Posted on July 23rd, 2020
=sigh= I've drastically cut down on the number of political posts I drop on my blog because there's nothing new to say. On top of that, it always makes people mad because I am critical of politicians no matter which side of the political divide they get their lobbyist money from.
But recently something has been dominating the news cycle which has really bothered me, so I'm just going to dump my thoughts here for all the world to see and let the chips fall where they may. And that "something" is Impeached President Trump bragging about being able to pass a cognitive test like it's certified him as some kind of very stable genius.
As the caregiver for my mother through her dementia, it's a test I'm painfully familiar with.
Far from an IQ test, the test our impeached president is referring to is designed to be a screening tool for diagnosing cognitive decline and brain-related problems. It looks like this...
This is the Montreal Cognitive Ability Test. I'm not positive this is the version of the test my mom took but, if it wasn't, it was very close to this. She took it twice. And watching her struggling to get through it is something that still haunts my nightmares. The first time she attempted it she pretty much failed at everything, and it was all I could do to not break down into tears right there in the doctor's office. I was so close to her problems that I wasn't seeing them for what they were. It was this test that put everything into perspective for me, and it was gut-wrenching. I am having anxiety just remembering back to it.
The second time we got through question three and there was really no point in going any further. That time I did break down in tears, but it was after I had excused myself and somehow made it to a stall in the men's bathroom.
Ironically I remember her taking the tests like it was yesterday because my cognitive abilities are (assumably) mostly okay.
The first question has you running through a maze of characters which are alternating numbers and letters of the alphabet. The challenge is to get them in alternating order, which anybody with a brain can manage easily. Except people with an injured brain, of course. Despite having it explained to her twice, my mom connected the numbers and ignored the letters. The next question asks you to draw a 3-D cube. Even if you don't have artistic talent this is something people can copy fairly easily. My mom managed to get a square okay, but then it was just random lines.
Next you have to draw a clock with the time set to 10 past eleven. This might be tricky for some but, again, a person with normal cognitive function can draw a circle, put a tick at 12 O'clock and 6 O'clock, draw in the 15 and 45 minute ticks, then put two ticks between the ticks you have. Then you draw the little hand and the big hand at the appropriate time. This had my mom completely flummoxed. She got a kinda-oval shape, but then just started drawing random lines really close together, and she had to be coached to get that far. I think the hands she drew weren't even on the clock face.
Then you have to name some drawings of animals. Mom blazed through these with no problem. At the time of her first test her long-term memory was in pretty good shape.
Next is a memory test where you are given five words and asked to repeat them back. This is where things can get tricky. If you just throw five random words at me, I won't remember them at all... likely not even five minutes later. But if you tell me I have to remember five random words, then I can do that no problem because I use memory association. FACE • Okay, I am picturing a woman's face. VELVET • Okay, the FACE is Isabella Rossellini and she is rubbing a piece of blue VELVET on it. CHURCH • Okay, we pull back from Isabella Rossellini's FACE being rubbed by blue VELVET and she's sitting on the steps of a CHURCH. DAISY • Okay, Isabella Rossellini's FACE is being rubbed with blue VELVET as she sits on the steps of a CHURCH which has a DAISY growing in front of it. RED • Isabella Rossellini's FACE rubbed by blue VELVET as she sits on CHURCH steps with a DAISY growing in front of it and a PeTA nut job just drove by and threw RED paint on everything. FACE, VELVET, CHURCH, DAISY, RED. Got it. My mom, of course, couldn't get through the list at all. She couldn't remember a thing, and this was all really confusing to her.
Then you repeat some numbers and have them repeated back... and have to clap when you hear the letter "A" when a series of letters are read to you. Then you have to count backwards from 100 by sevens (which, is something I can do easy enough, but it takes a minute!). My mom just kinda stared blankly and couldn't be coaxed into even attempting any of this.
And now we're finally to those last five VERY HARD QUESTIONS which has Impeached President Trump thinking he's some kind of medical miracle.
When Impeached President Trump brags about five fairly simple questions being "very hard," I am understandably concerned. Everybody should be. But more than being concerned, I am very, very pissed off. Whether your brain is cognitively functional or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether you're an evil asshole or not! Do I think Joe Biden could run through this test and get 30 out of 30 correct? No. No I do not. Do I think that Impeached President Trump actually got 30 out of 30 correct? No. No I absolutely do not. We will never see that test. And even if we saw that test, there's no guarantee whatsoever that it's the actual test or that he wasn't coached all the way through it. That's politics. And as thrilling as it might be to see Joe Biden and Impeached President Trump go head-to-head in a cognitive test when I think that they both have demonstrated that they have cognitive issues... that isn't going to get us anywhere. It's not going to tell us which special interest groups are buying them off. It's not going to tell us what they'll be fleecing off the American people's hard-earned tax dollars. It's not going to tell us what back-door deals and shady cronyism their administration will be party to.
All it will tell us is whether they can remember what a lion, rhino, and camel are.
But my biggest takeaway from all this brouhaha is that there's a serious stigma against people with brain and memory problems. I read the comments on these news stories and it's mostly people making fun of Impeached President Trump or Joe Biden because they (allegedly) have cognitive decline. Which is to say that they're making fun of my mom. And as I sit here and type these words my heart is aching.
I am not going to lie, though. I absolutely do this too.
I try not to. I know better. And it's never necessarily to make fun of people, but more to offer armchair assessments as to somebody's mental state or cognitive abilities from a clinical perspective when it comes to the responsibilities they have. I've said that Joe Biden looks like he's sundowning, which may be true... but it could just be him attempting to speak when he suffers from a stutter. I've said that Impeached President Trump scares the shit out of me because everything he says is insane and he's got his finger on the button to unleash the nukes... but it could just be him being an evil, disgusting excuse for a human being. I honestly don't know.
As always, all I can do is try to be better about not stigmatizing mental health.
Even if I fail in the attempt.
Which I do a lot.
Take my trying to eat better, for example.
Yesterday I had to go to the grocery store because I needed an onion and a few other items. While I was there I passed by a display of sugary bakery products that were on sale. These are things that I just can't eat any more... most of the time I don't even want to eat them any more... but I saw a box of raspberry jelly donuts and was immediately intrigued. When I was in college, I was eating a box of these things a day. But as of now? I haven't had a raspberry jelly donut in decades.
I bought a box of course. If I'm careful and eat them in moderation they're not going to kill me, right?
Yeah... I ate half the box that afternoon and downed the other half this morning for breakfast.
But I'll try to do better tomorrow, I promise.
Posted on July 22nd, 2020
For reasons I don't really want to get into, I had to get a COVID-19 test today. Given the abundance of precautions I've been taking to not contract the virus (and the fact that I have no symptoms), I would be shocked to find out that I've got it. If I do, that would suck mightily considering how I've locked myself away in quarantine for five months. But it's not like it's outside the realm of possibility given that I still have to go grocery shopping and the majority of people here in Redneckistan still think it's all some kind of overblown Democrat hoax or whatever. Never mind that hospitals are filling up and deaths are reaching all-time highs, it's all fake news!
Until it isn't, of course.
The area where I live has made the news lately because there were COVID-19 employee outbreaks at a warehouse and at the local Walmart (to name two). Apparently Independence Day Weekend was just too much temptation for Redneckistanians who want to show Governor Jay Inslee that he's not the boss of them. Never mind that the guy is just listening to scientists who study this crap in an effort to keep everybody safe... he's Hitler for mandating that people wear a mask!
What's interesting is that the spike in infections mean that our local healthcare conglomerate has had to take over an old bank in order to create a massive drive-thru testing service in order to keep up with demand.
The facility opened at 8am but I was warned that it's busy first thing in the morning, so I waited until 8:45. I pulled into the (former) bank parking lot where a cigar-chomping man on a scooter was unnecessarily directing me to a lane to queue in. There were about 8 cars ahead of me in both lanes (total) and the wait only took about 15 minutes. First you pull up to a guy verifying that your doctor requested a test, then you pull forward to wait for a technicians to walk up and give you a lobotomy.
Well, not really, but it feels like you're getting a lobotomy.
After you lean your head back, they shove a long Q-tip up your nose into the back of your sinus cavity...
(Original) image taken from WBEZ.org
Then they start twisting it for six seconds so they can get a sample of mucus from deep, deep, deep inside your nasal passage. And what seems like a sample of you brain tissue for good measure.
It burns a little bit, but not so much that I was ready to start screaming or anything. What bothers me is that I was still feeling it for hours after it was over. Like the Q-tip was left up my nose or something. It was a good five or six hours before I felt quasi-normal again.
I'm told that I should have results back in 3-5 days. The clinic will call me directly if I test positive or it's inconclusive (at which point you have to act as if it was positive). If I never hear from them, that means I was negative and my results will be posted to MyChart so I have a record of my being perfectly positively toward the negative. Or however the fuck our dumbass impeached president has convinced his cult you're supposed to say it...
The entire world has done everything they can to get a handle on the pandemic and halt the spread of this virus that's killing us. Well, almost the entire world. Here in the USA, we've got leadership that has been propagating misinformation and unleashing a steady streams of bullshit from day one. Which is why we're leading the known universe in coronavirus infections and deaths.
I hope to God that people remember this come November.
Posted on July 21st, 2020
Generally speaking I try very hard to be accepting of people, even as I am being critical of them, because people change all the time and basically comes down to a "hate the sin, love the sinner" type situation. Because who knows? Perhaps one day a homophobic piece of shit bigot will understand that they're being a bigoted piece of shit and strive to escape it.
This kind of positivity has become increasingly difficult the longer the pandemic rages.
On one hand, I don't want anybody to get sick from COVID-19 and die because that's a repugnant attitude to have. If everybody is capable of redemption, then wishing them dead before they have a chance to find their redemption is a horrific thing. I don't believe that. I don't endorse that.
On the other hand, maybe if all these people who deny science and don't give a fuck if their actions threatens the lives of others would just contract COVID-19 and fucking die already, this world would have a chance to heal without their standing in the way.
This morning I found myself debating these two sides of the coin. I'm not proud of it, but that's what this has come down to now that I'm losing my entire summer and am badly missing my friends and family.
Rather than beat myself up too badly over being so awful, I'm just going to watch ducks eat a bowl of peas and attempt to find my center...
If you must know, the duckies are named Pepé and Arnold...
And now I think I will get the duck offline and try to avoid reading yet more incidents of ignorant assholes who refuse to follow Washington State's mask-mandate as they take out their frustrations on minimum wage workers just trying to do their jobs and tell people they have to wear a mask in order to shop. Holy fucking shit am I sick of this crap.
Posted on July 20th, 2020
Last night the skies were as clear as they ever are, so I decided to wander and see if I could find a place where I might see the NEOWISE comet. I keep running into these amazing shots other people are taking, and grabbed my binoculars in an attempt to at least see something.
My cats, not accustomed to my abandoning them after sundown were upset. As I was passing through the catio I heard comotion at the cat door and went to see what the issue was. Turns out it's just Jake and Jenny both trying to squeeze through at the same time so they could follow me...
Eventually Jake snaked through so Jenny could follow. They then watch through the catio fencing with forlorned faces as I walked around to see if I could get clear of the trees and hills blocking my view.
No such luck.
Oh well. My cats were waiting to greet me after my comet-spotting failure, so that was nice.
Posted on July 17th, 2020
It is impossible to put into words how much John Lewis has come to mean to me.
From what I remember, The Civil Rights Movement was pretty much glossed over at school. I'm sure it was explored a bit, but not in a way that any of it stuck in my head. That wouldn't happen until I watched a Martin Luther King Jr. documentary shortly before leaving on a school DECA Nationals competition to New Orleans in 1983. On my way back home I was in an airport gift shop and spotted a book on The Civil Rights Movement. I didn't have the money to buy it, but made a note to request it at my local library. In the book I was introduced to The Big Six of The Movement... Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins... and John Lewis. They were immediate real-life super-heroes to me, and their story was about as inspiring as it gets.
Not too many years after that James Farmer released his autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart. I checked it out at the library the minute it was available and found it a riveting read. The only other surviving member of The Big Six was John Lewis, and I remember wondering when he would pen an autobiography. The thirteen year wait for Walking with the Wind was worth the wait. Easily one of my favorite books of all time, it was a highly personal account of The Movement that went behind the scenes in a way that precious few could manage. If you don't walk away from the book in a fit of blind admiration for John Lewis, you'd have to be dead inside.
But it was his graphic novel, March, that really made me fall in love with the man...
To promote the series, he appeared at Comic-Con in full super-hero cosplay... as himself!
Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook
Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook
Photo from Representative John Lewis via Facebook
How many people can do that?
He never stopped fighting the good fight. He became a Congressman and served 17 terms, representing Georgia's 5th right up until his death... today... at age 80.
As a champion of freedom, Representative Lewis lived a life of service that is admirable and leaves a legacy that few can match. His voice in government will be sorely missed... especially in an age where Federal Officers In Unmarked Vans Are Snatching People Off The Streets In Portland and we're barreling further into fascism with each new day.
One can only hope that the legion of people he inspired will carry on in his place.
Rest in Peace, sir.
Posted on July 15th, 2020
It always seems as though I miss out on all the cool celestial events. Usually the problem is that it's overcast (in Winter) or the sky is filled with smoke (in Summer). So many times I've gotten excited because there's a meteor shower or comet or an eclipse happening... then I can't see a dang thing. I thought my luck was changing because I got to see the eclipse back in 2017.
But... apparently not.
When it comes tothe NEOWISE comet, I thought I was golden because "in the Northwestern sky" is what's dicrectly outside my bedroom window!
But when I looked the past couple nights I could find it. Last night I loaded up the Star Walk app on my iPhone to find out why that is. Turns out that my elevation coupled with the surrounding hills is why...
The comet is too low on the horizon for me to see from my house. So... no NEOWISE for me then. Typical.
I was really hoping to photograph the thing because it seemed like a fun challenge. But oh well. There are so many awesome photos floating around that mine would be redundant (at best) or really bad by comparison (at worst). Guess I'll take more photos of flowers or my cats instead.
Posted on July 2nd, 2020
Today was the second time this year I had to cancel major plans so I can sit at home. Thanks to our shitty handling of the pandemic, The USA is experiencing record high infections... whereas countries that took this shit seriously from the start continue to slow. Now they're starting to open back up because the threat is manageable... whereas here in these United States we continue to open up despite things being worse than ever.
Which, of course, means that things will just continue to get worse.
Which, of course, means we're just dragging this out longer and longer.
Which, of course, means that we're just ruining the economy even more than it was.
So congratulations to the entire Trump Administration and all the State governments who have hopelessly fucked us. I hope people remember them on Election Day.
As for me? I'm just going to sit here being bitter about losing my entire summer.
Posted on June 29th, 2020
I did not sleep last night because I knew better than to try.
I stayed up watching television and working on fundraising to take my mind off of the clock hitting midnight when June 29th would once again drop on me with the weight of a hundred bricks. Two years ago I said goodbye to my mom, and it still hurts the exact same today as it did then.
Just like last year, it has gotten easier to live with, however.
I almost never think of the awful years at the end when the mom I loved was fading away bit by bit. I'm also a lot less angry over having to lose her twice. I don't think I will ever be over mourning her, but now it's gotten to the point where all I have is the love in my heart, which is as it should be, I suppose. Sometimes I feel like I should be angry, but I'm too grateful for what time we had. How lucky am I to have so many happy memories traveling the world and going on adventures together?
Maybe in another couple of years I will be able to sleep at night on June 28th.
Perhaps in another decade I'll not dread seeing June 29th appear on my calendar.
That would certainly be nice. In the meanwhile I'll just have to get through as best I can and try to keep focused on what's important...
Love and miss you every day, mom.
Posted on June 17th, 2020
Today was the first time I've had a semi-normal day in a very long time. Nearly four months, which seems like forever given lockdowns and such.
After canceling appointments and locking myself away at home for everything except grocery shopping, today was the day I finally threw caution to the wind and headed out into the wilds of Redneckistan. I had an appointment that I really didn't want to reschedule for a third time. That went fine. Everybody I spoke to was masked and respected social distancing norms. Pretty much all that I could hope for.
So then I decided to get really crazy and get some take-away lunch (I'm not quite to the point where I want to chance dining in). I decided to get an Impossible Whopper at Burger King as a "thank you" for continuing to support vegetarians. I was so excited that I actually took them up on a "Two for $6" special. They so rarely include Impossible Whoppers on specials, so I decided on a second one instead of fries.
They tasted incredible.
I ate them slowly, savoring each bite, while sitting in my air conditioned car.
Surprisingly, most people visiting Burger King were masked and respecting the 6-foot rule! The only customer not masked was a construction guy two people ahead of me. Color me shocked.
Then I went to Petco because I was running out of kitty litter. Same thing. Most people masked again! Could it be that Redneckistan and their idiotic "FUCK GOVERNOR INSLEE!" rhetoric were finally getting a clue? That Inslee isn't out to kill their businesses and strip them of their freedom... he's just following expert advice of people smarter than him when it comes to pandemics to try and keep Washingtonians safe?
And then I went to Safeway to pick up some rice noodles, Sriracha sauce, and Tamari sauce so I can make loads of the Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Green Beans that I love so much...
And... there I was... right back in the Redneckistan I know and love.
Not only were at least half of the people going without a mask, some of them were acting like outright assholes about going unmasked. Not that they have to go out of their way... the fact that they weren't wearing a mask is enough to tell me that they're an asshole. We wear masks to protect others in case we're infected! So of course there are selfish people who don't give a fuck about other people. Of course! Never mind that research shows a 90% drop in COVID-19 infections where masking is mandatory. Never mind that it's such a simple fucking thing to do. THAT'S AN ASSAULT ON MY FREEDUMB! And since Washington State went into lockdown before the the infections in Seattle came across the mountains in force, I'm guessing a majority of the people here still think that the pandemic is overblown (at best) or a Democrat hoax (at worst). But, when you think about it, who can blame them? Those who worship all things Trump see him setting a horrifically irresponsible personal example and are just following suit.
But hey... even if I did end up with the Coronavirus, at least my cats have something to poop in and I managed to get my first fast food in nearly half-a-year. That's not nuthin'.
In other news, I picked up some contact lenses to try out today. I stopped wearing contacts almost a decade ago when I started needing progressive lenses. Problem is... glasses fog up when wearing a mask. So now I'm trying to figure out a contacts/reading glasses combination which will make things a little easier (and less foggy) in our new COVID-19 reality.
Posted on June 15th, 2020
Home ownership is the money pit which never ends. No sooner than one expensive problem is solved than another pops up to take its place. Or, in my case, several things.
In an effort to save a hit to my wallet, I'm taking on the repair tasks myself. Some of them are difficult and require research. Others are easy but require money. My favorite things are those that are easy and cheap. Those tasks I tend to do right away because easy and cheap are my middle names.
Well, you know what I mean.
When I bought my new place, I had to do a lot of remodeling so my mother could live there safely. She couldn't walk on carpet very well, so I had to rip it out and put in hardwood. Simple tasks were becoming difficult and messy for her to manage, so I tried to accommodate that as well. I ripped out tubs and enlarged showers so it was easier for her to get in and out of... and clean. I also replaced the toilets from two-part standard models to one-piece "comfort height" models. I did whatever I could to make things easier for both of us.
I don't know if you have ever shopped for toilets, but single-piece models are expensive. Even the cheapest ones are double or even qradrupal what it costs for the standard stool/tank model that's commonly used. I ultimately went with Kohler because I found them on sale for $400 each (regular $600). Given that you can easily find decent 2-piece models for under $100 each, that's a heck of an investment.
You would think that a $400 toilet would have pretty good quality parts for the money.
Yeah... not so much.
From the get-go, both toilets would randomly start running for around a minute. At first I'd notice it happening a couple times a month. Then weekly. Then daily. Aghast at the water that was being wasted, I managed to fix the downstairs toilet just by taking it apart and putting it back together. The upstairs toilet, however, never managed to be fixed no matter how many times I worked on it. If anything it got worse, running 4 or 5 times a day. Because of the lockdown I ended up with extra time on my hands and decided to take another crack at it. I started taking it apart and... snap! The middle of the "AquaPiston" flush valve snapped. Rather than just buying a replacement for that, I decided to spend $20 and get an all new AquaPiston. Despite being advertised as having "leak-free performance," it was the only part that could really be the problem. Wanting to make sure that it was a genuine Kohler part and not a knock-off, I ordered direct from Kohler.
The part finally arrived and, viola, the problem was totally solved...
Apparently the AquaPiston which came with my toilet was defective.
Note in the photo above that the handle trip-rod has rusted. $400 doesn't get you a non-rust part, I guess.
I've now reached the point where the projects I'm facing are far more pricey. Some I can't even do myself. I was really hoping that this year would be the year I got to replace my countertops, sink, and garbage disposal. All of them are awful, and there are issues with the disposal that simply can't be fixed. The worst part is that it leaks underneath when the waste/water level gets too high. But it doesn't make much sense to replace it if I don't replace the sink (which is cheap, damaged, and looks terrible). And it makes no sense to replace the sink before replacing the countertops (which are just cheap and terrible). I was making good progress with my savings until the pandemic, now I don't know if it's an expense I can swing no matter how badly it's needed. Maybe I'll look into a home equity loan or something, because the longer I wait the more it's going to cost.
So much for having the luxury of being cheap and easy, I guess.