This has been a tough week. On top of having to cancel plans I've been looking forward to all year, I haven't been feeling well lately. Nothing coronavirus-related (at least I hope not), just tired and bummed.
But at least I have my cats, right?
Though I think Jenny is tired of all this quarantine shit...
Jake, however, seems okay with it...
And now I guess all three of us will be getting back to the same old grind.
I've been avoiding trips to stores whenever possible. My reduced lung capacity (which is why I stopped SCUBA diving) makes me an excellent candidate for death if I catch COVID-19, so I just don't risk it. I think the last time I went was two weeks ago, but it was just an in-and-out at Safeway for some rice noodles and Sriracha. I didn't hang around to do any serious shopping.
Which means that my groceries are running low.
Which means I have to psyche myself up for my monthly grocery run.
I was planning on going yesterday, but I had my Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon recipe box to use up, so instead I cooked Salsa Verde Cheese Enchiladas with Sour Cream & Scallions, which was phenomenal...
Then tonight I had Pasta & Fresh Tomato Sauce and Seasoned Ricotta, which was also excellent...
I can only really afford to get Martha's boxes when I have a coupon, so they're a rare treat now-a-days. And a delicious one, when the recipes end up being as amazing as these.
And now that I'm done with my meals-by-mail, I have to start thinking of groceries again.
I started making a list... trying to think of things I really love that can be prioritized by how quickly they expire. Fresh fruits and vegetables are used up in the first week or two... canned, frozen, and dry goods are saved for the rest of the month. Which is to say that my early meals are awesome, then get progressively worse as time goes on. I try to plan my meals so it's not too horrible, but when you can't run to the store for a missing ingredient, it's tough.
Especially when all I really want are cookies.
So this time they are going at the top of my shopping list, and we'll see if I'm strong enough to talk myself out of it again.
Usually, my cats like to be wherever I'm at when I'm home. And I've tried to accommodate that by having places for them. If I'm in my bedroom, they hang out on the window perches I put up. If I'm in the living room, they are either laying on the cat bed I put on the coffee table... or hanging out in the cat tree. But now that I'm home all the time? They are starting to tire of hanging around me. They're either out in the catio or sleeping in the bedroom.
I kind of miss it though. My cats are entirely entertaining... even when they're doing nothing. Jeny flopped down in some water that leaked into the catio when it rained and was sporting a mohawk for a while. Eventually I managed to mostly get rid of it by petting her with damp hands, so it's almost gone now...
But don't think that they avoid me entirely. I took some shirts out of the wash to hang up... turned around for a second... and suddenly Jenny is there on one of my shirts...
... and would not let it go. I pull on it, and she pulls it back.
I even tried to distract her with chin scratches...
Rather than risk battling it out and getting claw marks on a pricey shirt, I decided to just let her keep it. And she did. For over fifteen minutes! Amazing that my cats are now getting hair on my clothes before I even get them dried!
In other news, the Mufasa drama is still in effect, even though Jenny seems to have lost interest. What seems to be happening now is that Jake misses chasing his sister around for his toy, so now he's taken to throwing Mufasa around...
This is really worrisome, because I don't know that this toy can take that kind of punishment day in and day out. And, much of the time now, it's like Jake is literally daring Jenny to take his favorite toy.
Jenny hears Jake running down the steps and waits to see what's up...
Jake come down, carrying Mufasa as usual...
Then Jake will drop Mufasa right in front of her, pretty much inviting her to grab it...
Jenny, not one to pass up an invitation like that, reaches down to pick him up...
At which point Jake immediately freaks out and chases her away which, I'm guessing, was what he wanted all along...
At some point a pair of my boxes was dragged out of the laundry bag I didn't have time to run upstairs, so this is what greeted me when I got home...
Cats. Wouldn't want to do quarantine without them!
This morning I had to stay home from work so the pest control guy could do his annual spraying around the condos... and so a delivery could be made... and so friends could drop off a chair they had borrowed back in February. And I mean literally drop off, because they waved and drove away after leaving it in my driveway so we could maintain proper social distancing.
They would have returned it much earlier but... well... you know... pandemic and all that.
Usually I would have invited them in for a chat.
Then again, usually they would not be returning furniture on a Tuesday morning because they would be at their respective jobs.
Then again-again, usually I would have invited them over for beers and dinner when they returned the chair after work or on a weekend.
But we are living in unusual times in an unusual situation, so I spent my morning cleaning my kitchen and talking to my cats while I waited.
Or at least what passes for "usual" now-a-days.
I'm not "running out of things to watch," but I am getting bored with the massive amount of stuff that's available to watch. Binging Plan Coeur (The Hook Up Plan) yesterday really made me want to revisit some of my favorite French films, but it's tough to work and read subtitles at the same time, and I can't afford to lose the hours like I did yesterday. I thought that I would instead put on some of my favorite Japanese anime since I was once fairly fluent in the language and "it's just cartoons," but that didn't work out at all. My Japanese comprehension is so out of practice now that I have to stop and think about what's being said, which is actually more distracting than reading subtitles.
I was lamenting the idea of starting in on another Netflix series when a friend in a Zoom meeting mentioned that they've been watching a lot of YouTube videos. This seemed like an excellent idea, because that's somewhere below mindless entertainment, and the YouTube app for my AppleTV will just keep playing them one-after-the-other all night long!
When I asked for suggestions, the first one out of their mouth was Mr. Beast. I was going to take a pass because the only thing I had ever heard about the guy was that he drops a lot of homophobic slurs, but my friend said "He's done so many good things," and I was intrigued.
At first I was just going to start at his first video and run through them all, but he's been doing this for six years(!) and most of his earliest videos are just him playing video games and stuff. He then made a slew of videos speculating on the wealth of other YouTubers and making fun of other YouTubers. Then he went through a phase of counting to really high numbers... reading the entire dictionary... and doing other time-consuming and inane stunts.
Yeah. No thanks.
But then things started getting interesting about two years ago.
Mr. Beast started giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars (which he gets from sponsorship and branding deals). He'd give somebody $10,000 for winning a video game challenge. He'd tip a server $20,000. He'd give random subscribers to his channel huge amounts of cash. And he also started doing crazy stuff like trashing his friend's car then give them a new car... buying every billboard in his city... spending 24 hours in prison... and having his friends do random challenges for huge cash prizes.
I began to see his appeal. His stunts are genuinely interesting.
My favorite stunt he pulled was buying a house then ordering a pizza from Dominos. He offered the pizza delivery guy $2,000 if he would help them go shopping for stuff to move into the house "for a friend," then he gave the fully furnished house to the delivery guy after they were done. Watch the video. It's pretty great...
After a while you start really getting invested in the lives of his friends. Poor Cameron kept losing challenge after challenge and never won anything. You really started to feel sorry for the guy because he was constantly made fun of. Then, finally, he won one and I was far more happy for him than I had a right to be...
Yeah, this is not highbrow entertainment, but it is entertaining. I've certainly seen worse uses of time and money on YouTube.
After my Mr. Beast marathon, I started catching up on all the YouTubers I follow but have neglected over the past several months. Like Unbox Therapy, who unboxed Apple's SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR WHEELS for their MacPro computer so you don't have to. It looks to be an oddly unsatisfying experience...
Don't worry. Eventually he made a skateboard out of the wheels.
Yahtzee at Escapist's Zero Punctuation took a look at Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it's oddly comforting in its raw predictability...
John Kirkwood made cheese & onion pasties... something I am dying to make and will attempt soon, because it's like a gorgeous blend of some of my favorite things...
Ryan at ScreenRant unleashed another hilarious pitch meeting...
Two amazing thinkers (who just happen to be brilliant comedians) discuss atheism and other deep topics in a fascinating conversation...
And lastly there's Johnny Harris, who actually spent his valuable time looking into flerfers (insert eye-roll)...
After all that, I was ready to start watching regular ol' television again, and started in on Ryan Murphy's latest... Hollywood... which is currently airing on Netflix. Not exactly sure this is going to be my thing, but it sure looks like it was expensive to make.
So... not a great day.
The volunteer work I do has been suspended indefinitely. No travel through all of 2020 and while there's a hope we can get things back together in 2021, it's looking grim indeed. Which is pretty much where we're all at right now, I think.
Sure this opens up some free time I could use for other endeavors, but it also takes away some of my purpose for being on this earth. I suppose I could look into other organizations where I could donate my time (and maybe I will eventually), but I don't know that my heart would be in it. Not like it has been for the past five years.
I guess we'll see. I try to remain hopeful.
Because life goes on.
I've been doing everything I can to avoid going to the grocery store. For the second time in a month, I took everything out of my cupboards and took inventory of my freezer and refrigerator to see what I can make from what I already have.
There's a lot of pasta. A goodly amount of cheese with a month or two on the expiration date. A surprising amount of canned beans. A couple cans of soup. Not much else by way of ingredients. I do have a stash of boxed rice dishes. And a half-dozen frozen meals. I think I could get away with another week... possibly two... before having to go shopping.
Tonight my tomatillos felt ripe enough that I could pull out the ingredients I've been saving to make one of my favorite recipes I got from the meal service I've been using (Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon, which you can read about here). I had never cooked with tomatillos before, and have fallen in love with them. They make a great green sauce. I bought some weeks ago, but they were pretty tough. And so I kept them in the refrigerator in the hopes they would take their time to ripen so I could have something nice as my food supply ran out.
And tonight was the night...
That's "Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa"... but the filling is actually a mix of canned refried beans, onion, garlic, and taco seasoning with cheese. It's pretty fantastic, as you can imagine. My leftover cilantro and green onion had not held up that great, but I managed to salvage enough to drop on top with some crema and more cheese.
'Dillas on a Monday evening of the apocalypse won't compensate for what I lost today... but it's a good enough start, I suppose.
You'd think that the time I'm not spending hanging out with friends and traveling would be spent doing something constructive. But, alas, it's not to be. You'd think I'd at least make the effort to learn a foreign language... or even clean my kitchen... but you'd think wrong.
Instead I've been playing Animal Crossing, watching movies, sleeping, and being otherwise lazy. For a month now.
But, hey, maybe next week?
And now this...
I am open to a lot of different ideas, philosophies, and beliefs. I try to have an open mind and an open heart and accept that I don't know everything (even though I obviously do). The hope is that by trying to understand why somebody thinks the way they do it will lead to a better understanding of my fellow humans. Even ideas which I am personally opposed to I try to understand and respect. But there are certain no-go areas for me. Bigotry, racism, homophobia... persecution of minorities, the poor, and disenfranchised... to name a few.
Privatization of the USPS is another no-go area. There is literally NOTHING you can tell me that will make me change my mind that this is a horrific idea. Politicians have screwed over, exploited, and villainized our postal service for decades. All of it is bullshit of the highest order... often to distract from larger problems. Because just like the fire department, our mail system is an essential service for a host of very important reasons, and privatizing it so that eventually only wealthy individuals or powerful corporations can afford to send mail is an abomination. The very notion that privatization will make the USPS "more efficient" or "cheaper" or "better" is laughably absurd, and you can just keep the fuck away from me with this idiocy. Privatization would eliminate mail as we know it and disenfranchise a goodly chunk of Americans when they eventually become deemed "unprofitable."
This Twitter thread is essential reading for every American...
By Dingus J McGee, ESQ*, OBE*
Okay, I've been with USPS for several years now, so here's my big dumb #SaveThePostOffice thread. I don't know how many tweets it's gonna take for me to ramble through my thoughts, so stick with me. Or don't, whatever.
First things first: we're not taxpayer funded. At all. Sure, we get government monopolies on certain things of value (and things like cheap loan terms), but the budget isn't by the taxpayer. It's by the services provided. If you buy stamps, you fund us. If you don't, you don't.
Second: our financial issues, while not ENTIRELY from the 2006 PAEA bill that required 70 years of retiree prefunds, are mostly artificial. They would not exist if not for a congressional lame duck bill passed mostly by a certain political party on their way out the power door
Third: We're in the constitution. Literally. You know that thing you occasionally pretend to love when it serves your interests? It's explicitly in there. We're legally required to exist.
Fourth: Certain nameless people want us privatized because we're worth a lot of $. Even without the physical materials (truck fleet, offices, computer networks, etc), we have billions in proprietary data (route sequences, mailing lists, logistics, etc) that businesses would love
Fifth: You can be certain, if given the chance, certain politicians would love to GIVE AWAY this infrastructure, a la the $70 billion in digital broadcast licenses they gave away for free to Telecom companies in 1996 with no strings attached.
So, why should you not want this? Well, for starters, if you're not in a major city, you've been subsidized by one via the post office for decades. It's a lot cheaper to mail and deliver in dense population centers. But we charge the same in rural Delaware, too.
Why? Because the idea is everyone in America, no matter where they are, should have the same, guaranteed access to a valuable line of communication. A birthday card from across country is as valuable as a wedding invite from one town over.
Now, no one likes their junk mail, but you know what? Carrying 4 Geico ads and a Subway coupon in my satchel with your card is the reason the latter only cost $0.50 to cross the country. And if you'd like to name a cheaper way to ship a book or a record, I'd like to hear it.
But the one thing I pride myself on the most in terms of service is something you can guarantee won't happen in privatized, for-profit model. UPS, FedEx, Amazon, DHL, etc ALL dump packages on our docks every single day. Ones they say aren't profitable. We take them the last mile
Why? Because Every. Single. Address. In. America. deserves service. Even places accessible by only boat and plane. They'll be cut off in a second in a private market. Heck, it's only because of our last mile service that you don't realize the private sector already cut you out.
I work in a position called a "T6," or a "Carrier Technician." Put simply: USPS delivers 6 days a week, and employees work 5 days. For every 5 routes in an office, there's a T6 to carry the 6th day on each of those 5 routes who have a regular the other 5 days. Full-time position
In my case, that's 5 routes, averaging 700 addresses each, totaling 3,500 addresses, and approx 10K names and faces. Names and faces that I recognize, communicate with regularly, and can identify the forwarding information for, without even consulting a reference sheet.
I know which senior residents would like their mail delivered to the door, even if they have a curbside box. I know who needs their packages (often for home business) tucked into a corner behind the garage. Who is going to need an extra minute to get to the door to sign.
I know whose lawns to not cut across, whose dogs want to bite, and whose want to play. I know whose day will be made brighter with a short convo, and who wants me to go away. I know who is bad at checking the mail, and who to call for a wellness check on if it starts to pile up
For millions across the country, we're the only face they often see all day, even before social distancing. Their connection to the world around them, even if it's just for a comment on the weather, or to be a two minute ear for a rant about "kids these days."
Read it. Then go buy some stamps. I've bought a load of stamps and I send maybe two or three letters a year. But I rely on the USPS for RECEIVING mail every day. This is a critical time for a service so important that most people don't even have to give it a second thought. But rest assured that you will miss the USPS when it's gone.
I MAY BE GOING INSANE IN ISOLATION, BUT DON'T THINK THAT WILL STOP ME FROM BLOGGING... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Live? From New York! I am continuously impressed with the many television shows that have been carrying on during quarantine... namely the late-night shows like Trever Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. What was unexpected was that Saturday Night Live would do a show. I didn't find it particularly funny overall, but I was impressed that they managed to do it at all. The best part was the opening credits where they even got the band in on things before Tom Hanks' monologue...
The most successful bit was Weekend Update which doesn't really require direct interaction... and they even got Alec Baldwin to reprise President Trump as a call-in. Pretty great. The most surprising bit was a tribute to longtime SNL music coordinator Hal Willner by cast members past and present. Yet another person having fallen to Coronavirus-related health problems. Thanks to all the shows that are carrying on for continuing to entertain us during these strange and difficult times.
• Quarantine! Every. Single. Day. I wonder what it would have been like if the Coronavirus pandemic had happened while I was taking care of my mom. I'd like to think that something positive could have come of it...
Maybe at the beginning of mom's decline it could have. But near the end before I had to find a facility to care for her? I cannot fathom it. There's just no way. And if the outbreak had happened while she was staying at the hospital or at the facility? I honestly don't know. All I doo know is that I wouldn't have been able to visit. Heaven only knows if she would have survived this, because both places are hot-spots for outbreaks.
• Animal Cursing! I usually don't have a lot of time to play video games. Even in quarantine I have television, social media, work, housecleaning, and chores that need to be done. But ever since Animal Crossing came along, all of that has been taking a back seat to working on my island. I'm resculpting the landscape. I'm decorating my house and the exteriors. I'm crafting tons of junk to make my island exactly how I like it. Problem is the "Island Designer" tools are total fucking insanity to use. I thought the regular tools were bad... I seriously had no idea. The Island Designer tools are absolute shit. Wherever you THINK you're aiming, you're really not. Sometimes while paving pathways my character will randomly flip a 180º and hit BEHIND me. WTF?!? I keep thinking that surely I'll get the hang of it, but no. You can't get the hang of it. Add to that the stupid-ass "Bunny Day" bullshit that's plaguing the game lately, and I spend a lot of time resisting the urge to scream obscenities at my television (which I would except it scares my cats). But the worst thing? Finding out that where you placed stuff when the game was first starting is not where you want it once you get playing. All my houses and buildings have to be moved (1 day a piece), you can't move the Resident Service Center at all, and all my bridges have to be demolished (1 day) then rebuilt (1 day)...
It's going to take forever to get everything straightened out. And... um... don't mind my Bunny Day dress and hat. I have to do something with all those fucking eggs that are popping up everywhere.
• Cursing Again! "Supreme Court Blocks Extended Voting In Wisconsin, Forces Voters Out To The Polls"...
I mean, holy shit. The "vote" has not been representative of the people in a very, very long time. It's outright manipulated to provide exactly the results that the people actually running this country want to see. We are not free... we're governed. Sometimes governed to death.
• Mail the Vote! As you may have heard, the US Post Office is in serious crisis. Our government is bailing out all kinds of businesses, but has ignored their cries for help... probably because the Trump Administration knows that if people end up voting by mail and don't have to jump through hoops to vote, they're fucked. Washington State has is all vote-by-mail, and I haven't been to a polling station in years. So convenient to be able to vote whenever I have time instead of trading to a voting station and standing in line! If you want to help the Post Office survive, go buy a sheet of stamps. The post office is an essential service. It costs what, 55¢ to mail a letter anywhere in the country? Do you know how much it woulds cost to do that with UPS or Fed-Ex? At least $15... probably closer to $20 if the destination is in a non-business, rural location. If everybody goes out and buys a sheet of stamps, maybe we can help the USPS weather this storm. There's plenty of cool designs to choose from, including this awesome set with military service dogs!
• Vegas Memories! Las Vegas is a city I visit often. I loathe to go there on my own for work because it feels like one of the loneliest places on earth to be. But it's a fantastic place to go with friends because there's so much to see and do. Usually by April I've been at least twice and end up going 5-8 times annually. This year I likely won't be going at all. It's strange how a city I both love and hate has been on my mind so much lately. Probably because I've had so many good times there when hanging out with people I care about. Right now I'd give just about anything to be pounding Long Island's and eating nachos with friends at Nacho Daddy...
Maybe in 2021.
• Watching the Watchmen! I think I've linked to stories by David Bordwell in the past. His site provides thoughtful and interesting analysis of film, and his latest article takes a look at my favorite show of 2019, HBO's Watchmen...
A really good read... even if you have no interest in the series. Hopefully it will make you want to be interested in the series though! It really is a brilliant bit of television.
And that's my bullets for today. Come back next Sunday for more bullets you didn't know you couldn't live without!
I watch a lot of television. It's nice to have it as background noise while I work. But lately I've been watching a lot more television because it's pretty much all there is to do under quarantine.
Tonight I watched random stand-up comedy specials on Netflix until it was time for RuPaul's Drag Race. This season has a wet blanket thrown on it thanks to one of the contestants, Sherry Pie, being a psychotic asshole... but they seem to be editing her out of the show as best they can, so there's that. Tonight was all the contestants doing their best Madonna impersonation, and many of them were really good.
For whatever reason, the episode made me think back to when Sharon Needles and PhiPhi O'hara did a lipsync battle to It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls. I went to YouTube to see if somebody posted it (of course somebody had) and was surprised to see that Geri Halliwell, formerly of the Spice Girls, did a cover of the song back in 2001...
It always amazes me how I can keep running across music that I never knew existed.
Anyway... here's that lipsync battle I was looking for...
Sharon Needles went on to win the entire season and became one of my favorite queens. Partly because she had big entertainment value... but mostly because she was in a relationship with Alaska Thunderfuck 5000, and who couldn't love that? Sadly, that relationship ended in 2013, but we'll always have the memories.
And now I guess we're back to our regular scheduled programming...
It's funny the things you miss.
Today I had a massive craving for these date-filled soft oatmeal cookies I used to eat as a kid. I haven't had them in at least a decade... maybe two... I'm not even sure if they sell them any more. Usually I would hop in my car and head to the grocery store so I could see if I could find them. But I'm trying to be a good citizen and stay socially quarantined, so I just added them to my grocery list for when I'm out of food and am forced to go get more.
In lieu of the cookies I had some Eggo toaster-waffles.
It's weird to think that we're a month into quarantine and there's still weeks to go if we want to keep from overrunning our hospitals with people dying from the Cornavirus. Every time I turn around there's some promising news about vaccine trials or drugs that may help with recovery... but it's all hypothetical until it isn't, so it's not like quarantine is ending tomorrow.
The thing I find both surprising and totally not surprising is all these churches encouraging their parishoners to break quarantine and go to church. I guess filling that donation plate is more important than keeping people safe. It wouldn't bother me so much if we could somehow tag these people so that if they end up catching COVID-19 and need hospitalization they can be denied for being fucking assholes. That would free up hospital beds for those in need who didn't actively try to get infected.
Well I guess that's all she wrote for the Coronavirus!
And it's about time. I really want some of those cookies.