Link love

This is a little late because a lot of bad stuff has happened this week (I almost miss the days of focusing on just the pandemic… btw, we’ve passed the 100K mark in deaths :( ) and I wanted to have links to things we can do, though I’m still at a loss for some of them.  Americans– we need to get on our phones and write letters and get back to activism, even though it’s hard.  If you have the spoons, we need whatever help you can provide.  (This is partly a pep-talk for me.  But anybody who can help with time or money or both, We Need You.)


Violence against black Americans is back in the news again.  (I don’t want to say it’s happening again because I’m fairly sure it has *been* happening, it’s just that our news cycle has decided to notice again.)  Earlier this week, a woman named Amy Cooper from NYC called the police on a birdwatcher who had asked her to comply with the leashing dog policy.  She lied and said he was threatening her.    Then we found out more about George Floyd’s death when a police officer crushed his windpipe for ~9 minutes, even after he had passed out after pleading for his life.  While the officers were fired, none were charged with murder until after protests erupted across the country (so far only the one who did the actual kneeling in the video was arrested).  Protests in Minneapolis  were peaceful until the police came out and attacked protesters with tear gas and other riot gear.  (Contrast that to the non-reaction armed white dudes were getting in Michigan for taking over the State capitol.)  A black Latino CNN reporter was arrested even though he complied with all rules (as seen on film) while his white colleague was ignored.

Trump then tweeted that the protesters should be shot.  Here’s a script for calling your members of congress (MOC) about that from Celeste P.  Earlier that week, Twitter had put a link in one of Trump’s false tweets about voting for more information and Trump had retaliated with an executive order attacking twitter.


Donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund to help get protesters (the kind that actually get arrested because they’re protesting injustice, not the white dudes with guns and no masks) get bailed out.  (Also may help other people get bail money.)  Donate to the North Star Health Collective Fund which is providing street medics during the protests.

White people:  Have a plan for what you are going to do if you see a minority person being harassed by the police.   You could save a life.

Trump to cut ties with World Health Organization.  In the middle of a pandemic.  That he’s badly bungled.  Because he’s the banal kind of evil.  The legality of him doing that is unclear.  Celeste P says to call your MOC (that’s senators and house) and remind them that we are in a pandemic and we need global cooperation.

This nurse is tired.  This pharmacist also.  Trump is evil and the people who harass the people who are trying to save our lives the same.

People are dying from covid in meat packing plants because Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to keep them open.  Meat prices in supermarkets are high, but my colleague who has a ranch in another state says that cattle prices are lower than he’s ever seen.  Now would be a good time to go a little more vegetarian than usual if you’re a meat eater.


Why We Plan (or Not)

OMDG needs children’s book recommendations!


Ask the readers: What should we do for our 20th wedding anniversary mid-June?

So… DH took John Green’s advice and started planning 20 months ahead for our 20th wedding anniversary, only to have Covid come and destroy our plans to go to Portland (with MIL taking care of the children).

Now we’re at home.

What should we do?

I suggested leaving the kids at home and just like driving to a corn field to make out, but it turns out we don’t live in the Midwest anymore and it’s hot and we’re no longer teenagers.  (Disclaimer:  We did not have children when we were teenagers, though we did have siblings.)

There’s not really any beautiful nature to drive to within a 3 hour radius.  We haven’t been ordering take-out mainly because none of the places we would want to order take out from are open for business.  *crying*

I’m feeling a bit more bummed than I ought.  We usually just do a fun or fancy meal out for our anniversary, though some years we have had adventures.  We’d been planning something special which we never do and now we can’t.  And we can’t just go to the city to eat something fun or order something fancy in our town like we would do most years.  I am at a total loss.

A friend recommended renting a movie, but I don’t even know what’s out there.  Also I only like uplifting happy movies that don’t have TSTL characters… and I have a hard time with movies that are longer than 90 minutes (though I did recently rewatch most of Howl’s Moving Castle with the kids, which is 2 hours).

Do you have any suggestions?  What would you do for an important anniversary or birthday or other celebration?

When you cook together, how do you figure out who does what?

Growing up, I was always sous chef.  One of my parents would direct me to clean or chop or get ingredients ready while they did the planning work.

When I first married DH and got him started on his cooking journey, I would have the same set-up– I would be the directing chef and would make him sous chef.  Except his chopping was so slow sometimes I would give up and do the chopping.  We would try to switch roles, but he was terrible at delegating… he would just do everything himself.  During his cooking class, he learned the concept of directing/planning, etc. but he just could not do it in practice.  So I’d stand around the kitchen waiting to be told what to do and that would never come.  I’d have to either be the managing chef or I’d have to actively take over whatever sous chef task he was doing.

These days we’ve settled into a pattern that isn’t sous chef/managing chef at all.  Basically, we both look at the recipe.  I get out the ingredients while he reads through the recipe itself for any surprises (like hour rest/refrigeration times).  Then we both check the recipe and see what needs to be done next and pick and choose what to wash or chop sort of in order, but sometimes I know I skip things I’m not crazy about to let him do it, unless he delays them too long and I end up chopping that onion myself.  There are some jobs that he always does– he’s 100% in charge of any deep fat frying, for example.  I ALWAYS burn myself with splattering grease when I try, and he’s got a protective coating of fur.  Similarly, anything requiring the top oven goes to him because I am too short to use it without burning my arm.  But generally we both chop, we both stir, we both mix.  Sometimes we pour things out of heavy pots together with one holding the pot and the other getting stuff out.  This method is pretty similar to the inefficient but equitable way we handle most things in our household– we’re both responsible so if something gets forgotten or messed up we’re both at fault.  It works for us.

Though, when I cook with my kids, I am the managing chef and they are sous chefs (already DC1 is a fast and uneven chopper!).  For DC1’s one meal a week, zie does everything on hir own following the recipe with some assists from parents as necessary.

Do you cook with someone else?  How do you separate out the responsibilities?

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Refund Bullets Or Credits

  • Our American Airlines flights have been refunded
  • DC1’s camp has been refunded
  • Our AirBNBs have been refunded
  • Our contribution to DH’s family’s summer trip has been sent back.
  • Our United flights have been credited for future travel
  • DC1’s SWA flight situation has been odd… Originally we had booked a r/t ticket just for DC1 (age 13) because SWA is the only airline that allows 13 year olds to fly solo.  But then the flight back got split into two flights with a connection, which meant DC1 couldn’t do it anymore.  So SWA cancelled that ticket and refunded half the money and turned the other half into a waiver with which it purchased a second one-way ticket for DC1.  This second one-way ticket was later and really close to the edge of the window for which the camp was willing to do pick-ups.  Then after Covid, they moved the flight so it was outside the window.  (Then the camp cancelled before we could get around to trying to cancel the SWA ticket.)  But… when we called up to cancel, which we should have been able to do because it was such a large schedule change between our initial ticket and the latest version of the ticket, we were told that the person on the phone literally could only give credit because the ticket itself had been purchased with a waiver, even though from our perspective it was the same flight, from the system’s perspective refunds were not allowed for waivers.  So the very apologetic person on the phone gave us information for how to escalate which apparently can only be done via snail mail.  So DH typed up a letter explaining the situation and it is sitting in our mailbox waiting to be picked up.  I told him that if he did that, he could move half the cost of the ticket to his own allowance.  Normally getting airline credit wouldn’t be a big deal because we would use it eventually, but the only airports that use SWA are an hour farther away than our closest big airport (and more than two hours away from our regional airport).  Since we can’t transfer the waiver to someone else, the ticket is pretty much useless unless very unlikely circumstances have DC1 take SWA for some other reason.  (Maybe camp the summer after this?)  Update:  They called us and credited it because of the time changes from our original purchase.
  • Our grocery store has not yet credited the $17+ that some terrible instacart shopper stole from us.  DH called after 10 days and was told that it’s actually 10 BUSINESS days, not just 10 days and they were still working on it.  They also said they were going to give us $40 in store credit (update: they have), which makes me feel warmer and fuzzier, and not just because I really miss their frozen beet pizza and large selection of organics and fancy cheeses.  (As DH pointed out, there are reasons we usually shop at this grocery store and not the other one in town.)  I wonder who does the personal shopping for their curbside…
  • DH has taken some of the travel refund money and bought himself a fancy new desktop with it (using family funds).  The idea is that I will eventually take his fancy old desktop but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  • I have not yet gotten the refund for our DDA account over-purchase.  It sounds like some summer camps will be open starting in July, but we probably won’t be sending DC2 to them.  I am going to assume they will process this after I get the last paycheck for the year.
  • I finally put in the paperwork for a number of work reimbursements but haven’t gotten them yet.

Have you been getting Covid-related refunds (or credits)?

Link love

The fact that this isn’t even closet to the top news story is … I can’t even.

This is a cool home library.  (Also flip forward a few days to her basement post.  Did you know that you could buy bookcase hidden doors?  They sell them at home depot(!) (not an affiliate link).  I almost impulse bought one but then remembered that our house is an open floor plan and gets really hot in the summer when any door is closed.  So…)

Ask the grumpies: What is your favorite board game?

Leah asks:

What is your favorite board game?

#1 doesn’t play board (or really any) games, and #2 does but I’m not sure what she likes.  Pretty sure they’re mostly Eurogames– she played Settlers of Catan when it was still only known as Die Siedler.

Here’s pictures of my DH’s board games.  I just made him order another game along with other paraphernalia (from family funds) in order to support his favorite game store in The City since who knows when we will be able to return to The City again.

Back when I did play games, I preferred card games, particularly the kind where there’s a lot of short games played in a row and there are penalties or rewards to having won previously.  In high school I played a LOT of three person spades, and in college I replaced that with The Great Dalmuti.

Update:  You may also be wondering about children’s games.  We have those too.

Update 2:  DH told me I’d missed some of his.

So if anybody is still wondering why DH gives himself an allowance.  This is why.

More books!

I ran out of books, so while waiting to get off library lists (I’m trying to reread the Arcane Society books by Quick/Krentz/Castle in order  update:  also the Harmony series and Eclipse Bay and Copper Beach— these are all the same world and SO SOOTHING), I pulled up another (free!) E. F. Benson, this time Queen Lucia.  This review says it so much better than I could, as does the google books description, “There’s many things in this world that will depress you, and make you good for nothing, if you take them seriously, and that cheer you up if you don’t.”  As with Miss Mapp, I am astonished how enjoyable a book can be in which not a single character is sympathetic… and yet Benson’s sly humor had me reading aloud little bon mots to DH because they’re just so delicious and horrible.  This one may have concerning racism against Indians, and yet… it seems like the joke is on the upper crust British much more than the Indian Yogi… definitely in a grey area, but consider yourself warned.  Update:  Does use the n-word, but the person who uses it is the worst of all the unsympathetic characters in the book.

I pretty much finished rereading all the modern Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle books in order by series.  (I did not reread/read earlier works that aren’t library available, though I have read some of them… there’s also a lot of klunkers with rapey heroes which no thank you, and thank you one star reviews for warning me.)  Reading them in order, the copied bits aren’t as noticeable.

Read the second to latest ABCs of spellcraft novella.  It was ok.  They’re not *really* worth $2.99 given how short they are, but… at least this one is an actual novella instead of a quarter of a full book.  Don’t walk the boardwalk by Jordan Castillo Price (the latest) was a bit annoying in that it was only half a book and the second half isn’t out yet.  Ugh.  I much prefer actual novellas for my $2.99 compared to a novel that’s been split in 2 (or 4 as with the first four pieces in the series).

A match made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau was a decent little novella.  A bit more short-story-esque than novel-ish in terms of depth or character development, but not unenjoyable.  I will likely pick up the next one should it be novella-priced.  Update:  A second chance roadtrip was even closer to a short story, but also nice.  Perhaps not worth the $2.99, but if you’re rich, why not?  Although A fake girlfriend for Chinese New Year is the lowest rated of the four, I think it’s the one with the most believable romance.  A big surprise for valentines day was pretty much a repeat of the first book with the girlfriend already aware of her sexuality rather than discovering it, and even a bit more explicit (also I think the author must read the same internets that I do).

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman was not very good.  Certainly no Losing Joe’s Place (though it’s from that part of his oeuvre– hormonal teen boys in farcical circumstances, though I prefer his farcical not-hormonal teens in farcical circumstances genre, but he sadly seems to have outgrown that since becoming a parent).  I guess there’s a reason I don’t own it.

LOVED the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews so hard I bought all of them that are out and really want more.  #2 and #3 are the best, IMO.  I also made DH start the series and he really liked #1 (he hasn’t gotten to 2 and 3 yet, but he will, oh he will), which is good, but 2 and 3 are even BETTER.  #4 is good too but with a different heroine and #5 is light and short.  OMG, you can get the first 3 on kindle for 99 cents as a covid deal.  DO THIS if you can.

I think  the Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas was ok but not great?  I don’t quite remember.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get into His at Night by Sherry Thomas and I also gave up on What the Groom Wants by Jade Lee.  And I gave up on My Lady Quicksilver by Bec McMaster.

I tried to read Underdog by Laurien Berenson because I was told it was a cozy mystery, but you get to know and like the murder victim, which is not cozy.  :(  It also needed a little editing.  I think I’m going to try one of the author’s more recent books since this one was from the mid-90s.

I think I didn’t finish Just a hint clint by Lori Foster.

I liked XENI: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Rebekah Weatherspoon and look forward to reading more in this series!  (This is a nice job of a silly “married because of a will” trope, but they do a good job… my one complaint is the amount of time the heroes spend apart from each other.)

I did not like The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker even though I like her later series.

There’s a new KJ Charles!   Slippery Creatures is not from my favorite genre (post WW1, pre WWII British spy … which is odd since I love the Bright Young Things British mysteries from the same Golden Age time period… the difference I think is brightness.  Early Ngaio Marsh vs. Early Christie (I mean technically the first Tommy and Tuppence is a spy thriller…but I digress) or even Wodehouse.  KJ Charles is such a master of nailing whatever genre she tries and her books are always fantastic on top of it, even if it’s not my favorite genre.  Anyway, this is a good book, though not as fun for me as some of her different genres, and I’m almost finished with it.)  If you’re like us, you’ll want to read (and maybe own!) all of her stuff.

What is getting you through the After Times?  Are you reading more or less?  Are you leaning fluffier or deep diving into Pandemic dystopias?


People (men, kids, etc.) can learn to cook

My DH is a crazy accomplished chef.  He cooks amazing desserts.  He’s been playing with making his own pasta.  He’s mastered sourdough from a levain.  He’s got the best all-butter pie crusts around.  He can do pretty much anything. He’s done in depth studies about what makes the best chocolate chip cookies using lab notebook techniques. If there’s a recipe, he’s game to try it.

It wasn’t always this way.  When we got married, he could make bread using the breadmaker that his grandma had gotten him when we went to college and that was about it.  He’d also made pizza (using dough from the bread maker) a few times in college.  He mostly lived on day old bagels and I’m not sure what else.

One day during our first year of graduate school and married life, DH asked if I could make my chili for dinner and I suddenly realized that he needed to learn how to cook.  Otherwise I would be in charge of all the meal stuff every day for the rest of our lives.  Or maybe until I got one of our future children to take over (I did a lot of the cooking at my parents’, especially during summers).

So I showed him how to make chili.  And how to make spaghetti, which is pretty similar.  And various egg dishes.

Then he started getting into recipes.  He wasn’t very good at substitutions and his knife skills drove me crazy because he was SO SLOW getting perfectly even cubes instead of just doing a rough cut.  But we managed.

Three years after getting real jobs, I sent him to a semester-long cooking class and that really improved his knife skills.  He can take down a raw chicken with ease.  And carrots get diced quickly and imperfectly with no second-guessing.  He can even cut an orange so it looks fancy!

He’s now been cooking for nearly 20 years and can make substitutions on the fly.  He can adjust recipes for weather conditions or flavor preferences (DC2 isn’t into spicy, I hate goat cheese, etc.)    It didn’t take 20 years to get to this point.  The cooking class was only really necessary to get his knife skills up to speed (honestly, I don’t know what the hangup there was).

My little sister also didn’t know how to cook until she was well into adult-hood.  She hated doing it growing up and my parents had me, so there didn’t seem to be any reason to force her.  They already had someone to chop potatoes.  (In fairness, my sister’s existence meant I never had to mow a lawn since my mom assumed my sensitivity to heat and general clumsiness would result in me mangling a foot or two if I tried.  I do have faded cooking-related scars on my hands and arms, but I never actually lost a limb doing it.)  Since hitting her 30s, she’s been learning a lot more about cooking– most of the Christmas and Birthday presents she’s been requesting have been cooking related for the past 10 years or so.  She’s currently really into Ottonleigh’s Simple book* and in the Before Times was baking breakfast things for early morning meetings for her Team once a month or so.

DC1 has also been upping hir cooking skills– zie made a few complicated dishes from a fancy sushi cookbook without complaint.  Though, due to the lack of ability to get sushi-grade fish, zie has switched over to the Help! My apartment has a kitchen! cookbook and has started mastering simpler things like garlic bread and shrimp cocktail.  Zie is currently on the “make one dinner a week for the family” plan.  Both kids are in charge of their own breakfasts (cereal, fruit, leftover baked goods) and lunches (leftovers, quesadillas, sandwiches or cheese and crackers/rice cakes).

Who does the cooking in your place?  When did you learn how to cook?

*Disclaimer:  We got a copy of this book and Ottonleigh has six definitions of “simple” (one for each letter in the word Simple, get it?) and it is debatable how many of the recipes are anything like “quick and easy”, though they are labeled with what kind of simple they are.  Also they’ve all been delicious.  But we haven’t noticed them being any simpler in range than the ones in the Jerusalem cookbook which we would recommend over Simple.

Link love

Covid reopening bingo

This (psychiatrist) guy has NO symptoms but has tested positive for Covid 56 days after testing positive the first time.

Be careful about sizes when ordering online– this thread is hilarious.

Quarantine with difficult family & other “How To Stay In” links. #COVID-19

This thread about a mysterious radio station in Seattle!

Ask the grumpies: Bang for the buck with stimulus funds

Becca asks:

What are you doing with stimulus funds? Do economists know which kinds of ways to spend it will ripple the furthest?

The very short answer is that economists don’t get stimulus funds (they earn too much).

Right now donating to food banks is probably the best bet because getting people fed has huge beneficial effects on everything that creates or costs.  Basically anything that helps kids will have bigger bang for the buck than things that help adults (There’s a really interesting not technically meta-analysis, but colloquially meta-analysis, on this by Nate Hendricks and Raj Chetty and someone else, I think, but basically programs to help kids help the economy in the short and long term by more than anything else).  Feeding people makes them more productive, less hangry, helps their mental facilities, decreases their stress, increases their growth etc. etc.  There’s a reason it’s near the base of the hierarchy of needs.  An email I just got says that “40% of households are reporting moderate to high levels of food insecurity and 20% of children are experiencing food insecurity.”  Many food banks (at least those in the Feeding America network, according to an employee who gave a guest lecture in one of my classes a few years back) also have access to the wholesale food markets, meaning that all that food that isn’t getting bought by restaurants can be distributed to foodbanks from the larger networks.  Money to grease those wheels can do a lot of good.  (Here’s a webinar.)

Also (less mainstream economics opinion now): activism is going to have a huge impact over the next year—if we lose the post office, if they don’t take steps to make outside safer, if they re-elect Trump, all of this will have lasting impacts on the economy for generations.  So… call your congresspeople about the post office.  Buy some post-cards and stamps or printer paper and stamps and do post-cards to voters or letters to voters.

In terms of buying things that you want and not just giving money away?  That’s harder… I mean, oil prices are down, but long-term we don’t really want more driving because climate change is bad for the economy long-term.  Stick to buying from small shops not through amazon or places like instacart or grubhub.  We want to decrease the monopoly power of these companies– competition is a good thing.   I have been using amazon as the last resort these days even if it takes longer to get things elsewhere.

What are you doing with stimulus funds?