I have started reading my emergency book

by dichroic in daily updates

No, it’s not an emergency. Years ago I was in a small airport in Japan when my Kindle committed suicide – it jumped out of my hands, flipped over a couple times in midair, and landed face down on a hard floor, shattering the screen. That was well after I’d come to trust the Kindle as my only reading on travel, and I had no books with me (would have thought I’d have had an iPad, but I don’ know if I had any books loaded on it). This small airport had no reading material in English to be purchased. Luckily it was only a short flight to Seoul, where I was able to buy books – 1632, by Eric Flint, and something else I now forget, possibly a Discworld book I’d read before. I read the Discworld book, a comfort read, and never did get to 1632 on that flight.

But I carried it with me as backup on my travels for a while thereafter, though I never did need it again. I do really prefer reading on Kindle, and of paper books, mass market paperbacks are my least favorite form – you have to hold them open with both hands, print is small, pages are dingy. So I haven’t read it, and five months into the quarantine seemed as good a time as any to start. I’m bemused to find there are now over 30 in the series, but this first one, at least, seems good.

I have clearly failed miserably to document my life during the pandemic, almost as miserably as my country has failed to contain said pandemic. (Wish I felt confident that we will have a change in leadership in November, but after what happened in 2016 I can’t be that sure.) Anyway, we are still healthy and still working from home. We go food shopping every couple of weeks, though we do make occasional stops in farmers’ markets or other stores when needed, and Ted has to go into the fab once every couple of weeks – an Intel fab is probably one of the safest places to be, what with the bunny suits, masks, and forced air ventilation. Meanwhile, Intel has said that any employee who doesn’t actually have to be in the office to work, can work from home til at least June 2021. We’re alternating, spending about 2 weeks in Hillsboro and 2 at the lake, which is being one of the joys of this time. Such a much better place to be quarantined than in a city condo!

In other personal news, two weeks ago the gynecologist took out my birth control implant, so now I’m without any birth control for the first time in my adult life, We have no idea if I’ve hit menopause because I haven’t had a period since 2012 when I had my first implant put in, but she said that at 53, there’s less than a 1% chance I could get pregnant and even less that I’d stay that way – similar odds to being on the Pill. (And yet, I keep thinking of Little Sister in the book Laddie, who was born when her mother was in her fifties!) I’ve also switched dentists – I liked the one i was with but they have been canceling appointments a lot due to (non-corona-related) health issues on the dentist’s part, and now the hygienist I like is taking some unknown amount of time off. So I switched to the one that’s in a mobile office right next to work, and had a cleaning and exam there. It was very weird to be so close to another person I’m not married to, for the first time since March! And face shields are not well designed for the angle a dental hygienist works at – she was wearing a mask under it, though. Unfortunately I get to go through that again Monday, because I need three fillings! (Two are old ones being replaced.)

Pandemic quarantine, Day 65

by dichroic in daily updates

I thought it would be a good idea to chronicle this period, so I’d know what happened when. Clearly I have not done so well with that. Here are some numbers, though:

  • Days since I last wore a bra: 65
  • Days since I last wore pants or skirt without an elastic waist: 65 (also, I’ve been counting (opaque) tights as pants!)
  • Shopping trips: it’s complicated. I stocked up before the stay-home order, but since I started working from home, there have been 3 times where I ordered online and picked up groceries – but on two of those I had to dart inside (masked) for an item or two they didn’t sell online, so I give up on online grocery ordering One trip to New Seasons (local upscale chain like Whole Foods), one trip to Collective Market (products like a farmer’s market), one trip to the butcher. Three stops to small local grocery near the lake house for a needed item or two that let me postpone major shopping. Still not a lot for over two months.
  • Days on which I’ve worn jewelry, other than a watch: 3 or 4.
  • Businesses I’ve visited other than for groceries: the post office. That’s it.
  • Last time I ate in a restaurant: March 10 (I have gone in one a couple of times to pick up pizza. I wore a mask.)
  • Times we’ve ordered food delivered: about 5
  • Knitting projects: 5 done, 3 in work
  • When I plan to go back into the office: not for a long long time. My company is encouraging managers to support working from home, if it makes sense for our jobs, til the end of 2020
  • Masks owned: two, but I’ve ordered 3 more

Social Isolation, Day 28

by dichroic in daily updates

I think we are going to break down and go to the lake house tomorrow. We’re timing it with Ted’s work, going when we can stay for over a week instead of a quick weekend trip. Somehow that seems less irresponsible.

Arguments against going:

  • Against the spirit of “stay in place”. Useful to go but not absolutely essential. A total of about 5 hours driving (in a reliable vehicle with a huge tank). Very low risk of breaking down on the road and needing rescue – but of course not a non-zero risk.
  • This will necessitate one extra gas fill-up.

Arguments in favor of going:

  • Mental and physical health. Lots more opportunity to be outside without being around other people. Can go on the water (would probably use only my kayak or my rec shell, both very hard to tip, as opposed to my tippier racing shell) or garden or do yardwork.
  • Have emailed elderly neighbor there to ask if she needs us to bring any groceries – she’s healthy but in her 80s, her husband has health issues.
  • Can pick up stuff we’ve left there (everything from my engagement ring (I wear it instead of a wedding band) to my better headphones for work to pantry items (paper towels!) we could snag from there instead of buying.
  • Can grab the masks Ted has there for woodworking – probably N95, though he’s not sure.
  • Can do yardwork, and early spring is when it’s badly needed
  • Checking on the house – we haven’t been there for almost a month.

Arguments not in favor, but not NOT in favor:

  • Not planning to go anywhere but the house or grounds around us – but if we do need to go grocery shopping or even somehow suddenly need a hospital we can go to the city < half an hour away and not put a strain on a rural area.
  • This is not a vacation area, like the Oregon or NYC-adjacent beach towns that got overloaded by city folks fleeing the virus. It’s a town people live in – that in fact we ourselves plan to go live in, in just a few years.

So yeah, hard to decide but I think we’re going.

Social isolation, Day 20

by dichroic in daily updates

I’m fine.

I finished a *very annoying* pair of socks yesterday – the yarn’s too think and I should have used size 0 instead of size 1 needles, and the lace / cable pattern on the leg was complex enough that I always had to be looking at it. Also, I really don’t like knitting two-at-a-time – yes, you don’t have Second Sock Syndrome, but progress feels so much slower. But they’re done, and they’re pretty.

Only thing is, they hae a common problem with gradient yarn: the gradient is too low for an average-sized pair of women’s socks, so I only get half the colors. I have enough yarn for another pair of anklets, but then they’d also only have half the colors.

My another project is more pleasant to work on; I’m making a Na Craga sweater for Ted. Unlike the socks, it’s actually simpler to knit than it looks; each of the cable patterns used has either a 4- or 8-row repeat so they line up nicely, and you can easily see where you are. Also, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to finish it any time soon, which is a good thing because I’ve already ripped it back twice. Yes, I did swatch; problem is this yarn in that pattern is so stetchy it’s hard to get a good feel for the size of the swatch. My last attempt was coming out way too large, and not dense enough, so I’ve redone it with smaller needles.

It’s too complicated to knit during telecons, though, and I also wanted a smaller project, so I’ve started a poncho. It’s giving me flashbacks – not to the poncho days of the 1970s, fortunately, but to my early knitting days. Last time ponchos had a moment, I made one. No pattern for the poncho; I chose a stitch pattern (K3, (yo, k2), repeat to last 3 sts, k3 for every row), made a long rectangle, and sewed one short end to the end of a long side. It’s wonky because I wasn’t a very good knitter at the time. But I just realized today; I was envisoning a sea-glass pale blue, but the yarn I wanted didn’t have precisely what I wanted (one colorway was too green, one was too bright, one darker one was great but I have too many darker blue sweaters) so I went with off-white … the same color as the last ponsho I made. It may be a similar yarn composition, too, but the other one was pre-Ravelry so I have no idea what it’s made of. I think this one will be more wearable.

I’ve been loving my singing lessons, have participated in a few virtual knitting circles, and I’m still working full time, still erging 5 days a week. I’d like to get outside more (is going for a Sunday drive a violation of the directive to do only essential travel?) But otherwise, I’m good, though I do spend too much time watching corona statistics rise and rise.

Social isolation Day 13

by dichroic in daily updates

I did something smart late last year; I went for a checkup with my regular doctor. I hadn’t been going to her for a while; my company has a health clinic that is in the same building I sit in, it’s easy to get an appointment there, and I like the NP there (they have an MD too, just haven’t seen him as much) better than my regular doc. But I wanted to stay on the regular doctor’s rolls; her office is closer to home, it’s part of the Providence system (which made it easier to get a colonoscopy within that system last December). They drop you as a patient if you haven’t been in two years. So I saw her for a checkup I really didn’t need (or want to pay for) but that means I am now a Providence patient in good standing. They have COVID19 testing up and running now, with more capacity than the state, but you do have to be a patient and have a referral from your doctor. Hopefully this is not something I’ll need, if I stay isolated, but it’s nice to know I can.

ETA They just closed the clinic at my site! There is one still open at another campus that’s actually closer to me, but this still seems an odd response to people getting sick. I should still be able to do video/phone visits with medical staff from the other site, too, should I need them. I think.

Yesterday I picked up groceries – I put the order in last Friday, but Monday at 4 was the earliest option to pick them up. It ended up being a big order, just because of trying to minimize the number of future shopping trips needed, but because with so many days between shopping and picking up, I kept thinking of items to add. I did get more than we really need right away (if I have a half a bag of bread flour, do I need a new bag now?), but hopefully it doesn’t count as hoarding, since I only got one or two of each thing, or else the amount I’d normally buy. Unfortunately, there was an entire page of items they not only didn’t have, but weren’t able to make substitutions for, everything from flour to tomato paste to plain bagels to shrimp. They had most other items or were able to make reasonable substitutions, though a couple of them were funny – I’d ordered in 3 small boules of sourdough bread to freeze, 8 ounces each, and they gave me 24 oz boules instead! So I have All the Sourdough bread. I ended up with 2 lbs of green beans, and I’m not sure if that was my fault or their sub. In additions to green beans as a side dish, I guess we have Thai beef with green beans in our near future. And I had to turn one substitution down: they tried to replace the Coke Zero Ted drinks with diet Dr. Pepper Ick!

social isolation, Day 12

by dichroic in daily updates

Woohoo! I just had a social experience! My Monday noontime knitting group at work decided to meet over Skype. Only a fwe people showed up, but that was fun.

Later this afternoon I have to go pick up my grocery order – very curious to find out if there’s anything I won’t get. I didn’t order tp or alcohol, but did include a loaf of bread.

This big excitement, however, was at 3AM this morning, when a smoke alarm started chirping. The one new 9V battery we had didn’t seem to fix the problem. And then at 3:30 another one went off! It turns out that with these, when the battery needs to be replaced it actually chirps and then says “LOW BATTERY! LOW BATTERY!” When it only chirps you are supposed to replace the whole thing. Less easy than usual, right now! I have ordered 6 new ones from Amazon, that are currently supposed to get here on Thursday. Fingers crossed. Because apparently the usual drama of waking us at 3AM wasn’t enough for these alarms, no, they had to go off at 3AM in a pandemic for extra excitement!

Social isolation, day 11

by dichroic in daily updates

Clearly I need to resume regular(ish) blogging again to have a record of these days. I guess we’re always living through history, but that feeling is a lot more palpable than usual.

I have ventured out a few times. Friday, Ted had to go into the fab, so I took advantage of not having my car blocked in by his truck (the lack of parking is definitely my least favorite part of where we live!!) to go on an errand. I’d put in a grocery order for pickup but was unable to schedule a pickup time until Monday(!) so I decided to go and grab a few items I needed – quick in, quick out, touch as little as possible. It wasn’t at all crowded, but unfortunately not everyone there was being careful at keeping a 6’ separation, you could definitely tell who was and who wasn’t, so I was glad to spend as little time as possible there. I didn’t spend time walking the aisle to see what they had or didn’t have, but as I had guessed, the produce section was well stocked.

Social distancing, day 7

by dichroic in daily updates

Though we are healthy, because we can work from home and our employers have been proactive about it, we seem to have been doing this longer than most people in the US. I realized today that I’m already a full week into semi-isolation.

It’s not complete isolation – after all, we’re still healthy and there are still just 65 (known) cases in this state. But it’s full-out social distancing.

On Friday I went to the supermarket and also stopped at Best Buy to pick up a set of the new AirPods, on the theory that, walked to a small local grocery on Saturday largely out of curiosity, talked to a neighbor (from a safe distance) Sunday while weeding. And we decided to have food delivered (by the ding-dong-ditch method) last night instead of what we were planning to cook. But I’ve been working from home with only that minimal direct contact with the outside world, all the way since last Thursday.

At least we were able to spend the weekend at the lake so I was looking at a different set of four walls, and was able to get out on the water a couple times, over the weekend.

Ted’s got to go into the fab this afternoon or tomorrow, for the first time since we’ve been wfh, but that’s just to check on his guys – I don’t think he needs to be there for long.

I am very much enjoying the chance to knit while on telecons, do laundry, start dinner etc, and most of all to be either busy or not busy and never have to *look* busy. It’s also better for balance, when you have early morning and evening meetings, to be able to take some time in the middle of the day. Only thing that’s bugging me is the lack of daylight; it was better while we were at the lake, but here in the townhouse, my desk is in the loft area, which is in the center of the house with no windows. I suppose I could take my laptop to the couch for a bit of sun now and then.

ETA: Whoops, wrote this Wednesday and it looks like I never published. I’m not on Day 9!

Wine weekend 2020

by dichroic in daily updates

I’ve posted photos on FB of each winery we visited and I’m not sure I’ll get to posting them here, but I wanted to have a searchable record so in future I know where we’ve been.

Brutal honesty background: this year I planned my own birthday wine weekend, because Ted was fed up. This has roots back in the very first birthday weekend trip he planned, back in around 2007: I was thrilled when he surprised me with a trip to Venice, less thrilled when we got there and I found he’d done absolutely no research and had no plans for what to see and do while there. He said he thought I already had places I’d want to see – note that Venice is not particularly a place I’d dreamed about, though I was certainly happy to go. It ended up being a good trip, but I still think that’s a pretty big omission if you’re planning a trip for someone! We’ve had a few other squabbles since.

Last year, things came to a head. He asked for some places I wanted to go. We discussed a few wine regions, but I said I’d really rather see the Northern Lights. It’s been on my bucket list forever. He started planning for some wine trip that wasn’t even a place I was very interested in. I told him I’d REALLY rather see the Northern lights.Argument followed. Northern lights trip planned. He did research and settled on Yellowknife as the best place to see them. Fine. Then he had some trouble finding and working with a guide company, and the one he picked didn’t speak English all that well (they cater most to Asian visitors). There were a bunch of screw-ups on their part and I ended up spending considerable time on the phone with them – I wrote about it here last year. I was annoyed, because two minutes’ googling found me other outfitters with good ratings. Anyway, there were other issues after we got there – for one, they’d put us in a hotel way out on the edge of town even though all their other people were downtown – but overall it ended up being a good trip – we had great aurora sightings.

So this year, Ted said he was fed up and would just buy me a present instead of planning a trip. I said fine, we’re going to the wineries anyway. Dundee is the center of the wine region here; we’d been there about 4 years ago, so it was definitely time for a re-visit. (I think picking a B&B, making a dinner reservation for one night, and planning a couple of driving loops probably took under an hour total. Whatever. The only ‘research’ on where to go was choosing a couple of driving paths that made sense – with the density of wineries in that area, the only hard part was choosing between them.)

We got up early Friday morning and erged, since we wouldn’t be working out over the weekend and wineries don’t open until 10 or 11 anyway. Tehn we drove out; Dundee is only about 45 minutes away, but with so many wineries to visit, it’s much nicer, not to mention safer, to stay out there. On Friday, we visited:

  • Archery Summit – big bold California style pinots
  • De Ponte Cellars – just next door, very different wines – lighter, Burgundy-style pinots
  • Domaine Drouhin – we missed this one last time we were out ther because it was closed for a private event. This is the one that put Oregon pinots on the world’s wine map, when a famous old French winemaking family came uout here, tasted the Pinots Noirs of the pioneer winemakers here, and decided to open their own vineyard
  • Domaine Serene – fancy high-end wines, huge tasting room
  • Francis Coppola’s Domaine de Broglie – new since we were last in the area
  • Winter’s Hill Estate – the tasting is in the cask room. I’m pretty sure this was where we bought some excellent chocolate toffee.
  • White Rose – odd place. They’re up on a hill and the views are beautiful but the tasting room has no windows and feels like it’s underground.

After all that, we returned to our B&B, napped *hard* for a couple hours, and walked to a decent Mexican restaurant on the main drag for dinner.

On Saturday, I’d originally planned to visit 8-9 wineries (just look how close together they are!) but we had a reservation at The Joel Palmer House and I wanted to be able to appreciate it. So we scaled back the plans.

  • Erath – we’ve had their basic Pinot Noir from the grocery store, but hadn’t had any of their higher end stuff. While there, we got into a conversation – were more or less hauled into conservation! – with an older couple who have been going there for 40 years or so. We talked about lots of other wineries too, but the gentleman was an evangelist for Erath – they apparently go there a lot! His wife gave us a card that entitled us to their wine club discount for that visit, a nice perk that got us a free tasting and a discount on the wines we bought.
  • Maresh Red Barn – fun because this is another of the Old Guard, one of the original winemakers in the area, the guy serving us is the son-in-law of the founders.
  • Holloran – we had to walk up stairs and down and through the working building to get to their tasting room, which also turned out to be sort of an apartment where the tasting manager sometimes stays over. Not as odd as that sounds; the tasting was in a nice room with a kitchen at one en, a counter, but more tables and couches to sit on, taste, and look out the huge windows at the view.
  • Furioso – another big crowded commerical tasting place unlike the intimate settings we’d been visiting. Slow services due to the crowds – I was getting fed up but the tasting manager saw my unhappy face, and started bringing over wines two at a time – ones that made sense to taste together, like from two adjacent vineyards or two years from the same block.
  • Hyland – walking distance from our B&B. I think this is the only place we visited where we didn’t buy wine – not that it was bad, but there was nothing that jumped out at us. I did buy a cookbook, though.

After another nap at the B&B, we headed out to Joel Palmer House. I’d been feeling unwell the other time we visited so it was nice to be able to appreciate my dinner. They have a focus on local wild mushrooms – I had a mushroom tart, followed by angelhari past with langoustines, crab and mushrooms, and three kinds of sorbet (and yes, I think at least one of those had mushrooms too!).

After “processing” it when we got home – deciding which wines to save to drink soon and which to keep a few years – Ted announced we’d bought about two cases overall. Yikes!

Jane Yellowrock

by dichroic in daily updates

I’ve been binging my way through the series (up to book 9 now) and while I wouldn’t say it’s jumped the shark yet, it is definitely getting increasingly trippy. Also, does Jane have to be injured to the pint where a normal person would die in *every* book?

I get that this is an inherent problem with open-ended fantasy series, because to keep the readers’ interest, the author has to up the stakes in every book. It got me thinking about how other authors handle the same problem.

Discworld is an obvious example, with 41 books. There, Terry Pratchett had the advantage that his characters mostly weren’t in world-saving kinds of situations. There were just a few exceptions – Equal Rites where they may have been but the rest of us don’t really understand what those two were doing anyway; some of the Sam Vimes books where Vimes mostly was trying to preserve the status quo when the subtle balance of diplomacy was teetering more than normal. The biggest tactic he used, though, to avoid plot inflation was just the switching between viewpoints in each book. For instance, if there had been too many Moist von Lipwig books, Pratchett would have had trouble keeping Discworld out of the modern era. And in the Tiffany Aching books, she really was trying to save the world, but there were only 5 books in that subseries.

I don’t think the Ilona Andrews team expected that series to take off as it did. So the world was well detailed from the beginning, but I suspect Kate’s own backstory – and Roland’s – only really got figured out as more than an inchoate mystery from around the third book or so. There’s clearly some of it there before that, but I suspect somewhere along the way the authors started realizing they had a juggernaut on their hands, so that a few books in they started to plan an ending, bending everything toward the final arc of the big conflict between Kate and her father. I don’t know if they planned ten books or if it that’s just how long it took to tell out that story arc, as they fleshed it out. (It’s always possible I’m totally wrong and they knew a lot more about Kate’s background from the beginning!)

Then finally there’s October Daye. I think McGuire is controlling plot escalation in still a third way; there are smaller continuous story arcs within the series. Sort of like real life, as one chapter ends another begins, though there are some continued threads (like learning more about Sylvester and Amandine) that persist through the smaller arcs.

Anyway, yeah, the Yellowrock thing. Hopefully I won’t succumb to the coronavirus, but if I do, this is surly the right thing for reading when you’re having fever dreams. Or maybe exactly the wrong thing?