Lockdown: Right in my breadbasket

That final-final-final draft of the proposal needed one more edit. It didn’t take long, but I waited until Friday evening when my coworkers were off the network. Meanwhile I worked on a social sciences proposal. I told someone I’d do my best to have a draft sometime Friday but I knew even then it would be difficult. I’ll find time this weekend to finish a first draft.

This is not a complaint (although I’ll admit some days the same words would be). I had a lot of emails, with smallish tasks requiring me to hit pause on the proposal. Tree things, not forest things. I’ve been convinced since the days at the engineering firm that these moments, including conversations that pop up at the copier or right at my desk, are not obstacles to the work; they are the work. They really should be taken as seriously as the seven-hour task on which hundreds of thousands of dollars rely.

This is my attitude most of the time, and it was my attitude today. I rolled up my sleeves (just kidding; it was warm today and I’m working at home, so I wasn’t even wearing a shirt most of the day) and went after each thing quickly. In a way it was a little bit of a test, as I really want to get that proposal drafted. But mostly it was satisfying.

A coworker mentioned in the office Skype that she had a similar day, only getting one thing off her to-do list because of all the emails. I totally felt that. Office life is a strange thing sometimes, and a completely different animal from teaching.

I didn’t go for a walk Friday. Ugh. Now I think it’s been more than a week. Saturday I will do something at least resembling a walk, and not focus on the steps but on fresh air, solitude, sunshine (or moonlight), and just moving.

What a great day for music. I was disappointed a few weeks ago to learn that scheduled releases from Neil Young and Bob Dylan did not actually drop. I didn’t have an explanation so I let it go until I saw them both pop up Friday. The delays were because of the pandemic, I’ve since read.

Neil Young’s Homegrown is an unreleased album recorded in 1974 and 1975. Young is known to be a ridiculously prolific songwriter, always with far more music than he plan to release. In this case, he had two albums recorded and played them for some friends at a listening party. They favored Tonight’s the Night, which itself was an unreleased album recorded a few years before that. Homegrown even had album art already, but it was the other album that was released. Forty-something years ago.

A few of the songs were performed in concert or released on rarities collections, like as extras in boxed sets and stuff, but today the album is released, and it’s beautiful. Not quite as mellow or as acoustic as either Harvest or Harvest Moon, which are its contemporaries, it is very intimate, kind of humorous, and very nearly as good as mellow Neil Young gets. Think “Heart of Gold” but not quite as great. Oh, and the album’s only 35 minutes long, which I love. Nowadays I have little patience for albums longer than 45 minutes.

Rough and Rowdy Ways is Dylan’s first album of new, original material since 2012. I’ve heard one of the advance singles and really like it, but I’m saving this album for a long, attentive listen Saturday. I sort of cannot wait.

Michael Franti & Spearhead have been trickling out songs from Work Hard & Be Nice for a month, leading to a lot of confusion on my part. I thought the album release was a couple of weeks ago, then saw it was only six songs. So yeah, I thought it was an EP. Then a week later it was eight songs, not six. What? Now Friday the entire album, and it’s as good as the stuff I’ve had on repeat for a couple of weeks. It doesn’t reeeeally hold up to scrutiny, but that’s not the point. It’s feel-good music. You’re not supposed to scrutinize it; you’re supposed to feel it. “Good Shit Happens” is one of my favorite songs of 2020, but there are a lot of good options on this album.

Still, I kinda wish Franti didn’t rhyme “today” with “today” repeatedly in one song, and “simple” with “people” repeatedly in another.

A bunch of obscure new metal albums I’m interested in checking out, but I’ll write about them later. And one high-profile new album, a self-titled Lamb of God album getting lukewarm reviews. I may skip it, especially since the thing I’m spinning now by a band I’ve never heard of is quite mind-blowing.

Breakfast was a bowl of Honey Oat Special K. I must be pouring more into the bowl than usual, because I think I’m down to one bowl left in this box, and I’ve only had two now. It’s okay. I discovered Thursday night at Costco that breakfast cereal is super inexpensive there. I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but breakfast cereal hasn’t been part of my life for ages. I’m only getting back into it now, which I’m sure is not for the better.

Lunch was leftover pot roast, with carrots, potatoes, and hapa rice. I again forgot that I have steamed kale to go with it.

Dinner was a tuna sandwich on toasted multigrain, making today’s food exactly the same as yesterday’s. I don’t think I’ve done this throughout the lockdown. However, I did kind of indicate this might happen when I brought those groceries back from the supermarket last Sunday night.

Part of it is that blasted loaf of supermarket sandwich bread. When you live alone, and when you hate wasting certain kinds of groceries, a loaf of bread is a challenge. I think I’m down to four more slices, and I’m sensing I’m running out of time. I may have a cheese sandwich for a late snack before bed.

While working on my many emails today, I steamed three pounds of broccoli florets from Costco, then left them on the counter to cool. I snacked on broccoli when I got the munchies, since it was right there and because I love broccoli. Later, I had three of those chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos. Yeah, it was a day of snacking. Although since I did nothing to the broccoli but steam it (no salt or anything else), those are free calories, right? I think WW counts them as zero points.

Saturday I need to call the folks to let them know I’m coming over for a little bit of social distanced chit-chat while I give my dad his gift. I’d like to do some reading too, and a few chores. I didn’t make sourdough bread Thursday because of that other bread I have to get through, but I fed the starter again and it’ll be ready for the bread machine just past noon, I think. So breadmaking is also in the plan.

Suzanne, one of the ladies in the engineering firm group text, sent a funny image about the rally in Tulsa. I didn’t want to think about it so I didn’t respond, but it got some hahas from the others.

Jennifer texted me to say she tried adding lemon to the whisky she sent a photo of before. Said it makes a big difference. I’ve never tried it or even heard of it, I said.

Sylvia texted me in the evening, from a comedy club. We talked a bit about how owning ebooks is great for settings like comedy clubs when you don’t want to socialize. She was reading on the Kindle app on her phone. This led to other conversation, some of it too personal to share. Then of course our conversation turned to Taco Bell, since that’s what we do. We were each independently thinking of going, but neither of us did. She realized she had nachos fixings at home, and I remembered that bread.

Crush Girl and I traded a few texts about a few different subjects. It was nice.

I missed the national news and only caught the later broadcast of the local news. I feel okay about this. In fact, I feel great, despite the dire number of new Hawaii cases — 27. Highest one-day increase since April. We. Are so. Screwed. One of the clusters is a church group in Waipahu who met in someone’s home. People. We need to stop it. Pleeease.

Man, it’s 4:30. I had no intention of staying up this late. Time for semi-psycho writers to consider putting themselves to bed.

Still inviting you to reach out, if you’re looking for more connectivity. I have to say without texts messages from my friends, I would likely slide into the darkness in times like this, when there’s tension between the realities of the state opening back up and the diagnoses shooting upward while I try to make sense of my life alone at home. I don’t know if you’re feeling that, but if you are, I’m here. And will be for a looooong time, apparently!

Lockdown: Sleepless again

Well heck. I was all set to go to sleep at around 5:30 and only managed barely an hour of sleep before getting to my desk at 9:30. Insane. I just couldn’t sleep.

So I got up and just got to work. Made progress on my self-evaluation, then worked on some teaser copy before the Zoom meeting. Didn’t really finish anything to turn in, but I knew that would happen, and I planned my day this way. As soon as I post this, I’m going to do yet another final-final-final edit on the proposal I thought was done yesterday. I don’t mind, of course, but I wasn’t expecting more edits this time.

Breakfast was a bowl of Honey Oat Special K. Man, those flakes are big and crunchy. Lunch was some leftover pot roast with carrots, potatoes, hapa rice, and gravy. I didn’t remember I had some steamed kale in the fridge until it was too late. Dinner was a tuna sandwich on toasted multigrain.

I didn’t have dinner until after a fast Costco run (to get a Fathers Day gift for my dad), so before I went I had a few tortilla chips with fresh salsa. Oh, and sometime during the sleeplessness early Thursday, I got up and had a toasted cheese sandwich with marinara sauce. I thought eating would make me sleepy but it did not. It just kinda made me hungrier, but I resisted.

I skipped the walk because my knee was driving me crazy again. There’s going to be surgery; I can just tell. I’d be fine with it if my car weren’t a stick-shift. Bleah.

I listened to podcasts a little, and I listened to music a lot. Katatonia’s The Fall of Hearts to see if I still thought it was almost a masterpiece. I do. Also the Gentle Storm’s The Diary, an Arjen Anthony Lucassen project with Anneke van Giersbergen. The concept is amazing. I didn’t listen attentively since I had it on during work (and during driving), so I can’t say if the result is as cool as the concept, but I’ll give it a good listen over the weekend. I also gave Opeth’s Pale Communion two spins. Trying to fill in the spaces in my Opeth knowledge, and the spaces are vast. Good album though. Possibly great. I’m listening to it right now, in fact.

Although I can’t really afford it, this lockdown has strengthened my resolve to attend a music festival somewhere on the continent when things get back to normal, if they ever get back to normal and if the musicians and festivals somehow survive to continue what they do.

AJ in SD texted me a few times early about her latest book review, which I am going to look at between posting this and finishing edits on that proposal. I texted my sister to check up on her. Haven’t heard back yet. Crush Girl and I talked about some computer issues she’s having, and she sent me a photo of a really nice lunch she made. Sylvia texted to talk about how she’s buying too many books for her Kindle, which I totally feel. I doubt I’ll ever be able to read everything in it now, yet I keep adding to it. Insane.

More conversation via email about Hawaii Stories. That’s about it.

It’s creeping on on 2, which is still a little early for me, but I’m running on very little sleep, so let’s get this posted.

Don’t forget I’m here if you need some lockdown connectivity. Just reach out. Please.

Lockdown: What passes for survival

Wednesday was a second pretty good work day in a row. I worked on some teaser copy, messed around with a story, put together a statement for a coworker who’s being recognized for something, and much later (as in around 11 at night) put the final touches on that proposal I’ve been working on since October. There were a phone call and Zoom meeting in there too.

Honestly, I’m wondering if something I generally dislike is the way to get through this stuff: routine. I usually like every week to be different from the one before, and every day to be its own unique thing. But I think a lot of people have found in this stay-home period that the days kind of go by more quickly, over the long term, when we’re not distracted by novelty.

These last two weeks have been pretty much a rut, but a pleasant rut. I look back at these last several journal entries and I sense a sameness. At the same time, a day like today has been calm and mostly quite good: wake up, eat, get some work done, take a nap during my lunch break, get up for a meeting, eat lunch while working the second part of my day, do a few chores, goof off and laze about until it’s time to have a late dinner. Think about going for a walk but don’t actually go on one. Do some journaling. Listen to music the entire day. Crash for a few hours and do it again.

The problem with letting the days slide painlessly by like this is that you look back and have nothing to show for it except the time spent. Ugh. Just thinking about it this way makes me all restless and anxious and stuff, jiggling me out of my serenity. I’m not even kidding. I’m all tense now.

Gotta think about this.

I think I actually planned for this, too. When I went to the supermarket Sunday night I went for old stand-bys, the stuff I can prepare quickly without much thought, stuff that pleases me but doesn’t excite me. And it’s been pretty great if not exactly Instagrammable.

Breakfast was a bowl of raisin bran. Comfy, tasty, easy. Lunch was a tuna sandwich. Ditto, plus heck yeah. I love me a tuna sandwich. Dinner was not the pot roast I made late Tuesday, but the leftover Chinese food I bought — when was it? Saturday? I just looked it up, and yeah it was Saturday. This was the untouched tofu and veggies dish. Broccoli, snow peas, choy sum, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, won bok, and tofu. I made a fresh pot of hapa rice but didn’t eat much, because the veggies were fine without it.

Okay, the Chinese takeout probably goes in the not-routine category and definitely added some excitement to my week, but Chinese food isn’t exactly trendy or cutting-edge.

I nibbled here and there on the pot roast, actually. I got the munchies a few times and needed literally just a bite twice or thrice. And over the course of the day had about five chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos.

I did not go for a walk this evening despite having time and energy to do it. Wanted to get that proposal done, but if I’m feeling Thursday night the way I felt Wednesday night, I’m going, even if just for a short trip. Still feeling the knee but it’s not too bad.

I texted with AJ in SD. She mentioned something about the magazine market for freelance writing, and it led to a short conversation about this and about the puzzle she sent me (it’s still not begun).

Ali and I did more Kindle talk. That was nice.

Suzanne sent the engineering firm group text a photo of the ducks. They seem to be doing okay.

Crush Girl and I talked a little about the chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos.

There was some work-related texting with a coworker, too.

Ryan and I are discussing via email the next issue of Hawaii Stories. That’s pretty fun to think about. I paid a few bills online. I like waiting until midway to the next payday to pay bills when I can (I usually can’t, but since I’ve been spending so little money in lockdown, I’ve been pretty current with stuff, and I can trust myself not to piss away everything and cluelessly find myself broke midway to payday without having paid any bills — yes, I’m terrible with money). It just makes me feel wealthier, to have that fatter account balance for seven days instead of for seven hours.

Oh, I spent the day listening to albums by bands I’ve never listened to before. That was kind of a fun trip. Thränenkind’s King Apathy. Killing Joke’s Pylon. Pyrrhon’s What Passes for Survival. Wilderun’s Veil of Imagination. The Thränenkind and Killing Joke albums were especially good. I listened to King Apathy three times, I think, and Pylon twice.

I’m developing an unexpected fondness for black metal, which is not even in my top seven metal genres, but which I’m finding pleasing lately. Good to have in the background while I’m doing chores or cooking. It’s not bad for naptime either.

I’ve found a strange peace in the mundane, and as long as I’ve got some good people to connect with, I think it’s working, at least for today. Hopefully you’ve got good people to connect with too, but if you haven’t, please reach out. It’s crazy out there and it helps to have a lifeline or two.

Lockdown: You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish

Okay I think I’m going to make this a fast one.

I had the laundry entirely to myself Tuesday morning. First time since the lockdown began. It was terrific.

Breakfast was my weekly Big Mac combo. Delicious.

I hit the beach on my way home. It’s not exactly on the way; the trip from my house to the laundry to the beach back to the crib is roughly an equilateral triangle, I think. The point is that it’s convenient. And it was a lovely morning, and I had a nice swim. Surf must have calmed down a little on the south shore: there weren’t nearly as many dawn patrollers as usual, but I also didn’t see very many stand-up paddle-boarders. Maybe Tuesday was just leave me alone day. I’ll take it.

When I got back from the beach, I had a little snack of tortilla chips and fresh salsa. Needed something after the swim, which always makes me hungry.

Work was okay. One of my dormant proposals woke back up, prompting a phone conversation and a loose promise of “sometime Friday.” The cancer center outline’s still out there being reviewed. The engineering proposal’s waiting for some new info. A Maui proposal is bubbling up — the concept paper I worked on was approved, and now it’s time for an actual proposal. The Kauai proposal’s waiting on one response about one detail. The West Oahu proposal’s been delivered to the prospective donor. Things are moving and I’m one of the cogs.

My annual self-assessment and subsequent official evaluation are coming up. I’m supposed to turn in the self-assessment Friday but I’m trying to get it done Wednesday, while all those proposals are on other people’s desks. I hate this part of the job so much. This sentence right here is the last time I’ll say this, though, because I’m grateful to have a job and if this is part of it, I’m grateful for it, too.

Lunch was a tuna sandwich. One of those meals I never get tired of, ‘though it’s been quite a while since I’ve had one.

For dinner, I made a pot roast in the Instant Pot. The roast has been in my freezer since that last trip to the supermarket before the lockdown began. I knew it’d be in there a while, but thought it would be consumed sooner than now.

I oversalted it, but it was still the best pot roast I’ve ever made. It’s an easy, almost idiot-proof dish in the slow-cooker, which is where I’ve been making it for 20 years. For the Instant Pot, I looked up recipes to see what other people were doing, and I liked one idea a lot. And yeah, it would have been amazing if I hadn’t oversalted it when I browned it all over. Dang it.

I even made gravy, something I almost never do. Lumpy. I need to check my technique. I thought maybe something was weird about the tapioca starch I normally use, but I lumped up the gravy with cornstarch too. I’m pretty sure now I’m not moving the whisk enough.

I made potatoes and carrots with the roast, so those were the sides, although I also steamed some kale to have an actual real veggie on the plate.

I also fed my sourdough starter for the first time in more than two weeks. I was a little nervous I’d stretched it too far, but as soon as it got down to room temperature, it began to bubble happily like it was happy to see me again. I fed it whole wheat flour (I cleaned out part of my freezer this week and found a whole five-pound bag in the back, two years past the best-by date) and it looks very, very happy. I’ll probably do another feeding Wednesday and then make some sourdough bread early Thursday.

For a late snack (while the pot roast was cooking) I ate two chocolate peanut butter pie Oreos. Graham cracker flavored cookies, and the filling is a peanut butter and chocolate swirl. Pretty darn good.

I’m not feeling physically well. I ate a slice of cheese I’m sure was bad, when I was preparing my tuna sandwich. I can make a 24-ounce block of good cheddar last a month without any problems, usually. You just have to know how to take care of it. I haven’t been eating much cheese in this lockdown for some reason, so this block has been with me since sometime in April, and I’m sure it was moldy, even though you couldn’t see any mold on it. I know what my cheese tastes like (oh, and it’s extra-sharp white cheddar, so mold might simply have been camouflaged). Anyway I’m sure it was bad, although I can’t be sure that’s what’s causing my sudden lack of energy.

I didn’t walk Wednesday. I hoped to take at least a little walk down the hill and throw some things in the mail, but my not feeling well took care of that.

There was quite a bit of texting Wednesday. JB and I chatted a little about the gyoza. Crush Girl told me about some stuff she baked last weekend, and I shared with her the mug apple crisp recipe I used.

Ali in Boston asked me more questions about the Kindle Paperwhite. It led to some talk about iPhone cases and a few other things. It was nice to converse with her.

Sylvia and I IMed a small torrent in the office Skype, some pretty heavy conversation about recent events.

Gotta get to bed. Reach out some time if you’re looking for some connection.

Lockdown: I love you like a mango

There are a lot of things I don’t understand. I think I’m a pretty bright person, and I try to be open-minded about most things, especially things involving the diversity of people. Add to this the spiritual gift of (or at least a spiritual proclivity for) mercy, and I think most of the time I do okay managing my thinking about differences.

None of this means I understand, though. And a lot of the conflict I’m looking at seems to be related to people not understanding one another. I felt this most keenly (of late) in November 2016 as I watched my country and the many communities I’m part of deal with the reality of unexpected election results. I’m still processing, really. It’s going to be a long time before I’m recovered, if I’m ever recovered.

You know what? Not understanding is reasonable. The response to not understanding, though, should never be hate. We are all humans, and we all flawed, we are all broken, and we are all beautiful.

These are people, raising their fists, dying (from neglect!) in emergency rooms, and dealing with gender identity.

My role is not to understand. My role is to love the people raising their fists and the people judging the images they see on TV, and to do what that love dictates. I think that’s all.

Monday was a little rough, but I mostly powered through and got a few things done, including something suddenly urgent I thought we were done with on Friday. I was on three phone calls and one group text just dealing with it.

Breakfast was overnight oats. Lunch was English muffin pizzas. Dinner was three hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut. I had three hot dog buns that had to get consumed very soon, so although I’d hoped to get something cooking in the Instant Pot, hot dogs it was. It was for the best — I was really hungry but I was also trying to get to bed early. There was no snacking, although there was some whiskey after the hot dogs.

I skipped the walk again for multiple reasons. I’ll do penance Tuesday.

Between tasks, I re-watched all but the finale of Silicon Valley season 6. It doesn’t feel as rewatchable as other seasons. Still pretty close to briliant, though.

My favorite daily podcast, The Tony Kornheiser Show, has been down to two casts a week since late March, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it’s been good anyway. Monday’s show included some rejoin music by a band called Supper Break, a bluegrass band. They have one four-song EP, released in March, and it’s on Spotify. It really caught my ear so I listened on repeat all evening. Good stuff.

I haven’t had a chance to learn more about these guys, beyond liking their FB page. Looking forward to taking as deep a dive as I can. Advance warning.

Suzanne texted me to ask if I wanted some pickled mango. I said I like pickled mango, but I’m not one of those people who gets super excited about it, so she should pass it along.

I finally responded to texts JB sent about the gyoza. Don’t know why I sat on that so long, except that’s how our conversations go sometimes.

Crush Girl sent me some texts about a friend we have in common, but didn’t get my responses until late. She may be on the network that’s been having problems these last couple of days.

I reached out early Monday to some friends in San Francisco who’ve been a little invisible in the usual places and heard back in IG. They’re fine, thank goodness. This is the couple who gave me my first iPhone a long time ago. They had an extra, since they had developed an app for a client and were done with it.

Independence Day is a Saturday this year, which means the holiday will be a Friday. I’m trying to decide if I can wait that long for a day off. I might have to take one next week sometime. Or this week. I’m feeling a little behind on stuff I want to do.

I have Tuesday morning off, and don’t have to be at my desk until 12 or 1 (depending on what I want to do with my lunch hour). I can’t wait to soak that time up, once this laundry’s done.

Still in lockdown! Still available if you need some human contact. Reach out.

Lockdown: There’s an apple for that

Not a super-productive Sunday, but I didn’t spend it all in bed either, so I’ll take it as a win.

Breakfast, as I already wrote, was overnight oats. Lunch was the rest of that rainbow-tofu soup with leftover hapa rice. Dinner was the beef choy sum with leftover hapa rice. I thought I might be able to stretch it into one and a half meals, but while it was heating in the microwave oven, I ate the half cold out of the takeout container. It was yummy.

I didn’t snack on anything until just now. Finally gave the mug apple crisp a second try, and it’s much better. The crisp topping part doesn’t really crisp up, but you wouldn’t expect it to. I’m thinking of finishing it in the toaster oven next time. Still, it’s tasty as heck without the crispiness.

Besides not messing up the ingredient measurements, I also used a honeycrisp apple instead of a green apple. Everyone says to use green apples for their tartness to balance out the sweetness of the other pie ingredients, and I’ve seen some TV chefs use half green and half something else, but I think I’m declaring myself done with green apples in apple pie. The honeycrisps just taste so much better.

The other thing I did differently is not slice the apple too thin. Last time, I sliced it very thin, and the slices kind of melded into a gummy lump. This time they were a little thicker, and there’s a really good combination of chewy mushiness with a little bit of bite. Much better.

I did in fact tackle the monster Sunday. The stupid thing has three tasks, and I did the two difficult tasks, leaving the easy one for Monday evening. That will only take ten minutes or so. It felt good, even though I’ve got a crap ton more to do.

One tiny mountain of disgusting work at a time. Wins the race. Or something.

I also hit the supermarket with a much shorter list than the last couple of weeks. This time I may have shopped with fast meals in mind. Stuff that still involves some amount of cooking but not really. Dorm stuff I guess. Like, I bought sandwich bread. And Englsh muffins.

Also two honeycrisp apples. Because, you know.

Almost no connection Sunday. Julie texted me to ask what I’m reading, and we had a short conversation about that, and about some freelance work I might be able to steer her way. Oh, there were several chats in FB messenger. Cathy, to say she missed having coffee and talking about stuff. We traded some thoughts on you-know-who. Bethanie sent me a photo sent by Desi, a funny sign she saw in Waimanalo. And then Ross’s wife messaged me to talk about the Hawaii Stories project. We chatted about her writing, and about how we both wished we’d gotten MFAs. She went for the library degree. I went for the education degree.


Okay time for bed.

Here’s to a productive Monday and good spirits all around. Let’s connect if you’re not getting enough connection.

Lockdown: Udon know what it’s like

Took it kind of easy Saturday.

It started kind of roughly. I had a small amount of my marinara sauce left and I planned to lightly sauce some udon with it. It’s not a traditional way to eat udon, but I was going to sauce it lightly so the noodle taste wouldn’t be drowned out. I made the noodles (I won’t glorify them because udon noodles only get so good, but they were the were a higher-priced dried variety my mom gave me, so not your $.99 one-serving bag you get at Long’s) and then discovered the sauce had molded.

I said a few nights ago that it doesn’t keep as well in the fridge as you might think. Gr.

The waste doesn’t bother me too much (it wasn’t much sauce), but the loss of that few ounces of yumminess. It was a really good pot of sauce.

So I had to hurry, pouring some jarred sauce over the noodles and by then they’d overcooked a little and were pasty.

It was still decent, but it wasn’t good. And I made enough for two meals. So it was lunch, too.

Feeling the need for veggies, I drove down the hill to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant and ordered three dishes. Beef choy sum and a veggie-tofu dish, both of which I put in the fridge for later. And rainbow-tofu soup, which I ate about half of, with hapa rice. Not too many veggies in that, but man is it tasty at this restaurant. They use these mushrooms I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I took a bite of each of the other entrees and moaned aloud both times. I sorta can’t wait to get to them Sunday.

That rainbow-tofu soup is too simple not to be easily made at home. I need to look that up.

I tried to snack on the carrot cake Oreos, but they’ve gone stale with about a third of the package left. It’s a shame, ‘though I may try putting them in the toaster oven to see if they’re salvageable.

Oh, I also went for boba, after I picked up the Chinese food. Roasted oolong milk tea with mini boba, about 25% of full sweetness, enjoyed in my car.

Can’t remember the order, but between these meals I also re-watched the series finale of Silicon Valley. And after last week’s Matthew Broderick / Kristin Chenoweth The Music Man, I felt I should see the original film, with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. I got up to “Marion the Librarian” before realizing that despite the early hour (it wasn’t quite midnight) I was sleepy enough to turn in for the night, despite not having written this Saturday journal entry yet.

Found myself awake much, much earlier Sunday than planned, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so what the heck. I got up and had Sunday’s breakfast (overnight oats) and wrote this while listening to Meet the Press.

Saturday I also did a few chores and organized my Kindle library a little. I think Sunday will be a day for reading, something I have done almost none of since this lockdown began, outside the news and the blogs I follow. Which I don’t count.

It feels good not to have to worry about being prepped for work Sunday, an instinct I still have from my teaching days. I guess that’s a misuse of the word instinct, but that’s what it feels like now — like it’s such a part of me now that I think any children I have (ha!) will be born with it too.

So Sunday may be for lazying, reading, and eating Chinese food leftovers, although there are a few chores I’d like to take care of so I don’t have to be stressed about them Monday, as I almost always am. I’m trying to rearrange my living room to make room for a jigsaw puzzle table, and it’s taking long.

I already have the table ready to go. Just have to do the work.

Crush Girl and I texted a few times about the growing numbers of new cases. Again. Got an IM from Allyson, a librarian I know who’s doing me a little favor and forgot about it.

That was it for connection, which was totally fine.

My knee still aches. I’m afraid I may have to take an extended break from late-night walks, which means I will have to get into the water more often. Normally not a problem, since in real life, I stop at the beach on my way to the office. In lockdown, it would mean getting up early. Ugh. Then driving down and back before my workday. Great. If one of these days is a Saturday or Sunday, I erase the “before work” part, but add to the getting up early part.

I’m thinking two days a week swimming and one night a week walking, however my body allows me to walk? Something else to think about before the work week begins.

Ohhhh something else to do: there’s some drama in the National Puzzlers League mailing lists. I haven’t been reading the emails but my phone alerts were chiming all day. Can’t wait to see what the issue is, although I’ve gathered it has something to do with the national unrest.

Hoping you’ll reach out if you’re having difficulty connecting. The internet is made for connecting, even if I’m not necessarily constructed with similar purposes in mind. Still, I’ve learned that we all need it, and while it may not be as ingrained in me as waking up in a near-panic on Sunday morning about being prepped for teaching Monday, neither is it especially agonizing anymore!

Most of the time.

Lockdown: Friday productivity and weekend good vibes

Friday was a good day. I told you: it’s often my most productive day of the week.

I watched the first two episodes of Silicon Valley season 6 and I think I was asleep by 4:30, setting the alarm for 9:30 to give me five hours.

However, I woke up on my own at about 7:30 and was at my desk by 8. I felt pretty good, so I just rolled with it, thinking I’d get to clock out earlier than usual, which is fine by me on Friday.

I got right to work on that engineering proposal, and found my groove immediately. It felt good. I submitted a rough draft by noon.

Revisions to the Kauai proposal took for-ev-er. It was mostly technical stuff I won’t get into, but geez it was a slog. I submitted the revision with a few notes, so I’m pretty sure this one’s not quite done.

It felt good to end the week with a few things checked off the list.

I did a few chores and went to bed — for several hours. It felt okay, but I’m now wide awake at 4:36 Saturday morning. Not what I had in mind.

Breakfast was overnight oats. Lunch was the leftover gyoza filling with the choy sum and kim chi, on fresh hapa rice. It was really good, so good I may just make this as a dish in the future. I’m thinking it could be a good noodle dish, possibly with fried udon or Hong Kong noodles.

I snacked a couple of times, grabbing a few bites of potato salad out of the fridge. Thank goodness I’m about out of potato salad — this is probably not the best way to get a bite between meals.

For dinner, I took advantage of the fresh hapa rice and had canned turkey chili. Another of my comfort foods. I love canned chili, and although I like my own homemade chili a lot more, there’s something really pleasing about opening up a can and pouring it over hot rice. It’s one of those meals going back to college days I never honestly got tired of.

I watched the rest of Silicon Valley while having dinner. What a near-perfect series finale. Tragic, heroic, and super funny, a bit like the series overall. I’m so satisfied with almost everything about this series.

My left knee is almost ready to go. I’m expecting to get back out there Saturday night, but I didn’t go for a walk today. Still aches though.

Not a lot of texting — I was feeling a bit tired most of the day when I wasn’t focused on work. Sylvia and I chatted on and off all day, switching between texts and work Skype, sometimes about work stuff. JB sent me a comment and question about the gyoza, which I still have to respond to. Crush Girl and I commented briefly about the new Hawaii cases (15!). Jennifer sent me a photo of the King Kamehameha statue, not adorned with the usual multitude of leis on his holiday. I just now responded that I kinda think it loooks better this way.

I don’t know exactly what I have in mind for Saturday. A little bit of reading for the writing partner for sure. Some personal writing, too. I have to hit the supermarket for just a few things sometime before Monday morning. I’m going to give the mug apple crisp a second try, and I want to make something in the Instant Pot. I might make some bread, too.

Two new non-metal albums released today, which I haven’t spun yet. Larkin Poe’s Self Made Man, and Norah Jones’s Pick Me Up off the Floor. Larkin Poe is two-thirds of the group once known as the Lovell Sisters, an amazingly good contemporary folk-country band, and I have high hopes for this one. I’m not a huge Norah Jones fan, but she’s interesting enough that I try to give her new albums a few spins to see if there’s something great in there.

I’ve kept a spreadsheet this year to track all my 2020 new music listening. I recently decided I needed a 100 point scale for rating the albums, something I’ve been using for movie ratings for a few years. I just need more precise ratings so when I sort my best-of lists at the end of the year, I’m not trying to remember if Album A was a high 8 and therefore better than Album B, which may have had a low 8. A hundred points lets me see that one album was an 87 while the other was an 80, and if they were both 87 I know there was no discernable difference in my fondness for them.

This means I’m going back through all my 2020 listening so I can give fair ratings to all the music I’ve already listened to. It hasn’t been unpleasant. Spent most of the morning listening to Haunt’s Mind Freeze on repeat (it was good music to work by), and now I’m giving a few spins to Sons of Apollo’s MMXX. The Sons of Apollo album is a good example of how an album grows on you over time. I’m glad I’m making myself hear it again, five months after its release. In January I thought it was about 50-50 modern rock and progressive rock, but now I’m hearing a sliiiiiight tilt toward prog. Still reminds me of a cross between Nickelback and Dream Theater, though, with killer soloing.

Okay, it’s just past five in the morning now, and I’m going to do a little bit of social media catch-up and head to bed.

Hope you’re getting the connection you need. And if you’re not, please reach out here. I’m (usually) good for a few text messages a day, as you can see. I’m just a little slow to respond once in a while.

Lockdown: En choy sum leftovers

I’m actually writing this half an hour past midnight, the earliest I’ve done it in quite a while.

Thursday was a state holiday: King Kamehameha Day. It’s one of those rare holidays we don’t move to the nearest Monday or Friday because of the honoree’s stature. It’s an important day for a lot of people, but it’s never been more than a day off to me (and when I was teaching, it wasn’t even that, since I’d be on summer vacation) — I have little or no connection to Kamehameha, and I’m not really sure I’m down with honoring military leaders this way. They did great things, but they did them violently, this one especially violently.

I was happy for the day off, though, after kind of the rough start to the week I’d been having. I love a mid-week holiday, too: you get two Fridays, and Friday is one of the best days. I prefer it to a three-day weekend, really, and every so often when I need a day off from work, I almost always have it on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. They’re better days for being out and about, for one thing (under normal circumstances), since most people don’t take those days off. But I also like the pressure I feel to get stuff done before the day off, and then when I have my usual Friday, I have the pressure again. Friday is often my most productive days of the week, since I hate dragging stuff into the weekend if I can avoid it.

I woke up earlier than I wanted, like around 8:30, after getting to sleep around 5:30. I lazed about for 90 minutes and then had breakfast: a couple of hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut. Did the Thursday NYT crossword.

(this next paragraph contains spoilers for the Thursday NYT crossword puzzle; skip to the one after if you care)

Thursday is the day you’re most likely to see something playful or experimental, and this week’s puzzle was that. Two of the across answers actually held two answers each, so 20 Across, five letters, held the answers FRANK and ELVIS, while 22 across held the answers SINATRA and PRESLEY. You were supposed to write them one atop the other, so the answers coming down, crossing these multiple across answers, would use both letters. 1 Down, crossing the F in FRANK and the E in ELVIS, offered five squares for the clue “Blunders.” So despite five squares, the correct fill-in is GAFFES, the second F making FRANK going across and the E making ELVIS. Pretty cool idea. It took me 31 minutes to complete, or 11 minutes longer than my Thursday average.

There’s more to it, but I shan’t bore you with details. If you’re in an area where the local paper runs the NYT crossword, it’ll show up six Thursdays from now, or July 23.

The time seemed right for the anticipated nap, so I went back to bed. I got up at about 1:30, did a few work emails, read the news, listened to podcasts, and mostly goofed around on my phone. There was a lot going on on Twitter.

At five, I settled in to watch the local and national news broadcasts. It’s weird seeing the regular midweek news on a holiday. It may have been a slow day around these parts, but it was a normal day everywhere else.

I snacked on tortilla chips and fresh salsa. I may have had a few more than my usual “snack,” something I don’t feel very good about. Yet if I overindulged, it honestly wasn’t by much. It just felt like it for some reason.

I did a few chores, then laid down on the bed to catch up on some text messages. And woke up hours later. Yikes. Felt a little lousy, but forced myself up to make lunch-dinner. I had a bunch of leftover gyoza filling (ground chicken, green onions, cabbage, ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, shoyu, sake, and sesame oil), so I cooked it in a pot with choy sum and kim chi, and had it on some leftover brown rice.

It was pretty darn delicious. I really wish I’d made some fresh rice for it. I’m now out of leftover rice so I’ll make some Friday to go with tonight’s leftovers. I may indulge and just have white rice.

I listened to the new Michael Franti album as I cooked, and by the time I dug in, I was feeling back to myself again. The combination of feelgood music, good food, and cooking something new was a good fix, although I may not have been in too much need of fixing. Something was a little off; I’m hoping it was a fluke.

I texted Ali in Boston to say happy Kamehameha Day and send her a photo of a blanket that looks like instant Korean ramen. It was pretty funny. She responded and I responded and that was it. She’s alternately loquacious and non-verbose, so it’s about what I expected. Plus she didn’t have a holiday.

Crush Girl texted me to tell me where to get a certain ingredient we’d talked about the night before. One of those ingredients they don’t sell at the Kalihi Times Supermarket, which still doesn’t carry oat milk, and which no longer carries Best Foods ketchup. I may need to start shopping elsewhere. We talked a little about our days, and that was it.

The ducks conversation in the engineering ladies’ group text continues.

My friend Julie, one of the participants in the group text, recently moved to Rhode Island (it’s a military thing), so I sent her the IG profile of this poke spot in Providence I’ve been following. I have no connection to it whatsoever, but the proprietors are a couple of rather fetching Asian and Hawaiian women from California and from Rhode Island, and their IG posts are punny, and they are working their butts off to make this a successful business. It’s nice to observe. Anyway Julie loves poke, so I told her in an IG DM to check it out and let me know how it is. She said she’s totally going to do it.

I’m mainly writing this now instead of in the wee hours because I’m hoping to turn in a little earlier, ‘though not too much earlier. I received season six of Silicon Valley, the final season, on DVD in the mail early this week and I think I’ll watch an episode or two before I turn in. Orange is the New Black season four will have to wait.

I still have that pineapple juice from the canned pineapple the other day. This seems like a good time to find some alcohol to mix it with.

My knee still aches so I didn’t go for a walk. I mean sometimes it aches while I’m lying still. This is nearly getting worrisome.

Yay tomorrow is Friday. I’ll spend the early part of the day working on another proposal for the engineering college, this one quite a bit bigger than the last few. If I can get a draft off before the end of the day, I can finally work on these donor stories that have been sitting idle for more than a month. Yeesh.

If you’re not connecting enough with others, as I’ve been lucky enough to do with my nice friends, I hope you’ll reach out. I think it’s the thing that keeps us from going crazy. Happy Friday.

Lockdown: A decent proposal

Here’s a quick story about the development writers’ conference I attended two Novembers ago. I can’t remember the name of the breakout I was in, but I was in it for the whole three days, something like four sessions together. It’s going to sound like I’m telling it to boast about something, but I’m not. If it were that, I ‘d have told it long ago.

I liked the concept. The seminar leaders gave us real-world case studies, then asked us to write something. They gave us time to write, right there in the meeting room during our session, which was far preferable to making us do homework. We submitted our work, then we were on our own, so if we finished early, we could just leave.

I have to say the assignments were challenging. Like, super challenging. They even gave us more info than we needed, so we had to sort through it and decide what we needed, or what we were going to use. It didn’t help that I was new to this kind of writing and didn’t even know what they were asking us to write. I’ve been at this three and a half years now, and I’m still learning the jargon.

At the first session, the leaders gave us our assignments, with not a very long deadline: about 90 minutes. They reminded us they’d be right there to answer any questions but not to help directly, since they wanted to get a decent assessment of where we were as writers.

Everyone got right to work. Typing away like crazy. I looked around and didn’t see anyone just sitting there, eyes wandering, eyes closed, skimming Twitter. I thought to myself, “Don’t these people know how to write?”

There was a Starbucks in the lobby of the hotel. I went over and got a pumpkin spice latte. They taste better in Boston, I tell you.

There were photos of famous people in the lobby. I don’t know why. One of them was this excellent, very cool photo of Elvis Costello. The lobby bar, sunken into the floor in very middle of the large space and super classy-looking, was full of other conference attendees who apparently got out of their sessions early or were just not going to them. I’ve heard this has been known to happen.

I walked around outside for a little while. To a guy who’s spent most of his life in Hawaii, just stepping into the cold is pretty exciting. I didn’t even think about the assignment until forty minutes or so into the assigned time.

It was a bit of a puzzle. A letter to a donor who was on the fence about a large donation. It was to name a student activities space, only he wasn’t super interested in his family’s name on the wall. What he really cared about was setting an example for his kids, so they would know that while they were financially blessed, they had a responsibility to share their money with others in meaningful ways.

I latched onto this aspect. There was a lot more info, but all I had to do was sway this gentleman toward making the gift. I thought about his not caring about the name on the building, but his kids’ recognition of giving, as an example to them.

I started (still composing in my head) with something like, “Thousands of students every year will use this space and never know the part you played. But your children will know: they’ll know where your name would be on the building , and they’ll know why it’s not there. They’ll know their father cared more about giving than about recognition…”

I got back to the meeting room about half an hour from the deadline. Everyone was still tapping away. When I finally got started, it just came right out of me. I wrote the letter in about fifteen minutes, then spent another ten making it sound pretty. I submitted it on a jump drive, by now about half the participants still working.

The next morning, my letter was on a Powerpoint slide as the good example. The leaders had made a few changes — excellent changes, I have to say — and broke down for the group what they liked (and what they didn’t) about the letter. Then they asked aloud if the writer was okay with their sharing who did it.

I was tempted to stay silent, but what the heck? I said quietly, “It’s fine.” And they said my name and the name of the university, and people around me clapped. It was nice. It felt good to be acknowledged by other writers, especially since at the time I was the one person in my company who wrote the stuff I write, so it’s a little lonely sometimes.

I was glad I volunteered authorship of the work, because it led to some really nice conversations over the next couple of days, and I got invited into conversations, and to a few dinners, and a few weeks later, someone I met there invited me to apply for a writer position at UC Davis.

Everyone writes differently, and you can scoff if you want to, but wandering around the hotel lobby with a hot latte in my hands and thinking about the time I saw Elvis Costello in concert with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra on consecutive nights was part of the writing.

It doesn’t always work like this, but very often it does: think about something else. Do something else. At a critical moment, usually dictated by a deadline, I’m embarassed to say, I sit down and it comes out.

This is all to say that although I got right to work this morning determined to focus, it didn’t quite play out this way. I had an afternoon phone call, during which I spoke with my boss about this cancer center outline. This followed Tuesday’s Zoom meeting with the whole department during which I admitted I was embarassed by this position I’d found myself in with this project: taking so long that now I had to make it really good to justify the delay.

Everyone was understanding, reassuring, and encouraging. Including the boss.

I was a little stuck on one last piece I wanted to flesh out. Then someone sent me a draft of that West Oahu proposal I was disapointed not to work on, asking me for some suggestions. I quickly lasered in on this, very quickly making a few changes, then emailing it back.

When I switched back to the cancer center thing, it was right there. I typed away for ten minutes and it was ready to share.

It’s not great. It’s going to be savaged by the many hands who have to approve it. But it was going to be savaged anyway, in whatever condition it was in, because collaborative writing works this way. It’ll work as starting point, and that’s all they asked me to give them more than a week ago.


Anyway, it feels good to finally have submitted it.

Last night during the walk, I picked up a loco moco for a late dinner. I mentioned this. I didn’t mention that I also stopped at Kamehameha Bakery (which opens at 2 in the morning, and I was in the area) and picked up a couple of doughnuts. That was Wednesday’s breakfast.

Terrible, I know.

I didn’t really have lunch, ‘though I may have had some bread pudding as a snack. Also picked up from the stupid bakery. I hate that bakery.

When my workday ended, I just went to bed. Slept from like 7 until 10:30 in the evening. Then got up and made that gyoza I prepped Monday night. It came out great, if without a restaurant-quality photogenicness. It was fun. And I’m pleased with the effort.

I goofed off on my phone and listened to podcasts, and now it’s 4:33 a.m. and I’m about to attempt sleep after what I will call a good day.

No, I did not go for a walk. Ugh. My feet and knee are still aching from yesterday’s walk. The next time I go, I’m going to wear the old shoes and see if that makes a difference.

Sylvia and I switched between texts and work Skype to talk about her book club and a bunch of other stuff.

Crush Girl texted me to ask what I think of the J. K. Rowling stuff. I expressed what I thought was a pretty good opinion, but then in our conversation I realized I didn’t know what led to the writer’s sharing these opinions anyway, and that’s the stuff that Crush Girl was really asking about. I still don’t know — I only read one article about the stituation, so I’ll find one more Thursday and get the background.

The group text with the engineering firm ladies was interesting. We talked about ducks, mostly. Suzanne has ducks in her yard and one of them might be injured. I mostly just participated passively but it was a funny series of messages.

I reached out to Ali in Boston but didn’t hear back.

I’m feeling more at peace right now than I’ve felt in several days, perhaps a couple of weeks. It’s an unusual feeling. I’m going to ride it for as long as I can. Which, based on history, could be weeks or minutes.

I’m considering two options for Thursday, which is a state holiday in Hawaii. Will wake up in a few hours and decide then.

Which means I have a lot of time if you’re looking for connection. Reach out. I’m here for it.