A Better Day (Plague, Day 24, March 27, 2020)

8:35am Ian woke up just fine. So, I’m cancelling his doctor’s appointment; there’s no point getting a test for a basically healthy person and clogging up the system.

Many people tell me that they are asymptomatic positive or were positive sometime in the past couple of months. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew that for sure? If we all have the antibodies, we could all be going back to work, sending out kids to school, sitting in nice sushi restaurants (God, I’m craving sushi), getting our nails done, and letting housecleaners back into our homes. My kingdom for 1 billion tests.

Well, I went to bed thinking my day was going involve long waits in a car with a feverish kid. I’m recalibrating my day now. All good news. I think the order of the day will be exercise, write draft 1 of new opinion piece, and make the black bean soup. Thank god no hospitals.

In the evening, I’ll package up a massive set of 1944 encyclopedias that finally sold on my online shop. The shipping alone will probably cost about $100, but a customer was willing to pay it.

I will also load into the shop a bunch of movie books that I found in squat home in a working class community the day before we went into total seclusion. I love old eccentric collector homes. They are my bread and butter.

In the basement of that house, I found a book from the early 1800s. It was a vellum book. First time that I’ve seen one of those in a suburban basement. I’ll show you all later.

Meanwhile, with much less drama than yesterday, we’re continuing to work through plague life with work and school on computers, FaceTime chats with my parents, family dinners, afternoon walks, a little grouchiness with all this togetherness, the healing power of baked goods, and some help from the evening glass of wine.

I’ll be here all day. Happily. Will post some links soon.

Plague, Day 17, March 20, 2020

10 am — There’s a guy on my Facebook page, who says that the virus can be cured by breathing in the steam from a pot of boiling water.

As we all hunker down in our bunkers, cancel our house cleaners, and avoid restaurants, we must turn to Martha Stewart to remind us how to fold fitted sheets and make a nice lasagna. (Buy her stock, btw.)

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) proposed a provision in the stimulus bill that would wave the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for 1 year.

When federal bailout money is distributed, don’t forget parents — alright, mostly mothers — who have to quit jobs, take salary cuts, put in 18-hour unpaid hours, because schools & childcare are closed. Esp. parents of disabled kids. This isn’t a fun playdate at home.

My college kid, who had planned to spend this spring break week in Alaska, has been very helpful and surprisingly philosophical about these changes, until last night, when he snuck out to have drinks at a friend’s house. He put the uber payment on our credit card, so he was awoken at 8am to screaming parents. He’ll be scrubbing the entire house today. Perhaps he’ll be enlisted in the Coast Guard later, too.

We’re settling into the new normal. Steve puts in a normal day 8 – 6, but at here in the home office. My work world is incredibly busy and incredibly unpaid. Ian’s home school experience is improving, mostly because I am totally uninvolved, and the teachers are too afraid of me to send me anymore emails.. I have some thoughts about what’s going on in public education, but I might write that up for another newsletter.

I’m going to post some pantry staple recipes soon.

The Plague is Here, Part Eleven – Working From Home Edition

Tomorrow, we will have two adults, one college punk, and a high school kid all working from home. AT THE SAME TIME. It’s going to be interesting.

Steve has serious concerns about how all the system will handle all those millions students using programs like Zoom and Google Classroom at the same time, while parents are using their own massive programs.

Our wifi crashed yesterday. What’s going to happen tomorrow?

Since people aren’t used to working from home, and I’m a wfh (work from home, in the new lingo) pro, so I’ll share some tips.

We redid the office a few weeks ago. I’ll do a before and after post later. In the meantime, here’s one picture:

Here are my work-from-home tips:

  • Treat every day like a typical work day and follow your typical morning routine – shower, clothes, coffee, regular wake up time.
  • Since you don’t have a commute, you have time for a morning work out. It might be a simple 20 minute walk. But do something. It’s an opportunity for extra exercise, but you’re also missing out on the exercise with a commute. It’s easiest, if you immediately put on your workout clothes when you get out of bed.
  • Clothes. Do NOT wear sweats and yoga pants. Dress for productivity.
  • Do NOT snacks. Eat regular meals, but if you need a break, make a cup of tea.
  • With multiple people in the house at the same time, everybody needs their own space. Everybody has to know the rules. My major rule is that nobody can talk to me when I’m writing. I will destroy you, if you break my train of thought as I get ideas from brain to computer screen.

I’m about to go for a walk with Ian, so I’ll write a bit on this topic and then come back in an hour or two. BTW, you all should do that. Go for a walk or a hike. Keep the immune system and mental health strong!

The Plague is Coming, Part 3 — Pantry Prep

With the growing list of local schools, colleges, and businesses that are closing, I figure I have about five to seven days to prepare for a full house. For us, I’m not so worried about getting sick, because everybody here is mostly young and healthy.

I’m mostly worried about feeding a house of boys/men for seven days, if I can’t go to the supermarket every day. My locusts eat large quantities of food.

I usually go to the supermarket every day, because there are about five supermarkets five minutes from my house. And because I’m not that organized. So, I never have that much in the pantry or freezer, but stocking up seems like a good idea right now. Steve and I did a big shop over the weekend and did some organization. Here’s what we did:

  • I cleaned out the old stuff first. Anything in the freezer that was over six months old went in the garbage. Are you labeling your freezer bags with dates? You should. After six months, meat isn’t tasty anymore.
  • I stocked up on root vegetables — potatoes, carrots, celery, onions. They can last for a while and are main ingredients in almost every recipe. Everything else is frozen. I am big fan of Whole Food brand frozen vegetables.
  • I bought big family sized meat — pork chops, chicken breasts, sausages. And then divided them up into meal sized amounts, labeled them in freezer bags, and then frozen them. I froze one big beef roast for a stew.
  • Also in the freezer — coffee beans and ice cream and frozen burritos for Jonah.
  • The pantry is divided up by types of food. That way I can see what I need. The top shelf is for breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, granola) and snacks (peanuts, chips, granola bars, crackers, dried fruit).
  • The second shelf if canned goods (beans, tomatoes, artichokes, sauces, chicken broth)
  • Third shelf is for carbs — In addition to the potatoes in the fridge, I have pasta, couscous, more beans, farro. I also keep the baking supplies there.
  • The bottom shelf is for oils/vinegars and fresh bread.
  • Pantry organization tools include IKEA bins and OXO storage containers.
  • If you’re going to do a lot of cooking without going to the supermarket, don’t forget to buy all the stuff that you’ll want to make those frozen pork chops and soups flavorful. That means garlic, jars of salsa, various pre-made sauces, dijon mustard, dried spices, ginger, jalapeños, capers, artichokes, chicken bouillon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salad dressing. If you have room for one herb go for rosemary, because it lasts for a while. Consider getting some pancetta or pork or ham and freezing it in smaller bags.
  • Good lord, I almost forgot booze. Yes, you need lots of wine and beer, because it’s good for cooking and for cozy nights at home.
  • If you don’t cook, then fill the freezer with pre-made dinners. It might be a good time to learn to cook, but you probably won’t.

Have fun hunkering down! (And pray for the oldies.)

UPDATE 3/12:

  • Ground beef doesn’t freeze well, if you want to use it to make burgers later. It doesn’t clump together very well for burgers, but it’s fine for tacos and chili. My recipe for chili calls for 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of beef, so I’m freezing mine in bags in those amounts.
  • Don’t forget tea and coffee and little treats.
  • Don’t forget toiletries.
  • Think through your recipes ahead of time, so you have everything that you need.

Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, and Super Tuesday

Hi! I’m back! Let’s talk about elections.

With Super Tuesday knocking at the door, the race has gotten so, SO exciting.

Bernie is the front runner, but the party leaders aren’t sold on him. They think that he won’t bring out the voters that will be needed to beat Trump in November. So, they’re clearly putting pressure on the other moderates in the campaign to coalesce Biden’s support.

Buttigieg is out. Klobuchar is out and has already endorsed Biden. With Warren’s disappointing turnout in the past few primaries, I’m sure that there is pressure on her, too. But maybe not. Her supporters are probably more likely to go to Sanders than Biden. So, maybe they’re pressuring her to stay in the race.

The one person that they can’t pressure is Bloomberg, who with all the cash that he’s thrown in this race, is a poster child for Sander’s ridiculously rich guy, who really should be taxed up the wazoo.

More soon…

Thoughts on the New Hampshire Primary

Bernie won, of course, but he was a loser in the news cycle, because his win was expected, but wasn’t as large as he wanted.. The biggest winners were Mayor Pete and Klobuchar. Biggest losers were Biden and Warren.

Biden’s poor showing wasn’t a huge surprise. His age and declining mental facilities have been on full display for a couple of months now.

Warren’s poor showing was a surprise. She sounded like she was ready to cry last night. I do feel bad for her, because she has put in 101 percent effort into this campaign. Why didn’t she do well? Were her politics too close to Sanders? Is she annoying people, who see her as another Hillary?

Another big winner wasn’t even the election last night. It was Bloomberg. People are starting to think that he has a shot, if moderates are showing up to vote.

Your thoughts?