Lockdown: Smug mug

I meant well!

I think I dropped off at around 2:30 in the morning, but woke up at quarter to 6. I made the mistake of looking at Twitter to see if you-know-who blew up the world while I slept, and instead saw the world blowing itself up.

Finally drifted back to sleep around 8, and woke up around 10. My alarm was set for 10:30. Sooooo kind of according to plan, minus a few hours of restful slumber. I could still make this clock-resetting work.

I had breakfast around 11. Leftover stir-fry and brown rice. Yummy. Did the crossword (seventeen minutes and change for the Saturday NYT, then did another Saturday NYT from 2017, when I wasn’t good enough to finish a Saturday). Postponed the news, since I had the Twitter session earlier. Watched some of Orange is the New Black season four.

Season four opens with dismal realities but it’s funny and fun for the first two episodes, with a lot of good laugh-aloud moments. Piper, the main character, continues to be among my least favorite parts of the show. Big Boo, Pensatucky, Soso, Lolly, and Alex continue to be the highlights. I’m pleased to see a second half-Asian half-Caucasian actress, Jolene Purdy, added to the cast as a Native Hawaiian.

I’m not really sure what happened to the rest of my day. There was a nap in there for a couple of hours, around 4 I think. It was sweet. I did a few very easy chore-like things. Read the news. Had a few hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut for lunch. Got moving for an evening walk at about 10:00 — kind of early for me compared to recent weeks — and thought okay, if I’m home after the usual amount of time, I’ll be in bed by 2:30 and will still sorta be on track to have normal hours.

The walk was kind of short, by design. Listened to the Kvelertak album, then felt like some Yes music — The Yes Album from 1971. Oh, I stopped at McD’s for a couple of cheeseburgers and fries, which I ate standing up on the walkway in front of the pho restaurant. I’m calling that dinner although at the time I thought it was a large snack.

I totaled about 11,700 steps when I got home before 1:30. I was a little sore.

I knew I shouldn’t have done this. But instead of cooling off in the living room with my fan on full blast, as I usually do, because I was sore, I did it in bed. Cranked up the fan there and spread out. And fell asleep.

For a couple of hours! I think I got up at 4 to write this, and I was a little hungry. I had two kitchen things to play around with this weekend, and one of them was a mug cake. I hadn’t snacked all day, now that I was calling cheeseburgers and fries dinner, and now my brain was wide awake.

So I threw together the mug cake recipe I saved and made my first mug cake. It came out pretty dang great. I mean, if you’re going to be picky about a small bite of cake, it was slightly on the rubbery side, as microwave cake-things tend to be. I kind of went into the research with the toaster oven in mind, but I found an easy recipe designed for the microwave specifically, and I liked the recipe so I went there.

I don’t have anything approaching a sweet tooth, and chocolate doesn’t do much for me, but boy am I pleased with this.

I’m listening to the next Yes album in their discography, Fragile (1971 also), which is famous for opening with “Roundabout,” their signature song. I don’t know many perfect songs, but “Roundabout” is one, and this is a pleasant album, a nice break from the black metal I’ve been writing to lately.

It’s 5:21 now, and I’ve probably ruined the whole clock-resetting thing. I don’t know what to think or feel or say. When I got up at 4, once I got moving, I was happier than I’d been all day Saturday. Part of it was getting those small tasks done, I’m sure, and part was finally getting my steps, for the first time in a week. I think most of it was just being up in the middle of the night.

Maybe I should allow myself the weekends as an indulgence for the vampire. Then have miserable Mondays, as I usually do even under normal circumstances, and adjust as the week goes along, trying my best to keep normal hours. Resetting the clock over the weekend has never really worked for me, not even when I was teaching and had to make the shift back from spring break to the fourth quarter of the academic year.

I’m disappointed in myself. But part of me feels like Kevin Kline in In & Out when he’s trying not to dance according to directions in his “How to Be a Manly Man” cassette.

There were a few moments, as I was assembling flour, cocoa, oil, sugar, baking powder, and milk in a mixing bowl, when I felt myself embracing 4:30 in the morning like Kevin Kline embracing a bad dance mix of “I Will Survive.”

Not to compare my own existential crisis with a gay man’s embracing his gayness, because that’s absurd, but I’ve spent my whole life figuring out where I need to conform to others’s expectations and where I must insist on my own drum. Is nocturnality one of those things on which I can relent for work purposes, like dress slacks and button-down collared shirts, but sink into on weekends, like cutoff jeans and Metallica t-shirts?

I pushed off a lot of Saturday’s tasks to Sunday, and now it’s past 5:30 and I can see daylight through the vertical blinds, so I don’t have a lot of confidence I’ll get to most of them.

But I mean well!

So let’s wrap this up and lay my body down.

I didn’t do much texting Saturday. Had a little conversation with my writing partner about her being on summer vacation and what her goals are. She asked me what mine are, and it’s been a while since I thought of summer that way, and of course lately I’m focused entirely on getting through spring. I think it would be good for me to think about summer, though, and where I would like to be come September.

JB also sent me a photo of his Scotch eggs, which look terrific and which he says weren’t very difficult at all. I’m impressed. It’s an impressive looking dish.

That’s about it. Here’s to a productive, restful Sunday — I think I’ll leave the TV off all day. I’m loving my OitNB but it’s eating my time in a largely unsatisfactory way. Or I’ll save it for the evening after I’ve done stuff. I have some other personal writing I need to get done, and it’ll be much easier to get through with music rather than the tube.

Reach out for connection if you need it. We all need some as spring melts into summer and virus melts into violence. It’s crazy out there, but we can get through it.

Lockdown: Giving the gift of giving gifts

I was right about the new music. There’s a new album by Alestorm, but after their first album many years ago, the novelty wore out, and although it’s still a band with some chops, the joke is tired. I wish they’d rename themselves and just write some normal songs or something.

I pretty much knew what to expect from the new Grave Digger album, which also dropped today and which I am spinning now. It doesn’t suck; it’s just not very interesting.

I think I drifted off to sleep early Friday a bit before 5:30 and woke up at 9:00 to be ready for the 9:30 Zoom meeting about the cancer center project. It was a fine meeting. Then it took me almost forever to get going on the second proposal I wanted to finish before the weekend. Not because I was tired or unmotivated, but because waaaaay back in October when I started the first draft, I did it in InDesign, not knowing I’d still be working on it in May and that I’d do it from home because of a pandemic.

The virtual desktop works fine; it’s just really slow when lots of people are on the network, espcially for resource-demanding stuff like Photoshop and InDesign. It didn’t help that the network kept disconnecting me. At first it was like type two words then wait a minute for everything to unfreeze and catch up, then a few more words, and the same thing. Ugh.

Things loosened up after the traditional lunch hour, and I powered my way through. Submitted. Then caught up on emails and took a little nap.

I helped one of our development people with something she was looking for (a proposal I worked on last summer) and did a few similar tasks. And then — tada! My workday was done at a normal hour, with my work submitted. I’m still behind, but not behind to the point of distraction. Except for a little bit of file management I couldn’t do during normal hours because of the network issues, I don’t have to even think about work this weekend. I’ll listen to some good music while I do what’s mostly brainless work.

Okay I couldn’t take any more of that Grave Digger album after three songs. Switched to some Alan Parsons Project.

Because of that early Zoom call, I didn’t get to my first meal of the day until about 12:30, which is when I’d have eaten if I’d had a decent eight hours of sleep, so it makes sense. I had a couple of hot dogs with mustard, ketchup, and this new sauerkraut I got at Costco. It’s really good.

I didn’t snack, yet didn’t find myself thinking of food until it was approaching eight in the evening. Made brown rice and ate it with Thursday’s leftover stir-fry. Filling and veggie-laden. Then I made a trip to the supermarket. I needed Diet Pepsi (Costco only sells the 24-pack aluminum cans, which I find wasteful) and picked up a few things, most of which I don’t normally get at the grocery store (like laundry detergent and dishwasing detergent).

I’m blaming Sharon for this: I saw the Haagen-Dasz she mentioned Thursday, so I bought some. it’s basically coffee and vanilla ice creams layered with crunchy Belgian chocolate, kind of like an Eskimo pie (are we allowed to call them that?) or magic shell. Which I hate. I knew there was a crunchy thin layer, but for some reason I thought it was like a wafer, not like hard chocolate.

And that was my dinner, I guess. Not my proudest moment.

The season three Orange is the New Black DVD has one commentary track, for the season’s finale, with the director and co-writer. So I watched that today (fascinating) and it really had me re-thinking things. Somehow I missed the many themes of faith and religion, but pow. They are right there in multitudes. I mean, my favorite parts of the season were faith-themed, but there’s been a little of that since the show began, so I guess I didn’t notice that it was in almost every story arc. It changes my feelings about the season, though I still can’t say it was enjoyable. I was moved to tears a couple of times, and there’s that wonderful lake scene at the end, but there’s a good chance I’m done with season three for a very long time.

Compare that with the first five seasons of Silicon Valley. So far I have never gotten tired of after many viewings.

This evening while I ate icre cream, I watched episode one of season four. It’s is grim as heck, yet it’s also laugh-aloud funny for a lot of weird reasons. This bodes well for the rest of the season.

Ali in Boston sent me a text while I was working on that proposal. She apologized for not responding to my last question and I let her off the hook even though she still hasn’t answered it. It’s not worth making a thing of it, and I respect her privacy even if I don’t understand it. We talked a little bit about s’mores, which seems to be safe territory.

JB texted to ask if I’ve ever tried to make Scotch eggs, which I have not. He’s going to attempt them soon, I think. This led to a conversation about mug cakes, which I planned to try this evening but because of Haagen-Dasz, will try Saturday instead.

Crush Girl texted me to answer a question I asked late Thursday. Then we texted more about the cookies she made, and discussed her car situation a little more.

Penny, one of the people I sent the marshmallow photo, messaged me to ask if they’re awesome or super awesome. I told her I haven’t actually seen them anywhere yet.

Jennifer and I texted a little about her visit to a dentist this week, for which I called her brave.

Then Jenny texted me to tell me someone she interviewed for an HBA-related project mentioned me. That was nice. This led to a bit of a diatribe from me about the latest HBA mailer, which says “There’s no greater gift than giving a child an education built on Christ’s love.”

Ignoring the bad writing (the education is the gift; the act of giving it is not — why don’t these people whom I love dearly just email me once in a while to ask for a quick proofread?), I ranted about how the Bible says the greatest gift is something else, and whoever wrote this copy knows it. I guess we can get nit-picky about whether “greater love” and “greater gift” are two different things, but that’s silly. Some marketer just decided to say it, and nobody thought about whether or not it was truthful. Drives me crazy, especially since I’m now doing exactly this work and am hypesensitive about making claims with emotional appeal but factual inaccuracy. Euphemism. I mean “lies.”

In Christianese, we do have a concept of “the gift of giving,” which maybe is meant here, but if this is the case, it’s got to be executed a bit more thoughtfully, to avoid confusion. Geez.

I also texted two colleagues a photo of the jigsaw puzzle AJ sent me, saying I could wait to see them at the office again someday, when we would attempt this puzzle together.

I skipped the walk in an effort to get my sleep schedule back to something resembling human. It’s 2:04 in the morning now, so if I can be asleep by 2:30, I can get up at 10:00, then try to wind it back another two hours between Saturday and Sunday. Maybe.

So here I go. Without work to distract me this weekend, I envision a few chores, some playful things in the kitchen, some Orange is the New Black, and maybe some reading.

And lots of walking, of course.

Whatever you’ve got lined up for the weekend, I hope connecting with others is part of it. If it’s not, reach out. As you can see, I can be a texting machine when I’m in a good mood, which today I am.

Lockdown: They call me mallow fellow

Not really. I don’t even really like mashmallows.

I don’t think I have any ill effects from the char siu chicken Wednesday. Here’s hoping.

Thursday I got up at 10 and got to work at 10:30. Of course I wasn’t at my best, but I was pleased to have submitted the stuff I submitted, and I already had it in mind to work late again Thursday night, only hopefully not as late.

Probably a new low for breakfast in this lockdown situation: I had tortilla chips and fresh salsa. With sour cream. I just didn’t have it in me even to heat up a hot dog. And I didn’t need to dig in so much as I needed to nibble, while I did some work-related housekeeping. Not a good look at all!

When I’m really tired and turning in past sunrise, I seldom have it in me even to think about overnight oats. That would have been ideal Thursday morning, just to reach into the fridge and grab it, but the me of four hours prior wasn’t so thoughtful.

I took a nice nap during my lunch break, and again when I sorta punched out early at about 4. I wasn’t hungry for the rest of my day, although I did have one carrot cake Oreo right before my Costco run half an hour before it closed. My first visit there in like six weeks.

I spent money there with the intention of not going back for another six weeks or so. It was a steep bill, but I’m pleased that I didn’t buy much that has to go in the fridge and then right into the trash two weeks from now when it spoils. I’m learning?

When I got home I needed another nap, and then made a stir-fry for a delayed lunch. This was at like midnight. I chopped up the char siu chicken thighs and threw them in the Instant Pot, hit the saute button, and added watercress, tofu, baby bok choi, bean sprouts, the two leftover steamed potatoes, and four scrambled eggs I had to use up. It came out pretty good.

Stir-fries were the first thing I explored when I moved out of my parents’ house and into the off-campus dorm. I’d been cooking since I was a teen, but stir-fries were my way of learning how to work with stuff I didn’t grow up with, like broccoli (my dad hates it) and a mess of Chinese veggies we never had in our house.

I don’t make them much anymore but it’s always a good return when I think of it. Easy, almost foolproof, and you can flavor the leftovers differently each time you get some from the fridge. I made enough to have leftovers for at least three more meals.

That was really lunch-dinner, because I’m not planning to eat again before I turn in, hopefully in a few minutes.

While having my late meal, I worked on one of two proposals I want to get done before the weekend. Took care of one, an engineering thing I just emailed to the development officer. The plan is to do the other Friday. This one is in its ninth or tenth draft, I think (not an intentional exaggeration if it is one), and I’ve been working on it since October. It’s turned into something of a monster.

I have a 9:30 Zoom meeting to talk about the cancer center project, after which I think I get working on another proposal.

As you’d guess, I skipped the walk again. Just really needed to focus on getting this work done. I’ll walk extra this weekend or something.

I saw a photo on Twitter of these packaged marshmallows stuffed with real chocolate. At first a weird idea, but then: what about s’mores? You could just toast a mallow and stick it between graham crackers and ta-da! I saved the photo, then texted it to like seven people with the caption: game changer.

I’d say about half of them responded. Sharon wanted to know where to get them (I don’t know), then sent me a link to a new Haagen-Dasz variety she says I have to try. AJ in San Diego didn’t like the concept, which led to a conversation about s’mores ingredient leftovers. She sent me a photo of a cocktail she prepared from a recipe in the book she’s reviewing, then we traded some thoughts about her in-progress book review.

Sylvia and I traded a mess o’ texts all day and evening. She didn’t like the idea of the marshmallows until she thought about what they might do to Rice Krispies treats, and then reconsidered.

Crush Girl thought the marshmallows looked amazing (she likes to bake, so I’m not surprised), then later we talked a little about these cookies she worked on.

Jennifer’s not one of the people I sent the photo too but we did trade some texts about her visit to the dentist. She’s brave, I said. Although maybe it’s her dentist who’s the brave one.

That about covers it. I didn’t even turn on the TV today except to catch the national news (yikes). I read the news online, of course, but other than that the only real media consumption I’ve had for a couple of days is music. Certain kinds of metal are really good for working late, late at night. This evening it was mostly Winterfylleth (black metal) and now Children of Bodom (melodic death metal).

Friday is supposed to be new music drop day, but I didn’t see anything interesting on the release calendars for the 29th. Bummer. I’m sure I missed something. I’ll check the metal blogs sometime later. Maybe between Zoom meetings. Until then, I think it’s time for bed. I might be able to get to sleep before the sun comes up — it’s just past 4:30.

Connection. You need it? I got it. Hit me up.

Lockdown: Playing chicken with chicken

That was an interesting evening.

But first, the day leading up to the evening. I did stop at the beach on my way home from the laundry. The water was noticeably warmer than it was a few months ago, and it was moving. Not the bothersome choppiness you get when it’s windy — if there was any wind I didn’t notice it. The surf way out in the break was really pumping, so when I got there half an hour before sunrise, parking wasn’t exactly tight but it was way fuller than usual.

I had a good swim. I told myself I was only there to enjoy the water, not to kill myself, but my body told me to go, so I had a semi-strenuous time. Strenuous enough to feel it in my lungs while I swam, but not enough for my arms and shoulders to ache all day after. It felt great.

I’m going to call the Big Mac combo at the laundry Tuesday’s dinner, since I stopped on my way home for a roast pork loco moco from Pancakes and Waffles. Yummy. I had that while reading the news, then went to bed.

Work was pretty good, but I had three meetings, one of them a Zoom meeting, and they ate into my day and my energy too. During the Zoom meeting, I put myself on mute so I could eat a couple of carrot cake Oreos, the only snacking I did Wednesday.

So I broke for a late lunch, thinking I’d get a few tasks done right after, then take a walk.

Lunch was a couple of French bread pizzas. They were okay. I’d really rather have English muffins. I goofed off a little and before I got back to work, I went to the bathroom. Then I went again right after. Aaaaaand again right after that. Okay, that was going to nix the evening walk — I did not want to be too far from the home porcelain in my condition.

And then my energy just fled my body, suddenly and dramatically. I put myself to bed, where I had no energy to do or think anything. It was incredible, the way I felt everything just kinda seep out of me, deflating me until I was a limp envelope of a body.

I managed to sleep after a while, getting up just before midnight after a few hours. And I felt fine. I felt great. I’d planned to cook some frozen char siu chicken thighs (from a well-known local brand) in the Instant Pot, then do a quick stir-fry for dinner. When I got the thighs out of the freezer, they weren’t exactly frozen. Uh oh.

My freezer hasn’t been operating at full ability lately, or at least what it once knew as full ability. It’s very, very old. I have a few other frozen meats in there that are definitely frozen, but the thighs were nearer the door opening, and I think they just didn’t get cold enough to freeze all the way through. The question was, have they been cold enough these three weeks since I impulsively brought them home from Long’s one very late night?

What the heck? I was already ailing, probably some kind of food poisoning. So why not? I cooked them, and they came out great, and tasted terrific, so I’m calling it a gamble well taken.

By then it was past three in the morning, and I knew I had at least two hours of work, plus this journal, so I put the thighs in the fridge and had a couple of hot dogs instead. I’ll have the stir fry either for lunch or dinner Thursday.

I got three tasks done, the two I had in mind and a new one which rolled in at 9:30 in the evening. The third took a bit long, and I needed a break around five. Finally got it all submitted about twenty minutes ago, and now it’s creeping up on 6:30 Thursday morning.

Sharon texted me while I was still in bed before I reported to my desk at noon, asking me about some work stuff — difficulty with a PDF. If there’s one huge hole in my professional desktop publishing and multimedia knowledge, it’s Adobe Acrobat. As a teacher, I never needed it, so I never had it. After teaching, I did need to generate PDFs, but I usually saved Word docs as PDFs. At the engineering firm, I had a team of publications people in Manila to make my PDFs for me. So I was unable to help Sharon.

Crush Girl texted me in the afternoon to talk about books. That was great. We talked about audio books and whether or not they count toward a reading goal, among other things. It wasn’t a lot, but I’m calling it the second highlight of my day, after the swim.

Thursday I want to finish two proposals and send them out, then complete at least a first draft of a story I’m working on. That will hopefully leave me Friday to complete a first draft of a second story, and to do the background on a third. Then I’ll have the weekend to not think about work. Lofty ambitions, but they’re doable, and they start right now with a decent four hours of sleep. I think I’ll clock in at 10:30 instead of my usual 9 or 9:30.

Reach out if you crave connection. I’m here for it.

Lockdown: Feed me, Seymour (and Lagasse)

Weeeeeellll I wasn’t very productive at work today. I’m going to attribute part of it to my only working half the day, but my brain was just kind of nomadic all day. It’s like it was compensating for all that focus Monday by giving itself a day off.

I’m definitely going to have to make up for it Wednesday and Thursday. I only work half the day Wednesday, too.

Now I’m satisfied
And she is looking fine
But you pay for your satisfaction
Somewhere along the line

Same Billy Joel song I quoted a few weeks ago. It goes through my mind a lot when I’m journaling for some reason.

Sweet Virginia cigarette
Burning in my hand
You used to be a friend of mine
But now I understand

The article I submitted, the one that unstuck my mojo? It came back with some good revision suggestions. I kinda knew it would; in fact, when I submitted it, I proactively suggested what I could do with it if my boss thought it needed a different angle. Which it does. I was playing politically safe, but it turns out this piece doesn’t need it as much as my usual corporate giving articles.

I know exactly what to do with it — decided what to do with it days ago — but couldn’t get my brain out of low gear. Wednesday for sure.

Breakfast was a couple of hot dogs with sauerkraut, ketchup, and mustard. Lunch was steamed potatoes and broccolini, the last of the broccolini. Still have a couple of potatoes left. I’m planning to do a stir-fry Wednesday; the potatoes might go in there since I have not quite one serving of leftover brown rice.

I went to bed early Tuesday night so I could get up early for laundry Wednesday. I skipped dinner, and I wan’t hungry partly because lunch was so late. Unless you count what I’m eating at the laundromat right now my dinner. I’m reserving the right to do so retroactively. My usual laundry night Big Mac combo.

My first semester in Hilo, I didn’t have a washer and dryer in the place I rented. There was a laundry quite near the house, though, across the three bridges right in downtown Hilo. It was close enough that I could leave laundry in the machines and come home for a little while before walking back. Or walk half a block to Bear’s Coffee, a nice little cafe with excellent coffee but usually expired Diet Pepsi. That first semester was lean, though, so I didn’t do it very often. Bear’s is still there, by the way. Makes me happy since so many of my haunts are just memories now.

It was a tiny laundry, with maybe ten washers and ten dryers; maybe it had fewer of each. There was a small, ancient wooden bench outside, on the sidewalk. I don’t remember any folding tables, but there must have been at least one — who builds a laundry without folding tables?

There was a more upscale laundry about two miles down the road, a couple of blocks from campus. It was huge, and well-lighted, and air-conditioned. There were TVs all over the place, and those carts with baskets, so you could unload your machine and wheel your clothes to a table.

On a Sunday morning when I went there, the place was hopping, not at all like the dark, very quiet laundry near the house, where I often didn’t see anyone. They had a golf tourney on the TV, and many of the laundry patrons were into it, cheering for their favorite guys. If it had been football, I’d have been in my element.

It was nice, but it was a bit pricier, and it was a two-mile walk, so I never went back. The next semester I was in an apartment building right across the campus, and it had laundry rooms on every floor.

The laundry I go to now has one TV, and it always has infomercials on when I get here. I expected after my first late-night wash here that I’d bring my earbuds and listen to music while the clothes washed and dried. I do bring the earbuds, but I don’t use them. There’s something familiar and cozy about the sound of the informercials. I set up shop on the folding table nearest the TV, but with my back to the screen.

I wonder if the comfy sameness of the format, whether kitchen countertop appliances or anti-aging creams are being hawked, is part of the design. One of the informercials on frequent rotation features Emeril Lagasse, whose show I used to have on every night, whether I watched it attentively or let it serenade me as I graded papers or made dinner.

Another features Jane Seymour, who still looks amazing.

Infomercials are kind of the soundtrack of being up late. When I had cable, it was often ESPN all night, which was almost always the same 30-minute episode of SportsCenter over and over for hours. Comfort TV.

There’s a poem in there somewhere.

My second graveyard shift job, the semester I was on suspension from UH Manoa, I worked at a gas station in the cashier booth. It was later knocked down and replaced by a Blockbuster, which gave way later to a credit union. It’s across Waialae Avenue from the the Kahala Zippy’s. You’ve driven past it a million times.

There was a tiny portable black-and-white TV in the booth. I wasn’t supposed to have it on when the mechanics and pump jockeys (it was a full-serve station) showed up in the morning before the end of my shift, but I could use it all I wanted once everyone went home at night. I watched Letterman every night, of course, and then Later with Bob Costas. The last thing on the air before signoff (there were seldom infomercials) was The Love Boat, a show I always hated when it was on during its initial run.

It was a much better show at two in the morning, lemme tell you. I loved it, and dreaded the credit scroll at the end of every episode.

After the first few weeks, I brought my computer with me. My Commodore 64, with modem. Home computers could be plugged into TVs back then — at least Commodores could be. They weren’t sold with monitors, as the Apple // was. The keyboard and CPU were in the same unit. So I plugged it into the tiny TV, attached the modem to one of the phone lines (we had four), and dialed into my favorite chat system, where I’d chat with friends until the sun came up.

That was fall 1988. I’m still friends with many of the people I met on that chat system, including the guy who ran it.

I traded texts with three friends Tuesday. AJ in San Diego sent me her book review draft, which I will take a look at as soon as I post this. Sylvia sent me a link for some local gourmet popcorn she’s really into. I’m not a huge popcorn fan, but her photos make it look great, so I’m considering an order. Crush Girl told me a little about her weekend, then shared how she’s having trouble with her car. I gave her a little bit of (solicited!) advice about selling a car, and offered to help her problem-solve. I think she was feeling a bit overwhelmed, or depressed. I feel that. Car problems are the worst. I hope she got something useful out of our conversation.

I also offered to drive behind her if she takes it to the shop. I didn’t say, “I’d ask you to ride in the back seat on our way back from the garage,” but I thought it.

Still super nervous about social distancing. Forced to be on the receiving end of someone’s germs, I could do a lot worse than Crush Girl’s, but I don’t want hers either. And I’m sure she doesn’t want mine.

I skipped the walk again, because laundry.

There’s a chance I’ll hit the beach when I’m done with laundry. Didn’t work out last time, but I have a good feeling about this morning.

Please reach out if you’re having trouble connecting in this lockdown. I’m blessed to have friends who reach out to me. You’re blessed too, and if it doesn’t seem like it, I’m here.

Lockdown: Not a bad week

Okay I have to make this a fast one. It’s nearly six in the morning and I haven’t been to bed yet. Need to get sleep before I show up at my desk at around noon.

I slept in. I lazed. I goofed around. I called my folks. I worked a little on Hawaii Stories. I actually did some work-work. I did two of the three Monster tasks, setting a decent goal and then surpassing it. It was productive, but it was also looooooong because I got off to such a late start and basically peed away the entire daylight hours portion of the day.

I skipped the walk so I could be productive. I think it was a good call.

Breakfast was a couple of hot dogs. Lunch was potatoes and broccolini. A lot of both. I overdid it. Dinner was leftover Thai food with some leftover brown rice. Delicious. It wasn’t a lot of leftovers, so I also had a hot dog. Or two. I snacked on carrot cake Oreos. Three of them. They’re pretty good, but I can’t speak to how much they taste like carrot cake because I’ve only had carrot cake once that I can think of, and I don’t remember it at all. These cookies are supposedly flavored like carrot cake, and the creme filling is flavored like cream cheese frosting. I like the idea.

I watched The Sound of Music a fifth and sixth time, mostly while I was working at the computer. I think I’m done with this movie for a while. Time to move on to Orange is the New Black.

AJ in San Diego asked in a text if I’d be willing to read something she’s written. I said of course. We talked a little about writing book reviews. Sylvia texted to ask if I ever do work on weekends since these work-from-home days. I said yes, and I planned to do some Monday. We lamented our lazy proclivities, although I was still lying in bed as we did it, and she had gotten herself into her car and was headed to the park for a workout.

That’s pretty much it. I’m exhausted. But I feel good, because between some of the work I produced for my job, the edits I did on Hawaii Stories, the housecleaning I did whenever that was, and a good bit into the Monster (that enormous, disgusting, unpleasant task that’s taking me months to finish), I feel like I’ve done good stuff this week, even if the price was sleep and steps.

I also put off doing my laundry. Requested Wednesday morning off so I can hit the all-night laundromat in the wee hours. I’m looking forward to it.

I’m still asking you to reach out if you’re having difficulty connecting. I think nerves are getting frazzled, people are impatient, and decisions are rash this week. Images on the news are discouraging. People are turning masks into political statements. It’s a bit much to soak in. Let’s connect and text each other through it.

And all God’s people said amen.

Lockdown: Close to the edit

I forgot to say last night’s walk totaled nearly 15,000 steps, all of them after midnight. My total for Sunday is 17,487. I skipped the Sunday evening walk to get some work done. Thank goodness I have the work to show for it, or I’d feel pretty deflated.

I just got done with first edits on the last of the Hawaii Stories pieces. Half are ready to publish; for the other half, I’m waiting on responses from the writers. Now it’s past five in the morning and I’m an idiot for taking so long, but I’m happy to have the hardest work done.

I got a little mopey Sunday. Nothing major; it might just be my normal Sunday thing, which I’d probably do every Sunday if I didn’t go to see my folks most Sundays when we’re not in lockdown. I got a little more active on FB than usual, trying to connect momentarily with a wide swath of people. It pretty much worked. FB is good for that when you don’t let it take over your day.

Aside from the editing, the major accomplishment was grocery shopping. I actually didn’t need much, but I knew if I didn’t put some veggies in my fridge soon I was going to hate myself. I still spent more than I’ve spent on groceries in a year, like nearly a hundred and thirty bucks. What the heck?

Some of it was replenishing stuff I don’t buy often, like chia seeds (for the overnight oats) and cornstarch. I prefer tapioca starch, but it hasn’t been playing nicely with the things I’ve made lately, so I’m going back to cornstarch to see if it’s me or the ingredient.

I went a little crazy on veggies. Baby bok choi, broccolini (two large bunches — it was on sale), carrots, and a huge bunch of watercress. Oh, I also bought a bunch of frozen berries and granola to mix up the breakfasts once in a while. That’s where a lot of the money went.

My fellow grocery shoppers were not as mindful of social distancing as I was, and uuuuurgggggggh.

Oh I bought pepperoni too. Something I don’t often splurge on. But I’ve awoken the toaster-oven pizza beast in me and want to play around.

For breakfast, I had the other half of a can of corned beef hash I opened sometime last week, with brown rice. Lunch was a couple of hot dogs with sauerkraut, ketchup, and mustard. So yummy. Dinner was steamed potatoes with a lot of broccolini. I’m probably going to have that for lunch Monday too. They came out great.

I want to try the yoghurt-making function on the Instant Pot sometime next week. To eat with the frozen berries and granola.

Crush Girl responded (very briefly) to something I asked early Saturday. I said something funny in return and she replied with haha, and that was it.

While I was working on Hawaii Stories, Ali in Boston responded to something I said Saturday, and it turned into another thing. But she let me talk through where I was sure the miscommunication was, and I think I cleared things up. Then we got into a thing (she started it, I promise) about the kinds of questions I ask her, and it led to my frustration with this topic, which has been a thing with us since we first got to know each other.

We communicate so well when we’re clicking. We communicate horribly when we’re not.

I’m toying with the idea of doing the laundry early Wednesday morning instead of my usual Tuesday morning. With the holiday Monday, will people who normally do their laundry right before the work week save it for after the weekend? In other words, is Wednesday the new Tuesday this week, and is Tuesday the new Monday, laundry-wise?

I’ll decide Monday based on how much stuff I get done. I think my boss will let me take Wednesday morning off even though I’m taking Tuesday morning off. We’re being encouraged to burn our use-them-or-lose-them vacation days now-ish, even though we have until the end of September. They don’t want us all taking them in September. Makes sense.

I don’t have as many to burn as most years. We get to carry fourteen days from year to year, but we earn twenty-one days or something like that. I usually carry the max, because those days are more valuable to me in their existence than in their use, if that makes sense. I love knowing I have them and can use them. Actually using them, especially since I seldom travel, is almost never as good.

I need to talk more about this later. My trip to Boston a year and a half ago awakened some of my old wanderlust. I need to figure out a way to do more traveling even though I make peanuts.

I finished my re-watch of Orange is the New Black season three. That last uplifting scene did it to me again. It’s beautiful. I’m not sure the downer of the rest of the season leading up to it was worth it, though. On to season four.

Need to call my folks Monday. And do some work on the Monster. Not a lot, but enough to feel good. Since I did a little bit of major housecleaning this past week, I feel okay doing the minimum on the Monster. It’s just that doing something Monday makes it possible for me to do more during the rest of the week, which I would really like.

The sun’s coming up. Time for this vampire to head for the cave. Listen, however you’re going through this lockdown, if you’re not connecting and you really want to, please reach out. I’m here for it. Even if we have weird miscommunication problems that make me insane sometimes.

Lockdown: Glutton for gluttony

I’ve taken a break from metal these last couple of days to focus on other music I like. It kinda started because I needed to kick my work speed up a little, and as I mentioned, ABBA usually does the job. I try not to abuse it because I don’t want its power to run out, but I am telling you, there’s something about the sweet infectious pop — its familiarity is part of it, its kind of sameness from song to song, its energy, its feel-good vibe with unchallenging lyrics or instrumentation. They don’t fertilize the creative part of my brain like a good Yes album, but a good Yes album can be a distraction, too. When I need just to put some pieces together in a nice, meaningful whole with decent narrative, ABBA Gold is the real deal.

Other kinds of music work from time to time. Thing is, I can’t predict what will work and what won’t. ABBA is the only reliable.

Rap doesn’t work. It’s great for driving. It’s terrible for writing. All those words bouncing around get in the way of the words in my head.

Tonight during the walk, I finally got to spin the new Indigo Girls album, Look Long. It’s a terrible title. It’s a fantastic album. I’ve only giving it two rides, so I’ll save most of my thoughts for a good review after three more attentive listens. I’ll say that as usual, I favor the Emily Saliers songs. However, the Amy Ray songs are what make it a better album. This is exactly the Indigo Girls album I needed this year. A good contender for my favorite album of the year.

Then I listened three times to a new album (released January) from a band I never heard of before late Saturday night. Passing in the Night from Thunder and Rain is almost everything I love about good bluegrassy-folky music. It doesn’t blow you away with technical awesomeness in the acoustic shredding, but that’s the only thing it’s missing. The solos, rather than making you say whoa (which is not to say they aren’t impressive) just make you say aaaaaaahh. It’s sweet, it’s comfy, and it’s pretty as heck. I’m listening to it right now, in fact.

I slept unusually well Friday night (or extremely early Saturday morning, whatever). Got up around noon. Did some crosswords and watched The Sound of Music while I read the news.

Breakfast was the leftover pasta from Friday night. There was rather a lot left over, and I ate it all. Insane. I actually paused midway through and said, “I could stop now and be totally sated.” Did I stop? I did not.

Then I outdid myself. I got it stuck in my head that I had to get takeout for lunch. I don’t know why. I went to Taco Bell although I did try to get real food first. I guess I got going a little late, like after eight. The Korean place was closed, the nearby sashimi and salad place was closed, and the next-door ramen place was even closed. That place always seems open. Wingstop in the same mall was open, but I wasn’t in the mood for wings (although I do love me some lemon pepper wings). I hit the Taco Bell drive-through and discovered upon arriving home that they threw in a few extra soft tacos I don’t think I paid for. It was more food than I wanted, but did I leave anything for later? I did not.

I goofed around on my phone and continued my re-watch of season three of Orange is the New Black and did a bit of online reading. Pretty much just took it easy. I had a bit of a nap around six in the evening, then did some online shopping.

So I didn’t get out of the house for a walk until just past midnight. No idea why.

It was a nice walk. I stopped at the 7-Eleven for an ice cream sandwich, a salmon musubi, and a bottle of water. Then stopped at Walgreens because a friend of mine asked me to check the Walgreens in my hood for these exclusive Pringles. Wherever the Pringles are, they aren’t in Kalihi. Sweet Corn Pringles, according to someone on Twitter.

I’m going to call the ice cream sandwich and salmon musubi my dinner, because I don’t want to call the Krisipie Kreme mini doughnuts I just put away my dinner.

I kinda feel like my day was a vacation for my brain. And I wonder if the gluttony was either my brain saying, “All regulators are off; the body is free to do as it will” or my body just grabbing at whatever stimuli it could in the absence of mental stimulus. The NYT Sunday crossword (it’s available early Saturday for subscribers) was very challenging, but not the kind of strenuous writing usually is. The crossword is play, not work.

I thought of my parents several times Saturday. I think I’ll give them a call Sunday afternoon. Make sure we’re all okay.

I traded a few texts with Sharon, who was on a little excursion to a popular botanical garden on the windward side of the island. She’d asked me Friday if I’d been there, and I said yeah and told her how to get there. She sent me a nice photo.

Ali in Boston reached out with a funny photo, very late Saturday night (it was already Sunday day where she is) and we exchanged a couple of messages.

Ryan and I emailed each other about the Hawaii Stories project. I think we’re on target for a June 1 unveiling.

Nobody’s Darlin’
by Thunder and Rain

I’ve sailed the seven seas
I’ve severed all my ties
I ain’t nobody’s darlin’
Says the blue within my eyes.

I was born a western storm
On waves I was raised
Collected shells for wishing wells
Down where my pennies lay.

Mother, carry me
I give my words to you
And brother won’t you bury me
And tell my story true
The greatest one that I’ve ever known
Is the one of my body, my heart, and my home.

Carving all the mountains tall
In verses and rhyme
I’ve sung about my secrets
To every single pine.

And dawn to dusk, I’ve said I must
Keep the tales as high
As treason in the roses
And rebels in the rye.

Mother, carry me
I give my words to you
And brother won’t you bury me
And tell my story true
The greatest one that I’ve ever known
Is the one of my body, my heart, and my home.

When my time is over
And the earth will come to drain (?)
The grace within my hillside
And the starlight in my veins

I’ve sailed the seven seas
I’ve severed all my ties
I ain’t nobody’s darlin’
Says the blue within my eyes.

Mother, carry me
I give my words to you
And brother won’t you bury me
And tell my story true
The greatest one that I’ve ever known
Is the one of my body, my heart, and my home.

Such a pretty song.

Okie dokie. It’s five-thirty and I need to lay me down. Reach out if you could use some connectivity. And happy weekend.

Lockdown: A table near the street in our old familiar place

I’ll meet you any time you want
At our Italian restaurant

This Billy Joel song is playing now (I’m listening to Joel’s 12 Gardens Live album). Like a lot of my favorite songs by him, it’s both immensely pleasurable and tinged with some melancholy. I don’t really want to get into why, else I descend into melancholia, but here’s a quick story that’s part of it.

In May 1992, the One Who Got Away was about to graduate from a university in northern California. I’d miraculously saved up a little bit of money, mostly by working two jobs while I secretly (I mean absolutely in secret) took a semester off to figure out what the heck I was going to do with myself. So I planned a trip to finally visit her.

I first flew to Seattle and hung out with Marc and Reid for a week. It was a great trip, and Seattle is still my favorite city outside Hawaii. I spent the days roaming the U district, mostly haunting used bookstores and used record stores, of which there were many. It was kind of a dream of a trip. Evenings, I hung out with Reid, Marc, and some of their friends, many of whom I knew from HBA.

The University of Washington is super, super popular for Hawaii people, and it was especially popular with HBA grads. We don’t send very many to the Ivy League schools, so UW was kind of the top of the next tier for most of us. I don’t know if it’s still true.

After Seattle, I went to NorCal for a few days. It was a little rough, because I’d sorta been planning the trip since she first went up there, thinking I would ask her right before she graduated to marry me. The trip part of the idea I held onto, but the marriage thing was ridiculous. I was still stuck at junior status after five years of undergraduate school, and in a horrible state of arrested development I cling to even as I type this.

A year later, I was packing my stuff for a move to Hilo, where I would finally finish my studies. But this idea had not yet wriggled into my brain in May 1992. I was still in the can-I-make-this-work-at-Manoa frame of mind.

How does any of us survive our early 20s? It was the moodiest time of my life, and I’m a moody guy. The roller coaster was crazier when I was an adolescent, but the lows were much, much lower, and the plummets were a bit steeper when I was a young man.

It still echoes darkly and hollowly, this period between 1987 and 1993, when I remember those plunges, and when I think about that incredible feeling of angst and despair. I am not making any of this Gen X woe-is-me stuff up, even though if I were to describe it, it would read like a textbook analysis of the generational vibe back then. I was really, truly, genuinely stuck in Gen X woe.

Since most of my classmates had graduated college by 1992, they experienced it a slightly different way. I was still floundering as a fifth-year junior, and boy was it tough.

Some of this is material for the Kurt Cobain article I’m going to write someday.

Proposing was out of the question, but I did confess to the girl, my last night there, that I’d been planning to do it for four years. We wouldn’t even be a couple until a few years later, but we communicated somewhere much deeper than just two friends from high school. It was a safe space for saying such insane things.

My second night there, we roamed the Little Italy section of San Francisco, getting dinner at this little spot I know I’d never find again if it were still around. It was good food and good conversation, the kind of conversation we were always good at, ever since early in high school. People who don’t really know how we were might never understand why I’ll never really be over her, but when you’ve experienced that level of communication with someone, it’s pretty dang tough to get over. Even when it’s gone and you’re still sort of in the relationship.

I don’t think back on this night very often, mostly because I have so many memories by now and this is just one night early in the adult part of the friendship. When it pops into my head, I think of it rather fondly. We were so young and stupid and strangely cool.

The next evening, we came back into San Francisco and dined at the same spot. Looking at the menu, we each admitted we’d be happy ordering the same meals as before. Instead (and I wish I could remember whose idea it was), I ordered the second night what she had the first, and she ordered the dish I had the night before.

A bottle of red, a bottle of white
It all depends upon your appetite

I really shouldn’t say never, and I know it. I’m old and know a lot of stuff, but I’m also old enough to know I don’t know anything. For all I know, there’s a deeper level of connection, and I just haven’t gotten there with anyone yet. I believe it’s possible. I’ve experienced something deeper spiritually, so there might be something in between.

I got off to a slightly later start Friday than I was hoping, but my mojo was still there. I was pretty darn productive, if not quite as productive as I wanted to be. I did some editing on a proposal one of the DOs put together without me. It made me really happy. That’s sort of the goal, to get them working with the faculty on their own content, while I assemble it and make it look and sound good. I didn’t even do the assembly on this one — just edits.

I also put together a couple of pieces for the staff newsletter, and worked a little on a couple of feature stories I’ve been dragging my feet with. The mojo from Thursday night helped a lot, as did ABBA Gold, an album that does pretty great things for my writing.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Breakfast was overnight oats. Lunch was a couple of hot dogs with sauerkraut, ketchup, and mustard. I still have Thai leftovers but really wanted hot dogs. They were great. I had a feeling I was going to skip the walk, and around my usual late dinner time I was reeeeally hungry. I needed to eat, and I needed to eat soon. So I threw pasta stuff in the Instant Pot. Delicious. I dined happily happily happily while I gave The Sound of Music a second ride.

I did a bit of major housecleaning between the end of my workday and dinner time, which is probably one reason I was so hungry. While I decided what to make for dinner, I snacked on some Krispy Kreme mini cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, picked up at Long’s when I grabbed those Fat Boys. I am no real fan of shelf-stable drugstore doughnuts (these had a pull-date in mid-June), but boy were they tasty. And satisfying.

Sharon and I were on work Skype most of the day talking about lots of stuff, some of it work-related. Crush Girl and I traded some texts about the upcoming weekend.

I have no plans for the weekend, but when I get up around noon, I’m going to set a small agenda. It’s three days. I need brain rest, but I need physical activity, and I have a few projects to make some headway on.

I would like to do some reading, too. And since I got Orange is the New Black seasons four and five in the mail Friday, I’d like to finish my re-watch of season three. And of course I still have three more viewings of The Sound of Music.

In the middle of my writing about the San Francisco Italian restaurant, the Billy Joel album ended, and I switched to Styx’s Caught in the Act: Live. Such a different set of memories.

It’s a long weekend. Long weekends can be great or they can be miserable. If you’re looking for someone to connect with, hit me up either way. I guarantee I can’t give you “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” communication, but I think I can still be of some use.

Lockdown: Fat Boys and a Slim Jim

I’ve said this before, but writing is such a bizarre thing sometimes. It’s a discipline, sure, and I can make myself put the words together when I have to. Since it’s my job, I have to almost every day.

Sometimes it flows, like the chocolate river through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, just pouring right out of my brain and through my fingertips. Sometimes it’s more like blowing your nose when you’re completely stuffed up. You get stuff out, but it’s slow, and it’s painful, and it’s neither very rewarding nor very pretty.

Today I kind of procrastinated on a thing I had to get done. I did the easy part, then dillied like crazy on the actual composition part. Then I had a late lunch right around the end of some people’s workday, like at 4:30 in the afternoon (my boss usually works seven to four), and just started putting the ideas together, and it kind of loosened up my mojo and I got it all out.

It’s not great. But it’s not bad, and it felt normal. Like maybe instead of opening a major artery, I only need a little paper cut and I let it just ooze gently but quickly right out.

I hope it’s a portent of Friday’s productivity. I have similar work to put together Friday and would love to head into the long weekend without having to worry about Tuesday.

Breakfast was overnight oats. They were meh. As I’ve mentioned, I often sprinkle some brown sugar over the top when I get the oats out of the fridge, even though there’s already brown sugar in there. Thursday morning I just ate them without the extra-extra sugar. Mostly to remind myself that I can.

Lunch — the mojo-loosening lunch — was leftover Thai food. Panang curry with sticky rice. Not exactly leftover, since I didn’t eat any of it Wednesday night but bought it specifically to have Thursday. Freaking delicious.

I don’t think I had a dinner, exactly. When I submitted my work it was about seven in the evening, and I thought I might have dinner after my walk, since I’ve been so hungry after them lately. So I had a snack, these Lay’s Limon flavored chips. Just a couple of handsful, which is probably like eight servings according to the bag.

After submitting something written from scratch, I usually need a brain rest. So I went to bed for a short nap and got up around half past nine. It took me a while to take care of a few housekeeping things and I finally got out the door for my walk after eleven.

It was going to be a short walk. I needed to get a money order for the rent. There’s a 7-Eleven (where money orders are only a buck) soooorta near the house, but pretty much across the street from the post office, and I hate carrying money around late late at night. I usually avoid this 7-Eleven at night because it’s in a rather sketchy area, but its proximity to the post office drew me. I wanted to keep the walk short.

You should always ask the clerk if the money order printer is working. 7-Eleven’s printers are suuuuuuuuuuuuper unreliable, and too many times have I made the mistake of walking in there with cash for the rent, only to learn I can’t get a money order. Not that big a deal when you’re driving, but I’m walking.

So I asked. And the clerk said no, the printer’s not working. So I walked through an even sketchier area in the ‘hood to the next 7-Eleven. It’s just a few blocks down pretty much the same street, but it’s dark, and it was once a popular spot for very shady dealings.

The next 7-Eleven, which I stop at rather frequently because it’s almost never very busy late at night, was able to help me out. So I got my money order and stuck it into an addressed envelope I brought with me, and walked up to the strip mall, and now it was quite a bit of a longer walk than I planned, but now I was kind of enjoying it so it was okay.

It was in the plan to mail the rent, then get something from Long’s. I needed an HDMI cable. And by the time I dropped my mail in the box, I was really hungry. Like, I-can’t-make-it-home-without-a-bite hungry.

Some drugstores are pretty good for convenience-store-type food. You might get a premade sandwich or some string cheese or something. This Long’s isn’t quite like that, although it does sell a few novelty ice creams individually. It was going to have to do. I got a couple of Fat Boys and a can of iced tea. And a Slim Jim. And wolfed them down sitting on a wall outside the store. Another snack, or dinner? I guess dinner, which even I am appalled at.

However, it is 3:00 in the morning Friday. I’m sated. I feel good about work and about the walk (I added only 3300 steps before midnight but hit 9000 steps after midnight, leaving me just over a thousand steps shy of the daily goal). I should be done with this in enough time to get to bed by 4 at the latest, which would be delightful.

Sharon and I traded a few Skype IMs about work stuff, mostly. She’s a good friend. I miss the days when her desk was just down the hall from mine. She’s back on campus now (I mean in non-lockdown situations) and I’m still in the main office, so I don’t chat with her as much. I’m super grateful for her camaraderie and friendship, especially now that Ali’s moved to Boston.

Jennifer emailed me a photo of a really inexpensive lunch she picked up near her place. After we went to a whisky tasting together, we had a dinner in this spot, a casual Japanese joint that’s quite good. It was from there.

Crush Girl responded to my questions from late Wednesday night, which led into longer conversations about the UC schools no longer requiring ACT or SAT scores for admissions. I and my fellow educators who’ve worked with non-traditional learners are quite happy about this development, despite the fact that without standardized test scores, the one thing I had going for me in the eyes of colleges is gone.

Standardized assessment is horribly flawed in one very important way: there’s really no such thing as a standard learner, so standardizing learning is a losing proposition, and standardizing assessment is unfair.

We chatted about a few other things, and it would probably have been the highlight of my day if not for finding my writing mojo. Oh, and the Fat Boys and Slim Jim.

I also got an IM on FB from a former boss of a boss, which was really nice. Can’t mention what we discussed yet, since the conversation is ongoing, but it made me feel good that she reached out to me.

As you should also do if you’re having difficulty connecting in these [fill in the blank with anything but “uncertain”] days. It’s technically Friday as I get ready to dive into bed, and Friday is going to be terrific. I’m happy to share some of the terrificness with you, if you could use some.