. (Sorry to spam you, but this information is important.)

Checklist to help make sure your vote gets counted:

For statewide requirements (registration, absentee ballots, etc.) check fivethirtyeight.org

  • Make sure your registration is up to date NOW. If there are problems, or if you have changed your name, address, or party affiliation since you last registered, reregister ASAP. That includes Americans living overseas, either civilians or military.
  • Develop a plan for voting: If possible check to see what options you have for voting: early voting, absentee/vote-by-mail, etc. Your registrar of voters website should have this information. Decide — will you vote by mail? At the polls? Early? If you choose to vote early, when will you do so? How does the pandemic affect those plans? Given the issues with the postal service consider early voting or vote by mail. Given the pandemic and the machinations against voting by mail, we’re all between a rock and a hard place.
  • Unless your state/county automatically sends out ballots to all voters (Washington, Oregon, some counties in California) determine what the first and last dates for requesting an absentee ballot are. Send in your request ASAP — now, if possible.
  • Know when ballots are being sent out. If you do not receive yours within a few days, call the registrar of voters.
  • If your state requires an excuse in order to get an absentee ballot, find out what excuses are acceptable and whether you might fulfill the requirements. Talk to your doctor if necessary.
  • Find out if there are other restrictions on voting. Alabama, for example, requires two witnesses or a notary. Alaska requires one witness or a notary.
  • According to the Washington Post, in many states the USPS will be unable to handle the ballots in a timely manner. If this is still the case in October, IF POSSIBLE DO NOT MAIL YOUR BALLOT. Find out where you can drop ballots off. Can you drop them off well before election day? Does your county have drop off boxes? Where are they, and what hours are they available? Can you drop them off at the registrar of voters office? Can you drop them off at the polls?
  • Return the ballot as soon as you can after you receive it.
  • If you will need help either filling out or dropping off the ballot, check and see what the rules are about this. Some counties and states make various accomodations for the disabled. They should be listed on the registrar’s website. Contact the registrar of voters if there is a problem.
  • If you do choose to use the USPS, check the front of the ballot. Some ballots require extra postage. Make sure to use an extra stamp or two to make sure the ballot gets to where it needs to go. If the ballot needs to be in by election day (or sooner) not simply postmarked by election day, make sure you leave enough time for it to get there. Given the issues with the mail, allow a lot of time. Again, it is best if you send it in as soon as possible after you get it.
  • Before you drop it off, either in a dropbox or in a mailbox, MAKE SURE YOU SIGN THE BALLOT.
  • Some counties and states have ways to check where your ballot is in process. (E.g. using bar codes or numbers on ballot stubs.) If that’s possible, after a couple of days check up on your ballot.
  • Develop a plan for going to the polls. What are the polling hours? When will you go? How long can you afford to spend there? Does your county have early voting locations, and would that be more convenient? If you are voting in person on election day, find out where your polling place is, and how to get there, if necessary. Is there an ID requirement? If so, make sure that you have the i.d. at hand.



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Decisions, Decisions.

One of my goals for today was to clear out my overstuffed closet so I can put things in there without having to exercise my biceps. Then I had he notion to clear out my similarly stuffed bookshelves.

The Terry Pratchetts are not going anywhere. Well, okay, the Night Watch Pratchetts are going nowhere; nor are Thief of Time or Reaper Man. Or the Moist van Lipwick books. Or The Truth. (Well, one of the copies can go.) Especially not Monstrous Regiment, which may be my second favorite Pratchett after Night Watch. But I never really liked Mort or Hogfathet or Moving Pictures. Or Unseen Academicals.

Needless to say, any book even remotely concerned with art (with the exception of Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word, which I was singularly unimpressed with) is firmly attached to its shelf. Museums, art fraud and forgery, Nazi looting — it all stays.

I am not teaching Scripture classes, I don’t need four bibles and two bible encyclopedias. I am culling down to one of each. I feel guilty, though.

I am letting go of my “Corruption in Big Cities” set (two about Chicago, one about Hollywood and the William Desmond Taylor murder, and one about Storyville in New Orleans.) I’ll probably keep Devil In the White City, by Erik Larsen. (I also have Thunderstruck and Isaac’s Storm.) All of them hardback and pretty thick.

When I cleared out those, I found my small stash of science fiction — several by Connie Willis, a couple by John Scalzi. I wondered where those went — although not Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is with my “books I loved to reread” group along with Pratchett’s Night Watch and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I even named a cat after that book.

Should I reread Doomsday Book? Probably not right now.

There are books I feel guilty about getting rid of because they were gifts, and in some cases mark me as an intellectual. I am still getting rid of Mark Twain’s collected letters, though. It’s a good four inches thick.

I should probably wait to get rid of my copy of the Mueller report until after the election or Trump leaves office, whichever comes last.

I am a quarter through the books and have only culled a dozen of them. I really need to get more aggressive and disciplined in weeding things out.

Sigh. Thank goodness for Kindle.

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Happy Birthday to the Red-Headed Menace! I can’t believe you’re all grown up.

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I have been struggling with my feelings about several of my relatives. I feel they are good people, who have been there for me when I needed me. They are against the death penalty. They have never expressed racist comments in my hearing. They are not anti-immigrant.

They’re voting for Trump.

I know, only white supremacists could vote for Trump. Only people who feel no pain at kids in cages. Only completely soulless monsters. I see this all the time on Facebook.

Except maybe not. What — or who — could cause conservative but otherwise caring people to support a morally challenged pathological liar?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

These members of my family are strongly — one might say rabidly — anti-abortion. Control of the Supreme Court, and therefore reproductive rights, rests on the shoulders of an eighty-seven-year old woman with a history of cancer. If you honestly believe abortion is murder, as my relatives claim to do, you can overlook a great deal to possibly get control of SCOTUS.

They can deplore the lying. They can be appalled at the white supremacy. They can be saddened by kids in cages. They can be concerned about the federal response to COVID-19 (although believing that it is really the governor’s fault your state is a hot spot).

Then the equation kicks in: there were 600,000 abortions in the U.S last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And before that. What are a few thousand kids on the border against those numbers? An anti-abortion Court won’t stop all of them, but if Roe v. Wade were overturned…

In all likelihood RBG won’t survive the next four years. Biden will name someone young, who will protect reproductive choice for years. Trump, on the other hand, will name someone like Kavanaugh: young, conservative, anti-abortion.

I don’t know what to do with this. I think I understand their motivations, but I can’t bring myself to respect their choice. I’m sure they feel the same about me. But I do know that simply dismissing them does no good.

Because what ever happens, when this is all over, we are all going to have to live with each other.

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Elections Checklist

I will be repeating this several times before the election:

  1. Make sure your registration is up to date NOW. If there are problems, or if you have changed your name, address, or party affiliation since you last registered, reregister ASAP.
  2. If possible check to see what options you have for voting: early voting, absentee/vote-by-mail, etc. Your registrar of voters website should have this information.
  3. Develop a plan for voting: will you vote by mail? At the polls? Early? If you choose to vote early, when will you do so? How does the pandemic affect those plans?
  4. Unless your state/county automatically sends out ballots to all voters (Washington, Oregon, some counties in California) determine what the last date is that can you request an absentee ballot? Send in your request well before that date (as soon as allowable would be good).
  5. If your state requires an excuse in order to get an absentee ballot, find out what excuses are acceptable and whether you might fulfill the requirements. Talk to your doctor if necessary.
  6. If you suspect that the USPS might not be up to the job of handling all the ballots, find out where you can drop ballots off. Can you drop them off well before election day? Does your county have drop off boxes? Where are they, and what hours are they available? Can you drop them off at the registrar of voters office? Can you drop them off at the polls?
  7. If you choose to use the USPS, check the front of the ballot. Some of them require extra postage. Make sure to use an extra stamp or two to make sure the ballot gets to where it needs to go.
  8. Before you drop it off, either in a dropbox or in a mailbox, MAKE SURE YOU SIGN THE BALLOT.
  9. If you are going to the polls, find out if there is an i.d. requirement and make sure that you have the i.d. at hand.
  10. Find out where your polling place is, and how to get there, if necessary.

Most importantly,


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Just stuff.

Sometimes, when everything is going to hell, it’s important to remember what good there is in your life. So, in more or less random order…

  • Hamilton.
  • The Avengers movies
  • Fantasia (& Fantasia 2000)
  • Disney+
  • Art
  • Amazon (don’t judge me)
  • Facebook groups
  • Intelligent friends
  • Within that group, the alums of my college and law school
  • That I was able to reconnect with a close friend from college after eight years
  • Coursera and edx (and free online courses in general)
  • Blogging
  • The Cooking Channel
  • Alton Brown
  • That my kids are all grown up so I won’t have to start homeschooling (I know my limits)
  • The New York Times Mini Crossword
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • Google Art & Culture collections
  • Wikimediacommons
  • Good doctors
  • Good medicine
  • That I caught my tooth infection before it got too severe
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • That I have had the opportunity to travel so extensively
  • That the Rocket Scientist and I had our trip to South America just weeks before the coronavirus hit.
  • That the Rocket Scientist fixed the dryer with twelve dollars worth of parts thus saving us from having to have a hundred-dollar service call
  • New skills: baking bread.
  • People who take COVID-19 seriously.
  • That my family insists on me staying put and not taking chances, given my risk factors.
  • That live in an area where people have no problem wearing masks.
  • Horse racing
  • The color blue
  • The roof above me
  • The food in the pantry
  • The fuzzies: Penwiper & Pandora
  • The Not So Little Drummer Boy’s Sweet & Charming Girlfriend (Fiancee?)
  • The Red-Headed Menace’s Really Smart Partner (Note: the SCG is also smart, and the RSP is also sweet)
  • My family
  • Love
  • Life

Things are still terrible, but I think I feel a little better

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The best thing since…

On Saturday I baked my third batch of bread. Each batch makes two loaves. Because they have no preservatives if they don’t get eaten quickly they mold, so we gave a loaf to the Red-Headed Menace and his Really Smart Partner (RSP).

Because they are homebaked, we need to slice them ourselves. I cannot slice an even piece of bread to save my life. Either it is two inches thick, or so thin it tears before I can finish cutting it.

I really wish I could take the loaves somewhere and say “Here, can you slice this for me?” I don’t think bakeries would do that though.

Thing is… it is much better bread than the sliced type you get in the store. I wouldn’t trade it. So I guess it is a better thing than sliced bread.

Next up: cinnamon rolls. At least those won’t need to be sliced.

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I can’t really identify the last straw. Maybe it was the Administration deciding to have hospitals send COVID-19 data to HHS instead of the CDC. Maybe it was the threats leveled at schools who don’t physically open in the fall. Most likely it was…

Federal law enforcement being sent to a city that doesn’t want them, to inflame tensions and grab peaceful protesters and putting them in unmarked vans and taking them away. And reports that these tactics will be used nationwide.

I know we have to fight. I know that’s how the bastards win, by creating more and more outrageous situations so that we become inured to the slide into authoritarianism.

What’s next? Personally, I believe that those same shock troops will be used to interfere with people’s right to vote. Can’t happen? So many things have happened that would normally — or used to — be unthinkable that nothing seems off the table now.

I just can’t think. I try to keep abreast of what’s happening, but the circuits of my brain that sort out reality from paranoid delusion have burned out. Before 2016 — or even before 2018 — if you told anyone what has been happening this year, they would have suggested you seek help from a mental health professional.

I respect all of you that stay strong, that keep fighting. I’ll toss some money towards organization that are doing the work to make a better tomorrow, that are helping to keep us from just sliding into a dictatorship.

That’s all I can do right now.

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Guilty Pleasures.

In 2017, I spent four days in a Spanish hospital, laid low by pneumonia (my second bout in three years — one of the reasons that my family will not let me go to the grocery store). When I got back home, I was weak for a good six weeks. I spent a lot of time mindlessly channel surfing.

One day I chanced upon Saratoga Live, live coverage of racing from Saratoga. I love horses, and it was amusing — as much for the ads for stallions as anything else. One particularly caught my eye, for a horse called Data Link. “With no Mr. Prospector within four generations, Data Link is perfect for your outcrosses.”

Really, I thought. I know race horses tend to be inbred, but how big a problem could this be? So I kept informally checking pedigrees, and it did seem a lot of horses had Mr. Prospector blood.

I decided that I needed to be more systematic. I made an Excel spreadsheet of every horse that ran in any race the last week of the Saratoga meet, plus the horses that had run in the Triple Crown races, and a couple of Breeder’s Cup races. It came out to over 250 horses. I ran all the pedigrees back four generations. (Yes, it’s geeky. Don’t judge me.)

Something like seventy-five percent of the horses I tracked had Mr. Prospector blood. Wow.

It turned into an obsession — I started watching the races, both at Saratoga and elsewhere, but more interested in the post parade and seeing who the sires are than seeing the actual races. (Tracks are running races without people in the stands.) I am learning which sires turn out turf horses, which ones dirt, which ones sprinters, which ones distance runners. I am learning more about the horses (did you know that turf runners tend to have bigger feet than dirt runners?).

I have fun looking at the horses’ names. My favorite is a horse sired by Freud out of a mare named Plinking — Plink Freud.

I do watch the races, although I speed past all the talking heads going on about each horse’s chances. I don’t particularly care who wins, rooting for 1) a horse I have seen run and that I like, 2) a horse sired by a horse I like (the American Pharoahs turn three this year) or 3) the gray horse. (If there is more than one gray horse, then the prettiest gray horse.)

I don’t bet. I know myself well enough to know that I would run through a lot of money if I did. No, it’s better to just be a spectator.

What the hell, it’s better than binging on Tiger King.

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I need to stop reading Facebook. It’s bad for my blood pressure. It’s not my friends but sadly some of their friends which cause me such heartburn.

Usually these days it’s about wearing masks. Some of my friends have friends who think that either 1) wearing masks is an infringement upon their liberties, 2) a plot by the libs to make them look ridiculous, or 3) totally unnecessary, or 4) all of the above. I just snort at them and move on.

But sometimes there are friends of friends who I think are intelligent (and who, their conservative views notwithstanding, I respect) who say absolutely awful things. Last night I hit something which would have had me screaming had I not been afraid of waking other people in my house.

It started with a meme purporting to show all the terrible things Obama did with the implication that he was just as bad as Trump. The list ran from the truly horrible (Fast and Furious), to the sad but overblown (the administration’s actions during Benghazi), to the actually good (DACA). I would have shrugged it off except for the guy who said “Obama did bad things; Trump did bad things. Comparing them doesn’t do anyone any good.”

What the everloving hell?

That is whataboutism. That is moral equivalency. That is intellectually bankrupt. To shrug off any comparison between the two is to ignore the fundamental ways in which this country has been damaged by the current President.

Obama did some bad things, I’ll admit. The commenter and I probably disagree on what those bad things were (other than Fast and Furious), but even though I am a fan I can admit he and his Administration were not perfect by a very long shot.

But Obama never used the Presidency for his and his family’s enrichment.

Obama did not have his Administration toss out as many environmental protections as possible, to the benefit of wealthy cronies.

Obama respected expertise, be it from the intelligence officials or scientists. When presented with an issue by either of those, he acted appropriately. He never pretended he was smarter than people who had made their field their lives’ work.

Obama didn’t want government scientists to change their results to conform to his political views.

Obama didn’t undermine citizens’ respect for government by lying — demonstrably — time after time after time. (Fun fact: of the 814 statements of Donald Trump reviewed by fact-checking site Politifact, seventy percent of them were mostly false, false, or Pants on Fire. Of the 602 statements of Barack Obama that they reviewed, that number was twenty-three percent.)

Obama did not ask a foreign power for help in the election. Not to mention help from an authoritarian dictator who had every reason to undermine American society.

Obama did not seek dirt on a political opponent as a condition for helping a country.

Most importantly, Obama never posed a threat to representative democracy.

Obama never spoke out against a free press.

Obama respected the separation of powers. When Congress sent a subpoena to present or former Administration officials, they showed up. (Just ask anyone who sat through the eleven hours that Hillary Clinton was grilled on Benghazi.) They did not ignore them.

Obama never inflamed partisan passions by his actions. He never held important meetings at the White House where the members of Congress from the other party were not invited.

Obama did not speak as though the Supreme Court was a lapdog. He did not insult justices who did not agree with him.

Most corrosively, Obama did not view the Department of Justice as his own fiefdom, to be used to protect his friends and punish his perceived enemies. Obama respected the independence of the DOJ and the FBI (or James Comey would have never had that press conference that may well have cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency).

All of that, and so much more.

It does not help to dwell a long time on Obama. That I’ll agree. But from time to time it’s important to remember the difference between the two men, if for no other reason than to remind us what we’ve lost.

Or if comparisons to Obama are just too much, how about comparisons to Richard Nixon?

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My life.

I have not written for quite a while. Something drowns my thoughts, these days. I grieve our nation — the pandemic of COVID-19, the epidemic of Blacks dying at the hands of the police. The refusal of the Administration to do anything about either. Indeed, while the pandemic rages on, the Administration seeks to finally get rid of Obamacare — especially the provisions that require insurers to not consider pre-existing conditions. Just think of the two million-plus people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. How are they going to get insurance? Not to mention all the people who will lose their coverage immediately.

The plans that federal employees get do not discriminate on the basis of a pre-existing conditions. If they did, I would be unable to get coverage. Suppose the administration changes those plans? I would not put it past the bastards. All they care about is their friends in various industries making money.

And the other epidemic. I can’t march — tendonitis in my Achilles — so I give money to organizations such as Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t seem enough, somehow.

On a more personal note, I am recovering from a root canal. During the lockdown, I put off seeing the dentist. When I did, he sent me to an endodontist. I asked him if it was an emergency, and he said “Three months ago, yes; three weeks ago, no.” (The endodontist told me that during lockdown they were seeing people that they would normally have sent to the ER.) I looked at the x-ray and said, “Wow, it looks like the infection is impinging on the bone.” “Oh, no,” he answered, “the infection is in the bone.”

Two hours later, I was sent on my way in pain and a thousand bucks poorer. (Dental insurance only covered forty percent.) Complications have meant antibiotics, which I hate.

I am just grateful I have dental insurance, and the resources to pay for the work. Had I not gotten the tooth seen to, I could have gotten very, very sick. (It’s possible to die from an abcessed tooth.) I have another root canal that I need to get done in a couple of weeks, but that is not as bad.

This could have been avoided except for COVID. When the tooth first started bothering me (not really hurting much, just uncomfortable), the dentist was only taking emergency patients, which I didn’t think I was. When they opened the office up, my first attempt was rebuffed because I was running a fever. I got a negative COVID-19 test, and the fever abated (I was put on an antibiotic by my doctor for an unrelated condition), but that cost me a week. (Looking back, the fever was probably caused by my tooth infection.) Had it not been for COVID-19 I would have been seen probably a month before I actually was.

The tooth is still hurting several days after the procedure (hence the antibiotics). I find myself remarkably chill about it; normally I would be catastrophizing like mad. What will be with this will be.

I am disappointed that the Rocket Scientist and I could not go out for our anniversary. And my tooth pain meant I could eat little of the wonderful paella he made, including lobster tails. It’s been thirty-seven years! That deserves lobster. And paella was reminiscent of all the trips to Spain that we have taken over the years. (Did you know that the thirty-seventh-anniversary gift is “books”? Guess what I gave him.)

I have finally accepted the fact that life will not return to “normal” for a long time, if ever. My job is to do the best with the situation I have been given.

And try not to be so consumed with grief I cannot get anything done.

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Such a work of God is man.

I went to the orthopedist the morning, where they took x-rays. I went to the dentist this afternoon, where they took more (and panoramic) x-rays.

I looked at the pictures and was struck again how beautiful x-rays are. The beautiful tracery of the zygomatic arch. The elegance of the metatarsals. The fine line — almost invisible — that shows where I broke my ankle my junior year in college. The shadows of ligaments and tendons and the roots of teeth.

Then I thought about those other x-rays. The x-rays of a man suffocating as a cop kneels on his neck for nearly nine minutes, well after the man was gone? The x-rays of a  woman shot in her own home while she slept? The x-rays of the men shot fleeing — one from white supremacist vigilantes and the other from a cop who then proclaimed with satisfaction “I got him”? What must those look like?

Humans are such fragile things. We do not loom like mountains or tower like trees. We do not run like antelopes or swim like dolphins. Tigers are stronger than us, as are polar bears. The only advantage we have is that which we have made for ourselves. And too often we turn that advantage against each other.

And too often that advantage is turned against people who in the moment cannot fight back, and too often by cops against those who they have sworn to protect and serve. Like George Floyd. Like Breonna Taylor. Like Auhmad Aberey. Like Rayshard Brooks.

Unless something very unusual happens, I will not die of violence. I almost certainly will not die of violence at the hands of the police — at least nor deliberately. Barring auto accident, my x-rays will look pretty much as they are now.

Everyone should be vouchsafed that.

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Black Lives Matter.

I will not be writing here about the current protests*, other than possibly the photo-op at St. John’s, and that only because I have identified as Episcopalian. (Short version: by forcing peaceful protesters — and clergy — off of a church’s property, Trump violated St. John’s free expression of religion.)

I have written about my privilege. I have written about my experience as a white woman from the South seeing Selma.

But now? It’s my turn to listen. It’s not about me.

*Facebook is another thing altogether, as is writing to my Senators, Representative, Governor, County Supervisor, and every member of the City Council to investigate and take whatever steps necessary to fix the problem, including reducing the militarism of the police.

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Quarantine food.

In the last few weeks, in addition to more regular fare (i.e. things we normally make), I have had:

  • Homemade sourdough English muffins
  • Homemade sourdough bread bowls for soup
  • Crepes: savory buckwheat and white bananas foster sweet crepes
  • Homemade white bread (we have not bought bread in weeks)
  • Salad made with lettuce from our garden
  • Lamb shoulder chops marinated in Pandemic Porter (our latest home-brew) and spices (my favorite)
  • Home fries to go with the lamb chops
  • Homemade sourdough hamburger buns
  • The aforementioned Pandemic Porter
  • Homemade chicken and dumplings
  • Homemade pasta
  • Homemade empanadas

We may be quarantined, but we are eating pretty well.

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My song.

Most of us have songs that creep around the borders of our psyche. Usually, they are songs associated with an event, or a person, or a place. I have a bunch of them, ranging from life events (“I Miss the Mountains,” from the musical “Next to Normal”) to places (“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” — or anything by Jimmy Buffett, really) to people (“For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her,” by Simon and Garfunkel).

But there is one song that I have come to think of as my song. It’s not associated with any particular place, or person, or event. I have no idea when it became so ingrained in my soul. It just is.

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch….

That’s right. “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants. It finds its way on to many of my playlists. It is on my “Five Songs to Take to a Desert Island” list. One of my best Christmas presents ever was when the Rocket Scientist gave me a blue canary night light and spent the next day re-wiring the light switch so it had an outlet next to it. I do, indeed, have a blue canary in the outlet by the light switch.

This song makes me irrationally happy.

What are your happy songs?

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Staying alive.

Once again, on Friday I did not go to Costco, even though the Rocket Scientist did. I am stuck in this damned house for a long time yet. Even after things “reopen” around here, given my co-morbidities, I need to be very careful what activities I undertake.

I hate this. It’s summer — it’s horrible — one of the ways I cope is to go to the beach. I can’t do that. (At least not yet.) I want to just go somewhere — anywhere — and I can’t. I have tendinitis so I can’t even go on long walks.

I don’t really care about me. I’m willing to risk getting COVID-19 if I can just get out of this house.

But I can’t. I can’t risk my family’s health. I can’t risk making them say goodbye to me over the phone. I have a responsibility to not cause them grief If I can.

I can’t risk other people’s lives. I can’t risk giving the virus to some poor grocery clerk who doesn’t have the economic choice to shelter in place. Railfan used to be a grocery clerk, and I can imagine him having to choose between keeping his job and safeguarding his health.

And I can’t risk putting some poor nurse or doctor through what the medical staff above went through. I can’t risk giving them yet another fatality to cope with. I can’t risk giving them this disease.

I owe it to the memory of my Mom, the best nurse I know.

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Things are beginning to open up in a lot of the country. Not in my neck of the woods — or at least not by much. I’m okay with this, because I think opening up will cause a spike in cases and therefore in deaths.

I’ve been coping, though. Oddly, since I usually have trouble with summer. Maybe developing the coping skills for the coronavirus has helped.

I fall into the high-risk category: asthma, history of occasional bronchitis, pneumonia twice in the past six years, including one three years ago that landed me in the hospital. My family isn’t allowing me to do so much as go to the grocery store. I have some tendinitis in both ankles, probably exacerbated by my insistence in January that by God I was going all around San Cristobal if it killed me. I am probably never going to see the Galapagos again in my lifetime, so I was going to see as much as I could. I had a four-footed cane and walked very slowly, and spent one of our days there on a boat and swimming. But the tendonitis means long walks or hikes (both of which are legally allowed) are not going to happen. Hence I am stuck in the house, except for occasional car rides to help preserve my sanity. (I still can’t go to the beach because it is outside the allowable distance.)

And I may be for some time. “Opening up” does not decrease my risk should I develop the virus. If I am called into work this fall I may have to make some difficult decisions.

In the meantime, I have developed a couple of coping strategies:

  • I dress and shower every day. And by dress, I mean real clothes, not pajamas or sweatpants. It sounds like a no-brainer, but I see a lot of videos of people in sweats.
  • I wear earrings often. (Although that is as much a matter of retaining muscle memory; my tremors have gotten so terrible that most everyday activities are difficult. Wearing earrings helps me keep the skill of putting in earrings.)
  • I have started an “Art of the Day” post in my Facebook. I get great joy out of acting as “curator.” I have done this every day for six weeks and intend to continue, for my sake, mostly.
  • I do occasional intellectual work. A friend had me contribute citations for a post he was doing on the difference between Obama’s response to Ebola and Trump’s response to COVID-19. I enjoyed it greatly. I mean to do more of that.
  • The friend of mine who runs trivia on Monday nights (currently on hiatus, like everything else) posts a “Quarantrivia” video. It’s a little thing, but I look forward to it every day. I’ve even contributed a few.
  • My friend Jane resurrected the “Drink of the Week” club we had in college. The group meets over video, of course — and because it has been advertised in other alumna FB pages it gets a lot of different alumnae participating. It allows me to have contact with people outside my household.
  • I don’t drink too much.
  • If I binge on TV, I don’t binge on things that I know will stress me out. (No Tiger Kings, for example). I find myself binging on old movies and Ken Burns’ documentaries. (And lately Great Performances has been showing Broadway shows: I’ve seen 42nd Street and Kinkyboots, and have The Sound of Music on DVR. Also, I have been watching a lot of horse racing.
  • I try to let go of outcomes. Most days I can’t (I wouldn’t be me if I did not care deeply about the world), but I try not to worry too much.

The Rocket Scientist is coping by home brewing, gardening, and baking. We now can drink bottles of our “Pandemic Porter,” and last night we had a salad made of lettuce from our garden, and we have not bought a loaf of bread in weeks. (He’s working from home, and has a lot more interaction with people.) In some ways, this is a throwback to when he was in graduate school, when we gardened and made our own bread. (We started home brewing a bit later.)

There are some compensations to being stuck together:

  • The aforementioned homemade bread.
  • Dinner together every night.
  • No restaurant food — fast or otherwise — means I have been slowly losing a little weight.
  • I rediscovered how much I like to play backgammon. (Nobody will play Trivial Pursuit with me, but I am working on getting people here to play other board games.)
  • Being with people who for the most part I like being around. (I worry about The Red-Headed Menace who is stuck in a small room with only one other roomate in his apartment.)

So that’s how I’m getting by. How about you?

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