Things quarantine has taught me

DH got his first vaccine shot.  I’m just a bit away from being completely vaccinated.  The US is starting widespread vaccination for all adults in most of the country sometime in mid-April.  This is amazing.  The prospect of escape lets me reflect.  Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • I am more productive when I’m not constantly getting random colds and other viruses from students and my kids.
  • I am more productive when I don’t have students constantly dropping into my office to say hi or to ask questions (not about the homework because I don’t allow that outside of office hours).
  • A lot of what I thought were random colds are actually allergies.  Going forward I need to be more proactive with trying allergy medicine when I’m feeling congested and not just assume I have whatever crud is going around.
  • I am more productive when I have a reasonable amount of service and some of my lack of productivity these past few years really was because I was overburdened.  I also do a lot of service that I don’t get credit for because it’s the “mom” kinds of service of remembering things that need to get done and checking to make sure they got done.
  • My children are incredibly resilient and yes I can tell them that I’m working and DC2 is more interesting than my work but I have to get work done, so ask your teacher.
  • My kids are much happier people in general when they get up at 7:30 compared to when they get up at 5:30 or even 6.
  • I am more productive at home where I have a computer that I have administration privileges over and have Dropbox working.  Our department IT is incompetent but I actually knew that before quarantine.  But the new thing is that if I work at my computer then I start treating it like a work computer and not just a play computer.
  • Gochujang really is a fantastic condiment.  We are now going through it faster than we do ketchup.
  • Curbside from the grocery store where their own workers do the picking is way better than delivery from instacart.  There really are gains to experience (human capital…) from doing something repeatedly and it isn’t completely unskilled labor.
  • DC2 doesn’t need to be out of the house to keep from bouncing off the walls, but zie DOES need mental stimulation and probably some conversation (zoom is fine) in order to let us work on work days.
  • We’re allowed to ask librarians to pick books off the shelves and hold them for us even if they’re shelved at the library where we picked them up.  It seems so lazy!  But in a quarantine, it’s great for everyone (especially with curbside pickup).  I’m wondering if I should stop doing it when it’s safe to be at the library again– that is, maybe I should go back to picking the books off of shelves myself.
  • DH actually can be away from his extended family for a year so long as he gets his weekly conversations in.
  • I am reminded at how easy it is for a large propaganda machine to sway [too many] people from being their best selves to their worst selves, even at the cost of their own personal interest.  There really must be extremely wealthy super-villains out there who get their jollies by making things worse.  Because it’s easy to make things worse and doing so makes them feel powerful.  Making things better is harder and can be frustrating.

Grumpy Nation, what has this past year and some change taught you?

RBOC

  • Seems like the busier I get the more RBOC and snippets of my life you get and the fewer thoughtful substantive posts.  Ah well!
  • Vaccine update:  Second shot of Moderna, arm was sore almost right away.  Next day I woke with a massive headache.  Then I had chills alternating with overheating most of the day.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, but also wasn’t any good for work, though I participated in several faculty meetings!  It was pretty miserable and I thought to myself that if this is covid lite, then I don’t want the real thing.  Then the next day I woke up and felt great although my arm was still a little sore.
  • In case you were not eating Annie’s products because they have yeast extract, they stopped using yeast extract like 5+ years ago.  I immediately went out and bought a bunch of their cheddar snack mix.
  • We keep dried fruit and trail mix near the cat treats, and nice kitty has been trained that when we make crinkly sounds by the trail mix, she gets treats too.  I keep chocolate things in the pantry and my kids have been trained that if they catch me, they get chocolate too.  Basically, if I go to the kitchen and make crinkle sounds I suddenly have extra shadows now.  I’ve turned into Pavlov.
  • One of our tenured faculty has started talking about the same hobby horse at every single meeting at great length.  Many of us have discovered that it is a great idea to schedule another meeting right when the faculty meeting is supposed to end rather than leaving extra time.
  • It’s sad that Beverly Cleary died.  If you haven’t reread her core books as an adult, you really should, especially the Ramona ones.  They’re delightfully layered with things for kids and things for their parents that go straight over the kids heads.  Also, I always identified with Beezus because my sister is SUCH a Ramona.  Which Cleary character are you?  (I can definitely see DH as Henry!)
  • My parents always made sure we had a mix of meat, veggies, and starches at every meal.  On Wednesday we had carrots (roasted with olive oil, pomegranate and cilantro) for dinner.  On Thursday we had sweet potato fries (with a little oil, salt, paprika, and chipotle powder).  On Friday we had Korean beef slices (with a marinade and green onions).  So… we get variety over the course of a week.  (They also tend to have healthy lunches, but those are not necessarily balanced either.  Breakfast is usually cereal but not always.)
  • Our uni is having a spike in Covid cases.  But we’re opening up completely for fall with no social distancing and vaccines can’t be required of students unless the vaccine gets full approval by the FDA instead of just emergency approval.  We got those three emails one right after the other, which was really bad timing.
  • The Great British Bakeoff is hilarious whenever someone introduces an American food.  Like they were wowed by Chicken a la King and super impressed by what I consider to be a pretty sloppy pineapple upside down cake (the ones I make for DH are always quite beautiful– you’ll probably see a picture in the next batch of baking photos and I’m sure there are pictures of earlier ones).  But the most hilarious thing was when a woman was saying she was going to use peanut butter and grape jelly together in a dessert and they were like, grape with peanut butter?  There’s no way that’s going to work.  And then they were SHOCKED, shocked! when it turned out to be great.  I had to pause it to yell at the screen a little bit before I could continue.  Peanut butter and grape jelly, who would have thunk it.  What an innovative crazy idea.
  • The other thing that got me was that none of them had any idea what pita bread was supposed to look like.  They all made them oblong.  The only person who had actually eaten them before thought they were triangles because they’d been served as wedges!  PITA BREAD!!!  Do they not have Greek food in the UK?  What is UP with that?  It made me love living in the US because we may not have madiera cake or chelsea buns (which look like slightly fancier cinnamon buns), but *we have Greek food*.
  • If you do watch the Great British Bakeoff, the diversity of contestants in Season 6 is pretty awesome.  We skipped Season 4 because the young woman student character was really irritating (so far in the three seasons we’ve tried, we’ve liked Martha and Flora, who were the young woman student characters in their respective cohorts– wikipedia notes that we were not the only people turned off by season 4’s student) and the cast was so very white.  Also it turns out that Tamal (my favorite in season 6) is gay, though it isn’t mentioned in the show itself.  According to Wikipedia he was interviewed after being put on some hunks list and he was like, sorry ladies, I’m flattered and single but also looking for my own Prince Charming.  (If you’re watching on Netflix, series 1 is season 5, series 2 is season 4, and series 3 is season 6.)
  • DC1 had to read an Ayn Rand novella for English.  I’m starting to believe that QAnon poetry site wasn’t an accident.  Did you know that there are objectivist societies that provide free Ayn Rand books along with propaganda-laden lesson plans to teachers?

It’s Wednesday and cousins named Amy Jo

So, completely unrelated to the above:  There’s this person on twitter named Amy Jo Cousins that people retweet a lot.  And every time I see her, I think, oh, I wonder what she’s up to these days because every single time I think it’s my cousin named Amy Jo.  And then I’m like, … she came out?  And why did she change her last name from [mother’s maiden name]?  Did she get married? And then I suddenly realize she isn’t my cousin.  That’s her actual last name.  In fairness– she lives in the Midwest and looks a lot like my mom’s side of the family.

My actual cousin named Amy Jo, to my knowledge, does not write erotic fiction.

Who is the most evil cartoon Disney villain?

DH and the kids have been playing Villainous, which is a Disney-based game that pits Disney-universe villains (including Marvel!) against each other.

Which got us talking– who is the most evil Disney villain?  (What makes a villain evil?)  On the one hand, you’ve got villains who are misguided but cause a lot of damage (Thanos though I guess that’s not cartoon), and on the other others who seem genuinely deep down evil but don’t actually end up doing that much (Sleeping Beauty’s step-mom).  Does motivation matter?  Does amount of destruction matter?

Is selfishness and jealousy enough, or do they have to *enjoy* causing other people to suffer?  Do they have to seem especially creepy?

I think if we’re going with classic villains, Cruella de Ville has my vote.  But in the expanded universe, Lotso from Toy Story is the creepiest villain I’ve seen in what is becoming the Disney Monopoly universe.

Here is the internet on the topic:  Reel Rundown , Screenrant , Medium (which separates “evil” into 5 different categories).

What do you all think?  Who is the most evil cartoon Disney Villain?

RBOC

  • Courtney Milan and friends on twitter recently had a conversation about how at the core of a long-regency romance novel is that people want to be safe and that money is one way to be safe.  People want to marry a duke because that is the safest place to be in that time period.
  • I read a lot of long-regencies.  But I’ve also read a lot of mystery novels.  What has been interesting to me in my most recent juxtaposition, jumping from one to the other is how all these 1920s-1960s murder mysteries I’ve been binging on c/o Christie and Sayers make it very clear that it is *dangerous* to have money, especially if you are leaving it to other people and not charities.  If you have a lot of money you might as well put a target on your back.  People will marry you but then *kill* you.  They will come to your aid when you are sick, but only until you sign a new will in their favor.  Kind hearts and coronets.
  • I think it is not random that this transition between 19th century and 20th century measures of literary safety happens– the 1920s bring the strong rise of the middle class and forcing minor gentry to work for a living, though I guess the Mapp and Lucia series show that that element of society is still going strong into the 1930s.  And of course, Benson makes it clear (much like Jane Austen did before him) that idle hands truly are the devil’s playground and the idle wealthy are a ridiculous drain on society.
  • But I also want to have a lot of money because it helps me feel safe.  And I want to leave money to my children because I want them to be safe.  I like being able to escape.  But we won’t have enough money to make us worthwhile targets… and I would hope our children wouldn’t want us dead!  That’s a good reason for them to have their own income and careers.  We spend so much on investing in them so they can take care of themselves.  Which is another mistake that those 1920s victims make– they ask their children to live on their expectations rather than training them as solicitors or financiers or what have you.  No vocation, idle hands.
  • Though I guess finance is a bad choice, come to think of it, because a pretty common murder motive is needing funds to cover up embezzlement!  So maybe just stick to law.  Not medicine because they have too much access to poison.
  • Agatha Christie seems to be really pro-LGBT, particularly gay men.  It’s sometimes a plot point (won’t spoil it, one of her many plays).  Reading the mysterious Mr. Quinn it is quite lovely how in the first story she’s pretty clear, though using coded language, that the hero, Mr. Sattherwaite (who I think appears in the occasional Hercule Poirot when HP needs gossip, ah yes, wikipedia says he does) is gay, or possibly asexual (though in later short stories she gives him a failed marriage proposal).  In contrast, Sayers seems like a pretty awful homophobe, particularly when it comes to lesbians.  She straight up says pretty terrible things.  And yet, Sayers seems, on the whole, less anti-Semitic prior to WWII (as noted in an earlier post, Christie seems to realize she shouldn’t be anti-Semitic once the Nazis come into power).
  • When I was in elementary school, one of the children’s moms came in once a year to teach about Judiasm, usually around Hannukah.  I didn’t realize until I was much older that she did this to help combat antisemitism.  We also had a disabilities unit in 4th grade where we learned about different kinds of disabilities and how people worked around them and how to treat people we met who had disabilities. People would come in and talk to us about how to treat their seeing eye dogs and so on.  The learning specialist talked about how she taught people with dyscalculia to add (which… was how I did adding at the time).  It was a really wonderful program and definitely helped me not be a jerk or idiot when meeting new people.  I’m not sure we could do that these days because people would be too afraid of making mistakes.  And I’m sure there were stupid things we did, but on the whole all those old educational videos from the 1970s and the community volunteers themselves made us less likely to be harmful and more likely to support ADA legislation.
  • This blog really is a random mix of things.  I think that’s more unusual than it used to be?  But maybe not.
  • One of DH’s relative’s “friends” traveled to DC for the coup and stormed the capitol.  He was really excited about it and posted pictures and videos all over his social media.  Then he came home and found out that everyone he knew IRL was horrified and deleted all his social media and is pretending he didn’t go at all.  I hope the FBI finds him.
  • DH’s relative’s youngest (the only one in college) got an additional bill for $2K for last semester because financial aid was based on the number of people living in the household and so he included his oldest and her kid.  But, apparently the oldest got some kind of food assistance last semester (I don’t know if WIC or foodstamps or what) so the school decided she and her kid didn’t count as part of DH’s relative’s household, so they sent a retroactive bill for the difference(!)  That seems crazy to me.  (We paid it.  We don’t know how much this semester is going to cost even though classes start soon.)
  • Speaking of DH’s relative– he kicked a covid positive mask-denier “We’re all getting it anyway so who cares” off the work site where he was working twice.  The first time he threatened to kill the guy (“If you give me covid and my immunocompromised wife dies, I will hunt you down” “That’s not fair, you won’t know it was me”) , which in retrospect, he regrets.  The second time he called the guy’s boss and threatened to tell the city.  That actually worked.  It’s nice when doing the things we tell our kids to do (talk to a responsible adult when someone is being dangerous) actually works.
  • Speaking of anti-maskers, DH tried to get our car inspection sticker renewed and had to go to three places before he found one where the people were wearing masks (the dealership).  Except… after it was done the cashier had her mask around her neck instead of her face.  He also went to drop something off at a government office and didn’t realize until he’d left that none of the people working there even had masks.  7 people died yesterday and our ICU has been 130% full for almost a full week now.  The students aren’t back yet.  DH is shaken.  I wonder if I should start doing errands.  Maybe DH can do my work instead.  I’m not sure what I would have done in the moment, but I definitely would have reminded the cashier to put her mask up (I would have assumed it was an accident).  As for the government office, if I’d noticed, I think maybe I would have just left the item we were turning in on the inside of the door.
  • The library was still quite lovely for curbside, and Target curbside was great.  Hopefully he won’t have to do any more errands for a while.  I can pick up and drop off library books myself once my school starts since the library is on the way to work.  Also I’d completely forgotten that some people don’t wear masks because last week I went for my annual doctor’s visit and everyone at the hospital was masked without a single nose showing.  I switched hospital systems and it has made a HUGE difference.  Also everyone there was super nice and seemed genuinely happy to be working there, which is also really different.
  • The bad news though is that I am now obese(!) which I have NEVER been before (BMI exactly 30, but I’ve also gained a lot since my last checkup so it’s been a fast weight gain, which is the least healthy kind).  I had my glucose checked but it’s fine.  My bad cholesterol is up too– usually it’s nicely in the low to middle healthy range and only my good cholesterol is high.  The doctor’s notes say the cholesterol is fine, but the automatic thing says “borderline high”.  I’m having a bunch of other weird health problems too which I should probably just give their own post.  Pandemic is bad!  I’ve told DH he can still make bread but he needs to cut back on the sweets.  The children have noticed and have been complaining.

What challenges do you like reading about and why?

I really like reading and hearing about no-spend challenges or buy-nothing-new and so on.

I like reading about how people’s lives are changed, with their relationship with “stuff” now different.  I like seeing people pay down debt with what they didn’t spend, or increase their savings (or vacation fund, or whatever they put the money towards that they value more than their gazingus pins or whatever they were buying habitually without really appreciating).  I can’t really seem to get tired of reading about people’s personal journeys with challenges that limit what they can buy.  Even their failures are instructional.  (I googled “no spend challenge” and it seems like it was really a THING back in January 2018!  But it’s still a thing even if not a THING.)

I don’t know WHY I like this brand of challenge so much.  A friend suggested it’s because I’m uber-frugal, and I’m like, so I like watching people challenge themselves at doing something I’m really good at!  (I’m not actually uber-frugal, given that we spend more than the median family makes each year, but conditional on our income one could make that argument.)  But that can’t be it.

Because I’m also REALLY good at reading novels.  Like SUPER good at reading novels.  And I find people’s novel reading challenges to be supremely boring.  Like, read 12 books a year or 30 or whatever.  I don’t count and I don’t get counting.  So me feeling superior is not it.  Though, I do kind of get a kick out of when people who read only white dood books do a “read only women authors” or “read only authors from underrepresented groups” challenge.  Because then they discover all these great books that they never knew existed, which is cool.  I do already read mostly women authors and a lot of underrepresented authors, but because the fact of bias in the publishing industry means that anything by an underrepresented group actually published is probably going to be better than average or it wouldn’t be published.  Similarly self-authored stuff is going to be better on average for the same reason– more underrepresented group people aren’t getting regular publishers because of bias so there’s higher quality.  So… that’s kind of selfish on my part even ignoring the benefits of diversity.  I’d love for a world in which mediocre books by underrepresented groups are also published just like they are with white authors, but we’re not there yet.

So I guess I like challenges when people’s eyes are opened and they learn something about themselves or about the world.  When challenges help people grow.

I do kind of like wheezywaiter‘s random challenges even when they don’t work.  Because I’m curious about people’s experiences with things even if they’re not things I’m going to want to do.  So it’s not just challenges that are likely to be successful and life-changing, but seeing what happens and what works.

I am not the only person in this world who loves reading about challenges.  I mean, that’s kind of wheezywaiter’s current brand right now, and it’s made his popularity go way up according to a couple of his videos.

But I don’t like all challenges.  Maybe the question is more about why I don’t like the reading some number of books challenges.  And maybe it’s just that I don’t like challenges that are about doing something fun.  Which makes sense– a few years back #2 did a read steampunk books challenge and she hated it.  Challenges take away fun from things that are already fun, but they add something to things that aren’t.  Sort of like taking that Jane Austen class in college was the last time I ever reread Pride and Prejudice without zombies, but it made Mansfield Park somewhat interesting.

Do you like to read/watch other people’s challenges?  What genres are your favorite?  Do you prefer doing or watching?

Halloween costumes of years past

So, I was thinking of my Halloween costumes years past…
Here’s what I can remember:
1. Angel (I vaguely remember my mom ordering wings from Sears and them almost not coming in on time)
2. Flapper (I did not look like a flapper– I did wear one of my mom’s old 1970s style dresses. No fringe, but I did have a bob)
3. Beethoven (poet shirt, black pants, teased hair)
4. Witch
5. Witch (same costume)
6. Martha Washington (my mom got married in 1976; this was her wedding dress which was also her bridesmaids dress for her sister’s more opulent wedding that year)

… That’s all I can remember. There may have been a few more witches in there. And I KNOW that at some point I wore one of those cheap plastic pinny costumes with a cheap plastic mask once our town got a Walmart, which was a huge relief to my mom, but I cannot for the life of me remember what– maybe Wonder Woman? I’m pretty sure there were no black-face or Roma or Ninja costumes in my past.

One of the things about being rich is that on the years that my MIL doesn’t just send Halloween costumes, we can go to Target or to a Halloween supply store (last year DC1 needed a costume zie could play violin in Target was out of non-offensive things in hir size that allowed violin playing) and spend $30 and get a costume that will last long enough to be passed down.  No need for creativity or effort!  DC2 is going as a Ravenclaw this year (DC1 is 12 and maybe shouldn’t be trick-or-treating, but if zie does, zie will reuse hir grim reaper costume).

What Halloween costumes do you remember from your youth?

On break

Nothing’s wrong– just traveling and out of backlog!  (If you’d like a grumpy hit, check out our back list– 2011 had some especially entertaining posts, for example.)

How’s your summer going?

A dialogue on cephalophones

I realize these dialogues would be much more exciting if one of us could draw, or pretend to draw, on the computer.  But alas, we are lazy.

#1:  I didn’t realize there was a word for this, but it makes sense.

#2:  …and it has to be saints, not just anybody carrying their heads?

#1:  maybe it’s a term about saints that you could apply to other people?

#2:  but that might confuse people– how would they know you’re speaking metaphorically?

#1:  hmm

#2:  like you don’t want people to think that an *ordinary* group of people carrying their heads are actually saints

#1:  haha

#2:  Or worse!  It could be dangerous.  You might confuse a group of headless horsemen for saints.

#1:  only if they had horses

#2:  or British houseghosts!

#1:  (nearly)

#2:  They’re not always nearly headless!  What about the Canterbury Ghost?

#1:  What about him?

#2:  He’s not a saint.

#1:  Right.

#2:  Or what about Nearly Headless Nick’s Frenemies?  I bet they’re dangerous.  Can’t go mixing them up with saints.

#1:  hahahaha

[end]

 

 

things you don’t actually have to do (unless you want to)

As we’ve gotten old and allowed to be lazy, we’ve made some discoveries about things that we grew up thinking everybody did, or found out that other people thought everyone did (even if we didn’t)

  • make your bed
  • fold your underpants
  • declutter
  • puree baby food (they don’t actually need mush)
  • cut old tshirts into same-size pieces to make rags (you can use it as rags without cutting it, you can tear where there’s already holes etc.)
  • shave your “lady-bits” (embarrassingly, I didn’t even know this was a thing until I saw people talking on a mother’s forum)
  • sleep train

ETA:  I’ve heard great things about Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu.

Grumpy Nation, what are some things you’ve realized don’t actually need to be done, or that you were surprised to find other people thought were necessary?