For obvious reasons, I won’t be returning to posting in Oct 1st (as stated previously).
I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the great comfort and help I’ve received the last couple of weeks from the Union for Reform Judaism faith. A couple Jewish friends suggested diving into Yom Kippur with them, since I couldn’t eat anyway. I’m glad I took them up on their offer. I’ve really felt God’s presence, been uplifted, and had my hope renewed.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is (was, he passed away in Nov 2020) an amazing teacher. And Central Synagogue of NYC, does the most wonderful services. I came for Yom Kippur, I’m still hanging out during Sukkot. Still a Christian, but I really never understood why Judaism was so special a faith till now. Christianity has buried a lot of what was Jesus’s faith, background, life. Listening to the rabbis has opened my eyes as well as my heart.
I’m so very grateful that even in this season, turn, turn, turn, God is not allowing me to collapse in on myself, like a black hole, but instead busting out new surprised and new directions and using this all to carry me into a new way of thinking about life, living in the world, and feeling joy on the journey. And I bet you thought I’d be going full Buddhist in my time of grief. Nope. You just never can tell where the Spirit of God will guide you, if you’re 100% willing to be guided.
In the course of my daily life, as I tell people about my loss, my dogs’ groomer, my eye doctor, the person who came to steam our carpets today, I find people respond with almost physical relief. They then feel free to share about their losses. We don’t feel alone. We don’t need to pretend for each other’s sake. We can speak our tough questions, our challenges, our “I got out of bed today” victories out loud.
When I think about my encounters, how none have been unexpected deaths by covid, it gives me new appreciation for the 1 in 500 of every Americans who have lost someone to covid. It is not seen, or spoken of, but America is a nation steeped in grief. We are a nation awash in silent desperate struggles. If you don’t agree, start asking people, “No, tell me how you really are. I want to know.” It’s that simple.
Open the conversation. Make a safe space. You can help hurting people with simple compassion. It’s not hard to seek justice or love mercy. It’s not hard to walk life with a heart of peace. Just replace hubris and haughtiness with humanity and humility. A simple turn of heart. Anyone can do it. Everyone can do it. And therein lies the real capacity for uplift and change as a nation. That this choice, this power, resides in everyone, can help anyone, and is not, cannot, be limited or thwarted or overrulled by the few.
I stopped watching the news. It seemed trivial. Especially any talk of politics. Politicians are invested in spreading Big Lies, squabbling over big price tags, trying to take away people’s voting rights, ability to direct their own medical care, or simply see their kids are scientifically safe at school. They don’t want to do the real work it takes to lift a nation back up that’s stumbled. I haven’t time for them. They are the few. It’s the many that have power in a nation. I trust in the core of our great nation, the good hearts of all our people everywhere. (@iambearsun’s journey can show you this.)
If at some point you check back find this blog has gone private, don’t be alarmed. That’s just me taking a full-on break, stepping away for a season. Sometimes I take long breaks, open up shop again, and come right back to posting after a couple years. I never know. Life is full of surprises. Who would have thought the pandemic would happen, or that it would still be around now, despite a vaccine. Oh well.
Anyone wishing to send up a prayer that I land a great job I love, with great people, pay and benefits, please feel free. Remember, in this life, there are never enough “I love yous.” Spread some around each day. And now I’ll leave you this beautiful evening with this thought: Whatever change it is you are believing for in yourself or the world at large, take heart. The future is yet unwritten. I swear it’s not too late.
Minka slept on the foot of Gran’s bed all Sunday afternoon, which she rarely does when Gran is in bed during the day. She was saying goodbye and I love you, though we did not know it.
Monday morning, my Gran passed away, at home, in her bed just as she always wanted.
At the hour of Gran’s death, there was an earthquake which shook the house. It’s center was located in her town, which never happens. Mutti says it was caused by the Lord coming himself to collect her soul. I believe that. He is good; and his mercy endures forever.
We are very happy for Gran, who is in heaven with all our family, and free of infirmity. But we are all hard hit by grief, that comes in and out, often on little cat feet. Rest assured, Minka is going to be well taken care of for the rest of her days.
I look forward to the day I see Gran again, though she will be in my heart always as I live my life, shaped by her extraordinary, unfailing love, mercy, generosity, faith, sacrifice, and goodness. She was daily object lesson of Christ’s nature. A humble hidden saint living an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. A testimony to the goodness and power of God to do so much more than anyone could think or imagine with our small, imperfect, broken lives.
So very sad right now. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. And yet I know she is with me now, even now, urging me to go on with my life with a renewed spirit of hope and joy, knowing I am now under her watchful heavenly eyes and filled with a double portion of her grace as a parting gift.
Hmm, so the SO is currently in self-imposed quarantine at the condo. Technically “at home.” At least in the same city. That’s something. Canada requires you to do a test when you arrive, but if you’re fully vaxed, you don’t have to quarantine unless the PRC comes back positive. In my opinion, with Delta, that’s closing the barn doors after the horses are out. But…..Since the SO was in an area where they had 30K new cases in the last couple weeks he doesn’t want to take any chance of causing a Delta outbreak in BC. So he’s staying at the condo till the test result comes back. He said he might even come home and do the whole 14 days. He’s that concerned.
Le Pape stayed in the Netherlands, and La Mère joined him there this week. They have family and friends there they haven’t seen since last Oct. They want to be home, even if it is a hotbed of covid cases and dramatic floods. La Mère especially wants to see her relations in France and Belgium. I’m glad they could be here, and now they can be there and safely back again. The Netherlands has good rate of vax, not great, but they’re way better (83%) than the US on single shots. And they are busting ass to get 2nd shots in arms. The level of anti-vax there is low. It’s considered very un-community minded to be anti-vax. Dutch guilt. It’s a powerful thing.
Mutti is doing well. She cancelled all Gran’s home health services this week due to Delta covid fears. She said it was hard giving up the help, but she thought it best. Then she told me she felt bad about our summer ending up in all manner of tatters because of Gran’s illness and the SO’s travels. She asked if I wanted to do Gran’s Oct 1 to Dec 31, instead of Sept 1 to Nov 30, so the SO and I could have a couple solid months together. Yes, please! So don’t plan to hear from hear me again till October-ish. Fall colour in BC! Yes, please!
Da wants to come up for a short visit in August, when they lift the border restrictions. He thinks he can get The Dude to fly him out as The Dude is looking to buy some commercial space in BC and Da sort of suggested he had an in there. Uh….okay. Does that mean we get to meet The Dude? We’ll see. I’m kind of hoping we can take a trip to Quebec. I’d love to visit Au Diable Vert and see the Dark Sky Preserve, and the ObservEtoiles show.
Le Pape will come back in October for business as some shifting gets underway. We can have our usual Thanksgiving and Christmas, with Gran – to which the SO can hopefully fly-in “no problem.” Then by Feb, I’m home, hopefully with a new job, and we can see his folks, who plan to come back in Spring, depending on the state of the world, et cetera, et cetera. Fingers crossed, arm vaxed, masks at the ready, anyways.
Ok, this week some people went to space. God bless, Wally Funk, the 82-year-old aviator, woman, and only truly “qualified to be in space” person aboard any of the “star” ships. Yes, she was taken as a token and a publicity stunt, but I still feel nothing but happy for her. She was more qualified than any male contemporary to be in space 60 years ago but NASA and the US science community then, and still now, has huge problems with women. So she didn’t get her chance then. I’m glad she got it now. Go, Wally!
A recent study concluded at the rate women are graduating in Astrophysics, it will take another 60 years to reach parity with men. 60 years. Six-zero. The study didn’t even bother to subsequently follow up about the prospects of women of color. But I’m gonna say, for them to reach parity, maybe 100 years? This makes me really sad, because these voices will push science in new directions, important directions, that they wouldn’t otherwise go. Discoveries will stall, needlessly. Science will be held back, needlessly. Disasters that could go averted, won’t be, needlessly.
I’m pro-space, pro-science, and pro-women in space and science. America and NASA? Not so much. Example? NASA decided in 2019 they in order to get funding (taxpayer money) they had to convince women (who are are 51% of the US workforce and therefore the taxpayers) to invest. They said this part out loud. I’m not making it up. So someone at NASA cooked up the “All women space walk” as a PR stunt to get women’s money (not women) “onboard”.
Only problem, they then had to delay the walk because NASA suddenly discovered it didn’t have enough woman-size space suits. There were only 2 women on the “all-women” team. Because 2 is all they want in space. And because in the 60 years since women have been training to be in space….uh….yeah, only one woman’s space suit was ever made. That tells you all you need to know about NASA’s commitment to women in space and the old boy STEM culture there.
There is a “no women in space” culture, pretty much all over the Western capitalist world, still today. Russia had a woman in space in 1963. The US has sent 50 women to space – wikipedia list them as “list of female spacefarers”. Compare that the number of men sent to space – 339. Wikipedia lists them as “List of astronauts by name.” See the difference? Women are not astronauts, just spacefarers, people on a journey. You can see how this attitude permeates in our pop-culture media, and sends a clear message to all girls and women that they’re still considered inferior to men, even in space. It’s really (bad) art imitating (bad) life. (Good art pushes boundaries.)
A gender-swap of the role brought attention and initially high ratings, but viewership has since settled at much the same levels as under Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi. The decision to cast a woman as the Doctor has also meant the franchise became a pawn in the culture wars, further souring relationships in the fandom, and making the social media posts of the show’s creators and stars toxic to wade through.
So, despite the fact the ratings did not decline one iota under the former male Dr Who star’s levels, the show should be killed because she didn’t improve the ratings? And you blame that on her being a woman? And too, because a few fans in the worldwide gender diverse fandom (I’m guessing a few young white men), couldn’t accept a woman Doctor? Seriously? That’s what you want to say? In 2021. A few guys are uncomfortable with it and vent in their social media posts and that’s a reason to exterminate the popular series (and by the way, vanish the only female Dr)? Wow.
Star Trek, another iconic series that was socially ground breaking in its day, the 1960s, is now very much a 1950s version of space. If you doubt, I would suggest you watch the most recent movie in the franchise. Keeping all the costumes, sets, and scripts exactly as they are just imagine all the men in the women’s roles and costumes speaking the women’s dialogue, and then all the women in the men’s roles and costumes, speaking all the “male” dialogue. Then it’s easier to see the how deep is the problem of space a 1950s America is. It’s overwhelmingly white men “heros” act ridiculously violently, while all women are really scenery for the men to look at or victims to be rescued.
The idea of space, as the new frontier, is tainted by the old frontier. All the stuff humanity hasn’t dealt with here on Earth, continues in space. Recently Thomas Edsall wrote an OpEd for the NYT about how We are leaving “lost Einsteins” behind. Uh… yeah. I agree that spatial awareness is something people in STEM totally need. By the way, who has the best spatial awareness? Women. It used to be men training in STEM had to learn to do actual technical drawing. They had to actually put models/machines together manually. That’s not the way it works anymore with the advent of computers that can simulate and create drawings.
So vital spatial talents lost? You bet. But may be we aren’t leaving behind lost Einsteins. Maybe what we’re leaving behind, for the last 500 years, is actually lost Curies? And maybe we should address that? I know it’s a big ask. I mean….the men on the Norwegian Olympic committee apparently can’t even bring themselves to ask the IOC to allow Norwegian women beach volleyball players to play in board shorts like men. The women have to play in tiny bikini bottoms. Not even spandex shorts will suffice. The women have to pay a fine for dressing like human beings and athletes instead of male sexual fantasy objects. It’s bad.
Women and men wear the same clothes in the same sport for every sport, fencing, equestrian, swimming, gymnastics, skiing, curling, soccer. A uniform fit to purpose for the sport. It should be virtually the same clothing for male and female athletes. Why this is hard to grasp in 2021 is beyond me.
This is not to say men are alone in this entrenched “men of science” mindset. I read Dr. Kathryn Flinn’s piece on Canadian, Dr. Suzanne Simard’s book Mother Tree. It was a good piece. Very typical of the “I’m a real scientist. This book written by X is not 100% good science and 100% science is really better for the public.” That’s a very male science viewpoint. Actually, Dr. Simard’s science writing is for the popular culture. You can’t save trees unless people care about them. In birding we say, birds are most at risk of being ignored to death. No one in NYC cares about burning forests in the west till their air becomes unbreathable. You can’t get regular non-biologist people to care about the life of trees, or anything, by requiring them to have a biology degree level of understanding before you talk to them.
This kind of review happens anytime a scientist writes science for a non-science audience. Fritjof Capra ran into this way back in 1975 with his Tao of Physics. But that book got more people into studying Physics than any 100% science book. It drove academic inquiry. It drove investment. And that lead to science breakthroughs. So, I get the point of the review, but I think she overall missed the point of the book. Dare I say it? She missed the forest for the trees. Yep, I said it.
I see these kinds of reviews as valid, in a serious science journal. But in Scientific American? I think that’s more about the reviewer building her “Hey, I’m a real scientist” “like a man” bonafides. It’s academic signaling. And I get it, she’s trying to fit into a man’s world – science. She wants to be taking seriously by the men who control her career. She wants tenure. She’s got a full plate of publish or perish. It’s how you get ahead and establish yourself in academia. But I really have to draw the line under the use of 18th century white male religious claptrap like “man is a moral creature in an amoral world.” Um…wow, so wrong. Where to begin?
How about this? Man is an amoral creature in a moral world. Let’s start there. The world has its own morality, it’s always bending toward balance. Ecological systems are very complex, but as whole, always moving toward balance. (Yes, kind of getting into complexity theory and systems theory here, but stay with me.) A forest is in balance. An invasive species (brought by man) the bark beetle shows up. Trees start to die faster than they can be replaced. CO2 goes up. O2 production goes down. Animals start to starve and lose shelter. They move – if they can – to new spaces. But sometimes their lives are specifically tied to a single species in that forest.
The roots of dead trees can hold the earth when rains come. The earth starts to dry out. This changes weather patterns. Wet and dry light strikes develop. Whole forests got up in flames. 100K acres, gone. Animals lose their food and shelter en masse, or die en masse without habitat. The bark beetles also die. Then it takes decades for the forest to fully return to the CO2 sink O2 producer it was, to the habitat it was. That’s the earth, rebalancing itself. That’s the earth’s morality. It’s always interconnectedness acheiveing balance.
In a way, democracy is like this. It’s large scale interconnectedness of many small individuals. It’s reliance is on group knowledge and the consensus/balance of all parties involved. It seeks to leverage the power of all for the balanced good of all. You should be deeply concerned when the group knowledge and consensus is overturned or thwarted by the few. When the few want to rule over the many because they think they know better. I’m not saying groups are perfect. I’m a big supporter of small Ag (family farms), small tech (apple started in a garage), small pharma (looking at you weed growing hippies). Innovation always starts small, often with just one person. I’m saying just think about how small systems interact to form a healthy large system that benefits all, not the few.
Okay, back to nature being moral and man not so much. Man doesn’t care about balance. Man only cares about what man wants. He sees his needs as primary and the rest of the world as subject to his needs. For many millennia, man has abandoned the role of caretaker, gardener, (the role most religions assign humanity) for a selfish one that sees as his “moral” imperative the “taming” of “mother” nature – a system he doesn’t actually understand or even want to understand before he starts wrecking havoc on it.
Man brings rabbits to a rabbit free continent, so he can shoot them for sport. And then the rabbits devastate the native landscape. Which devastates the native wildlife. Which starts the climate change ball rolling. There’s a reason snakeheads are destroying US rivers and lakes, and it’s not because the snakeheads scraped together cash, bought a ticket, got on a plane and brought themselves to the US. Pythons in the Florida Everglades? That’s not nature. That’s man. Man’s stupidity is destroying nature, the complex system that keeps us all alive.
This happens over and over and over. Man discovers fire. Wood burns. Chops down trees. Destroying habitat. Hmm. Man looks around. What’s better than wood to burn? Coal. How do you make coal, cut down way more wood to burn into coal. Then you find you can mine coal and so you destroy whole mountains to get at coal. Hmm. What’s better than coal? Whale oil. Sure, ok. Now let’s kill all the whales. What’s better than whale oil? Black gold, petroleum? Lets extract that by injecting toxic chemicals into the earth. And belch out CO2. What’s better than petroleum? How about atomic energy, no nuclear energy. That’s safe. Let’s use that.
I mean…really, we are not a highly intelligent species. Even Jesus call us stupid sheep. And he, as God, supposed made man. (When a male god makes a man in his own image…and then call him stupid, what does that say about the god who made man?) The history of man using technology to solve problems his technology created in the first place is pretty unrelentingly grim reading. So when I hear someone talk about climate change and trying to end on a high note by saying “Man will use his brain (it’s always a man) to figure out new technology to save the world….” I have to roll my eyes.
Man doesn’t understand the basic “technology” of nature, that why he keeps screwing it up. We live on a paradise. We turn it into a hellscape through our own lack of understanding about how our world actually works. We don’t know how to create, develop, or use technology in a mindful, beneficial way to protect our planet and ourselves. And frankly, as long as women and indigenous, and people of color’s voice are locked out of the conversation, all the conversations, political, business, scientific, it’s goint to stay that way.
When we shut down all but our own voice, or the voice of those exactly like us, nothing good can happen. A woman immigrant made the mRNA vaccine possible to save the lives of millions. But because it was a woman’s idea, it spent 3 decades backburnered, kinda pooh-poohed by science. Then came covid. Now it’s saving billions. And has the future of saving millions from potentially many, many other diseases. Would covid ever have happened with a woman in the White House? If women of all races weren’t still held back as chattel slaves of men and unable to vote 70 years after Emancipation? Weren’t, even today, still subject to men’s whims about reproductive rights? Or simple criminal justice for women? Because women are still woefully underrepresented, underfunded, and unheard in politics, law, religion and science?
The scariest thing on the planet right now? People who think quantum technology is nifty. No one fully understands the quantum world right now. But we take the little knowledge we have and start futzing around with the quantum world to make it do things for us, like encrypt conversations. Typical white male thinking. Kinda reminds me of the 2000 atomic bombs people blew up for “research and testing” the fallout of which blankets the globe and will for the next 10,000 years. Know before you blow, people. If you have no idea how the forces you are work with actually work…double-check that a “good idea.” Cart, horse.
Obviously I’m not anti-tech or anti-science, and there are many good people, men and women, who really think about the ethics and outcomes of scientific research and discovery. And yes, lots of progress has been made for women in science, but it’s no where near where we need to be to pull up from planetary destruction. It’s all hands on deck. Old models of science that cut out the impact on the earth our actions have, frankly just won’t cut it. Science that’s “all about me and what I benefit I can get out of it” is bad science. It’s bad science for humanity, if it’s bad for the globe. And we need to figure out if it’s bad for the earth before we do stuff.
Stop trying to militarize and monetize before you understand the forces you are working with. Work with the forces of nature, to do good. When you accept the natural world as it is, you see man’s crazy made-up current culture for what it is, destructive. Most of science, because it’s very Westernized, is very colonial. The idea that any discovery is mine to do with what I like because I “discovered” it (the Mermaid question). Um, no. Or, worse still, the idea that anything that might advance me toward a new discovery that helps me is totally acceptable. Again, no.
No one sane would use the research on twins gained from Nazi torture and experimentation. That’s an extreme example, but in many respects, science still does this kind of research, only now it uses it. I can’t even fathom why the professor at Caltech is being allowed to publish his research, after desecrating sacred land to get the samples, to do the research on such samples and he’s been teaching his students it’s okay to do the same and letting them base their PhD research on those samples they stole. The damage they’ve done can never be undone to that cultural site, to that culture.
I love geology. I love Caltech. I’m currently taking an online course through Coursea from a Caltech professor. I understand people, even really good people, can make terrible mistakes. But, can you honestly tell me a person with a PhD and 50 years of in field experience didn’t know how to read a map? Or ask questions of a ranger? The right thing to do would be to return all the samples to the indigenous people, burn all research associated with those samples, and withdraw those papers from publication. This would show you’re serious about making amends.
Publish or perish, doesn’t mean you get to perish other people or their culture so you can publish. I’m not trying to be harsh here. I’m sympathetic to people who make genuine mistakes. But in 99 out of 100 cases, they aren’t genuine mistakes. They’re white male scientists filled with hubris who are dismiss native culture, science and religion and see those not a guidestars and important to advancing knowledge but as standing in the way of their science, their careers. Manua Kea is a classic example. It belongs to the indigenous Hawaiian people, to their scientists and culture. But the US went ahead and built telescopes on the site, desecrating it. If our scientists are that smart, they should be able to figure out another place to build telescopes.
Anyway, I sort of dropped out of orbit. Coming back to space, and space travel. The hope of space was that it wouldn’t become another “trashed by rich white men” place and filled with garbage, discrimination, hate, inequality, et cetera. Enter three, not so wise, but very rich white, men Musk, Bezos, Branson. Musk is throwing satellites into space at an unprecedented rate without regard for science at all or that fact that space belongs to all of us, not just rich people who can afford to build and launce rockets. (Yes, I do see the irony. Musk is doing to US astronomers now what US astronomers did to the indigenous people of Hawaii by building on Manua Kea. Karma’s a bitch.)
Musk at least can claim mental illness for some of his genuinely bad decisions. Branson and Bezos? Not so much. Sir Richard seems like a genuine space enthusiast. Yes, ego to the stratosphere, but honestly a person who thinks and innovates. Enthusiasm can lead you to astray. From the late Latin enthusiasmus ‘inspiration, frenzy’ from the Greek enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein ‘be inspired or possessed by a god’ (theos ‘god’). So crazy as well.
Jeff’s a whole ‘nother level of problem. You do not now, nor did you ever, need to enter space to understand that our shared planet is fragile and needs to be protected — mostly from people exactly like you guys. All anyone need do ever do is pick up a decades-old book, like, say, Silent Spring (by a female scientist, Dr Rachel Carson). Or sit in the jungle watching apes (like female scientist, Dr Jane Goodall). Or maybe, just talk to a woman who had to flee to a contaminated nuclear site to have some sort of life — away from petty the wars of petty men. Don’t expect anyone to believe you when you say you can’t see the Earth needs help except from outer space.
Maybe rich white, men should stay on earth and try to see their workers as hard working and deserving of dignity, and respects. Maybe they could spend millions setting up a giant union at every one of their plants. Or lobbying for universal healthcare, childcare, free education, gun safety, green energy, clean oceans? Maybe they could go all in on protecting voting rights so the great unwashed masses — who want to save the planet — can be heard loud and clear instead of through a hazy of gas and oil lobbyists. Bee verges – maybe? I’m just spitballing here. There’s a lot you can do, for people, for the planet while ON the planet. The needs are so great at this point, just pick something.
Going to space? Oh my goddess. So you can capitalize space? With space tourism? A guaranteed planet unfriendly, dirty industry? The totally foreseeable (in 2010) space tourism race, is still not well researched for impacts on earth’s climate, and not in anyway regulated by govt for the amount of carbon dumped into space on each fanciful flight for billionaires (or their sons). The level of total irresponsibility here is off the charts. And I’m pro space! I’m 100% pro “to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!”
And the idea that capitalists should “Off-world” their toxic waste, rather than change to a sustainable industry, a zero-waste business, a zero-waste sustainable world? Just do the math, genius. Earth’s resources to send stuff to space, to keep Earth’s polluting industry in space, to return products (made from Earth’s stuff transported to space) back to Earth? It’s nuts. Just 100% environmentally devastating, for the Earth! Apparently he employs only scientists that can’t do math. Space is not your dumping ground. It doesn’t belong to you. I can understand his desire to be seen as a Stetson-wearing Texas space cowboy, saving the Earth, given the insecurity he clearly feels about his manhood (based on the design of his rocket). But level-up by paying your taxes, Tex.
There’s a big difference between an astronaut and an a–. Jeff was cargo. Do you know how ridiculous it looks to see an middle-aged billionaire white guy, with his middle-aged billionaire white brother, and the teenage white son of an middle-aged billionaire white guy, all of whom know zip about space (compared to the fully qualified astronaut, old white middle-class woman they brought along), blast themselves into space on a giant phallus? And then upon returning to Earth, award themselves little gold wings, of the sort they used to hand out on airlines in the 1960s when 5-year-old children would go on their first flight? All the while having to listen to men (and only men) who worked for NASA be interviewed about how great it all is?
Ugh. I’m sorry, it was just too over the top. Listening to the NASA guys (one white, one Black) talk about “how far we’ve come”? Like this was collective action, involving all of us, was sickening. Jeff had the company PR tape praising him turned around before the rocket even cooled off. It was so clearly a “look how far I’ve come” right wing, white male, “rugged individualist” (non-taxpayer), Horatio Alger, colonialist, capitalist, crap. It was honestly shameful. Space should be a “we” endeavor, driven by the democratic collective tax-paying we at every level. Space doesn’t belong to you. Repeat that till it sinks in.
Every day, for decades, for centuries, women in STEM have been harassed, passed over, ignored, pushed aside, denied educations, … by NASA, by men in STEM, and the by rich white male capitalists that fund science (Keck Observatory, funded by oil baron, Mr Keck’s foundation – long after he died). I applaud Wally. But she’s still, as she was in the 1960s, being used as a token spacewoman in a man’s world. Not to be taken seriously even though she is the best, the brightest, the strongest, the most qualified. She’s there to show “Hey, look! Even safe for an old woman.” A PR stunt. This is bad for STEM, for science, space, for all humanity, for all life on Earth.
I applaud the scientific ingenuity that created the ability to do these re-useable launches. But I see them as totally ill considered, planet-destructive, and a further step along the road of delaying real change needed on Earth. It’s just a new money-making venture for white male capitalist billionaires – one that comes at the expense of everyone’s (every living thing’s) public good and shared space. This is, at best, probably Phase 1 testing of Jeff Bezo’s real-life 2012 escape plan. It just doesn’t matter to him what happens to people on Earth, or to the planet. He’d rather suck Earth dry and leave the empty husk behind. Or maybe ship everyone else off it to work at his polluting-in-space industries.
Personally speaking, I never want to go to space. I love space. I love studying space. I know what it’s like. I don’t need to go there. I’ll stay in paradise, in the CHZ, the Goldilocks zone. I want to work to keep the paradise I was born to live in harmony with alive to be cared for and lived in harmoniously by new generations of the Earth’s many life forms. Maybe it’s a good thing if all the Bransons and Bezos and Musks of the world leave the Earth they never really cared for, and the humanity they never really liked, behind? I hope they find what they’re looking for out there. But it’s a cold and violent universe, and my guess is anyone they run into will consider them objects to be used for their own purposes. I hope they enjoy that experience.
I am hopeful. There are a lot Americans are prioritizing the planet, over the economy, even over civil rights, right now. Interestingly Americans give less priority to climate than healthcare, but if the planet is sick and dying, news flash, you are too. I feel hope that a lot of different people are getting involved – because white men alone, and for sure rich white men alone, are not going to save the planet. They screwed it up. They just want to screw it up more by doing stupid stuff to boost their egos like go to space. It’s the new climb Mt Everest (“discovered” by whites in 1852, but whose real name has always been Chomolungma, which means “Mother Goddess of the World” since the dawn of time. Think about that.). They want to do anything but stop and look at what nature actually needs to heal.
If we want to tackle global healing, everyone has to take their rightful place and give their ideas, so balance can be restored and harmony achieved once more.
I want to pause here and say something about the 4th place priority for civil rights. That’s actually a big concern. If you don’t have fulsome civil rights in operation – ie, the right to vote, HR1, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, someone who believes in democracy heading up the Post Office and getting your ballot in the mail to you, someone who believes in democracy on the canvas board counting votes – the voice of the people is never heard – for climate change and healthcare and a better economy model – is never heard and never enacted. And you should know, senate Republicans know this. Killing civil rights, is killing climate change, is killing healthcare, is killing the building of a better, cleaner, more gender/race considered (childcare/education/equality) powerful economy.
I also want to say that any number of people are going to object to my reference to the balance of nature. Yes, nature is a dynamic system, constantly in flux, constantly changing, but for thousands of years, that system, what we know of it (and we know so little still, historically and now) was always that life was happening, and life forms were constantly impacting each other. There was never a force on the planet (humanity) that was wholly self-involved in destruction, often for the pleasure of it. US squirrels don’t import millions of Columbian roses for thousands of weddings every year (sorry, no, women are just as hard on the planet as man). Hawks don’t kill for sport. I’ve never seen herds of antelope carpet bomb another herds of antelope. There is a balance in nature, a dynamic one, tending to the expansion and preservation of life forms.
I get that for some I may be way too open minded when it comes to science. Admittedly, I enjoy listening to lectures by Noble Laureate Dr Brian Josephson (great subtle host disclaimer at the end!). I listen to people on the leading edge (no, it’s not bleeding edge, please stop saying that) of their field. You wanna talk real world warp drives? Sure, I’ll buy you coffee and a danish. I’m forever poking around on the fringes, but also in the ancient storehouses too, sifting through old ideas. New, old, out of the box (to where I hope the cat of Schrödinger finally escaped), it’s all worthy of consideration because somewhere, there’s an idea (or many) that just might help us all heal the world. I’m not going to give up looking.
If that makes me Our Lady of Perpetual Moonshine* to you, I’m okay with that. One thing I’ve learned from caring for Gran, the more difficult the job is to do, the greater the love you need in your heart to do it. Healing the Earth will be super difficult at this point. There’s going to be pain, setbacks, disappoint, and lots of loss and death. But in the end? We will get there. Because those of us that love Earth (and all that lives on her) are far more and far stronger than those who hate her (and all that lives on her). Come Hell or high water, we will restore our mother to health and she in turn will let us live to someday dance among the stars.
(*Physicists dismiss what they see as impossible ideas by calling them perpetual motion machines or moonshine.)
This week SO called the 7-day return plan was shot, due to shots. I said, “Whaaat?” He was fuming mad at the time of the convo. Un-Christian words were spoken. Threats to relocate the whole business, kit and caboodle, away from the EU were made. He has to get a 2nd Pfizer shot, from his doctor in the Netherlands, because (apparently) the EU won’t accept his first Canadian AstraZeneca shot as “real” because it was possibly manufactured in the US or India. Color me confused, but that’s was the upshot as I understood it.
For inter-EU travel, the EU will only accept certain vaccines as “real.” For AZ vax? Only EU manufactured AZ is “real” to them. Um….ok? That being true, the SO (and Le Pape) are going to get a second Pfizer shot there while they’re there. Hmm, triple vaxing. Not sure what the research shows on healthy people with good immune response being triple vaxed. Not sure there is any research. His father was ok with the situation. He’s older. To him it’s government required. It’s the cost of doing business. Better to just get it done and dusted.
The SO, being younger and taking a more global humanitarian view (2 good Pfizer shots, that might have vaccinated 1 unvaccinated person, somewhere in the less developed world, had to instead be “wasted” on them) was feeling some moral outrage. I asked what about La Mère? She and Le Pape, like the SO, are all mixed vaxed now. He said she’ll probably have to fly back and do the same. They were looking into getting her a ticket for next week. I’m going to say, level of absurd, super high. But at the same time, I do actually get where the EU is coming from.
As I understand it, Canada does test and certify any vaccine before using it. That is, there’s always a quality check. They’d know if they got a bum batch. The US does the same. So, the AZ vax Canada has given out to protect people was, and remains, 100% legit. There really should be no concern in the EU about Canadian AZ vaccinations. But there are. Because Canada got its AZ from the US and India. The US plant that makes the AZ vaccine was the same one making of J&J, and it botched a bunch of vaccines. So there’s reason to be cautious with US manufactured AZ. I get it.
As for India’s vaccine? Since I have Indian friends, I enquired what they thought. They did not hesitate to tell me. There’s basically a news blackout in India, because that’s what failing authoritarian regimes do. No foreign press, no homegrown are allowed to report on govt failures, like Covid containment. But, from what their families in India tell them, fake vaccines are rampant there. They understand that the EU wants to protect itself from a) visitors who may have been given heavily diluted or even 100% fake vaccine and b) giving their own EU-citizens a vaccine that might be less than 100% good.
The SO did cool down after a day or two. It’s amazing what really good beer with really good friends can do to drown one’s sense of moral outrage. It was pointed up to him, that given the state of the world, if a 3rd, completely unnecessary, shot is all he was being asked to do to keep lots of people happily employed, wasn’t that a win for humanity too? I’m going out on a limb here, but when he said that to me, I translated his friend’s comment as a courteous version of “stop being a giant prick, get a pinprick” or, “wow, stop being so American.” Message received.
I’ve been thinking a lot about language this week. The ways we use it, and it uses us. We tend to think of ourselves as visual creatures, but we’re really not. Sound is the primary sense of humanity. By that I mean, you can hear, and learn via what you hear, in the womb. Things like touch or taste happen in utero. Before you can see (or smell). Yet we still insist we are primarily visual. We spend a lot of time communicating, visually. But language is still our primary means of communication. People gathered round a fire, talking. People gathered around a person reading a book or playing music, listening. Radio.
Not to get political, but you can watch Jan 6th footage, with your eyes, and the sound turned off. It’s violent. And yet, lots of Americans — who keep listening to people who say, don’t believe your eyes — now actually don’t believe their eyes. It truly is a case of having people by the ears. This isn’t new, or even news. The Bible is full of admonitions about not listening to the devil/people who speak evil. I’m not suggesting plugging one’s ears to the world, only that one should consider the subtle nature of language. Consider who is speaking, and what is their intention. Consider how do they use language (or your attention).
In Germany, it’s against the law to spread misinformation about covid or vaccines. To be very honest, I think that’s a solid public health law that harms no one and helps the whole nation. It’s nothing to do with inhibiting free speech, instead it’s an analog to the “Can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” rule. “Can’t yell ‘vaccines are dangerous’ in a covid filled a world” is the same thing. The lie being told causes people to take an action that is predictably life/health/safety threatening to others. It’s great that the US Surgeon General admonishes people not to spread lies, but…. we’re way beyond that. Though I’m not sure people know it.
LA County just went back to masking because of Delta (the Indian variant, which, according to my Indian friends we’re not allowed to say because Modi didn’t want people around the world commenting negatively his rule, so he pressured the WHO). I’ve been watching the number of cases rocket up in Gran’s county too. A few weeks ago, it was an R of .9, cases were 1 per 100k. Now it’s R of 2 and cases of 4 per 100K. Mutti is thinking of cancelling Gran’s homecare because of it. She just would rather not take the risk of having people in the house. Even if that means cutting back on her hours. I can’t say I disagree.
We, the US, Americans as a nation, shouldn’t be here now. But we are, because of lies. This is true of climate change as well. And especially true of voting and democracy vs the GOP’s white “Christian” male authoritarian vision. The US military is not supposed to be in charge of saving democracy from a rogue president and his “off the rails” political party. Democracy, voting as a wide-scale participatory event, is supposed to make sure that scenario doesn’t happen. Democrats are not taking things seriously enough. They act like the crisis is over. It’s not. Try reading Max Heirich’s Cultural Breakthroughs, 1976. Anyone interested in politics should give it a glance..
Heirich’s article is about fads and breakthroughs, and generating conceptual revolutions. Tennessee taking down vax info to (supposedly) appease anti-vaxers? That’s allowing a few “off the rails” authoritarians to turn a fad into breakthrough. You should be thinking about the Munich Agreement, and how Appeasement always ends with low-intensity war turning into high-intensity conflict. The CDC and the federal govt should be pushing back on Tennessee, really hard. Sane GOP leaders stepping down because they don’t support the Big Lie and some small vocal (deluded) minority do is, again, Appeasement. It allows people who are radically divorced from reality but on a “mission” to take over a party, revolution. Again, this doesn’t end well.
At this point, you might be worried. But consider the word worry. What is worry? Well, if you think of a dog worrying sheep… you have an image of harassment. When you worry, you harass yourself. It doesn’t do you, or your mental sheep, any good. Let it go. There’s a better way. Worry is different from concern (from the Latin root, cernere, meaning to sift or separate). Con-cern means “with sifting.” It’s okay to actively be sifting, separating out, looking at, and evaluating, until you dis-cern (same root), sift out what’s important. But even at that, remember you actually decide, and therefore influence, your finding of what is important. This was brought home to me this week when the SO asked to do a bunch of zoom interviews for interns.
First of all, I was touched he asked me to help out (although I am cheap help). Second, I find this kind of thing fun. I love HR interviewing. But the SO, he had other ideas. Less fun one. I was to ask each person set of questions, all asked in the same sequence. Ugh. Then I had to ship the interviews to a transcription service to be typed up, so he could read them. This, he said, was to eliminate visual bias. Um…ok. But, and here’s where we come back to language again, the language people use is also filled with indicators of class, education, gender, etc ad infinitum.
I did mention this, and he understood. But his response was “gotta start trying to stop bias somewhere.” He said after he read through all the interviews, he’d look at the actual tapes of the interviews later. I’d like to say I did exactly what he asked, but…he did ask me, so no. I tacked on 1 additional question. At the end of the each interview, I asked: “If you were out fishing and caught a mermaid (merman, depending on the interviewee’s chosen gender), what would you do first?” I asked this question because when I was with my Gran last year, she’s a big fan of Family Feud, they asked the question: “We interviewed a 100 men and asked them, ‘If you were out fishing and caught a mermaid, what would you do first?”
Hands down it was a brilliant question for a number of reasons. The answers they had on the board were:
26 – keep her/take her home
21 – free her
14 – kiss her
9 – take a picture
6 – make love to her
3 – swim with her
If you look at the list, and you’re a woman, you understand it instantly. There’s been some progress made, in having women seen as human beings. After all, 54% of the answer were ok. Not great, but ok. On the other hand 46% of men gave answers that meant they intended to kidnap, enslave, sexually assault, or rape a woman they just met. And they didn’t even think about it twice. Those men couldn’t imagine the woman, with a brain and feelings and heart, as anything but an object they caught, to be used as they wished. It was pretty telling about the men in society. (granted small sample)
The man who actually correctly guessed “free her” was a young Black man who, alongside running his own business, viewed his life has helping others by the grace of God and did so through addiction and alcohol recovery work. See the difference? He saw a woman, a fellow human being, in need, first. Not a free piece of tail. I told the transcription service to leave off the last question. Save that for a surprise for the SO later when he watches the videos. But back to my point, language is often very revealing. A picture is not worth a thousand words. A picture, without words, often doesn’t get very far.
Britney Spears is another interesting case of words. She’s in a conservatorship. But if we swap Ms Spears out for Kanye West, a man who has arguably genuine mental illness, can you see a judge putting him into the kind of conservatorship Ms Spears is in? Probably not. Why? Because a) he’s a man. Women always need to be contained. Men? Never. And b) when you swap out total control over a white female life, for total control over a Black male life, including make that man work and take almost all the money he makes to give to a group of others, people recognize that as slavery, not “conservatorship” or “guardianship” (both words I imagine people in the Deep South used in the 19th century for slavery).
Anyway, language is key to asking these (what is freedom, what is slavery, what is truth), and other, big questions. Pictures can’t ask questions. Data can’t ask questions. If I showed you a picture of the sun and moon rising in the east – at the same time – you’d freak out (it does actually happen). That picture is data. Because you probably know the Sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and then the moon comes up in the east. You have a knowledge base, based on language. But then new data blows a hole in your worldview. So you’re forced to ask questions. How can this happen? Why does this happen? What does it mean? And it’s this last question that really bothers some people.
I actually started this post because I feel I might have slighted particle physicists last week. That wasn’t intentional. They do incredibly important work for our society (as do microbiologists). I just have issues with messy language. Particle physics is full of words like superposition, quark, nonlocality, etc. It’s not anyone’s fault. They’re trying to describe a system (the quantum world) that’s not fully understood. They name things as they go along so they can talk about them. But there’s not much of system to naming. It’s a way different approach, way harder to do, than trying to name something once you understand the whole system and how one isolate part works and how it interacts with its own and other systems (the non-quantum world).
I think birding has sort of recently hit a similar wall. People of color have started asking why we have to keep names of racists for birds. Bachman’s Finch for instance. I heard a birder say “Everyone knows he (Bachman was friend of Audubon, who “discovered” the finch) was a racist. Why can’t we go back to Pine Sparrow?” first of all, everyone doesn’t know. I didn’t. The first think I think about when I hear the name of a bird is not “I wonder if the person who named it was a racist.” My feeling is, why not call it whatever the Native Americans called it. After all, they saw the birds first. Why do white people get to name any native birds at all? Just saying. In this case, the name is important, but it’s a layer on top of a foundation that’s a way of organizing information about birds (taxonomy). In physics? Not so much.
I tend to think, as I do with math, if the language is messy, one’s thinking can be held back by that mess. You can’t break through if you can’t state things with clarity. I’m not saying you can’t have big thoughts, like “what does this mean?”, that’s a big (metaphysical) thought stated with clarity. I’m just saying, a lot of (physical) physics seems linguistically, nomenclatural-wise, messy at this point in the journey of discovery. And I wonder if that’s hurting (or helping) physics. I wonder about the attitudes in physics, which tend to be, shut up and calculate — because funding is based on monetize or militarize (or both) each discovery. There’s not a lot of room for broad thought, and physicists even seem alarmed by such free thinking.
To quote Matthieu Beau’s quite interesting 2011 paper (Feynman Path integral approach to electron diffraction for one and two slits, analytical results), the whole point of his solution is: “It thus avoids metaphysical questions…” But why do we want to avoid them? They enrich and push forward discovery. We can’t separate out people, from the world their participating in. It’s like a fish studying the water it lives in. Doable, but it will be influencing the water around it, by swimming in it, pooping in it, and conducting other assorted fish-type actions.
The article title billed it as “AI designs quantum physics experiments beyond what any human has conceived.” And that’s great, but you read the article and see the basis information was all human designed experiments. It’s inventor said of an experimental set up the computer program concocted: “This is a generalization that (to my knowledge) no human dreamed up in the intervening decades and might never have done.” Is that perhaps because the field really doesn’t allow anyone enough “dreamtime”? And openly frowns on those who get “metaphysical”? I really don’t know. Questions lead us to answers, and often more questions. Some people don’t like that.
I admit to thinking a lot about this sort of stuff this week. I was listening to Rainn & Reza have a Metaphyiscal Milkshake with Mayim Bialik about “is religion is still relevant?” And I’ve been reading David Kaiser’s How Hippies Saved Physics (about Bell’s Theorem and quantum mechanics). I guess I’m still two. I keep asking: why? And I think that’s okay. Life is a book of questions, not all of which have answers (now, yet, maybe ever). That scares some religious people, it also scares some scientists. Scientists don’t want to ask metaphysical questions. Religious people don’t want to ask scientific questions. It’s how we got to the current hot mess, I think. But all you can do is play the hand you’re dealt.
You ask questions, of all kinds. You listen to credible people, of all kinds. You sift. You separate. You consider the big picture, and the infinitely small one. You try to guard against your bias and remember that pooping in your own water can be a factor. And sometimes, yes, when faced with people who lie, who are filled with a desire for malign influence over your life, who are so far gone they really should be under a conservatorship, you just have to plug your ears and walk out of earshot till you find a place of Zen. Or maybe you need to unplug to get there. Either way, I’m headed there now.
I stuffed Le Pape and the SO on a plane for bound for Amsterdam yesterday, hence I have the opportunity to whip a one-off summer post without neglecting the SO. I think Le Pape is returning, he left La Mère here. But I guess it’s all a bit up in the air (no pun intended). I know the SO is returning. And we’ll still have at least 6 weeks of fun time together. Canada and the Netherlands don’t require travellers to quarantine anymore, if you’re fully vaxed.
The boys are making a 7-10 day business trip. I was asked if I wanted to tag along, technically it would be business, there’s a board meeting. But at 9 hrs flight time, not including gates and security and customs? I said no thanks. The SO totally understood. I think they both really just wanted to be back in the EU during the Tour de France, which ends the 18th, but…yeah, sure, business reasons too.
Actually, I’m happy to have a bit of alone time – with the dogs and cats – at my own house. This may sound weird but, it’s been a weird summer so far. We left Gran’s June 15, the day after she got out of the hospital. She is doing much better now. Mutti said she could handle things with Gran, with the home care assistance. So we drove up the coast over the course of 10 days. It was glorious!
We stopped in to see my Da — and got roped into doing some demo on Hugh’s new home. Gotta watch that reno bottom line. If you ever want to know how someone is really doing, give that person a sledge hammer. I’m not saying the SO didn’t enjoy himself, he did. He said it was “refreshing.” But…yikes that damaged drywall was busted out lickety split. I was still unscrewing the kitchen cabinet doors (to be refinished). And I had power tools!
By the time we reached home it was the 24th, the day before the big heat dome started. On the 25th friends began calling over asking if they could come hang out with us — because as a SoCal gal, I insist every home I live in must have AC. This led to a weird dynamic. We are fully vaxed, but Canada said we have to quarantine for 2 weeks, till July 8th, even though Canada was going to lift the quarantine requirement for fully vaxed people entering the country July 5th. So, we’d need to quarantine 3 more days after quarantine entry laws changed because we arrived pre-7/5. Stupid.
Anyway, as law abiding citizens concerned about other people dying…we decided to quarentini it up in the basement so the upper floors and attic were available for couch surfers, day trippers, etc. I think at one point we had 7 adults, 1 child, a diabetic dachshund, 2 kittens, and a parrot. And there’s only one bathroom upstairs. We asked people to bring their own food, just use the toilet (no baths or showers), wear masks around other people, and stay off the internet (while the SO is working).
It worked out well. People went to work, they ate out, they crashed overnight in the AC. A couple people were there every day all day during the heat. A child with quite bad asthma. A woman with lupus. They all seemed to be having a good time. We had to just listen in the basement, although on Day 6 we did have a backyard good-bye barbie. I suppose it was technically illegal, but…it seemed wrong not to go since they threw it as a thank you for us. And it was outside, so… we went.
After they left we had quarantine “together time,” but with the full house, and all our pets, not just the dogs. That was great. Then immediately our quarantine ended, the SO had to get on the plane. And that’s ok. I know he’ll have a great time because he hasn’t been home in a year, and the Netherlands is still home for him. All good. I’m hoping the utility bills come while he’s away, so I can pay them before he sees them. I have no idea what our squat house AC is going to cost. Typically we only AC certain rooms in the house, not the whole freaking house.
Oh well, needs must. Chips where they may, and all that.
I have to say, I’ve thought a lot about apocalypses during the past few weeks. Mostly because people kept using the word apocalypse. A lot. As a Catholic, you grow up hearing about the Apocalypse. Which most people think of as catastrophic events, but really it means “the revealing,” in this case, of Christ. So on a personal level, apocalypse isn’t a scary word for me. On a community level? Um….kinda learned to live with it years ago.
As a Californian with decades dealing with local weather apocalypses, climate change, and all their fallout, it was a little interesting watching people in BC react to their first real “revelation.” Even people who accept climate change and understand its impacts, rarely truly understand what it all means till they start experiencing the cascading effects themselves. Heat leads to death, leads to fires, leads to dead marine life, leads to poor water quality, leads to poor fisheries, leads to economic impact, leads to ….
Even people who believe in climate change (or Covid), often assume it won’t happen to them or they’re somehow insulated. So they don’t really prepare (get vaccinated!). They don’t own blackout curtains or window awnings or AC or go-bags or have a fire route escape plans from their house, let alone from their entire city. To have to come to grips with these things on the fly? Isn’t fun. And then after a revelatory event ends (Jan 6th), there’s often the fall back of “That was interesting. But it’s a one off. An aberration.” They again put off change (HR1 – @DNC stop asking for money to save democracy in 2022, when a majority of people gave Dems a majority in the house and senate and the WH! Do your Dem job in 2021!)
Anyway, that’s been my summer so far. Weird. Wild. Woolly. I’m currently spending time doing math as a pleasurable distraction. I was thinking about knowledge lost by schoolchildren in the US during covid. And then I realised I had probably lost knowledge over time. I found a math textbook left behind by our 10 yr old visitor. Eeek! I turned a few pages felt out of my depth. But, but, but, how could this happen? I did calculus in college! I look at advanced math all the time and understand it. Don’t I? Understand it?
Honestly, revelations suck sometimes. So, I’m doing math courses on Khan Academy, trying to get my chops back. I’m starting with 4th grade math. It’s sad, but it gives me empathy for the children. And “bad at maths” is at least something I can remedy. Math is really just a language I used to know but haven’t used in awhile. It’ll come back to me. I think part of my problem is I never used math as math. I used logic to figure out math. When I did skills test for pre-calculus on the Khan Academy website, I passed with 100%. But I used logic to arrive at the answers not math.
I like math; math has beauty. But sometimes people who love math, let it overrule their ability to think outside of math (logic). And sometimes, if you’re really into math, your inability to do new or remarkable math can put the breaks on what you can think of as possible. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about limitations on thinking that keeps us from seeing reality, or possibility. For instance, today, we all know our solar system revolves around the star we call the Sun. If you ask someone when did we know this to be true, you’ll probably hear about Copernicus. But actually, this was discovered 18 centuries earlier, by Aristarchus of Samos.
You might ask, why was basic such science insight was dismissed for 2000 years? The answer there is culture. Culture decided the earth was the center. Not science, math, or observation. And human culture is hard to change. Even when culture finally accepted a Sun-centric solar system, there were still problems. Math problems. You can make math do almost anything. If you want to know why something isn’t true (or fully correctly theorized), check the math. The more messy the math, the less likely it is to be true. And we see an example of this when we look at the history of orbit of the moon.
The moon is the moon. Its orbit is its orbit. But culture, science + culture, decided the moon didn’t go around the earth. It had it’s own path around in circles in space, and based on observations, that had to be a super weird orbit. So they came up with very twisty math to make the moon’s very twisty path (as defined by culture) work. Centuries on this was found to be incorrect. But people had believed it because the theory fit cultural beliefs and the math, though complicated and weird, “worked.” It worked hard, to prove a false belief.
By the way, earth had a second moon for a bit in 2020, but it’s gone now. Observation, not math, told us the moon was there. Culture this time said, “Wow!” I’d call that progress.
I think a lot about stuff like this. About how we can be blinded to things as they are because we’re stuck in a mindset that was, perhaps, “as things were” at one time, but clearly objectively aren’t true now. Sometimes the things we believe were never true. We just wanted them to be true – because our culture told us it was. Sometimes we enlisted math to prove/explain things we wanted to be culturally true. And pure math got roped into the sordid cultural drama. I’m pro-math. Math can be very revealing. Very predictive. But theory based on observation (reality) + math produces better outcomes than theory based on culture + math.
Anyway, back to the apocalypse. People running around talking about apocalypses got me thinking about black holes swallowing the universe. Which got me thinking about the Big Bang. I have a pet theory about the Big Bang. I think in some other universe, a black hole formed and sucked in a vast untold amount of material. The hole became impossibly stretched, that is, spacetime stretched in the gravity well of the black hole, and eventually all this material compressed to the size of an atom in a hot dense state, and then as a result, a tiny atom-size tear appeared in the bottom of the well, a tear in spacetime, and that became the place and moment the Big Bang happened, that started our universe.
We have seen white holes. Those are black holes that suddenly belch out light and energy. I think that belch is probably what happens when the atom-size hole in spacetime rips at the bottom of the gravity well. When a big bang happens. I think we see a tiny bit of the blow back and that’s the energy leaving the now white hole. After that, the black hole is sealed off. It sort of conceives, gives birth and then dies, if you want to look at it that way. That’s my theory anyway.
I’m sure a professor of astronomy or astrophysics would say I’m crazy. But to me, there’s a natural (as in, nature) logic to it. Things in the universe, our universe, come into being, consume things, reproduce, and die. It would explain a great deal about cosmology that right now has no explanation or has explanations such as, the Big Bang appeared out of nothing. (Seriously, nothing.) I don’t think anything every truly disappears or truly appears from nothing. It’s just we lack a full understanding. Our picture is incomplete. Or worse, we are blinkered, by our beliefs.
I like particle physics, but sometimes I think they’re the microbiologists of the cosmos. It’s like they’re trying to understand a single-cell virus in a cat’s intestine. But they don’t see the cat’s whole internal physiology. And they don’t see the cat living externally, or see the cat and how it behaves and interacts with its environment. But it’s all tied together. Understanding a single-cell virus in a cat’s intestine is awesome and needful, but it doesn’t unlock the secrets, mysteries, or grand unification theory of “cat”-ness. You need to a cat for that.
Anyway, Poirot says, “Time to feed me.” He’s the catness in charge of the house universe. His GUT is empty. No mystery or secret there. I must attend. Otherwise, it’s apocalypse meow.
I’m writing this post because writing helps me step out of “Crisis Mode” — at least for awhile anyway. So feel free not to read this and just check back in the Fall.
It’s almost 10PM on Friday night, as a live band, some 1/4 mile away blares out an off-key, probably drunken, truly awful rendition of “I heard it through the grapevine.” To be fair, they’ve been playing for at least 3 hours now with only a couple 5 min breaks. Their audience is the graduating class of 2021 at the local high school. I don’t begrudge the graduates their “big do.” Those kids have been through a lot. They should cut loose, a bit. Besides, we have noise ordinances that kick in at 10.
So I’m just waiting, along with the owls, for a bit of peace and quite. I’m slapping on my Bose headphones and some Chopin. There is nothing so good for quieting the spirit and getting on with relaxing doings as Chopin nocturnes. I wouldn’t be posting now, normally, because I’d be home, asleep, with the SO and the cats and the dogs. But, life is tricksy sometimes and for now, I’m still at my Gran’s house.
Mutti is fast asleep in the guest bedroom. The SO is passed out on the couch. I’m going to sleep in Gran’s lift recliner, which stretches flat out as a bed. Gran is in the hospital. The SO and I could sleep in Gran’s bed, but it’d be too weird. Besides I spent hours washing bedding and cleaning, getting her room ready for her to come home today. But she didn’t, again. My hopes were dashed. For 4th day in a row. I consider it a miracle I haven’t lost patience to the point of dashing off a letter to the hospital CEO, but….his day will come.
Chopin, of course.
All went well as far as transitioning Gran to Mutti’s care June 2. I went to the local pharmacy after Mutti arrived and had a PCR test done. I wanted to make sure I had a result, as well as my vaccine card, before I crossed the border. It can take a couple days to get results, especially with a lot more people traveling a lot more now. That evening I journeyed on to Da’s. I was pretty confident I’d get a negative test result by Friday afternoon and cross over Friday for dinner with the SO. But, hey, Saturday morning….. at the latest. But, you know, Best laid plans.
I got my negative result Sat afternoon, but by then it was too late. Sat morning Mutti called and said “Gran is breathing funny.” Uh, okay. And you want me to …. what? But I knew what. So then the dilemma became cross the border and be locked down in a needless quarantine for 2 weeks, unable to go back to help Gran and Mutti when they might really, really need me. Or, call the SO and disappoint him, yet again. I called Gran’s homecare nurse and asked her for advice. We conferenced called with Mutti.
The nurse went over all Gran’s vitals. She said things didn’t seem that bad, but she’d check with us again on Sunday morning or we could call her or text at any time her if things seemed to be getting worse. Sigh. I could not cross over. The water was too wide. I called the SO. He took it surprisingly well. He likes, as a first line of defense, to take a problem-solving approach when life throws up seemingly impossible conundrums. I like to have a cry (1 min max), catastrophize (1 min max), and then meditate while taking deep breaths (15m max – or I might pass out).
I don’t disagree with his #1 choice. But it shouldn’t become a lifestyle. And that’s a conversation we had recently. About post-pandemically changing. About leaving behind crisis mode. I said I wanted to change completely. He said, “Do you want to leave me?” I said, “No. Of course not.” He said, “Do you want to leave our home?” I said “No. Of course not.” He said, “Do you understand the word completely?” I said, “Do you understand the word hyperbole?” He said, “Completely.”
I heard his fingers tapping away on his laptop. In short order, he’d arranged everything. My Da and I would go back to Seattle, a couple hours south, to a nice hotel. In the morning, if I still needed to go, I was booked on the first flight to SF. My Da could take a day to rest at the hotel and then start the drive back to home Monday. To be honest, @ing scary to be on a plane. But SeaTac to SFO? That’s only a a 2.5 hr flight. And I knew I’d be with mostly normal people, people who were vaccinated, and who knew how to behave themselves.
I shouldn’t say this, as a So Cal gal, but I wouldn’t want to be on a plane into or out of LAX. Sorry. I love Angelinos, but not right now, not in a confined space at 30K feet, not for any amount of time. Too many people are having breakdowns, or violent drug/alcohol induced rage fits. I don’t need that. Anyway, the plan was to have Hugh would leave Gran’s 97 Chevy at the airport, from whence I could pick it up and drive the 5 hrs down to Gran’s from there. Easy peasey. I love a good plan. And the Chevy was already back from the tune up at the shop and ready to go. Love that car! Lots of heart.
So that’s what happened. When I reached Gran’s Sunday, I found Mutti was right. Gran was breathing on the order of 30 breaths a minute. For the record, 15-20 is normal. But nothing else was wrong. Her BP was good. No fever or cough or anything that might indicate illness of any kind. It was really weird. Gran sounded like she’d run a marathon. It was labored breathing. But her nose sounded really stuffed up. I gave her a nebulizer treatment and some Delsym. Her O2 stats came up from 93 to 97 and held. I put her on her O2 concentrator and put her to bed. But I could hear her breathing 20 ft away.
It was worrying. I got up a couple times in the night. Finally I texted her nurse at 6 am Monday. Then I got Gran sitting up, on O2, and eating breakfast. God bless, her nurse, she was over by 9. She agreed her state was strange. She called Gran’s doctor. The doctor called back a few hours later and said we needed to go to the ER because if it was pneumonia or something like that, Gran could crash easily. Better she was at the ER. So at 1pm, on Monday, off to the ER we went. Only one person could go with Gran into the hospital, me of course. It was the logical decision.
I want to say, before I continue on, same hospital as back in Sept. It’s a good hospital. It’s a level 1 regional trauma center. People consider it the Taj Mahal of hospitals. It’s oozing with high quality private rooms with thick wood doors, giant flat screens, and ambience. But frankly speaking, everyone there is way overworked and over stretched. Brilliant staff, but just over taxed on patient load. I wish the board spent less on drapes and more on adequate staff levels.
Anyway, we went to the ER, which was way more crowded than last time because in our county people are back to getting care for normal things again. They aren’t putting stuff off. And good news, there wasn’t one [known] covid case in the whole hospital. That was a relief. And everyone was way more into following the covid protocols this time. There was no one wandering around coughing, with a mask around his neck. Still hate that guy. He lives in infamy. In my mind.
The triage duty doctor of the ER said, “Huh, sounds like heart failure. But she has no other symptoms.” “Yeah, I know doc, that’s why we’re here!” They ordered bloodwork, a chest x-ray, and an EKG. Thus began Gran’s long strange journey. When we went in the back to the blood draw room, which was like being in a MASH hospital there were so many people in there getting blood drawn, I overheard the following conversation.
Phlebotemist: “Do you remember giving the presentation on Zoom?”
Mrs X: “No.”
P: “Do you remember breakfast?”
P: “Do you know who this is?
X: “She’s my daughter.”
Daughter x: “She did an interview on Zoom. When we went into her office and asked her how it went, she couldn’t remember anything about that day.”
I have to admit. It made Gran’s problem seem pretty minor. Although, I have to wonder, what the heck went on in the interview? Did the person being interviewed know something was wrong with her but was not able to call anyone’s attention? Is that person wondering, “Gee, I guess maybe that’s just her. I wonder, will I be getting a call back or a job?” Not knowing she can’t remember doing the interview. I kinda felt sorry for the interviewee. As well as X and her daughter.
Anyway, we then went back to the busy ER waiting room. My Irish friends would call it “hiving.” There were people sitting there on IVs, and oxygen, and literally weeping from the pain — but still answering questions about their insurance. We were there about 2 hours. I didn’t see anyone go back into the ER itself. We were all in a holding pattern for some reason. At some point, there was a call on the PA, very calmly as if ordering a pizza: “We have a Code Stroke in the lobby now.” Needless to say, the ER sent people over right way. Leaving no one to treat the rest of us.
After a bit a Physician’s Assistant came out to talk to the couple beside us a few feet away. Nice young couple. The PA starts telling the young woman, in public, in front of everyone in the ER lobby, about 30 people, she’s possibly had a miscarriage. Um? What? HIPPA? Patient privacy….remember any of that? He went into great detail. Dear God. Then, as if things can’t get worse, the PA speaker says, “Code STEMI in the lobby.” [A STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) is the most severe type of heart attack.] What the heck is going on in that lobby?
After the young couple left, an older couple arrived to take their place. The gent in the khaki shorts told the intake lady he’d had an accident with a dog. The lady asked, “Did it bite you?” Mr Y said, “No.” Apparently in his haste to turn, to run from a dog that seemed vicious, he tore his knee ligaments. So, you couldn’t run, and the dog still didn’t bite you? It was hard not to laugh. I sucked it up and tried my best. But then there was a whole awkward conversation about how the woman he was with wasn’t his wife, just a friend. And he lived in New Jersey, but he was staying with her. Um….Ok, Mr Y, Ok.
About 4pm we were actually allowed into the ER. The Dr said it looked like she had slight pneumonia on her lungs. But because her kidney values were high and she was dehydrated, they couldn’t do a CT with contrast dye. They would have to do some old school “breathe in radioactive mist” test. A VQ Scan. WTF? They were looking for an embolism. But before Gran could breathe into their ancient equipment, she had to do a rapid covid test. That took over an hour. During that hour, we found ourselves next to Mrs X and her daughter again.
It turned out Mrs X eventually remembered early that morning. And everything about her husband and his current state, which I think was a little precarious. He’d just had a ankle operation or something. But she recalled nothing of her Zoom adventures, or even being on Zoom. She also was able to recall she’d had a stroke in 1987. So…back again? She seemed in very good spirits. She was talking a bout praying the rosary. Catholic Solidarity. I prayed for her. She seemed nice, and her daughter too. As nice as they were, Mr Z behind the curtain on the other side was just, well….pathos filled? I think that’s the best description.
Apparently Mr Z had had a heart attack. Possibly he was the the code stroke from the lobby? It didn’t seem major. He was talking. I heard the nurse say, “Well, you are 40lbs overweight.” Uh… ok. And Mr Z said convivially, “Yeah, I know. And it doesn’t help I finish each day with a cigar and a glass of brandy.”
Um… sorry, who are you? Hugh Heffner? What year are you living in? I’m guessing the unspoken part of that sentence conveyed a certain lifestyle and habits that had to do with watching porn and playing online poker. He repeated the brandy and cigar line multiple times. I think he was trying to impress the young male nurse with how rich he was that he could afford these things. (Or maybe his short-term memory was shot) It just came off as sad he had no life or wife.
Thankfully about that time, Gran’s rapid covid test came back negative. Because they were short on staff, I became a de facto assistant in the tech’s lab, holding the mask over Gran’s face as it spewed radioactive mist. It was fun watching her lungs light up the screen like radium on a watch dial. No embolus. That was good. And the radiologist thanked me bunches for helping out. This happened over and over again. People were so grateful for help. Like I said, they are way understaffed. But you know, it’s So Cal. Style is more important than substance.
They sent Gran up to a room at 6:30p. The nurse shift change was at 7. They asked if I could stay to give the night nurse Gran’s history. Uh, sure. Did we need anything? Socks, and maybe something to eat? Gran hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since 7 am. The kitchen was closed. So it was chocolate pudding and 2 packets of saltines for Gran. Which I fed her. I got nothing. They forgot the socks. I had to bring some from home the next day. The night nurse came in at 7:17p and said she’d be back as soon as she finished her rounds. Ok.
Weirdly, every once in awhile, throughout the whole hospital, we’d hear Brahm’s Wiegenlied playing. It was strange. Did they do that every time a baby was born I wondered? The night nurse was back at 8:47p. I asked her about it. They played it whenever a member of staff at the hospital announced she was pregnant. I’m just going to say it, a lot of life-affirming sex must have been going just after the end of the winter wave of the pandemic among the hospital staff. I’ve heard at least 9 Wiegenlied in 4 days. Anyways, I didn’t leave till 9:20p.
The Dr said they’d just keep Gran overnight, possibly till Weds. They had other tests to run. Gran did have early pneumonia, bronchitis they thought. Also, she had high kidney values. They still need to ultrasound her kidneys and abdomen, and do a 2D echocardiogram on her heart. They still couldn’t explain the breathing. But they gave her respiratory therapy every 4 hrs, and a drip of Piperacillin and tazobactam, and IV fluids. Unfortunately they put the IV in the arm on which she likes to lay at night. I warned them not to do it. But … they did. So she kept setting off the “occluded line” alarm.
At that point I was burnt out and I left. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I was getting hangry. My texting fingers were hurting because I was trying to keep Mutti in the loop. By the time I got home, I just wanted to flop. But I knew Minka would be all upset Gran was missing. Minka herself had just be diagnosed with 2 stage renal failure a few weeks before, so… she needed extra hugs (to help get her through her diet change). I think the best things about Monday were getting Gran help she needed, getting a hug from my mom, a snuggle with Minka, and text from the SO saying that since he was going to quarantine with me whenever I returned, he saw no upside to staying in Vancouver.
Translation? He was making a “business” trip to LA, Weds. And he’d be staying with me till the Gran situation was sorted out. Then we could cruise up the West Coast, a little mini va-cay, till we got back to BC. (BC by June 21/21?) I thought that was awesome. And the idea he wanted to cruise up the coast in a ’97 Chevy Cavalier? Imagine a young bear falling into a trash can and getting stuck. That’s him in the Chevy. But if he’s game, so am I. Let’s hope the Chevy is too.
Anyway, returning to all things hospitable ….. By Tuesday, they hadn’t finished the tests. They were backed up. Then I developed Strep throat, from being in the hospital. Weds they decided to put Gran on Norvasc, a different blood pressure med. Ok. And, even though Gran’s test orders were marked STAT, the techs were still backed up, and the test still hadn’t happened. I sat and re-read Benjamin Hoff’s Tao of Pooh. It has lots of good advice. I read it every few years. He’s a little anti-academia. Ben, not Pooh. But I like Pooh, or Pu.
By Thursday afternoon, even Pooh and his Tao could not save me. I tried very hard to be polite and float, but my patience had become exhausted, much like my body. The last straw was a man from Pharmacy coming up to me and asking if Gran still took…and he read off temporary medications I never told them she was taking, things doctors had given her 10 years ago post operatively. Like Xarelto! How were they still on her record now? I repeatedly told people what she was on. I stayed till 9:30pm with telling her nurse? Are you telling me you still gave her these old meds? I want a list of everything you’ve given her. Now.
I saw the pharmacist, who was standing, physically shrink and step back, as if I were Smaug with a his treasure. And I was sitting down, just looking over my reading glasses, talking calmly. But that’s the thing, people always know I’m roiling angry, no matter how hard I try to contain it. It apparently smokes out my nostrils and gleams from my eyes anyway.
He left the room and went straight to Gran’s nurse. The nurse came straight to me to ask what he could do to help me. Because I do all the crap work that takes time and which the overburdened nurses don’t want to to do, like feed or change Gran, they always take my side. They help me out with the doctor when things get off track. So I explained and said, “If this isn’t resolved, I’m checking Gran out against medical advice. I’m her guardian. I’m the medical power of attorney. You need to listen to me. By law.” Translation, I leave, this hospital gets a black mark from Medicare.
Welcome to American hospital healthcare hardball. I apologized to the nurse for scaring the pharma tech. I said “I just need you all to listen when I speak, and tell me what you are doing. I need to know what drugs you give her, and what is the state of the differential, what still needed doing, I’m responsible. Tell me where in the “line” was Gran for her 2D echo. I mean, Stat means now, not in 72 hrs. Right?” The nurse agreed and went out fast. He got the doctor. She told me all I wanted and needed to know. It was amicable-ish. As much as it can be with a dragon.
I guess word got around though. Later a hospital admin manager came in, with a checklist form, and asked if I was happy with how Gran was treated and I was treated. I told them yes. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. It was not any of the staff’s fault their system had flaws. The hospital should be hiring more staff. They were treating people like they were in hotel. When they’re a hospital. Besides, the hospital will send a questionnaire after discharge. They always do. I’ll send them back a detailed honest assessment. I always do.
Actually, most of this just comes down to US healthcare. How it’s done as a system here, is just insane. But what can you expect from a country that says all travel for business during a plague is fine, but travel to be with your family? No, no, no. That’s banned. Or a country that has bipartisan support for UFOs (space aliens), but only 1-party support for universal healthcare, securing voting rights, and stopping gun violence? I know no country is perfect, but it’s time the US government ditched the porn and poker, and the cigars and whiskey, got off its butt, out of its velour tracksuit, and started to whipping its democracy back in shape – before it has a stroke and dies.
So, anyway, they finally did the 2D Echo test late Thursday night. Thankfully. And of course, Gran’s heart was “great for her age.” Yeah, yeah. Back to square one. If it’s all so great, why is she still breathing like a cart horse in winter? No answer. I thought for sure Friday they’d let Gran go. But no. Her kidney values, which had recovered after being treated, were now worse than when she arrived at the ER. Apparently, after they took her off the IV fluids on Weds morning, they slowly crept up again. No duh, because she wasn’t drinking stuff like at home.
So now her Dr wants to see if– after a day on IV fluids — her kidney values recover. Also the Dr wants to consult a nephrologist, in case she missed something. If Gran gets better values on her labs Saturday, which is now today cause it’s 2 am, it’s just dehydration causing the kidney values to be off and they’ll release her. She’ll come home with multiple drugs, antibiotics, nebulizer meds, BP meds, and an order for home health care, and RN, HH Aide, and PT. Which is all good and I can help Mutti set it all up so it can tick over. But of course, if the values are still bad… why, who knows?
And, the thing Gran went in for? The rapid breathing? That’s still happening — intermittently. And no one has any idea why. I pointed that out to people, the RN and the RT and the DR. And the reaction was, as long as Gran’s O2 stats are steady at a good number, it’s not a problem. Uh…really? Cause it seems like a problem. (Pro tip – always talk to the lowest person in the food chain. They know the real skinny on things). When Gran’s CNA, Mo, came in to do Gran’s vitals, I chatted with her. Mo had been on duty the day Gran was admitted.
Mo said, “Gee her breathing is still rapid.” I said, “I know. But they keep saying it’s not a problem now.” Mo looked at me and said quietly, “You know, I’ve got 3 other patients on the cardiac ward with the same thing.” There it was. Something was happening. At this point it doesn’t have a name, but clearly there is some form of bacteria going around. And let’s do that maths. Gran has been fully vaxed against covid and pneumonia. But still, something attacked her lungs, to the point she had to be hospitalized and treated with antibacterial drugs.
I guess I feel better knowing other people have it too. That it’s bacterial. That antibiotics treat it. That she is getting better. So….yeah, light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s kind of scary to think there’s something moving through the population here causing this kind of damage. And again, Gran is heart healthy, covid and pneumonia vaxed. She should have been fine. But, she’s in hospital. Imagine people who aren’t vaxed with underlying conditions. Maybe the stroke and the Stemi in the lobby were both victims of whatever this bacteria is?
Okay, so now a couple other things before I wind down. In talking to the RT, he made a really interesting point. The news has been hammering deaths from covid from day one, which is good, to help people understand they need to take precautions and the vaccine. The ship is sinking. Vaccines are the last lifeboat. When the Delta variant takes over? Those 160M still unvaxed Americans? They’re going down. People really need to be scared straight.
However, what the news doesn’t cover is that while 600K have died, about 3.5 Million (I’m estimating 7% of people get sick enough to end up in hospital) were saved at hospital because of dedicated nurses, and doctors, and CNAs, and respiratory therapists, techs, radiologists, etc. When we talk about these workers being heros, we never praise them for all the lives they have saved. But that’s what they want to hear from us. From the news. Not the count they lost. The count they saved. That to them is the mark of their heroism. That they saved 80% of the people who entered their hospital doors.
So I wanted to put that out there, for them, if anyone in the news is listening. Because these folks been deeply traumatized by what they’ve gone through. The best way we can help them heal is to get vaxed so there is no next covid wave and to publically praise them for all the lives they have saved. It’s what they want and need, but also what they deserve from us, from a grateful nation. They are heros. They deserved to not only to be honored for their sacrificial service but also to be commended for their amazing achievement in saving millions.
On other related topics? I have thoroughly enjoyed Mayim Bailak’s hosting stint on Jeopardy. I’m a long time fan of hers but no joke, she’d be a great permanent host. Also, her Breakthrough podcast is awesome. I highly recommend it. I binge listen to it on my road trips. In a similar vein, but if you have teens or kids, check out Dr David Brumbaugh’s interview on PBS. Wow. Every US parent needs to hear it. Ditto the On our Minds podcast, the It’s Ok Not to Be Ok episode from June 2nd. People aren’t listening to kids and their pandemic cry for mental health.
Circling back to Mayim, she’s got a PhD in neuroscience. You might well ask, why isn’t she pursuing research to advance US understanding of the brain? Or teaching the next gen of US of innovative researchers? I’ll tell you why. Because, according to her, acting gives her and her children access to healthcare. Yep. When people ask how lack of universal US health care harms the US, this is how. Being an actor comes with healthcare. Being a scientist doesn’t. The US used to be a science powerhouse on all fronts of science, now… And science is a big driver of the economy.
And speaking of health and science, the SO, because he was going to have to delay getting his 2nd Astrazenca shot due to US travel and then Canadian quarantine, went ahead and got a Pfizer shot when he landed at LAX. So he’s mixed vax, but at least he has some good 2nd shot protection. When he gets a chance, he’ll says he get the 2nd AZ (or Pfizer) shot in Canada later. I’m not sure how triple vaxing works? But I support his desire to be as protected as he reasonably can be.
Okay, I’m truly, deeply, madly done with posting for the summer. I’m going to live my Pu. Be in the Tao. And not sweat the whys too much.
Long time ago, when I was about 9, my parents had a huge fight … over butter. I refer to it as the “Bitter better butter battle.” It happened like this. My Da and I were sitting at the breakfast table. Mutti was making coffee. My Da opened the butter dish and scrapped up the short horizontal slick, that represented the very last of the butter, to put on his toast. Mutti saw this and went to the freezer to get a fresh stick. She opened the door, looked in and the pulled out the entire box. Her face turned somewhat demonic, rather like an Oni.
The butter, picked up at the store by my Da, which we’d been using for over a week, was salted. Mutti likes unsalted. There were accusations made. Da brought up the fact that he likes to cut vertical square pats of butter from the ends of the stick, which becomes impossible if Mutti is always taking long horizontal scraps of butter off the top. Seriously, this was the fight. After much rage and recrimination, a detente was reached. Mostly because Mutti had to go change or she’d be late, but partly because they came to an understanding.
Going forward (meaning Mutti was going to the store that day for new butter), they would buy unsalted butter only, and they only cut pats off the ends. Win-win? Mutti vanished upstairs. I looked at my Da, and asked “Couldn’t you just buy a second butter dish?” He smiled and replied. “All good relationships require compromise.” I guess. Then he said, “Your mother actually sacrificed more than me. I can always salt the butter.” True. And he finished it up with, “She really is the kindest most loving person I know, jelly bean.” Uh…did we just see the same person? The one who flipped out over butter?
I think about this episode now and then. I think it’s actually informed a lot of my thinking on relationships, economics, even politics. The Significant Other and I each have a personal shelf in our fridge as well as communal shelves. We can take from each other’s shelf, but, in general, what’s on the shelves is the stuff I like and he doesn’t or vice versa. So, while we don’t have two butter dishes, we do acknowledge we are different people. It’s a different approach. It’s compromise on the big things, but not on the small ones. I think my parents’ approach is the opposite.
Part of why we do this, is because we’re a different generation. But part of it is also because can, economically. We aren’t cash strapped. We aren’t forced to decide on only one butter. He can have Romaine while I eat iceberg. I can use pot holders, while he uses oven mitts. He can spread brie on French bread, while I use the Philadelphia cream cheese ( which he calls “an abomination, and abuse of the word ‘cheese.’ “) on a Nut-thin. I don’t think it damages our relationship. And when we do cross-over now and then, it’s fun and exciting rather then a forced compromise, the result of a hot fight.
I’ve thought a lot about the BBBB this week. After posting last week, I had breakfast, and I found myself scraping the butter, like my mother (does whenever my father is out of town. He buys salted butter when she’s away). I realised I’d made an egregious relational mistake. I called the SO an idiot (I even used the Dutch, idioot, so no mistaking that). And my Da was right, Mutti is a wonderful mother, I’m lucky to have her, she really cares. I needed to mend some fences there. But … I also kept wondering why the SO had spent 3 days at his folks’ if all he did was faint from hypoglycemia. Sounded more TIA cover-up to me.
Health, physical and mental, are dicey subjects. They’re private subjects. If someone, even a loved one, doesn’t want to tell you what’s going on, you don’t really have a right to pry. If a person is in your care, that’s different. But someone like the SO? Or Mutti? Can’t really go there, just have to be there. At least that was the post-breakfast conclusion. So I called the SO, and I told him I was sorry for calling him an idioot. I was just happy he hadn’t fallen off his bike during his ride, or while he was out walking the dogs, or worse, driving the car in traffic. Long pause at the other end. Possible confession? Nope. He did however say he was sorry too, and he really had been an idiot.
I left it there. Next week, I’ll call the Cheese Friends and see if he’s ordered anything recently. He wouldn’t cut back on cheese unless a doctor ordered him to. I moved on to the SO’s folks. I called La Mère. I thanked her for taking such good care of the SO, and expressed how glad I was that he fainted while with them, and they had taken him to the ER to get checked out, and they had all taken the 1st available vax shot so they were safe. (It’s weird but in parts of Canada, there are people making vax appointments, showing up, and then refusing to take the Moderna shot! They reschedule instead, in hopes of getting Pfizer. Holy heck, people! You’re putting off 80% protecting yourself from death within 2 weeks, over a 1% difference in efficacy?!)
Anyway, I asked her how she and Le Pape were doing. Because, I imagine, it must be terrifying to see your son collapse in front of you, knowing your husband has been through multiple cardiac events. She said it was very upsetting for them, and she cried a little, and then trailed off a bit into advanced French words beyond my understanding for a bit. But she seemed to appreciate that I considered their feelings. No mention of anything beyond the hypoglycemia. So maybe I was wrong to be suspicious. I imagine the SO would stay with his parents, to make them feel better and make sure they were ok after such a shock.
On the back of two wins, I decided to go for broke. I called my Da and left a message on his work phone saying I was calling Mutti about upsetting stuff. A heads up is always appreciated. Then I called Mutti’s VM, because it wasn’t really a conversation I wanted to have voz a voz. I told her I loved her, I appreciated her, and I knew how concerned she was about Gran. That I was concerned too. I gave her the number of the RN managing her case. So she could talk/text her. Then I told her that she must be under terrible stress to have snapped at me and called me lazy. That she would never talk to someone she worked with that way.
I told her I was sorry I couldn’t stop Gran from aging, or dying. I have limited tricks up my sleeve. But maybe she needed to talk to someone (she’s been in therapy before), to help her deal with stuff now, to be able to be happy and make the most of the time she has left with Gran, and so when she does eventually hire someone to take care of Gran, she doesn’t have that person quit over misdirected emotions that take the form of employee verbal abuse. Yeah, I went there. Because when you love someone, sometimes you have to put on your asbestos suit and brave the dragon’s flames.
I usually hear from Mutti everyday. She calls to check on Gran and talk to Gran via the Portal. No call Friday. But that was ok. I didn’t think I’d hear from her then. I didn’t hear from her all weekend either. But that was ok too. Saturday I had to take Minka to the vet and get her shots updated, and have her blood drawn for an annual panel, and get her Rx for food. Getting in a 3 month supply of Minka’s food and flea stuff and marking the calendar makes certain Minka keeps getting her stuff she likes and gets her flea treatments on time (very important in summer).
It was kind of surreal. The vet does curbside only. Pets are taken from the car and then you get a phone call.
The vet said something really interesting. That dogs are getting anxious as owners return to work now. But that in beginning of the pandemic, it was the cats who were anxious. They didn’t like their needy owners around all the time. I’m not sure that’s true of Minka, Gran is always around. She’d be upset if I were to be on a “work” schedule I think. Although she does spend time outside everyday, for a little break from the needy people. And at night she does like to sleep on my pillow (it’s extra long). I hope she’s not running experiments on my brain. But, they are a superior species.
On Sunday, a friend who does geological and land surveys with drones came by. I wanted to know, from a bird’s eye view, what the tree in the back looked like to try and understand scientifically what was going on, why were the crows killing themselves there. I had gone up on the roof with binos, but it was hard to see. Her drone made it clear — love me some LIDAR! To the crows, there looked like a clear opening, but it was very shadowed. As they flew, full speed, thinking they could pass through, they impacted head-first on a large branch. I couldn’t really put up a reflector, to scare them off, so I decided to leave the dead crow.
On Monday, the PT lady came out to evaluate Gran. She was very positive. Though she thought Gran might need anti-anxiety meds because she was so afraid of falling, she could barely walk. I texted Mutti her number so they could touch base, since she’d be seeing Mutti next week and not me. I have a last doctor appointment Tuesday, to check on the iron situation and see if the lactoferrin is doing its job. The plan is for Mutti to arrive Weds am and me to leave for NoCal Weds pm — after all the holiday traffic has died off. I thought I’d get at least an emoji response. Nope. Nothing. No response. After PT left, I laid down on the couch for an hour and woke up to the sound of barking dogs and car doors slamming out front.
I looked out to see a large black towncar. Possibly a limo. Impressive. Very FBI meets… prom night? Which neighbor was getting fancy visitors? Turns out it was us. It was my parents, walking up the driveway. Uh….color me confused. My first thought was, Has the SO died? And they came to tell me in person? (Catastrophizing is a go-to I really need to jettison post-pandemic.) Then I realised, they would still drive themselves down. In their own car. They cannot afford, nor would they pay for, a town car. Did their car break down on the way? And what, AAA sent a limo? No, no, no. Why didn’t they drive down themselves?
I opened the door, and my parents were both smiling. Good sign? My mother said she loved me, that I was “the best” and then went to see my Gran in her bedroom. Uh….okay. I went to the kitchen with my Da to make some tea and find out what the H, E, double toothpicks, was going on. Turns out Mutti had taken my call to heart, and called her old therapist. She’d already done a couple sessions. She was feeling much better. Apparently. Gran’s nurse told her I was so contentious, she thought I was a nurse. And PT said I was great with getting Gran to do things even PT thought was not possible. All this did not explain the black limo/towncar with the bespoke driver.
Turned out an old client of my Da’s called him. Now, this fellow was rich years ago, when Da did a project for him. But he was just the worst to work with. Da never worked for him again (though this fellow did ask now and then, Da always referred him to other people claiming to be too busy). Da was entirely relieved when “the rich dude” moved out of state about 3 yrs after. That was maybe 7 years ago. But last week TRD called and begged him to come out and consult. Because of the pandemic, a project that got started went sideways, and now it was up a certain poopy creek.
Da said no. He was busy. TRD countered with “just come for a few days and tell me if it’s salvageable.” Da said he didn’t want to fly, all the hassle of testing and people beating each other up on planes. TRD said he’d send his private jet. Da said there were family problems, and Mutti really needed to see me. TRD said they’d make a layover at our local airport 7 miles away, for a couple hours, and send a town car for them to take them wherever, if he wanted. Da was running out of excuses. It’s not like Da got hurt badly by the pandemic, but hard to say no to that kind of money being offered for a consult. Especially on the heels of fight with Mutti, about money, because Da cosigned a loan for Hugh – without telling her.
Also, turned out TRD, in the interim, had married, divorced, married again, and now had a couple kids. Mutti felt that might have changed TRD and his wife would have made TRD less of a thorn. Also in the interim, TRD became even richer. Like 1% rich. It’s hard for Da to pass up “money is no object” projects and private jets. He said yes, but just a consult for week, all expenses paid, 5-star accommodation, on the Big Island. Just a consult? Sure, Da. Sure. No way Mutti let’s him turn “the project” down. Whatever “the project” is. But Da has other projects on, in progress, including Hugh’s. I’m guessing he’ll spend the summer ping-ponging across the Pacific via private jet. And Hugh will have the house to himself.
Hugh apparently not only got his old job back, he retooled his skills and landed an IT job. Good benefits, room to grow, a whole new career. Which is fortuitous because he put a bid on foreclosure 2-bed, 2 bath, condo last summer, when the economy went south. He did it as “a radical act of blind hope.” And it paid off. He was shocked when the bank accepted his offer. It was a knock down price. His new place, which will be the first home he’s ever owned, is in an “up and coming” (sketchy? gentrifying?) neighborhood. And the fire damage (meth lab?) was “mostly” (not at all?) cosmetic, only minorly (totally?) structural.
Because of Hugh’s new employment picture and lack of debt or any evictions on his record, the bank was willing to do the deal, if he had a cosigner. Enter my Da. Who is entirely convinced that by Sept, with under $25K investment, the property will be all set for occupancy and worth triple what Hugh paid. “Can’t lose proposition,” Da said.
So, post-pandemic life begins with a bang. Or bagpipes. The local pipers were back at it Monday night. Hadn’t heard them in over a year. It was very moving. I’m kind of sad to be leaving now, just as life is about to re-start. BC is on a 4-phase plan to fully reopen — in Sept. Which means, I miss California’s full re-start by 1 week, and then I miss BC’s full re-start as well. But, you know, good news anyway. Things will be reopened when I get to California in Sept. Fingers crossed. At least for a month or two. We’ll see what happens when school starts and cold weather forces people indoors.
People often say they believe in personal responsibility but living in a group, a nation means shared responsibility. It’s bitter better butter battle. In the US it’s often pitted politically as 100% personal responsibility vs 100% shared responsibility. But it should be 50% personal + 50% shared = 100% responsibility. You do what you can, I do what I can, and together we do what we can to build a good society for all. It’s that simple. I help you do what you can, you help me do what I can, we help each other do what we can. There is, still, a vast scope of societal and personal good yet undone, and it’s all 100% possible. So let’s start with vaccinations, for all, please?
I hope by July 4th we really do get the US to 70% fully vaxed. But given the way Canada is vaxing, I’m guessing they’ll beat us to 70% with 1 dose and 20% fully, even though they started vaxing months behind us. There is way more sense of shared responsibility there (the people of Toronto rejecting Moderna vaccines aside). It’s amazing. They don’t even produce vaccine, like the US does. They’ve really had to work to get vaccine, and they are busting guts getting those vaccines they do have into the community. Meanwhile, in the US, people are rejecting a surfeit of local, easy to get life-saving vaccines with a shoulder shrug and a sigh. It’s heart-breaking.
This Tuesday I looked at my planner. Hmm. Do I want to continue? Planning. No not really. But the new Midori journals kinda make me want to start doing some summer journaling. I think it can help with de-stressing. One of the things where women and men differ is post-stress. Men will have heart attacks in a stressful situation. Women will have them after the situation is over. It’s a bio-safeguard. Women make sure the children are safe, then collapse. I expect to see more cardiac disease Dx and cardiac events among women particularly as the US reopening picks up. I dont’ want to be one of either.
Weds I saw the super flower blood moon. Awesome. While I was sitting in the dark, alone, in the wee hours, I had an inspiration. I called my Da’s people in the UK. They were up and having lunch. It was fun. I laughed and laughed, while on the rooftop, in the dark. Thankfully no on e called the police. And because I was up early, I got a jump on the garden and the shopping. While I was out, I went to AAA to pay some car registration fees. It was nice to see it abuzz with happy people planning trips. To be able to think about taking a trip again, here or abroad, is a huge boon. Though I’m not sure the Earth thinks the same.
Since the pandemic there has been a baby boom at reserves in Africa. That fact has fascinated me. It means, despite our best efforts to minimize human impact, it’s clear now that having people “see” that animals at a “safe” distance, isn’t actually good for the animals. That a factor in their decline in numbers is not resources based, but as a direct result of negative interaction with humans (poaching) and encroachment stress (tourism) depressing birth rates caused by humans. There’s a PhD study waiting to be written. It might up end everything we now do to preserve endangered animals.
Other things I thought about this week? The deepening of the social divide via paid media. That is, having people with more disposable income on netflix, hulu, disney+, HBOMax, CBS all access, etc. While people with less, have only free channels. It’s interesting to listen to awards shows, pundits, talk shows, etc, always referencing back to (ie, puffing, often their parent channels) pay-to-watch streams. There are many social divides, but I feel like this one is super significant.
Going back to the fridge, it’s my shelf, your shelf and a shared shelf, all of which are visible and accessible to all. In paid media access, it’s my shelf that you can’t see or access. Your shelf that I can’t see or access. And only a shared lesser, not so relevant or important shelf we can both see and access. I’m not opposed to individuals watching what they want. It’s the exclusionary nature of the paywall. It’s another example of systemic capitalism’s divisive negative impact on culture. I think a lot about systemic capitalism. About how that directly, divisively, negatively impacts education, or religion, or politics in the US, and how it’s really out of control.
It’s not an economic concept that stays in the marketplace. It’s a concept that turns everything, including ideas, into products to be marketed in society, which is no longer an actual society or an actual culture, it’s simply a marketplace. And markets are inherently both unstable and irrational. I think we have to move away from systemic capitalism. We have to regard it as we do systemic racism, sexism, inequality. It’s something we added to society, but it’s something we can remove from it.
On the surface, these were about promoting culture. But they were, in reality, promoting the right-wing political view of (post-Nazi era) white supremacy. When you see a place with a name like “Western Heritage Museum” that talks about the pioneers, notice that it only talks about white pioneers. No one else. It’s very selective. And that was on purpose. When you hear the Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank, consider what “heritage” means in this context. When you hear the Heritage Action group drafted the voter suppression laws, it should be no surprise to you.
People think the GOP somehow fell accidentally into authoritarianism via white supremacy. Or that this is a recent wrong turn into a very bad place. But this is incorrect. The GOP chose this course, deliberately. It’s been on this course for many modern-era decades. The trajectory of the party has intentionally been a long game of deceiving supporters into thinking their ultimate end was anything but it actual is: the betrayal of American values and the overthrow of democracy. Any claims Trump and 1/6/20 Insurrection were aberrations and it over, it all ended there, there’s no need for a commission, is simply lying to your face. The Big Lie, voter suppression, all of it, it’s the same train, still on the same track, still intent on sending democracy off a cliff.
Ok, that was a little dark (sorry) and this post was little long (not sorry). Next Friday, about this time, I’ll be on the road, probably somewhere outside Eugene, OR, heading north. So, consider this extended edition a season finale. I’m signing off for the summer. I may be back in mid September. But life. You never know. We’ll see what happens.
I’m sure I’ll pop up on twitter and WP weekly and comment on stuff. But at-home time is precious. You may be tired of being trapped at home, I’m tired of being trapped away from home. As always, I wish you all a wonderful (fully vaxed) summer filled with parties with friends and hugs with family and laughter, and joy, and good times, and baseball, and travel. Make the most of your life!
And now, I leave you with the SO’s Friday love song. Somewhat butter related. Extra points to him for the band’s total obscurity (except in the UK and Japan). Don’t you know? Can’t wait to cross the border and say “Hello. Hello!”
My grandfather, the German engineer, the man always on a quest for new scientific discoveries, was also a devout Catholic. He went to 6am Mass every day. Every day. He was also a Mason. So, you know, secrets. One of the most secret things about my grandfather? After his mother died, he sought out spiritualists. I guess there were unresolved issues? Things left unsaid? I dunno.
As a scientist, he wanted to know if it was possible to contact the dead. Religiously, it was sketchy territory, biblical injunctions against necromancy abound. I guess science won out over religion when driven by personal grief and need? But he eventually stopped, after all, good Germans don’t pay good money for hokum and bunk. You might think he put all his eggs back in the Catholic basket, with heavy rotation of Sacred Heart devotion. (Good backup plan, right?) And it was true-ish.
Later in life, when his child (my mother’s actual parent, my actual grandparent) and that child’s spouse perished (that’s the word they always use, perished, no idea why), he did a second round of spiritualism. I don’t know much about it. Maybe he got some satisfaction from the first round? I really don’t know. I wasn’t alive then and this whole topic (the perished grandparents) is long in the past. It’s not that it’s verboten. They’re just not talked about and I’ve never even seen pictures of them.
Anyway, I say all this to say, I’m considered by family to be a lot like my grandfather. A foot in two worlds at all times. In my case, literally, with the BC/CA tours of duty. But also on the spiritual/intellectual plane. I boldly go places in quest of knowledge and understanding. I believe things, am open to things, that other people with more rigid or religious worldviews might run from. Not everyone understands, but I always feel God does and I always ask him along for the journey.
I’ve long believed that other civilizations exist on other planets in other universes. It’s just basic math. I don’t think they fear us. They’re too advanced. I think they fear we’ll destroy our planet. I’m not sure they care if we destroy each other. Maybe. But, do peoples exists elsewhere in our universe? Sure. I ponder questions such as “Is the Earth sentient?” or “Is the universe sentient?” Sounds weird, but bacteria and viruses and even fleas or lice might live on a person. Maybe people are just fleas on the pimple of the Earth, on the buttocks of a sentient universe? Maybe all the dark matter is alive, in some sense?
I think the barriers between dimensions, worlds, people, planes of existence, are much thinner than we imagine. By this point, you might think I’m really nerdy and weird. That’s ok. Buckle up, it’s going to get much stranger. One of the reasons I think these things is the stuff that happens, on a quite regular basis, in my own life. I remember one time sitting at a stop light thinking, I’d really like to have a French cross covered in flowers. Literally, one day later, a friend said she had something for me, and gave me a large (2.75″ tall) gold French cross pendant covered in flowers. Fit for a queen. I never said anything to her, or anyone. It was just a thought.
Then there was this time I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pay my student loan. I didn’t know what I was going to do that month. The next day, in the mail, a letter arrived from the loan company saying they had received my request to put the loan payments on hold for 6 months. I never contacted them. I never filled out any paperwork. I never even said anything to anyone about being strapped for cash or struggling with making the student loan payment. It just happened, by itself, miraculously.
I have a lot of interesting dreams as well. And that’s always been true. Some of them tell the future, never my own, never anything useful (lottery numbers), or anything I can do anything about. But I find those far less strange than my “normal” dreams. I’m almost never me in my dreams. I’m an observer, who sees me, but the me I see, is almost always (99.9% of the time), not actually me. I’m not always female or even white, in my dreams. Identity is one of those fluid things, in dreams, I guess.
I very rarely dream about my own life or real people and places in my real life. However, I always end up in world I know very well, filled with familiar places, populated with people I know very well, by name. It’s super strange. That world, seems so much more real, in terms of familiarity, than the one I actually live in now. It’s the one thing that makes me wonder if reincarnation, in some form, is real. Even my dreams that feature the real world, and the real me, are off by a factor of 10 in strangeness.
When I started doing the White Tara thangka, about a month in, I had a dream in which the Dalai Lama appeared. I’ve seen HH in person, speaking. That’s the full extent of my knowing him. He was sitting in one chair, I was sitting opposite on a slightly lower chair. We were alone. I don’t know where. And he began by telling me of his great concern for the health of one of his translators, a man named Erick. He emphasized the name ended with a k. He was suffering some illness. HH didn’t say what. It was weird. I don’t know anything about HH’s translators. I don’t know anyone named Erick or Erik.
Then the conversation took a turn, to me, and I asked HH how he felt about my WT project. He laughed and said it was fine. He approved. Then he touched my cheek. Which is a type of blessing. And the dream ended and I woke up. Now, I could understand if the dream had been about me and WT. But why does HH share his concern for the health of his translator? A translator I don’t know and can’t do anything about? Except maybe say a prayer for or do a practice for. But, if HH is concerned, I mean, HH’s prayers and practice have way more weight than mine, I should think. Who am I to think anyone will listen to me?
Okay so, circling back, to this week, and why I’m talking about this stuff, last Friday a friend called me. I hadn’t heard from her in a while. We texted a few times in the past year, but she and her husband have been really locked down by covid (he has heart issues, she has diabetes) and really busy with a move (their house went underwater in 2007 with the crash, they managed to hang on to it, by skin of teeth and HARP, but now, 2020, prices went through the roof, so they sold up, paid off debt, made a profit and moved). You should know. She’s a witch.
Sorry, wiccan. Literally, she calls herself a witch. Anyway, she called and told me “someone from the other side was trying to contact you.” She’s never done that before. I said, ok. Given the space-time continuum has no “side”, a bit perplexing. But I understood. And I figured, if it was anyone, it was my grandfather. The next day I went out and lifted the canopy of the trees in the backyard, so it would be lighter and brighter and have more summer breeze. Mutti has claustrophobia (she wants to be cremated because she doesn’t want to be in a box in the ground). So, it was an important to-do before she arrives in June.
In the midst of lifting the trees, I looked at Gran’s Easter iris. Still there, air dried in perpetuity courtesy of Santa Ana winds. But there. Then I looked up into the tree, to cut a hanging branch, and there was a dead crow again, in the same spot where a dead crow had been removed during the tree trimming a couple months back. It was weird. It was in the same position. In the same spot. It was like the crow flew into the tree head first, wings open, and just died. Totally strange. I didn’t dwell on it. But this kind of thing reminded me of some of the loop dreams, dreams that happen repeatedly, I’d had in the past.
The next day, another friend, a work friend I hadn’t heard from in over two years, called me. She has a sideline of reading tarot cards and runes at local fairs on the weekends. She said, “Someone is trying to reach you. Can I do a card reading for you?” Uh….well…My friends and I used to go the Renaissance Faire and have readings done just to laugh later about how wildly off they were. I’m not saying my work friend was in that class, she’d never read for me, I didn’t know. But I wanted to apply some science to the situation, and some religion. So, I silently asked God to join me on the journey, then set out my conditions for her.
Because I didn’t want her doing a shuffle and read at her end, meaning only she touched the cards, I said would pick a website, that randomly generated tarot cards. And I would pick the type of spread. And I would not tell her what was going on in my life or what the question was I had in mind till after she did the reading. She was fine with all that. So I went to this site called serennu. I shuffled the deck a few times, then picked a Celtic Cross because, I’m a Celt, and I believe in the Cross. I have to say, as a person who has had useless readings immemorial (but lots of laughs), this was really spot on.
I don’t think everyone would be happy with the outcome card I turned (Four of Swords). But for me, it was just the answer I wanted to hear. It’s the card of rest. It’s the knight in repose in his tomb, in the chapel, at peace, sword down, hands in prayer/meditation. I cannot tell how much more having that outcome means to me, after almost 2 years of covid shit, than riches, fame, wealth, love, knowledge or…anything else at this point. So, props to my friend, and I told her so. I also know she’s a cash-strapped widow, so yes, I sent her money for the reading even though she said there was no charge.
Thus fortified in spirit, I woke up the next day, Monday, to Gran with a bedsore – despite the EHOB inflated mattress I bought and put her on. Gran has been spending less time walking, more time sitting and laying down the last few months. It’s abuse if I make her get up, it’s neglect if I don’t. I can’t really win. Mutti was livid. I mean, livid. Because bedsores can be a real difficulty to heal. And Mutti’s already on a tightrope when she’s with Gran, trying to help her while continuing to do her own work. This looked to her like an epic fail on my part and dumping a lot of cleanup work on her because I was “lazy.”
Um, … yeah. This is my 3rd Tour of Duty. I’m kind of used to this. I get it. Mutti is really stressed out. Gran is getting quite elderly. Honestly, she might pass by the end of the year. Hopefully not while I’m there. I know that my mother wants to be with her, it’s important to her to be there. I’m guessing because of that “perish” event we don’t talk about it. But it can be rough. I care about Gran too. But again, caught between 2 worlds, or a rock and hard place.
I have my Da asking me to make a list or repairs or upgrades, while I’m here this ToD, and asking me to do an inventory of things that could be sold to finance the repairs on my next, and final, ToD. And I have Mutti yelling at me about bedsores now, while asking me to reach out to my RN friends in Sept, to see if we can find an RN wanting a post covid break, and happy to take a stipend, and free room and board, while caring for Gran. Which you know, why not? Do an online BSN, regroup, go back to nursing, or take time, re-eval, move on.
You would think, that would be plenty enough. But no. I called Gran’s doctor about the bedsore. Now we are getting homecare. An LVN to check on the wound, and PT to try and get Gran walking. Because my Hoyer lifting her out of/into bed into/out of her wheelchair is a big project and not really one Mutti will be up for. I’m trying to organize all the homecare, and make some good progress with Gran before Mutti gets here so she doesn’t have to do so much. The doctor recommended a new homecare company we had never used before. I’m like, sure, ok, let’s give it a go.
Tuesday, the RN they sent out to do Gran’s eval was Filipina. My grandfather was a big presence in the local Filipino community. Shared love of family, hard work, the Catholic faith and pork. I have lots of Filipino friends. Then the nurse told me that she’d too, like me, owned a chow-chow. Uh….hmmm. Coincidence? Or, the universe strikes again. That same day, the Japanese shirofugen cherry trees blossomed. Canada declared plastics a toxin! Trudeau is talking about opening the border. And I ordered a PURAP wheelchair cushion for Gran. Needless to say, I felt pretty good about the new trajectory of things. Honestly, I think the bedsores were a blessing.
Weds the SO told me he plans to work from home or just take off the 2 weeks of my quarantine, so we can be together – with the cats! Yes! Even though only 3% of BC is fully vaccinated, and I’ll be one of those, because I’m entering from the US, I have to quarantine. I’m ok with that. So basically, I’m going from California, with a mask mandate, to BC, with a mask mandate. I’m not sure what the state of things will be when I return in Sept. At this point, 65% of people 16+ have 1 dose in the home county, and 53% are fully vaxed. And we’re still vaxing the crap out of people, and lowering the age to 12.
I expect when I return I’ll be wearing a mask, again. By then Gran will be 6 months post her Moderna. As far as I know, Moderna data at this point, says good for 6 months. My hope is that more data will come in, and she’s good for a year. But if not, I’ll get her revaxed with Pfizer, or if they have a booster, get her that. Not sure what the options will be by then. I have to say, if I were staying in SoCal, I’d continue to wear a mask till 70% were fully vaxed or, honestly, till next Spring. I know that sounds extreme, but I’ve looked at the data and the science, and our family situation as well as the California and US situations.
Here’s the math, as I see it. If 100M people are fully vaxed with Pfizer, at least 5M will get breakthrough infections. Pfizer is 95% effective. Of those 5M, most will be asymptomatic. And even though the CDC claims vaxed people, who are asymptotic covid carriers, can’t pass on the virus? The situation with the Yankees screams otherwise. The truth is, the CDC is not testing daily or weekly a large group of asymptomatic vaccinated people. The CDC has no idea how much spread is happening with vaxed, asymptomatically infected people. As a result, I don’t want to be responsible for infecting a child or immuno-compromised person who can’t get a vaccine.
Of the 5M breakthrough infections, I’d expect about 10%, 500K to be mildly symptomatic. These people, because they become symptomatic, start spreading covid the moment they are infected. They have to quarantine. They have to contact trace with people they saw 2-3 days before they had symptoms. They put others at risk. With so many people unvaxed, at this point 2/3 of the US, I don’t want my mild infection to turn into an unvaxed someone else’s death sentence. I understand you can’t wait forever for other people to “do the right thing.” And, at some point, a lot of people will just get sick, get long covid, die because of their ignorance, but, for now, I’m not going to be an added factor.
Finally, and I think this is important to note, fully vaxed people, who get breakthrough infections, can end up seriously ill, can end up with long haul covid, can end up dead. I would reckon (I have no data) maybe 1% of symptomatic breakthrough infections will end up this way. So, 5K people out of 100M. My take on that is, I don’t want that to be me. Ever. So, I’m waiting for herd immunity through vaccination. And I’m waiting till the end of the 4th, spring wave in 2022. I know that sounds depressing, but I’d rather face the truth and prepare for it, than … bury my head in the sand or stick my fingers in my ear and lalalalalala, and get sick and/or die.
Okay so, regarding other things I thought about this week. And yes, this is a bit long, but it’s my penultimate post for this ToD. Live with it. I found Liz Cheney’s ouster interesting because 74% voted looney tunes, and 25% of the House GOP voted Liz Cheney. That means Liz now has the mantel of “true conservative.” I have a feeling all these extremist abortions bills suddenly appearing just after her ouster are a way for the GOP to try to hold on to what they view now as the Cheney Republicans. It’s a bit knee-jerk and not very well thought out. They think white evangelical conservatives will vote for them because of this one issue.
To be fair, some WEC’s will vote that way because they simplistically, and un-scripturally, believe God punishes the entire US for women having abortion access. Uh…yeah. But I think a lot of WEC pastors and women who follow Christ have realised this is putting out a match by starting a forest fire. It benefits no one. I also think that as Democrats continue to publicize what the Democrats alone (GOP votes agains evertyhing) have accomplished for the people, all that should change. People, specifically women, and people of color, demand a better democracy. And so should we all.
Not to be unkind, but the GOP has literally nothing to offer. It does nothing. It stands for nothing. AZ’s GOP is the epitome of the crazy level. When I see people like Gov De Santis grooming himself for 2024 not by expounding his policies, but by gaining weight, dressing and combing his hair like the former president, getting a spray tan? Uh, yeah. Not good. The GOP has PR, but no policy game. The Dems have policy, but no PR game. In a media-driven environment, you gotta have a strong PR game informing people of policy wins that positively impact their lives. At this point, the GOP has a strong PR game on imaginary wins, or even Dem wins.
Moving on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shake my head at people talking about mental health in the news in the last few weeks. Not because there’s no need. There is a desperate need. But “you need mental health help” is such white, male answer. It undercuts looking at actual needs, and meeting those. People need actual help. Food, homes, jobs, health care, child care, elder care, community safety infrastructure, education, political access, clean water, air, green spaces, etc, etc, ad infinitum. When human beings don’t get those things — in general because you’re a human that’s female, a person of color, or “poor” — humans get stressed, and then those humans get slapped in the face with a white male “you need mental health.”
White men get the actual help they need. Because white men in govt grasp, see, empathize, understand with their needs. But if you’re not a white man? It’s a tough row to hoe to get anyone to see your real need. No one needs mental health, if they aren’t stressed out. No one is depressed, if they can see hope. But if a govt does everything to stress people out, to take away hope, and yeah, create mental health issues through crappy govt policies? Dear God, please shut up about “mental health” until you’ve embraced the fact that the appalling white male govt policies and propaganda of the previous administration, and of every GOP legislature and governor still across the country, has denied the majority of the US population’s reality, gas-lit them, and driven them to the brink.
Then come back and we can talk about mental health.
Sorry, that that took a turn. I’m still fuming a bit today. Yesterday, I found out, from La Mère that all the extra love songs I got last week, and the few days the SO missed our virtual catch-up lunches, was not because he was busy. But because a) he felt unwell and fainted, b) he had to go to the ER and then c) he was at their condo eating Omelette de la mère Poulard and “dormir comme une marmotte” afterwards, for a couple days just to be sure he was okay. He said it was low blood sugar. I was told I shouldn’t be concerned. Really? His father had his first heart attack at 35.
When I asked him when and where he fainted and who was with him, apparently it happened at his folks. He’d been helping them re-arrange furniture. This was after a long bike ride, and a full day of work, sustained by only a breakfast granola bar, and a lunch of coffee and a grilled cheese, because he knew he’d be eating a big dinner at his parents’ place. I expect a normal person in normal times would fly to their SO’s side. But, not a normal person. Not normal times. I’m actually more concerned he might develop covid having been in the ER, and end up giving it to his parents.
I know it’s all kinds of wrong, but I don’t want to leave Gran’s only to arrive home to find everyone has covid and now I’ve got to spend my “down time” nursing them through it, and hoping no one dies or ends up with long-haul covid. So, yeah. This sort of stuff is why I’m pro-mask for vaccinated people, still. And this is why I’m pro-vax for everyone, still, even though my state and county is doing well, comparatively speaking. I literally have to spend the next 10 days praying everyone is spared the guillotine. Four of Swords? Oh please, mercy, yes.
Ok, last week was a little fever-driven. Or maybe not. Anyway, better now. I had mild migraine-like headache which I stopped with a Tylenol, a little nausea that was fixed with some crackers, and some muscle aches. The fever went up to 100.3. All in all, not really bad. I spent Saturday on the couch watching curling matches and in between, did a little birding for the Global Big Day. Sunday I felt better and got the last 2 old AC units pulled. By Monday I was fine.
So my advice for those working M-F 9-5 that don’t want to miss work because of the 2nd covid shot? Try to get that 2nd shot as late as possible Thursday night. You’ll probably have to leave work Friday afternoon, so a half day lost, but you’ll be back Monday. I really think they should have 24/7 covid vax sites. It just makes sense in a world where things run 24/7. Working people, busy parents, everyone just gotta have that option. In my humble opinion.
In news from the North, the vax campaign and demi-lockdowns in BC are finally showing fruit. The curve is bending. Yea! Public Health recently said they’d be ok with people getting Pfizer as their second shot, after getting AZ for the first. The SO said he’d be fine with that. I think a lot of western countries are backing off AZ and J&J, which is too bad. Used responsibly, appropriately, they’re great vaccines. On the other hand, I’m sure a lot of other nations around the world would welcome any AZ or J&J vaccines the west didn’t want.
I’m concerned about the precipitous falling off of US vax rates. In BC, the Brasilian P1 and UK B117 variants drove the sudden outbreak among the unvaxed. Eventually, the Indian B617 variant is going to wash around the world. We’re already seeing it spread through Asia. It’s 4x as transmissible as the original, and double that of the UK variant. If people aren’t vaccinated, the local surges in states with low vax rates are going to be as dramatic as in India.
Eventually, even with travel restrictions, B617 will become dominant in the Americas just because it’s already traveled here. There are so many people unvaxed in the Americas it’s scary. For the US, we’ll probably see more Michigan style outbreaks. Localized, but overwhelming the care systems wherever they happen due to super-high transmissibility. Starting this summer, I imagine B617 will grow, but we probably won’t see the real impact till Fall and Winter when cold weather, lifted restrictions, and indoor gatherings all collide.
Gotta be honest here, I’m not throwing out my mask. I plan to wear it except when exercising outdoors in the wide open. I don’t plan on attending any large indoor or closely packed outdoor gatherings until April next year. I respect the US CDC. But I know pandemic history. I can’t base my actions on the CDC’s thoughts because Dr Fauci is only as scientific as the current administration he serves allows him to be. And I understand the whys of that. So I prefer to look at all the science, the studies, the latest data, and the long history of pandemics and vaccines, and make my own decisions. It’s my life after all.
Ok, moving on. I did get the 2 new bedroom AC units installed. As soon as the old units were pulled out, Gran improved. Dramatically. She’s been taking claritin and other allergy or cold medicines for several years. Since I pulled the old units out, nope. Not so much as a sniffle. All her allergies stopped. Her allergies are real, but they were to the mold and dust coming from the AC units, even when the units weren’t “in action” blowing. Now we have the new units, all is well.
I am a little scared of the new units. The old ones had freeon in them, which was bad for the planet. The new ones contain some weird flamable substance, which is ecologically safe but apparently so dangerous it warrants multiple large stickers. It’s concerning, because CA is a fire-prone area. I don’t want Gran’s house blowing up because a fire nears an AC unit. But…I did what I had to do for Gran for now. And I did the right thing for the planet too.
I reduced, reused, recycled. I cleaned out both old bedroom AC units. I gave away the working kitchen Frigidaire and one of the bedroom Kenmores to people who needed them. I did do a complete cleaning and mold kill off on the units I gave away. But honestly, they never bothered me, only Gran. So they weren’t unsafe, just unsafe for someone with mold allergies or asthma. I wouldn’t have given them away if they were unsafe. I also kept a Kenmore as a back up, because Gran still has one bedroom without a window AC unit. Who knows if she’ll want/need another there.
Ironically, the weather turned cold this week. It might even drizzle today. But I’m okay with that. I know California. The hot weather is coming. Mutti said she was super grateful for changing out the AC. She’d thought they were unsafe but….Gran. So, new AC was her Mother’s Day as well as Gran’s. I’m not sure why Mutti has so much trouble getting Gran to do things that are clearly the “right” thing to do. I guess it’s all in the backstory, which I’m neither one talks about it, so I don’t bring it up. Silence is golden.
In political news, I spent a good deal of time laughing this week at the governor’s most prominent Republican challenger. He’s running an advert that’s supposed to be riff on the classic fairy tale, Beauty and Beast. And this is the first source of amusement. The fact he thinks voters are so stupid he needs to treat them like children. Second, he’s selling a fairy tale. Third, he casts the Governor as Beauty and himself as Beast. Um, Beauty is the good smart one, the hero. Beast is the bad evil cursed one.
The advert comes off as homoerotic. The old white Republican male casts himself as Beast and his younger white Democratic male opponent as Beauty. I can’t help wonder if Mr Cox is super deep in the closet. I don’t mind a gay governor, but if someone can’t openly face his own identity, and styles his campaign as a total fairy tale, how is that person able to openly face real life, and its real world problems? My other issue is, as a Christian, when a person casts himself as “the Beast,” I think, “Wow. Have you read the Book of Revelation? Do you know you’re actively claiming to work for Satan?”
Anyway, I’m not sure who the advert’s intended audience might be. Old, white, latently homosexual, Republican male Satanists? But I’m voting Beauty all the way. I also have to add, I feel sorry for Tag (the Kodiak Brown bear is an actor just trying to make a living) who acts in the commercial and gets dragged to the GOP challenger’s live “Meet the Beast” events. Tag’s use shows a total disrespect for wildlife. And treating our beloved state symbol as your personal political prop? Yuck. On the other side? Gov Newsom, standing at a podium the declaring California is “roaring back.” Uh…ok. More bear metaphors, but at least respectful ones. No actual bears demeaned or politicized or involved.
Other things I’ve been thinking about this week? A few states are now creating laws that allows people run over protestors with impunity. The intent is to take out BLM protestors and union organizers I assume. But a law is a law. So, that means people can legally run over a group of anti-abortionists blocking roads outside clinics now? And white supremacists? And Trump supporters? I mean, they all protest too. I’m not sure anyone thought these laws through. I don’t even think these laws are legal. Americans have a Constitutional right to freely assemble and protest.
I’ve been thinking about Liz Cheney’s statement on doing everything she can to keep the former president out of office. And yet, she’s opposing HR1. I mean, if you really want to keep crazy people out office, you need the voice/votes of the majority to do it. If she actually believed what she says, she’d come out for HR1 and be actively splitting apart the Senate pro-democracy and pro-authoritarian “I am the state” GOP members. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Most purportedly pro-democracy “It’ll last my time at least” GOP members seem to be abandoning America, with their cushy pensions and health plans in tact.
Something else I’ve been pondering this week is chatter about how great the US is doing compared to the EU and the world. The claim is US GDP will grow more the EU GDP this year was particularly galling. Um, yeah, probably true. But EU GDP didn’t crash as hard to begin with because of effective governance and strong economic response to help people, who already had national health and lots of benefits Americans don’t, during the pandemic; didn’t have as much unemployment because of same; and let’s be super clear here…did not wilfully murder 600K of their own people for fun and politics. So all in all, l’d rather have less GDP this year and more Americans still alive.
I find the world reopening exactly as was kind of … disappointing really. The differences between the 1918 pandemic and the 2019 pandemic in terms of human and government response to the pandemic itself, and resulting post-pandemic human and government behavior is pretty much nil. It’s just history repeating itself. Pro and anti maskers. Bad govt response, ethnic blame (“Spanish” flu originated in Kansas and spread to the world). Post pandemic boom in local and foreign travel, boom home buying, and boom in violence (Bugsy Siegel, Bonny and Clyde, etc 1920s). I’m waiting for the explosion of drug use, sex and partying. The cratering of birth rates.
Nobody talks about it, but post 1918 pandemic, People v. Sanger (1918), US birth rates fell off a cliff. They continued down in the 1930s due to the Great Depression, and were further depressed in the 1940s by WWII, when women started going to work and war. My feeling here is, American women, especially young women, can now see modern American policy is both anti-woman and really anti-woman with children. Nothing about our national polices is pro-woman or pro-woman with child. Why would any rational woman want to have children after seeing what happened to women with children this past couple years?
To be honest, a hard dip in birth rates is a good thing, for women, for children, for the world really. One only has to watch 5 minutes of any climate change discussion to realise humans are very locked into irrational self-destructive patterns. It takes big events to change thinking or actions. Almost no one in climate change will honestly address the population crisis. In 1961 there were 3B people, 60 years later is 7.26B. It took millions of years to get to 3B. It took 60 to double down. People keep saying they care about the planet, but economists insist “lack of population increase” is a bad for the economy. Can I just say, that’s only true if your economy is a Ponzi scheme?
If you really think the world is in an ecological crisis (climate is just a part of the overall ecologic crisis), be honest. It’s going to take more than clean energy. That doesn’t fix a host of other problems driven by a consumer society in which more and more resources are consumed by exponentially increasing consumers. That’s the definition of unsustainable. In a sustainable society, everyone has value, everyone gets care, gets education, gets what they need to be a contributor to the high quality of life everyone shares in that society.
I’m unclear why it’s obvious to people when there’s too many elephants or elk on the land, but mention people in that way and ….. Ka-boom. Hysteria sets in. And I’m not being a racist Malthusian here. I think every country, every major people group, needs to figure out how to halve its population over the next generation or two, to create a healthy ecologically sustainable planet that maintains a high-quality life for all. It’s a project for all nations, races, creeds, etc. Otherwise, all “climate change” action is just a band-aid over a time bomb.
I find the politics of ecological crisis in the US something akin to two dogs fighting so viciously over a bone (let’s call it GDP, corporate profits, or political power) they don’t notice the world around them is being wholly consumed in flames and their very tails are on fire. I’m not a pessimist, I think humans can pull up out of the death spiral. But not if we don’t face reality. Just look at the pandemic. It didn’t have to happen. China took control of the situation and showed the world how to do it. But Western “leaders,” specifically delusional authoritarians . . . .
As the pandemic showed, bad leadership anywhere, hurts everyone everywhere. Quality of leadership matters, the truth matters, facing reality matters. Ecological “pandemic” is already happening. Without people speaking truth to each other, to corporate, government, and global leadership, without real change it’s hard to imagine the world in 60 years. People have to make serious choices. Just like in the pandemic. If you tackle serious stuff early, you’ll have less problems. Transition can be gradual. If you don’t, shut downs, chaos, profits for a few, death for many.
We can choose a new path now. Eventually, like the pandemic, if we do nothing, or continue to make band-aid choices about water systems, air quality, forests, etc, that road becomes pretty awful. There will be awful consequences. Anyone celebrating the fact the US has 580K dead, and 350+ people a day still dying of covid, and 35K new cases a day happening? People’s financial lives were/are still ruined (again mostly women, and women with children). It’s still a slow-moving disaster. Just because middle aged white men who never lost their jobs, health care, or homes are okay, doesn’t mean it’s all ok.
Think about the new US Space Force for a moment. Space was an untouched sphere, it was that spot for research, discovery, and dreams of better things. Now, a short 60 years since the moon landing, we, (humanity), has cluttered it with dangerous junk and spend our time and money militarizing it, thinking how we can financially exploit it. This is how humans treat things, this is a species-wide problem. Given the state of the earth? a Space Force, to continue on this same path, is just crackers-level waste of time and money. How about a Space Force and and Earth Force, dedicated to moving the planet from ecological crisis to ecological stability? Let’s save our home world and the space around it.
I think this, as a species, we need to breakout and advance right now. It’s hard to do when old mindsets hold us back. Consider racism as an old mindset for a moment. Racism harms everyone. We all know racism to be bad. But no one ever says “Racism is an old human mental construct.” By that I mean, for example, cats (past and present) don’t care about the color of other cats. They don’t make assumptions about other cats based on coat pattern. Yet, people, who are supposedly the most advanced Earth species, can’t see past skin color. Human thinking is full of bad, really deadly to the species, ideas.
I’m not down on ideas. Ideas are great. But we need to frequently reassess our ideas in light of new facts. This can be scary, but survival depends on it. If you live in a time when everyone walks, and few people have horses, a crosswalk seems a stupid idea. But then a car is developed and a large car can hit and kill you. So a crosswalk seems a good idea. It’s that level of basic rationality people need right now. A vaccine will save you and the world. If it’s possible for you to get a vaccine, save yourself and the world. It’s always possible for people to grow, to advance, to change.
People are great, even if they are far less advanced than cats. But people need to start excelling at basic humanity. A lot of commonly accepted human thought is simply out of touch with reality or even common sense logic. War is not a public good. Hate is not a public good. Violence is not a public good. Racism. Sexism. Nationalism. All the -isms really, are not public goods. It’s not doing us any good to hold on to destructive personal or public ideas. But it’s always a good to hold on to each other. To lift each other up. To support each other. Value each other. Love each other. From the moment we are born, to the last breath we take, we need to hold on to each other.
Fair warning! I had my second Pfizer shot last night. I’m expecting any serious side effects to kick in in about 4-6 hrs. But I do feel a little feverish (99.3F), so cut me some slack today. Two weeks from now, I’m 100% vaxed! But I’m keeping up the vigilance because I read a study this week on post-vax covid cases. The vast majority of them were attributed to people relaxing their safety protocols before the 2 weeks post-vax was up. Gotta say, I hear this mistake happen a lot. So sad, to get that close to dodging covid and fall on the last hurdle.
For anyone still not vaxed? At this point, our county is walk-in everywhere. So no appointments needed, no excuse not to give it a whirl. Mother’s day is coming up. If you get the first dose then, you can get the second dose on Father’s day. Do it for the folks! Or, if you’re graduating high school or college soon, maybe get the first dose in June and then the second on the 4th of July and celebrate being a patriotic adult. If you’re moving this summer or if travel interstate (or even overseas is) on your hit list, do it now and by Memorial day, you’re all set.
In some interesting vax news, Mutti got a text from My Turn, California’s vax website, telling her she needed to schedule her 2nd dose. Huh? She’d had her 2nd dose a week ago. So weird. I think there might be a glitch in the system. Which would mean there’s a lot more people who are getting second doses in California, but the system is failing to record it. I would have thought the pharmacy she went to would have reported her getting the 2nd dose, as a crosscheck, to My Turn. But….whatever. I told her to report it to My Turn and to the county public health office.
This week is ending well, I got my vax. And today new AC units are arriving at the house! Yippee. I wouldn’t have imagined this positive outcome based on how the week started. On Saturday, I gave Gran toast and coffee in bed. She didn’t seem herself. But I went out to the front yard, while it was coolish, and started working on the summer trim, tidy and weed pull. After a grueling hour and half in the sun, I came in. I checked on Gran, she said she wanted to get up, but she seemed out of it. I got her dressed and up and wheeled her out to the living room, whereupon, she began to have a seizure.
Or, it seemed like a seizure. I wondered if I should call 911, but she has a DNR. Mutti? At which point, she vomited up all the coffee all over herself – 2 large mugs worth. Usually she has 1 but today….yeah 2. Then a lot of snot came pouring out of her nose like a fountain, and then she hawked up the a phlegm glob the size of a golf ball. Uh…..”Are you ok, Gran?” “Yes, I think so.” I cleaned her up a little and I went back to her bedroom for a moment, to compose myself. I thought about calling the Cal Hope helpline. But I didn’t need hope. I needed help.
I picked up the phone (yep, still got landlines here), and called my friend (who is fully vaxed), who helps Mutti with laundry when she’s with Gran. She was very gracious and took a couple of the 7 loads off my hands. I went back to Gran and found that it wasn’t just one end stuff came out of. Yep, watery diarrhea everywhere. I girded my loins, took Gran back to the bedroom and started the process of clean up. It was a long day. Really long. I eventually flopped on the couch and passed out while the LTG Women’s World Curling Championships played.
When I woke up an hour later, I realised I was watching a game from Friday, and not Saturday’s live game. WTF? I checked my tv. Nope, this was not what was supposed to be on. I had to go online to find a press release. Apparently 3 members of the CBC team covering the event came down with covid Sat. This resulted in a total coverage blackout Sunday. Then more people tested positive, 7. And the total blackout was extended. Games were still played but no one could watch them. At this point, they hope to have coverage restored by this evening.
It’s 10-day event. We’ve missed 6 days of the bonspiel. WTF Canadian Broadcast Company?! You couldn’t ask LA or NYC to send you a team of FULLY VACCINATED people to run the frigging cameras? I’m sorry but, this event is the apex of play. It determines who gets an automatic spot at the Olympics. What kind of action plan did you have in place? I mean, you did have an action plan, right? In case someone got covid? You knew it could happen and you’d need a back up plan, right? Or did you just not give a crap because, you know, it’s onlywomen playing and they’re just not that important?
Like my friend Pietro says, “First world problems.” I get it. I admit that. I do try to keep perspective. But as the SO wisely says (at least to my face), “We live in the first world, so these are our problems.” I’ve been hanging on by a thread this time round. After back-breaking hand weeding in the heat, then coming in to be vomited and shit upon, and facing piles of filth and laundry, as well as life’s knotty questions and vicissitudes, alone, again, was a little respite of watching ladies curling so much to ask? Apparently so. Okay I’m done “sweeping hard” on the CBC.
Things went on like that, Sunday. Monday it got hot. So I turned on the AC in the kitchen. I was literally hit in the face with a chunk of mold. Um, yeah. Gran has allergy induced asthma. But she’s had the same AC units in her windows for over 20 years. I just lost it. In terms of me losing it, you know it’s happening when I go deathly silent and then walk outside. You need to stay at least 20 ft back and not speak. Better yet leave the neighborhood for an hour. Let me talk it out with the dogs or cats first. I’ll get back to you.
You have to understand, Gran has been saying she’ll be dead by 70, since she’s 40. And dead next year, since she’s 70. And now she’s 90+…. She uses that as an excuse not to fix things. Her house had sprinklers. Instead of repair them, she just shut them off. The guest toilet that I use? It’s had a intermittent leak from the tank for 15 yrs. I’m not allowed to replace it. A bowl under the tank for the occasional leak is “good enough.” The garbage disposal rusted over, so the second sink in the kitchen now doesn’t drain. Not allowed to fix that. “There’s still a good sink.”
Now, as the queen of the jerry rigging — Jerry is a term for German, and we consider that term a source of pride. It means we can make anything work, but probably in not very correct way — I do admire a good Jerry rigging. I love Jerry rigging stuff. When you grow up without a lot of money, jerry rigging keeps things going till you can get stuff fixed properly. It’s a useful talent. But the implication is you’re doing temporary creative fixes till you can actually fix stuff properly. That’s not Gran. I don’t know if she’s got some weird, reverse Winchester House syndrome, going on or what.
My grandfather, the engineer, always made sure any household fixes were correct and legal. The right tools. A job done right. He tinkered a lot for sure, but always in the garage, not with household daily use items. And if he couldn’t do a job, he got a professional in. Sure, he’d buy the garbage disposal himself, but he’d get a qualified plumber to install it. And I’m sure that time he blew up the garage as a teen and was almost arrested by the govt for messing with radio waves left an impact in his “do-it-right” column.
After getting hit in the face with mold….yeah. I cooled off a bit. I thought about an episode of Bob Hearts Abishola (S2Ep15 Tunde’s Loving Care). That was totally my grandfather. You weren’t a man if you didn’t fix your own stuff. This applied to women too. Self-sufficiency tied up with thrift (and wrapped in sexism). Anyway, I thought, well, Gran won’t ever let me replace it, so I’ll have to take it apart and clean it. And there’s probably a video on youtube about it. God bless The Fixer, he had exactly Gran’s model!…..So, there I was doing AC cleaning.
I’d like to say it all went wonderfully well. But, that was not this week. I did get the 90lb unit out of the window, bounced onto a lawn chair, then slid onto a dolly. Minimal bruising. No blood. I did get it apart, cleaned, and put back together in working order. I could have kept it. But I made an executive decision. My Gran’s house needed a new unit. And while I was at it, the 2 smaller bedroom units? They were going too. My Gran and Mutti needed to be healthy and comfortable this summer, and next fall, I wasn’t getting stuck inside with old AC units while outside was burning like Rome under Nero.
I told Gran, “Biden gave you $1400 to stimulate the economy. We’re going to get new AC units, or I walk out that door.” Surprisingly, that ultimatum worked. Probably because I rarely use ultimatums, but when I do, I always follow through. I put the old unit on the curb, with a sign saying Free, Works! It took 48hrs, but it vanished. And that saved us a “bulky item” collection fee. I feel good about that. It got recycled. It didn’t go to a landfill. Maybe somebody is enjoying it who could not have afforded AC otherwise. Or they’re doing a further clean and selling it on. Either way, win-win.
I got a new 12K BTU unit at Home Depot. A Toshiba. It was 71bs. So, with a 1-minute assist lift from Pietro, it was up and in Tuesday by 5:30pm. I realised Weds, however, it was at the wrong angle and wouldn’t drain unless I fixed it. So I had to re-do the angle, but Huzzah! got it done. I bought a couple smaller 5K BTU and 6K BTU Toshiba units at HD for the bedrooms Thursday morning. I got as far as removing the old Kenmore from my bedroom window, and putting the new unit up in it’s place when I had a sudden and awful epiphany. The cleanable screen wasn’t accessed by pulling the front panel outward. It was a tiny screen one had to pull from the left side. The left side was up against the window casements.
Ugh. There was no way to know this at HD because there were no floor models out. I was pretty pissed off. And more bruised. I boxed up the unit and took them both back that night. They both had the same problem. I got full refund. Not even charged restocking fee. I went home and ordered new units from HD online. I’m getting the front-cleaning, 5K and 6K Frigidaires today. They’ll be in on Saturday, barring post-vax sickness. And one week and $1k later, I’ll be delightfully cool and watching curling, like it all never happened. Thankfully, it was cool Thurs and it’s supposed to cooling further through Mother’s day. I’m guessing God looked down Tues and thought “Yeah, she looks like she need a break.”
I still have to decide if I’m going to clean the Kenmores before I put them on the curb. I suppose I could just leave a note with the link to The Fixer’s video. I can always call for a bulky item pick up but I’d rather not. I really want to recycle the unit into the hands of someone that can use it or benefit from it somehow. I think my grandfather would say try to clean them, as an act of kindness. Maybe after I’ve had some chocolate, things will look different. Might take at least 2 full Cadbury bars, with almonds, though.
At this point, life here is a bit like I’m on a crab boat. Except, instead of chocolate, cigarettes, and coffee, I’m running on potatoes, Pedialyte and protein drinks. In no way is this healthy lifestyle. But like I said, this week was a quite (first-world) challenging. And I have A/C fin cuts on my hands, bruises on my arms, muscle pain in my back and sunburn on my legs to prove it. (word tot he wise, A/C fin tools? Forgetaboutit. They suck. A kitchen knife or scalpel works just as well. Yes, I own a scalpel. Don’t ask.)
My hope is that the new AC units in the house, sans mold, will be life-changing for Gran, and that in itself will make Mutti’s life way easier. As for me, I just need to change my life, and in a few weeks I will have that opportunity. I’ll be breezing up the freeway back to BC with my windows all the way down and my radio all the way up. Definitely this week’s love song from the SO will be on my road-trip mix tape. Love me the Orleans. Feelings about the SO? Still the one.