What I did today.

I have a bead stash. (Beaders understand this. So do knitters, for that matter.)

I know people with much bigger stashes, but mine is not really anything to sneeze at. Ignoring the silver (I can’t quite remember how much I have, other than 300 3mm silver balls, 25 feet of 24 gauge dead soft sterling, and about 3.5 feet of 20 gauge dead soft sterling, plus headpins of various gauges — I have more than that but I can’t remember exactly what), the replacement value of the Swarovski crystal bicones alone is $60. (I’ve used up a lot of what I had. Were I to buy full packages of the crystals in the shades I use, it would be approximately $130. I know, I priced them out this morning.) Then there is the amethyst, onyx, carnelian, various shades of jasper, malachite, sodalite, three types of quartz (rose, crystal, and ice), freshwater pearls (although I’m low on these), faux pearls (Swarovski, of course, they’re the best), cloissone … and so on. All of these in multiple sizes and in some cases shapes.

And the lapis. Mustn’t forget the lapis: 4, 8, and 10mm.

They’ve been languishing in their bag for quite a while now. (One of the big advantages of beading as a hobby over knitting is that you can have a decent stash that fits in the size of a carry-on bag, rather than taking up half a wall.) I have felt guilty every time I looked at them, thinking I really should find a beader — preferably young and just starting — to give them to.

Right now I am a) waiting to be called in for training for a job, and 2) have a health issue which limits how much I can do. So this morning I thought “hey, let’s try beading!”

This what I made:

It took two hours, and I was exhausted at the end. Ten years ago it would have taken half an hour, tops. On a slow day.

Specifics, for people who are into that sort of thing:

Bracelet:

  • 8 mm amethyst rounds
  • 10 x 6 (I’m estimating here) amethyst ovals
  • 8 mm rose quartz rounds
  • Swarovski: light amethyst bicones, 6mm and 3mm; amethyst, 3mm bicones

Clasp: 20 gauge dead soft sterling silver (I am out of hard, which is what I would normally use for clasps

Earrings:

  • Aforementioned amethyst ovals and rose-quartz rounds
  • 3mm amethyst Swarovski bicone
  • 2mm sterling silver bead
  • Surgical stainless fishhook ear wires (I’m out of sterling ones)

My design originally included mauve freshwater pearls, but ten minutes frustrating labor convinced me that the holes were too small for me to be able work with. I would have used faux pearls instead, but the colors of the ones I had clashed with the rest of the materials.

I’m a little nervous about the earrings; I needed to open the loop on the fishhook, which is not something I ever like to do, but I think I closed it completely, and besides which I was using a 20 gauge sterling headpin as the base, which is pretty thick for that application (at least as far as I am accustomed).

So, that is my major accomplishment for today.

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I’ve made such progress.

Before I start, I just want to say that this is NOT a sob story. I don’t want sympathy, let alone pity.

I have spent most of my life defining myself by my intellect. I went to one of the nation’s premier liberal arts college. I did so well on my GREs and LSAT that the counseling center at my undergraduate college, asked me write up my suggestions for success. (Namely: study the books if you feel you have to (more important for the GRE, especially the subject test), get enough sleep, get all of your gear ready to go the night before, and eat breakfast.) I graduated from a top five law school. I passed the California Bar the first time I took it, even though I was six months pregnant and throwing up all through the first day, and zonked out on antiemetics the second and third.

I was on Jeopardy!. I lost. Although I never really told people this, I was somewhat crushed. (Although I had an excuse: I lost to Ken Jennings.) I told people it was just an honor being able to play.

Dear Academy, it’s such an honor to be nominated….

I kept on mentally thinking of myself as, if not the smartest person in the room, then certainly one of them. I was not accomplished (and I’m not) but by God I was smart.

Then in 2015, following a serious viral infection, I developed delirium from what the doctor described as post-viral encephalitis. I suffered cognitive damage, memory damage, and executive functioning/attention damage. The unfamiliar doctor who did the psychometric testing told me, “You’re fine. Your scores are average, some high average. The only problem is attention and executive functioning; those are very low.” She didn’t quite understand why I started crying. (The doctors who knew me agreed that I was not “fine.”)

Losing high cognitive functioning devastated me. I had not lost my intellect, I had lost myself. I had lost my sense of identity. I had lost my way of being in the world. (As an aside, this is the reason Dr. Strange is my favorite MCU character. His experiences resonate with me in a way that, say, Iron Man’s, do not.)

It took a year, but cognition came back (mostly), memory came back (mostly), and the executive functioning…. is probably toast for good. I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated squirrel.

During that year, I had to find a new identity. I had to change the way I think of myself. I was still smart, but not as smart. But I came to realize that that was not all I was. I was caring, I could be funny, I was passionate about people, I was courageous at times. I was sweet, and gentle. (There are negative attributes too, but those are for another post.) Those things had been there all along, of course, but I was too busy being arrogant about my intelligence to think about them much.

I am thinking of all of this because of tonight’s trivia game. My friend Chris, who runs the trivia games, had an entire category of questions that were on my Jeopardy! game. He didn’t tell us that was what it was until afterwards, of course.

I tanked the round. True, a particularly annoying team was making so much noise that it was difficult to hear, let alone think, but really, for most of them I just didn’t remember. (I did remember the question that had been final Jeopardy!, about Monsanto. I grinned at the memory of getting it right, and stomping the annoying Georgetown lawyer who came in third.)

Chris told me later that he expected me to run the category. And five years ago, I would have been angry with myself for not doing so. I would have been upset at not getting questions I had gotten right fifteen years ago. I would have worried about whether I was losing my grip. I would have beat myself emotionally over a really silly trivia game being played for beer that I’m not even going to drink.

Tonight, though, I am simply terribly amused. Whether or not I remember what animal is on the Victoria Cross, or what inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire called themselves, it’s all good. In Moana, Maui said “Hook, no hook. I’m still Maui.” I could say “Smarts, no smarts. I’m still Pat.”

So as I said, I was — and am — greatly amused by my poor performance in the “Jeopardy!” round.

That was true even before I won the game.

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DRVs (and other things).

I am still stuck at home. Given that I used to drive sometimes to ease severe stress, I am experiencing more stress than usual.

I was very good yesterday: I needed some items from the grocery and was sorely — very sorely — tempted to drive to the store. I didn’t. I ordered from Amazon Prime Now. I know that Amazon (and Amazon Prime Now) and Lyft are bad for workers. (I read the terms of payment for Instacart and was not impressed.) But I depend upon them to cope with my current situation. (One problem is that I am required to order more than $35 to get free shipping, so I tend to order more than I planned to. On the other hand, Whole Foods (which delivers through Amazon) had both baby mixed carrots and cotton candy grapes.)

I have bought an HDMI cable and can now hook my computer up to my television. I can watch Good Omens on television, and rent Avengers:Endgame and not have to watch it on my computer. Yay!

Just in time, too: my cable box has died. Last time that happened, I lost all the (many) shows I had DVRed.

Let’s see… I am not worried about the silents. They’re pretty much in the public domain, so on Halloween I can watch the original Nosferatu (I rewatched it last week and oh, wow is that creepy), and the original Phantom of the Opera, and the Swedish Phantom Carriage (and Haxon, for that matter), and the House on the Hill (the Vincent Price version) which is not a silent but is in the public domain (as is, famously, It’s a Wonderful Life). I can finish watching The Passion of Joan of Arc.

I’m not too concerned about the classics. TCM shows them often, so I expect to be able to re-record Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and All About Eve within a year. My Fair Lady and Gigi are more problematic — they show up rarely. My best hope there is if they are shown during TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar in February.

The miniseries are probably toast: The Name of the Rose, Fosse/Verdon and Ken Burn’s Country Music, although that last one will almost undoubtedly end up on Netflix. I will lose 52 episodes of Jeopardy! (I record them and watch them when I get around to it — don’t judge me), 130 odd episodes of Good Eats (not to mention about fifteen episodes of Good Eats: the Reload). Fortunately, American Gods, Sherlock, and the first two seasons of Downton Abbey are on my computer.

Woodstock, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Wonder Woman are gone. As is the 2019 Westminster Dog Show (I re-watch this often — don’t judge me). (No way in hell that wire fox terrier should have won.)

I have recorded other things, either to watch myself or to force the rest of my family to watch. (I think I have 12 Angry Men, for example.) Those don’t matter as much, although I really wish I could have gotten people to watch The Oxbow Incident. Members of my family seem reluctant to watch any movie which is either in black or white or has subtitles.

It’s a pain, but on the other hand it is good to occasionally clear things out. I am going to miss Woodstock, though.

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Relative Value.

It took me far too long in my life to do this, but a few years ago I did start thinking in terms of relative as opposed to absolute cost. For example:

If it costs $2 to take the bus to the train station, and $6.75 for the train (even though I am going one stop — ridiculous Caltrain) and $2 for the bus at the other end to get me to a stop a block from my home, and taking a bus the entire way would cost $7, then public transit costs anywhere from $7 to $10.75.

A Shared Lyft is $11, including tip to the driver.

Is my time worth $4 dollars? It’s certainly worth a quarter. And the $4 means I don’t have to wait outside in 90 degree heat.

The $8 at Starbucks, however, really isn’t offset by anything.

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Strange.

So, I am taking this online course through edx.com about Superheroes and Their Influence on Pop Culture. I was creating my own superhero, but decided to opt instead to discuss possible influences and origins for my favorite superhero…

Dr. Strange.

It’s a little bit of an odd choice: even though he has his own movie, he’s not really an A-lister like Superman or Batman or Spiderman. (Or, thanks to the MCU, Iron Man.) Oh, I am looking at the increasing interest in Eastern philosophies and practices at the time he was created, as well as possible influence of both Hindu and especially Zen Buddhist deities and beliefs. (Yes, I know, more than any other superhero Dr. Strange is a poster child for cultural appropriation.) Toss in a bit of Merlin, and there you go.

I was puzzled a bit about why I like Dr. Strange so much. Until I watched the movie again (for the sixth time). I have always loved the movie for 1) Benedict Cumberbatch and 2) street origami, but it also resonated for me subconsciously. But now, as Dr. Strange struggles to put on his watch…

He has tremors. I have tremors.

I know what it is like to have your hands not be able to do what you so desperately want them to. My tremors are so ingrained in my psyche that his did not jump out at me, other than as the reason he left neurosurgery behind for magic. It sounds odd, but I think I just didn’t see the tremors consciously.

He can’t be a neurosurgeon; I can’t make jewelry or draw.

Maybe I love Dr. Strange because he shows that one of my disabilities does not mean that I can’t go on to do great things.

Or maybe I just have a huge crush on Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Gratitude list.

The world is as it is. Donald Trump is being Donald Trump. America slides ever closer to losing the tattered remains of our democracy. Europe is a mess. Russia is trying to wreck our elections. People are becoming entrenched in our opposing positions. White supremacy is tolerated is some corners of “polite” society.

It seems like it might be a good time to do a gratitude list. In no particular order, I am grateful for:

Horse racing. Thoroughbred horses in full stride are the most beautiful creatures in the world.

Penzey’s Spices, both the company and the products.

The Washington Post, even if it is hard to read these days.

The New York Times, ditto.

Rachel Maddow.

The Avengers (all of them, specially Spiderman and Dr. Strange, even if he is not really an Avenger).

Avengers: Endgame.

Benedict Cumberbatch.

Tom Holland’s Rihanna Umbrella routine.

Costco, which has unionized workers and lets me get three pounds of bananas for under $2.

Hot showers.

Corn chowder.

Railfan’s brownies, which are better than mine. Really.

That today’s weather seems oddly cool for September.

Lush soaps, especially Bohemian and Outback Mate.

I hate to admit it, but Facebook.

Trivia.

My Trivia mates.

Fred’s Place.

That I am on my friend Jane’s “dial-a-liberal” list.

That there are new Good Eats episodes.

Alton Brown.

Amazon and Lyft — yes, I know both are problematic, but being unable to drive and living in an area with terrible transit, they make a huge difference in my life.

That the Botox is helping, at least some.

And, of course, all of you.

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That Alabama hurricane.

I have seen a lot of bloviating, both on line and in the media, about the President and the altered weather map. Yes, the President lied. Yes, the President lied about something important and doubled down. So what? Just another day in America. That’s not the problem.

The problem is not about the President. It’s not even about Dorian.

It’s about the NEXT hurricane. And the one after that. The moment people start to mistrust the National Hurricane Center maps, and warnings about storms, the more likely people are to stay in place when a hurricane approaches. The more likely people are to risk their lives.

Evacuating for storms is a real pain. And on barrier islands and low lying ground — i.e., all of coastal Florida and a good bit of land in Georgia and the Carolinas, not to mention the rest of the Gulf Coast — you have to evacuate well before a storm, or you are not going to be able to leave at all. The Pinellas peninsula (where St. Petersburg, Florida sits) has, if memory serves, three roads out, one of which is unusable in high winds. For nearly a million people. A lot of folks will be able to shelter in North County, but it is still an big undertaking to get everyone safe.

When people are told a storm is on the way and it misses them or is less severe than expected (which is certainly possible — even with better forecasting methods hurricanes are fickle things) the more likely they are to stay put when they really should leave. “I rode out the last one,” they may say. (My father, who knew people who had been through Camille, said that if we were ever told to evacuate we were getting the hell out of Dodge.)

People die in hurricanes for a variety of reasons. Not all of them are swept out to sea or have a building collapse on them. In some cases, they die of pre-existing conditions such as heart disease that are exacerbated by the stress of the storm. They can lack sufficient food or clean water or electricity. (See: Puerto Rico after Maria; New Orleans after Katrina.)

By his cavalier disregard for the facts, and his putting his vanity above truth, the President has put lives at risk. So what else is new? As I said, just another day in Donald Trump’s America.

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